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under a mountain, near the falls of the “Osh-wah-kee,” CHAP. III. or Oswego River, whence they were released by THARON
1617. HYJAGON, "the Holder of the Heavens.” Bidding them go forth toward the east, he guided them to the valley of the Mohawk. Following its stream, they reached the Cahohatatea, or North River, which some of them descended to the sea. Thence, retracing their path, toward the west, they originated, as they passed along, the tribes of Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tus
But the Tuscaroras, wandering to the south, crossed the Alleghanies, and fixed their home on the banks of the Cautano, or Neuse River, in North Carolina; where Tharonhyjagon, leaving them to hunt and prosper, returned northward, to direct the confederation of the remaining Five Nations.† Such is one of the bold fables by which the traditions of the Konoshioni assert their aboriginal existence.
The several tribes or cantons were independent. As The severthey grew in numbers and in valor, they began to quarrel independamong themselves; and, living in perpetual fear, they built fortresses for defense, or else continually shifted their villages. Finding that they were gradually wasting away, the wise men of the Onondagas proposed that the kindred tribes should no longer war against each other, but should unite in a common league for offense and defense against all other nations. The advice was adopted, and each Iroquois tribe or canton deputed representatives to a general council. By these plenipotentiaries the Confederation of the Five Nations was organized on the shores of the Onondaga Lake, where the great central council-fire was originally kindled, and for centuries permanently remained. When the league was formed, Atotarho, the dreaded
* In the Seneca dialect, the name of the Tuscaroras was Dusgaowen-ono, "the shirtwearing people ;” that of the Senecas, Nundawa-ono, or “the great hill people ;" that of the Cayugas, Gueugweh-ono, or “the people at the mucky land;" that of the Onondagas, Onundaga-ono, or “people on the hills ;" and that of the Oneidas, Onayoteka-ono, or 6 the people of the granite stone.”—Morgan, 51, 52. The name of the Mohawks has already been considered.
+ Megapolensis, in Hazard, i., 525 ; Schoolcraft's Notes, 69–105 ; Clark's Onondaga, i., 21-30, 37-43; Morgan, 7.
Character and powers
CHAP. III. chief of the Onondagas, was anxiously sought by the Mo
hawk embassy, which was specially deputed for the pur1617. pose.
Atotarho was found sitting in a swamp, calmly smoking a pipe, and rendered invulnerable by living serpents which hissed around his body. Approaching the chief in awe, the embassy invested him with a broad belt of wampum, and solemnly placed him at the head of their league. The dignity which popular veneration thus spon
taneously conferred on their great sachem always remainAtotarho. ed in the Onondaga tribe; and the name of “ATOTARIO,"
after his death, became the distinctive hereditary title of the most illustrious chief of the Iroquois Confederation.*
The Confederation of the Five Iroquois Nations was simof the grand ply a league for common defense, not a perfect political
union. The general council of sachems, elected according to the laws of each nation, exercised only a delegated power, and expressed only the popular will of their constituents. What these senatorial sachems in the grand council deliberately pronounced to be proper, the veneration of the constituent cantons supported and maintained. Thus, besides the union of the Netherland Provinces, the league of the Iroquois nations was early set before the American colonies as an example for their consideration.
Each nation or canton was a sovereign republic, divided several na- into clans; and each continued, notwithstanding the con
federation, to be governed by its own political chiefs or sachems. The original clans, or families, into which each tribe was subdivided, were eight in number, and were distinguished from each other by different and peculiar devices or
• Totems." The most important of these were the Tortoise, the Bear, and the Wolf. These totems, or family symbols, denoting original consanguinity, were
Government of the
* Schoolcraft, 91 ; Morgan, 67, 68, calls him “ To-do-da-ho."
+ The term 'Five Nations,' used by Colden, and in popular use during the earlier period of the colony, ceased to be appropriate after the Tuscarora revolt in North Carolina, and the reunion of this tribe with the parent stock subsequent to 1712. From that period they were called the. Six Nations, and continued to acquire increased reputation as a confederacy under this name, until the termination of the American Revolution in 1783, and the flight of the Mohawks and Cayugas to Canada."--Schoolcraft, 16 ; Morgan, 24, 44; Bancroft, iii., 245, 321, 322.
universally respected. The wandering savage appealed Chap. II. to his totem, and was entitled to the hospitality of the
1617 wigwam which bore the corresponding emblem. The oldest, most sensible, best-speaking, and most warlike men of the tribe were generally chosen to be its chiefs or sa-Sacheme. chems. “ These commonly resolve, and the young and warlike men carry into execution; but if the common people do not approve of the resolution, it is left entirely to the judgment of the mob. The chiefs are generally the poorest among them; for instead of their receiving from the common people, as among Christians, they are obliged to give to them.” The war chiefs derived their authority from their approved courage. Military service Military was demanded only by custom and opinion. But the penalty of a coward's name kept the ranks of the Iroquois war-parties always full. All able-bodied males above the age of fourteen were judged capable of taking the field; and no title was more honorable than that of warrior. To join in the war-dance was to enlist for an expedition. Each warrior furnished his own arms and provisions, and no cumbersome baggage impeded the rapid march of an Iroquois army. *
Oratory distinguished the Five Nations as much as Eloquence bravery and political wisdom. In all democracies, elo- Iroquois. quence is one of the surest roads to popular favor and public honors. Among the Iroquois, oratory was as sedulously cultivated as at Athens or Rome. Their children were taken to the council-fires, where they listened to the words of the wise men as they talked of peace and war. The sublime scenery in which they lived constantly suggested rich images; and while the criticism of their sages restrained the luxuriance of youthful rhetoric to the standard of approved taste, their eloquence became a model which other Indian nations were proud to imitate. Thus peculiar and extraordinary by great attainments in government, in negotiation, in oratory, and in war, “the su
* Paris Doc., i., 152 ; Megapolensis, in Hazard, i., 525, 526 ; Schoolcraft, 128, 130 ; More gan, 62–103; Clark, i., 31-34.
