Topic: Iroquois

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. Nabikoáguna. 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. Nabikoáguna Antique. Fig. I., Plate I. This article...

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Wampum Belts

The Iroquois League had its democratic and republican elements, but the separate national governments were essentially oligarchic. The only semblance of written law was the wampum. It was the duty of the “keeper of the wampums” to store all necessary facts in his memory and associate them with the successive lines and arrangements of the beads so that they could readily be called to mind. At general councils the wampums were produced and solemnly expounded. “Reading the wampums” became therefore a means by which to perpetuate treaties, and the exchange of wampums was an impressive occasion. Both the Canadian...

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The Hunter and Medicine Legend

There once lived a man who was a great hunter. His generosity was the theme of praise in all the country, for he not only supplied his own family with food, but distributed game among his friends and neighbors, and even called the birds and animals of the forest to partake of his abundance. For this reason he received the appellation of “Protector of Birds and Animals.” He lived a hunter’s life till war broke out between his own and some distant nation, and then he took the war path. He was as brave a warrior as he was a skillful hunter, and slew a great multitude of the enemy, till all were lying dead around him, except one, who was a mighty man of valor , and in an unguarded moment the hunter received a blow from his tomahawk on the head, which felled him to the earth; his enemy then took his scalp and fled. Some of his own party saw what befell him, and supposing him dead left him on the field of battle; but a fox who had wandered this way immediately recognized his benefactor. Sorrowful indeed, was he to find him thus slain, and began to revolve in his mind some means of restoring him to life. “Perhaps,” said he, “some of my friends may know of a medicine by which his wounds may...

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Great Spirit

An Indian hunter went forth to hunt, and as he wandered through the forest he heard a strain of beautiful music far off among the trees. He listened, but could not tell whence it came; he knew it could not be by any human voice, or from any instrument he had ever heard. As it came near it ceased. The next evening he went forth again, but he heard no music, and again, but in van. Then came the Great Spirit to him in a dream and told him to fast, wash himself till he was purified, then he might go forth and would hear again the music. So he purified himself and went again among the dark trees of the forest, and soon his ear caught the sweet strains, as he drew near they became more beautiful; he listened till he learned them and could make the same sweet sound, then he knew that it was a plant with a tall green stem and long tapering leaves. He took his knife and cut the stalk, but ere he had scarcely finished, it healed and was the same as before; he cut it again, and again it healed. Then he knew it would heal diseases, he took it home, dried it by the fire, pulverized it, and applied a few particles of it to a dangerous wound; no sooner...

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Medicine Legends of the Iroquois

The two above are the legends concerning the principal medicines used among the Iroquois. The ancient manner of administering them, was to take a small wooden goblet and go to a running stream, dipping toward the way which the stream ran, fill the goblet and return, place it near the fire with some tobacco near it; a prayer is offered while tobacco is thrown upon the fire, that the words may ascend upon the smoke. The medicine is placed on a piece of skin near the goblet, being very finely pulverized, is taken up with a wooden spoon and dusted upon the water in three spots, in the form of a triangle, thus: The medicine man then looks at it critically, if it spreads over the surface of the water and whirls about, it is a sign that the invalid will be healed; if it sinks directly in the places where it was put, there is no hope, the sick person must die and the whole is thrown away. Once in six months there is a great feast made, at the hunting season in fall and spring. On the night of the feast as soon as it is dark, all who are present assemble in one room, where no light or fire is allowed to burn, and placing the medicine near the covered embers, the tobacco by its side,...

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Sketches of an Iroquois Council, or Condolence

In giving the description of the condolence, I have chosen the following writings of Mr. G. S. Riley, of Rochester, to-wit: A grand council of the confederate Iroquois was held October 1, 1845, at the Indian council house, on the Tonawanda reservation, in the county of Genesee. Its proceedings occupied three days. It embraced representatives from all the six nations the Mohawk, the Onondaga, the Seneca, the Oneida, the Cayuga, and the Tuscarora. It is the only one of the kind which has been held for a number of years, and is probably the last which will ever be assembled with a full representation of the confederate nations. The Indians from abroad arrived at the council-grounds, or the immediate vicinity, two days previous, and one of the most interesting spectacles of the occasion was the entry of the different nations upon the domain and hospitality of the Senecas, on whose grounds the council was to be held. The representation of the Mohawks, coming as they did from Canada, was necessarily small. The Onondagas, with acting Todotahhoh, of the confederacy, and his two counselors, made an exceedingly creditable appearance. Nor was the array of the Tuscaroras, in point of numbers, at least, deficient in attractive and improving features. We called upon and were presented to Black Smith, the most influential and authoritative of the Seneca sachems. He is about sixty...

