Minute Book 3: 1723-November

The two observer-messengers (or spies) sent to Canada in October returned in November. They told the commissioners what they had seen there, but the commissioners asked them to repeat it with Lawrence Claessen present. Perhaps this was because the commissioners did not speak the Mohawk language as well as he did, or perhaps it was because they wanted to bring in his expertise in diplomacy. Either way, it shows how much they relied on him. For most of 1723, no members of the Schuyler family are included in the lists of those present at the commissioners’ meetings, and developments in October had already revealed that John (Johannes) Schuyler was conducting parallel diplomacy on his own. The commissioners may have felt that they were loosing their influence with the Six Nations and needed all the help that Claessen could provide.

In any case, the messengers confirmed that John Schuyler gave them wampum belts to take to three “castles,” i.e. native communities, in Canada: Cachnawage (Kahnawake) Kanighnoghquadee (Gananoque?) and Rondaxis. (The Rondaxes or Adirondacks were Algonquian speakers who lived at Three Rivers and Oka, according to p. 239 of the Livingston Indian Records.) Schuyler had not informed the commissioners about the belts, but he  sent them in the name of Boston and New York. Apparently he was working behind the Albany Indian Commissioners’ back with New York as well as Massachusetts.

Schuyler’s wampum belt messages asked the three castles to stop fighting with the French and Abenaki against New England in the ongoing hostilities known to historians as Dummer’s War. He also invited them to “use and Cultivate the Road from Canada hither and trade as Usual,” promising to remove any obstacles to doing so. “Hither” apparently meant Albany. Did Schuyler promise to restore the trade in Indian goods between Albany and Montreal, a short distance from Kahnawake? That trade had benefits for both native and French traders in the St. Lawrence Valley, as well as for many Dutch traders in Albany, even though the commissioners were working with New York’s Governor Burnet to suppress it.

The few Kahnawake leaders who were home when the messengers arrived promised to convey their message to those who were away hunting and fighting. They sent wampum belts in return to the belts brought by the messengers, but they were delivered directly to John Schuyler.

The commissioners also learned that the French and their native allies had asked more distant “upper and remote” nations to join the French side in Dummer’s War the following spring. The commissioners feared that this would not only put New England in peril, but also jeopardize the trade between those distant nations and Albany that they were trying to encourage. They sent Lawrence Claessen to the Seneca Country to engage paid messengers there to negotiate with those nations on Albany’s behalf, in particular they wanted to encourage the “Denighcariages”, a nation that, at least in the understanding of the commissioners, had joined the Six Nations that summer as the Seventh Nation. Claessen was told to assure the far nations that peace was being negotiated between the Eastern Indians and New England, the road to Albany though the Six Nations would be safe, and Albany had cheap and plentiful goods for sale.

The remainder of the entries for November concern the Schaghticoke Indians. Located north of Albany where the Hoosick River joins the Hudson from the east, Schaghticoke was on Mohican land and the path along the Hoosick was a well used road to the Connecticut Valley, one of the areas where New England was under attack. The Schaghticoke community were refugees under New York’s protection, mainly people displaced by settlers in New England and the lower Hudson, close allies of the Mohican. They were caught in the middle of Dummer’s War both geographically and diplomatically, since many were Abenaki themselves. The commissioners reproached them with leaving their homes and “Stragling & Scatter[ing]” from one place to another, instead of staying at Schaghticoke under the “Tree of Friendship and Welfare” that was the symbol for New York’s protection. People from Schaghticoke had even been seen on their way to Canada, where the commissioners undoubtedly feared that they would join the French. The commissioners believed that the Schaghticokes needed to appoint some leading men as sachems to keep them in one place, and persuade those who had left for Canada to come back.

The Schaghticokes acknowledged the agreement made almost half a century earlier with New York, joining them together and giving them protection at Schaghticoke. They said they wanted to stay there even if Canada offered them land. They agreed to consider the proposal to appoint leaders and try to bring back those who had left. They offered the commissioners gifts of venison and strings of wampum, as was customary. But the following day they said it would be impossible to get the people who had left to come back, since they had fled after committing robberies at Saratoga. They also pointed out that the Tree of Welfare was now bare at the roots, that is that their relationship with Albany was under a strain because they did not have enough land at Schaghticoke and the (Dutch) inhabitants there were harassing them. The Minute Book entry does not say what the commissioners knew well. The reason the Schaghticokes had little land left was that under New York law Albany owned that land and was leasing more and more of it out to Dutch farmers. It was Albany’s tenants who were harassing the Schaghticokes.

The Schaghticokes proposed that part of their people should move to Sinchjack, where there was still good land available. Sinchjack, which they also spelled as Sinkhaijck, probably refers to the area farther up the Hoosic River from Schaghticoke, near where the Walloomsac River flows into it in the vicinity of present day Williamstown Massachusetts. It was also known as St. Croix.  Its history is discussed in Arthur Latham Perry’s Origins In Williamstown, beginning on p. 114.

