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.