William Martin Beauchamp.

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Vol. III.

No. I






The Founders of the New York Iroquois
League and Its Probable Date






Press of C. F. Milliken & Co., Canandaigua , New York.


The Rev. William M. Beauchamp. S. T. D., LL. 1)., is
admittedly our greatest living authority on the aboriginal
inhabitants of New York State. Where document and tradition
fail the historian, Dr. Beauchamp reveals Iroquois life and
institutions through artifacts "which the Indian buried witli the
bones of his people. Unfortunately for the student of modern
research there were no Beauchamps of his scientific mind among
the classic and courageous missionaries of the contact period to
gather and classify ethnic material. Within his own lifetime
Dr. Beauchamp has seen archaeology become a scientific pursuit.
His life lacks less than a decade of completing a century. His
native state has published his works which stand as official
and authoritative. Morgan Chapter is happy in the honor of
publishing this venerable scientist's latest work, which is given
to the world in his ninety-second year.

Dr. Beauchamp M^as born in Coldenham, Orange County,
New York, on March 25, 1880. He went to Onondaga county
earW the following year and often saw the Onondaga Indians
in the streets of Skaneateles and in his father's store, and thus
began an interest in the Red Man. Picturesque incidents in
the history of colonial New York increased this interest in early
school life.

His first public lecture was on the New York Iroquois. Of
archaeology in its restricted sense he kncvv nothing, when he
took charge of Grace church, Baldwinsville, in 1865, except
the little found in Schoolcraft's notes on the Iroquois, and that
was misleading. On the Seneca river near which he lived was
a virgin opportunity. Curious relies abounded and there Avere
stockades and earthworks not far away.

It was some time, however, before Dr. Beauchamp thought
much of these objects of study. Then strange articles were
brought to him. so strange that he drew and described them


alonof with the more common articles. There was method in
this and ten large volumes now contain thousands of original
drawings with notes, and plans of other kinds. Gradually the
work took in a larger field, unconsciously fitting him for the
New York State .Museum work which he began in December, 1896,
and ended in December. 1905. This work included thirteen
illustrated bulletins on early and recent life of New York
Indians, one being a special volume on the history of the New
York Iroquois. Since then he has made many addresses
before societies on kindred subjects. For many years he was
a contributor to^ the Journal of American Folklore, and an officer
of the American xVssociation for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Heauchamp entered on his professional life, September
21. lc^()2. and went to (Jrace ehundi. Baldwiiisville, July 1, 1865,
leaving there October 1, 1900, being then past seventy years of
age. lie received the degree of S. T. D., from Hobart College
on November 30, 1886. and on June 14, 1920, he received the
dcgi'ec of ]Aj. D. from Syracuse T^niversity.

Bishop Huntington appointed him one of the three
exaiiiiniug chajilains of the diocese of Central New York, June
]1. 1884. lie has held that office ever since. In 1905 Dr.
Beauchamp was chosen president of the Syracuse Clerical Club,
and after serving twelve years declined re-election. In 1889 he
was made a director of the Onondaga Historical Association,
and is now ehlest in years and service with the rank of
imnoi-ar\- president. In 1911 he was one of the five honorary
members of the Xew York State Historical Association, Theodore
Eoosevelt and Woodrow Wilson being among the others.

Socially Dr. Beauchanip is a 32d degree ^lason, and historian
and vice-president of the Masonic Veterans of Central New York.
Professionally he is often in the pulpit or engaged in other
reli<rious sci-vices, and indulges in botanical research in its
;ippropriate seasons. In fact several natural sciences have
helped him much in autifpiarian work for which he has still a
strong relish.

I'r. I'cauchamp received the secoinl award <>f the Corn-
plauler Med;i| f'M' lr(M|uois icseai-(di, Kehi-uary 20. litOd. He has
l-eeii ;ido|»le,i into ilic Ououdaga canton of the Six Nations. His


works, published as bulletins under the authority of the Regents
of the University of the State of New York, include :

"Aboriginal Occupation of New York," 1900; "Polished
Stone Articles," 1897; "Earthenware of the New York
Aborigines,'' 1898; "History of the New York Iroquois," 1905;
"Civil, Religious and Mourning Councils and Ceremonies of
Adoption of the New York Indians," 1907; "Metallic Ornaments
of the New York Indians/" 1903; "Metallic Impltments or the
New York Indians." 1902; "Aboriginal Place Names of New
York." 1907; "Perch Lake Mounds," 1905; "Horn and Bone
Implements of the New York Indians," 1902; "Aboriginal Use
of Wood," 1905; "AVampum and Shell Articles," 1901;
"Aboriginal Chipped Stone Implements," 1897.

