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others also. Craig believed everything calculated to explain the means
by which the union of the constituent nations was so long preserved,
and to illustrate their domestic institutions would continue to interest

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every enlightened mind. He reiterated the common opinion that the
existence of institutions so artificial and yet so admirably calculated to
accomplish the purposes of the framers among a people usually regarded
as savages, must astonish and yet gratify all who there for the first
time became acquainted with them. At the time he printed these
observations, Mr. Craig had in mind the address of De Witt Clinton
which Craig had read thirty-six years previously, having been presented
with a copy of it by Judge Henry Baldwin, of Pittsburgh, his law pre-
ceptor, who was an intimate friend of Clinton. Judge Baldwin sat on
the Supreme Bench of the United States from 1830 to 1846. When
publishing "The Olden Time," Craig found in an old work* some parts
of this address, which he reprinted in "The Olden Time." (Vol. I, pp.
396-398). Craig states regretfully that he had "loaned his copy to a
friend who was careful not to return it." Clinton made plain the wisdom
and policy of the Iroquois in their selection of their home country,
situated as they were upon the high tableland from which waters flow
into the St. Lawrence, the Mohawk, the Delaware, the Susequehanna
and the Allegheny, because so situated these Indians by short portages
at the most could readily launch their light canoes to transport their
warriors to any part of the country to war upon their enemies or punish
their refractory subjects. Parkman, too, as will be noted, dwells upon
their strategic position. Craig, well satisfied that the Six Nations were
a wonderful people among the Aborigines of the soil of America, and
as they were rightfully or otherwise lords paramount in this our home
region when the first white men visited it, believed that everything
relating to their history, character or institutions, came properly under
the scope of his undertaking of republishing in whole, or in parts, various
interesting papers in relation to the early history of our country, in
preference to undertaking the task of the historian by forming from
such documents his own inferences, conclusions and opinions, and pre-
senting them as historical facts. By carrying out his intention thus,
he has left us in "The Olden Time" a long series of elaborate and enter-
taining articles which show patient and careful research, and to which
he has added explanations and editorial remarks. From "Skenandoah's
Letters" we extract some further items of interest, introducing also some
quotations. It has been stated in these letters that :

It is an original peculiarity of Indian character that he has no desire to perpetuate
himself in the remembrance of distant generations t^ monumental inscriptions or other
erections fabricated by the art and industry of man. The Iroquois would have passed
away without leaving a vestige or memorial of their existence behind, if to them had
been entrusted the preservation of their name and deeds. A verbal language, a people
without a city, a government without a record, are as fleeting as the deer and the wild
fowl upon which the Indian himself subsists. With the departure of the individual,
every vestige of Indian sovereignty vanishes. He leaves but the arrowhead upon the
hillside, fit emblem of his pursuits ; and the rude pipe and ruder vessel, entombed beside

8"Knapp's History and Topography of the United States."

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his bones — at once the record of his superstition, and the evidence of his existence.
If the red man had any ambition for immortality, he would entrust his fame to the
unwritten remembrance of his tribe and race rather than to the inscriptions on columns
in his native land, or other monument more durable than brass, which neither wasting
rain nor mighty wind, nor flight of time, could overthrow.

It is for us to search out their government and institutions, and to record the
events of their political existence. To these sources the historian must turn for the
materials to be inscribed upon the introductory pages of our territorial history; and
should he desire more ample knowledge of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee, in the various depart-
ments necessary to a full history of the race, the effort must be quickly made, for soon
avenues of inquiry will be perpetually closed. The antiquities of our State are essen-
tially Indian, on which account they lose in comparative interest Could we look back
to a barbarous and antiquated era during which our ancestors were struggling upon the
territory to emerge from rudeness, and to elevate themselves to a state of civilization,
the research would rise in dignity and importance. But since our ancestors occupied
this territory as a civilized race, with no link between them and the aboriginal occu-
pants, except that of feeble humanity, we are inclined to pass by the incidents of his
sovereignty with careless and transient observations.

