Collection: Notes on the Iroquois


In considering the subject of American antiquities it may facilitate the object, to erect separate eras of occupancy, to which the facts may be referred. Such a division of the great and almost unknown period, which preceded the arrival of Europeans, will at least serve as convenient points to concentrate, arrange and compare the facts and evidences brought forward; and may enable the observer, the better to proceed in any future attempts to generalize. There appear to have been three eras in the aboriginal occupancy of the continent, or more strictly speaking, three conditions of occupancy, which may be conveniently grouped as eras, although the precise limits of them, may be matters of some uncertainty. To make this uncertainty less than it now is, and to erect these eras on probable foundations, the proofs drawn from monuments, mounds, fortifications, ditches, earth-works, barrows, implements of art, and what ever other kind of evidence antiquity affords, may, it is thought, be gathered together in something like this shape, namely: Vestiges and proofs of the original era of the aboriginal migration from other parts of the globe. These, so far as arts or evidences of a material character are denoted, must necessarily be exceedingly limited, if any, of undoubted authenticity, shall indeed now be found. The departments of physiology, and philology, which have heretofore constituted the principal topics of research, are still...

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Antiquities of Pompey and Adjacent Parts of Onondaga County

No part of western New York has furnished a larger number of antiquarian remains, or been more often referred to, than the geo-graphical area which constituted the original town of Pompey. There is, consequently, the less need of devoting elaborate attention to the details of this particular locality. It was first visited and described by De Witt Clinton, in 1810-11, 1Trans, of Philo. and Lit. Society of New York. and the plough has since rendered it a task less easy than it then was, to examine the lines of its ancient works and its archaeological remains. It is quite evident, from the objects of art disclosed at and about these antique sites of security and defense, that civilized man dwelt here in remote times, and there must be assigned to this part of the State a period of European occupancy prior to the commonly received historical era of discovery and settlement, or, at least, if falling within it, as there is now reason to believe, yet almost wholly unknown, or for gotten in its annals. Sismondi has well remarked, that only the most important events come down to posterity, and that fame, for a long flight, prepares to forget every thing which she possibly can. That no accounts should remain of obscure events, in a remote part of the country, at an early date, is not surprising. As it...

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Antique Rock Citadel of Kienuka, in Lewiston, Niagara County, NY

In the preceding sketches, evidences have been presented of the readiness and good judgment of the aboriginal fort builders of western New York, 1It is not without something bordering on anachronism, that this portion of the continent is called New York, in reference to transactions not only before the bestowal of the title, in 1664, but long before the European race set foot on the continent. Still more inappropriate, however, was the term of New Netherland, i. e. New Lowland, which it bore from 1609 to 1664, many parts of the State being characterized by lofty mountains, and all...

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The Sacred Fire of the Iroquois

Sacred Fire. The Sun a Symbol of Divine Intelligence. It was a striking peculiarity of the ancient religious system of the Iroquois that, once a year, the priesthood supplied the people with sacred fire. For this purpose, a set time was announced for the ruling priest s visit. The entire village was apprized of this visit, and the master of each lodge was expected to be prepared for this annual rite. Preliminary to the visit, his lodge fire was carefully put out and ashes scattered about it, as a symbolic sign of desolation and want. Deprived of this element, they were also deprived of its symbolic influence, the sustaining aid and countenance of the supreme power, whose image they recognized in the sun. It was to relieve this want, and excite hope and animation in breasts which had throbbed with dread, that the priest visited the lodge. Exhibiting the insignia of the sacerdotal office, he proceeded to invoke the Master of Life in their behalf, and ended his mission by striking fire from the flint, or from percussion, and lighting anew the domestic fire. The lodge was then swept and garnished anew, and a feast succeeded. This sacred service annually performed, had the effect to fix and increase the reverence of the people for the priestly office. It acted as a renewal of their ecclesiastical fealty; and the consequence...

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Ancient Battlefield on Buffalo Creek

Site of an ancient battlefield, with vestiges of an entrenchment and fortification on the banks of the Deoseowa, or Buffalo creek. The following sketch conveys an idea of the relative position of the several objects alluded to. Taken together they constitute the distinguishing feature in the archaeology of the existing Indian cemetery, mission station, and council-house on the Seneca reservation, five or six miles south of the city of Buffalo. As such, the site is one of much interest, and well worthy of further observation and study. The time and means devoted to it, in the preparation of this...

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Ancient State of Indian Art

To denote the state of art among the aboriginal race, it is necessary closely to examine such monuments of it, as exist. The word “monument” is used to denote any remains of art. Such are their relics in the form of worked shells and amulets, pottery, carved implements and utensils of stone, and other antiquarian remains found in their mounds, graves, fortifications, and other places of ancient occupancy in our latitudes. Of architectural ruins in stone, which constitute so striking a portion of aboriginal antiquities, in central and South America, particularly in the ruins of their temples and teocalli, (the only form of such architecture indeed, which survives,) we have no remains north of the latitude of the mouth of the Mississippi, unless they shall be disclosed in some of the large mounds yet unopened, or in portions of the country north of such a line, which yet remains unexplored, west of the extreme sources of the Red river and the Rio Del Norte. From this inquiry, we may peremtorily exclude, all articles and remains of metal (not gold, silver or native copper) and all sculpture and inscriptions (not picture writing) which have been found and commented on, with an air of wonder, in various places, but which are one and all, undoubtedly of European, or to give the greatest scope to conjecture, of transatlantic origin. Such are, to...

