From the only entry for February, which is another letter from the commissioners to Governor Burnet, it appears that Colonel John (Johannes) Schuyler continued to work with Massachusetts separately from the commissioners to negotiate with the forces in Canada that supported the Eastern Indians, or Abenaki, in the war known variously as Father Rale’s War, Dummer’s War and Greylock’s War. Massachusetts representatives William Dudley and Samuel Thaxter met Schuyler in Albany and left with him for Canada on February 6th. The commissioners told the governor that they had offered them support.
They also told the governor that they had a letter from Captain Harme Vedder, who was in the Seneca Country. He had informed them that Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire, known to the Iroquois as Sononchiez and to the English as Jean Coeur, had spent the winter at Onnahec, the “little Seneca Castle,” with four men. In the spring they planned to go to Niagara. He told the Seneca that Vedder had orders to kill him, which Vedder denied, although he said that he would kill him if he deserved it.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, February 1725 starts here
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, October 1724 starts here
The records for October demonstrate the utter failure of Governor Burnet’s policy prohibiting trade in Indian goods between New York and the French. The policy was codified in an act that required traders to take an oath that they were not engaging in the trade, but nearly everyone in Albany was doing so, including commissioners and their relatives. Moreover, the trade was a mainstay of the economy for native people in the area, including the Kaniengeha’ka (Mohawks) both in the Mohawk Valley and in the mission communities on the Saint Lawrence River.
The records document a dramatic encounter that occurred on October 1st, when Lieutenant Edmund Blood and Sergeant Charles Buckley, British officers garrisoned at Mount Burnet, north of Albany, traveled up Fish Creek west of the Hudson River to go hunting. Unexpectedly they came across Nicholas Schuyler and Jacob Wendell in the woods, where they were camping in a tent along with twenty or thirty Indians. They had in their possession 58 pieces of strouds, a kind of cloth that was a staple item in the fur trade. The names and nations of the Indians are never identified anywhere in the documents, but Schuyler and Wendell were both from prominent Albany families. They emerged from their tent, surprised to see the Lieutenant, who asked them where they were going. They said they were headed down the river, but could not produce a permit. The British officers seized the strouds in the King’s name by marking them in chalk with “the Broad Arrow,” and Schuyler and Wendell spoke to the Indians in their native tongue, which the British did not understand. The Indians began to pack up the strowds and the officers stopped them and seized the strouds over again. Outnumbered, the British officers consulted with each other and decided to return to their blockhouse for reinforcements. Not surprisingly they came back to find the group and the strouds had disappeared. They issued warrants against Schuyler and Wendell to require them to appear and take the oath against trading.
In the meantime, “Mr. Hansen” and Cornelis Cuyler had returned from Canada with 117 backs of beavers and some dressed deerskins. More canoes were still expected. Hansen took the oath, but Cuyler refused, apparently planning to send more strouds to Canada by way of a group of Indians who were in town before he took it. He was fined 100 pounds. Hansen testified that he saw other strouds being delivered to Canada on his trip.
Philip Schuyler, father of Nicholas Schuyler, had still not paid the 100 pound fine assessed against him for violating the act.
The records also show in a letter to Governor Burnet dated October 3rd, that the Six Nations sachems met again with the commissioners following the September treaty with Governor Burnet. Once again they refused to take up arms on Boston’s behalf. They told the commissioners “that they would still be their friends & adhere to them desiring & Recommending them to make a peace w.t the Eastern Ind.ns by Restoring them their Land and sending them their hostages.”
Governor Burnet was adamantly attached to his trade policy, but opposition was widespread even in London, where a group of merchants had signed a petition to the king in opposition to it. Turning the screws tighter on the Indian Commisisoners, Burnet asked them to respond to the London petition to refute the points that it made.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, September 1724 starts here
Most of the minutes for September cover a treaty conference with New York Governor William Burnet, the Six Nations, and the Schaghticokes that was held in Albany beginning on September 14th. They are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 713. I have not transcribed them because O’Callaghan’s version is essentially identical, but will briefly summarize them here.
On September 14th, Governor Burnet held a private conference with the Six Nations, New York Council member Francis Harrison, and Massachusetts Bay Council member John Stoddard. They discussed what had happened between the Six Nations messengers sent to bring the Eastern Indians to a peace treaty at Boston and the Eastern Indians (Abenaki) at the mission town of St. Francis.
