The Commissioners of Indian Affairs maintained a regular correspondence with authorities on the Massachusetts frontier, with whom they shared intelligence about the French. In September the commissioners sent Thomas Ingersoll to Northampton to pass on a paper to Colonel John Stoddard “Relating this Governor from Canada by two of our Sachams Indians.” The records include a somewhat confusing version of the cover letter but not the paper itself, so we do not know what it said.
Problems at Oswego
The next entry is a deposition taken on September 28th before the Mayor of Albany at the commissioners’ request. It is sworn to by four people: Jacobus S. Planck, William Hogan Junior, Symon Veder, and Sybrant Van Schaick. The deponents accused an officer at Oswego, Lieutenant John Price, of drinking to excess and causing trouble for the commanding officer, Captain Nicolls. Apparently there was a possibility that Price was going to assume the command of the garrison. The deponents said he was “no fitt person” for the post.
The garrison was once again in great need of food and the Assembly’s allowance of funds for the year had not provided enough to cover the costs. Moreover illness was still a problem and the sick men were unable to transport goods to Oswego after the Palatines brought them past the Oneida Carrying Place. The commissioners resolved to hire people from the city and county of Albany to assist with transporting goods and to ask Governor Montgomery to covern costs in excess of the allowance from the Assembly.
Montgomerie quickly agreed to put up the money. The commissioners immediately wrote to the Justices at the Palatine settlement of Burnetsfield asking them to “Impress men and horses to Ride Over the Carrying Place the Batoes and Provisions which are Sent up” for the garrison. They also wrote to Captain J. Roseboom at Schenectady to retrieve any bags belonging to the public that might be there and sent three men to Oswego with provisions for the immediate relief of the garrison.
The commissioners also agreed with sixteen named individuals and “three men out of the fort” to go up to Oswego in a bateau to assist with transporting provisions. Each man was paid 4 pence a day and given a gallon of rum, but left to travel “on [his] own diet.” Every two men were required to bring back a boat. Oswego would provide an income for local Dutch and Palatine families but there is no mention of employing the Oneidas or Mohawks living at or near the carrying place. Horses were now used to carry boats as well as goods past the carrying place, suggesting that roads were improving.
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, September 1724 starts here
Most of the minutes for September cover a treaty conference with New York Governor William Burnet, the Six Nations, and the Schaghticokes that was held in Albany beginning on September 14th. They are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 713. I have not transcribed them because O’Callaghan’s version is essentially identical, but will briefly summarize them here.
On September 14th, Governor Burnet held a private conference with the Six Nations, New York Council member Francis Harrison, and Massachusetts Bay Council member John Stoddard. They discussed what had happened between the Six Nations messengers sent to bring the Eastern Indians to a peace treaty at Boston and the Eastern Indians (Abenaki) at the mission town of St. Francis.
The messengers said that they went first to Montreal and met with the Governor, who wanted to hold the meeting at Montreal so that he could be there. The messengers agreed in order to get an interpreter. While waiting for the St. Francis Indians, they went to Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) until the St. Francis delegates arrived. They invited the St. Francis sachems to come to Albany to talk about peace, but they replied that they could not lay down the hatchet against New England, because New England had taken their land and still held their people prisoner. They said that they would make peace when New England restored the land and freed the prisoners. They suggested that the parties wishing to make peace should come to Montreal rather than Albany.
Governor Burnet reminded the messengers that the Six Nations had told Boston that they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not comply with their requests. They denied agreeing to this, despite all his efforts, “they knew not of any promise or Engagement, only that they promised His Excellency to be mediators for Peace.”
The next day Governor Burnet welcomed the Six Nations in the name of King George and gave them wampum belts incorporating letters of the alphabet. The meanings of many of these initials are somewhat obscure. He thanked them for opening the path for far nations to come trade at Albany, claiming that this meant that goods were now more plentiful for the Six Nations. (While this might have been the case for those in the west, it is questionable whether things were working out equally well for the Mohawks). He noted that he had also improved the passage at Wood Creek where goods were carried from the Mohawk River watershed to Oneida Lake and eventually Lake Ontario by way of the Onondaga River (now called the Oswego River), a bottleneck for trade to and from the west.
