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H O-D E -N O-S A U-N E E 






I. Ga-ne-a -ga-o-no , or People Possessors of the Flint 


II. O-nun -da-ga-o-no , or People on the Hills 


III. Nun-da -wa-o-no , or Great Hill People 


IV. O-na -yote-ka-o-no , or Granite People 


V. Gwe-u -gweh-o-no , or People at the Mucky Land 


VI. Dus-ga -o-weh-o-no , or Shirt Wearing People 











HORACE De Art. Poet.^ v. 






COPYRIGHT, 1901 AND 1904 

Printed in U. S. A. 





Cfna SMorfc, 


3I& Jnsmbefc: 





TO encourage a kinder feeling towards the In- 
dian, (3) founded upon a truer knowledge of 
his civil and domestic institutions, and of 
his capabilities for future elevation, is the motive in 
which this work originated. 

The present Iroquois, the descendants of that gifted 
race which formerly held under their jurisdiction the 
fairest portions of our Republic, now dwell within our 
limits as dependent nations, subject to the tutelage and 
supervision of the people who displaced their fathers. 
Their numbers, the circumstances of their past history 
and present condition, and more especially the relation 
in which they stand to the people of the State, suggest 
many important questions concerning their future 

Born to an unpropitious fate, the inheritors of many 
wrongs, they have been unable, of themselves, to es 
cape from the complicated difficulties which accelerate 
their decline. To aggravate these adverse influences, 



the public estimation of the Indian, resting, as it does, 
upon an imperfect knowledge of his character, and 
tinctured, as it ever has been, with the coloring of 
prejudice, is universally unjust. 

The time has come in which it is befitting to cast 
away all ancient antipathies, all inherited opinions; and 
having taken a nearer view of their social life, condition 
and wants, to study anew our duty concerning them. 
Notwithstanding the embarrassments which have ob 
structed their progress, the obscurity in which they 
have lived, and the prevailing indifference to their 
welfare, they have gradually overcome many of the 
evils inherent in their social system, and raised them 
selves to a considerable degree of prosperity. Their 
present condition, when considered in connection with 
the ordeal through which they have passed, testifies to 
the presence of an element in their character which 
must eventually lead to important results. It brings 
before us the question of their ultimate reclamation, 
certainly a more interesting subject, in itself, than any 
other connected with the Indian. Can the residue of 
the Iroquois be reclaimed, and finally raised to the 
position of citizens of the State ? To secure this end, 
at once so just and so beneficent, our own people have 
an important part to perform. 

As this work does not profess to be based upon 
authorities, a question may arise in the mind of the 


reader, whence its materials were derived, or what 
reliance is to be placed upon its statements. The 
credibility of a witness is known to depend chiefly upon 
his means of knowledge. For this reason, it may not 
be inappropriate to state, that circumstances in early 
life, not necessary to be related, brought the author 
in frequent intercourse with the descendants of the 
Iroquois, and led to his adoption as a Seneca. (1> 5> 9) 
This gave him favorable opportunities for studying 
minutely into their social organization, and the structure 
and principles of the ancient League. Copious notes 
were made from time to time, when leisure enabled him 
to prosecute his researches among them, until these 
had accumulated beyond the bounds of the present 
volume. As the materials increased in quantity and 
variety, the interest awakened in the subject finally 
induced the idea of its arrangement for publication. 

The work properly commences with the second 
chapter. The first, being introductory, has no neces 
sary connection with the residue, but was introduced 
to give to those unfamiliar with the civil history of the 
Iroquois, some preliminary information concerning 
the rise and decline of the League. 

It remains for the author to acknowledge his obli 
gations to Ely S. Parker, Ha-sa-no-an -da, (2 13) an 
educated Seneca Indian, to whom this volume is 
inscribed. He is indebted to him for invaluable 



assistance during the whole progress of the research, 
and for a share of the materials. His intelligence, 
and accurate knowledge of the institutions of his fore 
fathers, have made his friendly services a peculiar 

To Charles T. Porter, Esq., (15) of New York, who has 
made extensive inquiries into the civil and domestic 
institutions of the Iroquois, and prosecuted them, 
in many instances, in connection with the author, (1) 
he is indebted for many valuable suggestions and 
for some material. 

ROCHESTER, N. Y., January, 1851. 

* The numbers in parentheses refer to the notes contained in Appen 
dix B at the end of the work. 









a as in arm 
& as in at 
a as in ale 
as in met 
5 as in tone 

Table of Contents 




Introductory Outline Origin of the Iroquois Formation of 
the League Intercourse with Europeans Wars with 
Indian Nations Wars with the French Jesuit Mis 
sionaries Number of the Iroquois Fidelity to the 
English Dispersion of the Nations Present Condition 

Future Prospects 3 


Indian Geography Home Country of the Iroquois Na 
tional Boundaries Trails Indian Map Ho-de -no- 
sau-nee National Names 35 


Interest in our Predecessors The Hunter State Its Institu 
tions Transitory Origin of the League Sachemships 

Hereditary Titles Council of the League Equal 
ity of the Sachems Chiefs Military Chieftains 
Popular Influence Unity of the Race 51 




Division into Tribes Family Relationships Descent in the 
Female Line Degrees of Consanguinity Succession 
of Sachems Names Nature of a Tribe Equality 
of the Nations National Epithets Office of Chief 
elective Distinguished Men were Chiefs Stability of 
the Oligarchy J4 


Councils of the Iroquois Influence of Public Sentiment 
Oratory Civil Councils Unanimity Mourning 
Councils Wampum Festivities Religious Councils 99 


Species of Government Progress of Governments from 
Monarchy to Democracy Illustrated by a View of 
Grecian Institutions The League an Oligarchy Liberty / 
of the People Stability of the League Prospects at 
the Discovery Its Decline I 20 



Faith of the Iroquois Belief in the Great Spirit The Evil- 
Minded He -no, the Thunderer Ga -o, Spirit of the 

Winds The Three Sisters The Invisible Aids - 

Witches False Faces Legendary Literature 
Immortality of the Soul - Future Punishments Moral 
Sentiments Burial Customs Abode of the Great 
Spirit Washington Spirituality of their Faith Its 

Influence 141 




Worship of the Iroquois Keepers of the Faith Thanks to 
the Maple Planting Festival Berry Festival 
Green Corn Festival Harvest Festival New Year s 
Jubilee Sacrifice of the White Dog Address to the 
Great Spirit Influence of their Worship 175 


The New Religion Ga-ne-o-di -yo, the Instructor Pre 
tended Revelation Sose-ha -wa, his Successor Speech 
of Da-at -ga-dose Speech of Sose-ha -wa Doctrines 
of the New Religion 217 


National Dances Influence of the Dance Costume 
War Dance Speeches in the War Dance Great 
Feather Dance Trotting Dance Fish Dance Dance 
for the Dead Concerts 249 


National Games Betting Ball Game Game of Javelins 
Game of Deer Buttons Snow Snake Game Snow 
Boat Game Archery Peach-Stone Game Enthu 
siasm for Games 280 


Indian Society Ancient Villages Stockaded Bark House 
Marriage Passion of Love Unknown Divorce 
Rights of Property Hospitality Criminal Code Faith 
of Treaties Use of Wampum Usages of War Cap 
tives not Exchanged Adoption The Hunt Indian 
Life . . . 305 




Fabrics of the Iroquois Their Artisan Intellect Indian 
Pottery Earthen Vessels Moccason War Club 
Tomahawk Rope Making Finger Weaving Bark 
Vessels Bark Canoe Corn Mortar Maize To 
bacco Snow Shoe Indian Saddle Miscellaneous 

Inventions Basket Making Costumes Wampum 

Saby Frame Diffusion of Indian Arts Improvement 

of the Iroquois 3 


Language of the Iroquois Alphabet The Noun Adjec 
tive Comparison Article Adverb Preposition 
Species of Declension The Verb Fulness of Conju 
gation Formation of Sentences The Lord s Prayer 61 


Indian Geography Method of Bestowing Names Central 
Trail Its Course Ko-la-ne -ka Highway of the 
Continent Derivation of Niagara Ontario Trail 
Genesee Trail Conhocton Trail Susquehanna Trail 
Indian Runners Iroquois Map ........ 78 




Future Destiny of the Indian His Reclamation Schools of 
the Missionaries The Christian Party Schools of the 
State Future Citizenship Their Indebtedness to 
Missionaries Rights of Property Injustice of Neg 
lect System of Superintendence Duty of the Amer 
ican People The Indian Department 108 


No. i 
Schedule Explanatory of the Indian Map . I 27 

No. 2 

Table exhibiting, in the Seneca Dialect, the Conjugation of the 

Verb Ge -yase, "I shoot" HO 


Introduction 145 

Personal Reminiscences, by Charles T. Porter 153 

Lewis H. Morgan 162 

Ely S. Parker i?9 

Charles T. Porter, by Robert H. Thurston 182 

Notes 187 

List of Works Cited 311 

Index 319 


List of Illustrations 


Map of the Territory of the Troquois in 1720 .... Frontispiece 

Bark House To face 3 

Moccason for Male 35 

Deer Skin Moccason " 44 

Breech- cloth 51 

Porcupine Quills " 58 

Conch Shell Breast Plate " 58 

Moccason for Female " 79 

Belt " 10 1 

Pipes " 105 

Skirt st 122 

False Face ........157 

Kilt To face 184 

Over-dress, front " 190 

Over-dress, back " 191 

Knee Band " 216 

Wrist Band " 216 

Arm Band 216 

Head-dress, frame work of 254 

Head Dress To face 254 

Neck Lace " 254 

Knee Rattle of Deer s Hoofs 255 

War Club 256 

Male Leggin To face 256 




Drum 257 

Turtle-shell Rattle . ...; 268 

Female Leggin To face 274 

Squash-shell Rattles 276 

Ball Bat (La Crosse) 283 

Javelin . , 287 

Deer-buttons 290 

Snow Snake 292 

Snow Boat 293 

Bow 296 

Arrow 296 

Arrow, Horn-pointed 297 

Sheaf (Quiver) 298 

Peach Stones (Dice) 300 

Bowl (Gaming) . . 300 



Map of Territorial Divisions of New York Aborigines, 1600 Frontis. 
Bark Canoe To face 3 

Pipe . . . 7 

Silver Beads To face 8 

" Mound Builders " Pipe . 8 

Earthen Vessel 9 

Stone Tomahawk (Grooved Axe) I I 

War-club 14 

Deer-horn War-club 14 

Tomahawk 15 

Skein of Slippery-elm Filaments 16 

Burden Strap 1 6 

Moose-hair Burden Strap To face 20 

Burden Frame or Litter 21 



Bark Barrel . . ^ 

Bark Tray 

2 4 

Bird Trap 

-. 2 ) 

Bark Sap-tub 27 

Corn Mortar 2 

Bread Turner . * * 30 

Needle Book TQ face ^ 

Pop-corn Sieve , , j 


Saddle ........... 36 

Air-gun 37 

Air-gun Arrow 27 

Flute 38 

Tobacco Pouch m -g 

Fawn Skin Bag ?g 

Fire-drill . Q 

Corn-husk Salt Bottle . T 

Basket Fish-net . 2 

Wooden Ladle .. 

Hommony Blade .,. 

Bark Ladle 4 6 

Embroidered Skirt To face 48 

Silver Ear Ring j- o 

Silver Finger Rings r O 

Silver Broach ,- o 

Belt of Wampum r 2 

String of Wampum r 2 

Silver Medal 55 

Sea-shell Medal 5 6 

Baby-frame (frame work) rg 

Baby-frame To face 58 

Pin Cushion 82 

Deer Skin Leggin Ioo 

Deer Skin Shoulder Belt 105 



Work Bag . ,. 

Pocket Book M - 

Baby-frame Belt j , g 

Portrait of Lewis H. Morgan (in photogravure) ... << 153 

Diagram of Long House Bartram 2 94 

" " " " -Morgan 2 94 

" " " " -Lafitau 295 






Interior View of 

League of the Iroquois 



Chapter I 

Introductory Outline Origin of the Iroquois Formation of the 
League Intercourse with Europeans Wars with the Indian Na 
tions Wars with the French Jesuit Missionaries Number of 
the Iroquois Fidelity to the English Dispersion of the Nations 
Present Condition Future Prospects 

AMONG the Indian nations whose ancient seats 
were within the limits of our republic, the 
Iroquois have long continued to occupy the 
most conspicuous position. They achieved for them 
selves a more remarkable civil organization, and ac 
quired a higher degree of influence, than any other 
race of Indian lineage, except those of Mexico and 
Peru. In the drama of European colonization, they 
stood, for nearly two centuries, with an unshaken 
front, against the devastations of war, the blighting 
influence of foreign intercourse, and the still more fatal 
encroachments of a restless and advancing border pop 
ulation. Under their federal system, the Iroquois 
flourished in independence, and capable of self-protec 
tion, long after the New England and Virginia races 
had surrendered their jurisdictions, and fallen into the 



condition of dependent nations ; and they now stand 
forth in our Indian history, prominent alike for the 
wisdom of their civil institutions, their sagacity in the 
administration of the League, and their courage in its 
defence. When their power and sovereignty finally 
passed away, it was through the events of peaceful in 
tercourse, gradually progressing to this result, rather 
than from conquest or forcible subjugation. They 
fell under the giant embrace of civilization, victims of 
the successful warfare of intelligent social life upon 
the rugged obstacles of nature; and in a struggle 
which they were fated to witness as passive and silent 

As there is no connected history (34) of the rise, 
progress, and decline of this Indian League, a brief 
general outline seems to be demanded, to refresh the 
mind of the reader, and to furnish a proper introduc 
tion to the following pages, which are devoted to 
an exposition of its structure, principles, and spirit. 
The eventful history of this interesting portion of our 
indigenous population furnishes ample materials for a 
separate work, the execution of which, it is to be 
hoped, will ere long be accomplished by capable 

At the era of Dutch discovery (1609), the Iroquois 
were found in the possession of the same territories 
between the Hudson and the Genesee rivers, upon 
which they afterwards continued to reside until near 
the close of the eighteenth century. At that time, 
the Five Nations, into which they had become sub 
divided, were united in a League ; but its formation 
was subsequent to their establishment in the terri- 



tories out of which the state of New York has since 
been erected. 

Their remote origin, and their history anterior to 
the discovery, are both enshrouded with obscurity. (16) 
Tradition interposes its feeble light to extricate, from 
the confusion which time has wrought, some of the 
leading events which preceded and marked their polit 
ical organization. It informs us, that prior to their 
occupation of New York, they resided in the vicinity 
of Montreal, upon the northern bank of the St. 
Lawrence, where they lived in subjection to the Adi- 
rondacks, a branch of the Algonkin race, then in 
possession of the whole country north of that river. 
At that time, the Iroquois were but one nation, and 
few in number. From the Adirondacks they learned 
the art of husbandry, (19) and while associated with 
them, became inured to the hardships of the war-path 
and of the chase. After they had multiplied in num 
bers and improved by experience, they made an at 
tempt to secure the independent possession of the 
country they occupied ; but having been, in the 
struggle, overpowered and vanquished by the Adiron 
dacks, they were compelled to retire from the country, 
to escape extermination. (18) 

The period of their migration from the north can 
not now be ascertained. Tradition informs us, that 
having ascended the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario, 
and coasted its eastern shore to the mouth of the 
Oswego river, they entered through this channel the 
central parts of New York. (17) Their first settle 
ments, they believe, were located upon the Seneca 
river, where for a time they dwelt together. At a 



subsequent day they divided into bands, and spread 
abroad to found new villages. One, crossing over 
.to the Mohawk, established itself at G d-ne-ga-ha-gd^ 
below Utica, and afterwards became the Mohawk 
nation. This village, situated upon the south side 
of the Mohawk river, in Herkimer county, is sup 
posed to have been the oldest settlement of that 
nation. For some years the Oneidas and Mohawks 
were one nation ; but one part of it having become 
established at Gd-no-a-lo-hdle^ east of the Oneida lake, 
in time became independent. The Onondagas plant 
ing themselves in the Onondaga valley and on the 
hills adjacent, became also a separate nation. In like 
manner, the Cayugas and Senecas were many years 
united, and resided upon the Seneca river ; but one 
band of them having located themselves upon the east 
bank of the Cayuga lake, grew up in time into a dis 
tinct nation ; while the residue, penetrating into the 
interior of western New York, finally settled at Nun-da- 
wa-Oy at the head of the Canandaigua lake, and there 
formed the nucleus of the Seneca nation. 

The Onondagas have a legend that they sprang out 
of the ground on the banks of the Oswego river ; and 
the Senecas have a similar legend, that they sprang 
from the ground at Nun-da-w d-o. By these legendary 
inventions, they designed to convey an impression of 
the remoteness of the period of their first occupation 
of New York. 

These several bands were, at first, obliged to con 
tend with the various tribes whom they found in pos 
session of the country . (20) After their expulsion, the 
interests and pursuits of the five nations not only 



became distinct, but the severance was followed by a 
gradual alienation, finally resulting in a state of open 
warfare, which continued for an unknown period. 
The project of a League originated with the Onon- 
dagas, among whom it was first suggested, as a means 
to enable them more effectually to resist the pressure 
of contiguous nations. The epoch of its establish 
ment cannot now be decisively ascertained ; although 
the circumstances attending its formation are still 
preserved by tradition with great minuteness. These 
traditions all refer to the northern shore of the Onon- 
daga lake, as the place where the Iroquois chiefs as 
sembled in general council, to agree upon the terms 
and principles of the compact, by which their future 
destinies were to be linked together. It is evident 
from their traditionary history, which is entitled to 
considerable credit, that they had long occupied the 
country before their necessities or increase of numbers 
made the League a feasible or desirable consumma 
tion. In relation to the period of its origin, there are 
some circumstances connected with their first inter 
course with Europeans tending to show that it had 
subsisted about a century or a century and a half at 
the era of Dutch discovery ; on the other hand, 
their principal traditions indicate a period far more 
remote. (18) 

After the formation of the League, the Iroquois 
rose rapidly in power and influence. It gave them 
additional strength by concentration of effort ; a con 
stant increase of numbers by the unity of the race ; 
and a firmer establishment, through their more ample 
means for self-protection and foreign conquest. One 



of the first results of their federal system was a uni 
versal spirit of aggression ; a thirst for military glory 
and political aggrandizement, which made the old 
forests of America resound with human conflicts from 
New England to the Mississippi, and from the north 
ern confines of the great lakes to the Tennessee 
and the hills of Carolina. Unrecorded, except by 
tradition, is the narrative of the warlike achievements 
of this gifted and progressive race, who raised them 
selves, through the vicissitudes of incessant strife, to a 
general and acknowledged supremacy over these bound 
less territories. Without considering the terrible and 
ferocious characteristics of Indian warfare, it must be 
admitted that the empire which they reared over 
Indian nations, furnishes no slight evidence of their 
hardihood, courage, and sagacity. 

With the first consciousness of rising power, they 
turned their long-cherished resentment upon the Adi- 
rondacks, who had oppressed them in their infancy as 
a nation, and had expelled them from their country, in 
the first struggle for the ascendency. This war raged 
for a long time with unceasing animosity, and was 
continued nearly fifty years after the commencement 
of French occupation, until the descendants of the 
ancient Adirondacks were almost totally extirpated. 
At the era of French discovery (1535), the latter 
nation appear to have been dispossessed of their 
original country, and driven down the St. Lawrence 
as far as Quebec. When Jacques Cartier first ascended 
this river in 1535, the country about Quebec was in 
the possession of a people speaking the Algonkin 
language, doubtless the Adirondacks, while the site 



of Montreal was occupied by a nation speaking the 
Huron tongue, of which the language of the Iroquois 
is a branch. (21) After the permanent occupation 
of Canada by the French, in 1607, the Adirondacks 
became their allies ; but the protection of the former 
was insufficient to shield them against the hostile visi 
tations of their hereditary enemy. 

A new era commenced with the Iroquois upon the 
establishment of the Dutch trading-post at Orange, 
now Albany, in 1615. The principal Indian nations 
upon the north were the Hurons and Adirondacks ; 
upon the west, the Eries, Neuter Nation, Miamis, 
Ottawas, and Illinois ; upon the south, the Shawnees, 
Cherokees, Catawbas, Susquehannocks, Nanticokes, 
Delawares, and some lesser tribes ; and upon the east, 
the Minsi and New England Indians. Some of these 
nations had been subdued and made tributary. At 
this time, the Iroquois had grown up into a populous 
and powerful confederacy and were rapidly advancing 
to a general supremacy in the north-eastern section of 
the continent. No Indian race east of the Mississippi 
had reached such a position of authority and influence, 
or were bound together by such enduring institutions. 
Firmly established upon the territory of New York^ 
and above the danger of displacement from adjacent 
nations, they had already entered upon that career of 
conquest which they afterwards prosecuted with such 
signal success. 

Friendly relations were established between the 
Iroquois and the Dutch, which continued without 
interruption until the latter surrendered their posses 
sions upon the Hudson to the English, in 1664. 



During this period, a trade sprang up between them 
in furs, which the Iroquois exchanged for European 
fabrics, but more especially for firearms, in the use 
of which they were afterwards destined to become 
so expert. The English, in turn, cultivated the same 
relations of friendship which had been commenced 
with them by the Dutch. A " covenant chain " was 
established between them, which the Iroquois, with 
singular fidelity, preserved unbroken, until the inde 
pendence of the American states terminated the juris 
diction of the English over the country. 

It was otherwise, however, with the French. From 
the first to the last, they encountered the uncom 
promising and inveterate enmity of the League. As 
early as 1609, Champlain, having ascended through 
the lake which now bears his name into lake George, 
accompanied by the Adirondacks, fell in with a war- 
party of the Mohawks, numbering about two hundred, 
and an engagement ensued between them on the 
western shore of the lake. (22) This was the first battle 
between the Iroquois and the Europeans, and the 
first time the former heard the sound of firearms, 
by the marvellous power of which they were then 
easily vanquished. The French having allied them 
selves with the Adirondacks and Hurons, given them 
arms and assistance, and incited them against the Iro 
quois, a spirit of hatred was aroused against them, 
which never ceased to burn until the final subjugation 
of Canada by the English, in 1760. Besides this alli 
ance with their ancient enemies, the French were more 
inclined to resort to intimidation in their intercourse 
with the Iroquois, than to conciliation and forbearance. 



In addition to these errors of policy, was the deep 
and abiding interest taken by the latter in the country 
about Montreal, which in ancient times had been the 
home of their fathers, which had been the theatre 
of their first military success, and which they had long 
continued to hold by the slender tenure of Indian 
conquest. (17) As the rival colonies of France and Eng 
land were for many years nearly equally balanced, the 
enmity and power of the Hode nosaunee were suffi 
cient to turn the scale against the former. To this 
Indian League, France must chiefly ascribe the final 
overthrow of her magnificent schemes of colonization 
in the northern part of America. 

With the possession of firearms commenced not 
only the rapid elevation, but absolute supremacy of 
the Iroquois over other Indian nations. In 164950, 
after a number of sanguinary conquests, the Hurons 
were overthrown and their power in Canada was 
destroyed. In 1651, they expelled the Neuter Nation 
from the Niagara peninsula, and established a perma 
nent settlement at the mouth of that river. They 
nearly exterminated, in 1654, the Eries, who occupied 
the south side of lake Erie and from thence east to 
the Genesee, and thus possessed themselves of the 
whole area of western New York, and the northern 
part of Ohio. About the year 1670, after they had 
finally completed the dispersion and subjugation of 
the Adirondacks, they acquired possession of the whole 
country between lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and 
of the north bank of the St. Lawrence, to the mouth 
of the Otawas river, near Montreal. On the north 
shore of lake Ontario they founded several villages, in 



the nature of colonial towns, to maintain possession of 
the conquered territory. 

They also made constant inroads upon the New 
England Indians, who, after their partial subjugation 
by the English, were unable to cope with the for 
midable Iroquois. (<23) About the year 1670, they com 
pelled them to break up many of their settlements, 
and flee for safety and protection to the borders of the 
English plantations. The name of the Iroquois had 
then become a terror among Indian nations. " I have 
been told," (says Golden) " by old men in New Eng 
land, who remembered the time when the Mohawks 
made war on their Indians, that as soon as a single 
Mohawk was discovered in their country, their In 
dians raised a cry from hill to hill, a Mohawk! a 
Mohawk ! upon which they fled like sheep before 
wolves, without attempting to make the least resist 


In 1680, the Senecas with six hundred warriors 
invaded the country of the Illinois, upon the borders 
of the Mississippi river, while La Salle was among 
the latter, preparing to descend that river to the sea. 
So great was the dread and consternation of the Illinois, 
that they were inclined to abandon their villages, and re 
tire from the country, to escape the fury of the conquer 
ing foe. At various times, both before and after this 
period, the Iroquois turned their warfare against the 
Cherokees upon the Tennessee, and the Catawbas in 
South Carolina, frequently returning from their distant 
expeditions with numerous captives, to grace the nar 
rative of their invasions. Of these inroads they still 
preserve many traditions. All the intermediate coun- 

I 2 


try between the Allegany and the Tennessee acknowl 
edged their authority, and the latter river became their 
southern boundary. War parties of the League also 
made irruptions into the country of the Miamis, 
others penetrated into the peninsula of Michigan, and 
still others were seen upon the distant shores of lake 
Superior. No distant solitude or rugged fastness was 
too obscure or difficult to escape their visitation ; no 
enterprise was too perilous, no fatigue too great for 
their courage and endurance. The fame of their 
achievements resounded over the continent. 

On the south-east, also, they extended their con 
quests. As early as 1607, Captain John Smith, the 
founder of Virginia, encountered a band of the Iro- 
quois, in several canoes, upon the upper part of the 
Chesapeake bay, then on their way to the territories 
of the Powhattan confederacy. The Shawnees, Nanti- 
cokes, Unamis, Delawares, and Minsi were vanquished 
one after another, and reduced to the condition of 
dependent nations. Even the Canarese Indians, in 
their sea-girt home upon Long Island, found no pro 
tection against their attacks. In fact, they traversed 
the whole country from the St. Lawrence to the Ten 
nessee, and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. 

For three quarters of a century, from the year 
1625 to the year 1700, the Iroquois were involved 
in an almost uninterrupted warfare. At the close of 
this period, they had subdued and held in nominal 
subjection all the principal Indian nations occupying 
the territories which are now embraced in the states 
of New York, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, 
Pennsylvania, the northern and western parts of Vir- 


ginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Northern Tennessee, part of 
Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, a portion of the New 
England states, and the principal part of Upper 
Canada. Over many of these nations, the haughty 
and imperious Iroquois exercised a constant super 
vision. If any of them became involved in domestic 
difficulties, a delegation of chiefs went among them 
and restored tranquillity, prescribing at the same time 
their future conduct. Some of these nations, like the 
Delawares, they prohibited from going out to war, 
having denationalized them by taking from them all 
civil powers. According to the Indian notion, they 
were made women, and were henceforth to confine 
themselves to pursuits appropriate to the India n 
female. Such was the general awe and fear inspired 
by their warlike achievements, that they dictated to 
Indian nations their own terms of intercourse, and in 
sisted upon the fulfilment of their requirements. In 
the conquered territories they often established set 
tlements or colonies of their own people, to exer 
cise a species of superintendence over their acquired 

The multitude of independent tribes into which the 
generic stocks of the continent had become sub 
divided, and their want of concert and unity were 
extremely favorable to the career of conquest pursued 
by the Iroquois. In their disunited condition, they 
could but feebly resist the concentrated energies secured 
to the latter through the League. 

About the year 1700, the Iroquois reached their 
culminating point. They had reared a formidable 
Indian power, so far as its sway over the aborigines 



was concerned, and in comparison with any Indian 
power which had risen north of the Aztec monarchy. 
Having established their dominion securely against 
all races of Indian lineage, and strengthened the bonds 
of union among themselves beyond the power of 
civil dissensions, they would seem to have prepared 
themselves for a still higher progress, through the 
pursuits of peace; but a different and more deadly 
enemy than the Indian had already stretched out its 
arms to enfold them in its withering embrace. 

During the same period, or rather from about the 
year 1640 to the year 1700, a constant warfare was 
maintained between the Iroquois and the French, 
interrupted occasionally by negotiations and brief in 
tervals of peace. As the former possessed both banks 
of the St. Lawrence, and the circuits of lakes Erie and 
Ontario, they intercepted the fur trade, which the 
French were anxious to maintain with the western 
nations. Upon this trade much of the prosperity of 
the new colony depended, for it furnished the chief 
article of export, and yielded the most profitable 
returns. But the war parties of the League ranged 
through these territories so constantly, that it was 
impossible for the French to pass in safety through 
the lakes, or even up the St. Lawrence above Mon 
treal. Their traders were captured, and the rich furs 
of the west not only became the spoil of the victors, 
but the traders themselves were often led into captiv 
ity, and perhaps to the stake. So great was the fear 
of these sudden attacks, that both the traders and the 
missionaries were obliged to ascend the Otawas river 
to near its source, and from thence to cross over to 


the Sauit St. Marie, and the shores of lake Superior. 
For these reasons the French were extremely anxious, 
either to detach the Iroquois from the English and 
gain their alliance, or to reduce them to subjection by 
conquest. They tried each successively, and in both 
were equally defeated. The untractable and politic 
Iroquois were averse to the former, and too powerful 
for the latter. On numerous occasions the ambassa 
dors of the League were at Montreal and Quebec, to 
negotiate with them for the adjustment of difficulties, 
and the exchange of prisoners ; in some of which 
negotiations, the terms of a peace, or at least of an 
armistice, were agreed upon ; but these respites from 
warfare were of short duration. The ravages com 
mitted upon the settlements of the French were so 
frequent and so devastating as to place the colony in 
imminent peril. But for the constant supplies from 
the mother country, the French power in Canada 
would inevitably have been overthrown at several 
different periods prior to 1700. 

To retaliate for these frequent inroads, and to pre 
vent their recurrence, the country of the Iroquois was 
often invaded by the French. On several occasions 
they drew out the whole force of the colony, to devas 
tate the villages of the League ; but after the most 
toilsome expeditions into the heart of the wilderness 
of New York, they returned without having accom 
plished sufficient to reward them for the fatigues and 
perils of the enterprise. The Iroquois invariably re 
tired into the depths of the forest, leaving nothing but 
their deserted tenements and fields of corn to await 
the invader. In this manner the unwearied persever- 


ance and indomitable courage of the French were ren 
dered futile against such an evanescent adversary. 

In 1665, M. Courcelles, governor of Canada, led a 
strong party into the country of the Mohawks; but 
the hardships they encountered rendered it necessary 
for them to return, without accomplishing their pur 
pose. The next year, M. De Tracy, viceroy of New 
France, with twelve hundred French and six hundred 
Indians, renewed the invasion with better success. 
He captured Te-a-ton-ta-ld-ga^ one of the principal 
villages of the Mohawks, situated at the mouth of 
the Schoharie creek ; but after destroying the town, 
and the stores of corn, which they found in caches, 
they were obliged to retire without meeting an oppos 
ing force. Again, in 1684, M. De La Barre, then 
governor of Canada, entered the country of the Onon- 
dagas with about eighteen hundred men. Having 
reached Hungry bay, on the east shore of lake 
Ontario, a conference was had with a delegation of 
Iroquois chiefs, headed by Garangula, the celebrated 
Onondaga orator. (24) After they had exchanged re 
criminations and mutual defiance, a species of armis 
tice was finally agreed upon, and thus the expedition 

A more successful enterprise was projected and car 
ried into execution, in 1687, by M. De Nonville, 
then governor of Canada. Having raised a force of 
two thousand French and six hundred Indians, he 
embarked them in a fleet of two hundred bateau and 
as many birch bark canoes. After coasting lake On 
tario from Kingston to Irondequoit bay, in the terri 
tory of the Senecas, he landed at the head of this bay, 

VOL. I. 2 


and found himself within a few miles of the principal 
villages of the Senecas, which were then in the coun 
ties of Ontario and Monroe. The nearest village was 
Ga-o-sd-ga -o, near Victor, in the county of Ontario, 
and the next Ga-nun-da-gwa, at the foot of the Canan- 
daigua lake. Taking the trail which led directly to 
these villages, De Nonville marched upon the first. 
After repulsing a body of five hundred Senecas, with 
whom he had a sharp engagement, he took and de 
stroyed the town, which had been deserted by its in 
habitants. Meeting with no further opposition, as 
the Senecas had retired into the interior, he marched 
southward as far as Da-yo-de-hok -to, a village situated 
at the bend of the Honeoye outlet, west of Mendon, 
in the county of Monroe. This was the largest vil 
lage of the Senecas, according to the official statement 
of De Nonville, and was the place selected for the ex 
ecution of the act e^ by which they took formal posses 
sion of the country of the Seneca-Iroquois, in the 
name of France. Four villages, with their extensive 
fields of corn then growing, were burned and devas 
tated, after which the French army retired. 

To retaliate for this invasion, a formidable party of 
the Iroquois, in the fall of the same year, made a sud 
den descent upon fort Chambly, on the Sorel river, 
near Montreal. Unable to capture the fort, which 
was resolutely defended by the garrison, they ravaged 
the settlements adjacent, and returned with a number of 
captives. About the same time, a party of eight hun 
dred attacked Frontenac, on the site of Kingston, and 
destroyed and laid waste the plantations and establish 
ments of the French without the fortification. In July 


of the ensuing year, the French were made to feel still 
more sensibly the power of their revenge. A band of 
twelve hundred warriors, animated with the fiercest re 
sentment, made a descent upon the island of Montreal. 
They had covered their plans with such secrecy, and 
advanced with such celerity, that the inhabitants had 
no admonition of their approach. Their first intima 
tion of impending danger was the fearful onset of the 
Iroquois. Unprepared, and without the means of 
resistance, they were overpowered and slain in every 
direction. All that were without the fortifications fell 
under the rifle or the relentless tomahawk. Their 
houses were burned, their plantations ravaged, and the 
whole island covered with desolation. About a thou 
sand of the French, according to some writers, perished 
in this invasion, or were carried into captivity. When 
the work of destruction was completed, the Iroquois 
retired, bearing with them the spoils of the island, and 
about two hundred prisoners. 

Overwhelmed by this sudden disaster, the French 
destroyed their forts at Niagara and Frontenac, and 
thus yielded the whole country west of Montreal to 
the possession of the Iroquois. At this critical period 
Count Frontenac again became governor of Canada, 
and during the short residue of his life devoted him 
self, with untiring energy, to restore its declining pros 
perity. War had now commenced between the 
English and French, which drew his first attention to 
the defence of Quebec against the attack of the Eng 
lish ; but after this had been successfully resisted, he 
again sought to chastise the fierce enemy who had 
so long disputed with the French the possession of 


Canada. In the winter of 1692-3, he sent a detach 
ment of six hundred French and Indians against the 
Mohawks ; which, after travelling through the dense 
forests upon snow-shoes, and encountering almost 
insurmountable obstacles, finally reached in safety the 
vicinity of the Mohawk villages. They surprised and 
captured three of these, took three hundred prisoners, 
and returned with the loss of thirty men. Again, in 
1696, Count Frontenac conducted an expedition in 
person against the Onondagas and Oneidas, with a 
thousand French and as many Indians. (25) Having 
ascended the St. Lawrence in bateau and bark canoes, 
he coasted the eastern shore of the lake, to the mouth 
of the Oswego river. From thence he marched to 
the salt springs, near the site of Syracuse, and up 
the Onondaga valley to the principal village of the 
Onondagas. He found it, as usual, deserted, although 
fortified with palisades, and supplied with stores of 
corn. The village was then burned, and the growing 
corn, which was found in great abundance in the fields 
adjacent, was cut down with the sabre. A detachment 
was then sent against the Oneidas, under M. De Vau- 
dreuil, by whom their fields also were laid waste, after 
which the French army returned to Canada. 

This was the last French invasion of the territories 
of the Iroquois. A general peace soon followed, and 
continued without interruption, until the war of 1755, 
which finally resulted in the conquest of Canada by 
the English, in ij6o. (2G} 

From the commencement of English intercourse 
with the Iroquois, down to the independence of the 
American states, the covenant of friendship between 



them remained unbroken. The importance of con 
ciliating this powerful confederacy was fully appreci 
ated by the colonial authorities, especially during the 
infancy of the English establishments. Unwearied 
pains were taken by them to secure and retain their 
favor and confidence. Each successive governor an 
nounced his arrival to the Sachems of the League, 
and invited them to meet him in council, at an early 
day, to renew the " covenant chain." Each new 
alliance was cemented by presents, by mutual pro 
fessions of kindness, and by assurances of mutual 
assistance. An intercourse sprang up between them 
in matters of trade, and in public affairs, which con 
tinued to increase, until councils with the Iroquois 
became nearly as frequent as the sessions of the 
provincial legislature. Independent of the profitable 
trade in furs, with which they enriched their com 
merce, they felt the necessity of interposing the power 
of the Indian League, as a barrier to French prog 
ress, not only towards their own settlements, but 
also towards the west. The French were constantly 
striving to open an extensive fur trade with the 
western nations, and for its necessary protection, to 
extend their possessions up the St. Lawrence, and 
upon the northern shores of Lake Ontario. With 
the exclusive navigation of this river and lake, they 
would have obtained nearly the absolute control of 
this important trade ; under the powerful stimulus 
of which, the strength and prosperity of the French 
colony would have risen with such rapidity as to 
threaten the security of the English possessions. 
Both the English and the French were fully aware 



of the important part the Iroquois were destined to 
bear in the drama of colonization ; but the former, 
by their superior advantage of position, and from 
their greater dependence upon the forbearance of the 
League, were induced to pursue a course of policy 
which gained their unchangeable friendship. The 
French would inevitably, if unopposed by them, have 
possessed themselves of the greater part of New York, 
and, perhaps, have established their empire so firmly, 
that the united forces of the English colonies would 
have been unable to effect their displacement. At 
one period, the French had pushed their settlements 
up Lake Champlain, until both sides of the lake, 
as far up as the foot of Lake George, were covered 
with French grants. 


A reference, at least, to the missionary efforts of 
the French, while in the occupation of Canada, ought 
not to be omitted. While the English entirely neg 
lected the spiritual welfare of the Indians, the French 
were unremitting in their efforts to spread Christian 
ity among them. (35) The privations and hardships 
endured by the Jesuit missionaries, and the zeal, the 
fidelity and devotion, exhibited by them, in their 
efforts for the conversion of the Indian, are unsur 
passed in the history of Christianity. They trav 
ersed the forests of America alone and unprotected; 
they dwelt in the depth of the wilderness, without 
shelter, and almost without raiment; they passed the 
ordeal of Indian captivity, and the fires of the torture; 
they suffered from hunger and violence ; but in the 
midst of all, they never forgot the mission with which 
they were intrusted. The fruits of these labors of 



Christian devotion are yet visible among the descend 
ants of the ancient Iroquois : for the precepts spread 
abroad among them by the missionaries are still in 
the Indian mind, and many of them have been incor 
porated by them into their own religious system. 
The intercourse of the French Jesuits with the Iro 
quois furnishes, in some respects, the most pleasing 
portion of their history. 

In 1715, the Tuscaroras, having been expelled 
from North Carolina, turned to the north, and sought 
a home among the Iroquois, on the ground of a 
common origin. That they were originally descended 
from the same stock is sufficiently evinced by their 
language. They we re admitted into the League as a 
constituent member, and a portion of the Oneida terri 
tory assigned to them as their future home. After 
this event, the Iroquois, who had before been styled 
by the English the " Five Nations," were known 
by them under the name of the " Six Nations." 

With this brief and barren outline of prominent 
events, the civil history of the Iroquois, prior to 
1760, is dismissed. 

It is difficult to form a correct estimate of their 
number; the opinions of those having the best oppor 
tunities of judging have been so various. La Hontan 
placed them at seventy thousand. The estimate 
made by Colonel Coursey, at Albany, in 1677, gave 
them about fifteen thousand ; but it is known that his 
means of judging were very imperfect. Bancroft esti 
mates them, including the Tuscaroras, at seventeen 
thousand. Calculations made at a later day, after 
they had greatly declined in number, allowed them 



ten thousand. This was substantially the estimate 
of Sir William Johnson, in 1763. There is a tradi 
tion among the Senecas, that at the period of their 
highest prosperity and numbers, they took a cen 
sus of their nation, by placing a kernel of white 
flint corn for each Seneca, in a corn husk basket, 
which, from the description of its size, would hold 
ten or twelve quarts. Taking the smallest size, and 
making the estimate accordingly, it will give us the 
number of Senecas alone at 17,760. At the present 
time there are about seven thousand Iroquois within 
the United States and Canada, who have continued 
to preserve their lineage and nationality through all 
their vicissitudes. This appears from the reports of 
the Indian Department, and from other sources of 
information/ 59 ) 

It is well understood, that the decline of the Iro 
quois commenced with their first intercourse with 
Europeans. The possession of firearms, and their 
use in Indian warfare, the introduction of ardent 
spirits among them, with its train of frightful excesses, 
and their incessant conflicts with the French, and with 
Indian nations, were calculated to waste them away 
with great rapidity. In 1750, from these various 
causes, they had become diminished about one half. 
Another and a prominent cause of the decline of the 
Iroquois, was the large numbers induced, at various 
times, to emigrate to the banks of the St. Lawrence, 
under the influence of the Jesuit missionaries, and 
who, by placing themselves under French protection, 
became the enemies of their kindred and of the 
League. The most successful colony of this descrip- 



tion was that established by the Abbe Picquet at 
Swe-ga-che, on the site of Ogdensburg, in 1749. The 
first year, he constructed a fort of palisades, and com 
menced with six Iroquois families ; in the second 
year, the number of families had increased to eighty- 
seven, and in the third, to 396. Such was the influx 
from the territories of the League to the new mis 
sionary establishment, that, in 1754, the number of 
inhabitants in their three villages, at and near Swe- 
ga-chey were estimated by the French at three thousand. 
This band were afterwards known as the " Praying 
Indians," from their conversion to Christianity. Their 
descendants now reside upon the St. Regis reservation, 
in the county of St. Lawrence. 

The period of their greatest prosperity, and of their 
highest numbers, was evidently about the year 1650, 
shortly after the commencement of their intercourse 
with Europeans. At that time, their total population 
may be safely placed at twenty-five thousand. A 
higher estimate would be better supported by such 
data as the case affords, than a lesser one ; although 
the impression of later writers seems to be the con 
trary. An approximation to the relative strength 
of the several nations of the League, upon this basis, 
may be made by the following apportionment : To 
the Senecas, ten thousand ; to the Cayugas, three 
thousand ; to the Onondagas, four thousand ; to the 
Oneidas, three thousand ; and to the Mohawks, five 
thousand. A century later, their total population was 
probably about half this number, the Mohawks having 
wasted away the most rapidly. (59) 

A few brief observations upon the modern trans- 

2 5 


actions of the Iroquois will close this outline. From 
the close of the French war until the commencement 
of the American Revolution, was a time of general 
peace. The Revolution placed them in a position of 
great difficulty, as the Continental congress negotiated 
to secure their neutrality, and the English to obtain 
their assistance. Their sympathies, as was anticipated, 
were strongly enlisted in favor of their ancient ally > 
with whom, for upward of a century, they had main 
tained an unbroken friendship. They were thor 
oughly English in sentiment. Having no motive of 
self-interest to engage them on either side, neutrality 
was the true policy of the League ; more especially, 
as the final success of the American arms might lead 
to the forfeiture of their country, if they enlisted 
against them. In the end, the appeals and the ap 
pliances of the English were found irresistible ; and, 
placing their country and the homes of their fathers 
in the event of the struggle, the people of the Long 
House went out for the last time in battle array, not 
to peril their lives for themselves, but to keep the 
" covenant chain " with a transatlantic ally. (28) 

When the question of declaring for the English 
came before the council of sachems and chiefs, the 
Oneidas alone resisted the measure, as unwise and 
inexpedient. Their opposition defeated the war 
measure, as an act of the League, unanimity being 
a fundamental law in the legislation of the Iroquois. 
But the course of events had, at this time, greatly 
impaired and weakened the confederacy. Their power 
and numbers had wasted away ; their political exist 
ence, as an independent people, was drawing to its 



close; and it was found impossible, under the pressure 
of circumstances, to adhere to the ancient principles 
of the League. It was finally determined, that each 
nation might engage in the war upon its own respon 
sibility ; so that, ultimately, the Mohawks, Onondagas, 
Cayugas and Senecas took up the rifle for the English. 
The border wars of the Revolution, in which the Iro- 
quois participated, and the devastations which they 
committed in the valleys of the Mohawk and Susque- 
hanna, and their tributaries, are too familiar to require 
a recital. Their irruptions into the border settlements 
were so frequent, and the track of their invasions was 
marked with such desolation, that the American con 
gress were obliged to send against them a powerful 
detachment, to lay waste their villages, and to over 
awe them with the fear of final extirpation. General 
Sullivan, in 1779, led an army of four thousand men 
into the Seneca territory, which he penetrated as far 
as the Genesee, at that time the centre of their pop 
ulation. After destroying their principal towns, their 
fruit orchards, and stores of grain, he returned to 
Pennsylvania ; having first sent a detachment into the 
Cayuga territory to ravage their settlements. 

The treaty of peace between Great Britain and the 
United States, in 1783, made no provision for the 
Iroquois, who were abandoned in adversity by their 
ally, and left to make such terms as they could with 
the successful republic. (29) A few years afterwards a 
general peace was established with the northwestern 
Indian nations, including the Iroquois, all of whom 
had, more or less, become involved in the general 
controversy. With the restoration of peace, the po- 



litical transactions of the League were substantially 
closed. This was, in effect, the- termination of their 
political existence. The jurisdiction of the United 
States was extended over their ancient territories, 
and from that time forth they became dependent na- 
tions. (28) 

During the progress of the Revolution, the Mo 
hawks abandoned their country and removed to Can 
ada, finally establishing themselves partly upon Grand 
river, in the Niagara peninsula, and partly near 
Kingston, where they now reside upon two reserva 
tions secured to them by the British government. 

The Oneidas, notwithstanding their friendly position 
during the war, in the end fared little better than their 
Mohawk brethren. A rapid influx of population, the 
tide of which set to the westward with the restoration 
of peace, soon rendered their possessions valueless. 
Negotiations were immediately commenced by the 
State for the purchase of their lands, which they 
yielded from time to time in large grants, until their 
original possessions were narrowed down to one small 
reservation. In these negotiations, as well with the 
other Iroquois nations as with the Oneidas, the policy 
of the State of New York was ever just and humane. 
Although their country, with the exception of that of 
the Oneidas, might have been considered as forfeited 
by the event of the Revolution, yet the government 
never enforced the rights of conquest, but extinguished 
the Indian title to the country by purchase, and treaty 
stipulations. A portion of the Oneida nation emi 
grated to a reservation on the river Thames, in Can 
ada, where about four hundred of them now reside. 



Another and a larger band removed to Green Bay, in 
Wisconsin, where they still make their homes to the 
number of seven hundred. But a small part of the 
nation have remained around the seat of their ancient 
council-fire. One hundred and twenty-six, according 
to the census of the last year, are now dwelling near 
Oneida castle, in the county of Oneida, and have 
become fully habituated to an agricultural life. 

Perhaps, in the result, the Onondagas have been 
the most fortunate nation of the League. They still 
retain their beautiful and secluded valley of Onondaga, 
with sufficient territory for their comfortable main 
tenance, even with the limited production of Indian 
husbandry. After the Revolution, they granted their 
lands to the State by treaty, with the exception of the 
tract they now occupy, the proceeds, as in other cases, 
being invested by the government for their benefit. 
About a hundred and fifty Onondagas now reside with 
the Senecas ; another party are established on Grand 
river, in Canada, and a few have removed to the west. 
The total number still remaining at Onondaga is about 
two hundred and fifty. 

Over the fate of the Cayugas a feeling of regret and 
sympathy is awakened, as having been even less for 
tunate than their unfortunate kindred. This nation 
has become literally scattered abroad. Immediately 
after the Revolution, the tide of population began to 
press upon them, and hem them in on every side, to 
such a degree that they were obliged wholly to sur 
render their domain. In the brief space of twelve 
years after the first house of the white man was erected 
in Cayuga county (1789) the whole nation was up- 



rooted and gone. In 1795, they ceded, by treaty, all 
their lands to the State, with the exception of one 
reservation, which they finally abandoned about the 
year 1800. A portion of them removed to Green 
Bay, another to Grand river, and still another, and a 
much larger band, settled at Sandusky, in Ohio, from 
whence they were removed by government, a few 
years since, into the Indian Territory, west of the 
Mississippi. About one hundred and twenty-five still 
reside among the Senecas, in western New York, and 
yet retain their name and lineage, and have their sepa 
rate chiefs. Those west of the Mississippi, and those 
residing with the Senecas, divide between them the 
State annuity of $2,300, which was secured to them 
upon the sale of their former possessions. 

The Tuscaroras, after removing from the Oneida 
territory, finally located near the Niagara river, in the 
vicinity of Lewiston, on a tract given to them by the 
Senecas, where about three hundred of them now 

After the displacement of the Cayugas, the flow of 
population, still advancing westward with constantly 
augmenting force, next began to press upon the broad 
domains of the Senecas. They passed through the 
same ordeal to which the other nations had been sub 
jected, by means of which they were speedily induced 
to grant away their lands, not by townships and coun 
ties, but from river to river, reserving here and there 
a small oasis, sufficient to rescue a favorite village with 
its burial-place. Their wide-spread territories were in 
a few years narrowed down, to gratify the demands of 
the white man, until the residue of the Senecas are 


now shut up within three small reservations, the 
Tonawanda, the Cattaraugus and the Allegany, which, 
united, would not cover the area of one of the lesser 
counties of the State. To embitter their sense of 
desolation as a nation, the " preemptive right " to these 
last remnants of their ancient possessions is now held 
by a company of land speculators, the Ogden Land 
Company, (30) who, to wrest away these few acres, have 
pursued and hunted them for the last fourteen years, 
with a degree of wickedness hardly to be paralleled 
in the history of human avarice. Not only have 
every principle of honesty, every dictate of humanity, 
every Christian precept been violated by this company, 
in their eager artifices to despoil the Senecas ; but the 
darkest frauds, the basest bribery, and the most exe 
crable intrigues which soulless avarice could suggest, 
have been practiced, in open day, upon this defence 
less and much-injured people. The natural feelings 
of man, and the sense of public justice are violated 
and appalled at the narration of their proceedings. It 
is no small crime against humanity to seize the fire 
sides and the property of a whole community, without 
an equivalent, and against their will ; and then to drive 
them, beggared and outraged, into a wild and inhospi 
table wilderness. And yet this is the exact scheme of 
the Ogden Land Company ; the one in which they 
have long been engaged, and the one which they still 
continue to prosecute. The Georgia treaty with the 
Cherokees, so justly held up to execration, is a white 
page, compared with the treaties of 1838 and 1842, 
which were forced upon the Senecas. This project has 
already, however, in part, been defeated, by the load 



of iniquity which hung upon the skirts of these treaties ; 
and it is to be hoped, for the credit of humanity, that 
the cause of the Indian will yet triumph, and that the 
residue of the Senecas will be permitted to dwell in 
peace in the land of their nativity. 1 

The census of last year fixes the number of Sen 
ecas upon their then reservations, in western New 
York, at two thousand seven hundred and twelve, 
A small band, after the Revolution, emigrated to 
Grand river, where they now have a miniature of the 
ancient League, and another removed to Sandusky, 
and from thence into the Indian Territory. Those 
at present within the State are rapidly improving 
in their social and moral condition ; as also, it is 
believed, are those residing upon Grand river, in 
Canada, where there are now about seven hundred 
Mohawks, besides five hundred near Kingston, four 
hundred Onondagas, seven hundred Cayugas, three 
hundred Tuscaroras, and two hundred Senecas and 

From the sales of the lands of the Iroquois, at vari 
ous times, large sums of money have accrued, which 
have been invested by the State and national govern 
ments for their benefit ; and the interest arising from 
the same is now paid over and distributed among 
them semi-annually. The Senecas alone have an 

1 The Buffalo Reservation, which made the fourth reserved tract, and 
was the most valuable, has fallen into the hands of the Ogden Company, 
but not so much by virtue of the treaties as by skilful management. 
It contains forty-nine thousand acres of land bordering the corporate 
limits of the city of Buffalo, and was supposed to be worth over a 
million of dollars. For the land, and its farming improvements, the 
Company paid the Senecas about one hundred thousand dollars. 

3 2 


annual income from these sources, amounting to 
$ 1 8, ooo. 

There are still residing in the State of New York 
about four thousand Iroquois. The several fragments 
of the nations yet continue their relationships and 
intercourse with each other, and cling to the shadow 
of the ancient League. At intervals of one or two 
years, they assemble in general council to raise up, 
with their primitive forms and ceremonies, sachems 
to fill vacancies occasioned by death or deposition. 
These councils are summoned and conducted, in all 
respects, as they were wont to be in the days of 
Indian sovereignty. They still cherish the remem 
brance of their fathers, and the institutions which they 
transmitted to them, with religious affection. In each 
nation, also, with the exception of the Oneidas and 
Tuscaroras, the larger portion of the people continue 
to adhere to their ancient faith and worship; 
celebrating their religious festivals after the original 
method, and preserving, in their social intercourse, 
the habits and the customs of their ancestors. It is 
another singular fact, in connection with their history, 
that since their adoption of agricultural pursuits, as 
the exclusive source of subsistence, their further de 
cline has been arrested, and they are now increasing 
in numbers. In many respects they have become an 
interesting portion of our population, yielding many 
hopes of their future elevation. The policy of the 
State towards them has ever been enlightened, hu 
mane and just, the government seizing upon every 
opportunity to promote their welfare, to protect their 
interests, and to extend to them facilities for education. 

VOL. i. 3 33 


It is a pleasing and a proud reflection, that there is 
a universal spirit of kindness, sympathy and benev 
olence towards the Iroquois, among the people of New 
York. They would shield them in their defenceless 
condition, stimulate their efforts for social improve 
ment, encourage their aspirations for a higher life, and 
finally, when they have become sufficiently advanced in 
agricultural life, raise them to the condition of citizens 
of the State. 

The materials for the preceding chapter were drawn from 
the following sources : Colden s Hist. Five Nations ; Charle- 
voix s Hist. New France ; Smith s Hist. N. Y. ; Macauley s 
Hist. N. Y. ; Doc. Hist. N. Y. ; Morse s Hist. Am. Rev.; 
Bancroft s Hist. U. S. ; Warburton s Conquest of Canada ; 
Marshall s Nar. De Nonville s Exped. ; Schoolcraft s Notes 
on the Iroquois ; Doc s of the Indian Department ; MSS. 
Treaties with the Iroquois, State Dep. Alby. ; Traditions of 
the Onondagas,Tuscaroras, Senecas and Cayugas. 



Chapter II 

Indian Geography Home Country of the Iroquois National 
Boundaries Trails Indian Map Ho-de -no-sau-nee Na 
tional Names 

OUR Indian geography, excluding lines of lati 
tude, descriptions of soil and climate, and 
precise territorial limits, confines itself to the 
external features of the country, and to the period 
when the hemlock and the maple, the pine and the 
oak, interlocked their branches in endless alternation, 
spreading out from river to river, and from lake to 
lake, in one vast, continuous, interminable forest. 

As the aboriginal, or poetic period of our territo 
rial history recedes from us, each passing year both 
deepens the obscurity upon the Indian s footsteps, 
and diminishes the power of the imagination to recall 
the stupendous forest scenery by which he was sur 
rounded. To obtain a glance at the face of nature 
during the era of Indian occupation, the wave of im 
provement must be rolled backward, not only displac 
ing, in its recession, the city and the village which have 
sprung up in the wilderness; but restoring, also, by a 
simultaneous effort, the original drapery of nature, 
when clothed in her wild attire. 1 

1 In those forest days, the graceful swan folded her wings in unmo 
lested seclusion upon our inland lakes ; but with the departure of the 
Indian, she spread them again, and followed him. They sat upon the 



Surrounded by all the grandeur of this forest scenery, 
the Indian constructed his Ga-no -sote, or Bark House, 
upon the winding stream, or on the margin of the 
lake; and, one of the multitudinous inhabitants of the 
forest, he passed his days and years in sylvan pursuits, 
unless he went forth upon the war-path in quest of 
adventure or renown. 

Between the Hudson and lake Erie, our broad 
territory was occupied by the Ho-de -no-sau-nee^ or 
Iroquois, scattered far and wide, in small encampments, 
or in disconnected villages. Their council-fires, em 
blematical of civil jurisdiction, burned continuously 
from the Hudson to Niagara. At the era of Dutch 
discovery (1609), they had pushed their permanent 
possession as far west as the Genesee ; and shortly 
after, about 1650, they extended it to the Niagara. 
They then occupied the entire territory of our State 
west of the Hudson, with the exception of certain 
tracts upon that river below the junction of the Mo 
hawk, in the possession of the River Indians, and the 
country of the Delawares, upon the Delaware river. 
But both these had been subdued by the conquering 
Iroquois, and had become tributary nations. 

The villages of the Mohawks were chiefly located 
in the valley of the Mohawk, upon the south side of 
the river. Around and near the Oneida lake were the 
principal villages of the Oneidas. The Onondagas 
were established in the valley of the river of that name, 
and upon the hills adjacent. On the east shore of the 

water in pairs, and not in flocks. It is said they still frequent the small 
lakes in the wild regions of northern New York. The American swan 
(Cygnus Americanus) was called by the Senecas Ah- f weh -ah-ah. 



Cayiiga lake, and upon the ridge to the eastward, were 
the settlements of the Cayugas. In the counties of 
Ontario and Monroe were found the principal villages 
of the Senecas, the most populous nation of the 
League. These were their chief localities at the era 
of their discovery. At a later period, in the progress of 
their intercourse and warfare with the whites, many 
of their ancient settlements were abandoned, and new 
ones established. This was especially the case with 
the Senecas, until their villages, at various periods, 
have been sprinkled over the whole area of western 
New York.< 89 > 

This territory, lying between the Hudson and 
lake Erie, and embracing the most valuable portions 
of our State, constituted the Home Country of the 
Iroquois, as distinguished from other territories upon 
the north, south, east and west, which they held in 
subjection by conquest, and occupied only in the sea 
son of the hunt. At the era of their highest military 
supremacy, about the year 1660, the Iroquois, in 
their warlike expeditions, ranged unresisted from 
New England to the Mississippi, and from the St. 
Lawrence to the Tennessee. They held under their 
dominion the greater part of these vast territories 
by the slender tenure of Indian conquest. But New 
York was their hereditary country, the centre of 
their power, and the seat of their council-fires. Here 
were their villages, their fields of maize and tobacco, 
their fishing and hunting grounds, and the burial- 
places of their fathers. The Long House, to which 
they likened their political edifice, opened its eastern 
door upon the Hudson, while the western looked out 



upon Niagara. At the epoch of their discovery, 
this fair domain was the patrimony of the Iroquois, 
the land of their nativity, if not of their remote origin, 
and they had defended it against hostile bands with a 
patriotism as glowing as such a fair possession could 
inspire in the heart of man. They were not insen 
sible to the political advantages afforded by their 
geographical position. It was their boast that they 
occupied the highest part of the continent. Situated 
upon the head-waters of the Hudson, the Delaware, 
the Susquehanna, the Ohio and the St. Lawrence 
flowing in every direction to the sea, they held within 
their jurisdiction as it were, the gates of the country, 
and could, through them, descend at will upon any 
point. At the same time, lake Ontario, and the 
mountains upon the north, and the range of the Alle- 
ganies upon the south gave to their country itself an 
isolation which protected them, in a great measure, 
against the external pressure of migratory bands ; 
while the lakes and streams, which in so remarkable 
a manner intersected every part of the Long House, 
and whose head-waters were separated only by short 
portages, and its continuous valleys, divided by no 
mountain barriers, offered them every facility for the 
most rapid intercommunication. They themselves 
declared that " their country possessed many advan 
tages superior to any other part of America." 

A boundary line would seem at first to be a dif 
ficult problem in Indian geography. (42) But a pecu 
liar custom of our predecessors has divested this 
subject of much of its embarrassment, and enabled 
us to ascertain with considerable certainty the terri- 



torial limits of the nations of the League. (5G) The 
Iroquois rejected all natural boundaries, and substi 
tuted longitudinal lines. This appears to have re 
sulted from the custom of establishing themselves 
upon both banks of the streams upon which they 
resided. Having no knowledge of the use of wells, 
they were accustomed to fix their habitations upon 
the banks of creeks, and easily forded rivers, or in 
the vicinity of copious springs. Inland lakes were 
never divided by a boundary line ; but the line itself 
was deflected, that the entire circuit of each lake 
might be possessed by a single nation. The natural 
limits which rivers and lakes might furnish having 
thus been disregarded, and straight lines substituted, 
the inquiry is freed from some of its difficulties, and 
greater certainty is given to their boundaries, when 
certain points upon them are decisively ascertained. 

After the expulsion of the Neuter Nation (Je-gd- 
sa-sa] from the borders of the Niagara river, in I65I, 1 
and of the Eries (Ga-qua-ga-o-no) from the country 
between the Genesee and lake Erie in 1655^ the 
Senecas, who before these periods had resided east 
of the Genesee, extended their jurisdiction over the 
whole area between the Seneca lake and lake Erie. 
On the east, their territory joined that of the Cayugas. 
The line of boundary between them, which is well 
authenticated, commenced at the head of Sodus bay, 
on lake Ontario, and running south, nearly upon the 

1 Charlevoix, v. i. p. 377. The Neuter Nation were known to the 
Iroquois as the "Cat Nation ;" the word itself (Je-go -sa-sa} signifying 
"a wild cat. 1 Charlevoix has assigned this name to the Eries (v. ii. 
p. 6z). 

2 Ib. v. ii. p. 62. 



longitude of Washington, crossed the Clyde river 
near the village of that name, and the Seneca river 
about four miles east of its outlet from the Seneca 
lake. Continuing south, and inclining a little to the 
east, the line ran near the lake at its head, and having 
crossed the Chemung river east of Elmira, it passed 
into Pennsylvania. 

The territory of the Cayugas lay upon both sides 
of the Cayuga lake, and extended to the eastward 
so as to include the Owasco. As the Senecas were 
the hereditary " Door-keepers " of the Long House, 
in their figurative way of designating each other, they 
were styled the first fire ; and so on to the Mohawks, 
who were the fifth. Between the Cayugas and Onon- 
dagas, who were the third fire, the limital line is not 
as well defined ; as the latter claimed farther to the 
westward than the boundary assigned. It commenced 
on lake Ontario, near the mouth of the Oswego river, 
and on its west side, and passing between the Cross 
and Otter lakes, continued south into Pennsylvania, 
crossing the Susquehanna west of Owego. 

On the boundary line between the Onondagas and 
Oneidas, the most prominent point was the Deep 
Spring (De-o-song -wa) near Manlius, in the county 
of Onondaga. This spring not only marked the 
limital line between them, but it was a well known 
stopping-place on the great central trail or highway 
of the Iroquois, which passed through the heart of 
their territories from the Hudson to lake Erie. From 
the Deep Spring, the line ran due south into Pennsyl 
vania, crossing the Susquehanna near its confluence 
with the Chenango. North of this spring the line was 



deflected to the west, leaving in the Oneida territory 
the whole circuit of that lake. Crossing the She-u-ka, 
or Oneida outlet, a few miles below the lake, the line 
inclined again to the east, until it reached the meridian 
of the Deep Spring. From thence it ran due north, 
crossing the Black river at the site of Watertown, and 
the St. Lawrence to the eastward of the Thousand 

The testimony of the Iroquois concerning this 
boundary line is confirmed by facts contained in exist 
ing treaties. At the treaty of Fort Schuyler, the 
Oneidas, after ceding " all their lands to the people 
of the state of New York forever," reserved, in addi 
tion to their principal reservation, " a convenient piece 
of land at the fishing-place in the Oneida river, about 
three miles from where it issues from the Oneida lake, 
and to remain as well for the Oneidas and their pos 
terity, as for the inhabitants of the said State to land 
and encamp upon." In the same treaty it appears, 
that the Deep Spring was upon the west boundary 
of the Oneida reservation. 2 

1 Vide Treaty of Fort Schuyler, September 22, 1788. MSS. State 
Department, Albany. 

2 Judge Jones of Utica, in 1846, in a letter in the author s possession, 
speaks of this spring as follows : " Near the summit of what was for 
merly called the Canaseraga hill, near where now runs the road from 
Chittenango to Manlius, is a large, well-known ever-living spring, famil 
iarly known as the Big Spring. The excavation, whether made by 
Omnipotence, or by human hands, may be fifteen feet in diameter, and 
several feet deep, with sloping sides, easy of descent, and in the bottom 
is a reservoir ever full. What is quite singular is, that the water runs in 
at the lower, and disappears at the upper side of the reservoir. This 
spring, while the old woods were its shade, and the wild deer descended 
to taste its limpid waters, was long the favorite meeting-place between 
the Oneidas and Onondagas. Here for ages had the old men of the two 



The Tuscaroras, upon their expulsion from North 
Carolina, in 1712, turned to the north, and sought 
the protection of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee^ on the ground 
of generic origin. They were admitted into the 
League as the Sixth nation, and were ever afterwards 
regarded as a constituent member of the confed 
eracy, although never admitted to a full equality/ m) 
A portion of the Oneida territory was assigned to 
them, lying upon the Unadilla river on the east, 
the Chenango on the west, and the Susquehanna on 
the south. Whether they occupied entirely across the 
southern skirt of the Oneida territory, as their boun 
dary is run upon the accompanying map, is a matter 
of doubt, as the Oneidas might thereby have cut off 
their southern possessions in Pennsylvania and Vir 
ginia. To these southern lands the Tuscaroras had 
no title, and it is probable that their territorial rights, 
which were never absolute, were restricted between 
the Unadilla and the Chenango. The Oneidas, as the 
original owners of this tract, were made a party, with 
the Tuscaroras, to the treaty of Fort Herkimer, in 
1785, by which it was ceded to the State. 1 The 
Tuscaroras were partially scattered among the other 
nations, although they continued to preserve their 
nationality. They had some settlements at a later 
day near the Oneida lake, a village at the inlet of the 
Cayuga, and one in the valley of the Genesee, below 
Avon. At a subsequent period, the Senecas gave 

nations met to rehearse their deeds of war ; here the young braves 
met in friendly conclave. . . . This was the boundary between the 

1 Vide Treaty of Fort Herkimer, June 28, 1785. MSS. State Dep. 



them a tract upon the Niagara river, where they after 
wards removed ; and their descendants still occupy a 
reserved portion of this land, near Lewiston, in the 
county of Niagara. 

There were two other small bands, or remnants of 
tribes, located within the territories of the Oneidas ; 
the Mohekunnuks, situated a few miles south of 
Oneida castle, and the New England Indians, south 
of Clinton. For these lands they also were indebted 
to the generosity of the Oneidas, to whom, as refu 
gees, they applied for " a place to spread their blan 
kets ; " and their possessions were subsequently se 
cured to each band by treaty. 

Of the several boundaries, that between the Oneidas 
and the Mohawks is the most difficult to establish ; 
there being a disagreement between the line of boun 
dary as given by the Iroquois, and that indicated, 
although imperfectly, by existing treaties. According 
to their own evidence, and it is the safest authority, 
this line came down from the north near the west 
boundary of Herkimer county, and, crossing the 
Mohawk about five miles below Utica, continued 
south into Pennsylvania. On the other hand, it 
appears from various treaties with the Oneidas, that 
they sold lands to the State on both sides of the 
Mohawk, as low down as Herkimer and the German 
Flats, and also on the Mohawk branch of the Dela 
ware, as far east as Delhi. After the departure of 
the Mohawks, the Oneidas might have asserted claims 
against the State, which they would not against their 
brethren ; so also the State may have preferred to 
include these lands, to prevent all future disputation. 



The upper castle of the Mohawks, Gd-ne-ga-ha-gd^ 
was situated in the town of Danube, Herkimer county, 
nearly opposite the junction of the West Canada creek 
with the Mohawk. From these facts, the boundary 
given may be regarded as the most reliable. The 
territory of the Mohawks extended to the Hudson 
and lake Champlain on the east, with the exceptions 
before mentioned, and northward to the St. Lawrence. 

Such were the territorial divisions between the sev 
eral nations of the League. In their hunting excur 
sions they were accustomed to confine themselves to 
their own domains : which, to a people who subsisted, 
in part, by the chase, was a matter of some moment. 
Upon their foreign hunting grounds, which were 
numerous and boundless, either nation was at liberty 
to encamp. By establishing these territorial limits 
between the nations of the League, the political in 
dividuality of each was continued in view. 

In intimate connection with our Indian geography 
are the Trails, or forest highways of the Iroquois. (41) 
A central trail passed through the State from east to 
west, intersected at numerous points by cross trails, 
which passed along the banks of the lakes and 
rivers. It commenced at the site of Albany on the 
Hudson, and having touched the Mohawk at Sche- 
nectady, it followed up this river to the carrying- 
place at Rome. From thence, proceeding westward, 
it crossed the Onondaga valley, the foot of the 
Cayuga and of the Seneca lakes, the Genesee valley 

1 This was, doubtless, the oldest village of the Mohawks ; as it is 
the one from which the nation takes its name. It is Ga-ne-d -ga in 
the Seneca dialect. ( 42 ) 


Emhroi d ered with porcupine guilts 


at Avon, and finally came out upon the Buffalo 
creek, at the site of Buffalo. This route of travel 
was so judiciously selected, that after the country 
was surveyed, the turnpikes were laid out upon the 
Indian highway, with slight variations, through the 
whole length of the State. (44) This trail not only con 
nected the principal villages of the Iroquois, but 
established the route of travel into Canada on the 
west, and over the Hudson on the east. The pur 
suits of trade, and the development of the resources 
of the country in modern times have shown this 
to be one of the great natural highways of the conti 
nent. It appears now to be indicated by the geo 
graphical features of the territory ; but as extensive 
intercourse was necessary to its discovery, the es 
tablishment of this great route of travel furnishes evi 
dence of a more general intercourse of the Iroquois 
with the east and west, than has ever been ascribed 
to them. 

Upon the banks of the Susquehanna and its 
branches, the sources of which are near the Mohawk, 
and upon the banks of the Chemung and its tribu 
taries, which have their sources near the Genesee, 
were other trails, all of which converged upon Tioga, 
at the junction of these two principal rivers. They 
became thus gathered into one, which, descending the 
Susquehanna, formed the great southern trail into 
Pennsylvania and Virginia. 

For centuries upon centuries, and by race after 
race, these old and deeply worn trails had been trod 
by the red man. From the Atlantic to the Missis 
sippi, and from the northern lakes to the Mexican 



gulf, the main Indian routes through the country 
were as accurately and judiciously traced, and as 
familiar as our own. On many of these distant foot 
paths the Iroquois had conducted warlike expedi 
tions, and had thus become practically versed in the 
geography of the country. Within their immediate 
territories, they were quite as familiar with the geo 
graphical features, the routes of travel, the lakes, 
and hills and streams, as we ourselves have since 

In the accompanying map, an attempt has been 
made to restore the geographical names of the Iro 
quois, as they stood at the period of its date (1720). 
Many of our own names have their radices in the 
dialects of the Iroquois ; and as to such names, this 
map is designed to furnish an index of their origin 
and signification. Our geography is as yet incom 
plete in the christening of some of the features of 
nature, while some of the names in actual use might 
be profitably exchanged for the aboriginal; in both 
of which cases such a map will at least offer a choice. 
The date given to it introduces some anachronisms, 
which will be obvious to the critical eye ; but these 
do not furnish a sufficient reason for an earlier, or 
a later date. The descendants of the Iroquois have 
preserved, with great fidelity, the names of their 
ancient localities ; and have bestowed them upon our 
cities and villages as they have successively appeared. 
It is but a fit tribute to our Indian predecessors, to 
record the baptismal names of our rivers, lakes and 
streams, and also of their ancient sites. 

An effort has been made to furnish these names 



in the particular dialect of the nation within whose 
territories the places or objects named were situated ; 
and, with a few exceptions, this has been accomplished. 
The nations spoke different dialects of a common 
language; and although they could understand each 
other with readiness, the distinctions between them 
were very decisive. These dialectical differences are 
more strongly marked in their geographical names 
than in the body of the several dialects themselves; 
furnishing, perhaps, the principal reason why these 
names are written so variously. Thus the Iroquois 
name of Buffalo, in the Seneca dialect is, Do-sho -weh, 
in Cayuga De-o-sho -weh, in Onondaga De-o-sa-weh y in 
Oneida De-ose -lole, in Mohawk De-o-hose-lole and 
in Tuscarora Ne-o-thro -rd. For the same purpose, 
and in the same order, the variations in the name 
of Utica may be cited : Nun-da-da-sis, Nun-da-da -ses, 
N one-da-da -sis ^ Ya-nun-da-da-sis, Yo-none-da-sis, Ya- 
nun-ria-rats. The resemblances in these examples are 
nearer than they are usually found. In the transi 
tion of these names from the unwritten dialects of 
the Iroquois into our language, they lose much of 
their euphony, and the force of their accent. It 
would therefore be difficult to judge of the language 
itself from these specimens. That entire accuracy 
has been attained in the spelling of these words is 
not expected. Indeed, many of their elementary 
sounds, in the manner, and in the combination in 
which they use them, it is impossible to express 
with our letters. But they are as nearly accurate, 
as the frequent repetition of each name by the native 
speaker, that the sound of each syllable might be 



obtained, together with a careful revision of the 
whole, would enable the author to make them. In 
the Appendix A. i, will be found a table, contain 
ing a list of all the names upon the map, arranged 
by counties, with the signification of each. As the 
county lines are dotted on the map, it will be easy 
to refer to any locality. 

The trails (41) (Wa-a-gwen-ne-yuH)^ or highways of 
travel pursued by our predecessors, are also traced 
upon the map. (42) Among the number will be found 
the great central trail from the site of Albany to 
that of Buffalo, which is traced minutely from point to 
point, throughout its whole extent. 

It remains to notice the origin and signification of 
the names of the several nations. After the forma 
tion of the League, the Iroquois called themselves the 
Ho-de -no-sau-nee^ which signifies " the people of the 
long house." It grew out of the circumstance, that 
they likened their confederacy to a long house, having 
partitions and separate fires, after their ancient method 
of building houses, within which the several nations 
were sheltered under a common roof. Among them 
selves they never had any other name. The vari 
ous names given to them at different periods were 
entirely accidental, none of them being designations 
by which they ever recognized themselves. (12G) 

The Senecas called themselves the Nun-da-wa-o-no^ 
which signifies " the great hill people." Nun-da- 
wa-O) the radix of the word, means " a great hill," and 
the terminal syllables, o-no, convey the idea of " peo 
ple." This was the name of their oldest village, sit 
uated upon a hill at the head of the Canandaigua lake, 



near Naples, where, according to the Seneca fable, 
they sprang out of the ground. 

Gue -u-gweh-o-no, the name of the Cayugas, signifies 
" the people at the mucky land ; " the root of the 
word literally meaning " the mucky land. * It doubt 
less referred to the marsh at the foot of the Cayuga 
lake, near which their first settlement was, in all prob 
ability, established. 

O-nun-da-ga, the origin of the name of the Onon- 
dagas, signifies " on the hills ; " hence the name they 
gave themselves, 0-nun-da-ga-o-no, is rendered " the 
people on the hills." It appears from various 
authors, that their principal village, at the era of their 
discovery, was on one of the eminences overlooking 
the Onondaga valley. 

The Oneidas have been so long distinguished as 
"the people of the stone," that it is perhaps venture 
some to suggest a change. O-na-yote-ka, however, the 
radix from which their name is derived, signifies not 
only " a stone/ but one of the species known to us 
as granite. In the Seneca dialect, it means this par 
ticular rock ; hence the propriety of rendering literally 
their national name, O-na-yote -ka-o-no, " the granite 

There is doubt about the signification of the name 
of the Mohawks, Ga-ne-a-ga-o-no, from the fact that 
the Oneidas, Onondagas and Senecas have lost its 
meaning. (70) But the Mohawks render the root 
of the word, " the possessor of the flint," without 
being able to give any further explanation. It is to 

1 The original Oneida Stone, now in the cemetery at Utica, is said to 
be a boulder of granite. 

VOL. L 4 49 


be observed, however, that the word as given by the 
latter, Ga-ne-ga-ha-ga, has one syllable more than the 
corresponding word in Seneca, which may account for 
the loss of its signification. In a report enumerating 
our Indian nations, ascribed to M. De Joncaire, is the 
following passage bearing upon this subject : " The 
Mohawks have for a device of the village a steel and a 
flint" 1 The possession of such a novelty may have 
been, at an early day, sufficient to change not only 
the name of the village, but also of the nation. 

The name of the Tuscaroras, Dus-ga-o -weh, is ren 
dered " the shirt-wearing people ; " and was a name 
adopted before their emigration from Carolina, and 
after the commencement of their intercourse with the 
whites. All of the preceding names are given in the 
Seneca dialect to preserve uniformity ; as not only 
the terminations, but the radices themselves are differ 
ent in the several dialects. (129) 

The geographical names, the courses of the trails, 
and the locations of the villages of the Iroquois, will 
be more particularly considered in a subsequent 

1 Doc. Hist. N. Y., v. i. p. 22. 



Chapter III 

Interest in our Predecessors The Hunter State Its Institutions 
Transitory Origin of the League Sachemships Hereditary 
Titles Council of the League Equality of the Sachems 
Chiefs Military Chieftains Popular Influence Unity of the 

THE social history and political transactions of 
the Indian are as easily enveloped in obscur 
ity, as his footsteps through the forest are 
obliterated by the leaves of autumn. Nation upon 
nation, and race after race have sprung up and hast 
ened onward to their fall ; and neither the first nor 
the last could explain its origin, or number the years 
of its duration. 

From this general uncertainty of knowledge which 
surrounds our Indian races, we turn with some degree 
of encouragement to the Iroquois, the last in the order 
of succession which exercised dominion over the ter 
ritories out of which New York was . erected. We 
stand with them in many interesting relations. Hav 
ing flourished side by side with our early population, 
the events of their decline became interwoven with 
our civil affairs ; and having finally yielded up their 
sovereignty, from the rulers of the land, they became 
dependent nations, dwelling under the protection of 
the government which displaced them. 

To the Iroquois, by common consent, has been as 
signed the highest position among the Indian races of 

5 1 


the continent living in the hunter state. In legisla 
tion, in eloquence, in fortitude and in military sagacity 
they had no equals. " No frightful solitude in the 
wilderness, no impenetrable recess in the frozen north " 
was proof against their courage and daring. Spice 
offered no protection, distance no shelter from their 
war parties, which ranged equally the hills of New Eng 
land, the declivities of the Alleganies, the prairies of the 
Mississippi, and the forests of the Tennessee. In the 
establishment of a League for the double purpose of 
acquiring strength and securing peace, their capacity for 
civil organization, and their wisdom in legislation were 
favorably exhibited. During the expansion of the 
power of the Iroquois, from the commencement of the 
seventeenth to the middle of the eighteenth centuries, 
there sprang up among them a class of orators and chiefs, 
unrivalled among the red men for eloquence in council, 
and bravery upon the war-path. In a word, the League 
of the Iroquois exhibited the highest development of 
the Indian ever reached by him in the hunter state. 

Many circumstances thus unite to invest its history 
with permanent interest. An analysis of its civil and 
domestic institutions will exhibit all the elements of 
Indian society, and of Indian life, throughout the re 
public. From the higher legislation of the Iroquois, 
and the increased weight and diversity of affairs under 
the League, there resulted a fuller manifestation of the 
Indian character than is to be found in any other race 
except the Aztec. Their institutions contain the sum 
and substance of those of the whole Indian family. 
While, however, their political events have been dili 
gently collected and arranged, the government which 

5 2 


they constructed, the social ties by which they were 
bound together, and the motives and restraints by 
which they were influenced have scarcely been made 
subjects of inquiry, and never of extended investiga 
tion. The League of the Iroquois, dismembered and 
in fragments, still clings together in the twilight of its 
existence, by the shreds of that moral faith, which no 
political misfortunes could loosen, and no lapse of 
years could rend asunder. There are reasons for this 
spectacle, which no mere alliance of nations can explain, 
and which history has hitherto failed to reach. It is not 
the purpose of this work to narrate their political events ; 
but to inquire into the structure and spirit of the gov 
ernment, and the nature of the institutions, under and 
through which these historical results were produced. 

In entering upon such a theme of inquiry as an 
Indian organization, there are some general considera 
tions which press upon the attention, and which are 
worthy of previous thought. By the formation of 
societies and governments, mankind are brought largely 
under the influence of the social relations, and their 
progress has been found to be in exact proportion to 
the wisdom of the institutions under which their minds 
were developed. The passion of the red man for the 
hunter life has proved to be a principle too deeply in 
wrought, to be controlled by efforts of legislation. His 
government, if one was sought to be established, must 
have conformed to this irresistible tendency of his 
mind, this inborn sentiment ; otherwise it would have 
been disregarded. The effect of this powerful prin 
ciple has been to enchain the tribes of North America 
to their primitive state. Another effect of this prin- 



ciple, and still more fatal to their political prosperity, 
is to be found in the repeated subdivisions of the 
generic stocks of the continent, by which all large 
accumulations of numbers and power, in any race or 
nation, have been prevented. Whenever a hunting- 
ground became too thickly populated for the easy sub 
sistence of its occupants, a band, under some favorite 
chief, put forth, like the swarm from the parent hive, 
in quest of a new habitation ; and in course of time 
became independent. We have here the true reason, 
why the red race has never risen, nor can rise above 
its present level. The fewness of the generic stocks, 
the unlimited number of independent tribes, and their 
past history establish the correctness of this position. 
It is obvious that the founders of the League were 
aware of the enfeebling effects of these repeated sub 
divisions, and sought, by the counter principle of 
federation, to arrest the evil. They aimed to knit the 
whole race together under such a system of relation 
ships, that, by its natural expansion, an Indian empire 
would be developed, of sufficient magnitude to control 
surrounding nations, and thus secure an exemption 
from perpetual warfare. We/nust regard it, therefore, 
as no ordinary achievement, that the legislators of the 
Iroquois united the several tribes into independent 
nations, and between these nations established a per 
fect and harmonious union. And beyond this, that 
by a still higher effort of legislation, they succeeded in 
so adjusting the confederacy, that as a political fabric 
composed of independent parts, it was adapted to the 
hunter state, and yet contained the elements of an 
energetic government. (10) 



It is another singular feature, in connection with 
Indian organizations, that their decline and fall are 
sudden, and usually simultaneous. A rude shock 
from without or within but too easily disturbs their 
inter-relations ; and when once cast back upon the 
predominating sentiment of Indian life, the hunter 
inclination, a powerful nation rapidly dissolves into a 
multitude of fragments, and is lost and forgotten in 
the undistinguished mass of lesser tribes. But the 
League of the Iroquois was subjected to a severer test. 
It went down before the Saxon, and not the Indian 
race. If it had been left to resist the pressure of sur 
rounding nations, living, like the Iroquois themselves, 
a hunter life, there is reason to believe that it would 
have subsisted for ages ; and perhaps, having broken 
the hunter spell, would have introduced civilization 
by an original and spontaneous movement. 

Of the Indian character it is an original peculiarity, 
that he has no desire to perpetuate himself in the 
remembrance of distant generations, by monumental 
inscriptions, or other erections fabricated by the art 
and industry of man.- The Iroquois would have 
passed away without leaving a vestige or memorial of 
their existence behind, if to them had been intrusted 
the preservation of their name and deeds. A verbal 
language, a people without a city, a government with 
out a record, are as fleeting as the deer and the wild 
fowl, the Indian s co-tenants of the forest. With the 
departure of the individual, every vestige of Indian 
sovereignty vanishes. He leaves but the arrow-head 
upon the hillside, fit emblem of his pursuits ; and the 
rude pipe and ruder vessel entombed beside his 



bones at once the record of his superstition, and the 
evidence of his existence. If the red man had any 
ambition for immortality, he would intrust his fame to 
the unwritten remembrance of his tribe and race, 
rather than to inscriptions on columns in his native 
land, or other monument more durable than brass, 
which neither wasting rain, nor raging wind, nor flight 
of time could overthrow. 1 

Since this race must ever figure upon the opening 
pages of our territorial history, and some judgment be 
passed upon them, it becomes our duty to search out 
their government and institutions, and to record with 
impartiality their political transactions ; lest, in addi 
tion to the extinguishment of their Council Fires, we 
subject their memory, as a people, to an unjust and 
unmerited judgment. 

Upon an extended examination of their institutions, 
it will become apparent, that the League was estab 
lished upon the principles, and was designed to be but 
an elaboration, of the Family Relationships. These 
relations are older than the notions of society or 
government, and are consistent alike with the hunter, 
the pastoral and the civilized state. The several 
nations of the Iroquois, united, constituted one Family, 
dwelling together in one Long House ; and these ties 

1 Compare the sentiments of with those of Horace, 
Pericles, Exegi monumentum acre perennius, * 

, A $ . x , . ~ / Reealique situ pyramidum altius : 

Avdpdiv yap etrKpavoiv iraaa 777 ra- r; 

\ , . - / . - , , Quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impo- 
(pos, Kal ou (TTr)\cav \JLOVOV iv TTI oiKtia, 

01) fj.aife i ciriypa(f)T). a\\a Kal v ry fify 

Trpotr-nKotar, &yp a <pos prfiw irap e K d- Possit diruere aut mnumerabiles 

<TT<? r9,s yvws /iaAAoy $ rov tpyov Annorum series, et fuga temporum. 

H O R -> Lib - 3> Ode 3 
THUCYD., Lib. a, c. 43. * See Vol. II. p. 161. 



of family relationship were carried throughout their 
civil and social system, from individuals to tribes, 
from tribes to nations, and from the nations to the 
League itself, and bound them together in one com 
mon, indissoluble brotherhood. 

In their own account of the origin of the League, 
the Iroquois invariably go back to a remote and un 
certain period, when the compact between the Five 
Nations was formed, its details and provisions were 
settled, and those laws and institutions were established, 
under which, without essential change, they afterwards 
continued to flourish. If we may trust their testi 
mony, the system under which they confederated was 
not of gradual construction, under the suggestions of 
necessity ; but was the result of one protracted effort 
of legislation. (18) The nations were, at the time, separate 
and hostile bands, although of generic origin, and were 
drawn together in council to deliberate upon the plan 
of a League, which a wise man of the Onondaga nation 
had projected, and under which, he undertook to 
assure them, the united nations could elevate them 
selves to a general supremacy. Tradition has pre 
served the name of Da-gd-no-we-dd as the founder of 
the League, and the first lawgiver of the Ho-de -no-sau- 
nee. It likewise points to the northern shore of the 
Ga-nuri-ta-ahy or Onondaga lake, as the place where 
the first council-fire was kindled, around which the 
chiefs and wise men of the several nations were gath 
ered, and where, after a debate of many days, its estab 
lishment was effected. 

Their traditions further inform us, that the con 
federacy, as framed by this council, with its laws, rules, 



inter-relationships of the people and mode of administra 
tion, has come down through many generations to the 
present age, with scarcely a change ; except the addi 
tion of an inferior class of rulers, called chiefs, in con 
tradistinction to the sachems, and a modification of the 
law in relation to marriage. Without entering here 
upon any inquiry to show the probable accuracy of their 
traditions, it will be sufficient to investigate the struc 
ture of the government, as it stood in its full vigor at 
the commencement of the last century, and to deduce 
the general principles upon which it was founded. 

The central government was organized and admin 
istered upon the same principles which regulated that 
of each nation, in its separate capacity ; the nations 
sustaining nearly the same relation to the League, that 
the American states bear to the Union. In the 
former, several oligarchies were contained within one, 
in the same manner as in the latter, several republics 
are embraced within one republic. (38) To obtain a 
general conception of the character of a government 
the ruler, or ruling body, or bodies, as the case may be, 
would be the first object of attention ; and when their 
powers and tenure of office are discovered, the true 
index is obtained to the nature of the government. 
In the case of the Ho-de -no-sau-nee, the organization 
was externally so obscure as to induce a universal be 
lief that the relations between ruler and people were 
simply those of chief and follower the earliest and 
lowest political relation between man and man ; while, 
in point of fact, the Iroquois had emerged from this 
primitive state of society, and had organized a sys 
tematic government. 




At the institution of the League, fifty (47) per 
manent sachemships were created, with appropriate 
names ; and in the sachems who held these titles 
were vested the supreme powers of the confederacy. (40) 
To secure order in the succession, and to determine 
the individuals entitled, the sachemships were made 
hereditary, under limited and peculiar laws of descent. 
The sachems themselves were equal in rank and au 
thority, and instead of holding separate territorial 
jurisdictions, their powers were joint, and co-extensive 
with the League. As a safeguard against contention 
and fraud, each sachem was " raised up," and invested 
with his title by a council of all the sachems, with suit 
able forms and ceremonies. Until this ceremony of 
confirmation or investiture, no one could become a 
ruler. He received, when raised up, the name of the 
sachemship itself, as in the case of titles of nobility, 
and so also did his successors, from generation to gen 
eration. The sachemships were distributed unequally 
between the five nations, but without thereby giving to. 
either a preponderance of political power. Nine of 
them were assigned to the Mohawk nation, nine to the 
Oneida, fourteen to the Onondaga, ten to the Cayuga 
and eight to the Sentca. The sachems, united, formed 
the Council of the League, the ruling body, in which 
resided the executive, legislative and judicial authority. 
It thus appears that the government of the Iroquois 
was an oligarchy, taking the term, at least, in the 
literal sense, " the rule of the few ; " and, while more 
system is observable in this than in the oligarchies of 
antiquity, it seems, also, better calculated, in its frame 
work, to resist political changes. 



This specimen of Indian legislation is so remarkable, 
that a table of these sachemships, with their division 
into classes, indicating certain inter-relations, hereafter 
to be explained, is inserted in the Seneca dialect. 

Titles or Sachemships of the Iroquois, founded at the institution of 
the League ; which have been borne by their Sachems in succes 
sion, from its formation to the present tinted 


I. I. Da-ga-e -o-ga. 1 2. Ha-yo-went -ha. 2 3. Da-ga- 
no-we -da. 3 

II. 4. So-a-e-wa -ah. 4 5. Da-yo -ho-go. 5 6. O-a-a - 
go-wa. 6 

III. 7. Da-an-no-ga -e-neh. 7 8. Sa-da -ga-e-wa-deh. 8 
9. Has-da-weh -se-ont-ha. 9 


I. i. Ho-das -ha-teh. 10 2. Ga-no-gweh -yo-do. 11 3. Da- 
yo-ha -gwen-da. 12 

II. 4. So-no-sase . 18 5. To-no-a-ga -o. 14 6. Ha-de-a-dun- 
nent -ha. 15 

III. 7. Da-wa-da -o-da-yo. 16 8. Ga-ne-a-dus -ha-yeh. 17 
9. Ho-wus -ha-da-o. 18 

1 This name signifies "Neutral," or "the Shield." 2 " Man who 
combs." 8 " Inexhaustible." 4 < Small speech." 6 <c At the forks." 
6 " At the great river." 7 " Dragging his horns." 8 " Even tempered." 
9 " Hanging up rattles." The Sachems of the first class belonged to the 
Turtle Tribe, of the second to the Wolf Tribe, and of the third to the 
Bear Tribe. 

10 " A man bearing a burden." n " A man covered with cat tail 
down," 12 Opening through the woods." 13 "A long string." 
14 " A man with a headache." 15 " Swallowing himself." 16 " Place 
of the echo."/ 17 <{ War club on the ground." 18 " A man steaming 
himself." The sachems of the first class in the Oneida nation belonged 
to the Wolf Tribe, of the second to the Turtle Tribe, and of the third to 
the Bear Tribe. 



I. I. To-do-da-ho. 1 2. To-nes -sa-ah. 3. Da-at-ga- 

dose. 2 

II. 4. Ga-nea-da -je-wake. 3 5. Ah-wa -ga-yat. 4 6. Da- 

a-yat -gwa-e. 

III. 7. Ho-no-we-na -to. 5 

IV. 8. Ga-wa-na -san-do. 6 9. Ha-e -ho. 7 10. Ho-yo-ne- 
a -ne. 8 u. Sa-da -qua-seh. 9 

V. 12. Sa-go-ga-ha . 10 13. Ho-sa-ha -ho. 11 14. Ska-no - 
wun-de. 12 

I. i. Da-ga -a-yo. 13 2. Da-je-no -da-weh-o. 3. Ga-da - 
gwa -sa. 4. So-yo-wase . 5. Ha-de-as -yo-no. 

II. 6. Da-yo-o-yo -go. 7. Jote-ho-weh -ko. 14 8. De-a- 
w ate -ho. 

III. 9. To-da-e-W. 10. Des-ga -heh. 

I. I. Ga -ne-o-di -yo. 15 2. Sa-da-ga -o-yase. 16 
II. 3. Ga-no-gi -e. 17 4. Sa-geh -jo-wa. 18 

III. 5. Sa-de-a-no -wus. 19 6. Nis-ha-ne-a -nent. 20 

IV. 7. Ga-no-go-e-da -we. 21 8. Do-ne-ho-ga -weh. 22 

1 "Tangled." This was the most dignified title in the list. It 
belonged to the Bear Tribe. 2 " On the watch," Bear Tribe. This 
sachem and the one before him were hereditary counsellors of To-do-da -ho. 

3 This word signifies " Bitter body." The title belonged to the Snipe 
Tribe. 4 Turtle Tribe. 6 This sachem was the hereditary keeper of 
the Wampum, Wolf Tribe. (83) e Deer Tribe. 7 Deer Tribe. 8 Turtle 
Tribe. 9 Bear Tribe. 10 Signifies " Having a glimpse," Deer Tribe. 
11 Large mouth," Turtle Tribe. 12 Over the creek," Turtle Trib~. 

18 Man frightened." 14 " Very cold." The tribes of the Cayuga 
sachems were as follows: i Deer, 2 Heron, 3 and 4 Bear, 5 and 7 Turtle, 
8 Heron, 9 and 10 Snipe. 

15 "Handsome lake," Turtle Tribe. 10 "Level heavens," Snipe 
Tribe. 17 Turtle Tribe. 18 Great forehead," Hawk Tribe. 19 " As 
sistant," Bear Tribe. 20 " Falling day," Snipe Tribe. 21 H^tir 
burned off," Snipe Tribe. 22 " Open door," Wolf Tribe. 



These titles or names were hereditary in the several 
tribes of which each nation was composed. When an 
individual was made a sachem, (53) upon the death 
or deposition of one of the fifty, his name was "taken 
away," (G8) and the name of the sachemship held by his 
predecessor was conferred upon him. Thus, upon the 
demise of the Seneca sachem who held the title Gd- 
ne-o-di-yO) a successor would be raised up from the 
Turtle tribe, in which the sachemship was hereditary, 
and after the ceremony of investiture, the person 
would be known among the Iroquois only under the 
name of Ga-ne-o-di -yo. These fifty titles, excepting 
two, have been held by as many sachems, in succes 
sion, as generations have passed away since the forma 
tion of the League. (50) 

The Onondaga nation, being situated in a central 
position, were made the keepers both of the Council 
Brand, and of the Wampum, in which the structure 
and principles of their government, and their laws and 
treaties were recorded. At stated periods, usually in 
the autumn of each year, the sachems of the League 
assembled in council at Onondaga, which was in effect 
the seat of government, to legislate for the common 
welfare. Exigencies of a public or domestic character 
often led to the summoning of this council at extra 
ordinary seasons, but the place was not confined to 
Onondaga. It could be appointed in the territory of 
either of the nations, under established usages. Orig 
inally the object of the general council was to raise up 
sachems to fill vacancies. In the course of time, as 
their intercourse with foreign nations became more 
important, it assumed the charge of all matters which 



concerned the League. It declared war and made 
peace, sent and received embassies, entered into trea 
ties of alliance, regulated the affairs of subjugated 
nations, received new members into the League, ex 
tended its protection over feeble tribes, in a word, 
took all needful measures to promote their prosperity, 
and enlarge their dominion. 

Notwithstanding the equality of rights, privileges 
and powers between the members of this body of 
sachems, there were certain discriminations between 
them, which rendered some more dignified than others. 
The strongest illustration is found in the Onondaga 
sachem, To-do-da-ho, who has always been regarded 
as the most noble sachem of the League. As an 
acknowledgment of his eminence, two of the Onon 
daga sachems were assigned to him as hereditary I 
counsellors. The great respect and deference paid 
by the Iroquois to this title, has led to the vulgar 
error, that JTo-do-da-ho was the king or civil head of 
the confederacy. He possessed, in fact, no unusual 
or executive powers, no authority which was not 
equally enjoyed by his compeers ; and when the light 
of tradition is introduced, to clear up the apparent 
anomaly, it will be seen that the reverence of the 
people was rather for the title itself than for the per 
son who held it, as it was one of their illustrious 
names. At the establishment of the League, an~ 
Onondaga by the name of T o-do-da-ho had rendered 
himself a potent ruler, by the force of his military 
achievements. Tradition says that he had conquered 
the Cayugas and the Senecas. It represents his head 
as covered with tangled serpents, and his look, when 


\\J t/ 





angry, as so terrible that whoever looked upon him 
fell dead. It relates that when the League was 
formed, the snakes were combed out of his hair by a 
Mohawk sachem, who was hence named Ha-yo-went - 
ha, <c the man who combs." To-do-da-ho was reluctant 
to consent to the new order of things, as he would 
thereby be shorn of his absolute power, and be placed 
among a number of equals. To remove these objec 
tions in some measure, and to commemorate his mag 
nanimity, the first sachemship was named after him, 
and was dignified above the others by special marks 
of honor ; but such, however, as were in perfect con 
sistency with an equal distribution of powers among 
all the sachems as a body. Down to the present day, 
among the Iroquois, this name is the personification 
of heroism, of forecast, and of dignity of character; 
and this title has ever been regarded as more illus 
trious than any other in the catalogue of Iroquois 

To several other of these officers or names, par 
ticular duties were affixed at the institution of the 
League. For example: the Senecas were made the 
door-keepers of the Long House ; and having imposed 
upon Do-ne-ho-g d-weh) the eighth sachem, (13) the duty 
of watching the door, they gave to him a sub-sachem, 
or assistant, to enable him to execute this trust. This 
sub-sachem was raised up at the same time with his 
superior, with the same forms and ceremonies, and 
received the name or title which was created simulta 
neously with that of the sachemship. It was his 
duty to stand behind the sachem on all public occa 
sions, and to act as his runner or attendant, as well as 



in the capacity of a counsellor. (51) Ho-no-we-na-to, 
the Onondaga sachem who was made the keeper of 
the wampum, had also a sub-sachem, or assistant. 
Several other sachems, to whom special responsibilities 
were confided, were allowed sub-sachems, to enable 
them to fulfil their duties, or perhaps as a mark of 
honor. All of these special marks of distinction 
were consistent with perfect equality among the 
sachems, as members of one ruling body, in the 
administration of the affairs of the League. When 
their method of legislating is considered, this fact will 
appear with greater distinctness. 

The several sachems, in whom, when united in 
general council, resided the supreme powers of the 
League, formed, when apart in their own territories, 
the ruling bodies of their respective nations. When 
assembled as the Council of the League, the power 
of each sachem became co-extensive with the gov 
ernment, and direct relations were created between 
all the people and each individual ruler; but when 
the sachems of a nation were convened in council, all 
its internal affairs fell under their immediate cogni 
zance. For all purposes of a local and domestic, and 
many of a political character, the nations were entirely 
independent of each other. The nine Mohawk 
sachems administered the affairs of that nation with 
joint authority, precisely in the same manner as they 
did, in connection with their colleagues, the affairs of 
the League at large. With similar powers, the ten 
Cayuga sachems regulated the domestic affairs of their 

As the sachems of each nation stood upon a per- 

VOL. i. 5 65 


feet equality, in authority and privileges, the meas 
ure of influence was determined entirely by the 
talents and address of the individual. In the coun 
cils of the nation, which were of frequent occurrence, 
all business of national concernment was transacted ; 
and, although the questions moved on such occa 
sions would be finally settled by the opinions of 
the sachems, yet such was the spirit of the Iroquois 
system of government, that the influence of the 
inferior chiefs, the warriors, and even of the women 
would make itself felt, whenever the subject itself 
aroused a general public interest. 

If we seek their warrant for the exercise of power 
in the etymology of the word Ho-yar-na-go-war^ by 
which the sachems were known as a class, it will be 
found to intimate a check upon, rather than an 
enlargement of their authority ; for it signifies, simply, 
"counsellor of the people," a beautiful as well as 
appropriate designation of a ruler. But within their 
sphere of action, their powers were highly arbitrary in 
ancient times. 

Next to the sachems, in position, stood the Chiefs, 
an inferior class of rulers, the very existence of whose 
office was an anomaly in the oligarchy of the Iroquois. 
Many years after the establishment of the League, 
even subsequent to the commencement of their inter 
course with the whites, there arose a necessity for 
raising up this class. It was an innovation upon the 
original framework of the confederacy, but it was 
demanded by circumstances which could not be re 
sisted. The office of chief, Hd-seh-no-wa-neh, which 
is rendered " an elevated name," was made elective, 



and the reward of merit ; but without any power of 
descent, the title terminating with the individual. 
No limit to the number was established. The Sen- 
ecas, still residing in New York, number about two 
thousand five hundred, and exclusive of the eight 
sachems, they have about seventy chiefs. At first 
their powers were extremely limited, and confined to 
a participation in the local affairs of their own nation, 
in the management of which they acted as the coun 
sellors and assistants of the sachems, rather than in 
the capacity of rulers. But they continued to increase 
in influence, with their multiplication in numbers, and 
to encroach upon the powers of the sachems, until at 
the present time, when the League is mostly dismem 
bered, and their internal organization has undergone 
some essential changes, they have raised themselves to 
an equality, in many respects, with the sachems them 
selves. After their election, they were raised up by 
a council of the nation ; but a ratification, by the 
general council of the sachems, was necessary to com 
plete the investiture. The tenure of this office still 
continues the same. 

The powers and duties of the sachems and chiefs 
were entirely of a civil character, and confined, by their 
organic laws, to the affairs of peace. No sachem 
could go out to war in his official capacity, as a civil 
ruler. If disposed to take the war-path, he laid aside 
his civil office, for the time being, and became a 
common warrior. It becomes an important inquiry, 
therefore, to ascertain in whom the military power, 
was vested. The Iroquois had no- distinct class of 
war-chiefs, raised up and set apart to command in 



time of war; neither do the sachems or chiefs appear 
to have possessed the power of appointing such persons 
^s they considered suitable to the post of command. 
\ All military operations were left entirely to private 
enterprise, and to the system of voluntary service, 
the sachems seeking rather to repress and restrain, 
than to encourage the martial ardor of the people. 
vTheir principal war-captains were to be found among 
the class called chiefs, many of whom were elected 
to this office in reward for their military achievements. 
The singular method of warfare among the Iroquois 
renders it extremely difficult to obtain a complete and 
satisfactory explanation of the manner in which their 
warlike operations were conducted. Their whole civil 
policy was averse to the concentration of power in 
the hands of any single individual, but inclined to 
the opposite principle of division among a number 
of equals ; and this policy they carried into their 
military as well as through their civil organization. 
Small bands were, in the first instance, organized by 
individual leaders, each of which, if they were after 
wards united upon the same enterprise, continued 
under its own captain, and the whole force, as well 
as the conduct of the expedition, was under their 
joint management. They appointed no one of their 
number to absolute command, but the general direction 
was left open to the strongest will, or the most persua 
sive voice. 

