On July 21 the commissioners informed Governor Burnet that a messenger had brought word that Major Abraham Schuyler was dead. They included no details about how it happened. They also said they had sent the interpreter (Laurence Claesson) to bring the Six Nations to the conference with the governor scheduled for September. They included the news that “Mr. Livingston” had just taken leave of them and departed for Canada, but did not explain what his goals were. Possibly Philip Livingston sought to protect his and Albany’s business interests from the impending threat that the French were going to use their new fort at Niagara to monopolize the fur trade.
The following day a man named Poquin arrived from “Assekontoquoq” with a group of other people to respond to a message sent by a wampum belt two years earlier. Poquin said that no matter where his people went, they were always in danger. He also said that they used to be able to take shelter at Schaghticoke, the community established in 1677 where the Hoosick River meets the Hudson north of Albany. Because of threats from the “Lower Indians” they could not come sooner, so they had gone to “mesixque” in the lake where they used to live. My interpretation of this language is that Poquin’s group were people from Schaghticoke who moved to Missisquoi in August 1724 and joined the Abenaki who were raiding New England with support from the French. “Assekontiquoq” may refer to Arossagunticook, an Abenaki community on what is now called the Androscoggin River. However, an enlightening new book has recently come out on the mission communities of the Saint Lawrence Valley which reveals that the name of the mission community on the Ste. Francois River, now known as Odanak, was called “Arsikantegouk” during this period (Jean-Francois Lozier, Flesh Reborn: The Saint Lawrence Mission Settlements through the Seventeenth Century.p. 256-257.) I suspect that this community is where Poquin’s people had been. Now they wanted to come back to Schaghticoke. They were not sure whether they could safely return, given that they had fought against New England. The term “lower Indians” likely refers to the Mohawks or Mohicans who disapproved of their actions.
The Indian Commissioners clung to a neutral position in Dummer’s War and wanted to end it through diplomacy rather than by supporting Governor Dummer’s military ambitions. They also wanted native people to continue living at Schaghticoke. In August 1724, rather than driving away those who joined the raids against New England, they sent messengers with wampum belts to persuade them to stop raiding and come back. The belt to which Poquin referred was probably part of this process.
The commissioners told Poquin’s group that the Tree of Peace and Welfare still grew at Schaghticoke and they were welcome to live there again. They gave them a belt of wampum and a keg of rum.
The next entry is a copy of a letter from the commissioners that does not give the name of the recipient. The context suggests that it was probably a New England government official. The commissioners said they had no recent news, but would always pass on any information that came their way and behave themselves “as neighbours and brethren.” Possibly this letter reflects the need to reassure neighbouring New England towns that were uneasy about the return of the Schaghticoke Abenaki.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, July 1726 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 digital copy of the original minutes, November 1723 starts here
The two observer-messengers (or spies) sent to Canada in October returned in November. They told the commissioners what they had seen there, but the commissioners asked them to repeat it with Lawrence Claessen present. Perhaps this was because the commissioners did not speak the Mohawk language as well as he did, or perhaps it was because they wanted to bring in his expertise in diplomacy. Either way, it shows how much they relied on him. For most of 1723, no members of the Schuyler family are included in the lists of those present at the commissioners’ meetings, and developments in October had already revealed that John (Johannes) Schuyler was conducting parallel diplomacy on his own. The commissioners may have felt that they were loosing their influence with the Six Nations and needed all the help that Claessen could provide.
In any case, the messengers confirmed that John Schuyler gave them wampum belts to take to three “castles,” i.e. native communities, in Canada: Cachnawage (Kahnawake) Kanighnoghquadee (Gananoque?) and Rondaxis. (The Rondaxes or Adirondacks were Algonquian speakers who lived at Three Rivers and Oka, according to p. 239 of the Livingston Indian Records.) Schuyler had not informed the commissioners about the belts, but he sent them in the name of Boston and New York. Apparently he was working behind the Albany Indian Commissioners’ back with New York as well as Massachusetts.
Schuyler’s wampum belt messages asked the three castles to stop fighting with the French and Abenaki against New England in the ongoing hostilities known to historians as Dummer’s War. He also invited them to “use and Cultivate the Road from Canada hither and trade as Usual,” promising to remove any obstacles to doing so. “Hither” apparently meant Albany. Did Schuyler promise to restore the trade in Indian goods between Albany and Montreal, a short distance from Kahnawake? That trade had benefits for both native and French traders in the St. Lawrence Valley, as well as for many Dutch traders in Albany, even though the commissioners were working with New York’s Governor Burnet to suppress it.
The few Kahnawake leaders who were home when the messengers arrived promised to convey their message to those who were away hunting and fighting. They sent wampum belts in return to the belts brought by the messengers, but they were delivered directly to John Schuyler.
The commissioners also learned that the French and their native allies had asked more distant “upper and remote” nations to join the French side in Dummer’s War the following spring. The commissioners feared that this would not only put New England in peril, but also jeopardize the trade between those distant nations and Albany that they were trying to encourage. They sent Lawrence Claessen to the Seneca Country to engage paid messengers there to negotiate with those nations on Albany’s behalf, in particular they wanted to encourage the “Denighcariages”, a nation that, at least in the understanding of the commissioners, had joined the Six Nations that summer as the Seventh Nation. Claessen was told to assure the far nations that peace was being negotiated between the Eastern Indians and New England, the road to Albany though the Six Nations would be safe, and Albany had cheap and plentiful goods for sale.