Governor Burnet also said that he was keeping a force of young men with the Senecas with a smith and a trading house and that he also planned to send some men to the Onondagas, where the main trade with the far nations would pass. They planned to build a block house at the mouth of the Onondaga River. (“Onondaga River” did not mean what is now called Onondaga Creek, but rather what is now called the Oswego River where it enters Lake Ontario at Oswego.) Burnet’s men planned to live there along with a smith so they could be good neighbors to the Six Nations “and live as comfortably among you as they do here at home.” He explained that this would bring the beaver trade into Iroquoia along with cheaper goods. Governor Burnet explained that to show how much he wanted their beavers, he was wearing clothes made of beaver cloth. He asked the Six Nations to keep the path open for the far nations and to welcome the New Yorkers living in Seneca country as well as those who would be coming to Onondaga to build the new blockhouse.
Next Governor Burnet reminded the Six Nations that they had said they would send messengers to the Eastern Indians and take appropriate measures if the Eastern Indians continued to fight against New England. He said their continued friendship depended on them keeping their word, but he would leave it to the deputies from Boston to discuss the details.
On September 16th, the Six Nations met with the Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay. Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of this meeting made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723. Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests to stop fighting. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. They reiterated the position of the Eastern Indians that they would not make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.
“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking their brothers.
The next day, on September 17th, the Six Nations renewed the Covenant Chain with New York and thanked the governor for providing a smith to the Senecas and Onondaga, for clearing the passage at Wood Creek and for encouraging the far Indians to come to trade. They agreed to the block house near Onondaga, but expressed concern about what the prices for goods would be. They asked that the proposed blockhouse be located at the end of Oneida Lake instead of at the mouth of the Onondaga River. They acknowledged having said that they would “resent it” if the Eastern Indians continued to attack New England, and agreed to speak to the Boston commissioners about it. The Senecas asked why Myndert Wemp, a smith who they found “good, kind, & charitable” had not returned after spending time there with Major Abraham Schuyler two years before.
Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of the proceedings between the Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay and the Six Nations on September 16th made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed inO’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723. Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. (This belt is described in the record of the treaty conference at Boston in August 1723, which can be found on page 197 of volume 5 of the Massachusetts General Court, Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts 1723-1724.) The Six Nations explained the position of the Eastern Indians, who refused to make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.
“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking Massachusetts.
A few days later, on September 19th, Governor Burnet addressed the Six Nations again. Burnet’s tone was testy, even autocratic, and reveals the rifts still present between the British authorities and the Albany traders. Burnet told the sachems that the English blockhouse needed to be at the mouth of the Onondaga River in order to control the beaver trade, and that it must be the bad advice of the Albany traders that led the Six Nations to prefer the Oneida Lake location. He also blamed the traders for suggesting that goods should be as cheap at Onondaga as at Albany despite the additional work involved to bring them there from Albany, and for suggesting that Abraham Schuyler and Myndert Wemp return. He said that Albany was interfering in order to preserve its own trade with the French and asked the Six Nations not to consult the Albany traders in the future. He told them that he, not the Six Nations, would appoint his officers, that he would not appoint Abraham Schuyler because “he has taken a wrong way to get himself named,” and that he was sending Harme Vedder and Myndert Wemp’s brother to the Seneca instead of Schuyler and Mydert Wemp. (In the end, however, he appears to have sent Myndert Wemp after all.) He said that if he knew who had put these false notions into the minds of the Six Nations he would punish them.
Burnet said that the Six Nations had admitted to the Boston commissioners that they had agreed to support Boston against the Eastern Indians. He was not happy with their decision to wait for a response from the King of Great Britain before taking up arms. He claimed that the colonies were authorized by the king to make war with Indians on their own without the king’s consent. Burnet insisted that if the Six Nations were so “unworthy and cowardly” as to refuse to make war, they must at least allow their young men to enlist as soldiers in Boston’s army. He gave them what he described as “a very large Present” and wished them a safe journey home.
The Six nations sachems replied by D’Kannasore (Teganissorens) that since the governor did not approve of the location at Oneida Lake, they wished him “joy” where he proposed to make it and hoped it would bring many beavers. He thanked the governor for wishing them a good trip home, for many of their leaders had been lost on such journeys. He asked how many people planned to settle at the end of the Onnondaga river, to which the governor estimated 40 or 50. Teganissorens explained that he had been appointed as speaker by the Six Nations on the governor’s recommendation and that they had agreed to take his advice. He asked the governor whether he would also accept his advice, which the governor said he would do on matters of consequence.