As they were at war with all nations not in their 
actual alliance, it was lawful for any warrior to or 
ganize a party, and seek adventures wherever he 
pleased to direct his steps. Perhaps some chief, filled 



with martial ardor, planned an inroad upon the Cher- 
okees of the south ; and, having given a war-dance, 
and thus enlisted all who wished to share the glory 
of the adventure, took the war-path at once, upon 
his distant and perilous enterprise. In such ways as 
this, many expeditions originated ; and it is believed 
that a great part of the warlike transactions of the 
Iroquois were nothing more than personal adventures, 
or the daring deeds of inconsiderable war-parties. 
Under such a state of things, a favorite leader, pos 
sessed of< the confidence of the people from his war 
like achievements, would be in no want of followers, 
in the midst of a general war; nor would the League 
be in any danger of losing the services of its most 
capable military commanders. To obviate the dan 
gerous consequences of disagreement, when the several 
nations were prosecuting a common war, and their 
forces were united into one body, an expedient was 
resorted to for securing unanimity in their plans, in 
the establishment of two supreme military chieftain 
cies. The two chieftains who held these offices were 
designed rather to take the general supervision of the 
affairs of war, than the actual command in the field, 
although they were not debarred from assuming it, 
if they were disposed to do so. These war-chiefships 
were made hereditary, like the sachemships, and va 
cancies were filled in the same manner. When the 
Senecas, at the institution of the League, were made 
the door-keepers, these chieftaincies were assigned to 
them, for the reason that being at the door, they 
would first take the war-path to drive back the in 
vader. The first of these was named Ta-wan-ne- 



arSy 1 " needle breaker," and the title made hereditary in 
the Wolf tribe ; the second was named So-nd-so-wa, 
"great oyster shell," and the office assigned to the 
Turtle tribe. To these high chieftains, as the Iroquois 
now affirm, was intrusted the supreme command of the 
forces of the League, and the general management of 
its military affairs. (48) 

During the Revolution, Ta-yen-da-na -ga, Joseph 
Brant, commanded the war-parties of the Mohawks ; 
and, from his conspicuous position and the high con 
fidence reposed in him, rather than from any claim 
advanced by himself, the title of military chieftain 
of the League has been conceded to him by some 
writers. But this is entirely a mistake, or rather, a 
false assertion, which is expressly contradicted by 
all of the Iroquois nations, including the Mohawks 
themselves. (37) 

It is, perhaps, in itself singular, that no religious 
functionaries were recognized in the League. This 
is shown by the fact, that none were ever raised up 
by the general council of sachems, to fill a sacerdo 
tal office. There was, however, a class in each nation, 
styled Ho-nun-de -unt) " keepers of the faith," who were 
regularly appointed to officiate at their festivals, and 
to take the general supervision of their religious 

To the officers above enumerated, the adminis 
tration of the League was intrusted. The congress 
of sachems took the charge of all those matters 

1 Governor Blacksnake, who now resides upon the Allegany reser 
vation, and is upwards of a hundred years of age, now holds this 
title. (33) 



which pertained to the public welfare. With them 
resided the executive, legislative and judicial authority, 
so far as they were not possessed by the people ; 
although their powers in many things appear to have 
been rather advisory than executive. The chiefs, 
from counsellors and intermediaries between the 
sachems and the people, increased in influence, until 
they became rulers with the sachems themselves, 
thus widening and liberalizing the oligarchy. In all 
matters of war, the power appears to have resided 
chiefly with the people, and its prosecution to have 
been left to private adventure. If several bands 
united, they had as many generals as bands, who 
governed their proceedings by a council, in which, 
as in civil affairs, unanimity was a fundamental law. 
The two high military chieftains had rather the 
planning and general management of the campaign, 
than the actual conduct of the forces. Running 
through their whole system of administration, was 
a public sentiment, which gave its own tendency to j 
affairs, and illustrated to a remarkable degree, that | 
the government rested upon the popular will, and; 
not upon the arbitrary sway of chiefs. 

From whatever point the general features of the 
League are scrutinized, it must be regarded as a 
beautiful, as well as a remarkable structure the 
triumph of Indian legislation. When the posses 
sions of the Iroquois were enlarged by conquest 
followed by occupation, it was an expansion, and 
not a dismemberment of the confederacy, one of its 
leading objects being the absorption of contiguous 
nations. To the Eries and to the Neuter nation, 


according to tradition, the Iroquois offered the alter 
native of admission into the League, or extermina 
tion; and the strangeness of this proposition will 
disappear, when it is remembered that an Indian 
nation regards itself as at war with all others not 
in actual alliance. Peace itself was one of the ulti 
mate objects aimed at by the founders of this Indian 
oligarchy, to be secured by the admission, or subju 
gation of surrounding nations. In their progressive 
course, their empire enlarged, until they had stretched 
their chain around the half of our republic, and ren 
dered their names a terror from the hills of New 
England to the deepest seclusions upon the Missis 
sippi ; when the advent of another race arrested their 
career, and prepared the way for the gradual extin 
guishment of their council-fires, and the desolation 
of the Long House. 

With a mere confederacy of Indian nations, the 
constant tendency would be to a rupture, from 
remoteness of position and interest, and from the 
inherent weakness of such a compact. In the case 
under consideration, something more lasting was 
aimed at, than a simple union of the five nations, 
in the nature of an alliance. A blending of the 
national sovereignties into one government was 
sought for and achieved by these forest statesmen. 
The League made the Ho-de-no-sau-nee one people, 
with one government, one system of institutions, one 
executive will. Yet the powers of the government 
were not so entirely centralized that the national 
independencies disappeared. This was very far from 
the fact. The crowning feature of the League, as 



a political structure, was the perfect independence 
and individuality of the national sovereignties, in the 
midst of a central and embracing government, which 
presented such a cemented exterior that its subdivi 
sions would scarcely have been discovered in the 
general transactions of the League. 

How these ends were attained we have yet to 

The government sat lightly upon the people, who, 
in effect, were governed but little. It secured to each 
that individual independence, which the Ho-de -no- 
sau-nee knew how to prize as well as the Saxon race ; 
and which, amid all their political changes, they have 
continued to preserve. 


Chapter IV 

Division into Tribes Family Relationships Descent in the 
Female Line Degrees of Consanguinity Succession of Sa 
chems Names Nature of a Tribe Equality of the Nations 
National Epithets Office of Chief Elective Distinguished 
Men were Chiefs Stability of the Oligarchy 

THE division of a people into tribes is the 
most simple organization of society. (54) 
Each tribe being in the nature of a family, 
the ties of relationship which bind its individual 
members together are indispensable, until they are 
rendered unnecessary by the adoption of a form 
of government, and the substitution of other ties, 
which answer the same ends of protection and 

When a people have long remained in the tribal 
state, it becomes extremely difficult to remove all 
traces of such organic divisions by the substitution 
of new institutions. (11) In the tribes of the Jews, 
this position is illustrated. Among the Greeks also, 
especially the Athenians, the traces of their original 
divisions never entirely disappeared. Solon substi 
tuted classes for tribes, but subsequently Cleisthenes 
restored the tribes, retaining however the classes, and 
increased the number ; thus perpetuating this early 
social organization of the Athenians among their civil 
institutions. The Athenian tribe was a group of 
families, with subdivisions ; the Roman tribes, estab- 



lished by Romulus, the same. On the other hand, 
the Jewish tribes embraced only the lineal descendants 
of a common father; and its individual members 
being of consanguinity, the tribe itself was essentially 
different from the Grecian. The Iroquois tribe was 
unlike them all. It was not a group of families ; - 
neither was it made up of the descendants of a 
common father, as the father and his child were never 
of the same tribe. In the sequel, however, it will 
be discovered to be nearest the Jewish ; differing 
from it, as from all other similar institutions of the 
old world, chiefly in this, that descent followed, in 
all cases, the female line. 

The founders of the Iroquois Confederacy did not 
seek to suspend the tribal divisions of the people, to 
introduce a different social organization ; but on the 
contrary, they rested the League itself upon the tribes, 
and through them, sought to interweave the race into 
one political family. A careful exploration of those 
tribal relationships which characterize the political sys 
tem of the Iroquois, becomes, therefore, of importance. 
Without such knowledge as this will afford, their gov 
ernment itself is wholly unmeaning and inexplicable. 

In each nation there were eight tnf>es, (58) which 
were arranged in two divisions/ 55 and named as 
follows : 

Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Turtle. 

Deer, Snipe, Heron, Hawk. 

These animals are common to all latitudes between 
Louisiana and Montreal, and hence in themselves 
are incapable of throwing any light upon the land, or 



locality in which the race originated. 1 These names 
had doubtless an emblematical signification, which 
reached beyond the object itself. Of the origin of 
their tribal divisions but little is known, and to it, 
perhaps, but little importance attaches. Tradition 
declares that the Bear and the Deer were the original 
tribes, and that the residue were subdivisions/ 54 55 
57,58. Evidence of the existence of seven of the 
tribes at the establishment of the Oligarchy, is fur 
nished in the distribution of the Onondaga and Seneca 
sachemships. The fourteen assigned to the former 
nation were divided between the Wolf, Bear, Beaver, 
Turtle, Snipe, and Deer tribes ; while the eight be 
longing to the latter, were given to the Wolf, Bear, 
Turtle, Snipe, and Hawk, to the exclusion of the 
others, if they then existed ; and in these several tribes 
they were made perpetually hereditary. 

1 Table exhibiting the scientific names of the animals adopted by the 
Iroquois as the emblems of their respective tribes. It follows the classi 
fication employed in the Nat. History of New York. The species have 
been determined from careful descriptions obtained of the Senecas. 

Seneca Name. Order. Family. Genus. Species. 

Wolf. Tor-yoh -ne. Carnivora. Canidap. Lupus. Occidentalis. 

Bear. Ne-e-ar -gu-ye. Carnivora. Ursidae. Ursus. Americanus. 

Beaver. Non-gar-ne -e-ar-goh. Rodentia. Castorid*. Castor. Fiber. 

Turtle. Ga-ne-e-ar-teh-go -wa. Chelonia. Chelonidae. Chelonura. Serpentina. 

Deer. Na-o -geh. Ungulata. Ccrvidae. Cervus. Virginianus. 

Snipe. Doo-ese-doo-we . Grallae. Scolopacidx. Totanus. Semipalmatus. 

Heron. Jo-as -seh. Grail*. Ardeida.-. Ardea. Candidissima. 

Hawk. Os-sweh-ga-da-ga -ah. Accipitres. Falconidae. Falco. Columbarius. 

NOTE. Some doubt rests upon the Heron .and the Snipe concerning 
the species. In the former case the choice lies between the Ardea Can 
didissima and the Ardea Leucc. In the latter, the large number of the 
species introduces a difficulty. The Semipalmatus corresponds most 
nearly with the description of the bird. 

7 6 


The division of the people of each nation into eight 
tribes, whether pre-existing, or perfected at the estab 
lishment of the Confederacy, did not terminate in its 
objects with the nation itself. 1 It became the means 
of effecting the most perfect union of separate nations 
"ever devised by the wit of man." (57) , In effect, 
the Wolf tribe was divided into five parts, and one 
fifth of it placed in each of the five nations. The re 
maining tribes were subjected to the same division 
and distribution. Between those of the same name 
or in other words, between the separated parts of each 
tribe there existed a tie of brotherhood, which 
linked the nations together with indissoluble bonds. 
The Mohawk of the Wolf tribe recognized the. Seneca 
of the Wolf tribe as his brother, and they were bound 
to each other by the ties of consanguinity. In like 
manner the Oneida of the Turtle or other tribe re 
ceived the Cayuga or Onondaga of the same tribe, as 
a brother, and with a fraternal welcome. This rela 
tionship was not ideal, but was founded upon actual 
consanguinity. In the eyes of an Iroquois, every 
member of his own tribe, in whatever nation, was as 
much his brother or his sister as it children ot the 
same mother. This cross-relationship between the" 

1 The Senecas had eight tribes, the Cayugas eight, the Tuscaroras 
seven, the Onondagas eight, the Oneidas three, and the Mohawks three. 
The descendants of the ancient Oneidas and Mohawks affirm that their 
ancestors never had but three tribes, the Wolf, Bear, and Turtle. On 
old treaties with these nations now in the State Department, these titles 
appear as their only social divisions. But by the original laws of the 
League, neither of these tribes could intermarry. Hence there appears 
to have been a necessity for the existence originally of the remaining 
tribes, or some of them, to admit of the verity of this law in relation to 
marriage. (58) 



tribes of the same name, and which was stronger, if 
possible, than the chain of brotherhood between the 
several tribes of the same nation, is still preserved in 
all its original strength. It doubtless furnishes the 
chief reason of the tenacity with which the fragments 
of the League still cling together. If either of the 
five nations had wished to cast off the alliance, it must 
also have broken this bond of brotherhood. Had the 
nations fallen into collision, it would have turned Hawk 
tribe against Hawk tribe, Heron against Heron, brother 
against brother. The history of the Ho-de -no-sau-nee 
exhibits the wisdom of these organic provisions ; for, 
during the long period through which the League sub 
sisted, they never fell into anarchy, nor even approx 
imated to dissolution from internal disorders. (39) 

With the progress of the inquiry, it becomes more 
apparent that the Confederacy was in effect a League 
of Tribes. With the ties of kindred as its principle 
of union, the whole race was interwoven into one 
great family, composed of tribes in its first subdivision 
(for the nations were counterparts of each other) ; and 
the tribes themselves, in their subdivisions, composed 
of parts of many households. Without these close 
inter-relations, resting, as many of them do, upon 
the strong impulses of nature, a mere alliance between 
the Iroquois nations would have been feeble and 

In this manner was constructed the League of the 
Ho-de -no-sau-nee^ in itself an extraordinary specimen 
of Indian legislation. Simple in its foundation upon 
the family relationships, effective in the lasting vigor 
inherent in the ties of kindred, and perfect in its suc- 




cess, in achieving a permanent and harmonious union 
of the nations, it forms an enduring monument to that 
proud and progressive race, who reared under its pro 
tection a wide-spread Indian sovereignty. 

All the institutions of the Iroquois have regard to ^ 
the division of the people into tribes/ 54 Originally 
with reference to marriage, the Wolf, Bear, Beaver, 
and Turtle tribes, being brothers to each other, were 
not allowed to intermarry. The four opposite tribes, 
being also brothers to each other, were likewise pro 
hibited from intermarrying. Either of the first four 
tribes, however, could intermarry with either of the 
last four, the relation between them being that of 
cousins. Thus Hawk could intermarry with Bear or 
Beaver, Heron with Turtle ; but not Beaver and 
Turtle, nor Deer and Deer. Whoever violated these 
laws of marriage incurred the deepest detestation and 
disgrace. In process of time, however, the rigor of 
the system was relaxed, until finally the prohibition 
was confined to the tribe of the individual, which, 
among the residue of the Iroquois, is still religiously 
observed. They can now marry into any tribe but 
their own. Under the original as well as modern 
regulation, the husband and wife were of different 
tribes. The children always followed the tribe of 
the mother. 

As the whole Iroquois system rested upon the 
tribes as an organic division of the people, it was 
very natural that the separate rights of each should 
be jealously guarded. Not the least remarkable 
among their institutions, was that which confined the 
transmission of all titles, rights and property in the 



female line to the exclusion of the male. It is 
strangely unlike the canons of descent adopted by 
civilized nations, but it secured several important ob 
jects. If the Deer tribe of the Cayugas, for example, 
received a sachemship at the original distribution of 
these offices, the descent of such title being limited to 
the female line, it could never pass out of the tribe. 
It thus became instrumental in giving to the tribe 
individuality. A still more marked result, and per 
haps a leading object of this enactment was the 
perpetual disinheritance of the son. (57) Being of the 
tribe of his mother formed an impassable barrier 
against him ; and he could neither succeed his father 
as a sachem, nor inherit from him even his medal, 
or his tomahawk. (103) The inheritance, for the pro 
tection of tribal rights, was thus directed from the 
lineal descendants of the sachem, to his brothers, or 
his sisters children, or, under certain circumstances, 
to some individual of the tribe at large ; each and all 
of whom were in his tribe, while his children, being in 
another tribe, as before remarked, were placed out of 
the line of succession. 

By the operation of this principle, also, the cer 
tainty of descent in the tribe, of their principal chiefs, 
was secured by a rule infallible ; for the child must be 
the son of its mother, although not necessarily of its 
mother s husband. If the purity of blood be of any 
moment, the lawgivers of the Iroquois established the 
only certain rule the case admits of, whereby the as 
surance might be enjoyed that the ruling sachem was 
of the same family or tribe with the first taker of the 



The Iroquois mode of computing degrees of con 
sanguinity was unlike that of the civil or canon law ; 
but was yet a clear and definite system. (12) No dis- 
tinction was made between the lineal and collateral 
lines, either in the ascending or descending series. 
To understand this subject, it must be borne in mind, 
that of the grandparents one only, the maternal grand 
mother, necessarily was, and of the parents only the 
mother, and, in the descending line, only the sisters 
children could be of the same tribe with the proposi- 
tus, or individual from whom the degrees of relation 
ship were reckoned. By careful attention to this rule, 
the reasons of the following relationships will be read 
ily perceived. The maternal grandmother and her 
sisters were equally grandmothers ; the mother and 
her sisters were equally mothers ; the children of a 
mother s sisters were brothers and sisters ; the children 
of a sister were nephews and nieces ; and the grand 
children of a sister were his grandchildren. These 
were the chief relatives within the tribe, though not 
fully extended as to number. Out of the tribe, the 
paternal grandfather and his brothers were equally . 
grandfathers ; the father and his brothers equally 
fathers ; the father s sisters were aunts, while, in the 
tribe, the mother s brothers were uncles ; the father s 
sister s children were cousins as in the civil law ; the 
children of these cousins were nephews and nieces, and 
the children of these nephews and nieces were his 
grandchildren, or the grandchildren of the propositus. 
Again : the children of a brother were his children, 
and the grandchildren of a brother were his grand 
children ; also, the children of a father s brother were 
VOL. i. 6 8 1 




his brothers and sisters, instead of cousins, as under 
the civil law ; and lastly, their children were his grand 

It was the leading object of the Iroquois law of 
descent, to merge the collateral in the lineal line, as 
sufficiently appears in the above outline. By the 
civil law, every departure from the common ancestor 
in the descending series, removed the collateral from 
the lineal ; while, by the law under consideration, the 
two lines were finally brought into one. 1 Under the 
civil law mode of computation, the degrees of relation 
ship become too remote to be traced among collater 
als ; while, by the mode of the Iroquois, none of the 
collaterals were lost by remoteness of degree. The 
number of those linked together by the nearer family 
ties was largely multiplied by preventing, in this man 
ner, the subdivision of a family into collateral branches. 
These relationships, so novel and original, did not 
exist simply in theory, but were actual, and of con 
stant recognition, and lay at the foundation of their 
political as well as social organization. (72) 

The succession of the rulers of the League is one 
of the most intricate subjects to be met with in the 
political system of the Iroquois. It has been so diffi- 

1 The following are the names of the several degrees of relationship 
recognized among the Ho-de -no-sau-nee, in the language of the Sene- 
cas : (54,r>G)_ 

Hoc-sote , Grandfather. Hoc-no -seh, Uncle. 

Uc-sote , Grandmother. Ah-geh -huc, Aunt. 

Ha -nih, Father. Ha-yan-wan-deh , Nephew. 

Noh-yeh , Mother. Ka-yan-wan-deh , Niece. 

Ho-ah -wuk, Son. Da-ya-gwa -dan-no-da, Brothers and Sisters. 

Go-ah -wuk, Daughter. Ah-gare -seh, Cousin. 

Ka-ya -da, Grandchildren. 



cult to procure a satisfactory exposition of the enact 
ments by which the mode of succession was regulated, 
that the sachemships have sometimes been considered 
elective, at others as hereditary. Many of the ob 
stacles which beset the inquiry are removed by the 
single fact, that the title of sachem was absolutely 
hereditary in the tribe to which it was originally / 
assigned, and could never pass out of it but with its 
extinction. How far these titles were hereditary in 
that part of the family of the sachem who were of the 
same tribe with himself, becomes the true question to 
consider. The sachem s brothers, and the sons of his 
sisters were of his tribe, and, consequently, in the line 
of succession. Between a brother and a nephew of 
the deceased, there was no law which established a 
preference ; neither between several brothers, on the 
one hand, and sons of several sisters on the other, was 
there any law of primogeniture ; nor, finally, was there 
any positive law, that the choice should be confined to 
the brothers of the deceased ruler, and the descendants 
of his sisters in the female line, until all these should 
fail, before a selection could be made from the tribe at 
large. Hence, it appears, so far as positive enactments 
were concerned, that the office of sachem was heredi 
tary in the particular tribe in which it ran ; while it was 
elective, as between the male members of the tribe itself. 1 

1 Laws of succession somewhat similar existed among the Aztecs. 
" The sovereign was selected from the brothers of the deceased prince, 
or, in default of them, from his nephews, thus the election was always re 
stricted to the same family. * * * The scheme of election, how 
ever defective, argues a more refined and calculating policy than was to 
have been expected from a barbarous nation. 1 Prescott s Conquest of 
Mexico, vol. i. p. 23. 



In the absence of laws, designating with certainty 
the individual upon whom the inheritance should fall, 
custom would come in and assume the force of law, in 
directing the manner of choice, from among a number 
equally eligible. Upon the decease of a sachem, a 
tribal council assembled to determine upon his suc 
cessor. The choice usually fell upon a son of one of 
the deceased ruler s sisters, or upon one of his brothers 
in the absence of physical and moral objections; 
and this preference of one of his near relatives would 
be suggested by feelings of respect for his memory. 
Infancy was no obstacle, it involving only the necessity 
of setting over the infant a guardian, to discharge the 
duties of a sachem until he attained a suitable age. It 
sometimes occurred that all the relatives of the deceased 
were set aside, and a selection was made from the 
tribe generally ; but it seldom thus happened, unless 
from the great unfitness of the near relatives of the 

When the individual was finally determined, the 
nation summoned a council, in the name of the de 
ceased, of all the sachems of the League ; and the new 
sachem was raised up by such council, and invested 
with his office. 

In connection with the power of the tribes to desig 
nate the sachems, should be noticed the equal power of 
deposition. If, by misconduct, a sachem lost the con 
fidence and respect of his tribe, and became unworthy 
of authority, a tribal council at once deposed him ; and, 
having selected a successor, summoned a council of 
the League to perform the ceremony of his investiture. 

Still further to illustrate the characteristics of the 



tribes of the Iroquois, some reference to their mode 
of bestowing names (G8) would not be inapt. 1 Soon 
after the birth of an infant, the near relatives of the 
same tribe selected a name. At the first subsequent 
council of the nation, the birth and name were publicly 
announced, together with the name and tribe of the 
father, and the name and tribe of the mother. In 
each nation the proper names were so strongly marked 
by a tribal peculiarity, that the tribe of the individual 
could usually be determined from the name alone. 
Making, as they did, a part of their language, they 
were all significant. When an individual was raised 
up as a sachem, his original name was laid aside, and 
that of the sachemship itself assumed. In like man 
ner, at the raising up of a chief, the council of the 
nation which performed the ceremony, took away the 
former name of the incipient chief and assigned him a 
new one, perhaps, like Napoleon s titles, commemora 
tive of the event which led to its bestowment. Thus, 
when the celebrated Red-Jacket was elevated by 
election to the dignity of a chief, his original name, 
O-te-ti- dri-iy " always ready," was taken from him, and 
in its place was bestowed Sa-go-ye-w dt -ha, " keeper 
awake," in allusion to the powers of his eloquence. 

Each tribe in the nation thus formed a species of 
separate community. The members were all of con 
sanguinity, and their relationships easily traced. In 
like manner those of the same tribe in each of the 

1 Like the ancient Saxons, the Iroquois had neither a prenomen, nor a 
cognomen ; but contented themselves with a single name. The name of 
an individual was often changed at different periods of life, as when the 
youth became a warrior ; and again, at the approach of age. , 



other nations were their consanguinii, and their rela 
tionships, near and remote, were also traceable. As 
two tribes were necessarily joined in each family, there 
was a perfect diffusion of tribes throughout the nation, 
and throughout the League. In this manner the race 
of the Iroquois, although consisting of different nations, 
was blended into one people. The League was in 
effect established, and rested for its stability, upon the 
natural faith of kindred. 

It now remains to define a tribe of the Ho-de -no- 
sau-nee. From the preceding considerations it suffi 
ciently appears, that it was not, like the Grecian and 
Roman, a circle or group of families ; for two tribes 
were necessarily represented in every family; neither, 
like the Jewish, was it constituted-otlie_lineal descend 
ants of a common father; on the contrary, it distinctly 
involved the idea of descent from a common mother; 
nor has it any resemblance to the Scottish clan, or the 
Canton of the Switzer. In the formation of an Iro 
quois tribe, a portion was taken from many households, 
and bound together by a tribal bond. 

The wife, her children, and her descendants in the 
female line, would, in perpetuity, be linked with the 
destinies of her own tribe ; while the husband, his 
brothers and sisters, and the descendants of the 
latter, in the female line, would, in like manner, be 
united to another teibe, and held by its affinities. 
Herein was a bond of union between the several teibes 
of the same jmtte~, corresponding, in some degree, 
with the cross-relationship founded upon consanguin 
ity, which bound together the tribes of the same 
emblem in the different nations. 



The Iroquois claim to have originated the idea of 
a division of the people into tribes, as a means of 
creating new relationships by which to bind the people 
more firmly together. (57) It is further asserted by 
them, that they forced or introduced this social or 
ganization among the Cherokees, the Chippeways, 
(Massasaugas) and several other Indian nations, with 
whom, in ancient times, they were in constant inter 
course. The fact that this division of the people of 
the same nation into tribes does not prevail generally 
among our Indian races, favors the assertion of the 
Iroquois. (57) On the other hand, the laws of de 
scent, at least of the crown, among the Aztecs, dimly 
shadows forth the existence of a similar social organi 
zation, which may have been reproduced among the 
Iroquois, or preserved through a remote affinity 
of blood. At ail events, it was the life and strength 
of the League. 

Of the comparative value of these institutions, when 
contrasted with those of civilized countries, and of 
their capability of elevating the race, it is not neces 
sary here to inquire. It was the boast of the Iroquois 
that the great object of their confederacy was peace - 
to break up the spirit of perpetual warfare, which had 
wasted the red race from age to age. Such an insight 
into the true end of all legitimate government, by 
those who constructed this tribal league, excites as 
great surprise as admiration. It is the highest and 
the noblest aspect in which human institutions can be 
viewed; and the thought itself -- universal peace 
among Indian races possible of attainment was a 
ray of intellect from no ordinary mind. To con- 



summate such a purpose, the Iroquois nations were 
to be concentrated into one political fraternity ; and 
in a manner effectively to prevent offshoots and seces 
sions. By its natural growth, this fraternity would 
accumulate sufficient power to absorb adjacent nations, 
moulding them, successively, by affiliation, into one 
common family. Thus, in its nature, it was designed 
to be a progressive confederacy. What means could 
have been employed with greater promise of success 
than the stupendous system of relationships, which 
was fabricated through the division of the Ho-de-no- 
sau-nee into tribes ? It was a system sufficiently 
ample to enfold the whole Indian race. Unlimited 
in their capacity for extension, inflexible in their rela 
tionships, the tribes thus interleagued would have 
suffered no loss of unity by their enlargement, nor 
loss of strength by the increasing distance between 
their council-fires. The destiny of this League, if it 
had been left to work out its own results among the 
red races exclusively, it is impossible to conjecture. 
With vast capacities for enlargement, and remark 
able durability of structure, it must have attained a 
great elevation, and a general supremacy. 

It is apparent from the examination of such evi 
dences as can be discovered, that the several Iroquois 
nations occupied positions of entire equality in the 
League, in rights, privileges and obligations. Such 
special immunities as were granted to either, must be 
put down to the chances of location, and to the 
numerical differences at the institution of the Con 
federacy ; since they neither indicate an intention to 
establish an unequal alliance, nor exhibit the exercise 



of privileges by either nation, inconsistent with the 
principle of political equality, on which the League 
was founded. 

The sources of information, from which this con 
clusion is drawn, are to be found in the mass of 
Iroquois traditions, and in the structure of the Con 
federacy itself. Those traditions which reach beyond 
the formation of the League, are vague and unreliable, 
while all such as refer to its establishment assume a 
connected and distinctive form. It follows that confi 
dence may be reposed in such inferences as are derived 
from these traditions, and corroborated by the internal 
structure of the government, and by the institutions 
of the League. 

There were provisions apparently vesting in certain 
nations superior authority, which it is desirable to 
introduce and explain. The most prominent was the 
unequal distribution of sachemships, indicating an 
unequal distribution of power : the Onondagas, for 
example, having fourteen sachems, while the Senecas, 
by far the most powerful nation in the Confederacy, 
were entitled to but eight. It is true, ceteris paribus, 
that a larger body of sachems would exercise a greater 
influence in general council ; but it will appear, when 
the mode of deciding questions is considered, that it 
gave no increase of power, for each nation had an 
equal voice, and a negative upon the others. 

By another organic provision, the custody of the 
" Council Brand," and also of the " Wampum," into 
which the laws of the League " had been talked," was 
given by hereditary grant to the Onondagas. This is 
sufficiently explained by their central position, which 



made the council-fire in the Onondaga valley, in effect, 
the seat of government of the League. It was equally 
a convenience to all, and does not necessarily involve 
a preference enforced by superior power. 

The To-do-da-bo was likewise among the Onondaga 
sachems. Upon this point it has heretofore been 
stated that the higher degree of consideration attached 
to this title resulted exclusively from the exalted esti 
mation in which the original tfo-do-da-ho was held, on 
account of his martial prowess and achievements. 

An apparent inequality between the nations of 
the League is also observable in the award of the 
two highest military chieftains to the Senecas. It 
will be sufficient, on this difficult feature in the system 
of the Iroquois, to note that when they constructed 
their political edifice, the Long House, (12G) with its 
door opening upon the west, they admitted the sup 
position that all hostile onsets were to be expected 
from that direction ; and on placing the Senecas as 
a perpetual shield before its western portal, these 
war-captains were granted, as among the means need 
ful for its protection. 

The Mohawks were receivers of tribute from sub 
jugated nations. This hereditary privilege must be 
placed upon the same footing with the preceding. 
It may, perhaps, indicate that the nations upon their 
borders were in subjection. 

Unequal terms in a Confederacy of independent 
nations would not be expected. True wisdom would 
dictate the principle of equality, as the only certain 
foundation on which a durable structure could be 
erected. That such was the principle adopted by 



the legislators of the Iroquois, is evinced by the 
equality of rights and immunities subsisting between 
the sachems of the League. Their authority was 
not limited to their own nation, but was co-extensive 
with the Confederacy. The Cayuga sachem, while 
in the midst of the Oneidas, could enforce from 
them the same obedience that was due to him from 
his own people ; and when in general council with 
his compeers, he had an equal voice in the disposal 
of all business which came before it. The special 
privileges enumerated, and some others which existed, 
were of but little moment, when compared with the 
fact that the nations were independent, and that each 
had an equal participation in the administration of 
the government. 

At the epoch of the League, the several nations 
occupied the territory between the Hudson and the 
Genesee, and were separated by much the same in 
ternal boundaries, as at the period when they yielded 
up their sovereignty. From geographical position, 
or from relative importance, or yet, for the mere 
purpose of establishing between the nations rela 
tionships similar to those existing between the tribes, 
certain rules of precedence, and national ties, were 
constituted between them. The nations were divided 
into two classes, or divisions ; and when assembled 
in general council were arranged upon opposite sides 
of the " council-fire." On the one side stood the 
Mohawks, Onondagas and Senecas, who, as nations,\ 
were regarded as brothers to each other, but as fathers 
to the other nations. Upon the other side were the 
Oneidas and Cayugas, and at a subsequent day, the \ 



( Tuscaroras, who, in like manner, were brother nations 
to each other, but children to the first three. These 
divisions were in harmony with their system of rela 
tionships, or more properly formed a part of it. They 
may have secured for the senior nations increased 
respect, but they involved no idea of dependence in 
the junior, or inequality in civil rights. 

When the nations were enumerated, the Mohawks 
were placed first, but for what reason is not precisely 
understood. In the councils of the Confederacy 
they were styled Da-ga-e-o -ga, which became their 
national epithet. It was a term of respect, and signi 
fies " neutral," or, as it may be rendered, " the shield." 
Its origin is lost in obscurity. 

The Onondagas were placed next in the order of 
precedence, and were addressed in council by the 
appellation Ho-de -san-no-ge-ta. This term signifies 
" name-bearer," and was conferred in commemoration 
of the circumstance that the Onondagas bestowed 
the names upon the fifty original sachems. This was 
a privilege of some moment, as these " names " were 
to descend from generation to generation, upon the 
successive rulers of the Ho-de -no-sau-nee. 

Next in order stood the Senecas, justly proud of 
their national designation, Ho-nan-ne-hd-ont^ or " the 
door-keeper." To them, as elsewhere remarked, 
belonged the hereditary guardianship of the door of 
the Long House. 

The Oneidas occupied the fourth place in the Iro- 
quois order of precedence, and originally had no 
appellation by which they were distinguished. At 
a subsequent and quite modern period, the epithet 



Ne-ar-de-on-dar-gd-waT) or " Great Tree," was con 
ferred upon them by their confederates. This name 
was seized upon from some occurrence at a treaty 
with the people of Wastow, or Boston. 

Of the five original nations, the Cayugas were 
placed last in the enumeration. They were desig 
nated in council by the appellation, So-nus-ho-gwa- 
to-war, signifying " Great Pipe." Tradition refers 
this epithet to the incident that the leading Cayuga 
chief in attendance at the council which established 
the League smoked a pipe of unusual dimensions 
and workmanship. 

The admission of the Tuscaroras having been long 
subsequent to the formation of the League, they were 
never received into an equal alliance with the other 
nations. After their disastrous overthrow, and expul 
sion from North Carolina, they turned towards the 
country of the Iroquois, and were admitted about 
the year 1715, as the sixth nation, into the Confed 
eracy. But they were never allowed to have a 
sachem, who could sit as an equal in the council of 
sachems. The five nations were unwilling to enlarge 
the number of sachemships founded at the institution 
of the League. For purposes of national government, 
however, they were organized like the other nations, 
with similar tribes, relationships, laws and institutions. 
They also enjoyed a nominal equality in the councils 
of the League, by the courtesy of the other five, and 
their sachems were "raised up" with the same cere 
monies. They were not dependent, but were admitted 
to as full equality as could be granted them, without 
enlarging the framework of the Confederacy. In 



the councils of the League, they had no national 
designation. (12 

At the establishment of the Confederacy, the office 
of chief, Ha-seh-no-wa-nehy " an elevated name," was 
entirely unknown among the Iroquois. Their tradi 
tions, as elsewhere stated, affirm that this title was 
instituted long subsequent to the foundation of the 
fifty sachemships, and the full adjustment of the 
League. The necessity in which this office had its 
origin, and the illustration which it furnishes of a 
position elsewhere advanced, that all political institu 
tions, as they unfold, progress from monarchy towards 
democracy, leads to the presentation of this subject in 
this place. 

When the power of the Ho-de -no-sau-nee began to 
develop, under .the new system of oligarchies within 
an oligarchy, there sprang up around the sachems a 
class of warriors, distinguished for enterprise upon 
the war-path, and eloquence in council, who de 
manded some participation in the administration of 
public affairs. The serious objections to the enlarge 
ment of the number of rulers, involving, as it did, 
changes in the framework of the government, for a 
long period enabled the sachems to resist the encroach 
ment. In the progress of events, this class became 
too powerful to be withstood, and the sachems were 
compelled to raise them up in the subordinate station 
of chiefs. The title was purely elective, and the 
reward of merit. Unlike the sachemships, the name 
was not hereditary in the tribe or family of the indi 
vidual, but terminated with the chief himself; unless 
subsequently bestowed by the tribe upon some other 



person, to preserve it as one of their illustrious names. 
These chiefs were originally invested with very 
limited powers, their principal office being that of 
advisers and counsellors of the sachems. Having 
thus obtained a foothold in the government, this class, 
to the number of which there was no limit, gradually 
enlarged their influence, and from generation to gen 
eration drew nearer to an equality with the sachems 
themselves. 1 By this innovation the government was 
liberalized, to the sensible diminution of the power of 
the sachems, which, at the institution of the League, 
was extremely arbitrary. 

It is a singular fact, that none of the sachems of 
the Iroquois, save Logan, 2 have ever become distin 
guished in history ; although each of the fifty titles 
or sachemships have been held by as many individ 
uals, as generations have passed away since the foun 
dation of the Confederacy. If the immortality of 
men, "worthy of praise/ is committed to the guar 
dianship of the Muse- 

" Dignum laude virum Musa vetat mori," 

the muse of tradition, if such a conception may 
be indulged, has been enabled, out of this long line 
of sachems, to record the deeds of none, save the 
military achievements of the first To-do-da -ho ^ the 

1 At the present time among the dismembered fragments of the Iro 
quois nations, the chiefs are found to be nearly, if not in all respects, 
upon an equality with the sachems, although the offices are still held by 
different tenures. 

2 Logan was one of the ten Cayuga sachems, but which of the ten 
names or sachemships he held, is not at present ascertained. His father, 
Shikellimus or Shikalimo, who is usually mentioned as a Cayuga sachem, 
was but a chief. 



wisdom in legislation of the first Da-ga-no-we -dd* 
and the sacred mission of Ga-ne-o-di-yo^ who pre 
tended to have received a revelation from the Great 
Spirit. The residue have left behind them no re 
membrances conferring special dignity upon the sa- 
chemships entrusted to their keeping. 

The celebrated orators, wise men, and military 
leaders of the Ho-de -no-sau-nee^ are all to be found 
in the class of chiefs. One reason for this may exist 
in the organic provision which confined the duties 
of the sachems exclusively to the affairs of peace; 
and another may be that the office of chief was be 
stowed in reward of public services, thus casting it 
by necessity upon the men highest in capacity among 
them. In the list of those chiefs who have earned 
a place upon the historic page, as well as in the " un 
written remembrance " of their tribe and race, might 
be enumerated many who have left behind them a 
reputation which will not soon fade from the minds 
of men. 

By the institution of this office, the stability of 
the government was increased rather than diminished. 

1 Da-ga~no- r we f -da J the founder of the confederacy, and Hd-yo- 
ivent -hd, his speaker, through whom he laid his plans of government 
before the council which framed the League, were both "raised up 1 
among the fifty original sachems, and in the Mohawk nation j but after 
their decease these two sachemships were left vacant, and have since con 
tinued so. 

Da-gd-no-cwe -dd was an Onondaga, but was adopted by the Mohawks 
and raised up as one of their sachems. Having an impediment in his 
speech, he chose Hd-yo-vuent -hd for his speaker. They were both un 
willing to accept office, except upon the express condition that their 
sachemships should ever remain vacant after their decease. These are 
the two most illustrious names among the Iroquois. 


In their own figurative enunciation of the idea, the 
chiefs served as braces in the Long House an 
apt expression of the place they occupied in their 
political structure. It furnished a position and a 
reward for the ambitious, and the means of allaying 
discontent, without changing the ruling body. In 
this particular, the oligarchy of the Iroquois ap 
pears to have enjoyed some superiority over those 
of antiquity . (126) 

" In aristocratical governments," says Montesquieu, 
" there are two principal sources of disorder : exces 
sive inequality between the governors and the gov 
erned, and the same inequality between the different 
members of the body that governs." The govern 
ment of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee was exposed to neither 
of these difficulties. Between the people and the 
sachems, the chiefs formed a connecting link ; while 
the sachems themselves were perfectly equal in political 

The unchangeable number of the rulers, and the 
stability of the tenure by which the office itself is 
held, are both sources of security in an oligarchy. 
To the former safeguard the Iroquois adhered so 
firmly, that upon the admission of the Tuscaroras, 
as the sixth nation of the League, they were unwilling 
to increase the original number of sachemships ; and 
the Tuscaroras have not to this day a sachem who is 
admitted to all the privileges of a sachem of the Con 
federacy. The latter is established by the career of 
Sa-go-ye-wat-h dy the most gifted and intellectual of the 
race of the Iroquois, and, perhaps, of the whole 

1 Montesquieu, Spirit of Laws, lib. v. cap. 8. 
VOL. i. 7 97 


Indian family. With all the influence which he 
exercised over the people by the power of his elo 
quence, and with all the art and intrigue which his 
capacity could suggest, he was never able to elevate 
himself higher than to the title of Chief. To attain 
even this dignity, it is said that he practiced upon 
the superstitious fears of the people. The Senecas 
themselves aver, that it would have been unwise 
to raise up a man of his intellectual power and 
extended influence to the office of sachem ; as it 
would have concentrated in his hands too much au 
thority. Nearly the same observations apply to the 
celebrated Joseph Brant, fa-yen-da-na-ga, whose abil 
ities as a military leader secured to him the com- 
t mand of the war parties of the Mohawks during the 
Revolution. He was also but a chief, and held no 
other office or title in the nation, or in the Confeder 
acy. (3T) By the force of his character, he acquired 
the same influence over the Mohawks which Sa-go-ye- 
wat -ha maintained over the Senecas by his eloquence. 
The lives of these distinguished chiefs, both equally 
ambitious, but who pursued very different pathways 
to distinction, sufficiently prove that the office of 
sachem was surrounded by impassable barriers against 
those who were without the immediate family of 
the sachem, and the tribe in which the title was 

Chapter V 

Councils of the Iroquois Influence of Public Sentiment Oratory 
Civil Councils Unanimity Mourning Councils Wam 
pum Festivities Religious Councils 

IN an oligarchy, where the administrative power 
is vested in the members of the Ruling Body 
jointly, a Council of the Oligarchs becomes the 
instrumentality through which the will of this body 
is ascertained and enforced. For this reason the 
Councils of the Iroquois are important subjects of 
investigation. By them were exercised all the legisla 
tive and executive authority incident to the League, 
and necessary for its security against outward attack 
and internal dissensions. When the sachems were 
not assembled around the general council-fire, the 
government itself had no visible existence. Upon 
no point, therefore, can an examination be better di 
rected, to ascertain the degree of power vested in 
the Ruling Body, and the manner in which their 
domestic administration and political relations were 
conducted. When the sachems were scattered, like 
the people, over a large territory, they exercised a 
local and individual authority in the matters of 
every-day life, or in national council jointly adjusted 
the afTairs of their respective nations. Those higher 
and more important concernments, which involved 
the interests of the League, were reserved to the 



sachems in general council. In this council resided 
the animating principle, by which their political 
machinery was moved. It was, in effect, the gov 

The oligarchical form of government is not without 
its advantages, although indicative of a low state of 
civilization. A comparison of views, by the agency 
of a council, would at any time be favorable to the 
development of talent. It was especially the case 
among the Iroquois, in consequence of the greater 
diversity of interests, and the more extended reach of 
affairs incident to several nations in close alliance. 
Events of greater magnitude would spring up in the 
midst of a flourishing confederacy, than in a nation of 
inconsiderable importance ; and it is demonstrated by 
the political history of all governments, that men 
develop intellect in exact proportion to the magni 
tude of the events with which they become identified. 
For these reasons, the League was favorable to the 
production of men higher in capacity than would arise 
among nations whose institutions and systems of 
government were inferior. 

The extremely liberal character of their oligarchy is 
manifested by the modus procedendi of these councils. 
It is obvious that the sachems were not set over the 
people as arbitrary rulers, to legislate as their own 
will might dictate, irrespective of the popular voice ; 
on the contrary, there is reason to believe that a 
public sentiment sprang up on questions of general 
interest, which no council felt at liberty to disregard. 
By deferring all action upon such questions until a 
council brought together the sachems of the League, 




attended by a concourse of inferior chiefs and warriors, 
an opportunity was given to the people to judge for 
themselves, and to take such measures as were neces 
sary to give expression and force to their opinions. 
If the band of warriors became interested in the 
passing question, they held a council apart, and having 
given it a full consideration, appointed an orator to 
communicate their views to the sachems, their Patres 
Conscripti. In like manner would the chiefs, and even 
the women proceed, if they entertained opinions which 
they wished to urge upon the consideration of the 
council. From the publicity with which the affairs of 
the League were conducted, and the indirect participa 
tion in their adjustment thus allowed the people, a 
favorable indication is afforded of the democratic spirit 
of the government. 

Oratory, from the constitutional organization of 
the council, was necessarily brought into high repute. 
Questions involving the safety of the race, and the 
preservation of the League, were frequently before it. 
In those warlike periods, when the Confederacy was 
moving onward amid incessant conflicts with con 
tiguous nations, or, perchance, resisting sudden tides 
of migratory population, there was no dearth of those 
exciting causes, of those emergencies of peril, which 
rouse the spirit of the people, and summon into 
activity their highest energies. Whenever events con 
verged to such a crisis, the council was the first resort ; 
and there, under the pressure of dangers, and in the. 
glow of patriotism, the eloquence of the Iroquois 
flowed as pure and spontaneous as the fountains of 
their thousand streamlets. 




The Indian has a quick and enthusiastic appreciation 
of eloquence. Highly impulsive in his nature, and 
with passions untaught of restraint, he is strongly 
susceptible of its influence. By the cultivation and 
exercise of this capacity, was opened the pathway to 
distinction ; and the chief or warrior gifted with its 
magical power could elevate himself as rapidly, as he 
who gained renown upon the war-path. With the 
Iroquois, as with the Romans, the two professions, 
oratory and arms, 1 could establish men in the highest 
degree of personal consideration. To the ambitious 
Roman in the majestic days of the Republic, and 
to the proud Indian in his sylvan house, the two 
pursuits equally commended themselves ; and in one 
or the other alone, could either expect success. 

It is a singular fact, resulting from the structure 
of Indian institutions, that nearly every transaction, 
whether social or political, originated or terminated in 
a council. This universal and favorite mode of doing 
business became interwoven with all the affairs of 
public and private life. In council, public transactions 
of every name and character were planned, scrutinized 
and adopted. The succession of their rulers, their 
athletic games, dances, and religious festivals, and 
their social intercourse, were all alike identified with 
councils. It may be said that the life of the Iroquois 
was either spent in the chase, on the war-path, or at 
the council-fire. They formed the three leading 
objects of his existence ; and it would be difficult to 

1 Duae sunt artes quae possunt locare homines in amplisshno gradu 
dignitatis ; una imperatoris, altera orationis boni : ab hoc cnim pacis or- 
namcnta retinentur : ab illo belli pcricula repelluntur. CICERO Pro 
Murana. 14. 



determine for which he possessed the strongest predi 
lection. Regarding them in this light, and it is 
believed they are not over-estimated, a narrative of 
these councils would furnish an accurate and copious 
history of the Iroquois, both political and social. 
The absence of these records, now irreparable, has 
greatly abridged the fulness, and diminished the 
accuracy of our aboriginal history. 

The councils of the League were of three distinct L 
kinds ; and they may be distinguished under the heads 
of civil, mourning and religious. Their civil councils, 
Ho-de-os -seh) were such as convened to transact busi 
ness with foreign nations, and to regulate the internal 
administration of the Confederacy. The mourning 
councils, Hen-nun-do-nuti-seh) were those summoned 
to " raise up " sachems to fill such vacancies as 
had been occasioned by death or deposition, and 
also to ratify the investiture of such chiefs as the 
nations had raised up in reward of public services. 
Their religious councils, Gd-e-we-yo-do Ho-de-os-heri- 
dd-ko, were, as the name imports, devoted to religious 

No event of any importance ever transpired with 
out passing under the cognizance of one or another 
of these species of councils; for all affairs seem to 
have converged towards them by a natural and in 
evitable tendency. An exposition of the mode of 
summoning each, of their respective powers and juris 
dictions, and of the manner of transacting business, 
may serve to unfold the workings of their political 
system, their social relations, and the range of their 
intellectual capacities. 



The name Ho-de-os-seb, by which the Iroquois 
designated a civil council, signifies " advising to 
gether." It was bestowed upon any council of 
sachems, which convened to take charge of the public 
relations of the League, or to provide for its inter 
nal administration. Each nation had power, under 
established regulations, to convene such a council, and 
prescribe the time and place of convocation. (G1) 

If the envoy of a foreign people desired to submit 
a proposition to the sachems of the League, and 
applied to the Senecas for that purpose, the sachems 
of that nation would first determine whether the ques 
tion was of sufficient importance to authorize a coun 
cil. If they arrived at an affirmative conclusion, they 
immediately sent out runners to the Cayugas, the 
nation nearest -in position, with a belt of wampum. 
This belt announced that, on a certain day thereafter, 
at such a place, and for such and such purposes, men 
tioning them, a council of the League would assemble. 
The Cayugas then notified the Onondagas, they the 
Oneidas, and these the Mohawks. (81) Each na 
tion, within its own confines, spread the information 
far and wide ; and thus, in a space of time astonish 
ingly brief, intelligence of the council was heralded 
from one extremity of their country to the other. It 
produced a stir among the people in proportion to 
the magnitude and importance of the business to be 
transacted. If the subject was calculated to arouse 
a deep feeling of interest, one common impulse from 
the Hudson to the Niagara, and from the St. Law 
rence to the Susquehanna, drew them towards the coun 
cil-fire. Sachems, chiefs and warriors, women, and 





even children, deserted their hunting grounds and 
woodland seclusions, and taking the trail, literally 
flocked to the place of council. When the day ar 
rived, a multitude had gathered together, from the 
most remote and toilsome distances, but yet animated 
by an unyielding spirit of hardihood and endurance. 

Their mode of opening a council, and proceeding 
with the business before it, was extremely simple, yet 
dilatory, when contrasted with the modes of civilized 
life. Questions were usually reduced to single propo 
sitions, calling for an affirmative or negative response, 
and were thus either adopted or rejected. When the 
sachems were assembled in the midst of their people, 
and all were in readiness to proceed, the envoy was 
introduced before them. One of the sachems, by 
previous appointment, then arose, and having thanked 
the Great Spirit for his continued beneficence in per 
mitting them to meet together, he informed the envoy 
that the council was prepared to hear him upon the 
business for which it had convened. The council 
being thus opened, the representative proceeded to 
unfold the objects of his mission. He submitted his 
propositions in regular form, and sustained them by 
such arguments as the case required. The sachems 
listened with earnest and respectful attention to the 
end of his address, that they might clearly understand 
the questions to be decided and answered. After the 
envoy had concluded his speech, he withdrew from 
the council, as was customary, to await at a distance 
the result of its deliberations. It then became the 
duty of the sachems to agree upon an answer ; in 
doing which, as would be expected, they passed 



through the ordinary routine of speeches, consulta 
tions, and animated discussions. Such was the usual 
course of proceeding in the Iroquois council. Varia 
tions might be introduced by circumstances. 

At this place another peculiar institution of the 
Ho-de -no-sau-nee is presented. All the sachems of the 
League, in whom originally was vested the entire civil 
power, were required to be of " one mind," to give 
efficacy to their legislation. Unanimity was a funda 
mental law. The idea of majorities and minorities was 
entirely unknown to our Indian predecessors. (30) 

To hasten their deliberations to a conclusion, and 
ascertain the result, they adopted an expedient which 
dispensed entirely with -the necessity of casting votes. 
The founders of the Confederacy, seeking to obviate 
as far as possible altercation in council, and to facili 
tate their progress to unanimity, divided the sachems 
of each nation into classes, usually of two and three 
each, as will be seen by referring to the table of 
sachemships. (47) No sachem was permitted to express 
an opinion in council, until he had agreed with the 
other sachem or sachems of his class, w upon the opinion 
to be expressed, and had received an appointment to 
act as speaker for the class. Thus the eight Seneca 
sachems, being in four classes, could have but four 
opinions ; the ten Cayuga sachems but four. In this 
manner each class was brought to unanimity within 
itself. A cross-consultation was then held between 
the four sachems who represented the four classes ; 
and when they had agreed, they appointed one of 
their number to express their resulting opinion, which 
was the answer of their nation. The several nations 

1 06 


having, by this ingenious method, become of " one 
mind " separately, it only remained to compare their 
several opinions, to arrive at the final sentiment of 
all the sachems of the League. This was effected by 
a conference between the individual representatives 
of the several nations ; and when they had arrived 
at unanimity, the answer of the League was deter 

The sovereignty of the nations, by this mode of 
giving assent, was not only preserved, but made sub 
servient to the effort itself to secure unanimity. If 
any sachem was obdurate or unreasonable, influences 
were brought to bear upon him which he could not 
well resist ; and it was seldom that inconvenience 
resulted from their inflexible adherence to the rule. 
When, however, all efforts to produce unanimity failed 
of success, the whole matter was laid aside. Farther 
action became at once impossible. A result, either 
favorable or adverse, having, in this way, been reached, 
it was communicated to the envoy by a speaker 
selected for the purpose. This orator was always 
chosen from the nation with whom the council origi 
nated, and it was usual with him to review the whole 
subject presented to the council in a formal speech, 
and at the same time to announce the conclusions to 
which the sachems of the Confederacy had arrived. 
This concluding speech terminated the business of 
the council, and the Indian diplomatist took his 

The war against the Eries, which resulted in the 
extermination or expulsion of that nation from the 
western part of this State, about the year 1654, was 



declared by the sachems of the Iroquois in general 
council. The French war, also, which they waged 
with such indomitable courage and perseverance for 
so many years, was resolved upon in the same man 
ner. Their traditions record other struggles with 
Indian nations, some of which were engaged in by the 
League, and others either commenced or assumed by 
a nation separately. At the beginning of the Amer 
ican Revolution, the Iroquois could not agree in 
council to make war as a confederacy upon our con 
federacy. A number of the Oneida sachems firmly 
resisted the assumption of hostilities, and thus de 
feated the measure as an act of the League, for the 
want of unanimity. Some of the nations, however, 
especially the Mohawks, were so interlinked with the 
British, that neutrality was impossible. Under this 
pressure of circumstances, it was resolved in council 
to suspend the rule, and leave each nation to engage 
in the war upon its own responsibility . (28 

In the councils of the Iroquois, the dignity and 
order ever preserved have become proverbial. The 
gravity of Nestor was exemplified by their sages, and 
more than the harmony of the Grecian chiefs existed 
among their sachems. In their elevation to the high 
est degree of political distinction ever reached by any 
Indian race, except the Aztec, the clearest evidence is 
presented of the wisdom and prudence with which 
these councils watched over the public welfare. 

The succession of the Ruling Body, whether secured 
by election, or by laws of inheritance, is an event of 
deep importance to the people, whose personal secur 
ity and welfare are to a large extent under the guar- 



dianship of their rulers. It seems to have been the 
aim of the Ho-de -no-sau-nee to avoid the dangers of an 
hereditary transmission of power, without fully adopt 
ing the opposite principle of a free election, founded 
upon merit and capacity. Their system was a modi 
fication of the two opposite rules, and claims the 
merit of originality, as well as of adaptation to their 
social and political condition. 

It is in accordance with the principles, and neces 
sary to the existence of an oligarchy, that the ruling 
body should possess a general, if not an absolute 
authority over the admission of its members, and over 
the succession to its dignities, where the vacancies are 
occasioned by death. In some respects the oligarchy 
of the Iroquois was wider than those of antiquity. 
The tribes retained the power of designating succes 
sors, independent of the oligarchs ; while, for the 
security of the latter, the number was limited by the 
fundamental law. It was the province of the ruling 
body to " raise up " the sachems selected by the 
tribes, and to invest them with office. In the ancient 
oligarchies, which were less liberal and much less sys 
tematic in their construction, the whole power of 
making rulers appears to have been appropriated by 
the rulers themselves. 

To perform the ceremony adverted to, of " raising 
up " sachems, and of confirming the investiture of 
such chiefs as had been previously raised up by a na 
tion, the Mourning council was instituted. Its name, 
Hen-nun-do-nuti-seh) signifies, with singular propriety, 
" a mourning council ; " as it embraced the two-fold 
object of lamenting the deceased with suitable solem- 



nities, and of establishing a successor in the sachem- 
ship made vacant by his demise. 

Upon the death of a sachem, the nation in which 
the loss had occurred had power to summon a council, 
and designate the day and place. If the Oneidas, for 
example, had lost a ruler, they sent out runners at the 
earliest convenient day, with " belts of invitation " to 
the sachems of the League, and to the people at large, 
to assemble around their national council-fire at G a- 
no-a-ld -hale . The invitation was circulated in the 
same manner, and with the same celerity as in con 
voking a civil council. These belts or the strings of 
wampum, sent out on such occasions, conveyed a la 
conic message : " the name " of the deceased " calls 
for a council." It also announced the place and the 

The name and the appeal fell not in vain upon the 
ear of the Iroquois. There was a potency in the 
name itself which none could resist. It penetrated 
every seclusion of the forest ; and reached every ga-no- 
sote upon the hillside, on the margin of the lakes, or 
in the deep solitudes of the wood. No warrior, wise 
man or chief failed to hear, or could withstand the 
call. A principle within was addressed, which ever 
responded ; respect and veneration for the sachems of 
the League. 

For these councils, and the festivities with which 
they were concluded, the Ho-de-no-sau-nee ever re 
tained a passionate fondness. No inclemency of sea 
son, nor remoteness of residence, nor frailty of age or 
of sex offered impassable obstructions. To that 
hardy spirit which led the Iroquois to traverse the 



war-paths of the distant south and west, and to leave 
their hunting trails upon the Potomac and Ohio, the 
distance to a council within their immediate territories 
would present inconsiderable hindrances. From the 
Mohawk to the Genesee, they forsook their hunting- 
grounds, and their encampments, and put themselves 
upon the trail for the council-fire. Old men with 
gray hairs and tottering steps, young men in the vigor 
of youth, warriors inured to the hardships of incessant 
strife, children looking out, for the first time, upon 
life, and women, with their infants encased in the ga- 
os -ha, all performed the journey with singular rapidity 
and endurance. From every side they bent their 
footsteps towards the council ; and when the day ar 
rived, a large concourse of warriors, chiefs, wise men 
and sachems, from the most remote as well as the sub 
jacent parts of their territory, greeted each other be 
side the council-fire of the Oneidas. 

This council, although entirely of a domestic char 
acter, was conducted with many ceremonies. Before 
the arrival of the day announced by the belt, the 
several nations entered the country of the Oneidas in 
separate bands, and encamped at a distance from the 
council-house. To advance at once, would have been 
a violation of Iroquois usages. Runners were sent on 
by the approaching nation to announce its arrival, and 
it remained encamped until the Oneidas had signified 
their readiness for its reception. On the day appointed, 
if the necessary arrangements had been perfected, a 
rude reception ceremony opened the proceedings. 
The several nations in separate trains, each one pre 
ceded by its civil and military dignitaries, drew simul- 



taneously towards the council-fire, and were received 
and welcomed by the Oneidas in a ceremonious man 
ner. The latter advanced to meet them at a distance 
from the village, where a temporary council-fire was 
kindled ; after which the chief personages of the ad 
vancing bands walked around the fire, singing the 
songs of mourning designed for the occasion. When 
the songs were finished, the pipe of peace was circu 
lated. Speeches were exchanged between the parties, 
and the belts of wampum, with which the council had 
been called, were returned. The several bands, upon 
the completion of these ceremonies, advanced in file, a 
funeral procession, and singing the mourning songs, to 
the general council-fire at the Indian village, where the 
people arrayed themselves in two divisions. The 
Mohawks, Onondagas and Senecas, who, as elsewhere 
stated, were brother nations to each other, arid fathers 
to the other three, seated themselves upon one side of 
the fire. On the other side were arranged the Onei 
das, Cayugas and Tuscaroras, who, in like manner, 
were brothers to each other, but children to the three 
first. By their peculiar customs, if the deceased sachem 
belonged to either of the three elder nations, he was 
mourned as a father by the three junior ; and it be 
came the duty of the latter to perform the ceremony 
of lamentation prescribed by their usages for the de 
ceased, and afterwards that of raising up his successor. 
If, on the contrary, the departed ruler belonged to 
either of the junior nations, as in the case supposed, 
it cast upon the elder nations the duty of lamenting 
his death as a child, in the customary form, and of 
installing a successor in the- vacant sachemship. 



These observances were performed with the accus 
tomed gravity and earnestness of the red man ; and 
were, in themselves, neither devoid of interest, nor 
unadapted to impress the mind. The lament was a 
tribute to the virtues, and to the memory of the de 
parted sachem, a mourning scene, in which not only 
the tribe and nation of the deceased, but the League 
itself participated. Surely, a more delicate testimonial 
of affection than would have been looked for among 
our Indian predecessors. The ceremony of raising up 
a successor, which followed, was a succession of musi 
cal chants, with choruses, intermingled with speeches 
and responses. Upon the whole scene, rendered wild 
and picturesque by the variety of eostumes, there rested 
a spirit of silence and solemnity which invested it with 
singular interest. 

A prominent part of the ceremonial consisted in the 
repetition of their ancient laws and usages, and an ex 
position of the structure and principles of the League, 
for the instruction of the newly-inducted rulers. In 
the midst of each division, the chief personages of the 
elder and junior nations were grouped together. 
Between the two groups of sachems, the wise-man 
who conducted the observances walked to and fro, re 
peating those traditionary lessons, and unfolding those 
regulations, which had been handed down from the 
foundation of the Confederacy. Some of them were 
salutary and instructive, while the most were indicative 
of wisdom and forethought. Among the injunctions 
left by Da-ga-no-we -da, the founder of the League, 
there was one designed to impress upon their minds 

the necessity of union and harmony. It was clothed 

VOL. i. 8 n 


in a figurative dress, as is the custom of the red man 
when he would produce a vivid impression. He en 
joined them to plant a tree with four roots, branching 
severally to the north, south, east and west. Beneath 
its shade the sachems of the League must sit down 
together in perpetual unity, if they would preserve its 
stability, or secure the advantages it was calculated to 
bestow. If they did so, the power of the Ho-de-no- 
sau-nee would be planted as firmly as the oak, and 
the blasts of adverse fortune would rage against it in 

vain. (83 > 

The laws explained at different stages of the cere 
monial, were repeated from strings of wampum, into 
which they " had been talked " at the time of their 
enactment. In the Indian method of expressing the 
idea, the string, or the belt can tell, by means of an 
interpreter, the exact law or transaction of which it 
was made, at the time, the sole evidence. It operates 
upon the principle of association, and thus seeks to 
give fidelity to the memory. These strings and belts 
were the only visible records of the Iroquois ; and were 
of no use except by the aid of those special personages 
who could draw forth the secret records locked up in 
their remembrance. (82) 

It is worthy of note, that but little importance was 
attached to a promise or assurance of a foreign power, 
unless belts or strings were given to preserve it in 
recollection. Verbal propositions, or those not con 
firmed by wampum, were not considered worthy of 
special preservation. 1 As the laws and usages of the 

1 " It is obvious to all who are the least acquainted with Indian 
affairs, that they regard no message or invitation, be it of what conse- 



Confederacy were intrusted to the guardianship of such 
strings, one of the Onondaga sachems, Ho-no-we-na-(o, 
was constituted " Keeper of the Wampum," and was 
required to be versed in its interpretation. (83) 

On these occasions, the wise-man who officiated 
interpreted strings from time to time, and carried them 
from one division of sachems to the other. In reply, 
as many others were subsequently returned with sim 
ilar forms and explanations. In this manner, with 
a multitude of forms and ceremonies, consuming the 
greater part of a day in their repetition, were their 
sachems raised up. The proceedings were closed with 
a presentation of the newly-invested rulers to the 
people, under the names of their respective sachem- 
ships, which, from that day forth, they were permit 
ted to assume. 

Up to this stage of the Council, neither gaiety nor 
mirthfulness was exhibited by the old or young. 
The people were in mourning for the deceased, and 
rendering the last acts of public respect. When, how 
ever, these offices had been performed, and the places 
left vacant among the rulers had been filled, the 
reasons for lamentation had disappeared, and with them 
disappeared the outward signs. The evening was 
given up to feasting, and to their religious and do 
mestic dances. It was not uncommon to spend sev 
eral days in these festivities ; devoting the days in 
succession to athletic games, and the evenings to the 
feast, and to the social dance. 

quence it will, unless attended or confirmed by strings or belts of wam 
pum, which they look upon as we our letters, or rather bonds." Letter 
of Sir W. Johnson, 1753. Doc. Hist. N. Y., vol. ii. p. 624. 


The succession, under these simple regulations, was 
rendered entirely free from turmoil and strife; and 
became not only an easy transaction, but an impos 
ing, and, to them, instructive ceremonial. Upon the 
sachems was bestowed sufficient control over the trans 
mission of the sachemships for their own protection ; 
while the still more important power of naming those 
to be raised up, and of deposing the unfaithful, which 
was retained by the tribes, secured the people from 
oppression and misgovernment. 

A wider dissimilarity, than subsists between the 
institutions of our Indian predecessors and our own, 
cannot be easily conceived. They are as unlike as 
the races themselves in their essential characteristics. 
If, however, a correct impression is desired of the 
state of society, political and social, in which the Iro- 
quois have existed, and in which they have developed 
whatever of character they possessed, it must be 
sought in their customs and institutions ; it must be 
furnished by the practical operation of that stupen 
dous system of inter-relationships by which they were 
bound together, and from which every act in their 
social intercourse received a tinge. 

The degree of social intercourse between the na 
tions of the League was much greater than would 
at first be suggested. (41) In the pursuits of the 
chase and of conquest, and in attendance upon coun 
cils, they traversed the whole territory far and near. 
Their trails penetrated the forest in every direction, 
and their main thoroughfares were as well beaten as 
the highways now passing over the same lines. With 
their habits of travelling over the whole area of the 



State, they were doubtless more familiar than ourselves 
with its hills and plains, rivers and lakes, its wild 
retreats and forest concealments. Much of their social 
intercourse, especially between the nations, was around 
their council-fires. The Councils themselves formed 
a bond of union, and drew them together instinctively. 
They furnished the excitements and the recreations of 
Indian life, as well as relieved the monotony of peace. 
It was here they recounted their exploits upon the 
war-path, or listened to the eloquence of favorite 
chiefs. Here they offered tributes of respect to those 
deceased sachems who had rendered themselves illus 
trious by public services ; or listened to the laws and 
regulations of their ancestors, which were explained by 
their sages in the ceremonial of raising up successors. 
It was here, also, that they celebrated their athletic 
games with Olympic zeal ; and joined in those national 
dances, some of which were indescribably beautiful and 

Custom required the particular tribe in which 
sachems had been raised up, to furnish a daily enter 
tainment to the multitude during the continuance of 
the council. The pursuits of the day were suspended 
as the shades of evening began to fall, and they all sat 
down to a common repast, which the matrons of the 
tribe had prepared. After the business upon which 
the council convened had been consummated, each 
day in succession was devoted to the simple but diver 
sified amusements of Indian life, the twilight to the 
feast, and the evening to the dance. The wild notes 
of their various tunes, accompanied by the turtle-shell 
rattle and the drum ; the rattles, which entered into the 



costumes of the warriors, and the noise of the moving 
throng, all united, sent forth a " sound of revelry " 
which fell with strange accents in the hours of night 
upon the solemn stillness of the woods. This sound 
of pleasure and amusement was continued from day 
to day, until " pleasure itself became satiety," and 
amusement had lost its power to charm. 

When the spirit of festivity had become exhausted, 
the fire of the Hen-nun-do-nuk-seh was raked together, 
and the several nations bent their way homeward 
through the forest. Silence once more resumed her 
sway over the deserted scene, as the sounds of merri 
ment subsided, and the lingering hum of the dissolving 
council died insensibly away. Obscurity next ad 
vanced with stealthy mien, and quickly folding the 
incidents of this sylvan pageant in her dusky mantle, 
she bore them, with their associations, their teachings, 
and their remembrances, into the dark realm of 
Oblivion ; from which their recall would be as hope 
less as would be the last shout which rang along the 

The celebration of their religious festivals was 
through the instrumentality of councils, and these 
form the third class. But as they are described in 
the succeeding pages, no further mention of them 
will now be made, except to notice them as one of the 
species into which the councils of the Iroquois are 
properly divisible. In addition to the religious coun 
cils which were held at the period of their festivals, 
the mourning council was always made an occasion 
for religious and moral instruction. Many of its 
exercises were of a strictly religious character, and it 

118 " 


would be more proper to designate it as a religious 
council, than by any other name, but for the circum 
stance that its object was to raise up rulers, and its 
ceremonies were entirely distinct from those at the 
regular festivals. 

The influence of the civil, mourning and religious 
councils upon the people would, of itself, furnish an 
extensive subject of inquiry. Like all the pursuits of 
Indian life, they changed but little from age to age, 
and were alike in their essential characteristics, in their 
mode of transacting business, in their festivities, and 
in the spirit by which they were animated. From the 
frequency of their occurrence, and the deep interest 
with which they were regarded, it is evident that they 
exercised a vast influence upon the race. The inter 
course and society which they afforded, had, undoubt 
edly, a power to humanize and soften down the 
asperities of character which their mode of life was 
calculated to produce. 


Chapter VI 

Species of Government Progress of Governments from Monarchy 
to Democracy Illustrated by a View of Grecian Institutions 
The League an Oligarchy Liberty of the People Stability of 
the League Prospects at the Discovery Its Decline 

THE Ruling Body of the League, with its 
powers, and the tenure of office of its mem 
bers the division of the people into tribes, 
with the cross-relationships between them the laws of 
succession with their incidents and the councils of the 
Iroquois with their mode of proceeding, spirit and ef 
fects, have severally been brought under consideration. 

Upon the facts derived from these sources of in 
vestigation, the true character of the Iroquois gov 
ernment must be settled. If it is referable to any 
determined species, the constituent parts and gen 
eral features of the League, which have formed the 
subjects of the preceding chapters, will determine its 
position in the scale of civil organizations established 
by political writers. 

In their original, well-developed institutions, and 
in their government, so systematic in its construc 
tion, and so liberal in its administration, there is 
much to enforce a tribute of respect to the intelli 
gence of our Indian predecessors. Without such 
institutions, and without that animating spirit which 
they nourished and diffused, it would be difficult to 
account for the production of such men as have 



sprung up among the Iroquois. The development 
of national intellect depends chiefly upon external, 
reciprocal influences, and is usually proportionate to 
the vitality and motive which the institutions of a 
people possess and furnish. 

To illustrate, substantially, the nature of their 
government, it will be necessary to notice the several 
species which have been instituted among men, the 
natural order of their origination, the relations in 
which they mutually stand to each other, and their 
general characteristics. In no other way can a clear 
conception be obtained of the character of the Iroquois 
government, and the relation which it sustains to other 
political fabrics. No apology, therefore, will be nec 
essary for the digression. 

Aristotle, and other Grecian political writers, rec 
ognized but three species of government : the monar 
chical, the aristocratical, and the democratical ; the 
rule of " one," the " few," and the " many." Every 
other variety was regarded as the wreck, or perversion, 
of one of the three. If, for example, the first was 
corrupted, it became a tyranny ; if the second degen 
erated, it was styled an oligarchy ; and if the last 
became tumultuous, it was called an ochlocracy. A 
polity, or the rule of a large body of select citizens, 
was a milder form of oligarchy. This classification 
admits of a qualification to the definition of an aristoc 
racy and oligarchy, hereafter to be noticed. 

Modern political writers also recognize three spe 
cies, as laid down by Montesquieu : the despotic, the 
monarchical, and the republican. The aristocratic 
and democratic forms of the Greeks are included in 



the republican form of modern times : while the 
monarchical government of the present day "the 
rule of a single person by fixed laws " was entirely 
unknown to the ancient Greeks. It is further ob 
servable that a despotism, as defined by Montesquieu, 
corresponds precisely with the monarchy of Aristotle. 

The order of their origination suggests an impor 
tant general principle ; that there is a regular pro 
gression of political institutions, from the monarchical, 
which are the earliest in time, on to the democratical, 
which are the last, the noblest, and the most intellec 
tual. This position can be established by the rise 
and development of the Grecian institutions, and may 
be further illustrated by the progressive change in 
the spirit and nature of other governments. 

An unlimited monarchy, or "the rule of a single 
individual according to his own will," is the form 
of government natural to a people when in an un 
civilized state, or when just emerging from barbarism. 
In the progress of time, by the growth and expansion 
of civil liberty, the monarchy becomes liberalized 
or limited, and a few steps forward introduce universal 
democracy. Hence it is noticeable in the rise of all 
races, and in the formation of all states, that the idea 
of chief and follower, or sovereign and people, is 
of spontaneous suggestion. This notion may be 
regarded as inherent to society in its primitive state. 

It will be remembered that when the Hellenic 
tribes came down from Thessaly, and finally settled 
themselves upon the shores of the Mediterranean, 
their political relations were those of chief and fol 
lower. After they had become subdivided into a 




large number of petty states, and migrations and 
intermixtures had subsided, leaving each principality 
under its own ruler, and to the formation of its own 
institutions, the monarchical form of government 
became fully "established. The small territory of 
Greece was parcelled out between nearly twenty petty 
kingdoms. During the Heroic ages, which are un 
derstood to have commenced with this inundation 
of the Grecian territory by the Hellenes, and to have 
terminated with the Trojan war, a period of about 
two hundred years, the kingly government was the 
only one among the Greeks. 

At the close of the Heroic ages, a new state of 
affairs became apparent. Around the reigning fam 
ilies in the several kingdoms, there had sprung up 
a class of Eupatrids, or nobles, who were in possession 
of most of the landed estates. Having elevated them 
selves far above the mass of the people, in the social 
scale, they gradually absorbed political powers which 
had before been vested in the kings. By the silent 
but natural growth of this aristocracy, continued 
encroachments were made upon the prerogatives of 
royalty, until at last the kings were brought down 
to a level with their Eupatrids. An aristocracy was 
thus substituted for monarchy ; and nearly all the 
states of Greece, in their political progress towards 
democracy, passed out of the monarchical into the aris- 
tocratical form of government. 

This form, although indicative of more liberality 
than the former, and adapted to the state of civil 
society then existing, pressed heavily upon the peo 
ple ; and while it existed, was unfavorable to the ele- 



vation of the race. The Demos, or common people, 
were free, but were excluded from all political privi 
leges ; hence, with the increase of their intelligence, 
would be excited jealousies of the incumbent class. 
At times, the very existence of the aristocracy de 
pended upon the forcible subjection of the Demos ; 
for when the great and just sentiment of " political 
equality " began to be coupled with that of " personal 
liberty," no form of government could rest in per 
manent security, which limited the one, or denied the 
other. The Grecian mind was eminently progressive. 
No power could subdue or enslave that native energy, 
which had exemplified itself in the hardy enterprises 
of the Heroic ages. Nothing could repress or last 
ingly fetter that majestic intellect, out of which, even 
then, had sprung a system of mythology destined to 
infuse itself into the literature of all generations, and 
to quicken the intellects of every clime a system so 
remarkable as an exhibition of the unguided devotional 
nature of man, and so brilliant as a creation of the 
imagination, that it may be characterized as the great 
est production of genius and credulity which ever 
emanated from the mind of man. 

In the progress of events, the aristocracies were suc 
cessfully invaded by an uprising of men of wealth, or 
of capacity, from among the common people. These 
ambitious plebeians demanded a place in the ruling 
body, and if refused, they became the champions of 
the people, and engaged in measures for the over 
throw of the government. Such difficulties were 
usually avoided by admitting these new families to a 
place among the Eupatrids, and to a participation in 



the administration. In this way the aristocracy of 
wealth and talent was in a measure placed upon an 
equality with that of birth ; and by the act the gov 
ernment itself was widened, or liberalized. 

These inroads upon the aristocracy, which generally 
resulted in the infusion of the popular element, may 
be regarded as the introduction or commencement of 
the oligarchy. The difference between the two species 
is to be sought in the spirit by which each respectively 
was actuated, and not in their forms ; for the same 
body of aristocrats usually became oligarchs by a 
change in the spirit of the government. When an 
aristocracy became corrupt and odious to the people, 
and sought only to perpetuate its own power, it be 
came, in the Grecian sense, a faction, an oligarchy. 
It ceased to be the rule of the " best men " (apioToi), 
and became the rule of the " few " (oXtyot). This 
definition admits of a qualification. When an aristoc 
racy became widened or liberalized, by the admission 
of men of capacity to an equal position, and the gov 
ernment assumed a milder spirit, the aristocracy 
would, in effect, be changed, but not into a faction. 
It would be as unlike a rigorous aristocracy as an oli 
garchical faction, and may be denominated a simple or 
liberal oligarchy. The government of the Iroquois 
falls under this precise definition. It cannot be called 
an aristocracy, because the sachems of the League 
possessed no landed estates, which, it is well known, 
are the only true foundation of an aristocracy ; neither 
were their titles or privileges hereditary, in the strict 
sense, which is another important element of an aris 
tocracy. Their government, however, was the rule 

I2 5 


of " the few." It was an aristocracy liberalized, until 
it stood upon the very verge of democracy. It an 
swers to the idea of an oligarchy, which is the last 
form of government but one, in the progressive 

The governments of the Grecian states appear to 
have oscillated for centuries between the rigorous aris 
tocracies, oligarchical factions, and milder oligarchies. 
These forms were rather transition than permanent 
conditions of their civil institutions. During the 
period of their prevalence, the people, who, as before 
remarked, were personally free, but debarred from 
political privileges, were gradually improving their 
condition by the accumulation of wealth, and consoli 
dating their strength by the uprearing of flourishing 
cities. With the increase of their respectability, and 
the expansion of their power, the struggle with the in 
cumbent class was continued with greater and still 
greater success. Principles of government became 
better understood, and more enlarged views of the 
rights of man continued to quicken the Grecian mind. 
Every successive age added to the popular intelli 
gence ; and the people gradually, but constantly, con 
tinued to repossess themselves of their original 
authority. The growth of liberty and free institutions 
among the Greeks was slow, but irresistible. The 
struggle of the people for emancipation lasted from 
generation to generation, from century to century ; 
until, having emerged from .the darkness of barbarism, 
and worked their way through every species of gov 
ernment ever devised by the genius of man, they 
achieved at last a triumph ; and their institutions, 



which had been planted and nourished during this 
march of ages, finally ripened into universal democ 

In the history of the States of Greece, there is 
noticeable in the midst of a wide diversity of events, 
a great uniformity of progress with a difference in 
the period of the development of political changes, a 
marked tendency to the same results. Every change 
in their institutions, from the era of absolute mon 
archy, made them more liberal ; but it required up 
ward of seven centuries to liberalize them into a " fin 
ished democracy which fully satisfied the Greek notion ; 
a state in which every attribute of sovereignty might 
be shared, without respect to rank or property, by 
every freeman." The Greeks began with monarchy, 
and having passed through all the intermediate species 
and shades of government in the progressive series, 
they finally developed their highest capacities, their 
most brilliant genius, under the bounding pulse of an 
extreme, even enthusiastic democracy. How truthful 
the exclamation of Herodotus : " Liberty is a brave 

1 The Trojan War closed 1184 B. c., and the States of Greece soon 
afterwards passed out of the monarchical form of government. At 
Athens it was abolished in 1068 B. c. But not until about the year 
470 B. C., when Aristides the Just removed the last aristocratical features 
from the Athenian institutions, could Athens be called a " finished 
democracy. " He broke up the distinctions between the classes which 
Solon had established, and opened all the dignities of the State to 
every citizen. Between the Trojan war and this last period, the Atheni 
ans had passed through Monarchy, Tyranny, Aristocracy, Faction, An 
archy, Oligarchy, Polity, and limited Democracy. With the legislation 
of Aristides commenced the rapid elevation of the city of Minerva, and 
of that noble, unequalled race. 



The same tendency of institutions towards democ 
racy, as races elevate themselves in the scale of civiliza 
tion, can be observed in the progressive improvement 
of British institutions. No people have been sub 
jected to such tests, civil and religious ; and issued 
from the throes of revolution with more character, 
more civilization, more majesty of intellect, for 
achievements in legislation, science and learning, than 
our parent, Anglo-Saxon race. Their career, with all 
its vicissitudes, from the union of the Heptarchies 
under Egbert, down to the final settlement of the 
government on the expulsion of the second James, is 
full of instruction full of great lessons. They have 
tested monarchy in all its degrees of strength and 
weakness, of popularity and odium, of oppression and 
dependence. Their nobles have enjoyed all the priv 
ileges, immunities, and powers, which possession of 
the landed estates, the vassalage of the people, and 
independence of the crown could secure; while in turn 
they have been humble and submissive, even servile, 
under the arbitrary sway of tyrannous kings. The 
people, before the time of Edward the First, were 
cyphers in the State. Since then, they have suffered 
religious bondage, and the oppression of a feudal aris 
tocracy. In the progress of events, however, they 
have constantly enlarged the quantity of their liberty, 
and strengthened the guarantees of personal security. 
But if they finally achieved that personal freedom 
which the Grecian citizen never lost, they never 
have secured that " equality of privileges " which was 
the constant aspiration of the Greek until attained, 
which was the watchword in the struggle for American 



freedom, and which now lies at the foundation of our 
own political edifice. 

The British government has been liberalized from 
age to age, until it may now be said t stand in 
trenched upon the borders of free institutions. 

Returning from this digression, which was designed 
to illustrate the position, not very recondite, of a pro 
gression of institutions, from the monarchical, the 
earliest form of political society, on to the democrat- 
ical, the last, and most truly enlightened ; we can now 
take up the government of the Iroquois, and deter 
mine the position which it occupies between the two 
extremes of monarchy on the one hand, and democ 
racy on the other. 

The Iroquois had passed out of the earliest form 
of government, that of chief and follower, which is 
incident both to the hunter and nomadic states, into 
the oligarchical form. It is obvious that the hunter 
life is incompatible with monarchy, except in its minia 
ture form of chief and follower; and the Ho-de-no- 
sau-nee^ in improving upon this last relation, passed 
over the monarchical, into the rule of " the few." 
Several tribes first united into one nation. The 
people mingled by intermarriage, and the power of 
the chiefs ceased to be several, and became joint. 
This gave to the nation an aristocratical, or oligarch 
ical form of government, according to the spirit by 
which it was actuated. By a still higher effort of 
legislation, several nations were united in a league or 
confederacy ; placing the people upon an equality, and 
introducing a community of privileges. The national 
rulers then became in a united body the rulers of the 
VOL. i. 9 129 


League. In this manner would be constituted oli 
garchies within an embracing oligarchy, imperium in 
imperio, presenting the precise government of the 
Iroquois, and with great probability the exact manner 
of its origination, growth and final settlement. 

The Grecian oligarchies do not furnish an exact 
type of that of our Indian predecessors. In its con 
struction the latter was more perfect, systematic and 
liberal than those of antiquity. There was in the 
Indian fabric more of fixedness, more of dependence 
upon the people, more of vigor. It would be difficult 
to find a fairer specimen of the government of the few, 
than the one under consideration. In the happy con 
stitution of its ruling body, and in the effective secur 
ity of the people from misgovernment it stands 
unrivalled. In assigning to this government its 
specific name, it will be sufficient to adopt the etymol 
ogy of the word oligarchy, the rule of the few, reject 
ing the usual Grecian acceptation of the term, a 
degenerated aristocracy. The substitution of the female 
line for the male, effecting thereby the disinheritance 
of the son, (57) the partially elective character of the 
sachemships, the absence of all landed estates, and the 
power of deposing lodged with the tribes, are reasons 
conclusive for regarding the government of the Iro 
quois as an oligarchy rather than an aristocracy. 

The spirit which prevailed in the nations and in 
the Confederacy was that of freedom. The people 
appear to have secured to themselves all the liberty 
which the hunter state rendered desirable. They fully 
appreciated its value, as is evinced by the liberality of 
their institutions. The red man was always free from 



political bondage, and, more worthy still of remem 
brance, his " free limbs never wore a shackle." His 
spirit could never be bowed in servitude. In the 
language of Charlevoix, the Iroquois were "entirely 
convinced that man was born free, that no power on 
earth had any right to make any attempts against 
his liberty, and that nothing could make him amends 
for its loss." It would be difficult to describe any 
political society, in which there was less of oppression 
and discontent, more of individual independence and 
boundless freedom. The absence of family distinc 
tions, and of all property, together with the irresist 
ible inclination for the chase, rendered the social 
condition of the people peculiar to itself. It secured 
to them an exemption from the evils, as well as 
denied to them the refinements, which flow from the 
possession of wealth, and the indulgence of the social 
relations. (12G) 

At this point the singular trait in the character of 
the red man suggests itself, that he never felt the 
" power of gain." The auri sacra fames of Virgil, the 
studium lucri of Horace, never penetrated his nature. 
This great passion of civilized man, in its use and 
abuse his blessing and his curse, never roused the 
Indian mind. (103) It was doubtless the great rea 
son of his continuance in the hunter state ; for the 
desire of gain is one of the earliest manifestations of 
progressive mind, and one of the most powerful pas 
sions of which the mind is susceptible. It clears the 
forest, rears the city, builds the merchantman in a 
word, it has civilized our race. 

All things considered, the Iroquois oligarchy excites 


a belief of its superiority over those of antiquity. 
Those of Greece were exceedingly unstable, and 
therefore incline us to regard them as transition states 
of their institutions ; while that of the Ho-de -no-sau- 
nee was guarded in so many ways for the resistance of 
political changes, that it would have required a very 
energetic popular movement for its overthrow. The 
former retained many elements of aristocracy, while 
the latter had become so far liberalized as to be almost 
entirely free. Without the influence of cities, which 
no people construct who live in the hunter state, and 
the important consequences which result from the 
aggregation of society into large communities, the 
government of the Iroquois would doubtless have 
retained its oligarchical form through many gener 
ations. It would have lasted until the people had 
abandoned the hunter state ; until they had given up 
the chase for agriculture, the arts of war for those of 
industry, the hunting-ground and the fishing encamp 
ment for the village and the city. 

It will not be necessary to extend the inquiry, to 
exhibit more fully the gradual changes in the govern 
ment of the Iroquois, by which it was brought upon 
the verge of free institutions. The creation of the 
class of chiefs furnishes the clearest evidence of the 
development of the popular element. The proofs of 
its extreme liberality have been sufficiently exhibited 
in the structure of the government itself. Reflections 
could be multiplied upon its spirit, its influence upon 
the people, its operative force in the development of 
talent, and its adaptation to produce its historical 
results ; but it is not deemed necessary to carry for- 



ward reflections of this description. An outline of 
the structure of the League has been drawn, and from 
its general characteristics its principles can be easily 

Under this simple but beautiful fabric of Indian 
construction arose the power of the Iroquois, reach 
ing, at its full meridian, over a large portion of our 
republic. In their Long House, which opened its 
door upon Niagara, they found shelter in the hour 
of attack, resources for conquest in the season of 
ambitious projects, and happiness and contentment in^ 
the days of peace. In adaptation to their mode of 
life, their habits and their wants, no scheme of govern 
ment could have been devised better calculated for 
their security against outward attack, their triumph 
upon the war-path, and their internal tranquillity. It 
is, perhaps, the only league of nations ever instituted 
among men, which can point to three centuries of 
uninterrupted domestic unity and peace. 

The institutions which would be expected to exist 
under such a political system as that of the Iroquois, 
would necessarily be simple. Their mode of life and 
limited wants, the absence of property in a compar 
ative sense, and the infrequency of crime dispensed 
with a vast amount of the legislation and machinery 
incident to the protection of civilized society. While, 
therefore, it would be unreasonable to seek those high 
qualities of mind which result from ages of cultivation, 
in such a rude state of existence, it would be equally 
irrational to regard the Indian character as devoid 
of all those higher characteristics which ennoble the 
human race. If he has never contributed a page to 


science, nor a discovery to art ; (93) if he loses in the 
progress of generations as much as he gains ; still 
there are certain qualities of his mind which shine forth 
in all the lustre of natural perfection. His simple 
f- integrity, his generosity, his unbounded hospitality, 
his love of truth, and, above all, his unshaken fidelity 
a sentiment inborn, and standing out so conspic 
uously in his character, that it has not untruthfully 
become its characteristic : all these are adornments of 
humanity, which no art of education can instil, nor 
refinement of civilization can bestow. If they exist 
at all, it is because the gifts of the Deity have never 
been perverted. 

There was, however, a fatal deficiency in Indian 
society, in the non-existence of a progressive spirit. 
The same rounds of amusement, of business, of 
warfare, of the chase, and of domestic intercourse 
continued from generation to generation. There was 
neither progress nor invention, nor increase of political 
wisdom. Old forms were preserved, old customs 
adhered to. Whatever they gained upon one point 
they lost upon another, leaving the second generation 
but little wiser than the first. The Iroquois, in some 
respects, were in advance of their red neighbors. 
They had attempted the establishment of their insti 
tutions upon a broader basis, and already men of high 
capacity had sprung up among them, as their political 
system unfolded. If their Indian empire had been 
suffered to work out its own results, it is still 
problematical whether the vast power they would have 
accumulated, and the intellect which would have been 
developed by their diversified affairs, would not, 

T 34 


together, have been sufficiently potent to draw the 
people from the hunter into the agricultural state. 
The hunter state is the zero of human society, and 


while the red man was bound by its spell, there* 
was no hope of his elevation. 

In a speculative point of view, the institutions of 
the Iroquois assume an interesting aspect. Would 
they, at maturity, have emancipated the people from 
their strange infatuation for a hunter life ; as those of 
the Toltecs and Aztecs had before effected the disen- 
thralment of those races in the latitudes of Mexico? 
It cannot be denied that there are some grounds for 
the belief that their institutions would eventually have 
ripened into civilization. The Iroquois, at all times, 
have manifested sufficient intellect to promise a high 
degree of improvement, if it had once become awak 
ened and directed to right pursuits. Centuries, how 
ever, might have been requisite to effect the change. 

But their institutions have a real, a present value, 
for what they were, irrespective of what they might 
have become. The Iroquois were our predecessors 
in the sovereignty. Our country they once called 
their country, our rivers and lakes were their rivers 
and lakes, our hills and intervales were also theirs. 
Before us they enjoyed the beautiful scenery spread 
out between the Hudson and Niagara, in its wonder 
ful diversity from the pleasing to the sublime. Before 
us, were they invigorated by our climate, and were 
nourished by the bounties of the earth, the forest and 
the stream. The tie by which we are thus connected 
carries with it the duty of doing justice to their 
memory, by preserving their name and deeds, their 



customs and their institutions, lest they perish from 
remembrance. We cannot wish to tread ignorantly 
upon those extinguished council-fires, whose light, in 
the days of aboriginal dominion, was visible over half 
the continent. 

The political structures of our primitive inhabitants 
have, in general, proved exceedingly unsubstantial. Iso 
lated nations, by some superiority of institutions, or 
casual advantage of location, sprang up with an ener 
getic growth, and for a season spread their dominion 
far and wide. After a brief period of prosperity, they 
were borne back by adverse fortune into their original 
obscurity ; thus rendering these boundless territories 
the constant scene of human conflict, and of the rise 
and fall of Indian sovereignties. It was reserved for 
the Iroquois to rest themselves upon a more durable 
foundation, by the establishment of a League. This 
alliance between their nations they cemented by the 
imperishable bands of tribal relationship. At the 
epoch of Saxon occupation, they were rapidly building 
up an empire, which threatened the absorption or ex 
termination of the whole Indian family east of the 
Mississippi. Their power had become sufficient to 
set at defiance all hostile invasions from contiguous 
nations; and the League itself, while it suffered no loss 
of numbers by emigrating bands, was endued with a 
capacity for indefinite expansion. At the periods of 
their separate discovery, the Aztecs on the south, and 
the Iroquois in the north were the only Indian races 
upon the continent, whose institutions promised, at 
maturity, to ripen into civilization. Such were the 
condition and prospects of this Indian League, when 



Hendrick Hudson, more than two centuries since 
(1609), sailed up the river which constituted their east 
ern boundary. This silent voyage of the navigator 
may be regarded as the opening event in the series, 
which resulted in reversing the political prospects of 
the Ho-de-no-sau-nee, and in introducing into their Long 
House an invader, more relentless in his purposes, and 
more invincible in arms, than the red men against 
whose assaults it had been erected, w ^ fa* p^f-v 
Their council-fires, so far as they are emblematical of 
civil jurisdiction, have long since been extinguished, 
their empire has terminated, and the shades of evening 
are now gathering thickly over the scattered and feeble 
remnants of this once powerful League. Race has 
yielded to race, the inevitable result of the contact of 
the civilized with the hunter life. Who shall relate 
with what pangs of regret they yielded up, from river 
to river and from lake to lake, this fair broad domain 
of their fathers. The Iroquois will soon be lost as a 
people, in that night of impenetrable darkness in which 
so many Indian races have been enshrouded. Already 
their country has been appropriated, their forests 
cleared, and their trails obliterated. The residue of 
this proud and gifted race, who still linger around their 
native seats, are destined to fade away, until they be 
come eradicated as an Indian stock. We shall .ere 
long look backward to the Iroquois, as a race blotted 
from existence ; but tq remember them as a people 
whose sachems had no cities, whose religion had no 
temples, and whose government had no record. 



Chapter I 

Faith of the Iroquois Belief in the Great Spirit The Evil-Minded 
He -No, The Thunderer Ga -o, Spirit ot the Winds The 
Three Sisters The Invisible Aids Witches False Faces 
Legendary Literature Immortality of the Soul Future Pun 
ishments Moral Sentiments Burial Customs Abode of 
the Great Spirit Washington Spirituality of their Faith Its 

THE mind is, by nature, full of religious ten 
dencies. Man, when left to the guidance of 
his own inward persuasions, searches after the 
Author of his being, and seeks to comprehend the 
purposes of his existence, and his final destiny. In 
every age and condition of society, the best thoughts 
of the most gifted intellects have been expended upon 
religious subjects. The conclusions reached by reflec 
tive mind, under the inspiration of the works of nature, 
are propagated from generation to generation, until they 
grow, by natural enlargement, into a system of fixed 
Beliefs. Upon them is afterwards engrafted a system of 
Worship. The two flourish side by side with perpetual 
vigor. They become interwoven with the civil and social 
institutions of men, and by nurture and habit acquire 
such a firm hold upon the affections, that they form a 
part of the living, thinking, acting mind. Without a 



knowledge, therefore, of the religious life of a people, 
their institutions, and their political and domestic trans 
actions would be wholly inexplicable. 

Remarkable features are exhibited in the religious 
system of the Iroquois, when contrasted with other 
systems of similar origin. Emanating from the mind 
of man alone, originating in the simplest form of hu 
man society, it would naturally be encumbered by the 
vagaries of fancy, and be upheld by affection rather 
than logic. But man, shut out from the light of revela 
tion, and left to construct his own theology, will discover 
some part of the truth, as shadowed forth by the works 
of nature. This will illuminate his footsteps, in pro 
portion to his appreciation of its excellence, and his 
faithful adherence to its divine monitions. The faith 
and worship of the Iroquois are entitled to a favorable 
consideration, by reason of the principles of belief which 
they recognized, and the fundamental truths which 
they inculcated. Established upon some of those 
luminous principles which lie at the foundation of sound 
theology, the blemishes in their spiritual edifice are com 
pensated, in some degree, by the purity of its elements. 

The Greeks discovered the traces of divinity in 
every object in nature ; in the affections and passions, 
in the elements of earth and air, in the rivulet, the 
mountain and the sea. Ascending from these types 
to their several supposed originals, they grasped at 
Deity in a multitude of fragments, as proclaimed by 
the divided works of creation. Failing, with all the 
acumen and inspiration of their marvellous intellect, to 
raise their mental vision above Olympus, and to ascend 
from united nature up to the indivisible and Eternal 



One, they perfected and beautified that stupendous 
production of genius and credulity, the polytheism 
of the ancient world. 

Between the popular belief of the ancients and that 
of the Iroquois there are some coincidences. This 
similarity of ideas is observable in a portion of their 
legends and fables, but more especially in their notions 
of the spiritual world. Like the ancients, they peopled 
the invisible world with spiritual existences. In their 
inferior spiritualities, they fell infinitely below the 
splendid creations of the ancient mythology ; but in 
their knowledge of the Supreme Being, they rose, in 
many respects, far above the highest conceptions of 
the ancient philosophy. It will be at once conceded, 
that the Supreme Intelligence announced by Anaxago- 
ras, Socrates and Plato, the Numen Pr<stantissim<e 
Mentis of the ancient philosophical religionists, was in 
itself a more vague and indefinite conception, than 
that divine Being worshipped by the entire red race 
under the appellation of the Great Spirit. 62 96) 

Upon the first great question in theology, the Stoic, 
the Epicurean, and the other sects of philosophers 
equally reached the same fundamental conclusion, esse 
Deos, "the Gods exist." This truth, they affirmed, 
was not only revealed by the works of nature, but it 
was also innate, and written in the mind of man. 1 But 

1 Omnibus enim innatum est et in animo quasi insculptum, esse Deos. 
Cicero De Natura Deorum, Lib. ii. cap. iv. Solus enim vidit, (Epicurus,) 
primum esse Deos, quod in omnium animis eorum notionem impressisset 
ipsa natura. Ib. Lib. i. c. xvi. Quid enim potest esse tarn apertum tamque 
perspicuum, quum caslum suspeximus, caelestiaque contemplati sumus, 
quam esse aliquod numen prasstantissimse mentis, quo hsec segantur ? Ib. 
Lib. ii. c. ii. 



in a multitude of Gods, each clothed with separate and 
distinct offices and powers, and all subject to a grada 
tion in rank, the popular belief reposed. The idea 
of one Supreme Being was a sublime induction of phi 
losophy, and far above the level of popular intelligence. 
This great truth, therefore, failed tD become even feebly 
incorporated with the overshadowing mythology of 
antiquity. With the red race, ho vever, the belief not 
only prevailed that a Great Spirit existed, but they 
made the same induction from the works of nature the 
foundation of their religious system. 

There is also a coincidence of belief in relation to 
the origin of spiritual existences. The ancient mythol 
ogy taught, that the Gods were born, natives esse Deos, 
and furnished, at the same time, their genealogy, with 
all the minuteness of legendary license. The Iroquois, 
also, believed that the Great Spirit was born ; and 
tradition has handed down the narrative, with embel 
lishments of fancy which Hesiod himself would not 
have disdained. 1 

Whether the Gods ruled the universe, and were in 
terested in the affairs of men, was a disputed question 
in the ancient schools. The Epicureans taught that 
they were unmindful of all human transactions, and 
spent their existence in ease and pleasure. 2 But the 
Stoics took the opposite view, and not only affirmed 

1 The tradition of the birth of the Good Spirit and the Evil Spirit is 
much the same among the numerous Indian races within the Republic. It 
is not peculiar to the Iroquois. 

2 Nihil enim agit : nullis occupationibus est implicatus : nulla opera 
molitur : sua sapientia et virtute gaudet : habet exploratum, fore se sem 
per turn in maximis, turn in asternis voluptatibus. Hunc Deum rite bea- 
tum dixerimus. Cic. De Nat. Deo. Lib. i. cap. xix. 



their constant supervision and intervention in human 
affairs, but also their active administration of the works 
of nature. 1 This was also the popular belief. The 
notions of the Iroquois approached nearest to the 
latter. In error in ascribing to the Great Spirit a 
finite origin, and with feeble conceptions of his attri 
butes, they yet believed him to be their creator, ruler 
and preserver ; and that in him was the residuum of 

The creation of the world was also a subject which 
divided the ancient schools. In a belief in the eternity 
of matter, they, in general, concurred. Plato and the 
Stoics, however, taught that the visible universe was 
fashioned and constructed by the direct agency of 
God. This opinion, not of the creation of matter, but 
of the formation of the world, encountered the ridicule 
of the Epicureans. 2 This is one of those questions 
with which human wisdom is unable to cope. In their 
religious system, the Iroquois have but little to do 
with the creation of the visible universe. According 
to the tradition, the earth grew miraculously, a self- 
prepared abode for the Great Spirit. Concerning the 
universe which existed before the advent of the Great 
Spirit, they pretend to no knowledge. To the Great 
Spirit, however, the Iroquois ascribed creative power. 

1 Sunt autem alii philosophi, et hi quidem magni atque nobilis, qui 
Deorum mente atque ratione omnem mundum administrari et regi cen- 
seant : neque vero id solum, sed etiam ab iisdem vitae hominum consuli et 
provideri. Id. Lib. i. cap. ii. 

2 Quibus enim oculis animi intueri potuit vester Plato fabricam illam 
tanti operis, qua construi a Deo atque aedificari mundum facit ? Quse 
molitio ? quae ferramenta ? qui rectes ? quse machinae ? qui ministri tanti 
muneris fuerunt ? Quemadmodurn autem obedire et parere voluntati 
architect! aer, ignis, aqua, terra potuerunt. Id. 1. i. c. viii. 

VOL. I. 10 


He created not only the animal and vegetable world, 
but also adapted the elements, and the whole visible 
universe to the wants of man. 

That the Indian, without the aid of revelation, 
should have arrived at a fixed belief in the existence of 
one Supreme Being, has ever been matter of surprise 
and admiration. In the existence of the Great Spirit, 
an invisible but ever-present Deity, the universal red 
race believed. His personal existence became a first 
principle, an intuitive belief, which neither the lapse 
of centuries could efface, nor inventions of man could 
corrupt. By the diffusion of this great truth, if the 
Indian did not escape the spell of superstition, which 
resulted from his imperfect knowledge of the Deity, 
and his ignorance of natural phenomena; yet he was 
saved from the deepest of all barbarisms, an idolatrous 
worship. The Iroquois believed in the constant 
superintending care of the Great Spirit. He ruled 
and administered the world, and the affairs of the red 
race. As Moses taught that Jehovah was the God of 
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of his chosen people, 
so the Iroquois regarded the Great Spirit as the God 
of the Indian alone. They looked up to him as the 
author of their being, the source of their temporal 
blessings, and the future dispenser of the felicities of 
their heavenly home. To him they rendered constant 
thanks and homage for the changes in the seasons, the 
fruits of the earth, the preservation of their lives, and 
for their social privileges and political prosperity ; and 
to him they addressed their prayers for the continuance 
of his protecting care. Their knowledge of the attri 
butes of the Great Spirit was necessarily limited and 



imperfect. Of his goodness and beneficence they had 
a full impression, and some notions, also, of his jus 
tice and perfection. But they could not fully conceive 
of the omnipresence of the Great Spirit, except 
through the instrumentality of a class of inferior 
spiritual existences, by whom he was surrounded. 
His power was evidenced by the creation of man. 
He was also believed to be self-existent and immor 
tal. The ennobling and exalting views of the Deity 
which are now held by enlightened and Christian na 
tions would not be expected among a people excluded 
from the light of revelation. In the simple truths of 
natural religion they were thoroughly indoctrinated, 
and many of these truths were held in great purity and 
simplicity. Such is the power of truth over the hu 
man mind, and the harmony of all truth, that the 
Indian, without the power of logic, reached some of 
the most important conclusions of philosophy, and 
drew down from heaven some of the highest truths of 

While the religious system of the Iroquois taught 
the existence of the Great Spirit Ha-wen-ne-yu, it 
also recognized the personal existence of an Evil Spirit, 
Ha-ne-go-ate-geh, the Evil-minded. According to the 
legend of their finite origin, they were brothers, born 
at the same birth, and destined to an endless existence. 
To the Evil Spirit, in a limited degree, was ascribed 
creative power. As the Great Spirit created man, and 
all useful animals, and products of the earth, so the 
Evil Spirit created all monsters, poisonous reptiles, 

1 This is an original uncompounded word, and in the Seneca dialect. 
It signifies simply " A Ruler." 



and noxious plants. In a word, while the former 
made everything that was good and subservient, the 
latter formed everything that was bad and pernicious 
to man. One delighted in virtue, and in the happiness 
of his creatures, to which end he exercised over them 
his unceasing protection. The other was committed 
to deeds of evil, and was ever watchful to scatter dis 
cord among men, and multiply their calamities. Over 
the Evil-minded the Great Spirit exercised no positive 
authority, although possessed of the power to over 
come him, if disposed to its exertion. Each ruled an 
independent kingdom, with powers underived. Man s 
free agency stood between them, with which, in effect, 
he controlled his own destiny. A life of trust and 
confidence in the Great Spirit, and of obedience to 
his commands, afforded a refuge and a shelter to the 
pious Indian against the machinations of the Evil- 

Inferior spiritual beings were also recognized in 
the theology of the Iroquois. Though not as ac 
curately described and classified as those of the an 
cient mythology, they yet exhibit with them some 
singular coincidences ; although these coincidences, 
real or imaginary, show nothing but the similarity 
of human ideas in similar conditions of society. 
They were classified into good and evil, the former 
being the assistants and subordinates of the Great 
Spirit, while the latter were the emissaries and de 
pendents of the Evil-minded. To some of them 
was assigned a bodily form, a " local habitation, and 
a name." To the former class of these spiritual ex 
istences, they were wont to render their acknowledg- 



ments at their annual festivals for imagined favors, 
and to supplicate of the Great Spirit the continuance 
of their watchful care. In the creation of these sub 
ordinate beings, the Iroquois manifested their knowl 
edge of the necessity of an Omnipresent Ruler ; and 
at the same time they exhibited their limited com 
prehension of infinite power. Through these instru 
mentalities, they believed the Great Spirit was enabled, 
with ease and convenience, to administer the affairs 
of nature, and of man. 

