Collection: Notes on the Iroquois

Infant Atotarho of the Onondaga

While I was engaged in taking the census of the Onondagas, at their council house, at the Castle, where a large number of all ages and both sexes were assembled, the interpreter, who spoke English very well, taking advantage of a pause in the business, said to me, pointing to a fine boy who sat on a bench, near a window, “that is our king!” I had, a short time before, requested that this boy should be sent for. His mother had now, unperceived by me, brought him, dressed out in his best clothes, and evinced, by the expression of her eyes and bearing, a conscious pride in bringing him to my notice. And truly, she had every reason to be proud of so finely formed, bright and well-looking a boy. In addition to these advantages, it is to be remembered that descent, amongst the Onondagas and the other Iroquois, is counted by the female, which constituted a further motive of satisfaction and pride to the mother, in showing her pretty Hux-sa-ha, or boy. She made no remark, however, on my noticing him, but sat with modesty and ease near him, but with an eye beaming with too much pride and self-complacence to be concealed. Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. choose a state: Any AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC...

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The Iroquois Origin

Origin of the continent, of the animal creation, and of the Indian race: the introduction of the two principles of good and evil into the government of the world. Iroquois tradition opens with the notion that there were originally two worlds, or regions of space, namely, an upper and lower world. The upper was inhabited by beings similar to the human race; the lower by monsters, moving in the waters. When the human species were transferred below, and the lower sphere was about to be rendered fit for their residence, the act of their transference or reproduction is concentrated in the idea of a female, who began to descend into the lower world, which is depicted as a region of darkness, waters and monsters, She was received on the back of a tortoise, where she gave birth to male twins, and expired. The shell of this tortoise expanded into the continent, which, in their phraseology, is called an a “island;” and is named by the Onondagas, Aonao. One of the infants was called Inigorio, or the Good Mind; the other, Inigohatea, or the Bad Mind. These two antagonistical principles, which are such perfect counterparts of the Ormusd and Ahriman of the Zoroaster, were at perpetual variance, it being the law of one to counteract whatever the other did. They were not, however, men, but gods, or existences, through whom...

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History and Origin of the Senecas Indians

One of the first traits which strikes an observer on entering the territory of this tribe, is the fact that they are called by a name which is not known in their vocabulary, and which they only recognize from having long been thus designated by others. Identical as it is in its present orthography, with the name of the Roman moralist, it is yet wholly improbable that it had any such origin; it must be regarded as an accidental coincidence of sound in some other Indian tongue. That this tongue is the Mohawk, a people who stood first in...

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Iroquois Ancient History

Indians claim to be the offspring of an independent act of creation. The Iroquois name themselves in proud allusion to their supposed supremacy. Tribes on the St. Lawrence and the lakes live in disputes. War with a race of giants called Ronongweca: the fiend Shotrowea, contests with the great Kwiss Kwiss, or Mastodon, the Big Elk, and the Horned Serpent. A meteor falls in the camp. Northern tribes confederate; send an unfortunate embassage to a great chief south, war with him, war with each other, and the country thereby depopulated and left to its original desolation. When we come to draw the minds of the sages and chroniclers of the Iroquois cantons, to the facts of their early history and origin, they treat us with legendary fables, and myths of gods and men, and changes and freaks in elementary matter, which indicate that such ideas, were common to their progenitors, whatever part of the world they occupied. We have adverted to their notions on this head, in the preceding remarks on their cosmogony, tinctured, as it strongly is, with the old Persian philosophy. They deny, as do all the tribes, a foreign origin. They assert, that America, or AONAO, was the place of their origin. They begin by laying down the theory, that they were the peculiar care of the Supernal Power who created all things, and who, as...

