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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 5: The Mohawks.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 107-138 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

Contents | Biographies | Illustrations | Maps | Portraits

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The Mohawks, elder brothers of the Iroquois Confederacy and keepers of the eastern gate of the long house of the Five Nations — Eskimo, Algonquin and Mound Builder occupation of the region of present New York State — Strategic position and natural advantages of New York — Parker's hypothesis of the Iroquois invasion — Hochelaga, the great Mohawk castle on the St. Lawrence, at present Montreal — The Mohawks retreat to Vermont, 1570 — Beginning of the Hundred Years' War — Onondagas, Oneidas and Mohawks join the Senecas and Cayugas on the Iroquois trail — First four Mohawk castles in the Valley — Where Hiawatha and Dekanawida met and found refuge with the Mohawks — Mohawk and Iroquois life, habits, customs and warfare — Cartier's visit to the Mohawk castle of Hochelaga, 1535.

The story of the Mohawks is that of the most famous of the Indians of North America who were the elder brothers of the Iroquois Confederacy. Before the coming of the white man, they kept the Eastern Gate of the Iroquois Long House. To their Algonquin enemies, they were the terrible Mohowaugs who "ate living creatures"; from their land of blood and flame the Iroquois braves went out upon the warpath to the conquest of an Indian empire in Northeastern America.

When Champlain ascended the mighty St. Lawrence and when Hudson sailed up the great river, which bears his name, the League of Five Nations was already located in its Iroquois Long House. Seated upon the Iroquois Trail (from present Albany to Buffalo), these Confederates were in a strategic position which was to make them the masters of their Indian world. Before them the Algonquins and the Mound Builders had entered the present area of New York State, but the Iroquois now had taken possession of the great trail, which was the backbone of this favored region and here they were masters until the white men's vices and diseases so vitiated them that the white pioneers finally pushed them from their point of vantage.

Before we enter upon the story of the Mohawk let us briefly consider the land which he invaded and where he planted his Long House.

New York is fittingly called the Empire State, for, within its bounds it holds all the elements of an empire. It deserves the title, not alone for its present commanding position but because it was once the seat of government of one of the most famous confederacies of history — that of the Five Nations of Iroquois Indians.

Our State's key situation, with reference to the great eastern waterways and highways, and the fact that its Mohawk Valley affords the only easy gateway from the Atlantic coast to the Great Lakes, gave this territory its dominating situation. Occupying the Iroquois Trail which forms the very backbone of this region, and by utilizing its enormous natural advantages, the Iroquois were enabled to conquer the greater part of the Indians of Northeastern America.

Along streams and lakes, over hill and dale and following the high and dry ridges, the Indian trails ran to all the hunting and fishing grounds of the east and also formed the warpaths over which the Iroquois traveled to the conquest or destruction of their enemies.

The vital position of New York's territory with regard to America's waterways is truly remarkable. In streams on or along the Iroquois Trail the Confederates could launch their elm bark canoes in water, which with short portages, carried them northeastward to the St. Lawrence River, north or northwestward to the Great Lakes, southwestward to the Allegheny, Ohio and Mississippi, southward to the Susquehanna and eastward, through the Mohawk and the Hudson, to the sea. Streams of all these great river systems have headwaters lying along or close to the Iroquois Trail. The utilization of the levels of the streams along this highway of the Five Nations, in the course of the construction of the Erie canal, gave our State America's first great artery of commerce, which, in its turn, first made New York our nation's leading commonwealth.

New York State, as a vantage point, must have appealed strongly to the keen mind of the Iroquois invader. From his Long House, he realized that he could strike north, south, east and west and then rapidly return to the strongholds of the Confederacy. The Iroquois also knew that, of all his trails and of all his streams, none was more vital than the river and trail that ran through the Mohawk Valley and connected the Mohawk castles. Added to the numerous easy paths and the many streams navigable by canoe, were the forests which teemed with game and the open flatlands along the rivers, which afforded natural cornfields which could be easily cultivated.