To He -no he committed the thunderbolt; at once 
the voice of admonition and the instrument of ven 
geance. He also intrusted to him the formation of 
the cloud, and the gift of rain. By He-no was the 
earth to be cooled and refreshed, vegetation sus 
tained, the harvest ripened, and the fruits of the 
earth matured. The terror of the Thunderer was 
held over evil-doers, but especially over witches. 
With power to inflict the most instantaneous and 
fearful punishment, he was regarded as the avenger 
of the deeds of evil. He is represented as having 
the form of a man, and as wearing the costume of 
a warrior. Upon his head he wore a magical feather, 
which rendered him invulnerable against the attacks 
of the Evil-minded. On his back he carried a bas 
ket filled with fragments of chert rock, which he 
launched at evil spirits and witches, whenever he 
discovered them, as he rode in the clouds. In the 
spring-time when the seeds were committed to the 
ground, there was always an invocation of He-no, 
that he would water them, and nourish their growth. 
At the harvest festival they returned thanks to He-no 



for the gift of rain. They also rendered their thanks 
to the Great Spirit for the harvest, and supplicated 
him to continue to them the watchful care of the 
Thunderer. There is a fanciful legend in relation 
to He-no,, to the effect that he once made his habita 
tion in a cave under Niagara Falls, behind the sheet, 
where he dwelt amid the grateful noise and din of 
waters. The Great Spirit gave to him three assistants, 
who have continued nameless, to enable him to main 
tain a more vigilant supervision over the important 
interests committed to his guardianship. One of 
these, the legend declares, was partly of human, and 
partly of celestial origin. 1 To bring He-no nearer to 

1 The legend is as follows : A young maiden residing at Ga -u-giua, 
a village above Niagara Falls, at the mouth of Cayuga creek, had been 
contracted to an old man of ugly manners and disagreeable person. As 
the marriage was hateful to her, and, by the customs of the nation there 
was no escape, she resolved upon self-destruction. Launching a bark 
canoe into the Niagara, she seated herself within it, and composing her 
mind for the frightful descent, directed it down the current. The rapid 
waters soon swept them over the falls, and the canoe was seen to fall into 
the abyss below, but the maiden had disappeared. Before she reached the 
waters underneath, she was caught in a blanket by He -no and his two 
assistants, and carried without injury to the home of the Thunderer, be 
hind the fall. Her beauty attracted one of the dependents of He -no, who 
willingly joined them in marriage. 

For several years before this event, the people at Gd -u-g^wa had been 
troubled with an annual pestilence, and the source of the scourge had 
baffled all conjecture. He -no, at the expiration of a year, revealed to her 
the cause, and out of compassion to the people, sent her back to them, 
to make known the cause, and the remedy. He told her that a monstrous 
serpent dwelt under the village, and made his annual repast upon the 
bodies of the dead which were buried by its side. That to insure a 
bountiful feast, he went forth once a year, and poisoned the waters of the 
Niagara, and also of the Cayuga creek, whereby the pestilence was 
created. The people were directed to move to the Buffalo creek. He 
also gave her careful directions touching the education of the child of 



their affections, the Iroquois always addressed him 
under the appellation of Grandfather, and styled 
themselves his grandchildren. In every act of his, 
however, they recognized the hand of Ha-wen-ne -yu. 

Another of the spiritual creations of the Iroquois 
is recognized in Ga -oh, the Spirit of the Winds. 
He is, also, a mere instrumentality, through whom 

which she was to become the mother. With these directions she departed 
on her mission. 

After the people had removed as directed, the great serpent, disap 
pointed of his food, put his head above the ground to discover the rea 
son, and found that the village was deserted. Having scented their trail, 
and discovered its course, he went forth into the lake, and up the Buffalo 
creek, in open search of his prey. While in this narrow channel, He -no 
discharged upon the monster a terrific thunderbolt which inflicted a 
mortal wound. The Senecas yet point to a place in the creek where 
the banks are semicircular on either side, as the spot where the serpent, 
after he was struck, turning to escape into the deep waters of the lake, 
shoved out the banks on either side. Before he succeeded in reaching the 
lake, the repeated attacks of the Thunderer took effect, and the monster 
was slain. 

The huge body of the serpent floated down the stream, and lodged 
upon the verge of the cataract, stretching nearly across the river. A 
part of the body arched backwards near the northern shore in a semicircle. 
The raging waters thus dammed up by the body broke through the rocks 
behind ; and thus the whole verge of the fall upon which the body rested 
was precipitated with it into the abyss beneath. In this manner, says the 
legend, was formed the Horse-Shoe fall. 

Before this event there was a passage behind the sheet from one shore 
to the other. This passage-way was not only broken up, but the home 
of He -no was also destroyed, in the general crash. Since then his habita 
tion has been in the west. 

The child of the maiden grew up to boyhood, and was found to possess 
the power of darting the lightning at his will. It had been the injunction 
of He -no that he should be reared in retirement, and not be allowed to 
mingle in the strifes of men. On a certain occasion having been beset by 
a playmate with great vehemence, he transfixed him with a thunderbolt. 
He -no immediately translated him to the clouds, and made him the third 
assistant Thunderer. 


the Great Spirit moves the elements. Having a 
human form, with the face of an old man, Ga-oh is 
represented as sitting in solitary confinement, sur 
rounded by a tangle of discordant winds, and ever 
impatient of restraint. His residence, Da-yo-da-do- 
go-wa, the " Great Home of the Winds," is stationary, 
in a quarter of the heavens toward the west. Sur 
rounded and compressed by the elements, he ever 
and anon struggles to free himself from their entan 
glement. When perfectly quiescent, the winds are 
at rest. A slight motion sends forth the breeze, 
which is wafted gently over the face of the earth. 
When he struggles with restlessness and impatience, 
the strong wind goes forth to move the clouds, ruffle 
the waters, and shake the foliage of the forest. But 
when his restlessness mounts up to frenzy, he puts 
forth his utmost strength to shake off the confining 
element. These mighty throes of Ga-oh send forth 
the blasts which sweep the plain, lay low the oak 
upon the mountain side, and dash the waters against 
the sky. Ga-oh is represented, however, as a be 
neficent being, ever mindful of the will of the Great 
Spirit, and solicitous to fulfil his commands. 1 

Perhaps the most beautiful conception in the my 
thology of the Iroquois is that in relation to the 
Three Sisters, the Spirit of Corn, the Spirit of the 
Bean, and the Spirit of the Squash. These plants 
were regarded as the special gift of Ha-wen-ne -yu ; and 

1 ./Eolus naturally suggests him- " Hie vasto rex /Eolus antro 

self to the reader, although the Luctantes ventos, tempestatesque sonoras 
analogy is slight. Imperio premit, ac vinclis et carcere 

fraenat." v^Eneid, Lib. i. 52. 


they believed that the care of each was intrusted, for 
the welfare of the Indian, to a separate Spirit. They 
are supposed to have the forms of beautiful females, 
to be very fond of each other, and to delight to dwell 
together. This last belief is illustrated by the natural 
adaptation of the plants themselves to grow up to 
gether in the same field, and perhaps from the same 
hill. Their apparel was made of the leaves of their 
respective plants ; and in the growing season they 
were believed to visit the fields, and dwell among 
them. This triad is known under the name of De-o- 
ha -ko, which signifies Our Life, or Our Supporters. 
They are never mentioned separately, except by de 
scription, as they have no individual names. There 
is a legend in relation to corn, that it was originally of 
easy cultivation, yielded abundantly, and had a grain 
exceedingly rich with oil. The Evil-minded, being 
envious of this great gift of Ha-wen-ne -yu to man, 
went forth into the fields, and spread over it a uni 
versal blight. Since then it has been harder to culti 
vate, yields less abundantly, and has lost its original 
richness. To this day, when the rustling wind waves 
the corn leaves with a moaning sound, the pious Indian 
fancies that he hears the Spirit of Corn, in her com 
passion for the red man, still bemoaning, with unavail 
ing regrets, her blighted fruitfulness. (19) 

Among the inhabitants of the spiritual world, with 
which the Iroquois surrounded themselves, may be 
enumerated the Spirits of medicine, of fire, and of 
water, the Spirit of each of the different species of 
trees, of each of the species of shrubs bearing fruit, 
and of the different herbs and plants. Thus there 


was the Spirit of the oak, of the hemlock, and of 
the maple, of the whortleberry and of the raspberry, 
and also of the spearmint, and of tobacco. Most of 
the objects in nature were thus placed under the 
watchful care of some protecting Spirit. Some of 
them were made tangible to the senses, by giving to 
them a bodily form and specific duties ; as the Spirit 
of springs, and of each of the several fruit trees. But 
the most of them were feebly imagined existences. In 
their worship, the Iroquois were accustomed to return 
their thanks to these subordinates of Ha-wen-ne -yu, 
under the general name of H o-no-c he-no -keh. This 
term signifies " the Invisible Aids," and included the 
whole spiritual world, from He-no, the Thunderer, 
down to the Spirit of the Strawberry. But few of 
them had specific names, or were mentioned in their 
worship, except conjointly. The Iroquois appear to 
have had but a faint conception of the omnipresence 
of the Great Spirit, as elsewhere observed ; or of any 
individual power sufficiently potent to administer, un 
assisted, the stupendous works of creation, and the 
complicated affairs of man. In part from this cause, 
undoubtedly, they believed that the Great Spirit had 
surrounded himself with subordinate spiritual beings 
of his own creation, to whom he intrusted the imme 
diate supervision of the various works of nature. He 
thus rendered himself, in a limited sense, omnipresent, 
and ruled and regulated, with ease and convenience, 
the works of creation. These Spirits were never 
objects of worship. The Iroquois regarded them 
merely as the unseen assistants of Ha-wen-ne-yu, and 
the executors of his will. 



Evil spirits were believed to be the creations of 
Ha-ne-go-ate-geh. Pestilence and disease were sup 
posed to be the work of evil spirits. Witches and 
enchanters were believed to be possessed with them. 
There were also the Spirits of poisonous plants and 
roots. All the agencies of evil were brought into 
existence by, and held under the dominion of the 
Evil-minded. To counteract their machinations, the 
efforts of the Great Spirit and his spiritual host were 
incessantly put forth. At their religious festivals, the 
Iroquois invoked Ha-wen-ne-yu to shield them against 
their secret designs. " Great Spirit, master of all 
things, visible and invisible ; Great Spirit, master of 
other spirits, whether good or evil ; command the good 
spirits to favor thy children ; command the evil spirits 
to keep at a distance from them." 

The Iroquois believed that tobacco was given to 
them as the means of communication with the spiritual 
world. By burning tobacco they could send up their 
petitions with its ascending incense, to the Great Spirit, 
and render their acknowledgments acceptably for his 
blessings. Without this instrumentality, the ear of 
Ha-wen-ne-yu could not be gained. In like manner 
they returned their thanks at each recurring festival to 
the Invisible Aids, for their friendly offices, and pro 
tecting care. It was also their custom to return thanks 
to the trees, shrubs and plants, to the springs, rivers 
and streams, to the fire and wind, and to the sun, 
moon and stars ; in a word, to every object in nature, 
which ministered to their wants, and thus awakened 
a feeling of gratitude. But this was done without 

1 La Hontan. 



the intervention of the incense of tobacco. They 
addressed the object itself. 

A belief in witches is to this day, and always has 
been, one of the most deeply-seated notions in the 
minds of the Iroquois. The popular belief on this 
subject rose to the most extravagant degree of the 
marvellous and the supernatural. Any person, 
whether old or young, male or female, might be 
come possessed of an evil spirit, and be transformed 
into a witch. A person thus possessed could assume, 
at pleasure, the form of any animal, bird or reptile, 
and having executed his nefarious purpose, could 
resume his original form, or, if necessary to escape 
pursuit, could transmute himself into an inanimate 
object. They were endued with the power of doing 
evil, and were wholly bent upon deeds of wickedness. 
When one became a witch, he ceased to be himself. 
According to the current belief, he was not only will 
ing to take the life of his nearest friend, but such an 
one was the preferred object of his vengeance. The 
means of death employed was an unseen poison. 
Such was the universal terror of witches, that their 
lives were forfeited by the laws of the Iroquois. Any 
one who discovered the act, might not only destroy 
the witch, but could take to himself the dangerous 
power of deciding who it was. To this day, it is next 
to impossible, by any process of reasoning, to divest 
the mind of a Seneca of his deep-seated belief in 
witches. 1 

1 But a year since a woman was shot on the Allegany (Seneca) reserva 
tion, on the pretence of witchcraft. Such instances have been frequent 
among the Senecas w.ithin the last fifty years. Not the least singular 



There is a current belief among the Iroquois, that 
these demons are banded together in a secret and 
systematic organization, which has subsisted for ages ; 
that they have periodical meetings, an initiation cere 
mony, and a novitiate fee. These meetings were held 
at night, and the fee of the neophyte was the life of 
his nearest and dearest friend, to be taken with poison, 
on the eve of his admission. 

The tendency of the Iro 
quois to superstitious beliefs 
is especially exemplified in 
their notion of the existence 
of a race of supernatural 
beings whom they call False- 
faces. This belief has pre 
vailed among them from the 
most remote period, and still 
continues its hold upon the 
Indian mind. The Falsefaces 
are believed to be evil spirits 
or demons without bodies, 
arms or limbs, simply faces, 
and those of the most hideous 
description. It is pretended 
that when seen they are usu 
ally in the most retired places, 
darting from point to point, 
and perhaps from tree to tree, 

by some mysterious power ; and possessed of a look so 
frightful and demoniacal as to paralyze all who behold 

feature of the case is that they sometimes confess the act. There may be 
some foundation for this strange delusion in the phenomena of nature. 


pa-go -sa, or False Face, 


them. They are supposed also to have power to send 
plagues and pestilence among men, as well as to de 
vour their bodies when found, for which reasons they 
were held in the highest terror. To this day there are 
large numbers of the Iroquois who believe implicitly 
in the personal existence of these demons. 

Upon this belief was founded a regular secret organ 
ization called the Falseface band, members of which 
can now be found in every Iroquois village both in 
this State and Canada, where the old modes of life are 
still preserved. This society has a species of initia 
tion, and regular forms, ceremonies and dances. In 
acquiring or relinquishing a membership their super 
stitious notions were still further illustrated, for it de 
pended entirely upon the omen of a dream. If any 
one dreamed he was a Falseface, it was only necessary 
to signify his dream to the proper person, and give a 
feast, to be at once initiated ; and so any one dreaming 
that he had ceased to be a Falseface, had but to make 
known his dream and give a similar entertainment to 
effect his exodus. In no other way could a member 
ship be acquired or surrendered. Upon all occasions 
on which the members appeared in character they wore 
false faces of the kind represented in the figure, the 
masks being diversified in color, style and configura 
tion, but all agreeing in their equally hideous appear 
ance. The members were all males save one, who was 
a female, and the Mistress of the Band. She was called 
Gd-go-sa Ho-nun-nas-tase-ta^ or the keeper of the False- 
faces ; and not only had charge of the regalia of the band, 
but was the only organ of communication with the 
members, for their names continued unknown. 


The prime motive in the establishment of this or 
ganization was to propitiate those demons called False- 
faces, and among other good results to arrest pestilence 
and disease. In course of time the band itself was be 
lieved to have a species of control over diseases, and 
over the healing art ; and they were often invoked for 
the cure of simple diseases, and to drive away, or ex 
orcise the plague, if it had actually broken out in their 
midst. As recently as the summer of 1849, when the 
cholera prevailed through the State, the Falsefaces, in 
appropriate costume, went from house to house at 
Tonawanda, through the old school portion of the 
village, and performed the usual ceremonies prescribed 
for the expulsion of the pestilence. 

When any one was sick with a complaint within the 
range of their healing powers, and dreamed that he saw 
a Falseface, this was interpreted to signify that through 
their instrumentality he was to be cured. Having in 
formed the mistress of the band, and prepared the cus 
tomary feast, the Falsefaces at once appeared, preceded 
by their female leader, and marching in Indian file. 
Each one wore a mask or false face, a tattered blanket 
over his shoulders, and carried a turtle shell rattle in 
his hand. On entering the house of the invalid they 
first stirred the ashes upon the hearth, and then 
sprinkled the patient over with hot ashes until his head 
and hair were covered ; after which they performed 
some manipulations over him in turn, and finally led 
him around with them in the falseface dance ( Ga-go-sa), 
with which their ceremonies concluded. When these 
performances were over, the entertainment prepared 
for the occasion was distributed to the band, and by 


them carried away for their private feasting, as they 
never unmasked themselves before the people. Among 
the simple complaints which the Falsefaces could cure 
infallibly, were nose bleed, toothache, swellings, and 
inflammation of the eyes. The false face shown in 
the figure was purchased of an Onondaga on Grand 

The proneness of the Indian mind to supersti 
tious beliefs is chiefly to be ascribed to their legen 
dary literature. (94) The fables which have been 
handed down from generation to generation, to be 
rehearsed to the young from year to year, would fill 
volumes. These fabulous tales, for exuberance of 
fancy, and extravagance of invention, not only sur 
pass the fireside stories of all other people, but to 
their diversity and number there is apparently no 
limit. There were fables of a race of pigmies who 
dwelt within the earth, (94) but who were endued 
with such herculean strength as to tear up by its 
roots the forest oak, and shoot it from their bows ; 
fables of a buffalo of such huge dimensions as to 
thresh down the forest in his march ; (9 ^ fables of 
ferocious flying-heads, winging themselves through 
the air; of serpents paralyzing by a look ; of a mon 
ster mosquito, who thrust his b ill through the bodies 
of his victims, and drew their blood in the twinkling 
of an eye. There were fables of a race of stone giants 
who dwelt in the north ; of a monster bear, more 
terrific than the buffalo; of a monster lizard, more 
destructive than the serpent. There were tales of 
witches, and supernatural visitations, together with 
marvellous stories of personal adventure. Super- 



added to the fables of this description, were legends 
upon a thousand subjects, in which fact was embel 
lished with fiction. These legends entered into the 
affairs of private life, and of individuals, and were 
explanatory of a multitude of popular beliefs. Min 
gled up with this mass of fable, were their historical 
traditions. This branch of their unwritten literature 
is both valuable and interesting. These traditions are 
remarkably tenacious of the truth, and between them 
all there is a striking harmony of facts. Any one 
who takes occasion to compare parts of these tradi 
tions with concurrent history, will be surprised at 
their accuracy, whether the version be from the Oneida, 
the Onondaga, the Seneca, or the Mohawk. The 
embellishments gained by their transmission from hand 
to hand are usually separable from the substance, and 
the latter is entitled to credence. With these fables, 
legends and traditions the Indian youth was familiar 
ized from infancy. His mind became stored and 
crowded with bewildering fictions. Without books, 
and without employment, in the intervals between 
the hunt, the council, and the warlike expedition, the 
mind naturally fell back upon this unwritten literature 
of the wilderness. The rehearsal of these marvellous 
tales furnished the chief entertainment at the fireside 
in the Indian village, and also at the lodge far hid 
in the depths of the forest. The credulity of youth 
would know no limits, when the narrator himself 
credited the tale he was relating. Growing into man 
hood under such intellectual influences, the young 
warrior would not readily discriminate between that 
which was too marvellous for belief and that which 



was consistent with truth, but would adopt the whole 
as equally veritable. That early and constant famil 
iarity with such a mass of uncorrected fancies should 
beget a permanent tendency of mind to fall into super 
stitious beliefs, is far less surprising than would be 
an exemption from all such delusions. 

From a vague and indefinable dread, these fables 
were never related in the summer season, (94) when 
the imagination was peculiarly susceptible. As soon 
as the buds had opened on the trees, these stories 
were hushed, and their historical traditions substituted. 
But when the leaves began to fall, their rehearsal 
again furnished the chief amusement of the hours of 
leisure in Indian society. 

The immortality of the soul was another of the 
fixed beliefs of the Iroquois. This notion has pre 
vailed generally among all the red races, under different 
forms, and with different degrees of distinctness. " The 
happy home beyond the setting sun," had cheered 
the heart, and lighted the expiring eye of the Indian, 
before the ships of Columbus had borne the cross 
to this western world. This sublime conclusion is 
another of those truths, written, as it were, by the 
Deity, in the mind of man, and one easily to be 
deciphered from the page of nature by unperverted 
reason. This truth has always been taught among 
the Iroquois, as a fundamental article of faith. 

In connection with the immortality of the soul, 
must be placed their belief in future punishments. 
This is maintained to have been a part of their an 
cient faith, but with how much truth it is difficult to 
determine. It is now taught by the unchristian- 



ized portion of the Iroquois, as an essential part of 
their belief. 

The worship of the Iroquois, it is believed, has 
undergone no important change for centuries. It is 
the same, in all respects, at this day, that it was at 
the commencement of their intercourse with the whites. 
But their faith appears to have suffered some en 
largement. They seem to have silently adopted such 
thoughts of the missionaries as could be interwoven 
harmoniously with their own creed, while at the same 
time they firmly and constantly excluded all those 
beliefs which were inconsistent with their own relig 
ious system, as a whole. The principal illustration 
of this position is to be found in their present views 
of the nature and office of punishment. They believe 
that the wicked, after death, pass into the dark realm 
of Ha-ne-go-ate-geh) there to undergo a process of 
punishment for their evil deeds. Those who are not 
consumed by the degree of punishment inflicted, are, 
after this purification, translated to the abode of the 
Great Spirit, and to eternal felicity. Evil deeds in 
this life are neutralized by meritorious acts. After 
the balance is struck between them, if the good pre 
dominate, the spirit passes direct to Ha-wen-ne -yu-geh ; 
but if the bad overbalance, it goes at once to Ha-nis- 
ha-o-no -geh, the dwelling-place of the Evil-minded, 
where punishments are meted out to it in proportion to 
the magnitude of its offences. Certain crimes, like 
those of witchcraft and murder, were punished eter 
nally, but others temporarily. The resemblance be 
tween this system of punishment and the purgatory 
of the Catholic church leads to the inference, that they 



derived from the Jesuits some of their ideas of the 
nature and office of punishment, and of its limitations. 
While, therefore, the Iroquois may have obtained 
more systematic and enlarged views upon these sub 
jects from without, at the same time, as they affirm, 
they may always have believed that the wicked were 
excluded from heaven, and sent to a place of infe 
licity. Their traditions tend to establish a belief in 
future punishments, as a tenet of their ancient faith. 
There is another practice, now universal among 
the Iroquois, which appears still more decisively to 
be of Jesuit origin. It is the confession of sins. 
Before each of their periodical religious festivals, there 
is made a general and public confession. Several 
days before the time designated for the festival, the 
people assemble by appointment, and each one in 
turn, who has a confession to make, rising, and taking 
a string of white wampum in his hand, acknowl 
edges his faults and transgressions, and publicly pro 
fesses a purpose of amendment. The white wampum 
is the emblem of purity and sincerity. With it he 
confirms and records his words. The absolution or 
forgiveness of sins formed no part of the motive or ob 
ject in the confession. It had reference to the future con 
duct exclusively. One who was willing to confess a fault 
from a sense of religious duty, would, by the act, 
strengthen his mind against future temptation. This 
custom has prevailed so long among them, that they 
have lost its origin. It contains no such analogy 
to the practices of any Christian community as to 
compel us to ascribe it to external influences, but yet 
it has about it so much of the fragrance of Christ- 



ianity, that it awakens in the mind a doubt of its 
Indian origin. It is by no means certain, however, 
but that it is one of their own primitive religious 
customs, under a modified form. 

Reverence for the aged was also one of the precepts 
of the ancient faith. Among the roving tribes of the 
wilderness, the old and helpless were frequently aban 
doned, and in some cases, hurried out of existence, as 
an act of greater kindness than desertion. But the 
Iroquois, at the epoch of the formation of the League, 
resided in permanent villages, which afforded a refuge 
for the aged. One of the prominent aims of their first 
lawgiver, Da-ga-no-we -da, was to bind the people to 
gether by the family ties of relationship, and thus 
create among them an universal spirit of hospitality, 
and a lasting desire of social intercourse. After the 
establishment of the Confederacy, certainly, these prac 
tices never prevailed among the Iroquois. (121) On 
the contrary, their religious teachers inculcated the 
duty of protecting their aged parents, as divinely en 
joined. " It is the will of the Great Spirit that you 
reverence the aged, even though they be as helpless 
as infants." 

The obedience of children, their instruction in virtu 
ous principles, kindness to the orphan, hospitality to 
all, and a common brotherhood, were among the doc 
trines held up for acceptance by their religious instruc 
tors. These precepts were taught as the will of the 
Great Spirit, and obedience to their requirements as 
acceptable in his sight. "If you tie up the clothes of 
an orphan child, the Great Spirit will notice it, and 

1 Sose-ha -wd (Johnson). 


reward you for it." " To adopt orphans, and bring 
them up in virtuous ways, is pleasing to the Great 
Spirit." "If a stranger wander about your abode, 
welcome him to your home, be hospitable towards 
him, speak to him with kind words, and forget not al 
ways to mention the Great Spirit." l 

Respect for the dead was another element of their 
faith. At various periods of their history, it has mani 
fested itself under different and very singular forms. 
The burial customs of every people interest the mind. 
Death is the great catastrophe of humanity. And 
whether man has reached the highest intellectual eleva 
tion, or still sits beside the forest streamlet, in the in 
fancy of his mental growth, this event seizes upon his 
mind with solemn and absorbing earnestness. With 
the Iroquois different customs have prevailed, in rela 
tion to the mode of burial. At one period they buried 
in a sitting posture, with the face to the east. Skele 
tons are still found in this position, in various parts of 
the State, with a gun barrel resting against the shoulder; 
thus fixing the period of their sepulture subsequent to 
the first intercourse of this people with the whites. It 
is supposed that this custom was abandoned at the 
persuasion of the missionaries, although there is a tra 
dition ascribing it to a different cause. Another and 
more extraordinary mode of burial anciently prevailed 
among them. The body of the deceased was exposed 
upon a bark scaffolding, erected upon poles, or secured 
upon the limbs of trees, where it was left to waste to a 
skeleton. After this had been effected by the process 
of decomposition in the open air, the bones were re- 

1 Johnson. 
1 66 


moved, either to the former house of the deceased, or 
to a small bark house by its side, prepared for their 
reception. In this manner the skeletons of the whole 
family were preserved from generation to generation, 
by the filial or parental affection of the living. After 
the lapse of a number of years, or in a season of public 
insecurity, or on the eve of abandoning a settlement, (89) 
it was customary to collect these skeletons from 
the whole community around, and consign them to a 
common resting-place. To this custom, which was 
not confined to the Iroquois, is doubtless to be as 
cribed the barrows and bone mounds which have been 
found in such numbers in various parts of the country. 
On opening these mounds, the skeletons are usually 
found arranged in horizontal layers, a conical pyramid, 
those in each layer radiating from a common centre. 
In other cases they are found placed promiscuously. 1 

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 re 
duced to ten days, and the journey of the spirit is now 

1 There are Senecas now residing at Tonawanda and Cattaraugus, who 
remember having seen, about sixty years ago, at the latter place, these 
bark scaffoldings, on which bodies were then exposed. The custom still 
prevails among the Sioux upon the upper Mississippi, and among some of 
the tribes in the far west. 



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 un 
til 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 disem 
bodied, are vague and diversified ; but they all agree 
that, during the journey, it required the same nourish 
ment as while it dwelt in the body. They, therefore, 
deposited beside the deceased his bow and arrows, 
tobacco and pipe, and necessary food for the journey. 
They also painted the face and dressed the body in its 
best apparel. A fire was built upon the grave at night, 
to enable the spirit to prepare its food. With these 
tokens of affliction, and these superstitious concern 
ments for the welfare of the deceased, the children of 
the forest performed the burial rites of their departed 
kindred. 1 The wail and the lamentation evidenced the 
passionate character of their grief. 2 After the mourn- 

1 To this universal custom of the red race, of depositing the valuable 
articles of the deceased by his side, as well as utensils and vessels to pre 
pare and contain his food, we are indebted for all the relics we possess of 
the earlier epochs of our aboriginal history. ( 10 ~) Articles are still dis 
entombed from the soil from year to year, some of which reach back to 
the era of the Mound Builders. 

2 In ancient times, the practice prevailed of addressing the dead before 
burial, under the belief that they could hear, although unable to answer. 
The near relatives and friends, or such as were disposed, approached the 
body in turn ; and after the wail had ceased, they addressed it in a pa 
thetic or laudatory speech. The practice has not even yet fallen entirely 

1 68 


ing period had expired, the name of the deceased was 
never mentioned, from a sense of delicacy to the tender 
feelings of his friends. 

Unless the rites of burial were performed, it was 
believed that the spirits of the dead wandered for a 
time upon the earth, in a state of great unhappiness. 
Hence their extreme solicitude to procure the bodies 
of their slain in battle. 

Heaven was the abode of the Great Spirit, the 
final home of the faithful. They believed there was 
a road down from heaven to every man s door. On 
this invisible way, the soul ascended in its heavenly 
flight until it reached its celestial habitation. As 

into disuse. The following address of an Iroquois mother over the body 
of her son was made on a recent occasion. Approaching his inanimate 
remains to look upon him for the last time, her grief for some moments 
was uncontrollable. Presently, her wailing ceased, and she thus addressed 
him : tf My son, listen once more to the words of thy mother. Thou 
wert brought into life with her pains. Thou wert nourished with her 
life. She has attempted to be faithful in raising thee up. When thou 
wert young, she loved thee as her life. Thy presence has been a source 
of great joy to her. Upon thee she depended for support and comfort in 
her declining days. She had ever expected to gain the end of the path of 
lite before thee. But thou hast outstripped her, and gone before her. 
Our great and wise Creator has ordered it thus. By his will I am left to 
taste more of the miseries of this world. Thy friends and relatives have 
gathered about thy body, to look upon thee for the last time. They 
mourn, as with one mind, thy departure from among us. We, too, have 
but a few days more, and our journey shall be ended. We part now, and 
you are conveyed from our sight. But we shall soon meet again, and 
shall again look upon each other. Then we shall part no more. Our 
Maker has called you to his home. Thither will we follow. Na-ho ." 
After this was over, the wail continued for a few moments, when the body 
was borne away. The above was furnished to the author by Hd-sa-no- 
an -da (Ely S. Parker), who heard it delivered. See also a specimen of 
an address to the dead in La Hontan s Voy. North Am. Lond. ed. 1735, 
vol. ii. p. 54. 



before observed, the spirit was supposed to linger for 
a time about the body, and perhaps to revisit it. In 
consequence of this belief, a superstitious custom pre 
vailed of leaving a slight opening in the grave, through 
which it might reenter its former tenement. To this 
day, among a portion of the Iroquois, after the body 
has been deposited in a coffin, holes are bored through 
it for the same purpose. After taking its final depar 
ture, the soul was supposed to ascend higher and 
higher on its heavenly way, gradually moving to 
the westward, until it came out upon the plains of 

The inhabitants of this sinless dwelling-place of 
Ha-wen-ne -yu were believed to possess a body, and 
the senses, appetites and affections of the earthly life. 
They carried their knowledge with them, and the 
memory of former friends. Sex was in effect abol 
ished, but families were reunited, and dwelt together 
in perpetual harmony. All the powers of the Indian 
imagination were taxed to picture the glowing beauties 
of their celestial home. It was fashioned to please 
the natural senses. A vast plain of illimitable exten 
sion, it was spread out with every variety of natural 
scenery which could please the eye, or gratify the 
fancy. Forests clothed with ever-living foliage, flow 
ers of every hue in eternal bloom, fruits of every 
variety in perpetual ripeness, in a word, the meridian 
charms of nature met the eye in every direction. To 
form a paradise of unrivalled beauty, the Great Spirit 
had gathered every object in the natural world which 
could delight the senses, and having spread them out 
in vast but harmonious array, and restored their bap- 



tismal vestments, he diffused over these congregated 
beauties of nature the bloom of immortality. In this 
happy abode, they were destined to enjoy unending 
felicity. No evil could enter this peaceful home of 
innocence and purity. No violence could disturb, 
no passions ruffle the tranquillity of this fortunate 
realm. In amusement or repose they spent their 
lives. The festivities in which they had delighted 
while on the earth were re-celebrated in the presence 
of the great Author of their being. They enjoyed 
all the happiness of the earthly life, unencumbered 
by its ills. 

With the Iroquois, heaven was not regarded as a 
" hunting ground," as it appears to have been by 
some Indian nations. Subsistence had ceased to be 
necessary. When the faithful partook of the sponta 
neous fruits around them, it was for the gratification 
of the taste, and not for the support of life. 

Among the modern beliefs engrafted upon the 
ancient faith, there is one which is worthy of partic 
ular notice. It relates to Washington. 1 According 
to their present belief, no white man ever reached 
the Indian heaven. Not having been created by the 
Great Spirit, no provision was made for him in their 
scheme of theology. He was excluded both from 
heaven and from the place of punishment. But an 
exception was made in favor of Washington. Because 
of his justice and benevolence to the Indian, he stood 
preeminent above all other white men. When, by 
the peace of 1783, the Indians were abandoned by 

1 His name among the Iroquois was Hd-no-dd-ga -ne-ars y which signi 
fies " Town Destroyer." 


their English allies, and left to make their own terms 
with the American government, the Iroquois were more 
exposed to severe measures than the other tribes in 
their alliance. At this critical moment, Washington 
interfered in their behalf, as the protector of Indian 
rights, and the advocate of a policy towards them 
of the most enlightened justice and humanity . (29) 
After his death, he was mourned by the Iroquois as 
a benefactor of their race, and his memory was cher 
ished with reverence and affection. A belief was 
spread abroad among them, that the Great Spirit had 
received him into a celestial residence upon the plains 
of heaven, the only white man whose noble deeds had 
entitled him to this heavenly favor. Just by the en 
trance of heaven is a walled enclosure, the ample 
grounds within which are laid out with avenues and 
shaded walks. Within is a spacious mansion, con 
structed in the fashion of a fort. Every object in 
nature which could please a cultivated taste had been 
gathered in this blooming Eden, to render it a de 
lightful dwelling-place for the immortal Washington. 
The faithful Indian, as he enters heaven, passes this 
enclosure. He sees and recognizes the illustrious 
inmate, as he walks to and fro in quiet meditation. 
But no word ever passes his lips. Dressed in his uni 
form, and in a state of perfect felicity, he is destined to 
remain through eternity in the solitary enjoyment of the 
celestial residence prepared for him by the Great Spirit. 
Surely the piety and the gratitude of the Iroquois 
have, jointly, reared a monument to Washington 
above the skies, which is more expressive in its praise 
than the proudest recitals on the obelisk, and more 



imperishable in its duration than the syenite which 
holds up the record to the gaze of centuries. 

The beliefs of our primitive inhabitants, when 
brought together in a connected form, naturally call 
forth an expression of surprise. A faith so purely 
spiritual, so free from the tincture of human passion, 
and from the grossness of superstition, can scarcely be 
credited, when examined under the ordinary estimate 
of the Indian character. It has been the misfortune 
of the Indian never to be rightly understood, espe 
cially in his social relations. Their religious and 
moral sentiments, such as they were, exercised as de 
cisive an influence upon Indian society, as the precepts 
of Christianity do over enlightened communities. 
They furnished springs of action, rules of intercourse, 
and powers of restraint. And yet, where is the pic 
ture of Indian social life which reveals the domestic 
virtues, the generous friendships, the integrity between 
man and man, the harmony of intercourse, and the 
sympathies of the heart, which bloomed and flourished 
in the depths of the forest? We have met the red 
man upon the war-path, and not at the fireside. We 
have dealt with him as his oppressor, and not as his 
friend. His evil traits, ever present with the mind, 
form the standard of judgment ; and when his virtues 
rise up before us, they create surprise, rather than an 
swer expectation, because the standard of estimation is 
universally unjust. 

The mind of the Iroquois was deeply imbued with 
religious sentiments, the practical results, the actual 
fruits of which, unseen for the most part, by those 
who know the Indian only in his intercourse with the 


whites, reveal themselves in unexpected beauty, when 
we examine his social relations, and view him in his 
domestic life. Their influence upon the Iroquois, in 
their intercourse with other nations, is necessarily sec 
ondary. To judge of their religious system from its 
direct effects, it is necessary to look into Indian society 
itself. Here its primary influence, at least, must fall. 
It would be a grateful task to array the virtues, which 
sprang into existence in the seclusions of the wilder 
ness, to light up the character of the red man. From 
the harmony which characterized their political rela 
tions under the League, down to the domestic quiet 
of the sylvan home, the picture is much the same. 
Peace, hospitality, charity, friendship, harmony, in 
tegrity, religious enthusiasm, the domestic affections, 
found a generous growth and cultivation among the 
Iroquois. Genius, learning, and Christianity change 
the features of society, and cast over it an artificial 
garment, but its elements continue the same. It need 
not awaken surprise that the Indian has rivalled many 
ot the highest virtues of civilized and christianized 
man ; or that in some of the rarest traits in the human 
character, he has passed quite beyond him. 

Whatever excellences the Iroquois character pos 
sessed are to be ascribed, in a great measure, to their 
beliefs, and above all, to their unfailing faith in the 
Great Spirit. By adhering to that sublime but simple 
rruth, that there was one Supreme Being, who created 
and preserved them, they not only escaped an idola 
trous worship, but they imbibed a more ennobling and 
spiritual faith than has fallen to the lot of any other 
unchristianized people. (G2) 

Chapter II 

Worship of the Iroquois Keepers of the Faith Thanks to the 
Maple Planting Festival Berry Festival Green Corn Festi 
val Harvest Festival New Year s Jubilee Sacrifice of the 
White Dog Address to the Great Spirit Influence of their 

THE Iroquois had a systematic worship. It 
consisted in the celebration of periodical fes 
tivals, which were held at stated seasons of 
the year. These observances were suggested by the 
changes in the seasons, the ripening of the fruits, and 
the gathering of the harvest. They were performed 
annually, with the same established ceremonies, which 
had been handed down from age to age. The wor 
ship of the Iroquois, as before remarked, has under 
gone no change in centuries* It is still the same, in 
all essential particulars, that it was at the period of 
their discovery. Some slight additions, ascribable, 
doubtless, to missionary instructions, will be detected, 
but they are too inconsiderable to change the form, or 
disturb the harmony of the whole. Upon an exam 
ination of the principal features of the system, it will 
become apparent that it was chiefly a thanksgiving 
worship, although the supplication of the Great Spirit 
for the continuance of his protection entered into it as 
an essential element. 

Six regular festivals, or thanksgivings, were ob 
served by the Iroquois. The first, in the order of 


time, was the Maple festival. This was a return of 
thanks to the maple itself, for yielding its sweet 
waters. Next was the Planting festival, designed, 
chiefly, as an invocation of the Great Spirit to bless 
the seed. Third came the Strawberry festival, in 
stituted as a thanksgiving for the first fruits of the 
earth. The fourth was the Green Corn festival, de 
signed as a thanksgiving acknowledgment for the 
ripening of the corn, beans and squashes. Next 
was celebrated the Harvest festival, instituted as a 
general thanksgiving to " Our Supporters," after the 
gathering of the harvest. Last in the enumeration is 
placed the New Year s festival, the great jubilee of the 
Iroquois, at which trie white dog was sacrificed. 

The principle involved in the formal worship of 
the Great Spirit at stated periods, and the fidelity 
with which the Iroquois, in prosperity and in ad 
versity, adhered to these observances from generation 
to generation, are of much more importance in form 
ing a judgment of their religious sentiments than the 
mere ceremonies themselves. In this constant rec 
ognition of their dependence upon the divine power, 
there is much to awaken a feeling of sympathy and 
a sentiment of respect for a people who, untaught 
by revelation, had reached such high conclusions. 
By assembling at periodical seasons to render their 
thanks to Ha-wen-ne -yu for his gifts, they fully rec 
ognized the duty which rested upon them as the re 
cipients of such favors. And, also, by supplicating 
the continuance of his watchful care, and by invok 
ing his blessing upon their present acts, they mani 
fested the sincerity of their faith, and the fulness 



of their trust in the great Author of their being. 
But the ceremonies themselves are not without a 
peculiar interest. They will convey to the mind a 
more distinct impression of the nature and simplicity 
of their worship. No attempt will be made to de 
scribe these observances with the minuteness of a 
picture. An outline of those appropriate to each 
festival will sufficiently illustrate their general charac 
ter and purpose. 

The question here presents itself as to the religious 
office or priesthood among the Iroquois. Under 
the League itself no sacerdotal office was recognized. 
Sachems were raised up, and invested with their titles 
by a council of all the sachems of the League. Chiefs 
were first raised up in the nation to which they be 
longed, and their title was afterwards confirmed by the 
same general council. But no religious dignitaries 
were ever raised up by the council of sachems to fill 
any priestly station. In each nation, however, there 
was a select class appointed by the several tribes to 
take the charge of their religious festivals, and the 
general supervision of their worship. They were 
styled Ho-nun-de -ont ) or " Keepers of the Faith," as 
the term literally signifies. In the election of this 
class, their powers and duties, and the tenure of their 
office, there are many circumstances to distinguish 
them as a sacerdotal order. (49) To their number 
there was no limit, and they were usually about as 
numerous as the chiefs. The chiefs themselves were 
ex officio keepers of the faith/ f)5) The office was 
elective, and continued as long as the individual was 
faithful to his trust. Suitable persons were selected 
VOL.I. 12 1 77 


by the wise men and matrons out of their respective 
tribes, and advanced to the office. Their original 
names were then taken away, and new ones assigned, 
out of a collection of names which belonged to this 
class. At the first subsequent council of the nation, 
their appointment and names were publicly an 
nounced, which in itself completed the investiture. 
The number furnished by each tribe was an evidence 
of its fidelity to the ancient faith. They were, to 
some extent, censors of the people ; and their ad 
monitions were received with kindness, as coming 
from those commissioned to remonstrate. In some 
cases they reported the evil deeds of individuals to 
the council, to make of them an example by exposure. 
Sometimes they held consultations to deliberate upon 
the moral condition of the people. It was the duty 
of every individual to accept the office when be 
stowed ; but he could relinquish it at any moment by 
laying aside his new name and resuming his old. (G8) 
It was their duty to designate the times for hold 
ing the periodical festivals, to make the necessary 
arrangements for their celebration, and to conduct the 
ceremonies. Certain ones of their number, by previ 
ous appointment, made the opening speech, and the 
thanksgiving address at the council, and also delivered 
religious discourses whenever they were deemed advis 
able. All of the members of this class were equal in 
authority and privileges. Those animated by the 
highest zeal and enthusiasm would naturally assume 
the most active charge ; but they had no acknowl 
edged head. The distribution of all powers, duties 
and offices among a number of equals was the pre- 



vailing feature of their civil polity. It was necessary 
that women as well as men should be appointed 
keepers of the faith, and about in equal numbers. To 
the matrons more particularly was intrusted the charge 
of the feast. The Iroquois never held a mourning or 
religious council, without preparing an entertainment 
for all the people in attendance on the evening of 
each day. None but those matrons who were keepers 
of the faith could take any part in its preparation. 
But their duties were not confined to the supervision 
of the feast. They had an equal voice in the general 
management of the festivals, and of all of their re 
ligious concernments. During a discourse or address, 
all the keepers of the faith acted, if necessary, as 
prompters to the speaker, and through him com 
municated to the people any injunction or precept 
which they deemed advisable. For this reason, one 
of their names as a class was that of " prompters." 
Notwithstanding the systematic organization of the 
keepers of the faith, and the precise limitation of 
their duties, there do not seem to be sufficient rea 
sons for calling this class a religious order, or a 
priesthood, as these terms are usually understood. 
They were distinguished by no special privileges, 
except while in the act of discharging their pre 
scribed duties ; they wore no costume, or emblem 
of office, to separate them from the people. In fact 
they were common warriors, and common women, 
and, in every sense, of and among the people. The 
office was one of necessity, and was without reward, 
like all Indian offices of every name, and also with 
out particular honor to the individual. 




This was the first festival of the spring. It was 
usually called the Maple Dance. The primary idea 
of this ceremonial was to return thanks to the maple 
itself; but at the same time they rendered their thanks 
to the Great Spirit for the gift of the maple. It lasted 
but one day. When the sap began to flow, the 
keepers of the faith announced the time and place for 
commemorating the recurrence of this event, and 
summoned the people to assemble for that purpose. 
Some days before the time appointed for the festival, 
the people assembled for the mutual confession of 
their sins, both as an act of religious duty, and as a 
preparation for the council. This act preceded all the 
festivals ; but it was more general and thorough at the 
three last than at the three first, as they were deemed 
more important, and continued for a greater length of 
time. This council, Sa-nun-dat-ha-wa-ta^ literally " a 
meeting for repentance," was opened by one of the 
keepers of the faith, with an address upon the pro 
priety and importance of acknowledging their evil 
deeds, to strengthen their minds against future tempta 
tions. He then took the string of white wampum in 
his hand, and set the example by a confession of his 
own faults ; after which he handed the string to the 
one nearest to him, who received it, made his confes 
sion in like manner, and passed it to another. In this 
way the wampum went around from hand to hand ; 
and those who had confessions to make stated wherein 
they had done wrong, and promised to do better in 



the future. Old and young, men, women, and even 
children all united in this public acknowledgment of 
their faults, and joined in the common resolution of 
amendment. On some occasions the string of wam 
pum was placed in the centre of the room, and each 
one advanced in turn to perform the duty, as the in 
clination seized him. A confession and promise with 
out holding the wampum would be of no avail. It 
was the wampum which recorded their words, and gave 
their pledge of sincerity. The object of the confession 
was future amendment. The Iroquois appear to have 
had no idea either of the atonement or of the forgive 
ness of sins. Meritorious acts neutralized evil deeds, 
but neither the one nor the other, when done, could 
be recalled, or changed, or obliterated. 

The celebration of this festival was not limited to 
one particular place, but it was observed in all the 
villages of the several nations of the League, which 
were too remote to unite around the same council-fire. 
At the time appointed, the people gathered from the 
subjacent districts, some to offer religious admonitions, 
some prepared for the dance, others for the games, and 
still others for the enjoyment of the feast. It was one 
of their festive days, awakening the eagerness of ex 
pectation in the minds of all. On the morning of the 
day, the matrons, to whom the duty appertained, com 
menced the preparation of the customary feast for the 
people, which was as sumptuous as the season and the 
means of the hunter life would afford. Towards me 
ridian, the out-door sports and games, which were 
common to such occasions, were suspended, and the 
people assembled in council. An opening speech was 



then delivered, by one of the keepers of the faith. 
The following, made at the opening of one of these 
councils among the Senecas, is in the usual form, and 
will illustrate their general character : 

" Friends and Relatives : The sun, the ruler of the day, 
is high in his path, and we must hasten to do our duty. We 
are assembled to observe an ancient custom. It is an institu 
tion handed down to us by our forefathers. It was given to 
them by the Great Spirit. He has ever required of his people 
to return thanks to him for all blessings received. We have 
always endeavored to live faithful to this wise command. 

" Friends and Relatives, continue to listen : It is to per 
form this duty that we are this day gathered. The season 
when the maple tree yields its sweet waters has again returned. 
We are all thankful that it is so. We therefore expect all of 
you to join in our general thanksgiving to the maple. We 
also expect you to join in a thanksgiving to the Great Spirit, 
who has wisely made this tree for the good of man. We 
hope and expect that order and harmony will prevail. 

" Friends and Relatives : We are gratified to see so many 
here, and we thank you all that you have thought well of this 
matter. We thank the Great Spirit, that he has been kind to 
so many of us, in sparing our lives to participate again in the 
festivities of this season. Na-hd ." l 

Other speeches often followed, which were in the 
nature of exhortations to duty. These occasions were 
seized upon by their moral teachers, to inculcate anew 
the precepts of their faith, and to offer admonitions 
for their spiritual guidance. One of the keepers of 

1 It is almost the universal custom among the Iroquois to conclude 
their speeches, on all occasions, with this exclamation. It signifies sim 
ply, " I have done. * 



the faith, addressing the people at such a time, would 
inculcate the virtues which became a warrior, and un 
fold the duties which were incumbent upon them as 
members of one common brotherhood. The duty of 
living in harmony and peace, of avoiding evil speaking, 
.of kindness to the orphan, of charity to the needy, 
and of hospitality to all, would be among the promi 
nent topics brought under consideration. He would 
remind them that the Great Spirit noticed and re 
warded good acts, and that those who hoped for suc 
cess in the affairs of life, should be ready to do them 
whenever occasion offered ; that those who had done 
wrong should not be treated harshly; that enmities 
were not to be contracted, lest a spirit of revenge 
should be awakened, which would never sleep ; and 
finally, that those who pursued the right path would 
never fall into trouble. 

When these speeches and exhortations were con 
cluded, the dance, which was a prominent feature of 
their religious festivals, was announced. It is proper 
here to observe, that dancing was regarded by the 
Iroquois as an appropriate mode of worship. They 
regarded the dance as a perpetual outward ceremonial 
of thanksgiving to the Great Spirit. A belief prevailed 
among them that the custom was of divine origin. 
" The Great Spirit knew the Indian could not live 
without some amusement, therefore he originated the 
idea of dancing, which he gave to them." The 
dance set apart in a peculiar manner for the worship 
of the Great Spirit, at their festivals, was one of their 




own invention ; and the most spirited, graceful and 
beautiful in their list. It is known as the Great 
Feather Dance (O-sto-weh -go-wa). It was performed 
by a select band, in full costume, and was reserved 
exclusively for religious councils and for great occa 
sions. It lasted about an hour, never failing to arouse 
a deep spirit of enthusiastic excitement. Before the 
band came in, one of the keepers of the faith made a 
brief speech, explanatory of its origin, nature and 
objects ; in which the popular belief was interwoven, 
that this dance would be enjoyed by the faithful in 
the future life, in the realm of the Great Spirit, to 
whose worship it was especially consecrated. 

After the conclusion of this dance others fol 
lowed, in which all participated. Before they were 
ended, the usual thanksgiving address to the Great 
Spirit, with the burning of tobacco, was made. In 
ancient times the Maple festival was terminated with 
these dances. One of the keepers of the faith 
made a closing speech, after which the people par 
took of the feast, and separated for their respective 

There is a popular belief among the Iroquois that 
the early part of the day is dedicated to the Great 
Spirit, and the after part to the spirits of the dead ; 
consequently their religious services should properly be 
concluded at meridian. They still retain the theory, 
and to this day religious discourses are seldom contin 
ued after noon ; but in practice it was found impossible, 
from the tardiness of the people in assembling, to con 
clude the ceremonies of the festival before twilight. 
A further innovation was made many years ago by 




devoting the evenings of these festive days to dancing, 
for the entertainment of guests from other villages or 
nations, who chanced to be with them. This became, 
in time, the universal custom, and they now continue 
the practice for their own amusement. These even 
ing entertainments, however, in strictness, form no 
part of the festival, although apparently it is one 
proceeding from the opening of the council until late 
at night, when the entertainment is ended. A 
distinction should constantly be held in view, between 
their proper religious exercises, and their amusements, 
and also between the ancient mode of celebrating these 
festivals, and the modern. The regular religious 
ceremonies at the Maple festival consisted of the 
opening discourse by one of the keepers of the faith, 
the exhortations of others, the Feather dance, the 
thanksgiving address to the Great Spirit, with the in 
cense of tobacco, two or three other dances, the clos 
ing speech, and the feast in common. 

In ancient times these ceremonies were concluded 
at meridian, but in modern times at twilight. Formerly 
all the exercises at these festivals were of a strictly 
religious character, except certain games which were 
common to these occasions. But in later times other 
dances have been added, and also an evening entertain 
ment devoted exclusively to dancing. There were 
likewise certain games of chance, sports, and athletic 
games, common to all these festivals, which yet formed 
no part of their religious ceremonies. They were 
merely outside diversions for the people. Still the 
Maple festival, as celebrated at the present day 
among the descendants of the ancient Iroquois, is 



the same, in its essential features, as at the period 
of its institution. 1 


This word signifies " the planting season." When 
this time arrived another festival was held to celebrate 
the event. It continued but one day. In its observ 
ances there was nothing to distinguish it very materially 
from the Maple festival. A description is therefore 
unnecessary, except to point out some peculiarities. 
The object of this festival was two-fold : to render 
thanks to the Great Spirit for the return of the planting 
season, and to invoke his blessing upon the seed which 
they had committed to the earth, that it might yield 
an abundant harvest. 

The Indian had no Sabbath, no sacred writings to 
furnish him an inexhaustible fountain of instruction ; 
but his gratitude was awakened by every returning 
manifestation of divine goodness. When nature had 
reclothed herself in the vestments of spring, and the 
teeming earth invited him to commit the seeds to her 
bosom, he recognized in the event the watchful kindness 
of the Great Spirit. There is something eminently 
spiritual and beautiful in this Indian conception of 
the natural periods of worship. Seizing upon the 
moment when the most conspicuous evidences of the 
protecting care of the Deity were before him, he ac 
knowledged both his existence and his beneficence, 

1 The Iroquois have long been in the habit of manufacturing sugar from 
the maple. Whether they learned the art from us, or we from them, may 
be a difficult question ; although the former would seem the more prob 
able, from the want of suitable vessels among them for boiling. (87) 



and manifested, at the same time, his gratitude and 
devotion, by those simple rites which the piety of his 
heart suggested. 

At the time appointed by the keepers of the faith, 
the people assembled to observe the day. After the 
speeches were over, the Feather and other dances were 
performed, as at the Maple festival. In ancient times, 
the thanksgiving address, or prayer to the Great Spirit, 
with the burning of tobacco, was confined to the last 
three, or the principal festivals ; but in later days such 
a prayer was offered generally at the first three also. 
As elsewhere observed, when the Iroquois returned 
thanks to the various objects in nature which ministered 
to their wants, or when they acknowledged to each 
other their thankfulness to the Great Spirit, or to the 
lesser Spirits, they never burned tobacco. In these 
cases, their thanks were returned to the trees and 
plants and elements direct, to do which, according to 
their theology, did not require the use of incense, 
while, as to the spiritual world, they merely avowed to 
each other that they returned their thanks. But when 
they offered a prayer, or called upon the Great Spirit, 
or his Invisible Aids, they were obliged to use the as 
cending smoke to put themselves in communication 
with the spiritual world. 

This address occurred at no particular stage in the 
ceremonies of the day. The keepers of the faith 
having appointed one of their number to perform this 
duty, the person designated selected a suitable moment 
for its delivery. Advancing to the fire prepared for 
the purpose, he called the attention of the people by 
an exclamation, which was the known precursor of 



this address. Having sprinkled a few leaves of Indian 
tobacco upon the fire, he addressed Ha-wen-ne ] -yu> as 
the smoke ascended. The following, delivered at a 
Planting festival among the Senecas, will illustrate the 
general character of these prayers or thanksgiving 
addresses : 

" Great Spirit, who dwellest alone, listen now to the words 
of thy people here assembled. The smoke of our offering 
arises. Give kind attention to our words, as they arise to thee 
in the smoke. We thank thee for this return of the planting sea 
son. Give to us a good season, that our crops may be plentiful. 

" Continue to listen, for the smoke yet arises. (Throwing 
on tobacco.) Preserve us from all pestilential diseases. Give 
strength to us all that we may not fall. Preserve our old men 
among us, and protect the young. Help us to celebrate with 
feeling the ceremonies of this season. Guide the minds of thy 
people, that they may remember thee in all their actions. 
Na-bo 1 ." 

There was nothing further to distinguish this festi 
val from the former. 

If, after the planting season, a drought should come 
upon the land, threatening a failure of the harvest, a 
special council was frequently called, to invoke He-no^ 
the Thunderer, to send rain upon the earth. Before 
the time appointed for this council, the people assem 
bled, as before other festivals, for mutual confession. 
They feared, as they expressed it, " that some of their 
number had done some great wrong, for which the 
Great Spirit was angry with them, and withheld the 
rain as a merited punishment." After this special 
council was opened in the usual form, the Thanksgiv- 



ing dance, and the Ah-dd-weh, hereafter to be described, 
were introduced, which were supposed to be peculiarly 
acceptable to He -no. At a proper time, in the progress 
of these ceremonies, the keeper of the faith, who had 
been appointed as usual, advanced to the fire, and having 
laid on the leaves of tobacco, and gained the attention 
of the people, he made the following invocation of the 
Thunderer, as the incense ascended : 

" He -no, our Grandfather, listen now to the words of thy 
grandchildren. We feel grieved. Our minds are sorely 
troubled. We fear Our Supporters will fail, and bring famine 
upon us. We ask our Grandfather that he may come, and 
give us rain, that the earth may not dry up, and refuse to 
produce for our support. Thy grandchildren all send their 
salutations to their grandfather, He -no" 

Then taking another handful of tobacco, and 
placing it upon the fire, he changed the address to 

Ha-wen-ne -yu : 

" Great Spirit : listen to the words of thy suffering chil 
dren. They come to thee with pure minds. If they have 
done wrong, they have confessed, and turned their minds, (at 
the same time holding up the string of white wampum with 
which the confession was recorded.) Be kind to us. Hear 
our grievances, and supply our wants. Direct that He -no may 
come, and give us rain, that Our Supporters may not fail us, 
and bring famine to our homes. Na-ho ." 

After concluding the dance the assembly was dis 

In the progress of the seasons, next came the 
Strawberry, the first fruit of the earth. The Iroquois 



seized upon this spontaneous gift of nature for their 
sustenance, as another suitable occasion for a thanks 
giving festival. By such ceremonials they habituated 
their minds to a recognition of the providential care 
of Ha-wen-ne -yu ; cultivating, at the same time, a 
grateful spirit for the constant return of his gifts. 
The observances at this festival were the same as 
those at the Maple, with a sufficient variation of terms 
to designate the particular occasion. It was concluded 
with a feast of strawberries. The berries were pre 
pared with maple sugar, in capacious bark trays, in 
the form of a jelly ; and in this condition the people 
feasted upon this great luxury of nature. 

The ripening of the Whortleberry was often made 
the occasion of another festival. It was in all respects 
like the last,, the only difference consisting in the fact, 
that the former was an acknowledgment for the first 
fruit of plants, and the latter for the first fruit of 


The word from which this takes its name signifies 
"a feast." It continued four days, the proceedings 
of each being different in most particulars, but each 
one terminating with a feast. 

When the green corn became fit for use, the season 
of plenty with the Indian had emphatically arrived. 
They made it another occasion of general thanksgiving 
to the Great Spirit, and of feasting and rejoicing 
among themselves. Corn has ever been the staple 
article of consumption among the Iroquois. They 
cultivated this plant, and also the bean and the 





8 ACK 


squash, before the formation of the League. From 
the most remote period to which tradition reaches, 
the knowledge of the cultivation and use of these 
plants has been handed down among them. 1 They 
raised sufficient quantities of each to supply their ut 
most wants, preparing them for food in a great variety 
of ways, and making them at least the basis of their 
sustenance. 119 In their own mode of expressing 
the idea, these plants are mentioned together, under 
the figurative name of " Our Life," or " Our Sup 
porters." It cannot, therefore, be affirmed with cor 
rectness, that the Indian subsisted principally by 
the chase. (84) After the formation of the League, 
they resided in permanent villages, and within certain 
well-defined territorial limits. The fruits of the chase 
then became a secondary, although a necessary means 
of subsistence. 2 

On the first day of this festival, after the intro 
ductory speeches had been made, the Feather dance, 
the thanksgiving address, with the burning of to- 

1 According to the legend, the corn plant sprang from the bosom of 
the mother of the Great Spirit, after her burial. 

2 The quantities of corn raised by the Iroquois was a constant cause 
of remark among those who went earliest among them. The first expe 
dition into the Seneca country, of a warlike character, was made by the 
Marquis De Nonville, as early as 1687, but a few years after the ge 
ographical location of the Iroquois nations became known to the French 
and English. He thus speaks of the quantity of corn: " We remained 
at the four Seneca villages until the 24th of July. All that time we 
spent in destroying the corn, which was in such great abundance, that 
the 1 loss, including old corn which was in cache which we burnt, and 
that which was standing, was computed according to the estimate after 
wards made, at four hundred thousand minots of Indian corn" 
(1,200,000 bushels). Documentary Hist. New York, vol. i. p. 238. 
This, however, must be regarded as an extravagant estimate. (88) 



bacco, and three or four other dances, made up the 
principal religious exercises. This address was intro 
duced in the midst of one of the dances which suc 
ceeded the first. One more specimen of these brief 
prayers of the Iroquois, as made by the Senecas, will 
be furnished. Having placed the leaves of tobacco 
on the fire, as usual, the keeper of the faith thus 

addressed Hd-wen-ne -yu : 

" Great Spirit in heaven, listen to our words. We have 
assembled to perform a sacred duty, as thou hast commanded. 
This institution has descended to us from our fathers. We 
salute thee with our thanks, that thou hast preserved so many 
of us another year, to participate in the ceremonies of this 

" Great Spirit, continue to listen : We thank thee for thy 
great goodness in causing our mother, the earth, again to bring 
forth her fruits. We thank thee that thou hast caused Our 
Supporters to yield abundantly. 

u Great Spirit, our words still continue to flow towards thee. 
(Throwing on tobacco). Preserve us from all danger. Pre 
serve our aged men. Preserve our mothers. Preserve our 
warriors. Preserve our children. We burn this tobacco ; 
may its smoke arise to thee. May our thanks, ascending with 
it, be pleasing to thee. Give wisdom to the keepers of the 
faith, that they may direct these ceremonies with propriety. 
Strengthen our warriors, that they may celebrate with pleasure 
the sacred dances of thy appointment. 

" Great Spirit ; the council here assembled, the aged men 
and women, the strong warriors, the women and children, unite 
their voice of thanksgiving to thee. Na-ho ! " l 

1 Fora similar address in use among the Ottawas, see La Hontan s 
North Am., Lond. Ed. 1735, vol. ii. p. 34. 



Before partaking of the feast, the people went out 
to witness some of those games which were often in 
troduced, as an amusement, to accompany the other 
exercises of these festive days. 

The second day commenced with the usual address, 
after which they had the Thanksgiving dance, Ga-na- 
o-ub, which was the principal religious exercise of the 
day. This dance was not necessarily a costume per 
formance, although it was usually given by a select 
band in full dress. In figure, step, and music, it was 
precisely like the Feather dance, the chief difference 
between them being the introduction of short thanks 
giving speeches between the songs of the dance. This 
dance is fully explained elsewhere ; but it is proper to 
say, to make it intelligible here, that the music con 
sisted of a series of thanksgiving songs, performed by 
select singers, who accompanied themselves with turtle- 
shell rattles, to mark time. Each song lasted about 
two minutes, during which the band danced around 
the room, in column, with great animation. When 
the song ceased, the dancers walked around the coun 
cil-house, about the same length of time, to the beat 
of the rattles. The thanksgiving speeches were made 
during these intervals between the songs. A person 
arose, and perhaps thanked the Maple as follows : 
" We return thanks to the Maple, which yields its 
sweet waters for the good of man." Again the dance 
was resumed, and another song danced out, after 
which another speech was made by some other person, 
perhaps as follows : " We return thanks to the bushes 
and trees, which provide us with fruit." The dance 

was then resumed as before. In this manner the 
VOL. i. 13 I93 


thanksgiving speeches, the songs and the dance were 
continued, until all the prominent objects in nature 
had been made the subjects of special notice. There 
were always set speeches introduced with the Thanks 
giving dance, at the Green Corn and Harvest festivals, 
and they formed a conspicuous part of the worship of 
the Iroquois. These speeches, or the principal ones, 
may be collected into one, for the purpose of showing 
the range of subjects taken ; yet it must be borne in 
mind that each object formed the subject of a separate 
speech, and was followed by a thanksgiving song, 
adapted to the case, which the band danced through. 
It may be proper further to add, that these speeches 
were consolidated to form the principal part of the 
annual thanksgiving address to the Great Spirit, made 
at the burning of the White Dog. The following is 
their natural order : 

" We return thanks to our mother, the earth, which 
sustains us. We return thanks to the rivers and 
streams, which supply us with water. We return 
thanks to all herbs, which furnish medicines for the 
cure of our diseases. We return thanks to the corn, 
and to her sisters, the beans and squashes, which give 
us life. We return thanks to the bushes and trees, 
which .provide us with fruit. We return thanks to 
the wind, which, moving the air, has banished dis 
eases. We return thanks to the moon and stars, 
which have given to us their light when the sun was 
gone. We return thanks to our grandfather He -no, 
that he has protected his grandchildren from witches 
and reptiles, and has given to us his rain. We 
return thanks to the sun, that he has looked upon 



the earth with a beneficent eye. Lastly, we return 
thanks to the Great Spirit, in whom is embodied all 
goodness, and who directs all things for the good of 
his children." 

After the conclusion of the Thanksgiving dance, 
two or three other dances followed, and after them 
the feast, with which the exercises of the day were 

The third morning was set apart for a thanksgiving 
concert, called the Ah-dd-weh> which constituted the 
chief ceremony of the day. The council was opened 
by an introductory speech by one of the keepers of 
the faith, upon its nature, objects, and institution. 
This novelty in their worship was a succession of short 
speeches made by different persons, one after another, 
returning thanks to a great variety of objects, each 
one following his speech with an appropriate song, the 
words of which were of his own composing, and often 
times the music also. In a chorus to each song all 
the people joined, thus sending forth a united anthem 
of praise. They passed through the whole range of 
natural objects, thanking each one directly, as in the 
Thanksgiving dance; but they were not in the Ah- 
do-weh confined either to the natural or to the spirit 
ual world. Acts of kindness, personal achievements, 
political events, in a word, all the affairs of public and 
private life were open on this occasion to the indul 
gence of the grateful affections. Oftentimes one or 
two hours were consumed, before the people had all 
expressed their thanks to each other for personal 
favors, to the works of nature for their constant min 
istration to their wants, and to the Great Spirit and 



the " Invisible Aids " for their protecting care. Many 
of the speeches on these occasions, especially those 
which referred to objects in the natural world, were 
the same from year to year. But those which grew 
out of their private relations would vary with circum 
stances. This was esteemed one of their highest re 
ligious exercises, and it always continued to be one of 
their favorite observances. When the Ah-do -weh 
was concluded, two or three dances were generally 
introduced before the enjoyment of the feast, with 
which, as before remarked, each day s proceedings 
were terminated. 

On the fourth day, the festival was concluded with 
the peach-stone game, Gus-ga-a, a game of chance, on 
which they bet profusely, and to which they were ex 
travagantly attached. It was not in the nature of a 
religious exercise, but a favorite entertainment, with 
which to terminate the Green Corn ceremonial. It is 
elsewhere described. 

It should be held in the memory, that at the period 
of the institution of their religious festivals, they were 
concluded at meridian ; during the middle period of 
their history, they were continued until towards twi 
light ; but in modern times, an evening entertainment, 
in the way of dancing, always follows each day ot the 
festival, so long as it continues, although it forms no 
part of their religious observances. It may be further 
observed, that at the present time, this festival lasts 
but three days, the proceedings of the third and fourth 
being completed on the former day. 

At the close of each day, the people regaled them 
selves upon a sumptuous feast of succotash. This 



was always the entertainment at the green corn sea 
son. It was made of corn, beans and squashes, and 
was always a favorite article of food with the red man. 
It may be well to state in this connection, that among 
the Iroquois at the present day, they do not sit down 
together to a common repast, except at religious 
councils of unusual interest. The feast, after being 
prepared at the place of council, is distributed at its 
close, and carried by the women, in vessels brought 
for the purpose, to their respective homes, where it is 
enjoyed by each family at their own fireside. But when 
the people feasted together after the ancient fashion, 
as they still do occasionally, they selected the hour of 
twilight. The huge kettles of soup, or hommony, or 
succotash, as the case might be, were brought into 
their midst, smoking from the fire. Before partaking 
of this evening banquet, they never omitted to say 
grace, which, with them, was a simple ceremonial, but 
in perfect harmony with their mode of worship. It 
was a prolonged exclamation, upon a high key, by the 
solitary voice of one of the keepers of the faith, fol 
lowed by a swelling chorus from the multitude, upon 
a lower note. It was designed as an acknowledgment 
to each other of their gratitude to the great Giver of 
the feast. 


After the gathering of the harvest, the Iroquois 
held another general thanksgiving for four days. It 
was the last in the year, as the New Year s obser 
vances were not of the same general character. The 



name given to this festival signifies " Thanksgiving 
to Our Supporters." It was instituted primarily to 
return thanks to the corn, beans and squashes, which 
are always characterized by the Iroquois under this 
figurative name. Also, to the triad of Spirits, who are 
so intimately connected in their minds with the plants 
themselves, that they are nearly inseparable. The 
resulting object, however, of all these Indian rites, 
was the praise of Ha-wen-ne -yu. Nature having 
matured and poured forth her stores for their suste 
nance, they instituted this ceremonial as a perpetual 
acknowledgment of their gratitude for each returning 

In the mode of summoning this council, and in the 
religious ceremonies, and concluding festivities of each 
day, it so closely resembled the Green Corn worship, 
that a separate description is rendered unnecessary. 

These religious councils were seasons of animation 
and excitement. The greater activity in social inter 
course among the people, generally awakened by these 
ceremonies and festivities, contributed largely to keep 
up the spirit of these occasions. In the evening, as 
soon as the twilight hour was passed, the people 
gathered for the dance, as this entertainment, since 
the innovation before referred to, always follows the 
religious ceremonies of each day. The Iroquois have 
numerous dances, and to the practice itself they have 
always been extravagantly addicted. On such occasions 
the passion was gratified by a free indulgence, and the 
hours of the night passed by unheeded. With the 
Iroquois in their festivities, as with more refined com 
munities, neither the admonition of the setting stars, 



nor of the fallen dew, " counselled sleep." Not, per 
haps, until the faint light of approaching day illumined 
the east, did the spirit of enjoyment decline, and the 
last murmur of the dispersing council finally subside. 


The name given to this festival literally signifies 
" The most excellent faith," or " The supreme belief." 

Among the ceremonies incident to the worship of 
the Iroquois, the most novel were those which ushered 
in the new year. In mid-winter, usually about the 
first of February, this religious celebration was held. 
It continued for seven successive days, revealing, in 
its various ceremonials, nearly every feature of their 
religious system. The prominent act which char 
acterized this jubilee, and which, perhaps, indicated 
what they understood by "The most excellent faith," 
was the burning of the White Dog, on the fifth day 
of the festival. This annual sacrifice of the Iroquois 
has long been known, attracting at various times con 
siderable attention. But the true principle involved 
in it appears not to have been rightly understood. In 
the sequel, it will be found to be a very simple and 
tangible idea, harmonizing fully with their system of 
faith and worship. 

Several days before the time appointed for the 
jubilee, the people assembled for the confession of 
their sins. On this occasion they were more thorough 

1 This word will analyze as follows : Gi -ye-wa, faith or belief; no- 
us -qua (superlative), excellent or best j and go -wa, great or supreme. 



in the work than at any other season, that they 
might enter upon the new year with a firm purpose 
of amendment. This council not unfrequently lasted 
three days, before all the people had performed this 
act of religious duty. 

The observances of the new year were commenced 
on the day appointed, by two of the keepers of the 
faith, who visited every house in and about the Indian 
village, morning and evening. (95) They were disguised 
in bear skins or buffalo robes, which were secured 
around their heads with wreaths of corn-husks, and 
then gathered in loose folds about the body. Wreaths 
of corn-husks were also adjusted around their arms 
and ankles. They were robed in this manner, and 
painted by the matrons, who, like themselves, were 
keepers of the faith, and by them were they commis 
sioned to go forth in this formidable attire, to an 
nounce the commencement of the jubilee. Taking 
corn-pounders in their hands, they went out in com 
pany, on the morning of the day, to perform their 
duty. Upon entering a house, they saluted the 
inmates in a formal manner, after which, one of them, 
striking upon the floor, to restore silence and secure 
attention, thus addressed them : 

u Listen, Listen, Listen: The ceremonies which the 
Great Spirit has commanded us to perform, are about to com 
mence. Prepare your houses. Clear away the rubbish. 
Drive out all evil animals. We wish nothing to hinder or 
obstruct the coming observances. We enjoin upon every one 
to obey our requirements. Should any of your friends be taken 
sick and die, we command you not to mourn for them, nor 
allow any of your friends to mourn. But lay the body aside, 



and enjoy the coming ceremonies with us. When they are 
over, we will mourn with you." 1 

After singing a, short thanksgiving song, they passed 

In the afternoon this visit was repeated in the same 
manner. After saluting the family as before, one of 
the keepers of the faith thus addressed them : - 

" My Nephews, my Nephews, my Nephews : We now 
announce to you that the New Year s ceremonies have com 
menced, according to our ancient custom. You are, each of 
you, now required to go forth, and participate in their obser 
vance. This is the will of the Great Spirit. Your first duty 
will be to prepare your wooden blades (Ga-ger-we-sa) with 
which to stir up the ashes upon your neighbors hearths. 
Then return to the Great Spirit your individual thanks for the 
return of this season, and for the enjoyment of this privilege." 

Having sung another song, appropriate to the occa 
sion, they departed finally, and when they had in this 
way made the circuit of the village, the ceremonies of 
the first day were concluded. 

On the first day, however, the White Dog was 
strangled. (96) They selected a dog, free from phys- 

1 This singular injunction exhibits the deep interest taken in the per 
formance of these religious ceremonies. In practice, also, they possessed 
sufficient self-control to carry out the requirement to the letter. If a per 
son died during this festival, the body was laid aside until it was con 
cluded, and the relatives of the deceased participated both in the religious 
ceremonies, and in the amusements connected with them, with as much 
interest and attention as if nothing had happened. Sometimes those festi 
vals were broken up by a bad omen : as if, for instance, a dog should bite 
one of the keepers of the faith on his visitorial round, they would stop the 
festival, and appoint a new one. 



ical blemish, and of a pure white, if such an one could 
be found. The white deer, white squirrel, and other 
chance animals of the albino kind, were regarded as 
consecrated to the Great Spirit. White was the Iro- 
quois emblem of purity and of faith. In strangling 
the dog, they were careful neither to shed his blood 
nor break his bones. The dog was then spotted, in 
places, over his body and limbs, with red paint, and 
ornamented with feathers in various ways. Around 
his neck was hung a string of white wampum, the 
pledge of their sincerity. In modern times, the dog 
is ornamented with a profusion of many-colored rib 
bons, which are adjusted around his body and limbs. 1 
The ornaments placed upon the dog were the voluntary 
offerings of the pious ; and for each gift thus bestowed, 
the giver was taught to expect a blessing. When the 
dog had been thus decorated, it was suspended by the 
neck about eight feet from the ground, on the branch 
ing prong of a pole erected for that purpose. Here 
it hung, night and day, until the morning of the fifth 
day, when it was taken down to be burned. Often 
times two dogs were burned, one for each four of the 
tribes. (57) In this case, the people separated into 
two divisions, and after going through separate pre 
paratory ceremonies, they united around the same altar 
for the burning of the dogs, and the offering of the 
thanksgiving address to the Great Spirit. 

On the second day all the people went forth, and 

1 The author once (February 6, 1846) counted nine different colored 
ribbons upon a white dog thus hung up during a New Year s celebration 
among the Senecas at Tonawanda. They were tied around his mouth, 
neck, legs, body and tail. 



visited in turn the houses of their neighbors, either in 
the morning, at noon, or in the evening. They went 
in small parties apparelled in their best attire. It was 
customary, however, for the people to be preceded by 
the two keepers of the faith who made the recitations 
the day previous, as a matter of etiquette ; the houses 
not being open to all, until these personages had made 
their call. At this time was performed the ceremony 
of stirring the ashes upon the hearth, which appears 
to have no particular idea attached to it, beyond that 
of a formal visitation. (95) Putting aside the dis 
guise of the day before, the keepers of the faith as 
sumed the costume of warriors, plumed and painted, 
in which attire they visited every family three times, in 
the morning, at noon, and in the evening. Taking 
in their hands wooden blades or shovels, they entered 
the lodge and saluted the family. One of them then 
stirred the ashes, and having taken up a quantity upon 
the blade of the shovel, and sprinkled them upon the 
hearth, he thus addressed the inmates, as they were in 
the act of falling : " I thank the Great Spirit that he 
has spared your lives again to witness this New Year s 
celebration." Then repeating the process with another 
shovel full of ashes, he continued : " I thank the Great 
Spirit that he has spared my life, again to be an actor 
in this ceremony. And now I do this to please the 
Great Spirit." The two then united in a thanksgiving 
song prepared for the occasion, upon the conclusion 
of which they took their departure. Other parties of 
the people then came in successively, and each went 
through the same performances. In this manner every 
house was thrice visited on the second day, by the 



keepers of the faith in the first instance, and afterwards 
by the whole community. 

The proceedings upon the third and fourth days 
were alike. Small dancing parties were organized, 
which visited from house to house, and danced at the 
domestic fireside. Each set selected a different dance, 
appointed their own leader, and furnished their own 
music. One party, for instance, took the Feather 
dance, another the Fish dance, another the Trotting 
dance, to give variety to the short entertainments 
which succeeded each other at every house. It was 
not uncommon, on such occasions, to see a party of 
juveniles, about a dozen in number, dressed in full 
costume, feathered and painted, dancing the War 
dance, from house to house, with all the zeal and 
enthusiasm which this dance was so eminently calcu 
lated to excite. In this manner every house was made 
a scene of gaiety and amusement, for none was so 
humble or so retired as to remain unvisited. 

Another pastime incident to these days was the 
formation of a " thieving party," as it was called, a 
band of mischievous boys, disguised with false faces, 
paint and rags, to collect materials for a feast. This 
vagrant company strolled from house to house, ac 
companied by an old woman carrying a huge basket. 
If the family received them kindly, and made them 
presents, they handed the latter to the female carrier, 
and having given the family a dance in acknowledg 
ment of the present, they retired without committing 
any depredations. But if no presents were made, or 
such as were insufficient, they purloined whatever 
articles they could most adroitly and easily conceal. 



If detected, they at once made restitution, but if not, 
it was considered a fair win. On the return of this 
party from their rounds, all the articles collected were 
deposited in a place open to public examination ; 
where any one who had lost an article which he 
particularly prized, was allowed to redeem it, on 
paying an equivalent. But no one was permitted 
to reclaim, as the owner, any article successfully taken 
by this thieving party on its professional round. 
Upon the proceeds of this forced collection, a feast 
was eventually given, together with a dance in some 
private family. 

Guessing dreams was another of the novel practices 
of the Iroquois, which distinguished these festive days. 
It is difficult to understand precisely how far the self- 
delusion under which the dreamer appeared to act 
was real. A person with a melancholy and dejected 
countenance, entering a house, announced that he had 
a dream, and requested the inmates to guess it. He 
thus wandered from house to house, until he found 
a solution which suited him. This was either received 
as an interpretation of an actual dream, or suggested 
such a dream as the person was willing to adopt as 
his own. He at once avowed that his dream had 
been correctly guessed ; and if the dream, as inter 
preted, prescribed any future conduct, he fulfilled it 
to the letter at whatever sacrifice. The celebrated 
Cornplanter, Gy-ant -wa-ka, resigned his chiefship in 
consequence of a dream. 1 In relation to dreams, the 

1 The dream of Cornplanter occurred about the year 1810. His in 
fluence with the Senecas had been for some years on the wane, which his 
friends ascribed to his friendly relations with the whites. During a New 



Iroquois had ever been prone to extravagant and 
supernatural beliefs. They often regarded a dream 
as a divine monition, and followed its injunctions to 
the utmost extremity. Their notions upon this sub 
ject recall to remembrance the conceit of Homer, 
that " dreams descend from Jove." (62) 

During the first four days the people were without 
a feast, from the fact that the observances themselves 
did not require the assembling of the people at the 
council-house. But entertainments were given in the 

Year s celebration at his village on the Allegany, he went from house to 
house for three days, announcing wherever he went that he had had a 
dream, and wished to find some one to guess it. On the third day, a 
Seneca told him that he could relate his dream. Seeing him nearly naked 
and shivering with cold, he said : " You shall henceforth be called 
O-no -no," meaning " cold." This signified that his name, Gy-ant - 
iva-ka, should pass away from him, and with it his title as a chief. He 
then explained the interpretation to Cornplanter more fully : " That he had 
had a sufficient term of service for the good of the nation. That he was 
grown too old to be of much further use as a warrior or as a counsellor, 
and that he must therefore appoint a successor. That if he wished to 
preserve the continued good-will of the Great Spirit, he must remove from 
his house and sight every article of the workmanship or invention of the 
white man. " Cornplanter, having listened with earnest attention to this 
interpretation, confessed that it was correctly guessed, and that he was re 
solved to execute it. His presents, which he had received from Wash 
ington, Adams, Jefferson, and others, he collected together, with the 
exception of his tomahawk, and burned them up. Among the presents 
thus consumed was a full uniform of an American officer, including an 
elegant sword and his medal given him by Washington. He then selected 
an old and intimate friend to be his successor, and sent to him his toma 
hawk and a belt of wampum, to announce his resolution and his wishes. 
Although contrary to their customs, the Senecas, out of reverence for 
his extraordinary dream, at once raised up as a chief the person selected 
by Cornplanter, and invested him with the name of Gy-ant -^va-ka, which 
he bore during his life. Cornplanter, after this event, was always known 
among the Iroquois under the name of O-no -no. This tomahawk, the 
last relic of Cornplanter, is now in the State Historical Collection at 
Albany. (112) 



evenings at private houses, where the night was devoted 
to the dance. Another amusement at this particular 
season was the Snow-snake game, which, like all Indian 
games, was wont to arouse considerable interest. 

On the morning of the fifth day, soon after dawn, 
the White Dog was burned on an altar of wood 
erected by the keepers of the faith near the council- 
house. It is difficult, from outward observation, to 
draw forth the true intent with which the dog was 
burned. The obscurity with which the object was 
veiled has led to various conjectures. Among other 
things, it has been pronounced a sacrifice for sin. 
In the religious system of the Iroquois, there is no 
recognition of the doctrine of atonement for sin, or 
of the absolution or forgiveness of sins. Upon this 
whole subject, their system is silent. An act once 
done was registered beyond the power of change. 
The greatest advance upon this point of faith was 
the belief that good deeds cancelled the evil, thus 
placing heaven, through good works, within the reach 
of all. The notion that this was an expiation for 
sin is thus refuted by their system of theology itself. 
The other idea, that the sins of the people, by some 
mystic process, were transferred to the dog, and by 
him thus borne away, on the principle of the scape 
goat of the Hebrews, is also without any foundation 
in truth. The burning of the dog had not the slight 
est connection with the sins of the people. On the 
contrary, the simple idea of the sacrifice was, to send 
up the spirit of the dog as a messenger to the Great 
Spirit, to announce their continued fidelity to his 
service, and also to convey to him their united 



thanks for the blessings of the year. The fidelity 
of the dog, the companion of the Indian, as a hunter, 
was emblematical of their fidelity. No messenger so 
trusty could be found to bear their petitions to the 
Master of life. The Iroquois believed that the Great 
Spirit made a covenant with their fathers to the effect, 
that when they should send up to him the spirit of 
a dog, of a spotless white, he would receive it as the 
pledge of their adherence to his worship, and his ears 
would thus be opened in a special manner to their 
petitions. To approach Hd-wen-ne-yu in the most 
acceptable manner, and to gain attention to their 
thanksgiving acknowledgments and supplications in 
the way of his own appointing, was the end and 
object of burning the dog. They hung around his 
neck a string of white wampum, the pledge of their 
faith. They believed that the spirit of the dog hov 
ered around the body until it was committed to 
the flames, when it ascended into the presence of 
the Great Spirit, itself the acknowledged evidence 
of their fidelity, and bearing also to him the united 
thanks and supplications of the people. This sacri 
fice was the most solemn and impressive manner of 
drawing near to the Great Spirit known to the Iro 
quois. They used the spirit of the dog in precisely the 
same manner that they did the incense of tobacco, as an 
instrumentality through which to commune with their 
Maker. This sacrifice was their highest act of piety. 

The burning of the dog was attended with many 
ceremonies. It was first taken down and laid out 
upon a bench in the council-house, while the fire of 
the altar was kindling. A speech was then made over 



it by one of the keepers of the faith, in which he 
spoke of the antiquity of this institution of their 
fathers, of its importance and solemnity, and finally 
enjoined upon them all to direct their thoughts to 
the Great Spirit, and unite with the keepers of the 
faith in these observances. He concluded with thank 
ing the Great Spirit, that the lives of so many of 
them had been spared through another year. A 
chant or song, appropriate to the occasion, was then 
sung, the people joining in chorus. By the time 
this was over, the altar was blazing up on every 
side ready for the offering. A procession was then 
formed, the officiating keeper of the faith preceding, 
followed by four others bearing the dog upon a kind 
of bark litter, behind which came the people in Indian 
file. A loud exclamation, in the nature of a war- 
whoop, announced the starting of the procession. 
They moved on towards the altar, and having marched 
around it, the keepers of the faith halted, facing the 
rising sun. With some immaterial ceremonies, the dog 
was laid upon the burning altar, and as the flames sur 
rounded the offering, the officiating keeper of the faith, 
by a species of ejaculation, upon a high key, thrice 
repeated, invoked the attention of the Great Spirit. 

"j^#tf, qua, qua : (Hail, hail, hail.) Thou who hast cre 
ated all things, who mlest all things, and who givest laws and 
commands to thy creatures, listen to our words. We now 
obey thy commands. That which thou hast made is returning 
unto thee. It is rising to thee, by which it will appear that 
our words are true." l 

1 Some leaves of tobacco were attached to the wampum around the 
dog s neck, with the incense of which this invocation was made. 
VOL. i. 14 209 


Several thanksgiving songs or chants, in measured 
verse, were then sung by the keepers of the faith, the 
people joining in chorus. After this, was made the 
great thanksgiving address of the Iroquois. The 
keeper of the faith appointed to deliver it, invoked 
the attention of Ha-wen-ne-yu by the same thrice- 
repeated exclamation. As the speech progressed, he 
threw leaves of tobacco into the fire from time to 
time, that its incense might constantly ascend during 
the whole address. The following is the address, as 
delivered among the Senecas: 1 

"Hail, Hail, Hail: Listen now, with an open ear, to the 
words of thy people, as they ascend to thy dwelling, in the 
smoke of our offering. Behold thy people here assembled. 
Behold, they have come up to celebrate anew the sacred rites 
thou hast given them. Look down upon us beneficently. 
Give us wisdom faithfully to execute thy commands. 

" Continue to listen : The united voice of thy people con 
tinues to ascend to thee. Forbid, by thy wisdom, all things 
which shall tempt thy people to relinquish their ancient faith. 
Give us power to celebrate at all times, with zeal and fidelity, 
the sacred ceremonies which thou hast given us. 

u Continue to listen : Give to the keepers of the faith 
wisdom to execute properly thy commands. Give to our 
warriors, and our mothers, strength to perform the sacred cer 
emonies of thy institution. We thank thee that, in thy wis 
dom, thou hast given to us these commands. We thank thee 
that thou hast preserved them pure unto this day. 

" Continue to listen : We thank thee that the lives of 

1 Taken down by Hd-sa-no-an -da (Ely S. Parker), as delivered by his 
grandfather, Sose-/ta -<wa, at Tonawanda. This is the ancient address 
handed down from generation to generation, and unchanged in its essential 
particulars. Sose-ha -^wd has delivered it thus for the past twenty-five 
years at Tonawanda. 



so many of thy children are spared, to participate in the exer 
cises of this occasion. Our minds are gladdened to be made 
partakers in the execution of thy commands. 

" We return thanks to our mother, the earth, which sus 
tains us. We thank thee that thou hast caused her to yield 
so plentifully of her fruits. Cause that, in the season coming, 
she may not withhold of her fulness, and leave any to suffer 
for want. 

u We return thanks to the rivers and streams, which run 
their courses upon the bosom of our mother the earth. We 
thank thee that thou hast supplied them with life, for our 
comfort and support. Grant that this blessing may continue. 

"We return thanks to all the herbs and plants of the earth. 
We thank thee that in thy goodness thou hast blest them all, 
and given them strength to preserve our bodies healthy, and to 
cure us of the diseases inflicted upon us by evil spirits. We 
ask thee not to take from us these blessings. 

" We return thanks to the Three Sisters. We thank thee 
that thou hast provided them as the main supporters of our 
lives. We thank thee for the abundant harvest gathered in 
during the past season. We ask that Our Supporters may 
never fail us, and cause our children to suffer from want. 

<c We return thanks to the bushes and trees which provide 
us with fruit. We thank thee that thou hast blessed them, 
and made them to produce for the good of thy creatures. We 
ask that they may not refuse to yield plentifully for our 

u We return thanks to the winds, which, moving, have 
banished all diseases. We thank thee that thou hast thus 
ordered. We ask the continuation of this great blessing. 

" We return thanks to our grandfather He -no. We thank 
thee that thou hast so wisely provided for our happiness and 
comfort, in ordering the rain to descend upon the earth, giving 
us water, and causing all plants to grow. We thank thee that 



thou hast given us He -no, our grandfather, to do thy will in 
the protection of thy people. We ask that this great blessing 
may be continued to us. 

u We return thanks to the moon and stars, which give us 
light when the sun has gone to his rest. We thank thee that 
thy wisdom has so kindly provided, that light is never wanting 
to us. Continue unto us this goodness. 

u We return thanks to the sun, that he has looked upon the 
earth with a beneficent eye. We thank thee that thou hast, 
in thy unbounded wisdom, commanded the sun to regulate the 
return of the seasons, to dispense heat and cold, and to watch 
over the comfort of thy people. Give unto us that wisdom 
which will guide us in the path of truth. Keep us from all 
evil ways, that the sun may never hide his face from us for 
shame and leave us in darkness. 

"We return thanks to the Ho-no-che-no -kek. 1 We thank 
thee that thou. hast provided so many agencies for our good 
and happiness. 

"Lastly, we return thanks to thee, our Creator and Ruler. 
In thee are embodied all things. We believe thou canst do no 
evil ; that thou doest all things for our good and happiness. 
Should thy people disobey thy commands, deal not harshly 
with them ; but be kind to us, as thou hast been to our fathers 
in times long gone by. Hearken unto our words as they have 

1 The Ho-no-che-no -keh included the whole spiritual world, or subor 
dinate spirits created by Hd-iven-ne -yu. They were believed by the Iro- 
quois to be mere agencies or instrumentalities through whom the Great 
Spirit administered the government of the world. They were also believed 
to have been created to minister to the happiness and protection of the 
Indian upon earth. 

It should also be noticed that the leading objects in the natural world 
which are made the subject of their thanks, are designed to include all 
lesser objects. Under each head, by a figure of speech, whole classes of 
objects were included. Thus " the rivers and streams 11 include all bodies 
of water, springs, fishes, &c. ; "the wind 11 includes all the birds of the 



ascended, and may they be pleasing to thee our Creator, the 
Preserver and Ruler of all things, visible and invisible. 

After the delivery of this address, the people, leav 
ing the partly consumed offering, returned to the 
council-house, where the Feather dance was performed. 
With this the religious exercises of the day were con 
cluded. Other dances, however, followed, for the 
entertainment of the people, and the day and evening 
were given up to this amusement. Last of all came 
the feast, with which the proceedings of the day were 

On the morning of the sixth day, the people again 
assembled at the place of council. This day was 
observed in about the same manner as one of their 
ordinary religious days, at which the Thanksgiving 
dance was introduced. 

The seventh and last day was commenced with the 
Ah-dd-weh ; after which the Peach-stone game was 
introduced, with the determination of which ended 
the New Year s jubilee. 

Other incidents and circumstances connected with 
the worship of the Iroquois might be pointed out, 
and would be necessary to a full explanation of the 
details of their religious system ; but sufficient has 
been presented to exhibit its framework, and the 
principles upon which it rested. No attempt has 
been made to furnish a picture of either of these 
religious councils, by a minute description of their 
proceedings. All the detail has necessarily been 
omitted. To realize these festive and religious cere 
monials of our primitive inhabitants, it would be 




necessary to have a delineation of the incidents of each 
day, step by step, a description of the dances, the 
several games, and of the preparation of the feast, and 
also an explanation of their modes of social intercourse 
and of action, the spirit by which the people were 
animated, and the general character of the scene. 

These festivals have been observed from generation 
to generation, and at the same seasons of the year, 
upon the Mohawk, at Oneida, in the valley of 
Onondaga, on the shore of the Cayuga, and in the 
several villages of the Senecas. Before the voice of 
the white man was heard in these peaceful and 
secluded retreats of the forest, that of the Indian had 
been lifted up to the Great Spirit with thanksgiving 
and praise. The origin of these festivals is lost, as 
well as the date and order of their institution ; but 
the Iroquois believe that they have been observed 
among them, at least since the formation of the 
League. They have no tradition, which professes to 
have taken the custody of these dates and events. 

To one who has witnessed these observances 
from time to time, and learned to comprehend the 
principles and motives in which they originated, they 
possess a peculiar but almost indefinable interest. 
These simple religious rites of a people, sitting, it 
must be admitted, near the full meridian of natural 
religion, are calculated to fill the mind with serious 
impressions. In their earnest and constant efforts 
to draw near to the great Author of their being, 
to offer thanks for the unnumbered blessings strewn 
upon their path, and to supplicate the continuance of 
that watchful care without which there was no pres- 



ervation, there is a degree of heart-felt piety which 
the mind cannot resist. We may derive instruction 
from the faith of any race, if it rises above the 
grossness of superstition, into the regions of spiritual 
meditation. The moral nature of man unfolds with 
thought; and the Indian, in the shades of the forest, 
as well as Socrates in the groves of Athens, or Moses 
upon the skirts of Sinai, may contribute some new 
lessons to the fund of moral instruction. 

In this and the preceding chapter, the design has been 
to expose the structure of the worship of the Iroquois, 
and to elucidate the beliefs by which it was upheld. 
By the standard of Christian judgment, it must be 
confessed that the Faith and Worship of the Iroquois 
make up a system which, in its approaches to the 
truth, rises infinitely above the theological schemes of 
all other races, both ancient and modern, which origi 
nated independently of revelation. Having a firm 
hold upon the great truths of natural religion, they 
established a ceremonious but simple worship. Unlike 
the bloody ritual of the Aztecs, its influence upon the 
mind, and upon the social life of the Indian, was mild, 
humanizing and gentle. The fruits of their religious 
sentiments, among themselves, were peace, brotherly 
kindness, charity, hospitality, integrity, truth and 
friendship ; and towards the Great Spirit, reverence, 
thankfulness and faith. More wise than the Greeks 
and Romans in this great particular, they concentrated 
all divinity into one Supreme Being ; more confiding 
in the people than the priestly class of Egypt, their 
religious teachers brought down the knowledge of the 
" Unutterable One " to the minds of all. Eminently 

2I 5 


pure and spiritual, and internally consistent with each 
other, the beliefs and the religious ceremonies of the 
Iroquois are worthy of a respectful consideration. A 
people in the wilderness, shut out from revelation, 
with no tablet on which to write the history of passing 
generations, save the heart of man, yet possessed of the 
knowledge of one Supreme Being, and striving, with 
all the ardor of devotion, to commune with him in the 
language of thankfulness and supplication, is, to say the 
least, a most extraordinary spectacle ; not less sublime 
in itself than the spectacle of the persecuted Puritan, 
on the confines of the same wilderness, worshipping 
that God in the fulness of light and knowledge, whom 
the Indian, however limited and imperfect his con 
ceptions, in the Great Spirit most distinctly discerned. 
Their limited knowledge of the attributes which 
pertained to a Being endued with creative power, 
will not appear so surprising, when it is remembered 
to be the highest achievement of learning and piety, 
fully to comprehend the marvellous perfections of the 
Deity. When the complicated structures of Egypt, 
Greece and Rome are brought under comparison with 
the simple and unpretending scheme of theology of 
the children of the forest, there is found reason to 
marvel at the superior acuteness and profundity of the 
Indian intellect. It may be safely averred, that if 
the sustaining faith and the simple worship of the 
Iroquois are ever fully explored and carefully eluci 
dated, they will form a more imperishable monument 
to the Indian than is afforded in the purity of his 
virtues, or in the mournfulness of his destiny. 





Chapter III 

The New Religion Ga-ne-o-di -yo, the Instructor Pretended 
Revelation Sose-ha -wa, his Successor Speech of Da-aV-ga- 
dose Speech of Sose-ha -wa Doctrines of the New Religion 

ABOUT the year eighteen hundred, a new 
religious teacher arose among the Iroquois, 
who professed to have received a revelation 
from the Great Spirit, with a commission to preach to 
them the doctrines with which he had been intrusted. 
This revelation was received under circumstances so 
remarkable, and the precepts which he sought to incul 
cate contained within themselves such evidences of 
wisdom and beneficence, that he was universally re 
ceived among them, not only as a wise and good 
man, but as one commissioned from Hd-wen-ne -yu to 
become their religious instructor. The new religion, 
as it has since been called, not only embodied all the 
precepts of the ancient faith, and recognized the 
ancient mode of worship, giving to it anew the sanc 
tion of the Great Spirit, but it also comprehended 
such new doctrines as came in, very aptly, to lengthen 
out and enlarge the primitive system, without impair 
ing the structure itself. Charges of imposture and 
deception were at first preferred against him, but dis 
belief of his divine mission gradually subsided, until, 
at the time of his death, the whole unchristianized 
portion of the Iroquois had become firm believers in 


the new religion, which, to the present day, has 
continued to be the prevailing faith. (GG) 

The singular personage who was destined to obtain 
such a spiritual sway over the descendants of the an 
cient Iroquois, was Ga-ne-o-di-yo^ or " Handsome 
Lake," a Seneca sachem of the highest class. He 
was born at the Indian village of Ga-no-wau-ges 3 near 
Avon, about the year 17.35, an< ^ died at Onondaga in 
1815, where he happened to be on one of his pastoral 
visits. By birth he was a Seneca, of the Turtle tribe, 
and a half-brother of the celebrated Cornplanter, 
through a common father. The best part of his life 
was spent in idleness and dissipation, during which, 
although a sachem and ruler among the Senecas for 
many years, and through the most perilous period of 
their history, he acquired no particular reputation. 
Reforming late in life, in his future career he showed 
himself to be possessed of superior talents, and to be 
animated by a sincere and ardent desire for the welfare 
of his race. He appears to have adopted the idea of 
a revelation from Heaven, to give authority and sanc 
tion to his projected reformation. At this period, 
and for a century preceding, the prevailing intem 
perance of the Iroquois had been the fruitful source 
of those domestic disorders which, in connection with 
their political disasters, seemed then to threaten the 
speedy extinction of the race. A temperance refor 
mation, universal and radical, was the principal and 
the ultimate object of the mission which he assumed, 
and the one upon which he chiefly employed his influ 
ence and his eloquence, through the residue of his 
life. Knowing that argument and persuasion were 



feeble weapons in a contest with this mighty foe, 
Handsome Lake had the sagacity to address himself 
to the religious sentiments and the superstitious fears 
of the people. To secure a more ready reception of 
his admonitions, he clothed them with the divine sanc 
tion ; to strengthen their moral principles, he enforced 
anew the precepts of the ancient faith ; and to insure 
obedience to his teachings, he held over the wicked 
the terrors of eternal punishment. Travelling from 
village to village, among the several nations of the 
League, with the exception of the christianized Onei- 
das, and continuing his visits from year to year, this 
self-appointed apostle to the Indians preached the new 
doctrine with remarkable effect. Numbers, it is said, 
abandoned their dissolute habits, and became sober 
and moral men ; discord and contention gave place to 
harmony and order, and vagrancy and sloth to am 
bition and industry. What peculiar motives induced 
him, when past the meridian of life, to change the 
whole tenor of his past career, and embark in this 
philanthropic enterprise for the social and moral im 
provement of the Iroquois, it may be difficult to ascer 
tain. The origination of this project has, at times, 
been ascribed to Cornplanter, as a means to increase 
his own influence ; but this is not only improbable, 
but is expressly denied. The motives by which 
Handsome Lake claimed to be actuated were entirely 
of a religious and benevolent character, and in pursu 
ance of the injunctions of his spiritual guides. 

At the time of his supernatural visitation, about the 
year 1800, Handsome Lake resided at De-o-no-sa- 
dd-ga, the village of Cornplanter, on the Allegany 



river, in the State of Pennsylvania. As he explained 
the matter to his brethren, having lain ill for a long 
period, he had surrendered all hope of recovery, and 
resigned himself to death. When in the hourly ex 
pectation of departure, three spiritual beings, in the 
forms of men, sent by the Great Spirit, appeared be 
fore him. Each bore in his hand a shrub, bearing 
different kinds of berries, which, having given him to 
eat, he was, by their miraculous power, immediately 
restored to health. After revealing to him the will 
of the Great Spirit, upon a great variety of subjects, 
and particularly in relation to the prevailing intemper 
ance, and having commissioned him to promulgate 
these doctrines among the Iroquois, they permitted 
him to visit, under their guidance, the realm of the 
Evil-minded, and to behold with his mortal eyes the 
punishments inflicted upon the wicked, that he might 
warn his brethren of their impending destiny. Like 
Ulysses and ^neas, he was also favored with a glance 
at Elysium, and the felicities of the heavenly residence 
of the virtuous. With his mind thus stored with di 
vine precepts, and with his zeal enkindled by the dig 
nity of his mission, Ga-ne-o-di-yo at once commenced 
his labors. 1 

After his death, Sose-ha-wd (Johnson) of Tona- 

1 The Iroquois are under the impression that Handsome Lake received 
a license from Washington to preach. There is no doubt that he applied 
to the government during the presidency of Jefferson for some recognition 
of his mission ; but the paper which they still call the license, now in the 
possession of Blacksmith, at Tonawanda, is simply a letter from General 
Dearborn, dated in 1802, commending his teachings. ( 6 ") Sose-ha -^wd 
(Johnson) fixes the period of this revelation in June, 1800. This vener 
able man has preached the doctrine upwards of thirty years. 



wanda was appointed his successor, the first and only 
person ever " raised up " by the Iroquois, and in 
vested with the office of supreme Religious Instructor. 
A sincere believer in the verity of Gd-ne-o-di -yo s mis 
sion, and an eminently pure and virtuous man, Sose- 
ha-wd has devoted himself with zeal and fidelity to 
the duties of his office, as the spiritual guide and 
teacher of the Iroquois. He is a grandson of Hand 
some Lake, and a nephew of Red Jacket, and was 
born at the Indian village of Gd-no-wau -ges, near 
Avon, about the year 1774, and still resides at Tona- 
wanda in the county of Genesee. (32) 

At the Mourning and Religious councils of the 
League, which are still held, at intervals of a few 
years, among the scattered descendants of the children 
of the Long House, it has long been customary to set 
apart portions of two or three days to listen to a dis 
course from Sose-hd-wa upon the new religion. On 
these occasions, he explains minutely the circumstances 
attending the supernatural visitation of Handsome 
Lake, and delivers the instructions, word for word, 
which he had been accustomed to give during his own 
ministration. Handsome Lake professed to repeat 
the messages which were given to him from time to 
time by his celestial visitants, with whom he pretended 
to be in frequent communication, and whom he ad 
dressed as his spiritual guardians, thus enforcing his 
precepts as the direct commands of the Great Spirit. 

It is singular that the credulity, not only of the 
people, but of their most intelligent chiefs should have 
been sufficiently great to give credence to these super 
natural pretensions ; but yet it is in itself no greater 



than that indicated by their belief in witchcraft, or in 
the omens of dreams. The influence of the new re 
ligion has been extremely salutary and preservative, 
without the restraints of which, the fears of Ga-ne-o- 
di-yo might have been realized ere this, in the rapid 
decline, if not extinction of the race. Their down 
ward tendencies were arrested, and their constant di 
minution of numbers was changed to a gradual 
increase. Its beneficent effects upon the people 
doubtless contributed more to its final establishment 
than any other cause. 

