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Susquehanna Tribe

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Susquehanna Indians. A town and a tribe of the Iroquoian stock, situated in 1608 on the lower portion of the Susquehanna river and its effluents. The original form of the name used by Capt. John Smith was Sasquesahannocks in his text and Sasquesahanough on his map. He first heard the name from Tockwock, Nanticoke, or Powhatan speakers of the Algonquian tongue, while exploring the waters of upper Chesapeake bay and its affluents, as the designation of a mighty people who dwelt on the Susquehanna two days journey “higher than our barge could pass for rocks.” Of this people Smith wrote: “Such great and well-proportioned men are seldom seen, for they seemed like giants to the English, yea to their neighbors;” also that they were scarcely known to Powhatan, could muster nearly 600 able men, and lived in palisaded towns to defend themselves from the “Massawomeckes, their mortal enemies.” Meeting at the head of the bay 60 of their warriors, five of their chiefs did not hesitate to hoard his barge. Although in his text Smith does not mention the names of any Susquehanna towns, he nevertheless places on his map 6 towns with” king’s houses” under the general rubric “Sasquesahanough.” The six are Sasquesahanough, Quadroque, Attaock, Tesinigh, Utchowig, and Cepowig. It is difficult to locate these towns correctly on a modern map; the foregoing names are evidently highly conventionalized forms of the original native terms. Unfortunately Smith furnishes but little information regarding these people beyond a description of their bearing, size, and implements, and a general statement as to their habitat and their enemies, the most formidable of the latter being the famous “Massawolneckes.”

Susquehanna Indians History

Alsop (1666) says that the Christian inhabitants of Maryland regarded the Susquehanocks as “the most noble and heroic nation of Indians that dwell upon the confines of America,” and that the other Indians “by a submissive and tributary acknowledgment” held them in like esteem, for he adds that being for the most part great warriors, they “seldom sleep one summer in the quiet arms of a peaceful rest, but keep (by their present power, as well as by their former conquest) the several nations of Indians round about them, in a forceable obedience and subjection.” He declares also that men, women, and children in both summer and winter went practically naked; that they painted their faces in red, green, white, and black stripes; that their skins were naturally light in color, but were changed to a dark cinnamon hue “by the several dyeings of roots and barks”; that the hair of the head was black, long, and coarse, but that the hair growing on other parts of the body was removed by pulling it out hair, by hair; that some tattooed their bodies, breasts, and arms with outlines of beasts and other objects.

Hitherto no information concerning a clan system among the Susquehanna has been available in ethnological literature; but in the Proceedings of the Council of Maryland for 1636-1667 1Proceedings of the Council of Maryland for 1636-1667, pp. 421, 550 the names of the “Sassgsahannough” chiefs and delegates, and also those of the several clans to which they belonged, appear in the minutes of a treaty concluded at Spes Utia, May 16, 1661, in behalf of the Lord Proprietary of Maryland and of the Susquehanna Indians, and at a conference held at St Johns, June 29, 1666. The names of the Susquehanna delegates to the former were:

  • Dahadaghesa of the great Torripine family
  • Sarangararo of the Wolf family
  • Waskanecqua of the Ohongeoquena nation
  • Kagoregago of the Unquehiett nation
  • Saraqundett of the Kaiquariegahaga nation
  • Uwhanhierelera of the Usququhaga nation
  • Waddon hago of the Sconondihago nation

Among the signatures appears the name Andra Sonque without that of his clan or nation. It was at this treaty that the Maryland authorities agreed to send 50 soldiers to aid the Susquehanna against the Seneca (here called Cynaco, Nayssone, or Naijssone), in consequence of which Capt. Odber was ordered to cause some “spurs and flankes” to be laid out for the defense of the Susquehanna fort and inmates, “whom you are upon all occasions to assist against the assaults of their enemies.” At the conference of June 29, 1666, at St Johns, Wastahanda Hariguera of the Terrapin or Turtle clan, and Gosweinquecrakqua of the Fox clan, war chiefs of the Susquehanna, brought Wanahedana to justice, “lest the crime of one be imputed to the whole tribe,” and asked assistance from the governor “at this time,” for they had lost a large number of men who were ranging about the head of Patapsco and other rivers to secure the English plantations from the Seneca, who, they declared, were resolved to storm the Susquehanna fort in the following August and then fall upon the English; and they also agreed to deliver the ” King of Potomack his two sonns” to Major Goldsmyth. At the former treaty it was stipulated also that 6 Susquehanna warriors should act as dispatch bearers.