The Schaghticokes asked the commissioners to nominate leaders for them and to mend their weapons, as was customary. The commissioners agreed to all of this, including the move to Sinckhaijck. They nominated Nanratakietam, Aspenoot, Wapelanrie, Kakaghsanreet, Mashequant, and Akamsomett, with Nansasant as a successor if any of them passed away. They said it was essential to bring back those who had gone to Canada, and offered to forgive those who had committed faults, that is the Saratoga robbers. They also promised to stop the settlers at Schaghticoke from interfering with the Schaghticokes’ use of their land. They thanked them for the venison, promised to have their weapons mended, and gave them gifts of ammunition, shirts, and alcohol, with blankets for the elders Nanratakelam and Waleghlanret..

There are no entries in the Minute Book for December, so this concludes the summaries for 1723.

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Minute Book 3: 1723-October

The Albany Indian Commissioners were increasingly anxious that their own community would be attacked in the course of the ongoing war between Massachusetts Bay and the Abenaki (Dummer’s War). They took it as a bad sign that no Indians had come to Albany from Canada recently, as was usual. Rather than attributing this to New York’s ban on trading Indian goods to Canada, they began to worry that the Saint Lawrence Valley communities like Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) were going to join the Abenaki in attacking English settlements, including theirs. They decided to send two Indian observers to Canada to see what was going on and to persuade the young men at Caughnawaga and elsewhere to stay at home, as their leaders had agreed.

When the deputies of the Six Nations came through Albany on their way back from the peace negotiations at Boston, it was clear that there were serious disagreements between the Six Nations and the commissioners, between New York and Massachusetts, and within Albany itself. John (Johannes) Schuyler, former mayor of Albany, an Indian Commissioner himself at times, and one of the people most trusted by the Six Nations, had gone to Boston at the invitation of Massachusetts, independently of the commissioners or the governor of New York. The commissioners asked the Six Nations deputies to tell them what happened at the meeting, to which they responded that Schuyler had written it down and given an account to the governor, so there should be no need for them to repeat it. The commissioners said they did not want to rely on Schuyler’s account and preferred to hear what happened directly from the deputies. The Six Nations deputies equivocated, first saying that Schuyler asked them to join the war on Massachusetts’s behalf and they had accepted, then denying that it happened. They said that they had asked Massachusetts to tell the kings of France and Great Britain to end the war in the colonies since they were at peace in Europe. They finally admitted that a few men from the Six Nations had joined Boston’s forces. John Schuyler had agreed to provide them with ammunition and to pay the 100 pound bounty for each Eastern Indian scalp they took. After the other deputies had left, Hendrick (probably Hendrick Tejonihokarawa) assured the commissioners that John Schuyler had approved everything they did at Boston. The Six Nations delegates seemed to be stubbornly holding to the position that John Schuyler represented Albany regardless of what the commissioners said.

The commissioners also learned that Schuyler had sent his own belts (wampum belt messages) to Canada by way of the commissioners’ messenger-observers. The commissioners feared the belts would be taken by the Abenaki as signs that they were working together with Schuyler. Massachusetts had also sent two more Albanians, Philip Schuyler (probably Johannes Schuyler’s son by that name) and John Groesbeeck, to Canada to redeem prisoners.

The commissioners learned that Rutland had not been attacked, but two forts nearby at Northfield had been overrun by a war party of 60-80. Colonel John Stoddard of Massachusetts asked them to send a force from the Six Nations and River Indians to Otter Creek (in present day Vermont) to intercept the attackers, but the commissioners told him they would not be able to muster a force in time to do any good. Nonetheless they informed three Mohawks who were in Albany, including the sachim Taquajanott, who said they would tell their people.

The commissioners wrote to New York Governor Burnet to try to convince him that the danger to New York was real, expressing regret that “you Excel.cy is not pleas’d to agree in our Opinions.” They stated openly that they believed Massachusetts wanted to sacrifice them in order to pursue its own “quarrel” with the Abenaki. In an enigmatic footnote, they added that Cornelis Cuyler, one of those who had refused to take the oath that he was not trading with Canada, had now gone to Canada along with “the three french men” (probably the same ones who had gone to Pennsylvania in June?) to recover his debts. Evidently suppressing the Albany-Canada trade had serious economic repercussions for those who had invested in it. And perhaps the economic repercussions for indigenous traders in Canada were adding to the commissioners’ fears that their allies there would be more likely now to join the war on the French side and even target Albany.