The messengers said that they went first to Montreal and met with the Governor, who wanted to hold the meeting at Montreal so that he could be there. The messengers agreed in order to get an interpreter. While waiting for the St. Francis Indians, they went to Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) until the St. Francis delegates arrived. They invited the St. Francis sachems to come to Albany to talk about peace, but they replied that they could not lay down the hatchet against New England, because New England had taken their land and still held their people prisoner. They said that they would make peace when New England restored the land and freed the prisoners. They suggested that the parties wishing to make peace should come to Montreal rather than Albany.
Governor Burnet reminded the messengers that the Six Nations had told Boston that they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not comply with their requests. They denied agreeing to this, despite all his efforts, “they knew not of any promise or Engagement, only that they promised His Excellency to be mediators for Peace.”
The next day Governor Burnet welcomed the Six Nations in the name of King George and gave them wampum belts incorporating letters of the alphabet. The meanings of many of these initials are somewhat obscure. He thanked them for opening the path for far nations to come trade at Albany, claiming that this meant that goods were now more plentiful for the Six Nations. (While this might have been the case for those in the west, it is questionable whether things were working out equally well for the Mohawks). He noted that he had also improved the passage at Wood Creek where goods were carried from the Mohawk River watershed to Oneida Lake and eventually Lake Ontario by way of the Onondaga River (now called the Oswego River), a bottleneck for trade to and from the west.
Governor Burnet also said that he was keeping a force of young men with the Senecas with a smith and a trading house and that he also planned to send some men to the Onondagas, where the main trade with the far nations would pass. They planned to build a block house at the mouth of the Onondaga River. (“Onondaga River” did not mean what is now called Onondaga Creek, but rather what is now called the Oswego River where it enters Lake Ontario at Oswego.) Burnet’s men planned to live there along with a smith so they could be good neighbors to the Six Nations “and live as comfortably among you as they do here at home.” He explained that this would bring the beaver trade into Iroquoia along with cheaper goods. Governor Burnet explained that to show how much he wanted their beavers, he was wearing clothes made of beaver cloth. He asked the Six Nations to keep the path open for the far nations and to welcome the New Yorkers living in Seneca country as well as those who would be coming to Onondaga to build the new blockhouse.
Next Governor Burnet reminded the Six Nations that they had said they would send messengers to the Eastern Indians and take appropriate measures if the Eastern Indians continued to fight against New England. He said their continued friendship depended on them keeping their word, but he would leave it to the deputies from Boston to discuss the details.
On September 16th, the Six Nations met with the Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay. Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of this meeting made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723. Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests to stop fighting. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. They reiterated the position of the Eastern Indians that they would not make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.
“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking their brothers.
The next day, on September 17th, the Six Nations renewed the Covenant Chain with New York and thanked the governor for providing a smith to the Senecas and Onondaga, for clearing the passage at Wood Creek and for encouraging the far Indians to come to trade. They agreed to the block house near Onondaga, but expressed concern about what the prices for goods would be. They asked that the proposed blockhouse be located at the end of Oneida Lake instead of at the mouth of the Onondaga River. They acknowledged having said that they would “resent it” if the Eastern Indians continued to attack New England, and agreed to speak to the Boston commissioners about it. The Senecas asked why Myndert Wemp, a smith who they found “good, kind, & charitable” had not returned after spending time there with Major Abraham Schuyler two years before.
Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of the proceedings between the Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay and the Six Nations on September 16th made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed inO’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723. Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. (This belt is described in the record of the treaty conference at Boston in August 1723, which can be found on page 197 of volume 5 of the Massachusetts General Court, Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts 1723-1724.) The Six Nations explained the position of the Eastern Indians, who refused to make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.
“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking Massachusetts.