On July 28, 1663, the Maryland authorities gave to Civility and the rest of the Susquehanna Indians 2 barrels of powder, 200 pounds of lead, and their own choice of one of two small cannon. At this conference Wastahandow of the Turtle clan declared that it was not “the Sasquesahanoughs” but the Seneca who began the war, for the Seneca had killed the Susquehanna ambassadors and had robbed there of 70 belts of wampum; and he declared that their enemies (such of the Iroquois tribes as were engaged in making war on them) mustered about 1,460 warriors, while the Susquehanna had about 700 fighting men.

In the writings of Swedish and Dutch authors many references are found to a people called therein Minquas, Minquosy, or Machoeretini (in De Laet), Mengwe, or Mingo, names which were evidently bestowed on them by the Algonquians of the lower Delaware river and bay. It would seem that in the earliest application of the names Susquehanna and Minqua they denoted a tribe or group of allied tribes which from 1608 to 1633 waged relentless war against the Algonquian tribes on and about the lower portion of Potomac river and Delaware river and bay. De Vries says that on Feb. 11, 1633, when he and a small crew were in the Delaware river opposite Ft Nassau, 50 Indians came over the river from the fort and spoke to him and his men. He states that these were Minquas dwelling among “the English of Virginia,” and that, numbering 600 warriors, they had come on a warlike expedition, but that they were friendly with him and his men; that while in that immediate vicinity two days later, three Indians of the Armewamen carne to him and reported that they were fugitives from the Minquas, who had killed sonic of their people, plundered them of their corn, and burned their houses, and that these Minquas had killed 90 men of the Sankiekens (Sankhikans); also that the Minquas had returned to their own country. But subsequent to this period these two names, Susquehanna and Minqua, especially the latter, had acquired a broader and more comprehensive signification. Van der Donck, writing prior to 1653, says, “With the Minquas we include the Senecas, the Maquas, and other inland tribes.”

On July 24, 1608, Capt. John Smith began his exploration of Susquehanna river, completing the work on Sept. 8 of the same year. As already stated, in his text he calls the Indians he found inhabiting the river, Sasquesahannocks, but on his map he recorded the name Sasquesahanoughs, and the name of their town Sasquesahanough. The exact situation of this town is not definitely known, but a satisfactory approximation may be made. Smith said that it was “two days’ journey higher than our barge could pass for rocks.” The rocks are at Port Deposit, Md., and 40 or 50 m. above this point may be tentatively taken as the approximate situation of the town. Smith locates it on the a. side of the Susquehanna, a short distance above the confluence of a feeder from the w. side. It is matter of record that a “Sasquehanocks new-town” existed about 1648 where “some falls below hinder navigation,” and that in 1670 Augustine Herrman located Canooge, “the present Sassquahana Indian fort,” on the west bank just above the “greatest fall” (the present Conewago falls); and they also had a palisaded town at the mouth of the Octoraro, probably as early as 1662, so that the Susquehanna of 1608 may probably have been in the vicinity of the Conewago falls. In Smith’s text a remarkable silence is maintained as to the names of any other towns of the Susquehanna, but on his map he places five other towns with king’s houses: Attaock, Quadroque, Tesinigh, Utchowig, and Cepowig, and with the single exception of Cepowig, which is located on the east side of the main stream of Willowbye’s river, all these towns are located on the Susquehanna or on some of its affluents. Since no Indians were found along the upper portion of the west shore of the bay, there can be little doubt that Cepowig was a Susquehanna town, for an early writer in a general recapitulation of names and situations of tribes says that “the Sasquesahanoes are on the Bolus river.” The “Bolus river” of Smith is the present Patapsco, which flows into Chesapeake bay at Baltimore. This would seem to indicate that Cepowig, located by Smith on Willowbye’s river, which is apparently only a continuation of what is to-day Bush river (unless it was placed there instead of on the Patapsco by an engraver’s inadvertence), was at all events well within the “Sasquesahanough” country. Under the circumstances it is a question whether these five towns, which were not mentioned in the text of Smith, are to be regarded as Susquehanna towns rather than as the chief towns of allied or neighboring tribes. With the meager data supplied by their position on the Smith map, it is difficult to assign them a definite geographical position on a modern map. One of the interpretations of the indicative marks places Cepowig in the vicinity either of Westminster, Md., or of Gettysburg, Pa.; Quadroque about Middletown; Tesinigh about Lebanon; Attaock about York; and Utchowig in the region of Carlisle. The other broader and, perhaps, intended view would locate Attaock in the region of Juniata river, Quadroque at the forks at Northumberland, Tesinigh on the North branch in the region of Wyoming, and Utchowig on the West branch in the vicinity of Lockhaven. Marked with “king’s houses,” they may have indicated the seats of neighboring tribes, whether allied or hostile.