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Minute Book 3: 1723-September

Early in September, peace between New England and the Abenaki began to look remote. The Albany Indian Commissioners heard that “french Indians” from Canada were planning to join the Eastern Indians in attacking New England. They also heard that Northfield and Rutland had been attacked. They examined someone from Caughnawaga (Kahnawake), who said that neither Kahnawake nor Schawenadie were involved in the war, but they would fight if the governor of Canada asked them too. The commissioners were now afraid that Albany would be attacked. They sent notice to Colonel Samuel Partridge in Massachusetts to be on guard, and wrote to New York Governor Burnet suggesting that the governors of all the English colonies should write to the governor of Canada to ask him to stop encouraging the Indians to attack New England, since the English and French monarchs were at peace.

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Minute Book 3: 1723-August

On August 9th, delegates of the Six Nations stopped at Albany on their way to Boston for the upcoming peace conference to resolve the war between Massachusetts Bay and the Abenaki. Their speaker Odastichta told the commissioners that a new leader, Annatseineiin, or Annutseerie, had been appointed to replace Blue Back, who had recently passed away and who had cultivated good relations with the English. They also addressed the issue of forts and trading posts in their country, taking a diplomatic approach in explaining why the French had not removed the trading post at Niagara as New York Governor Burnet had requested. They explained that they had asked the French interpreter and diplomat to the Six Nations, Jean Coeur (Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire) to remove it, but he said he would have to discuss it with the French governor. Odasticha said he thought that the kings of France and England would have informed the commissioners about this by now.

The Six Nations also announced that they were now entirely at peace with the Waganhas (Anishinaabeg), French allies who had nonetheless joined with the Six Nations in the Covenant Chain. Last but not least, they asked the commissioners to appoint three representatives to go with them to Boston.

The commissioners condoled the deaths of Blue Back and two other sachems who recently died. They agreed to tell the governor about the Six Nations attempts to remove the trading house at Niagara and Jean Coeur’s response, and said they were glad that the Waganhas had joined the Covenant Chain. Somewhat surprisingly, the commissioners declined to send representatives to Boston, explaining that the New York governor had not asked them to do so.

On the 20th of August the commissoners wrote to New York Governor Burnet, explaining what they had done to enforce the oath against trading with Canada and informed him that they had heard from Laurence Claessen that a party of Eastern Indians were going to attack New England, and also a rumor that Rutland had actually been attacked. They feared being attacked themselves, and asked for help in building stockades for the blockhouse at Mount Burnet.

They also informed the Governor that Massachusetts had communicated directly with Peter and John Schuyler about the upcoming peace negotiations, that John Schuyler had gone to Boston, and that Massachusetts would ask him to lead their forces [against the Abenaki]

The last entry for August is a request that the government reimburse the Reverend Thomas Barclay for the costs of educating Michell Montour, the son of Louis Couq dit Montour, a French and native trader who was killed by Chabert de Joncaire in 1709 after he began to work for the English recruiting “far Indians” to trade at Albany. The year before he was killed, Montour asked Barclay to care for Michell, who was five years old at the time.

 

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Minute Book 3: 1723-July

More groups of native traders came to Albany in July. Fourteen “Twightwights” or Miami met with the commissioners on July 12th. Like the “Denighcareage” group that came in May, they were accompanied by a Haudenosaunee translator who lived among them, a man named Dewadirko who was an Onondaga who had been taken prisoner by them. They recited a story similar to that of the previous groups, rehearsing the difficulties of their journey, emphasizing that the French had tried to discourage them from coming, asking for good prices on trade goods, and leaving calumet pipes for the commissioners to keep and smoke when others of their nation came.

At the same meeting, an Onondaga man named Oquaront reported that another nation living farther away than the Miami, called Agottsaragoka (or Oguttsarahake) wished to make an agreement to pass through the Five Nations and come to trade at Albany. In addition, some native traders arrived from Tughsaghrondie, the area where the French had built Fort Detroit at the beginning of the century. They renewed the Covenant Chain and they too asked for cheap goods, suggesting that the French goods at Fort Detroit were not meeting their needs.

The commissioners welcomed all of the visitors, accepted the Miami calumet pipes, assured Oquaront that the way would be clear for the Oguttsarahake to come to trade, and renewed the Covenant Chain with the Tuchsagrondie. They invited the group to send some principal leaders to New York to meet the governor, but were told it was too late in the year. However, they offered to come to see the governor the following spring.

 

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Minute Book 3: 1723-June

 

The conference with Massachusetts Bay and the Six Nations (I will refer to them that way from now on, since the Tuscaroras were now established as a member of the Five Nations) continued on June 1st, when William Tailer, Spencer Phips, and John Stoddard renewed the Covenant Chain with the Schaghticoke, Katskill, and “River” Indians, a term used for the Mohican and the peoples of the lower Hudson.  Massachusetts Bay asked them to join the war if the the Six Nations accepted the Massachusetts Bay offer to fight the Eastern Indians. They replied that they would follow the Six Nations’ lead.