A few days later, on September 19th, Governor Burnet addressed the Six Nations again. Burnet’s tone was testy, even autocratic, and reveals the rifts still present between the British authorities and the Albany traders. Burnet told the sachems that the English blockhouse needed to be at the mouth of the Onondaga River in order to control the beaver trade, and that it must be the bad advice of the Albany traders that led the Six Nations to prefer the Oneida Lake location. He also blamed the traders for suggesting that goods should be as cheap at Onondaga as at Albany despite the additional work involved to bring them there from Albany, and for suggesting that Abraham Schuyler and Myndert Wemp return. He said that Albany was interfering in order to preserve its own trade with the French and asked the Six Nations not to consult the Albany traders in the future. He told them that he, not the Six Nations, would appoint his officers, that he would not appoint Abraham Schuyler because “he has taken a wrong way to get himself named,” and that he was sending Harme Vedder and Myndert Wemp’s brother to the Seneca instead of Schuyler and Mydert Wemp. (In the end, however, he appears to have sent Myndert Wemp after all.) He said that if he knew who had put these false notions into the minds of the Six Nations he would punish them.
Burnet said that the Six Nations had admitted to the Boston commissioners that they had agreed to support Boston against the Eastern Indians. He was not happy with their decision to wait for a response from the King of Great Britain before taking up arms. He claimed that the colonies were authorized by the king to make war with Indians on their own without the king’s consent. Burnet insisted that if the Six Nations were so “unworthy and cowardly” as to refuse to make war, they must at least allow their young men to enlist as soldiers in Boston’s army. He gave them what he described as “a very large Present” and wished them a safe journey home.
The Six nations sachems replied by D’Kannasore (Teganissorens) that since the governor did not approve of the location at Oneida Lake, they wished him “joy” where he proposed to make it and hoped it would bring many beavers. He thanked the governor for wishing them a good trip home, for many of their leaders had been lost on such journeys. He asked how many people planned to settle at the end of the Onnondaga river, to which the governor estimated 40 or 50. Teganissorens explained that he had been appointed as speaker by the Six Nations on the governor’s recommendation and that they had agreed to take his advice. He asked the governor whether he would also accept his advice, which the governor said he would do on matters of consequence.
Governor Burnet also met with the Schaghticoke sachems and complained that some of their people had been involved in attacks on New England. The Boston Commissioners at the meeting accused individuals from Schaghticoke named Schaschanaemp and Snaespank of injuring settlers on the frontiers, acknowledging that people at Schaghticoke had formerly lived “on our frontiers”. They were still welcome to hunt there “on the Branches of our Rivers” and considered friends who should not harbor New England’s enemies. The Schaghticokes admitted that Schaschanaemp and another person had come through Schaghticoke and had gone to the Half Moon and Saratoga. They said that the attacks might have been committed by people who had left Schaghticoke to live in Canada. In response to Governor Burnet’s question as to why so many people were moving from Schaghticoke to Canada, they said that one group had left because they heard that they were going to be attacked next by the Indians who were attacking New England, but they did not tell the rest of the Schaghticokes before they left. The governor accused the sachems of having no command over their people and reminded them that a Tree was planted by a former governor for them to live under (a metaphor for Governor Edmund Andros’s policy of sanctuary for refugees from New England).
The Schaghticokes said the tree was decaying, its leaves withering, and they had only a little land now to plant on. Some of them had gone hunting peacefully on the New England frontiers two years before, but were taken prisoner and put in jail in Boston. Jacob Wendell, an Albany trader who became a merchant in Boston, rescued them, but without him they would have been treated as enemies. Some of those who had been jailed had now gone to fight against New England to revenge themselves. The Boston commissioners said they were jailed by mistake because they were on Pennecook River where Boston’s enemies lived, but they were freed as soon as the mistake was discovered.
The Schaghticokes ended by renewing the covenant and affirming the Tree of Peace and Friendship planted at Schaghticoke. They would turn down requests to fight with the Eastern Indians against New England and follow the lead of the Six Nations. They, like the Six Nations, were waiting to hear King George’s response to the wampum belt message sent to him. Governor Burnet renewed the covenant and gave them gifts.
The Albany Indian Commissioners records for September 1724 include one document not printed in O’Callaghan, the record of a meeting on September 19th between the commissioners and Governor Burnet. Burnet changed the makeup of the commissioners by removing Johannes Wendell and restoring Robert Liviingston Junior. He arranged to pay back Jan Wemp and Jacob Glen for financing the work done at the Wood Creek carrying place by Major Goose Van Schaick and David Vanderheyden. He also arranged to get additional work done there to make a bridge over the creek and remove trees from the Mohawk River channel. He appointed Harme Vedder to go the Seneca Country and specified that he get the canoes used there by Jacob Verplank. He also laid out other details about work to be done in Iroquoia. Myndert Wemp or Juriaen Hogan were preferred as smiths at Onondaga, and tools were to be provided there, although he said he would need to get the funding confirmed by the New York Council.