We may ponder upon these observations, noticing at the same time
the paraphrasing of some well known Horatian lines.*

Craig, in his introduction to the final installment of **Skenandoah's"
letters, remarks the- beauty and vigor of style of the author and the
philosophical cast of mind displayed in his comparison and contrast
of form of government of the Six Nations and those of other nations,
and that these alone would command attention. Craig again asserts
strong reasons for reprinting the entire series of letters. He says : "But
when we bear in mind that these Indians were the occupants of the
banks of the Ohio and the Allegheny when Europeans first visited these
streams, their history and institutions must become subjects of absorb-
ing interest to every liberal and inquiring mind."

In presenting specimens of Iroquois language and illustrating the
modes of variation, Craig says the specimens "are those of the very
tribe, the Seneca, who had their homes along the Allegheny and the
Ohio rivers. The language is that of Washington's early friend, Tana-
charison, of Guyasutha, and of the wise and venerable Complanter."
Craig knew Guyasutha, who was one of Washington's guides on his
mission to the French forts in 1753. Craig knew also the venerable
Cornplanter, and men were still living whom Craig knew in his boyhood
who had met Tanacharison and Monacatoocha — among those then living
persons, Washington himself, for Craig was thirteen years old when the
great Washington passed from earth to immortality. Slight wonder
then that Craig should in regret say of the Seneca tongue: "It will be
ere long a dead language, and the sole remaining memento of the soil
we now occupy." However, his fear proved groundless, for already
there were books printed in Seneca, notably a spelling book in 1842,

4"Carmina," Book III, Ode 30; "Bxegi monumentum aere ferentms/' etc., **I have
raised a monument more enduring than brass," etc. Cf. 'Xeague of the Ho-d6
no-sau-nee,** L. H. Morgan, p. 59.

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the issue of the mission press at the Buffalo Creek Reservation in New
York, copies of which are still extant. The tribe is not extinct by any
means, but flourishing under a new civilization ; though of much interest,
their later history can find scant place in our present work.

The Iroquoian tongues, like all unwritten languages, is imperfect
in construction and scarcely admits of comparison, except on general
principles with those which have been systematized and perfected,
observes "Skenandoah," and it would be apt to be characterized as a
barbarous jargon by the schoolmen. This writer properly admits an
incident to the Iroquoian dialects which rises far above mere literary
curiosity; it is the fact, as he states, that "through all generations their
language will be spoken in our geographical terms," but of that anon.

In the story of the Iroquois, exhibiting the highest development the
Indian ever reached by him in the hunter state, there arises another
source of admiration, for during the expansion of the Confederacy
there sprang up a class of orators and chiefs unrivalled among the red
men for eloquence in council and bravery upon the warpath, some of
whom flourished in the region about the Upper Ohio and will be referred
to as one by one, or in company, they appear on the stage of action.
Some have already been named.

But we have not completed the examination of their political struc-
ture, a fuller knowledge of which is essential to the better understanding
of their sovereignty and its continuance. To give a complete account
of the League, or Confederacy, one should follow the admirable order
of "Skenandoah," viz.: The origin of the League; the ruling body and
its powers; the division of the people into tribes with the tribal bond
or cross-relationship between them; the laws of succession, with their
incidents, and the councils of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee with their powers,
mode of proceeding, spirit and eflFect. Upon the facts derived from
these sources of investigation, the true character of the Iroquoian gov-
ernment is to be settled. The writer above referred to is to be quoted
again. He says:

In their original well developed institutions and in the government so systematic in
its construction and so liberal in its administration, there is much to enforce a tribute
of respect to the intelligence of our Indian predecessors. Without such institutions and
without that animating spirit which they nourish and diffuse, it would be difficult to
account for the production of such men as have sprung up among the Iroquois. The
development of national intellect depends chiefly upon external, reciprocal influences,
and is usually proportionate to the vitality and motive which the institutions of the
people possess and furnish.