At their councils and religious festivals, it was cus 
tomary for the chiefs and keepers of the faith to 
express their confidence in the new religion, and 
to exhort others to strengthen their belief. The 
late Abraham La Fort, De-dt-ga-dose^ } an educated 
Onondaga sachem, thus expressed himself upon this 
subject at a Mourning council of the Iroquois, held 
at Tonawanda as late as October, 1 847 : 

" Let us observe the operations of nature. The 
year is divided into seasons, and every season has its 
fruits. The birds of the air, though clothed in the 
same dress of feathers, are divided into many classes ; 
and one class is never seen to associate or intermingle 
with any but its own kind. So with the beasts of the 
field and woods ; each and every class and species have 
their own separate rules by which they seem to be 
governed, and by which their actions are regulated. 
These distinctions of classes and colors the Great 
Spirit has seen fit to make. But the rule does not 
stop here ; it is universal. It embraces man also. 
The human race was created and divided into different 



classes, which were placed separate from each other, 
having different customs, manners, laws, and religions. 
To the Indian, it seems that no more religion had origi 
nally been given than was to be found in the operations 
of nature., which taught him that there was a Supreme 
Being, all powerful and all wise ; and on this account, 
as well as on account of his great goodness, they 
learned to love and reverence him. But in these latter 
times, when the restless and ambitious spirit of the 
white-skinned race had crossed the boundary line, and 
made inroads upon the manners, customs and primitive 
religion of the Indian, the Great Spirit determined to, 
and through his servant Gd-ne-o-di-yo did reveal his 
will to the Indian. The substance of that will was no 
more than to confirm their ancient belief that they 
were entitled to a different religion, a religion adapted 
to their customs, manners, and ways of thinking." 

As the discourse delivered by Sose-hd-wa^ from 
time to time, contains a very full exposition of their 
ancient beliefs, and mode of worship, together with the 
recent views introduced by Handsome Lake, mingled 
up in one collection, presenting, probably, a better 
idea of their ethical and religious system than could 
be conveyed in any other manner, it is given entire, 
and will explain itself. 2 

1 Furnished to the author by Ha-sa-no-an -dd (Ely S. Parker), from 
notes taken at the time. 

2 The subjoined translation was prepared by Ha-sa-no-an -da (Ely S. 
Parker), from copious notes taken by him at the time of its last delivery 
in October, 1848, at a general Mourning council of the Iroquois, held at 
Tonawanda. It is proper to add, that he has listened to its delivery on 
several occasions, and is perfectly familiar with the subject. With some 
slight alterations, the language is his own. This discourse, as it is given, 
was made on the forenoons of the 4th, 5th, and 6th days of October, 1 848. 




" The Mohawks, the Onondagas, the Senecas, and 
our children (the Oneidas, Cayugas and Tuscaroras) 
have assembled here to-day to listen to the repetition 
of the will of the Great Spirit, as communicated to us 
from heaven through his servant, Ga-ne-o-di-yo. 

" Chiefs, warriors, women and children: - We give 
you a cordial welcome. The sun has advanced far in 
his path, and I am warned that my time to instruct 
you is limited to the meridian sun. I must therefore 
hasten to perform my duty. Turn your minds to the 
Great Spirit, and listen with strict attention. Think 
seriously upon what I am about to speak. Reflect 
upon it well, that it may benefit you and your children. 
I thank the Great Spirit that he has spared the lives 
of so many of you to be present on this occasion. I 
return thanks to him that my life is yet spared. The 
Great Spirit looked down from heaven upon the suffer 
ings and the wanderings of his red children. He saw 
that they had greatly decreased and degenerated. He 
saw the ravages of the fire-water among them. He 
therefore raised up for them a sacred instructor, who 
having lived and travelled among them for sixteen 
years, was called from his labors to enjoy eternal feli 
city with the Great Spirit in heaven. Be patient 
while I speak. I cannot at all times arrange and pre 
pare my thoughts with the same precision. But I 
will relate what my memory bears. 

" It was in the month of O-nike -ya (June), that 
Handsome Lake was yet sick. He had been ill four 
years. He was accustomed to tell us that he had 
resigned himself to the will of the Great Spirit. I 
nightly returned my thanks to the Great Spirit/ said 



he, c as my eyes were gladdened at evening by the 
sight of the stars of heaven. I viewed the ornamented 
heavens at evening, through the opening in the roof 
of my lodge, (124) with grateful feelings to my Creator. 
I had no assurance that I should at the next evening 
contemplate his works. For this reason my acknowl 
edgments to him were more fervent and sincere. 
When night was gone, and the sun again shed his 
light upon the earth, I saw, and acknowledged in the 
return of day his continued goodness to me, and to all 
mankind. At length I began to have an inward con 
viction that my end was near. I resolved once more 
to exchange friendly words with my people, and I 
sent my daughter to summon my brothers Gy-ant- 
w<2-&z (Cornplanter), and Ta-wan-ne-ars (Blacksnake). 
She hastened to do his bidding, but before she re 
turned, he had fallen into insensibility and -apparent 
death. Ta-wan-ne-ars, upon returning to the lodge, 
hastened to his brother s couch, and discovered that 
portions of his body were yet warm. This happened 
at early day, before the morning dew had dried. 
When the sun had advanced half-way to the meridian, 
his heart began to beat, and he opened his eyes. Ta- 
wan-ne-ars asked him if he was in his right mind ; but 
he answered not. At meridian he again opened his 
eyes, and the same question was repeated. He then 
answered and said, A man spoke from without, and 
asked that some one might come forth. I looked, 
and saw some men standing without. I arose, and as 
I attempted to step over the threshold of my door, I 
stumbled, and should have fallen had they not caught 
me. They were three holy men who looked alike, 

VOL. I. 15 225 


and were dressed alike. The paint they wore seemed 
but one day old. Each held in his hand a shrub 
bearing different kinds of fruit. One of them address 
ing me said, " We have come to comfort and relieve 
you. Take of these berries and eat ; they will restore 
you to health. We have been witnesses of your 
lengthened illness. We have seen with what resigna 
tion you have given yourself up to the Great Spirit. 
We have heard your daily return of thanks. He has 
heard them all. His ear has ever been open to hear. 
You were thankful for the return of night, when you 
could contemplate the beauties of heaven. You were 
accustomed to look upon the moon, as she coursed in 
her nightly paths. When there were no hopes to you 
that you would again behold these things, you will 
ingly resigned yourself to the mind of the Great Spirit. 
This was right. Since the Great Spirit made the 
earth and put man upon it, we have been his constant 
servants to guard and protect his works. There are 
four of us. Some other time you will be permitted to 
see the other. The Great Spirit is pleased to know 
your patient resignation to his will. As a reward for 
your devotion, he has cured your sickness. Tell your 
people to assemble to-morrow, and at noon go in and 
speak to them." After they had further revealed their 
intentions concerning him they departed. 

" At the time appointed Handsome Lake appeared 
at the council, and thus addressed the people upon 
the revelations which had been made to him : I have 
a message to deliver to you. The servants of the 
Great Spirit have told me that I should yet live upon 
the earth to become an instructor to my people. 



Since the creation of man, the Great Spirit has often 
raised up men to teach his children what they should 
do to please him ; but they have been unfaithful to 
their trust. I hope I shall profit by their example. 
Your Creator has seen that you have transgressed 
greatly against his laws. He made man pure and 
good. He did not intend that he should sin. You 
commit a great sin in taking the fire-water. The 
Great Spirit says that you must abandon this enticing 
habit. Your ancestors have brought great misery and 
suffering upon you. They first took the fire-water of 
the white man, and entailed upon you its consequences. 
None of them have gone to heaven. The fire-water 
does not belong to you. It was made for the white 
man beyond the great waters. For the white man it 
is a medicine ; but they too have violated the will of 
their Maker. The Great Spirit says that drunkenness 
is a great crime, and he forbids you to indulge in this 
evil habit. His command is to the old and young. 
The abandonment of its use will relieve much of your 
sufferings, and greatly increase the comfort and happi 
ness of your children. The Great Spirit is grieved 
that so much crime and wickedness should defile the 
earth. There are many evils which he never intended 
should exist among his red children. The Great 
Spirit has, for many wise reasons, withheld from man 
the number of his days ; but he has not left him with 
out a guide, for he has pointed out to him the path in 
which he may safely tread the journey of life. 

" c When the Great Spirit made man, he also 
made woman. He instituted marriage, and enjoined 
upon them to love each other, and be faithful. It is 



pleasing,to him to see men and women obey his will. 
Your Creator abhors a deceiver and a hypocrite. 
By obeying his commands you will die an easy and a 
happy death. When the Great Spirit instituted mar 
riage, he ordained to bless those who were faithful 
with children. Some women are unfruitful, and 
others become so by misfortune. Such have great 
opportunities to do much good. There are many 
orphans, and many poor children whom they can 
adopt as their own. If you tie up the clothes of an 
orphan child, the Great Spirit will notice it, and reward 
you for it. Should an orphan ever cross your path 
be kind to him, and treat him with tenderness, for 
this is right. Parents must constantly teach their 
children morality, and a reverence for their Creator. 
Parents must also guard their children against improper 
marriages. They, having much experience, should se 
lect a suitable match for their child. When the parents 
of both parties have agreed, then bring the young pair 
together, and let them know what good their parents 
have designed for them. If at any time they so far 
disagree that they cannot possibly live contented and 
happy with each other, they may separate in mu 
tual good feeling ; and in this there is no wrong. (100) 
When a child is born to a husband and wife, they 
must give great thanks to the Great Spirit, for it is 
his gift, and an evidence of his kindness. Let par 
ents instruct their children in their duty to the 
Great Spirit, to their parents, and to their fellow-men. 
Children should obey their parents and guardians, 
and submit to them in all things. Disobedient chil 
dren occasion great pain and misery. They wound 



their parents feelings, and often drive them to desper 
ation, causing them great distress, and final admission 
into the place of Evil Spirits. The marriage obliga 
tions should generate good to all who have assumed 
them. Let the married be faithful to each other, that 
when they die it may be in peace. Children should 
never permit their parents to suffer in their old age. 
Be kind to them, and support them. The Great 
Spirit requires all children to love, revere and obey 
their parents. To do this is highly pleasing to 
him. The happiness of parents is greatly increased 
by the affection and the attentions of their children. 
To abandon a wife or children is a great wrong, and 
produces many evils. It is wrong for a father or 
mother-in-law to vex a son or daughter-in-law ; but 
they should use them as if they were their own 
children. It often happens that parents hold angry 
disputes over their infant child. This is also a great 
sin. The infant hears and comprehends the angry 
words of its parents. It feels bad and lonely. It 
can see for itself no happiness in prospect. It con 
cludes to return to its Maker. It wants a happy 
home, and dies. The parents then weep because 
their child has left them. You must put this evil 
practice from among you, if you would live happy. 

" { The Great Spirit, when he made the earth, never 
intended that it should be made merchandise; but he 
willed that all his creatures should enjoy it equally. 
Your chiefs have violated and betrayed your trust 
by selling lands. Nothing is now left of our once 
large possessions, save a few small reservations. 
Chiefs and aged men you, as men, have no lands 



to sell. You occupy and possess a tract in trust for 
your children. You should hold that trust sacred, 
lest your children are driven from their homes by 
your unsafe conduct. Whoever sells lands offends 
the Great Spirit, and must expect a great punishment 
after death. " 

Sose-hd-wa here suspended the narration of the 
discourse of Handsome Lake, and thus addressed the 
council : 

" Chiefs, keepers of the faith, warriors, women 
and children: You all know that our religion 
teaches, that the early day is dedicated to the Great 
Spirit, and that the late day is granted to the spirits 
of the dead. It is now meridian, and I must close. 
Preserve in your minds that which has been said. 
Accept my thanks for your kind and patient atten 
tion. It is meet that I should also return my thanks 
to the Great Spirit, that he has assisted me thus far, 
in my feeble frame, to instruct you. We ask you all 
to come up again to-morrow, at early day, to hear 
what further may be said. I have done." 

The next morning, after the council had been 
opened in the usual manner, Sose-hd-wa thus con 
tinued : 

" Relatives, uncover now your heads and listen : 
The day has thus far advanced, and again we are 
gathered around the council-fire. I see around me 
the several nations of the Long House ; this gives me 
great joy. I see also seated around me my counsel 
lors (keepers of the faith), who have been regularly 
appointed, as is the custom of our religion. Greet 
ings have been exchanged with each other. Thanks 



have been returned to Ga-ni-o-di-yo. Thanks also 
have been returned to our Creator, by the council 
now assembled. At this moment the Great Spirit 
is looking upon this assembly. He hears our words, 
he knows our thoughts, and is always pleased to see 
us gathered together for good. The sun is now high, 
and soon it will reach the middle heavens. I must 
therefore make haste. Listen attentively, and consider 
well what you shall hear. 1 return thanks to our 
Creator, that he has spared your lives through the 
dangers of darkness. I salute and return my thanks 
to the four Celestial beings, who have communicated 
what I am about to say to you. I return thanks to 
my grandfather (Handsome Lake), from whom you 
first heard what I am about to speak. We all feel 
his loss. We miss him at our councils. I now 
occupy his place before you ; but I am conscious that 
I have not the power which he possessed. 

" Counsellors, warriors, mothers and children : 
Listen to good instruction. Consider it well. Lay 
it up in your minds, and forget it not. Our Creator, 
when he made us, designed that we should live by 
hunting. It sometimes happens that a man goes 
out for the hunt, leaving his wife with her friends. 
After a long absence he returns, and finds that his 
wife has taken another husband. The Great Spirit 
says that this is a great sin, and must be put from 
among us. 

"The four Messengers further said, that it was 
wrong for a mother to punish a child with a rod. 
It is not right to punish much, and our Creator 
never intended that children should be punished 



with a whip, or be used with any violence. In 
punishing a refractory child, water only is necessary, 
and it is sufficient/ 120 * Plunge them under. This 
is not wrong. Whenever a child promises to do 
better, the punishment must cease. It is wrong to 
continue it after promises of amendment are made. 
Thus they said. 

"It is right and proper always to look upon the 
dead. Let your face be brought, near to theirs, and 
then address them. Let the dead know that their 
absence is regretted by their friends, and that they 
grieve for their death. Let the dead know, too, 
how their surviving friends intend to live. Let 
them know whether they will so conduct themselves, 
that they will meet them again in the future world. 
The dead will hear and remember. Thus they 

" Continue to listen while I proceed to relate what 
further they said: Our Creator made the earth. 
Upon it he placed man, and gave him certain rules 
of conduct. It pleased him also to give them many 
kinds of amusements. He also ordered that the 
earth should produce all that is good for man. So 
long as the earth remains, it will not cease to yield. 
Upon the surface of the ground berries of various 
kinds are produced. It is the will of the -Great 
Spirit, that when they ripen, we should return our 
thanks to him, and have a public rejoicing for the 
continuance of these blessings. He made every 
thing which we live upon, and requires us to be 
thankful at all times for the continuance of his 
favors. When Our Life (corn, &c.) has again ap- 


peared, it is the will of the Great Ruler that we as 
semble for a general thanksgiving. It is his will 
also that the children be brought and made to par 
ticipate in the Feather dance. Your feast must con 
sist of the new production. It is proper at these 
times, should any present not have their names pub 
lished, or if any changes have been made, to announce 
them then. The festival must continue, four days. 
Thus they said. Upon the first day must be per 
formed the Feather dance. This ceremony must 
take place in the early day, and cease at the middle 
day. In the same manner, upon the second day, is 
to be performed the Thanksgiving dance. On the 
third, the Thanksgiving concert, Ah-do-weh^ is to 
be introduced. The fourth day is set apart for 
the Peach-stone game. (98 All these ceremonies, in 
stituted by our Creator, must be commenced at the 
early day, and cease at the middle day. At all these 
times, we are required to return thanks to our Grand 
father He -no and his assistants. To them is assigned 
the duty of watching over the earth, and all it 
produces for our good. The great Feather and 
Thanksgiving dances are the appropriate ceremonies 
of thanksgiving to the Ruler and Maker of all things. 
The Thanksgiving concert belongs appropriately to 
our Grandfathers. In it, we return thanks to them. 
During the performance of this ceremony, we are 
required also to give them the smoke of tobacco. 
Again, we must at this time return thanks to our 
mother the earth, for she is our relative. We must 
also return thanks to Our Life and its Sisters. All 
these things are required to be done by the light of 



the sun. It must not be protracted until the sun has 
hid his face, and darkness surrounds all things. 

" Continue to listen : We have a change of sea 
sons. We have a season of cold. This is the hunting 
season. It is also one in which the people can amuse 
themselves. Upon the fifth day of the new moon 
Nis-go-wuk -na (about Feb. ist), (95) we are required to 
commence the annual jubilee of thanksgiving to our 
Creator. At this festival all can give evidence of their 
devotion to the will of the Great Spirit, by participat 
ing in all its ceremonies. 

" Continue to listen : The four Messengers of the 
Great Spirit have always watched over us, and have 
ever seen what was transpiring among men. At one 
time, Handsome Lake was translated by them to the 
regions above. He looked down upon the earth and 
saw a great assembly. Out of it came a man. His 
garments were torn, tattered and filthy. His whole 
appearance indicated great misery and poverty. They 
asked him how this spectacle appeared to him. He 
replied that it was hard to look upon. They then 
told him that the man he saw was a drunkard. That 
he had taken the fire-water, and it had reduced him 
to poverty." 53 Again he looked, and saw a woman 
seated upon the ground. She was constantly engaged 
in gathering up and secreting about her person her 
worldly effects. They said, the woman you see is in 
hospitable. She is too selfish to spare anything, and 
will never leave her worldly goods. She can never 
pass from earth to heaven. Tell this to your people. 
Again he looked, and saw a man carrying in each hand 
large pieces of meat. He went about the assembly 



giving to each a piece. This man, they said, is blessed, 
for he is hospitable and kind. He looked again, and 
saw streams of blood. They said, Thus will the earth 
be, if the fire-water is not put from among you. 
Brother will kill brother, and friend friend. Again 
they told him to look towards the east. He obeyed, 
and as far as his vision reached, he saw the increasing 
smoke of numberless distilleries arising, and shutting 
out the light of the sun. It was a horrible spectacle to 
witness. They told him that here was manufactured 
the fire-water. Again he looked, and saw a costly 
house, made and furnished by the pale-faces. It was 
a house of confinement, where were fetters, ropes and 
whips. They said that those who persisted in the use 
of the fire-water would fall into this. Our Creator 
commands us to put this destructive vice far from us. 
Again he looked, and saw various assemblages. Some 
of them were unwilling to listen to instruction. They 
were riotous, and took great pride in drinking the 
strong waters. He observed another group who were 
half inclined to hear, but the temptations to vice which 
surrounded them allured them back, and they also 
revelled in the fumes of the fire-water. He saw an 
other assemblage which had met to hear instructions. 
This they said was pleasing to the Great Spirit. He 
loves those who will listen and obey. It has grieved 
him that his children are now divided by separate in 
terests, and are pursuing so many paths. It pleases 
him to see his people live together in harmony and 
quiet. The fire-water creates many dissensions and 
divisions among us. They said that the use of it 
would cause many to die unnatural deaths ; many wilJ 



be exposed to cold, and freeze ; many will be burned, 
and others will be drowned while under the influence 
of the fire-water. 

"Friends and Relatives: All these things have 
often happened. How many of our people have been 
frozen to death ; how many have been burned to 
death ; how many have been drowned while under the 
influence of the strong waters. The punishments of 
those who use the fire-water commence while they are 
yet on the earth. Many are now thrown into houses 
of confinement by the pale faces. I repeat to you, the 
Ruler of us all requires us to unite and put this evil 
from among us. Some say that the use of the fire 
water is not wrong, and that it is food. Let those who 
do not believe it wrong, make this experiment. (64) 
Let all who use the fire-water assemble and organize 
into a council ; and those who do not, into another 
near them. A great difference will then be discovered. 
The council of drunkards will end in a riot and tumult, 
while the other will have harmony and quiet. It is 
hard to think of the great prevalence of this evil among 
us. Reform, and put it from among you. Many re 
solve to use the fire-water until near death, when they 
will repent. If they do this, nothing can save them 
from destruction, for them medicine can have no power. 
Thus they said. 

" All men were made equal by the Great Spirit ; but 
he has given to them a variety of gifts. To some a 
pretty face, to others an ugly one ; to some a comely 
form, to others a deformed figure. Some are fortunate 
in collecting around them worldly goods. But you are 
all entitled to the same privileges, and therefore must 


put pride from among you. You are not your own 
makers, nor the builders of your own fortunes. All 
things are the gift of the Great Spirit, and to him must 
be returned thanks for their bestowal. He alone must 
be acknowledged as the giver. It has pleased him to 
make differences among men ; but it is wrong for one 
man to exalt himself above another. Love each other, 
for you are all brothers and sisters of the same great 
family. The Great Spirit enjoins upon all, to observe 
hospitality and kindness, especially to the needy and 
the helpless ; for this is pleasing to him. If a stranger 
wanders about your abode, speak to him with kind 
words ; be hospitable towards him, welcome him to 
your home, and forget not always to mention the Great 
Spirit. In the morning, give thanks to the Great 
Spirit for the return of day, and the light of the sun ; 
at night renew your thanks to him, that his ruling 
power has preserved you from harm during the day, 
and that night has again come, in which you may rest 
your wearied bodies. 

"The four Messengers said further to Handsome 
Lake : --Tell your people, and particularly the keepers 
of the faith, to be strong-minded, and adhere to the 
true faith. We fear the Evil-minded will go among 
them with temptations. He may introduce the fiddle. 
He may bring cards, and leave them among you. (97) 
The use of these are great sins. Let the people be 
on their guard, and the keepers of the faith be watch 
ful and vigilant, that none of these evils may find their 
way among the people. Let the keepers of the faith 
preserve the law of moral conduct in all its purity. 
When meetings are to be held for instruction, and the 



people are preparing to go, the Evil-minded is then 
busy. He goes from one to another, whispering many 
temptations, by which to keep them away. He will 
even follow persons into the door of the council, and 
induce some, at that time, to bend their steps away. 
Many resist until they have entered, and then leave it. 
This habit, once indulged, obtains a fast hold, and the 
evil propensity increases with age. This is a great sin, 
and should be at once abandoned. Thus they said. 

" Speak evil of no one. If you can say no good 
of a person, then be silent. Let not your tongues 
betray you into evil. Let all be mindful of this ; for 
these are the words of our Creator. Let all strive to 
cultivate friendship with those who surround them. 
This is pleasing to the Great Spirit. 

"Counsellors, warriors, women and children: I 
shall now rest. I thank you all for your kind and 
patient attention. I thank the Great Spirit, that he 
has spared the lives of so many of us to witness this 
day. I request you all to come up again to-morrow at 
early day. Let us all hope, that, until we meet again, 
the Creator and Ruler of us all may be kind to us, 
and preserve our lives. Na-ho ." 

The council, on the following day, was opened with 
a few short speeches, from some of the chiefs or 
keepers of the faith, returning thanks for the privileges 
of the occasion, as usual at councils ; after which Sose- 
ka -wa, resuming his discourse, spoke as follows : 

" Friends and Relatives, uncover now your heads : 
Continue to listen to my rehearsal of the sayings com 
municated to Handsome Lake by the four Messengers 
of the Great Spirit. We have met again around the 



council-fire. We have followed the ancient custom, 
and greeted each other. This is right, and highly 
pleasing to our Maker. He now looks down upon 
this assembly. He sees us all. He is informed of the 
cause of our gathering, and it is pleasing to him. Life 
is uncertain. While we live let us love each other. 
Let us sympathize always with the suffering and needy. 
Let us also always rejoice with those who are glad. 
This is now the third day, and my time for speaking 
to you is drawing to a close. It will be a long time 
before we meet again. Many moons and seasons will 
have passed, before the sacred council-brand shall be 
again uncovered. Be watchful, therefore, and remem 
ber faithfully what you may now hear. 

" In discoursing yesterday upon the duties of the 
keepers of the faith, I omitted some things important. 
The Great Spirit created this office. He designed that 
its duties should never end. There are some who are 
selected and set apart by our Maker, to perform the 
duties of this office. It is therefore their duty to be 
faithful, and to be always watching. These duties they 
must ever perform during their lives. The faithful, 
when they leave this earth, will have a pleasant path 
to travel in. The same office exists in heaven, the 
home of our Creator. They will take the same place 
when they arrive there. There are dreadful penalties 
awaiting those keepers of the faith who resign their 
office without a cause. Thus they said. 

" It was the original intention of our Maker, that 
all our feasts of thanksgiving should be seasoned with 
the flesh of wild animals. But we are surrounded by 
the pale-faces, and in a short time the woods will be 



all removed. Then there will be no more game for 
the Indian to use in his feasts. The four Messengers 
said, in consequence of this, that we might use the 
flesh of domestic animals. This will not be wrong. 
The pale-faces are pressing you upon every side. You 
must therefore live as they do. How far you can do 
so without sin, I will now tell you. You may grow 
cattle, and build yourselves warm and comfortable 
dwelling-houses. This is not sin; and it is all that 
you can safely adopt of the customs of the pale-faces. 
You cannot live as they do. Thus they said. 

" Continue to listen: It has pleased our Creator 
to set apart as our Life, the Three Sisters. For this 
special favor, let us ever be thankful. When you have 
gathered in your harvest, let the people assemble, and 
hold a general thanksgiving for so great a good. In 
this way you will show your obedience to the will and 
pleasure of your Creator. Thus they said. 

" Many of you may be ignorant of the Spirit of 
Medicine. It watches over all constantly, and assists 
the needy whenever necessity requires. The Great 
Spirit designed that some men should possess the gift 
of skill in medicine. But he is pained to see a medi 
cine man making exorbitant charges for attending the 
sick. Our Creator made for us tobacco. This plant 
must always be used in administering medicines. 
When a sick person recovers his health, he must 
return his thanks to the Great Spirit by means of 
tobacco ; for it is by his goodness that he is made well. 
He blesses the medicine ; and the medicine man must 
receive as his reward whatever the gratitude of the re 
stored may tender. This is right and proper. There 



are many who are unfortunate, and cannot pay for 
attendance. It is sufficient for such to return thanks 
to the medicine man upon recovery. The remem 
brance that he has saved the life of a relative, will be 
a sufficient reward/ 11 

" Listen further to what the Great Spirit has been 
pleased to communicate to us: He has made us, as 
a race, separate and distinct from the pale-face. It is 
a great sin to intermarry, and intermingle the blood of 
the two races. Let none be guilty of this transgres- 



At one time the four Messengers said to Handsome 
Lake, Lest the people should disbelieve you, and not 
repent and forsake their evil ways, we will now disclose 
to you the House of Torment, the dwelling-place of 
the Evil-minded. Handsome Lake was particular in 
describing to us all that he witnessed ; and the course 
which departed spirits were accustomed to take on 
leaving the earth. There was a road which led up 
wards. At a certain point it branched ; one branch 
led straight forward to the Home of the Great Spirit, 
and the other turned aside to the House of Torment. 
At the place where the roads separated were stationed 
two keepers, one representing the Good, and the other 
the Evil Spirit. When a person reached the fork, if 
wicked, by a motion from the Evil keeper, he turned 
instinctively upon the road which led to the abode of 
the Evil-minded. But if virtuous and good, the other 
keeper directed him upon the straight road. The 
latter was not much travelled ; while the former was 
so frequently trodden, that no grass could grow in the 
pathway. It sometimes happened that the keepers 
VOL. i. 16 241 


had great difficulty in deciding which path the person 
should take, when the good and bad actions of the 
individual were nearly balanced. Those sent to the 
House of Torment sometimes remain one day (which 
is there one of our years). Some for a longer period. 
After they have atoned for their sins, they pass to 
heaven. But when they have committed either of the 
great sins (witchcraft, murder, and infanticide), they 
never pass to heaven, but are tormented forever. 
Having conducted Handsome Lake to this place, he 
saw a large and dark-colored mansion covered with 
soot, and beside it stood a lesser one. One of the 
four then held out his rod, and the top of the house 
moved up, until they could look down upon all that 
was within. He saw many rooms. The first object (G3) 
which met his eye, was a haggard-looking man ; his 
sunken eyes cast upon the ground, and his form 
half consumed by the torments he had undergone. 
This man was a drunkard. The Evil-minded then 
appeared, and called him by name. As the man 
obeyed his call, he dipped from a caldron a quantity 
of red-hot liquid, and commanded him to drink it, as 
it was an article he loved. The man did as he was 
directed, and immediately from his mouth issued a 
stream of blaze. He cried in vain for help. The 
Tormentor then requested him to sing and make him 
self merry, as was his wont while on earth, after drink 
ing the fire-water. Let drunkards take warning from 
this. Others were then summoned. There came 
before him two persons, who appeared to be husband 
and wife. He told them to exercise the privilege they 
were so fond of while on the earth. They immediately 



commenced a quarrel of words. They raged at each 
other with such violence, that their tongues and eyes 
ran out so far they could neither see nor speak. This, 
said they, is the punishment of quarrelsome and dis 
puting husbands and wives. Let such also take warn 
ing, and live together in peace and harmony. Next 
he called up a woman who had been a witch. First 
he plunged her into a caldron of boiling liquid. In 
her cries of distress, she begged the Evil-minded to 
give her some cooler place. He then immersed 
her in one containing liquid at the point of freezing. 
Her cries then were, that she was too cold. This 
woman, said the four Messengers, shall always be tor 
mented in this manner. He proceeded to mention 
the punishment which awaits all those who cruelly ill- 
treat their wives. The Evil-minded next called up a 
man who had been accustomed to beat his wife. 
Having led him up to a red-hot statue of a female, he 
directed him to do that which he was fond of while he 
was upon the earth. He obeyed, and struck the 
figure. The sparks flew in every direction, and by 
the contact his arm was consumed. Such is the pun 
ishment, they said, awaiting those who ill-treat their 
wives. From this take seasonable warning. He 
looked again and saw a woman, whose arms and hands 
were nothing but bones. She had sold fire-water to 
the Indians, and the flesh was eaten from her hands 
and arms. This, they said, would be the fate of rum- 
sellers. Again he looked, and in one apartment 
he saw and recognized Ho-ne-ya-wus (Farmer s 
Brother), his former friend. He was engaged in re 
moving a heap of sand, grain by grain; and although 



he labored continually, yet the heap of sand was not 
diminished. This, they said, was the punishment of 
those who sold land. Adjacent to the house of tor 
ment was afield of corn filled with weeds. He saw 
women in the act of cutting them down; but as fast 
as this was done, they grew up again. This, they said, 
was the punishment of lazy women. It would be 
proper and right, had we time, to tell more of this 
place of torment. But my time is limited, and I must 
pass to other things. 

cc The Creator made men dependent upon each 
other. He made them sociable beings ; therefore, 
when your neighbor visits you, set food before him. 
If it be your next door neighbor, you must give him 
to eat. He will partake and thank you. 

Again they said : - - You must not steal. Should 
you want for anything necessary, you have only to tell 
your wants, and they will be supplied. This is right. 
Let none ever steal anything. Children are often 
tempted to take things home which do not belong 
to them. Let parents instruct their children in this 

Many of our people live to a very old age. (121) 
Your Creator says that your deportment towards them 
must be that of reverence and affection. They have 
seen and felt much of the misery and pain of earth. 
Be always kind to them when old and helpless. Wash 
their hands and face, and nurse them with care. 
This is the will of the Great Spirit. 

" It has been the custom among us to mourn for 
the dead one year. This custom is wrong. As it 
causes the death of many children, it must be aban- 



doned. Ten days mourn for the dead, and not lon- 
ger. (102) When one dies, it is right and proper to 
make an address over the body, telling how much you 
loved the deceased. Great respect for the dead must 
be observed among us. 

"At another time the four Messengers said to 
Handsome Lake, they would now show him the 
Destroyer of Villages (Washington 1 ), of whom you 
have so frequently heard. Upon the road leading 
to heaven he could see a light, far away in the dis 
tance, moving to and fro. Its brightness far exceeded 
the brilliancy of the noonday sun. They told him 
the journey was as follows : First, they came to a 
cold spring, which was a resting-place. From this 
point they proceeded into pleasant fairy grounds, 
which spread away in every direction. Soon they 
reached heaven. The light was dazzling. Berries 
of every description grew in vast abundance. Their 
size and quality were such that a single berry was 
more than sufficient to appease the appetite. A sweet 
fragrance perfumed the air. Fruits of every kind met 
the eye. The inmates of this celestial abode spent 
their time in amusement and repose. No evil could 
enter there. None in heaven ever transgress again. 
Families were reunited, and dwelt together in harmony. 
They possessed a bodily form, the senses, and the re 
membrances of the earthly life. But no white man ever 
entered heaven. Thus they said. He looked, and 

1 Washington was named by the Iroquois Ha-no-da-ga -ne-ars, which 
signifies the Destroyer of Villages. The Presidents have ever since been 
called by this name. They named the Governors of all the provinces with 
which they had intercourse, and afterwards continued the names to their 
successors. ( 69 ) 



saw an inclosure upon a plain, just without the en 
trance of heaven. Within it was a fort. Here he 
saw the Destroyer of Villages/ walking to and fro 
within the inclosure. His countenance indicated a 
great and a good man. They said to Handsome 
Lake : The man you see is the only pale-face who ever 
left the earth. He was kind to you, when on the 
settlement of the great difficulty between the Amer 
icans and the Great Crown (Go-wek -go-wa), you were 
abandoned to the mercy of your enemies. The Crown 
told the great American, that as for his allies, the 
Indians, he might kill them if he liked. The great 
American judged that this would be cruel and unjust. 
He believed they were made by the Great Spirit, and 
were entitled to the enjoyment of life. He was kind 
to you, and extended over you his protection. For 
this reason, he has been allowed to leave the earth. 
But he is never permitted to go into the presence of 
the Great Spirit. Although alone, he is perfectly 
happy. All faithful Indians pass by him as they go 
to heaven. They see him, and recognize him, but 
pass on in silence. No word ever passes his lips. 

" Friends and Relatives : -- It was by the influence 
of this great man, that we were spared as a people, and 
yet live. Had he not granted us his protection, where 
would we have been ? Perished, all perished. 

" The four Messengers further said to Handsome 
Lake, they were fearful that, unless the people re 
pented and obeyed his commands, the patience and 
forbearance of their Creator would be exhausted ; 
that he w 7 ould grow angry with them, and cause their 
increase to cease. 



" Our Creator made light and darkness. He made 
the sun to heat, and shine over the world. He made 
the moon, also, to shine by night, and to cool the 
world, if the sun made it too hot by day. The keeper 
of the clouds, by direction of the Great Spirit, will 
then cease to act. The keeper of the springs and 
running brooks will cease to rule them for the good 
of man. The sun will cease to fulfil its office. Total 
darkness will then cover the earth. A great smoke 
will rise, and spread over the face of the earth. Then 
will come out of it all monsters, and poisonous ani 
mals created by the Evil-minded ; and they, with the 
wicked upon the earth, will perish together. 

" But before this dreadful time shall come, the 
Great Spirit will take home to himself all the good 
and faithful. They will lay themselves down to sleep, 
and from this sleep of death, they will rise, and go 
home to their Creator. Thus they said. 

" I have now done. I close thus, that you may 
remember and understand the fate which awaits the 
earth, and the unfaithful and unbelieving. Our Crea 
tor looks down upon us. The four Beings from 
above see us. They witness with pleasure this assem 
blage, and rejoice at the object for which it is gathered. 
It is now forty-eight years since we first began to 
listen to the renewed will of our Creator. I have been 
unable, during the time allotted to me, to rehearse all 
the sayings of Gd-ne-o-di-yo. I regret very much that 
you cannot hear them all. 

" Counsellors, Warriors, Women and Children : - 
I have done, I thank you all for your attendance, 
and for your kind and patient attention. May the 



Great Spirit, who rules all things, watch over and 
protect you from every harm and danger, while you 
travel the journey of life. May the Great Spirit bless 
you all, and bestow upon you life, health, peace and 
prosperity ; and may you, in turn, appreciate his great 
goodness. Na-ho " 

Chapter IV 

National Dances Influence of the Dance Costume War 
Dance Speeches in the War Dance Great Feather Dance 
Trotting Dance Fish Dance Dance for the Dead Concerts 

SUFFICIENT has been said in the preceding 
pages to convey an impression of the uses of 
the Dance among the Iroquois. It remains 
to notice the several dances themselves, to point out 
some of the characteristics of each, and also to exhibit 
more fully the spirit of this amusement, and its power 
over the minds of the people. 

With the Iroquois, as with the red race at large, 
dancing was not only regarded as a thanksgiving 
ceremonial, in itself acceptable to the Great Spirit, 
but they were taught to consider it a divine art, de 
signed by Ha-wen-ne -yu for their pleasure, as well 
as for his worship. It was cherished as one of the 
most suitable modes of social intercourse between 
the sexes, but more especially as the great instru 
mentality for arousing patriotic excitement, and for 
keeping alive the spirit of the nation. The popular 
enthusiasm broke forth in this form, and was nour 
ished and stimulated by this powerful agency. These 
dances sprang, as it were, a living reflection from the 
Indian mind. With their wild music of songs and 
rattles, their diversities of step and attitude, their 
graces of motion, and their spirit-stirring associations, 



they contain within themselves both a picture and 
a realization of Indian life. The first stir of feeling 
of which the Indian youth was conscious was en 
kindled by the dance ; the first impulse of patriotism, 
the earliest dreams of ambition were awakened by 
their inspiring influences. In their patriotic, religious 
and social dances, into which classes they are properly 
divisible, resided the soul of Indian life. It was more 
in the nature of a spell upon the people than of a 
rational guiding spirit. It bound them down to 
trivial things, but it bound them together ; it stimu 
lated them to deeds of frenzy, but it fed the flame 
of patriotism. 

The Iroquois had thirty-two distinct dances, out 
of which number twenty-six were claimed to be 
wholly of their own invention. Twenty-one of 
these are still in use among the present Iroquois. 
To each a separate history and object attached, as 
well as a different degree of popular favor. Some 
were costume dances, and were performed by a small 
and select band ; some were designed exclusively for 
females, others for warriors alone ; but the greater 
part of them were open to all of both sexes who 
desired to participate. Many of these dances, with 
out doubt, have been handed down among the Iro 
quois for centuries, transmitted from generation to 
generation, until their origin is lost even to tradition. 
Others spread throughout the whole Indian family, 
and were known and used from Maine to Oregon. 
Indian amusements, as well as arts, were eminently 
diffusive, as Indian life was much the same from 
ocean to ocean. They are better described by their 



effects than by a minute examination of the mode, 
manner and circumstances of each in detail. It is 
to their influence, as a means of action, that they 
owe their chief importance. And it is to the zeal 
and enthusiasm with which they were cherished and 
performed, that attention should principally be di 
rected. Their overpowering influence in arousing the 
Indian spirit, and in excluding all thoughts of a dif 
ferent life, and their resulting effect upon the formation 
of Indian character cannot be too highly estimated. 

The tenacity with which the Iroquois have always 
adhered to these dances furnishes the highest evi 
dence of their hold upon the affections of the people. 
From the earliest days of the Jesuit missions, the 
most unremitted efforts of the missionaries have been 
put forth for their suppression. Christian parties 
were organized at an early day in each nation, of 
such as were willing to abandon the dance and their 
religious festivals, and lead a different life. These 
parties, down to the present time, have always been 
largely in the minority, except among the unexpa- 
triated Oneidas, who are now entirely denationalized, 
and, perhaps, the Tuscaroras, who are partially so ; 
but the body of the Senecas, Onondagas and Cayugas, 
upon their several reservations, still cling to their 
ancient customs, and glory in the dance as ardently 
as did their forefathers. When it loses its attractions, 
they will cease to be Indians. 1 

1 A Mourning council of the Iroquois was held at Tonawanda, in 
October, 1846, to raise up sachems. There were about six hundred Iro 
quois in attendance, representing all of the Six Nations. On the second 
day the Great Feather Dance was performed by a select band of Onon- 
daga and Seneca dancers. The author then first had occasion to realize 

2 5 < 


The Feather dance and the War dance were the 
two great performances of the Iroquois. One had 
a religious, and the other a patriotic character. Both 
were costume dances. They were performed by a 
select band, ranging from fifteen to twenty-five, who 
were distinguished for their powers of endurance, 
activity and spirit. Besides these, there were four 
other costume dances. In the residue, the performers, 
who were the people at large, appeared in their 
ordinary apparel, and sometimes participated to the 
number of two or three hundred at one time. The 
Iroquois costume may be called strictly an apparel 
for the dance. This was the chief occasion on which 
the warrior was desirous to appear in his best attire. 
Before describing these dances, it will be proper to 
notice the va rious articles of apparel which made up 
the full-dress costume of the Iroquois. 

One of the most prominent articles of apparel was 
the Kilt, Ga-ka-ah (see plate, I. 184), which was se 
cured around the waist by a belt, and descended to 
the knee. In ancient times this was made of deer 
skin. It was fringed and embroidered with porcu 
pine quill-work. Some of these kilts would excite 
admiration by the exactness of their finish and ad 
justment, and the neatness of the material. In mod 
ern times various fabrics have been substituted for 
the deer-skin, although the latter is still used. 

the magical influence which these dances have upon the Indian. It was 
impossible even for the spectator to resist the general enthusiasm. It was 
remarked to Da-at -ga-dose (Abraham La Fort), an educated Onondaga 
sachem, that they would be Indians forever, if they held to these dances. 
He replied, that he knew it, and for that reason he would be the last to 
give them up. 



The porcupine (Ga-hd-da) is covered with a species 
of quill perfectly round, without down or feather, and 
terminating in a sharp point. The small quills are 
from one to four inches in length, and are white with 
the exception of the tip ends or about one-fifth of the 
quills, which are of a dark brown color, and give to 
the animal its dark appearance. After being picked 
and seasoned they are colored red, blue and yellow 
by artificial dyes, and then used in connection with 
the white ones. For heavy border work the quills 
are moistened and flattened down, and in that form 
are used, as will be seen in the plate (I. 44) ; but for 
vine or figure work, a thread is stitched through the 
deer-skin and around the quill, and drawn down so as 
to compress it. This process is repeated at intervals, 
the quill being bent between the stitches. No pat 
terns are used to work from, the eye and the taste 
being the principal guides. In combining colors 
much taste is displayed. 

Upon the head-dress, Gus-td-weh (see plate, I. 
254), the most conspicuous part of the costume, much 
attention was bestowed. The frame consisted of a 
band of splint, adjusted around the head, with in 
some instances a cross-band arching over the top, 
from side to side. A cap of net-work, or other 
construction, was then made to enclose the frame. 
Around the splint, in later times, a silver band was 
fastened, which completed the lower part. From the 
top a cluster of white feathers depended. Besides 
this, a single feather of the largest size was set in the 
crown of the head-dress, inclining backwards from the 
head. It was secured in a small tube, which was 





fastened to the cross-splint, and in such a manner as 
to allow the feather to revolve in the tube. This 
feather, which was usually the plume of the eagle, is 
the characteristic of the Iroquois head-dress. 

Gus-to -weh, or Head Dress. 

Next was the Leggin, Gise -ba (see plate, I. 256), 
which was fastened above the knee, and descended upon 
the moccason. It was also made originally of deer-skin, 
and ornamented with quill-work upon the bottom and 
side, the embroidered edge being worn in front. In 
later times, red broadcloth, embroidered with bead-work, 
as represented in the plate, has been substituted for 
deer-skin in most cases. Much ingenuity and taste 
were displayed in the designs, and in the execution of 
the work upon this article of apparel. The warrior 

might well be proud of this part of his costume. 





The Moccason, Ah-ta-qu d-d -weh (see plate, I. 35), 
was also made of deer-skin. In the modern moc- 
cason, represented in the plate, the front part is worked 
with porcupine quills after the ancient fashion, while 
the part which falls down upon the sides is embroidered 
with bead-work according to the present taste. 

Not the least important article was the belt, Ga- 
geti-ta (see plate, I. 101), which was prized as 
highly as any part of the costume. The one repre 
sented in the plate is of Indian manufacture. These 
belts were braided by hand, the beads being inter 
woven in the process of braiding/ 11 Belts of deer 
skin were also worn. These belts were worn over 
the left shoulder and around the waist. 

Arm Bands, Knee Bands, and Wrist Bands, made 
of various articles and ornamented in divers ways, 

Knee Rattle of Deers 1 Hoofs. 

were likewise a part of the costume. Sometimes they 
were made of deer-skin, sometimes of white dog-skin, 
and in later times of red and blue velvet, embroidered 
with bead-work, as represented in the plate (1. 216). 

In addition to the knee-bands, Knee Rattles of 
deers hoofs, as shown in the figure, and in modern 


times, of strips of metal, or of bells, made a neces 
sary part of the costume. Personal ornaments of 
various kinds, together with the war-club, the toma 
hawk, and the scalping-knife, completed the attire. 

The war-club used in the dance, was usually a light 
article, of which the following is a representation : 

, or War- Club. 

The various articles of apparel which now make up 
the costume of the Iroquois, are precisely the same 
that they were at the epoch of the discovery. No 
change has been made in the articles themselves, al 
though there have been changes in the materials of 
which they were made. The deer-skin, in later days, 
has been laid aside for the broadcloth, and the porcu 
pine quill for the bead. By making a resubstitution 
of material, the original costume would be recovered 
in full. (114) 

In preparing for the dance, all the articles above 
described were not necessarily used by each individual. 
Those strictly needful were the head-dress, the belt 
and kilt, to which each wearer added such ornaments 
and rattles as he was disposed. Usually they were 
nude down to the waist, and also below the knees, to 
give greater freedom to their limbs. A great diversity 
could be seen in their costumes when brought together 
in the dance, in consequence of the different fabrics of 




which they were composed, and the variety in their 
personal ornaments, notwithstanding every article of 
apparel was of the same pattern. Specimens of full 
Iroquois costumes, both male and female, are given 
in the engravings which are introduced as frontis 
pieces/ 1 ^ These, and the several plates which are 
given to illustrate the male costume in detail, will sav 
the necessity of any further description. 

Ga-no-jo -Oy or Indian Drum. 

I foot. 

The two dances mentioned before this digression 
were the highest in the popular favor. One was of 
original invention, the other imported; one was of 
a strictly religious character, and the other of a patri 
otic ; but both were equally effective to arouse the 
enthusiasm of the people. All things considered, 
however, the last of the two, the War dance, Wa- 
sa-seh, was the favorite. It was the mode of en 
listment for a perilous expedition, the dance which 
preceded the departure of the band, and with which 

VOL. i. 17 257 


they celebrated their return. It was the dance at 
the ceremony of raising up sachems, at the adoption 
of a captive, at the entertainment of a guest, the 
first dance taught to the young. It was not of Iro- 
quois origin, but was adopted from the Sioux, as its 
name imports, reaching back through them to a re 
mote antiquity. 1 The characteristic feature of this 
dance is to be found in the speeches which were 
made by those surrounding the band of dancers be 
tween each tune, or at each break in the dance. 
From this source the people derived as much enter 
tainment as they did excitement from the perform 
ance itself. It was the only dance in which speeches 
and replies were appropriate, or ever introduced ; 
and in this particular it was a novelty, leading 
oftentimes to the highest amusement. By these 
speeches, which both relieved the performers and 
diverted the people, the dance was lengthened out 
to two and even three hours, before the spirits of 
the company were expended. 

The War dance was usually performed in the evening. 
It was only brought out on prominent occasions, or at 
domestic councils of unusual interest. Fifteen made 
a full company, but oftentimes twenty-five and even 
thirty participated. After the business of the day was 
disposed of, and the dusk of evening had crept in, 

1 The name of the Sioux in the Seneca dialect is Wa-sa -seh-o-no. By 
contraction and usage, the word Wa-sa -seh is now used for the Sioux 
dance, the name by which the \Var dance has always been known among 
the Iroquois. This dance has been ascribed by some to the Shawnees, 
and called Sa-iva-no -o-no, or the Shawnee dance, this being the Seneca 
name of the Shawnees. One of the Iroquois names of this dance is 
Ne-ja f , but Wa-sa -seh is the customary name. 



preparations began for the dance. The people gathered 
within the council-house, usually in increased numbers, 
because of this expected entertainment, and arranging 
themselves in favorable positions, they quietly awaited 
the approach of the dancers. The arrangements were 
made, including the selection of the number, the ap 
pointment of the leader, and of the singers of the 
war-songs, by the keepers of the faith. In an adjacent 
lodge, the band assembled to array themselves in their 
costumes, and to paint and decorate their persons for 
the occasion. The war-whoop ever and anon broke 
in upon the stillness of the evening, indicating to the 
listening and expectant throng within the council-house, 
that their preparations were progressing to a com 
pletion. A keeper of the faith, in the mean time, 
occupied the attention of the people with a brief speech 
upon the nature and objects of this dance. Presently, 
a nearer war-whoop ringing through the air, announced 
that the band were approaching. Preceded by their 
leader, and marching in file to the beat of the drum, 
they drew near to the council-house. As they came 
up, the crowd gave way, the leader crossed the thresh 
old, followed quickly by his feathered band, and 
immediately opened the dance. In an instant they 
grouped themselves within a circular area, standing 
thick together, the singers commenced the war-song, 
the drums beat time, and the dancers made the floor 
resound with their stirring feet. After a moment the 
song ceased, and with it the dance ; the band walking 
around a common centre to the beat of the drum at 
half time. Another song soon commenced, the drums 
quickened their time, and the dance was resumed. In 



the middle of the song there was a change in the music, 
accompanied with a slight cessation of the dance, after 
which it became more animated than before, until the 
song ended, and the band again walked to the beat of 
the drum. Each tune or war-song lasted about two 
minutes, and the interval between them was about as 
long. These songs were usually recited by four singers, 
using two drums of the kind represented in the figure, 
to mark time, and as an accompaniment. The drums 
beat time about twice in a second, the voices of the 
singers keeping pace, thus making a rapid and strongly 
accented species of music. 1 

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to describe 
the step, except generally. With the whites, the 
dancing is entirely upon the toe of the foot, with rapid 
changes of position, and but slight changes of attitude. 
But with the Iroquois, it was chiefly upon the heel, 
with slow changes of position, and rapid changes of 
attitude. The heel is raised and brought down with 
great quickness and force, by muscular strength, to 
keep time with the beat of the drum, to make a re 
sounding noise by the concussion, and at the same 
time to shake the knee-rattles, which contributed 
materially to the "pomp and circumstance" of the 
dance. In the War dance, the attitudes were those of 

1 These war songs are in a dead language, or, at all events, the Iroquois 
are unable to interpret them. They are in regular verses, or measured sen 
tences, and were learned by them with the dance originally. Charlevoix has 
furnished a translation of some of these songs as follows : "I am brave 
and intrepid. I do not fear death, nor any kind of torture. Those who 
fear them are cowards. They are less than women. Life is nothing to 
those who have courage. May my enemies be confounded with despair 
and rage. " These songs were sung by captives at the torture ; and 
doubtless those used in the War dance are of the same general character. 



the violent passions, and consequently were not grace 
ful. At the same instant of time, in a group of dancers, 
one might be seen in the attitude of attack, another 
of defence; one in the act of drawing the bow, another 
of striking with the war-club ; some in the act of 
throwing the tomahawk, some of listening, or of watch 
ing an opportunity, and others of striking the foe. 
These violent motions of the body, while they, perhaps, 
increased the spirit and animation of the dance, led to 
disagreeable distortions of the countenance, as well as 
to uncouth attitudes. But, at the same time, the 
striking costumes of the dancers, their erect forms at 
certain stages of the figure, their suppleness and ac 
tivity, the wild music, the rattle of the dance, together 
with the excitable and excited throng around them, 
made up a scene of no common interest. 

In this dance, the war-whoop and the response always 
preceded each song. It was given by the leader, and 
answered by the band. A description of this terrific 
outbreak of human voices is scarcely possible. It was 
a prolonged sound upon a high note, with a decadence 
near the end, followed by an abrupt and explosive 
conclusion, in which the voice was raised again to the 
original pitch. The whole band responded in a united 
scream upon the same key with which the leader con 
cluded, and at the same instant. 1 

An attempt is here made to rep 
resent this wild cry. It is given 
by the Indian with wide-open 
mouth. His voice slides down the 
descending notes, when he pauses 
an instant to take a new inspiration, 

all which is to be expended in the sudden and far-reaching yell with which 



In this celebrated dance, therefore, which has doubt 
less been used for centuries, and been performed 
throughout the whole area of the American republic, 
we find this simple succession of acts : the war-whoop 
and responses, the simultaneous commencement of the 
war-song and the dance, the slight cessation at the 
middle of the tune, with a change in the music, the re 
newal of the dance with redoubled animation, and the 
final conclusion of the war-song in perhaps less than 
two minutes from its commencement ; and lastly, the 
walk at the beat of the drum around a central point 
for about two minutes, until the war-whoop again 
sounded, and another war-song was introduced. This 
round was continued until the spirit of the dancers 
began to flag, and the desires of the people had been 
reasonably gratified. Without any speeches between 
the tunes to relieve the band, it usually lasted about 
an hour; but with speeches, it often continued for 
three hours with unabated animation. 

Any one present was at liberty to make a speech 
at any stage of the dance. His desire was manifested 
by a rap. At the sound the dance ceased, or, if 
finished, and the band were walking, they were re 
quired to stop, and all present, as well as the music, 
to be silent. The only condition affixed to the right 
of making a speech, was that of bestowing a present 
at its close upon the dancers, or upon the one to 
whom it was addressed. After the speech was con 
cluded, and the present delivered, the war-whoop and 
responses were again sounded, the drums beat, the 

the piece concludes. On this last note the whole band join in chorus, using 
the syllables " ah um, 11 connected in one, or something like it. 



song and the dance commenced, and were ended 
as before. Then followed another speech, and still 
others, alternating with the songs, or suspending 
the dance at the moment of its highest animation, 
at the pleasure of the speaker. In this manner the 
War dance was continued until the spirit of enjoyment 
began to subside, when the final war-whoop put an end 
to the dance, and the band retired. 

These speeches were often pleasantries between 
individuals, or strictures upon each other s foibles, 
or earnest exhortations, or perchance patriotic ebul 
litions of feeling, according to the fancy of the 
person and of the moment. Some of them were 
received with rounds of applause, some with jeers, 
and others with seriousness and deference. They 
usually lasted but two or three minutes. The Indian 
has a keen appreciation of wit, and is fond of both 
jest and. repartee, as well as of ridicule. 

To convey a fuller impression of the character of 
these speeches, and of the nature of the dance itself, 
a few specimens will be introduced. These speeches 
are short and rather unmeaning, when separated 
from the occasion, and the connection in which they 
were called forth. Those most interesting would 
require an explanation of collateral circumstances to 
be understood, and they are therefore excluded. 
Those to be given are not particularly interesting ; 
but they explain themselves, and will answer the pur 
pose for which they are introduced as fully as if they 
sparkled with wit. 

After the band came in and opened the War dance, 
several songs were performed before any one was 



disposed to interrupt them. All eyes were turned 
upon the several costumes of the band, upon the 
spirit and activity of individuals in the dance, and 
the animation and enthusiasm of the party. Round 
after round followed, until the spirit of the company 
was fully aroused, when it began to expend itself in 
speeches and witticisms. The first rap was made 
by ^o-no-ai-o a humorous old chief. Silence being 
restored, he spoke as follows : " Friends and Rela 
tives I am occasionally fond of a drink of the 
strong waters. I do not know how it is with Ta-ya- 
d d-o-wuti-kuh, (the guest to whom the War dance was 
given), (9) but presume it is something the same with 
him, and therefore I send him a sixpence to buy a 
drink with on his way home." Gives the money. 
Again the drum sounded, the war-whoop and re 
sponses were given, and the music and the dance 
were resumed. At the end of the tune another rap 
restored silence. Ha-sque-sa-o, another chief, and one 
somewhat noted for his fondness for the fire-water, 
spoke as follows : " Friends and Relatives I am 
much pleased with the dance, and hope it will con 
tinue to be well sustained. I return my thanks to 
the war-dancers for the spirit with which they per 
form their duty. I wish them all prosperity and 
long life. If any one should look at me, they will 
find that I keep my eye fixed upon the dancers, and 
furthermore, that I have a good eye, so much so, 
that one would think I wore glasses. I take from 
my pocket a shilling for the dancers." Gives the 
money. The dance was then resumed. At the end 
of the song, the speech of Ha-sque-sa-o called out 



a reply from Sa-de-wa-na, as follows : " Friends 
and Relatives --We have just heard some one on 
the other side of the house announce, that he had an 
eye so bright that one would think he wore specta 
cles. But as he has a pair of red eyes, we must, I 
suppose, conclude that he uses red spectacles." Gives 
tobacco to the dancers. This hit at Ha-sque r -sa-o s 
infirmity was received with applause. Again the 
dance goes on as usual. Among the dancers were 
men of all sizes, figures and heights. There was one 
warrior, especially, of such herculean proportions that 
he might be called a giant. He furnished a theme 
for the next speech, which was made by Ha-sa-no- 
ari-da^ the dance having ceased, as follows : " Friends 
and Relatives I admire the ease and grace with 
which Ha-ho-yas manages his wonderful proportions. 
He has every reason to be proud of his size and dig 
nity. I propose to give him a present of two plugs 
of tobacco, supposing that it will be sufficient for one 
quid. 1 Gives the tobacco. Ha-ho-yas received the 
tobacco with seeming pleasure, and the people the jest 
with considerable merriment. At the conclusion of 
the next song, he thus replied : " Friends and Rela 
tives - - I return my thanks to Ha-sa-no-ari-da for 
his present. I assure him that my intellectual ca 
pacities correspond very justly with my physical 
dimensions. I hope my brother will publish my 
fame from the rising to the setting sun." Again the 
war-whoop sounded, the music opened, and the dance 
was renewed. 

Other speeches were made from time to time, some 
of which called forth applause, and in due time a reply 



adapted to the case. After a number had thus spoken, 
Sa-de-wa-na rapped again. When the music and the 
dancers were still, he thus said : " Friends and Rela 
tives I have made another strike. I desire to make 
a present to the women who have assisted in preparing 
the feast. But as I cannot give presents to all, I wish 
to see the one who has to-day eaten the most beef, and 
is considered the most greedy. I request her to come 
forward and receive the present." One of them, Gi- 
an-ok, advanced and received the money, good- 
naturedly, which the people applauded. After a few 
more courses of the dance, a speech was made by 
O-no -sa, of a more serious cast, as follows: "Friends 
and Relatives We have reason to glory in the 
achievements of our ancestors. I behold with sadness 
the present declining state of our noble race. Once 
the warlike yell and the painted band were the terror 
of the white man. Then our fathers were strong, and 
their power was felt and acknowledged far and wide 
over the American continent. But we have been re 
duced and broken by the cunning and rapacity of the 
white-skinned race. We are now compelled to crave, 
as a blessing, that we may be allowed to live upon our 
own lands, to cultivate our own fields, to drink from 
our own springs, and to mingle our bones with those 
of our fathers. Many winters ago, our wise ancestors 
predicted that a great monster, with white eyes, would 
come from the east, and, as he advanced, would con 
sume the land. This monster is the white race, and 
the prediction is near its fulfilment. They advised 
their children, when they became weak, to plant a tree 
with four roots, branching to the north, the south, the 



east, and the west ; and then collecting under its shade, 
to dwell together in unity and harmony. This tree, 
I propose, shall be this very spot. Here we will 
gather, here live, and here die." Gives tobacco, to the 
dancers. The dance was then resumed as before, and 
continued until a rap announced another speech from 
To-no-ai -o, the first speaker, who, after silence was re 
stored, addressed the dancers : "In my view of the 
dance you do not do it as well as it can be done ; 
although you doubtless have done as well as you 
know how. When I was a young man, I was the 
greatest dancer of my time. I did not know any one 
who could surpass me in the War dance. Further 
more, I was considered the best singer of the war- 
songs. I hope, however, you will continue to do the 
best you can, even though you fail to perform this 
dance as well as it can be done. I have another piece 
of the leaf which I will turn over to the singers. I 
wish them to swallow the juice, as it will make their 
voices clear, and help their singing." Gives the 
tobacco. Again the dance was resumed. After the 
next tune, this speech called out a reply from Ja-ese\ 
as follows : " Friends and Relatives We have just 
heard a speaker, on the other side of the house, boast 
ing of what he had done in his younger days. I do 
not like to hear such high speaking of one s self. I 
should like to see ^o-no-ai-o come out and show the 
people what he can do, or what he used to do in his 
younger days." Gives money to the dancers. Again 
the war-whoop sounded, the responses followed, and 
the music and the dance made the house resound. In 
this manner was this famous dance conducted by our 



primitive inhabitants around their domestic council- 

These illustrations will suffice to exhibit the general 
character of these speeches, as well as of the dance 
itself. In the numerous addresses and witticisms 
which the War dance called forth, the Iroquois took 
the highest delight. They served the double purpose 
of relieving the dancers themselves, who would soon 
have been exhausted by continuous exertion, and of 
entertaining the people in the interval. This was the 
secret of its great popularity as a dance, and of its uni 
versal adoption. To this day, a well-conducted War 
dance is the highest entertainment known among the 

Gus-da -zva-sa, or Rattle. 

Second in the public estimation, but first intrinsi 
cally, stood the great Feather dance, 0-sto-weti-go-wd, 
sometimes called the Religious dance, because it was 
specially consecrated to the worship of the Great 
Spirit. The invention, or at least the introduction of 
this dance, is ascribed to the first To-do-da -ho, at the 
period of the formation of the League. In its Iro 
quois origin, they all concur. It was performed by a 
select band, ranging from fifteen to thirty, in full cos 
tume, and was chiefly used at their religious festivals, 
although it was one of the prominent dances on all 



great occasions in Indian life. This dance was the 
most splendid, graceful and remarkable in the whole 
collection, requiring greater powers of endurance, sup 
pleness and flexibility of person, and gracefulness of 
deportment, than either of the others. The saltandi 
ars, or dancing art, found in the Feather dance its 
highest achievement, at least in the Indian family ; 
and it may be questioned whether a corresponding 
figure can be found among those which are used in 
refined communities, which will compare with it in 
those particulars which make up a spirited and grace 
ful dance. 

The music was furnished by two singers, seated in 
the centre of the room, each having a turtle-shell 
rattle of the kind represented in the figure. 1 It con 
sisted of a series of songs or measured verses, which 
required about two minutes each for their recitation. 
They were all religious songs, some of them in praise 
of the Great Spirit, some in praise of various objects 
in nature which ministered to their wants, others in 
the nature of thanksgivings to Ha-wen-ne -yu, or sup 
plications of his continued protection. The rattles 
were used to mark time, and as an accompaniment to 
the songs. In using them, they were struck upon the 
seat as often as twice or thrice in a second, the song 
and the step of the dancers keeping time, notwith 
standing the rapidity of the beat. 

The band arrayed themselves in their costumes in 

1 To make this rattle they remove the animal from the shell, and af 
ter drying it, they place within it a handful of flint-corn, and then sew 
up the skin which is left attached to the shell. The neck of the turtle is 
then stretched over a wooden handle. 



an adjacent lodge, came into the council-house, and 
opened in all respects as in the case last described. 
Instead of grouping, however, within the area of a 
circle, they ranged themselves in file, and danced 
slowly around the council-house in an elliptical line. 
When the music ceased, the dance also was suspended, 
and the party walked in column to the beat of the 
rattles. After an interval of about two minutes, the 
rattles quickened their time, the singers commenced 
another song, and the warriors, at the same instant, 
the dance. The leader, standing at the head of the 
column, opened, followed by those behind. As they 
advanced slowly around the room, in the dance, they 
gestured with their arms, and placed their bodies in a 
great variety of positions, but, unlike the practice in 
the War dance, always keeping their forms erect. 
None of the attitudes in this dance were those of the 
violent passions, but rather of the mild and gentle 
feelings. Consequently, there were no distortions 
either of the countenance or the body ; but all their 
movements and positions were extremely graceful, 
dignified and imposing. The step has the same 
general peculiarities as that in the dance last described, 
but yet is quite distinct from it. Each foot in succes 
sion is raised from two to eight inches from the floor, 
and the heel is then brought down with great force as 
frequently as the beat of the rattles. Frequently one 
heel is brought down twice or three times before it 
alternates with the other. This will convey an im 
pression of the surprising activity of this dance, in 
which every muscle of the body appears to be strung 
to its highest degree of tension. The concussion of 



the foot upon the floor served the double purpose of 
shaking the rattles and bells, which form a part of the 
costume, and of adding to the noise and animation of 
the dance. 

The dancers were usually nude down to the waist, 
with the exception of ornaments upon their arms and 
necks, as represented in the engraving, thus exposing 
their well-formed chests, finely rounded arms, and 
their smooth, evenly colored skins, of a clear and 
brilliant copper color. This exposure of the person, 
not in any sense displeasing, contributed materially to 
the beauty of the costume, and gave a striking expres 
sion to the figure of the dancer. Such was the physi 
cal exertion put forth in this dance, that before it 
closed, the vapor of perspiration steamed up, like 
smoke, from their uncovered backs. No better evi 
dence than this need be given, that it was a dance full 
of earnestness and enthusiasm. One of their aims was 
to test each other s powers of endurance. It not un- 
frequently happened that a part of the original number 
yielded from exhaustion before the dance was ended. 
Nothing but practice superadded to flexibility of per 
son and great muscular strength would enable even an 
Indian to perform this dance. When the popular ap 
plause was gained by one of the band for spirited or 
graceful dancing, he was called out to stand at the head 
of the column, and lead the party : in this way several 
changes of leaders occurred before the final conclusion 
of the figure. 

In this dance the women participated, if they were 
disposed. They wore, however, their ordinary ap 
parel, and entered by themselves at the foot of the 



column. The female step is entirely unlike the one 
described. They moved sideways in this figure, 
simply raising themselves alternately upon each foot 
from heel to toe, and then bringing down the heel 
upon the floor, at each beat of the rattle, keeping pace 
with the slowly advancing column. With the females 
dancing was a quiet and not ungraceful amusement. 

As a scene, its whole effect was much increased by 
the arrangement of the dancers into column. In this 
long array of costumes, the peculiar features of each 
were brought more distinctly into view, and by keep 
ing the elliptical area around which they moved, 
entirely free from the pressing throng of Indian specta 
tors, a better opportunity was afforded to all to witness 
the performance. To one who has never seen this 
dance, it would be extremely difficult to convey any 
notion of its surprising activity, and its inspiring influ 
ence upon the spectators. Requiring an almost con 
tinuous exertion, it is truly a marvellous performance. 

The Thanksgiving dance, Ga-na-o-uh, was likewise 
a costume dance, and given by a select band. It re 
sembles the one last described so closely, both in step 
and plan, that it is not necessary to describe it. 

One of the most simple figures among the Iroquois, 
was called the Trotting dance, G a-d a-shote. It was 
usually the opening dance at councils, and at private 
entertainments, when no costume figures were intro 
duced. A person appointed to act as leader, followed 
by a few others, took the floor and began. Others 
joined in as the column passed around the room. 

The music was entirely vocal, and furnished by those 
who danced. It consisted of about twenty different 



songs, each lasting something less than two minutes. 
In this dance the tune was the mere repetition of one 
exclamation by those at the head of the column, fol 
lowed by a response, in chorus, from the residue. 
Three specimens are given in illustration. The leader, 
in concert with those nearest him, sang the following 
syllables : Ta-ha-we-ya-ha > to which all the others 
responded, Ha-ha . This would be repeated and re 
sponded to, for about two minutes, the pronunciation 
of the syllables being subjected to a musical variation 
each time. When the tune ended, the band walked 
for about the same length of time. The next song 
might consist of the syllables Ga-no -oh-he-yo, with the 
response Wa-ha-ah-he-yo . This would be continued, 
and the key varied, in the same manner as the last. 
After this was ended, and the dancers had refreshed 
themselves by walking, perhaps the next song would 
consist of the following syllables : Tu-wa-na-he-yo\ 
and the response Wa-ha-ah-hd . 

As to the step it was very simple, being nearly a 
trot, or alternate step on each foot. In dancing, those 
engaged stood close to each other, and advanced slowly 
around the council-house. The women participated, 
but they were by themselves at the foot of the column. 
As this dance was extremely simple, it was not uncom 
mon to see two and even three hundred engaged in it 
at one time, moving around in three or four concentric 

Another figure, in very general use, was called 
the Fish dance, Ga-so-wa-o-no.^ It was of foreign 
origin. The music consisted of singing, accompanied 
with the drum, and the squash-shell rattle ; the two 

VOL. i. 18 273 


singers seating themselves in the centre of the room 
facing each other, and using the drum and rattle to 
mark time, and increase the volume of the music. 
The step was merely an elevation from heel to toe, 
twice repeated upon each foot alternately ; bringing 
down the heel each alternate time with considerable 
force, to mark time and make the floor resound. 

The dance was commenced by the leader, who took 
the floor, followed by others, and walked to the beat 
of the drum. When the song commenced, each alter 
nate dancer faced round, thus bringing the column 
into sets of two each, face to face, those who turned 
dancing backwards, but the whole band moving around 
the room, as in other cases. Each song or tune lasted 
about three minutes. At the end of the first minute 
there was a break in the music, and the sets turned, 
thus reversing their positions ; at the end of the second 
there was another change in the music, in the midst 
of which the sets turned again, which brought them 
back to their original positions. Through the third 
and last subdivision o.f the time, the dance was con 
tinued with increased animation. At the close of it, 
those who had been dancing backwards faced around, 
and the whole column walked about two minutes, to 
the beat of the drum. Another tune was then com 
menced and finished in the same manner. 

The peculiarity of this dance was the opportunity 
which it afforded the Indian maiden to select whomever 
she preferred as a partner. In this particular the cus 
tom of refined communities was reversed. The warrior 
never solicited the maiden to dance with him ; that 
privilege was accorded to her alone. In the midst of 




the dance, the females present themselves in pairs 
between any set they may select, thus giving to each a 
partner. This rule prevails in all Indian dances ; so 
that the Indian maiden at her own convenience 
" gracefully presents her personage to the one she de 
signs to favor, and thus quietly engages herself in the 
dance." In none of the changes of position in this 
dance do the partners join hands. This figure usually 
continues less than an hour. Sometimes, as a mark 
of respect to a guest, or distinguished chief, two wo 
men presented themselves before him, as partners in 
the dance. 

The Passing dance, Ga-no -ga-yo^ was also in high 
favor. It is similar to the last, the column being 
divided into sets of two each, the women engaging in 
whichever set they please. At a certain stage of the 
song, the woman passed her partner, and took the 
next, her place being supplied from behind. They 
danced around the room, facing each other in pairs, 
the men moving backwards. The music and the step 
were about the same as in the dance last described. 

An occasional and very singular figure was called 
the Dance for the Dead. It was known as the O-ke- 
wa. It was danced by the women alone. The music 
was entirely vocal, a select band of singers being 
stationed in the centre of the room. To the songs 
for the dead, which they sang, the dancers joined in 
chorus. It was plaintive and mournful music. This 
dance was usually separate from all councils, and the 
only dance of the occasion. It commenced at dusk 
or soon after, and continued until towards morning, 
when the shades of the dead, who were believed to be 

2 75 


present and participate in the dance, were supposed to 
disappear. This dance was had whenever a family, 
which had lost a member, called for it, which was 
usually about a year after the event. In the spring 
and fall, it was often given for all the dead indiscrimi 
nately, who were believed then to revisit the earth 
and join in the dance. 

One of their performances was called the Buffalo 
dance, Da-ge -ya-go-o-an -no. It was designed for 
males alone. The music consisted of singing, accom- 

Gus-da -wa-sa, or Squash-shell Rattles. 

panied with the drum and the rattle. Its principal 
feature was the attempt to imitate the actions of the 
buffalo. According to tradition, this dance originated 
in a warlike expedition of the Iroquois against the 
Cherokees. When they had proceeded as far as the 
Kentucky salt lick, they heard, for the first time, the 
buffaloes, "singing their favorite songs" (bellowing 
and grumbling). From this bellowing the music, and 
from their actions the plan of the dance, were made. 
In connection with the dances of the Iroquois, may 
be mentioned their concerts, which occupy a con 
spicuous place in their amusements. But one will be 



noticed of the four, which make up the number of 
kinds. It was called the Q-ee-dose . It was given in 
the night, in a dark room, and no women were allowed 
to be present. Those engaged in the concert were 
seated on benches around the room, in a continuous 
row, each one holding in his hand a rattle, of the kind 
represented in the figure. These rattles were made to 
give each one a different note, by means of different- 
sized shells, and holes bored in them to emit the 
sound. Among twenty of them, rattled together at 
such a concert, no two would give the same sound. 
Corn was placed inside the shell. When the parties 
were ready, one of their number sang a song, to which 
they all beat time with their rattles, and at certain in 
tervals all joined in the song in chorus. Another then 
commenced a song, which was continued and finished 
in the same manner. After each one in turn had 
sung his song, which, with the accompaniments and 
the choruses, made a not unpleasant entertainment, 
the concert was ended. 1 

The other three are the Medicine concert, Ga-no-da- 
yo-suh ; the Female concert, O-e-un-do-ta ; and the 
Thanksgiving concert, Ah -do-weh, before described. 

1 The Indian appears to have had a good perception of time, and to 
have measured it, in his music and dances, with considerable exactness ; 
but in tune he was sadly deficient. He knew nothing of the natural in 
tervals of tones and semi-tones. There runs always through his music 
one predominant and constantly recurring sound, from which the others 
vary by all kinds of irregular intervals and fractions of intervals. The 
tunes of the Iroquois, if the name may be given to their rude minstrelsy, 
were both numerous and varied, and capable, also, of inspiring enthusi 
asm or sadness. In their occasional songs, as in the Ah-do -iveh, the 
music, as well as the words, was often impromptu. The Indian voice, 
especially that of the female, is musical, and highly capable of cultivation. 



It will not be necessary to describe the remaining 
dances. Sufficient, at least, has been presented, to give 
a general idea of the Dance among the Iroquois. A 
few of them have been given in detail, as they seemed 
calculated to furnish a glimpse of Indian society. 
These amusements of our primitive inhabitants are not, 
in themselves, devoid of interest, although they indi 
cate a tendency of mind unbefitting rational men. A 
hunter by nature and by inclination, averse to cities, 
and impatient of labor, the chase, the war-path, and 
the council-fire, with the dance, furnished the three 
great employments of his life. Who shall tell how 
much the hopes, the friendships, the happiness, and 
even the virtues of the Indian, were bound up in indis 
soluble connection with the Dance ? With it the Iro 
quois kindled the flame of patriotism which glowed in 
his breast, while vindicating the prowess of his race 
upon the hills of New England, on the prairies of the 
Mississippi, or in the trackless forests of the South. 
With it he celebrated his victories, and in the days of 
peace cultivated his social affections. And with it, 
also, at stated seasons of the year, he offered up his 
praise and homage to the Great Spirit, the ever present 
Author of his being. 1 


Those marked thus *, are of foreign origin 5 thus j, are now obsolete 5 
and thus J, are costume dances. 

1 O-sto-weh -go-wa, ;{; Great Feather Dance. For both sexes. 

2 Ga-na -o-uh,;}; Great Thanksgiving Dance. " 

3 Da-yun -da-nes-hunt-ha, Dance with Joined Hands. " 

4 Ga-da -shote,* Trotting Dance. " 

5 O-to-wa -ga-ka,* f North Dance. " 

2 7 8 


6 Je-ha -ya, 

7 Ga -no-jit -ga-o, 

8 Ga-so-wa -o-no,*" 

9 Os-ko-da -ta, 

10 Ga-no -ga-yo,| 

1 1 So-wek-o-an -no,"* 

12 Ja-ko -wa-o-an -no, 
i 3 Guk-sa -ga-ne-a,-)- 

14 Ga-so -a,-j- 

15 O-ke -wa, 

1 6 O-as-ka-ne -a, 

1 7 Da-swa-da-ne -a, 

1 8 Ga-ne-a -seh-o, j 

19 Un-da-da-o-at -ha,-]- 

20 Un-to-we -sus, 

2 1 Da-yo-da -sun-da-e -go, 

22 Wa-sa -seh,^ J 

23 Da-ge -ya-go-o-an -no, 

24 Ne-a -gwi-o-an -no,* 

25 Wa-a-no -a,-j- 

26 Ne-ho-sa-den -da,-j- 

27 Ga-na-un -da-do,-}- J 

28 Un-de-a-ne-suk -ta,-j- J 

29 Eh-nes -hen-do,-}- 

30 Ga-go -sa, 

31 Ga-je -sa, 

32 Un-da-de-a-dus -shun-ne 

Antique Dance. 
Taking the Kettle out. 
Fish Dance. 
Shaking the Bush. 
Rattle Dance. 
Duck Dance. 
Pigeon Dance. 
Grinding Dishes. 
Knee Rattle Dance. 
Dance for the Dead. 
Shuffle Dance. 
Tumbling Dance. 
Turtle Dance. 
Initiation Dance for Girls. 
Shuffle Dance. 
Dark Dance. 
Sioux, or War Dance. 
Buffalo Dance. 
Bear Dance. 
Striking the Stick. 
Squat Dance. 
Scalp Dance. 
Track Finding Dance. 
Arm Shaking Dance. 
False Face Dance. 

-at -ha,-j- Preparation Dance. 

For both sexes. 


< ( 

For Females. 
For Males. 


Chapter V 

National Games Betting Ball Game Game of Javelins Game 
of Deer Buttons Snow Snake Game Snow Boat Game Arch- 
. ery Peach-Stone Game Enthusiasm for Games 

IN their national games is to be found another 
fruitful source of amusement in Indian life. 
These games were not only played at their re 
ligious festivals, at which they often formed a con 
spicuous part of the entertainment, but special days 
were frequently set apart for their celebration. They 
entered into these diversions with the highest zeal and 
emulation, and took unwearied pains to perfect them 
selves in the art of playing each successfully. There 
were but six principal games among the Iroquois, and 
these are divisible into athletic games, and games of 

Challenges were often sent from one village to 
another, and were even exchanged between nations, 
to a contest of some of these games. In such cases 
the chosen players of each community or nation were 
called out to contend for the prize of victory. An 
intense degree of excitement was aroused, when the 
champions were the most skilful players of rival 
villages, or adjacent nations. 1 The people enlisted 

1 Tradition relates that the war which ended in the expulsion of the 
Eries, about the year 1654, from the western part of New York, origi 
nated in a breach of faith or treachery on the part of the Eries, in a Ball 
game to which they had challenged the Senecas. 



upon their respective sides, with a degree of enthusi 
asm, which would have done credit, both to the spec 
tators and the contestants, at the far-famed Elian 
games. For miles, and even hundreds of miles, they 
flocked together at the time appointed to witness the 

Unlike-the prizes of the Olympic games, no chap- 
lets awaited the victors. They were strifes between 
nation and nation, village and village, or tribes and 
tribes ; in a word parties against parties, and not 
champion against champion. The prize contended 
for was that of victory ; and it belonged, not to the 
triumphant players, but to the party which sent them 
forth to the contest. 

When these games were not played by one com 
munity against another, upon a formal challenge, the 
people arranged themselves on two sides, according 
to their tribal divisions. By an organic provision of 
the Iroquois, as elsewhere stated, the Wolf, Bear, 
Beaver and Turtle tribes were brothers to each other, 
as tribes, and cousins to the other four. In playing 
their games they always went together, and formed 
one party or side. In the same manner the Deer, 
Snipe, Heron and Hawk tribes were brothers to each 
other, as tribes, and cousins to the four first .named. 
These formed a second, or opposite party. Thus in 
all Indian games, with the exceptions first mentioned, 
the people divided themselves into two sections, four 
of the tribes always contending against the other 
four. (57) Father and son, husband and wife, were thus 
arrayed in opposite ranks. 

Betting upon the result was common among the 



Iroquois. As this practice was never reprobated by 
their religious teachers, but, on the contrary, rather 
encouraged, it frequently led to the most reckless in 
dulgence. It often happened that the Indian gambled 
away every valuable article which he possessed ; his 
tomahawk, his medal, his ornaments, and even his 
blanket. (98) The excitement and eagerness with which 
he watched the shifting tide of the game, was more 
uncontrollable than the delirious agitation of the 
pale-face at the race-course, or even at the gaming 
table. Their excitable temperament and emulous 
spirits peculiarly adapted them for the enjoyment of 
their national games. 

These bets were made in a systematic manner, and 
the articles then deposited with the managers of the 
game. A bet offered by a person upon one side, in 
the nature of some valuable article, was matched by a 
similar article, or one of equal value, by some one 
upon the other. Personal ornaments made the usual 
gaming currency. Other bets were offered and taken 
in the same manner, until hundreds of articles were 
sometimes collected. These were laid aside by the 
managers, until the game was decided, when each 
article lost by the event was handed over to the 
winning individual, together with his own, which he 
had risked against it. 

With the Iroquois, the Ball game, O-ta-da-jisti-qua- 
age, was the favorite among their amusements of this 
description. This game reaches back to a remote 
antiquity, was universal among the red races, and was 
played with a degree of zeal and enthusiasm which 
would scarcely be credited. It was played with a 



small deer-skin ball, by a select band, usually from six 
to eight on a side, each set representing its own party. 
The game was divided into several contests, in which 
each set of players strove to carry the ball through 
their own gate. They went out into an open plain or 
field, and erected gates, about eighty rods apart, on its 

Ga-ne-a, or Ball Bat. 

5 feet. 

opposite sides. Each gate was simply two poles, some 
ten feet high, set in the ground about three rods 
asunder. One of these gates belonged to each party ; 
and the contest between the players was, which set 
would first carry the ball through its own a given 
number of times. Either five or seven made the 
game, as the parties agreed. If five, for example, was 
the number, the party which first carried, or drove the 
ball through its own gate this number of times, won 
the victory. Thus, after eight separate contests, the 



parties might stand equal, each having won four ; in 
which case the party which succeeded on the ninth 
contest would carry the game. The players com 
menced in the centre of the field, midway between the 
gates. If one of them became fatigued or disabled 
during the progress of the game, he was allowed to 
leave the ranks, and his party could supply his place 
with a fresh player, but the original numbers were not 
at any time allowed to be increased. Regular man 
agers were appointed on each side to see that the 
rules of the game were strictly and fairly observed. 
One rule forbade the players to touch the ball with 
the hand or foot. 

In preparing for this game, the players denuded 
themselves entirely, with the exception of the waist- 
cloth l (see plate, I. 51). They also underwent, 
frequently, a course of diet and training, as in a 
preparation for a foot-race. 

When the day designated had arrived, the people 
gathered from the whole surrounding country, to 
witness the contest. About meridian they assem 
bled at the appointed place, and having separated 
themselves into two companies, one might be seen 
upon each side of the line, between the gates, arranged 
in scattered groups, awaiting the commencement of 
the game. The players, when ready, stationed them 
selves in two parallel rows, facing each other, midway 
on this line/ each one holding a ball bat, of the kind 

1 The Ga -ka, or waist-cloth, was a strip of deer-skin or broadcloth, 
about a quarter wide and two yards long, ornamented at the ends with 
bead or quill work. It was passed between the limbs, and secured by a 
deer-skin belt, passing around the waist, the embroidered ends falling over 
the belt, before and behind, in the fashion of an apron. 



represented in the figure, and with which alone the 
ball was to be driven. As soon as all the prelimi 
naries were adjusted, the ball was dropped between 
the two files of players, and taken between the bats 
of the two who stood in the middle of each file, 
opposite to each other. After a brief struggle be 
tween them, in which each player endeavored, with 
his bat, to get possession of the ball, and give it the 
first impulse towards his own gate, it was thrown out, 
and then commenced the pursuit. The flying ball, 
when overtaken, was immediately surrounded by a 
group of players, each one striving to extricate it, 
and, at the same time, direct it towards his party 
gate. In this way. the ball was frequently imprisoned 
in different parts of the field, and an animated 
controversy maintained for its possession. When 
freed, it was knocked upon the ground, or through 
the air ; but the moment a chance presented, it was 
taken up upon the deer-skin network of the ball bat, 
by a player in full career, and carried in a race towards 
the gate. To guard against this contingency, by 
which one contest of the game might be determined 

D O 

in a moment, some of the players detached them 
selves from the group contending around the ball, 
and took a position from which to intercept a runner 
upon a diagonal line, if it should chance that one of 
the adverse party got possession of the ball. These 
races often formed the most exciting part of the 
game, both from the fleetness of the runners, and 
the consequences which depended upon the result. 
When the line of the runner was crossed, by an ad 
versary coming in before him upon a diagonal line, 



and he found it impossible, by artifice or stratagem, 
to elude him, he turned about, and threw the ball 
over the heads of both of them, towards his gate ; 
or, perchance, towards a player of his own party, if 
there were adverse players between him and the gate. 
When the flight of the ball was arrested in any part 
of the field, a spirited and even fierce contest was 
maintained around it; the players handled their bats 
with such dexterity, and managed their persons 
with such art and adroitness, that frequently several 
minutes elapsed before the ball flew out. Occasion 
ally in the heat of the controversy, but entirely by 
accident, a player was struck with such violence that 
the blood trickled down his limbs. In such a case, 
if disabled, he dropped his bat and left the field, 
while a fresh player from his own party supplied 
his place. In this manner was the game contested : 
oftentimes with so much ardor and skill that the 
ball was recovered by one party at the very edge 
of the adverse gate ; and finally, after many shifts 
in the tide of success, carried in triumph through 
its own. When one contest in the game was thus 
decided, the prevailing party sent up a united shout 
of rejoicing. 

After a short respite for the refreshment of the 
players, the second trial was commenced, and con 
tinued like the first. Sometimes it was decided in 
a few moments, but more frequently it lasted an 
hour, and sometimes much longer, to such a system 
had the playing of this game been reduced by skill 
and practice. If every trial was ardently contested, 
and the parties continued nearly equal in the number 



decided, it often lengthened out the game, until the 
approaching twilight made it necessary to take another 
day for its conclusion. 

On the final decision of the game, the exclama 
tions of triumph, as would be expected, knew no 
bounds. Caps, tomahawks and blankets were thrown 
up into the air, and for a few moments the notes of 
victory resounded from every side. It was doubtless 
a considerate provision, that the prevailing party were 
upon a side of the field opposite to, and at a distance 
from, the vanquished, otherwise such a din of ex 
ultation might have proved too exciting for Indian 

In ancient times they used a solid ball of knot. 
The ball bat, also, was made without network, hav 
ing a solid and curving head. At a subsequent day, 
they substituted the deer-skin ball and the network 
ball bat in present use. These substitutions were 
made so many years ago that they have lost the date. 

Ga-geb -da, or Javelin. 

The game of Javelins, Ga-na -ga-o, was very simple, 
depending upon the dexterity with which the javelin 
was thrown at a ring, as it rolled upon the ground. 
They frequently made it a considerable game, by en 
listing skilful players to prepare for the contest, and 
by betting upon the result. The people divided by 



tribes, the four brothers playing against their four 
cousin tribes, as in the last case, unless the game 
was played on a challenge between neighboring 

The javelin was five or six feet in length, by 
three-fourths of an inch in diameter, and was usually- 
made of hickory or maple. It was finished with 
care, sharpened at one end, and striped as shown in 
the figure. The ring was about eight inches in di 
ameter, made either into a hoop or solid like a 
wheel, by winding with splints. Sometimes the jave 
lin was thrown horizontally, by placing the forefinger 
against its foot, and supporting it with the thumb 
and second finger ; in other cases it was held in the 
centre, and thrown with the hand raised above the 

On either side, from fifteen to thirty players were 
arranged, each having from three to six javelins, 
the number of both depending upon the interest in 
the game, and the time they wished to devote to the 
contest. The javelins themselves were the forfeit, and 
the game was gained by the party which won them. 

Among the preliminaries to be settled by the 
managers, was the line on which the ring was to be 
rolled, the distance of the two bands of players 
from each other, and the space between each and 
the line itself. When these points were adjusted, 
and the parties stationed, the ring was rolled by one 
party on the line, in front of the other. As it 
passed the javelins were thrown. If the ring was 
struck by one of them, the players of the adverse 
party were required, each in turn, to stand in the 



place of the person who struck it, and throw their 
javelins in succession at the ring, which was set up 
as a target, on the spot where it was hit. Those of 
the javelins which hit the target when thus thrown 
were saved ; if any missed they were passed to the 
other party, and by them were again thrown at the 
ring from the same point. Those which hit were 
won, finally, and laid out of the play, while the 
residue were restored to their original owners. After 
this first contest was decided, the ring was rolled 
back, and the other party, in turn, threw their 
javelins. If it was struck, the party which rolled it 
was required, in the same manner, to hazard their 
javelins, by throwing them at the target. Such as 
missed were delivered to the other party, and those 
which hit the target when thrown by them, were won 
also, and laid out of the play. In this manner the 
game was continued, until one of the parties had 
lost their javelins, which, of itself, determined the 
contest/ 122 ) 

There was another game of javelins, Ga-ga-da-yan- 
duk, played by shooting them through the air. In 
this game, the. javelin used was made of sumac, be 
cause of its lightness, and was of the same length 
and size as in the former. This game was divided 
into contests, as the Ball game, and was won by the 
party which first made the number agreed upon. 
The game was usually from fifteen to twenty, and 
the number of players on a side ranged from five to 
ten. When the parties were ready, the one which 
had the first throw selected the object upon which 
the javelin was to be thrown, to give it an upward 
VOL. i. 19 289 



flight, and also its distance from the standing point. 
If, for example, it was a log, at the distance of a 
rod, the player placed his forefinger against the foot 
of the javelin, and, supporting it with his thumb and 
second finger, he threw it in such a manner, that it 
would strike the upper side of the log, and thus be 
thrown up into the air, and forward, until its force 
was spent. In this manner all the players, in turn, 
threw their javelins. The one which was thrown the 
greatest distance won a point. If another, upon the 
same side, was in advance of all upon the opposite 
side, it counted another, and so on for every one 
which led all those upon the opposite side. In the 
next contest, the second party chose the object over 
which to throw the javelin, and the distance. The 
game was thus continued, until the number of points 
were gained which were agreed upon for the game. 

Gus-ga-e-sa -ta, or Deer-buttons S^ 

This was strictly a fireside game, although it was 
sometimes introduced as an amusement at the sea 
son of religious councils, the people dividing into 



tribes, as usual, and betting upon the result. Eight 
buttons, about an inch in diameter, were made of 
elk-horn, and having been rounded and polished, 
were slightly burned upon one side to blacken them. 
When it was made a public game, it was played by 
two at a time, with a change of players, as elsewhere 
described in the Peach-stone game. At the fireside, 
it was played by two or more, and all the players 
continued in their seats until it was determined. A 
certain number of beans, fifty perhaps, were made the 
capital, and the game continued until one of the 
players had won them all. Two persons spread a 
blanket, and seated themselves upon it. One of 
them shook the deer-buttons in his hands, and then 
threw them down. If six turned up of the same 
color, it counted two, if seven, it counted four, and if 
all, it counted twenty, the winner taking as many 
beans from the general stock as he made points by 
the throw. He also continued to throw as long as 
he continued to win. When less than six came up, 
either black or white, it counted nothing, and the 
throw was passed to the other player. In this man 
ner the game was continued until the beans were 
taken up between the two players. After that the 
one paid to the other out of his own winnings, the 
game ending as soon as the capital in the hands of 
either player was exhausted. If four played, each 
had a partner, or played independently, as they were 
disposed ; but when more than two played, each one 
was to pay to the winner the amount won. Thus, if 
four were playing independently, and after the beans 
were distributed among them, in the progress of the 

2 9 r 


game, one of them should turn the buttons up all 
black, or all white, the other three would be obliged 
to pay him twenty each ; but if the beans were still 
in bank, he took up but twenty. The deer-buttons 
were of the same size. In the figure they are repre 
sented at different angles. 

Ga-zua f -sa, or Snow-Snake. 

Among the amusements of the winter season, in 
Indian life, was the game with Snow snakes. It was 
primarily designed as a diversion for the young; but 
it was occasionally made a public game between the 
tribes like the other, and aroused a great degree of 
spirit, and the usual amount of betting. The snake 
was thrown with the hand by placing the forefinger 
against its foot, and supporting it with the thumb and 
remaining fingers. It was thus made to run upon the 
snow crust with the speed of an arrow, and to a much 
greater distance, sometimes running sixty or eighty 
rods. The success of the player depended upon his 
dexterity and muscular strength. 

The snakes were made of hickory, and with the most 
perfect precision and finish. They were from five to 
seven feet in length, about a fourth of an inch in thick 
ness, and gradually diminishing from about an inch in 
width at the head, to about half an inch at the foot. 
The head was round, turned up slightly, and pointed 
with lead to increase the momentum of the snake. 



This game, like that of ball, was divided into a 
number of separate contests ; and was determined 
when either party had gained the number of points 
agreed upon, which was generally from seven to ten. 
The players were limited and select, usually not more 
than six. A station was determined upon, with the 
line, or general direction in which the snake was to 
be thrown. After they had all been thrown by the 
players on both sides, the next question was to deter 
mine the count. The snake which ran the greatest 
distance was a point for the side to which it belonged. 
Other points might be won on the same side, if a sec 
ond or third snake was found to be ahead of all the 
snakes upon the adverse side. One count was made 
for each snake which outstripped all upon the adverse 
side. These contests were repeated until one of the 
parties had made the requisite number of points to 
determine the game. 

Top view 

Bottom view 
Da-ya-no-t d-yen-d d-qu a, or Snow Boat. 

With the snow boat was played one of the winter 
games of the Iroquois, in which the strife was to dis 
cover which boat would run the farthest in an iced 



trench or path. The boat was about fifteen inches in 
length, and made of beech, or other hard wood, some 
thing in the fashion of a canoe. It was solid, with the 
exception of an oblong cavity in the centre, over 
which arched a hickory bow, designed to suspend 
bells or other rattles upon. In the stern of this little 
vessel a white feather was inserted for a flag, by which 
to follow it in its descent. On the bottom the boat 
was rounded, but with a slight wind lengthwise, as 
shown in the figure, to give it a true direction. 

A side hill with an open plain below was the 
kind of place selected to try the speed of the boats. 
Trenches in a straight line down the hill, and about a 
foot wide, were made by treading down the snow ; 
after which water was poured into them that it might 
freeze and line the trenches throughout their whole 
extent with ice. These trenches to the number of a 
dozen, side by side, if as many individuals intended 
to play, were finished with the greatest care and exact 
ness, not only down the hill side, but to a consider 
able distance across the plain below. At the same 
time the boats themselves were dipped in water that 
they might also be coated with ice. 

The people divided by tribes in playing this, as in 
all other Iroquois games ; the Wolf, Bear, Beaver, 
and Turtle tribes playing against the Deer, Snipe, 
Heron, and Hawk. (55) At the time appointed the 
people assembled at the base of the hill and divided 
off by tribes, and then commenced betting upon the 
result, a custom universally practised on such occa 
sions. The game was played by select players who 
were stationed at the top of the hill, each with two or 



three boats, and standing at the head of his own 
trench. When all was in readiness the boats were 
started off together at the appointed moment, and 
their rapid descent was watched with eager interest by 
the people below. It is not necessary to describe the 
scene. If the game was twenty it would be continued 
until one side had made that number of points. A 
count of one was made for every boat which led all 
upon the adverse side, so that if there were six players 
on a side it was possible for that number to be made 
at one trial. On the contrary, if all the boats but one 
upon one side were in advance of all on the adverse 
side but one, and the latter was in advance of all, this 
head boat would win and count one. The principles 
of the game are precisely the same as in the Snow 
Snake game. All of these Indian games were played 
with great zeal and enthusiasm. To us they appear 
to be puerile -amusements for men in the prime of 
manhood ; but yet they were adapted to the ways and 
habits of a people living without arts, and without the 
intellectual employments which pertain to civilized 
life. Such games mark the infancy of the human 
mind, but they often beget a generous emulation and 
a ready skill which lead to future improvement and 

In archery the Indian has scarcely been excelled. 
With a quick eye and a powerful muscle, he could 
send the arrow as unerringly as the archers of Robin 
Hood. It cannot be called, in strictness, a game, 
but trials of skill were common in ancient times ; 
successful archery raising the individual into high 



O I S 

The Indian bow was usually from three and a 
half to four feet in length, with such a difficult spring 
that an inexperienced person could scarcely bend 
it sufficiently to set the string. To draw the string 
back, when set, an arm s length, could only be done 
by practice, superadded to the most powerful mus 
cular strength. An arrow thus sent would strike 
its object with fearful velocity. The arrow was about 
three feet in length, and feathered at the small end 

Wa-d -no, or Bow. 

Go. -no, or Arrow. ,( 74 ) 

with a twist to make it revolve in its flight. It gave 
to its motion horizontality and precision, doubtless 
suggesting, at a later day, the idea of the twist in the 
rifle barrel, by which the ball is made to revolve in 
the same manner. The English and Scottish archers 
feathered their arrows, but without this peculiarity. 
Three feathers were also used by them, which were 
set parallel with the arrow and with each other. But 
they were set upon one side of the arrow at its three 
quarters, and in such a way that the three parallel feath 
ers formed obtuse angles with each other. The Indian 



used but two feathers, which passed around the oppo 
site sides of the arrow in a twist, as shown in the 
figure. For this purpose the feather was stripped off 
from the quill and tied to the arrow with sinew. 
Originally, the Indian arrow was pointed with a flint 
or chert-head, which would enable it to penetrate 
deeply any object at which it was directed. With 
such an arrow, it was an easy matter to bring down 
the deer, the wild fowl, or the warrior himself. Skele 
tons have been disentombed, having the skull pene 
trated with an arrow-head of this description, with 
the flint-head itself still in the fracture, or entirely 
within the skull. In Oregon and on the upper Mis 
sissippi, the Indian arrow is still pointed with flint. 
Thus it was with the Iroquois, until the bow was 
laid aside for the rifle. Arrow-heads of this descrip 
tion are still found scattered over the whole surface 
of the State. .With Indian youth, the bow and the 
arrow is still a favorite source of amusement. 

y or Arrow. 

3 feet. 

In ancient times arrows were pointed with horn or 
bone as well as with flint, and made even more dan 
gerous missiles in the former cases. The above is a 
representation of an arrow of this description, which, 
with several others, was purchased of an Oneida on 
Grand river. It is about three feet in length and 
pointed with deer s horn. 

The sheaf is an Indian invention of great an 
tiquity, and universal among Indian races. It was 



sometimes made of the skin of a small animal, like 
the wolf, which was taken off entire, dressed with the 
hair on, and hung upon the back, the arrows being 
placed within it. But the choicer articles were made 
of dressed unhaired deer-skin, and embroidered with 
porcupine quills as represented in the figure. It was 
made of two strips of deer-skin about two feet in 
length and of unequal width : one of these was narrow 
for the back side ; the other about three times its 
wjdth so as to make a convex front, thus forming a 
species of sac in which the arrows were deposited. 
The ordinary sheaf, as used by the Iroquois in ancient 
times, would hold from fifteen to twenty-five arrows ; 

Ga-das-ba, or Sheaf. 
2 feet. 

but those used by the western Indians were generally 
large enough for forty or fifty. It was worn on the 
back inclining from the left shoulder down towards 
the belt on the right side of the body, crossing the 
back diagonally. There are deer-string fastenings at 
each end, the lower ones being attached to the waist- 
belt, and the upper ones passing around the neck and 
under the left arm. To draw forth an arrow and 
place it in the bow, it was necessary to raise the right 
hand to the left shoulder when it came at once in 
contact with the feathered end, which projected from 
the sheaf; so that it was but the work of a second to 
set an arrow in its place. 



Foot-races furnished another pastime for the Iro- 
quois. They were often made a part of the enter 
tainment with which civil and mourning councils 
were concluded. In this athletic game the Indian 
excelled. The exigencies, both of war and peace, 
rendered it necessary for the Iroquois to have among 
them practiced and trained runners. A spirit of emu 
lation often sprang up among them, which resulted 
in regular contests for the palm of victory. In these 
races, the four tribes put forward their best runners 
against those of the other four, and left the question 
of superiority to be determined by the event of the 
contest. Before the time appointed for the races, 
they prepared themselves for the occasion by a process 
of training. It is not necessary to describe them. 
They dressed in the same manner for the race as for 
the game of ball. Leaping, wrestling and the other 
gymnastic exercises appear to have furnished no part 
of the public amusements of our primitive inhabitants. 

An ancient and favorite game of the Iroquois, 
Gus-ka-ehy was played with a bowl and peach- 
stones. (98 It was always a betting game, in which 
the people divided by tribes. By established custom, 
it was introduced as the concluding exercise on the 
last day of the Green Corn and the Harvest festivals, 
and also of the New Year s jubilee. Its introduc 
tion among them is ascribed to the first To-do-da -ho, 
who flourished at the formation of the League. A 
popular belief prevailed, that this game would be 
enjoyed by them in the future life, in the realm of 
the Great Spirit ; which is, perhaps, but an extrava 
gant way of expressing their admiration for the game. 



A dish, about a foot in diameter at the base, was 
carved out of a knot, or made of earthen. Six peach- 
stones were then ground, or cut down into an oval 
form, reducing them in the process about half in size, 
after which the heart of the pit was removed, and the 
stones themselves were burned upon one side, to blacken 

Gus-ka*-eb, or Peach Stones. 

Ga-jlh y or Bowl. 

them. The above representation will exhibit both the 
bowl and the peach-stones ; the latter being drawn in 
different positions to show the degree of their convexity. 
It was a very simple game, depending, in part, upon 
the dexterity of the player, but more upon his good 
fortune. The peach-stones were shaken in the bowl 



by the player, the count depending upon the number 
which came up of one color, after they had ceased roll 
ing in the dish. It was played in the public council- 
house by a succession of players, two at a time, under 
the supervision of managers appointed to represent the 
two parties, and to conduct the contest. Its length 
depended somewhat upon the number of beans which 
made the bank, usually one hundred, the victory being 
gained by the side which finally won them all. 

A platform was erected a few feet from the floor and 
spread with blankets. When the betting was ended, 
and the articles had been delivered into the custody of 
the managers, they seated themselves upon the plat^ 
form in the midst of the throng of spectators, and two 
persons sat down to the game between the two divi 
sions into which they arranged themselves. The beans, 
in the first instance, were placed together in a bank. 
Five of them were given to each player, with which 
they commenced. Each player, by the rules of the 
game, was allowed to keep his seat until he had lost this 
outfit, after which he surrendered it to another player 
on his own side selected by the managers of his own 
party. And this was the case, notwithstanding any 
number he might have won of his adversary. Those 
which he won were delivered to his party managers. 
The six peach-stones were placed in the bowl and 
shaken by the player; if five of them came up of one 
color, either white or black, it counted one, and his 
adversary paid to him the forfeit, which was one bean ; 
the bean simply representing a unit in counting the 
game. On the next throw, which the player having 
won, retained, if less than five came up of the same 

3 or 



color, it counted nothing, and he passed the bowl to 
his adversary. The second player then shook the 
bowl ; upon which, if they all came up of one color, 
either white or black, it counted five. To pay this for 
feit required the whole outfit of the first player, after 
which, having nothing to pay with, he vacated his seat, 
and was succeeded by another of his own side, who re 
ceived from the bank the same number of beans which 
the first had. The other player followed his throw as 
long as he continued to win ; after which he repassed the 
bowl to his adversary. If a player chanced to win five, 
and his opponent had but one left, this was all he could 
gain. In this manner the game continued, with vary 
ing fortune, until the beans were divided between the 
two sides in proportion to their success. After this 
the game continued in the same manner as before, the 
outfit of each new player being advanced by the mana 
gers of his own party ; but as the beans or counters 
were now out of sight, none but the managers knew 
the state of the game with accuracy. In playing it 
there were but two winning throws, one of which 
counted one and the other five. When one of the par 
ties had lost all their beans, the game was done. 