Last but not least, Governor Burnet said that he would not allow any more money for the interpreter’s travel expenses except if the governor ordered him to go. The interpreter, Lawrence Claessen, traveled to Iroquoia on a regular basis and these trips were important in diplomatic relations between New York and the Six Nations. Burnet was making it more difficult for the Albany Indian Commissioners to conduct their affairs. Clearly matters were still not resolved between the governor and the commissioners.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, August 1724 starts here
The commissioners began to prepare for another major treaty conference with Governor William Burnet and the Six Nations by sending Laurence Claessen to invite them to come to Albany on September 10th. They asked that the total delegation not exceed 70 people, probably because of the expenses involved in hosting such events. Claessen was told to come back to Albany with the most distant group.
More far nations came to trade. On August 7th, the “Kenondadies” arrived. They also condoled the deaths of both Pieter Schuyler and Hendrick Hansen. They gave twelve hands of wampum to wash off the tears of their relatives, and many skins and furs “to bury them.” I have not found any informations on “Kenondadie.” It might be a misspelling of “Tionondadie,” a name for the Petun people who were close allies of the Wendat (Huron). Or perhaps it is the name of a particular village.
Jacob Adatsondie and the other messengers sent by the Six Nations to the Eastern Indians returned and gave an account to the commissioners, but they did not write down what they said. However their next entry concerns a group of Schaghticoke Indians who had gone to Missisquoi, an Abenaki territory on Lake Champlain and joined in the attacks on New England. The commissioners decided to have Johannes Knickerbacker (who had land at Schaghticoke and a connection to the Schaghticokes as an interpreter) arrange to send a delegation of “trusty Indians” with wampum belts to persuade the Schaghticokes to come back.
The oath against trading Indian goods to the French was offered to a number of Albany merchants, including some of the commissioners, pursuant to the Act of 1720 prohibiting the trade. Those who took the oath included Johannes Cuyler, Philip Livingston, Evert Wendell, Abraham Cuyler, Nicholas Bleecker, Gerrit Roseboom, and Robert Roseboom. John (Johannes) Schuyler refused to take it. The sheriff was directed to levy a fine against him of 100 pounds.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, June 1724 starts here
New York’s diplomacy continued to be hampered by a lack of communication and even some outright conflicts between Governor Burnet, former Indian commissioner Colonel Johannes Schuyler, and the Albany Indian Commissioners. The commissioners had not been informed in advance that three representatives of New England had come to Albany to meet with the Kahnawake sachems and they did not know whether the governor had been informed of it, but they wrote to him saying that they presumed that he had been told. Colonel John (Johannes Schuyler), a former mayor of Albany and Indian Commissioner, had sent his own belts of wampum to Kahnawake the previous fall asking the Kahnawake sachems to come to Albany and to keep their people out of the conflict between New England and the Abenaki. Now the New England representatives sent their own messenger to the Six Nations asking them to come to the treaty. Massachusetts Governor Dummer wrote to the Albany Indian Commissioners asking them to pay part of the costs of the treaty. In their letter to the governor they said they could not pay the costs without being authorized to do so.
They also informed Governor Burnet that seven Indians from Kahnawake had gone to Otter Creek on Lake Champlain on their way to raid New England and several parties of Eastern Indians were also out raiding. The commissioners just wanted the war to end.
The commissioners met with the deputies of Kahnawake and its allies, Schwannadie, Adirondax, and Skightquan (Nippissing) on June 10th. The deputies addressed the commissioners as “Corlaer,” the term used for the governor of New York, seemingly unaware of the confusion or choosing to ignore it. They admitted that they had gone to war against New England again.
They said they wished to lay down the hatchet (make peace), but they had heard that New York, the Haudenosaunee, and New England had all agreed to take up the hatchet against them and the Abenaki. They asked that New York lay down the hatchet as well. They said that the belts they had received the previous winter had told them they should not make war while the governments of Great Britain and France were at peace. They said they agreed and promised to “stop up the path to New England,” that is stop sending warriors there. They asked that both sides bury the hatchet in “everlasting oblivion” and throw it in “a swift Current of Water to Carry it away.” They thanked God for giving New York the wisdom to mediate between them and Boston.
