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Topic: Iroquois

Letter from Rev. William McMurray to H. R. Schoolcraft

Letter from Rev. Wm. McMurray to H. R. Schoolcraft Dundas, November 11th, 1845. MY DEAR SIR I have just received the vocabularies, with the Indian words, from the Rev. Adam Elliot, of Tuscarora, to whom I sent them for the translation. The cause of the delay was his severe illness, and the difficulty of getting suitable persons to give him the Indian. He says, before you publish, if you will send him, through me, the proof sheets, he will have them corrected for you, and forwarded without delay. He is an amiable and most excellent man. Yours, most faithfully, WILLIAM...

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Letter from Rev. Asher Bliss to Henry R. Schoolcraft

Letter from Rev. Asher Bliss to Henry R. Schoolcraft. Cattaraugus Mission Sept. 4th, 1845. DEAR SIR Agreeably to your request I forward you some facts in regard to the establishment and progress of the gospel among the natives of this reservation. The Cattaraugus Mission Church was organized July 8th, 1827, (which is a little more than 18 years.) It consisted of Mr. William A. Thayer, the teacher, his wife, and 12 native members. There have been additions to it from time to time, until the whole number who have held a connection with this church is one hundred and eighteen. Thirteen of these have been white persons and most of them connected with the mission family. Of the one hundred and five native members seven or eight have come by letter from other reservations, so that the number who have united on profession of faith is a little short of one hundred. Twenty-five of these have gone to their final account. Some have died in the triumphs of faith, and we humbly hope and trust that they are among the blessed, in the kingdom of our common Father. A number (as it was natural to expect from converts out of heathenish darkness) have apostatized from Christianity, and returned to their former courses. The proportion of these is not probably more than one in ten. Between sixty and seventy are...

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Letter from Mr. Richard U. Shearman to Henry R. Schoolcraft

Letter from Mr. Richard U. Shearman to Henry R. Schoolcraft. Vernon, October 4th, 1845. SIR: I completed the enumeration of the Oneida Indians some days ago, but delayed sending a return to you to ascertain the Indian names. It doubtless contains all the information you require at this particular time. Several families are included in the marshal’s enumeration of the inhabitants of the town of Vernon. The remainder reside in Madison county. The houses of these Indians are generally much better than the log houses of the whites, being constructed of hewn, even jointed logs, with shingle roofs and good windows. There are three good frame houses belonging to them; one of these is a very handsome one, belonging to Skenado. I noticed in it some tasty fringed window curtains and good carpets. The Indians whom you met at Oneida were the flower of the tribe, being mostly farmers, who raise a sufficiency of produce for their comfortable support. There are several heads of families in my list, who cultivate no land of their own, but gain subsistence by chopping wood and performing farm labor for others. The whole number of families, I make, as you will perceive, 31. The whole number of houses I believe is but 28, but in each of these houses I found two families. The number of persons is 157. The count of last...

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Letter from Mr. D. E. Walker to Henry R, Schoolcraft

Letter from Mr. D. E. Walker to Henry R. Schoolcraft. Batavia, July 26th, 1845. MR. SCHOOLCRAFT: I have visited the mound on Dr. Noltan’s farm. Nothing of great importance can be learned from it. I should think it about fifty rods from the creek, and elevated, perhaps, some eight feet above the general level of the ground. A similar one is also found about two miles south of this, and, as is this, it is on high ground, of circular form, and with a radius of about one rod. They were discovered about thirty or thirty-five years since. Nothing has been found in them, save human bones. The first, some nine or ten years since, was nearly all ploughed up and scraped into the road. It is said that; “sculls, arms and legs were seen on fences, stumps and the high-way for a long time after they were drawn into the road.” On, some two miles beyond the second was discovered a burial-ground. At that place were ploughed up shell, bone, or quill-beads. Near this place was found a brown earthen pot, standing between the roots of a large tree, (maple, they think) and with a small sapling grown in it, to some six inches in diameter. Beads of shell, bone or porcupine quills have often been found. I would have remarked, that on the first mound stood a...

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Letter from Mr. Cusick to Henry R. Schoolcraft

Letter from Mr. Cusick to Henry R. Schoolcraft August 4th, 1845. It appears to me, very great difficulties are in the way of finding out and becoming acquainted with the discovery of all ancient traditions, and what original stock we came from. So far as our recollections extend according to our traditions of many centuries, the aborigines who inhabited the vast wilderness in this great continent, now North America, were guided and led by a certain man, who stood highest in dignity, and next to the Supreme Being, who is called Tharonyawago, that is to say, being interpreted, the Holder of Heavens. He was the great leader of the Red Men, and he regulated and taught how to divide the country and rivers, and mode of their living, and manners of costume and ceremonies, in many centuries. The Tuscaroras were descended from the Iroquois; they emigrated from the Five Nations to the Southern Country in North Carolina, and when the Iroquois used to send expeditions and war parties to go to war with other Indian tribes in that quarter, these parties went to the Tuscarora towns in North Carolina, and found a resting place and refreshment, and they used to be in the habit of intermarriage with each other, they have never been to war against each other, and they were always on terms of good friendship and connexion....

