BRANT COUNTY, ONTARIO INDIAN HISTORIES
PART 2 - THE SIX NATION INDIANS
History of Brant County 1883, transcribed by Bill Bowman
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"If my Canadian critic alleges that a poet may not blame the actions of his country, I meet his allegations and deny it. No doubt a poet ought not forever to harp and carp upon the faults of his country, but he may be her moral censor, and he must not be her parasite. If an English poet under Edward III. had only dared to leave one generous line of commiseration to the memory of Sir William Wallace, how much he would have raised our estimation of the moral character of the age. The twentieth century will not think the worst of the nineteenth for regretting the American war. I know the slender importance of my own works. I am contending, however, against a false principle of delicacy that would degrade poetry itself if it were adopted, but it will never be adopted. I therefore regret nothing in the historical allusions of my poem except the mistake about your father. Nor, though I have spoken freely of American affairs, do I mean to deny that your native tribes may have had a just cause of quarrel with the American colonists. And I regard it as a mark of their gratitude that they adhered to the royal cause. . . . . .
"I could say much of European injustice toward your tribes, but in spite of all that I could say, I must still deplore the event of Christians having adopted their mode of warfare; and as circumstances then stood, of their having invoked their alliance. If the Indians thirsted for vengeance on the colonists, that should have been the very circumstance to deter us from blending their arms with ours. "I trust you will understand this declaration to be made in the spirit of frankness, and not of mean and inhospitable arrogance. If I were to speak to you in that spirit, how easily and how truly could you tell me that the American Indians have departed faster from their old practices of warfare than Christians have departed from their habits of religious persecution! If I were to preach to you about European humanity, you might ask me how long the ashes of the inquisition have been cold, and whether the slave-trade be yet abolished? You might demand how many- no, how few generations have elapsed since our old women were burned for imaginary commune with the devil, and whether the houses are not yet standing from which our great-grandmothers may have looked upon the hurdles passing to the place of execution, whilst they blessed themselves that they were not witches? . . . . . I have been thus special in addressing you, from a wish to vindicate my own consistency, as well as to do justice to you in your present circumstances, which are peculiarly and publicly interesting. The chief of an aboriginal tribe now settled under the protection of our Sovereign in Canada, you are anxious to lead on your people in a train of civilization that is already begun. It is impossible that the British community should not be touched with regard for an Indian stranger of respectable private character, possessing such useful and honourable views. Trusting that you will amply succeed in them, and long live to promote improvement and happiness amidst the residue of your ancient race,
"I remain your sincere well-wisher,
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During his stay in London he appears to have improved every opportunity for observing and learning the habits of English society. Among the entries in his diary was the following, not very complimentary to the ladies whom he met: "Thursday evening May 16th, 1822.- I went to Mr. C. A. Tulk's, M. P., party to hear a little music. There were twenty-two ladies- one only pretty; Casweighten, said to be the best violin player in Europe; and Solly, celebrated for the guitar and piano. I met a gentleman well acquainted with my father, formerly of the Queen's Rangers."
The War of 1812 had a most unhappy effect upon the Mohawks. It diverted their attention from the usual employments of peace, and seriously affected the establishment of schools and churches. John Brant procured an appropriation in 1822 from the New England Corporation for the Civilization of Indians, which body had been chartered as far back as 1662. After his return to Grand River, the young chief devoted much of his energy to the application of this fund to purposes for which it was designed. His letters and papers show that he was deeply interested in the work of progress for his people. Many of these epistles are full of the spirit of broad philanthropy, and would do credit to any representative of the white race. So eminently were these services performed and appreciated, that the young chief was made the recipient of a memento from the managers of the ancient association above mentioned. This gift was a finely-wrought cup of sterling silver, which bore the following inscription:
"Presented by the New England Corporation, established in London, by Charter, A.D. 1662, for the Civilization of the Indians, To JOHN BRANT, Esq., Ahyouwaeghs One of the chiefs of the Mohawk Nation, in acknowledgment of his eminent services in promoting the objects of the Corporation. A.D. 1829."