Before these he published "Th? Ircxjuois Trail" " in 1892,
and "Indian Names in New York" in 1893. For the Onondaga
Historical Association he prepared "The Revolutionary Soldiers
of Onondaga County," 306 pages. 1912, and "Moravian Journals
Relating to Central New York, 1745- "66," 243 pages. 1916. For
the same society he is now preparing a volume on New York
Iro<jUois Folklore, which necessarily includes s»>me portions of
the present paper, but has a wider field. This will soon appear,,
and will include much almost unknoM^n even to students of
Indian life.


Recorder Morgan Chapter.




Had not the Five Nations founded the Konosioni — had not
the Dutch and English gained their friendship — there might
have been no U. S. A., and the destinies of the world might
have been changed. Yet the common name of the one who
suggested the forest confederacy was practically unknown to
the white man a century ago, and is hardly more than a name
to most men now. Its widest celebrity is due to Longfellow,
Avho used but the name, placing it in a foreign environment,
though retaining one great feature of his character:

"How he prayed and how he fasted,
"How he lived, and toiled, and suffered,
•'That the tribes of men might prosper,
"That he might advance his people."

Unselfish devotion to the good of others was the great
feature of Hiawatha's character, in every tale we have of him.
He was a pure-minded patriot, careless of rank or fame. The
first historic mention of him shows this plainly.

There came to the Mohawk valley in 174.3. Pyrlaeus, a
^loravian missionary, on his way to Onondaga, but who was
turned back by the Indians. He stayed awhile at old Canajo-
harie and learned some Mohawk words, on Avhich he founded a
Mohawk dictionary. He also learned something of their history,
writing an account of this, which, until recently, Avas on record
in Philadelphia. All traces of this have disappeared, as far
as my inquiries have gone, but a few quotations have survived.

The Mohawks gave him correctly the names of the head
chief of each nation at the time the League was formed, adding
that this took place "one age before the white people came
into the country, and was suggested by Thannawage, an old
Mohawk." This name agrees with Taenyawahke, or Taounya-
watha, which J. V. H. Clark said was the name of Hiawatha
when he first came to Onondaga.


The next Indian reference to the origin of the Five Nations,
as such, is from Canassatego — not the gi'eat Onondaga but a
SentMji ell iff I'f I'ontiac's time — and this includes, like Clark's
I. ••rend, (liviiic agency. The Konosioni land, with its beautiful
lakes, tort-sts. tields and mountains, 'had emerged fl'om the
\r;itors. hut was unoccupied, and one of the gods came down
to crt'atc num. He sowed five handfuls of red seed in the
Icrtile ticlds of Onondaga. He was the Creator of these. He
addressed tlic children when they were grown, in these words:

•"Ve are tive nations, for ye sprang each from a different
handful of the seed I sowed: but ye are all brethren, and I am
your father, for T made you all: I have nursed and brought you
!![»: — Mohocks, I have made you hold and valiant, and see, I
give you corn for your food. Oneidas, I have made you patient
of pain and hunger: the nuts and fruits of the trees are yours.
Sennek<'rs. I have made you industrious and active; beans do
I give \-ou for nourishment. Cayugas. I have made you strong,
fi'iendlx- aiul generous: ground nuts and every root shall refresh
you. Oiioiidagoes, T have made you wise, just and eloquent;
s(|uashes jitid grapes have I given you to eat, and tobacco to
smoke in the council. The beasts, birds and fishes I have given
to you all in common. As I liave loved and taken care of you
all so do \ on lf»ve and take care of one another,"' with much
more good advice poorly followed.