From the data found in Smith it is difficult to form a satisfactory estimate of the population of the Susquehanna at that early date. Smith said that the “Sasquesahannocks” could muster “near 600 able and mighty men,” who were entrenched in palisaded towns “to defend them from the Massawomeckes, their mortal enemies.” To these people, whom Smith designated by the name “Sasquesahanough,” modernized to Susquehanna, the Dutch and Swedes on Delaware r. and bay applied the name Minqua, or Mincquaas, with its many variants, which the English adopted with a wider and varying application, under the form Mingo.

De Vries, in Feb., 1633, while cruising in the vicinity of Ft Nassau on Delaware river, encountered a detachment of 50 Indians from a larger body consisting of 600 men. Crossing the river from the fort, they came alongside his yacht and spoke to him and his men in a friendly manner. He learned that they were Minquas who dwelt “among the English of Virginia,” and who had come on a warlike expedition. The next day, while sailing up the river, he met three Armewamen Indians who declared to him that they were fugitives from the Minquas who had killed some of their people, as above mentioned. The trio had left the main body of their people with the women and children five or six hours journey distant; and had come there to learn in what way the Minqua had gone; they declared that 90 men of the Sankhikans (Sankiekens) bad been killed by these Minqua and that the Minqua had returned to their country 2Coll. N. Y. Hist. Soc., 2 s., III, pt. I, 31-32, 1857. This indicates that the people called Minqua or Sasquesalianna in 25 years had not lost their military strength, although they were engaged in continual wars with the Algonquian tribes on Delaware river and bay, and on the Potomac. Hence it would appear that Smith’s statement that they could muster in 1608 nearly 600 men did not include those belonging to the five towns exclusive of Sasquesahanough. They were in 1608 waging war on the Massawomeckes.