They added that at New York’s request they had asked the Indians at St. Francis to lay down the hatchet as well. The St. Francis Indians had said they would not come to treat about peace until Boston returned the Indian prisoners that they were holding, although they authorized the four allied nations to act as they thought best for the welfare of all. Governor Veaudreuil had given them his word that when Boston set its captives free, then he would command the Eastern Indians to make peace with New England. They also suggested that if New York had included the Eastern Indians in the belts sent out to invite Kahnawake to this treaty they would have been there too to talk of peace. Finally they said that as they were leaving Montreal they learned that some Indians living near Quebec were setting out against the English. They sent the principal sachem of Skawinnadie to tell them to stay at home until the delegates returned from the treaty. The commisisoners told them they were glad to see them and approved of their answer.
The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet explaining what had transpired. Governor Dummer had told John Schuyler and Colonel Stoddard, who were now representing Boston, to cultivate a good relationship with the commissioners, and the commissioners seemed to be taking ownership of the wampum belt message that Colonel Schuyler had sent the previous winter even though Schuyler had not consulted them in advance. The government of New England, or “Boston” as both the commissioners and the Haudenosaunee often called it, was beginning to be more inclined to make peace with the Eastern Indians, realizing that war would get them nowhere.
They added that they were receiving complaints from Indians against traders who “defrayed them in their trade” and asked to be empowered to act against such traders. They wanted to be able to compel traders accused of such practices to testify under oath about whether the complaint was true.
A few days later, on June 23rd, the Kahnawake sachems met with the Board again. They said that they had found the Indian prisoner taken in Virginia in 1722, likely the servant of Governor Spotswood who is mentioned in the minutes for 1723. He had been adopted by a woman in the place of her dead son, and she did not want to give him up, but they had persuaded her to do so. They suggested that she should be compensated for her loss. The commissioners thanked them and the woman. They agreed to give her a present to wipe off her tears.
Finally on June 25th, the Commissioners gave a formal answer to Kahnawake and its three allied nations. They thanked them for laying down the hatchet and assured them that New York had not agreed with New England to take up the hatchet against them. They also thanked them for sending the Skawinnadie sachem to prevent the Quebec Indians from going out against New England. But they said they could not get New England to make peace because fresh murders had now been committed there. They agreed to use their best efforts as mediators. They did not think New England would agree to the request from the St. Francis Indians that they free their Indian hostages until peace was actually concluded.
They belittled Governor Vaudreuil’s offer to end the war if the hostages were freed. And they now identified the leader of the party of seven Indians from Kahnawake who had gone to fight in New England as none other than “that treacherous felon Skononda.” They demanded that the sachems free the prisoners in the hands of this party when they returned to Kahnawake.
They also told them that several negro slaves had recently fled to Canada and that others had been enticed to do so by “some of your men now here.” They asked the sachems to discourage such practices, which they said were “the same as robbing us of our Goods” and could interfere with the good relations between them.
The sachems said that they would discourage their young men from luring negro slaves to Canada, and that Sconondo and his party went out against their orders. The commissioners said they were glad that the conference had ended so well and hoped that the meeting with Boston would do the same. The Indians “gave four [shouts] in Confirmation of what has been transacted at this Meeting.”
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, May 1724 starts here
Two Seneca sachems, Canakadrichha and Sagonadayane, met with the commissioners on May 11 and added to what they had heard in February from Sconondo about the relations between the Six Nations, the “far Indians” and New France. They confirmed that Onondaga leaders had met with the French governor (Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil) and discussed their fears that western nations passing through the Six Nations on their way to Albany to trade might attack them. Governor Vaudreuil confirmed their fears and suggested that for their protection they should allow him to build two forts, one at “Jagara” (the present day Niagara River)
and one at the mouth of the Onondaga River where it enters Cadaraghqua Lake (Lake Ontario in the vicinity of present day Oswego, where the English were also planning to build a fort.) The governor gave the Onondagas wampum belts to convey his request to the rest of the Six Nations.
