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THE FIVE NATIONS CONTINUED-REMARKS ON THEIR ORATORY-CIRCUMSTANCES FAVORABLE TO IT-ACCOUNT OF A COUNCIL OF THE CONFEDERATES AT ONONDAGA IN 1690.
Enough perhaps has already appeared respecting the Five Nations to justify the observation of an eminent writer,* that they were no less celebrated for eloquence than for military skill and political wisdom. The same obvious circumstances prompted them to excellence in all these departments, but in the former their relations with each other and with other tribes, together with the great influence which their reputation and power attached to the efforts of their orators abroad, gave them peculiar inducements, facilities, and almost faculties, for success. Among the confederates, as among the Indians of all the east and south, a high respect was cherished for the warrior's virtues, but eloquence was a certain road to popular favor. Its services were daily required in consultations at home and communications abroad. The council-room was frequented like the Roman forum and senatohouse of the Greeks. Old and young went there together,—the one for discipline and distinction, and the other “to observe the passing scenes, and to receive the lessons of wisdom.”
The kind of oratory for which Garangula and other public speakers of his confederacy were distinguished, it cannot be expected of us to analyse with much precision. Indian oratory is generally pointed, direct, undisguised, unpolished, but forcible in expression and delivery, brilliant in flashes of imagery, and naturally animated with graphic touches of humor, pathos, or sententious declaration of high-toned principle,-according in some measure to the occasion, but more immediately to the momentary impulse of the speaker as supported by his prevalent talent. If the orators of the Five Nations differed much from this description, it was in qualities which they owed, independently of genius, to their extraordinary opportunities of practice, and to the interest taken in their efforts by the people who heard, employed and obeyed them.
“ The speakers whom I have heard,” says Mr. Colden, “had all a great fluency of words, and much more grace in their manner than any man could expect among a people entirely ignorant of the liberal arts and sciences,” He adds, that he had understood them to be (not knowing their language himself) very nice in the turn of their expres. sions, though it seems but few of them were such masters of the art as never to offend their Indian auditories by an impolite expression. Their greatest speakers attained to a sort of urbanitas or atticismot
For the purpose of better illustrating some points which are barely alluded to in these observations, as well as to introduce several new characters not easily appreciated without the context of circumst ces in which they appeared, we shall furnish a somewhat detailed account of a general council of the confederates, holden at Onondaga in January, 1690. The object of it was to take order upon a message sent them from the Count de Frontenac, Governor of Canada, the purport of which will appear in the proceedings. It may be premised, that the Onondaga council-house was commonly preferred on these occasions, on account of the central position occupied by that tribe in regard to the other four.* The English authorities at Albany were formally invited to attend, but they contented themselves with sending their public interpreter to take note of what passed, together with three Indians instructed in their name to dissuade the Five Nations from entertaining thoughts of peace, or even consenting to a cessation of arms.
* Governor Clinton.
† History of the Five Nations.
The council opened on the 22d of the month, eighty sacheins being present. In the first place Sadekanatie, an Onondaga, rising in his place, addressed himself to one of the English messengers from Albany. The informed him that foar deputies were present from the Canadian governor, viz: three Indians who had formerly been carried prisoners to France, and a sachem of the Praying Indians in the French interest who lived near Montreal; and that Governor Fronte. nac had notified them of his appointment, and of his having brought over with him from France Tawera het and twelve other Indians formerly carried prisoners to that country. Then taking in his hand the wampum-belit sent by the count, and holding it by the middle, he added:
“What I have said relates only to one half of the belt. The other half is to let us know that he intends to kindle his fires again at Cadaraqui next spring. Ile therefore invites his children, and the Onondaga Captain, Decanesora, in particular, to treat there with him about the old chain."
Adarahta was chief sachem of the Praving Indians, a community principally made up of members of several tribes, including the Five Nations, who had been induced by the French to settle themselves upon their territory, and were serviceable to them in various capacities. “I advise you,” said Adarahta, holding three belts in his hand, "to meet the Governor of Canada as he desires. Agree to this if you would live.” He then gave a belt of wam m.