On Aug. 18, 1616, Captain Hendricksen reported to the New Netherland Provinces his discovery of certain lands, a bay and three rivers, lying from 38° to 40° north lat.; that there he traded for “sables, furs, robes, and other skins,” and that he also traded for and bought from the inhabitants, the Minquaes, “three persons, being people belonging to this company, which three persons were employed in the service of the Mohawks and Mahicans, giving for them kettles, beads, and merchandise” 3N. Y. Doe. Col. Hist., I, 14, 1854. This is perhaps the first notice of the name Minqua on record, if its use on the map accompanying this report be excepted. The map bears date 1614 (Oct. 11) and is the famous “Carte Figurative.” It is the first known attempt to portray geographically the Susquehanna river and valley with the tribes of Indians dwelling in the region covered; the map, in fact, includes the region now within New York and Pennsylvania, and represents the Susquehanna as an outlet of Lake Ontario. A legend on the map says that the data concerning the location of rivers and the position of the tribes were obtained from Kleynties and his comrade, which they had acquired in an expedition from the Mohawk (Maquaas) into the interior and along the New river (Susquehanna) downward to the Ogehage, who are identified as the “enemies of the aforesaid northern tribes”; and, further, that the positions of the tribes (Sennecas, Gachoos, Capitannasses, and Jottecas) should be indicated as considerably farther to the west. On the above mentioned map the “Sennecas” are located some distance north of a branch of the river which was evidently intended to represent Chemung river of to-day; lower down, on what represented the West branch of the Susquehanna, on the south side, the “Gachoos” are placed, with four designs denoting lodges (towns); on what probably represents the present Juniata river, on the north side, some distance from the confluence with the Susquehanna, the Capitannasses are placed, with seven designs denoting towns arranged some distance apart along the course of the river; south and slightly farther west into the interior the “Iottecas” (Jottecas) are placed, with five designs representing towns set close together; and much farther down, on the west side, a short distance below the confluence of a branch on the east side, probably Conestoga creek, the “Mincquaas” are placed, with four palisaded towns, three of which are marked with two towns and one with four. The name “Mincquaas” occurs on the east side of the Susquehanna a short distance above the branch last mentioned, but without any designs denotive of lodges or towns. The four palisaded towns were probably not far from the present Conewango river and falls of the Susquehanna. This disposition of the tribes on the Susquehanna shows that the name “Mincquaas” was originally applied specifically to the people who dwelt in the same general position as those whom Smith called “Sasquesahanoughs.” The Mohawk (Maquaas), with five closely set designs of lodges, are placed on the north side of what purports to be an affluent of Lake Ontario, in a relatively correct geographical position; on the opposite side of the river occurs the name “Canoomakers,” which is apparently misswritten for Caughnawaga. This map exhibits a noteworthy knowledge of the interior of the region now comprised in New York and Pennsylvania, and of the names and position of the several Indian tribes inhabiting it. This name later came to include many tribes and remnants of tribes which dwelt of their own accord or were forced to dwell in the valley of Susquehanna river, but the period must be known before it is possible to state the names of the tribes inhabiting that stream. For during the middle decades of the 16th century all the tribes dwelling along this river at the time of its discovery were destroyed as political entities and removed by the Iroquois.

In 1647, learning that the Hurons were being worsted by the Iroquois, the Susquehanna or Conestoga offered them diplomatic and military assistance, backed by a force of 1,300 warriors in a single palisaded town, who had been trained by three Swedish soldiers in the use of guns and in European tactics 4Bozman, Hist. Md., II, 273, 1837 5Proud, Hist. Pa., I, 111, 1897. This proffered aid was accepted by the hard pressed Hurons, who sent at once an embassy to the Susquehanna or Conestoga capital. The Susquehanna lost no time in sending ambassadors, with suitable wampum belts and presents, to the Iroquois federal council at Onondaga, for the purpose of ending the war and establishing peace between the Hurons and the Iroquois; but the Iroquois refused the mediation and the war continued. On the other hand, the Hurons, sunk in a hopeless lethargy, did not actively seek to avail themselves of the Susquehanna aid, and so in less than 18 months they were entirely defeated and dispersed by the Iroquois.

From about 1630 to 1644 the Susquehanna waged a relentless war southward from their homes against the Yaomacos, the Piscataway, and the Patuxent 6Bozman, op. cit., II, 161, 1837, and they created so much trouble for the colonists that Gov. Calvert, in 1642, by proclamation, declared them public enemies. Holm 7Descr. New Sweden, Mem. Hist. Soc. Pa., in, 157, 1834, says that the Minques or Minckus live on a “high mountain, very steep and difficult to climb; there they have a fort or square building, surrounded with palisades, in which they reside.   There they have guns, and small cannon, with which they shoot and defend themselves, and take them when they go to war.” He says that this place was situated 12 Swedish or 54 English miles from the Swedish settlements, and that they had forced the surrounding tribes to be subject and tributary to them, ” so that they dare not stir, much less go to war against them.”