When he had ended "he wrapped himself in a bright cloud,
and went like a swift ai'i-ow to the sun. where his brethren
rejoiced at his i-eturii."' In some ways this resembles Clark's
.story. In this inh^ the country is Akanishionegy. Some years
ago I found another purely human account which had escaped
attention, in William Dunlap's "History of the New Nether-
lands. Province and State of New York." published in 1839.
He had il fiMnn iOphraim Webster in 1815. An inferior chief
<ir the Onondauas ••conceived the bright idea of union and of
a trreai coiiiieil of the chiefs of the Five Nations. The principal
chief opjiosed it. He was a great warrior, and feared to lose
his ijitlncuce as lu-ad man of the Onondagas. This was a selfish
'iian." On this "the younger chief was silenced, but he
detcrnnned i,, attempt the great political work. This was a
itian who loved the welfare of others." First he went to the


Mohawks and Oneidas, his scheme being rejected at home, and
then to the Cayngas and Senecas. All favored the plan and a
great council was called, but first he again saw the principal
(.•hief and agreed that he should be considered the author of
the now popular plan and thus be made the head of five nations
instead of one. lie taught him, also, an old time illustration.
A single stick was easily broken, but in five bound together
there was strength.

Next came J. V. H. Clark's story, which he had from
Abraham LaFort and Captain Frost in 1843. This he wrote
out carefully with a view to oratorical effect, reading it the
following winter before the Manlius Lyceum and in Fayetteville.
It took permanent form in his history of Onondaga some years
later, and to him we owe the name. I think two distinct stories
are united in it.

In this Taounyawatha, according to him fjic god of fisheries
and Juiufi}i(/ grounds, or more correctly, said my interpreter,
Ta-en-ya-wah-ke, The Holder of the heavens, landed at Oswego
from his white canoe, ascended a hill on the west side, and
looked back upon the lake, exclaiming "Oshwahkee! Oshwah-
kee!" which ]\Ir. Clark interpreted, "I see evervzchere and
see nothing."

From this, he said, Oswego has its name. The word really
means "Floi^'ing out.''' and is applied only to outlets of large
rivers or towns upon them. Grand River in Ontario, Canada,
has this name, and gave it to Lake Erie. The Great Kanahwha
in Virginia had the same Iroquois name.

The mysterious visitor was approached by two Onondaga
hunters, who had observed his landing, and they became his
companions in wonderful adventures. As these are fully detailed
in Clark's Onondaga, I merely sketch them now. In the white
canoe they all ascended the Oswego river to free the country
from monsters and enchantments. A great serpent reached
from bank to bank, but the magic paddle cut him in twain.
Some miles farther another had the same fate and the fish
confined there were freed. There was the finest kind of fishing
for a while. In Irocjuois lore serpents are always sources of
evil. It is the special office of the Thunder gods to destroy them.

The voyagers came near Onondaga lake, which then had


no outlet and extemlcd far suutli among the hills. Taeuyawahke
iiiadr a small trench with his magic paddle, which soou deepened
anil widened, the lake decreased in size, the salt springs appeared

a blessing to the Onondagas, though they knew nothing of

t^all till l(i")4. This may allude to the lowering of the lake
m \>'2o. Near the site of lialdwinsville an enchantress was
destroyed who guai'ded the groves of chestnuts. These became
accessible and spread fast.

The most marvelous adventure was above Cross lake, where
two i:reat mosquitoes, one on each river bank, destroyed all who
tried to pass. One ^\•as soon slain, and the other tied with
incredible swiftness, with Taeuyawahke in close pursuit. Here
1 use my own accctunt. The monster tiew to Oneida and back
to Ihe Niagara river. An ind(mted stone shows where the
demi-god sat down to rest and have a smoke. Pie laid down his
pipe and it burned a brown hole in the rock, which the Ttiscaroras
used to show. At Brighton, in Syracuse, the Great Mosquito
got well tired, took to the ground and l(4't his foot prints in
the sand. Chief Abraham Hill said he had seen them there.
They were liird-like and about twenty inches long. His pursuer's
ti'acks were there, too, but I asked foi" no description of them.
The monster met its death near North Syi-acuse, at a place still
called Kah-yali-tak-ne-t'ke-tah-ke, Where the mosquito lies, by
the Indians. Alas for the results. Its bod,v decayed and became
myi'iads of insects.

('lark's account told of the killing of two great eagles at
the ]\Ioiiic/.unia marshes, who had private preserves of water fowl
iliere. Othei' nuisances were abated, and then Taenyawahkee
laid aside his divine nature, assumed the name of Hiawatha or
the ".-ery -wise man. and made his home at Cross lake, Te-ung-to.
or Jiniiw of the leise man. accoi-dino- f,, Clark. The Onondagas
call it Teunento. ,,/ //,,^ eedar /■'laee. Hiawatha's name will
lie discussed later.