The central government of the League was organized and adminis-
tered much upon the same principles as each nation in its separate
capacity, and the nations stood nearly in the same relation to the League
as the States bear to the United States. The Iroquois government
presented several oligarchies within one, in the same manner as our

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Federal Union exhibits its numerous republics within the one united
republic. Lossing has epitomized the Iroquois government as follows :

Each canton or nation was a distinct republic, independent of all others in rela-
tion to its domestic affairs, but each bound to the others of the League by ties of honor
and general interest. Each canton had eight principal sachems or magistrates, and
several inferior sachems. The whole number of civil magistrates in the Confederacy
amounted nearly to two hundred. There were fifty hereditary sachems.

Each canton or nation was subdivided into clans and tribes, each clan having its
heraldic insignia called totems. For this insignia, one would have the figure of a wolf ;
another a bear, etc. By their totemic system they maintained a perfect tribal union.
After the European came, the sachem of the tribe affixed his totem in the form of a
rude representation of the animal that marked his tribe, to the documents he was
required to sign, like an ancient monarch affixing his seal.&

The autographs of the signatory sachems to the treaties at Fort
Stanwix in 1768 and 1784 do not conform to Lossing's statements.
Samuel Hazard, the Pennsylvania historian, had copies made of all the
Indian autographs to the Pennsylvania treaties from 1682 to 1785, which
he assembled and had lithographed on one sheet, and which is to be
found in Volume I of the First Series of the Pennsylvania Archives,
edited by Hazard and published by the State in 1852. All of the original
parchments on which these treaties were written have been preserved
by the State, and are in charge of the Custodian of Public Records in the
State House at Harrisburg. A photostatic copy of the signatures to
the treaty of 1768 has been furnished by Dr. Thomas L. Montgomery,
State Librarian. Some of the sachems' autographs are plainly legible,
and are individual rather than totemic. In the highly important treaty
of 1768 the Indian title to most of Western Pennsylvania was divested
as will appear. The first sachem signing was Tyanahasare, or Abraham,
of the Mohawks ; Gaustrax of the Senecas last ; and with the exception
of his, each individual's mark is plain and all the names but one. The
name of each signer's nation is written under his name, but not his
tribe, though in some treaties this was done and the totemic mark
affixed. Thus in the treaty at Albany in 1754, when certain lands held
by them were confirmed to about two thousand settlers in the Wyoming
Valley, Tyanhasare, alias Abraham Peters, signed second, and under his
mark are the words, "Sachem of Canajoharie, of ye tribe of ye Bar ;" and
after Senosies, another name for Senaghsis, the Oneida, the words "his
Turtle mark" occur, thus corroborating Lossingf's statement.®

The tie of kinship furnished the strongest bond of Indian unity, the
totem, for it was essentially a system of symbol-association among the
many Indian clans, and one that ramified and intermingled all the native
races of America. The beasts and birds represented in rude pictographs

5"Harper*s Cyclopedia U. S. History;" B. J. Lossing, 1892, Vol. 1, p. 694. "Iro-
quois Confederacy;" also Ihxd,, Edition 1906, Vol. V.

eSee "History of Wilkes-Barre and the Wyoming Valley," Harvey, Vol. I, pp.

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were accepted and adopted as guardian spirits or protectors of man.
Each individual family had in the earlier days such a tutelary genius.
Intermarriage carried the genius of an especial family interest into
other tribes, for the warrior always followed the clan of his wife and
became a member of the family of the wife. "The Bear and the Wolf,
the Turtle, the Eagle, and other well known creatures of earth and sky,
became thus the family gods," observes Elbridge G. Brooks, "the Lares
and Penates of the American Indians." When such a reptile, bird or
quadruped was adopted as a guardian spirit, its rude representation, or
pictograph, wherever seen, was at once recognized and respected by
other possessors of the same totem. Like the hand-clasp or pass-word of
modern secret societies, the symbol of the totem secured for its owner
all the rights of hospitality, help and friendship, wherever claimed or
needed, alike among hostile and stranger tribes as among friendly and
confederated ones. "The wayfarer, the hunter of the warrior," says
Parkman, "was sure of a cordial welcome in the distant lodge of the
clansman whose face perhaps he had never seen."''