[Photo: The Mohawk Warriors.]

[Photo: Industries of the Oneidas.]

Here was a country for a strong man to have and to hold, and the Iroquois was the strong man of his savage period.

The natural advantages here cited had also appealed to the people who had come into the region comprised within present New York State, prior to the advent of the conquering Iroquois.

Weak Indian tribes probably had feared to seat themselves along our river because, when here located, they would have been threatened with destruction by migrating tribes of redmen or by raiding war parties which followed this great natural travel route. To the Mohawks, this site offered a challenge to his valor. He accepted the challenge, took the land and held it in undisputed mastery, until the white man's teeming numbers alone ended his overlordship of the Valley.

* * *

The leading authorities on the North American Indian do not give any great antiquity to the redman's coming into the vast area of our continent east of the Rocky Mountains. It is probable that the Eskimo people, who have left remains in our state and in the Mohawk Valley, greatly antedated the Indian arrival and this Eskimo type may have been here some thousands of years before the arrival of Indians. It is but reasonable to suppose that the ancestors of the Eskimo went gradually northward with the waning of an ice cap which was so extensive that it must have prohibited the existence of life of any extent upon its surface.

At some time during the Glacial period, Asiatic peoples crossed the icebound Behring Sea from Siberia to Alaska, and began that southward march which was to eventually people the entire area of North and South America. These Asiatics of Turanian stock followed the Pacific Coast route southward and, the Pacific Coast, Central and South America were probably the home of large populations, before adventurous tribes crossed the Rockies and began their long migration to the Atlantic. Thus the red man's peopling of North America was by a route exactly opposite to the white man's invasion.

Until the Iroquois came, our Mohawk Valley does not seem to have had any general occupancy, probably due to the fact that this has always been a great highway and thus was unsafe for any but a strong and warlike race of Indians like the Mohawks.

In The Archaeological History of New York, Mr. Arthur C. Parker, State Archaeologist (himself a member of the Seneca nation), gives the various occupations of New York State as those of an Eskimo like people, Algonquins, Indians of the Mound Builder culture type, and the Iroquois. Says Parker: "The Algonquin occupation of New York stretches back into comparatively remote times. There must have been wave after wave of these peoples coming in band after band, to hunt over the territory or to make settlements. Very likely the inviting regions south of the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence basins were as much occupied by the Algonquin tribes as was New England at the time of the discovery." Mr. Parker divides the Algonquin occupation into three periods, in the very first of which the Algonquins seem somewhat associated with the Eskimo type of people and, in the latest, when they covered a great part of the State. However, the Algonquins never seem to have occupied the entire Mohawk Valley, in fact, only the eastern area, and the extreme western end about Rome and Oneida lake, show evidences of Algonquin occupation, although there may be occasional exceptions. The Mohicans, a branch of this great family, occupied the extreme eastern end of the Valley, about Cohoes Falls and the Sprouts of the Mohawk, at the time of the Dutch location at present Albany in 1614. They have also left evidences of their occupancy of the Mohawk Valley between Amsterdam and Schenectady.

The Mound Builders are now known to have been Indians of a certain type and cultural development. They represent probably the third phase of the aboriginal occupation of New York. The extravagant stories of a mysterious mound-building people, who early were stated to have been other than Indians, have all been dissipated by scientific investigation. These elaborate fictions now take their place with the antiquated attempts of the Puritans and their descendants to connect the Indians with the lost tribes of Israel, a characteristic piece of New England inconsistency, because, while the Puritan ostensibly venerated his Israelites, he eliminated the Indian as rapidly as possible.

The works of the Mound Builders are those of the ancestors of the Indians now living. The mound builder type of culture is found in the river and lake valleys of western New York, on the shore of Lake Ontario northeast of the Oswego River and along the Iroquois Trail and into the western Mohawk Valley.

