In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, July 1723 starts here
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.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, June 1723 starts here
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.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, May 1723 starts here
In 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]
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.
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.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, April 1723 starts here
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.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, March 1723 starts here
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 Laurence 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.
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.
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,
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.
Source: John Romeyn Brodhead, Berthold Fernow, E.B. O’Callaghan, Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, Albany: Weed, Parsons, 1881, v. 13, p. 510. Available through the Internet Archive here . The original, which has the same gaps as the printed version, is held by the New York State Archives. See Series A1894, New York (Colony) Council Papers 26-69. It must have already have been damaged by 1881, when the printed version was published.
This document is not listed in the “Schedule of Propositions” or in Peter Wraxall’s Abridgement of the Indian Affairs, which starts with an entry for March 1678. The date is a few months earlier than the earliest entry in the “Schedule of Propositions,” but that entry is for page two of the original. Perhaps this was page one.
Although this document does not mention the Commander of Fort Orange or the Commissaries of Albany, the meeting was held in the court house at Albany and Robert Livingston was the Secretary.
British Historical Documents (Series A1894, New York (Colony) Council Papers)
transcribed 9-7-2016 by Ann Hunter
not in DRCHNY
Schedule of Propositions says this begins on p. 8 of Volume I of the Minutes of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs
Document is damaged.
The Commander and Commissaries answer to ye Oneydes Propositions made yesterday in ye Court house of Albanie this 21th day of Decemb 1677
1 Yow have understood by ye Gov:rs messenger which brougt yow ye Zew.t that he did demaund ye mahikanders boy who was taken Prisoner by you at Claverak, and yow have now delivered him up, It is well, we shall make it known to ye Gov.r Genl. [of] ye first, & yow doe Likeways well that yow only look upon ye gov: order and not hearken to ye talk of any others.
2 As Concerning that which your Indians have done to those of mary Land, we shall according to your desire give ym of Maryland Notice of ye first [& we doubt not but yt yow will keep [the] covenant which is made betwixt Coll: Coursey authori[zed] of maryland [&] yow.
Doe give them the value of [illeg.] in Zewt Rumm Indian Corn & Tobacco.