The Six Nations gave their answer on June 3rd. They soothed the feelings of the Massachusetts Bay representatives by rehearsing the wrongs inflicted on them by the Eastern Indians. But they explained that the Eastern Indians, had now sent a messenger to make peace. They needed to discuss matters further and it would take several months.

The representatives from Massachusetts Bay were clearly disappointed. They asked what the point of renewing the covenant was if the Six Nations would not help them fight their enemies, especially since they would be generously rewarded. They explained that they were not empowered to make peace with the Eastern Indians and asked once again for the Six Nations to join the war. Instead the Six Nations urged them to meet with the Eastern Indians at Boston in two months to discuss peace, promising to punish the Eastern Indians if an agreement was reached and they did not honor it. The Massachusetts Bay delegates finally agreed to attend the proposed meeting.

The Six Nations and the Albany Indian Commissioners went on to discuss their own issues, in particular the competing centers for French and English trade that were being constructed in Iroquoia. The French diplomat Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire, referred to by the commissioners using every imaginable variant spelling of “Jean Coeur” had persuaded the Six Nations to allow the French to build a trading center at Kaskeghsago near Irondequoit, at the site of present day Rochester, where the Genesee River meets Lake Ontario. The commissioners asked the Six Nations to reverse this decision and forbid the French to build any settlements in Iroquoia, predicting that if  the French built a trading house at Irondequoit it would become a fort that would be used to stop “far Indians” from coming to Albany and eventually to take control of the Six Nations’ country. Furthermore, they asked the Six Nations to tell the French to remove their trading center already constructed at Niagara, as they had promised the New York governor previously. The Six Nations speaker, Thannintsorowee, said they would take the request back to their council and provide a response at the Boston meeting.

The Six Nations and the Albany commissioners held another meeting with the Abenaki envoy, lectured him about the violence inflicted on New England by the Abenaki, and told him that the Eastern Indians should come to the meeting in Boston scheduled in two months to negotiate.

The rest of June was devoted to trade. Another group of 10 far Indians came to trade on June 16th, asking for good prices and promising to bring more people if they received them. They were welcomed with provisions and rum, and assured that prices would be good. The name of their castle is left blank, suggesting that the commissioners were not familiar with it and unable to make sense of it. Magepanans, a River Indian, was asked to invite more nations to come to trade and promised a reward if he succeeded.

Governor Burnet had asked the Albany Indian Commissioners to enforce a recent act of the New York Assembly intended to stop the flourishing trade between Albany and Montreal. In this trade, which had been going on for decades, English goods were sold to the French and the French then resold those goods to indigenous fur traders. This practice undermined the English policy that aimed to monopolize the fur trade for England by persuading the indigenous fur traders to bring their goods directly to Albany.

Under the new act, Albany traders had to swear an oath that they were not trading with Canada, on penalty of a fine of a hundred pounds. The commissioners took the oath themselves and spent several days at the end of June in summoning local traders, many of whom were prominent citizens or relatives of the commissioners, and asking them to take the oath. Several refused and were fined, including Colonel John Schuyler and his son Philip Schuyler. The notes indicate that the money would be applied to repairing Albany’s fortifications or used as needed. On the 22nd, they wrote to the governor and reported on this, assuring him that they supported the policy, while acknowledging that goods were still being traded with the French. They also asked the governor to allow passage for three Frenchmen who were going to visit their uncle, a “famous trader” in Pennsylvania.

 

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Minute Book 3: 1723-May

0027_listOfGoodspngIn May, the Albany Indian Commissioners were busy on several different fronts simultaneously. They entertained and traded with two groups of people from “far Nations,” a general term for the peoples to the west and north of Iroquoia. The second group of Far Indians came not only to trade, but to meet with the Mohawks and to tell the commissioners that they were joining the Five Nations. The proceedings held with them are printed in Volume 5 of O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, beginning on page 693. Simultaneously, Albany hosted a major treaty conference with representatives from the Five Nations and Massachusetts Bay to discuss the ongoing war between New England and the Abenaki. They also met with an Abenaki delegate who appeared unexpectedly (at least to the reader.) The initial proceedings between the Five Nations and Massachusetts can be found in the Livingston Indian Records beginning on page 236, but the Livingston records do not include a gruesome Massachusetts proposal to pay for Abenaki scalps.

The May minutes also include related entries not printed in these sources, including a report by Laurence Claessen Van der Volgen about his recent trip to invite the Five Nations to the meeting with Massachusetts, during which which he learned that they had officially accepted the Tuscaroras as a sixth nation. He also encountered problems with the Senecas and Onondagas, who initially did not want to come to the meeting because the French had advised them to stay away.  Representatives of all of the Six Nations came to Albany in the end.