Says Parker: "The earthworks of New York are broadly divisible into two classes (1) walled and trenched inclosures, (2) mounds. With very few exceptions all the fortifications or walled inclosures in New York may be ascribed to the Iroquois tribes. The earthworks outline retreats or strongholds and the earthen walls were the bases for stockades. In no sense are these banks and earth walls to be regarded as mounds. * * * It is not easy to define the boundaries of this (mound) culture, because the implements and ornaments that it produced are in many respects similar to some of those made by the Algonquin and Iroquois peoples in New York and the adjacent territory."

The mound building Indians evidently came from the west into western New York by way of the north and south shores of Lake Erie and through the Allegheny valley, probably pushing some of the Algonquin tribes out of their homes. Their probable long period of location here covered part of that of the Algonquin occupation, but they had all disappeared from the State before the Iroquoian invasion and settlements, the oldest of which in New York State, probably do not exceed 600 years in age.

* * *

Under the heading, "Iroquois Migration Hypothesis" in the Archaeological History of New York, Mr. A. C. Parker gives the following hypothetical version of the migration which brought the Iroquois from the west into New York State and finally into the Mohawk Valley.

Let us suppose that the one, two or more related tribes of early Huron-Iroquois lived in a portion of a region embraced within a circle having a radius of 200 miles and with its center at the mouth of the Ohio River, where they were in contact with the Caddo, the Muskhogee, the Sioux and some of the Algonkin. They were more or less agricultural and sedentary and familiar with village life. They knew how to erect stockades and build earthen walls for their inclosures.

Some movement of intruding immigrants or other influence caused them as a body to push northward up the Ohio River. Some went eastward into the Carolinas, but the main body migrated in a northeasterly direction. The tribes of the Cherokee were the first to lead the way and crowded upon the mound-building Indians of Ohio, whom they fought for a long period of time. They finally overcame the Mound Builders and absorbed a large number into their own tribal divisions, and possessed themselves of the Mound-Builder country. Very likely they were assisted in this conquest by bands of Choctaw, Algonkins and by some of their own cognate kinsmen.

They then took upon themselves some of the characteristics of the Mound Builders, but endeavored to blot out some of their arts, to the extent of mutilating objects they regarded as symbolic of their former enemies.

Other Iroquoian tribes then pushed northward and endeavored to pass through the Cherokee Mound-Builder country. Jealousies arose and the newcomers with the Delaware began a general war against them, finally driving them southward and across the Appalachian ranges. This estranged the two branches and led to wars up to well into the historic period.

The beauty and fertility of the country attracted settlement, but the Cherokee constantly raided their villages. Bands then began to cross the Detroit River and push their way into the peninsula between Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario. A band now known as the Huron established themselves near and southward of Lake Simcoe. An allied tribe, the Attiwandaronk or Neuter, possessed the region south and east of them, taking the Grand River country and pushing eastward across the Niagara. Still other bands pushed over the northern shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario and fought their way to the mouth of the St. Lawrence.

Powerful bands established themselves about the St. Lawrence, with the site of Montreal as a center. They were the Mohawk-Onondaga, though the Onondaga soon pushed southward to the hilly region east of the foot of Lake Ontario, in the present Jefferson County.

Certain bands continued on the south shores of the lakes and pushed their way eastward. One division, the Erie, claimed nearly the entire southern shore of Lake Erie while the Seneca, pushing eastward, laid hold of the country from the Genesee River to Canandaigua Lake.

The Conestoga or Andaste took northern Pennsylvania, especially the region embraced by the two branches of the Susquehanna, including the Chemung River and southward, perhaps as far as Harrisburg. From thence to the headwaters of the Chesapeake the Susquehannock claimed dominion. Still southward but east of the Cherokee pushed the Tuscarora and it is possible that bands of them earlier lived there.

There was constant intercourse between the various tribes who were well aware of the seats of one another. Often the various bands were at war and often there were loose alliances, as of the Tuscarora with the northern Iroquois. The Cherokee and Iroquois, especially the Seneca, were constantly at war. To the north the chief enemies of the Iroquois were the Adirondack, who later allied themselves with the Huron.