At a public meeting to consider whether to let New France build the proposed forts, the Six Nations decided to deny the request. They returned the belts to the French governor with a message that he should talk to Corlaer (the Iroquois name for the Governor of New York) and get “a proper answer” as to whether forts could be built at the proposed locations. The Oneidas and Mohawks were not at the meeting, but later concurred in the decision. Nonetheless, the Seneca envoys had learned from reliable sources that Jean Coeur (Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire, also known as Sononchiez) was planning to go to Niagara with 50 men to build the fort there. They also told the commissioners that the Seneca messengers sent to the far nations to invite them to come trade at Albany were expected back in a few days. They had conveyed the message, but did not know how many far nations would actually come to Albany. Messieur Tonty (Alphonse de Tonty, Baron de Paludy), the commander of the French fort at Le Detroit (Tuchsagrondie, the location of present day Detroit) had told them not to come. Canakadrichha and Sagonadayane asked the commissioners to send their own representatives to Seneca country to hear what the messengers had to say and to find out what Joncaire planned to do with his 50 men.
The commissioners thanked the Seneca sachems for refusing the French request to build forts. They said the forts were intended to prevent them from hunting and keep them poor so that eventually the French could “drive them into the sea.” They gave them gifts of blankets, clothing, and rum.
A few weeks later on May 29, messengers arrived from Kahnawake and Skawiennadie bringing seven hands of wampum to confirm what they had to say. They asked the commissioners to send messengers to the Six Nations to come to Albany to meet with representatives of their own nations and New England. New England had asked for the Albany meeting because Albany was the appointed place to meet about public affairs. The commissioners assured them that the path was open and that they were happy about the meeting. They informed them that “Some Gentlement from N England” were in town, probably sent for the purpose of talking to their sachems. They said that the New York Governor did not know about the meeting so they could not comply with the request to send their own messengers. However, it would be proper to let the New England representatives know about their message so that they could send for the Six Nations themselves. They offered to do what they could to bring the proposed treaty to a good conclusion.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, February 1724 starts here
On February 14th, the commissioners continued negotiations with the four nations in Canada that included Kahnawake, Rondax, Schawenadie, and Skightqan (Nippising). On February 14, they met with a delegation led by a Kahnewake sachem whose name is spelled in various ways, including Sconondo, Schonondoe, Sconondoe, and other variations. Possibly this was the Oneida leader John Skenandoa, who died in 1816 and may have been born as early as 1704. It was not uncommon in the 18th century for people to move back and forth between Kahnawake and the communities in Oneida and Mohawk country further south. However, even if the 1704 date is correct, he would have been very young to be a sachem in 1724. The commissioners used the word “sachem” to refer to many different kinds of leaders, and judging by later developments, Sconondo was the leader of a small group of people who were trading or hunting when they came to Albany, but later went raiding against New England. If Sconondo is not John Skenandoa, perhaps he was an ancestor.
Sconondo told the commissioners that an Onondaga called the Great World had asked the French authorities about a rumor that the Ottowawas planned to attack the Six Nations. If Sconondo was referring to Ohonsiowanne, an Onondaga sachem who is documented for the period between 1699-1704, this would mean that Ohonsiowanne continued to exert influence for a much longer period than historians have realized.
Governor Vaudreuil denied the rumor, but the Great World remained suspicious. He told the governor that he planned to prevent the Wagonhaes (Anishinaabeg) from coming to Albany. (The Odawa (Ottawawas) were included in the term Wagonhaes.) The Governor thanked the Great World (since France did not want western nations to trade at Albany), but advised him not to strike first. If the Wagonhaes attacked them, the Six Nations should ask the French for help. The French would then be mediators between the parties. Schonondoe asked the commissioners not to name him as the source of this information.
The commissioners asked Sconondo to bring wampum belt messages to Kannawake and the other three nations asking them to make peace with New England. They said that if the four nations did not stop fighting with the Eastern Indians against New England, the path between Albany and Canada might become completely blocked and it would be their own doing. They reminded the delegation that the Eastern Indians had been their enemies in the past and were not to be trusted.
The commissioners reproached Sconondo’s delegation with committing new assaults on New England even after agreeing to peace the previous summer, reminding them that England and France were at peace and could not approve of the subjects of either one being murdered. Sconondo said that he understood and would do his best to persuade Kahnawake and its allies to listen to the message. He said the Sachems of the four nations were planning to come to Albany early in the Spring and asked for assurance that they could travel safely, without fear of attack by New England’s forces. He asked that the Governor of New York speak to the Governor of Boston in order to guarantee their safe passage.