In 1652, having maintained for a number of years friendly intercourse with their European neighbors, the Susquehanna, in the presence of a Swedish commissioner, through their chiefs, Sawahegeh, Auroghteregh, Scarhuhadigh, Rutchogah, and Nathheldaneh, ceded to Maryland all their territory from the Patuxent river to Palmer’s island, and from Choptank river to the north east branch, north of Elk river.

Early in Apr. 1663, the Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca, in pressing more vigorously the war which had been waging for a number of years, dispatched an expedition of 800 men against Susquehanna itself (properly called Andastoe, by the Jesuit Relations). The narrative is indefinite as to the situation of the objective point of the expedition. Erroneously adopting the geography of the “Carte Figurative,” it states that this Iroquois army embarked on Lake Ontario, and near one of its extremities came to a large river leading without rapids or falls to the very gates of Susquehanna (Andastogue). On arriving there, after a voyage of more than 100 leagues on the river, they found the town defended on one side by the stream and on the others by trunks of large trees; it was flanked by two bastions constructed in accordance with European methods, and was also furnished with some pieces of artillery.

The Iroquois consequently abandoned the idea of making an assault. In attempting to outwit the Susquehanna by a transparent ruse, 25 of their men were admitted into the fort; but these were at once seized, placed on scaffolds in sight of their own army, and burned to death. The humiliated Iroquois force retired to act on the defensive. At home the Iroquois tribes were at this time menaced by three scourges their Susquehanna (Conestoga) enemies, the smallpox (which was carrying off not only women and children but many men, thus leaving, it is said, their villages nearly deserted and their lands untilled), and, consequently, by famine. The situation of the Susquehanna fort at this date was probably above the falls at Conewango, and may have been the Canooge of Herrman’s map of 1673.

Brebeuf 8Jes. Rel. 1635, 33, 1858 rejoices that the Huron or Wendat tongue, which he thoroughly understood, was spoken by about 12 populous sedentary tribes dwelling south of the French settlements. Of these the following are of interest in the present connection: The Andastoerrhonons, the Scahentoarrhonons, the Rhiierrhonons, and the Ahouenrochrhonons. From the long and important list of tribes found in the Jesuit Relation for 1640 (35,1858) 9Jes. Rel. 1635, 35, 1858, which is apparently a slightly enlarged enumeration of the one just cited, it is found that the name Akhrakvaeronon appears in place of Scahentoarrhonons. These four tribes have been identified as the Conestoga, the people of the Great Flats or Wyoming, the Erie, and the Wenroh, the last a tribe which migrated to and became incorporated with the Hurons in 1639. The Scahentoarrhonons were probably the Massawomeckes of Smith. The name itself is derived from other forms, among which are Andasto’eronon and Gandasto`eronon, which appear in Mohawk as Ganastohgeronon. Du Creux, in his Latin map of 1660, translates this name by “Natio perticarum,” meaning simply ” Pole or (roof-) pole tribe.” This is not satisfactory, as no account is taken of the incorporated verb –o‘, ‘to be immersed,’ ‘to be contained in’; and there is a question as to the identification of the nominal element as kanasta‘, ‘roof-pole,’ for ka’nestǎ‘, ‘mud,’ ‘clay,’ is equally possible. Conestoga or Conestogues is the Anglicized form of the French spellings.

