Topic: Six Nations

Sir William Johnson and the Six Nations

The Mohawk Valley in which Sir William Johnson spent his adult life (1738-17 74) was the fairest portion of the domain of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. In this valley William Griffis had lived nine years, seeing on every side traces or monuments of the industry, humanity, and powerful personality of its most famous resident in colonial days. From the quaint stone church in Schenectady which Sir Johnson built, and in whose canopied pews he sat, daily before his eyes, to the autograph papers in possession of his neighbors; from sites close at hand and traditionally associated with the lord of Johnson Hall, to the historical relics which multiply at Johnstown, Canajoharie, and westward, — mementos of the baronet were never lacking. His two baronial halls still stand near the Mohawk. Local traditions, while in the main generous to Johnson’s memory, was sometimes unfair and even cruel. The hatreds engendered by the partisan features of the Revolution, and the just detestation of the savage atrocities of Tories and red allies led by Johnson’s son and son-in-law, had done injustice to the great man himself. Yet base and baseless tradition was in no whit more unjust than the sectional opinions and hostile gossip of the New England militia which historians have so freely transferred to their pages.

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Six Nation Indian’s Pastimes

Lacrosse, it is well-known, is the Indian’s national game. The agile form with which nature has gifted him, and which I have mentioned already as one of his physical characteristics, brings an essential pre-requisite for success or eminence to a game, where the laggard is at heavy discount. Though a white team can often boast of two or three individual runners, whose fleetness will outstrip the capacity of an equal number on the side of the Indians, I think, perhaps, that it will be allowed that the Indian team, as a rule, will comprehend the greater number of fleet members. While the Indian, then, can scarcely be said to yield to the white in this respect, he lacks obviously that mental quick-sightedness which, with the latter, defines, as it were, intuitively, the exact location on the field, of a friend, and, with unerring certitude, calculates the degree of force that shall be needed to propel the ball, and the precise direction its flight shall take, in order to insure its reposing on the net of that friend. In the frequently recurring “mêlees”, begotten of the struggle amongst a number of contestants for the possession of the ball, the Indian exhibits, perhaps, in more marked degree than the white, the qualities of stubborn doggedness, and utter disregard of personal injury. The worsting of the Indian by the white in the...

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Six Nation Indian’s Humor

In its very nature this essay will partake largely of the element of historical preciseness, and if it do not, I have so far failed to gain my end. I have wished to introduce matter of a kind calculated to relieve this, and to insure the escape of the essay from the charge of a well-sustained dryness. Of the humorous instinct of the Indian, as indulged toward his fellow Indian, I cannot speak with confidence; of the malign operation upon myself of the same instinct, I can speak with somewhat more exactness, and with somewhat saddening recollections. The cases, indeed, where I have been exposed to the play of his humor exhibit him in so superlatively complacent an aspect, and myself in so painfully inglorious a one, that I refrain, nay shrink, from rehearsing the discomposing circumstances. I should be pleased if I could call to mind any instance which would convey some notion of the Indian’s aptness in this line, and yet not involve myself, but I cannot. I would say, in a general way, that the Indian is a plausible being, and one needs to be wary with him, and not too loath to suspect him of meditating some dire practical joke, which shall issue in the utter confusion and discomfiture of its victim, whilst its author shall appropriate the main comfort and jubilation. Though the Indian,...

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Six Nations Religion

The pagan, though not so alive to the serene beauties of the Christian life, and not so attracted by the power, the promises, and the assurances of the Christian religion, as to evince the one, and embrace the other, or to make trial of the moral safeguards that its armoury supplies, would yet so honor, one would think, the persuasive Christian influences, operating around him and about him in so many benign and kindly ways, as to abandon many of the practices that savor of the superstition of a by-gone age. Though there has been a decline, if not a positive discontinuance, of his traditionary worship of idols; though his adoration of the sun, of certain of the birds of the air, and of the animal creation, is not now blindly followed, and the invocation of these, for the supposed assuring of success to various enterprises, is rarely put in effect, there is yet preserved a relic of his old traditions, in the designs with which he embellishes certain specimens of the handiwork, with which he oft vexes the public eye. (I must really, though, pay my tribute of admiration for the skilled workmanship many of these specimens disclose.) It is common for him, when at work upon the elaborate carving in wood that he practices, to engrave some hideous human figure, intended, obviously, to represent an idol. Does...

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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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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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Gallery of Six Nation Images

A large collection of images from the manuscript, including maps. These images can also be found on various pages in context with the information on the page. Rush S. Wilson (Ha-ja-ah-gwysh) He Carries the Fire Chief of Cayuga Nation Hiram Tallchief (Dah-eh-Jeh-doh) Burning Hand Cayuga Chief Edwin M. Spring (Ho-dyah-yoh-gweh) Spreading Sky Cayuga Chief Alexander John (Ska-no-eh) Fleeting Arrow Head Chief of the Cayuga Thomas Orphan Asylum Rev. Henry Silverheels and Wife Ex-Chief and president, Seneca Nation Grant Mountpleasant (Ne-no-kar-wa) Warrior Chief, Turtle Tribe Enos Johnson (Ka-re-wah-da-wer) Warming-toned Voice Bear Tribe Aunt Dinah 107 year old, Onondaga Andrew John Jr. (Gar-stea-ode) Standing Rock, Seneca Alexander Solomon (Arch-sis-O-ri-henn) He is to Blame Son of Old Chief Solomon of the Six Nation Thomas Williams (Ta-ker-yer-ter) President of Tuscarora Nation, 1890 Beaver Clan Luther W. Jack (Ta-wer-da-quoit) Two boots Standing Together Sachem Chief of Wolf Tribe, Tuscarora Elias Johnson (To-wer-na-kee) Historian of the Tuscaroras Wolf Tribe Daniel Printup (Da-quar-ter-anh) Sachem of the West Treasurer of the Tuscarora Nation Philip Tarbell (Ta-ra-ke-te) Hat-rim Protects the Neck Wolf Clan of St. Regis Indians Peter Herring (Tier-a-nen-sa-no-ken) Deer House Turtle Clan of St. Regis Indians Joseph Wood (So-se-sals-ne-ke-ken) Snow Crust Heron Clan of St. Regis Indians Charles White (sare-the-ne-wa-na) Two Hide Together Wolf Clan of St. Regis Indians Angus White (En-neas-ne-ka-unta-a) Small Stick of Wood Snipe Clan of St. Regis Indians William Cooper (Her-nohn-gwe-sers) Seek...

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Annuities of the Six Nations Reservations

The Six Nations, with the exception of the St, Regis Indians, who receive no annuities from the United States, draw from the United States and from the state of New York annuities on the basis of past treaties, which secured this fixed income on account of lands sold from time to time, and rights surrendered. This payment is: The annuities themselves bring small returns in visible benefits. The payments by the United States, which are theoretically paid in the early autumn, for the census year, were not completed until February 1891, through delay of the appropriation by Congress. The various payments during the census year were so similar that reference to one of each, viz, of money at Cattaraugus and goods at Onondaga, will indicate the methods and incidents of all similar payments. After due notice, the importunate inquiry, extending over months, “When is our annuity money coming”? had its solution. The courthouse of the Seneca Nation was crowded with men, women, and children of all ages and conditions. Robert Silverheels, a veteran of the war of 1812, past 90 years of age, and entirely dependent upon the charity of his people, emerged from his little cabin to receive his welcome share. Solomon O’Bail, grandson of the great Cornplanter, and rapidly reaching his fourscore years, was there. Blind John Joe, already in his ninth decade, and John Jacket, the...

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General Remarks About the Six Nations in 1890

The state and federal courts, as the former have recognized in several instances, should recognize the 64 “Indian common law title” of occupants of reservation lands, where such lands have been improved. They should assure such titles, as well as sales, devises, and descent, through courts of surrogate or other competent tribunals, wherever local Indian officials refuse just recognition of such titles or delay a just administration when conflicts arise. All statutes which offer the Indian a premium for dishonest dealing should be repealed, and the Indian should be held to his contracts to the extent of his personal holdings. All state laws which regulate marriage, punish adultery and kindred offenses should be available for the Indian complainant, and none of the Indian estates, once legally recognized as held in practical severalty, should hereafter be cambered by the claims of illegitimate offspring. The liquor laws should not only be maintained but enforced, with the deliberate purpose on the part of the American people to strengthen the Indian for his own sake and for the sake of the commonwealth into which he must, in due time, be fully adopted. The Titles To Indian Lands Independent of the pre-emption lien of the Ogden Land Company upon the lands of the Seneca Nation, and absolutely as respects the Onondaga, Tonawanda, and Tuscarora Senecas, the Indians already hold their lands substantially in severalty....

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Six Nations Names, Traditions, And Reminiscences

