Minute Book 3: 1725-March

A Conference With Kahnawake, Schawenadie, the Kaniengeha’ka, and Albany

On March 13 the commissioners met with five leaders from Kahnawake (spelled Cachnawage in the records) and Kahnawake’s ally Schawenadie, in this case spelled Scanrinadie. (My best guess is that Schawenadie is the Iroquois name for the community that gradually relocated in the early 18th century from the Island of Montreal to Lac des Deux Montagnes on the Ottawa River nearby, becoming known as Kanesetake.) Some Kaniengeha’ka (Mohawk) leaders were also present. The record of this conference is a good example of the ongoing diplomacy between Iroquois communities in the Saint Lawrence Valley, the Six Nations, New France, and Albany that was conducted outside the initiatives of English governors. It also shows how events in Dummer’s War looked from a native perspective and confirms that Burnet was wrong when he accused the Albany traders of manipulating the Six Nations into objecting to Burnet’s plans for a trading house at Oswego. In reality those objections reflected the Six Nations’ valid concerns about the situation, concerns that Albany shared. The conference is omitted from Peter Wraxall’s  Abridgement except for a brief reference to the information provided about French plans. I have not found that it is printed anywhere else.

The Iroquois Object to Shifting the Fur Trade to Oswego

The speaker was Ondatsagto (possibly the Oneida leader Ondatsighta).  The minutes say he spoke for Cachnawage and Schawendie, although he seemed at times to speak for the Haudenosaunee as a whole. He began by saying that he was glad that some of the Maquas (Kaniengeha’ka or Mohawk) sachems were present. After explaining that “we are but youngsters, our ancestors understood affairs better than we,” he said that they would speak plainly. The ancient friendship among the parties was declining as though they were no longer brothers. They came to rekindle the fire at Albany, long established as the place to treat about matters of public concern.

Ondatsagto went on to explain that Kahnawake had six sachims, two of whom had been made “children” of Albany who were responsible for telling the commissioners if there was a threat to them. One of them had died and the commissioners had appointed someone to take his place. He was now present and would convey important information.

Ondatsagto next referred to the treaty conference held the previous year with Governor Burnet. New York had asked the Iroquois to persuade the Eastern Indians to end their war with New England. Ondatsagto said that the Iroquois had tried to end the war, but their efforts were undermined by the news that New England had taken an Eastern Indian town. This news made the Iroquois ambassadors ashamed. The Eastern Indians accused them of being spies because they remained at peace with New England while it subjected the Eastern Indians to a bloody war. Ondatsagto reproached the commissioners with not keeping their promise to write to the governor of New England to ask him to stop his people from attacking the Eastern Indians.

Next Ondatsagto said that D Cannihogo, the Kahnawake leader appointed to maintain ties between New York and Kahnawake, now had news for them. Kahnawake had learned that at the treaty the previous year, Governor Burnet insisted on his plans to build a trading house at the mouth of the Onnondaga River (Oswego) over the objections of the Six Nations, who wanted it to be located at the west end of Oneida Lake. But there were serious problems with Burnet’s desired location. It was already in use by the French to travel from Montreal to the “far nations” beyond Iroquoia, and was first possessed by them. The Governor of Canada would undoubtedly destroy any English trading house built at that location, which could trigger a conflict between the French and the English.  Ondatsagto advised the commissioners to keep the trade at Albany. They would get more beaver that way, and the French might be persuaded not to build their proposed fort at Niagara. On this proposition he gave a large belt of black wampum. The recorder first wrote and then crossed out that if the English insisted on their location a war would ensue and destroy the beaver trade.

Ondatsagto reminded the commissioners that the Onondagas had accepted Monsr. De Longueuil, the Governor of Montreal, as their child and allowed him to build a house at Onondaga. Pieter Schuyler then tore the building down, claiming that its construction was a breach of the Covenant Chain. The French could be expected to destroy Governor Burnet’s proposed building at Oswego for the same reason.

The “French Indians,” that is the people from Kahnawake and Schawenadie, then addressed the Mohawks and said their ancestors all lived in one country as one people, but now everyone had gone where they pleased and it was their lot to settle in Canada. They acknowledged a belt sent to them by the Mohawks asking them to keep the Covenant Chain, promised to do so, and said they expected the same on the Mohawks’ part.

The pages of the minutes are out of order at this point and it is possible that some material has been lost.

The Commissioners Response: England Claims the Six Nations as Subjects

Three days later the commisioners responded. They thanked the Sachims for speaking clearly and clearing up “the mistake that happen’d.” It is not clear exactly what they meant. They expressed appreciation that the other Sachims had come with DCannihogo to tell them about the French plans. They renewed the Covenant Chain, assuring all present of their continued friendship, and gave a belt of Wampum.

Then they explained the trading house situation from England’s point of view. They claimed that Pieter Schuyler destroyed the French trading house at Onondaga because Onondaga was on “Land belonging to the five Nations who are Subjects to the King of Great Britain.” The same logic allowed the English to build their house at Oswego on “Land belonging to the English.” The French would not dare to break it down because the two crowns were at peace. They said they would give Governor Burnet the information about the French plans and gave another belt of wampum. If Ondatsagto responded to the commissioners’ claim that the Six Nations were English subjects and England owned the land in their country, his answer is not recorded.

The commissioners said they did not remember promising to write to New England to ask them to end hostilities and they could not do such a thing while the Eastern Indians continued to kill New England settlers. They asked D Cannihogo to continue bringing information.

D Cannihogo said again that the French intended to break down the proposed trading house at Oswego. He added that the Governor of Canada planned to build two ships at Cadaraqui (the location of present day Kingston, Ontario) to be used in transporting furs from Niagara to Montreal, another ship above Niagara Falls to bring furs there, and a strong fort at Niagara itself.