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Extracts from a Rough Diary of Notes

Such parts only of these notes and memorandums are retained, as have been referred to, as original materials, of which there is some particular fact or statement, which has not been exhausted. Sometimes the note itself was chiefly of a mnemonic character, and designed to recall further particulars entrusted to the memory. Memoranda, New York, July 1. Antiquities of New York Localities to be examined, namely: 1. Pompey, Onondaga. Vestiges of a town, 500 acres. Three circular walls, or elliptical forts, 8 miles apart. These formed a triangle, enclosing the town. 2. Camillus, Onondaga. Two forts. One 3 acres on a high hill. East, a gate, west, spring 10 rods off Shape elliptical. Ditch deep. Wall 10 feet high. Second fort, half a mile distant. Lower ground. Constructed like the other. About half as large. Shells, testacies animals plenty. Fragments, pottery. Pieces of brick. “Other signs” of ancient settlement, found by first settlers. [Clinton.] 3. East Bank Of Seneca River. Six miles south of Cross and Salt Lakes. Forty miles south of Oswego. Discovered 1791, New York Magazine, 1792 with picture writing, on a stone 5 feet by 3½, and 6 inches thick, evidently sepulchral. Two hundred and twenty yards length. Fifty-five yards breadth. Bank and ditch entire. Two apertures middle of parallelogram, one towards the water) other land. Second work, half a mile south. Half-moon. Outwork. Singularity, extremities...

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Exploit of Hi-a-de-o-ni

The following incident in the verbal annals of Iroquois hardihood and heroism, was related to me by the intelligent Seneca Tetoyoah, (William Jones of Cattaraugus) along with other reminiscences of the ancient Cherokee wars. The Iroquois thought life was well lost, if they could gain glory by it. HI-A-DE-O-NI, said he, was the father of the late chief Young King. He was a Seneca warrior, a man of great prowess, dexterity, and swiftness of foot, and had established his reputation for courage and skill, on many occasions. He resolved, while the Senecas were still living on the Genesee River, to make an incursion alone into the country of the Cherokees. He plumed himself with the idea, that he could distinguish himself in this daring adventure, and he prepared for it, according to the custom of warriors. They never encumber themselves with baggage. He took nothing but his arms, and the meal of a little parched and pounded corn. 1One table spoonful of this mixed with sugar and water will sustain a warrior twenty-four hours without meat. The forest gave him his meat. HI-A-DE-O-NI reached the confines of the Cherokee country in safety and alone. He waited for evening before he entered the precincts of a village. He found the people engaged in a dance. He watched his opportunity, and when one of the dancers went out from the ring into the...

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Ethnological Suggestions

Where we have nothing else to rely upon, we may receive the rudest traditions of an Indian nation, although they be regarded as mere historical phenomena, or materials to be considered. Whether such materials are to be credited or disbelieved wholly, or in part, is quite another thing. Our Indians, like some of the ancient nations of Asia, whom they resemble in many points of character, were prone to refer their origin to myths and legends, under which they doubt less, sometimes meant to represent truths, or at least, to express opinions. The Indian tribes, very much like their ancient prototypes of the old world, seemed to have felt a necessity for inventing some story of their origin, where it is sometimes probable there was little or nothing of actual tradition to build it upon. They were manifestly under a kind of self-reproach, to reflect that they had indeed no history; nothing to connect their descent from prior races; and if they have not proved themselves men of much judgment in their attempts to supply the deficiency in their fabrications and allegories, they must often come in, it must be confessed, for no little share of imagination. There appears, throughout the whole race, to be the vestiges of a tradition of the creation and the deluge, two great and striking points in the history of man, which, however he...

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Era of Six Nations Confederation

There is a tradition among portions of the Senecas, that the present confederation took place four years before Hudson sailed up the river bearing his name. This gives A. D. 1605. This question has been examined in its general bearings in a prior paper. All other authorities indicate an earlier date. Chronology finds its most difficult tasks in establishing dates among our aboriginal tribes. Pyrlaus, a missionary at the ancient site of Dionderoga or Fort Hunter, writing between 1742 and 1748, states, as the result of the best conjectures he could form, from information derived from the Mohawks, that the alliance took place “one age, or the length of a man s life, before the white people came into the country.” 1Trans. Hist, and Lit. Com. Am. Philo. Soc. vol. 1, p. 36. He gives the following as the names of the sachems of the Five Nations, who met and formed the alliance; Toganawita or the Mohawks. Oratschechta or the Oneidas. Tatotarho or the Onondagas. Togahayon or the Cayugas. Ganiatario, for the Senecas Satagaruyes, for the Senecas The name of Thannawage is given as the first proposer of such an alliance. He was an aged Mohawk sachem. It was decided that these names should forever be kept in remembrance by naming a person in each nation, through succeeding generations, after them. Taking 1609, the era of the Dutch discovery,...

