The Mohawk leaders Hendrick and Seth met with the Commissioners of Indian Affairs on March third. They said that two “Onnogonque indians” who had moved from Canada to live with the Haudenosaunee at Oriskany had come to a Mohawk castle (i.e. town) from hunting at the little falls on Wood Creek with other Canada Indians. Two Kahnawake Indians had inquired about the three hunters from Kahnawake who had disappeared on the New England frontier. Hendrick and Seth asked their “brethren at Albany” for news about the missing hunters, but the commissioners’ response is not recorded.
Hendrick and Seth also said that the Kahnawake Indians told the Mohawks that an army of a thousand Frenchmen were marching on Oswego. The Mohawks immediately sent a messenger with wampum to inform the rest of the Six Nations. They acknowledged the English advice to the Six Nations the previous summer urging them to keep their men at home to defend Oswego rather than allowing them to go to war elsewhere.
The English Won’t Let Indians Inside Fort Oswego and Powder is Too Expensive
On March 14th, an unnamed leader from Oneida complained to the commissioners about the situation at Oswego. He spoke in the name of the entire Six Nations. There may have been other Six Nations representatives present, since the commissioners responded using the term “Brethren.”
The speaker began by reminding the commissioners that the Six Nations had agreed to the trading house at Oswego because it was supposed to be for their benefit as well as that of the English. Now the English at Oswego were preventing people from the Six Nations from coming into the house to warm themselves, or if “any one Obtains that liberty before he can be half warm he is out Doors.” Moreover the Six Nations had expected goods to become cheaper, but instead powder had become more expensive. The speaker pointed out that cheap goods would draw “waganhoes & far Indians” to trade with the English rather than the French. He also reprimanded the commissioners because Oswego was supposed to be “a house of peace” but the English were still at odds with the Governor of Canada much of the time. He presented seven hands of wampum and asked again for cheaper powder and lead as well as a quick response.
The commissioners said they were sorry that the new building was not providing “Such releave as was first Intended by our Gov.r” in the form of cheap power, lead, and other goods. They said the men at Oswego had not brought enough powder and that they would tell the governor and obtain a “Speedy & Acceptable answer.” They assured the speaker that the governor wanted to provide cheap goods to encourage trade. The rest of their response contains some contradictions and it would be interesting to know what the Oneida speaker thought about them, but nothing is recorded about it. The commissioners blamed the rude reception for Indians at the Oswego trade house on the commander there and on the report that the French were threatening to attack it. At the same time they insisted that there was a “firm peace” between the crowns of France and England. Despite the firm peace, they cautioned the Six Nations against joining the French war against the “foxes a Nation of Indians Liveing on a breach [branch] of the Mississippi” on the grounds that the French wanted the Six Nations to fight the Fox in order to weaken the Six Nations and prevent trade with the English.
The French were fighting a devastating war with the Fox (Meskwaki) during this period. Apparently some of the Meskwaki had joined the Six Nations, since the commissioners added that “part of the Same indians are now liveing among you” so the Six Nations should be able to make peace with the rest.
Food, Arms, and Powder for Oswego
Several entries in March deal once again with getting supplies to the garrison at Oswego, which was running low on peas and wheat. One of the commissioners, Philip Livingston, put up the money to provide these goods, which required repairing batoes at Schenectady, fitting them with tarpaulins to keep off the rain, and hiring four men to convey them to the Oneida Carrying Place. Captain Nicolls, the commander at Oswego, would send his men to the carrying place and take the supplies the rest of the way to the fort. Another commissioner, Harmanus Wendell, put up the money to pay Jacobus Peek for a batoe load of peas.
Governor Burnet informed the commissioners that he was sending pork for the garrison as well as orders that anyone who wanted a license to go there should be required to carry arms and powder. A somewhat confused entry in the records appears to say that the commissioners asked the interpreter at Schenechtady to hire a “trusty Indian” to take a letter to Oswego to convey orders from Colonel Rensselaer (possibly Hendrick Van Rensselaer, who was also a commissioner) to Captain Nicolls that men going to Oswego should take arms and ammunition with them.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for March starts here on p. 213.
The next entry is a November 4th letter from the Commissioners but written by James Stevenson (perhaps the one in this biography) because Philip Livingston, the Secretary for Indian Affairs, was absent. James Stevenson was not a commissioner, raising the question why Henry Holland and Evert Bancker, the commissioners present, did not write the letter themselves. Perhaps the Dutch commissioners were still not confident about their ability to write adequate English. Their letter is a response to a letter from Joseph Willard, Secretary of Massachusetts Bay, who had received from Colonel Stoddard the Commissioners’ message about the forces that had left Canada to attack the New England frontiers. It informs him that they have no additional news except that the governor of Canada was dead. They would continue to watch the enemy and provide intelligence as occasion offered.
On November 25th the commissioners agreed with Jacob Brower and Harme Vedder to go to Onondage as smiths. They asked Juriaen Hogan, his brother, and the assistant “Lansingh” to stay on as smiths in Seneca country, giving them leave to return to Albany on lawful business if they wished. It does not appear that they complied with the Six Nations’ request to provide new and better smiths.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, November 1725 starts here.
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 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.