 The first group of twenty “far Indians” arrived on May 8th, followed by a larger group on May 29th that included 80 men in addition to women and children whose number is not given. Simultaneously, the Five Nations sent a delegation of 80 people and Massachusetts sent at least three representatives, William Tailer, Spencer Phips, and John Stoddard. The first group of twenty “far Indians” was housed in the Indian houses that Albany maintained in order to provide a place where people who came to trade could stay without being pressured to sell their goods to a particular trader.  If all the other native visitors stayed there as well, the Indian houses must have been filled to capacity.

Cadwallader Colden described one of these houses as it looked when he visited it two years earlier in early September 1721:

Wee diverted ourselves one day before the Indians were all meet in a Large boarded house without the towne which stands their alway for Lodging the Indians Their wee saw a great many animals tollerably well delineated with coal by the Indians on the boards of the house The most remarkable was a Crocodile very well designed which shows that they travell very far to the southward’s perhaps near to the mouth of the river Misasipi The Indians pointed towards the southwest as the place where these animals are found The Interpeter told us they have the dried skin of one of them att one of their Castles They had beefs likewise drawn in sevaral postures which show’d that the persone who did them was not without a genius for Painting these the Indians pointed to us were found to the Westward We saw fowls exactly resembling Harpies butt perhaps they were design’d for owls. [Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1917, NY, 1918, p. 128]

Trade

The nation of the first group of 20 Far Indians is never identified. Possibly they were an advance party from the second group. They began by smoking the calumet (peace pipe) and singing, after which they said they had come to Albany to trade. They explained that they came from several castles (communities) which had sent them to see whether they could get good prices at Albany. The commissioners welcomed them, accepted their calumet to show to others of their nations who might come to trade, warned them against listening to the French, gave them a present of blankets, shirts, food, and liquor, and assured them that they would find cheap goods and pure rum at Albany.

Expanding the Six Nations to Seven?

The second group, led by Awistoenis, or Owiestoenis, and a Seneca translator, Sakema,   described themselves as the true members of the “Denighcariages Nation.” They told the commissioners that others who had visited Albany claiming to be from that nation were not telling the truth. The commissioners asked what the French called their settlements, to which they responded “Monsiemakerac.” They came from six communities, one of which, Neghkareage (probably the same word as “Denighcariages”) had two castles (towns). The other four are written as Ronawadainie, Onnighsiesannairoene, Kajenatroene, and Tienonoatdeaga. In a note on p. 693 of DRCHNY 5, O’Callaghan identifies them as Hurons from “Mtellimakenack,” based on a French map. The name of their fourth town suggests that they were from the Tobacco Nation. also known as the Petun or Tionondati. The French built Fort Michilimackinac on the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron around 1715. In describing the Denighcariages visit to Albany, Governor Burnet said in a letter to Lords of Trade that they came from “Misilimakenak, which lyes between Lac superieur & Lac Huron” (DRCHNY 5:684). Clearly they were from somewhere in the area where the three great lakes meet. Like the first group, they brought a calumet and left it with the commissioners to use when others from their nation came to Albany.

The Denighcariages, the Mohawks, and the commissioners began by smoking the calumet together, then proceeded to discuss trade, as well as a proposal that the Denighcariages join the Five Nations as the Tuscarora were in the process of doing. The commissioners promised them cheap goods and encouraged the idea that they should join the Five Nations, becoming the Seventh Nation, since the Tuscaroras were now the Sixth. The commissioners worded this in terms of joining “this Government,” seeming to imply that New York and the Five Nations were one. The commissioners promised to address Awistoenis’s complaint that local waggoners had overcharged them for transporting their goods, assuring them that it would not happen again and sending them on their way with blankets, shirts, food, and 26 gallons of rum.

The map at the front of Volume 2 of Cadwallader Colden’s History of the Five Indian Nations, shows the Necariages of Misilimacinac. The legend explains that they were “received to be the seventh Nation at Albany, May 30th 1723: at their own desire, 80 Men of that Nation being present beside Women and children.”

"A Map of the Country of the Five Nations ...

“A Map of the Country of the Five Nations belonging to the Province of New York and of the Lakes near which the Nations of Far Indians live, with part of Canada” from Cadwallader Colden, The History of the Five Indian Nations …

ColdenMapExcerpt

Massachusetts Offers to Pay for Scalps

In the conference between the Five Nations and the three commissioners sent from Massachusetts, the parties began with an initial meeting on May 28th in which they followed the usual protocols to renew the covenant chain of friendship. The Five Nations reminded Massachusetts that it was customary for the English to mend their guns, kettles, and hatchets on such occasions.

On May 30th the Massachusetts commissioners proceeded to business, laying out a proposal from Governor Dummer that spelled out the the terms on which Massachusetts wanted the Five Nations to join it in fighting the Abenaki Confederacy. After rehearsing the ways in which Massachusetts considered the Abenaki to have wronged the English, the proposal, worded like a legal contract, says that “for the further Encouragement of your Warlike peopl[e]” Massachusetts will pay 100 pounds for the scalp of every male enemy Indian of twelve years or older, and 50 pounds for the scalps of all others killed “in fight.” Massachusetts will pay 50 pounds for each male prisoner. The Five Nations may keep female prisoners and children under twelve, as well as any plunder taken. The Massachusetts government will supply the Five Nations with any needed provisions or ammunition, but the value will be deducted from the money paid for scalps.