In 1615 Champlain sent his interpreter Brule to one of the allied tribes of the Hurons, which lived on the Susquehanna three days journey from the Seneca (meaning the four western Iroquois tribes). From the Bear nation of the Hurons, Champlain learned that this allied tribe was very warlike and possessed only three among more than twenty towns which were hostile to them; that the year before they had captured three Dutchmen who were assisting their enemies and whom they permitted to go without harm, for they thought the Dutchmen were French, the allies of the Hurons. Brulé did not report to Champlain until 1618, and from him the latter learned that the chief town of the tribe visited by Brulé, called Carantouan, was defended by 800 warriors, was only 7 days journey from where the Dutch traded, in lat. 40°, and that along the river below it were “many powerful and warlike nations, carrying on wars against each other.” On the Champlain map of 1632 this tribe is called “Carantouanais.” A noteworthy correspondence is found in the number of towns assigned to this tribe by Champlain and the number assigned to the Massawomeckes by Smith. Champlain said that the tribe had three towns, although he named only one after Brulé reported to him; and Smith on his map under the legend “Massawomecks” places three kings’ houses, which are evidently intended for towns, as he names one Massawomeck. Concerning the Massawomeckes, Smith learned that “beyond the mountains from whence is the head of the river Patawomeke, the savages report, inhabit their most mortal enemies, the Massawomekes, upon a great salt water,” and that this people were a great nation and very populous; and that “the heads of all those rivers, especially the Pattawomekes, the Pautuxuntes, the Sasquesahanocks, the Tockwoughes, are continually tormented by them. While exploring Chesapeake bay he met 7canoes full of these Indians; and judging by their “targets, baskets, swords, tobacco pipes, platters, bows and arrows,” and other things, he decided that “they much exceeded them of our parts.” Noting their dexterity in the management of their canoes, “made of the barks of trees, sewed together with bark, and well luted with gum,” he concluded that they were seated on some great water. He says that they were “much extolled” by the Nanticoke and their neighbors. He also learned that they had “so many men that they made warre with all the world,” and that the Massawomeckes were “higher up in the mountains.” These references to the presence of mountains in the country of the Massawomeckes well describe the mountainous regions of upper Susquehanna river and its branches. As Scahentowanen in ” Scahentowanenrhonon” signifies ‘It is a very great plain,’ and was the Huron and Iroquois name of the Wyoming plain or flats in Pennsylvania, it seems probable that Heckewelder’s suggested derivation of the name Wyoming from a Delaware or cognate term is merely a translation of the Iroquoian term. Heckewelder says, Mcheuómi or M’cheuwámi “signifieth extensive level flats,” and because of the large falls on this river, it is called, he says, “M’chweuwami Sipu” by the Delawares, and “Quahonta” by the Six Nations, which is the nominal stem in the Iroquoian term in question. The locative of the Delaware term would be Mcheuóming, or Mcheuwáming, meaning ‘at the great flats, or plain,’ which the English have changed into “Wyoming.” The animate plural added to the first of these examples would produce M’cheaómek, which Smith heard from another dialect as “Massawomecke.” This seems to confirm the suggestion that the “Massawomecks” of Smith were identical with the “Scahentoarrhonons” of the Jesuit Relation for 1635. It has been seen that Akhrakvaeronon, of which Atra’kwae’ronnons is a well-known dialectic variation in Huron (in which kh=t), is a synonym of .Scahentoarrhonons, and so it is possible to show that these people of Wyoming were destroyed by the Iroquois in 1652. Two entries in the Journal des PP. Jésuites for 1652 explain this; the entry for June 5 says that “the Iroquois, having gone during the winter in full force against the Atra’kwae’ronnons or Andasto’e’ronnons, had had the worst of it,” but that for July 3 says the news was “the capture of Atra’kwa’e [=Atra’kwaye] by the Iroquois Nations, to the number of a thousand. They have carried off 5 or 6 hundred chiefly men. The Mohawk lost in this expedition 10 men; the other cantons, some 20, some 30 all together, 130.” The identification of Atra’kwa’e with Andasto’e’ in the foregoing citations is probably due to a misconception of the relator. From the Journal des PP. Jésuites for 1651 (Apr. 22) it is learned that in the autumn of 1650, 1,500 Iroquois had attacked the Neutrals and had taken one of their towns, but that the Neutrals, led by the Tohontaenrat, the Deer tribe of the Hurons, named the White-eared, fell on the retreating Iroquois and killed or captured 200; that, notwithstanding this reverse, 1,200 Iroquois returned thither during the winter of 1651 to avenge their loss. The Journal for Apr. 7, 1652 says only 600 Iroquois struck this blow. In the same Journal for 1652 (Apr. 19) it is stated that the Neutrals have formed an alliance with those of Andasto’e’ (=Kanasto’ge) against the Iroquois; that the Seneca, going to war against the Neutrals, had been defeated, and as a consequence the women had been compelled to leave Sonnontouan (the Seneca capital) and withdraw to the Cayuga; and that during the winter the Mohawk had gone to war toward Andasto’e’, the result being unknown. The Jesuit Relation for 1651 10Jesuit Relation for 1651, chap. II, ed. 1858 gives the information that the Iroquois for a year past had turned their arms against the Neutrals and had met with some success, taking two frontier towns, in one of which were 1,600 men. One was taken in the autumn of 1650, and the other in the early spring of 1651; the destruction of life was great, especially among the aged and the children, and the number of captives, particularly young women, was very large. This loss brought about the total dispersal of the Neutrals, but did not result by any means in the total extinction of the people of that nation, as the following citation from the Journal des PP. Jésuites for 1653 clearly indicates, when considered in connection with the reputed alliance of the Neutrals with the Conestoga, mentioned above, giving some insight into the state of affairs in regard to the Erie and allied tribes southward. “All the Algonquian Nations are assembling, with what remains of the Tobacco Nation and of the Neutral Nation, at Ayotonatendiye [i. e., At Potawatomi Place], 3 days’ journey above the Sault Skiaye [i. e., Sault Ste Marie], toward the south. Those of the Tobacco Nation have wintered at Teyaonto’ruyi [i. e., At Michilimackinac]; the Neutrals, to the number of 800, at Sken’chioye [i. e., At the Place of the Foxes, being south of Detroit], toward Teyo’chanontian [Detroit]; these two nations are to betake themselves next autumn to the “Place of the Potawatomi, where even now they number a thousand men, to wit, 400 Potawatomi, 200 Ottawa or Cheveux Relevez, 100 Winnebago, people from the Nation of A’chawi, 200 Chippewa, and 200 Missisauga and allies. A’chawi is the one who is directing all this affair.” (In the italicized native words the letter y has been substituted for the inverted comma of the original.) Of all the tribes which at this period became involved in war with the Iroquois, the Erie and allies apparently do not appear in this complot of the enemies of the Iroquois. But it is very probable that the Erie here appear under the name Achawi, or A’chawi, which was seemingly their Algonquian appellation. And it may be that this name is a form of Smith’s Ulchowig, the final q being the animate plural sign. It is evidently a translation of the Iroquois-Huron name Rhiierrhonon and cognate forms (see Erie), which signify, apparently, ‘People of the place of panthers,’ or possibly of wildcats, the name being generic for both of these animals. For wildcat, Smith gives utchunquoyes, Strachey gives utchoonggwai for a cat or a wild beast much larger and spotted black under the belly like a lynx, and uttacawai for “lyon,” which of course was probably intended for panther, and the native terms employed by him are evidently cognate.