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In the year 1827 the Earl of Dalhousie, then Commander-in-chief of the British American Provinces, appointed Brant to the rank of captain, and Superintendent of the Six Nations. It was early in the same year (1827) that certain American newspapers took the liberty to publish his name as one who had been indirectly implicated with the band of over zealous masons who were charged with the abduction of William Morgan in the year previous. It appears that the first plan was to seize Morgan and convey him out of the country; but no definite plan of procedure was agreed upon, and having abducted their victim the problem was what to do with him. One idea seems to have been to enlist Morgan as a seaman on board of a British man-of-war at Quebec; another plan was to get the Indians to transport the captive to the far North-West and leave him with the fur-traders. This latter arrangement was based upon the supposition that John Brant, like his father, was a freemason, and being in a convenient position and in a foreign country, and also in full connection with the Indians of the west and north, it was concluded that he would be an efficient tool for the execution of their purpose. The suggestion that the Mohawk chief was or might have been available for their business, became public, and worked no small amount of mortification to himself and his friends. The imputation was repelled with a spirit becoming the man and the race from which he descended. The subjoined letter will explain itself:
"Wellington Square, Feb. 29th, 1827.- To the editor of the New York Observer: Sir,- I have read a paragraph in the New York Spectator of the 16th instant, wherein it is stated that the fraternity at Niagara had sent for me to receive and sacrifice the unhappy Morgan, of whom so much has been lately spoken. You will oblige me by contradicting this report, which is wholly false. Neither in that instance nor any other has such a barbarous proposal been made to me; nor do I believe the man exists who would dare to wound my feelings in such a heinous manner. I know nothing of the man, nor of any transaction relating to him, and I am much surprised that my name has been called in question- I am, Sir, yours respectfully, J. BRANT."
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In the year 1832, John Brant was returned a member of the Provincial Parliament for the county of Haldimand, comprehending a good portion of the territory originally granted to the Mohawks. The right of the Indians to this territory yet depended upon the original proclamation of Sir Frederick Haldimand, which according to the decision of the courts of Upper Canada, conveyed no legal title to the fee of the land. The Indians had been in the practice of conveying away portions of their lands by long leases- for nine hundred and ninety-nine years- and a large number of those persons by whose votes brant was elected had only such titles to their real estate. As the laws of Upper canada required a freehold qualification for county elections, Mr. Brant's return was contested by the opposing candidate, Colonel Warren, and ultimately set aside, and the Colonel declared to be duly chosen.
It was of small moment to either candidate, however, as that fell destroyer, Asiatic cholera, swept over this country, and among its victims were both contestants for parliamentary honours. Brant's remains were buried by the side of those of his father, in the Mohawk cemetery, where they rested until the reinterment of both father and son in 1850. Singular as it may appear, the date of the death of John Brant is not given by any of his biographers, so far as is known.
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The flight of time, and the corroding hand of neglect, were fast obliterating the little mounds of earth which marked the last resting place of Thayendanegea and his son and successor, Ahyouwaeghs. In the year 1850, a few interested friends of the Indians, together with the leading spirits of those of the Six Nations, who were residents upon the soil, united their efforts, and with one ceremony reinterred the dust of both chieftains in one common vault. The tomb is as plain rectangular pedestal, surmounted by a flat slab, upon which is engraved the following inscription: "THis tomb is erected to the memory of Thayendanegea, or Capt. Joseph Brant, principal Chief and Warrior of the Six Nations Indians, by his fellow-subjects, admirers of his fidelity and attachment to the British Crown. Born on the banks of the Ohio River, 1742. Died at Wellington Square, U. C., 1807. It also contains the remains of his son, Ahyouwaeghs, or Capt. John Brant, who succeeded his father as Tekarihogea, and distinguished himself in the War of 1812-15. Born at the Mohawk village, U. C., 1794. Died at the same place, 1832. Erected, 1850." The old grave-yard was suffered to remain open to the inspection of any one who chose to visit it, and in course of time the slab became marred by the vandal hands of relic hunters, until its destruction was threatened. A few years since an iron was erected, which in measure protects the tomb from injury.
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THE BRANT MEMORIAL
The erection of a suitable memorial, which shall do honour to the great chieftain from whom the county was named, has been the subject of much attention by many of the most influential citizens for several years past; and though the matter has thus far assumed no final form, it is believed to be eminently proper to record the progress which has been made. The subjoined sketch for the movement from its inception is taken from a local paper, the title and date of which are not at hand. "In August, 1874, His Royal Highness Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught, paid a visit to the Six Nations, at their reservation in this county. On this occasion the chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations Indians presented His Royal Highness with a fine portrait of their former chief, Captain Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), at the same time asking that he would graciously become their patron in an attempt to establish a fitting monument to their chieftain's memory. To that end the subjoined address was presented to His Royal Highness.