A warrior might change his name repeatedly. This could be done
for many reasons, and instances will be apparent in this history, but
the totem name was never changed. Its central motive was the doctrine
of "Once a citizen always a citizen." Bear, or Beaver, or Turtle, the
possessors of these badges of consanguinity were always and unalter-
ably Bear, or Beaver,' or Turtle, wherever they might be, or whatever
they might become. The best reason that can be assigned for the great
importance attached to the totem is, that it was the expression of that
strong love of kin that forms the basis of Indian nature. This assump-
tion explains also the respect paid to it, and as the totem is the out-
growth of the original clan-marks without regard to tribal organization,
in it may be discovered the earliest traits of association, political or
social, among the separating races, while it may be also .regarded as
an immediate outgrowth of the original or patriarchal state. There was
a basic difference between the clan and the tribe or nation. The former
was totemic, the latter directive ; the clan, the bond of kinship ; the tribe,
of the daily life; the clan had no distinct chieftain; it was simply a
diversified bond of blood relationship; the tribe was the governmental
organization necessary wherever the families of men unite for mutual
protection and support. The tendency of all society, whether civilized
or barbarous, is naturally though gradually towards cohesion, union and
centralization. The narrower the limit of the land, the speedier is this
union. Scattered over a vast area and separated by the barriers of
climate and speech, the Indian tribes of North America emerged but
slowly from the barbarism into which the whole land had fallen when
the suggested and unsubstantial civilization of prehistoric days had

T"Thc Story of the American Indian," etc. ; Elbridge G. Brooks, o. 95.

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gone down into savagery. Hence the spirit of union was of slow and
retarded growth, but that it did exist, the numerous confederacies that
were found in the land at the time of its discovery by Europeans is
sufficient evidence. These are largely the observations of Mr. Brooks,
leading to mention of "the strongest, the most intelligent, the most
alert" of all, quoting Parkman, "foremost in war, foremost in eloquence,
foremost in the savage arts of policy, the Ho-de-no-sau-nee" — the Iro-
quois, in the language of France. It is to be kept in mind that in the
confederated tribes under this designation, the word "tribe" has the
same significance as "clan" used by Brooks and other historians. The
division of a people into tribes is an ancient and simple organization.
In the words of "Skenandoah," "Each tribe being in the nature of a
family, the ties of relationship which bind its individuals together are
indispensable, until they are rendered unnecessary by the adoption of
a form of government and the substitution of other ties, which answer
the same ends of protection and security." The founders of the Iroquois
Confederacy did not seek to suspend the tribal divisions of their people,
to introduce a different social organization ; altogether on the contrary,
they built up the Confederacy upon the tribes. The Iroquois tribes were
unlike any in ancient history. A tribe with them was not a group of
families, neither was it made up of the descendants of a common father,
as the father and his child were never of the same tribe. The Iroquois
tribes came nearest in their structure to the tribes of the Jews; the
chief* difference to be noted is the incident of descent in the former,
which was in the female line, while in the latter the descent was in
the male line.

The careful study of the confederated tribal divisions of the Iroquois
which characterized the political system of their Confederacy, is of
paramount impprtance. Without such knowledge as this study will
afford, their government itself is meaningless, and therefore it cannot
be understood or appreciated for its wisdom and strength. The eight
tribes in each nation were in the order named: Wolf, Bear, Beaver,
Turtle, Deer, Snipe, Heron and Hawk, all animals common to the lati-
tudes between the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Lawrence river. This
tribal subdivision was common to Indian nations, and will be noticed
in the history of the Delawares in Western Pennsylvania. It is accorded
mention and explanation by most writers on our local history, even
of what may be designated "mixed history," on account of its inclusion
of strictly legal phases. (See "Settlement and Land Titles," Daniel
Agnew, p. 175). These phases are manifest from the examination of
titles running back to the vesting of the Iroquois land in the Common-
wealth of Pennsylvania by the two treaties with the Iroquois at Fort
Stanwix, 1768 and 1784, and by the later one with the Wyandots and
Delawares at Fort Mcintosh, now Beaver, Pennsylvania, in January,
1785 — also an important treaty.