Governor Burnet also met with the Schaghticoke sachems and complained that some of their people had been involved in attacks on New England. The Boston Commissioners at the meeting accused individuals from Schaghticoke named Schaschanaemp and Snaespank of injuring settlers on the frontiers, acknowledging that people at Schaghticoke had formerly lived “on our frontiers”. They were still welcome to hunt there “on the Branches of our Rivers” and considered friends who should not harbor New England’s enemies. The Schaghticokes admitted that Schaschanaemp and another person had come through Schaghticoke and had gone to the Half Moon and Saratoga. They said that the attacks might have been committed by people who had left Schaghticoke to live in Canada. In response to Governor Burnet’s question as to why so many people were moving from Schaghticoke to Canada, they said that one group had left because they heard that they were going to be attacked next by the Indians who were attacking New England, but they did not tell the rest of the Schaghticokes before they left. The governor accused the sachems of having no command over their people and reminded them that a Tree was planted by a former governor for them to live under (a metaphor for Governor Edmund Andros’s policy of sanctuary for refugees from New England).
The Schaghticokes said the tree was decaying, its leaves withering, and they had only a little land now to plant on. Some of them had gone hunting peacefully on the New England frontiers two years before, but were taken prisoner and put in jail in Boston. Jacob Wendell, an Albany trader who became a merchant in Boston, rescued them, but without him they would have been treated as enemies. Some of those who had been jailed had now gone to fight against New England to revenge themselves. The Boston commissioners said they were jailed by mistake because they were on Pennecook River where Boston’s enemies lived, but they were freed as soon as the mistake was discovered.
The Schaghticokes ended by renewing the covenant and affirming the Tree of Peace and Friendship planted at Schaghticoke. They would turn down requests to fight with the Eastern Indians against New England and follow the lead of the Six Nations. They, like the Six Nations, were waiting to hear King George’s response to the wampum belt message sent to him. Governor Burnet renewed the covenant and gave them gifts.
The Albany Indian Commissioners records for September 1724 include one document not printed in O’Callaghan, the record of a meeting on September 19th between the commissioners and Governor Burnet. Burnet changed the makeup of the commissioners by removing Johannes Wendell and restoring Robert Liviingston Junior. He arranged to pay back Jan Wemp and Jacob Glen for financing the work done at the Wood Creek carrying place by Major Goose Van Schaick and David Vanderheyden. He also arranged to get additional work done there to make a bridge over the creek and remove trees from the Mohawk River channel. He appointed Harme Vedder to go the Seneca Country and specified that he get the canoes used there by Jacob Verplank. He also laid out other details about work to be done in Iroquoia. Myndert Wemp or Juriaen Hogan were preferred as smiths at Onondaga, and tools were to be provided there, although he said he would need to get the funding confirmed by the New York Council.
Last but not least, Governor Burnet said that he would not allow any more money for the interpreter’s travel expenses except if the governor ordered him to go. The interpreter, Lawrence Claessen, traveled to Iroquoia on a regular basis and these trips were important in diplomatic relations between New York and the Six Nations. Burnet was making it more difficult for the Albany Indian Commissioners to conduct their affairs. Clearly matters were still not resolved between the governor and the commissioners.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, June 1724 starts here
New York’s diplomacy continued to be hampered by a lack of communication and even some outright conflicts between Governor Burnet, former Indian commissioner Colonel Johannes Schuyler, and the Albany Indian Commissioners. The commissioners had not been informed in advance that three representatives of New England had come to Albany to meet with the Kahnawake sachems and they did not know whether the governor had been informed of it, but they wrote to him saying that they presumed that he had been told. Colonel John (Johannes Schuyler), a former mayor of Albany and Indian Commissioner, had sent his own belts of wampum to Kahnawake the previous fall asking the Kahnawake sachems to come to Albany and to keep their people out of the conflict between New England and the Abenaki. Now the New England representatives sent their own messenger to the Six Nations asking them to come to the treaty. Massachusetts Governor Dummer wrote to the Albany Indian Commissioners asking them to pay part of the costs of the treaty. In their letter to the governor they said they could not pay the costs without being authorized to do so.
