Minute Book 3: 1724-February

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.

Pieter_Schuyler
The death of Pieter Schuyler marked the end of an era.  Representatives from many native nations honored him with condolence rituals over the following months. The image was downloaded from the New York State Museum web site via Wikipedia. According to the NYSM, it was painted by Nehemiah Partridge between 1710 and 1718 and is now in the collection of the City of Albany.

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.

There are no entries for March or April.

Minute Book 3: 1723-July

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.

 

Minute Book 3: 1723-April

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Fort Christanna (from Wikipedia, taken by Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28230287)

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.

 

 

 

1677 July 21:The Oneidas’ Answer to Propositions Made July 20th by Maryland

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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.