The Six Nations Don’t Want a French-English War in Iroquoia
On April 11th, a delegation from Onondaga, Cayouga, and the Tuscaroras came to Albany on behalf of the Six Nations as a whole. They told the commissioners that Governor Vaudreuil had sent a message to Jean Coeur (Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire) in Seneca Country telling him that someone from New England had revealed Governor Burnet’s plan for a trading house at the mouth of the Onondaga River (Oswego). Governor Vaudreuil described his own plans to build a fort at Niagara and ships to sail Cadarachqui (Lake Ontario) as well as his intention to destroy the English house at Oswego.
The delegates said that the Six Nations reminded Jean Coeur that the French and the Haudenosaunee had recently fought a bitter war that ended with an agreement not to make war over frivolous things such as “Beavers and furrs.” If the French destroyed the English trading house and built the proposed ships and fort, it could mean war. They urged the French to live in peace with the English. They did not want blood shed in their country.
They begged their brother Corlaer (New York) to listen to this message too. The French and the English should “live like friends together,” neither becoming the first aggressor. The delegates said they would take particular note of whether Corlaer followed this advice, in support of which the sachims had sent a large belt of wampum. They had sent a belt to the French with the same message. They wanted Governor Burnet to meet them at the beginning of June to renew the covenant and discuss important matters.
The commissioners responded that they were surprised that the Six Nations would allow the French to impose on them in such a way, at which point the page ends. The remainder of their answer is missing.
(I have edited this post to remove the sections relating to French forts, Abraham Schuyler’s assignment, and problems at Tiononderogue. The records begin to get out of order here, and I made a mistake in the dates of the entries relating to these issues, which date from 1726, not 1725. Apologies to my readers!)
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, April 1725 starts here .
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.
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.