The remainder of the entries for November concern the Schaghticoke Indians. Located north of Albany where the Hoosick River joins the Hudson from the east, Schaghticoke was on Mohican land and the path along the Hoosick was a well used road to the Connecticut Valley, one of the areas where New England was under attack. The Schaghticoke community were refugees under New York’s protection, mainly people displaced by settlers in New England and the lower Hudson, close allies of the Mohican. They were caught in the middle of Dummer’s War both geographically and diplomatically, since many were Abenaki themselves. The commissioners reproached them with leaving their homes and “Stragling & Scatter[ing]” from one place to another, instead of staying at Schaghticoke under the “Tree of Friendship and Welfare” that was the symbol for New York’s protection. People from Schaghticoke had even been seen on their way to Canada, where the commissioners undoubtedly feared that they would join the French. The commissioners believed that the Schaghticokes needed to appoint some leading men as sachems to keep them in one place, and persuade those who had left for Canada to come back.
The Schaghticokes acknowledged the agreement made almost half a century earlier with New York, joining them together and giving them protection at Schaghticoke. They said they wanted to stay there even if Canada offered them land. They agreed to consider the proposal to appoint leaders and try to bring back those who had left. They offered the commissioners gifts of venison and strings of wampum, as was customary. But the following day they said it would be impossible to get the people who had left to come back, since they had fled after committing robberies at Saratoga. They also pointed out that the Tree of Welfare was now bare at the roots, that is that their relationship with Albany was under a strain because they did not have enough land at Schaghticoke and the (Dutch) inhabitants there were harassing them. The Minute Book entry does not say what the commissioners knew well. The reason the Schaghticokes had little land left was that under New York law Albany owned that land and was leasing more and more of it out to Dutch farmers. It was Albany’s tenants who were harassing the Schaghticokes.
The Schaghticokes proposed that part of their people should move to Sinchjack, where there was still good land available. Sinchjack, which they also spelled as Sinkhaijck, probably refers to the area farther up the Hoosic River from Schaghticoke, near where the Walloomsac River flows into it in the vicinity of present day Williamstown Massachusetts. It was also known as St. Croix. Its history is discussed in Arthur Latham Perry’s Origins In Williamstown, beginning on p. 114.
The Schaghticokes asked the commissioners to nominate leaders for them and to mend their weapons, as was customary. The commissioners agreed to all of this, including the move to Sinckhaijck. They nominated Nanratakietam, Aspenoot, Wapelanrie, Kakaghsanreet, Mashequant, and Akamsomett, with Nansasant as a successor if any of them passed away. They said it was essential to bring back those who had gone to Canada, and offered to forgive those who had committed faults, that is the Saratoga robbers. They also promised to stop the settlers at Schaghticoke from interfering with the Schaghticokes’ use of their land. They thanked them for the venison, promised to have their weapons mended, and gave them gifts of ammunition, shirts, and alcohol, with blankets for the elders Nanratakelam and Waleghlanret..
There are no entries in the Minute Book for December, so this concludes the summaries for 1723.
A few days ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote a letter affirming the safety of those who fear being targeted by the incoming Republican administration.
His reassurance that New York is a safe place brings to mind a much earlier Governor, Sir Edmund Andros,
who worked with the Albany Indian Commissioners, the Haudenosaunee, and the Mohicans to make New York a safe haven for the native peoples who were targeted by governments in New England following Metacomet (King Philip)’s War (1675-1678). During Metacomet’s War, casualties on both sides were high, but they were far higher for the native peoples of New England. Thousands were displaced from their lands, even those who had remained at peace. Many were sold into slavery in the West Indies by the governments of Boston and Connecticut. Andros worked with the Mohawks and Mohicans to prevent Metacomet from using New York as a military base, but once peace was achieved, he showed no desire to take revenge on native people or exploit the situation to acquire or sell slaves. On December 5, 1679, New York’s Council adopted a resolution declaring that Indians in New York could not be held as slaves. (Documents Relative to the Colonial History of New York, v. 13, p.537-538). Connecticut asked Andros to return Indians who had fled from there in order to punish them, but Andros refused (Trelease, Allen W., Indian Affairs in Colonial New York: the Seventeenth Century,. Ithaca: Cornell, 1960, 235; DRCHNY 13:496-497).
Mohawks, Mohicans, Dutch, and English worked together to invite the refugees to settle on Mohican land at Schaghticoke, New York, where the Hoosick River meets the Hudson.The photograph at the top of this page shows the remains of a very old white oak tree at Schaghticoke on the Knickerbacker Mansion historic site, the home of Dutch trader and translator Johannes Knickerbacker. Local tradition asserts that Governor Andros planted this “council tree” in 1676 to represent protection and refuge. The records of the Albany Indian Commissioners show that the Schaghticoke Indians repeatedly thanked successive British governors for inviting them to take shelter under the “Tree of Welfare” planted at Schaghticoke, and asked for assurances that they could remain secure there. Governor after Governor assured them that they could live there in peace. In many of these meetings it is clear that Schaghticoke leaders and British governors used the Tree of Welfare as a metaphor rather than referring to a physical tree, but the physical tree came at some point to represent Andros’s policy, even if he did not actually plant it. The town of Schaghticoke still remembers this history.
Unfortunately, the Albany Indian Commissioners began to lease land at Schaghticoke to Dutch settlers, starting in 1707. Although they continued to invite Indians to come there, they also continued to lease out more of the land, and the Tree of Welfare policy gradually fell apart. The last Schaghticoke Indians left the area in 1754 during a raid by the French (Shirley Dunn, The Mohicans and their Land, 1609-1730. Fleischmann’s, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 1994, p. 162.) Many settled at the French mission town at Odanak, now an Abenaki First Nations community.
Even though the Tree of Welfare eventually succumbed to colonialism, at least Schaghticoke provided a sanctuary for three quarters of a century to people who needed one. May Governor Cuomo’s policy last even longer.