“Tawera het," he proceeded, “sends you this other belt to inform you of the miseries which he and the rest of his countrymen have suflered in captivity, and to advise you to hearken to Yonondio if you desire to live. This third belt is from Thurensera, Ohguesse, and Ertelt who say by it to their brethren, .We have interceded for you with your order, and
* It is impossible to say how much influence this circumstance might have on the ambition of the Onondaga orators. It will be observed that the tribe enjoyed rather more than its equal share of rhetorical distinction.
+ The practice of confirming stipulations and making proposals by belts, so commonly adopted among the Indians, cannot be understood in any way better than by observing the various instances mentioned in the text.
| Indian names, meaning Day-dawn, Partridge, and Rose, given to Frenchmen well known to the Five Nations. The policy of sending such messages is sufficiently obvious.
therefore advise you to meet him at Cadaraqui in the spring.' It will be well for you."
A Mohawk chief, one of those instructed by the Albany magistrates to represent their wishes at the council, now delivered the message they had given him. He had treasured it up word for word. The interpreter, who had the same message in writing, followed him while he spoke, and found him correct to a syllable.
Cannehoot, a Seneca sachem, next proceeded to give the council a particular account of a treaty made during the summer previous, between his own tribe and some Wagunha messengers, one of the Canadian nations, on the river Uttawas. The latter had acted on the behalf of seven other tribes, and he wished the other four members of his own confederacy to ratify what had been done by the Senecas. The articles proposed by the Wagunhas were as follows:
1. “We are come to join two bodies into one,”—delivering up at the same time two prisoners.
2. “We are come to learn wisdom of the Senecas, and of the other Five Nations, and of your brethren of New York,”—giving a belt.
3. “We by this belt wipe away the tears from the eyes of friends, whose relations have been killed in the war. We likewise wipe the paint from your soldiers' faces,"* -giving a second belt.
4. “ We throw aside the axe which Yonondio put into our hands by this third belt,
5. “ Let the sun, as long as he shall endure, always shine upon us in friendship,”-giving a red marble sun as large as a plate.
6. “Let the rain of heaven wash away all hatred, that we may again smoke together in peace,"-giving a large pipe of red marble.
7. “ Yonondio is drunk,—we wash our hands clean from his actions,"-giving a fourth belt.
8. “ Now we are clean washed by the water of heaven, neither of us must defile ourselves by hearkening to Yonondio.
9. “We have twelve of your nation prisoners; they shall be brought home in the spring,”-giving a belt to confirm the promise.
10. “We will bring your prisoners home when the strawberries shall be in blossom, at which time we intend to visit Corlear, (the Governor of New York,) and see the place where the wampum is made.”
When Cannehoot had done, the Wagunha presents were hung up in the council-house in sight of the whole assembly. They were afterwards distributed among the several Five Nations, and their acceptance was a ratification of the treaty. A large belt was also given to the Albany messengers as their share. A wampum belt sent from Albany was in the same manner hung up and afterwards divided. The New England colonies, called by the consederates Kin. shan, sent the wooden model of a fish as a token of their adhering to
* The Indians universally paint their faces on going to war, to make their appearance more terrific to the enemy. To wipe off the paint was to make peace.
the general covenant. This was handed round among the sachems, and then laid aside to be preserved.
At the end of these ceremonies, Sadekanatie rose again. “Brothers,” he said, “we must stick to our brother Quider, and regard Yonondio as our enemy; he is a cheat.” By Quider he meant Peter, referring to Peter Schuyler, Mayor of Albany, a gentleman much esteemed by the five tribes, but whose name, having no labials in their language, they were unable to pronounce.
After some further proceedings the English interpreter was desired to deliver his message from Albany. He told them that a new governor had arrived in the province, with a large number of fresh troops; that England was at war with France, and that the people of New England were fitting out an expedition against Canada. He advised them not to treat with the French, but at all events only at Albany, That people, he said, would keep no agreement made any where else.