"To His Royal Highness, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, &c., &c., &c. "The chiefs of the six Nations Indians residing on the Grand River, in the counties of Brant and Haldimand, in the Province of Ontario, British North America, in Council assembled, have on behalf of themselves and their people, resolved to avail themselves of the gracious opportunity presented by the first visit of His Excellency the Governor-General to them, to convey to your Royal Highness, through him, the assurance of their remembrance, with pride and satisfaction, of the very distinguished honour conferred on them by the visit you were pleased to make to them when in this country, and of the consideration and condescension manifested by your Royal Highness on that occasion, resulting in your becoming an honorary chief of their confederacy; also to convey to your Royal Highness their grateful thanks for the kindness which placed in their possession the highly prized portraits of their no less illustrious than good Queen, your royal mother, of your no less distinguished than justly lamented father, and of yourself, all of which now grace and adorn the walls of their Council House, and inspiring then that zeal for and loyal attachment to the Crown and Empire which characterized their fathers in troublous times, now happily passed away. They would also respectfully represent to your Royal Highness their anxious desire to see performed their too long delayed duty of worthily perpetuating the memory of their great chief, Captain Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), who, during the great struggle, which resulted in the creation of two supreme authorities on this continent, where only one existed, loyally and gallantly led their fathers as allies of the crown in defence of it and the Empire, and when all was lost, with them maintained his allegiance, sacrificing and giving up all and finding his way to the then wilds of Canada, where he remained to the end of his eventful career, animating and inspiring them with the same loyalty and attachment to the crown and its institutions which always characterized him and them whenever their services were required. They would further respectfully refer your Royal Highness to the important part the said Six Nations performed in the ever memorable War of 1812, when it was sought to destroy the last vestige of British authority on this continent, and ever since that time, when similar attempts have been made, and express the hope that your Royal Highness in view of past services to their country, may be graciously pleased to aid them in their contemplated efforts to raise a fitting monument to and worthy of the memory of the distinguished chief of whom they have been speaking, by permitting yourself to become the patron of the undertaking, as it would be greatly promoted thereby, and it is one in which they would assure your Royal Highness they feel a profound and lively interest. They would also be permitted to beg the acceptance of your Royal Highness of a likeness of their said lamented chief, made from a portrait of him taken on the occasion of his visit to England, in the year 1786, and also one of the accompanying volumes, giving a history of his life and the events in which he took a conspicuous part. They would also be permitted to request that your Royal Highness would be graciously pleased to convey to Her Gracious Majesty their assurances of continued fidelity and attachment to Her Royal person and Government; and finally expressing the hope that the Great Spirit may ever watch over and protect your Royal Highness and all the members of the Royal Family, they would subscribe themselves,
"YOUR ROYAL HIGHNESS'S FAITHFUL SERVANTS. "COUNCIL HOUSE, OHSWEKEN, AUGUST, 1874."
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"To this request his Royal Highness was pleased to return a favourable reply. The many friends of the Indian tribes resident on on* the Grand River Reserve, in this county, and who had their homes in Brantford and vicinity, at length, in April, 1876, concluded that the time had come when they should unite their efforts with those of their Indian friends, and take decided measures to help on the construction of a national monument to the memory of Great Britain's great Indian ally in the Revolutionary struggles, and after whom their county and city were named. Accordingly on the 14th of April, 1876, county and town were flooded with circulars calling for the formation of a large local committee, from which to select an executive committee to forward the monumental project. It speaks well for the intelligence and patriotism of town and county when we can say that a very large proportion of the leading men gave a hearty approval to the enterprise. From this local committee the following Executive Committee was finally chosen. The Honourable David Christie, Speaker of the Senate, Canada, Chairman; Allen Cleghorn, Esquire, Vice-Chairman; C. A. Jones, Esquire, Secretary; Alexander Robertson, Esq., Bank of British North America, Treasurer; William Patterson, Esquire, M. P.; A. S. Hardy, Esq., Q. C., M.P.P.; His Honour S. J. Jones, County Judge, Brant; William Thompson, Esquire, Warden, Brant; James W. Digby, Esq., M.D., Mayor, Brantford; The Reverend Canon Nelles, Mohawk Parsonage; John Elliott, Esq., Reeve, Brantford; George H. Wilkes, Esq., Deputy Reeve, Brantford; Lieutenant-Colonel J. T. Gilkison, Visiting Superintendent Indian Affairs; M. J. Kelly, Esq., M.D., LL.B., County School Inspector; R. Henwood, Esq., M.D.; Henry Yates, Esq.; Robert Henry, Esq.; Henry Lemmon, Esq.; W. C. Trimble Esq.; Josh T. Johnson, Esq.; William Watt, Jr., Esquire, Ll.B.; Alfred J. Wilkes, Esq., LL.B.; Arthur B. G. Tisdale, Esq.; George Lindley, Esq.; John Turner, Esq.; and the following chiefs, nominated at a council of Six Nations Indians, for the Executive Committee: John Carpenter; David Thomas, Mohawks; John Hill; John Gibson, Jr., Senecas; John Buck; Levi Jonathan, Onondagas; John General, Nicodemus Porter, Oneidas; Joseph Henry, William Wedge, Cayugas; Moses Hill, Richard Hill, Tuscaroras; Chief George H. M. Johnson, Chief Interpreter; Peter Edmund Jones, M.D., Head Chief, Mississagua, New Credit. This committee immediately placed themselves in communication with the leading men and newspapers of the Dominion. The result of this appeal for vice-patrons and public sympathy was very encouraging, nearly all the public men of Canada, noted in Church, State and letters, lending their names for the advancement of the cause, while the press of the Dominion, without exception, gave the project a hearty approval. In the meantime His Excellency the Earl of Dufferin, Governor-General of Canada, had expressed great interest in the movement, and had graciously allowed his name to be used as a patron thereof. On proper representations having been made to his Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught, through the Earl of Dufferin, that distinguished Englishman, also kindly consented to become a patron of the fund.