Chap. III. perior qualities of the Iroquois may be ascribed as well to
the superiority of their origin, as to the advantages of po1617.
sition, the maxims of policy, and the principles of education which distinguished them from the other red inhabitants of this Western World."*
Of all the confederated nations, the Mohawks were the bravest and the fiercest. No hunter warriors on the North American continent ever filled a higher measure of heroism and military renown. Their very name was a synonym for blood. From their propinquity to the Dutch settlements, and their superior martial exploits, the name of this nation was frequently applied, by way of eminence, to the whole Iroquois confederation ; among all the nations of which the Mohawks were held in the highest veneration. Standing at the eastern door of the "Long House," the Mohawk warriors were the chief agents in carrying to the sea the conquests of the Iroquois. Far across the hills of Massachusetts, and through the valley of the Connecticut, the dreaded name of Mohawk enforced an absolute submission; and their annual envoys collected tribute and dictated laws with all the arbitrary authority of Roman proconsuls. From their ancient fortresses, war parties of the Iroquois continually went forth to victory; and the tribes on both banks of the North River quailed before their formidable foe. Long before European discovery, Chap. III. the question of savage supremacy had been settled on the
* De Witt Clinton's Address, in N. Y. H. S. Coll., ii., 79. “Regret has been expressed that some one of the sonorous and appropriate Indian names of the West had not been chosen to designate the state. The colonists were but little regardful of questions of this kind. Both the Dutch in 1609, and the English in 1664, came with precisely the same force of national prepossession--the first in favor of Amsterdam, and the second in favor of New York-both connected with the belittling adjective “New." * * * * It would be well, indeed, if their descendants in America had been a little more alive to the influence of this trait. Those who love the land and cherish its nationalities, would at least have been spared * * the continued repetition of foreign, petty, or vulgar names, * * * while such names as Saratoga and Ticonderoga, Niagara and Ontario, Iosco and Owasco, are never thought of."-Schoolcraft, in N. Y. H. S. Proc., 1844, p. 95.
+ “The word “Mohawk' itself is not a term of Mohawk origin, but one imposed upon them, as it is believed, by the Mohegan or Mahican race, which inhabited the borders of the sea. Among this race the Dutch and English landed; and they would naturally adopt the term most in vogue for so celebrated a tribe. The Dutch, indeed, modified it to
Maquaas,' a modification which helps us to decipher its probable origin in Manqua, a bear. * * * The Mohawk sachems, who presented their condolence at Albany in 1690, on the taking of Schenectady, said, 'We are all of the race of the bear-and a bear, you know, never yields while one drop of blood is left. We must all be bears.?"-Schoolcraft's Notes, 73. Clark, i., 31, says, that the Mohawks furnished the “ Te-kar-a-ho-gea," or way captain of the league. But this has been denied by Morgan.
1617. waters of the Cahohatatea.
Such were the famous Indian nations among which the Empire of Dutch first established themselves on the upper waters of quois. the North River. Under the influence of that spirit of aggression, and thirst for aggrandizement which the consciousness of power excites, the Iroquois confederates soon reduced the neighboring tribes into vassalage; and exacted a universal tribute, from the Abenaquis on the Bay of Fundy, to the Miamis on the Ohio. The weaker nations trembled when they heard the awful name of the Konoshioni. Their war-cry sounded over the great lakes, and was heard in the Chesapeake Bay. They quenched the fires of the Eries, and exterminated the Susquehannas. The Lenapees, the Metowacks, and the Manhattans were subjugated. The terror of the Iroquois went wherever their war-canoes were paddled ; and the streams which flowed from the summit lands around their grand council-fire at Onondaga, were the channels which conducted their warriors to triumphant expeditions among the neighboring tribes. Their invincible arms humbled every native foe, and their national pride grew with every conquest.*
But when the progress of the French along the Saint First humLawrence had introduced the knowledge of European Champlain. weapons among the Hurons and Algonquins of Canada, the war-parties of the far-conquering Iroquois suffered severely in their encounters with enemies who were aided
* Smith's N. Y., i., 51–66 ; Bancroft, i., 134 ; ii., 416 ; iii., 245; Schoolcraft's Notes, 52 ; Morgan, 9-17. I can not forego the pleasure of extracting a few lines descriptive of the supremacy of the Iroquois, from Mr. Street's metrical romance, " Frontenac."
" The fierce Adirondacs had fled from their wrath,
The Hurons been swept from their merciless path ;