The Huron-Iroquois pushed the eastern Algonkin to a narrow strip along the coast and so separated them from their western kinsmen that they exercised a dominant influence over their material culture and to some extent their social organization. The Delaware, who were closely associated with the Iroquois, were always more or less friendly with them, and indeed in the historic period at least acknowledged the supreme authority of the confederated Iroquois over them.

The raids of the Adirondack or Abenaki of the north, and the hostility of the southern Iroquois at length compelled the Laurentian Iroquois, the Mohawk, Onondaga and Oneida tribes to form a compact which later took in the Cayuga and then the Seneca.

The Onondaga early had pushed farther south, leaving their east Ontario (Jefferson County) strongholds and occupying the hilly country south of Onondaga Lake, in the present Onondaga County. The incursions of the Abenaki made this necessary. The Mohawk soon followed owing to disagreements with the Laurentian Huron. In their southern migration they came upon the Mohawk Valley country where they established themselves first on the highlands north of the river, in the present Fulton and Montgomery counties, and later on the southern side of the river. The Oneida band, long a separate body, moved westward into the highlands of Madison County. Still west and on the hills near Limestone Creek were the Onondaga and beyond them the Cayuga living along the Seneca River and southward about Cayuga Lake.

Between these divisions of Iroquois in spite of a common origin and common stock dialects there were frequent feuds and much jealousy. In general their southern neighbors gave them too much trouble to leave much time for war between themselves. The Mohawk sent war parties north to harass their foes, the Huron and Abenaki and even the Micmac, but in turn were disturbed by the Conestoga or Andaste, whose Chemung Valley settlements made war on the Cayuga also. The Seneca and Erie tribes in the Genesee country and along Lake Erie were in constant intercourse and perhaps allied for defensive purposes. The westernmost Seneca settlements were especially friendly with the Erie. On both sides of the Niagara River were the villages of the Attiwandaronk or Neutral, considered an old and parent body of all the Huron-Iroquois. Within one of their villages near the Niagara lived Ji-gon-sa-seh, "The Mother of Nations," a woman who was a lineal descendant of "the first woman of earth."

The Neutral had a series of eastern settlements occupied by a band calling themselves the Wenro.

The pressure of the eastern Iroquois and the additional power their friendship would give, made the idea of a confederacy to the Seneca an inviting one and a large portion of the nation subscribed to it. The Erie were not kindly disposed to the idea and the southern Iroquois were not at all attracted by it. The Neutral saw no need of entering the league since they made no local war and since both their Huron and Iroquois kinsmen respected their ancient authority and the prestige given them by the "Mother of Nations." Thus, the Iroquois Confederacy or Long House came to embrace only the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca. The fact that some of their kinsmen would not join the confederacy was displeasing to the Five Nations, who though dedicating their league to the establishment of peace saw grave danger in their neighbors who refused to subscribe to the articles of friendship. The new confederacy was soon beset with enemies on all sides who saw in its rising influence a general danger. But the confederacy developed certain mental qualities within its leaders who were not to be overwhelmed. They became astute statesmen as well as ferocious warriors. They learned the advantage of concerted action, of compromise among themselves and of organizing mass onslaughts. Thus nation after nation fell before them, — the Erie, the Neutral, the Huron, the Wenro, and the Conestoga. The Cherokee were too far away to reach effectively. Although the Five Nations lost thousands of warriors their foes lost more and the surviving enemy were made captives, led into the Iroquois villages and adopted. This swelled their ranks enormously and virtually united by blood mixture all the Iroquois.

The triumph did not come to them, however, until the middle of the colonial period, and with this triumph came the golden age of the Five Nations. This was from about 1650 to 1755. Before the earlier date their foes had been Indians; after that date they battled with the white man, it is true, but they lost no power. By 1755, however, the colonists had come in such numbers that the Five Nations saw the end of their ascendancy as a dictatory power. They had come, they had conquered and now they became engulfed in a complex of cultural elements of which their ancestors had never dreamed.

