Gurney S Strong.

Early landmarks of Syracuse online

. (page 20 of 22)
Online LibraryGurney S StrongEarly landmarks of Syracuse → online text (page 20 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

be hasty and inconsiderate. Let us postpone our
deliberations for one day, that we may weigh well the
words of the wise chiefs and warriors who have
spoken. Then I will communicate to you my plan
for consideration. It is one which I am confident will
succeed, and ensure our safety."

After another day's delay, the council again
assembled and all were anxious to hear the words of
Hi-a-wat-ha. A breathless silence ensued, and the
venerable counsellor began:

"Friends and brothers: — You are members of
many tribes and nations. You have come here, many
of you, a great distance from your homes. We have


convened for one common purpose, to promote one
common interest; and that is to provide for our
mutual safety and how it shall best be accomplished.
To oppose these hordes of northern foes by tribes,
singly and alone, would prove our certain destruction ;
we can make no progress in that way ; we must unite
ourselves into one common band of brothers. Our
warriors united, would surely repel these rude invaders
and drive them from our borders. This must be done,
and we shall be safe.

' ' You — the Mohawks, sitting under the shadow of
the ' Great Tree, ' whose roots sink deep into the earth
and whose branches spread over a vast country, shall
be the first nation; because you are warlike and

"And you — Oneidas, a people who recline your
bodies against the ' Everlasting Stone ' that cannot be
moved, shall be the second nation ; because you give
wise counsel.

' ' And you — Onondagas, who have your habitation
at the ' Great Mountain' and are overshadowed by its
crags, shall be the third nation; because you are
greatly gifted in speech and mighty in war.

" And you — Cayugas, a people whose habitation is
the ' Dark Forest ' and whose home is everywhere,
shall be the fourth nation ; because of your superior
cunning in hunting.

" And you — Senecas, a people who live in the ' Open


Country ' and possess much wisdom, shall be the fifth
nation; because you understand better the art of rais-
ing corn and beans, and making cabins.

"You, five great and powerful nations, must unite
and have but one common interest, and no foe shall
be able to disturb or subdue you.

"And you — Manhattoes, Nyacks, Montauks and
others, who are as the feeble 'Bushes'; and you, Nar-
agansetts, Mohegans, Wampanoags and your neigh-
bors who are a ' Fishing People,' may place yourselves
under our protection. Be with us, and we will defend
you. You of the South, and you of the West, may
do the same, and we will protect you. We earnestly
desire your alliance and friendship.

"Brothers — If we unite in this bond, the Great
Spirit will smile upon us, and we shall be free, pros-
perous and happy. But if we remain as we are, we
shall be subject to his frown; we shall be enslaved,
ruined, perhaps annihilated forever. We shall perish
and our names be blotted out from among the nations
of men. Brothers : these are the words of Hi-a-wat-ha
— let them sink deep into your hearts — I have said it."

A long silence ensued ; the words of the wise man
had made a deep impression upon the minds of all.
They unanimously declared the subject too weighty
for immediate decision. "Let us," said the brave
warriors and chiefs, "adjourn the council for one day,
and then we will respond." On the morrow, the


council again assembled. After due deliberation, the
speech of the wise man was declared to be good and
worthy of adoption.

Immediately upon this was formed the celebrated
Aquinuschioni or Amphyctionic league of the great
confederacy of Five Nations, which to this day re-
mains in full force.

After the business of the great council had been
brought to a close, and the assembly were on the eve
of separation, Hi-a-wat-ha arose in a dignified manner,
and said :

" Friends and Brothers : I have now fulfilled my
mission upon earth ; I have done everything which can
be done at present for the good of this great people.
Age, infirmity and distress sit heavy upon me. During
my sojourn with you, I have removed all obstructions
from the streams. Canoes can now pass safely every-
where. I have given you good fishing waters and
good hunting grounds. I have taught you the manner
of cultivating corn and beans, and learned you the art
of making cabins. Many other blessings I have liber-
ally bestowed upon you.

" Lastly, I have now assisted you to form an ever-
lasting league and covenant of strength and friendship
for your future safety and protection. If you preserve
it, without the admission of other people, you will
always be free, numerous and mighty. If other
nations are admitted to your councils, they will sow


jealousies among you, and you will become enslaved,
few and feeble. Remember these words ; they are the
last you will hear from the lips of Hi-a-wat-ha. Listen
my friends; the Great-Master-of-Breath calls me to
go. I have patiently waited his summons. I am
ready; farewell."