There was a quiet time till the great Huron war came on,
involving the A]gon(|uins of Canada. A great council met on
Onondaga lake, a little north of the village of Liverpool and a
f^ne place foi- it. The peril was great. Hiawatha was summoned
and aft<'r a lime came, with .gloomy forebodings. His daughter
was with him and as they landed from the white canoe, a great


white bird swooped down, crushing the beautiful girl and being
itself killed. Mr. Clark said this was the white heron, quite
rare here. Its plumes, he said, were gathered up and worn
by the bravest warriors.

Mr. A. B. Street, the author of Frontenac, had part of the
story from a Cayuga chief, who said the Senecas called it
Sah-dah-ga-ah, the bird of tlic clouds, and the Onondagas
Hah-googhs. with the same meaning. My Onondaga interpreter
called it Hah-kooks, and applied it to the winter gull, fhc bird
rhof never lights. For the incident itself, my friend. Dr. Horatio
Hale of Canada, was told that a strange bird was shot just at
dusk, and there was a rush to see what it was. Hiawatha's
daughter, in delicate health, was knocked down, trampled upon
and died, Hiawatha was stupefied, but a merry chief roused
him and business went on. The League was formed. Hiawatha
made the last speech to each nation and all, seated himself in
his white canoe, and rose to heaven amid the sweetest melody.

It is .just here that a question arises. Mr. Clark used the
story first as a lecture, naturallj' with some embellishments. He
afterward said, in his controversy with Schoolcraft on the
authorship of the story: "The name 'Hosee-noke,' at p. 278 of
the 'Notes,' is an unadulterated fiction of my own, created for
the occasion. . . . Again, the speech of Hiawatha, as it
appears at p. 280 of the Notes, is a pure invention of my own."

These fictions do not discredit the reception of the main
features of the story, and he cited them only to prove School-
craft's plagiarism, but the speeches have often been quoted as
the veritable words of Hiawatha. The leading statements will
stand as a rule, but it is well to remember that Clark's words
are not always, as he himself says, precisely those of his Indian

The story of the white canoe may be taken with reservations,
but mainly because it must be compared with that of Dekana-
widah, which may Avell be thought the original tale. In that
case two stories have simply been told or received as one. The
voyager came from the north on Lake Ontario, apparently from
the early homes of the Onondagas, in the Black river country,
perhaps from Out-en-nes-son-e-ta, Where the Iroquois League
began to form — an allusion to its Onondaga origin. In Canada


and Xortliei-n Xew York canoes were made of white birch bark,
111 wars a<iainst Canada the Iroquois used brown elm bark for
\hv same piiijiose, and their canoes were ruder in every way than
those of their enemies. So Hiawatha's white canoe is a natural
and pictures(iue feature in this local story.

••The Traditional Narrative of the Origin of the Confederation
of tile Five Nations." which begins on page 65 of Mr. A. C.
I'aikei's Slate .Museum Bulletin. No. 184, and was published in
]!n»i. has. of (M)uise, something to do with the question. The
nari-ative forms l)ut one section of "The Constitution of the
Five Nations or the Iroijuois Hook of the Great Law%" as arranged
!i\ Mr. Parker. There are contiicting stories from ditferent
persons as might he expected, but Mr. Parker has done a great
service to many students in bringing so many of them together.
Some of them I have had from the Onondagas, but much less
from the .Mohawks, who have put the Dekanawida legends in
the front rank.

II is evident from these that eithei- Mr. Clark or his infor-
mants, confused two stories, told by two Indians at one time.
There is nothing surprising in that. I quote from the Canadian
story, in which, as so often in modern Indian tales, there are
European features. As, for instance, when al)out to stai't, Deka-
nawida gives tlu'm a sign to let them know at any time whether
111- is living or dead. If a certain tree is cut and blood flows
from it he luis lost his life.

III |)rei)arat ion for his mission to the Iroquois he made a white
stone canoe in whiidi to cross from the north shore of Lake
Ontai'io. and invited his mother and grandmother, in modern
style. lo come and see him off. "Then the grandmother said,

How are \(>u lioing to travel, since your canoe is made out of
stone' It will not Hoaf?' Then Dekanawida said, 'This will
he the first sign of Avonder that man will behold: a canoe made
out of stone will float. . . . Then he paddled away to
the eastward. ... In a few moments he disappeared out
of theii- sight."