For each ten members of the Five Nations, Massachusetts planned to assign two Englishmen to accompany them in order to protect them from “any mischief that may happen to them from our Souldiers by mistake” and to avoid disputes about scalps. The Englishmen would confirm under oath that the scalp was that of an enemy Indian killed in battle as well as the age and sex of the person scalped. For testifying, the Englishman would receive an amount equal to what was payed to the warrior who took the scalp or prisoner.

Guns, kettles, and hatchets would be mended only if the Five Nations accepted the offer, and Massachusetts would also give them a large present if and when they did so.

At Least Some of the Abenaki Want Peace

As was customary, the Five Nations did not respond right away to Massachusetts’ proposal. And on the following day the minutes record a new development with the arrival of Achjamawat, a delegate sent to the Six Nations by three Eastern Indian castles, “Owanagonga, Kwepowanne, and Onjanawarea.” Although they were still in Albany, the Massachusetts commissioners are not listed as being present when Achjamawat met with the Albany commissioners.  The Five Nations are not listed either, but his words are addressed to them (as the Six Nations) and the interpreter for the meeting was the Mohawk leader Hendrick, who translated from Abenaki to Mohawk, after which Laurence Claessen translated from Mohawk to Dutch and Philip Livingston translated from Dutch to English for the written record.

Achjamawat began with an extended condolence ritual in which he reiterated several times that Albany was the place to treat about peace and to condole any blood shed “through Rashness or misunderstanding.” He went on to say that the Eastern Indians regret that they could not meet with the Six Nations when they came to Boston the previous fall to meditate between them and Massachusetts. They received the message sent by the Six Nations asking them to stop fighting. His people have now sent him to lay down the hatchet against New England and bury it forever.

 

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Minute Book 3: 1723-April

1280px-FORT_CHRISTANNA,_BRUNSWICK_COUNTY,_VA

Fort Christanna (from Wikipedia, taken by Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28230287)

On April 6th, the Onondaga diplomat Teganissorens (the commissioners spelled his name D’Canassore) came to Albany to discuss relations between the Five Nations and Virginia. He assured the Commissioners that the Five Nations would respect the peace agreement they had made with Virginia the previous fall and refrain from attacking Virginia’s native allies. By 1723, Teganissorens had had a long and successful career during which he helped to shape the relations between indigenous and colonial powers throughout the North Atlantic region. He was no longer young, and the journey from Onondaga to Albany was a lengthy one. His trip to Albany suggests that the treaty with Virginia had been called into question in a significant way.

The next entry in the Minute Book, an April 23rd letter to New York Governor Burnet, suggests that the issue was the Saponi man taken captive near Fort Christanna in Virginia by a raiding party from Kahnawake, the Mohawk community near Montreal, as described in the minutes for January and February. The commissioners told Burnet in their letter that they had still been unable to get him released. Perhaps Governor Spotswood of Virginia, who saw the Saponi captive as his own servant, had argued that keeping the prisoner violated the treaty and asked Governor Burnet to pressure the commissioners to force the Five Nations to use their influence with the Kahnawagas to have the captive returned.

Teganissorens reassured the English that the treaty remained in place, but if the captive was the issue, he either could not or would not force his return. The end of the letter finally reveals what is really going on.  The captive has chosen to go to Kahnawake in Canada rather than return to his own country, and now he has been made a Sachim. The commissioners have sent orders to Kahnawaga for him to return, but they don’t expect him to do so. Apparently the captive, who remains anonymous, would rather be a chief at Kahnawake than work for Governor Spotswood.

From the Five Nations and Kahnawake point of view, he likely could be a valuable player in Iroquois negotiations with the Sapponis as well as the English. His proficiency in his own language as well as English could be an important asset. Perhaps he had even learned to read and write at Governor Spotswood’s school at Christanna, making him even more useful.

As often happened, the commissioners were caught in the middle of a delicate situation. Kahnawake and the Five Nations had the upper hand.  All the commissioners could do was try to assure the English authorities that they had done everything they could to assert English sovereignty and get the captive returned.  Their letter provides insights into the relations between Kahnawake and the Five Nations, as well as between the Five Nations, Albany, and the English government. As they explain, the residents of Kahnawake are part of the Five Nations. If they are treated roughly, the Five Nations will take offense. They may not react publicly, because they want to maintain good relations with Albany, where they obtain “bread & Cloathing.” But they will find “underhand” ways to injure English subjects in the “remotest part of the Government,” that is the areas distant from the centers of colonial control. The commissioners and their families frequented those areas. Without the support of the Five Nations, even Albany itself was still vulnerable to military attack and the loss of the fur trade.

