Minute Book 3: 1726-October: The French Undermine Haudenosaunee Peace Efforts Between the Abenaki and New England

In October the Kahnawake leaders Sconondo and Cahowasse came to Albany from their home near Montreal. They told the commissioners that they had been at Fort La Mot in Corlaer’s Lake (probably Isle La Motte in Lake Champlain) where they met a group of ojonnagongee (Eastern Indians / Abenaki) from St. Francis (Odanak) who were on their way to tell their compatriots who were out hunting that they should come home. They told Schonondoe and Cahowasse that they had been at Quebec, where they met the new French governor. The new governor summoned the chiefs of nine castles of the Eastern Indians (meaning Abenaki nations) and asked which of them had made peace with New England.  The three castles who admitted to making peace were accused of turning English. The governor said France would no longer protect them and would order their resident priest to leave. The governor said he would protect the other six castles, provide them with powder and other goods, and give them what they needed to continue the war against the people of New England who had taken Abenaki land “to which they have no Manner of Right.” Four parties of Eastern Indians who formerly lived at Norridgewock had gone out fighting against New England. The commissioners conveyed this news by an express to Massachusetts Governor Dummer and to Colonel John Stoddard at Northampton.

To put this entry in context, Norridgewock, an Abenaki community on the Kennebec River in what is now Maine, was the location of a French mission headed by Father Sebastian Rale, who encouraged the Abenaki to resist New England encroachments on their territories.  The warfare between the Abenaki and New England during the 1720s is known both as Father Rale’s War and Dummer’s War.  Father Rale was killed and scalped by the English when they attacked and burned the mission in 1724.

The new French governor is not named, but presumably means Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois, who replaced Philippe de Regaud Vaudreuil as Governor-General of New France in 1726.

1726-10-14I suspect that Sconondo is the father of John Skenandoa, c 1706-March 11, 1816, the Oneida chief who was active during the Revolutionary War.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, this meeting starts here. The transcript is below. There are no entries for the rest of 1726 or for January 1727.

[0471] 233a

Att a meeting of ye Com.rs of the

Indian Affairs in Albany ye 14th 8ber [October]

1726

Present

Philip Livingston

Henry Holland                        } Esq.rs Com.rs

Joh.s Cuyler

Two Cachnawage Indians Liveing near Montreal in Canada

named Sconondo &

Cahowasse being arrivd here Inform the Com.rs that

twenty days ago they overtook at fort La Mot in Corlaers Lake

a party of ojonnagongee

Indians who Live at St. francois that were going with

a message to the Indians who are at hunting to Return

to their habitations. the said party of Indians told ye above

two Indians that they had been at quebeck and Seen the

new Gov.r there who had Sent for the Chiefs of ye Eastren Indians

of nine Severall Castles to whom he made a Speech

which of them had made peace with the people of New

England, the Chiefs of three Castles Stood up & Said that they

had Concluded a peace with them on which the Governour told them

that Since they were turnd English men

he would not assist nor protect them. but order the priest

who Lives among them to leave their habitation. and

would assist & protect the Indians of the other Six Castles

with what they have occassion for. having Received a

Ship Loaden with all sorts of goods fitt for their use

and made them a present of 800 lb powder &c. And told

them he had orders from the King his Master to furnish

them with what they have occassion for to prosecute the

war against the people of New England who possessd

their Land to which they have no Manner of Right.

The Said two Indians ad that four parties of

Indians who formerly Livd at Norrigewack were gone out

fighting from St. Francois against New England. but do

not know how ma[n]y days its ago Since they went out nor

[0472] 234

of how many men each party doth Consists

Resolved that Govern.r Dummer be forthwith given

Notice of this Intelligence by Express. in order to take

proper measures to defeat ye designs of ye Indians

who may be hovering or Skulking on his fronteers

which was done accordingly as also to Coll.o John

Stoddard at Northhampton —

[There are no entries for November or December 1726.]

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Minute Book 3: 1724-January

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, January 1724 starts here

DeLeryMap_Severance_OldFrontier
The pace of competition between France and England was heating up as both attempted to build new forts at strategic locations on the routes into the interior. The image is from Frank Severance, An Old Frontier of France, NY: Dodd Mead, 1917, v. 1 p.236

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.

Minute Book 3: 1723-September

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

Early in September, peace between New England and the Abenaki began to look remote. The Albany Indian Commissioners heard that “french Indians” from Canada were planning to join the Eastern Indians in attacking New England. They also heard that Northfield and Rutland had been attacked. They examined someone from Caughnawaga (Kahnawake), who said that neither Kahnawake nor Schawenadie were involved in the war, but they would fight if the governor of Canada asked them too. The commissioners were now afraid that Albany would be attacked. They sent notice to Colonel Samuel Partridge in Massachusetts to be on guard, and wrote to New York Governor Burnet suggesting that the governors of all the English colonies should write to the governor of Canada to ask him to stop encouraging the Indians to attack New England, since the English and French monarchs were at peace.