They also informed Governor Burnet that seven Indians from Kahnawake had gone to Otter Creek on Lake Champlain on their way to raid New England and several parties of Eastern Indians were also out raiding. The commissioners just wanted the war to end.
The commissioners met with the deputies of Kahnawake and its allies, Schwannadie, Adirondax, and Skightquan (Nippissing) on June 10th. The deputies addressed the commissioners as “Corlaer,” the term used for the governor of New York, seemingly unaware of the confusion or choosing to ignore it. They admitted that they had gone to war against New England again.
They said they wished to lay down the hatchet (make peace), but they had heard that New York, the Haudenosaunee, and New England had all agreed to take up the hatchet against them and the Abenaki. They asked that New York lay down the hatchet as well. They said that the belts they had received the previous winter had told them they should not make war while the governments of Great Britain and France were at peace. They said they agreed and promised to “stop up the path to New England,” that is stop sending warriors there. They asked that both sides bury the hatchet in “everlasting oblivion” and throw it in “a swift Current of Water to Carry it away.” They thanked God for giving New York the wisdom to mediate between them and Boston.
They added that at New York’s request they had asked the Indians at St. Francis to lay down the hatchet as well. The St. Francis Indians had said they would not come to treat about peace until Boston returned the Indian prisoners that they were holding, although they authorized the four allied nations to act as they thought best for the welfare of all. Governor Veaudreuil had given them his word that when Boston set its captives free, then he would command the Eastern Indians to make peace with New England. They also suggested that if New York had included the Eastern Indians in the belts sent out to invite Kahnawake to this treaty they would have been there too to talk of peace. Finally they said that as they were leaving Montreal they learned that some Indians living near Quebec were setting out against the English. They sent the principal sachem of Skawinnadie to tell them to stay at home until the delegates returned from the treaty. The commisisoners told them they were glad to see them and approved of their answer.
The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet explaining what had transpired. Governor Dummer had told John Schuyler and Colonel Stoddard, who were now representing Boston, to cultivate a good relationship with the commissioners, and the commissioners seemed to be taking ownership of the wampum belt message that Colonel Schuyler had sent the previous winter even though Schuyler had not consulted them in advance. The government of New England, or “Boston” as both the commissioners and the Haudenosaunee often called it, was beginning to be more inclined to make peace with the Eastern Indians, realizing that war would get them nowhere.
They added that they were receiving complaints from Indians against traders who “defrayed them in their trade” and asked to be empowered to act against such traders. They wanted to be able to compel traders accused of such practices to testify under oath about whether the complaint was true.
A few days later, on June 23rd, the Kahnawake sachems met with the Board again. They said that they had found the Indian prisoner taken in Virginia in 1722, likely the servant of Governor Spotswood who is mentioned in the minutes for 1723. He had been adopted by a woman in the place of her dead son, and she did not want to give him up, but they had persuaded her to do so. They suggested that she should be compensated for her loss. The commissioners thanked them and the woman. They agreed to give her a present to wipe off her tears.
Finally on June 25th, the Commissioners gave a formal answer to Kahnawake and its three allied nations. They thanked them for laying down the hatchet and assured them that New York had not agreed with New England to take up the hatchet against them. They also thanked them for sending the Skawinnadie sachem to prevent the Quebec Indians from going out against New England. But they said they could not get New England to make peace because fresh murders had now been committed there. They agreed to use their best efforts as mediators. They did not think New England would agree to the request from the St. Francis Indians that they free their Indian hostages until peace was actually concluded.
They belittled Governor Vaudreuil’s offer to end the war if the hostages were freed. And they now identified the leader of the party of seven Indians from Kahnawake who had gone to fight in New England as none other than “that treacherous felon Skononda.” They demanded that the sachems free the prisoners in the hands of this party when they returned to Kahnawake.
They also told them that several negro slaves had recently fled to Canada and that others had been enticed to do so by “some of your men now here.” They asked the sachems to discourage such practices, which they said were “the same as robbing us of our Goods” and could interfere with the good relations between them.