* Bill's Note! As written in book.
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"On the 2nd of August, 1877, at their Council House, Ohsweken, the Six Nation Indians voted $5,000 of their funds toward this laudable movement. On the 3rd of September, 1877, at the request of a large number of ratepayers of the city of Brantford, the Mayor held a public meeting in the City Hall, for the purpose of considering the advisability of the city contributing to the Brant Memorial. At this meeting a motion was passed requesting the city Council to make a grant of $5,000 toward the object named. This motion is now in the hands of the City Fathers, and it is expected that a vote of the ratepayers of Brantford will shortly ratify this motion, and thus be the means of placing in one of our public squares a monument whose estimated cost is $30,000, and which will form at once an elegant and artistic ornament to the city, and a worthy monument to whose memory is closely connected with Brantford and Brant County history."
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The proposition above mentioned was made legal and operative by an Act of Parliament, and was never submitted to the ratepayers. Considerable money was expended in preliminary arrangements, and at last a design was submitted, which had for its estimated cost the sum of $20,000. The Indians of the county had vouched for $5,000, the town of Brantford for $5,000 more, and the same, in round numbers, had been pledged from outside sources; but the extent of the investment had been rather overplaced, and the popular enthusiasm began to cool before the work was even begun. Various efforts have been made from time to time, since then, to revive the enterprise, and it is believed by many friends of the undertaking that a monument will yet be erected. The subjoined description of the design was prepared by a member of the local press, at the request of the artist who produced it. The article was printed in February, 1880. An exquisitely beautiful design of the proposed monument was drawn some time since by C. E. Zollicoffer, one of the most accomplished artists in Canada, whose name is connected with the finest designs and carvings on the Parliament Buildings at Ottawa. >From the original design the same gentleman has prepared a model of beauty, accurately proportioned, showing, on a moderately small scale, what the monument will be when completed. The memorial structure will be hexagonal, representing the six tribes. The base is thirty-four feet in diameter, with nine steps leading to the superstructure. On each corner is a pedestal fourteen feet from the ground, on which stands an admirably executed representative of each tribe in costume, and of life size. On each side of the column there is a panel with a coat of arms, being the escutcheon of all the different tribes. Surmounting the top of the column is a statue of Joseph Brant in his war costume, and of proportionate height to suit the elevation of the memorial. The steps are intended to be either of Montreal limestone or Cleveland sandstone. The whole superstructure to be of Nova blue leverock, or Beria sandstone. The panels are to be of No. 1 Vermont marble. The seven figures are also to be of Vermont, Sicilian, or Carara marble. The height of the column, including base, will be forty-five feet from the ground, and will be built on the Victoria Square in front of the County Buildings, opposite the Court House, the best site that could have been selected in the city of Brantford. The model of which we have given a short description, based upon the specifications for the monument, is on exhibition in one of the large rooms of the Kerby Block, and has been admired by thousands of visitors. It is indeed a rare specimen of the beautiful art, and reflects the highest credit on the genius of Mr. Zollicoffer, who designed and executed it. The taste displayed by this gentleman in the design of the intended structure is hardly less to be appreciated than the artistic skill and genius of those citizens who designed the memorial to be erected in grateful acknowledgment of the patriotic services of one of nature's truest noblemen, and his compatriots whose manly and heroic action adorn British colonial history on this continent. During the year 1882, another design of equal worth, but much less elaborate in detail, and consequently in cost of production, has been chosen, and it is hoped that it will be possible to complete the work ere long- " a consummation devoutly to be wished."