The entry for Fort Christanna in the WordPress blog Native American Roots provides some interesting additional information. The fort itself was closed in 1718, but Saponi people continued to live in the area. Some of their children were “bound out” to local colonists. Perhaps this is how the captive became Governor Spotswood’s servant.

 

 

 

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Minute Book 3: 1723-March

Boston_ca_1723_WM

Boston in about 1723, from Wikimedia Commons 

The two entries for March 1723 describe the arrangements for the meeting between Massachusetts Bay, the Five Nations, and New York scheduled to be held in May. The commissioners resolve to send Lawrence Claessen Van der Volgen, translator and unsung hero of New York diplomacy, to invite the Five Nations to the meeting. There is also an entry for March 26th that is blank except for the heading.

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Minute Book 3: 1723-February

1723-Feb

There is only one entry for February, a copy of a letter to Governor Burnet that reveals more about the story of Governor Spotswood’s Saponi servant. Taken prisoner in Virginia, Spotswood’s servant prefers to go to Canada with his Kahnawake captors rather than return to servitude in Virginia. The Albany Indian Commissioners claim that they did everything they could to persuade the Mohawks to turn him over, but to no avail. They say they could not force the issue without jeopardizing the Five Nations’ support for suppressing the Eastern Indians (Abenaki Confederacy.) hostilities against New England. They explain to New York Governor Burnet that the Five Nations consider the “Canada Indians” who hold the prisoner to be part of themselves.

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Minute Book 3: 1723-January

1723-1-7The minutes for January begin with the Albany Indian Commissioners and the Haudenosaunee (Five Nations) in the middle of negotiations with New England authorities, usually referred by the Five Nations to as “Boston” or “the Brethren of New England,” and the “Eastern Indians,”  a coalition of Abenaki nations allied with New France. (“Abenaki” loosely translates as “Eastern Indians.”) Massachusetts and the Abenaki coalition were caught up in a conflict known by various names, including Dummer’s War, Gray Lock‘s War, and Father Rale’s War. The fighting had started a year earlier in 1722, triggered by conflicts over land, sovereignty, and Massachusetts’ attack on Father Sebastian Rale, a Jesuit priest who lived at the Abenaki town of Norridgewock on the Kennebec River in what is now Maine.

Massachusetts, supported by New York Governor William Burnet, wanted the Albany Commissioners to persuade the Five Nations (Haudenosaunee) to enter the war on Massachusetts’ side. The Haudenosaunee preferred to try to negotiate a peace. Albany also preferred peace. As they explain to Governor Burnet in a letter dated January 9, they do not want to get caught up in a war that might lead to retaliation on their own settlements by France and its native allies.  For diplomatic reasons, however, neither Albany nor the Five Nations want to directly refuse the requests of Governor Burnet or the Massachusetts authorities. Their language in the minutes must be read with these complications in mind.

The initial entry is a report by Lawrence Claessen (Van der Volgen), Albany’s main interpreter and on the ground liaison to the Five Nations during this period. He describes a recent trip by Haudenosaunee diplomats to Boston, where they tell the Boston government that the Eastern Indians have put themselves under the Five Nations’ protection and are required to remain peaceful under that arrangement. They assure Boston that New England has a valid case, and promise to destroy the Eastern Indians if they don’t stop fighting, but they ask for time to speak to them. They set up a meeting with the Governor of Massachusetts at Albany for the coming Spring. In an interesting footnote, “Hendrik,” a member of the Five Nations’ delegation, says that he talked to a minister at Boston who spoke “the Eastern Language” about coming to teach the Mohawks in their country. “Hendrik” is probably Tejonihokarawa (ca. 1660-1735), although he could also be Theyanoguin (ca. 1691=1755), who would have known “the Eastern language” because his father was Mohegan. The Albany Commissioners send this report to Governor Burnet and propose to work with the Five Nations on a diplomatic solution.

The second theme in January concerns a prisoner, a servant of Colonel Alexander Spotswood, the Governor of Virginia. He was taken prisoner in Virginia by “French Indians” from Canastoque & two from Fort Hunter, a statement that does not make sense since Fort Hunter at this period can only refer to the Lower Mohawk Town, Tiononderoga, in the Mohawk Valley at the mouth of Schoharie Creek. His captors are taking him to Kahnawake, the Mohawk community on the Saint Lawrence river, but they agree to meet with the Albany Commissioners. “Canastoque” is probably Kanesatake, near Montreal, although there was also a settlement of the Susquehannock nation at Conestoga on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania at this time.