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Senecas Embassy of Peace to the Cherokees

In the course of the long and fierce war between the Six Nations and the Cherokees, it happened, said Oliver Silverheels, that eight Senecas determined to go on an embassy of peace. Among them was Little Beard, the elder, and Jack Berry. They met some Cherokees on the confines of the Cherokee territories, to whom they imparted their object. Intelligence of this interview was sent for ward to their village, where the ambassadors were duly received, and after this preliminary reception, they were introduced to the ruling chiefs, and favorably received by the Cherokee council. All but one of the Cherokee chiefs agreed to the terms of peace He also would consent, if, prior to the treaty, the eight Seneca delegates would first consent to go to war against their enemies, situated south of them. [Who their enemies were is not mentioned.] They consented, and set out with a war party. A fight ensued in which the leader of the Senecas, called Awl, was taken prisoner. The other seven escaped. The fate of Awl was decided in the enemies camp, where it was determined that he should be burned at the stake. Preparations were made for this purpose, but as they were about to bind him, he claimed the privilege of a warrior, to sing his death song and recite his exploits by striking the post. Pleased with the...

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Vestiges of an Ancient Fort or Place of Defense in Lenox, Madison County

Some years have elapsed since I visited this work, 11812. and the plough and spade may have further obliterated the lines, then more or less fully apparent. But in the meantime no notice of it has been published. The following outlines denote its extent and character. A. indicates the lines of a picketed work. B. is an extensive plain, covered with wild grass and some shrubbery, which had once been in cultivation. The northern edge of this plain is traversed by a stream, which has worn its bed down in the unconsolidated strata, so as to create quite a...

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Cayuga Vocabulary

1 God Niyoh 2 Devil Onesoono 3 Man Najina 4 Woman Konheghtie 5 Boy Aksaa 6 Girl Exaa 7 Child Exaa 8 Infant Onoskwataa 9 Father (my) Ihani 10 Mother (my) Iknoha 11 Husband (my) lonkniniago 12 Wife (my) longiahisko 13 Son (my) Ihihawog 14 Daughter (my) Ikhehawog 15 Brother (my) Itekyatehnonte 16 Sister (my) Kekeaha 17 An Indian Ongwehowe 18 Head Onowaa 19 Hair Ononkia 20 Face Okonsa 21 Scalp Onoha 22 Ear Honta 23 Eye Okaghha 24 Nose Ony ohsia 25 Mouth Sishakaent 26 Tongue Aweanaghsa 27 Tooth Onojia 28 Beard Okosteaa 29 Neck Onyaa 30 Arm Oneantsa 31 Shoulder Oghnesia 32 Back Eshoghne 33 Hand Kshoghtage 34 Finger Onia 35 Nail Ojeighta 36 Breast Oahsia 37 Body Oyeonta 38 Leg Oghsena 29 Navel Kotshetot 40 Thigh Onhoska 41 Knee Okontsha 42 Foot Oshita 43 Toe Oghyakwea 44 Heel lyatage 45 Bone Ostienda 46 Heart Kawiaghsa 47 Liver Gotwesia 48 Windpipe Ohowa 49 Stomach Onekreanda Cayuga Vocabulary Page 271 50 Bladder, Onheha 51 Blood, Otgweasa 52 Yein, Ojinohyada 53 Sinew, Ojinohyada 54 Flesh, Owaho 55 Skin, Ogoneghwa 56 Seat, Ondiadakwa 57 Ankle, Ojihougwa 58 Town, Kanatae 59 House, Kanosiod 60 Door, Kanhoha 61 Lodge, Teyetasta 62 Chief, Aghseanewane 63 Warrior, Osgeagehta 64 Friend, Aterotsera 65 Enemy, Ondateswaes 66 Kettle, Kanadsia 67 Arrow, Kanoh 68 Bow, Adoia 69 War Club, Kajihwaodriohta 70 Spear, Kaghsigwa 71 Axe, Atokea 72...