As the wise man closed his speech, there burst
upon the ears of the assembled multitude the cheerful
sounds of myriads of the most delightful singing
voices. The whole sky seemed filled with the sweetest
melody of celestial music; and Heaven's high arch
echoed and re-echoed the touching strains, till the
whole vast assembly were completely absorbed in
rapturous ecstacy. Amidst the general confusion which
now prevailed, and while all eyes were turned towards
the etherial regions, Hi-a-wat-ha was seen majestically
seated in his white canoe, gracefully rising higher and
higher above their heads through the air, until he
became entirely lost from the view of the assembled
throngs, who witnessed his wonderful ascent in mute
and admiring astonishment — while the fascinating
music gradually became more plaintive and low; and
finally, it sweetly expired in the softest tones upon
their ears, as the wise man Hi-a-wat-ha, and the god-
like Ta-oun-ya-wat-ha retired from their sight, and
quietly entered the mysterious regions inhabited only
by the favorites of the Great and Good Spirit Ha-


[Mr. Clark adds in a foot note : " The substance of
the foregoing tradition may be found in the ' Notes
on the Iroquois,' pp. 271 to 283. It is but simple
justice to the author of this work to say that the
article in the ' Notes ' was framed from a MS. fur-
nished by the author of this to the Editor of the
Commercial Advertiser of New York, for publication
in that paper."]

Such is the traditionary account of the Onondagas
of the origin of the very ancient and honorable league
first formed by the illustrious Five Nations, given to
the author by the late Captain Frost and La Fort,
head chiefs of the Onondagas, 6th February, 1845.

This tradition, like all others, proves nothing posi-
tively, further than that the Iroquois themselves
know little of their own origin, history, or the
antiquity of their most prominent characteristics and
institutions. These being orally transmitted from
generation to generation, and their minds ever deeply
imbued with superstition, events are magnified to
miracles, distinguished men are deified, and every
circumstance of note is mystified and mingled with
ignorance, barbarism and extravagance.

Longfellow's beautiful poem, "The Song of
Hiawatha," was published in November, 1855. It
attracted great attention, receiving unbounded praise
and severe criticism. The New York Tribune of
November 27, 1855, contained a criticism from T. C.


P., of Pennsylvania, copied from the National Intel-
lit l< ncer of the preceding day, which called the
reader's attention to the "Kalewala," the great
national epic of the Finns. The critic added: "My
object in writing this present brief notice is to call
the attention of the literary public to the astounding
fact that Professor Longfellow, in his new poem,
" Hiawatha," has transferred the entire form, spirit,
and many of the most striking incidents of the old
Finnish epic to the North American Indians. The
resemblance is so close that it cannot be accidental,
and yet the only approach to an acknowledgment
of the source of his inspiration is found in the begin-
ning of his first note, where he says: 'This Indian
Edcla, if I may so call it/"

Mr. Schoolcraft hastened to the defense of Long-
fellow's Hiawatha, and his letter to the National
Intelligencer, dated Washington, D. C, December 7,
1855, was reproduced in the New York Tribune of
December 18, 1855. Mr. Schoolcraft said: "Every
author is responsible for what he utters. This truth
is particularly apposite at this moment in relation to
the Indian oral legends heretofore published by me,
which have recently been quoted by a distinguished
writer. The appearance of a popular American
poem, on American materials, is suited to arouse
literary excitement from the banks of the Aroostook
to the Rio Grande. Not believing that anything at


all is necessary to vindicate Professor Longfellow's
literary integrity in quoting my Indian legends, any
more than the taste, talent and judgment displayed in
his beautiful, characteristic and truly American
poem of Hiawatha, there is yet something due
from me on the subject from the citations of my
' Algic Researches, ' and of the third volume of my
Indian History. No allusion is made to the critical
acumen to which the poem has given birth in the
press. The reference is exclusively to the originality
of the legends quoted by the author of 'Hiawatha,'
and to their veraciousness to the traditions of the
native lore, which I have reported from the North
American wigwams."