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Letter from L. T. Morgan, Esq., to H, R. Schoolcraft

Letter from L. T. Morgan, Esq., to H, R. Schoolcraft. Rochester October 7, 1845. Sir: You have doubtless seen a notice of the great council of the Six Nations, recently held at Tonawanda. We call it great, because we never saw any thing of the kind before, and perhaps never will again. Three of us started in season, and spent the whole of last week in attendance, and were also joined by Mr. Hurd, a delegate from Cayuga. We were there before the council opened, and left after the fire was raked up. Our budget of information is large, and overthrows some of our past knowledge, and on the whole, enlarges our ideas of the vastness and complexity of this Indian fabric. We are a great way from the bottom yet; we may never reach it, but what we do bring up to the surface, remunerates richly for the search. We learn that at the establishment of the confederacy, fifty sachem-ships were founded, and a name assigned to each, which they are still known by, and which names every sachem of the several sachemdom, from the beginning to the present time, has borne. There were also fifty sub-sacheins, or aids; that is, to every sachem was given a sub-sachem to stand behind him in a word, to do his bidding. These sachemships are still confined to the five nations;...

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Letter from J. V. H. Clark to Henry R. Schoolcraft

Manlius, Oct. 6th, 1845. H. R. SCHOOLCRAFT, ESQ., DEAR SIR Agreeable to your request I have been upon the grounds in our vicinity once occupied as forts and places of defense. So devastating has been the hand of time and the works of civilized men, that little can now be possibly gleaned by observation. Our main reliance in these matters must depend almost entirely upon the recollections of early settlers and traditions. Many of these accounts, as you are aware, are differently related by different individuals, and not infrequently in material points contradictory. From careful investigation and inquiry I have been enabled to add a little to what I had previously gathered and referred you to, in the New York Spectator. A locality in the town of Cazenovia, Madison co., near the county line, and on Lot 33, Township of Pompey, Onondaga co., called the “Indian Fort” was not described in that paper. It is about four miles southeasterly from Manlius village, situated on a slight eminence, which is nearly surrounded by a deep ravine, the banks of which are quite steep and somewhat rocky. The ravine is in shape like an ox-bow, made by two streams, which pass nearly around it and unite. Across this bow at the opening, was an earthen wall running southeast and northwest, and when first noticed by the early settlers, was four or...

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Letter from Frederick Follet to Henry R. Schoolcraft

Letter from Frederick Follet to Henry R. Schoolcraft Batavia, Oct. 25, 1845. Dear Sir My private and public duties together prevented my making a visit to “Fort Hill,” until the 22d inst. and I proceed to give you my ideas of that formation. The ground known as “Fort Hill” is situated about three miles north of the village of Le Roy, and ten or twelve miles northeast from Batavia, the capitol of Genesee county. The better view of “Fort Hill” is had to the north of it, about a quarter of a mile, on the road leading from Bergen to Le Roy. From this point of observation it needs little aid of the imagination to conceive that it was erected as a fortification by a large and powerful army, looking for a permanent and almost inaccessible bulwark of defense. From the center of the “Hill,” in the northwesterly course, the country lies quite flat immediately north, and inclining to the east, the land is also level for one hundred rods, when it rises nearly as high as the “Hill,” and continues for several miles quite elevated. In approaching the “Hill” from the north it stands very prominently before you, rising rather abruptly, though not perpendicularly, to the height of eighty or ninety feet, extending about forty rods on a line east and west, the corners being round or truncated,...

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Letter from C. Dewey to Henry R. Schoolcraft

Letter from C. Dewey to Henry R. Schoolcraft, Fort Hill. This is celebrated as being the remains of some ancient work, and was supposed to have been a fort. Though the name is pronounced as if hill was the name of some individual, yet the place is a fort on a hill, in the loose use of the word. The name designates the place as Fort Hill, to distinguish it from the hills which have no fort on them. Neither is it a hill, except as you rise from the swale on the north, for it is lower than the land to which it naturally belongs. As you pass towards Fort Hill in the road from LeRoy village, which is about three miles to the south, you descend a little most of the distance to this place. The road passes a little west of the middle of the space nearly north and south. The shape is quadrangular, and is shown in the diagram or ground plot. On the right and east side is the deep water course of Allen s Creek, cut down through the rocks for a mile or more, perhaps one hundred and thirty feet deep; on the north is that of Fordham’s Brook, of nearly the same depth, which drains a wide swale from the north and northwest; and on the west is a short and deep...

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Letter from S. A. Goodwin to Henry R. Schoolcraft

Letter from S. A. Goodwin to Henry R. Schoolcraft Auburn, Oct. 17, 1845. My Dear Sir I received yours of the 2d inst. in due course of post, and now send you, at the first practicable moment, a diagram and sketch of the ” Old Fort.” My engagements have been such as to prevent my going out to Geneva, and making a trip to the old fortification alluded to. As to the other one here referred to by McAuley, it is just back of my house, and as soon as I have time to make an examination I will...

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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. The lad was but three years old, but tall for that age, and offered a fine model of form. I could not help noticing,...

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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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