There were some other peculiarities and variations 
in this game which would be necessary to a full under 
standing of it, but sufficient has been given to illus 
trate its general character. As they began to play this 
game about meridian, it often happened that it was 
necessary to take another day for its conclusion. It 
was made a long game by its constitution, as it was 
carefully guarded against the extreme fickleness of most 
games of chance. It so happens that games of this 



description do not depend for their interest upon the 
striking combinations involved in their construction. 
This is dependent very much upon practice, habit, and 
association. Oftentimes the most simple game in its 
contrivance is the most attractive and absorbing to the 
practiced player. This game, as simple as it may ap 
pear, was productive of a great degree of excitement, 
and when finally decided, the exultation of the victors 
broke forth in vehement rejoicings. Having intently 
watched, for hours, the ever-changing tide of the game, 
when the long suspense was over, and the tension of 
the mind was ended, its rebound, under the impulse of 
victory, exhibited itself in extravagant exclamations. 

A brief description of the plan of these games will 
no more exhibit their hidden sources of entertainment, 
than a volume descriptive of chess would reveal the 
fascinations of the game itself. These games all depend, 
for their interest, upon circumstances. The Olympic, 
Pythian and other games of the Greeks, and the Apol- 
linarian, Circensian and other games of the Romans, 
consisted chiefly, as is well known, of running, leaping, 
wrestling, riding, and chariot-racing. Aside from the 
last, they were not, intrinsically, much superior to the 
games of the Iroquois. But in the hands of the Greeks, 
especially, they were made the most extraordinary en 
tertainments of the ancient world. Among the Iro 
quois, in the celebration of their national games, as far 
as they went, is to be found the same species of enthu 
siasm and emulation which characterized the celebra 
tion of the games of antiquity. Although the national 
games, like the popular songs of one people, may be 
incapable of exciting the enthusiasm or awakening the 


patriotic spirit of another ; yet they are not, for this 
reason, devoid of interest. If it be asked what inter 
est for us can attach to these games of the Iroquois, 
one answer at least may be given; they show that 
the American wilderness, which we have been taught 
to pronounce a savage solitude until the white man 
entered its borders, had long been vocal in its deepest 
seclusions, with the gladness of happy human hearts. 


Chapter VI 

Indian Society Ancient Villages Stockaded Bark House Mar 
riagePassion of Love Unknown Divorce Rights of Property _ 
Hospitality Criminal Code Faith of Treaties Use of Wampum 
Usages of War Captives not Exchanged Adoption The 
Hunt Indian Life 

NOTWITHSTANDING the simplicity of 
Indian life, and its barrenness of those higher 
social enjoyments which pertain to refined 
communities, Indian society was bound together by 
permanent institutions, governed by fixed laws, and 
impelled and guided by well-established usages and cus 
toms. The diversified powers, motives, and restraints 
embraced within them, exercised an important influence 
upon their social life, and therefore they present fruit 
ful and interesting subjects of investigation. To form 
a judgment of the Indian character, which is founded 
upon a knowledge of his motives and principles of 
action, he must be seen in his social relations. But it is 
not deemed advisable to consider these topics minutely. 
The Iroquois resided in permanent villages. Not 
knowing the use of wells, they fixed their residences 
upon the banks of rivers and lakes, or in the vicinity of 
copious springs. About the period of the formation of 
the League, when they were exposed to the inroads 
of hostile nations, and the warfare of migratory bands, 
their villages were compact and stockaded. Having 
run a trench several feet deep, around five or ten acres 

VOL. I. 20 


of land, and thrown up the ground upon the inside, 
they set a continuous row of stakes or palisades in 
this bank of earth, fixing them at such an angle that 
they inclined over the trench. Sometimes a village 
was surrounded by a double, or even triple row of 
palisades. Within this enclosure they constructed 
their bark-houses, and secured their stores. Around 
it was the village field, (89) consisting, oftentimes, of 
several hundred acres of cultivated land, which was 
subdivided into planting lots ; those belonging to 
different families being bounded by uncultivated ridges. 
Nun-da-wa -o, at the head of Canandaigua lake, the 
oldest village of the. Senecas, was stockaded ; so also 
were Ska-has e -ga-o on the site of Lima, (43) and two or 
three other of their oldest towns. 

But at the commencement of the seventeenth cen 
tury, which may be called the middle period of the 
history of the Iroquois, when their power had become 
consolidated, and most of the adjacent nations had been 
brought under subjection, the necessity of stockading 
their villages in a measure ceased, and with it the prac 
tice. At the period of the discovery of the inland 
Iroquois, about the year 1640,* few, if any, of the 
villages of the Senecas, Cayugas, or Onondagas were sur 
rounded with palisades ; but the Oneidas and Mohawks 
continued to stockade their villages for many years 
afterwards, in consequence of the inroads of the French. 
At this period, also, their villages were compactly built. 

The modern village was a cluster of houses, planted 

1 The Franciscan Le Caron passed through the country of the Iroquois 
in 1616. (Bancroft s Hist. U. S., iii. 120.) But little, however, was 
known of them prior to 1640. 



like the trees of the forest, at irregular intervals, and 
over a large area. No attempt was made at a street, 
or at an arrangement of their houses in a row ; two 
houses seldom fronting the same line. They were 
merely grouped together sufficiently near for a neigh 

As their villages, at an early day, were reckoned by 
the number of houses, it is important to remark the 
difference between the Ga-no-sote, or Bark-house of 
the middle and the modern period, to arrive at an 
estimate of the number of inhabitants. When the 
village was scattered over a large area, the houses were 
single, and usually designed for one family; but when 
compact, as in ancient times, they were very long, and 
subdivided, so as to accommodate a number of families. 
The long house was generally from fifty to a hundred 
and thirty feet in length, by about sixteen in width, x 
with partitions at intervals of about ten or twelve feet, 
or two lengths of the body. Each apartment was, in 
fact, a separate house, having a fire in the centre, and 
accommodating two families, one upon, each side of 
the fire. Thus a house one hundred and twenty feet 
long would contain ten fires and twenty families. (124) 
A Mr. Greenhalgh, in 1677, visited the Seneca village 
of Da-yo-de-hok -to, signifying " a bended creek," situ 
ated upon a bend of the Honeoye outlet, west of 
Mendon, in the county of Monroe. Under the name 
of " Tiotohatton," he thus speaks of it : " Tioto- 
hatton lies on the brink or edge of a hill ; has not 
much cleared ground; is near the river Tiotohatton, 
which signifies bending. It lies to the westward of 
Canagorah," probably Nun-da-wa -o, "about thirty 



miles, containing about one hundred and twenty houses, 
being the largest of all the houses we saw, (the ordinary 
being from fifty to sixty feet long), with from twelve 
to thirteen fires in one house. They have good store 
of corn, growing about a mile to the northward of the 
town." 1 The Marquis De Nonville, in 1687, captured 
this, with three other villages of the Senecas, at the time 
of his invasion of the Seneca territory. In the Acte^ 
executed at this village, by which the French took 
formal possession of the territories of the Seneca-Iro- 
quois, on behalf of France, it is written " Totiakton," 
and is called " the largest of the Seneca villages." 2 
It is not improbable that the largest villages of the 
Iroquois contained three thousand inhabitants. (GO) 

The Ga-nd-sote, or Bark-house (see plate, I. 3), (124) 
was a simple structure. When single, it was about 
twenty feet by fifteen upon the ground, and from 
fifteen to twenty feet high. The frame consisted 
of upright poles firmly set in the ground, usually 
five upon the sides, and four at the ends, includ 
ing those at the corners. Upon the forks of these 
poles, about ten feet from the ground, cross-poles 

1 Documentary Hist. New York, i. 13. He further states that Cana- 
gorah contained one hundred and fifty houses } Onondaga, one hundred 
and forty 5 Oneida village, one hundred ; ib. 12-13. 

2 Doc. Hist. N. Y., i. 242. The three other villages taken by De Non 
ville were Gannagaro, as it is called in the acte, or Ga-o-sa-g a-o, 
signifying " in the Basswood country, 11 situated a short distance south 
east of Victor in the county of Ontario, Gannondata and Gannongarae, 
one of which was doubtless Ga-nun-da -gwa, (f place selected for a set 
tlement," upon the site of the present village of Canandaigua. De Non 
ville estimated the population of the four villages at fifteen thousand, 
and the Indian corn destroyed by his troops at four hundred thousand 
minots. (Doc. Hist., i. 239.) Doubtless, both of these estimates were 



were secured horizontally, to which the rafters, also 
poles, but more numerous and slender, were adjusted. 
The rafters were strengthened with transverse poles, 
and the whole were usually so arranged as to form 
an arching roof. After the frame was thus com 
pleted, it was sided up, and shingled with red elrn 
or ash bark, the rough side out. The bark was 
flattened and dried, and then cut in the form of 
boards. To hold these bark boards firmly in their 
places, another set of poles, corresponding with those 
in the frame, were placed on the outside ; and by 
means of splints and bark rope fastenings, the boards 
were secured horizontally between them. It usually 
required four lengths of boards, and four courses from 
the ground to the rafters to cover a side, as they were 
lapped at the ends, as well as clapboarded ; and also in 
the same proportion for the ends. In like manner, 
the roof was covered with bark boards, smaller in size, 
with the rough side out, and the grain running up and 
down ; the boards being stitched through and through 
with fastenings, and thus held between the frames of 
poles, as on the sides. In the centre of the roof was 
an opening for the smoke, the fire being upon the 
ground in the centre of the house, and the smoke 
ascending without the guidance of a chimney. At the 
two ends of the house were doors, either of bark hung 
upon hinges of wood, or of deer or bear skins sus 
pended before the opening; and however long the 
house, or whatever the number of fires, these were the 
only entrances. Over one of these doors was cut the 
tribal device of the head of the family. Within, upon 
the two sides, were arranged wide seats, also of bark 



boards, about two feet from the ground, well sup 
ported underneath, and reaching the entire length of 
the house. Upon these they spread their mats of 
skins, and also their blankets, using them as seats 
by day and couches at night. Similar berths were 
constructed on each side, about five feet above these, 
and secured to the frame of the house, thus furnishing 
accommodations for the family. Upon cross-poles, near 
the roof, was hung, in bunches, braided together by the 
husks, their winter supply of corn. Charred and dried 
corn, and beans were generally stored in bark barrels, 
and laid away in corners. Their implements for the 
chase, domestic utensils, weapons, articles of apparel, 
and miscellaneous notions, 1 were stowed away, and 
hung up, whenever an unoccupied place was discovered. 
A house of this description would accommodate a fam 
ily of eight, with the limited wants of the Indian, and 
afford shelter for their necessary stores, making a not 
uncomfortable residence. After they had learned the 
use of the axe, they began to substitute houses of hewn 
logs, but they constructed them after the ancient 
model. Many of the houses of their modern villages 
in the valley of the Genesee were of this description. 

There was another species of house occasionally 
constructed, either for temporary use or for a small 
family. It was triangular at the base, the frame con 
sisting of three poles on a side, gathered at the top, 
but with space sufficient between them for a chimney 
opening. They were sided up in the same manner as 
the rectangular Gd-no -sote. During the hunt, bark- 

1 For some account of their fabrics, implements and utensils, see 
Book iii. ch. i. 



houses of this description were often erected as a 

The Iroquois were accustomed to bury their sur 
plus corn, and also their charred green corn, in 
caches, in which the former would preserve uninjured 
through the year, and the latter for a much longer pe 
riod. They excavated a pit, made a bark bottom 
and sides, and having deposited their corn within it, 
a bark roof, water tight, was constructed over it, 
and the whole covered up with earth. Pits of charred 
corn are still found near their ancient settlements. 
Cured venison and other meats were buried in the 
same manner, except that the bark repository was 
lined with deer-skins. 

In this connection, the marriage customs of the 
Iroquois naturally suggest themselves. They exhibit 
novel, if not distinctive features. Marriage was not 
founded upon the affections, which constitute the 
only legitimate basis of this relation in civilized soci 
ety, but was regulated exclusively as a matter of 
physical necessity. It was not even a contract between 
the parties to be married, but substantially between 
their mothers, acting oftentimes under the sugges 
tions of the matrons and wise-men of the tribes to 
which the parties respectively belonged. In a gen 
eral sense, therefore, the subject of marriage was un 
der the supervision of the older members of each tribe ; 
but practically, it was under maternal control. With 
the improvement and elevation of the race, changes 
were gradually introduced in relation to the marriage 
able age, and the disparity of age between the sexes. 
In ancient times, the young warrior was always 



united to a woman several years his senior, on the 
supposition that he needed a companion experienced 
in the affairs of life. The period was also deferred on 
his part until twenty-five, that he might first become 
inured to the hardships of the war-path and of the chase, 
before his freedom was curtailed and his responsibilities 
were increased by the cares of a family, light as these 
cares seem to have been under their social system. 
Thus, it often happened that the young warrior at 
twenty-five was married to a woman of forty, and often 
times a widow ; while the widower at sixty was joined 
to the maiden at twenty. But these were their primi 
tive customs ; the ages of the parties afterwards drew 
nearer to an equality, and the marriageable age was, 
in time reduced to twenty, and even below it. 

When the mother considered her son of a suitable 
age for marriage, she looked about her for a maiden, 
who, from report or acquaintance, she judged would 
accord with him in disposition and temperament. A 
negotiation between the mothers ensued, and a conclu 
sion was speedily reached. Sometimes the near rela 
tives and the elderly persons of the tribes to which each 
belonged were consulted ; but their opinions were of 
no avail, independently of the wishes of the mothers 
themselves. Not the least singular feature of the 
transaction was the entire ignorance in which the 
parties remained of the pending negotiation ; the first 
intimation they received being the announcement of 
their marriage, without, perhaps, ever having known 
or seen each other. Remonstrance or objection on 
their part was never attempted ; they received each 
other as the gift of their parents. As obedience to 



them in all their requirements was inculcated as a para 
mount duty, and disobedience was followed by disown- 
ment, the operative force of custom, in addition to 
these motives, was sufficient to secure acquiescence. 
The Indian father never troubled himself concern 
ing the marriage of his children. To interfere would 
have been an invasion of female immunities ; and these, 
whatever they were, were as sacredly regarded by him, 
as he was inflexible in enforcing respect for his own. 

When the fact of marriage had been communicated 
to the parties, a simple ceremonial completed the trans 
action. On the day following the announcement, the 
maiden was conducted by her mother, accompanied by 
a few female friends, to the home of her intended 
husband. She carried in her hand a few cakes of un 
leavened corn bread, which she presented on entering 
the house, to her mother-in-law, as an earnest of her 
usefulness and of her skill in the domestic arts. 
After receiving it, the mother of the young warrior 
returned a present of venison, or other fruit of the 
chase, to the mother of the bride, as an earnest of his 
ability to provide for his household. This exchange 
of presents ratified and concluded the contract, which 
bound the new pair together in the marriage relation. 
Thus simple was the formation of the nuptial bond 
among our primitive inhabitants. (99) 

From the very nature of the marriage institution 
among the Iroquois, it follows that the passion of love 
was entirely unknown among them. Affection after 
marriage would naturally spring up between the parties 
from association, from habit, and from mutual depen 
dence ; but of that marvellous passion which origi- 



nates in a higher development of the powers of the 
human heart, and is founded upon a cultivation of the 
affections between the sexes, they were entirely ignor 
ant. In their temperaments, they were below this 
passion in its simplest forms. Attachments between 
individuals, or the cultivation of each other s affections 
before marriage, was entirely unknown ; so also were 
promises of marriage. The fact that individuals were 
united in this relation, without their knowledge or con 
sent, and perhaps without even a previous acquaint 
ance, illustrates and confirms this position. This 
invasion of the romances of the novelist, and of the 
conceits of the poet, upon the attachments which sprang 
up in the bosom of Indian society, may, perhaps, 
divest the mind of some pleasing impressions ; but 
these are entirely inconsistent with the marriage in 
stitution as it existed among them, and with the facts 
of their social history. 

Intercourse between the sexes was restrained by cir 
cumstances and by inclination. Indian habits and 
modes of life divided the people socially into two great 
classes, male and female. The male sought the con 
versation and society of the male, and they went forth 
together for amusement, or for the severer duties of 
life. In the same manner the female sought the com 
panionship of her own sex. Between the sexes there 
was but little sociality, as this term is understood in 
polished society. Such a thing as formal visiting was 
entirely unknown. When the unmarried of opposite 
sexes were casually brought together, there was little 
or no conversation between them. No attempts by 
the unmarried to please or gratify each other by acts 


of personal attention, were ever made. At the season 
of councils and religious festivals, there was more of 
actual intercourse and sociality, than at any other time ; 
but this was confined to the dance, and was, in itself, 
limited. A solution of this singular problem is, in 
part, to be found in the absence of equality in the 
sexes. The Indian regarded woman as the inferior, 
the dependent, and the servant of man, and from nur 
ture and habit, she actually considered herself to be so. 
This absence of equality in position, in addition to the 
force of custom, furnishes a satisfactory explanation of 
many of the peculiarities characteristic of Indian society. 
In the cultivation of the affections between the sexes, 
and in the development of kindred sentiments, is to 
be found the origin of the amenities and the mitigation 
of the asperities of life. 

In intimate connection with the subject of marriage, 
is that of divorce. Polygamy was forbidden among 
the Iroquois, and never became a practice ; (9( but 
the right to put away the wife, or of voluntary separa 
tion, was allowed to all. (10( The mothers of the 
married pair were responsible for their concord and 
harmony. If differences arose between them, it be 
came their duty to effect a reconciliation, and by advice 
and counsel, to guard against a repetition of the diffi 
culty. But if disturbances continued to follow recon 
ciliations, and their dispositions were found to be too 
incongruous for domestic peace, a separation followed, 
either by mutual consent or the absolute refusal of one 
of the parties longer to recognize the marriage relation. 
As such a rupture in ancient times was regarded as 
discreditable to the parties, and brought them under 


the pressure of public censure, they were then unfre- 
quent. In later days, however, the inviolability of 
the nuptial contract was less sacredly regarded, and 
the most frivolous reasons, or the caprice of the mo 
ment, were sufficient for breaking the marriage tie. 

The husband and wife were never of the same tribe, 
as has been elsewhere more fully explained ; and the 
children were of the tribe of their mother. No right 
in the father to the custody of their persons, or to 
their nurture, was recognized. As, after separation, 
he gave himself no farther trouble concerning them, 
nor interested himself in their future welfare, they be 
came estranged as well as separated. Parental affection 
was much weaker, as is usually the fact, on the part of 
the father than on that of the mother. The Indian 
father seldom caressed his children, or by any outward 
acts manifested the least solicitude for their welfare ; 
but when his sons grew up to maturity, he became 
more attached to them, making them his companions 
in the hunt and upon the war-path. The care of their 
infancy and childhood was intrusted to the watchful 
affection of the mother alone. 

By the laws of the Iroquois, the nationality as well 
as the tribe of the individual was never lost, or merged 
in another. If a Cayuga woman married a Seneca, her 
children were Cayugas, and her descendants in the 
female line, to the latest posterity, continued to be 
Cayugas, although they resided with the Senecas, and 
by intermarriage with them had lost nearly every par 
ticle of Cayuga blood. In the same manner, if a Mo 
hawk married a Delaware woman, her children were 
not only Delawares, but aliens, unless they were regu- 



larly adopted and christened as Mohawks, and the fact 
of adoption was announced in open council. 

Property, both in amount and variety, was exceed 
ingly limited ; as would naturally be expected among 
a people living a hunter and semi-agricultural life, and 
making a mere subsistence the limit of their wants and 
of their ambition. But inconsiderable as it was in the 
aggregate, it was held, and subject to distribution, under 
fixed laws. Having neither currency nor trade, nor 
the love of gain, their property consisted merely of 
planting lots, orchards, houses, implements of the chase, 
weapons, articles of apparel, domestic utensils, per 
sonal ornaments, stores of grain, skins of animals, and 
those miscellaneous fabrics which the necessities of life 
led them to invent. The rights of property, of both 
husband and wife, were continued distinct during the 
existence of the marriage relation ; the wife holding, 
and controlling her own, the same as her husband, and 
in case of separation, taking it with her. No individ 
ual could obtain the absolute title to land, as that was 
vested by the laws of the Iroquois in all the people ; 
but he could reduce unoccupied lands to cultivation, 
to any extent he pleased; and so long as he continued 
to use them, his right to their enjoyment was protected 
and secured. He could also sell his improvements, or 
bequeath them to his wife or children. If the wife, 
either before or after marriage, inherited orchards, or 
planting lots, or reduced land to cultivation, she could 
dispose of them at her pleasure, and in case of her 
death they were inherited, together with her other effects, 
by her children. The rule of descent, on the death 
of the father, was different. His children, not being 


of his tribe, were out of the line of inheritance ; for by 
their laws, property could not, by descent, pass out of 
the tribe. If he gave his planting lots, or any articles 
of property to his wife or children, in the presence of 
a witness, they were allowed to hold them. But if he 
made no disposition of his effects, they were handed 
over upon his decease, to the near relatives in his own 
tribe, who usually assigned to the family the house, 
and such other articles as they deemed advisable, and 
distributed the residue among themselves, as personal 
mementos of the deceased. (101) 

One of the most attractive features of Indian society 
was the spirit of hospitality by which it was pervaded. 
Perhaps no people ever carried this principle to the 
same degree of universality, as did the Iroquois. 
Their houses were not only open to each other, at all 
hours of the day and of the night, but also to the 
wayfarer and the stranger. Such entertainment as 
their means afforded was freely spread before him, 
with words of kindness and of welcome. Not un- 
frequently one of these houses contained from ten to 
twenty families, all bound together by the nearer ties 
of relationship, and constituting in effect one family. 
They carried the principle of "living in common " to 
its full extent. Whatever was taken in the chase, or 
raised in the fields, or gathered in its natural state by 
any member of the united families, enured to the 
benefit of all, for their stores of every description 
were common. They had regular hours for cooking 
through the whole establishment, and whatever was 
prepared was free to all. The Indian had no regular 
meal after the morning repast, but he allayed his 



appetite whenever the occasion offered. As they used 
no tables in ancient times, they took their food sep 
arately, and whenever it could be done with the least 
trouble, the males first, and the females afterwards. 
The care of the appetite was left entirely with the 
women, as the Indian never asked for food. When 
ever the husband returned, at any hour of the day, it 
was the duty and the custom of the wife to set food 
before him. If a neighbor or a stranger entered her 
dwelling, a dish of hommony, or whatever else she 
had prepared, was immediately placed before him, 
with an invitation to partake. It made no difference 
at what hour of the day, or how numerous the calls, 
this courtesy was extended to every comer, and was 
the first act of attention bestowed. This custom was 
universal, in fact one of the laws of their social system; 
and a neglect on the part of the wife to observe it, was 
regarded both as a breach of hospitality, and as a 
personal affront. A neighbor, or a stranger, calling 
from house to house, through an Indian village, would 
be thus entertained at every dwelling he entered. If 
the appetite of the guest had thus been fully satisfied, 
he was yet bound in courtesy to taste of the dish pre 
sented, and to return the customary acknowledgment, 
Hi-ne-a-weh)" I thank you ;" an omission to do either 
being esteemed a violation of the usages of life. A 
stranger would be thus entertained without charge, as 
long as he was pleased to remain ; and a relation was 
entitled to a home among any of his kindred, while he 
was disposed to claim it. Under the operation of such 
a simple and universal law of hospitality, hunger and 
destitution were entirely unknown among them. This 


method of dealing with the human appetite strikes the 
mind as novel ; but it was founded upon a principle 
of brotherhood, and of social intercourse, not much 
unlike the common table of the Spartans. The 
abounding supplies of corn yielded, with light culti 
vation, by their fruitful fields, and the simple fare of 
the Indian, rendered the prevailing hospitality an in 
considerable burden. It rested chiefly upon the in 
dustry, and therefore upon the natural kindness of 
the Indian woman ; who, by the cultivation of the 
maize, and their other plants, and the gathering of 
the wild fruits, provided the principal part of their 
subsistence, (85) for the warrior despised the toil of 
husbandry, and held all labor beneath him. (8G) But 
it was in exact accordance with the unparalleled gen 
erosity of the Indian character. He would surrender 
his dinner to feed the hungry, vacate his bed to re 
fresh the weary, and give up his apparel to clothe the 
naked. No test of friendship was too severe, no 
sacrifice to repay a favor too great, no fidelity to an 
engagement too inflexible for the Indian character. 
With an innate knowledge of the freedom and the 
dignity of man, he has exhibited the noblest virtues 
of the heart, and the kindest deeds of humanity in 
those sylvan retreats, which we are wont to look 
back upon as vacant and frightful solitudes. 1 

1 Canassatego, a distinguished Onondaga chief, who flourished about 
the middle of the last century, thus cuttingly contrasted the hospitality of 
the Iroquois with that of the whites, in a conversation with Conraft 
Weiser, an Indian interpreter. " You know our practice. If a white 
man, in travelling through our country, enters one of our cabins, we all 
treat him as I do you. We dry him if he is wet, we warm him if he is 
cold, and give him meat and drink that he may allay his hunger and thirst; 



In their subsistence there was but a limited variety 
from the necessity of the case. Their principal arti 
cles of food were cracked corn, and skinned corn 
hommony, two or three varieties of corn bread, veni 
son and other game, soups, succotash, charred and 
dried green corn prepared in different ways, wild 
fruit, ground nuts (apios tuber osa), resembling wild 
potatoes, beans and squashes. These were the staples 
of their consumption, furnishing a considerable diver 
sity of dishes, but a limited range to the appetite. 
They had also several kinds of tea. A favorite 
beverage was made from the tips of hemlock boughs 
boiled in water, and seasoned with maple sugar. (90) 
Maple tea was prepared by boiling sap, and season 
ing it with sassafras root ; and spice tea, by steeping 
a species of wild spice. 

Crimes and offences were so unfrequent under their 
social system, that the Iroquois can scarcely be said 
to have had a criminal code. Yet there were certain 
misdemeanors which fell under the judicial cognizance 
of the sachems, and were punished by them in pro 
portion to their magnitude. Witchcraft was punish 
able with death. Any person could take the life 
of a witch when discovered in the act. If this was 
not done, a council was called, and the witch arraigned 
before it, in the presence of the accuser. A full 
confession, with a promise of amendment, secured a 
discharge. But if the accusation was denied, witnesses 

and we spread soft furs for him to rest and sleep on. We demand 
nothing in return. But if I go into a white man s house at Albany, and 
ask for victuals arid drink, they say, Where is your money ? And if I 
have none, they say, Get out, you Indian dog. 

VOL. I. 21 321 


were called and examined concerning the circumstances 
of the case ; and if they established the charge to the 
satisfaction of the council, which they rarely failed to 
do, condemnation followed, with a sentence of death. 
The witch was then delivered over to such execu 
tioners as volunteered for the purpose, and by them 
was led away to punishment. After the decision of 
the council, the relatives of the witch gave him up to 
his doom without a murmur. 

Adultery was punished by whipping ; but the pun 
ishment was inflicted upon the woman alone, who 
was supposed to be the only offender. A council 
passed upon the question, and if the charge was 
sustained, they ordered her to be publicly whipped 
by persons appointed for the purpose. This was 
the ancient custom, when such transgressions were 
exceedingly rare. 

The greatest of all human crimes, murder, was 
punished with death ; but the act was open to con 
donation. Unless the family were appeased, the 
murderer, as with the ancient Greeks, was gfven up 
to their private vengeance. They could take his 
life whenever they found him, even after the lapse 
of years, without being held accountable. A present 
of white wampum, sent on the part of the murderer 
to the family of his victim, when accepted, forever 
obliterated and wiped out the memory of the trans 
action. 00 ^ Immediately on the commission of a 
murder, the affair was taken up by the tribes to which 
the parties belonged, and strenuous efforts were made 
to effect a reconciliation, lest private retaliation should 
lead to disastrous consequences. If the criminal be- 



longed to one of the first four tribes, and the deceased 
to one of the second four, these tribes assembled 
in separate councils, (57) to inquire into all the facts 
of the case. The question of the guilt or innocence 
of the accused was generally an easy matter to de 
termine, when the consequences of guilt were open 
to condonation. The first council then ascertained 
whether the offender was willing to confess his crime, 
and to make atonement. If he was, the council im 
mediately sent a belt of white wampum, in his name, 
to the other council, which contained a message to 
that effect. The latter then endeavored to pacify the 
family of the deceased, to quiet their excitement, and 
to induce them to accept the wampum in condonation. 
If this was not sent in due time, or the family resisted 
all persuasions to receive it, then their revenge was 
allowed to take its course. Had it chanced that both 
parties belonged to one of the four brother tribes, a 
council of this division alone would convene, to at 
tempt an adjustment among themselves. If, how 
ever, the family continued implacable, the further 
interference of mutual friends was given over, leaving 
the question to be settled between the murderer and 
the kindred of his victim, according to the ancient 
usage. If the belt of wampum was received before 
the avenger had been appointed, and had left the 
lodge on his mission, it was usually accepted as a 
condonation, but if he had gone forth, the time for 
reparation had passed. The family then either took 
upon themselves jointly the obligation of taking what 
they deemed a just retribution, or appointed an 
avenger, who resolved never to rest until life had 



answered for life. In such cases, the murderer 
usually fled. As all quarrels were generally recon 
ciled by the relatives of the parties, long-cherished 
animosities, and consequently homicides, were unfre- 
quent in ancient times. The present of white wam 
pum was not in the nature of a compensation for the 
life of the deceased, but of a regretful confession of 
the crime, with a petition for forgiveness. It was a 
peace-offering, the acceptance of which was pressed 
by mutual friends, and under such influences that a 
reconciliation was usually effected, except, perhaps, 
in aggravated cases of premeditated murder. 

Theft, the most despicable of human crimes, was 
scarcely known among them. In the days of their 
primitive simplicity, a mercenary thought had not 
entered the Indian mind. After the commencement 
of their intercourse with the whites, the distribution 
of presents and of ardent spirits among them, and 
the creation of new kinds of property by the pur 
suits of trade, so far corrupted the habits of the 
Indian, that in some instances the vagrant and in 
temperate were led to the commission of this offence. 
But in justice to them it must be acknowledged, 
that no people ever possessed a higher sense of honor 
and self-respect in this particular, or looked down 
with greater disdain upon this shameful practice, 
than did the Iroquois. To this day, among their 
descendants, this offence is almost unknown. No 
locks, or bolts, or private repositories were ever neces 
sary for the protection of property among them 
selves. The lash of public indignation, the severest 
punishment known to the red man, was the only 



penalty attached to this dereliction from the path 
of integrity. 

These were the four principal crimes against so 
ciety among our primitive inhabitants. The intro 
duction of ardent spirits among them, in modern 
times, has changed the face of Indian society, and 
proved the fruitful source of all their calamities ; 
aggravating those disorders which were incident to 
their social system, and introducing new ones entirely 
unknown in the days of their sylvan independence. 
Against this infamous traffic, their wise and good 
men, from the earliest period of their intercourse 
with us, have put forth incessant but unavailing pro 
testations. The power of self-control, in this partic 
ular, was much weaker with the red man than the 
white ; and the consequences of indulgence more 
lamentable and destructive. The " fire-water," as 
they have fitly termed it, has been a more invincible 
and devouring enemy than civilization itself, to both 
of which causes, about in equal degrees, they owe 
their displacement. It filled their villages with va 
grancy, violence and bloodshed : it invaded the peace 
of the domestic fireside, stimulated the fiercest pas 
sions, introduced disease, contention and strife ; thus 
wasting them away by violence, poverty and sickness, 
and by the casualties of hunger and cold. If there is 
any one act in our past intercourse with the Iroquois, 
for which we are more reprehensible than another, it 
was the permission, short of the penalty of hanging, 
of this most nefarious and inhuman traffic. A Mohawk 
chief, in 1754, thus addressed the governor of the 
province of New York upon this subject : " There is 



an affair about which our hearts tremble ; this is the 
selling of rum in our castles. It destroys many both 
of the old and young people. We request of all the 
governors here present, that it may be forbidden to 
carry it among any of the Five Nations." About 
the same time a representation was made to the Brit 
ish government, as follows : " Thev are supplied with 
rum by the traders, in vast and almost incredible 
quantities, the laws of the colonies now in force being 
insufficient to restrain the supply ; and the Indians 
of every nation are frequently drunk, and abused 
in their trade, and their affections thereby alienated 
from the English. They often wound and murder 
each other in their liquor, and to avoid revenge flee 
to the French ; and perhaps more have been lost by 
these means than by the French artifices." 2 

The love of truth was another marked trait of 
the Indian character. This inborn sentiment flour 
ished in the period of their highest prosperity, in 
all the freshness of its primeval purity. On all oc 
casions, and at whatever peril, the Iroquois spoke 
the truth without fear and without hesitation. Dis 
simulation was not an Indian habit. In fact, the 
language of the Iroquois does not admit of double 
speaking, or of the perversion of the words of the 
speaker. It is simple and direct; not admitting of 
those shades of meaning and those nice discriminations 
which pertain to polished languages. Subsequent to 
their discovery, in their intercourse with the whites, 
their native truthfulness was sometimes corrupted by 
traffic and intemperance, but, as a people, they have 

1 Doc. Hist. N. Y., ii. 591. 2 Ib., ii. 610. 



preserved to this day the same elevation of sentiment 
in this particular which characterized their ancestors. 

To the faith of treaties the Iroquois adhered with 
unwavering fidelity. Having endured the severest 
trials of political disaster, this faith furnishes one of 
the proudest monuments of their national integrity. 
They held fast to the " covenant chain " with the 
British until they were themselves deserted, and their 
entire country became the forfeit of their fidelity. In 
their numerous transactions with the several provinces 
formed out of their ancient territories, no serious cause 
of complaint was found against them for the non- 
fulfilment of treaty stipulations, although they were 
shorn of their possessions by treaty after treaty, and 
oftentimes made the victims of deception and fraud. 
In their intercourse with Indian nations, they fre 
quently entered into treaties, sometimes of amity and 
alliance, sometimes of protection only, and in some 
instances for special purposes. All of these national 
compacts were " talked into " strings of wampum, to 
use the Indian expression, after which these were 
delivered into the custody of Ho-no-we-na-to, the 
Onondaga sachem, who was made hereditary keeper 
of the Wampum, at the institution of the League ; 
and from him and his successors, was to be sought 
their interpretation from generation to generation. (83) 
Hence the expression " This belt preserves my 
words," so frequently met with at the close of Indian 
speeches, on the presentation of a belt. Indian na 
tions, after treating, always exchanged belts, which 
were not only the ratification, but the memorandum 
of the compact. (82) 



There was an ancient treaty between the Senecas and 
the Ga-qua-ga-o-nOy or Eries, who resided upon the 
southern shore of Lake Erie, to the effect that the 
Genesee river should be the boundary between them, 
and that when a hostile band of either nation re-crossed 
this river into its own territories, it should be safe from 
further pursuit. An infraction of this treaty was one 
of the reasons of the long-cherished animosity of the 
Iroquois against them. A similar compact was once 
made with the O-ya-da-go-o-no? or Cherokees, by which 
the Tennessee river was the limit of pursuit. If a 
war-party of the latter had returned and re-crossed the 
Tennessee before they were overtaken by the pursuing 
Iroquois, they were as safe from their attack, as if in 
trenched behind an impregnable rampart. The Iro 
quois band could still invade, if disposed, the territory 
of the enemy, but they passed the camp of the retreat 
ing war-party without offering the slightest molestation. 

The Iroquois prided themselves upon their sacred 
regard for the public faith, and punished the want of it 
with severity when an occasion presented. An example 
is to be found in the case of the Sag-a-na -ga, or Dela- 

1 This was the Iroquois name of the Erie nation, who were expelled 
by them about the year 1655. They were an offshoot of the Iroquois stock, 
and spoke a dialect of their language. Charlevoix calls them the "Cat 
Nation. 11 Vol. ii. p. 62. It is a singular fact that the Neuter Nation, 
who dwelt on the banks of the Niagara river, and who were expelled by 
the Iroquois about the year 1643, was known among them as the Je-go - 
sa-sa, or Cat Nation. The word signifies a wild-cat ; and from being the 
name of a woman of great influence among them,n4) it came to be the 
name of the nation. Charlevoix also speaks of the Neuter Nation. Vol. i. 
p. 377. It is quite probable that he transposed or confounded their 
aboriginal names. 

2 O-ya-da -go-o-no, the Iroquois name of the Cherokees, signifies "The 
people who dwell in caves." 



wares. After they had been subdued, and had ac 
knowledged their dependence by sending the tributary 
wampum, they made an inroad upon a western nation 
under the protection of the Iroquois, notwithstanding 
their knowledge of the treaty, and a prohibition against 
its infringement. A deputation of Iroquois chiefs went 
immediately into the country of the Delawares, and 
having assembled the people in council, they degraded 
them from the rank of even a tributary nation. Hav 
ing reproved them for their want of faith, they forbade 
them from ever after going out to war, divested them 
of all civil powers, and declared that they should hence 
forth be as women. This degradation they signified 
in the figurative way of putting upon them the Ga- 
ka-a/i, or skirt of the female, and placing in their 
hands a corn-pounder, thus showing that their busi 
ness ever after should be that of women. The Dela 
wares never emancipated themselves, after this act of 
denationalization. 1 

1 The Delawares, about the year 1742, having sold some of their lands 
upon the Delaware river to Pennsylvania, without the knowledge or con 
sent of the Iroquois, Canassetego, the Onondaga chief before mentioned, 
reproved them in a speech, from which some extracts are subjoined in fur 
ther illustration of the lordly manner in which the Iroquois conducted 
themselves towards subjugated nations. "Let this belt of wampum serve 
to chastise you.* * How came you to take upon you to sell land at all ? 
We conquered you ; we made women of you; you know you are women, 
and can no more sell land than women; nor is it fit that you should have 
the power of selling lands, since you would abuse it. * * We therefore 
assign you two places to go, either to Wyoming or Shamokin. You may 
go to either of these places, and then we shall have you more under our 
eye, and shall see how you behave. Don t deliberate, but remove, and 
take this belt of wampum. 11 * Then taking another belt he continued: 
" After our just reproof, and absolute order to depart from the land, you 
are now to take notice of what we have further to say to you. This 

3 2 9 


After war had been declared against any nation, 
either by the congress of sachems at Onondaga, or by 
an individual nation against a neighboring enemy, the 
existence of the war was indicated by a tomahawk 
painted red, ornamented with red feathers, and with 
black wampum, struck in the war-post in each village 
of the League. Any person was then at liberty to or 
ganize a band, and make an invasion. This was 
effected in a summary manner. Dressed in full cos 
tume, the war-chief who proposed to solicit volunteers 
and conduct the expedition, went through the village 
sounding the war-whoop to announce his intentions; 
after which he went to the war-post, Ga-on-dote\ and 
having struck into it his red tomahawk, he commenced 
the war-dance. A group gathered around him, and as 
their martial ardor was aroused by the dance, they en 
listed, one after the other, by joining in its perform 
ance. In this manner a company was soon formed ; 
the matrons of the village prepared their subsistence 
while the dance was performing ;, and at its close, while 
they were yet fired with enthusiasm for the enterprise, 
they immediately left the village, and turned their 
footsteps towards the country of the enemy. If the 
movement was simultaneous in several villages, these 
parties joined each other on their march, but each band 
continued under the direction of its own war-chief. 
Their subsistence was usually charred corn, parched a 

string of wampum serves to forbid you, your children and your grandchil 
dren to the latest posterity forever, meddling in land affairs ; neither you, 
nor any who shall descend from you, are ever hereafter to presume to sell 
any land. For which purpose you are to preserve this string, in memory 
of what your uncles have this day given you in charge. 11 Colde^s Hist. 
Five Nations, Lond. Ed. 1750, pp. 80-8 1. 



second time, pounded into fine flour, and mixed with 
maple-sugar, thus reducing it in bulk and lightness to 
such a degree that the warrior could carry without 
inconvenience in his bear-skin pocket a sufficient sup 
ply for a long and perilous expedition. The band 
took the war-path in single file, and moved with such 
rapidity that it was but five days journey to the 
country of the Cherokees, upon the southern banks of 
the Tennessee. At their night encampments they cut 
upon the trees certain devices to indicate their num 
bers and destination, On their return, they did the 
same, showing also the number of captives, and the 
number slain. When the returning war-party reached 
the outskirts of their village, they sounded the war- 
whoop to announce their approach, and to summon 
the people to assemble for their reception. Then 
leading their captives, they entered the village in a 
dancing procession, as they had shortly before gone 
out. After they had reached the war-post in the 
centre of the place, a wise-man addressed them in a 
speech of welcome and congratulation; in reply to 
which, a speech was made by one of the band, descrip 
tive of their adventures, after which the war-dance was 
again enjoyed. 

The Iroquois never exchanged prisoners with In 
dian nations, nor ever sought to reclaim their own 
people from captivity among them/ 10 Adoption or 
the torture were the alternative chances of the cap 
tive. A distinguished war-chief would sometimes be 
released by them from admiration of his military 
achievements, and be restored to his people, with 
presents and other marks of favor. No pledges 

33 1 


were exacted in these occasional instances of mag 
nanimity, but the person thus discharged esteemed 
himself bound in honor never again to take the 
war-path against his generous enemy. If adopted, the 
allegiance and the affections of the captive were trans 
ferred to his adopted nation. When the Indian went 
forth to war, he emphatically took his life in his hand, 
knowing that if he should be taken it was forfeited by 
the laws of war; and if saved by adoption, his country, 
at least, was lost forever. From the foundation of 
the Confederacy, the custom of adoption has prevailed 
among the Iroquois, who carried this principle farther 
than other Indian nations. It was not confined to 
captives alone, but was extended to fragments of dis 
membered tribes, and even to the admission of in 
dependent nations into the League. (126) It was a 
leading feature of their policy to subdue adjacent 
nations by conquest, and having absorbed them by 
naturalization, to mould them into one common 
family with themselves. Some fragments of tribes 
were adopted and distributed among the nations at 
large ; some were received into the League as inde 
pendent members, as the Tuscaroras, while others 
were taken under its shelter, like the Mohekunnucks, 
and assigned a territory within their own. The fruit 
of this system of policy was their gradual elevation 
to a universal supremacy ; a supremacy which was 
spreading so rapidly at the epoch of their discovery, 
as to threaten the subjugation of all the nations east 
of the Mississippi. 

A regular ceremony of adoption was performed 
in each case, to complete the naturalization/ 5 9 104) 



With captives, this ceremony was the gantlet, after 
which new names were assigned to them ; and at the 
next religious festival, their names, together with the 
tribe and family into which they were respectively 
adopted, were publicly announced. Upon the re 
turn of a war-party with captives, if they had lost 
-any of their own number in the expedition, the 
families to which these belonged were first allowed 
an opportunity to supply from the captives the 
places made vacant in their households. Any family 
could then adopt out of the residue any who chanced 
to attract their favorable notice, or whom they wished 
to save. At the time appointed, which was usually 
three or four days after the return of the band, the 
women and children of the village arranged them 
selves in two parallel rows just without the place, 
each one having a whip with which to lash the cap 
tives as they passed between the lines. The male 
captives, who alone were required to undergo this 
test of their powers of endurance, were brought out, 
and each one was shown in turn the house in which 
he was to take refuge, and which was to be his future 
home, if he passed successfully through the ordeal. 
They were then taken to the head of this long avenue 
of whips, and were compelled, one after another, to 
run through it for their lives, and for the entertain 
ment of the surrounding throng, exposed at every 
step, undefended, and with naked backs, to the merci 
less inflictions of the whip. Those who fell from 
exhaustion were immediately despatched as unworthy 
to be saved ; but those who emerged in safety from 
this test of their physical energies, were from that 



moment treated with the utmost affection and kind 
ness. The effects of this contrast in behavior upon 
the mind of the captive must have been singular 
enough. During the slow progress of these arrange 
ments, how many captives have listened to every sound, 
and watched every motion with the most intense soli 
citude. Carried into the heart of the country of the 
enemy, far away from all hope of succor, the ques 
tion was about to be decided whether the clemency 
of their captors would bestow upon them the rights 
of citizenship, or their warlike frenzy lead them away 
to the torture. Its decision depended upon the most 
fickle impulses. Who shall relate our sylvan history ! 
To the red man compassion has seldom been ascribed, 
but yet these scenes in the forest oftentimes revealed 
the most generous traits of character. Admiration 
for the chivalric bearing of a captive, the recollection 
of a past favor, or a sudden impulse of compassion, 
were sufficient to decide the question of adoption. 
When the perils of the gantlet, which was an enviable 
lot compared with the fate of the rejected, were over, 
he ceased to be an enemy, and became an Iroquois. 
Not only so, but he was received into the family by 
which he was adopted with all the cordiality of affec 
tion, and into all the relations of the one whose place 
he was henceforth to fill. By these means all recol 
lections of his distant kindred were gradually effaced, 
bound as he was by gratitude to those who had re 
stored a life which was forfeited by the usages of war. 
If a captive, after adoption, became discontented, 
which is said to have been seldom the case, he was 
sometimes restored, with presents, to his nation, that 



they might know he had lost nothing by his cap 
tivity among them. (104) 

The rejected captives were then led away to the 
torture, and to death. It is not necessary to de 
scribe this horrible practice of our primitive inhab 
itants. It is sufficient to say that it was a test of 
courage. When the Indian went out upon the war 
path, he prepared his mind for this very contingency, 
resolving to show the enemy, if captured, that hir 
courage was equal to any trial, and above the power 
of death itself. The exhibitions of heroism and forti 
tude by the red man under the sufferings of martyr 
dom, almost surpass belief. They considered the 
character of their nation in their keeping, and the 
glory of the race as involved and illustrated in the 
manner of their death. 

A slight notice of a few of their customs in relation 
to the hunt, will close this desultory chapter. The 
deer, the elk, the moose, the bear, and several species 
of wild fowl, furnished their principal game. At certain 
seasons of the year, the female of all animals was spared, 
by the provisions of their game-laws, lest there should 
be a diminution of the supply. Not having a species 
of dog adapted to the chase, they were obliged to resort 
to the still hunt, and seize the opportunity whenever it 
presented ; thus rendering it necessary to success that 
the hunter should become well versed in the habits of 
animals. Sometimes they trapped both deer and bear, 
and spread nets for quails and other small fowl. One 
species of deer-trap was attached to a young tree bent 
over, and so adjusted that the springing of the trap 
fastened a loop around the hind legs of the deer, and 



at the same time released the tree, which drew him up, 
and held him suspended in the air. They practiced 
another method of taking deer, in herds. A large 
party of hunters was formed, and a brush fence was 
built in the shape of the letter V, two or three miles in 
length on each side. The woods were then fired in 
the rear at some miles distance, so as to drive the deer 
towards the opening, into which they were guided by 
parties stationed upon either side. They followed the 
fence down to the angle, where the arrows of the un 
seen hunters soon brought them down one after the 
other. Sometimes a hundred were thus taken at one 
time. In the bear-hunt it was customary to tire out 
the animal by a long chase, as when fresh and vigorous 
he was too formidable to attack with the bow and 
arrow, or the hunting tomahawk ; but when wearied 
out it was an easy matter to overcome him. The 
hunter selected the choice pieces of venison, and hav 
ing removed the bone, and dried and cured the flesh 
before a fire, he packed it in small bark barrels, and 
thus carried it home upon his back. It was so much 
reduced in weight and bulk by the process of curing, 
that a hunter could thus transport, with ease, the sub 
stance of a dozen deer. Their skins were also dried and 
packed, and carried home in the same manner. When 
deer or bear were taken in winter, within a day s journey 
of their villages, bark sledges were prepared, on which 
they were drawn home, undressed, upon the snow crust. 
Hunting was a passion with the red man. He pur 
sued it for the excitement and employment it afforded, 
as well as for subsistence, frequently making long and 
toilsome expeditions. The Senecas, for example, in 



the season of the fall hunt, would leave their villages 
in small parties; some turning south, would encamp 
upon the Chemung river, and traverse the whole ad 
jacent country ; others, descending the Allegany, pen 
etrated the inland regions of Ohio, which was a favorite 
hunting-ground, not only of the Senecas, but also of 
the other nations of the League; while still others en 
camped within the Niagara peninsula, which was for 
merly a place of great resort for the beaver-hunt. The 
Cayugas turned to the Susquehanna, which furnished 
them an inexhaustible store. They also ranged Penn 
sylvania ; and with parties from the other nations, they 
not unfrequently roamed as far as the Potomac, which 
was within their ancient domain. Parties of the Onon- 
dagas descended the Chenango to the Susquehanna, 
or turning northward, perchance, crossed over into 
Canada. The Oneidas, for the fall hunt, descended 
the Unadilla, and also went northward, into the 
regions watered by the Black river. Lastly, the Mo 
hawks, leaving their valley, found well-stocked hunt 
ing-grounds upon the head-waters of the Delaware and 
Susquehanna, and also in the wild and rugged regions 
of the north, and around lake Champlain. 

About midwinter these widely scattered parties be 
gan to find their way back to their villages for the 
celebration of their annual jubilee ; after which they sur 
rendered themselves for a season to idleness, or to the 
amusements of the winter life. With the spring came 
the fishing season, in which for a time they found em 
ployment. The summer again was a season of repose, 
except when enlivened by councils, by their religious 
festivals, or by the adventures of the war-path. 

VOL. I. -22 


In this round of occupations the Iroquois glided 
through the year. The progress of the seasons sug 
gested their appropriate employments, if not marked 
in the exuberance of unsubdued nature, by the same 
attractive changes which pursue each other in regions 
beautified by cultivation. While with the fullest ap 
preciation he enjoyed the grandeur of nature in her 
wild attire, and surrendered himself to her deepest in 
spirations, he yet knew nothing of her inexhaustible 
fruitfulness, or of those more delicate features of beauty 
which are revealed only by the hand of art. Aspiring 
to a freedom as boundless as the forest, satisfied with 
the martial pursuits, the amusements, the friendships 
and the social privileges of Indian life, and proud of 
their military achievements and of the fame of the 
League among Indian nations, the Iroquois measured 
out their days with all the happiness which these con 
siderations could secure, and with all the contentment 
which could result from knowing no higher destiny. 





Chapter I 

Fabrics of the Iroquois Their Artisan Intellect Indian Pottery 
Earthen Vessels Moccason War Club Tomahawk Rope 
Making Finger Weaving Bark Vessels Bark Canoe Corn 
Mortar Maize Tobacco Snow Shoe Indian Saddle Mis 
cellaneous Inventions Basket Making Costumes Wampum 
Baby Frame Diffusion of Indian Arts Improvement of the 

THE fabrics of a people unlock their social 
history. They speak a language which is 
silent, but yet more eloquent than the written 
page. As memorials of former times, they commune 
directly with the beholder, opening the unwritten 
history of the period they represent, and clothing it 
with perpetual freshness. However rude the age, or 
uncultivated the people from whose hands they come, 
the products of human ingenuity are ever invested 
with a peculiar and even solemn interest. It is greatly 
to be regretted that so few remains of the skill and 
industry of the Iroquois have come down to the 
present age, to illustrate the era of Indian occupation. 
Although their fabrics are indicative of a low state of 
the useful arts, the artificial contrivances by which 



they were surrounded are yet the indices of their so 
cial condition, and for this reason are not devoid 
of instruction. Further than this, it is but just to 
them to save from oblivion the fruits of their inven 
tive intellect, however unpretending they may seem, 
that, in the general judgment pronounced upon their 
memory, they may not be defrauded of even their 
humblest inventions. (105) 

Since the commencement of European intercourse, 
and especially within the last century, great changes 
have been wrought among the Iroquois. Their prim 
itive fabrics have mostly passed away, and with them, 
many of their original inventions. (10G) The intro 
duction of articles of more skilful manufacture has 
led to the gradual disuse of many of their simple 
arts. At the present moment, therefore, much of the 
fruit of their inventive capacity is entirely lost. Frag 
ments, it is true, are frequently disentombed from 
the resting-places to which they had been consigned 
by their burial rites, but they are mere vestiges of the 
past, and afford but a slight indication of their social 
condition, or of the range of their artisan intellect. 
It would now be extremely difficult to furnish a 
full description of their implements, domestic utensils, 
and miscellaneous fabrics. Many of the inventions 
of the earlier Iroquois are still preserved among their 
descendants now residing within our limits and in 


Canada ; but that portion of them which would espe 
cially serve to illustrate the condition of the hunter 
life have passed beyond our reach. 

The remains of Indian art which are found scattered 
over the soil of New York are of two distinct kinds, 



and to be ascribed to widely different periods. The 
first class belong to the ante-Columbian period, or 
the era of the " Mound Builders," (36) whose defensive 
works, mounds, and sacred enclosures are scattered so 
profusely throughout the west. 1 With the second 
period may be connected the name of the Iroquois. It 
will also include the remains of the fugitive races, who, 
since the extermination of the " Mound Builders," have 
displaced each other in succession, until the period of 
the Iroquois commenced. 

In the fabrics of the Iroquois a wide range is observ 
able. It reaches from the rudest specimens of pottery 
of the ancient, to the most delicate needlework of the 
modern Iroquois. Since the era of the discovery, and 
the commencement of their intercourse with Euro 
peans, a gradual revolution has been effected. Their 
social condition has changed greatly, and is changing 
from day to day. With equal pace their simple arts 
have been dropping from their hands, one after the 
other, as they have taken up agricultural pursuits, until 
at the present epoch the fabrics of the Iroquois con 
trast very strangely with those of their ancestors. In 
their present advanced condition, a large proportion of 
their articles are of a mixed character. They rather 
exhibit the application of Indian ingenuity to fabrics 

1 The remains of this period indicate a semi-civilization of the most 
imposing character, including a considerable development of the art of 
agriculture. Exclusive of the mounds and enclosures, they have left im 
plements of copper and chert, of stone, porphyry and earthen, some of 
which are elaborately and ingeniously wrought. The fugitive specimens 
belonging to this period, which are occasionally found within the limits 
of our State, are much superior to any of the productions of the earlier 



of foreign manufacture, as shown in their reduction 
into use, than originality of invention. But this class 
of articles are not without a peculiar interest. They 
furnish no slight indication of artisan capacity, and will 
serve as a species of substitute for those articles which 
they have displaced, and those inventions which they 
have hurried into forgetfulness. 

One of the most ancient Indian arts was that of pot 
tery. It was carried to considerable perfection by the 
Iroquois at an early day, as is shown by the specimens 
which are still occasionally disentombed from the 
burial-places, where they were deposited beside the 
dead ; but the art itself has been so long disused that 
it is now entirely lost. Pipes, and earthen pots of 
various designs and sizes, are the principal articles thus 
found. Some of these specimens of black pottery, 
which is the best variety, are of so fine a texture as to 
admit of a tolerable polish, and so firm as to have the 
appearance of stone. Their common pottery is of a 
clay color, and is a compound of common clay and 
pulverized quartz. (108) 

This pipe is of black pottery, well finished, and 
nearly as hard as marble, and is also represented at its 
actual size. In some specimens the bowl is fronted 
with a human face, or with a wolf s or dog s head. 
Frequently these imitations are delicately, even ex 
quisitely made. Another species of pipe, in use among 
the Iroquois in later times, was cut out of soap- 
stone, which yields readily to metallic instruments. A 
representation of one of these pipes of Seneca manu 
facture, will be found in the plate (I. 105). It is fronted 
with a human face, and designed to be used with a 



stem-piece of reed. The other, in the same plate, is 
also a modern Iroquois pipe, made of Catlinite, or the 

Ab-sc-qua -ta y or Iroquois Pipe, Lima, Liv. Co., N. Y. 

red Missouri pipe-stone. Pipes of this description are 
used chiefly among the Sioux, by whom they were in- 



troduced into use, and other western Indians; and were 
rather accidental than common among the Iroquois. 

Pipe of the Mound Builders, Valley of the Genesee. 

This pipe is anomalous. It is of black marble, 
highly polished, with the bowl and stem bored with 
great precision. Doubtless it is a relic of the 
" Mound Builders," which, having found its way into 
the hands of a Seneca, was finally buried by his side 
in the valley of the Genesee, to be again brought to 




light upon the excavation of the Valley canal. Like 
the pipes of that era, it has the bowl in the central 
part of the stone. In material, also, and in finish, it 
is unlike, and superior to the pipes of the Iroquois. 

Ga -jib , or E art ben Vessel. 

Earthen pots of this description are frequently 
found beside the remains of the Iroquois/ 10 They 
are usually of sufficient capacity to contain from 
two to six quarts. On exposure to the air, after dis- 
interment, they are apt to crumble, being usually, if 
not always, of the light-colored common pottery, 
which is less firm and coherent than the black. In 
these earthen vessels it was customary to deposit food 
for the departed, while journeying to the realm of the 
Great Spirit. These earthen dishes are still found in 
Indian burial-places, where, perhaps, they had lain for 
centuries ; and the fragments of those which have 
been broken by the plough, are also mingled with the 

Metallic implements were unknown among them, 
as they had not the use of metals. Rude knives of 
chert were used for skinning deer, and similar pur 
poses. For cutting trees and excavating canoes, and 
corn mortars, in a word, for those necessary purposes 



for which the axe would seem to be indispensable, the 
Iroquois used the stone chisel, Uh -ga-o-gwdt -ha. In 
cutting trees, fire was applied at the foot, and the 
chisel used to clear away the coal. By a repetition of 
the process, trees were felled and cut to pieces. 
Wooden vessels were hollowed out by the same means. 
Fire and the chisel were the substitutes for the axe. 
The chisel was usually about six inches long, three 
wide, and two thick ; the lower end being fashioned 
like the edge of an axe. Stone gouges in the form of 
a convex chisel, were also used when a more regular 
concavity of the vessel was desired. Stone mortars 
for pounding corn, grinding mineral paint, and for 
pulverizing roots and barks for medicines, were also 
among their utensils. (109) 

Arrow-heads of chert, or flint, were so common 
that it is scarcely necessary to refer to them. Occa 
sionally they are found with a twist to make the 
arrow revolve in its flight. It is well known that the 
Indian always feathered his arrow for the same pur 
pose. It is not uncommon to find the places where 
these arrow-heads were manufactured, which is indi 
cated by the fragments of chert which had been made 
by cleavage. In the western mounds rows of similar 
chert heads have been found lying side by side, like 
teeth, the row being about two feet long. This has 
suggested the idea that they were set in a frame and 
fastened with thongs, thus making a species of sword. 
Their discovery in those mounds also establishes the 
great antiquity of the art. 

In ancient times the Iroquois used the stone toma 
hawk. It was fashioned something like an axe, but 



in place of an eye for the helve, a deep groove was 
cut around the outside, by means of which the handle 
was firmly attached with a withe or thong. (110) Oval 
stones, with grooves around their greatest circum 
ference, were also secured in the head of war-clubs, 
and thus made dangerous weapons/ 11 Other im 
plements and utensils of stone, some of which were 
very ingeniously worked, were in use among the Iro- 
quois ; and also personal ornaments of the same mate 
rial, but a sufficient number have been brought under 

O-sque -sont, or Stone Tomahawk. 

The moccason (see plates I. 35, 44, 79) is preemi 
nently an Indian invention, and one of the highest 
antiquity. It is true to nature in its adjustment to 
the foot, beautiful in its materials and finish, and dur 
able as an article of apparel. It will compare favor 
ably with the best single article for the protection and 
adornment of the foot ever invented, either in ancient 
or modern times. With the sanction of fashion, it 
would supersede among us a long list of similar inven 
tions. Other nations have fallen behind the Indian, 
in this one particular at least. The masses of the 
Romans wore the calceus ligneus, or wooden shoe ; 
the masses of Germany and Ireland, and of many of 
the European nations, formerly wore the same. 
With the cothurnus and sandal of the ancients, and 

r i 


the boot of the moderns, the moccason admits of no 
unfavorable comparison. It deserves to be classed 
among the highest articles of apparel ever invented, 
both in usefulness, durability, and beauty. 

The moccason is made of one piece of deer-skin. 
It is seamed up at the heel, and also in front, above 
the foot, leaving the bottom of the moccason without 
a seam. In front the deer-skin is gathered, in place 
of being crimped ; over this part porcupine quills or 
beads are worked, in various patterns. The plain 
moccason rises several inches above the ankle, like the 
Roman cothurnus, and is fastened with deer strings ; 
but usually this part is turned down, so as to expose 
a part of the instep, and is ornamented with bead- 
work, as represented in the plates. A small bone near 
the ankle joint of the deer, has furnished the moc 
cason needle (111) from time immemorial ; and the 
sinews of the animal the thread. These bone needles 
are found in the mounds of the West, and beside the 
skeletons of the Iroquois, where they were deposited 
with religious care. This isolated fact would seem to 
indicate an affinity, in one art at least, between the 
Iroquois and the Mound Builders, whose name, and 
era of occupation and destiny are entirely lost. (3G) 

In ancient times the Iroquois used another shoe, 
made of the skin of the elk. They cut the skin 
above and below the gambrel joint, and then took it 
off entire. As the hind leg of the elk inclines at this 
joint, nearly at a right angle, it was naturally adapted 
to the foot. The lower end was sewed firmly with 
sinew, and the upper part secured above the ankle 
with deer strings. 



In connection with this subject is the art of tanning 
deer-skins ; as they still tan them after the ancient 
method. It is done with the brain of the deer, the 
tanning properties of which, according to a tradition, 
were discovered by accident. The brain is mingled 
with moss, to make it adhere sufficiently to be formed 
into a cake, which is afterwards hung by the fire to 
dry. It is thus preserved for years. When the deer 
skin is fresh, the hair, and also the grain of the skin 
are taken off, over a cylindrical beam, with a wooden 
blade or stone scraper. A solution is then made by 
boiling a cake of the brain in water, and the moss, 
which is of no use, being removed, the skin is soaked 
in it for a few hours. It is then wrung out and 
stretched, until it becomes dry and pliable. Should 
it be a thick one, it would be necessary to repeat the 
process until it becomes thoroughly penetrated by the 
solution. The skin is still porous and easily torn. 
To correct both, a smoke is made, and the skin placed 
over it in such a manner as to enclose it entirely. 
Each side is smoked in this way until the pores are 
closed, and the skin has become thoroughly tough 
ened, with its color changed from white to a kind of 
brown. It is then ready for use. 

They also use the brain of other animals, and some 
times the back-bone of the eel, which, pounded up 
and boiled, possesses nearly the same properties for 
tanning. Bear-skins were never tanned. They were 
scraped and softened, after which they were dried, and 
used without removing the hair, either as an article of 
apparel, or as a mattress to sleep upon. 

Before the tomahawk came into use among the 



Iroquois, their principal weapons were the bow, the 
stone tomahawk, and the war-club. The Ga -je -wa 
was a heavy weapon, usually made of ironwood, with 

Ga-je -wa, or War -club. 

a large ball of knot at the head. It was usually about 
two feet in length, and the ball five or six inches in 
diameter. In close combat it would prove a formida 
ble weapon. They wore it in the belt, in front. 

Ga-ne-u f -ga-o-dus-ba, or Deer-horn War-club. 

This species of war-club was also much used. It 
was made of hard wood, elaborately carved, painted 
and ornamented with feathers at the ends. In the 
lower edge, a sharp-pointed deer s horn, about four 
inches in length, was inserted. It was thus rendered 
a dangerous weapon in close combat, and would inflict 
a deeper wound than the former. They wore it in 
the girdle. At a later period they used the same 
species of club, substituting a steel or iron blade 



resembling a spearhead, in the place of the horn. 
War-clubs of this description are still to be found 
among the Iroquois, preserved as relics of past 
exploits. It is not probable, however, that these two 
varieties were peculiar to them ; they were doubtless 
common over the continent. 

The tomahawk succeeded the war-club, as the rifle 
did the bow. With the invention of this terrible 
implement of warfare the red man had nothing to do, 
except in having it so fashioned as to be adapted to 
his taste and usage. The tomahawk is known as 
widely as the Indian, and the two names have become 

O-sque -sont, or Tomahawk. 

apparently inseparable. They are made of steel, 
brass, or iron. The choicer articles are surmounted 
by a pipe-bowl, and have a perforated handle, that 
they may answer the double purpose of ornament and 
use. In such the handle, and often the blade itself, 
are richly inlaid with silver. It is worn in the girdle, 
and behind the back, except when in actual battle. 
They used it in close combat with terrible effect, and 
also threw it with unerring certainty at distant objects, 
making it revolve in the air in its flight. With the 



Indian, the tomahawk is the emblem of war itself. 
To bury it, is peace ; to raise it, is to declare the most 
deadly warfare. (112) 

Rope-making, from filaments of bark, is also an In 
dian art. The deer string answers a multitude of pur- 

Ose-ga", or Skein of Slippery Elm Filaments. 

poses in their domestic economy ; but it could not 
supply them all. Bark-rope (Ga-a -sken-da) has been 
fabricated among them from time immemorial. In its 
manufacture, they use the bark of the slippery-elm, the 
red-elm, and the bass-wood. Having removed the outer 
surface of the bark, they divide it into narrow strips, 

Gus-ba -ah, or Burden Strap. 

and then boil it in ashes and water. After it is dried 

it is easily separated into small filaments, the strings 
running with the grain several feet without breaking. 
These filaments are then put up in skeins and laid aside 
for use. Slippery-elm makes the most pliable rope ; 
it is soft to the touch, can be closely braided, and is 
very durable. The burden strap is worn around the 



forehead, and lashed to a litter, which is borne by In 
dian women on their back. It is usually about fifteen 
feet in length, and braided into a belt in the centre, 
three or four inches wide. Some of them are entirely 
covered upon one side with porcupine-quills-work, after 
various devices, and are in themselves remarkable 
products of skilful industry. The braiding (113) or 
knitting of the bark threads is effected with a single 
needle of hickory. In other specimens, the quill-work 
is sprinkled over the belt for ornament, the quills in 
all cases being of divers colors. Of all their fabrics, 
there is no one, perhaps, which surpasses the porcu 
pine-quill burden strap, in skill of manufacture, rich 
ness of material, or beauty of workmanship. In this 
species of work, the Iroquois female excelled. They 
also made a common bark rope for ordinary uses, 
which consisted of three strands, hard twisted ; a single 
rope being frequently forty or fifty feet in length. The 
art of rope-making, like many others, has mostly fallen 
into disuse among the present Iroquois. But few In 
dian families now provide themselves with skeins of 
bark thread, or make any ropes of this description. 
In the manufacture of the several species of burden 
strap, more skill, ingenuity, and patient industry are 
exhibited, perhaps, than in any other single article 
fabricated by the Iroquois. The strap consists of a 
belt in the centre about two feet in length by two 
and a half inches in width, with ropes at each end 
about seven feet each ; thus making its entire length 
from fifteen to twenty feet. It is used attached to 
the litter or burden frame, to the baby frame, and to 
the basket, when these burdens are to be borne on the 

VOL. II. 2 I 


back ; in which cases the belt is passed around the 
forehead. Fifteen or twenty small cords are first 
made, about three feet in length, by twisting the 
filaments of bark by hand. These cords, which 
make the warp, or substance of the belt, are then 
placed parallel with each other, and side by side ; 
after which finer threads of the same material, usually 
colored, are prepared for the filling, to be passed 
across the cords over and under each alternately from 
side to side and back again. The fine thread, or 
filling, is twisted in the first instance, and also again 
as it is braided or woven in with the warp while 
being passed across from side to side. As the work 
is all done by hand, it is a slow and laborious process, 
but the specimen will show how successfully it is 
accomplished. After the filling has thus been braided 
in with the warp, each of the main cords, although 
covered on both sides, literally wound with the finer 
threads in crossing and returning, is still distinctly visi 
ble, giving to the belt the appearance of being ribbed. 
The whole process is exactly the same as the modern 
process of weaving, the main difference consisting 
in this, that in the latter the warp and filling are 
nearly equal in the size of the threads, while in the 
Indian art the warp is several times larger than the 

Towards the ends the belt is narrowed gradually 
by joining two of the cords in one, until its width 
is diminished about one-third. The cords are then 
lengthened out by adding new filaments, and braided 
into an open-work band or bark rope about an inch wide, 
and flat ; the band consisting of as many strands as 


there were cords at the end of the belt. The surface 
of these belts is generally smooth and even, and the 
belt itself so closely braided as to leave no inter 
stices through which the eye could penetrate. When 
threads of different colors were used, the belt was 
variegated simply, or small figures were woven in it 
for ornament. 

Another species of burden strap, of more expedi 
tious manufacture, was made by placing the warp 
cords side by side, and stitching them through and 
through with bark thread, in which case the cords 
themselves were made larger than in the ordinary 
burden strap. For stitching, a hickory or bone 
needle, without an eye, was used in ancient times. 
As the cords consisted of two strong threads twisted 
into one, the stitching thread was passed through 
each cord, between its two parts, from one side to 
the other and back again. Ropes were then attached 
to the ends of the belt, and the work was completed. 


See PLATE facing page 20 

Near the rump of the moose (Ten-da-ne), and near 
the neck between the shoulders, there are small tufts 
of white hair, about four inches in length, each yield 
ing a small handful. These hairs were carefully pre 
served, dyed red, blue and yellow, and used in the 
manufacture of the finest varieties of burden straps. 
Similar tufts of hair, but inferior in quality, are found 
upon the elk (Jo-ra-da), and in the tail of the deer 
(Na-o-geh}. The moose hair burden strap is made 


in all respects as above described, except that the 
thread, which serves as the filling, is wound with 
this hair upon one side of the belt, in such a way 
as either to cover the whole face of the belt, or to 
sprinkle it through with small figures at the pleasure 
of the maker. The one represented in the plate is 
a very perfect and beautiful piece of work, nearly 
the whole upper surface of the belt being covered 
with moose hair, white, yellow, red and blue, which 
is woven into the belt in a regular figure. It was 
made by an Onondaga woman on Grand river in 
Upper Canada, where it was purchased in October 
last. Although it has been used many years, and 
the colors have lost some portion of their original 
brilliancy, it is yet wholly unimpaired, and a remark 
able specimen of finger weaving, as well as of artisan 
skill. It is not only woven compactly, but with such 
evenness of thread as to present a smooth surface and 
uniform texture. It is difficult to believe, upon an 
examination of the under side of the belt, that it is 
manufactured with bark threads ; and perhaps still 
more incredible, that in the mechanism of this belt 
can be found the primary elements of the art of 


This is an ancient contrivance to assist in carrying 
burdens. Game, cooking utensils, wood, bark, in fact, 
everything which could be transported by hand could 
be borne upon this frame. They were a necessary 
appendage to every house, to the traveller, and to 
the hunter. Sometimes thev were elaborately carved 




and finished, but more frequently were of a plain 
piece of hickory, like the one represented in the 
figure, and made with the quickest despatch. The 
frame consists of two bows of hickory, brought to- 

Ga-ne-ko-wa-ab t Burden Frame, or Litter. 

gether at right angles, and fastened to each other 
by means of an eye and head. The upright part of 
the frame is the same as the horizontal in all particu 
lars, except its greater length. Strips from the inner 
rind of basswood bark were then passed between the 
bows both length and crosswise, and fastened to the 
rim pieces. A burden strap was then attached to the 
frame at the point where the strip of bark passed 
across the upright bow from side to side ; and from 



thence it passed diagonally across to the horizontal 
part of the frame, to the point where the lower strip 
of bark crossed that part of the frame. There were 
several feet of rope at each end, reserved to lash 
around whatever burden was placed upon the frame ; 
but when the frame was empty, as it is shown 
above, these ropes were passed up to the top of the 
frame and there secured. After being loaded the 
frame was placed upon the back, and the burden 
strap passed over the head and placed across the 
chest. If the burden was very heavy it was cus 
tomary to use two straps, one across the chest, and 
the other against the forehead. At the present day 
the burden frame is still in use. 

Bark vessels and dishes of various kinds were in com 
mon use among them. The bark barrel, Ga-no -qua, 
was of the number. (124) It was made of the inner 
rind of red-elm bark, or of black-ash bark, the grain 
running around the barrel. Up the side it was stitched 
firmly, and had a bottom and a lid secured in the same 
manner. Such barrels were used to store charred 
corn, beans, dried fruit, seeds, and a great variety of 

When corn was buried in pits or caches, it was 
usually put in bark barrels of this description. Dur 
ing the war of 1812, when the British forces were 
expected over the frontier, the Senecas at Tonawanda, 
who had enlisted in the American army, buried their 
corn in bark barrels, after the ancient custom. These 
barrels were made of all sizes, from those of sufficient 
capacity to hold three bushels, to those large enough for 
a peck. Such barrels were found in every family in 



ancient times, and among other purposes to which 
they were devoted, they were made repositories for 
articles of apparel and personal ornaments. They 

G a-sna Ga-ose-ba, or Bark Barrel. 

were very durable, and when properly taken care of 
would last a hundred years. 


Trays of this description are found in every Indian 
family. They serve a variety of purposes, but are 
chiefly used for kneading, or rather preparing corn 
bread. A strip of elm-bark, of the requisite dimen 
sions, was rounded and gathered up at the ends, so as 



to form a shallow concavity. Around the rim, both 
outside and in, splints of hickory were adjusted, and 
stitched through and through with the bark. These 
trays were of all sizes, from those of sufficient capacity 
to contain one, to those large enough for ten pecks. 
The rough bark was removed from the outside, and 
the vessel within became smooth with usage. They 

Ga-o-zuo , or Bark Tray. 

made durable and convenient articles for holding corn 
meal, for preparing corn bread, and for many other 

Trapping game of all kinds, from the bear and deer 
to the quail and snipe, was a common practice. For 
deer, a young tree was bent over and held in this 
position by the mechanism of the trap. When sprung 
a noose was fastened around the hind leg of; the deer, 
and he was drawn up in the air by the unsprung tree. 
Bear traps were constructed in such a way as to let 
down a heavy timber upon the back of the animal, 
when sprung, and thus pin him to the earth. Nets of 
bark twine were also spread for pigeons and quails. 
A simple bird trap for small birds consists of a 
rounding strip of elm bark about eight inches long by 



four wide, with an eye cut in one end and a piece of 
bark twine with a noose at the end of it, attached to 
the other. After the bark is secured upon the ground, 
a few kernels of corn are dropped through the eye 
upon the ground, and a noose adjusted around it. 
When a bird attempts to pick up the corn the ruffled 
plumage of the neck takes up the string, and brings 

Bird Trap. 

the noose around the neck, which is tightened the 
moment the bird attempts to fly, and either strangles 
or holds it in captivity. The trap is said to be very 


In the construction of the bark canoe, the Iroquois 
exercised considerable taste and skill. The art appears 
to have been common to all the Indian races within 
the limits of the republic, and the mode of construc 
tion much the same. Birch bark was the best mate 
rial ; but as the canoe birch did not grow within the 
home territories of the Iroquois, they generally used 
the red-elm, and bitternut-hickory. The canoe figured 
in the plate (II. 3), is made of the bark of the 
red-elm, and consists of but one piece. Having taken 

2 5 




off a bark of the requisite length and width, and re 
moved the rough outside, it was shaped in the canoe 
form. Rim pieces of white-ash, or other elastic wood, 
of the width of the hand, were then run around the 
edge, outside and in, and stitched through and through 
with the bark itself. In stitching, they used bark 
thread or twine, and splints. The ribs consisted of 
narrow strips of ash, which were set about a foot apart 
along the bottom of the canoe, and having been turned 
up the sides, were secured under the rim. Each end of 
the canoe was fashioned alike, the two side pieces in 
clining towards each other until they united, and formed 
a sharp and vertical prow. In size, these canoes varied 
from twelve feet, with sufficient capacity to carry two 
men, to forty feet with sufficient capacity for thirty. 
The one figured in the plate is about twenty-five feet 
in length, and its tonnage estimated at two tons, about 
half that of the ordinary bateau. Birch bark retained 
its place without warping, but the elm and hickory 
bark canoes were exposed to this objection. After 
being used, they were drawn out of the water to dry. 
One of the chief advantages of these canoes, especially 
the birch bark, was their extreme lightness, which often 
became a matter of some moment from the flood wood 
and water-falls, which obstructed the navigation of the 
inland rivers. Two men could easily transport these 
light vessels around these obstacles, and even from one 
river to another when the portage was not long. 

For short excursions one person usually paddled the 
canoe, standing up in the stern ; if more than two, and 
on a long expedition, they were seated at equal distances 
upon each side alternately. In the fur trade these 



canoes were extensively used. They coasted lakes 
Erie and Ontario, and turning up the Oswego river 
into the Oneida lake, they went from thence over the 
carrying place into the Mohawk, which they descended 
to Schenectady. They would usually carry about 
twelve hundred pounds of fur. At the period of the 
invasions of the Iroquois territories by the French, 
large fleets of these canoes were formed for the con 
veyance of troops and provisions. With careful usage 
they would last several years. 

Ga-o-ivo y or Bark Sap-tub. 

Our Indian population have been long in the habit 
of manufacturing sugar from the maple. Whether they 
learned the art from us, or we received it from them, 
is uncertain. (87) One evidence, at least, of its antiquity 
among them, is to be found in one of their ancient re 
ligious festivals, instituted to the maple, and called the 
Maple dance. The sap-tub is a very neat contrivance, 
and surpasses all other articles of this description. 
Our farmers may safely borrow, in this one particular, 
and with profit substitute this Indian invention for the 
rough and wasteful one of their own contrivance. 



A strip of bark about three feet in length by two in 
width, makes the tub. The rough bark is left upon 
the bottom and sides. At the point where the bark is 
to be turned up to form the ends, the outer bark is re 
moved ; the inner rind is then turned up, gathered to 
gether in small folds at the top, and tied around with 
a splint. It is then ready for use, and will last several 
seasons. Aside from the natural fact that the sap 
would be quite at home in the bark tub, and its flavor 
preserved untainted, it is more durable and capacious 
than the wooden one, and more readily made. 

The Senecas use three varieties of corn : the White 
(O-na-d-ga-ant), the Red (Tic-ne\ and the White Flint 
(Ha-gd-wa). (m) Corn is, and always has been, their 
staple article of food. When ready to be harvested, 
they pick the ears, strip down the husks, and braid 
them together in bunches, with about twenty ears in 
each. They are then hung up ready for use. The 
white flint ripens first, and is the favorite corn for hom- 
mony ; the red next, and is used principally for char 
ring and drying; the white last, and is the corn most 
esteemed by the Indians. It is used for bread, and 
supplies the same place with them that wheat does with 
us. They shell their corn by hand, and pound it into 
flour in wooden mortars. In two hours from the time 
the corn is taken from the ear it is ready to eat, in the 
form of unleavened bread. (8) It is hulled in the first 
instance, by boiling in ashes and water; after the skin 
is thus removed from each kernel, it is thoroughly 
washed, and pounded into flour or meal in a mortar, 
of which a representation will be found above. Hav 
ing been passed through a sieve basket, to remove the 



Ga-ne -ga-ta, or Corn Mortar. 

Mortar, 2 feet in diameter. Pounder, 4 feet: in length. 
2 9 



chit and coarser grains, it is made into loaves or cakes 
about an inch in thickness, and six inches in diameter ; 
which are cooked by boiling them in water. The 

Ta-~a-go-gen-ta-qua t or Bread Turner. 
3^ feet. 

bread turner is used, as its name indicates, to handle 
these loaves while under the process of cooking. Upon 
bread of this description, and upon the fruits of the 
chase, the Indian has principally subsisted from time 
immemorial. (84) 

The practice of charring corn is of great antiquity 
among the red races. In this condition it is preserved 
for years without injury. Caches or pits of charred 
corn have been found in various parts of the country. 
The Iroquois were in the habit of charring corn to 
preserve it for domestic use. The Senecas still do the 
same. For this use the red corn is preferred. When 
green the corn is picked, and roasted in the field before 
a long fire, the ears being set up on end in a row. It 
is not charred or blackened entirely, but roasted suffi 
ciently to dry up the moisture in each kernel. It is 
then shelled and dried in the sun. The splint sieve 
represented in the figure was used to sift out the fine 
ashes which might adhere to the kernel. In this state 
the corn is chiefly used by hunting parties, and for sub- 




sistence on distant excursions. Its bulk and weight 
having been diminished about half by the two pro 
cesses, its transportation became less burdensome. The 

Yun-des-ho-yon-da-gwat-ba, or Pop-corn Sieve. 

red races seldom formed magazines of grain to guard 
against distant wants. It is probable, therefore, that 
these pits of charred corn owe their origin to the sudden 
flight of the inhabitants, who buried their dried corn 
because they could not remove it, rather than to a desire 
to provide against a failure of the harvest. 

There was another method of curing corn in its 
green state, quite as prevalent as the former. The 
corn was shaved off into small particles, and having 
been baked over the fire in pans or earthen dishes, it 
was then dried in the sun. In this condition it was 
preserved for winter use. 

A favorite article of subsistence was prepared from 
the charred corn. It was parched a second time, after 
which, having been mixed with about a third part of 
maple sugar, it was pounded into a fine flour. This 
was carried in the bear-skin pocket of the hunter, and 
upon it alone he subsisted for days together. 

This noble grain, one of the gifts of the Indian to 

3 1 


the world, is destined, eventually, to become one of 
the staple articles of human consumption. More than 
half of our republic lies within the embrace of the trib 
utaries of the Mississippi. Upon their banks are the 
corn-growing districts of the country ; and there, also, 
at no distant day, will be seated the millions of our 
race. Experience demonstrates that no people can 
rely wholly upon exchanges for the substance of their 
bread-stuffs, but that they must look chiefly to the 
soil they cultivate. This law of production and con 
sumption is destined to introduce the gradual use of 
corn flour, as a partial substitute at least, for its superior 
rival, in those districts where it is the natural product 
of the soil. In the southern portions of our country 
this principle is already attested, by the fact that corn 
bread enters as largely into human consumption as 
wheaten. Next to wheat, this grain, perhaps, con 
tains the largest amount of nutriment. It is the 
cheapest and surest of all the grains to cultivate; and 
is, also, the cheapest article of subsistence known 
among men. Although wheat can be cultivated in 
nearly all the sections of the country ; although its 
production can be increased to an unlimited degree by 
a higher agriculture ; we have yet great reason to be 
thankful for this secondary grain, whose reproductive 
energy is so unmeasured as to secure our entire race, 
through all coming time, against the dangers of 
scarcity, or the pressure of want/ 85 


Tobacco is another gift of the Indian to the world; 
but a gift, it must be admitted, of questionable utility. 

3 2 


We call both corn and tobacco the legacy of the red 
man ; as these indigenous plants, but for his nurture 
and culture through so many ages, might have per 
ished, like other varieties of the fruits of the earth. 
Many of our choicest fruits owe their origin to vege 
table combinations entirely fortuitous. They spring 
up spontaneously, flourish for a season, and become 
extinct, but for the watchful care of man. Nature 
literally pours forth her vegetable wealth, and buries 
beneath her advancing exuberance the products 
of the past. But few of the fruits and plants and 
flowers of the ancient world have come down to us 
unchanged; and still other plants, perhaps, have per 
ished, unknown, in the openings of the forest, which 
contained within their shrivelled and stinted foliage 
the germ of some fruit, or grain, or plant, which might 
have nourished or clothed the whole human family. 
We may therefore, perchance, owe a debt to the 
Indian, in these particulars, beyond our utmost ac 
knowledgments/ 03 

The Senecas still cultivate tobacco. Its name sig 
nifies " The only Tobacco" because they considered this 
variety superior to all others. It is raised from the 
seed, which is sown or planted in the spring, and re 
quires but little cultivation. The leaves are picked 
early in the fall, when their color first changes with 
the frost, and when dried are ready for use. After 
the first year it grows spontaneously, from the seed 
shed by the plant when fully ripened. If the plants 
become too thick, which is frequently the case, from 
their vigorous growth, it becomes necessary to thin 

them out, as the leaves diminish in size with their in- 
VOL. n. -3 33 


crease in number. This tobacco is used exclusively 
for smoking. The custom of chewing the article ap 
pears to have been derived from us. Although this 
tobacco is exceedingly mild, they mingle with it the 
leaves of the sumac, to diminish its stimulating prop 
erties/ 9 ^ The sumac has been used by the Indian 
to temper tobacco from time immemorial. 

Several varieties of the bean and of the squash (91) 
were also cultivated by the Iroquois, and were indige 
nous in the American soil. They regarded the corn, 
the bean, and the squash as the special gift of the 
Great Spirit, and associated them together under 
the name of the Three Sisters. They also used the 
ground-nut (apios tuberosa\ as a species of potato, 
gathering it in its wild state. 

The snow-shoe is an Indian invention. Upon the 
deep snows which accumulate in the forest, it would 
be nearly impossible to travel without them. They 
were used in the hunt, and in warlike expeditions 
undertaken in the season of winter. 


The snow-shoe is nearly three feet in length, by 
about sixteen inches in width. A rim of hickory, 
bent round with an arching front, and brought to a 
point at the heel, constituted the frame, with the 
addition of cross pieces to determine its spread. 
Within the area, with the exception of an opening for 
the toe, was woven a net-work of deer strings, with 
interstices about an inch square. The ball of the foot 
was lashed at the edge of this opening with thongs, 



which passed around the heel for the support of the 
foot. The heel was left free to work up and down, 
and the opening was designed to allow the toe of the 
foot to descend below the surface of the shoe, as the 
heel is raised in the act of walking. It is a very 
simple invention, but exactly adapted for its uses. A 
person familiar with the snow-shoe can walk as rapidly 

Ga-weh -ga, or Snow-shoe. 
2 feet 10 inches. 

upon the snow as without it upon the ground. The 
Senecas affirm that they can walk fifty miles per day 
upon the snow-shoe, and with much greater rapidity 
than without it, in consequence of the length and uni 
formity of the step. In the bear-hunt, especially, it 
is of the greatest service, as the hunter can speedily 
overtake the bear, who, breaking through the crust, is 
enabled to move but slowly. (115) 


This is an Indian invention, but came originally 
from the west. It closely resembles the saddle of the 



native Mexicans in its general plan, but its pommel 
is not as high, and its side-pieces are longer. It is 

still used among the Indian tribes of the west. The 
frame is made of four pieces of wood, firmly set to 
gether, over which is a covering of raw hide. The 
side-pieces are about eighteen inches in length, six in 
width, and about an inch in thickness, at the centre, 
but terminating in a sharp edge above and below. 
In front the pommel rises about five inches above the 
side-pieces. It is made of a stick having a natural 



fork, which is so adjusted as to embrace the side- 
pieces, and determine the spread of the saddle. An 
other piece, in the same manner, embraced the 
side-pieces at the opposite end, rising several inches 
above, and descending nearly to their lower edges. 
These side-pieces at the top are about three inches 
apart, leaving a space for the back-bone of the horse. 
The fastenings of the saddle, including those of the 
stirrup, were originally of ropes, made of buffalo s 
hair. Triangular stirrups of wood completed the trap 
pings of the saddle. As the Iroquois seldom made 
use of the Indian horse, the saddle with them was 
rather an accidental, than a usual article. The speci 
men above represented is of Seneca manufacture. 

Ga-ga-an-da, or Air-gun , and Ga-no t or Arrow. 

Air-gun, 6 feet. Arrow, 2 feet. 

The air-gun is claimed as an Indian invention. (116) 
It is a simple tube or barrel, about six feet in length, 
and an inch in diameter, and having a half-inch bore. 
It is made of alder, and also of other wood, which 
is bored by some artificial contrivance. A very slen 
der arrow, about two feet in length, with a sharp 
point, is the missile. Upon the foot of the arrow, 
the down or floss of the thistle is fastened on entire, 
with sinew. This down is soft and yielding, and 
when the arrow is placed in the barrel, fills it air 
tight. The arrow is then discharged by blowing. It 
is used for bird-shooting. 



Ta-o -d d-was-ta, or Indian Flute. 

\y 2 feet. 

This instrument is unlike any known among us, 
but it clearly resembles the clarionet. Its name signi 
fies " a blow pipe." It is usually made of red cedar, 
is about eighteen inches in length, and above an inch 
in diameter. The finger holes, six in number, are 
equidistant. Between them and the mouth-piece, 
which is at the end, is the whistle, contrived much 
upon the same principle as the common whistle. It 
makes six consecutive notes, from the lowest, on a 
rising scale* The seventh note is wanting, but the 
three or four next above are regularly made. This is 
the whole compass of the instrument. As played by 
the Indians it affords a species of wild and plaintive 
music. It is claimed as an Indian invention. 

Yun-ga-sa, or Tobacco Pouch. 

The tobacco pouch is made of the skin of some 
small animal, which is taken off entire. It was 
anciently an indispensable article, and was worn in the 
girdle. They were usually made of white weasel, 
mink, squirrel, and fisher skin. 

Bags or pockets of this description, made of the 



skins of animals, were in constant use among the Iro- 
quois in ancient times. They were hung to the girdle 
ot the warrior and the hunter, and would contain 

Gu-taf-he-o Ga-ya-ah, or Fawn Skin Bag. 

within their narrow folds sufficient subsistence for a 
long expedition, thus answering very perfectly the 
purposes of the knapsack. At home they were 
used as repositories for the safe keeping of choice 

The Da-ya-ya-da-ga-nea-td is an Indian invention, 
of great antiquity. Its rudeness may excite a smile, in 
this day of lucifer matches, but yet the step backward to 
the steel and flint is about the same, as from the latter 
to the contrivance in question. (117) Not knowing the 



use of metals or of chemicals, it was the only method 
of creating fire known to the red man. It consisted 
of an upright shaft, about four feet in length, and an 

Da-ya-ya-da-ga -nea-ta. 

inch in diameter, with a small wheel set upon the 
lower part, to give it momentum. In a notch at the 
top of the shaft was set a string, attached to a bow 
about three feet in length. The lower point rested 
upon a block of dry wood, near which are placed 
small pieces of punk. When ready to use, the string 
is first coiled around the shaft, by turning it with the 
hand. The bow is then pulled downwards, thus un 
coiling the string, and revolving the shaft towards the 



left. By the momentum given to the wheel, the 
string is again coiled up in a reverse manner, and the 
bow again drawn up. The bow is again pulled down 
wards, and the revolution of the shaft reversed, 
uncoiling the string, and recoiling it as before. This 
alternate revolution of the shaft is continued, until 
sparks are emitted from the point where it rests upon 
the piece of dry wood below. Sparks are produced 
in a few moments by the intensity of the friction, and 
ignite the punk, which speedily furnishes a fire. 

O-no-nea Gos-ha -da, or Corn-busk Salt Bottle. 

In the art of basket-work, in all its varieties, the 
Indian women also excel. Their baskets are made 
with a neatness, ingenuity, and simplicity which de 
serve the highest praise. Splint is the chief material, 
but they likewise use a species of flag, and also corn- 
husks. Among these various patterns, which are as 
diversified as convenience or ingenuity could suggest, 
the most perfectly finished is the sieve basket. It is 
designed for sifting corn meal to remove the chit, and 



coarser particles, after the corn has been pounded into 
flour. The bottom of the basket is wove in such fine 
checks as to answer very perfectly all the ends of the 
wire sieve. Another variety of open basket was made 
of corn-husks and flags, very closely and ingeniously 
braided. In their- domestic economy, the basket an 
swered a multitude of purposes. Bottles for salt were 
made of corn-husks in the forms represented in the 

Tont-ka-do-qua, or Basket Fish Net. 
3 feet. 

The basket net was made of splint in a conical 
form, about three feet in length, fifteen inches in 
diameter at the mouth, and six at the small end. 
In using it, the fisherman stood in the rapids of the 
creek or river, where the water rippled over the stony 
bottom, and with a stick or rod managed to direct 
the fish into the partly submerged basket, as they 
attempted to shoot down the rapid. When one was 
heard to flutter in the basket, it was at once raised 
from the water, and the fish was found secure within 



it. In those forest days, when fish abounded in every 
stream, it was an easy matter thus to capture them 
in large numbers. 

Black-ash furnishes the only splint used by the 
Iroquois, and perhaps the same may be said of all 
other Indians. They choose a tree about a foot in 
diameter and free from limbs, after which they cut 
off a stick about six feet in length. After removing 
the bark they pound the stick with some heavy 
implement to start the splints, which can thus be 
made to run off with the utmost regularity and uni 
formity of thickness. This process is continued 
until the log is stripped down to the heart. These 
splints, which are about three inches wide and an 
eighth of an inch thick, are afterwards subdivided 
both ways until reduced to the required width and 
thickness. When resplit into thinner strips the 
splints have a white and smooth surface. If the 
baskets are to be variegated, the splints are dyed 
upon one side before they are woven, and are also 
moistened to make them pliable before they are used. 
The patient industry of the Indian female while en 
gaged in this manual labor, and her skill and taste are 
alike exemplified in this interesting manufacture. 

Their wooden implements were often elaborately 
carved. Those upon which the most labor was ex 
pended were the ladles, Ah-do-qua-sa, of various sizes, 
used for eating hommony and soup. They were their 
substitute for the spoon, and hence every Indian 
family was supplied with a number. The end of the 
handle was usually surmounted with the figure of an 
animal, as a squirrel, a hawk, or a beaver, some of them 



with a human figure in a sitting posture, others with 
a group of such figures in various attitudes, as those 
of wrestling or embracing. These figures are carved 
with considerable skill and correctness of proportion. 

Ab-do-qua-sa, or Ladle. 

Upon the hommony-stirrer, Got -go-ne-os-ha , an article 
used in every Indian household for making hommony, 
succotash or soup and for many other purposes, 
similar ornaments were bestowed. It is usually from 
three to four feet in length, and made of hard maple, 



or other tough wood, in the general form of the one 
represented in the figure. This hommony blade is 
made out of one piece of wood, although the end 
piece is attached to the blade by a link. In the end 
piece are two wooden balls, also cut out of the solid 

Got -go-ne-os-ba , or Hommony Blade. 
4 feet. 

wood within the frame in which they are confined. 
For a wooden utensil it is beautifully made. Bowls, 
pitchers and other vessels of knot are common in In 
dian families, and are worked out with great labor and 
care. In ancient times the aged and infirm were 
wont to assist themselves in walking with a simple 
staff, but in later times the cane, Ah-da-dis-ha, has 
been substituted. Like their other utensils of wood, 
the modern cane is elaborately carved. 

The original ladle was of bark and a very simple 
contrivance, as will appear from the representation. 
It was made of red elm bark, and would hold but 
little more than the common spoon. In ancient 
times ladles of this description only were used ; but 
they were laid aside when the possession of metallic im- 



plements enabled them to substitute the present one of 
wood. The ladle is, without doubt, an original Indian 

Bark Ladle. 

utensil, and in all probability the origin of the common 
wooden ladle still in general use among our own people. 

See PLATE, I. 122 

The modern female costume of the Iroquois is both 
striking and graceful. Some of them would excite 
admiration by the exactness of their adjustment and 
the delicacy, even brilliancy of their bead-work em- 



broidery. They use, to this day, the same articles of 
apparel in form and fashion, as in ancient times, but 
they have substituted materials of foreign manufac 
ture/ 11 ^ The porcupine quill has given place to the 
bead, and the skins of animals to the cotton fabric and 
the broadcloth. Much taste is exhibited in the bead- 
work, which is so conspicuous in the female costume. 
The colors are blended harmoniously, and the pat 
terns are ingeniously devised and skilfully executed. 
It is sufficiently evident, from the specimens of their 
handiwork, that the Indian female can be taught to 
excel with the needle. The Ga-ka-ah, or Skirt, of one 
of which the plate (I. 12*2) is an accurate copy, is usu 
ally of blue broadcloth, and elaborately embroidered 
with bead-work. It requires two yards of cloth, which 
is worn with the selvedge at the top and bottom ; the 
skirt being secured about the waist, and descending 
nearly to the moccason. Around the lower edge, and 
part way up the centre in front, it is tastefully and 
beautifully embroidered. In one of the angles a 
figure is worked representing a tree or flower. The 
cloth skirt is universally worn among the present Iro- 
quois, but they are not usually as richly embroidered, 
or of as fine material as the one represented in the 
plate. This is of Seneca workmanship, and is a rare 
specimen of Indian needlework. 

The skirt shown in this plate (II. 47) is without 
question the finest specimen of Indian bead-work ever 
exhibited. Next to the article itself the plate will fur 
nish the best description. It was made by Miss 
Caroline G. Parker (Ga-h d -nd), a Seneca Indian girl, 
now being educated in the State Normal School, to 



whose finished taste and patient industry the State 
is indebted for most of the many beautiful speci 
mens of bead-work embroidery now in the Indian 
collection. (14) 

In doing this work, the eye and the taste are the chief 
reliances, as they use no patterns except as they may 
have seen them in the works of others. In combin 
ing colors certain general rules, the result of experience 
and observation are followed, but beyond them each 
one pursues her own fancy. They never seek for 
strong contrasts, but break the force of them by inter 
posing white, that the colors may blend harmoniously. 
Thus light blue and pink beads, with white beads 
between them, is a favorable combination ; dark blue 
and yellow, with white between, is another ; red and 
light blue, with white between, is another ; and light 
purple and dark purple, with white between, is a 
fourth. Others might be added were it necessary. 
If this bead-work is critically examined it will be 
found that these general rules are strictly observed ; 
and in so far bead-work embroidery may be called 
a systematic art. The art of flowering, as they 
term it, is the most difficult part of bead-work, as it 
requires an accurate knowledge of the appearance of 
the flower, and the structure and condition of the 
plant at the stage in which it is represented. These 
imitations are frequently made with great delicacy, 
of which a very favorable exhibition may be seen in 
the plate, in the flower introduced at the angle of 
the skirt. 





See PLATE, I. 274 

This article of female apparel is also universally 
worn. It is usually made of red broadcloth, and or 
namented with a border of bead-work around the 
lower edge, and also part way up the side at the point 
which becomes the front of the pantalette. It is 
secured above the knee, and falls down upon the 
moccason. In ancient times the Gise f -ha was made of 
deer-skin and embroidered with porcupine-quill work. 
As the moccason is elsewhere described, nothing fur 
ther need be said in relation to it as a part of the 
female costume. 


See PLATES, I. 190, 191 

The over-dress is usually of muslin or calico of the 
highest colors. It is loosely adjusted to the person, 
gathered slightly at the waist, and falls part way down 
the skirt. Around the lower edge is a narrow border 
of bead-work. In front it is generally buttoned with 
silver broaches, arranged as represented in the plate. 
They are usually larger in size, and arranged in paral 
lel rows, as represented in the female costume in the 
frontispiece. The Indian female delights in a profu 
sion of silver ornaments, consisting of silver broaches 
of various patterns and sizes, from those which are six 
inches in diameter, and worth as many dollars, down to 
those of the smallest size, valued at a sixpence. 
Silver ear-rings and finger-rings of various designs, 
silver beads, hat bands and crosses, are also found in 

VOL. ir. 4 49 


their paraphernalia. These crosses, relics of Jesuit 
influence, are frequently eight inches in length, of 
solid silver, and very valuable, but they are looked 
upon by them simply in the light of ornaments. 

Finger and ear rings of the same material, specimens 
of which may be seen in the plate (II. 50), were also 
very common. The most of these silver ornaments in 
later years have been made by Indian silversmiths, one 
of whom may be found in nearly every Indian village. 
They are either made of brass, of silver, or from silver 
coins pounded out, and then cut into patterns with 
metallic instruments. The ear rings figured in the 
plate were made out of bar silver, by an Onondaga 
silversmith on Grand river, under the direction of the 


This indispensable and graceful garment is of blue 
or green broadcloth, of which it requires two yards. 
It falls from the head or neck in natural folds the 
width of the cloth, as the selvedges are at the top 
and bottom, and it is gathered round the person like 
a shawl. It is worn very gracefully by the Indian 
female, and makes a becoming article of apparel. 

By some singular impulse of fancy, the fur hat has 
been appropriated by the women as a part of the 
female costume, until among the modern Iroquois it 
is more common to see this part of the white man s 
apparel upon the head of the Indian female than upon 
that of the warrior. Hat bands of silver, or of broaches 
strung together, or of long silver beads, are indispen 
sable ornaments on public occasions. Sometimes, but 
rarely, clusters of feathers are attached to the hat. 




See PLATE, I. 254 

The necklace is made of silver and wampum beads, 
and has a silver cross suspended. The beads usually 
worn by Indian women are of common glass. In 
ancient times it was customary to wear necklaces of 
the teeth of animals, but such barbarous ornaments 
were long since repudiated by the Iroquois. A species 
of shoulder ornament in the nature of a necklace made 
of a fragrant marsh grass, called by the Senecas 
Ga-a-o -ta-ges, is very generally worn. Several strands 
or cords are braided from this grass, of the requisite 
length, and tied into one string. At intervals of three 
or four inches, small round discs, made of the same 
material, sometimes covered upon the upper face with 
bead-work, are attached. It thus makes a conspicuous 
ornament, and emits an agreeable odor, furnishing a 
substitute for perfumery. 



See PLATE, II. 52, FIGURES I and 2 

The use of wampum reaches back to a remote 
period upon this continent. It was an original 
Indian notion which prevailed among the Iroquois 
as early, at least, as the formation of the League. 
The primitive wampum of the Iroquois consisted 
of strings of a small fresh water spiral shell, called 
in the Seneca dialect Ote-ko-a,the name of which has 
been bestowed upon the modern wampum. When 

5 r 


Da-g d-no-wJ-d dy the founder of the League, had per 
fected its organic provisions, he produced several 
strings of this ancient wampum of his own arrang 
ing, and taught them its use in recording the pro 
visions of the compact by which the several nations 
were united into one people. At a subsequent day 
the wampum in present use was introduced among 
them by the Dutch, who in the manufactured shell 
bead offered an acceptable substitute for the less 
convenient one of the spiral shell. These beads, as 
shown in the plate, are purple and white, about a 
quarter of an inch in length, an eighth in diameter, 
and perforated lengthwise so as to be strung on sinew 
or bark thread. The white bead was manufactured 
from the great conch sea shell, and the purple from 
the muscle shell. They are woven into belts, or 
used in strings simply, in both of which conditions 
they are employed to record treaty stipulations, to 
convey messages, and to subserve many religious -and 
social purposes. The word wampum is not of 
Iroquois origin. Baylie, in his History of New Ply 
mouth, informs us that it was first known in New : 
England as Wampumpeag^ from which its Algonquin 
derivation is to be inferred ; and Hutchinson says that 
the art of making it was obtained from the Dutch 
about the year i627. (80) 

Wampum beads are rarely worn, as they are scarce 
and held at high rates. These beads are used 
chiefly for religious purposes, and to preserve laws and 
treaties. They are made of the conch shell, which 
yields both a white and a purple bead, the former of 
which is used for religious, and the latter for politi- 




cal purposes. A full string of wampum is usually 
three feet long, and contains a dozen or more strands. 
White wampum was the Iroquois emblem of purity 
and of faith. It was hung around the neck of the 
White Dog before it was burned ; it was used before 
the periodical religious festivals for the confession of 
sins, no confession being regarded as sincere unless 
recorded with white wampum ; . further than this, it 
was the customary offering in condonation of murder, 
although the purple was sometimes employed. In 
ancient times, six of these strands was the value of a 
life, the amount paid in condonation for a murder. 
Wampum has frequently been called the money of the 
Indian ; but there is no sufficient reason for supposing 
that they ever made it an exclusive currency, or a cur 
rency in any sense, more than silver or other orna 
ments. All personal ornaments, and most other articles 
of personal property passed from hand to hand at a 
fixed value ; but they appear to have had no common 
standard of value until they found it in our currency. 
If wampum had been their currency it would have had 
a settled value to which all other articles would have 
been referred. There is no doubt that it came nearei 
to a currency than any other species of property among 
them, because its uses were so general, and its transit 
from hand to hand so easy, that every one could be 
said to need it. When sold, the strings were counted 
and reckoned at half a cent a bead. Wampum 
belts were made by covering one side of a deer-skin 
belt with these beads, arranged after various devices, 
and with most laborious skill. As a belt four or 
five feet long by four inches wide would require 



several thousands of these beads, they were estimated 
at a great price. In making a belt no particular pattern 
was followed : sometimes they are of the width of 
three fingers and three feet long, in other instances as 
wide as the hand, and over three feet in length ; 
sometimes they are all of one color, in others varie 
gated, and in still others woven with the figures 
of men to symbolize, by their attitudes, the objects 
or events they were designed to commemorate. The 
most common width was three fingers, or the width 
of seven beads, the length ranging from two to six 
feet. In belt making,, which is a simple process, 
eight strands or cords of bark thread are first twisted, 
from filaments of slippery elm, of the requisite length 
and size ; after which they are passed through a strip 
of deer-skin to separate them at equal distances from 
each other in parallel lines. A piece of splint is then 
sprung in the form of a bow, to which each end of 
the several strings is secured, and by which all of 
them are held in tension, like warp threads in a weav 
ing machine. Seven beads, these making the intended 
width of the belt, are then run upon a thread by 
means of a needle, and are passed under the cords 
at right angles, so as to bring one bead lengthwise 
between each cord, and the one next in position. 
The thread is then passed back again along the 
upper side of the cords and again through each of 
the beads ; so that each bead is held firmly in its 
place by means of two threads, one passing under 
and one above the cords. This process is continued 
until the belt reaches its intended length, when the 
ends of the cords are tied, the end of the belt cov- 



ered, and afterwards trimmed with ribbons. In ancient 
times both the cords and the thread were of sinew. 