The cool, confident manner in which Mr. School-
craft, who was then Agent of the Statistics, etc., of
the Indian tribes of the United States, under the
Department of the Interior at Washington, appro-
priated to himself the credit of being the first to give
an account of the legend of Hiawatha, aroused Mr.
Clark from his generally mild disposition and caused
him to assert his claims to this legend and to bring
Mr. Schoolcraft before the bar of public opinion.

Under date of January 10, 1856, Mr. Clark wrote
the following letter to the New York Tribune : —

"The Song of Hiawatha" has become the. subject
of much extravagant praise, and a theme for the
severest criticism. Animadversion has had the effect


to awaken a curiosity, and create an excitement that
otherwise would have remained dormant; and the
" Song " has been read by thousands who, but for this
pen-and-ink warfare, would never have looked upon
its pages. By this time it has been dispatched by the
whole reading public, and it has afforded nearly as
much gratification to its traducers as to its admirers.

The legend of Hiawatha was first related to the
writer of this by the Onondaga chiefs, Captain Frost
(Ossahinta), and Abram LaFort (Dehatkatons), in the
summer of 1843. During the winter of lS43-'44, I
wrote it out in full, and read the paper before the
members of the Manlius Lyceum, and in the month of
March following I repeated the same before a literary
association at the village of Fayetteville, having at
that time not the remotest idea of ever publishing
anything in a permanent form relative to the Onon-
daga Indians.

In March, 1844, I furnished to the New York
Historical Society a paper giving the Indian names to
localities in Onondaga county and vicinity, at the
suggestion of a committee which had been appointed
by the Society to secure so desirable an object. Mr.
Henry R. Schoolcraft, as chairman of the committee,
by letter dated March L2, 1844, acknowledged the
receipt of my communication, with the thanks of the
committee, saying further: "Permit us to ask a
continuance of your researches so far as relates to the


Onondaga tribe," etc. In my communication to the
committee I intimated that I had in my possession
tales and traditions illustrative of Indian character
and history. In a postscript to the letter above referred
to, Mr. Schoolcraft adds : ' ' As I am collecting the
traditions of the Indians, imaginative as well as his-
torical, I should be gratified for any contributions you
may make in this way ; send me a copy of the tradition
of 'Green Pond.'" Upon this I sent him a copy of
the tradition requested, it having been previously
published by me in the New York Commercial Adver-
tiser, at the instance of my friend, the late Col.
William L. Stone, as other pieces of like character
furnished by me had been before. In a letter from
Mr. Schoolcraft, dated April 19, 1844, in answer to
one from me a short time previous, he further says :
" This letter shows you to be too much at home on the
subject of Aboriginal names to allow us to think of
excusing you from further services of this kind."

In 1845, Mr. Schoolcraft, under the authority and
patronage of the State, visited the several tribes of
Indians in Western New York for the purpose of ascer-
taining their true condition as to property, schools,
resources, manner of living, etc., or in other words, to
take a complete census as far as possible of these
people, and furnish a series of statistics necessary to
form full and comprehensive data, respecting their
circumstances, wants and requirements, as well as


their advancement in the arts, agriculture and civiza-
tion; and if possible to recover from obscurity-
somewhat of their mysterious history. On that tour
Mr. Schoolcraft, on various occasions, by letters now
in my possession, solicited information from me. (See
also "Notes on the Iroquois," pp. 192, 4G8.) In a
letter under date of July 24, 1845, after his visit to
Onondaga, he says: "I should feel under many
obligations to you if you would give me some account
from personal observation of the vestiges of ancient
occupancy in your vicinity," and afterward adds, "I
know of no one who is so well qualified to give it as

Now it is a well-known fact that persons acting in
the capacity of official agents among the Indians are
always looked upon by them with suspicion and
distrust. Mr. Schoolcraft most emphatically asserts
as much when he says: " The census movement was
consequently the theme of no small number of sus-
picions and cavils and objections. Without any certain
or generally fixed grounds of objection, it was yet the
object of a fixed but changing opposition." (See
"Notes on the Iroquois," pp. 5, 6.) Mr. Schoolcraft
was looked upon with suspicion by the Onondaga
Indians, and by none more so than by Captain Frost
and Abram La Fort, principal chiefs of the Onondaga
Nation. Hence it became essential to the advancement
of his labors that some one more in the confidence of


the Indians should act in concert with the State Agent,
in order effectually to secure the whole information
desired. Besides, he remarks that "far more time
than was at my command would be required to
cultivate this attractive field of research." (See
" Notes on the Iroquois," p. 192.)