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These animal names in themselves do not throw any light upon the
locality in which the Iroquois originated. That they had an emblemati-
cal signification is most probable ; of this but little is known, and perhaps
if known would be of little importance. Tradition declares the Bear
and Deer the original tribes, the others subdivisions. On the establish-
ment of the League, there is some evidence that there were seven
tribes in the distribution of the Onondaga and Seneca hereditary sachem-
ships, for of the fourteen assigned to the first mentioned nation, all
the tribes receive mention but the Heron. So, too, the Seneca sachem-
ships — five only are represented, to the exclusion of the others. Origi-
nally the Mohawks and Oneidas had but three tribes — Wolf, Bear and
Turtle. It is a plain inference that they did not then exist.

The division of the people of each nation into eight tribes, whether
preexisting or perfected at the establishment of the Confederacy, did
not terminate in its objects with the nation itself. It became the means
of effecting that most perfect union of separate nations that has ever
aroused admiration. In eflFect, the Wolf tribe was divided into five
parts, and one-fifth placed in each of the five nations. The other tribes
were subjected to the same division and distribution, thus giving to
each nation the eight tribes, and making in their separate state forty
tribes in the Confederacy. Between the separated parts of each tribe
there thus existed a tie of brotherhood which linked the nations together
with indissoluble bonds. The Mohawk of the Wolf tribe recognized
the Seneca of the Wolf tribe as his brother, and they were bound by
the ties of consanguinity. In like manner, the Oneida of the Turtle
received the Cayuga or the Onondaga of the same tribe as a brother,
and with fraternal welcome. The cross-relationship between the tribes
of the same name was stronger if possible than the chain of brotherhood
between the several tribes of the same nation. In this cross-relationship
can be found the chief reason for the tenacity with which the fragments
of the old Confederacy held together for years after the American Revo-

Again there obtrudes the wonder of this extraordinary specimen of
Indian legislation, evincing the wisdom of savage minds. To further
elucidate we may note first, that if either of the five confederated nations
had wished to cast off the alliance, it would have broken the bond of
brotherhood. Had the nations collided it would have turned the Hawk
tribe against Hawk tribe. Heron against Heron, and so in detail; in
fact, brother against brother. In the history of the Confederacy, the
wisdom of these organic provisions stands forth clear and illuminating,
for during the long period which the Confederacy lasted they never fell
into anarchy. They never even approximated dissolution from internal
disorders. We of the United States .of America in our history are not
permitted thus to boast.

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With the progress of the inquiry that has been instituted, it has been
made plain that the Iroquois Confederacy was a "League of Tribes."
With ties of kindred as the principle of union, the whole race, as allied,
was interwoven into one great family. It is always to be remembered
that there were Indian nations of Iroquoian stock not admitted to the
illustrious Ho-de-no-sau-nee — not people of the Long House. The great
family made up from the five nations was composed of tribes in its
first subdivision. These nations we have seen were counterparts of
each other. The tribes themselves, in their subdivisions, were composed
of parts of many households. It is apparent that without these close
inter-relations, resting mainly upon the strong impulses of nature, a
mere alliance of the five nations would have been feeble and most prob-
ably transitory.

So was constructed the Tribal League of the far-famed Ho-de-no-
sau-nee. "Simple in its foundation upon family relationships; effective
in the lasting vigor inherent in the ties of kindred; and perfect in its
success in achieving a lasting and harmonious union of the nations, it
forms an enduring monument to that proud and progressive race who
reared under its protection a widespread Indian sovereignty.**

These are the words of "Skenandoah" in the wonderful letters His-
torian Craig, of Pittsburgh, has preserved for us. In the foregoing,
much of the information recorded is abstracted from these ''Letters," and
rightly, for the author of them has in the three-quarters of a century
that has elapsed, earned and justified the honor of having been the best
historian of and the greatest authority concerning the Iroquois. When

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 11 of 81)