The sachems now held a consuliation together for some time, the result of which was thus declared by a speaker chosen for the purpose, and who is supposed to have been Sadekanatie. The different passages were addressed respectively to the deputies of the parties referred to.
“ Brothers ! Our fire burns at Albany. We will not send Decanesora to Cadaraqui. We adhere to our old chain with Corlear. We will prosecute the war with Yonondio. We will follow your advice in drawing off our men from Cadaraqui. Brothers! We are glad to hear the news you tell us, but tell us no lies!
“ Brother Kinshon! We hear you design to send soldiers to the eastward against the Indians there.* But we advise you, now so many are united against the French, to fall immediately on them. Strike at the root, when the trunk shall be cut down the branches will fall of course.
“Corlear and Kinshon,-Courage! Courage! In the spring to Quebec! Take that place,-you will have your feet on the necks of the French and all their friends in America."
Another consultation terminated in the adoption of the following answer to be sent to the Canadians.
1. “Yonondio! You have notified your return to us, and that you have brought back thirteen of our people who were carried to France. We are glad of it. You desire us to meet you at Cadaraqui' next spring, to treat of the old chain. But, Yonondio, how can we trust you who have acted deceitfully so often? Witness what was done at Cadaraqui, the usage our messengers met with at Uttawas, and what was done to the Senecas at the same place.” Here a belt was given, indicating a willingness still to treat.
2. “ Thurensera, Oghuesse and Ertel! Have you observed friendship with us? If you have not, how came you to advise us to renew friendship with Yonondio?" A belt also was attached to this answer.
* New Hampshire and Maine tribes, at war with the colonies, and known to be instigated and assisted by the French.
3. “ Tawerahet! The whole council is glad to hear of your return with the other twelve. Yonondio! You must send home Tawerahet and the others this present winter, before spring. We will save all the French we have prisoners till that time.
4. “Yonondio! You desire to speak with us at Cadaraqui,- don't you know that your fire there is extinguished? It is extinguished with blood. You must send home the prisoners in the first place.
5. “We let you know that we have made peace with the Wa gunhas.
6. “You are not to think that we have laid down the axe because we return an answer. We intend no such thing. Our far-fighters shall continue the war till our countrymen return,
7. “When our brother Tawerahet is returned, then we will speak to you of peace.”
Such was the result of the great exertions made at this time by the Canadian government to overawe the Five Nations, and to draw them away from the English alliance. The whole proceeding, though indeed it furnishes no extraordinary specimens of their eloquence, illustrates in the plainest manner the very favorable circumstances under which their orators came forward, and the inducements they had to devote their genius to the council-house, even in preference to war.
Sadekanatie, who acted a prominent part in the Onondaga council, and was himself of that tribe, appeared to great advantage upon several other occasions. The favorite orator of the confederates, however, during most of the period in which he flourished, was Decanesora, whose name has already been mentioned. That sachem was for many years almost invariably employed as the speaker in their negotiations with both French and English. He was one of the deputies who fell into the hands of Adario; and we have seen that in the mes. sage of Count Frontenac to the Onondaga council, he invited his children and Decanesora, the Onondaga captain, in particular,” to treat with him at Cadaraqui. The confederates, on the other hand, signify their disposition to continue the war, by saying “we will not send Decanesora.”
Mr. Colden, who knew this orator well, and heard him speak fre. quently, gives him credit for a perfect fluency, and for “a graceful elocution that would have pleased in any part of the world.” He was tall, and his person well made, and his features are said to have borne a resemblance to the busts of Cicero. It is much to be regretted in his case, as in many others, that but very slight indications of his eloquence are preserved to these times. Such as are preserved probably do him very imperfect justice. Some of them, however, at least indicate the sagacity, the courtesy, the undaunted courage, and the high-minded sense of honor, which, among the countrymen of Decanesora as among those of Quintillian, were no less recommendations of the orator than they were virtues of the man.
In the winter of 1693-4, after a long series of hostilities between the confederates and the French,-attended on both sides with alter