"It lia|)|)ened that at that time a party of hunters had a
i-amp on the south side of the lake now known as Ontario, and
one of the party went toward the lake and stood on the bank of
the hil-c. and beheld the object coming toward him at a distance,


and the man could not understand what it was that was
approaching him-, shortly afterward he understood that it was
a canoe, and saAv a man in it, and the moving object was coming
directly towards where he stood, and when the man (it was
Dekanawida) reached the shore he came out of his boat and
cliinl:»ed up the bank.

"Then Dekanawida asked the man what had caused them to
be where they were, and the man answered and said: 'We are
here for a double object. We are hunting game for our living,
and also because there is a great strife in our settlement.' "

Dekanawida told them to go home. The Iva-rih-wi-yoh,
Good Tidings of Peace and Power, had come and strife had
ceased. The messenger of good tidings had come. Then came
a meeting with Ta-do-dah-ho, whom he commanded to return to
his home, and another with the Peace Queen, whose word was
law in all Indian troubles. Curiously enough she was called
Ji-kon-sa-se, the wild cat. though her peace measuies differed
from her name. Then he met Hiawatha, but the stories of their
first meeting do not agree.

As there is nothing to link the Onondaga chief with Canada
or even Lake Ontario, the coming of Dekanawida seems the
tirst story which Mr. Clark heard. All that passes before his
hero assumes the name of Hiawatha belongs to this.

In the second tale the heavenward flight and the celestial
music may ])e an embellishment or not, but may also have a
more prosaic explanation. Up to the first great council at
Cnondaga lake Hiawatha's home and affiliations had been with
the Onondagas. Because of his cordial reception by the
MohaAvks and of his friendship for their great chief, for a long
time his closest companion, he had now cast in his lot with
them and become a ^lohawk chief. As such his name is heard
in the great roll call of the condoling song. Historically
conditions were changed and it was natural that lie sl'.onld siu-'
a parting song, one of rejoicing because a great and glad task
was triumphantly ended. If he went down the lake in a white
canoe, all the better. And if we would know the words, here
are some of those actually sung at Onondaga in 1655, on another
peace occasion :

"Good news! good news indeed! It is all good, mv brother.


It is every way g-ood that we speak of peace together; that we
use sueh lieaveiily words. 01 the beautiful voice that thou hast,
my friend! O! the beautiful voice that I myself have! Farewell
'o wai': larcwell to its cruel hatchet. Long have we liecn insane,
ImiT licncel'orth we are brothers — brothers indeed. This day
tlie (ireat I'eac'C is made! Farewell to war; farewell to arms.
All we have now done — of every kind is in every way beautiful
and good." C'onld anything have been better for the completion
of tlic 'MJi-eat Peace"' of an earlier day?

Mr. Sehoolcraft had the manuscript of the story from Mr.
Clark and i)ublished it as his own, saying he had received the
tale from the Onondaga chiefs. Hence the quotations I have
made. While a fair authority on the w'estern Algonquins Mr.
Schoojci'aft ranks low on Ircxiuois themes antl no one would
think of ([noting him as an authority on New York matters.
Longfellow, however, had Hiawatha's name from him and used
western h-gends collected by him. With poetic license he added
new features, ignored or improved those he found, but all belong
to a distinct Lidian family, of a strange language, and have
nothing to do with the real man.

1 say the real man, for he was such, and an Onondaga chief
for som<- time. Li Dr. Horatio Hale's "Lawgiver of the Stone
Age," the subject is treated historically, as he had it from
Iroquois chiefs at Onondaga and elsewhere. To them the super-
natural finitnres were but picturesque additions. I think he
asci-ibed too nnich Avisdom and goodness to him, but the general
treatment of the subject is very good.

I (|U()te Dr. Hale's opinion, which is "that the justly
veui'i-ated author of this confederation, the far-famed Hiawatha,
Avas not. as some have thought, a mythological or a poetical
f-reation, hut really an al)original statesman and laAvmaker. a
personage as authentic and as admirable as Solon or Washington.

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Online LibraryWilliam Martin Beauchamp... The founders of the New York Iroquois league and its probable date → online text (page 1 of 3)