The prisoner is identified as a Saponi Indian, but never identified by name, although he speaks good English. He tells the commissioners he is from “Christiana,” presumably Fort Christanna, where Governor Spotswood had settled the Sapponis on a reservation designed to educate them in English and incorporate them into colonial society. Governor Spotswood has requested the prisoner’s return, and the Albany Commissioners tell Governor Burnet they are trying to secure it. The nature of the prisoner’s servitude is never described. Is he a slave or an indentured servant? What claim of ownership does Governor Spotswood have to him, and how was it acquired? Has he been taken prisoner or liberated? For more on the Saponi (also spelled Sappony) Nation and their history, see http://www.sappony.org/index.htm and http://haliwa-saponi.com .

Posted in 1723, Abenaki History, Albany Indian Commissioners, Iroquois History, Minute Books, New England History, New York History, Sappony History, Slavery, Servitude, Captivity, Uncategorized, Virginia History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Minute Book 3: 1723

I have finished transcribing the first year’s worth of entries for the third volume of records, or Minute Books, as they are labeled. This is the original that was taken to Canada during the Revolutionary War and has survived, although portions appear to be a little out of order and / or damaged. You can look at it as a website page by clicking on Minute Book 3: 1723 in the menu at the top of the page. You can also download it here:  aic_recordbooks-v1-1723. To make things confusing, Library and Archives calls this volume “Albany Indian Commissioner Record Books, volume 1,” and Cornell calls it “Indian Affairs Pamphlets, Volume 1.” I am calling it Minute Book 3, because it is volume 3 of the minutes of the Commissioners as they were bound at some point during the early to mid Eighteenth Century.

In my next post I will begin to analyze the entries for 1723 month by month, in order to take a closer look at who was involved and what was happening between the various peoples of North America with whom the Commissioners interacted during this year.

 

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Connecting past with present: Schaghticoke, Governor Edmund Andros, and Governor Andrew Cuomo

A few days ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote a letter affirming the safety of those who fear being targeted by the incoming Republican administration.

His reassurance that New York is a safe place brings to mind a much earlier Governor, Sir Edmund Andros,

Sir Edmund Andros RI State House

who worked with the Albany Indian Commissioners, the Haudenosaunee, and the Mohicans to make New York a safe haven for the native peoples who were targeted by governments in New England following Metacomet (King Philip)’s War (1675-1678). During Metacomet’s War, casualties on both sides were high, but they were far higher for the native peoples of New England.  Thousands were  displaced from their lands, even those who had remained at peace. Many were sold into slavery in the West Indies by the governments of Boston and Connecticut. Andros worked with the Mohawks and Mohicans to prevent Metacomet from using New York as a military base, but once peace was achieved, he showed no desire to take revenge on native people or exploit the situation to acquire or sell slaves. On December 5, 1679, New York’s Council adopted a resolution declaring that Indians in New York could not be held as slaves. (Documents Relative to the Colonial History of New York, v. 13, p.537-538). Connecticut asked Andros to return Indians who had fled from there in order to punish them, but Andros refused (Trelease, Allen W., Indian Affairs in Colonial New York: the Seventeenth Century,. Ithaca: Cornell, 1960, 235; DRCHNY 13:496-497).

Mohawks, Mohicans, Dutch, and English worked together to invite the refugees to settle on Mohican land at Schaghticoke, New York, where the Hoosick River meets the Hudson.The photograph at the top of this page shows the remains of a very old white oak tree at Schaghticoke on the Knickerbacker Mansion historic site, the home of Dutch trader and translator Johannes Knickerbacker. Local tradition asserts that Governor Andros planted this “council tree” in 1676 to represent protection and refuge. The records of the Albany Indian Commissioners show that the Schaghticoke Indians repeatedly thanked successive British governors for inviting them to take shelter under the “Tree of Welfare” planted at Schaghticoke, and asked for assurances that they could remain secure there. Governor after Governor assured them that they could live there in peace.  In many of these meetings it is clear that Schaghticoke leaders and British governors used the Tree of Welfare as a metaphor rather than referring to a physical tree, but the physical tree came at some point to represent Andros’s policy, even if he did not actually plant it. The town of Schaghticoke still remembers this history.

Unfortunately, the Albany Indian Commissioners began to lease land at Schaghticoke to Dutch settlers, starting in 1707. Although they continued to invite Indians to come there, they also continued to lease out more of the land, and the Tree of Welfare policy gradually fell apart. The last Schaghticoke Indians left the area in 1754 during a raid by the French (Shirley Dunn, The Mohicans and their Land, 1609-1730. Fleischmann’s, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 1994, p. 162.) Many settled at the French mission town at Odanak, now an Abenaki First Nations community.

Even though the Tree of Welfare eventually succumbed to colonialism, at least Schaghticoke provided a sanctuary for three quarters of a century to people who needed one. May Governor Cuomo’s policy last even longer.

 

 

Posted in 1676, 1679, New York History, Refugees, Schaghticoke History, Slavery, Servitude, Captivity | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment