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Topic: Tuscarora

Tuscarora Creation Legend

The Tuscarora tradition opens with the notion that there were originally two worlds, or regions of space, that is an upper and lower world. The upper world was inhabited by beings resembling the human race. And the lower world by monsters, moving on the surface and in the waters, which is in darkness. 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 is by these ideas, that a female who began to descend into the lower world, which is a region of darkness, waters, and monsters, she was received on the back of a tortoise, where she gave birth to male twins, and there she expired. The shell of this tortoise expanded into a continent, which, in the English language, is called “island,” and is named by the Tuscaroras, Yowahnook. One of the children was called Got-ti-gah-rah-quast, or good mind, the other, Got-ti-gah-rak-senh, or bad mind. These two antagonistical principles 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 the Great Spirit, or “Holder of the Heavens,” carried out his purposes. The first work of Got-ti-gah-rah-quast was to create the sun out of the head of his dead mother, and the moon and stars out...

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Iroquois Customs

The more you read, and the better you understand Indian history, the more you will be impressed with the injustice which has been done the Iroquois, not only in dispossessing them of their inheritance, but in the estimation which has been made of their character. They have been represented, as seen in the transition state, the most unfavorable possible for judging correctly. In the chapter of National Traits of Character, I have in two or three instances quoted Washington Irving and might again allow his opinions to relieve my own from the charge of partiality. He says, in speaking of this same subject, that “the current opinion of Indian character is too apt to be formed from the miserable hordes which infest the frontiers, and hang on the shirts of settlements. These are too commonly composed of degenerate beings, corrupted and enfeebled by the voice of society, without being benefited by its civilization.” “The proud independence which formed the main pillar of motive virtue has been spoken down, and the whole moral fabric lies in ruins. The spirits are humiliated and debased by a sense of inferiority, and their native courage cowed and daunted by the superior knowledge and power of their enlightened neighbors. Society has advanced upon them like one of a those withering airs that will sometimes breed desolation over a whole region of fertility. It has...

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Iroquois Laws of Descent

At the establishment of the confederacy, fifty sachems were founded and a name assigned to each, by which they are still known, and these names are kept as hereditary from the beginning to the present time. There were also fifty sub-sachems, or war chiefs that is, to every sachem was given a war chief, to stand behind him to do his biddings. These sachem ships were, and are still confined to the five nations; the Tuscarora were admitted into the confederacy without enlarging the framework of the league, by allowing them their own sachems and sub-sachems, or war chiefs, as they inherited from their original nation of North Carolina. But how, it may be asked, is a government so purely popular and so simple and essentially advisory in its character, to be reconciled with the laws of hereditary descent, fixed by the establishment of heraldic devices and bringing its proportion of weak and incompetent minds into office, and with the actual power it exercised and the fame it acquired. To answer this question, and to show how the aristocratic and democratic principles were made to harmonize in the Iroquois government, it will be necessary to go back and examine the laws of descent among the tribes, together with the curious and intricate principles of the clans or tribal bond. Nothing is more fully under the cognizance of observers of...

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Act of May 2, 1778

An Act for quieting and securing the Tuscarora Indians, and others claiming under the Tuscarora, in the possession of their lands. Article I. Be it enacted, &c., That Whitmell Tuffdeck, Chief or head man of the Tuscarora nation, and the Tuscarora Indians now living in the county of Birtie, shall have, hold, occupy, possess and enjoy, all the lands lying in the county of Birtie aforesaid, whereof they are now seized and possessed, being part of the lands heretofore allotted to the Indians aforesaid by solemn treaty, and confirmed to them and their successors by act of assembly, in the year one thousand seven hundred and forty-eight, without let, molestation or hindrance, clear of all quit-rents, or any public demands by way of tax whatever, to them the said Tuscarora Indians, and their heirs and successors: and that they, the said Tuscarora, and their heirs and successors, shall forever be clear and exempt from every kind of poll tax. Article II. And whereas, the said Tuscarora Indians, by nature ignorant, and strongly addicted to drinking, may be easily imposed on by designing persons, and unwarily deprived of their said lands: Be it enacted. That no person, for any consideration whatever, shall hereafter purchase, buy or lease, any tract or parcel of land now claimed by, or in possession of the said Tuscarora Indians, or any of theirs; nor shall...

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Antique Rock Citadel of Kienuka

There has been much said by different writers of aboriginal forts, and fort builders of western New York, in availing themselves of steeps, gulfs, defiles, and other marked localities, in establishing works for security or defense. This trait is, however, in no case more strikingly exemplified than in the curious antique work of Kienuka. The term “Kienuka,” means the stronghold or fort; but the original name of this fort is Gau-strau-yea, which means bark laid down; this has a metaphorical meaning, in the similitude of a freshly peeled slippery elm bark, the size of the fort and laid at the bottom as a flooring, so that if any person or persons go in they must be circumspect, and act according to the laws of the fort, or else they will slip and fall down to their own destruction. The citadel of Kienuka is situated about four miles eastward of the inlet of Niagara gorge at Lewiston, on a natural escarpment of the ridge on the Tuscarora reservation, known at present by the name of the Old Saw Mill. There is quite an interesting tradition connected with the antique fort Gau-strau-yea. At the formation of the confederacy of the Iroquois, there was a virgin selected from a nation which was called Squawkihaws (a remote branch of the Seneca nation), and was ordained a Queen or Peacemaker, who was stationed at...

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Tuscarora Incorporated into the Confederacy

From the conquered nations they exacted tribute, and drew conscripts for their armies. The Tuscaroras, who resided in Carolina, were incorporated into the confederacy in 1715, and thereafter they were known as the Six Nations. From the extent of their conquests, the number of their subject nations, and the tribute and military aid rendered them by the latter, they have been called the “Romans of the New World.” When we reflect that of their own warriors they could bring into the field barely 2,000 braves, and with this number subjugated nations numerically more than twice as large, and spread terror and consternation among the French settlements in Canada, threatening their utter extinction, the magnitude of their achievements may be faintly comprehended. Their great successes, however, are scarcely referable to the perfection of their military organization, which, though unquestionably better than that of their neighbors, was wretchedly poor. Occasionally, though rarely, they acted in concert as a great confederacy; but usually their wars were carried on by detached parties, small in numbers, or at best by individual nations, by whom their great conquests were mostly made. They were in a chronic state of warfare, and were easily diverted from other pursuits whenever an opportunity offered to avenge their enemies. The inveterate wars waged by them against their kinsmen, as for instance the Hurons, Eries and Andastes, all mighty and valorous...

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