From the Jesuit Relation for 1647-48, in reference to the Rhiierrhonon, it is learned that the south shores of Lake Erie were formerly inhabited “by certain tribes whom we call the Nation of the Cat; they have been compelled to retire far inland to escape their enemies, who are farther west”; and further that they had a number of fixed towns, as they cultivated the soil. This would indicate that before this date the Erie had been forced eastward into the region along the west branch of the Susquehanna or the upper waters of the Allegheny. Now, it was from this latter region that the Wenrohronon, an allied tribe of the Neutrals, emigrated in 1639 to the Huron country. Of these, Father Du Peron wrote, Apr. 27, 1639: ” We have a foreign nation taking refuge here both on account of the Iroquois, their enemies, and of the epidemic, which is still causing them great mortality; nearly all of them are baptized before death.” And Bressani 11Relation for 1653, Thwaites’ ed., 39, 141, writing of the Wenrohronon (Ahouenrochrhonons), said that they had then recently come into the Huron country and “had formerly traded with the English, Dutch, and other heretical Europeans.” At this point it may be well to cite some information concerning a little-known people, called the Black Minquas, who apparently dwelt in the region now under consideration, that south east of Lake Erie and the Juniata, and the west branch of the Susquehanna. Some interesting data are obtained from an extended legend appearing on Herrman’s map of Virginia and Maryland, prepared in 1670 and issued in l673. Beyond the Alleghany mountains all the streams flow westward either into “the Bay of Mexico or the West Sea,” especially the first one discovered, “a very great River, called the Black Mincquaas River” (i. e., the Ohio), whereon lived the tribe of that name. There was a branch (the Conemaugh) of the “Black Mincquaas River” opposite a branch (the Juniata) of the Susquehanna river, which entered the main stream of the Susquehanna some leagues above the “Sassquahana forte,” placed by the map on the right bank near “the greatest fal, where formerly those Black Mincquaas came over as far as Delaware to trade”; but that “the Sassquahana and Sinnicus Indians went over and destroyed that very great nation.” Van der Donck mentions these Indians, assigning them a general position and stating: “The beavers are mostly taken far inland, there being few of them near the settlements particularly by the Black Minquas, who are thus named because they wear a black badge on their breast, and not because they are really black.” One other reference to these people is found in Beekman’s Letter of Dec. 23, 1662 12Pa. Archives, 2d s., VII, 695, 1878, wherein the statement is made that 5 Minquas (Susquehanna) chiefs informed him that they expected shortly the assistance of 800 Black Minquas, of whom 200 had already arrived, so that they were fully resolved to carry the war into the country of the Seneca and to attack their forts; and they requested that the white people furnish them with munitions of war when payment was made for them. Hazard 13Annals of Pa., 2d s., 342,1850 evidently errs in calling these allies of the Susquehanna “Swedish Minquas,” probably because he did not know that the Erie or some of their allied tribes bore this name.