The belt possesses an additional interest from the 
fact that the beads of which it is composed, formerly 

Qnt-wisi-da-ga-dust-ba! t or Silver Medal. 

belonged to the celebrated Mohawk Chief, Joseph 
Brant, Ta-yen-dd-na -ga. They were purchased, by the 
writer, of his youngest daughter Catharine in October 
last, at the reservation on Grand river in Upper 
Canada before referred to ; and were afterwards taken 
to Tonawanda in this State and made into the present 
belt. In this form it will be most convenient to pre 
serve them as a relic of the distinguished war captain 
of the Mohawks. 

The government has long been in the habit of pre 
senting silver medals to the chiefs of the various 
Indian tribes at the formation of treaties, and on the 



occasion of their visit to the seat of government. 
These medals are held in the highest estimation. Red 
Jacket, Corn Planter, Farmer s Brother, and several 
other distinguished Seneca chiefs have received medals 
of this description. Washington presented a medal to 
Red Jacket in 1792. It is an elliptical plate of silver, 
surrounded by a rim, as represented in the figure, and 
is about six inches in its greatest diameter. On each 
side it is engraved with various devices. The medal is 
now worn by Sose-hd-wa (Johnson), a Seneca chief. 

Ga-nuh 9 -sa, or Sea- she II Medal. 

Medals of sea-shell, inlaid with silver, as represented 
in the figure, were also worn suspended from the neck 
as personal ornaments. They were made of the conch- 
shell, and were highly valued. 

A few plates further to illustrate the handiwork of 
the Indian female in bead-work are introduced in 
this volume. The figures themselves will dispense 
with the necessity of any description, although they 
should be colored to give a full impression of their 
character. The patient industry of the Indian female 
is quite remarkable, when seen in contrast with the 



impatience of labor in the warrior himself. In the 
work of their reclamation and gradual induction into 
industrial pursuits, this fact furnishes no small degree 
of encouragement. 

See PLATE, II. 58 

This is likewise an Indian invention. It appears 
to have been designed rather as a convenience to the 
Indian mother for the transportation of her infant, 
than, as has generally been supposed, to secure an 
erect figure. The frame is about two feet in length, 
by about fourteen inches in width, with a carved foot 
board at the small end, and a hoop or bow at the 
head, arching over at right angles. After being en 
closed in a blanket, the infant is lashed upon the 
frame with belts of bead-work, which firmly secure 
and cover its person, with the exception of the face. 
A separate article for covering the face is then drawn 
over the bow, and the child is wholly protected. (118) 
When carried, the burden-strap attached to the frame 
is placed around the forehead of the mother, and the 
Ga-ose -lici upon her back. This frame is often elab 
orately carved, and its ornaments are of the choicest 

The figure is introduced to show the frame divested 
of the belts and drapery by which, when in actual use, 
it is entirely concealed. It consists of but three 
principal pieces of wood, the bow, bottom board and 
foot board, upon the first and last of which the most 
labor was bestowed. They are always carved, and 
frequently inlaid with silver, or with wood of dif- 



O I S 

ferent colors and in various figures. The bow, which 
arches over, is held to the bottom board by means of 
a cross piece, passing under it, into which the ends 
of the bow are inserted. It is further secured in its 
perpendicular position by means of side pieces in 
which the bow is embedded. The foot board at the 
small end of the frame is also carved, and often inlaid, 

Ga-ose-ba, or Baby-frame. 

it being the only part of it which is exposed when the 
infant is lashed upon the frame. Deer strings are run 
along the outer edges of the bottom board under which 
the belts are passed from side to side, passing over the 
body of the child. As a whole the Ga-ose -ha, with its 
embroidered belts, and other decorations, is one of the 
most conspicuous articles pertaining to their social life. 
When cultivating the maize, or engaged in any out 
door occupation, the Ga-ose -ha is hung upon a limb of 
the nearest tree, and left to swing in the breeze. The 




patience and quiet of the Indian child in this close 
confinement are quite remarkable. It will hang thus 
suspended for hours, without uttering a complaint. 

Many other articles might be introduced further. to 
illustrate the social life of the Iroquois, did space per 
mit, but sufficient has been given, to exhibit the general 
character of their fabrics, implements and utensils. A 
portion of them, which appeared particularly calculated 
to exhibit their artisan intellect, have been noticed 
minutely, for it is in this view that they are chiefly 

Such is the diffusion of Indian arts and Indian/ 
inventions among the red races, that it is impossible 
to ascertain with what nation or tribe they in fact 
originated. Many of them were common to all, from 
Maine to Oregon, and from the St. Lawrence to the 
peninsula of Florida. To this day Indian life is about 
the same over the whole republic. If we wished to 
discover the inventions of the Iroquois, we might 
expect to find them as well among the Sioux of the 
upper Mississippi as among the descendants of the 
Iroquois themselves. It is for this reason that in 
describing the fabrics which illustrate the era of Indian 
occupation, we should take in the whole range of 
Indian life, from the wild tribes dwelling in the 
seclusions of Oregon, to the present semi-agricultural 
Iroquois who reside among ourselves. They have 
passed through all the intermediate stages, from ex 
treme rudeness to comparative civilization. If we 
wish to connect the fabrics of the former with those 
of our own primitive inhabitants, we may find that con 
nection in the fact that similar implements and similar 



fabrics, at no remote period, were in the hands, and 
of the manufacture of the Iroquois themselves. Many 
of the relics disentombed from the soil of New York 
relate back to the period of the Mound Builders of 
the west, and belong to a race of men and an age 
which have passed beyond the ken of Indian tradition. 
Our first Indian epoch is thus connected with that of 
the Mound Builders. (3G) In the same manner, the 
fabrics of the Iroquois are intimately connected with 
those of all the tribes now resident within the republic. 
One system of trails belted the whole face of the 
territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific ; and the 
intercourse between the multitude of nations who 
dwelt within these boundless domains was constant, 
and much more extensive than has ever been supposed. 
If any one, therefore, desires a picture of Iroquois life 
before Hendrick Hudson sailed up the river upon 
whose banks rested the eastern end of their " Long 
House," he should look for it in Catlin s Scenes at the 
skirts of the Rocky Mountains. There are diversities, 
it is true, but Indian life is essentially the same. (127) 

In the fabrics of the modern Iroquois, there is 
much to inspire confidence in their teachableness in 
the useful arts. When their minds are unfolded by 
education, and their attention is attracted by habit to 
agricultural pursuits, as has already become the case, 
to some extent, there is great promise that a portion, 
at least, of this gifted race will be reclaimed, and raised, 
eventually, to a citizenship among ourselves. It would 
be a grateful spectacle, yet to behold the children of 
our primeval forests cultivating the fields over which 
their fathers roamed in sylvan independence. (128) 


Chapter II 

Language of the Iroquois Alphabet The Noun Adjective 
Comparison Article Adverb Preposition Species of De-< 
clension The Verb Fulness of Conjugation Formation of 
Sentences The Lord s Prayer 

THE language of the Iroquois, like all un 
written languages, is imperfect in its construc 
tion, and scarcely admits of comparison, 
except on general principles, with those which have 
been systematized and perfected. It would doubtless 
be characterized by the schoolman as a barbarous jar 
gon, although entitled to some portion of the indul 
gence which is due to all primitive or uncompounded 
languages, in the early stages of their formation/ 79 ^ 
To us, however, there is an interest incident to these 
dialects, which rises above mere literary curiosity. 
Through all generations, their language will continue 
to be spoken in our geographical terms : " their names 
are on our waters, we may not wash them out." (73) 
The face of nature, indeed, changes its appearance, 
mutat terra vices, but its landmarks remain essentially 
the same. Within our borders, the Iroquois have 
written them over with such a permanent imprint, that 
to the most distant ages will our hills and vales and 
ever-flowing rivers speak 

"Their dialect of yore." 

The Ho-de -no-sau-nee were eminently fortunate in 
engrafting their names upon the features of nature, if 



they were desirous of a living remembrance. No one 
can turn to the lake, or river, or streamlet, to which 
they have bequeathed an appellation, without con 
fessing that the Indian has perpetuated himself by a 
monument more eloquent and imperishable than could 
be fabricated by human hands. 

From considerations of this description, there arises 
a sufficient interest in the language of our predeces 
sors, to invite an inquiry into its principal fea 
tures/ 7 ^ 

Of the six dialects in which it is now spoken, the 
Mohawk and Oneida have a close resemblance to 
each other; the Cayuga and Seneca the same; while 
the Onondaga and Tuscarora are not only unlike each 
other, but are also distinguished from the other four 
by strong dialectical differences. In the estimation of 
the Iroquois, the Onondaga dialect is the most fin 
ished and majestic, and the Oneida the least vigorous 
in its expressions ; but to the American ear, the former 
is harsh and pointed, and the latter is liquid, harmoni 
ous, and musical. The Tuscarora is admitted to be a 
dialect of the Iroquois language, but it has not such a 
close affinity to either of the remaining five, as the 
latter have to each other. In conversation they are 
all able to understand each other with readiness, unless 
words intervene which have been naturalized into one 
of their dialects from foreign languages. A compar 
ison of these dialects will be found in the table. 

The alphabet common to the six dialects consists 
of nineteen letters : A, C, D, E, G, H, I, J, K, N, 
O, Q, R, S, T, U, W, X, and Y. (75) In addition to 
several elementary sounds which require a combina- 



tion of letters, the Senecas occasionally employ the 
sound of Z; but it is so closely allied with the sound 
of S, as not to be distinguishable, except by careful 
observation. The Mohawks and Oneidas use the 
liquid L, and the Tuscaroras occasionally employ the 
sound of F ; (75) but these letters are not common to 
all the dialects. It has been customary to exclude the 
liquid R from the Iroquois alphabet, as not common 
to the several dialects, but this is clearly erroneous. 
Although it is principally found in the Mohawk, Sen 
eca, and Cayuga, it is yet occasionally discovered in 
each of the others. Some of the ancient writers 
affirmed that this letter was not to be found in the 
Oneida tongue, and that the word Rebecca, for ex 
ample, would be pronounced, by an Oneida, Lequecca. 
It is possible that the presence of the consonant b y 
which is unknown in their language, may have ren 
dered the substitution of L necessary to effect the 
whole pronunciation ; but it is certain that in some of 
their words the R is found, as, for example, in the 
name of Schoharie creek, O-sko -harl. This letter is 
found in the Onondaga dialect, in the same geograph 
ical name, which, in the latter, is Sko-har. In the 
Tuscarora, this letter is frequently found, as, for in 
stance, in the name of Buffalo, Ne-o-thro -ra, and of 
Niagara, O-ne-a-cars. 

The number of their elementary sounds, as at 
present ascertained, is below that of the English 
language, but twenty-three having been determined 
in the Seneca tongue, while in the former it is well 
known that there are thirty-eight. A more critical 
analysis would doubtless discover additional sounds, 



as in the guttural and nasal tones they take a wider 
range than the English voice. 

In illustrating the parts of speech by a cursory 
examination, and in elucidating the declensions and 
conjugations, the words introduced as specimens 
will be taken from the Seneca language. 

It is supposed by those who have inquired philo 
sophically into the formation of language, that the 
noun substantive would be the first part of speech 
in the order of origination, inasmuch as the objects 
in nature must be named, and perhaps classed, before 
relations between them are suggested, or actions con 
cerning them are expressed. Much of the beauty 
of a language depends upon this part of speech. 
Nouns of one syllable are rarely, if ever, found in 
either of the dialects ; those of two syllables are not 
very numerous ; those of three and four syllables 
embrace the great mass of words which belong to this 
part of speech. As specimens of the language, the 
following examples are given : 


An-da , Day. Ga-ee , Tree. 

So-a , Night. Ha-ace , Panther. 

Ga-o , Wind. Je-yeh , Dog. 

Gus-no , Bark. Gen-joh , Fish. 


Ah-wa -o, Rose. O-o -za, Bass-wood. 

O-gis -ta, Fire. O-ane -da, Shrub. 

O-we -za, Ice. O-na -ta, Leaf. 

O-dus -hote, A spring. Ga-ha -neh, Summer. 

Ga-ha- da, Forest. O-gaY-ah, Evening. 

O-eke -ta, Thistle. Ga-o -wo, Canoe. 




O-na-ga -nose, Water. Ong-wa-o -weh, Indian. 

Ga-a-nun -da, Mountain. Ga-ga-neas -heh, Knife. 

Ga-gwe-dake -neh, Spring. O-gwen-nis -ha, Copper. 

Sa-da -che -ah, Morning. Ah-ta-gwen -da, Flint. 

Ga-a-o -da, Gun. 


Sa-da -wa-sun-teh, Midnight. So-a -ka-ga-gwa, Moon. 

O-wis -ta-no-o, Silver. Ga-ne-o -us-heh, Iron. 

An-da -ka-ga-gwa, Sun. O-da -wa-an-do, Otter. 

In most, if not all languages, the idea of singular 
and plural is conveyed by an inflection of the word 
itself, or by some addition. To illustrate from the 
language under consideration, which forms the plural 
in several ways by inflection, the subjoined examples 
are introduced. 

Singular. Plural. 

O-on -dote, A tree. O-on-do -do, Trees. 

Ga-no -sote, A house. Ga-no-so -do, Houses. 

Ga-ne-o -wa-o, A brook. Ga-ne-o-wa-o -neo, Brooks. 

Je-da -o, A bird. Je-da-o -suh-uh, Birds. 

O-an -nuh, A pole. O-an -nuh-suh, Poles. 

Ga-hun -da, A creek. Ga-hun-da -neo, Creeks. 

There are several other terminations by which the 
plural is indicated. 

It is said that the dual number originated in the 
difficulty of inventing the numerals, one, two, three, 
&c., which are in themselves extremely abstract con 
ceptions. The ideas of one, two and more, which 
correspond with singular, dual and plural, would be 
far more easily formed in the mind, than the idea of 
number in general ; and the most simple mode of 
expressing them would be by a variation of the word 
VOL. it. 5 65 


itself. Hence in the Hebrew and Greek, which are 
original or un com pounded languages, in the general 
sense, the dual is found to exist, while in the Latin, 
and in modern languages, which are compounds, and 
were formed subsequent to the invention of numerals, 
the dual number is discarded. The Iroquois, so far 
as we know, is an original and uncompounded lan 
guage, and it has the dual number, both in its verbs 
and nouns. (79) 

Gender was very happily indicated in the Latin 
and Greek by final letters or terminations. In the 
English, by giving up the ancient declensions, this 
mode of designating gender was also laid aside, and 
two or three modes substituted ; thus, that of vary 
ing the word itself, as tiger, tigress, of giving the 
same animal names entirely different, as buck and 
doe, and more frequently still that of prefixing words 
which signify male and female. The Iroquois nouns 
have three genders, which are indicated in the manner 
last mentioned. Unlike the provisions of other lan 
guages, all inanimate objects, without distinction, were 
placed in the neuter gender. 

In some respects the adjective would be a simple 
part of speech to invent, as quality is an object of 
external sense, and is always in concrete with the 
subject. But to discover and adopt a classification, 
founded upon the similitudes of objects, would be 
more difficult, since both generalisation and abstrac 
tion would be required. The dialects of the Ho-de- 
no-sau-nee appear to be amply furnished with this part 
of speech, on which so much of the beauty of a lan 
guage is known to depend, to express nearly every 



shade of quality in objects. Comparison, of which 
they have the three degrees, is effected by adding 
another word, and not by an inflection of the word 
itself, in the following manner: 

Positive. Comparative. Superlative. 

Great, Go-wii-na , Ah-gwus -go-wa-na, Ha-yo-go-sote -go-wa-na. 

Good, We-yo , Ah-gwus -we-yo, Ha-yo-go-sote -we-yo. 

Sweet, O-ga-uh , Ah-gwus -o-ga-uh, Ha-yo-go-sote -o-ga-uh. 

Small, Ne-wa-ah , Ah-gwus -ne-wa-ah, Ha-yo-go-sote -ne-wa-ah. 

But in connecting the adjective with the noun, the 
two words usually enter into combination, and lose 
one or more syllables. This principle, or species of 
contraction, is carried throughout the language, and 
to some extent prevents prolixity. The language has 
but few primitive words, or ultimate roots ; and when 
these are mastered, their presence is readily detected 
and understood, through all the elaborate and intricate 
combinations in which they are used. To illustrate 
the manner of compounding the adjective with the 
substantive, the following examples may be taken : 
O-ya, fruit ; O-ga-uh , sweet ; O-ya-ga-uh, sweet fruit ; 
O, the first syllable of sweet, being dropped. Again, 
E -yose, a blanket ; Ga-geh-ant, white ; Tose-a-geh -ant, 
white blanket ; Ga-no -sote, a house ; We-yo , good ; 
Ga-no -se-yo, a good house ; literally fruit sweet, blan 
ket white, and house good, illustrative of that natural 
impulse in man which leads him to place the object 
before the quality. In other instances the adjective 
is divided, and one part prefixed and the other suf 
fixed to the noun thus : Ga-nun-da-yeh, a village ; 
Ne-wa-ah, small ; Ne-g d-nun-da -ah, a small village ; 
Ah-ta -qu d-o-weh, a moccason ; Ne-wa -ta-qua-ah, a small 



moccason. The adjective is also frequently used un- 
compounded with the noun, as Ga-na -dike-ho E -yose, a 
green blanket. 

The indefinite article, a or an, is entirely unknown 
in the language of the Iroquois. There are numerous 
particles, as in the Greek, which, without significance 
in themselves separately, are employed for euphony, 
and to connect other words. These particles qualify 
and sometimes limit the signification of words ; but 
yet if they should be submitted to a critical examina 
tion, none of them would answer the idea of the article 
a, or an. The existence in completeness of this refined 
part of speech would indicate a greater maturity and 
finish than the dialects of the Iroquois possessed. 
But the definite article na, the, is found in the lan 
guage. It is not as distinctly defined, and perfectly 
used, as in more polished languages, but it is usually 
prefixed to substantives, as with us, to indicate the 
thing intended. 

Of the adverb nothing need be introduced, except 
to remark that the language is furnished with the 
usual variety. A few specimens may be added, 
Nake-ho, here ; O-na\ now ; Fa-da, yesterday ; Ska- 
no , well. 

The preposition is allowed to be so abstract and 
metaphysical in its nature, that it would be one of 
the last and most difficult parts of speech to invent. 
It expresses relation " considered in concrete with 
the correlative object ; " and is of necessity very ab 
struse. The prepositions, of, to, and for, are regarded 
as the most abstract, from the character .of the relations 
which they indicate. Declension, it is supposed, was 



resorted to by the Greeks, and adopted by the 
Latins, to evade the necessity of inventing these 
prepositions ; as it would be much easier to express 
the idea by the variation of the noun, than to ascer 
tain some word which would convey such an abstract 
relation as that indicated by of or to. By the ancient 
cases, this difficulty was surmounted, and the preposi 
tion was blended with the correlative object, as in 
Sermonis, of a speech ; Sermoni, to a speech. Modern 
languages have laid aside the ancient cases, for the 
reason, it is said, that the invention of prepositions 
rendered them unnecessary. In the Iroquois lan 
guage, the prepositions above mentioned are not to 
be found ; neither have its nouns a declension, like 
the Greek and Latin. Some traces of a declension 
are discoverable ; but the cases are too imperfect to 
be compared with those of the ancient languages, or 
to answer fully the ends of the prepositions. This 
part of speech is the most imperfectly developed of 
any in the language ; and the contrivances resorted to, 
to express such of these relations as were of absolute 
necessity, are too complex to be easily understood. 

The language, however, contains the simple prep 
ositions, as Da-ga -o, across ; No -ga, after ; Na -ho, at ; 
O -an-dd) before ; Dose-gd -o, near, &c. It must be 
inferred that the framers of the language had no 
distinct idea of the relations conveyed by the defi 
cient prepositions, otherwise they would be found 
in the language. From the number of particles 
employed in the language, and the complexity of 
their combinations, it would be impossible to analyze 
the word, or phrase, for example, in which on oc- 



curs, and take out the specific fragment which has 
the force of the preposition. 

In the imperfect declensions through which the 
Iroquois substantives are passed, pronouns, as well as 
prepositions, are interwoven by inflection. These 
declensions are not reduceable to regular forms, but 
admit of great diversities, thus rendering the language 
itself, like all simple and original languages, exceed 
ingly intricate in its inflections. The following 
examples will exhibit the ordinary variations of the 

Ga-no -sote, 
Ho-no -sote, 
Ha-to-no -sote, 
Ho-no -sa-go, 

A-so -gwa-ta, 
Ho-so -gwa-ta, 
Na-no-so -gwa-ta, 
Ho-so -gwa-ta-go, 

O-on-dote , 
Ho-on-da , 
Ha -to-de-on-dote, 

0-ya , 

Ho-ya , 

Ho-da-ya , 

Wa-nis -hehnda, 
Dwen-nis -heh-dake, 
Dwen-nis -heh-deh, 
Sa-wen-nis -hat, 

Wa-sun -da-da, 
Dwa-sun -da-dake, 
Dwa-sun -da-da, 
Sa-wa-sun -dart, 

A house. 

His house. 

Of, to, from, or at his house. 

In his house. 

A pipe. 
His pipe. 
Of his pipe. 
In his pipe. 

A tree. 

His tree. 

Of, to, from, or at his tree. 


His fruit. 

Of, to, from, or at his fruit. 


At a day past. 
At a day future. 
With the day. 


At a night past. 
At a night future. 
With the night. 


Of the pronouns but little need be added, except 
that they are very defective : thus E signifies I, we, 
me, and us ; Ese, thou, ye or you, and thee. He 
and they are wanting, except as expressed in the 
verb by its inflection. The personal pronouns make 
the possessive case very regularly, thus : Ah-ga-weh y 
mine ; Sa-weti, thine ; Ho-weH , his ; Go-weh\ hers ; 
Ung-gwa-weH , ours ; Swa-weh , yours ; Ho-nau-weh , 
theirs. Similar variations can be made on some of 
the relative pronouns. 

Interjections are extremely numerous in this lan 
guage, and appear to be adapted to all the passions. 
It has also the ordinary conjunctions. 

Next and last the verb presents itself. This part 
of speech, in the nature of things, must have been 
one of the first invented, as without its aid, there 
could be no affirmation, no expression of action or 
passion. Among primitive languages, the conjuga 
tion of the verb is extremely complex. Grammarians 
assign as a reason, that the tenses and moods of the 
verb would be more easily indicated by its inflection, 
than by contriving or inventing the substantive verb, 
I am; the possessive verb, I have; and the auxilia 
ries, do, will, would, shall, can, and may ; all of which 
are necessary in the conjugation of an English verb. 
It will be remembered that the English verb admits 
of but three variations in itself, as press, pressed^ 
pressing; and its conjugation is completed by the 
auxiliary verbs above-mentioned ; while the Greek, 
Latin, and Iroquois verbs are conjugated, except some 
part of the passive voice in Latin, by the variations 
throughout of the verb itself; thus, Legeram, I had 


read; Che-w a-ge-ya-go, I had shot; Legero, I shall 
have read; A-wa-ge -yd-go, I shall have shot. In this 
manner, the conjugation not only dispensed with the 
pronouns I, thou, and he, with their plurals, but also 
with the auxiliary verbs, which have introduced such 
prolixity into modern languages. The Iroquois verbs 
are conjugated with great regularity and precision, 
making the active and passive voices, all the moods, 
except the infinitive, and all the tenses, numbers, and 
persons, common to the English verb. Some part 
of the optative mood can also be made. 

But the participles are wanting. It is difficult to 
determine upon what principle the absence of this 
part of speech, which in a written language would 
be a serious blemish, shall be accounted for ; and 
much more difficult to ascertain the nature of the 
substitute in a verbal language. A substitute for the 
infinitive mood is found in the present tense of 
the subjunctive mood, together with a pronoun, as in 
the following passage : " Direct that He-no may come 
and give us rain " (see the invocation entire, Vol. I. 
p. 1 89) ; instead of saying, " Direct He-no to come, 
and give us rain." In correctly translated Indian 
speeches this form of expression will frequently appear, 
from the influence which this idiomatic peculiarity of 
all Indian languages will exercise upon the translator. 

The origin of the dual number has been adverted 
to. In the active voice of Iroquois verbs, the dual 
number is well distinguished ; but in the passive 
voice, the dual and the plural are the same. The 
presence of this number is indicative of the intricate 

nature of their conjugations. 



To convey a distinct notion of the mutations 
through which an Iroquois verb passes in its con 
jugation, and to furnish those who are curious, as 
linguists, with a specimen for comparison with the 
conjugations of other languages, one of their verbs, 
with its inflections, is subjoined in Appendix A, No. 2. 
Its great regularity, even harmony of inflection, con 
veys a favorable impression of the structure of the 
language ; but it does not, nor would it be expected 
to possess the elegance and beautv of the Greek, 
or the brevity and solidity of the Latin conjuga 
tions. The principal parts of a few verbs are given 
as specimens. 


Pres. Indie. Future Indie. Perfect Indie. 

Ge -yase, 
O-gee -a, 

Ga-geh , 
Ga-go -ace, 

Eh-ge -yake, 
Eh-ge -a, 
Eh-gii-geh , 
Eh-ga-go -ake, 

Ah-ge -ya-go, 
Ah-ge -a-go, 
Ah -ga-geh, 
Ah-ga -go-a-go, 

To shoot. 
To die. 
To see. 
To strike, 

Ah-got -hun-da, Eh-ga -ouk, Ah-ga -o-geh, To hear. 

Kna-ga-ha , Enk-na -ga-a, Kna-ga -huk, To drink. 

It has been laid down as a maxim, that " the 
more simple any language is in its composition, the 
more complex it must be in its declensions and con 
jugations, and on the contrary, the more simple it 
is in its declensions and conjugations, the more com 
plex it must be in its composition." The position 
is thus illustrated : when two people, by uniting or 
otherwise, blend their languages, the union always 
simplifies the structure of the resulting language, 
while it introduces a greater complexity into its ma 
terials. The Greek, which is uncompounded, and 



is said to have but three hundred primitives, is ex 
tremely intricate in. its conjugations. On the other 
hand, the Latin, which is a compound language, (79) 
laid aside the middle voice and the optative mood, 
which are peculiar to the Greek, and also the dual 
number. This simplified its conjugations. In its 
declensions, the Latin, although it has an additional 
case in the ablative, is yet much more simple than 
the Greek, as it has no contract nouns. The Eng 
lish, which is a mixture of several languages, is more 
simple than either in its declensions, which are made 
by the aid of prepositions alone ; and in its conjuga 
tions, which are made by other verbs. With this 
principle in mind, the regularity, fulness, and intricacy 
of the Iroquois conjugations are not particularly re 
markable. Its primitive words, as before remarked, 
are few, and the language has been formed out of them 
by a complex and elaborate system of combinations. 

The language of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee has the sub 
stantive or neuter verb, E-neti-ga y I am, although im 
perfect in some of its tenses. This verb is regarded 
by philologists as extremely difficult of invention, as 
it simply expresses being. Impersonal verbs are also 
very numerous in the language, as O-geori-de-o, it 
snows ; O-rid -yose -don-de-o, it hails ; Gd-wa -no-das, it 
thunders. It is supposed by those who have in 
quired into the formation of language, that most of 
the verbs in primitive tongues originally took the 
impersonal form, for the reason that such a verb 
expresses in itself an entire event, while the division 
of the event into subject and attribute, involves some 
nice metaphysical distinctions. 



Before closing upon this subject it will be proper 
to notice a few of the peculiarities of the language. 
In the first place it has no labials, consequently the 
Iroquois, in speaking, never touch their lips together. 
This fact may be employed as a test in the pronuncia 
tion of their words and names. (75) Their language 
possesses the numerals firstly, secondly, thirdly, &c., 
also the numbers one, two, three, ascending, by vari 
ous contrivances, to about one hundred. For sums 
above this, their mode of enumeration was defective, 
as mathematical computation ceased, and some de 
scriptive term was substituted in its place. 

The voices of the Ho-de -no-sau-nee are powerful, 
and capable of reaching a high shrill key. In con 
versation its natural pitch is above the English voice, 
especially with the female, whose voice, by a natural 
transition, frequently rises in conversation an octave 
above its ordinary pitch, and sounds upon a tone 
to which the English voice could not be elevated 
and retain a distinct articulation. It also passes up 
and down, at intervals, from octave to octave, the 
voice retaining upon the elevated key a clear and 
musical intonation. 

In verbal languages the words appear to be literally 
strung together in a chain, if the one under inspection 
may be taken as a specimen. Substantives are mingled 
by declension with pronouns, and sometimes with the 
substantive verb, or compounded with the adjective, 
thus forming a new word. Particles . are then con 
joined, varying or adding to the signification of the 
compound, until the word, by the addition of the verb, 
becomes so far extended as to embrace a perfect sen- 



tence. The principles upon which these combinations 
are effected are too much involved to be systematized 
or generalized. The most which can be said is, that 
the general result is accomplished by conjugations and 
declensions, which, although regular in general, are 
diversified and intricate. To illustrate the manner 
in which words are made up, the following example 
may be given. Nun-da-wa-o y the radix of the name 
of the Senecas, signifies " a great hill ; " by suffix 
ing o-no, which conveys the idea of " people at," 
Nun-da-wa-o-m, results literally, " the people at 
the great hill." Next, by adding the particle ga, 
itself without significance, but when conjoined, con 
veying the idea of " place " or " territory," it gives 
the compound A T un-da-wa -o-no-ga , "the territory of 
the people at the great hill." A more perfect speci 
men of the language, as a whole, may be found in 
the following version of the Lord s Prayer in the 
Seneca dialect. 

Gwa-nee ga-o-ya -geh che-de-oh ; sa-sa-no-do --geh- 
teek ; ga-o ne-dwa na sa-nunk-ta ; na-huk ne-ya-weh 
na yo-an -ja-geh ha ne-sa-ne-go -da ha ne-de-o -da na 
ga-o-ya -geh. Dun-da-gwa-e -wa-sa-gwus na ong-wi- 
wa-na-ark-seh na da-ya -ke-wa-sa-gwa -seh na onk- 
ke-wa-na -a-ge. Da-ge-o -na-geh -wen-nis -heh-da na 
ong-wa-qua . Sa-nuk na-huh heh -squa-a ha ga-yeh 
na wa-ate-keh na-gwa na da-gwa-ya-duh -nuh-onk 
ha ga-yeh na wa-ate-keh ; na seh-eh na ese sa-wa 
na o-nuk-ta kuh na ga-hus-ta-seh kuk na da-ga-a- 
sa-uh . Na-huh -ne-ya-weh. 1 

1 If an attempt should be made to give a literal translation of 
each word, or phrase, it would render transposition necessary, and 


Names of places as well as of persons, form an in 
tegral part of their language, and hence are all signifi 
cant. It furnishes a singular test of their migrations, 
for accurate descriptions of localities become in this 
manner incorporated into their dialects. The Tus- 
caroras still adduce proof from this source to establish 
a common origin with the Iroquois, and pretend to 
trace their route from Montreal, Do-te-a-co, to the 
Mississippi, O-nau-we-yo -kd y and from thence to North 
Carolina, out of which they were driven in 1712. 
The era of their separation from the parent stock, and 
of this migration, they have entirely lost ; but they 
consider the names of places on this extended route, 
now incorporated in their language, a not less certain 
indication of a common origin than the similarity of 
their languages. Indian languages are exceedingly 
tenacious of traditionary facts intrusted to their pres 

change the formation of the words in some respects, as the following will 

Gwa-nee , che-de-oh ga-o -ya-geh, ga-sa-nuh , ese sa-nuk-ta ga-oh 

Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, 

ese sne -go-eh ne-ya-weh yo an-ja -geh ha ne-de-o -deh ga-o -ya-geh. 

thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Dun-da-gwa-e -wa-sa-gwus ong-wa-yeh -his-heh da-ya-ke -a wa- 

Forgive us our debts as we forgive 

sa-gwus-seh ho-yeh -his. Da-ge-oh ne na-geh wen-nis -heh-deh e na-ha- 

our debtors. Give us this day our 

da-wen-nis -heh-geh o-a -qwa. Ha-squa -ah e sa-no ha wa-ate-keh , 

daily bread. Lead us not into temptation, 

na-gwa da-gwa-ya-dan -nake ne wa-ate-keh , na-seh -eh nees o-nuk -ta 
but deliver from us evil, for thine is the kingdom, 

na-kuh na ga-hus -tes-heh, na-kuh da-ga-a-sa-oh . 
and the power, and the glory. 

Na-huh -se-ya-weh. 


Chapter III 

Indian Geography Method of Bestowing Names Central Trail 
Its Course Ko-la-ne -ka Highway of the Continent Deriva 
tion of Niagara Ontario Trail Genesee Trail Conhocton 
Trail Susquehanna Trail Indian Runners Iroquois Map 

OUR Indian geography is a subject of inquiry 
peculiar in its interest and in its character. 
Many of the names bestowed by our pre 
decessors having become incorporated into our lan 
guage, will be transmitted to distant generations, and 
be familiar after their race, and perhaps ours, have 
passed away. There is still attainable a large amount 
of geographical information pertaining to the period 
of Indian occupation, which, estimated at its true 
value, would amply remunerate for its collection ; and 
which, if neglected, must fade, ere many years, from 
remembrance. The features of nature were first 
christened by the red man. These baptismal names, 
the legacy of the Indian, it were prodigality to cast 
away. To the future scholar this subject will com 
mend itself, when, perchance, the dusky mantle of 
obscurity has enshrouded it, and research itself can 
not penetrate the covering. 

In an antiquarian aspect, it may be considered 
fortunate, that as the villages and settlements of the 
Ho-de -no-sau-nee disappeared, and the cities and vil 
lages of the succeeding race were reared upon their 
sites, all of these ancient names were transferred to 



these substituted habitations. Yielding step by step, 
and contracting their possessions from year to year, 
the Iroquois yet continued in the constant use of 
their original names, although the localities them 
selves had been surrendered. If a Seneca, for ex 
ample, were to refer to Geneva, he would still say 
Ga-nuri-da-sa -ga ; and the Oneida in like manner 
would call Utica, Nun-da-da -sis. All of these locali 
ties, as well as our rivers, lakes and streams, still 
dwell in the memory of the Iroquois by their ancient 
names, while such places as have sprung up on nameless 
sites, since they surrendered their domain, have been 
christened as they appeared. These names, likewise, 
are significant, and are either descriptive of features 
of the country, the record of some historical event, 
or interwoven with some tradition. From these causes 
their geography has been preserved among them with 
remarkable accuracy. 

The Iroquois method of bestowing names was 
peculiar. It frequently happened that the same lake 
or river was recognized by them under several differ 
ent names. This . was eminently the case with the 
larger lakes. It was customary to give to them 
the name of some village or locality upon their bor 
ders. The Seneca word Te-car-ne-o-di ^ means some 
thing more than " lake." It includes the idea of 
nearness, literally, "the lake at." Hence, if a Seneca 
were asked the name of lake Ontario, he would an 
swer, Ne-ati-ga Te-car-ne-o-di , the lake at Ne-aK-ga" 
This was a Seneca village at the mouth of the Niagara 
river. If an Onondaga were asked the same question, 
he would prefix Swa-geti to the word lake, literally, 



" the lake of Oswego." l The same multiplicity of 
names frequently arose in relation to the principal 
rivers, where they passed through the territories of 
more than one nation. (7G) It was not, however, the 
case with villages and other localities. 

The principal villages of the Iroquois, in the days 
of aboriginal dominion, were connected by well-beaten 
trails. (41j These villages were so situated that the 
central trail, which started from the Hudson at the 
site of Albany, passed through those of the Mohawks 
and Oneidas ; and, crossing the Onondaga valley and 
the Cayuga country, a few miles north of the chief 
settlements of these nations, it passed through the 
most prominent villages of the Senecas, in its route 
to the valley of the Genesee. After crossing this 
celebrated valley, it proceeded westward to lake Erie, 
coming out upon it at the mouth of Buffalo creek, on 
the present site of Buffalo. 

Since this Indian highway passed through the 
centre of the Long House, (12G) as well as through the 
fairest portions of New York, it is desirable to com 
mence with this trail on the Hudson, and trace it 
through the State. It will furnish the most conven 
ient method of noticing such stopping-places as were 
marked with appropriate names in the dialects of the 
Iroquois, and also the Indian villages which dotted 
this extended route. 

Albany, at which point the trail started from the 

1 Lake Ontario -was known at an early day among the English as lake 
Cataraque. The root of this word, Ga-dai -o-que in Onondaga, Ga-da - 
loque in Oneida, and Ga-da-o -ka in Seneca, signifies " A fort in the 



Hudson, owes its Iroquois name to the openings 
which lay between that river and the Mohawk at 
Schenectady. Long anterior to the foundation of 
the city, this site was well known to our predecessors 
under the name of Skd-neJi-td-de. The name is given 
in the Seneca dialect, and signifies " beyond the open 
ings." l Out of this name originated that of the 
Hudson, Ska-neti-ta-de Ga-hun-da^ " the river beyond 
the openings." 

Leaving the Hudson at the site of Albany, the 
trail took the direction of the old turnpike north of 
the capitol, and proceeded, mostly on the line of this 
road, to a spring which issued from a ravine about six 
miles west. From thence it continued towards Sche 
nectady, and descending the ravine through which the 
railway passes, it came upon the Mohawk at the site 
of this city, and crossed the river at the fording-place, 
where the toll-bridge has since been erected. Sche 
nectady has not only appropriated the Indian name 
of Albany, but has, by inheritance, one of the most 
euphonious names in the dialects of the Iroquois, as 
given by the Oneidas. It was christened O-no-af-i- 
gone^ which signifies " in the head," a somewhat fanciful 
geographical name. 

From this fording-place, two trails passed up the 
Mohawk, one upon each side. That upon the south 
was most travelled, as the three Mohawk castles, as 
they were termed, or principal villages, were upon 

1 In the Seneca dialect this word is compounded of Ga-neh -ta-yeh, 
" openings/ 1 and Se -gwa, " beyond." In the same manner Skai -da-de, 
"beyond the swamp," is a compound of Gai -td-yeh, "a swamp," and 
Se -gwd, "beyond." 
VOL. ir. 6 


that side. Following the valley, and pursuing the 
windings of the river, the trail crossed the Schoharie 
creek, Ose-ho-kar -la, and entered Te-hon-da-lo-ga^ the 
lower castle of the Mohawks, situated upon the west 
side of this creek, at its junction with the river. At a 
subsequent day Fort Hunter was located near the site 
of this Indian village. From thence the trail, continu 
ing up the valley nearly on the line subsequently pur 
sued by the canal, crossed the Canajoharie creek near 
its junction with the river, and led up to Canajoharie, 
Ga-rid-jo-ha-e? *or the middle Mohawk castle. This 
favorite and populous village occupied a little eminence 
upon the east bank of the Ot-squa-go creek, and over 
looking the present site of Fort Plain. From Canajo 
harie, the trail followed up the river to Ga-ne-ga-ha -ga, 
the upper Mohawk castle, which was situated in the 
town of Danube, Herkimer county, nearly opposite 
the mouth of the East Canada creek. Leaving this 
Indian village, the last in the territory of the Mohawks, 
the trail pursued the bank of the river without passing 
any other stopping-place, until it reached the site of 
Utica, in the country of the Oneidas. 

Near this city, on the east side, the trail passed 
around the base of a hill, in such a manner as to be 
noticeable for its singularity. Hence, Nun-da-da -sis , 
signifying " around the hill," was bestowed upon this 
locality, as a name descriptive of the course of the 
trail. When Utica at a subsequent day sprang up 

i Tliis word signifies " washing the basin." In the bed of the Cana 
joharie creek there is said to be a basin, several feet in diameter, with a 
symmetrical concavity, washed out in the rock. Hence the name Ca-na- 
jo -hti-e. One would naturally have expected to have found the Indian 
village upon this creek, instead of the Ot-squa -go.( 77 ) 




near this spot, the name was transferred, according to 
the custom of the Iroquois, to the city itself. 

From Utica, the trail proceeded up the river, and 
crossing the Whitesboro creek, at Whitesboro, Che- 
ga-queh) and the Oriskany creek, Ole-his -ka, at Oris- 
kany, it continued up the bank of the Mohawk to 
Rome, where this river turns to the north. 

The site of Rome was an important stopping-place 
with the Iroquois, both as the terminus of the trails 
upon the Mohawk, and as a carrying-place for canoes. 
A narrow ridge at this point forms a division between 
those waters which flow through the Mohawk and the 
Hudson, and those which flow through lake Ontario, 
and the St. Lawrence. The portage from the Mohawk 
to Wood creek, was about a mile. In the days of 
aboriginal sovereignty, the amount of navigation, in 
bark canoes, upon the large lakes, as well as upon the 
smaller lakes and rivers, was much greater than we 
would be apt to suspect. Birch-bark canoes would 
find their way from Detroit, and even beyond to 
Rome and Schenectady. Others from Kingston, 
would make their way into the Cayuga 1 and Seneca 
lakes, and on to the old trading-post at the mouth of 
the Niagara river. Such was the facility of transpor 
tation, owing to the lightness of the vessel, that the 
portage made but a slight obstruction. In an hour 

1 In 1793, a canoe laded with twelve hundred pounds of fur started 
from Kingston in Canada 5 and having coasted the lake to the Great 
Sodus bay, Seo-dose , and been transported from thence over the portage 
to Clyde river, it made its way into the Cayuga lake and up to Aurora, 
De-a-iven -dote ; where the furs were transhipped in a bateau for Albany. 
The canoe was owned for some years afterwards by Col. Payne, one of 
the first settlers of Aurora. 



after drawing out the canoe from Wood creek, it was 
floating again upon the Mohawk ; and the cargo 
having also been carried over, the frail vessel was 
soon re-laded, and under weigh upon the descending 
stream. 1 The aboriginal name of this locality, Da-ya- 
hoo-wa-quat) which signifies a " place for carrying 
boats," has been bestowed upon Rome. 

The trail upon the north bank of the Mohawk 
ascended the river from Schenectady nearly upon the 
line since pursued by the turnpike. At Tribes Hill, 
nearly opposite the lower Mohawk castle, a branch 
trail crossed the country to Johnstown, Ko-la-ne -ka y 
a few miles north from the river. (42) This was the 
name bestowed upon the residence of Sir William 
Johnson, the Indian superintendent. From the 
period of the settlement of this distinguished person 
age in the country of the Mohawks, and more espe 
cially after the battle of lake George in 1755, he acquired 
and maintained, until his death in 1774, a greater 
personal influence over the Iroquois than was ever 
possessed by any other individual, or even by any 
government. A careful scrutiny of his intercourse 
with the Iroquois shows that he exercised a watchful 
care over their welfare, and that his conduct was gov- 

1 For many years after the commencement (about 1790) of the settle 
ment of Western New York, the greater part of the supplies of merchandise 
from the east, as well as the immigrants who flocked thitherward, with 
their household goods and farming implements, ascended the Mohawk 
in bateaus or small river boats as far as Rome. Having drawn out their 
vessels at this portage and unladed them, they carried them over the 
ridge and launched them into Wood creek. Descending to the Oswego 
river, which is formed by the outlets of the principal inland lakes of the 
State, the whole lake country was open before them. Like the Iroquois, 
they made use of the natural highways of the country. 



erned by the most enlightened principles of rectitude 
and benevolence. To this fact he owed his personal 
popularity, and the affectionate respect with which the 
Iroquois ever regarded him. His house at Ko-ld-ne- 
ka was a favorite place of Indian resort; and the Mo 
hawk and the Seneca, the Oneida and the Cayuga felt 
as much at ease under the roof of the baronet as beneath 
the wide-spread shelter of their own forests/ 27 31) 

Leaving Johnstown, the trail came down again upon 
the Mohawk at the small Indian village of Go-no - 
wau-ga, near the site of Fonda, where it intersected the 
river trail. Continuing up the Mohawk, and crossing 
the East Canada creek, Date-car -hu-har -lo^ and over the 
site of Little Falls, Ta-ld-que-ga, it came next upon the 
West Canada creek, Te-uge-ga, and from thence led 
up to the portage at the site of Rome. 

As with lake Ontario, the Mohawk river was known 
under a multiplicity of names. It is difficult now to 
determine whether it had any general name running 
through the several dialects by which it was known to 
all the nations of the League. Among the Senecas, 
the West Canada creek was considered the true head 
of the river, and this stream, together with the Mo 
hawk from Herkimer to the Hudson, was known as 
one river under the name of Te-uge-ga, while the 
Mohawk from the junction of the West Canada creek 
to its source was regarded as a branch under the name 
of Da-yd-hoo-wd -quat. With the Oneidas and Onon- 
dagas it was known under the last name, or the word 
which, in their respective dialects, signifies the same 
thing/ 76 ) 

From Rome, the main trail, taking a south-west 



direction, passed through Verona, Te-o-na-f d/e , and 
finally came out at Oneida castle. This was the prin 
cipal village of the Oneidas, called in their dialect Gd- 
no- d-lo -hale , which is rendered " a head on a pole." In 
this beautifully situated Indian village, burned the 
council-fire of one of the nations of the League. The 
Oneidas were fortunate in the location of their territo 
ries, embracing as they did not only some of the finest 
agricultural districts of the State, but the most attrac 
tive localities in its central parts. 

Fording the Oneida creek at the Indian village, the 
trail, continuing west, passed near the site of Canestota, 
Kd-ne-to -td, crossed the Canaseraga creek, K d-rid-so- 
w d -ga, near the site of the village of the same name, 
the Chittenango creek, Cbu-de-ridng, at the site of 
Chittenango, and from thence led up to the Deep 
Spring near Manlius, on the boundary line between 
the territories of the Oneidas and Onondagas. This 
spring was known under the name of De-o-sd-dd-ya-ah, 
signifying " the spring in the deep basin," and was a 
favorite stopping-place of the Iroquois in their jour 
neys upon the great thoroughfare. 

Leaving this locality, and continuing west, the trail 
forded the Limestone creek, De-a-o-no -he, at the site 
of Manlius, and proceeding mostly on the line since 
pursued by the turnpike, it crossed the Jamesville 
creek, Gd-sun -fo y at the site of Jamesville, and from 
thence descending into the Onondaga valley, it crossed 
the Onondaga river, O -nun-da -ga, and entered the In 
dian village of Gis-twe-ati-na, which occupied the site 
of the present village of Onondaga Hollow. 

The Onondagas made this picturesque and fertile 



valley their chief place of residence. Here was the 
Council-Brand of the confederacy, which rendered it 
the sylvan seat of government of the League. In the 
estimation of the Iroquois, it was a consecrated vale. 
Their eloquence, their legendary lore, and their civil 
history, were all interwoven, by association, with this 
favorite valley. Here their sachems gathered together 
in the days of aboriginal supremacy, to legislate for 
the welfare of the race. Here they strengthened and 
renewed the bonds of friendship and patriotism, in 
dulged in exultation over their advancing prosperity, 
and counselled together to arrest impending dangers, 
or repair the mischances of the past. As it was upon 
the northern bank of the Onondaga lake that the 
League was formed, the united nations habitually 
turned to the Onondaga valley as the place to brighten 
the chain of brotherhood. 

Upon the Onondaga river, O-nun-da-ga y were the 
principal villages of the Onondagas. There were but 
three of any note ; one of them has been mentioned 
as on the line of the great trail. The chief village was 
Onondaga castle, Ka-rid-ta-go -wa y situated upon both 
sides of the river, about four miles above Gis-twe-ati- 
na. It was quite a populous village in the days of 
their highest prosperity. Around the council-brand 
which burned in this secluded place, the sachems of 
the League were wont to meet. About three miles far 
ther up the river, and upon the west side, the Indian 
village of Nan-ta-sa-sis was situated near the skirts of 
the hill. There was another considerable village on 
the uplands about four miles east of Onondaga castle, 
called Tu-e-a-das -so. Throughout the whole length 



of the beautiful valley of the Onondaga, the bark 
houses of the people were sprinkled. 

After crossing the valley, the trail passed up a small 
ravine to the top of the hill, where it took a north-west 
direction, and crossing the Nine-mile creek, Us -fe-ka, 
at the site of Camillus, O-ya-han, it went up to a stop 
ping-place where Carpenter s tavern was subsequently 
erected, near the site of Elbridge, Ka-no-wa-ya. From 
thence fording the Jordan creek, Ha-nan-to^ and pass 
ing through the town of Sennet, the trail came upon 
the Owasco outlet, Was -co^ at the site of Auburn ; and 
forded this stream a short distance above the prison, 
at the point where the " Red Store " was subsequently 
erected. This locality was in the territory of the 
Cayugas, and its name signifies "a floating bridge." 

The Cayugas had but a few small villages, as the peo 
ple were scattered around the lake. Their principal 
village, Ga-ya-ga-an -ha, was situated upon the bank 
of a creek three miles south of Union Springs, and 
about a mile and a half back from the lake. Here 
was the council-house of the nation. There was 
another village consisting of a few houses, situated 
upon the site of Union Springs, which was called 
Ge-wau -ga. Steeltrap, Hise -ta-jee^ a celebrated Cay- 
uga chief, was buried here. On the opposite side 
of the lake was the village of Ga-no -geh, occupying 
the site of the present Cannoga. Near this village 
was the birthplace of Red Jacket. Along the eastern 
margin of the lake, the former residences of the Cayu 
gas were indicated by the apple and peach orchards 
which they left behind them. Back from the lake, 
upon the ridge, similar but more numerous evidences 



of Indian occupation were to be found. In 1779, the 
villages of the Cayugas were destroyed by General 

Leaving the site of Auburn, the trail proceeded 
nearly on the line of the turnpike, half-way to the 
lake, where it turned out upon the south side and 
came down upon the lake about half a mile above Cay- 
uga bridge, Was-gwase . At the precise point where 
the trail reached the shore, the original Cayuga ferry 
was established. The trail, turning down the lake, and 
following its bank about four miles to the old fording- 
place near the lower bridge, there crossed the foot of 
the lake, and came out upon the north bank of the 
Seneca river, Swa -geb. 1 Following up the north 
bank of the river, it passed over the site of Waterloo, 
Skoi-yase , and pursued the stream up to its outlet 
from the Seneca lake. A shorter route from the east 
bank of the Cayuga was taken by crossing the lake in 
canoes at the ferry, and proceeding due west to the 
river, which the trail came upon at the rapids a little 
above Seneca Falls. Ascending the river upon the 
south bank, the trail passed through South Waterloo, 
Skoi-yase , and continued up the river to the lake, 
where, crossing the outlet, it intersected the other trail. 
Having run along the foot of the lake upon the beach 

1 There is a geographical novelty in the method adopted by the Iro- 
quois to designate the several outlets of the lakes which, united, form the 
Oswego river. Descending from the Seneca lake to Oswego, the river was 
called Swa -geh through its whole length. But ascending from Oswego, 
it was called the Onondaga river, O-non-dd -ga, until you passed the out 
let of the Onondaga lake. Then it was called the Cayuga river, G<wa-u - 
giveh, until you passed the Cayuga outlet. After that it was called the 
Seneca river, Ga-nun-da-sa -ga, up to the Seneca lake.(7G) 

8 9 


to the present site of Geneva, Ga-nun-dd-sd -ga^ it 
turned up the Geneva creek, which it ascended about 
one and a half miles north-west, to the Indian village 
of Ga-nun-da-sa -ga, the first in the territory of the 

This name, which signifies " a new settlement vil 
lage," was bestowed upon the lake, the creek, and also 
upon the outlet. At a subsequent day it was trans 
ferred to Geneva. During the destructive inroad of 
General Sullivan, in September, 1779, the Indian 
village was entirely destroyed. No efforts were ever 
made subsequently to rebuild it. Many of the old 
trees in the Indian orchard are still standing and yield 
fruit, although partially girdled at the time. The 
artificial burial mound 1 about one hundred paces in 

1 There is an interesting tradition connected with this mound. The 
Senecas say that they once had a protector, a mighty giant, taller than 
the tallest trees, who split the largest hickory for his bow, and used pine- 
trees for his arrows. He once wandered west to the Mississippi, and 
from thence east again to the sea. Returning homeward over the moun 
tains along the Hudson, he saw a great bird on the water, flapping its wings 
as if it wished to get out, so he waded in and lifted it on land. He then 
saw on it a number of men, who appeared dreadfully frightened, and made 
signs to him to put them back again. He did so, and they gave him a 
sword and a musket, with powder and balls, and showed him how to use 
them, after which the bird swam off and he saw it no more. Having re 
turned to the Senecas at Ga-nun-dd-sa -ga, he exhibited to them the won 
derful implements of destruction, and fired the gun before them. They 
were exceedingly terrified at the report, and reproached him for bringing 
such terrible things among them, and told him to take them away again, 
for they would be the destruction of the Indians, and he was an enemy 
to their nation who had brought them there. Much grieved at their re 
proaches, he left the council, taking the dreaded weapons with him, and 
lay down in a field. The next morning he was found, from some myste 
rious cause, dead, and this mound was raised over his body where it lay. 
It is averred by the Onondagas, that if the mound should be opened a 
skeleton of supernatural size would be found underneath. 



circuit, still remains undisturbed, and also the trenches 
of a picket enclosure, seventy by forty feet on the 
ground plan, concerning the erection and uses of 
which but little can be ascertained. 

From Gd-nun-da-sd-ga the trail proceeded through 
the towns of Seneca and Hopewell, nearly on the line 
of the turnpike, to the Indian village of Ga -nun-da - 
gwa, situated at the foot of the lake of the same name. 
It signifies " a place selected for a settlement." Ca- 
nandaigua, the fairest of all the villages which have 
sprung into life upon the central trail of the Iroquois, 
not only occupies the site of the Indian village, but 
has accepted and preserved its name with unusual 
accuracy ; the only legacy which the retiring Seneca 
could bestow, save the beautiful natural scenery by 
which it is surrounded, and which induced him " to 
select it for a settlement." 

Leaving Canandaigua were two trails. One turn 
ing south-west, passed through the town of Bristol, 
and led to the foot of the Honeoye lake, Ha-ne-a-ya . 
After crossing the outlet, it continued west through 
the town of Richmond, going over the hill in sight of 
the Hemlock lake, O-neb -da, and coming out upon 
the Connesus, Ga-ne-a -sos, near the north end. Fol 
lowing the shore to the foot of the lake, and fording 
the outlet, it proceeded west, passing over the site of 
Geneseo, 0-ha-di, and crossing the valley and the 
river Genesee, Gen-nis-he-yo, it led into Little Beards 
town, De-o-nun -da-ga-a, the most populous village of 
the Senecas. It is worthy of remark that the root of 
the word Genesee was the name of the valley and not 
of the river, the latter deriving its name from the 

9 1 


former. Gen-nis -he-yo signifies " the beautiful valley," 
a name most fitly bestowed. 

The other trail, which was the main highway, leav 
ing Canandaigua, passed along the north road, over 
the site of West Bloomfield, G d-nun -d d-ok^ and the 
Honeoye outlet, and proceeded to the Indian village 
of Ska-base -ga-o, on the site of Lima. From thence, 
proceeding westward nearly on the line since pursued 
by the State road, it passed over the site of Avon, 
Ga-no-wau-geSy and, descending into the valley of the 
Genesee, crossed the river a few rods above the Avon 
bridge, and followed along its bank up to the Indian 
village of Ga-no-wau-ges, about a mile above the ford. 
This word signifies " fetid waters," and was bestowed 
by the Senecas upon the sulphur springs at Avon, and 
upon the whole adjacent country. 

Departing from the valley of the Genesee, the trail, 
taking a north-west direction, led to the Caledonia 
cold spring, De-o -na-ga-no, a well-known stopping- 
place on the central trail through the territories of 
the Iroquois. Proceeding westward from thence, it 
came upon Allen s creek, O-at -ka y at the dam near 
the rapids, in the village of Le Roy. This fording- 
place was known under the name Te-car-no-wan-ne- 
da-ne-O) rendered " many falls," which is accurately 
descriptive of the locality. This name has been con 
ferred upon Le Roy. After turning up the stream 
about a mile to avoid a marsh near the rapids, the 
trail again proceeded west, and crossing Black creek, 
Ja-go -o-ga, near Stafford, it continued in a westerly 
direction, and finally came out upon the Tonawanda 
creek, Ta-na-wun-da, about a mile above Batavia, to 



which it led. The ancient name of Batavia, or rather 
of the locality itself, was De-o -on-go-wa y which signi 
fies " the grand hearing-place." Here the rapids in 
the Tonawanda creek first began to be heard, and 
some assert that the distant roar of Niagara could be 
heard by the practiced ear of the Indian, at this point, 
in certain states of the atmosphere. 

Descending the creek, the trail passed over the site 
of Batavia. At the point where the arsenal now 
stands, it turned north-west through the oak-openings 
to Caryville, and came again upon the creek at 
" Washington s fording-place," where it crossed, and 
led to the Indian village of Ta-na-wun-da y one of the 
present villages of the Senecas, situated upon the bor 
ders of the great swamp which stretches for many 
miles along the Tonawanda creek. On leaving the 
Indian village the trail branched. One taking a 
north-west direction, recrossed the creek at a short 
distance below the village, and passing through the 
swamp, out of which it emerged near Royalton, it 
proceeded direct to De-o -na-ga-no, or the Cold 
Spring, about two miles north-east of Lockport, Ta- 
ga-ote. From thence continuing north-west, it came 
out upon the ridge-road, where it intersected the On 
tario, or ridge trail, and followed this ridge westward to 
Ga-a-no -ga, the Tuscarora Indian village on Lewiston 
Heights. Here was the termination of one branch 
of the main trail upon the bank of the Niagara river. 
This was the route to Canada. (44 42) 

The other trail, leaving the village of Tonawanda, 
took a south-west direction, and having forded 
Murder creek, De-o-oon-go -at, at Akron, and the 



Eighteen-mile creek, Ta-nun-no-ga-o, at Clarence 
Hollow, it continued west, crossing Kllicott creek, 
Ga-da-o-y a-deh) at Williamsville, Ga-sko-sa-da -ne-o ^ 
and leading direct to the Cold Spring, it finally came 
upon the site of Buffalo at the head of Main street, 
and descended to the mouth of the creek, within the 
limits of the city. Here was the western terminus of 
the central trail ; and like its eastern terminus on the 
Hudson, it has become a point of great commercial 
importance, and the site of a flourishing city. It is 
not a little remarkable, that these two geographical 
points should have been as clearly indicated, as places 
of departure, by the migrations of the red race, as 
they have been at a subsequent day, by the migrations 
of our own. 

We have thus followed the great Indian trail, 
Wa-a-gwen -ne-yU) through the State, from the Hud 
son to lake Erie ; noticing, as far as ascertained, the 
principal stopping-places on the route. To convey 
an adequate impression of the forest scenery, which 
then overspread the land, is beyond the power of 
description. This trail was traced through the over 
hanging forest for almost its entire length. In the 
trail itself, there was nothing particularly remarkable. 
It was usually from twelve to eighteen inches wide, 
and deeply worn in the ground ; varying in this 
respect from three to six, and even twelve inches, 
depending upon the firmness of the soil. The large 
trees on each side were frequently marked with the 
hatchet. (41) This well-beaten footpath, (41) which no run 
ner, nor band of warriors could mistake, had doubt 
less been trodden by successive generations from 



century to century. It had, without question, been 
handed down from race to race, as the natural line 
of travel, geographically considered, between the Hud 
son and lake Erie. While it is scarcely possible to 
ascertain a more direct route than the one pursued by 
this trail, the accuracy with which it was traced from 
point to point, to save distance, is extremely surpris 
ing. It proved, on the survey of the country, to 
have been so judiciously selected that the turnpike 
was laid out mainly on the line of this trail, from one 
extremity of the State to the other. In addition to 
this, all the larger cities and villages west of the Hud 
son, with one or two exceptions, have been located 
upon it. As an independent cause, this forest high 
way of the Iroquois doubtless determined the estab 
lishment of a number of settlements, which have since 
grown up into cities and villages. 

There are many interesting considerations con 
nected with the routes of travel pursued by the abo 
rigines ; and if carefully considered, they will be 
found to indicate the natural lines of migration sug 
gested by the topography of the country. The 
central trail of the Iroquois, which we have been 
tracing, after leaving the Mohawk valley, one of 
nature s highways, became essentially an artificial road 
across the drainage of the country, fording rivers, 
crossing valleys, and traversing marshes and dense 
forests, pursuing its course over hill and plain, 
through stream and thicket, as if in defiance of nature, 
without an aim and without a reason. Yet the estab 
lishment of this trail between two such points as 
Albany and Buffalo, exhibits not only the extent 



and accuracy of the geographical knowledge of our 
predecessors, (G) but also indicates the active intercourse 
which must have been maintained between the various 
races east of the Mississippi. The tide of population 
which has poured upon the west, in our generation, 
mostly along the line of this old trail of the Ho-de -no- 
sau-nee^ and the extraordinary channel of trade and 
intercourse which it has become, between the north 
western States and the Atlantic, sufficiently and forci 
bly illustrate the fact that it was and is, and ever must 
be, one of the great natural highways of the continent. 

Having traced the main trail from the Hudson to 
lake Erie, it remains to notice briefly the lake and 
river trails, and to locate such Indian villages as were 
situated upon them. In pursuing this inquiry, the 
Ontario trail first arrests our attention. Bordering 
lake Ontario, from Oswego to Lewiston, there is a 
ridge running, for the entire distance, from three to 
six miles inland from the shore, and mostly a continu 
ous level. From the shore-marks everywhere con 
spicuous, it is generally admitted that this ridge was 
anciently the shore of the lake, the basin of which has 
been depressed some three hundred feet, or the sur 
rounding country elevated by subterraneous agencies. 
A natural road is formed by this ancient beach from 
Oswego to Lewiston. From the valley of Genesee to 
Niagara, it was extensively travelled by the Iroquois, 
as one of the routes to Canada. 

Oswego, Swa -geh y was a point of considerable im 
portance to our predecessors, both as the terminus 
of the trails which descended the river from the 
Onondaga and Oneida country, and as the inlet of 



intercourse by water from lake Ontario. Com 
mencing at the site of this place, the trail followed 
the ridge to the westward, until it came upon the 
Irondequoit bay, Nu-da-on -da-quat, when it turned 
up the bay to its head. From the head of the bay, 
the trail turned back from the ridge, and proceeded 
direct to the Genesee ford, at Rochester, Ga-sko -sa-go, 
which crossed the river at the point where the aque 
duct has since been constructed. Turning down the 
river to the lower falls, it came again upon the ridge- 
road, which it followed westward to Ga-o-no -geh, the 
Tuscarora village near Lewiston. Here was the prin 
cipal crossing-place into Canada. 

Having now reached the banks of the Niagara, and 
the vicinity of the great cataract, the derivation of the 
word Niagara suggests itself as a subject for inquiry. 
Colden wrote it O-ni-ag-a-ra, in 1741,* and he must 
have received it from the Mohawks or Oneidas. It 
was the name of a Seneca village at the mouth of the 
Niagara river, located as early as 1650, near the site 
of Youngstown. It was also the place where the 
Marquis De Nonville constructed a fort in 1687, the 
building of which brought this locality under the par 
ticular notice of the English. The name of this 
Indian village in the dialect of the Senecas was 
Ne-ah-gd^ in Tuscarora O-ne-a -kars, in Onondaga O-ne- 
ah -gd y in Oneida O-ne-ah -gdle, and in Mohawk O-ne- 
a -gd-ra. These names are but the same word under 
dialectical changes. It is clear that Niagara was de 
rived from some one of them, and thus came direct 
from the Iroquois language. The signification of the 

1 Colden s History of the Five Nations, ed. of 1741, p. 79- 
VOL. ii. 7 97 


word is lost, unless it be derived, as some of the 
present Iroquois suppose, from the word which signi 
fies " neck," in Seneca O-ne-a/i -a, in Onondaga O-ne- 
ya-a, and in Oneida O-ne -ar/e. 1 

The name of this Indian village was bestowed by 
the Iroquois upon Youngstown ; upon the river Ni 
agara, from the falls to the lake ; and upon lake 
Ontario, as has been elsewhere stated. 

In bestowing names upon water-falls, the Iroquois 
custom agrees with the English. The name of the 
river is connected with the word "fall." In the case 
of Niagara Falls, however, an adjective is incorporated 
with the word " fall," as the idea of its grandeur and 
sublimity appears to have been identified with the 
fall itself. Thus, in Onondaga it is called Date-car -sko- 
sis, in Seneca Date-car -sko-sase^ the word Ne-ah -ga 
being understood. It signifies " the highest falls." 

In the broad valley of the Genesee, the Senecas 
established most of their villages. Of great extent, 
boundless fertility, and easy cultivation, it became 
their favorite residence, and fully deserved the appella 
tion of " the beautiful valley," which they bestowed 
upon it. Its situation in the centre of their territories, 
and the easily forded river which flowed through it, 
alike invited to its settlement. At the period of their 
highest prosperity, it became the most thickly peopled 
district in the country of the Iroquois. 

From Rochester there were two trails up the Gene- 
see, one upon each side. That upon the west side, 
following the bank of the river, first entered the small 

1 Bancroft is in error in deriving this word from the language of the 
Neuter Nation. 

9 s 


Indian village of 0-at -ka y upon the site of Scottsville ; 
and continuing up the valley upon the flat, it next 
passed into the Indian village of Ga-no-wau -ges, before 
mentioned. 1 From thence the trail pursued the wind 
ing of the river up to O-ha-gi, a Tuscarora village on 
the flat, between two and three miles below Cuyler- 
ville. Proceeding up the river, it next led up to 
the Seneca village of Ga-un-do-wa-neh, or " big tree," 
which was situated upon the hill about one mile north 
of Cuylerville. Here at a subsequent day was marked 
off to the Senecas the " Big Tree Reservation," in 
the same manner as they had reserved a tract around 
the favorite village of Ga-no-wau -ges. Leaving this 
village, the trail turned a bend in the river, and entered 
De-o-nuri-da-ga-a, or Little Beard s town, also before 
mentioned. It was situated upon the flat immediately 
in front of Cuylerville, and on the opposite side of the 
valley from Geneseo. Adjacent to this village, upon 
the sloping bank, was a small settlement called Ga-neh - 
da-on-twd. There was also an Indian village upon the 
site of Moscow, Ga-nun -da-sa. The trail, following 
up the river, next turned out of this valley, and led 
up to Da-yo-ii-ga-o, or Squakie Hill, opposite Mount 
Morris. This word signifies " where the river issues 
from the hills," and it is beautifully descriptive of the 
emergence of the river from between its rocky barriers 
into the broad valley of the Genesee. 

It is a singular feature of the country, geologically 
considered, that the valley follows the river from near 
Rochester to Mount Morris only. At the latter place 
the river is suddenly confined in a narrow channel cut 

1 Mr. NewbolcTs farm embraces the site of this ancient village. 



through the rock, while the valley, which at this place 
is about three miles wide, follows the Caneseraga creek, 
Ga-nose -ga-go, up to Dansville, situated at its head. 
From Mount Morris south, up the Genesee, the 
valley is narrow and irregular, until at Portage the 
whole scenery is changed into rugged declivities and 
picturesque water-falls. On the Caneseraga creek, 
however, from Dansville down to Mount Morris, the 
scenery and the valley are quite the same as upon the 
Genesee from the latter. place to Rochester. This 
" beautiful valley " of the Senecas, varying from one 
half mile to three miles in breadth, for the distance of 
forty miles, vies with, if it does not surpass, the more 
celebrated valley of Wyoming. 

Leaving Squakie Hill, the trail continued up the 
river, crossing the outlet of the Silver lake, Ga-na-yaf, 
and entering the Indian village of Ga-da-d , situated in 
the town of Castile, Genesee county. Here, at a sub 
sequent day, was the Gardow Reservation. From 
thence the trail continued up the river, and over the 
site of Portage, to the Indian village of O-wa-is -ki, 
near the confluence of the creek of the same name 
with the Genesee. Having crossed this stream, the 
trail led up the river to Ga-o-ya-de -o , or Caneadea, the 
last Seneca village upon the Genesee. It was situated 
in the town of Hume, in the county of Allegany. The 
name is rendered, " the heavens leaning against the 
earth." It appears that there was an extensive open 
ing at this locality, on looking through which the 
heavens and earth appeared to meet, or the sky seemed 
to rest upon the earth. Subsequently, there was a 
large reserve retained by the Senecas around this 




village, which is still marked upon old maps as the 
" Caneadea Reservation." In this manner may be 
discovered the favorite residences of the Senecas upon 
the river. The Genesee trail, which we have been 
tracing, was one of the routes to the Allegany river, 
O-hee-yo, for those who sought to descend that stream 
towards the south-west. 

O-hee-yo, the radix of the word Ohio, signifies " the 
beautiful river;" and the Iroquois, by conferring it 
upon the Allegany, or head branch of the Ohio, have 
not only fixed a name from their language upon one 
of the great rivers of the continent, but indirectly upon 
one of the noblest States of our Confederacy. 

The trail upon the east side of the Genesee, started 
from the ford, near the aqueduct, at Rochester, and 
turning a little back from the river, crossed Mount 
Hope. To commemorate the fact, one of the princi 
pal carriage-ways through the cemetery, which was laid 
upon the line of the trail, has been named " Indian 
Trail Avenue." Ascending the Genesee, it followed 
the windings of the river up to Mount Morris, 
So-no -jo-wau-ga, where there was a small Indian village, 
the only one upon the east bank of the river. So-no- 
jo-wau-ga, or Big Kettle, a Seneca orator, scarcely in 
ferior to Red Jacket in the estimation of the nation, 
erected his sylvan house upon the site of Mount 
Morris ; and the Senecas bestowed his name upon the 
cluster of houses which sprung up around him, and at 
a subsequent day upon Mount Morris itself, one of 
the most attractive villages in the region of the 

From thence there were two trails up the Caneseraga 



creek, Ga-nose -ga-go, one upon each side. They led 
up to the small Indian village of Ga-nose-ga-go, 
situate upon the site of Dansville, at the head of 
the valley. 

Leaving the Genesee country, we come next to a 
system of trails which point to the southward. The 
Susquehanna and its branches penetrated the coun 
try of the Mohawks, Oneidas and Onondagas on 
the east and north, while the Chemung and its 
branches flowed through the territory of the Sene- 
cas, from near the Genesee, upon the north-west. 
These rivers, by their junction at Tioga, form as it 
were a triangle, having Tioga point as its apex, and 
the central trail through the State, from east to west, 
as its base. Following the course of these numerous 
streams from the north-east and north-west, these 
several trails converged upon Tioga, and descending 
the Susquehanna, formed the Great Southern trail, 
or highway of travel and migration into the south. 
The trails upon the Iroquois lakes, which lay north 
and south, in a measure connected the Central with 
the Susquehanna trail. Within this triangle were 
seated the Mohawk, Oneida, Tuscarora, Onondaga, 
Cayuga, and a part of the Seneca Nations. 

These trails running upon the banks of the rivers, 
which are the highways fashioned by the hand of 
nature, need not be minutely traced, as they followed 
the windings of the streams. A trail descended the 
Conhocton river, Ga-ha-to, to Tioga, Ta-ya-o-ga. 
The convergence of so many trails upon this point, 
preparatory to a descent upon the south, through 
Pennsylvania, and into Virginia on the west side of 



the Blue Ridge, rendered it an important and well- 
known locality among the Iroquois. 

From Tioga there were two trails up the Susque 
hanna, Ga-wa-no-wa-na. That upon the north bank 
ascending the river, passed over the site of Owego, 
Ah-wa-ga^ forded the Chenango, O-che-ridng^ near 
its mouth, and passing over the site of Binghampton, 
Q-che-ridng ^ continued up the nver to the junction of 
the Unadilla, De-u-na-dil -lo, where it intersected the 
trail coming down from the Oneida country. Con 
tinuing up the Susquehanna to the junction of the 
Charlotte river, the trail branched. One ascended 
to the junction of the Cherry Valley creek, and fol 
lowing up this creek, finally passed over to Canajoharie. 
The other trail, having ascended the Charlotte river 
to its head, crossed over to the Cobuskill, As-ca-le-ge^ 
and descended that stream to the Schoharie creek, 
where it intersected the Schoharie trail, from the lower 
castle of the Mohawks. From Schoharie, Ose-ko- 
har -l dy a branch trail turned up Foxes creek, and 
crossing the Helderberg hills, descended to Albany. 
Another branch leaving the Schoharie, crossed the 
town of Middleburgh to the Caatskill river, and de- 


scended that river to the Hudson. 

Many of the early settlers of middle Pennsylvania, 
and nearly all of our people who located themselves 
on the fertile tracts spread out upon the Susquehanna, 
entered the country upon these trails, which were the 
only roads opened through the forest. They trusted 
entirely for their route to the well-beaten, well-selected 
trails of the Iroquois. The same observation applies 
to the central trail, which before the opening of 



regular roads, was traversed by the early pioneers 
of western New York, with their horses, cattle, and 
implements of husbandry. For many years this 
trail was the only route of travel. It guided the 
early immigrants into the heart of the country, and 
not a little were they indebted to the Iroquois for thus 
making their country accessible. 

There were also regular beaten trails along -the 
banks of our inland lakes, which were used for 
hunting purposes, for mutual intercourse, and as 
routes of communication between the central thor 
oughfare, and the river trails which converged upon 

We have thus followed the devious footsteps of 
the Iroquois, for many "hundred miles through their 
territories, and restored some of the names in use 
during the era of Indian occupation. Facts of this 
character may not possess a general interest; but 
they will find an appropriate place among our abo 
riginal remains. The trails of our Indian predeces 
sors, indeed, have been obliterated, and the face of 
nature has been transformed ; but all recollection of 
the days of Indian supremacy cannot as easily pass 
away. They will ever have " a share in our history." 

"The Empire State, as you love to call it," said a 
Cayuga chief on a recent occasion, <f was once laced 
by our trails from Albany to Buffalo, trails that we 
had trod for centuries, trails worn so deep by the 
feet of the Iroquois, that they became your roads of 
travel, as your possessions gradually eat into those of 
my people. Your roads still traverse those same 
lines of communication, which bound one part of the 




Long House to the other. Have we, the first hold 
ers of this prosperous region, no longer a share in 
your history ? Glad were your fathers to sit down 
upon the threshold of the Long House. Had our 
forefathers spurned you from it, when the French 
were thundering at the opposite side to get a pas 
sage through, and drive you into the sea, whatever 
has been the fate of other Indians, the Iroquois 
might still have been a nation, and I, instead of 
pleading here for the privilege of living within your 
borders, I --might have had a country." l 

A brief reference to Indian runners will not be in 
appropriate in this connection. To convey intelli 
gence from nation to nation, and to spread information 
throughout the Confederacy, as in summoning coun 
cils upon public exigencies, trained runners were em 
ployed. But three days were necessary, it is said, to 
convey intelligence from Buffalo to Albany. Swiftness 
of foot was an acquirement, among the Iroquois, which 
brought the individual into high repute. A trained 
runner would traverse a hundred miles per day. With 

1 "The eloquent speech, of which the above is an extract, was an 
unpremeditated effort of Dr. Peter Wilson (Wa-o-wo-wa-no-onk), an 
educated chief, and was delivered at the May, i 847, meeting of the New 
York Historical Sociery, at which he chanced to be present. The sub 
stance of the present chapter and of Chapter II. of Book I. of this work 
being a paper entitled On the Territorial Limits, Geographical Names, 
and Trails of the Iroquois, had just been read before the society, when 
under the impulse of the moment this chief accepted an invitation to 
address the meeting. He spoke with such pathos and earnestness upon 
his people and race their ancient prowess and generosity their present 
weakness and dependence and especially upon the hard fate of a small 
band of Senecas and Cayugas, which had recently been hurried into the 
western wilderness to perish, that all present were deeply moved by his 
eloquence. He produced a strong sensation." 



relays, which were sometimes resorted to, the length 
of the day s journey could be considerably increased. 
It is said that the runners of Montezuma conveyed in 
telligence to him of the movements of Cortes, at the 
rate of two hundred miles per day ; but this must be 
regarded as extravagant. During the last war, a run 
ner left Tonawanda at daylight in the summer season, 
for Avon, a distance of forty miles upon the trail. He 
delivered his message, and reached Tonawanda again 
about noon. In the night their runners were guided 
by the stars, from which they learned to keep their 
direction, and regain it, if perchance they lost their 
way. During the fall and winter, they determined their 
course by the Pleiades, or Seven Stars. This group in 
the neck of Taurus, they called Got-gwar -dar. In the 
spring and summer they ran by another group, which 
they named Gwe-o-ga-ah, or the Loon, four stars at the 
angles of a rhombus. In preparing to carry messages 
they denuded themselves entirely, with the exception 
of the Ga-ka-ah) or breech cloth, and a belt. They were 
usually sent out in pairs, and took their way through 
the forest, one behind the other, in perfect silence. 

Upon the map accompanying the first volume of 
this work, the trails which have been traced will be 
found. (42) Also the names in the several dialects of the 
Iroquois, of the lakes, rivers, and creeks ; of the Indian 
villages, and ancient localities, known to our immediate 
predecessors ; and the names of our own cities and 
villages, which have been christened as they appeared. 1 

i In Appendix A, I, will be found a schedule containing all the 
names upon the Map, with the signification of each, arranged under their 
respective counties. 

1 06 


This map is newly designed, to exhibit the Home 
Country of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee. 

The Iroquois were the master spirits of the north. 
Fortunate in their geographical position, and powerful 
from the concentration of their strength through the 
League, the lesser tribes scattered over these vast ter 
ritories could offer but slight obstruction to their com 
bined attack. Large masses, like the Sioux of the 
west, or the Cherokees of the south, were alone able 
to withstand their valor, or resist their invasions. In 
comparison with other Indian nations, the Iroquois 
might well exult in the superiority of their institutions ; 
and felicitate themselves upon the high destiny which 
seemed to await the full development of their civil 
institutions. (40) 


Chapter IV 

Future Destiny of the Indian His Reclamation Schools of the 
Missionaries The Christian Party Schools of the State 
Future Citizenship Their Indebtedness to Missionaries Rights 
of Property Injustice of Neglect System of Superintendence 
Duty of the American People The Indian Department 

THE future destiny of the Indian upon this con 
tinent, is a subject of no ordinary interest. 
If the fact, that he cannot be saved in his 
native state, needed any proof beyond the experience of 
the past, it could be demonstrated from the nature of 
things. Our primitive inhabitants are environed with 
civilized life, the baleful and disastrous influence of 
which, when brought in contact with Indian life, is 
wholly irresistible. Civilization is aggressive, as well 
as progressive a positive state of society, attacking 
every obstacle, overwhelming every lesser agency, and 
searching out and filling up every crevice, both in the 
moral and physical world; while Indian life is an un 
armed condition, a negative state, without inherent 
vitality, and without powers of resistance. The insti 
tutions of the red man fix him to the soil with a fragile 
and precarious tenure ; while those of civilized man, in 
his highest estate, enable him to seize it with a grasp 
which defies displacement. To uproot a race at the 
meridian of its intellectual power, is next to impossible ; 
but the expulsion of a contiguous one, in a state of 



primitive rudeness, is comparatively easy, if not an ab 
solute necessity. 

The manifest destiny of the Indian, if left to him 
self, calls up the question of his reclamation, certainly, 
in itself, a more interesting and far more important 
subject than any which have before been considered. 
All the Indian races now dwelling within the Republic 
have fallen under its jurisdiction ; thus casting upon 
the government a vast responsibility, as the adminis 
trator of their affairs, and a solemn trust, as the guar 
dian of their future welfare. Should the system of 
tutelage and supervision, adopted by the national 
government, find its highest aim and ultimate object 
in the adjustment of their present difficulties from day 
to day ; or should it look beyond and above these 
temporary considerations, towards their final elevation 
to the rights and privileges of American citizens ? 
This is certainly a grave question, and if the latter 
enterprise itself be feasible, it should be prosecuted 
with a zeal and energy as earnest and untiring as 
its importance demands. During the period within 
which this question will be solved, the American 
people cannot remain indifferent and passive specta 
tors, and avoid responsibility ; for while the govern 
ment is chiefly accountable for the administration of 
their civil affairs, those of a moral and religious char 
acter, which, at least, are not less important, appeal 
to the enlightened benevolence of the public at large. 

Whether a portion of the Indian family may yet 
be reclaimed and civilized, and thus saved eventually 
from the fate which has already befallen so many of 
our aboriginal races, will furnish the theme of a few 




concluding reflections. What is true of the Iroquois, 
in a general sense, can be predicated of any other por 
tion of our primitive inhabitants. For this reason the 
facts relied upon to establish the hypothesis that the 
Indian can be permanently reclaimed and civilized, 
will be drawn exclusively from the social history of 
the former. 

There are now about four thousand Iroquois living 
in the state of New York. Having for many years 
been surrounded by civilization, and shut in from all 
intercourse with the ruder tribes of the wilderness, 
they have not only lost their native fierceness, but 
have become quite tractable and humane. In addition 
to this, the agricultural pursuits into which they have 
gradually become initiated, have introduced new 
modes of life, and awakened new aspirations, until a 
change, in itself scarcely perceptible to the casual ob 
server, but in reality very great, has already been 
accomplished. At the present moment their decline 
has not only been arrested, but they are actually in 
creasing in numbers, (59) and improving in their social 
condition. The proximate cause of this universal 
spectacle is to be found in their feeble attempts at 
agriculture ; but the remote and the true one is to be 
discovered in the schools of the missionaries. 

To these establishments among the Iroquois, from 
the days of the Jesuit fathers down to the present 
time, they are principally indebted for all the progress 
they have made, and for whatever prospect of ultimate 
reclamation their condition is beginning to inspire. 
By the missionaries they were taught our language, 
and many of the arts of husbandry and of domestic 




life ;. from them they received the Bible and the pre 
cepts of Christianity. After the lapse of so many 
years, the fruits of their toil and devotion are becom 
ing constantly more apparent : as, through years of 
slow and almost imperceptible progress, they have 
gradually emancipated themselves from much of the 
rudeness of Indian life. The Jroquois of the present 
day is, in his social condition, elevated far above the 
Iroquois of the seventeenth century. This fact is 
sufficient to prove, that philanthropy and Christianity 
are not wasted upon the Indian ; and further than 
this, that the Iroquois, if eventually reclaimed, must 
ascribe their preservation to the persevering and de 
voted efforts of those missionaries, who labored for 
their welfare when they were injured and defrauded 
by the unscrupulous, neglected by the civil authorities, 
and oppressed by the multitude of misfortunes which 
accelerated their decline. 

There are but two means of rescuing the Indian 
from his impending destiny ; and these are education 
and Christianity. If he will receive into his mind the 
light of knowledge and the spirit of civilization, he 
will possess, not only the means of self-defence, but 
the power with which to emancipate himself from the 
thraldom in which he is held. The frequent attempts 
which have been made to educate the Indian, and the 
numerous failures in which these attempts have even 
tuated, have, to some extent, created a belief in the 
public mind, that his education and reclamation are 
both impossible. This enterprise may still, perhaps, 
be considered an experiment, and of uncertain issue ; 
but experience has not yet shown that it is hopeless. 



There is now, in each Indian community in the 
State, a large and respectable class who have become 
habitual cultivators of the soil ; many of whom have 
adopted our mode of life, have become members of 
the missionary churches, speak our language, and are 
in every respect discreet and sensible men. In this 
particular class there is a strong desire for the adop 
tion of the customs of civilized life, and more especially 
for the education of their children, upon which subject 
they often express the strongest solicitude. Among 
the youth who are brought up under such influences, 
there exists the same desire for knowledge, and the 
same readiness to improve educational advantages. 
Out of this class Indian youth may be selected for a 
higher education, with every prospect of success, 
since to a better preparation for superior advantages, 
there is superadded a stronger security against a 
relapse into Indian life. In the attempted education 
of their young men, the prime difficulty has been to 
render their attainments permanent, and useful to 
themselves. To draw an untutored Indian from his 
forest home, and, when carefully educated, to dismiss 
him again to the wilderness, a solitary scholar, would 
be an idle experiment ; because his attainments 
would not only be unappreciated by his former asso 
ciates, but he would incur the hazard of being de 
spised because of them. The education of the Indian 
youth should be general, and chiefly in schools at 

A new order of things has recently become appar 
ent among the Iroquois, which is favorable to a more 
general education at home and to a higher cultivation 



in particular instances. The schools of the mission 
aries, established as they have been, and are, in the 
heart of our Indian communities, have reached the 
people directly, and laid the only true and solid 
foundation of their permanent improvement. They 
have created a new society in the midst of them, 
founded upon Christianity ; thereby awakening new 
desires, creating new habits, and arousing new aspira 
tions. In fact they have gathered together the better 
elements of Indian society, and quickened them with 
the light of religion and of knowledge. A class has 
thus been gradually formed, which if encouraged and 
strengthened, will eventually draw over to itself that 
portion of our Indian population which is susceptible 
of improvement and elevation, and willing to make 
the attempt. Under the fostering care of the govern 
ment, both state and national, and under the still 
more efficient tutelage of religious societies, great 
hopes may be justly entertained of the ultimate and 

permanent civilization of this portion of the Iroquoia* 

It is, indeed, a great undertaking to work off the 
Indian temper of mind, and infuse that of another 
race. It is necessary, to its accomplishment, to com 
mence in infancy, and at the missionary school, where 
our language is substituted for the Indian language, 
our religion for the Indian mythology, and our amuse 
ments and mode of life for theirs. When this has 
been effected, and upon a mind thus prepared has 
been shed the light of a higher knowledge, there is 
not even then a firm assurance that the Indian nature 
is forever subdued and submerged in that superior one 
which civilization creates. In the depths of Indian 



society there is a spirit and a sentiment to which their 
minds are attuned by nature ; and great must be the 
power, and constant the influence which can overcome 
the one, or eradicate the other. 

In the education of the Iroquois, New York has 
recently made a commencement. Prior to 1846 our 
Indian youth were excluded from the benefits of the 
common school fund; their want of preparation for 
such schools, furnishing, to some extent, a sufficient 
reason. At that time schools were first opened among 
them under appropriations from the public fund. 
These schools have not met with encouraging suc 
cess ; but their efficiency would have been much 
greater if they had been organized upon the boarding- 
school or missionary plan, instead of that of the com 
mon school. The former is the more practicable and 
successful system of Indian education; and it is 
greatly to be hoped that it will soon be adopted. To 
meet the growing demand for a higher education, the 
State Normal School, within the past year, has not 
only been opened to a limited number of Indian 
youth, but a sufficient appropriation made for their 
maintenance while improving its advantages. These 
two important events form an interesting era with the 
modern Iroquois. It remains only to give them per 
manent boarding-schools at home for the instruction 
of the mass of their youth, with access to the Normal 
School for their advanced scholars, and in a few years 
they will rise in the scale of intelligence, as far above 
their present level, as their fathers raised themselves, 
in the days of aboriginal sovereignty, above the level 
of cotemporary nations. 





In addition to the special claim which the residue 
of the Iroquois have upon the people of the State, 
every principle of philanthropy pleads for the en 
couragement of their young men in their efforts to 
obtain a higher course of instruction than the lim 
ited earnings of Indian husbandry can afford. The 
time has come, in their social progress, when they 
are capable of a thorough intellectual training, and 
are able to achieve as high and accurate a scholar 
ship as many of their white competitors. The time 
has also arrived when academical attainments will 
prove a blessing to themselves and to their fami 
lies. By the diffusion of knowledge among them 
the way will be facilitated for the introduction of 
the mechanic arts, and for their improvement in ag 
ricultural pursuits. A small band of educated young 
men in each Indian community would find sufficient 
employment for their acquired capacities, in the va 
rious stations of teacher, physician, mechanic, and far 
mer ; in each and all of which they would greatly 
promote the general welfare. If the desire for im 
provement, which now prevails among them, is met 
and encouraged, it will require but a few years to 
initiate them into the arts of civilized life, and to pre 
pare them eventually for exercising those rights of 
property, and rights of citizenship, which are common 
to ourselves. How much more noble for the State 
to reclaim and save this interesting and peculiar 
portion of her people, than to accelerate their ex 
tinction by injustice ; or to abandon them to their 
fate, when they are struggling to emancipate them 
selves by taking into their hands the implements of 



agriculture, and opening their minds to the light of 

There is no want of sympathy for their welfare 
among the people of New York ; on the contrary, 
there is a wide-spread and deep-seated interest in their 
future reclamation. Whatever can be done to ame 
liorate their condition, and encourage that portion who 
have commenced the work of their own improvement, 
would receive the warmest commendation. If the 
Indian puts forth his hand for knowledge, he asks 
for the only blessing which we can give him in ex 
change for his birthright, which is worthy of his 

The education and christianization of the Iroquois 
is a subject of too much importance, in a civil aspect, 
to be left exclusively to the limited and fluctuating 
means of religious societies. The schools established 
and sustained among them by private benevolence, 
are, to the Indian, almost the same as common 
schools to our own people ; and without them the 
Indian would, in times past, have been denied all 
means of instruction. These schools bring together 
the youth for elementary tuition, as a necessary prep 
aration for moral and religious training. While 
there, they adopt, in all respects, the habits of civil 
ized life, are taught our language, and the more 
simple elementary studies. In so far, it would be 
but a just act of public beneficence to allow those 
pupils to draw the same share of public money which 
falls to the other children of the State. A system of 
public Indian education, upon such a plan as their 
circumstances demand, should either be adopted by 



the State ; or a portion of the public money, bearing 
some proportion to the number of Indian pupils, 
should be placed at the disposal of the local mission 
ary, to be expended with an equal portion contrib 
uted by private benevolence, or by the Indians 
themselves. It is time that our Indian youth were 
regarded, in all respects, as a part of the children 
of the State, and brought under such a system of 
tutelage as that relation would impose. 

The vast extent of the religious enterprises of the 
present day has tended to draw the attention of the 
Christian world away from the Indian, into fields 
more distant, and perhaps more attractive. During 
the past sixty years, the Iroquois have received but 
a small share of the Christian watchfulness to which 
their wants entitled them. Faithful and zealous 
missionaries, it is true, have labored among them, 
producing results far greater than is generally be 
lieved ; but the inadequate scale upon which these 
missions were organized, and the fluctuations, in their 
efficiency, which were inseparable from their irregu 
lar and limited supplies, have prevented them from 
carrying forward their work to its full completion. 
But whatever has been done, is chiefly to be ascribed 
to them, and to the denominations which they 

Too much cannot be said of the teachableness of 
the Indian, and of his aptitude to learn, when sub 
jected to systematic discipline. If the same means 
and the same influences which are employed to edu 
cate and elevate the mass of our own people, and 
without the constant application of which, they them- 


selves would soon fall into ignorance, were brought 
to bear upon our Indian population, they would rise 
under it with a rapidity which would excite both sur 
prise and admiration. Instances are not wanting, 
among the present Iroquois, of attainments in scholar 
ship which would do credit to any student. To give 
employment to those Indian youth whose acquired 
capacities would enable them to nil stations of trust 
and profit among ourselves, is another species of en 
couragement which commends itself to the generous 
mind. Both in our civil and social relations with 
the red men, we regard them as a distinct and sepa 
rate class ; when in each of these relations they should 
not only be regarded as our fellow-men, but as a part 
of our own people. Born upon the soil, the descend 
ants of its ancient proprietors, there is no principle 
which should make them aliens in the land of their 
nativity, or exclude them from any of those advan 
tages which are reserved to ourselves. So far as they 
are able to appreciate and enjoy the same privileges 
which pertain to the mass of the people, the claim 
for participation which their situation silently puts 
forth should not be disregarded. 

The lands of the Iroquois are still held in common, 
the title being vested in the people. Their progress 
towards a higher agricultural life has rendered this 
ancient tenure a source of inconvenience ; although 
they are not as yet prepared for their division among 
the people. Each individual can improve and enclose 
any portion of their common domain, and sell or re 
tain such improvements, in the same manner as with 
personal property ; but they have no power to transfer 




the title to the land to each other, or to strangers. (101) 
As early as the reign of James the Second, the right 
of purchasing Indian lands was made a government 
right exclusively, by royal proclamation, and it proved 
such a necessary shield against the rapacity of specu 
lators, that this humane provision is still retained as 
a law in all the States of the Union, and by the 
national government. When the Iroquois reach such 
a stable position, as agriculturists, as to make it safe 
to divide their lands among the several families of 
each nation, with the power of alienation, it will give 
to them that stimulus and ambition which separate 
rights of property are so well calculated to produce. 
The present system has at least the merit of saving 
all the people from poverty and vagrancy, if it does 
not enable a portion of them to become thrifty and 
substantial agriculturists. The first step towards the 
amelioration of their condition in this particular, 
would be a division among themselves, with the 
power of alienation to each other, under such re 
strictions as would be adapted to the case. This 
would serve to prepare the way for other changes, 
.until finally they could be restored, with safety to 
themselves, not only to the full possession of those 
rights of property which are common to ourselves, 
but also to the rights and privileges of citizens of 
the State. When this time arrives, they will cease 
to be Indians, except in name/ 12 

The progressive elevation of our Indian popula 
tion, here indicated, if carried to a successful result, 
would save but a portion of the Indian family ; but 
that portion would become, in every respect, as use- 



ful and respectable as any other portion of our people. 
They would neither be wanting in ability, nor morality, 
nor public spirit ; and perhaps it is not too much to 
conjecture, that specimens of the highest genius, and 
of the most conspicuous talent, hereafter destined 
to figure in the civil history of our Republic, may 
spring from the ranks of the Indian citizens. (r>0 > 

On the other hand, if they are left, unencouraged 
and unassisted, to struggle against their adverse 
destiny or, more fatal still, if they are subjected to 
a false and unjust system of superintendence, the 
whole Indian family will ere long fade away, and 
finally become enshrouded in the same regretful 
sepulchre in which the races of New England lie 

The present system of national supervision is evi 
dently temporary in its plans and purposes, and 
designed for the administration of our Indian affairs 
with the least possible inconvenience, rather than for 
their ultimate reclamation, to be followed by the be- 
stowment of citizenship. It carries, upon all its 
features, the impression, that the presence of the 
Indian upon this continent is temporary ; and that, 
he must inevitably surrender the remainder of his 
possessions, when he shall have become surrounded 
by the white man, and the summons be sent in for 
the customary capitulation. The sentiment which 
this system proclaims is not as emphatic as that 
emblazoned upon the Roman policy towards the 
Carthaginians Carthago est delenda^ " Carthage 
must be destroyed : " but it reads in not less signifi 
cant characters The destiny of the Indian is exter- 



mination. This sentiment, which is so wide-spread 
as to have become a general theme for school-boy 
declamation, is not only founded upon erroneous 
views, but it has been prejudicial to the Indian 
himself. If, then, public opinion and the national 
policy are both wrong upon these great questions, 
or if there are even strong grounds for suspecting 
them to be so, it becomes an act of justice, as well as 
of duty, to correct the one, and change the other. 
Our Indian relations, from the foundation of the 
Republic to the present moment, have been adminis 
tered with reference to the ultimate advantage of 
the government itself; while the reclamation of the 
Indian has been a secondary object, if it ever entered 
into the calculation in the slightest degeee. Millions 
of money, it is true, have been expended, and some 
show of justice preserved in their complicated affairs; 
but in all prominent negotiations the profit has been 
on the side of the government, and the loss on that of 
the Indian. In addition to this, instances of sharp- 
sighted diplomacy, of ungenerous coercion, and of 
grievous injustice, are to be found in the journal of 
our Indian transactions a perpetual stigma upon 
the escutcheon of our Republic. If references are 
demanded to the paragraphs, the reader may turn to 
that upon the Seminoles, or to the Georgia Cherokee 
treaty, executed by the government, or to the more 
recent treaties with the Iroquois themselves, in which 
the government bartered away its integrity, to min 
ister to the rapacious demands of the Ogden Land 
Company. 14 ^ 

Jefferson made the civilization of the Indian a 


subject of profound consideration, and a favorite ele 
ment of the national policy during his administration. 
Washington, at a still earlier period, regarded the 
future welfare of the Indian with deep solicitude. In 
founding the first system of intercourse and superin 
tendence, he was guided by the most enlightened 
principles of justice and benevolence; and to such a 
degree were the Iroquois, in particular, impressed with 
the goodness and beneficence of his character, that 
they not only bestowed upon him, in common with 
other Indian nations, the appellation of father, but 
to this day he is known among them as " the Great 
American." The aggressive spirit of the people, how 
ever, in connection with the slight estimation in which 
Indian rights were held, has ever been found too 
powerful an element to be stayed. It has had free 
course during the last sixty years, until the whole 
territory east of the Mississippi, with inconsiderable 
exceptions, has been swept from the Indian. This fact 
renders any argument superfluous, to show that within 
this period the reclamation and preservation of the 
red man has formed no part of the public policy. 

But with the same period the moral elements of 
society have been developed and strengthened to such 
a degree as to work a change in public sentiment. A 
kindlier feeling towards the Indian is everywhere ap 
parent, joined with an unwillingness to allow him to be 
urged into further extremities. He has been suffi 
ciently the victim of adverse fortune, to be entitled to 
a double portion of the interest and assistance of the 
philanthropist ; and a new day, it is to be hoped, has 
already dawned upon his prospects. 



It cannot be forgotten, that in after years our 
Republic must render an account, to the civilized 
world, for the disposal which it makes of the Indian. 
It is not sufficient, before this tribunal, to plead inevit 
able destiny ; but it must be shown affirmatively, that 
no principles of justice were violated, no efforts were 
left untried to rescue them from their perilous position. 
After all has been accomplished which the utmost 
efforts of philanthropy, and the fullest dictates of 
wisdom can suggest, there will still be sufficient to 
lament, in the unpropitious fate of the larger portion 
of the Indian family. It is the great office of the 
American people, first, to shield them against future 
aggression, and then to mature such a system of super 
vision and tutelage, as will ultimately raise them from 
the rudeness of Indian life, and prepare them for the 
enjoyment of those rights and privileges which are 
common to ourselves. (128) 

To the Indian Department of the national govern 
ment, the wardship of the whole Indian family is, in a 
great measure, committed ; thus placing it in a position 
of high responsibility. If any discrimination could be 
made between the several departments of the govern 
ment, this should be guided by the most enlightened 
justice, the most considerate philanthropy. Great is 
the trust reposed, for it involves the character of the 
white race, and the existence of the red. May it ever 
be quickened to duty by a vivid impression of its 
responsibilities, and never violate, for any consider 
ation, the sacred trust committed to its charge. 

The profoundly truthful sentiment of Cicero, 
" without the highest justice a republic cannot be 



governed," furnishes a text eminently worthy of 
being studied in this connection. It would form an 
apt inscription, to be written over the doorway of 
the Indian Department 

" Sine summa justitia Rempublicam regi non posse. 1 


Appendix A 

Appendix A 



MAP 1 


a sounded as in far. 6 sounded as in met. 

a sounded as in at. i sounded as in pine. 

a sounded as in fall. 5 sounded as in tone. 



Ga-nea-ga-o-no -ga, Territory of the Mohawks. 

O-na -yote-ka-o-no -ga, Territory of the Oneidas. 

O-nun da-ga-o-no -ga, Territory of the Onondagas. 

Gwe-u -gweh-o-no -ga, Territory of the Cayugas. 

Nun-da - wa-o-no -ga, Territory of the Senecas. 

Dus-ga -o-weh-o-no -ga, Territory of the Tuscaroras. 



Seneca Dialect. 


TA i i ( Running through the hem- 

Dunkirk, Ga-na -da-wa-o, 


Fetid banks . 

Silver Creek, Ga-a-nun-da -ta, G. A mountain levelled down. 

1 Where the Map and this Schedule are at variance, the latter must govern. 

a Ga-hun -da and Te-car-ne-o-di are common nouns, signifying, the former, "a 
river" or "creek," and the latter, "a lake." They are always affixed by the Iro- 
quois, in speaking, to the name itself. 





Chautauqua Creek, Ga -no-wun-go, G. 

Conewango River, Ga -no-wun-go, G. 

Canadawa Creek, Ga-na -da-wa-o, G. 


In the rapids. 
In the rapids. 

Running through the hem 

Cassadaga Creek, 

Gus-da -go, G. 

Under the rocks. 

Cassadaga Lake, 

C Gus-da -go, Te-car- 
\ ne-o-di ,* 

> Under the rocks. 

Chautauqua Lake, 

Cha-da -queh, T. 

Place where one was lost. 


Ga -da-ges -ga-o, 

Fetid banks. 


Allegany River, 

O-hee -yo, G. 

The beautiful river. 

Great Valley Creek 

, O-da -squa -dos-sa, G. 

Around the stone. 

Little Valley Creek, O-da -squa -wa-teh , G. 

( Small stone beside a large 
( one. 

Oil Creek, 

Te-car -nohs, G. 

Dropping oil. 

Ischuna Creek, 

He -soh, G. 

Floating nettles. 

Oswaya Creek, 

O-so -a-yeh, G. 

Pine forest. 

Burton Creek, 

Je -ga-sa-nek, G. 

Name of an Indian. 

Lime Lake, 

Te-car -no-wun-do, T. 

Lime Lake. 


De-as -hen-da-qua, 

Place for holding courts. 


Je -ga-sa-neh, 

Name of an Indian. 


He -soh, 

Same as Ischuna Creek. 

Hasket Creek. 

O-so -a-went-ha, G. 

By the pines. 


Allegany Village, 

De-o -na-ga-no, 

Cold spring. 

Allegany Village, 

Jo -ne-a-dih, 

Beyond the great bend. 

Oil Spring Village, 

Te-car -nohs, 

Dropping oil. 

Bend Village, 

Da -u-de-hok-to, 

At the bend. 

Trail of the Eries, 

( Ga-qua -ga-o-no, 
( Wa-a -gwen-ne-yuh. 


Two Sisters Creek, 

Te-car -na-ga-ge, G. 

Black waters. 

Caugwaga Creek, 

Ga -gwa-ga, G. 

Creek of the Cat Nation. 

Smokes Creek, 

Da-de-o -da-na-suk -to,G. Bend in the shore. 

Cazenovia Creek, 

Ga-a -nun-deh-ta, G. 

A mountain flattened down. 

Buffalo Creek, 

Do -sho-weh, G. 

Splitting the fork. 

Cayuga Creek, 

Ga-da -geh, G. 

Through the oak openings. 

1 See note 2, p. 127. 




Ellicott Creek, 
Grand Island, 
Eighteen Mile, Creek, 
Murder Creek, 
Lake Erie, 
Black Rock, 
Clarence Hollow, 



Ga-da -o-ya-deh, G. 
Ga-weh -no-geh,( 4 5) 
Ta-nun -no-ga-o, G. 
De -on-gote, G. 
Do -sho-weh, T. 
Do -sho-weh, 
De-o -steh-ga-a, 
Ga-sko -sa-da-ne-o, 
Ta-nun -no-ga-o, 

De -on-gote, 
Ga-squen -da-geh, 


Level heavens. 

On the island. 

Full of hickory bark. 

Place of hearing. 

Same as Buffalo Creek. 

SamjB as Buffalo Creek. 

A rocky shore. 

Many falls. 

Full of hickory bark. 
( Place of hearing ( neuter 
\ gender). 