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THE SIX-NATION INDIANS
The scope of this work will not permit of even a summary sketch of the extent and location of the principal Indian nations as they were found when European adventurers began the settlement of America. Certain great tribes, each with a different language, and differing also in many other of their habits and traits, were scattered over the continent from the Gulf of Mexico to the far north. Without attempting any Indian history of an earlier date than that of the settlement of Lower Canada and what is now the State of New York, it may be stated at once that this territory was in possession of two of the great principal Indian nations of the continent. The Hurons, who were part of the great Algonquin combination, were, in a general way, the occupants of the northern borders of Lake Ontario, Erie, and on the eastern margin of Lake Huron. To the eastward of this people were several other small tribes, who occupied the country along the St. Lawrence River toward its mouth. The Iroquois were located on the south of Lakes Ontario and Erie, and on the southern side of the St. Lawrence as far east as the River Richelieu. The great central home of this body of Indians extended from near where the present city of Albany stands, up the valley of the Mohawk River, and westward to the vicinity of Buffalo. A glance at the map will demonstrate the situation to be a prolongation of a line which passes directly eastward through Brant County. This old home of the Iroquois was in all respects one of the most attractive sections of country north of the equator, and was, at an early period of American history, a coveted spot by the emigrant and frontiersman.
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The name Iroquois is a general term, used to define a particular subdivision or group of Indians, and is, so far as this sketch is concerned synonymous with Six Nations, which is commonly used to designate the main confederate body of the Iroquois people. The Six Nations were composed of the following tribes: Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, Tuscaroras. The "Mohawks" were the ranking tribe, and were at the eastern extremity of the nation, on the Lower Mohawk River. The Oneidas were next west, and were settled in the neighbourhood of the head of Oneida Lake. Next came the Onondagas, whose country was included in the triangle of which Syracuse, Oswego, and Auburn are the respective corners; it is also probable that the country south of this triangle, including Skaneateles Lake, was common to this tribe. The Cayugas were next west of the Onondagas, and occupied the neighbourhood of Cayuga Lake. On the extreme west were the Senecas, whose country extended from the head of Seneca Lake to Lake Erie.
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The original confederacy was composed of the first five of the above tribes, and was known in early times as the Five Nations, but about 1712 the Tuscaroras, who had been driven out of the Carolinas by the inhabitants of that country, were admitted to the confederacy; after that event the body was known as the Six Nations. The Tuscaroras appear to have been, at the time of their reception into the Iroquois nation, a sort of unimportant and weak tribe, whom the Five Nations adopted more on account of their kinship than any valour which they possessed. Their principal home seems to have been to the south and west of the Senecas.
The Six Nations were firmly allied with the English long before the Revolutionary War; and upon the outbreak of that conflict, they were beset by both British and Americans to take up the hatchet as co-workers in the bloody work of death. The Six Nations as a body, became a part of the British forces which engaged the colonies along the northern frontier, and having resolved to "sink or swim" with the English cause, they very naturally did their best against the common enemy. Having cast their lot with the English, these Indians felt reluctant to return to their own lands in the States after the declaration of peace, so the British Government ceded a large tract of country to their use and benefit, as wards of the nation. This tract of land is along the course of the Grand River, and comprises a large part of what is now Brant County. In due time the Indians established themselves upon this new tract of country, and began the slow but profitable journey toward civilization.
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It may not be out of place here to remark, that the Oneidas, and to a certain extent, the Tuscaroras, also, remained neutral during the war; and in course of the final settlement of things between the two great powers, these Indians were provided for by the United States. The Indian reservation in the State of New York, known as "Cattaraugus" country, is based upon that final adjustment of the results of war.
About the year 1867 the Six Nation Indians of Brant County formed an agricultural society, giving to it the name of the " Six Nations' Agricultural Society." The society has existed and prospered form that time, holding each year a fair which is largely attended by the people. On January 10th, 1883, being the second Wednesday in January, as provided by the constitution of the above society for the election of officers, the result was as follows: Wm. Smith, President; Peter Miller, Vice-President; A. G. Smith, Secretary; G. E. Powless, Assistant Secretary; James Styres, Treasurer; Isaac Davis, Foreman of Committee. Committee: Henry Clinch, Wm. Wage, John Hill, Josiah Hill, Jacob Davis, Jno. F. Martin. One hundred and eighty, of the Six Nations enrolled themselves as members of the above society started sixteen years ago. An increasing interest is being taken in the society by the Six Nation community, and consequently it must succeed.
That ends the section on Indian History.
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