The Commissioners Ask the Governor to Work Directly With the Senecas

The commissioners passed this information on to Governor Burnet in a letter, enclosing a copy of the minutes of the meeting. They asked the governor to give the Senecas presents in order to persuade them not to allow the French to execute their plans for a fort and repeated their suggestion to make an English settlement at Irondequoit (present day Rochester, NY) in order to counter the influence of the French. Significantly, they did not offer to negotiate with the Senecas themselves, a sign of the ongoing tensions between them and Governor Burnet. At the treaty conference the previous year, when the Six Nations objected to Burnet’s proposed location for a trading house, he accused them of being manipulated by Albany traders. Now the commissioners seemed to be trying to put the burden of dealing with the situation back on him.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, March 1725 starts here and then jumps to here.

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Minute Book 3: 1723-October

In Cornell’s digital copy of the original minutes, October 1723 starts here

In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, October 1723 starts here

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.

Plug for a Journal

The Conference on Iroquois Research has a journal now, Iroquoia. It will be of interest to many readers of this blog. I have an article in the first issue, “Tiononderogue: the Struggle for a Mohawk Town, 1686-1797.” It tells one part of the story that first got me interested in the Albany Indian Commissioners and their evolution from a group of traders, who needed to maintain positive relations with their Haudenosaunee and Mohican neighbors and customers, to a group of land speculators who primarily wanted to take the land from those same nations.

Here is the abstract for the article:

In 1786 a Mohawk leader named Aneqwendahonji, or Johannes Crine, filed a petition with the New York State Legislature that tells a compelling story. At the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, Aneqwendahonji lived with his people at a place on the Mohawk River called Tiononderogue, where the Mohawks had been “from time Immemorial.” He owned “three Good Dwelling Houses, two Barns and an Orchard thereon, And was also possessed of a considerable personal Estate consisting of Household, furniture, Farming Utentials, Cattle Horses, Sheep, Swine, etc.” The petition recounts how Aneqwendahonji remained friendly to the Americans during the war. In 1780, he left his home to go on an American mission to Fort Niagara with three companions, but at Niagara the British put them in jail. Soon afterwards British troops raided the Mohawk Valley and took his wife and family prisoner. At the end of the war Aneqwendahonji returned home to find that the City of Albany and private individuals had taken the Mohawks’ lands, improvements, livestock, and household goods, leaving them destitute and homeless. Aneqwendahonji and the other Mohawk people who lived at Tiononderogue before the Revolution never got back their lands. This paper examines the hundred-year process that led up to their loss.

The journal has many other excellent articles. There is a paywall, but it is not too high. And in case you have written something relevant and are looking for a venue in which to share it,  the editors are looking for submissions for their third issue.

1677 December 20: Propositions made by the Oneidas at Albany

Source: New York State Archives: A1894,  New York (Colony) Council Papers 26-161.

Transcribed 9-7-2016 by Ann Hunter.

The Schedule of Propositions says this begins on p. 2 of Volume I of the Minutes of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs.

The document is damaged. Material in brackets is my best guess for what it said before the damage occurred.

See S of P 28149 [0006], Richter 46-47, Colden 24-25, DRCHNY 13:516.

Propositions made by ye Oneydes to ye Commander & Commissaries of Albanie Colonie [of] Renselaerswyck &c. in ye. Court house of Albanie this 20th day of December 1677

[Translated] by [Arnout] Cornelise Viele

The Sachims are

Sweensee

Jagoseragaraw

Degahowagoe

Sagahaurnichta

Soringwasorni

They say Brethren —

1st       Our Young Indians have a while agoe by a misunderstanding taken a Mahikander Boy Prisoner at [Claverack] being in ye Governr. Genls Government where it is not free for us to doe [in yr house] & whereas ye Gov: Genl. did [advertise us] (by a maquese who Brought 9 hand of white Zewt. as a Letter) that we should deliver up [said young Mahicander] who was already [become a part in our] Castle to Remain there, we [illeg] that, [illeg.] order, & doe deliver him [illeg.] to you (who Represent [illeg.]) Gov: Genl. Wee were here we [illeg.] 4 Monthes agoe to see & speak wt. his honr. ye. gov. genl. but had no occasion to doe ye Same, and now we heare he is gone to England [hole in mss.] [nevert]helesse we obey his Comma[nd to] bring iyr this young Indian [hole in mss.] 3 Layss.

And if soo bee ye maquese might chance to say that they were ye occasion of this our obedience, believe them not for we only doe obey the Gov: Genl. herein

2          Doe Say That there is a Covenant made here Lately, betwixt Collonel Coursey authorized from Maryland & us that we use no hostility one against another: but Live in Love & friendship (as ye Covenant is betwixt the Gov: Genl. & us,) but there happend something after the makeing of this Covenant [illeg] Some Sinnekes & Oneydes were [out] against there enemies (but quite ignorant of foresaid Covenant, being gone [hole in mss.] before the Same was made) [hole in mss.] were fallen upon behind virginis by ye. Susquehannes (Indyans of Maryland) who Shott upon them [&] wounded two, one throw the arm, and another throw ye Shoulder, whereupon they Likeways fell upon the Susquenannes and killed four & took six Prisoners, and being come home it was thougt good by ye Sinnekes Sachims to send home the 5 which there Poeple had taken Prisoners wt Presents, ye better to keep the Covenant which was made, and ye 6th is wt us at Liberty and goes out a hunting

This is that which the Sinnekes desired us to acquaint you withall, & doe give a bever (being sent from ye. Sinnekes) which they call there Letter, & another Bever as a letter for to desire that ye news be sent to them of maryland

This is a true Coppy

Translated & Compaired

By me

Robt. Livingston Secr.