By a reference to the "Notes on the Iroquois,"
anyone may see at a glance that many items received
from me which he considered of value in his researches
were adopted. in his official report made to the Legis-
lature, and which were retained in his subsequent
"Notes on the Iroquois," which were considerably
enlarged and improved, though embracing nearly all
of the report. For many of these items the customary
acknowledgments were made ; for others no sign of
recognition was given. The tradition of Hiawatha,
which he had previously received from me through
the editor of the Commercial Advertiser, in manu-
script form, was among this latter number, and it is
inserted as if gleaned by his own laborious research.

Mr. Schoolcraft's report on the subject of the New
York Indians was made to the Legislature in 1846.
His enlarged and improved version, the " Notes on
the Iroquois," was published in 1817. During the
years 1816-17 and '18, a train of accidental, though
urgent circumstances, was thrown around me which
eventuated in my bringing out a history of " Onon-
daga " from materials already in my possession, with


the addition of contributions from sundry individuals
throughout the country. My "Onondaga" was
published in 1849, and my version of the tradition of
Hiawatha is there inserted in volume I. at page 21.
At page 30 is the following note :

' ' The substance of the foregoing tradition may be
found in the ' Notes on the Iroquois,' pp. 271 to 283.
It is but simple justice to the author of this work to
say that the article in the ' Notes ' was framed from
a manuscript furnished by the author of this to the
editor of the New York Commercial Advertiser, for
publication in that paper."

I have been thus minute in the foregoing remarks
in order to show substantially the relation that existed
between Mr. Schoolcraft and myself relative to Indian
affairs during his researches among the Indians of
Western New York in the years 1844-4:5 and '46, and
to show that I had some knowledge of the tradition of
Hiawatha long before Mr. Schoolcraft's visit of
inspection among the New York Indians in 1845.

What I am about to say would not at this late day
be said were it not for the fact that the tradition of
Hiawatha, (notwithstanding the note in Clark's
" Onondaga," vol. I. at page 30,) has been transferred
from the " Notes on the Iroquois " to Mr. Schoolcraft's
larger work entitled, "History, Condition and Pros-
pects of the Indian Tribes in the United States,"
published in 1853, (see page 314, third part,) and is


there entitled, "Hiawatha, or the Origin of the
Onondaga Council-Fire," at which place is appended
the following note: " Derived from the verbal narra-
tions of the late Abraham Le Fort, an Onondaga
Chief, who was a graduate, it is believed, of Geneva
college ; " and because the substance of Mr. School-
craft's note is reiterated in a note at the end of Mr.
Longfellow's poem, " The Song of Hiawatha," at page
299; and because, in a letter dated, Washington,
December 7, 1855, "To the Editor of The National
Intelligencer" copied in the Tribune of December 18,
Mr. Schoolcraft says: "Every author is responsible
for what he utters," and again: "The reference is
exclusively to the originality of the legends quoted by
the author of Hiawatha."

Now, if Mr. Schoolcraft means (as the books
declare) that he had the Onondaga tradition of
Hiawatha, as it is related in his "Notes on the
Iroquois," and as it is transferred to his larger work,
" History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian
Tribes in the United States," "derived from the verbal
narrations of the late Abraham Le Fort, an Onondaga
Chief, who was a graduate, it is believed, of Geneva
college," then I say, unequivocally, that he is most
egregiously mistaken, and asserts what, upon reflec-
tion, he would be unwilling to repeat.

It was on the fourteenth day of August, 1845, at
my room in the hotel at the village of Aurora, Cayuga


county, on a certain occasion when Mr. Schoolcraft
delivered an address before the G. 0. I., and after he
had visited Onondaga, that I gave him several items
of information, some verbal, some written, and some
printed from the Commercial Advertiser. I then and
there referred him to the legend of ' ' The Wise Man
Hiawatha, or the White Canoe," the manuscript of
which had a short time previously been sent by me
to the Commercial Advertiser for publication.

I am quite certain that at that time the story of
Hiawatha was new to Mr. Schoolcraft. I then referred
him to the source whence I derived it. I also at the
same time gave him a note to Mr. Francis Hall, one of
the publishers of the Commercial Advertiser, request-
ing him to deliver to Mr. Schoolcraft the said
manuscript. Mr. Hall subsequently wrote me that he
had so delivered it, but that it had not been returned
to him.