Place of the lizard. 


Red Jacket Village, Te-kise -da-ne-yout, 
Falls Village, Ga-sko -sa-da, 

Cattaraugus Village, Ga-da -ges-ga-o, 
Carrying Place Vil- ) Gw a>_ u _ gwe h, 
lage, i 

Tonawanda Creek, Ta -na-wun-da, G. 
Aliens Creek, O -at-ka, G. 

Black Creek, 






Pine Hill, 



LeRoy, j 


Silver Lake, 

Silver Lake Outlets, 

Caneadea Creek, 


VOL. II. 9 

Ja -go-o-geh, G. 

Ya -go-o-geh, 

Deo-on -go-wa, 

Te-car -da-na-duk, 

Ga -swa-dak, 

Gau -dak, 

Te-ca -so-a-a, 

Gweh -ta-a-ne-te-car - 

Da-o -sa-no-geh, 
Te-car -ese-ta-ne-ont , 
O-a -geh, 
Te-car -no-wun-na-d a 


O-so -ont-geh, 
Ga-na -yat, T. 
Ga-na -yat, G. 
Ga-o -ya-de-o, G. 
Chi -nose-heh-geh, 

Place of the bell. 
The falls. 

Same as Cattaraugus Creek. 
Place of taking our boats, 
or portage. 


Swift water. 

The opening. 

Place of hearing. (This is 

Place of hearing. 
The great hearing place. 
Place of many trenches. 
By the cedar swamp. 
By the plains. 
Pine lying up. 

I The red village. 

Place without a name. 
Place with a sign-post. 
On the road. 

[ Many rapids. 

Place of turkeys. 
Signification lost. 
Signification lost. 
Same as Caneadea. 
On the side of the valley 






Tonawanda Village, Ta -na-wun-da, Swift water. 

Gardow, Ga-da -o, Bank in front. 


Genesee River, 

Gen-nis -he-yo, G. 

The beautiful valley. 

Wiskoy Creek, 

O-wa-is -ki, G. 

Under the banks. 

Black Creek, 

Ja-go -yo-geh, G. 

Hearing place. 


Ga-ne-o -weh-ga-yat, 

Head of the stream. 


3 Ga-o -ya-de-o, 

( Where the heavens lean 
(. against the earth. 


j Ga-o -ya-de-o, G. 

f Where the heavens rest 
( upon the earth. 


Nun-da -o, 



O-wa-is -ki, 

Under the banks. 



O-wa-is -ki, 

Under the banks. 


Ga-o -ya-de-o, 

^ Where the heavens lean 
( against the earth. 


Caneseraga Creek, 

Ga-nus , ga-go, G. 

Among the milkweed. 

Conesus Lake, 

Ga-ne-a -sos, T. 

Place of nanny-berries. 

Conesus Outlet, 

Ga-ne-a -sos,. G. 

Place of nanny-berries. 

Hemlock Lake, 

O-neh -da, T. 

The hemlock. 

Hemlock Outlet, 

O-neh -da, G. 

The hemlock. 


O-ha -di, 

Trees burned. 

Mount Morris, 

So-no -jo-wau-ga, 

( Big kettle. (Residence of 
(. a Seneca Chief.) 


Ga-nus -ga-go, 

Among the milkweed. 


De-o -de-sote, 

The spring. 


Ska-hase -ga-o, 

Once a long creek. 


Ga-no -wau-ges, 

Fetid waters. 


De-o -na-gi-no, 

Cold water. 


Ga-nah -da-on-tweh, 

( Where hemlock was 

| spilled. 


Squakie Hill, 

Da-yo -it-ga-o, 

<" Where the river issues from 
] , i u *n 

( the hills. 

Site of Moscow, 

Ga-neh -da-on-tweh, 

^ Where hemlock was 

( spilled. 




Little Beard s Town, De-o-nun -da-ga-a, 

Big Tree Village, Gii-un-do -wa-na, 

Tuscarora Village, O-ha -gi, 

Ganowauges, Ga-no -wau-ges, 

Site of Dansville, Ga-nus -ga-go, 

Near Livonia, De-o -de-sote, 

Site of Mt. Morris, So-no -jo-wau-ga, 


Where the hill is near. 
A big tree. 
Crowding the bank. 
Fetid waters. 
Among the milkweed. 
The Spring. 
Big kettle. 


Irondequoit Bay, 
Salmon Creek, 
Sandy Creek, 
Honeoye Outlet, 

Honeoye Falls, 

Ontario Trail, 

Indian Village at 
the Bend, 

N e-o -da-on-da-n u at , 
Ga -doke-na, G. 
O-neh -chi-geh, G. 
Ha -ne-a-yeh, G. 
Ga -sko-sa-go, 
Gweh -ta-a-ne-te-car- 
nun-do -teh, 

O -at-ka, 

Sko -sa-is-to, 

Ne-a -ga Wa-a-gwen- 

A bay. 

Place of minnows. 
Long ago. 
Finger lying. 
At the falls. 

| Red Village. 

( The opening. (Same as 
\ Allen s Creek.) 
Falls rebounding from an 

> Da-yo -de-hok-to, 

Oak Orchard Creek, Da-ge-a -no-gai-unt, G. j 

Ontario foot path. 
A bended creek. 


Two sticks 

Johnson s Creek, 
1 8 mile Creek, 

Tuscarora Creek, 
East Branch, 

Tuscarora Creek, 
West Branch, 


A-jo -yok-ta, G. 
$ Date-ge-a -de-ha-na- 
i geh, G. 

> Te-car -na-ga-ge, G. 

coming to- 
Fishing Creek. 
Two creeks near together. 

Black Creek. 

| De-yo -wuh-yeh, G. Among the reeds. 

C Place where boats were 
De-o -wun-dake-no, 


Date-geh -ho-seh, 


Te-ka -on-do-duk, 


De-o -do-sote, 

One stream crossing anoth- 
(Aqueduct on the 

f ne strea 
< er. ( 
(. canal.) 

Place with a sign-post. 
( The Spring (referring to 
j the Cold Spring). 



Royalton Centre, 


Golden Creek, 

Niagara River, 
Lake Ontario, 



O-ge-a -wa-te-ka -e, 
Ga -a-no-geh, 

Ne-ah -ga, 

Hate-keh -neet-ga-on- 
da, G. 

Ne-ah -ga, G.() 
Ne-ah -ga, T. 

The word Ontario, Ska-no -da-ri-o, T. 

Niagara Falls, Date-car -sko-sase, 

Niagara Village, Date-car -sko-sase, 

Tuscarora Indian ) 

Village, ^Ga-a-no-geh, 

Seneca Indian Village, Ga-u -gweh, 

Place of the butternut. 

On the mountains, 
f Supposed from O-ne-ah, a 
( neck. 

(. Signification lost. 

Same as Youngtown. 

Same as Youngtown. 
/ The "beautiful lake." 
\ (This is a Mohawk word 
\ and Ontario is a deriva- 
(. tive.) 

The highest falls. 

The highest falls. 

On the mountains. 

( Taking canoe out. (Car- 
-< rying place at the mouth 
( of Tonawanda Creek.) 

Mud Creek, 
Flint Creek, 


Same as Palmyra. 

Ga -na-gweh, G. 
Ah-ta -gweh-da-ga, G. 

Canandaigua, Ga -nun-da-gwa, 

Canandaigua Outlet, Ga -nun-da-gwa, G. 

Canandaigua Lake, Ga -nun-da-gwa, T. 

Hemlock Outlet, O-neh -da, G. 
Honeoye Lake, 
Skaneatice Lake, 

Ha -ne-a-yeh, T. 
Ska -ne-a-dice, T. 

Sodus Bay, 
Little Sodus Bay, 


Seneca Lake, 
West Bloomfield, 


Seo-dose . (Seneca.) 
Date-ke-a -o-shote, 

Ga -na-gweh, 

Ga-nun -da-sa-ga, 
Ga-nun -da-sa-ga, T. 
Ga-nun -da-ok, 
Ga-o -sa-ga-o, 
Nun -da-wa-o, 


A place selected for a set 

A place selected for a set 

A place selected for a set 


Finger lying. 

Long Lake. 

Ah-slo-dose, (Oneida.) Sig 
nification lost. 

Two baby frames. (From 
Ga-ose -ha, a baby frame.) 

A village suddenly sprung 

New settlement village. 

New settlement village. 

Village on the top of a hill. 

In the basswood country. 

Great hill. 



Near Geneva, 


Near Naples, 




Ga-nun -da-sa-ga,( 45 / 
Ga -nun-da-gwa, 

Ga-o -sa-ga-o, 
Nun -da-wa-o, 

New settlement village. 
Place selected for a settle 

In the basswood country. 
Great hill. 

Crooked Lake, 


C Promontory projecting into 

O-go -ya-ga, T. 

Crooked Lake Outlet, O-go -ya-ga, G, 

Conhocton River, Ga-ha -to, G. 

Chemung River, 

Canisteo River, 


Painted Post, 


Ga-ha -to, G.() 
Te-car -nase-te-o, G. 
Do-na -ta-gwen-da, 
Te-car -nase-te-o-ah, 
Skwe -do-wa,(45) 

) the lake. 

( Promontory projecting into 

I the lake. 

A log in the water. 

A log in the water. 

Board on the water. 

Opening in an opening. 

A board sign. 

Great plain. 




Tioga Point, 

Ta-yo -ga, 
Ne-o-dak -he-at, 

Cayuga Lake, 

Gwe-u -gweh, T. 

Cayuga Bridge, 
Rowland s Island, 

De-a-wen -dote, 
Ga-no -geh, 
\Vas -gwas, 
Te-car -jik-ha -do, 
Ga-weh -no-wa-na, 
Skoi -yase, 

Seneca River, 

Swa -geh, G. 

Clyde River, 

Otter Lake, 
Muskrat Creek, 
Owasco Outlet, 

Ga-na -gweh, G. 

Was -co, 
Squa-yen -na, T. 
Squa-yen -na, G. 
De-a-go -gii-ya, G. 


At the forks. 

At the head of the lake. 
^ The lake at the mucky 
t land. 

Constant dawn. 

Oil floating on the water. 

A long bridge. 

Place of salt. 

Great island. 

Place of whortleberries. 
j Flowing out. (Some doubt 
I about the signification.) 
( River at a village suddenly 
(. sprung up. 

Floating bridge. 

A great way up. 

A great way up. 

Place where men were killed- 





Owasco Lake, Dwas -co, T. Lake at the floating bridge. 

North Sterling Creek, Dats-ka -he, G. Hard talking. 

Sodus Bay Creek, Te-ga-hone -sa-o -ta, G. A child in a baby frame. 

Ga-no -geh, Oil on the water. 

Promontory running out. 

Above Lockwoods ) ^ . . .. , , 

y Ga-ya -ga-an -ha, Inclined downwards. 

Cove, ) 

Site of Ithaca, Ne-o -dak-he -at, At the end of the lake. 

Site of Canoga, 

Site of Union Springs, Ge-wa -ga, 




c t r>- C Ga -wa-no-wa -na-neh, 

Susquehanna River, J 

< 0*) G. 

Owego Creek, 

Owasco Inlet, 

Ah-wa -ga, 

Ah-wa -ga, G. 

O-nan -no-gi-is ka, 
( Te-wis -ta-no-ont-sa - 
( ne-a-ha, 

Ka -na-ka -ge, G. 

Where the valley widens. 
Where the valley widens. 
Shagbark hickory. 

Place of the silver smith. 
Black water. 

Tionghinoga River, O-nan -no-gi-is -ka, G. Shagbark hickory. 

Tully Lake, 

Skaneateles Lake, 

Otisco Lake, 


Otisco Outlet, 


Pompey Hill, 


Oil Creek, 

Onondaga Creek, 


Te-ka -ne-a-da -he, T. 
Te-ka -ne-a-da -he, 
O-nun -o-gese, 
Skan-e-a -dice, T. 
Skan-e-a -dice, 

Ga-ah -na, T. 

Ga-ah -na, 
Ga-ah -na, G. 
Te-ka -wis-to -ta, 
De-o -wy-un -do, 
De-is - wa-ga -ha, 
De-o -nake-ha r -e, G. 
O-nun-da -ga, G. 

A lake on a hill. 

A lake on a hill. 

Long hickory. 

Long lake. 

Long lake. 

f Rising to the surface, and 
I again sinking. Legend 
( of a drowning man. 

Tinned dome. 


Place of many ribs. 

Oily water. 

On the hills. 



Onondaga West Hill, 

Onondaga Hollow, 


Nine Mile Creek, 



Jordan Creek, 
Cross Lake, 


Te-ga-che -qua-ne-on - 

Te-o-ha -ha-hen -wha, 

Us-te -ka, 

Us-te -ka, G. 

O-ya -han, 

Ka-no-wa -ya, 

Ha-nan -to, G. 
Ha-nan -to, 
U-neen -do, T. 

Fort Brewerton, Ga-do -quat, 

Oneida Outlet, 
Liverpool Creek, 
Onondaga Lake, 

She-u -ka, G. 
Ga-na-wa -ya, 
Tun-da-da -qua, G. 
Ga-nun-ta -ah, T. 
Te-ga-j ik-ha -do, 


Na-ta -dunk, 

Jamesville Creek, 

Ga-sun -to, G. 
Ga-sun -to, 

Limestone Creek, 

De-a-o -no-he, G. 


Deep Spring, 
South Onondaga, 
Christian Hollow, 

De-a-o -no-he, 

Ga-che -a-yo, 
De-o -sa-da-ya -ah, 
Swe-no -ga, 
De-o -nake-hus -sink, 

limbs on 
lying on 


ta,A hammer hanging. 

Turnpike crossingthe valley 

Bitternut hickory. 

Bitternut hickory. 

Apples split open. 

Skull lying on a shelf. 
( Small hemlock limbs on 
( water. 
C Small hemlock 
| water. 
C Hemlock tops 
( water. 
( (Oneida Dialect. 
( cation lost.) 


A great swamp. 

Thrown out. 

Material for council fire. 

Place of salt. 

Pine tree broken with top 
hanging down. 

Bark in the water. 

Bark in the water. 
( Where the creek suddenly 
( rises. 

Where the creek suddenly 


Deep Basin Spring. 

A hollow. 

Never clean. 


Onondaga Castle, Ka-na-ta-go -wa, 
4 Miles East of Castle, Tu-e-a-das -so, 

Site of Onondaga ) ,. 

V Gis-twe-ah -na, 
Hollow, S 

i Miles South of On- ) xl 

C Nan-ta-sa -sis, 
ondaga Castle, > 

Signification lost. 
Hemlock knot in the water. 

A little man. 

Going partly round a hill. 


Oswego, Swa -geh, Flowing out. 

New Haven Creek, Ka-dis-ko -na, G. Long marsh. 





Little Salmon Creek, Ga-nun-ta-sko -na, G. Large bark. 

Grindstone Creek, 
Big Salmon Creek, 
Sandy Creek, 

Grand Island, 
Sackets Harbor, 

He-ah-ha -whe, G. Apples in crotch of tree. 

Ga-hen-wa -ga, G. A creek. 

Ga-hen-wa -ga, A creek. 

Te-ka -da-o-ga -he, G. Sloping banks. 

De-a -wone-( 


( Ga-hu -a-go-je-twa-da- ) Fort at the mouth of Great 
} a -lote. i River. 

da-ga-han - 7 . ... , 

> Signification lost. 

> 6 



St. Lawrence River, 

Ga-na-wa -ga, G. 

Black Lake, 

Che -gwa-ga, T. 

Oswegatchie River, 

O -swa-gatch, G. 


O -swa-gatch, 

Black River, 

Ka-hu-ah -go, G. 


Ka-hu-ah -go,- 

Beaver River, 

Ne-ha-sa -ne, G. 

Deer Creek, 

Ga-ne -ga-to -do, 

Moose River, 

Te-ka -hun-di-an 

Otter Creek, 

D a-ween -net, G. 

Indian River, 

O-je -quack, G. 

The rapid river. 

In the hip. 

Signification lost. 

Signification lost. 

Great, or Wide River. 

Great, or Wide River. 
j Crossing on a stick of tim- 
I ber. 

G. Corn-pounder. 
do,*G. Clearing an opening. 

The Otter. 

Nut River. 

Mohawk River 
above Herkimer, 
Fish Creek, 
Wood Creek, 
Oneida Lake, 
Scribas Creek, 
Bay Creek, 
West Canada Creek 
and Mohawk River, 
Trenton Village, 
Trenton Falls, 

Da-ya -hoo-wa -quat, G. Carrying place. 

Da-ya -hoo-wa -quat, 
Ta-ga -soke, G. 
Ka-ne-go -dick, G. 
Ga-no -a-lo -hale, T. 
Ga-sote -na, G. 

Carrying place. 
Forked like a spear. 
Signification lost. 
A head on a pole. 
High grass. 

Te-gua -no-ta-go -wa, G. Big morass. 

j Te-ah-o -ge, G. 

Ose -te-a -daque, 

Date-wa -sunt-ha -go, 

Nun-da-da -sis, 


At the forks. 

In the bone. 
Great Falls. 
Around the hill. 



Whitestown Creek, 


Oriskany Creek, 


Paris Hill, 




Vernon Centre, 

Oneida Creek, 


Nine Mile Creek, 


Oneida Depot, 

New Hartford, 


Che-ga-quat -ka, G. 

Che-ga-quat -ka, 

Ole -hisk, G. 

Ole -hisk, 

Ga-nun-do -glee, 

Ka-da -wis -dag, 

Ska -na-wis, 

Ska-nu -sunk, 

Skun-an-do -wa, 

Ga-no-a-lo -hale, G. 

Te-o-na -tale, 

Te-ya-nun -soke, G. 

He-sta-yun -twa, 

De-ose-la-ta -gaat, 

Che-ga-quat -ka, 






Hills shrunk together. 

White field. 

A long swamp. 

Place of the fox. 

Great hemlock. 

Head on a pole. 

Pine forest. 

A beech tree standing up. 

Meaning lost. 

Where the cars go fast. 


Oneida Castle, 
Site of Camden, 
On Fish Creek, 

Ga-no-a-lo -hale, Head on a pole. 

Ho-sta-yun -twa, 
Ta-ga -soke, G. 

Near Oneida Castle, Ga-na -doque, 

Meaning lost. 
Forked like a spear. 
Empty village. 



Ka-ne-to -ta, 


Ska-wais -la, 

Caneseraga Creek, 

Ka-na -so-wa -ga, G. 

Chittenango Creek, 

Chu-de-naang , G. 


Chu-de-naang , G. 

Cazenovia Lake, 

Ah-wa -gee, T. 


Ah-wa -gee, 


Da-ude -no-sa-gwa-nose, 

Unadilla River, 

De-u-na -di-lo, G. 

Chenango River, 

O-che-nang, G. 


Ga-na -da-dele, 


Ga-na -so-wa -di, 


So-de-ah -lo-wa -nake, 


O-che-nang , 

Stockbridge Indian i 

> Ah-gote -sa-ga-nage, 

Pine tree standing alone. 
A point made by bushes. 
Several strings of beads with 

a string lying across. 
Where the sun shines out. 
Where the sun shines out. 
Perch lake. 
Perch lake. 
Round house. 
Place of meeting. 
Bull thistles. 
Steep hill. 
Signification lost. 
Thick-necked giant. 
Bull thistles. 

Meaning lost. 










West Canada Creek, 

Te-uge -ga, G. 

At the forks. 

Mohawk River, 

Te-uge -ga, G. 

At the forks. 


Te-uge -ga, 

At the forks. 

Little Falls, 

Ta-la-que -ga, 

Small bushes. 

Fort Plain, 

Twa-da-a-la-ha -la, 

Fort on a hill. 

Canajoharie Creek, 

Ga-na-jo-hi -e, G. 

Washing the basin. 


Ga-na-jo-hi -e, 

Washing the basin. 


Ko-la-ne -ka, 

Indian superintendent. 


Ga-na-wa -da, 

On the rapids. 

Fort Hunter, 

Te-on-da-lo -ga, 

Two streams coming to 

Schoharie Creek, 

Sko-har -le, G. 



Sko-har -le, 


East Canada Creek, 

Te-car -hu-har-lo -da, G. 

Visible over the creek. 

Otsquago Creek, 

O-squa -go, G. 

Under the bridge. 

Amsterdam Creek, 

Ju-ta-la -ga, G. 

Signification lost. 

Garoga Creek, 

Ga-ro -ga, G. 

Signification lost. 


O-no-a-la-gone -na, 

In the head. 


Ska -neh-ta -de, 

Beyond the openings. 

Hudson River, 

Ska -neh-ta -de, G. 

River beyond the openings. 

Cohoes Falls, 

Ga -ha-oose, 

Shipwrecked canoe. 

Lake Champlain, 

O-ne-a-da -lote, T. 

Signification lost. (Oneida 


Je-hone-ta-lo -ga, 



S har-la-to -ga, 

Signification lost. 

Lake St. Francis, 

Gii-na-sa-da -ga, T. 

Side hill. (Oneida dialect.) 

Salmon River, 

Gau-je -ah-go-na -ne, G. 

Sturgeon River. 

St. Regis River, 

Ah-qua-sos -ne, G. 

Partridges drumming. 

St. Regis, 

Ah-qua-sos -ne, 

Partridges drumming. 

Racket River, 

Ta -na-wa -deh, G. 

Swift water. 



Otsego (45) Lake, 

Ote-sa -ga, T. 

Signification lost. 


Ote-sa -ga, 

Signification lost. 

Delaware River, 

Ska-hun-do -wa, G. 

In the plains. 

Cobus Hill, 

As-ca-le -ge, 

Meaning lost. 

New York, 

Ga-no -no, 

Meaning lost. 






( A long island. (Oneida 
Long Island, Ga-wa-nase-geh, j dialect.) 

Atlantic Ocean, O-jik -ha-da-ge -ga, Salt water. 

Upper Mohawk Castle, Ga-ne -ga-ha -ga, Possessor of the flint. 

Middle Mohawk ) Gs _ na _ jo _ hi , 

Castle, > < 

- Washing the basin. 

Lower Mohawk ? Xe-ah -ton-ta- 1 - -~ ^ Two streams coming to- 


Welland River, 
Grand River, 

Burlington Bay, 




Brock s Monument. 

i-lo -ga, | 



Ke-a-done-da-a -ga, 
Do-te-a v -ga,(45) 
Ga-dai-o -que, 
Jo-no -dok, G. 
Swa -geh, G. 

De-o-na -sa-de -o, ( 45 ) 

Do-che -ha-o , 

De-o-na -sa-de -o, 

De -on-do, 

Gus-ta -ote, 
Jo-no -dak, 

Two forts contiguous. 

Almost broken. 

Fort in the water. 

Signification lost. 

Flowing out. 

( Where the sand forms a 
I bar. 

C Where the mountain dies 
( in the river. 

See above. 

( Log floating upon the 
( water. 

Signification lost. 


Erie, Gus-ha -wa-ga, On the body. 

Cornplanter s Village, De-o-no -sa-da-ga, Burned houses. 




Table exhibiting, in the Seneca dialect, the conjugation of the 
Verb, Ge -yase, "I shoot." 



Present Tense. Shoot, or am shooting. 





Ge yase, 
Sne -yase, 
Hii -yase, 

i . 



Och-ne -yase, 
Sne -yase, 
Ne -yase, 



Ah-gwa -yase. 
Swa -yase. 
H a-ne -yase. 


Did shoot, or 

*was shooting. 

j . 



Ge -yase-qua 
Se -yase-qua, 
Ha -yase-qua 

, I- 


i 3- 

Ne -yase-qua, 
Sne -yase-qua, 
Ne -yase-qua, 



Dwa -yase-qua. 

Ha-ne -yase-qua. 

Perfect. Shot, have shot 

, or did 





Ah-ge -ya-go, i. 
Sa-ya -go, 2. 
Ho-ya -go, 3. 

Unc-ne -ya-go, 
Sne -ya-go, 
Ho-ne -ya-go, 




Ung-gwa -ya-go. 
Swa-ya -go. 
Ho-ne -ya-go. 

Pluperfect. Had shot. 

1. Che-wa -ge-ya-go, i. Che-unlc -ne-ya-go, i. Che-yung -gwa-ya-go. 

2. Che-sa -ya-go, 2. Che-sne -ya-go, 2. Che-swa-ya-go. 

3. Che-o -ya-go, 3. Che-o -ne-ya-go, 3. Che-o -ne-ya-go. 

Future. Shall, or will shoot. 

1. Eh-ge -yake, i. Och-ne x -yake-heh, i Eh-ya -gwa-yake. 

2. Se-yake -heh, 2. Eh-sne -yake, 2. Eh-swa -yake. 

3. Ha -yake-heh, 3. Eh-ne -yiike, 3. Eh-ne -yake. 




Present Tense. May, or can shoot. 
Singular. Dual. Plural. 

1. Eh-ge -yake-ge -seh, i. Eh-ne -yake-ge -seh, i. Eh-dwa -yake-ge -seh. 

2. Eh-se -yake-ge -seh, 2. Eh-sne -yake-ge -seh, 2. Eh-swa -yake-ge -seh. 

3. Ha-o -yuke-ge -seh, 3. Eh-ne -yake-ge -seh, 3. Eh-ne -yake-ge -seh. 

Imperfect. Might, could, or would shoot. 

1. Ah-ge -yake, i. I-ne -yake, i. I-dwa-yake. 

2. Ah-se -yike, 2. l-sne -yake, 2. I-swa -yake. 

3. Ah-ah -yake, 3. Ah-ne -yake, 3. Ah-an-ne -ya ke. 

Perfect. May have shot. 

1. Ah-wa -ge -ya-go-ge - i . Ah-yunk-ne -yii-go- I. Ah-yung-gwa v -ya-go- 

seh, ge -seh, ge -seh. 

2. I-sa v -ya-go-ge-seh, 2. I-sne -ya-go-ge -seh, 2. I-swa-ya-go-ge -seh. 

3. Ah-o -ya-go-ge -seh, 3. Ah-o -ne-ya-go-ge - 3. Ah-o -ne-yai-go-ge - 

seh, seh. 

Pluperfect wanting. 
Future. Shall have shot. 

1. Ah-wa-ge -ya-go, i. Ah-yunk -ne-ya-go, i. Ah-yung-gua v -ya-go. 

2. I-sa v -ya-go, 2. I-sne -ya-go, 2. I-swa -ya-go. 

3. Ah-o -ya-go, 3. Ah-o -ne-ya-go, 3. Ah-o -ne-ya-go. 


2. Je -yake, Shoot thou. 2. Sne -yakejS/roo/^/^o. 2. Swa -yake, Shoot ye. 

3. Ha -yake, Let him 3. Ne -yake, Let them 3. Hii-ne -yake, Let them 

shoot. t<wo shoot. shoot. 




Present Tense. Am shot. 
Singular. Plural. 

1. Ung-ge -y a-go, i. Unc-ke -ya-go. 

2. A-sa -ya-go, 2. A-che -ya-go. 

3. Ho-wa-ya-go, 3. Ho-wen-ne -ya-go. 



Dual. Same as Plural. 

Imperfect. Was shot. 
Singular. Plural. 

1. Ung-ge -ya-go -no, i. Unc-ke -ya-go -no. 

2. Sa-ya -go-no, 2. A-che -ya-go -no. 

3. Ho-wuh -ya-go -no, 3. O-wen -ne-ya -go-no. 

Perfect. Have been shot. Same as Imperfect. 

Pluperfect wanting. 

Future. Shall, or vjill be shot. 

1. Eh-yung -ge-yake, i. Eh-yunk -ke-yake. 

2. Eh-ya -sa-yake, 2. Eh-ya -che-yake. 

3. A-on -wuh-yake, 3. A-on -wen-ne-yake. 


Present Tense. May be shot. 

1. Eh-yung -ge-yake-ge -seh, i. Eh-yunk -ke-yake-ge -seh. 

2. Eh-ya -sa-yake-ge -seh, 2. Eh-ya -che-yake-ge -seh. 

3. A-o-wuh -yake-ge -seh, 3. A-o-wen-ne -yake-ge -seh. 

Imperfect wanting. 

Perfect. May have been shot. 

1 . Ah-yun-ge -ya-gon-no-ge -seh, i . Ah-yunk-ke -ya-gon-no-ge -seru 

2. Ah-ya-sa-ya-gon-no-ge -seh, 2. Ah-ya-che -ya-gon-no-ge -seh. 

3. Ah-o-wuh -ya-gon-no-ge -seh, 3. Ah-o-wen-ne -ya-go-no-ge -seh. 

Pluperfect. Might, could, would ? or should have been shot. 

1. Ah-yung-ge -ya-go -no-na-geh, i. Ah-yunk-ke -ya-go-no-na-geh. 

2. Ah-ya-sa-ya -go-no-na-geh, 2. Ah-ya-che -ya-go-no-na-geh. 

3. Ah-o-wuh-ya-go-no-na-geh, 3. Ah-o-wen-ne -ya-no-na-geh. 

Future. Shall have been shot. 

1. Ah-yung-ge -ya-go-no, i. Ah-yunk-ke -ya-go-no. 

2. Ah-ya-sa -ya-go-no, 2. Ah-yii-che -ya-go-no. 

3. Ah-o-wuh -ya-go-no, 3. Ah-o-wen-ne -ya-go-no. 


2. Ah-sa -yake, Be thou shot. 2. A-che -yake, Be ye shot. 

}. Ho-wuh -yake, Let him be shot. 3. Ho-wen-ne -yake, Let them be shot. 




Appendix B 

Appendix B 


IT is not a century since almost all of our present 
national domain was in the possession of the red 
men. Four centuries ago, when white men first 
came to these shores, the red race occupied both con 
tinents of the Western Hemisphere throughout their 
entire extent. Nowhere else has a single race been 
found in possession of so vast and so independent 
a domain. Unto what form and degree of civilization 
these men would have attained if permitted to work 
out their own destinies can only be conjectured, for 
within a very short time after the discovery, as the 
history of races is counted, their culture was entirely 
submerged by the influx of European arts and institu 
tions. When our ancestors found them, however, 
the Indians, lacking domestic animals and the knowl 
edge of iron, were in a lower stage of culture than 
their contemporaries of Europe. It is not necessary 
to suppose that this tardiness in progress was due to 
mental inferiority. It was quite as probably due to 
an environment less favorable than that in which the 
nations of Europe had been developed. Through 
this same lower stage, however, the peoples of Europe 
had lately passed. Lubbock has pointed out that 
between different peoples in the same stage of devel 
opment stronger resemblances are to be found than 

VOL. II. 10 145 


exist in a single people at different stages of its prog- 
resSo The study of Indian arts, institutions, and so 
ciety has for us, therefore, something of the same 
interest that we feel in visiting the hill country of 
New England or the meadows of Holland, where our 
own youth or that of our fathers was spent. 

Both in avowed romance and in more serious 
works, the Indian has often been presented to us as a 
being evolved from the inner consciousness and the 
preconceptions of the writer, and the individual thus 
created has been submitted to the judgment of Euro 
pean standards. Morgan, in his thorough and candid 
way, sought to know and to describe the Indian as he 
was. To discover the conditions of the red man s 
life, and the laws of his civil and domestic institutions, 
and to judge the law by its adaptation to the condi 
tions, and the man by his obedience to the law, was 
the task which Morgan set himself. In this work he 
laid the foundation of a new science. The study of 
primitive man, which in the year 1851, when this 
book was written, was hardly more than a collecting 
of curious and isolated facts, became in his hands a 
key with which to unlock dim and forgotten secrets 
of the history of mankind. 

In the half-century that has since passed, the stand 
point from which we view the universe and man has 
been entirely changed. We are now aware that the 
structure of our civilization rests on foundations sunk 
deep into the soil of barbarism and the subsoil of 
savagery, and that our history has been borne forward 
on the deeds of the red men of the new world as well 
as those of the white men of the old world. Darwin 



and his successors have taught us that if we would 
know the life that is in us we must follow it from its 
beginnings in the cell and the embryo. Morgan and 
others have shown that we understand our law and 
our social institutions only when we know the early 
society in which they were shaped. They have also 
demonstrated that the culture of our remote fore 
fathers is reproduced and preserved for us among the 
barbarians of North America. Parkman has made to 
live before us the story of the contest for the dominion 
of the continent in which these barbarians took so 
active a part. It is difficult, but necessary, for us to 
understand that mankind does not consist entirely 
of Anglo-Saxons. 

Among all the North American peoples, there is 
none more worthy of study, by reason of their intel 
lectual ability, the character of their institutions, and 
the part they have played in history, than the Iroquois 
of the League. And, as it happens, this is the people 
which has longest been known to ourselves, which has 
been most closely observed by our writers and states 
men, and whose influence has been most strongly 
felt in our political constitution and in our history as 
colonies and nation. The noble territory which they 
yet occupy with us, that fertile valley of central New 
York, which is the natural highway from the ocean to 
the interior of the continent, was the seat of their em 
pire, whence their arms, as our commerce, moved upon 
and dominated the slopes of the Atlantic coast and the 
great basins of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi. 

Through their early and constant friendship this 
imperial territory was opened to our Dutch and 


English forefathers. By the Iroquois and their 
Algonquin neighbors were made known the riches of 
American agriculture, including that most productive 
and wonderful grain which the red men had tamed 
from the wilderness, and which we still call the Indian 
corn. In their ancient League the Iroquois presented 
to us the type of a Federal Republic under whose 
roof and around whose council-fires all peoples might 
dwelt in peace and freedom. And in the irrepressible 
conflict between French autocracy and Teutonic liberty 
for the dominion of North America, the Iroquois were 
our firm allies, the constant protectors of our infant 
colonies, and most efficient co-workers in the final vic 
tory. Our nation gathers its people from many 
peoples of the old world, its language and its free 
institutions it inherits from England, its civilization and 
art from Greece and Rome, its religion from Judea, 
and even these red men of the forest have wrought 
some of the chief stones in our national temple. 

That we now perceive the interest and importance 
of Iroquois institutions and history we owe chiefly to 
the writings of two men. In the year 1851 were pub 
lished The Conspiracy of Pontiac^ by Francis Parkman, 
and the League of the Iroquois ^ by Lewis H. Morgan, 
each book beginning a career which brought to its 
author fame, and knowledge to mankind From The 
Conspiracy of Pontiac was developed that finest monu 
ment in American literature, The History of France and 
England in North America^ while the League of the 
Iroquois was the beginning of the modern science of 
ethnology. Parkman s histories have gained and hold 
the wide appreciation that they deserve, but the writings 



of Morgan, less inviting to the general reader, are to 
the present generation comparatively unknown, and 
indeed are almost inaccessible. The present work, in 
especial, deserves to be more widely known, not only 
for the great interest and value of its contents, but 
also because of its position in the history of science, 
because of its relation to the labor and development 
of the remarkable mind from which it emanated, and 
finally because of its place as one of the masterpieces 
of its time in American literature, which had then 
hardly progressed beyond a sturdy youth. 

In preparing the present edition, I have been im 
pressed with the truth suggested in Dr. Shea s intro 
duction to his Charlevoix, that familiarity with the 
subject does not lighten the work of an editor. It 
has been especially difficult, not to find material, but 
to pass by material of the greatest value. The text 
here presented is Morgan s own. For every vari 
ance from the first edition there is either the authority 
of a correction verbatim by Morgan s own hand in 
his own copy of the work, or satisfactory evidence of 
a mechanical error in transcribing or in printing. 

In the First and Fifth Chapters of Book II. and 
the First Chapter of Book III. there have also been 
incorporated some text and a few cuts (chiefly from 
the Fifth Regent s Report) which were prepared by 
Morgan at the time of printing the first edition, and 
omitted, as I am persuaded, for mechanical reasons only. 
Every word of text is thus Morgan s own. 

The notes, when not otherwise indicated, are by 
myself. In these notes it has been attempted not to 
prepare a new treatise, but rather to illustrate the text 



by comparisons, to explain allusions, and to correct a 
few obvious errors. As an observer, Morgan was 
singularly clear-sighted, but when he relied upon 
others he was sometimes misled through insufficient 
or erroneous information. It is especially to be re 
gretted that of the French writers he knew only the 
not always reliable Charlevoix and the always unreli 
able La Hontan. 

It has been sought in particular to present in these 
notes Morgan s matured views as found in his later 
works. Regard for the integrity of the text has pre 
vented their incorporation in the body of the work. 
Some further editing of the text and especially the 
omission of some obsolete dissertations would indeed 
be defensible if the book were considered merely as a 
scientific treatise, but its connection with the begin 
nings of our scientific literature demands that every 
word be retained. It is Morgan s own work, as much 
as any man s, that has made of the fine philosophy of 
the Sixth Chapter of Book I., concerning the origin 
and development of governments, as much of an 
antique curiosity as a crossbow or a horse-car. The 
change of view is well illustrated by comparing Mor 
gan s statement (I. 122) "that there is a regular pro 
gression of political institutions, from the monarchical, 
which are the earliest in time, on to the democratical, 
which are the last, the noblest, and the most intellect 
ual," with these noble words of Powell, his friend and 
disciple, "The survey of governments in their totality 
presents one fact of profound interest to statesmen. 
Government by the people is the normal condition of 
mankind, as a broad review of human history abun- 



dantly maintains. Monarchies are temporary phases 
of government in the evolution of mankind from bar 
barism to civilization ; and these monarchies with 
their attendant hierarchies, feudalisms, and slavery, 
appear only as pathologic conditions of the body 
politic diseases which must be destroyed or they 
will destroy and hence disappearing by virtue of 
the survival of the fittest. Hope for the future of 
society is the best-beloved daughter of Evolution." 
(Popular Science Monthly, November, 1880, p. 121.) 

But these errors in philosophy were those of his 
time. Morgan s singular merit is that from the be 
ginning he clearly saw the nature and significance of 
the social organization and governmental structure of 
the Indian community. In this we have advanced 
but little beyond the League of the Iroquois. 

My thanks are due to the many friends of Mr. 
Morgan and students of the Indian who have given 
me valuable assistance and suggestions, only a few of 
whom it is possible to name. 

This reprint was first suggested by Mr. Francis W. 
Halsey, Editor of the New York Times Saturday Re 
view of Books and Art, in the number of that journal 
for December 2, 1899. Mr. Charles T. Porter, the 
only survivor of the three co-laborers in the original 
book, has not only contributed the Reminiscences 
signed by him but has been constant in kind and 
helpful suggestions. To General John S. Clark I am 
especially indebted for almost all of Mr. Morgan s 
emendations appearing in the text, as well as for other 
information ; not intending by this acknowledgment 
to forget the indebtedness of all students to General 


Clark for his investigations of Iroquois history. The 
Supplemental Map was prepared by Rev. Wm. M. 
Beauchamp, S. T. D., for Bulletin No. 32 of the State 
Museum, and is published with his kind permission 
and that of the Museum. Mrs. Harriet Maxwell 
Converse has not only aided me herself, but has al 
lowed me to examine General Parker s manuscripts in 
her possession. And if I mention last one other 
name, it is because there is an especial word to say. 
Mr. John Fiske wrote me, under date of March 20, 
1900: "Morgan s League of the Iroquois is of 
course a book of the highest value. It is, indeed, 
a classic in that branch of literature, and such an edi 
tion of it as you propose, with its errors corrected and 
such annotations added as the text may here and there 
suggest, is exactly the sort of book that we want, and I 
doubt not that you are the man to do it. If I could 
help the enterprise in any way by writing a preface or 
an introductory sketch of Morgan and his work, I 
should be glad to do so." The Inexorable has taken 
the pen from the hand that wrote these words, and the 
hope is frustrate of a brilliant essay like that which 
introduces the Champlain edition of Parkman. Yet it 
seemed that a few words should be written to introduce 
to the readers of to-day this book of half a century ago. 
"And," like the scribe of old, " if I have done well 
and as is fitting the story, it is that which I desired; 
but if slenderly and meanly, it is that which I could 
attain unto." 


PISECO, N. Y., October i, 1901. 


j As one of the few now living who have a personal 
I. xi, knowledge of the incidents to be described, I have 

xn been asked to prepare a sketch of the events by 
which Mr. Morgan was led into his remarkable career of 
Ethnological research. 

Mr. Morgan was one of those rare men of restless mental 
activity and immense and tireless energy who literally create 
their own environment ; turning whatever circumstances they 
may encounter to advantage in their congenial field of 

He was born in 1818, in Aurora, New York, a lovely 
village on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, the first spot 
settled by white men in western New York, a place always 
noted for culture and refinement, now the seat of Wells 
College. He graduated from Union College in 1840, and 
returned home to pursue the study of law. 

Cayuga Academy, located at Aurora, was then crowded 
with young men from various parts of the neighboring coun 
try. Mr. Morgan, finding congenial spirits among the teachers 
and elder pupils in the Academy, joined with them in the 
formation of a secret society, under the name of "The Gor- 
dian Knot," which had no objects beyond the cultivation of 
good fellowship and the enjoyment of the moment. 

P ree Masonry had flourished in Aurora at an earlier day, 
and the Masonic Lodge was a prominent building in the village. 
But Masonry had suffered an eclipse in western New York, 
and the Lodge in Aurora had been disused for several years. 
The new secret society turned it to account. Effecting a 
surreptitious entrance, its members attired themselves in the 

T 53 


white robes of the Masons and the splendid regalia of their 
officers, and held there their initiations and their harmless 

The members of the society were full of youthful en 
thusiasm, and many projects for its practical usefulness were 
discussed, before its earlier members became scattered through 
western New York, all with a mission to establish branches 
of the society at their own homes. 

2 Immediately after his admission to the bar, Mr. Morgan 

I- xi settled in Rochester. There he soon gathered about 
him a number of young men, and formed them into a branch 
of the new secret society. Among these was Ely S. Parker, 
a full-blooded young Seneca Indian, who had come from the 
Tonawanda reservation to Rochester to get an education. 

Parker was a phenomenal Indian. He was fully informed 
respecting the institutions of his own people, spoke English 
perfectly, and was one of the very few Indians of the Six 
Nations that I ever heard of who would take an education if 
it were offered to him. He improved his educational oppor 
tunities to the utmost, and made himself a much respected 
and very useful man. 

More than twenty years afterwards we find him on General 
Grant s staff, a Brigadier-General, and made by Grant his 
private secretary, on account of his high intelligence and 
superior penmanship. The articles of Lee s capitulation are 
in his handwriting. 

When Grant became President, he appointed Parker Com 
missioner of Indian Affairs. Fora number of years preceding 
his death he was employed in the Architectural Bureau of the 
New York City government. 

Parker was an invaluable find for Mr. Morgan. All his 
communication with the Indians of the Six Nations was 
conducted through him as interpreter. 

Directly after Parker s initiation into the new society the 
scheme was formed for its reorganization, on the basis of 
the League of the Iroquois, and for devoting it to the study 



and perpetuation of Indian lore, and the education of the 
Indians in the State of New York, and their encouragement 
under the new conditions of their existence. 

The plan met with an enthusiastic reception, and the next 
summer saw a convention at Aurora, attended by about a 
hundred and fifty delegates from the various branches of the 
society, at which an organization was effected, a constitution 
adopted, and Sachems were elected and raised up. The 
3 opening sentence of the Preface to the League of the 

I- ix Iroquois was the first sentence of the preamble to this 
constitution, written by Mr. Morgan. 

The society was known to the public as u The Grand 
Order of the Iroquois;" but for its members, both the so 
ciety and its branches were baptized with Indian names. 
The general name of the society was We-yo-ha-yo-de-Ka-de,- 
Na-ho-de -no-sau-nee, "They who live in the home of the 
dwellers in the long house." 

In pronouncing this name the accented syllable " de " 
must be pronounced " deck," with only an incipient " k," 
and be followed by a pause. 

The new society established branches through western New 
York, and so far east as Utica. Its enthusiasm kept it alive 
for a few years, and its annual conventions held in the old 
Masonic Lodge in Aurora, with addresses and poems by such 
men as H. R. Schoolcraft and Alfred B. Street, and initia 
tions in the woods at midnight, were well worthy to be 

But efforts in behalf of the Indians met with no encourag 
ing response on their part. As Mr. Morgan afterwards 
expressed it, the attempt was idle to transplant them across 
two or three ethnic periods. As for their remains, beyond 
the beautiful names they had given to our lakes and streams, 
there were none. The Indian is an evanescent being, and 
leaves behind him no more trace of his existence than a 
summer cloud. 

When the active existence of the society had ended, 



it was found that its final outcome, and one well worthy to 
be its single fruitage, was Morgan s League of the Iroquois. 

But to this there had afterwards to be added his remarkable 
series of original ethnological investigations, the grasp of 
which comprehended all ancient society, and which he pur 
sued with an enduring enthusiasm through his life. These 
all had their genesis in the old Masonic Hall in Aurora, 
which the ethnological pilgrim may still find in good preserva 
tion, not far from the house in which Lewis H. Morgan first 
saw the light. 

4 The society seemed, however, to have been raised 
II. 121 up to do one other useful work. The Ogden Land 
Company, who held the pernicious pre-emptive right to pur 
chase the Indian reservations in New York, whenever the 
Indians should be willing to sell, had, by the methods which 
have been fitly characterized by Mr. Morgan, got from the 
Tonawanda band a treaty for the sale of their reservation ; 
and this treaty was before the United States Senate for ratifi 
cation. The new society made it its business to secure 
the rejection of this treaty. For this purpose it circulated 
petitions throughout western New York, and sent Mr. 
Morgan to Washington to make a personal presentation of 
the evidences of the fraud. He found the Senators astonished 
at the flood of petitions that had poured in upon them, and 
quite ready to listen to his presentation of the case. The 
result was the rejection of the treaty by a decisive vote, and 
the security of the Indians on all their reservations ever since. 

This was indeed an invaluable service. For the promi 
nent part that he took in it, Mr. Morgan became widely 
known as the friend of the Indians, a distinction which he 
found most valuable in his subsequent investigations. Every 
thing was communicated to him with a cordial frankness and 
fulness that prevented him from falling into errors, which 
are inevitable when information Is given with reserve or 
perhaps with intentional inaccuracy. He found no trouble 
in getting to the very heart of things. For example, he alone 


has given us the true and simple philosophy of the annual 
sacrifice of the white dog. This advantage has helped very 
much, in addition to his habitual thoroughness, to make his 
statements authoritative. 

Not long after the rejection of the treaty, probably in 1847, 
Mr. Morgan was invited to visit the Indians on the Tona- 
wanda reservation, for the purpose of being adopted into the 
Seneca Nation. I had the honor, together with Mr. Thomas 
Darling, of Auburn, New York, to accompany him. No 
date was fixed for this visit. The Indians were always at 
home. We went in a pleasant season, and when we knew 
we should find Ely Parker there. 

Our entry into the reservation was not especially dignified. 
We had a walk of some three or four miles, if I remember 
correctly, across the country from the railway station; when 
we came to a stream, which was the boundary of the reserva 
tion on that side. The stream was about fifteen yards wide, 
and only from a foot to eighteen inches deep. There was 
no bridge. Indians have no use for bridges. A dug-out 
canoe was hauled up on the bank. The water was clear 
and the bottom quite distinct. Seeing how shallow it was, 
I concluded to wade across. Morgan and Darling agreed 
to utilize the canoe. This having been partially launched, 
Darling wrapped himself in his cloak, and took his seat 
on the bottom of the canoe at the forward end. Morgan 
gave it its final shove, and jumped in. In doing this he 
tipped the canoe over. He saved himself from a worse duck 
ing by leaping nimbly into the water, but poor Darling in 
his helpless position was rolled out. After righting and 
securing the canoe, they had to wade across after all. 

Our visit lasted ten days. The forenoons were devoted 
by Mr. Morgan to filling his note-book; the afternoons to 
witnessing games and dances got up in our honor, and the 
evenings mostly to hearing Indian traditions, in which I re 
member feeling deeply interested at the time, but of which 
I do not now remember a word. 



The ceremony of adoption was a very simple one. 

I. xi, In fact, all of it I can now recall was a long address 

33 2 by old Jimmy Johnson, the religious teacher of the 

Indians ; and that each of us received a name, and was made 

a member of a particular tribe, a different one in each case, 

and learned who were our brothers, and who were only our 

cousins, all long ago forgotten. 

(Mr. Morgan has left an account of this adoption in a 
foot-note on page 81 of Ancient Society, by which it appears 
that he at least was taken into the Hawk clan. The cere 
mony took place at the council-house. The address men 
tioned by Mr. Porter included an account of Messrs. 
Morgan, Darling and Porter, the reasons for adopting 
them, the clans and persons adopting them, and the 
names they were to receive. Then each neophyte was es 
corted by two chiefs up and down the council-house. The 
chiefs held their new brother by the arms and chanted the 
song of adoption as they marched, the people responding 
in musical chorus at the end of each verse. At the end 
of the third lap, the song and the march ceased together. 
-H. M. L.) 

5 The morning sessions with the oldest Indians, held 
II. 96 with them individually in their own houses, were 
very interesting. A number of these were devoted by Mr. 
Morgan to obtaining geographical names, Parker, as always, 
acting as interpreter. I was full of admiration of these old 
men, who in their youth had hunted over all western New 
York, and who showed such a wonderful acquaintance with 
the location and course of every river and stream. In fact, 
the whole map appeared to exist in their minds. They 
seemed to have developed another sense, which we, who 
depend upon books and maps, and do not live in life-long 
familiarity with nature, do not possess. They were men of 
the woods, who, with nothing to depend on but their powers 
of observation and memory, in trackless forests could never 
lose their way. 



7 Our initiation was followed by a dance in the council- 
I- 273 house, in which we were allowed to participate, and 
were provided with partners. This was the only dance we 
witnessed in which the women took part. Then for the first 
time my ears were regaled with Indian music. Two young 
men were seated, on opposite sides of a drum, which looked 
to me very much like a nail-keg. On this they pounded 
violently with sticks, as an accompaniment to the most dis 
cordant howling. The Indian has no conception of musical 
intervals. The performance had therefore the attraction of 
complete novelty. But they kept good time, and the dancing 
was animated. 

This was followed by a curious feast. A bullock had been 
killed and cut up in the Indian fashion ; that is, all the flesh 
had been cut into small pieces, and made into a stew. The 
large kettles in which this had been boiled were taken into the 
council-house, and set in a row in the middle of the floor, and 
the dancing was in a procession around them. The dancers 
were in pairs, facing each other, about six feet apart, one 
moving forward and the other backward, with a shuffling step. 
Every minute or two, on a signal from the leader, all changed 
places. I remember that my partner, by a sudden exclamation, 
saved me from dancing backwards into a kettle of hot stew. 
Every family had brought a pail, and at the conclusion of the 
dance these pails were filled, and the stew was carried home 
to be eaten. 

I was much impressed, on another afternoon, by a grand 
thanksgiving dance, performed by thirty or forty young men, 
attired in Indian full dress, that is, in head feathers and the 
breech cloth. This dance was really inspiring. It was a 
slowly advancing processional dance, in single file. Each 
dancer seemed to follow his own inspiration, and all appeared 
to vie with each other in the vigor of their steps and the 
stateliness of their postures. This exhibition of animated 
statuary, with the varied and majestic character of their move 
ments, had a" grandeur which to my mind was most suggestive 


of the sentiment of worship which it was intended to express. 
Just in this manner, doubtless, King David " danced before 
the Lord with all his might." 

We were entertained in several houses, different families 
taking us in turn, and all apparently proud to do so. The 
entertainment, however, was everywhere the same. We 
enjoyed most the hospitality of Parker s father, who was 
a rather progressive Indian, belonging to the Christian party, 
and who spoke a little English. His daughter Caroline, 
whom the society was having educated in the State Normal 
School at Albany, was then at home, and helped much to 
make it pleasant for us. She seemed quite as exceptional as 
her brother Ely. 

8 We were naturally interested in what we should 
II. 30 get to eat. The reader may be amused by a de 
scription of our breakfast. Corn was kept on the cob. The 
inner husks were turned back and braided together ; the 
ears being arranged like a bunch of Chinese crackers. The 
first thing every morning some of these were unbraided, and 
the corn was shelled by rubbing two ears together. The corn 
was then boiled for a few minutes in a kettle with ashes. This 
completely removed the skin and cortex from every kernel. 
The former floated, and were poured off with the water. The 
latter, softened sufficiently to be pounded into meal, were 
washed in clean water and placed in the mortar, which was a 
tree stump hollowed out. Two women, standing on opposite 
sides of the mortar, with their pounders soon made the corn 
fine enough. We were awakened every morning by the sound 
of the pounders all over the reservation. I have often won 
dered why a process somewhat similar to boiling in ashes was 
not employed by millers who grind Indian corn for human 
food, for the same purpose which that accomplished so 

The meal was then mixed with black beans, and made into 
cakes about an inch thick and six or eight inches in diameter, 
without salt or leaven. These cakes were set on edge in a 



pot of water, and boiled for perhaps half an hour, when break 
fast was ready. Our beverage was hemlock tea, without milk 
or sugar. Dinner was the same, except that the corn and 
beans were made into succotash, instead of cakes, and some 
times we had beef stew. 

When we left, a brother of Ely Parker, a lad about twelve 
years old, drove us over to the village where we were to take 
the train, and we invited him to dine with us. At dinner he 
stared at us with distending eyeballs, and at last exclaimed, 
" How you eat ! You make me think of the appetite I had 
once, after I had been a week with the white folks and could 
hardly eat anything." 

A mission was maintained on the reservation, in charge of 
a Baptist clergyman, whom we did not meet. We learned 
afterwards with regret that this good man was much distressed 
by our visit, the tendency of which was to lead the Indians 
back to their games and dances, from which, the latter espe 
cially, he was doing his best to wean them to civilized ways 
and Christianity. But the Indians were not idolaters ; and who 
ever heard of any Christians who were more grateful to the 
Giver of all for so little ? 

I have often thought that, of all men I have personally 
known, Lewis H. Morgan was most singularly entitled to 
have inscribed over his life-work this line from his favorite 

" Exegi monumentum tere perennius" 


MONTCLAIR, N. J., 6th February, 1901. 

VOL. II. II l6l 


IN the first Assembly of Connecticut Colony sat James 
Morgan and John Steele, the paternal and maternal immigrant 
ancestors of Lewis H. Morgan. In 1636, James Morgan, 
with his younger brother Miles, had emigrated to New 
England. From these two brothers all the Morgans promi 
nent in the annals of New York and New England are 
believed to be descended. Among the descendants of James 
Morgan was the Hon. Jedediah Morgan, who, at the time 
of his death in 1826, represented his Senatorial District in 
the New York Legislature. He married Harriet Steele, a 
descendant of John Steele above named, who emigrated from 
England before 1632, is said to have lived for a while near 
Cambridge, and was one of the founders of Hartford. In 
the venerable homestead which still stands on Washington 
Street in that city, Harriet Steele was born. Her great-grand 
father, Samuel Steele, a grandson of John, had married, in 
1680, Mercy Bradford, granddaughter of Governor William 
Bradford of Plymouth Colony. Through her Mr. Morgan s 
ancestry is traced back to the " Mayflower." 

The son of Jedediah Morgan and Harriet Steele, his wife, 
Lewis Henry Morgan was born at Aurora, New York, No 
vember 21, 1818. After receiving a good education at 
Cayuga Academy in his native town and at Union College, 
from which he was graduated in 1840, he was admitted to the 
bar in Rochester, where he formed a partnership with George 
F. Danforth, afterwards a judge of the Court of Appeals. In 
1855 Morgan became interested in a railroad from Marquette, 
Michigan, to the Lake Superior Iron region. This investment 
proved profitable, and soon required so much attention as to 



withdraw him from his law practice, which he never actively 

It is interesting to note that many of those who have taken 
an interest in early American history and in the study of the 
Aborigines have been active in political life, and Morgan 
served twice in the New York Legislature, in 1861 in the 
Assembly, and in 1868 in the Senate. It is hardly necessary 
to mention that in public as in private life his sincerity and 
energy were notable. He travelled extensively in the United 
States, visiting many Indian tribes in their homes, was a 
member of many scientific societies both at home and abroad, 
became in 1868 a fellow of the American Academy of Arts 
and Sciences, and in 1880 was President of the American 
Association for the Advancement of Science. The degree 
of LL.D. came to him from Union College. December 17, 
1881, he died. In 1851 Mr. Morgan was married to his 
cousin Miss Mary A. Steele, daughter of Lemuel Steele, of 
Albany ; of their children only one, Mr. Lemuel Morgan, of 
Rochester, survived his father. Under Morgan s will his es 
tate, which was considerable, will ultimately pass to Rochester 
University for the establishment of a college for women. 

Mr. Porter has told us the interesting story of the beginning 
of Mr. Morgan s interest in the Iroquois. It must not be 
forgotten that the opportunity for the intimate knowledge of 
Indian institutions which bore such valuable fruit came to 
him as the voluntary champion of the Senecas against injus 
tice. The righteous and generous enthusiasm of this young 
man gained a new field for science, and for himself undying 

Securing the full confidence and gratitude of the 

I. xi, Senecas, he was, on October 31, 1847, adopted into 
26 4, 332 tne Hawk clan u as the son of Jimmy Johnson," Sose- 
ha wa, receiving the name of Ta-ya-da-o-wuk -kuh " one lying 
across," that is, a bridge or bond of union between the Indians 
and the white men. 

At the " Councils of the New Confederacy of the Iro- 



quois," the society described by Mr. Porter, Mr. Morgan 
read during the years 1844-46 various papers containing the 
results of his researches among the Senecas, and these were 
in 1847 amplified and arranged under the title of Letters on 
the Iroquois, by Skenandoah, addressed to Albert Gallatin, LL.D., 
President New York Historical Society, and were published 
during that year in the numbers of The American Review ; 
a IVhig Journal of Politics, Literature, Art and Science, for 
the months of February, March, A/lay, November, and De 
cember. These sixteen letters were, in fact, a first printing 
of the material contained in the present volume. The ad 
vertisement to the Letters is worth reprinting : 


u It is proper to observe, that many parts of the following 
letters were read on several occasions in the years 1844, 5, & 6, 
before the Councils of the New Confederacy of the Iroquois ; 
and to the establishment of that historical institution, the re 
search by which the facts were accumulated, is chiefly to be 
attributed. The Institution referred to is founded upon the 
ancient Confederacy of the Five Nations ; and its symbolic 
council-fires are kindled upon the ancient territories of the 
Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, and 
the Senecas. In the design from which it originated to 
gather the fragments of the history, the institutions, and the 
government of our Indian predecessors, and to encourage 
a kinder feeling towards the Red Man literary and moral 
objects are presented, in themselves as attractive to the scholar 
and the moralist as they are dignified and just. If, in pur 
suing this design, the new Confederacy shall eventually trace 
out the footsteps of the Iroquois beside our rivers, hills, and 
lakes preserving thus the vestiges of their existence; and 
shall extend to the small residue of their descendants, still 
within our limits, the hand of kindness and protection, it will 
have achieved a work not unworthy of after praise.* 

Morgan had in 1846 read before the New York Historical 



Society an essay on the Constitutional Government of the 
Six Nations of Indians, which though not printed under that 
name may no doubt substantially be found in the Letters, 
and it is probable that the substance of all the letters was read 
before the society. 

The first eleven letters were in 1848 reprinted in The 
Olden Time, an Antiquarian Magazine, then published in Pitts 
burgh. In 1849 an d 1850 m New York and Canada Mr. 
Morgan collected for the State Museum at Albany a number 
of articles of Iroquois manufacture, and in the second, third, 
and fifth reports of the Board of Regents on the Museum are 
pictures, prepared under his supervision, of many of these arti 
cles, with descriptive text from his pen. In 1851 he brought 
together and revised the Letters on the Iroquois, and some of the 
descriptions in the Museum reports, and published them with 
some new matter in a single volume, the League of the Iro 
quois. This book, says a high authority, " was the first scien 
tific account of an Indian tribe ever given to the world," and 
it entitles Mr. Morgan to the name of father of American An 
thropology. Its value was at once appreciated, and it has ever 
since been recognized as a classic of literature and as the first 
authority in all matters relating to the Iroquois. 

If we eliminate from this book the historical errors into 
which Mr. Morgan was led by relying on other writers, and the 
recitals of the false theories of the origins of government and 
society which then prevailed, and which he was soon himself 
to destroy, we have a work which has stood and will stand 
the test of time, both as science and as literature. 

The book had the good fortune to be reviewed by Francis 
Parkman (Christian Examiner, May, 1851), who said:- 

u And here a new sun has arisen, revealing the scene before 
us in all its breadth and depth. Mr. Morgan s work on the abo 
riginal tribes of New York is a production of singular merit." 

IO u To find fault with a book of so much merit is not a 

I- 54 pleasing task, but in truth Mr. Morgan has been led 
into some degree of error by the very zeal and devotion with 



which he has labored. He ascribes to the Iroquois legis 
lators a wisdom of forecast and a refining spirit beyond what 
is, as we conceive, justly their due. In his pages their 
peculiar institutions assume an appearance of too much studied 
adjustment and careful elaboration." 

u We cordially commend the work of Mr. Morgan to the 
study of all to whom the character and customs of those who 
preceded us on this soil are objects of interest." 

In 1880 (Pop. Set. Monthly, November) Major J. W. 
Powell, Chief of the Bureau of Ethnology, wrote : 

IX "The work is not entirely free from the nomencla- 

I- 74 ture of sociology previously, and to some extent since, 
used by writers on our North American Indians, in which 
tribes are described as nations and the institutions of tribal 
or barbaric life defined in terms used in national or civilized 
life. But the series of organic units was discovered among 
the Iroquois and was correctly defined, though the confederacy 
was called a league, the tribe a nation, and the gens a tribe. 
In like manner kinship as the bond of union was fully 

Mr. Morgan s second book was the result of observations 
made on fishing excursions in northern Michigan, taken in the 
intervals of his railroad work in that country. This book, 
The American Beaver and his Works, published in 1868, would 
in itself support no small reputation. The same sympathy 
and insight which made aboriginal institutions an open book 
to him extended even to the lower animals. An intimate 
friend says : " He did not fully agree with the commonly 
received doctrine, that they were simply for the uses of man, 
but inclined to the opinion that they were created for their 
own happiness and welfare, and should be treated accordingly. 
He did not like to hear them called brutes. I well remember 
that on a certain occasion when I had applied this word to 
the animals, he said, You ought not to use that word ; it 
has a bad sense ; you should call them the mutes. ( The Life 
and Works of Lewis H. Morgan, LL.D., an address at his 




funeral by Rev. J. H. Mcllvaine, D.D.) The word mute is, 
in fact, used throughout The Beaver in the sense of animal 
other than man. 

In his studies of the beaver, Morgan made in the country 
south of Lake Superior a fine collection of specimens of 
beaver-gnawed wood, which in 1866 he gave to the New 
York State Museum. 

I2 In the fourth chapter of the League of the Iroquois 

I. 8 1 Morgan had mentioned the peculiar system of relation 
ship which he had found among the Senecas. Its significance 
he did not then appreciate, but reflection convinced him that 
some great fact in the history of society lay behind this appar 
ent eccentricity. Dr. Mcllvaine says, in the address already 
quoted : "His intimacy with this aboriginal people made him 
acquainted with a striking feature of their system of kinship 
their mode of characterizing their relationships and affinities 
with each other. He found that they called, in systematic 
manner, those their brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, 
fathers and mothers, who were not such in reality. This 
apparent confusion of relationships had been often noticed 
before, but no one had ever seen in it anything but confusion, 
and the reign of utter unreason. Not a glimpse of any signifi 
cance in it had ever been discerned. To illustrate this I will 
mention that when one of the papers describing this strange 
system of relationships was read before our Rochester Club, of 
which our friend was one of the original founders, the beloved 
and lamented Dr. Chester Dewey being the other, one of 
the most distinguished members of the Club remarked that he 
1 could see nothing in it but the total depravity and perversity 
of the Indian mind that it could ever have thought of such 
utterly absurd ways of characterizing relationships and affini 
ties. After our friend had mastered the peculiarities of this 
Iroquois system, his next stage was the discovery, to his great 
surprise, that it was substantially identical with that of the 
Dakota tribes in the far West. This led him to his first great 
generalization ; for the power of generalization was one of the 


most distinguished traits of his mind. Now, then, it occurred 
to him that this Iroquois and Dakota system of relationships 
might be common to ail the aborigines of both North and 
South America. This was followed by ten years of study, 
travel among the Indian tribes, and investigation, in every 
direction on the continent, to discover whether his gener 
alization could, or could not, be verified. The result was 
such as to leave no room for doubt this peculiar way of 
designating their relationships and affinities was universal 
among all the Indian tribes of America. Thus he reached 
one of the strongest arguments that have ever been given for 
the unity of the whole Indian race that it is of one and the 
same blood or stock a result which all preceding and sub 
sequent investigation has tended to confirm and establish. 

" When he had attained to this stage in his inquiries a 
second and wider generalization occurred to him, namely, 
that possibly the system might be found among the Turanian 
Tribes of the old continents, including the ante-Brahmanical 
population of India among those portions of the human 
race which were in conditions most similar to that of the 
aborigines of this country, and from which these might have 
been derived. This led him into another ten years of study 
and investigation, extending over a very large portion of the 
human race, during which, through the co-operation of the 
Smithsonian Institution, which had by this time become deeply 
interested in his studies, he was sending out his schedules of 
questions to the missionaries and consuls wherever they were 
stationed, and getting his returns. During this period he 
lived and worked often in a state of great mental excitement, 
and the answers he received, as they came in, sometimes 
nearly overpowered him. I well remember one occasion 
when he came into my study, saying, I shall find it, I shall 
find it among the Tamil people and Dravidian tribes of 
Southern India. At this time I had no expectation of any 
such result ; and I said to him, c My friend, you have enough 
to do in working out your discovery in connection with the 




tribes of the American continent let the peoples of the old 
world go. He replied, C I cannot do it I cannot do it 
I must go on, for I am sure I shall find it all there. Some 
months afterward, he came in again, his face all aglow with 
excitement, the Tamil schedule in his hands, the answers to 
his questions just what he had predicted, and, throwing it on 
my table, he exclaimed, There ! what did I tell you ? I 
was indeed amazed and confounded ; and still more as his 
predicted results poured in upon him from a great multitude 
of independent sources. And this his second generalization 
was triumphantly verified. The system was found to prevail 
in all its essential features throughout the Turanian and Poly 
nesian families of mankind. 

" Having satisfied himself on this point, and reasoning from 
analogy, he now conjectured that this same system of relation 
ship and affinities might have prevailed also in prehistoric 
times among the Semitic and Aryan nations and races, as he 
had already found it in the Turanian and Polynesian groups 
in a word, that it might once have been absolutely uni 
versal. When he broached this final generalization to me, I 
was appalled, not having the least expectation that it could 
ever be verified. But, with his accustomed enthusiasm and 
energy, almost superhuman, he immediately addressed himself 
to another vast series of investigations, with a similar result in 
the end. He found overwhelming evidence that the system 
had once prevailed in all the Arabic or Semitic peoples, in 
cluding the Hebrews, in all the Sanscritic or Aryan branches, 
the Brahmans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Gothic, Celtic and 
Sclavonic nations among our own ancestors in a word, 
throughout the human race, over three-fourths of which his 
investigations extended. This last generalization stands per 
haps unequalled for its vastness and grandeur, and for its fruit- 
fulness in results, by anything in the history of science known 
to me, except that of the Newtonian theory of gravitation. 

" These results, with a partial discussion of their signifi 
cance, were published in 1871 by the Smithsonian Institution 



in a large quarto volume, entitled Systems of Consanguinity 
and Affinity of the Human Family. But until that work 
was nearly ready for the press, our friend had not perceived 
any material significance or explanation of the immense body 
of entirely new facts which he had discovered and collected. 
He could not at all account for them. In fact, he regarded 
this system, or these slightly varying forms of one system, as 
invented and wholly artificial, so different was it from that 
which now prevails in civilized society, and which evidently 
follows the flow of the blood. During all these years, he had 
not the least conception of any process of thought in which it 
could have originated, or of anything which could have caused 
it so universally to prevail. He treated it as something which 
must throw great light upon prehistoric man, but what light 
he had not discovered. Before the work was finished, how 
ever, he obtained and adopted an hypothesis which, rigor 
ously applied to its peculiarities, he found would account for, 
explain, and render them all intelligible. This hypothesis 
was, that it followed the flow of the blood at the time it 
originated, as that which now prevails follows the flow of the 
blood ; and consequently, that the actual relationships of 
human beings to each other were then very different from 
what they are now. In other words, the reason why people 
called those their fathers who would not be their fathers now, 
was because they either were their fathers or were undistin- 
guishable from their fathers, by reason of a common cohabita 
tion with their mothers. The reason why they called those 
their mothers who would not be their mothers now, was that 
these mothers were the wives in common of their fathers, 
just as we call mothers-in-law and step-mothers our mothers. 
The reason why they called them their brothers and sisters 
who woujd not be such now, was, either because they actu 
ally were such, or were undistinguishable from them by 
reason of the common cohabitation of their parents with 
each other. And so of all the other relationships of the 



" The adoption of this explanation of the vast body of 
facts which he had gathered, worked a complete revolution 
in the mind of our friend, and enabled him to pour a great 
flood of light upon the primitive condition of mankind, with 
respect to marriage and relationship, and all other things 
therewith connected, beyond all that had ever been known. 
With this instrument in his hand, he now proceeded precisely 
as Newton did with his hypothesis of gravitation, which gave 
him his grand principle of ratiocination. He reasoned : If 
this hypothesis be correct, then such and such facts will be 
found in the physical and stellar worlds. Then he would 
raise his telescope and look, and there invariably the facts 
predicted by the hypothesis would be found. Thus he 
marched through the physical universe, making discoveries 
in every direction, like a mighty conqueror subduing and 
overrunning and taking possession of a hostile country. Pre 
cisely in the same way our friend now reasoned from his 
grand generalization and hypothesis. He said : If it be 
correct, then such a fact or facts I shall find ; and he also 
would raise his mental telescope and look for them in the 
past experience of mankind, where they were sure to be 
found. Thus he discovered literally thousands of new facts, 
and was enabled to render intelligible thousands previously 
known, but which hitherto had been inexplicable. Thus he 
was enabled to evolve the conditions of human society, of 
man s relations to man, where the darkness of prehistoric 
ages had hidden almost everything from view, and to carry 
the light of science thousands of years farther back than it 
had ever been carried by any other. In fact, the origin of 
human society was thus more nearly disclosed than it had 
ever been the origin of marriage, of kin, of social organ 
ization, of social and political institutions, of morality, of 
industry, and of civilization itself. The germs of all these 
discoveries are found in his great work published by the 
Smithsonian on Consanguinity and Affinity, in which it is 
shown that the human race universally have come up by slow / 



progressive steps through many thousands of years from a 
state in which they lived in such communal relations that 
parents and children, brothers and sisters, and other kinships, 
were practically undistinguishable, except in a general way, 
and in some particular cases, where it was impossible that 
they should be confounded ; in a state in which marriage 
between one man and one woman was unknown ; in a depth 
of degradation which is absolutely inconceivable to us. But 
his final results are given us in his later work on Ancient 
Society, which placed him in the front rank of Science in 
Archaeology, Ethnology, Sociology, Anthropology, and Politi 
cal Philosophy. I venture to affirm that hereafter there can 
be no adequate science in these departments of knowledge 
which does not include the results of our friend s labors. 

" For in this work he has shown us how all the blessings 
of morality, liberty, society, industry, and civilization, and 
even all our free institutions, which are our pride, have grown 
up and been developed through regular stages from a few 
germs originally planted in the soil of the human mind far 
back in the prehistoric ages. He has proved that, with occa 
sional retrocessions, there has been a constant growth in these 
respects, so that it is no longer an insoluble problem, as it 
formerly was, how a people can pass out of savagery and bar 
barism into civilization. For it -is not long since an eminent 
French savant placed on record the statement, Never yet has 
it been discovered that any tribe or people have, by their own 
energy, attained to a civilized state. That problem has been 
finally solved by our friend s labors, and can never come back 
again to perplex the human mind. 

" He has established also many other great and permanent 
results, which can never again be called in question. Among 
these is the unity of the human race : that it is properly one 
race, one species, and, no doubt, derived from one stock. For 
at the time he commenced his labors, scientists were discuss 
ing this subject, and some of them favored a diversity of origin 
for mankind. Even the lamented Professor Agassiz was 



inclined to the opinion that they had originated at different 
centres, in swarms like bees. But our friend s investigations 
go farther back than those of any other inquirer, and he has 
established this truth, that, under similar conditions, at the / 
same stages of development, the human mind invariably pro 
ceeds by similar methods, and reaches similar results, in indus 
try and morality, in social and political institutions, and in all 
the great fields of investigation and research. Thus I think 
he has contributed more to the establishment of a unity of 
species in the race than any other who has ever touched the 

" Another grand result of his labors is a demonstration that 
progress is a fundamental law of human society, and one 
which has always prevailed, progress in thought and knowl 
edge, in industry, in morality, in social organization, in insti 
tutions, and in all other things tending to, or advancing, 
civilization and general well-being. He recognized that 
occasional and partial retardations and backward movements 
have taken place ; that peculiar circumstances have sometimes, 
in some portions of the race, frustrated for a time this pro 
gressive tendency ; but he has shown that the combined and 
co-operative energies of mankind have always resulted in sub 
stantial progress, such as renders it certain that this law will 
always continue to operate in the future, and that in a geo 
metrical ratio. In fact, he was accustomed to say that the 
progress which had been achieved during the long ages of 
savagery and barbarism seemed to him to be greater in absolute 
amount than that which has taken place during the compara 
tively brief period of civilization ; and he anticipated an 
immeasurable development in the future, beyond all concep 
tions that we are now able to form." 

In more formal manner these studies may now be traced. 
As early as 1856 Morgan had read, at the Albany Meeting 
of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 
a paper on The Laws of Descent of the Iroquois. This 
paper received such attention that he was encouraged to per- 


severe in this line of investigation. Being at Marquette in 
1858, he discovered in conversation with an Ojibwa that the 
Ojibwa social organization was founded on the same clan sys 
tem that he had found among the Iroquois, and this although 
the language and stock were entirely different. Now for the 
first time it occurred to Morgan that the known instances of 
this system might not be the invention of a single people, but 
examples of a widespread and fundamental form of society. 

To this end he began to send out schedules of inquiry, in 
which he soon gained the co-operation of the Smithsonian 

In 1871 the work first referred to by Dr. Mcllvaine was 
published by the Smithsonian Institution as Volume XVII. in 
its series of Contributions to Knowledge, the book being en 
titled Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human 
Family, 600 - pages quarto. While this book is essentially 
a volume of facts, and only a brief and rather unsatisfactory 
discussion of the facts was undertaken (Powell), the mere 
compilation of such a volume marks a turning-point in the 
sciences which treat of man as a social being. The meaning 
of these facts came to Morgan gradually, and his growing 
understanding of them and of important correlated facts of 
Ethnology can be traced in a series of articles in the North 
American Review : The Seven Cities of Cibola, April, 1869; 
Indian Migrations, October, 1869, and January, 1870; Mon- 
tezuma s Dinner, April, 1876; The Houses of the Mound 
Builders, July, 1876. 

It may be said with certainty that a finer statement of the 
principles and canons of American Ethnology than the third- 
named article might be written, and with almost equal cer 
tainty that it never has been. In Montezuma s Dinner 
the romances concerning aboriginal America which had long 
passed as veritable history are dissected by the keen knife of 
a delicious satire. The living Indian is placed before us, and 
one by one are deftly removed the European garments with 
which early writers sought to cover his nakedness, while the 


gewgaws which modern historians and romancers have pinned 
upon this apparel fall away also, and we see for the first time 
the barbarian as he is. As literature, this essay is enjoyable ; 
as science, it is indispensable. 

Morgan had now reached the height of his powers, and had 
solved the problem to which his labors had so long been 
devoted. The principles sketched in Montezuma s Dinner 
were elaborately stated in Ancient Society, published in 1877, 
which is not only Morgan s most important work, but also 
the only one of his books still in print. 

His last book, in which many of the achievements of his 
earlier works were restated in final form, was Houses and 
House Life of the American Aborigines, issued in 1881 by the 
United States Geological Survey as Vol. IV. of Contributions 
to North American Ethnology. 

Morgan s work in the domain of Ethnology is quite com 
parable to that of Darwin in another field. By much the 
same methods and by a touch of the same genius these great 
intellects achieved results for which mankind is their debtor 
and which must be accepted as the foundations of the sciences 
to which they gave their lives. The parallel holds good at 
the beginning of their careers. The Voyage of the Beagle, a 
book of observations, of suggestion, of beginnings, valuable 
in itself and invaluable in its promise of the great discoveries 
to come, finds in these respects its complete counterpart, and 
in literary merit and present interest its superior, in the 
League of the Iroquois. 

i 846. An Essay on the Constitutional Government of the Six Nations 

of Indians. Read before the New York Historical Society. 

Not printed. 
1847. Letters on the Iroquois by Skenandoah. The American 

(Whig) Review, New York, February, March, May, 

November and December, 1847, fourteen letters in all. 

The first eleven letters were reprinted in The Olden Time, 

an Antiquarian Magazine, Pittsburgh, 1848. 


1848. Communications (on Indian Art), with ground plans of 
Trench Enclosures or Fort Hills in Western New York. 
In zd Annual Report of the Board of Regents of. the Uni 
versity of the State of New York on the State Cabinet, etc. 

1851. Report upon the articles furnished to the Indian Collection. 

In 3rd do. 

Schedule of Iroquois Articles in the Catalogue of the Cabinet 
of Natural History of the State of New York. In same. 

1852. Report on the Fabrics, Inventions, Implements and Utensils 

of the Iroquois. In 5th do. 

1850. The Fabrics of the Iroquois (same material as Regents Re 

ports much abbreviated). Stryker s American Register and 
Magazine, Vol. IV. July, 1850. Trenton, N. J. 

1851. League of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee or Iroquois. Sage and 

Brother, Rochester. Reprinted 1901 and 1904, Dodd, 
Mead and Co., New York. 

1853. List of Articles Manufactured by the Indians of Western New 

York and Canada West. In Catalogue of Cabinet of 
Natural History of the State of New York, Albany. 
1856. The Laws of Descent of the Iroquois. Proceedings of 
American Association for the Advancement of Science, 
Vol. XI. 

1859. The Indian Method of Bestowing and Changing Names. 

Proceedings of American Association for the Advancement 
of Science, Vol. XIII. 

1860. Circular in Reference to the Degrees of Relationship among 

Different Nations. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 
Vol. II. No. 138. 

I 86 1. Suggestions for an Ethnological Map of North America. In 
Smithsonian Report for 1861. (The map, closely follow 
ing the lines suggested, was prepared by Powell and published 
to accompany Bur. Eth., 1885-86.) 

1868, The American Beaver and his Works. Philadelphia. 

1868. A Conjectural Solution of the Origin of the Classificatory 
System of Relationship. In Proceedings Am. Acad. Arts 
& Science, February, 1868, Vol. VII. 

1868. The Stone and Bone Implements of the Arickarees. In zist 

Annual Report, etc., on State Cabinet, Albany. 

1869. The Seven Cities of Cibola. In North American Review for 

April, 1869. 



1869-70. Indian Migrations. In North American Review for 
October, 1869, and January, 1870. Reprinted in The 
Indian Miscellany, edited by W. W. Beach, Albany, 1877. 

1871. Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family. 

Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Vol. XVII. 

1872. Australian Kinship. Proceedings Am. Acad. Arts and Sci 

ences, March, 1872, Vol. VIII. 

1875. Ethnical Periods. Proc. Am. Ass n, for Advancement of 

Science, Vol. XXIV. 

Arts of Subsistence. Do. 

Articles in Johnson s Cyclopedia : Architecture of the 
American Aborigines, Migrations of the American Abo 
rigines, Tribe. 

1876. Montezuma s Dinner. In North American Review, April, 


1876. Houses of the Mound Builders. In North American Review, 

July, 1876. 

1877. Ancient Society. Henry Holt & Co., New York. 

1880. On the Ruins of a Stone Pueblo on the Animas River in New 

Mexico, with a ground plan. In 12th Ann. Rept. Pea- 

body Museum of Am. Archaeol. & Ethnol., Cambridge. 
Objects of an Expedition to New Mexico and Central America. 

Statement presented to the Archaeological Institute of 

America. March, 1880. Boston. 
A Study of the Houses of the American Aborigines, with a 

scheme of exploration of the Ruins in New Mexico and 

elsewhere. In ist Ann. Rept. Archaeol. Inst. of America, 


1 88 1. Houses and House-life of the American Aborigines, being 

Vol. IV. of U. S. Geological Survey, Contributions to 
North American Ethnology, Washington. 

Letter in The Nation. The Hue and Cry against the Indian, 

in No. 577. 
Book Reviews in The Nation. Chadbourne on Instinct, in 

No. 357, and supplemental note in No. 371. Figuier s 

Human Race, in No. 387. Lyell s Geological Evidences 

of the Antiquity of Man, in No. 430. 

VOL. II. 12 i 


Powell states, in his sketch of Morgan (Pop. Set. Monthly, 
December, 1880) that between 1840 and 1844 Morgan wrote 
occasional articles for the Knickerbocker Magazine and other 
periodicals. None of these have been identified. 

In 1854 Mr. Morgan with others founded "The Club" 
of Rochester (mentioned by Dr. Mcllvaine on page 167, 
supra), an association small and informal, for the reading and 
discussion of original papers. The motto of the Club was 
" Si quid veri inveneris, profer" Its limited membership in 
cluded some very capable minds, and to its members were 
presented and explained Morgan s discoveries and theories as 
they developed in the mind of their author. By the courtesy 
of a member of the Club the following complete list of papers 
read before it by Morgan is presented. Many of the dates 
are significant. 

July 19, 1854. The Andes. 

Nov. 13, 1854. English Slavery. 

Apr. 7, 1857. Animal Psychology. 

Feb. 23, 1858. The Laws of Descent of the Iroquois. 

Apr. 25, 1858. Res Ratione Regenda. 

Oct. 5, 1858. The Origin and Results of the Club. 

May 1 6, 1859. Agassiz s Theory of the Origin of the Human 

Jan. 17, 1860. The Indo-European System of Consanguinity and 

Mar. 27, 1860. Plan for an Academy of Science. 

Oct. 1 6, 1860. Beaver Dams and Lodges. 

Jan. 21, 1862. The Migrations of the Indian Family. 

Feb. 3, 1862. The Migrations of the Indian Family. 

Mar. 31, 1863. i. The System of Consanguinity and Affinity of 

the Semitic Nations. 

2. The Growth of Nomenclature and Relation 

Jan. 4, i 864. Iroquois System of Consanguinity and Affinity. 

Jan. 12, 1865. Comparison of the System of Relationship of the 
Several Families of Mankind. 


Jan. 24, 1865. Do. 

Jan. 23, 1866. Architecture of the Several Stocks of the American 


May 7, 1867. Mode of Relieving Rochester from Future Floods. 
Sept. 29, 1868. A Conjectural Solution of the Origin of the Classi- 

ficatory System of Relationship. 
June i, 1869. The Seven Cities of Cibola. 
Jan. 11, 1870. Indian Migrations. 
Nov. 7, 1871. Heidelberg Castle. 
Mar. 4, 1873. The Totemic System. 
Apr. i, 1873. Roman Gentile System. 
Oct. 7, 1873. Indian Architecture. 
Feb. 10, 1874. Human Progress as shown by the Development of 

Arts and Sciences. 

Nov. 9, 1875. Aztec Architecture. 

Oct. 31, 1876. The Institution of Grecian Political Society. 
Feb. 5, 1878. Classical Hypotheses of Human Development. 
Mar. 25, 1879. A Pueblo House in New Mexico. 
May i i, 1880. A Study of the Houses of the Indian Tribes, with 
suggestions for the Explorations of the ruins in 
New Mexico, Arizona, and the San Juan region, 
Mexico and Central America, under the auspices 
of the Archaeological Institute. 

The number of copies of the League of the Iroquois 
originally printed and the number of editions cannot now be 

The ordinary copies are bound in black, cloth, and the map 
and plates are uncolored. A few copies, probably less than 
twenty, were made on special paper, the map and plates being 
colored by hand. These had full gilt edges, and were bound 
in red morocco. Only one copy is known of a third variety, 
bound in boards with morocco corners and back, gilt top, 
other edges marble; in this copy only the map and the two 
full-length figures are colored. 

The copy used in preparing these notes is a handsome 
specimen of the second variety. It was presented by Mr. 
Morgan to his sister Mrs. Charles T. Porter, and is now the 
property of her grandson, Charles Talbot Porter, Jr. 



The recognized authority and value of this book are due to 
the work of Parker, as well as to that of Morgan. As a 
sachem Parker had full knowledge of the institutions of his 
people, and as a man of education and culture he had both the 
interest and the ability necessary to make those institutions 
known to civilized man as no ordinary interpreter could have 
done. Parker was not merely Morgan s instrument, but his 
efficient co-worker, and the fortunate conjunction of these 
minds wrought much more than either could possibly have 
accomplished alone. 

The friendship of the two men was severed only by death. 
In a personal letter in the possession of the writer, Parker 
says, under date of December 22, 1881 : "I knew the 
Hon. L. H. Morgan well, and was as much grieved as any one 
at his taking off. In his death the scientific world has lost an 
able and painstaking coadjutor, and the Indians of the country 
a good friend and faithful historian." 

j . The Seneca girl shown in the frontispiece to Vol. II. 
I. 257 is Miss Caroline G. Parker, General Parker s sister 
IL * 7 (her name, Ga-ha-no, means " Hanging flower "), and 
the young man shown in the frontispiece to Vol. I. is Nichol 
son Parker, a younger brother. Both died before the General. 
Miss Parker married John Mountpleasant, a Tuscarora, and 
as his widow was still living on the Tonawanda reservation 
when the Indian Bulletin of the Eleventh Census was com 
pleted. Her name was then Ge-keah-saw-sa, " Wild-cat," 
the reference being to her succession to the chief woman 
of the Neutrals (see text, I. 328, note i). Her portrait at that 
date in civilized costume is shown opposite page 464 of that 

She is there called " Queen of the Senecas," whatever that 



jij CHARLES TALBOT PORTER was born January 18, 
I. x 1826, at Auburn, New York. Like his friend 
Lewis Morgan, he came of old New England stock, and 
among his ancestors were Jonathan Edwards and Gover 
nors Saltonstall and Winthrop. Receiving a liberal educa 
tion, he graduated at Hamilton College in 1845, and was 
admitted to the bar in 1847, practising for a time in Rochester 
and later in the City of New York. But he soon deserted the 
law for engineering. His fitness for his new vocation was 
promptly shown, and in July, 1859, ne patented his first form 
of steam-engine governor, largely eliminating the disturbing 
effect of friction. Two years later he patented a novel iso 
chronous marine-engine governor, the principles of which 
are now in general use, and at the same time devised a high 
speed stationary engine. The importance of this device may 
be appreciated when it is stated that usual speeds of engines 
of the class which he improved were then fifty to seventy- 
five revolutions per minute, and that they could not safely be 
driven beyond that rate. The Porter governor and the Allen 
valve-motion were the characteristics of the Porter-Allen 
engine, which became a standard, and at the International 
Exhibition in London in 1862 astonished every one by its 
power, speed, smooth operation, and excellent steam distribu 
tion. This invention lies at the basis of modern steam 
engineering and especially of its use for the generation of 
electricity. The persistent and unconquerable spirit of Mr. 
Porter is evidenced in the history of this long and ultimately 
successful contest with prejudice, adverse interests, and in 
herent difficulties of design, construction, and operation. He 



spent several years, 1862-68, abroad, largely to introduce his 
new engine. Later he established it in this country and ex 
hibited a new form of water-tube boiler to meet the demand 
for safe utilization of high-pressure steam. 

In 1874 Mr. Porter published a treatise on the steam- 
engine indicator which is ct among the most admirable and 
useful of engineering classics." 

In 1885 he published a very notable philosophical work, 
Mechanics and Faith ; a Study of Spiritual Truth in Nature, 
a work in which the author s clear-sightedness, spiritual and 
intellectual integrity and earnestness, as well as acuteness, are 
admirably illustrated. 

Mr. Porter is an Honorary Member of the American 
Society of Mechanical Engineers, of which he was one of 
the founders. 

In 1848 he married Miss Harriette Morgan, sister of his 
intimate friend Lewis H. Morgan. Mr. and Mrs. Porter 
are residents of Montclair, New Jersey. 






j6 THE peoples of the Iroquoian stock, so named from 
I- 5 its best known representatives, were found by Euro 
peans in three .separate regions of North America (Bur. Eth., 
1885-86, Map). In the mountain district now included in 
East Tennessee, northern Georgia, and western North Caro 
lina were the great Cherokee nation. Near the coasts of 
southern Virginia and northern North Carolina dwelt the 
Tuscaroras and the Nottoways. All the other Iroquoian 
peoples were found together, as it were in a great island 
of Iroquoian speech, entirely surrounded by Algonquians. 
The centre of this island was at Niagara in the country of the 
Neutrals, who extended from western New York along 
the north shore of Lake Erie. North of the Neutrals the 
Tionnontates (Tobacco Nation) and the Hurons occupied 
the country between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. To 
the southeast in the Susquehanna valley were the Conestogas, 
also called Andastes and Susquehannocks. The Eries held 
the south shore of the lake now called by their name. 
Finally, through central New York, bounded west by the 
Eries and Neutrals, south by the Conestogas, and southeast, 
east, and north by Algonquian tribes, stretched the five nations 
of the Iroquois. 

Thus dwelt the Iroquoians at the opening of the seven 
teenth century. Seventy years earlier some of their tribes 
not certainly identified had held both banks of the St. Law 
rence from Ontario to the ocean, as well as both shores of 
Lake Champlain. So much and little more is certain. 



For the origin and early home of the Iroquoians and for 
their history prior to the seventeenth century we have no 
records and must depend upon tradition and conjecture. 
No general agreement has been reached, but the weight 
of evidence supports the story contained in the following 

The valleys drained by the Columbia and the rivers of 
Puget Sound were the early home of many of the Indian 
stocks, and from this country the Iroquoians took their way 
east not less than ten centuries ago. They were then a fish- 
eating people, nomadic and ignorant of agriculture. Some 
where in the Mississippi valley they acquired this art, and 
changing their basis of subsistence learned to build permanent 
villages. Here the Cherokees separated from the main stem, 
the others continuing together for a long time. This first 
sedentary home of the Iroquoians has been variously located 
on the St. Lawrence, on Lake Superior, on Lake Ontario, 
and in the Tuscarora country above . mentioned. It may 
be said that the northern and southern locations are alike 
improbable, and that unless we place them in New York 
itself the upper Ohio valley, the region of the Allegany, 
Monongahela, and Kanawha, is the most likely locality. Here 
too was perhaps the early home of the Siouan stock (Mooney, 
Siouan Tribes of the East*), whose close connection with the 
Iroquois Mr. Morgan always maintained. In this home 
their numbers grew, and the tribes swarmed into their historic 
sites in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and Canada. 

Now turning more particularly to the five tribes of the 
League, it appears that the Onondagas, Oneidas, and Mo 
hawks, in association with the Hurons, moved eastward 
through the country north of Lakes Erie and Ontario, 
while the Cayugas and Senecas, with their near kin the Eries, 
17 were occupying the southern shores of these lakes. 

1.5,11 Of the northern division the Onondagas were the 
first to enter New York, turning southerly at the east end of 
Lake Ontario. The Mohawks were then becoming a great 

1 88 


people. They had begun their tribal existence as a Huron 
phratry upon a fishing expedition, pressing on in advance of 
their kin to the lower St. Lawrence. Quebec was for some 
time their chief town. Probably they were the people whom 
Jacques Cartier found there. Their Huron kindred built 
Hochelaga on the island of Montreal. Between these related 
tribes arose jealousy and finally war. The Mohawks drove 
the Hurons from Hochelaga and built their capital there. 
This was the height of Mohawk power. Apparently they 
held the country from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to 
the headwaters of the Mohawk. From their capital at Mon 
treal they controlled the great river down to Gaspe. Vermont 
and the Adirondacks were their hunting-grounds, and their 
outlying dependency the Oneidas had for some time had a 
permanent town in New York. Thus the Onondagas had 
come in touch with the Oneidas on the east, and with the 
Cayugas on the west, both of them tribes of their own race, 
language, and institutions, and both few and feeble compared 
with Onondaga. It was to the interest of all to maintain 
peace, and with the Oneidas Onondaga had probably been in 
alliance before either tribe reached its historic seat. Numerous 
councils gradually drew the bonds tighter until at length a 
formal alliance grew up, to which the Senecas, as fathers of the 
Cayugas, soon became a party. This League of the four nations 
may have existed as early as 1450 (see I. 1 14 and note 89). 

18 Beginning in a hunter s quarrel, a war broke out in 
I- 5 the North in 1550 or a little later. The widely 
extended Mohawk people was suddenly and violently attacked 
by the whole line of Algonquian tribes as well as by the 
Hurons. The fact that the Mohawks were an agricultural 
people extended far along the St. Lawrence made them as 
vulnerable as they found the French a century later. If at 
the same time a succession of crop failures fell upon them, as 
Lafitau relates of their Quebec settlement, and as happened 
later on the St. Lawrence, they had good reason to retreat. 
Some of their towns perhaps Oneida itself were nearly de- 



stroyed ; others, including several of the St. Lawrence settle 
ments, may have been entirely wiped out, and many of their 
people slain or incorporated with the Hurons or Algonquians. 
The remnant of the Mohawks proper fell back upon their 
Oneida kindred in New York, and were soon received into the 
League, which now acquired a more formal constitution and 
more definite obligations. The date of this comple 
tion of the League was not far from 1570. There is 
little doubt that the Mohawks did not enter New York till about 
that time, nor that the League of Five Nations was formed 
after all the tribes had entered the State. It should neverthe 
less be stated that Mr. Morgan and Mr. Horatio Hale, two 
most eminent authorities, were firm in the belief that the 
League as it existed in historic times was constituted not later 
than 1459. The views expressed in the text, however, that 
the League was established by a single act of conscious legis 
lation were at once combated by Mr. Francis Parkman (Chris 
tian Examiner, May, 1851), who said : "The divided Iroquois, 
harassed by the attacks of enemies or threatened with a general 

* o 

inroad, might have been led to see the advantages of a league, 
and to effect that end the most simple and obvious course 
would have been that the sachems of all the nations should 
unite in a com-mon council. When this had been done, when 
a few functionaries had been appointed and certain necessary 
regulations established, the league would have found itself, 
without any very elaborate legislation, in the condition in 
which it stood at the time of its highest prosperity." To 
these views Morgan assents in his last word upon the subject 
(Houses, 27). 

19 It is, to say the least, improbable that the Iroquois 
I- 5 ever lived as one small nation at or near Montreal. 
The Mohawks held that territory, and the Oneidas and Onon- 
dagas may have tarried on the St. Lawrence for a time, but 
they were there as separate tribes, not as one, and the Senecas 
and Cayugas probably never dwelt on the river at all. Be 
this as it may, the Iroquois were not taught agriculture there, 
nor by the Adirondacks. The Adirondacks did not possess 



this art, but were mere hunters and fishers of the wilderness. 
Their very name means " tree-eaters," and was given to them 
by the Iroquois in contempt for their famine diet of buds and 
bark, to which, having no stores of corn, they were in winter 
.sometimes reduced. (Lafitau, III. 84). Nor was the St. 
Lawrence valley, where the corn crop often failed, 

L I53 the place where a people would shift from fish to corn 

as a means of subsistence. Mr. Morgan s own point of view is 

different on page 191 of Vol. L, where he says that 

L I?I the Iroquois had cultivated corn and other plants from 
a remote period. While many of the Algonquian tribes and 
most of the Siouan were non-agricultural, all the Iroquoians 
tilled the soil. Probably they acquired this art before their 
separation. The tradition that they learned husbandry from 
an Algonquian tribe is very likely correct, and the teachers 
may have been the Illinois, the Powhatans, or even those 
Otawas known as the " Cheveux-Releves." 

It would seem that the northern Iroquoians since reaching 
the agricultural basis have not lived in a materially milder or 
colder climate than that of their historic home. All their 
usages were adapted to a land of warm summers and severe 
winters. Their corn itself was of a harder artd earlier ripen 
ing variety than that of their Delaware neighbors. (Loskiel, 
84.) Yet even this often failed to ripen on the St. Lawrence. 

20 When the Iroquois entered New York, they seem to 
I- 6 have found an unoccupied land, nor has much evi 
dence been discovered of previous occupation. (Beauchamp, 
Aboriginal Occupation of N. T.) 

21 It is now agreed upon that Jacques Cartier found Iro- 
I. 9 quoians at Quebec and even at Gaspe, and most 

writers think that the people of Hochelaga, the palisaded town 
which he found on the site of Montreal, were Mohawks, 
though it is quite possible, as above suggested, that Hochelaga 
was a Huron town, and that the Quebec people were Mo 
hawks. Ramusio s picture of Hochelaga, showing its houses, 
its defences, and its cornfields is reproduced on page 32 of 



Winsor s Cartier to Frontenac, and, whether Mohawk or Huron, 
is certainly Iroquoian, and may be compared with Champlain s 
picture of the Onondaga fort attacked by him in 1615, which 
picture is reproduced by Winsor on page 119 of the same 

While the Adirondacks did not themselves raise corn, they 
pointed out to the French, in 1636, the abandoned cornfields 
of the Mohawks along the St. Lawrence. 

22 Champlain s fight was not on Lake George, nor did 
I. 10 he reach Lake George. That honor was reserved 

for Isaac Jogues, first of white men. Cham plain progressed 
as far as the rapids in the Lake George outlet, and the battle 
was just north of this and close to Ticonderoga. He locates 
the spot himself: "The place where this battle was fought is 
43 degrees some minutes latitude, and I named it Lake Cham- 
plain " (Doc. Hist. N. T., III. 9). Morgan was misled by 
careless reading of Charlevoix. 

Not satisfied with irritating the Mohawks, Champlain 
joined, in 1615,3 Huron expedition against another Iroquois 
tribe, but the attack on their fortified town was repulsed, 
Champlain himself being wounded. The locality of this 
battle has also been established. Champlain s itinerary and 
his sketch of the town have been studied many times, but in 
1877 General John S. Clark, by as fine an example of archae 
ological work as has been recorded, demonstrated that the 
fortified town attacked by Champlain stood on the banks of 
Nichols Pond, a small and shallow body of water in the 
town of Fenner. This demonstration is accepted by Morgan 
(Houses, 124), Parkman (Pioneers, 403) and Winsor (Cartier, 
117), and must be regarded as final. Dr. Beauchamp (Abo 
riginal Occupation, 88) says this site was in Oneida territory, 
not in Onondaga as had usually been supposed. This would 
indicate that the Mohawks and Oneidas rather than the 
Upper Iroquois were still the object of Huron enmity. 

23 The debt of the Dutch and English of New York to 
I- 12 the Iroquois has been recognized, but the debt of the 



English of New England is usually overlooked. Not only did 
the Mohawks stand between New England and Canada like a 
wall of fire against French and Indian attacks, but time and 
again they helped the settlers to overcome their own Indian 
neighbors. A few quotations may be given : 

" This Sassacouse (ye Pequents cheefe sachem) being fled 
(1637) to ye Mowhakes, they cutt of his head, with some 
other of ye cheefe of them, whether to satisfie ye English 
... or for their owne advantage, I well know not ; but thus 
this warr tooke end." (Bradford s History of Plimoth Planta 
tion, 430.) 

" In November and December [1675] Phillip and other 
Indyans, about a thousand in two party s armed went up into 
the country and came within about forty miles of Albany. 

" The Governor the River opening unexpected the be 
ginning of ffebruary tooke ye first opportunity to goe up 
with an additionall force & six sloops to Albany, and found att 
his arrivall aboutt three hundred Maquaas [Mohawks] Souldiers 
in towne, returned ye evening afore from ye pursuite of Philip 
and a party of five hundred with him, whome they had beaten, 
having some prisoners & the crowns, or hayre and skinne of 
the head, of others that they had killed." (N. T. Col. Docs., 

HI. 255.) 

" When you had Wars some time ago with the Indians, you 
desired us to help you ; we did it readily ; and to the Purpose ; 
for we pursued them closely, by which we prevented the 
Effusion of much of your Blood. This was a certain Sign 
that we loved truly and sincerely and from our Hearts." 
(Tahajadoris, a Mohawk Sachem, to the Agents of the New 
England Colonies, September 24, 1689. Colden, I. 108.) 

u In the year 1677, September 19, between Sun-set and 
dark, the Indians came upon us I yielded myself and was 
ied away. Here were the Indians quite out of all fear of the 
English ; but in great fear of the Mohawks." (Quintin Stock- 
well, Story of his Captivity after the attack on Hatfield, Hart, 
American History told by Contemporaries, I. 501.) 

VOL. ii. 13 193 


24 The name of Garangula looks like an Iroquois word, 
I- 17 but Parkman amusingly explains its origin: "He 

was a famous Onondaga orator named Otreouati, and called 
also Big Mouth, whether by reason of the dimensions of 
that feature or the greatness of the wisdom that issued 
from it. [Perhaps he was the sachem Ho-sa-ha-ho.] His 
contemporary, Baron La Hontan, thinking perhaps that his 
French name of La Grande Gueule was wanting in dignity, 
Latinized it into Grangula ; and the Scotchman, Golden, 
afterwards improved it into Garangula, under which high- 
sounding appellation Big Mouth has descended to posterity. 
He was an astute old savage, well trained in the arts of the 
Iroquois rhetoric, and gifted with the power of strong and 
caustic sarcasm, which has marked more than one of the chief 
orators of the Confederacy." (Frontenac, 95.) 

25 Fronfenac had 1,700 French and 500 Indians when 
I- 20 he marched against the Onondagas (Lamberville, 

Affairs of Canada in 1696, 65 J. R., 24). Their town of 
Onondaga had stood for fourteen years when Frontenac found 
it (Letter of Lamberville, 62 J. R., 54), and as it was full time 
to remove to another site, it was not worth defending. The 
Onondagas therefore burnt the town themselves (Doc. Hist. 
N. K, I. 332) and the French found only the smoking ruins. 
All that the Onondagas really lost was their standing crops, 
and these would have been sacrificed if the town had been 
defended. For its location see Dr. Beauchamp s note, 51 
J. R., 294. 

26 After the year 1700 the four western tribes took 
I- 20 little part in the wars between France and England, 

the Senecas in fact inclining at times to the French side. The 
Mohawks alone continued active in the English alliance, and 
were engaged in most of the fighting on the New York bor 
der, particularly in the battle of Lake George, September, 
1755, where their chief, " King Hendrick," was among the 
killed. Also at Niagara in July, 1759, Sir William Johnson 
had Iroquois aid. 



27 In Pontiac s war strong efforts were made to induce 
II- 85 the Iroquois to join the alliance of Indian against 
Englishman, and " had not the Six Nations been kept tranquil 
by the exertions of Sir William Johnson, the most disastrous 
results must have ensued. The Senecas and a few of the 
Cayugas were the only members of the Confederacy who 
took part in the War." (Parkman, Pontiac, II. 29.) 

2 g When the American Revolution began, the League 
I. 26, was at first ready to remain neutral, and, in fact, 

108 neutrality was urged upon the Iroquois by Sir John 
Johnson the Tory, as well as by Philip Schuyler on the part 
of the patriots. The responsibility for the introduction of 
the tomahawk and the scalping-knife into the conflict rests 
directly upon the British ministry. When the Iroquois were 
forced from their neutral position, the King s cause was the 
natural one. The alliances, nearly two centuries old, had 
been made in his name, and in his name the presents had 
been given and redress for wrongs administered. The injuries 
which had come to the Indians, on the other hand, were never 
done in the royal name, but were the work of individuals, 
most of whom took the American side. Finally, the British 
had the great influence of the family and official successors 
of Sir William Johnson. Three men, Skenandoah, Thomas 
Spencer, and Samuel Kirkland the missionary, held the 
Oneidas in the American interest ; otherwise the united war 
riors of the League would have fallen upon the Americans. 