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Ancient Site of the Onondagas in the Valley of the Kasonda, or Butternut Creek of Jamesville

The fact that the ruins of a square fort, with extensive sub-lines in the nature of an enclosure, had existed on the elevated grounds on the right banks of this stream, a mile or two from Jamesville, at the period of its first settlement, led me to visit it. There was the more interest imparted to this well attested tradition of the present inhabitants, by the accounts of the Onondagas, that this valley, in its extent above and below Jamesville, was one of their earliest points of settlement, prior to the era of their establishing their council fire at...

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Ancient Shipwreck of a vessel from the old world on the coast

Whilst the northern tribes lived under the ancient confederacy before named, on the banks of the St. Lawrence and its waters, and before they had yet known white men, it is affirmed that a foreign ship came on the northern coasts, but being driven by stress of weather, passed southward, and was wrecked in that quarter. Most of the crew perished, but a few of them, dressed in leather, reached the shore, and were saved with some of their implements. They were received by a people called the Falcons, 1One of the totems and clans of the Iroquois, is the hawk, or falcon. who conducted them to a mountain, where, however, they remained but a short time, for their allies, the Falcons, disclosed an unfriendly and jealous spirit, and threatened them. In consequence they immediately selected another location, which they fortified. Here they lived many years, became numerous and extended their settlements, but in the end, they were destroyed by furious nations. This tradition is divested of some of the symbolic traits which it possesses in the original, and by which the narrators may be supposed to have concealed their own acts of hostility or cruelty, in the extirpation of the descendants of the Europeans thus cast on their shores. To this end, they represent in the original, the saving of the crew to have been done through the...

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Ancient Fortification of Osco at Auburn, Cayuga County

The eminence called “Fort Hill”, at one time called Osco, 1This ancient name for the site of Auburn was communicated to me by the intelligent Onondaga Taht-kaht-ons, or Abraham Le Fort. It is descriptive of the ford or crossing-place, which anciently existed above the falls, near the site of the present turnpike bridge. This was crossed by stepping-stones, &c. The barks, which made a part of a rude Indian bridge, were, at the time the name was bestowed, nearly overflowed; the crossing was very dangerous, as it was just above the brink of the falls, and it was an...

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Ancient Entrenchments on Fort Hill, near Le Roy, Genesee County

The following diagram of this work has been drawn from a pen-sketch, forwarded by the Rev. Mr. Dewey, of Rochester. The work occurs on an elevated point of land formed by the junction of a small stream, called Fordham’s Brook, with Allen’s Creek, a tributary of the Genesee River. Its position is about three miles north of the village of Le Roy, and some ten or twelve northeast of Batavia. The best view of the hill, as one of the natural features of the country, is obtained a short distance north of it, on the road from Bergen to...

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A Sketch of the Iroquois Groups of Aboriginal Tribes

On the discovery of North America, the Iroquois tribes, were found seated chiefly in the wide and fertile territory of western and northern New York, reaching west to the sources of the Ohio; 1They always denominated the Alleghany River by the name of Ohio. This I found o be the term constantly used for that river in 1845. They give the vowel i, in this word, he sound of i, in machine. north, to the banks of Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence; and east, to the site of Albany. They had as much nationality of character, then, as any of the populous tribes, who, in the 4th century wandered over central and western Europe. They were, in a high degree, warlike, handling the bow and arrow with the skill and dexterity of the ancient Thracians and Parthians. They were confederated in peace and war, and had begun to lay the foundations of a power, against which, the surrounding nations, in the Mississippi valley, and along the St. Lawrence, the Hudson, and the Delaware, could not stand. The French, when they effectually entered the St. Lawrence in 1608, 2They actually discovered this river, in 1535. courted their alliance on the north, and the Dutch did the same in 1609, on the Hudson. Virginia had been apprised of their power, at an early day, and the other English colonies, as...

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American Antiquities

Class First. Nabiko√°guna. 1From the Algic, denoting a medal, a breast- plate or collar. Objects of this kind were worn as marks of honor or rank. So far as known, they were constructed from the most solid and massy parts of the larger seashells. Few instances of their having been made from other materials, are known, in our latitudes. The ruins and tombs of Central and South America have not been explored, so far as is known, with this view. Nor have any insignia of this character been found of stone. Nabiko√°guna Antique. Fig. I., Plate I. This article...

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Census of the Iroquois in 1844

New York, October 31st, 1845. SIR: In conformity with your instructions of the 25th June last, I proceeded to the several Iroquois reservations therein named, and I have the honor herewith to transmit to you the census returns for each reservation, numbered from I to VIII, and distinguished by the popular name of each tribe, or canton. I. The question of the original generic name, by which these tribes were denoted, the relation they bear to the other aboriginal stocks of America, and the probable era of their arrival, and location within the present boundaries of this State, is one, which was naturally suggested by the statistical inquiries entrusted to me. Difficult and uncertain as any thing brought forward on these subjects must necessarily be, it was yet desirable, in giving a view of the present and former condition of the people that the matter should be glanced at. For, although nothing very satisfactory might be stated, it was still conceived to be well to give some answer to the intelligent inquirer, to the end, that it might, at least, be perceived the subject had not escaped notice. A tropical climate, ample means of subsistence, and their consequence, a concentrated and fixed population, raised the ancient inhabitants of Mexico, and some other leading nations on the continent, to a state of ease and semi-civilization, which have commanded the surprise...

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Notes on the Iroquois

Notes on the Iroquois is an official report to the government on the possibilities of civilizing the Iroquois. In the face of facts which depress all others, Schoolcraft is full of high hope that these Indians may be once and for all leaving hunting and farming. He finds the Iroquois increasing in numbers, stabilizing the organization of their society, and improving as individuals.

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