The sachems said that they would discourage their young men from luring negro slaves to Canada, and that Sconondo and his party went out against their orders. The commissioners said they were glad that the conference had ended so well and hoped that the meeting with Boston would do the same. The Indians “gave four [shouts] in Confirmation of what has been transacted at this Meeting.”
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.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, June 1723 starts here
The conference with Massachusetts Bay and the Six Nations (I will refer to them that way from now on, since the Tuscaroras were now established as a member of the Five Nations) continued on June 1st, when William Tailer, Spencer Phips, and John Stoddard renewed the Covenant Chain with the Schaghticoke, Katskill, and “River” Indians, a term used for the Mohican and the peoples of the lower Hudson. Massachusetts Bay asked them to join the war if the the Six Nations accepted the Massachusetts Bay offer to fight the Eastern Indians. They replied that they would follow the Six Nations’ lead.
The Six Nations gave their answer on June 3rd. They soothed the feelings of the Massachusetts Bay representatives by rehearsing the wrongs inflicted on them by the Eastern Indians. But they explained that the Eastern Indians, had now sent a messenger to make peace. They needed to discuss matters further and it would take several months.
The representatives from Massachusetts Bay were clearly disappointed. They asked what the point of renewing the covenant was if the Six Nations would not help them fight their enemies, especially since they would be generously rewarded. They explained that they were not empowered to make peace with the Eastern Indians and asked once again for the Six Nations to join the war. Instead the Six Nations urged them to meet with the Eastern Indians at Boston in two months to discuss peace, promising to punish the Eastern Indians if an agreement was reached and they did not honor it. The Massachusetts Bay delegates finally agreed to attend the proposed meeting.
The Six Nations and the Albany Indian Commissioners went on to discuss their own issues, in particular the competing centers for French and English trade that were being constructed in Iroquoia. The French diplomat Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire, referred to by the commissioners using every imaginable variant spelling of “Jean Coeur” had persuaded the Six Nations to allow the French to build a trading center at Kaskeghsago near Irondequoit, at the site of present day Rochester, where the Genesee River meets Lake Ontario. The commissioners asked the Six Nations to reverse this decision and forbid the French to build any settlements in Iroquoia, predicting that if the French built a trading house at Irondequoit it would become a fort that would be used to stop “far Indians” from coming to Albany and eventually to take control of the Six Nations’ country. Furthermore, they asked the Six Nations to tell the French to remove their trading center already constructed at Niagara, as they had promised the New York governor previously. The Six Nations speaker, Thannintsorowee, said they would take the request back to their council and provide a response at the Boston meeting.
The Six Nations and the Albany commissioners held another meeting with the Abenaki envoy, lectured him about the violence inflicted on New England by the Abenaki, and told him that the Eastern Indians should come to the meeting in Boston scheduled in two months to negotiate.
The rest of June was devoted to trade. Another group of 10 far Indians came to trade on June 16th, asking for good prices and promising to bring more people if they received them. They were welcomed with provisions and rum, and assured that prices would be good. The name of their castle is left blank, suggesting that the commissioners were not familiar with it and unable to make sense of it. Magepanans, a River Indian, was asked to invite more nations to come to trade and promised a reward if he succeeded.
Governor Burnet had asked the Albany Indian Commissioners to enforce a recent act of the New York Assembly intended to stop the flourishing trade between Albany and Montreal. In this trade, which had been going on for decades, English goods were sold to the French and the French then resold those goods to indigenous fur traders. This practice undermined the English policy that aimed to monopolize the fur trade for England by persuading the indigenous fur traders to bring their goods directly to Albany.
Under the new act, Albany traders had to swear an oath that they were not trading with Canada, on penalty of a fine of a hundred pounds. The commissioners took the oath themselves and spent several days at the end of June in summoning local traders, many of whom were prominent citizens or relatives of the commissioners, and asking them to take the oath. Several refused and were fined, including Colonel John Schuyler and his son Philip Schuyler. The notes indicate that the money would be applied to repairing Albany’s fortifications or used as needed. On the 22nd, they wrote to the governor and reported on this, assuring him that they supported the policy, while acknowledging that goods were still being traded with the French. They also asked the governor to allow passage for three Frenchmen who were going to visit their uncle, a “famous trader” in Pennsylvania.
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.