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The Cayuga Indians

The history of this canton does not stand out prominently among the Iroquois while it will be found that as one of the inclusive tribes who carried their name and fame so high among the aborigines, they have performed their due part, and produced warriors, sages and speakers of eminence. Were every thing else, indeed, blotted out of their history, the fact of their having produced a Logan 1Logan was the son of Skellelimus, a Cayuga, and went early to the Ohio valley, if he were not born there. would be sufficient to rescue their memory from oblivion. In their early search after a place to hunt, fish and plant corn, as an independent tribe, they, on the assumption of their own traditions, passed up the Seneca River, into the sylvan and beautiful lake, which bears their name. In visiting this lake the present year, in search of their ancient sites, it was not without a melancholy interest, that I surveyed, within the boundaries of Aurora, the remains of one of those apple orchards, which were ruthlessly cut down by a detachment of the army of Gen. Sullivan, in his severe but necessary expedition in 1778. Many vestiges of their ancient residence still remain in Cayuga County, nor has local memory, in its intelligent and hospitable inhabitants, dropped from its scroll the names of several of its distinguished chiefs,...

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Building of the First Vessel on the Upper Lakes

The enterprise of Sa Salle, in constructing a vessel above the falls of Niagara, in 1679, to facilitate his voyage to the Illinois and the Mississippi, is well known; but while the fact of his having thus been the pioneer of naval architecture on the upper lakes, is familiar to historical readers, the particular place of its construction, has been matter of various opinions. Gen. Cass in his historical discourse, places it at Erie; Mr. Bancroft in his history, designates the mouth of the Tonawanda. Mr. Sparks in the biography of Marquette, decides to place it on the Canadian side of the Niagara. These variances result in a measure from the vague and jarring accounts of the narrators, whose works had been consulted in some instances in abridged or mutilated translations, and not from doubt or ambiguity in the missionary “Letters.” Literary associations in America, who aimed to increase the means of reference to standard works, began their labors in feebleness. The New York Historical Society, which dates its origin in 1804, and has vindicated its claims to be the pioneer of historical letters in America, published Tonti s account of the Chevalier La Salle s enterprise, in one of the volumes of its first series. It is since known, however, that this account was a bookseller s compilation from, it is believed generally correct sources, but it was...

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Tuscaroras Indians

The traditions of this canton affirm, that they are descendants of the original family of Iroquois, who began their existence, or their nationality, at least at or near the falls of the Oswego. After the migration of the parent tribe towards the sea, and their return west and separation into tribes, this band went on west till they reached Lake Erie. From hence they traveled southwest till they reached the Mississippi. Part of them crossed the river, and they were thus divided. Those who went over, became, in time, the enemies of such as remained on its eastern banks, and were finally lost and for gotten from their memory. Terenyawagon, the Holder of the Heavens, who was the patron of the home bands, did not fail, in this crisis, to direct their way also. After giving them practical instructions in war and hunting, he guided their footsteps in their journies, south and east, until they had crossed the Alleghanies, and reached the shores of the sea, on the coasts which are now called the Carolinas. They were directed to fix their residence on the banks of the Cau-tan-o, that is, a Pine in the water, now called Neuse River, in North Carolina. By this time their language was altered, but not so much but that they could understand each other. Here Terenyawagon left them to hunt, increase and prosper,...

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Vestiges of an Ancient Elliptical Work at Canandaigua

The Senecas deduce their descent from a noted eminence, bearing the title of “Fort Hill” at the head of the sylvan expanse of Canandaigua Lake. The term of Fort Hill, is however, not confined to that spot, but is, as in the work under consideration, one of common occurrence, in sundry parts of the ancient and extended area of the Six Nations. The subjoined sketch denotes the vestiges of an ancient stronghold of the Senecas, of an elliptical form, on elevated lands about a mile northerly from the village. This work has been nearly obliterated by the plough. The...

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