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Atotarho, who by tradition was an Onondaga, is the great embodiment of the Iroquois courage, wisdom and heroism, and he is invested with allegoric traits which exalt him to a kind of superhuman character. Unequalled in war and arts his fame spread abroad, and exalted the Onondaga nation in the highest scale. He was placed at the head of the confederacy, and his name was used after his death as an exemplar of glory and honor. While like that of Caesar, it became perpetuated as the official title of the presiding Sachem of the confederacy. He was a man of energy and renown. And such was the estimation in which he was held in his life time, and the popular veneration for his character after death, that, as above denoted, his name became the distinctive title for the office, and is not yet extinct, although the tribes have no longer war to prosecute or foreign ambassadors to reply to. For more information on Atotarho see: Infant Atotarho of the Onondaga The Onondagas...

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Five Nations Burial Customs

Writing of the Iroquois or Five Nations, during the early years of the eighteenth century, at a time when they dominated the greater part of the present State of New York, it was said: “Their funeral Rites seem to be formed upon a Notion of some Kind of Existence after Death. They make a large round Hole, in which the Body can be placed upright, or upon its Haunches, which after the Body is placed in it, is covered with Timber, to support the Earth which they lay over, and thereby keep the Body free from being pressed; they then raise the Earth in a round Hill over it. They always dress the Corps in all its Finery, and put Wampum and other Things into the Grave with it; and the Relations suffer not Grass or any Weed to grow on the Grave, and frequently visit it with Lamentations.” The circular mound of earth over the grave was likewise mentioned a century earlier, having been seen at the Oneida village which stood east of the present Munnsville, Madison County, New York. “Before we reached the castle we saw three graves, just like our graves in length and height,; usually their graves are round. These graves were surrounded with palisades that they had split from trees, and they were closed up so nicely that it was a wonder to see....

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Iroquois Cosmogony

Iroquois Cosmogony: The tribes who compose this group of the Indians, concur in locating the beginning of creative power in the upper regions of space. Neo, or the Great Spirit of Life, is placed there. Atahocan is the master of heaven. Tarenyawagon, who is thought to be the same as Michabou, Chiabo, Manabozho, and the Great Hare, is called the keeper of the Heavens. Agreskoe 1Charlevoix sees a Greek root, as the origin of the word Agreskoe. is the god of war. Atahentsic is the woman of heaven. The beginning of the creation, or of man, is connected with her history. One of the six of the original number of created men of heaven was enamored of her immediately after seeing her. Atahocan, having discovered this amour, cast her out headlong to the earth. She was received below on the back of a great turtle lying on the waters, and was there delivered of twins. One of them was Inigorio, or the Good Mind; the other Anti-inigorio, or the Bad Mind. The good and the evil principles were thus introduced into the world. Both were equally active, but the latter perpetually employed himself in counteracting the acts of the former. The tortoise expanded more and more, and finally became the earth. Atahentsic afterwards had a daughter, who bore two sons, YOS-KE-KA and THO-IT-SA-RON. YOS-KE-KA in the end killed his brother, and...

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Iroquois Belief in a Future State After Death

The Iroquois belief in a future state after death was thus related by Morgan : ” The religious system of the Iroquois taught that it was a journey from earth to heaven of many days’ duration. Originally, it was supposed to be a year, and the period of mourning for the departed was fixed at that term. At its expiration, it was customary for the relatives of the deceased to hold a feast; the soul of the departed having reached heaven, and a state of felicity, there was no longer any cause for mourning. The spirit of grief was exchanged for that of rejoicing. In modern times the mourning period has been reduced to ten days, and the journey of the spirit is now believed to be performed in three. The spirit of the deceased was supposed to hover around the body for a season, before it took its final departure; and not until after the expiration of a year according to the ancient belief, and ten days according to the present, did it become permanently at rest in heaven. A beautiful custom prevailed in ancient times, of capturing a bird, and freeing it over the grave on the evening of the burial, to bear away the spirit to its heavenly rest. Their notions of the state of the soul when disembodied, are vague and diversified; but they all...

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