Indian nomenclature almost invariably has a distinct and suggestive meaning, especially in geographical locations, relations, and peculiarities. Only a few of those, which relate to the accompanying maps are supplied. The location of Bill Hill’s cabin, near the foot of the Onondaga reservation, was called Nan-ta-sa-sis, “going partly round a hill”. Tonawanda creek is named from Ta-na-wun-da, meaning “swift water”. Oil spring, on the Allegany map, was Te-car-nohs, “dropping oil”. The Allegany River was O-hee-yo, “the beautiful river”, and the Geneseo was Gen-nis-he-yo, “beautiful valley”. Buffalo was Do-sho-weh, “splitting the fork”, because near Black Rock (a rocky shore) the waters divided, uniting and dividing again at Date-car-sko-sase, “the highest falls”, on the Ne-ah-ga River. The modern Canajoharie was Ga-na-jo-hi-e, “washing the basin”; Chittenango creek, Chu-de-naang, “where the sun shines out”; Oriskany creek, Ole-hisk, “nettles”; Onondaga, O-nun-da-ga-o-no-ga “on the hills”; Cayuga Lake, Gwe-u-gweth, “the lake at the mucky land”; Canandaigua, Ga-nun-da-gwa, “place chosen for a settlement”. The Indian meaning for other names finds expression in recognized English substitutes. Thus, “the place of salt” becomes Salina, and “Constant dawn” becomes Aurora. Personal names were given from peculiarities or sudden fancies, and upon elevation to chieftainship a new name was given. The eloquent Red Jacket, O-te-ti-an-i, “always ready”, became Sa-go-ye-wat-ha, “keeper awake”. So special uses and qualities are supposed resemblances entered into their nomenclature. “It sheds its blush” describes the watermelon. The...

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Six Nations Health and Race Admixture

An examination of the annual reports of the United States agents for many years indicates the classes of diseases heretofore most common among the Six Nations. The reluctance of the Indians to employ physicians springs from want of means, want of easy access to physicians, and, in some measure, to the fact that from time immemorial they have relied much upon the use of medicinal roots and herbs in ordinary ailments. The women are practical nurses. This lack of professional treatment and the ignorance of the names of diseases have almost, entirely prevented an accurate specification of the causes of death during the census year. The chief diseases reported, other than consumption and kindred lung troubles, of which there are many, have been scrofula and syphilitic ailments in some form. Their relations to the white people have open credited with these to a large extent but it can not be correctly claimed that pure white and pure Indian blood involves an enfeebled race. Catarrhal troubles and diseases of the eye are common with the Tuscaroras, due, they think, to exposure to the lake winds, while at Cattaraugus many attribute their coughs to the harsh winds that sweep up the valley from Lake Erie. William Bone, of Allegany, claims that he is the only Seneca. It is not certain that any are purely such. The presence of the mustache and...

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Education, Schools and Language on the Six Nations Reservations

The pagan element, as a general rule, is opposed to education. Exceptions are sometimes found. Families with small means, unwilling to make any effort to change their condition, claim that they need their children for homework. Even when they enter them at the beginning of the term, they do not enforce their attendance. The children, to a large extent, inherit careless, sluggish, indolent natures, and a lazy spirit. In some respects their capacities are above the average standard of the white people. They are more uniformly good penmen, good musicians, and excel in drawing, but the statements of the...

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Industry and Home Life on the Reservations

Farming is the chief employment of the Six Nations Indians, and the products are typical of the varying soils of the different reservations. While more land is under cultivation than heretofore, the barns are mainly old and in had condition. This is largely true of similar buildings upon the adjoining farms of the white people, as farming has not of late netted an amount sufficient for repairs. The Indians, with no cash capital us a rule, have been compelled to lease their lands to the white people for cash rent or work them on shares. The death of influential men left large estates under pecuniary burdens without ready money to develop the land. The general failure to maintain fencing has been partly due to crop failures and scant returns, but in a large degree to the improvidence of the farmers themselves. Men who work their lands and seldom rent them; and who maintain buildings and fences and take fair care of their implements, keep steadily on the advance. In nearly all directions valuable agricultural implements are exposed to the weather, and no economy attends farm work generally. With the exception of Tuscarora, old orchards are on the decline, and more than one-half of the 4,823 apple trees of Cattaraugus are, not in condition, through age and neglect, to bear large crops. A few new orchards have been started, but...

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Religion of the Six Nation Tribes

With the exception of the Tuscaroras, each of the Six Nations has one or more council houses, in which the people assemble for business or purely Indian ceremonies, religious or social. There is also a council house or town hall on the Mount Hope road of the Tuscarora reservation, but the pagan party has no footing among this people. The council houses, formerly built of logs, are practically in disuse, and frame buildings, about 40 by 80 feet, with fireplace or simple chimney at each end, which allows separate sittings for the sexes, have taken their place. A new building of this kind on the Tonawanda reservation and 1 at Carrollton, on the Allegany reservation, are indicated on the maps of these reservations. The sides of 3 ancient council houses at Cattaraugus and of 2 at Tonawanda are also indicated. The religious differences of the Indians actually characterize grouped settlements on each reservation. Thus, the majority of the Christian Indians live upon the central road in Onondaga, upon and east of the main road of Tonawanda; between Salamanca and Red House, in Allegany; and upon the main route from Versailles to Irving, in Cattaraugus. As a general role, both internal and external comforts, conveniences, and indications of thrift are alike in contrast. The pagans chiefly occupy the western and southeastern parts of Tonawanda, the Carrollton district, and the country...

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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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