The next entry for February is a letter from the commissioners to New York Governor Burnet. It is obvious from their letter that they were still in conflict with him. He had accused them of undermining New England’s efforts to recruit the Six Nations and their allies to fight on the side of New England in the ongoing conflict with the Abenaki known as Father Rale’s War. More specifically Governor Burnet believed that the commissioners had privately told the Six Nations not to allow their young men to accept New England’s call to arms. The commissioners denied this charge. They protested that they would be blamed if the Indians did not fight for New England, even if it was really because of pressure from the French or other reasons. They expressed doubts about the wisdom of Governor Burnet’s suggestion to “break” the fort that the French were trying to build at Irondequoit Bay.
The commissioners explained that they had sent Lawrence Claessen to the Senecas to ask them to send messengers to invite the “far Indians” living beyond the Six Nations to come to Albany to trade. They also said that the Eastern Indians were trying to draw the Schaghticoke Indians away to fight with them, and asked for more fortifications to ensure the safety of the local farmers and remove their “pannick frights.” The commissioners asked for money to reimburse the costs of recovering an Indian captive, the “negroe boy” mentioned in the January minutes. They asked how the governor would like to send him back to his owner in Virginia. Finally they told the governor that Captain Verplank, who was stationed in Seneca country, had written them that many far Indians were coming to trade in the spring, although the French were sending a force out to stop them.
In a postscript the commissioners noted that two former commissioners had passed away that month.The trader Hendrick Hansen, who challenged the infamous sale of the Mohawk Valley tract to Godfridius Dellius, Pieter Schuyler, and others in 1697, died on February 17th. His rival Colonel Pieter Schuyler, the famous “Quider,” died the following day.
In the final entry for February, the commissioners noted that people from the government of Massachusetts or Connecticut were in Kinderhook trying to buy land in New York from the Indians illegally, without a license from the government. They resolved to issue a warrant to bring the offenders in to answer this charge.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, January 1724 starts here
As 1724 began, the struggle between England and France for trade and a military presence in the North American interior continued in full force even though technically they were at peace. Both imperial powers were pressuring the Six Nations and the many nations to the west, south, and north of them for exclusive trade agreements. English and French diplomats and military commanders came into conflict with each other as they attempted to get permission from the Six Nations and other native people to build trading centers and forts around the Great Lakes.
In the meantime, the war between New England and the Eastern Indians (primarily the Abenaki Confederacy) continued.
Laurence Claessen returned from a trip to the Six Nations (Haudenosaunee), where the commissioners had sent him in November 1723, and gave them an account of what had transpired. His first order of business was to ask the Seneca to take wampum belts to the “far nations” to the west of Iroquoia to encourage them not to listen to the French government in Canada. The commissioners believed that the French were encouraging the far nations to join the Eastern Indians in their war against New England (Father Rale’s War), thus preventing them from trading with Albany.
The Six Nations met and considered this proposal for several days before telling Lawrence that they agreed that the French would do everything possible to prevent a direct trade between the far Indians and New York. The Six Nations feared that the Governor of Canada was planning to incite the far Indians to attack the Haudenosaunee, and for that reason the Seneca had stayed home. Finally three Seneca sachems agreed to take the commissioners’ belts to the far nations and added six belts of their own, explaining that they needed additional belts to cover all the different nations that needed to get the message.
The Seneca said they would come to Albany the following Spring with a large number of the far Indians and would meet Captain Jacob Verplank at the Lake, as the Governor of New York had requested. “The Lake” probably means Lake Ontario near Irondequoit Bay, where a contingent of Dutch traders had been living among the Seneca. They also explained that Jean Coeur (Louis Thomas Chabert de Joncaire) planned to build a fort and trading house at Irondequoit the following Spring with the Six Nations consent.
The commissioners conveyed this information to New York Governor Burnet in a letter. They added that they had retrieved a “negroe boy” from a “ffrench Indian” who had taken the boy from “Captain Hicks,” probably Captain Robert Hicks, a Virginia trader who commanded Fort Christianna, Governor Alexander Spotswood’s project to educate (and control) the Saponi and other indigenous nations.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, February 1723 starts here
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.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, January 1723 starts here
The 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 Laurence 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 .