It is thus seen that the number and position of the tribes marked on the “Carte Figurative” confirm in large measure the view that the names of places with kings’ houses placed on Smith’s map under the general rubric “Sasquesahanoughs” were those of independent tribes or of the chief towns of such tribes in the valley of the Susquehanna. It was perhaps the lack of definite knowledge concerning them that compelled Smith to be silent about them in his text. With the final subjugation of the Susquehanna, representing the remnants of the tribes dwelling above them, in 1676, this period of the history of the Susquehanna valley is closed.

Subsequent to the year 1700 the valley of the Susquehanna became the habitat of many of the tribes subject to the Iroquois. The Shawnee, Conoy, Nanticoke, Delawares, Munsee, Mahican, Saponi, Tutelo, Tuscarora, and 12 or 15 other tribes were settled here at one time or another under the jurisdiction of the Five Nations.

For Further Study

The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Susquehanna as both an ethnological study, and as a people. See:

Footnotes:   [ + ]

1.Proceedings of the Council of Maryland for 1636-1667, pp. 421, 550
2.Coll. N. Y. Hist. Soc., 2 s., III, pt. I, 31-32, 1857
3.N. Y. Doe. Col. Hist., I, 14, 1854
4.Bozman, Hist. Md., II, 273, 1837
5.Proud, Hist. Pa., I, 111, 1897
6.Bozman, op. cit., II, 161, 1837
7.Descr. New Sweden, Mem. Hist. Soc. Pa., in, 157, 1834
8.Jes. Rel. 1635, 33, 1858
9.Jes. Rel. 1635, 35, 1858
10.Jesuit Relation for 1651, chap. II, ed. 1858
11.Relation for 1653, Thwaites’ ed., 39, 141
12.Pa. Archives, 2d s., VII, 695, 1878
13.Annals of Pa., 2d s., 342,1850

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