At Onondaga in January, 1777, the ancient council-fire of 
the Six Nations was extinguished, seemingly not without 
bloodshed. The Senecas and Cayugas openly and unitedly 
espoused the cause of the King ; the Mohawks and Onondagas 
were divided, some for the King, some neutral. The Oneidas 
and Tuscaroras endeavored to remain neutral, but many of 
them were soon actively engaged on the American side. 
These allies gave much aid to the patriots in the border wars 
of the Revolution and suffered greatly inconsequence. Their 
faithful friendship and assistance were formally and gratefully 



recognized by the United States by Treaty proclaimed Jan 
uary 21, 1795. If the League had been unanimous under its 
ancient laws in making war upon the Americans, it is quite 
likely that Burgoyne s campaign would have been a British 
triumph and that the war would have ended in the success 
of the royal arms. 

I. 27 n the ther hand if the Lea g ue had espoused the 
American cause or had remained neutral, it would 
have been both difficult and unjust to take from them an inch 
of their territory at the end of the war, and the settlement of 
the West, the opening of the Erie Canal, and all the develop 
ment of the Empire State and its chief city would have been 
long postponed, even if commerce and empire had not been 
diverted into other channels. Any attempt at the settlement 
of the country while still under Indian rule would have pro 
duced an unendurable state of affairs, much worse than any 
Transvaal problem. 

29 Being abandoned by the British government, the 

I- 172 Iroquois had at the end of the Revolution no defence 

except the generosity and prudence of the American people. 

Fortunately the just and sagacious counsel of Washington 

prevailed : 

" My ideas, therefore, of the line of conduct proper to be 
observed, not only towards the Indians but for the government 
of the citizens of America, in their settlement of the western 
country, which is intimately connected therewith, are simply 

"First, and as a preliminary, that all prisoners, of whatever 
age or sex, among the Indians, shall be delivered up. 

u That the Indians should be informed that, after a contest 
of eight years for the sovereignty of this country, Great 
Britain has ceded all the lands to the United States within 
the limits described by the article of the provisional treaty. 

"That as they (the Indians) maugre all the advice and 
admonition that could be given them at the commencement 
and during the prosecution of the war, could not be restrained 



from acts of hostility, but were determined to join their arms 
to those of Great Britain and to share their fortunes, so 
consequently, with a less generous people than Americans, 
they would be made to share the same fate, and be compelled 
to retire along with them beyond the Lakes. But:, as we 
prefer peace to a state of warfare ; as we consider them as a 
deluded people ; as we persuade ourselves that they are con 
vinced, from experience, of their error in taking up the hatchet 
against us, and that their true interest and safety must now 
depend upon our friendship; as the country is large enough to 
contain us all ; and as we are disposed to be kind to them and 
to partake of their trade, we will, from these considerations 
and from motives of compassion, draw a veil over what is 
past, and establish a boundary line between them and us, 
beyond which we will endeavor to restrain our people from 
hunting or settling, and within which they shall not come but 
for the purposes of trading, treating, or other business 
unexceptionable in its nature. 

" In establishing this line, in the first instance, care should 
be taken neither to yield nor to grasp at too much ; but to 
endeavor to impress the Indians with an idea of the generosity 
of our disposition to accommodate them, and of the necessity 
we are under, of providing for our warriors, our young people 
who are growing up, and strangers who are coming from 
other countries to live among us; and if they should make a 
point of it, or appear dissatisfied with the line we may find it 
necessary to establish, compensation should be made to them 
for their claims within it. 

" It is needless for me to express more explicitly, because the 
tendency of my observations evinces it is my opinion, that, if 
the legislature of the State of New York should insist upon 
expelling the Six Nations from all the country they inhabited 
previous to the war, within their territory, as General Schuyler 
seems to be apprehensive, it will end in another Indian war. 
I have every reason to believe from my inquiries, and the 
information I have received, that they will not suffer their 



country (if it were our policy to take it before we could settle 
it) to be wrested from them without another struggle. That 
they would compromise for a part of it, I have very little 
doubt ; and that it would be the cheapest way of coming at it, 
I have *no doubt at all. The same observations, I am per 
suaded, will hold good with respect to Virginia, or any other 
State, which has powerful tribes of Indians on its frontiers; 
and the reason of my mentioning New York is because Gen 
eral Schuyler has expressed his opinion of the temper of its 
legislature, and because I have been more in the way of learn 
ing the sentiments of the Six Nations on the subject, than of 
any other tribes of Indians. 

" The limits being sufficiently extensive, in the new country, 
to comply with all the engagements of government, and to 
admit such emigrations as may be supposed to happen within 
a given time, not only from the several States of the Union 
but from foreign countries, and, moreover, of such magnitude 
as to form a distinct and proper government ; a proclamation, 
in my opinion, should issue, making it felony (if there is power 
for the purpose, if not, imposing some very heavy restraint) 
for any person to survey or settle beyond the line ; and the 
officers commanding the frontier garrisons should have pointed 
and peremptory orders to see that the proclamation is carried 
into effect. 

"Measures of this sort would not only obtain peace from the 
Indians, but would, in my opinion, be the surest means of 
preserving it ; and would dispose of the land to the best 
advantage, people the country progressively and check land 
jobbing and monopolizing, which are now going forward with 
great avidity, while the door would be open and the terms 
known for every one to obtain what is proper and reasonable 
for himself, upon legal and constitutional ground. 

"Every advantage, that could be expected or even wished 
for, would result from such a mode of procedure. Our 
settlements would be compact, government well established 
and our barrier formidable, not only for ourselves but against 



our neighbors ; and the Indians, as has been observed in 
General Schuyler s letter, will ever retreat as our settlements 
advance upon them, and they will be as ready to sell as we 
are to buy. That it is the cheapest, as well as the least dis 
tressing way of dealing with them, none, who is acquainted 
with the nature of Indian warfare, and has ever been at the 
trouble of estimating the expense of one, and comparing it 
with the cost of purchasing their lands, will hesitate to 
acknowledge." (Washington to Duane, 7 September, 1783.) 

In pursuit of this enlightened policy a treaty was made at 
Fort Stanwix October 22, 1784, by which the United States 
gave peace to the Senecas, Mohawks, Onondagas, and Cayu- 
gas (the Oneidas and Tuscaroras not having made war), and 
the Six Nations yielded all their lands west of New York 
State. Their lands within the State were yielded by succes 
sive treaties until at Big Tree (now Genesee), September 15, 
1797, nearly all western New York passed to white control. 

There were no further hostilities between the United States 
and the Iroquois within its borders. On the contrary, the 
Senecas in 1812 fought under the American flag against the 
British soldiers and even against the Canada Mohawks allied 
with the British. Again in the Civil War the New York 
Iroquois furnished their full quota and more to the Union 

The case of the Senecas against the Ogden Land 
II. 121 Company, in which Morgan took so warm an interest, 

* 3I rests on a complicated series of facts. Under the 
grant from James I. to Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts 
claimed a large part of western New York. This claim 
was adjusted between the two States at Hartford, Connecticut, 
December 16, 1786. By this compact Massachusetts ceded 
to New York the right of u government, sovereignty, and juris 
diction " over the whole territory in dispute, and New York 
ceded to Massachusetts " the right of pre-emption of the soil 
of the native Indians" and all other estate, except of sover 
eignty and jurisdiction, in a tract of about six million acres, 



which included all of the State of New York lying west of 
Seneca Lake, and is now divided into fourteen counties. 
The rights of Massachusetts to a large part of these lands 
were subsequently acquired by the Ogden Land Company, an 
unincorporated association, which secured by somewhat ques 
tionable means grants in the form of treaties from the Senecas 
in 1826 and 1838, that of the last-named year purporting to 
give up all the lands of the Senecas in New York. This 
treaty was not assented to by the Seneca chiefs in council, al 
though a number of them signed as individuals. As to these 
signatures President Van Buren said, in a message to the Sen 
ate, " That improper means have been employed to obtain 
the assent of the Seneca chiefs, there is every reason to 
believe," yet the Senate ratified the treaty. The Indians and 
their friends still endeavored to have it set aside, and finally a 
compromise was reached by which the Allegany and Catta- 
raugus reservations were restored, still subject to the pre-emp 
tion right, but the Tonawanda band of Senecas were left 

Morgan wrote at the time: "The Senate of the 
United States, by a resolution passed June n, 1838, 
committed a great act of injustice upon the Seneca Indians, un 
intentionally, no doubt ; and prepared the way for their total 
extirpation. This resolution abrogated their unanimity prin 
ciple, by authorizing a majority of their chiefs to make a 
treaty with the Ogden Land Company, for the sale of their 
lands in western New York. In December of that year 
this vigilant company forced a treaty upon the Senecas, under 
very questionable circumstances. It was well known that 
fifteen-sixteenths of the people, almost the entire nation, were 
unwilling to sell ; yet the company, having a resolution of the 
Senate under which to shelter themselves, procured by their 
own efforts, now resorted to the quick and only expedient 
of purchasing the votes of a majority of the chiefs. The 
proceedings by which this end was finally accomplished were 
utterly objectionable, as is abundantly proved by printed docu- 



ments, now before the Senate. There were eighty-one chiefs, 
placing the three classes of chiefs upon a level ; and but forty- 
one needed to the treaty. It is represented that $200,000 
were set apart as the means of negotiation ; that to ten chiefs 
they paid $30,000 in bribes ; that others were plied with 
rum until intoxicated, and then made to sign ; that still others 
were made chiefs by a sham election, and their signatures then 
taken ; while yet others signed the treaty as chiefs who were 
not so in fact. Several days were consumed in perfecting 
the work, and the desired majority was obtained. After a 
long and angry controversy, in which the red-men struggled 
in vain for justice, the Senate finally ratified it by the casting 
vote of the Vice-President. The Indians refused to own the 
treaty, and the government were unwilling to execute it. 
A compromise, in 1842, was effected, by which two reserva 
tions were released from the operation of the treaty, on condi 
tions that the Indians would sacrifice the other two. The 
Tonawanda and Buffalo reserves were thus sold a second time. 
The Tonawanda Band, never having signed either treaty, 
still refused to deliver possession ; and it is a question yet to 
be decided, whether the Tonawanda Senecas shall be deprived 
of their homes, without their consent, or without an equivalent 
paid. The land is worth on an average $16 per acre, and 
the treaty allows them $1.67." (Skenandoah, Letters on the 
Iroquois, p. 247 note.) The citizens of western New York 
espoused the cause of the Indians, and at a general convention 
of the people of Genesee County held at Batavia, March 21, 
1846, Lewis H. Morgan was deputed to carry to Washington 
the memorial which the convention had adopted. By his 
influence and that of his associates a settlement was finally 
arrived at by which the Tonawandas bought back 7,547 
acres, being their present reservation. The pre-emption claim 
of the Ogden Land Company to the Allegany and Cattaraugus 
reservations still exists. A legislative committee recommended 
in 1889 that this pre-emption right be extinguished. Its 
extinction would seem to be necessary before the lands can be 



allotted to the Indians in several ownership. For the history 
of the claim see the opinion of the Court of Appeals in Seneca 
Nation vs. Christie, 126 N. T. 122, Indian Problem, and The 
Claim of the Ogden Land Company, a pamphlet prepared some 
years ago by Mr. W. H. Samson, of Rochester, at the request 
of the Senecas, for use in Congress to defeat a project to 
compel the Indians to buy the Company s claim. 

3! For the life and achievements of William Johnson 

II- 85 S ee Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, Halsey, The Old 

New York Frontier, and Life of Sir William ^Johnson by Stone. 

32 It is stated that Johnson, the religious teacher, died 
I. 221 in 1850. 

33 Governor Blacksnake died September 9, 1859, at the 
I- 70 reported age of 117 years. 

34 It is still true that there is no connected history de- 
I- 4 voted entirely to the League, but its history down to 

the Revolution is to be found in the pages of Parkman, while 
Stone s Lives of Johnson and Brant bring down the detailed 
narrative to the fall of the League as a political and military 
power. Halsey s The Old New York Frontier gives, of course 
in briefer form, the whole story of the rise, progress, and 
decline of the Iroquois state. 

35 While neither the Dutch of New Netherland nor the 
I. 22 English of New York showed the glowing zeal for 

the conversion of the Indians that animated the breasts of 
Eliot in New England and the Jesuits in New France, the 
Iroquois were by no means " entirely neglected." The names 
of Megapolensis the Albany Dominie, Kirkland the Mission 
ary to the Oneidas, and Zeisberger.the Moravian are perhaps 
the most conspicuous, but many others might be named. 

36 Squier s Antiquities of New York and the West was 
II. 5, 12 published in 1851, the same year as the League. At 

one time Squier had supposed the western New York re 
mains to be the work of the so-called Mound-Builders, but 
in this work (p. 140) he expressed a different opinion: "In 
full view of the facts before presented, I am driven to a con- 



elusion little anticipated when I started upon my exploration 
of the monuments of the State, that the earthworks of Western 
New York were erected by the Iroquois or their western neigh 
bors, and do not possess an antiquity going very far back of 
the discovery." 

Beauchamp s Aboriginal Occupation expresses the same 
views, which are generally accepted. No distinction of race 
between the so-called Mound-Builders and the other aboriginal 
Americans is now recognized. 

Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), a Canajoharie Mo- 
I. 70, hawk chief, of the Wolf clan, was born in what is 
9 8 now Ohio in 1742, and died in Canada in 1807. His 
life was one of incessant and varied activity. From his youth 
he was a protege of Sir William Johnson, who secured him an 
English education. His sister, the celebrated Molly Brant, 
was Johnson s housekeeper and bore him several children. 
At the opening of the Revolution Brant had become a power 
among the Mohawks, and with the Johnsons took the 
King s side. In the border warfare that followed he was the 
most prominent figure. The poet Campbell in Gertrude of 
Wyoming says that Brant was the moving spirit in the Wyo 
ming massacre and also that he was a monster. But both 
these statements are now believed to be inaccurate. Brant 
was at Cherry Valley, but on that day, as throughout the war, 
he showed himself an honorable warrior, not a murderer. 
Happy the captive settler or settler s wife who fell into the 
hands of Brant and his Mohawks. More cruel were the- 
Senecas, and the Tories were " more savage than the savages 
themselves." After the war Brant secured for his ruined 
people a home in Canada, and was active in all the negotia 
tions of the British and American governments with the 
Indian tribes. Twice in his life he visited England, where he 
was at home in the best society of the time. Brant translated 
the Prayer-book and portions of the Scriptures into the 
Mohawk tongue. W. L. Stone s Life of Brant is an im 
portant work. 



38 " It is worthy of remembrance that the Iroquois 

I- 5 8 commended to our forefathers a union of the colo 
nies similar to their own as early as 1755. They saw in the 
common interests and common speech of the several colonies 
the elements for a confederation, which was as far as their 
vision was able to penetrate." (Houses, p. 32.) 

On the other hand Franklin s plan of union, which was 
the beginning of our own federal republic, was directly in 
spired by the wisdom, durability, and inherent strength which 
he had observed in the Iroquois constitution. Under the 
Articles of Confederation we managed our affairs for a dozen 
years very much on the Iroquois plan, and it must be con 
fessed were not quite as apt in execution and in administrative 
wisdom as our barbarian predecessors. 

When the colonies became the United States, the Iroquois 
recognized the similarity of the League to their own, and gave 
to the new nation the name of The Thirteen Fires. 

gg Morgan modified this in Houses, p. 34, to " they 
I- 7 8 never fell into anarchy nor ruptured the organiza 
tion." There was at times much dissension and jealousy 
between the tribes, and more than once actual hostilities were 
narrowly averted. 

40 " The career of the Iroquois was simply terrific. 
II. 107 " Taking the part of the English in the wars against 
the French, they shook all Canada with the fear of their arms. 

" They were the scourge of God upon the aborigines of the 
continent, and were themselves used up stock, lash and snap 
per, in the tremendous flagellation which was administered 
through them to almost every branch, in turn, of the great 
Algonquin family. It will not do to say that but for the 
Iroquois the settlement of the country by the whites would 
not have taken place ; yet assuredly the settlement would 
have been longer delayed and have been finally accomplished 
with far greater expense of blood and treasure, had not the 
Six Nations, not knowing what they did, gone before in 
savage blindness and fury destroying or driving out tribe 



after tribe which with them might for more than a gen 
eration at least have stayed the western course of European 
invasion." (Francis A. Walker, North Amer. Rev.) April, 


4! THAT magnificent tract known as the Adirondack 
I. 44 Wilderness yet remains in practically the same con 
dition as when the Iroquois trod its sombre depths. Here 
are still found the trails which the Iroquois used. The 
engineer who ran them may well have been the red man, 
but in many cases the deer and the bear trod them before 
even he. These pathways, hammered deep into the soil by 
many centuries of hurrying feet passing in what we still call 
Indian file, to-day thread the eternal forest marked only by 
the beaten track and the fading blazes on the tree-trunks. 
As an alternative to this blazing with the hatchet, the 
Indian in many places marked the road by twigs 
broken by the traveller s hand. This could be done without 
falling out of step. 

II. 80, Morgan s appellation of " well-beaten footpath" was 
94- merited at least by the main trail which ran by town 
and town from the Hudson to Lake Erie, for the Jesuit writers 
more than two centuries ago called it "The Beaten Road," 
and over these roads the Indian travellers made regularly thirty 
or forty miles a day. The domestic peace which prevailed 
through the Iroquois territories made them a region of travel 
on the highways. (See Judges, V. 6.) Both in peace 
and war the Iroquois were a travelling people, and 
whether trading, hunting, fishing, OP going on hostile expedi 
tions, or simply as travellers for pleasure or visitors to their 
kindred, they were constantly in motion on the roads which 
traversed the territories of the Five Confederate Tribes. They 
have the same characteristic to-day. Of all these journeyings 



Onondaga, the centre and capital of the Confederacy, was 
naturally the most visited point. Says a Jesuit Father in 
1656 : "Our situation in the centre of these nations is most 
advantageous for the conversion of the savages, not only 
because the missions can easily be sent thence into the neigh 
boring provinces, but also because of the great concourse of 
travellers who keep the place full of people all the time." 
(Relation of 1656-57, 44 J. ^.,46.) 

Not every trail was open to all the world. It required, as 
it requires to-day, experience to follow the windings and fork- 
ings of a forest path, and for purposes of war and trade many 
routes were intentionally concealed. Of all the Indian peoples 
the Iroquois were among the earliest to recognize the impor 
tance of good roads ; and from treaty speeches it would ap 
pear that the trails were at times cleared and repaired, the 
swamps corduroyed and the streams bridged, or at least that 
the idea of such improvements was not inconceivable by 
their minds. 

The following notes on the Peculiarities of Footpaths are not 
irrelevant. The work cited is Drummond s Tropical Africa. 

" Footpaths are what roads are not, natural productions, 
just as the paths made by hares, deer, and elephants are. No 
one really makes a footpath ; that is, no one improves it. 
What is true of Central Africa is true of England. The 
native paths, wrote Prof. Drummond, c are the same in char 
acter all over Africa, (he has previously mentioned that you 
are almost never c off one of these paths.) l They are veri 
table footpaths, trodden as hard as adamant, and rutted beneath 
the level of the forest by centuries of native traffic. As a 
rule, these footpaths are marvellously direct. Like the roads 
of the old Romans, they run straight on through everything, 
ridge and mountain and valley, never shying at obstacles 
nor anywhere turning aside to breathe. Yet within this gen 
eral straightforwardness there is a singular eccentricity and 
indirectness in detail. Although the African footpath is, on 
the whole, a bee line, no fifty yards of it are ever straight. 



And the reason is not far to seek. If a stone is encountered 
no native will ever think of removing it. Why should he ? 
It is easier to walk round it. The next man who comes by 
will do the same. He knows that a hundred men are fol 
lowing him ; he looks at the stone ; a moment, and it might 
be unearthed and tossed aside ; but no, he holds on his way. 
It would no more occur to him that that stone is a displace- 
able object than that felspar belongs to the orthoclase variety. 
Generations and generations of men have passed that stone, 
and it still waits for a man with an altruistic idea. This is, 
perhaps, the locus classicus on the true inwardness of foot 
paths." (The [London] Spectator, August 3, 1901.) 

42 The map used by Mr. Morgan as a basis for his de 
ll. 106 lineation of the Iroquois trails contains, unfortunately, 
many geographical errors. Thus Lake George is shown as 
emptying into the Hudson, and the upper Sacandaga, being 
connected with the Cayadutta, becomes a tributary of the 
Mohawk. In fact, the whole Adirondack region is almost 
II. 84 unrecognizable. Some of the trails shown are prob- 

L 44 ably of more recent date than that given of 1720. 
Thus the trail diverging to Johnstown, shown on Mr. 
Morgan s map and mentioned in the text, was hardly more 
ancient than Sir William Johnson s residence there (1763). 

Dr. Beauchamp says, in letters to the editor : " I do not 
think it possible accurately to lay down the trails, for every 
fresh removal and settlement made a difference. Morgan 
omitted many, and wisely put down those of which he was 
certain ; but the Moravian Journals make it evident that some 
of these were not those of one hundred and fifty years ago. 
His map and description, however, should appear as he left 

"In 1650 and earlier, as well as later, the trail left the 
Mohawk near Canajoharie, and struck over the hills to the 
vicinity of Munnsville, Madison County, and thence to 
the town of Pompey. In 1750 the trail from Onondaga 
to Cayuga touched the foot of Skeneateles and Owasco lakes. 
It was usual to cross Cayuga Lake south of Union Springs, 
but Morgan had no means of knowing all this." " It is 



demonstrable that in 1750, excepting one on the Susque- 
hanna, all the Tuscarora villages were on or near the Hne of 
the New York Central Railroad. This appears from the 
Moravian Journals which have not been published." " Indian 
Castle, Danube, was a very modern village, a long way west 
of the early towns." 

Romer s map, dated 1700, shows the first Mohawk Castle 
on the north bank of the river, but the trail on the south 
bank is the only one shown. West of the third Castle this 
trail turns to the southwest, and crosses the Susquehanna 
some twenty miles south of the Mohawk, and then passing 
just north of Otsego Lake, goes straight west to Oneida. 
From Oneida (Utica) another trail is shown leading north to 
the site of Rome, while the main trail goes forty miles west to 
Onondaga. From Onondaga there is a trail fifteen miles 
west and north to Cananda (perhaps Onondaga) Lake, and 
one twenty miles northeast to Sachnawarage. 

There is presented herewith, by permission of the State 
Museum, a copy of the map prepared by Dr. Beauchamp for 
the Museum Bulletin No. 32, on the Aboriginal Occupation 
of New York. On pages 14 and 15 of this Bulletin Dr. 
Beauchamp quotes the text, and says : " Those familiar with 
Mr. L. H. Morgan s map of Ho-de-no-sau-nee-ga, or the 
territory of the people of the Long House after their con 
quests, will observe that the boundaries on the small map 
showing national distribution differ somewhat from his, partly 
from showing an earlier condition, but for other reasons as 

u Mr. Morgan, however, forgot that irregular ridges 
instead of streams, sometimes become boundaries, 
though straight lines might be carried along or over these. 
Another matter was overlooked, that national boundaries 
changed from time to time by mutual agreement. Aside from 
conquest there can be no doubt of this. In 1654 and later, the 
foot of Oneida Lake was certainly in the territory of the 
Onondagas, their village there being well known for fifty years. 
Yet at a later day the Oneidas not only held the lake, but 
reserved a fishing place on its outlet, three miles below. 



Deep Spring was certainly on the line between the Oneidas 
and Onondagas after the Revolution, but it is almost as evi 
dent that the Onondagas at one time owned Cazenovia Lake 
and its outlet. Mr. Morgan himself divided Cross Lake by 
the eastern line of the Cayugas, while the Onondagas had 
clearings west of it. He also placed Sodus Bay, well known 
as the Bay of the Cayugas, in the Seneca territory. The 
Cayugas themselves at one time had villages north of Lake 
Ontario, and on the Susquehanna at a later day." 

The western Iroquois went to Canada usually by 
Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence. The Mohawks 
and Oneidas kept further east, and appear to have had at least 
five roads to Montreal. The favorite one, because it involved 
only two or three days land travel, was by way of Lake 
George (which was reached by various routes ; sometimes 
via the Sacandaga, sometimes via Schenectady and the Hudson) 
and Lake Champlain ; but when the season was stormy or 
they wished to avoid observation, they took a route west of 
the Adirondacks, which after eight or ten days of tramping 
brought them to the Oswegatchie and so to the St. Lawrence. 
Another road to the St. Lawrence was by the Fulton chain of 
lakes, Racquette and Long Lakes and the Racquette River. 

Having reached the Racquette, they could either continue 
down the river to the St. Lawrence or pass to the Saranacs 
and Lake Champlain by what is still called the Indian carry. 
There is evidence of another route to Long Lake and the 
country beyond via Lake Pleasant, Whittaker Lake, and the 
Indian Lake, but whether Lake Pleasant was usually reached 
from the south or from the west does not appear. 

4- (Ska-hase-ga-o.) u This word is rendered Place of a 

I. 306 long creek now dry. Anciently there was a large and 

n> 9 2 populous Seneca village in this vicinity, situated on 

the Honeoye creek, a short distance west from Mendon, on a 

bend in the stream. It is well remembered among the 

Senecas under the name of Ga-o-sai-ga-o, which is translated 

In a bass-wood country. [Beauchamp, says in Victor, not Mendon] 

VOL. u. 14 209 


"In 1792 vestiges of at least seventy houses, or Ga-no- 
so-do, were to be seen at the place designated. Although 
it had been deserted for a long period, rows of corn hills still 
indicated the places which had been subjected to cultivation. 
There was an opening of about two thousand acres upon the 
creek, in the midst of which the village was situated. Exten 
sive burial grounds in the vicinity, from which gun barrels, 
tomahawks, beads, crosses, and other articles have been dis 
interred, tend to show a modern occupation, while the sitting 
posture in which some of the skeletons are found indicates a 
very ancient occupation." (Skenandoah, p. 488.) 

44 Table exhibiting the principal points on the trail of 

I. 45 the Iroquois from Albany to Niagara which were 

n - 93 known to the immigrants who flocked into western 

New York between 1790 and 1800. At most of these 

places taverns were erected, which, it will be observed, were 

chiefly upon the ancient trail, then the only road opened 

through the forest. The distances from point to point are 

also given. 

Foster s ...<,... 5 

Morehouse s 6 

Keeler s or Danforth s . . 5 
Carpenter s ...... 15 

Buck s 3 

Goodrich s g 


Cayuga Bridge 



Amsden s 


Sandburn s (Canandaigua) 
Sear s and Peck s , 



McKown s Tavern ... 5 

Imax s 7 

Schenectady 4 

Groat s 12 

John Fonda s 12 

Conally s 

Roseboom s Ferry (Canajo- 


Hudson s (Indian Castle) 
Aldridge s (Germ. Flats) 

Bray ton s 

Utica (Fort Schuyler) 
Whitestown .... 
Laird s Tavern 
Oneida Castle .... 

Wemp s 

John Denna s .... 

... 13 

Genesee River 14 

Tonawanda (Ind. village) . 40 

Niagara j} 5 

Total Distance 310 

(Skenandoah, p. 489.) 




THE following spellings and significations are commu 
nicated by Mrs. Harriet Maxwell Converse on the 
authority of her father, Thomas Maxwell, (who was the son 
of Guy Maxwell, the adopted brother of Red Jacket,) and 
of General Parker. 

n I2 Ga-web-no-geh. Cawenisque. At the Big Island. 
132, Ne-ah-ga. Pronounced by Red Jacket O-ne-au-ga-ra. 
133 Skwe-do-wa. Ski-an-do-wa. The Great (Corn) fields. 
Ga-nun-da-gwa. Canandaqua. Chosen town. Ga-nun-da- 
a-ga. At the new town. 

Ga-ka-to. The Delaware name of the Chemung was Ka- 
nungwa, Horn in the water. 

II. 134, Ga-wa-no-wa-na-neh. Susquesaha na. Crooked river. 
136 Cbe-gwa-ga. The stream or waterfall at Havana 
(now Montour Falls), Schuyler County, was called She- 
gwaw-ga, Trembling waters. 
II. 138, Ot-se-go. Clear water. 
J 39 Do-tea-ga. Breaking. 
De-o-na-sa-de-o. Heaping sando 


46 IN the following list the Seneca names with their 
I- 59 meanings are Morgan s, corrected by himself, the 
clans being supplied from other sources in cases where Morgan 
did not state them. The Mohawk names and significations 
are from a manuscript of E. S. Parker evidently founded on 
Hale. In the column of remarks are given variant statements 
by Chadwick, Hale, and Parker. 

The following table shows distribution of the sachem- 
ships by tribes and clans, Morgan s account being 
accepted : 



Mohawk Oneida Onondaga Cayuga 









































Assuming the Seneca division of phratries as original, the 
Sachems are divided, 37 to the First Phratry, and only 13 to 
the Second ; but as the Mohawks and Oneidas had no repre 
sentatives of the Second Phratry only the three Western 
tribes should be compared, giving 19 to the First and 13 to 
the Second. 






5. WOLF 

6. WOLF 

7. BEAR 


9. BEAR 




(Man who combs) 


(Small speech) 

(At the forks) 

(At the great river) 

(Dragging his horns) 

( Even-tempered) 

(Hanging up rattles) 


(Between two state 

(Seeks the wampum) 

(Two things equal) 

(Great tree top) 

(Double life) 

(Wide branches) 

(Going with two horns) 
Shaghskoharcwane All 

(Great wood drift) 

(Double speech) 

(Loftiest tree) C. 

(i. e. Tenacious 

of life. ) 
(High hill) C. 

(Puts on the rattles) 

but Morgan 
make this the 9th 
All but Morgan 
make this the 
8th sachemship. 
(Holding the rat 
tles) C. 




10. WOLF 



(Bearing a burden) 

(Bearing a quiver) 




(Covered with cat-tail 

(Setting up ears of See II. 30. 


corn in a row) 

12. WOLF 



(Opening through the 

(Open voice) 





(A long string) 

(His long house) 




(Man with a head 

(Two branches) 





(Swallowing himself) 

(He slides himself down) 

16. BEAR 



(Place of the echo) 

(Two hanging ears) 

17. BEAR 

Ga-ne-a -dus-ha-yeh 


(War club on the 

(Easy throat) 


1 8. BEAR 


Honwatshadonneh TURTLE C. 

(Steaming himself) 

(He is buried) 



19. BEAR 


Wathadotarho DEER C. 






(Best soil uppermost) 

21. BEAR 


Tehhatkahdons BEAVER C. & H. 

(On the watch) 

(On the watch) (Two-sighted, i. e. 

vigilant) C. 

22. SNIPE 



(Bitter body) 

(Bitter throat) 



Aweakenyat BALL C. 

(The end of its 




Tehayatkwayen (Red wings) C. 

(On his body) 

25. WOLF 



(He sunk out of sight) 

26. DEER 



(Voice suspended) 

27. DEEK 


Hahhihhonh (Spilled) C. 














EEL C. & H. 

(He is bruised) 






(Having a glimpse) 

(He saw them, now 



3 1 - 




(Large mouth) 

( Wearing a hatchet 

in his belt) 

3 2 - 




(Over the creek) 

(Over the creek) 








(Man frightened) 

(Looks both ways) 






(Coming on its knees) 






(It was bruised) 





( Has a long wampum 






(He puts one on 






(It touches the sky) 





WOLF C. & H. 

(Very cold) 

(Doubly cold) 






(Mossy place) 






(Crowding himself in) 






(Resting on it) 


43. TURTLE Ga-ne-o-di-yo Skahnyahteihyuh WOLF H. 

(Handsome lake) (Beautiful lake) 

44. SNIPE Sa-da-ga-o-yase Shahtehkahenhhyesh 

(Level heavens) (Skies of equal length) 

45. TURTLE Gan-no-gi-e Kahnohkaih 4?th Sachem H. 

(Threatened) & C. 

46. HAWK Sa-geh-jo-wa Shakenjohnah 

(Great forehead) (Large forehead) 



47. BEAR Sa-de-a-no-wus . Sahtyehnahwaht 45th Sachem H. 

(Assistant) (Withheld) &C. SNIPE C. 

48. SNIPK Nis-ha-ne-a-nent Nishahyehnenhah BEAR H. 

(Falling day) (The day fell down) 

49. SNIPE Ga-no-go-e-da-we Kanonhkehihtawih BEAR H. 

(Hair burned off) (One who burns the 


50. WOLF Do-ne-ho-ga-weh Tyuhninhohkawenh 

(Open door) (Open door) 

47 Actually there were but forty-eight sachems, as Hayo- 
I. 59, 106 wentha and Daganoweda had no successors. As a 
mark of respect their places remained vacant. (But see 
Hale, p. 31.) The division of the sachems of each tribe into 
classes probably represents the original division of the tribe 
into villages. 

" Each sachem had an assistant sachem, who was 
elected by the gens (clan) of his principal from among 
its members, and who was installed with the same forms and 
ceremonies. He was styled an aid. It was his duty to 
stand behind his superior on all occasions of ceremony, to act 
as his messenger, and in general to be subject to his directions. 
It gave to the aid the office of chief, and rendered probable 
his election as the successor of his principal after the decease 
of the latter. In their figurative language these aids of the 
sachems were styled Braces in the Long House, which 
symbolized the confederacy." (Houses, 31.) 

The war-chiefs Tawannears and Sonosowa were as- 

I. 70 

sistant sachems. 

4Q Other officials, for example the Keepers of the Faith, 
I. 80 took and held office in the same way as the Sachems. 

Each clan had certain offices to which permanent names 
were attached and to which the clan had the power of 
nomination. The nominee must however be confirmed 
and raised up by the tribe. The officer was known by 
his official name as long as he held office, but when he re 
signed or was deposed he, of course, lost the name as well 
as the office. 



And in general each clan had a series of names denoting 
rank and duty, which it bestowed upon its members as vacan 
cies occurred. While hereditary only in a general sense, they 
passed down much like titles of nobility, the holder for the 
time being known only by the name to which he was thus 
appointed, while his former name might be bestowed upon 
some other. A difference between the elective name of an 
Iroquois and the hereditary name of an English duke is, how 
ever, to be noted. The name did not descend ipso facto by 
death, but died with its holder and must be expressly raised 
up. (In the same way the eldest son of the King of England 
is Duke of Cornwall by right of birth, but not Prince of Wales 
until especially appointed.) It was moreover considered inde 
cent to do this until a considerable period had elapsed after 
the death. The names owned by a clan usually indicated 
some character of its totem animal. See Powell, Wyandot 
Government, Bur. Eth., I. 60. Very few of the significations 
given for the names of the sachemships accord with this rule, 
which supplies another reason for doubting their accuracy. 

No doubt, if the trouble had been taken in time, we might 
have a complete list of the members of a tribe with the names 
and rank of each individual (see note 68). 

c O The division of the tribes at the close of the Ameri- 

! 6z can Revolution caused much confusion in the appoint 
ments of sachems. Some sachemships have become extinct 
in one country or the other. Others again were transferred 
to a new clan, and in some cases a sachem was appointed by 
each fragment of the tribe, so that there are two lines. 

Something like this may have happened in the prehistoric 
separations of the Iroquoians. There are some striking resem 
blances between the sachem titles in different tribes : Da-yo- 
ho-go is a Mohawk Wolf and Da-yo-o-yo-go a Cayuga wolf; 
but either these resemblances are fortuitous or false etymology 
has altered the names. 

The present names of most, if not all, of the sachemships 
probably antedate the formation of the League. Several are 



mentioned by writers of the seventeenth century by their 
present names. 

cr As noted above, not merely the war sachems, but 
I- 65 every sachem in the list had an assistant sachem. 
Chadwick gives particulars of these so far as now existing in 

e 2 Da-at-go-dose. The name of this sachem illustrates 
I. 222 the variances that are found in the titles attached to 
the sachemships. Morgan in his first edition gives the Seneca 
name as (p. 64) Da-at-ga-dose and (p. 231) De-at-ga-doos. 
Hale, following the sachem s own dialect, Onondaga, calls 
him Dehatkahthos. In Mohawk he is Tehhatkahdons ac 
cording to Hale, but Dehhatkatons in Chadwick. Another 
modern authority (Appeal Papers) says Dehatkatons. 

eg The word u sachem " is of Algonquin origin and was 
I. 62 not used by the Iroquois. 


,.4 IROQUOIS society differed fundamentally from ours, 
1- 74 and Morgan s distinction is that he not only dis 
covered the differences, as many intelligent observers had done 
before him, but sought out the reasons of them and first re 
duced our knowledge of aboriginal society to a science. 

The unit of Iroquois society was not an individual, nor yet 
a family, in our sense of the word, but a household including 
all the dwellers in one of the communal houses elsewhere 
described. These households by a process of increase and 
swarming gave rise to clans and phratries, held together by the 
natural bond of kin. Politically they were united in tribes 
and confederacies held together by the artificial bond of al 
liance, but cemented also by the bond of kin. 

Thus the social organization of the Iroquois was developed 
through the separation of near kin, and the political organiza 
tion through the union of remote kin. 

A brief recital of the history of these social and political 



bodies among the Iroquois as nearly as it can now be recovered 
will illustrate these statements. 

j , The tradition that originally there were but two clans, 
the Bear and the Deer, means that in the early com 
munity from which the Five Nations and the Hurons de 
scended, there were two long houses, one having the bear for 
its totem and the other the deer. These totems may have 
been adopted because of the devotion of the household to the 
chase of that particular animal ; but the more probable theory 
is that, owing to some event or some dream, it had been ac 
cepted as an object of veneration by the household. Each of 
these households consisted of women, children, and unmarried 
men, claiming their descent from a common female ancestor, 
or group of female ancestors, and of men married to the 
women of the household. These men would be, of course, 
of the other house, for the fundamental rule of society in the 
gentile or clan stage is that marriage must be out of the clan, 
though normally within the tribe. Every child in the Deer 
household would be born of a Deer mother and a Bear father 
and would itself be a Deer. When such a boy came to dis 
tinguish persons, he would see a number of women in the 
house, one of whom would be his actual mother, and he would 

call her " mother " (No-yeh, to use the Seneca term). 

All the other women of his mother s generation he 
would also call No-yeh, they being his mother s " sisters," that 
is, women of her generation and house. His actual grandmother 
would be called by him " grandmother," as would all the other 
women of her generation. All the children in the house 
would be children of one or another of his " mothers," and so 
his "brothers" or "-sisters." The men in the house would 
be of three different classes : first, the men born in the house 
hold and not yet removed from it by marriage ; of these, those 
of his mother s generation would be his "uncles," being all 
"brothers" to his mother. Secondly, his actual father and 
grandfather whom he would call by those names; and third, 
the husbands of his other " mothers," whom he would call by a 



word which Morgan translates as " stepfathers." As the 
family name descended in the female line, that of all the 
females and unmarried males in the house would be Deer, 
and, in the case supposed, that of all the married men would 
be Bear. 

In the other house this boy would find his father s relations, 
his father s "brothers" who would be his "fathers," his father s 
" sisters " his " aunts," and his father s sisters children his 
" cousins." Here also would dwell some of his uncles mar 
ried to Bear women. The legends of the Amazons and of 
other separate communities of one sex or the other probably 
arose from the traditional accounts of such primitive com 
munities as the one described. 

This system of counting relationships will be less 
difficult to understand if it is borne in mind that, for ex 
ample, the word Ha-nih, which we translate "father," did not 
convey to the Iroquois the precise meaning that the word 
u father " does to us. It was simply, in the community supposed, 
"Man who may lawfully be my father," that is, a man of the 
house or group into which my mother is married. From the 
lack of the institutions of marriage and of the family as we 
have them, the Iroquois did not recognize nor name relation 
ships as we do. As Morgan has pointed out in /Indent Society 
(p. 442), these names had their origin in an early condition of 
group marriage, all the men of the group being husbands to all 
the women. While this condition had been much altered in 
the days of which the text treats, the names would, of course, 
never be in advance of the institutions, but would still indicate 
the former state of affairs and would not be changed or differ 
entiated until a definite need of more precise terms was felt. 
They had become titles rather than descriptions. 

The household thus organized was governed by its perma 
nent members, the women ; certain elderly and prudent women 
being set apart more or less formally as rulers of the house. 
These would select from among the men of the house, that is, 
those born therein, a sachem to represent the household in 



treating with the other house or with foreigners, and in the 
performance of the various religious or political rites and cere 
monies. These sachems, one or more from each house, some 
times with the chief women as coadjutors, would meet in the 
council of the village, which was thus the beginning of a state, 
uniting the two houses for war and other matters of foreign 
politics and preserving the peace between them. 

Within its own walls each household was supreme. It 
controlled the lives and property of its members, claimed re 
dress for the injury which it suffered when these were taken, 
and appointed and deposed its officers, in entire independence 
of outside control. 

From this original village of two houses it is not many steps 
to the Iroquois Confederacy of a dozen or twenty villages 
divided among five tribes, each including in successive order 
phratries, clans, and households. 

The original Bear household would in time grow too large 
for a single dwelling, other houses would be built beside the 
first, the totem and the sense of relationship being still re 
tained. Thus arose the clan, a group of households recogniz 
ing a common totem and a common kinship. 

No hard and fast rule can be laid down as to the rights of 
the household as against the clan. In fact it doubtless varied 
in different clans and at different times. 

The allegiance of each household to the clan was, however, 
less strong than its allegiance to itself. Property rights would 
tend to be limited to the house so far as they related to keep 
ing what they had, although when a wrong was done to one 
household all of the same totem would feel the injury and the 
aid of all would be welcome in securing redress. And while 
a sachemship would usually remain in the house of its origin, 
the sachem would act for all the clan. As the clan and its 
constituent houses grew larger, the jurisdiction of the house 
hold would gradually encroach on that of the clan, and the 
community of interest or closeness of kin of some houses 
might in time produce a clan within a clan. 



55 The growth and subdivision of the clan produced 
* 7 5 the phratry, which is a group of clans, just as the 
clan is a group of households. Some house or group of houses 
would adopt a new totem, and thus a new clan would be born. 
The sense of kinship would still remain and with it the pro 
hibition against marrying kin and the united demand for 
retribution in case of injuries. 

In games both of chance and of skill phratry played 
I- 294 a g a i ns t phratry.- The clans of a phratry were brother 
clans to each other and cousin clans to those of the other 
phratry. As time went on, the sense of kin within the 
phratry became weaker and marriage was allowed with any 
clan but that of the individual. 

There are other ways in which phratries may have been 
formed. " From the differences in the composition of the phra 
tries in the several tribes it seems probable that the phratries 
are modified in their gentes (clans) at intervals of time to meet 
changes of condition. Some gentes prosper and increase in 
numbers, while others, through calamities, decline, and others 
become extinct ; so that transfers of gentes from one phratry 
to another were found necessary to preserve some degree 
of equality." (^Houses, II.) 

There is an historic instance of the division of a clan which 
may indicate yet another way in which a phratry might be 
formed. "We have in the village (Caughnawaga Mission) 
three families (clans), that of the Bear, that of the Wolf, and 
that of the Turtle. All new-comers become members of one 
of these three families. The family of the Turtle is so nu 
merous that they have been obliged to divide it into the Great 
Turtle ancj the Little Turtle." (Nau to Bonin, 1 735, 68 J. R.^ 
268.) These two Turtle clans would for a time at least pre 
serve so strong a sense of kinship that they would not inter 
marry and would act together in public matters. In other 
words they would compose a phratry. This would react upon 
the Bear and the Wolf, who would marry each other less and 
Turtles more. Also in games the Bear and Wolf would be 



on one side and the two Turtles on the other; finally, in any 
dispute between the Turtle phratry and one of the outside 
clans, the other clan would naturally use its good offices for 
the weaker party, and thus a phratric bond would grow up, 
giving an instance of a phratry formed spontaneously by union 
of separate clans, not by division of any original clan. It 
happens, accordingly, that in no two of the Six Tribes of the 
League (except in the case of the Mohawks and Oneidas, 
each of which had lost a phratry) do the phratries quite 

c6 A tribe is a political union of kindred clans or parts 

I- 39 of clans possessing a common territory and a common 

As the household and the clan became segmented through 
growth in numbers, so the original community became seg 
mented by migration. The original two-house community 
was a tribe, and it still remained a tribe when it included two 
phratries, of three or four clans each. 

An Iroquois was bound to his household, clan, and phratry 
by a single tie, that of kin. To his tribe he was bound not 
only by the tie of kin, but by those of one land, one speech, 
and one council-fire. 

When by migration or dissension a community was divided, 
the original tie of blood would remain, but the ties of 


territory and government and after a while of speech would 
be readjusted. It usually happened upon the division of a 
community that a portion of each clan was found in each 
division, and the tie of kin served to strengthen alliances that 
might be formed between tribes of the same stock, but when 
the choice came Wolf did go forth to war against Wolf, strik 
ing for his own fireside and tribe against those who were of 
his own clan but of another tribe. Both sides of this picture 
appear in the speech of the Oneidas to the Hurons at the end 
of a war that may have lasted a century. " Thou knowest, 
thou Huron, that formerly we constituted but one cabin and 
one country. By some chance, we separated. It is time to 


unite again." (^Journal des Jesuites, November 3, 1656, 
42 7 ., 252.) 

A Mohawk born of a Turtle father and a Bear mother 
would be himself a Bear, but closely allied to the Turtle and 
conscious of the blood tie. If he married into the Wolf clan, 
he would dwell in a Wolf house and would be fat or hungry 
with the Wolves, and his own children would be Wolves. 
Thus each of the three Mohawk clans would have a claim upon 
his regard and upon his tomahawk. Whoever might attack, he 
would fight for his father, his mother, and his children. 

A political union of tribes constituted a confederacy, united 
by one stock language, contiguity of territory, and a federal 
council. The dual political allegiance to the tribe and the 
confederacy is not difficult to be apprehended by us who are 
citizens of sovereign states and of a federal republic, but the 
social allegiance to household, clan, and phratry must be also 
continually borne in mind as not the rival but the support of the 
political allegiance. The League of the Iroquois was, from 
one point of view, a union of five tribes, from another a 
union of eight clans, and the closeness of the weave was due 
to the intimate union of the warp and the woof. 

Quite enough of difficulty is unavoidable in present 
ing accurately institutions so different from our own, 
but further complication has been added by the varying terms 
used by different writers and the looseness with which these 
terms are still employed. 

Thus the clan is called in the text and by other writers a 
tribe, in some of the early writers a family, and in Mr. Mor 
gan s Ancient Society a gens. 

The household is recognized in the text but obscurely, under 
the name of family. Lafitau and other early French writers 
call it the " cabane." 

The phratry Morgan recognized but did not name (see 
text, I. 76, 77, 202, 281, 323). 

The tribe he called in the text a nation, and the confederacy 
a League. 



The terms used in this note are, except that " clan " is pre 
ferred to " gens," those used by Morgan in Ancient Society. 

It would add much to clearness of statement if a distinc 
tion in name were made between an entire clan and the por 
tion of a clan found in a single tribe. 

I. 77j It is of course an error to state, as is twice done 
8 7 in the text, that the clan system was a conscious 

Morgan had not then got beyond the philosophy of that 
day, in which everything was created and nothing grew. 
" Mr. Morgan is of opinion that these institutions were the 
result of a protracted effort of legislation. An examination 
of the customs prevailing among other Indian tribes makes it 
probable that the elements of the Iroquois polity existed 
among them from an indefinite antiquity ; and the legislation 
of which Mr. -Morgan speaks could only involve the arrange 
ment and adjustment of already existing materials." (Park- 
man, Pontiac, I. 12.) 

I. 80, Such phrases as " disinheritance of the son " show how 

J 3 Morgan was then influenced by the theory of con 
scious legislation. He was one of the leaders in upsetting it. 

In the League of the Iroquois the gentile (clan) organization 
of society was perceived and presented, though neither the 
original extent of the system nor its origin and history were 
comprehended. For purposes of comparison the attempt has 
been made to state in this note the principles finally estab 
lished by Morgan. For an adequate statement the reader is 
referred to Morgan s Ancient Society and to Powell s " Wyandot 
Government " (Bur. Etk., 1. 59), while a clear and interest 
ing account appears in Fiske s Discovery of America, I. 52; 
but even the present simple outline may be of interest in view 
of the great part which the clan has played in human history. 

But we will let Morgan speak for himself : 

u The gentile organization opens to us one of the 
oldest and most widely prevalent institutions of man 
kind. It furnished the nearly universal plan of government 



of ancient society, Asiatic, European, African, American, and 
Australian. It was the instrumentality by means of which 
society was organized and held together. Commencing in 
savagery, and continuing through the three sub-periods of bar 
barism, it remained until the establishment of political society, 
which did not occur until after civilization had commenced. 
As far as our knowledge extends, this organization runs 
through the entire ancient world upon all the continents, and 
it was brought down to the historical period by such tribes as 
attained to civilization." (Houses, p. I.) " No other institu 
tion of mankind has held such an ancient and remarkable 
relation to the course of human progress." (Ancient Society, 
P- 379-) 


58 The clans and phratries of the Five Nations, Tus- 
I- 7 6 > 77 caroras, and Hurons are given below : 


TUSCARORA Bear, Eel, Great Turtle, Beaver Deer, Wolf, Little Turtle, Snipe 

HURON Bear, Wolf, Turtle, Beaver Deer, Snake, Porcupine, Hawk 

SENECA Bear, Wolf, Turtle, Beaver Deer, Snipe, Heron, Hawk 

CAYUGA Bear, Wolf, Turtle, Snipe, Eel Deer, Beaver, Hawk 

ONONDAGA Wolf, Turtle, Snipe, Beaver, Ball Deer, Eel (=Hawk), Bear 

ONEIDA Bear, Wolf, Turtle Wanting 

MOHAWK Bear, Wolf, Turtle Wanting 

Among the Tuscaroras the Deer is now extinct, and the 
Wolf is subdivided into Gray Wolf and Yellow Wolf. 
The phratric division of the Hurons is conjectural. 

It will be observed that the tradition of two original 
clans, the Bear and the Deer, is well borne out by 
this list. The probabilities are that the Seneca clans and 
phratries were the same that existed among the Iroquoians 
before their separation. The Hurons had eight clans as early 
as 1653. (Bressani s Relation, 1653, 3^ 7- > 2 ^3-) 

The absence of the second phratry and of the Beaver 
clan of the first phratry from the Mohawk and 

VOL. II. 15 225 


Oneida tribes must date back to the period when these two 
constituted one tribe. The probable explanation is suggested 
by the fact that when first discovered the Mohawks had three 
villages, each tenanted by a single clan. They were then 
recent fugitives from Canada, and had been almost destroyed 
in wars with the Algonquins and Hurons. If the clans dwelt 
in separate villages at the beginning of this period of war and 
migration, it might easily be that only three emigrated to New 
York, the others being destroyed or joining the Hurons. Men 
of these lost clans who dwelt with their wives families would 
leave no trace, for their children would take the clan name 
of their mother, and in one generation all the clans represented 
only by males would become extinct. Or the clans might have 
been lost in another way. It was quite usual for an entire 
clan or village to migrate to a hunting or fishing country at 
certain seasons _ of the year, and it sometimes happened that 
through war or other circumstances, they failed to reunite 
with their kindred. It is therefore possible that the Mohawks 
and Oneidas never had more than three clans after their sepa 
ration from the parent stock. 

The only other Iroquoian people of whose clans we have a 
distinct record, the Cherokees, had ten clans, of which the 
Wolf and Deer are the only ones occurring among the Iro- 
quois. This divergence may be expected, since only three of 
the ten clans bear the names of animals. The Cherokees had 
evidently taken up a new line of nomenclature, and the old 
clan names were gradually being dropped. 

Some of the Huron and Seneca clans may have numbered 
nearly two thousand persons. 


59 IT is improbable that at any time from the estab- 

2 5 lishment of the League to its disruption by the 

Revolutionary War the Iroquois numbered more than 

15,000 or 16,000 souls. This was apparently the total 



when they first march into history, and it is very close 
to the total to-day. This uniformity in numbers, however, 
is little more than an interesting coincidence. The original 
Iroquois blood has been much diluted by admixture of other 
Iroquoians, of Algonquins, and of whites. 

The only contemporary testimony tending to confirm 
Morgan s figures is that of the Jesuit Dablon in 1671, who 
says that the Senecas alone are 12,000 or 13,000 persons; 
but Gamier, who was himself a resident among the Senecas, 
says, in 1673, *hat tne Senecas, including adopted Hurons, 
are 800 fighting men, and the reading of Dablon s state 
ment may very well be a copyist s error in punctuation. 
Recent experiences with the Boers have shown the difficulty 
of making an accurate estimate of a scattered population. 

Parkman considers (Jesuits, p. Ixvi) that trie figure of 
25,000 given by Morgan in the text is far too high, and 
computes the population at the height of Iroquois power at 
10,000 or 12,000. Morgan afterward thought 17,000 was 
about right for this period, but this is a little higher than the 
testimony warrants. 

The earliest attempt at an estimate that we have is 
in the Relation of 164.2-4.3, where Vimont states that 
there are 700 or 800 Mohawk warriors, and that the 
Upper Iroquois are probably a little more numerous than 
the Hurons. This figure for the Mohawks is confirmed 
by Jogues (24 y. R., 294). If Vimont is right there were at 
least 16,000 Iroquois altogether, perhaps considerably more, 
but his figure for the Upper Iroquois can hardly be more than a 
guess. Most of the early writers give merely the number ol 
warriors. The warriors were usually about a quarter of an 
Indian population (Relation of 165758) ; but owing to special 
circumstances, may not have been more than a fifth of the 
Iroquois, and the latter proportion is accordingly accepted. 

Taking the total at 16,000 in 1642, the tribes counted 
about as follows : Mohawks 3,000, Oneidas 1,000, Ononda- 
gas 3,000, Cayugas 2,000, and Senecas 7,000. 

. 227 


Of the 2,2OO warriors mentioned in the Relation of 1660, 
it is said that only 1,200 were native Iroquois, the rest being 
adopted captives. In 1668 we are told that two-thirds of the 
Mohawks and Oneidas were Huron and Algonquin captives. 

The figures in the following table are usually obtained by 
multiplying a stated number of warriors by five. After the 
seventeenth century the figures include the Tuscaroras. 

1 660 


Jesuit Relations 

De La Barre 
French Memoir 

Unnamed authority (Quoted U. S. Census 1890) 
a ( 


Unnamed authority (Quoted U. S. Census 1890) 

Sir Wm. Johnson 

Unnamed authority (Quoted U. S. Census 1890) 

U. S. Census (In U. S. and Canada) 

1 1,000 



i 3,000 




I 5,000 


The United States Census of 1900 enumerates the Indians 
only by States, not by tribes, but the best obtainable informa 
tion indicates not less than 8,000 Iroquois in the United 
States and 10,000 in Canada. 

In the State of New York there were, in 1890, 5,239 
Iroquois, to which should be added 98 on the adjacent Corn- 
planter Reservation in Pennsylvania. There were 2,050 
elsewhere in the United States. 

While Morgan s figures for the sixteenth century are 
too high, his estimate of 7,000, in 1850, is too low. 
There were then in the United States and Canada nearly 
10,000 Iroquois. 

The foregoing figures show how swiftly, by the shock 

of collision with a superior race and by war and 

pestilence, an Indian population may be reduced, and how 



by peaceful arts and adjustment to the changed conditions it 
may again be restored. The Iroquois are now slowly increasing. 

As an instance of their losses by war and pestilence, Father 
Jogues says (1642) that there were 700 Mohawk warriors, and 
a later French captive (1660) finds only 200. The latter fig 
ure is probably below the facts, for in the same year a Mohawk 
war-party of 200 is reported. 

60 The Iroquoians were gregarious, and apparently the size 

3 of their towns was limited only by the difficulty of rais 
ing corn and cutting firewood for a large population within a 
reasonable distance. Partly for protection and still more from 
their own fondness for society, nearly all were found in closely 
built villages varying in size from 300 to 3,000 inhabitants. 

In the Relation of 165657, it is said that fourteen Iroquois 
villages are known, which with due allowance for hamlets and 
single cabins would make the average village contain perhaps 800 
people. The Huron villages averaged six persons to a fire, and 
less than 400 persons to a village. (Relation of 164.0.) In ten 
Neutral villages there were 3,000 persons. (Relation of 164.1.) 
A Tobacco village of 600 families is mentioned in the Relation 
of 1649-50. Father Peron writes (15 J. R., 152) of a Huron 
village of 800 families. Le Jeune (Relation of i6jo) says there 
were 300 fires (at least 2,000 people) in Ossosane. 

Payne, in his America, tells us that the Illinois village of 
Kaskaskia had 10,000 inhabitants, an allegation which rests 
on better foundation than his statement that the Iroquois could 
put 15,000 warriors in the field. 

The location of the Iroquois and their intimate connection 
with our history have caused their numbers to be known and 
recorded. Of most of the tribes and of the total Indian 
population of our country in early times no such accurate 
information exists, and the estimates which have been made 
exhibit a wide variance. One author has computed the total 
population of North America at the discovery to be sixteen 
millions, of whom perhaps one-half were within the continen 
tal territories of the United States. A very slight acquaint- 



ance with the conditions of Indian life will suffice to show 
the absurdity of these figures (see Bur. Etb., 1885 86, p. 33). 
In the reaction from such high estimates there has been 
developed a tendency to assume that the benefits and injuries 
which civilization has brought very nearly balance each other, 
and that there are now as many Indians as there ever were. 
Roosevelt forcibly answers : u This last is a theory that can 
only be upheld on the supposition that the whole does not 
consist of the sum of the parts, for whereas we can check off 
on our fingers the tribes that have slightly increased, we can 
enumerate scores that have died out almost before our eyes." 
(Winning of the West, I. 18.) Where are the Algonquins of 
New England, Long Island, and New Jersey ? Where are 
the Powhattans, the Natchez, the multitudinous stocks of Cal 
ifornia ? In the communities which show an increase it is 
often, as noted, in the case of the Iroquois, accompanied by 
the absorption of fragments of other Indian stocks and a con 
siderable infusion of white blood. The Indian population of 
our territory in 1890 was 248,253, in 1900, 237,196, the 
apparent decrease being safely attributable to amalgamation 
with the whites. In the sixteenth century our territory prob 
ably held 600,000 Indians. In all these computations Alaska 
and Porto Rico are excluded. 

The destiny of the Indian is not extermination but 
amalgamation with the white race. Not only is there 
much white blood in the veins of nominal Indians, but a con 
siderable number of nominal whites count Indians among their 
ancestors. Hence, to state with precision how fast Indian 
blood is increasing, if at all, would be an impossible task. 
The process of assimilation is of course a very gradual one, 
but the case of the Indian is very different from that of the 
negro. "There seems to be a chance that in one part of our 
country, the Indian Territory, the Indians, who are continually 
advancing in civilization, will remain as the ground element 
of the population, like the Creoles in Louisiana, or the Mex 
icans in New Mexico. * (Roosevelt, ibid.) 




61 "A CIVIL council, which might be called by either 
I. 104 nation, was usually summoned and opened in the 
following manner : If, for example, the Onondagas made 
the call, they would send heralds to the Oneidas on the east, 
and the Cayugas on the west of them, with belts contain 
ing an invitation to meet at the Onondaga council-grove on 
such a day of such a moon, for purposes which were also 
named. It would then become the duty of the Cayugas to 
send the same notification to the Senecas, and of the Oneidas 
to notify the Mohawks. If the council was to meet for peace 
ful purposes, then each sachem was to bring with him a bundle 
of fagots of white cedar, typical of peace ; if for warlike objects, 
then the fagots were to be of red cedar, emblematical of war. 
" At the day appointed the sachems of the several nations, 
with their followers, who usually arrived a day or two before 
and remained encamped at a distance, were received in a 
formal manner by the Onondaga sachems at the rising of the 
sun. They marched in separate procession from their camps 
to the council-grove, each bearing his skin robe and bundle of 
fagots, where the Onondaga sachems awaited them with a 
concourse of people. The sachems then formed themselves 
into a circle, an Onondaga sachem, who by appointment 
acted as master of the ceremonies, occupying the side toward 
the rising sun. At a signal they marched round the circle, 
moving by the north. It may be here observed that the rim 
of the circle toward the north is called the c cold side (o-to - 
wa-ga) ; that on the west c the side toward the setting sun 
(ha-ga-kwas -gwa) ; that on the south the side of the high 
sun (en-de-ih -kwa) ; and that on the east the side of the 
rising sun (t -ka-gwit-kaV-gwa). After marching three 
times around on the circle single file, the head and foot of 
the column being joined, the leader stopped on the rising sun 
side, and deposited before him his bundle of fagots. In this 
he was followed by the others, one at a time, following by the 



north, thus forming an inner circle of fagots. After this each 
sachem spread his skin robe in the same order, and sat down 
upon it, cross-legged, behind his bundle of fagots, with his 
assistant sachem standing behind him. The master of the 
ceremonies, after a moment s pause, arose, drew from his 
pouch two pieces of dry wood and a piece of punk with which 
he proceeded to strike fire by friction. When fire was thus 
obtained, he stepped within the circle and set fire to his own 
bundle, and then to each of the others in the order in which 
they were laid. When they were well ignited, and at a signal 
from the master of the ceremonies, the sachems arose and 
marched three times around the Burning Circle, going as before 
by the north. Each turned from time to time as he walked, so 
as to expose all sides of his person to the warming influence of 
the fires. This typified that they warmed their affections for 
each other in order that they might transact the business of 
the council in friendship and unity. They then reseated 
themselves each upon his own robe. After this the master 
of the ceremonies, again rising to his feet, filled and lighted 
the pipe of peace from his own fire. Drawing three whiffs, 
one after the other, he blew the first toward the zenith, the 
second toward the ground, and the third toward the sun. By 
the first act he returned thanks to the Great Spirit for the 
preservation of his life during the past year, and for being 
permitted to be present at this council. By the second, he 
returned thanks to his Mother, the Earth, for her various pro 
ductions which had ministered to his sustenance. And by 
the third, he returned thanks to the Sun for his never-failing 
light, ever shining upon all. These words were not re 
peated, but such is the purport of the acts themselves. He 
then passed the pipe to the first upon his right toward the 
north, who repeated the same ceremonies, and then passed it to 
the next, and so on around the burning circle. The ceremony 
of smoking the calumet also signified that they pledged to each 
other their faith, their friendship, and their honor. 

" These ceremonies completed the opening of the council, 



which was then declared to be ready for the business upon 
which it had been convened." (Ancient Society, 137 note.) 


5 2 THE beautiful and elevating conception of the Great 
I. 143, Spirit watching over his red children from the heavens, 
174 and pleased with their good deeds, their prayers, and 
their sacrifices, has been known to the Indians only since the 
Gospel of Christ was preached to them. The primitive In 
dians, says W. P. Clark, in his valuable book, Ths Indian Sign 
Language, " were limited pantheists they did not believe 
that the universe taken as a whole was God ; but that every 
thing in the world had its spiritual essence made manifest in 
the forces and laws of nature." Hence the regard of the 
Indian for the totem of his clan held much more of reverence 
than the feeling of a present-day Briton or American for the 
lion or the eagle. Not only was the clan totem reverenced, 
but each individual had his personal totem (in Algonquin 
manitou, in Iroquois oki). In youth after certain exercises 
and fastings he waited for a dream, and whatever he dreamed 
of became his manitou on which his fortune depended, the 
Master of his Life, the Jesuits translated it. With one it 
might be a muskrat, with another a knife ; and whatever the 
totemic object, it accompanied the Indian on his journeys and 
especially on the war-path. If the manitou were an animal, 
the skin, or the plumage of a bird, was taken as containing 
the spirit of the animal. It would seem that when the Sen- 
ecas attacked Herkimer at Oriskany they left in their camp 
their baggage containing many of these totemic objects. The 
capture of this baggage by Gansevoort was an even greater 
calamity than their defeat by Herkimer, and after that day 
they had no heart in the campaign. In all religions 
we have accounts of divine revelations in dreams and 
visions, but to the Indian every dream was a divine message, and 
to the Senecas especially none was too absurd to be obeyed. 



In addition to this limited pantheism the Iroquois recog 
nized several personal deities. Ataentsic was the oldest of 
their deities, and dwelt with her grandson Jouskeha in a bark 
cabin in the land of souls. She has been connected with the 
Moon and he with the Sun. Areskoui, the God of War, is 
more evidently a Sun God. Most of the worship now given 
to the Great Spirit belongs historically to Areskoui. Taren- 
yawagon was much reverenced, for he was the sender of 
dreams, and Hiawatha was an actual hero raised after his 
death to a place in the Iroquois Pantheon. The Iroquois 
religion was in a state of transition from pantheism to poly 
theism, and would soon have developed into a system like that 
of Rome where the nature worship was merged in that of the 
personal deities. 

Very far was all this from the pure theism which has been 
poetically ascribed, in the alleged belief in the Great Spirit. 

There was however one deity worshipped throughout 
North America, the all-seeing one, the dweller in Heaven, 
the giver of many blessings, the Sun. To him were paid 
prayer and sacrifice and thanks for such good gifts as food, 
sunshine, and victory over the enemy. When the missionaries 
told of the God of the white man and his attributes, the ac 
count seemed credible to the Indian, who accepted much of it 
as further history of his Sun God ; and the sacrifices, thanks 
givings, and offerings were still offered to the Great Spirit as in 
earlier days to the Sun. Though the preaching of Christianity 
made but slight direct impression upon the observances and ac 
tions of most of the Red Men, it did greatly affect their myths 
and beliefs, thus preparing the way for an ethical religion. 

In the early days the various divinities were simply powers 
to be propitiated, but of influence on conduct and morals there 
was not much more in the Indian beliefs and observances than 
in a gambler s charms for luck. With the belief in the 
beneficent Great Spirit there came to be more of a desire to 
do that which was pleasing in his sight. Finally, what may 
be called the third period of Iroquois religion was inaugurated 



by the reforms of Handsome Lake, who, preserving the old 
forms, associated them with the worship of a single supreme 
God and the doing of righteousness. 

. In common parlance the modern Iroquois are divided into 
Christians and Pagans, but the latter refuse the term Pagan, 
saying that they also worship God. 

6 These visions have a striking resemblance to those 
I. 234, in Bunyan s Pilgrim s Progress, and were perhaps sug- 
242 gested by that work, or some other teaching of the 
missionaries ; others suggest the classical eschatology. 

If confession had been an ancient Iroquois practice, Lafitau 
would certainly have mentioned it, for he describes a similar 
custom in Peru. 

64 The recent experiments made by Professor Atwater 
I- 236 w j t h the object of determining whether alcohol is a 

food seem to have been anticipated by those of Jimmy John 
son, which, within their own field, are quite as conclusive. 

65 The sachems as well as the chiefs were ex 
L 77 officio members of the order of Keepers of the 

Faith. (Ancient Society, 82.) 

55 The following statement of " The New Religion " 
I. 218 W as given by a Seneca in 1888, Indian Proble?n, II. 
1104 : u The general belief is, one great spirit controls every 
thing; God, he is called in English, he is a supreme power on 
earth, everything ; and then they believe in temperance, that 
is the most part of their religion^ is temperance ; and they 
believe in thanking, mostly, to the Great Spirit, that is the 
most important thing ; most everything they see they thank 
him ; and it is their doctrine to be kind to one another, to be 
good, honest people ; and they believe a man is to have only 
one woman to live with ; and they are strict ; their doctrine 
is against marry more than one woman ; it commenced about 
eighty-eight year ago that way ; before that we was wild ; 
they would murder one another, and drinking just about that 
time; there was a good deal of whisky brought for the 
Indians ; and they had terrible times ; and then they got up 



this Indian doctrine ; and Handsome Lake he preached to 
the Indians ; he was taken sick, they claimed, and some good 
things he showed to the people, and everybody adopted right 
away ; after that doctrine everybody was good ; everybody WAS 
good ; and all shaking hands and all feeling good ; and that is 
the starting of this. Indian religion ; and along about that time 
a party of Indians went to Washington, went to the President, 
and they showed their doctrine, and, in reply, he made I 
was looking over some old papers, some old Indian things - 
it was all coming to pieces, and I just took a sketch of it, to 
tell us about the reply from the President through the Secre 
tary of War ; I took a sketch of it, and here is the sketch ; 
it states the date right there." 

The following is a copy of the paper referred to by 


witness : 

I. 220 To Conyodareyab (or Handsome Lake), with bis brethren 
and associates of the Seneca and Onondaga nations of Indians, now present 
at the seat of government of the United States. 

BROTHERS. Your father and good friend, the President of the 
United States, has taken into consideration all that you communicated 
to him, when you took him by the hand three days ago, and he has 
authorized me to give you the following answer : 

BROTHERS. The President is pleased with seeing you all in good 
health after so long a journey, and he rejoices in his heart to find that 
one of your own people has been employed to make you sober, good 
and happy, and that he is so well disposed to give you good counsel, 
and to act before you such useful examples. 

BROTHERS. If you and all the red people follow the advice of your 
friend and teacher, the Handsome Lake, and in future be sober, 
honest, industrious and good, there can be no doubt but the Great 
Spirit will take care of you and make you happy. 

BROTHERS. The great council of the sixteen fires, and the Presi 
dent of the United States, all wish to live with the red people like 
brothers, to have no more war or disputes, but to pursue such meas 
ures as shall contribute to their lasting comfort. For the purpose, the 
great council of the sixteen fires are now considering the propriety of 
prohibiting the use of spirituous liquor among all their red brethren 



within the United States. This measure, if carried into effect, will 
be pleasing in the sight of the Great Spirit, who delights in the happi 
ness of his common family. 

BROTHERS. Your Father, the President, will at all times be your 
friend, and he will protect you and all his red children from bad 
people who could do you or them any injury, and he will give you 
writing on paper to assure you that what land you hold can not be 
taken from you by any person excepting by your own consent and 

BROTHER. The Handsome Lake has told us that your angels have 
desired him to select two sober, good young men to take care of your 
business, and that he has chosen Charles Obeal and Strong for that 
purpose. The President is willing that his red children should choose 
their own agents for transacting their business, and if Charles Obeal 
and Strong are the men who your people can best confide in, he has 
no objection to their being appointed, but it would be improper for 
the President to interfere in your national appointments. 

Given under the hand and seal of the war office of the United 
States, this ijth day of March, 1802. 



58 " THE Indian has no family name. His name is 
I- 85 single, and like the praenomen of the Roman or our 
Christian name, is purely an individual designation. The 
family, in our sense, is wanting; so that the names of several 
brothers and sisters would not suggest the fact of any con 
nection among them." 

(Their significance would, however, in many cases show 
the common totem. Powell, Wyandot Government, Bur. 
Eth., I. 60, Text I. 85, and see infra.) 

" In bestowing and changing names their customs are original 
and novel. They have names adapted to different periods and 
pursuits of life ; one class for infancy and childhood ; another 
for manhood ; another for their religious advisers, called by the 
Iroquois, c Keepers of the Faith, and another for chief and 
sachem. These names are not taken up and conferred at 



random, but under fixed regulations. Each clan has its own 
clan names, which are kept distinct and which no other clan 
is allowed to use. They are family names ; for the clan is 
but a great family of which the chief is the head. It is said 
by some of the Indian nations that the names have such clan 
characteristics that the clan of an individual may be known 
from his name alone." 

" Upon the birth of a child, the mother, or some relative in 
her behalf, applies to the chief of her clan for a list of clan 
names which are not then in use and of the class for children. 
Out of those named over to her she selects such a name as 
pleases her fancy, which is then agreed upon as the future 
name. At the next council the birth and name of the 
child, and the name of its father and mother are publicly an 
nounced ; and this was the simple form of an Indian christ 
ening. Their names are significant, as all names originally 
were, but with the Indian their signification is still preserved. 
O-wi-go, a c floating canoe, and Ga-ha-no, hanging flower, 
are specimens of their childhood names. 

"At fourteen or sixteen years of age, the name became un 
suitable, the person having reached maturity. A new name 
was then selected ; and the taking away of the old name and 
the bestowal of the new was made in some of the nations an 
important event; with this change he ceased to be a boy, and 
became a man. He could then go upon the war-path and 
speak in council. 

"The power to make this change was lodged primarily 
with the chief of the clan. But it might be made either by 
the mother or by a brother or sister, but never by the father, 
and it was usually done without the consent or even knowl 
edge of the person whose name was changed. If these near 
relatives neglect to make the change at the proper time, it then 
becomes the duty of the chief to do it. At the next public 
council the change and the new name are formally announced, 
and it takes effect only from the time of this announcement. 

" When a private person is raised to the dignity of chief or 



sachem, his former name is taken away, and a new name of 
the higher class is conferred in its place. This name can 
never afterwards be changed unless the sachem is deposed ; for 
the name itself is a title, and with it would pass away the title 
62 or office itself. Neither can that class of persons 
who are called c Keepers of the Faith, among the Iro- 
quois, change their names without giving up the office, as these 
names and the office they confer are inseparable. Any other 
person of mature years may change his own name, by his own 
motion, provided he can induce a chief of some other clan 
than his own to announce the change in council." 

u A clan may lend one of their names to a person in an 
other clan, which is often done ; but when this person dies or 
his name is changed, the name so borrowed returns again to 
the clan." 

"New names are not now invented by the Indian any more 
than they are by ourselves ; but old names are handed down in 
the clan as our names come down to us, but not shorn, as in 
our case, of their better part, their primary signification." 
(Lewis H. Morgan, Amer. Ass n Advct. Science, 1859, Vol. 

(In the foregoing extract the words "tribe" and "tribal" 
of the original are altered to "clan.") 

" It is so arranged that if possible no name is ever lost, so 
that when one of the family is dead all the relatives assemble 
and deliberate together which of them shall bear the name of 
the deceased, giving his own to some other relative. He who 
takes a new name, takes up also the duties appertaining to it, and 
thus he becomes a captain if the deceased was one. This done, 
they check their tears and cease to weep for the dead, having 
placed him in this manner among the living, saying that he is 
resuscitated and has come to life in the person of him who has 
received his name and has rendered it immortal. Hence a 
Captain never has a different name from his predecessor, as 
formerly in Egypt all the kings bore the name of Ptolemy." 
(Rel. 1642, 23 J. ., 164.) 

2 39 


gg In the same way each successive Governor of Canada 

I. 245 W as called by the Iroquois Onontio (Great Mountain, 
being a translation of the name of Montmagnv), each Governor 
of Pennsylvania was Onas (a pen), Presidents of the United 
States bore the name given first to Washington. The prin 
ciple was, of course, the familiar one that the king never dies. 

70 The Iroquois language was, like our own, a living 
* 49 one, and words and phrases became from time to time 

obsolete. Many of our proper names preserve words obsolete 
in general speech, and the same was the case with the Iroquois. 
They had no written language to conserve forms, but yet they 
expected proper names to be significant, while most of our 
proper names are meaningless to the uninitiated. Many of 
their names have therefore been twisted to accord with a false 
etymology, and the significance of many others has been for 
gotten, but is now too readily guessed at. A conspicuous in 
stance is the list of Sachems given above. It is evident that 
but few of these significations are reliable. It is the Indian 
nature to desire to please, and for all these reasons their ety 
mologies should be looked upon with suspicion. For a good 
example see Thoreau, The Maine IVoods, p. 193. 

Not only was the name of a deceased chieftain re- 

7 1 

vived for his successor, but a living person might part 

with his name as a token of friendship. (Golden, I. 11, and 
see the story of Cornplanter, text, I. 205.) 

72 An Iroquois must not be addressed by his name. You 
I.8z must say " my brother " or u my uncle." Lafitau,!. 70. 

73 Everywhere in the world rivers and lakes usually, and 

II. 61 towns occasionally, preserve the names of earlier 
dwellers in the land. 

" In a list of 1885 lakes of the United States, published for 
the Fish Commission, 285 have Indian names, but a larger 
proportion is shown in rivers and streams. In a list of 
principal rivers flowing into the Gulf of Mexico and the 
Atlantic, but excluding those of the St. Lawrence basin, 724 
have Indian names. By adding those of this valley, the 



Pacific coast, and a multitude of small streams, the list might 
be doubled." (Beauchamp, Indian Names in New Tork^) 

Half of the States and Territories of the Union and a third 
of the counties of New York bear Indian names. 

In New York, about a hundred Iroquois geographical names, 
besides many of Algonquin origin, are still in general use. If 
names of unimportant streams and alternative names of only 
local use are added, the total of Iroquois derivation would 
probably be doubled. 

It should also be noted that many of our geographical names 
are simply translations of the Indian names ; Aurora (Iroquois 
Deawendote, Constant Dawn) and Lake Pleasant (Algonquin 
Congamuc, Pleasant Lake) are examples. 

y* For Indian archery and its implements see " North 
I. 296 American Bows, Arrows, and Quivers," S. R., 1893, 
p. 631. From Gano, "arrow," and Waano, "bow," Morgan 
compounded the word Ganowanian, which he applied to the 
Indians as a generic term. Thus the Ganowanian family 
would be the people of the bow and arrow. The name 
Amerind has lately been proposed for the same race. 


-- IN all the tongues of the Iroquoian stock the labial 
II. 62, consonants are absent, so that, as Lafitau says, they 
75 can talk with their pipe in their teeth. This remark 
able peculiarity separates them not only from their Algonquin 
neighbors, but from such peoples as the Sioux, of whom 
Morgan and others have considered the Iroquoians an offshoot. 
This characteristic of these languages is respectfully com 
mended to the attention of writers of fiction, who usually 
assume that to procure a characteristic Iroquoian name, it is 
necessary only to stir a few labials and a few vowels together. 
Thus, in The Romance of Dollar d, Mrs. Catherwood introduces 
a Huron girl of high breeding, one Massawippa ; Miss 
Johnston in Prisoners of Hope utilizes a Conestoga who brags 
VOL. ir. 16 241 


that he is an Iroquois, and calls himself Monakatocka ; Mrs. 
Mary P. Wells Smith associates with her Young and Old 
Puritans of Hatfield a beneficent but discourteous Mohawk 
called Pepoonuck, and likewise Cooper devised the appellation 
Musquerusque for an unpleasant Huron who scalps and 
tortures certain characters in Satanstoe. 

According to Hale and Parker f occurs sporadically 
in Mohawk. 

-g Most Indian names of lakes and rivers are, so to 
II. 80, speak, relative rather than absolute, The Lake at 
85 > 8 9 Oswego, The River that leads to Onondaga, so 
that the main stream and all the branches of a river may 
be called by a certain name by people going down stream, and 
may have several names, according to the several destinations, 
in the mouths of people bound up stream. So among our 
selves the same stretch of highway is called the Boston Road, 
the Hartford Road, or the Main Street according to the point 
of view of the speaker. The Indian point of view is made 
clear by Mr. Silas B. Smith, a Clatsop Indian, in a letter 
printed in Wonderland, 1900, published by the Northern 
Pacific Railway. Mr. Smith says : 

" I wish to state this proposition, which cannot be over 
thrown, that the Indians in the Northwest country, extending 
as far back as the Rocky Mountains, never name a river as 
a river; they name localities. That locality may be of a 
greater or less extent, and they may say this water leads to 
such a place, or it will carry you to such and such a place, 
but never name a stream. 

" I know of some very good people who are hunting for the 

Indian names of the Columbia and its tributaries, and some 

who have even told me that they had found the name of the 

Columbia ; but it is a mistake, an entire mistake, for it is not 

in the book, and they are simply chasing a will o the wisp. " 

jj Nor is it always easy to comprehend or state with 

II. 82 precision the shade of meaning implied in the Indian 

word. Mr. A. G. Richmond told me that Canajoharie 



means " Pot that washes itself," the reference being to the 
whirling of the water in a large pot-hole in the bed of 
the Canajoharie Creek. Morgan s note says, " Washing the 
basin." Beauchamp, Indian Names, gives also "Kettle shaped 
hole in the rocks." Obviously here is no difference of opinion 
as to the origin of the name, but a divergent effort at trans 
lating it. Probably Morgan is nearest to the idea in the mind 
of the Indian. 

The village of Canajoharie, though several times moved and 
to points remote from the creek, always retained the name. 
Here we have a suggestion of our place names which are 
usually meaningless or at least meaning-lost. Newport may 
be inland, and Belmont a swamp. 

Of the sign language, so important on the prairies, 
^ hardly a trace is noted by writers on the Iroquois. In 
Northeastern America there were but two tongues, Iroquoian 
and Algonquian, and little need for a volapiik. Nor was 
there in the forest the opportunity for signalling at a distance 
that is given on the prairie. 

Europeans have never found the Iroquois tongue easy 
^ to learn, but because of differences in the mental 
processes which the language expresses rather than from in 
herent difficulties of articulation and inflection. 

Many writers have noticed the abundance of concrete 
terms, and the lack of abstract words. Thus for the varieties, 
sexes, and ages of a single animal they would have a multitude 
of terms, but no general word for animal. Or they would 
have words for good man, good woman, good dog, but no 
word for goodness. " It is a peculiarity of the languages of 
our Indian nations that, while they are barren of terms to 
express metaphysical or abstract conceptions, they are opulent 
in terms for the designation of natural objects, and for ex 
pressing relative differences in the same object. In the Ojibwa, 
for example, there are different names for the beaver according 
to his age, and compound terms to indicate sex, as follows," 
etc. (Beaver, 190.) 



Again, as Lejeune says (Re I. i6j6), "It is remarkable that 
all their nouns are universally conjugated." Lafitau puts this 
more tersely (IV. 192), "Their language is all verb." 

For valuable essays on the Huron and Iroquois languages 
see Lejeune, Relation 1636 (10 J. R., 116) and Hale, Iraq. 
Book of Rites, p. 99. 

Max Miiller, after studying Mohawk, wrote to Hale : " To 
my mind the structure of such a language as the Mohawk 
is quite sufficient evidence that those who worked out such 
a work of art were powerful reasoners and accurate classifiers." 
II. 61, It is hardly necessary to remark that when Morgan 
66, 74 says that " Latin is," in contrast to Greek, " a com 
pound language," he is using, as often in this chapter and 
elsewhere, the jargon of the science of day before yesterday, 
but the fact is worth noting as showing how quickly and 
completely a scientific thesis can disappear. 


80 DR- BEAUCHAMP, as well as Mr. Morgan, thought 
n - 5 2 that the Iroquois had no bead wampum until they 

obtained it from the Dutch. There is however considerable 
evidence to the contrary, and Lafitau considers it as of ancient 
use. In historic times the Iroquois obtained wampum chiefly 
by traffic with the Dutch, but the Algonquins of the coast had 
probably preceded the Dutch in this trade. In 1666 the 
Mohawks and Oneidas had a war with some tribe called the 
" Wampum Makers " who may have been their original 
purveyors of this article. 

81 The statement that when one tribe called a council 
L I0 4 it sent the belt to the next, which then took up 

the duty of sending the belt on, just as the fiery cross was 
sped in The Lady of the Late, may be correct as to later times, 
but the earlier precedents are to the contrary. Several refer 
ences in the French writers indicate that it was irregular and 
discourteous to send wampum by a third party. The sender 



of a belt should deliver it. A direct ruling on this point is 
found in Stone s Sir William Johnson, II. 90, 91. The Onon- 
dagas had called a general council inviting the Mohawks, as 
well as Sir William Johnson, to Onondaga. The belt was 
delivered to Johnson by the Oneidas. Doubting the propriety 
of such delivery, he referred the matter to the Mohawks, 
who advised him that by their laws some of the Onondagas 
should have come down with the belt. On this decision the 
belt and the invitation were rejected. Moreover, if any but 
the Mohawks or the Senecas called a council the simple 
method mentioned in the text would not have availed. It 
would have been necessary to send at least two belts. 

82 The giving and acceptance of wampum had much the 
I- 3 2 7 same effect in Iroquois transactions that the signing 
and sealing of a contract or treaty has among ourselves. 

" For having no writing or letters, they supply the defi 
ciency by the words which they talk into these belts, 
each of which records some particular affair or detail, and to 
avoid confusion the belts are varied and the white and purple 
beads arranged in different order. The Sachems read them 
often together, so that in this way they do not forget any 
thing." (Lafitau, II. 203.) 

In this mnemonic use the wampum has often been compared 
to the quipus of Peru. For more informal records the 
Iroquois used wooden tallies. 


g^ AFTER the Revolution the Onondagas divided, 

I. 6 1, those that followed the fortunes of the king going 

1 15.3 2 7 w j t h t he Mohawks to the Grand River in Canada, 

the others remaining in New York. Each division kept up 

its tribal organization, and at the separation an amicable 

division of the Wampums was made. It is probable that 

more important Wampums remained in New York, being at 

first kept among the Onondagas on the Buffalo Creek reser- 



vation, and later in the present reservation in the ancient 
country of the Onondagas. In Canada the Hoyowenato 
Sachemship is continued. Chadwick calls it Hononweyehde, 
and says, u This chief was hereditary keeper of the wampum 
and as such was called Hotchustanona " (Chadwick, 91). In 
New York, however, the care of the wampum passed to other 
sachems and chiefs. 

Probably the last regular wampum keeper in New 
York was Harry Webster. After his death, about 
twenty years ago, his son Thomas Webster was appointed. 
This succession of the son to the father shows an increasing 
laxity in appointment as it necessarily involved a change from 
one clan to another, and so from one sachemship to another. 
Honowenato was a Wolf (text, I. 6 1 ), but Thomas Webster was 
called Ha-yah-du-gih-wah, or "Bitter body" (in Seneca Gane- 
adajewake, text, I. 61) and was a Snipe. Thomas Webster 
seems however to have exercised all the functions of a wam 
pum keeper. He had the custody of the treaties as well as of 
the wampum, and seems to have regarded the latter as the 
more sacred, for in 1888 he produced the treaties before the 
legislative committee, but declined to produce the wampum 
"because the property didn t belong to him alone." He 
testified that he was the wampum keeper of the Onondaga 
nation, not of the Six Nations, and the four treaties which he 
produced are all treaties with the Onondagas alone. General 
Henry B. Carrington testified, in the suit of Onondaga 
Nation vs. Thacher (infra), that he was told that Webster 
"really seemed to have second sight and seemed to see things 
through those wampums that others did not see. Seemed to 
see historical significance. Webster s looking upon these 
wampums was not considered merely a curious inspection, 
but that there was a history of a people involved in them, 
and he seemed to get grotesque things out of them." (On 
ondaga Nation vs. Thacher, Papers on Appeal, 78), and from 
Webster s testimony (Ind. Prob., I. 497) it would seem that 
the supposition of second sight was justified. " It is nothing 



for a white man, it is all for the Indians ; there is a tree set 
in the ground, and it touches the heavens, and under that 
tree sets this wampum ; it sets on a log, and the fire, coals 
of fire, placed by the side of it, and this fire is unquench 
able, and the Six Nations are all to this council fire, held by 
this tribe." Hale says that a pine tree was the em 
blem of the Confederacy. David Cusick says, in his 
Ancient History of the Six Nations, speaking of the formation 
of the League : u At Onondaga a tree of peace was planted 
reached the clouds of Heaven ; under the shade of this tree 
the Senators are invited to set and deliberate : . . . the 
Onondaga was considered a heart of the country; numerous 
belts and strings of wampam were left with the famous chief 
as record of alliance." Nevertheless Webster being in want 
of a horse and wagon sold four belts to General Carrington 
for $75, the purchase being intended to be for account of 
the United States. The Government, however, declined to 
confirm the purchase, and General Carrington sold them for 
his own account. Finally, they were offered to the Board of 
Commissioners representing New York at the Columbian 
Exposition held at Chicago in 1893; tnere being no appro 
priation available, the belts were bought by one of the Com 
missioners, the Hon. John Boyd Thacher, and as his property 
were exhibited during the Exposition. 

In 1897 a su t was brought against Mr. Thacher in the 
names of the Onondaga Nation, certain individual Indian 
plaintiffs and the University of the State of New York, the 
complaint alleging that Webster, being only the custodian 
and not the owner of the wampums, could not sell them, that 
the University at a council had been raised up as wampum 
keeper, and that it was entitled to the possession of them. 
The appointment of the University was further confirmed by 
chapter 153 of the Laws of 1899. The Court at Special 
Term was of opinion that at the date of Webster s sale to 
General Carrington in 1891 the League of the Six Nations 
had no active or actual existence nor any such officer as a 



wampum keeper, and found for the defendant (29 Misc. 428). 
This decision was affirmed by the Appellate Division (53 App. 
Dlv. 561), and the Court of Appeals (169 N. Y. 584) 

The four belts in question are pictured in Bur. Eth.^ 
II. 246 and following, and in the Indian Volume of Census 
of 1890, p. 473. The most important of these belts is thus 
described in Clark s Onondaga : u The several nations are 
distinguished by particular squares, and these are joined to 
gether by a line of white wampum, and united to a heart in 
the centre, implying the union of hand and heart as one." 
(See quotation from Cusick above.) Another belt is read 
as recording the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784, and shows 
the Long House and fifteen figures with joined hands, thirteen 
of them representing the thirteen United States, the two 
others representing Washington and Todadaho. In the 
Census Volume it is stated that the house shown is the new 
Capitol, but this is more -than doubtful. 

u Their belts are mostly black wampum, painted red when 
they denote war. They describe castles sometimes upon 
them as square figures of white wampum, and in alliance, 
human figures holding a chain of friendship, each figure 
representing a nation." (Sir Wm. Johnson to Arthur Lee, 
28 February, 1771.) The Canada Iroquois still keep some 
wampum, and belts have been given and received by them 
within recent years. (Chadwick, 77.) 

Since the foregoing note was prepared, there has been 
published Bulletin No. 41 of the New York State Museum, 
Wampum and Shell Articles Used by the New York Indians. 
This is the most complete work on the subject and is well 


g " THE extent to which corn was grown among 
1. 191, these tribes will justify the use of much stronger 
** 3 language than Mr. Morgan employs when he de 
clares that l it cannot be affirmed with correctness that the 



Indian subsisted principally by the chase " (Carr, Mounds 
of Mississippi Valley, S. R.^ 1891. See also text, I. 320.) 
In fact their diet was more closely limited to agricultural 
products than is that of ourselves, their successors. Their 
staple food was corn in one of its many preparations, the 
most usual being sagamite, a thin hominy mush. Eaten 
without salt this was very insipid, and was therefore flavored 
with dried fish, meat, oil, or anything else that could be 
obtained. The Hurons in particular tasted very little meat, 
and all the Iroquoians, as already mentioned, were agricultur 
ists. The word sagamite is of Algonquin origin, and being 
used by the Iroquoians in speaking the lingua franca of 
Canada was pronounced by them sagawlte. The Iroquois 
word was onnontara. A large proportion of the Indian 
words taken into the English language are the names for 
corn preparations which the early settlers learned from their 
Algonquin neighbors ; such are hominy, samp, suppawn, 

The most important step in Iroquois- development 
^ was taken when they shifted to the agricultural basis 
of subsistence. A race of mere hunters can never increase 
greatly in numbers within its territory, still less gather into 
towns and establish states. Better dwellings, the accumula 
tion of property, monogamy, opportunities for industrial and 
mental development, all came in the train of the assured food 
supply. To the Iroquois agriculture brought more 
marked advantages, for beyond a little help from the 
men in clearing the ground and at harvest time, the women, 
who before had been of less importance in the food quest, 
took the entire burden, leaving the men free for hunting, for 
councils, and for war. The effect upon the military power 
of the tribes need not be elaborated. 

" Nothing worthy the name of civilization has ever been 
founded on any other agricultural basis than the cereals. 
This appears to be largely due to the fact that the seeds of 
the cereal grasses are, as compared with fruits and roots, 



extremely rich in albumen and albuminoids, the great noui- 
ishers of the muscular and nervous systems. Regarded as 
stimulants to human activity, fruits and roots have a low 
comparative value. Corn in this regard is nearly equal to the 
flesh of animals. But the most important reason for the 
superiority of cereal agriculture as a basis of social advance 
ment only becomes apparent when the nature of its methods 
is considered. Cereal agriculture, alone among the forms of 
food-production, taxes, recompenses, and stimulates labour and 
ingenuity in an equal degree. Populations which depend on 
arboriculture never learn even the rudiments of the labour- 
lesson which is the beginning of the education of humanity. 
Root-cultivating populations learn only the bare rudiments ; 
for roots demand far less labour than is necessary to keep 
man in anything approaching to continuous employment. It 
is the peculiar quality of cereal agriculture that by occupying 
man regularly during a considerable portion of the year it 
directly tends to render the unit of human labour a constant 
quantity and to give it new forms of employment. The 
labour which in the simplest form the culture of cereals in 
volves is in. itself of a varied character, and it naturally sug 
gests further transformation of labour, the effect of which is 
to further develop not only the capacities of the soil, but the 
industry and ingenuity of the cultivator. When the unit of 
labour has once been rendered a constant quantity, the mate 
rial of civilization has been provided." 

< c . . . Thus did nature to some extent compensate 

America for the want of the great domestic animals 

by endowing it with a unique cereal, the largest and most 

productive known, and capable of being profitably cultivated 

without them." (Payne, I. 353, 356.) 

86 The Indians, like ourselves, cultivated several varieties 
II ^28 ^ corn i adapted to different climates and different 

Among the Algonquins, and to a less extent among the 
Hurons, the warriors worked in the corn fields from time to 



time, but the Iroquois left the actual planting and cultivation 
entirely to the women, who had of course some help from the 
children and the slaves. While corn was the staple, the 
Iroquois cultivated also melons, water-melons, squashes, 
pumpkins, beans, tobacco, sunflowers, and perhaps peas and 
(Indian) hemp. So far as its raw materials went, the Amer 
ican bill of fare five centuries ago would have been more satis 
factory to ourselves than the European diet of the same age. 

g_ Maple sap fresh drawn was a favorite beverage. It is 
I. 1 86, practically certain that Indians made both syrup and 
II- 27 SU gar long before they knew any white men. (Lafi- 
tau, III. 140.) The Iroquois earthenware answered ex 
cellently for the necessary evaporation. The maple festival 
is now discontinued by the communities which have no sugar 

88 Sullivan s expedition in 1779 destroyed 160,000 
I- I 9 I bushels of corn tc with a vast quantity of vegetables 
of every kind," and cut down innumerable apple-trees, 1,500 
in one orchard. 

8q The fields were sometimes in clearings in the woods 
I- 3 6 at a considerable distance from the town. 
I. T 6 7 In ten or a dozen years the bark houses of an Iro- 
37 quois village would be rotten and infested with ver 
min, the accessible firewood exhausted, and the soil, constantly 
robbed but never enriched, less generous in yield. A new 
site would then be selected, a clearing made in the forest, and 
the town moved, all the inhabitants proceeding to the new 
location, and taking with them the bones of their dead. This 
necessity of moving and re-establishing their towns and fields 
imposed by lack of domestic animals upon a people without 
metal tools, added enormously to the labor of the food quest, 
and so restricted population and prevented the increase of 

Morgan apparently did not know much of this usage when 
he wrote the League. As above mentioned (Note 42), it 
caused frequent changes in the trails and affected in many 


ways the life of the people. It has been attempted to estab 
lish the length of residence of a tribe in a given district in a 
simple but ingenious manner. If the tribe had normally three 
contemporaneous villages and thirty sites are found, the occu 
pation cannot have much exceeded a century. The character 
of the relics found also indicates the number of sites aban 
doned before contact with Europeans. This method of com 
putation must not be relied on too implicitly, for temporary 
absences may have intervened, villages may have been united 
or divided, and sites may have been reoccupied, but it fur 
nishes an excellent working hypothesis. Applied to specific 
cases, it indicates that neither the Hurons nor the Iroquois, 
(except perhaps the Senecas) were in full force in their 
historic territories before 1500 or 1550. 

go This hemlock tea is perhaps the beverage which the 
I- 3*i Iroquois at Quebec prescribed for Carrier s scurvy- 
stricken men in 1536. They called the tree Anneda (Park- 
man, Pioneers, 214). Hemlock is O-no-da in Mohawk, 
O-neb-da in Seneca. 

g! Squash is an Algonquin word which we took along 
H- 34 with the article from the aborigines of New England. 

g2 The Rev. J. Daste, S. J., in a letter printed in 
H- 34 Wonderland, 1900, gives this account of the first 
meeting of the Flatheads with Lewis and Clark, which he 
obtained from the Indians: 

u Then the two leaders, observing that the Indians were 
using, for smoking, the leaves of some plant, a plant very 
much alike to our tobacco plant, asked for some and filled 
their pipes ; but as soon as they tried to smoke, they pro 
nounced the Indian Tobacco no good. Cutting some of their 
tobacco they gave it to the Indians, telling them to fill their 
pipes with it. But it was too much for them who had never 
tried the American weed, and all began to cough, with great 
delight to the party. Then the two leaders asked the Indians 
for some Kinnikinnick, mixed it with the tobacco, and gave 
again to the Indians the prepared weed to smoke. This time 



the Indians found it excellent, and in their way thanked the 
men whom they now believed a friendly party." 

The indebtedness of civilization to the American 
I. 134 Indian has been generally overlooked. Not only 
H- 33 W as he the explorer and pathfinder of the continent, 
but he had pretty thoroughly exploited its natural resources. 
Rather because of the physical characteristics of the country 
and its lack of domesticable animals than from any lack of 
intelligent enterprise on their own part, the men of the New 
World were behind those of the Old World in culture. But 
hardly anything that they were able to discover had been neg 
lected. They knew and used almost every metal found native, 
they domesticated the dog and the llama, the only animals 
capable of domestication, and they had thoroughly appropriated 
the vegetable riches of the continent. In the four centuries 
of European dominion in America hardly a single valuable 
conquest from nature has been added to those gained by the 
Indian ; the extracting from the ore of iron and other non- 
native metals being of course excepted. 


g^ THE Indian s world was a very different one from 
I. 1 60 ours. Events which we consider the effect of natural 
forces regulated by laws certain though not fully understood, 
were to him the works of living beings. Thus, if the corn 
harvest failed, it was the work of demons. Earthquakes were 
caused by the souls of the dead struggling to get back through 
the ground, and by making a loud noise these souls might be, 
and as the event proved were, frightened back and the earth 
quakes stopped. When the Moon s face was hidden in an 
eclipse, she was sick or angry and must be helped or appeased. 
The thunder was a noise made by a great bird, and the lightnings 
were fiery serpents. The Milky Way was the road of souls, 
and the Pleiades a party of dancers. 

Thus their eyes, like other eyes, saw what they expected to 



see. When it thundered, Hiawatha heard the great bird and 
Horace heard Jupiter s chariot wheels, but neither is therefore 
to be considered a foolish or untrustworthy witness. The 
history contained in many Indian legends can therefore be 
understood, if we are able to translate the language in which 
it is recounted. 

As a simple illustration of this there is the Iroquois story 
of the Great Buffalo, and the Algonquin story of the Great 
Moose with a fifth leg between his shoulders which he used 
to prepare his bed. Would a twentieth-century man who 
had never seen or heard of an ammal of the elephant species 
be able to give a much better account of a mammoth the first 
time he saw it ? 

Other stories are simple folklore and have their resemblances 
to those of other peoples. Here is one, much abbreviated : 

An Indian, who deeply mourned his lost sister, travelled 
fasting twelve days towards the setting sun (where the village 
of souls is), then his sister appearing to him at night and 
returning each evening gives him a dish of sagamite. For 
three months he travels, thus sustained, and reaches the village 
of souls. The souls were having a dance in a cabin to heal 
Ataentsic, who was sick. Finding his sister s soul, he shuts 
her in a pumpkin which an old man gives him and takes her 
home. Making a feast, he prepares to restore his sister s soul 
to her body, but a curious spectator lifts his eyes contrary to 
orders and the soul escapes. 

Here we have the story of Eurydice, and a suggestion of 
Peter Pumpkin Eater as well. 

The foregoing is the Huron version given by Le Jeune 
(Relation 1656, 10 J. R., 148), and in a note 10 J, R., 324, 
is said to be of Algonquin origin. But Lafitau, II. 109, gives 
an almost identical story as an Iroquois legend. 

Referring again to the Great Buffalo mentioned in the text, 
the story may not be very ancient, even if we assume that it 
referred to the mammoth, for it is not impossible that the 
mammoth existed in Alaska at a recent date. As for the 



pygmies, there may he some alive yet, for Thomas La Fort 
and his companions saw one in 1870. Die Qnondaga- 
Indianer des Staates New York, Ch. L. Henning, Globus, 
LXXVI. 199. 

The Iroquois legends were recounted on many solemn 
occasions. After a funeral the evening was given to the re 
cital of legends (Rel. 1656-7, 43 J. R., 287), and when a 
sachem was raised up they were also in order. In fact, at any 
meeting or council the myths and tales of the origin of the 
world and of the League were to be expected as an introduction 
to the business, and this may have furnished the suggestion 
for the opening chapters of Mr. Knickerbocker s History of 
New York. 

A number of the Iroquois myths are recounted in a valuable 
article by Erminnie A. Smith, 2 Bur. Eth., 51 ; see also David 
Cusick s History of the Six Nations, reprinted in Dr. Beau- 
champ s Iroquois Trail. 

The reason the legends were not related in summer 
I. 162 

was that at that time the spirits of nature were awake 
and listening ; in winter they hibernated like so many bears. 


gcj WITH Mr. Morgan s sympathetic, not to say ideal- 
! J 99 ized, account of the New Year s festival it is inter 
esting to compare the reports of observers who took a 
somewhat Philistine view of the ceremonies. In the Relation 
of 16556 (42 y. R., 154) is an account of what Fathers 
Dablon and Chaumonot saw at Onondaga : 

"They not only believe in their dreams, but they have 
a special festival for the Demon of Dreams. This festival 
might be called the Festival of Fools, or the Carnival of 
Wicked Christians ; for in it the Devil does as it were the 
same things that are done in the carnival and at the same 
season. They name this festival Honnonouaroia. The eld 
ers go to proclaim it through the streets of the town. We 



witnessed the ceremony on the 22nd of February of this year 
1656. As soon as this festival was announced by these 
public cries, nothing was to be seen but men, women and 
children running like madmen through the streets and through 
the cabins, but in quite a different fashion from European 
masqueraders. Most of them are nearly naked and seem not 
to feel the cold, which is almost unbearable to those who are 
the best covered. It is true that some give no other sign 
of their madness than to run half naked through all the 
cabins ; but others are mischievous ; some carry water or 
something worse and throw it upon those they meet ; others 
take firebrands, coals and ashes and scatter them about 
without caring on whom they fall. Others break the kettles 
and dishes and all the houseware that they find in their course. 
Some go armed with swords, bayonets, knives, hatchets or 
cudgels, and pretend to strike with those every one they meet, 
and all this continues until their dream is guessed and fulfilled ; 
as to which there are two things quite remarkable. 

" The first is that it sometimes happens that one is not 
clever enough to divine their thoughts, for they do not state 
them clearly, but by enigmas, by phrases of hidden meaning, 
by signs and sometimes by gestures alone ; so that good 
Oedipuses are not always found. Nevertheless they will not 
leave the spot until their thought is divined, and if one delays 
too long, if one does not wish to divine it, or if one cannot, 
they threaten to burn up everything ; which comes to pass 
only too often as we came near experiencing to our cost. 
One of these idiots darted into our cabin and insisted that we 
should guess his dream and fulfil it. Now we had declared 
at the outset that we would not obey these imaginings, yet he 
persisted for a long time to shout and storm and rave, but in 
our absence, for we withdrew to a cabin outside the village 
to avoid these disturbances. One of our hosts, tired of these 
shouts, came to him to learn what he wanted. The maniac 
answered, c I kill a Frenchman, that is my dream which 
must be fulfilled at any cost. Our host threw him a French 


coat, as if it had been taken from a dead man, and at the 
same time began himself to rage, saying that he wished to 
avenge the death of the Frenchman, that his destruction 
should be followed by that of the whole village, which he 
was going to reduce to ashes, beginning with his own cabin. 
Thereupon he drove out his relatives and friends and house- 
people and all the crowd which had gathered to see the issue 
of this disturbance. Thus left alone, he shut the doors and 
set the whole place on fire. At the moment when every 
body expected to see the whole house in flames Father Chau- 
monot came up, returning from an errand of charity. He 
saw an awful smoke pouring from his bark house and being 
told what it was he burst in the door, threw himself into 
the midst of the fire and smoke, threw out the firebrands, 
put out the fire, and gently prevailed upon his ho