The legend or tradition of Hiawatha was copied
almost verbatim into Mr. Schoolcraft's "Notes on the
Iroquois," the different points proceeding in exactly
the same order of sequence, the language only in
several places being changed, and all without the
customary credit. Whether the tradition was
improved by the transformation anyone may judge
by comparison. (See Clark's " Onondaga," vol. I.
pp. 21 to 30, and Schoolcraft's "Notes on the Iroquois,"
pp. 271 to 283, and his " History, Condition and


Prospects of the Indian Tribes in the United States/
(third part, page 314, etc.)

Now, I challenge Mr. Schoolcraft to show that he
had any cine to the narrative and details of the
Onondaga tradition of Hiawatha, nntil he had access
to rny manuscript as received by him from the editor
of the New York Commercial Advertiser.

As an evidence, I here most distinctly and emphati-
cally assert that the name " Hosee Noke," at page 278
of the " Notes " is an unadulterated fiction of my own,
created for the occasion, suggested by a wild, half-
crazy, merry- Andrew sort of fellow, an Indian, who
always took the lead in all the grotesque dances held
at the Onondaga Castle, who bore a similar name, and
who was a " Runner," and who is since dead.

Again, the speech of Hiawatha, as it appears at
page 280 of the "Notes," is a pure invention of my
own, and it is identical, verbatim, with the same
speech in Clark's "Onondaga," vol. I. at page 28,
which is like the manuscript furnished to Mr.
Schoolcraft by me through the editor of the Commer-
cial Advertiser. In the "Notes," however, Mr.
Schoolcraft has transposed the word Onondaga, and
entirely omitted the word Mohawk, which should be
in its place, which change wholly destroys the force,
truth and beauty of the allusions, for it makes them
totally inapplicable as rendered in the " Notes." The
Onondagas were always known as ' ' The People of


the Hills." Father Hennepin, Lib. II. page 104,
styles them the " Iroquois Highlanders," and in early-
times the Mohawks were styled the " Great Tree," to
which the Dutch first made fast the chain of friend-
ship in their intercourse with the " Five Nations."
The names of the Senecas and Cayugas are omitted in
their proper places in the "Notes," as are also the
names of the several other Indian nations.

The version of "Hiawatha, or the Origin of the
Onondaga Council-Fire," in the larger work of Mr.
Schoolcraft, is merely an abridgement of the story as
it appears in the "Notes," though the speech of
Hiawatha is retained mainly. Most of the first part
of the tradition is entirely omitted in the larger work,
with the supplementary addition of the note accounting
for the source of its derivation.

The name Hi-a-wat-ha is purely Onondaga. It
has no existence or counterpart among the Indians
beyond the precincts of the Confederate Nations.
Other nations may have their " Quetzalcoatl," their
" Manitou," their " Manabozho," their " Mondamni,"
or other divinities, known by various names and
possessed of live characteristics, yet the Iroquois
alone have the true Hi-a-wat-ha, the great founder of
their league.

Upon the appearance of the tradition of Hiawatha
in the " Notes on the Iroquois," in 1847, I called the
attention of several of my friends to the fact of its

Schoolcraft's plagiariasm 365

having been previously read before the Manlius
Lyceum, and we compared the manuscript copy
retained by me with the version in the " Notes on the
Iroquois," and found them identical in the delineation
throughout, and verbatim in many entire paragraphs,
which circumstance could not possibly have occurred
had the tradition been " derived from the verbal narra-
tions of the late Abraham Le Fort, an Onondaga

These gentlemen, my friends above referred to,
will attest to the facts herein set forth.

For myself I claim no particular merit or distinc-
tion for the tradition of Hiawatha, as the source of its
origin as it appears in English.

Nor do I wish in the remotest sense to detract a
particle from the well-earned fame of Mr. Schoolcraft
in regard to his Indian researches. But since the
tradition of Hiawatha has become the theme and sub-
stance of a purely American poem, which is attracting
a world-wide attention, and the origin of the tradition
has been wrongfully attributed in a note at the end of
the volume, and has been introduced into the greatest

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22

Online LibraryGurney S StrongEarly landmarks of Syracuse → online text (page 20 of 22)