When one considers how many captives were taken by the Iroquois tribes, and how extensive their trade and their raids were, it seems little short of marvelous that so few non-Iroquoian articles are found on the sites of their former habitation. Nearly everything we find is unmistakably Iroquois, as if among all the tribes that they met and conquered nothing that they made was worth taking or copying by the Iroquois. They even rejected certain objects, as we have already seen, that ordinarily must have been attractive to them. It is true that some non-Iroquoian articles may have been found, but these are very few and may have been lost by the wandering enemy or concealed by captives. We are thus compelled to believe, since the preponderance of evidence supports it, that the Iroquois held their material culture a crystallized thing, a possession that must not be adulterated or violated. They must have deliberately stripped their captives of everything distinctively non-Iroquoian and prevented them from making distinctive objects of other tribes. Historically we know that the Iroquois removed the moccasins of their captives and placed upon their feet those of the Iroquois pattern. In all this there is an interesting suggestion for the study of American Indian folk belief.

With the coming of the European many of these older beliefs began to crumble. The white man's goods were desirable to a degree that broke down all resistance. They were filled with the potent magic of the white man and gave power and speed to those who used them. Thus on all Iroquois sites that were occupied when the European traders tracked their way through the forests, European articles may be found. The number of implements of the white man's manufacture found on sites increases as time goes on, until in midcolonial times the sites of Iroquois towns, as at Boughton Hill and Rochester Junction, are strewn with scraps of brass and bits of iron. Even the graves contain guns, scissors, copper and brass kettles, and glass beads are shoveled up by the quart. In late colonial sites European articles predominate and as the nineteenth century advanced, distinctively Indian things all but disappear.

Only in a few places today do the Iroquois tribes make any durable thing that is similar to their old manufactures, though they do have a few ceremonial articles of bark, wood, husk, and skin. They make nothing more of stone, clay, or flint. They still make — at least some non-Christian Iroquois do — turtle shell rattles. Their early belief told how the earth rested on the back of a turtle. It was the first permanent thing; likewise the shell of the turtle, empty save for a few kernels of corn or small pebbles, is the last characteristic thing of their culture that when buried in the earth will survive the action of the elements. The white man's goods and the white man's way of living have all but obliterated the Iroquois. The so-called "pagans" have a few ceremonies, make a few ceremonial and useful articles and remember a few legends yet, but outwardly the bronze-skinned Iroquois is dressed as a white man who gains his livelihood as white men do, by working as a section hand, upon the farm or in the shop, or perchance by writing treatises upon archeology. There are few things he cannot now do that other races do. And it should be recorded that several hundred of the younger men volunteered for the late war as soldiers of the American and Canadian expeditionary forces and went overseas in almost every capacity from private to captain, thereby in the most effective manner strengthening the bonds that unite them, the Iroquois, with the common brotherhood of nations. Thus we may see whither they go, but our problem has been to determine whence they came. Our information as we have seen, points to a source to the west, and down the Ohio. We ought to find plain evidences of early Iroquois sites all along the Ohio River and westward along the shores of Lake Erie and even as far as Wisconsin, thence southward to the mouth of the Ohio.

* * *

The Iroquois of the Five Nations boasted in the name of Onk-we-on-we-ke, meaning "real men" or "the only real men," all others being inferior. The name is variously spelled, one form being On-go On-gue.

The Iroquois called themselves Ko-no-shi-o-ni, meaning "cabin makers," while their name for their confederacy was Ho-de-no-sau-nee, signifying "people of the long house." The confederated Five Nations, lying along the Iroquois trail, they metaphorically termed "the Long House," of which the Mohawks guarded the eastern and the Senecas the western door. The true national names of the Five Nations were: Mohawks, Ga-ne-ga-o-no, "flint owners," frequently written Caniegas by historians. Oneidas, O-na-yo-te-ga-no, "people of the stone," referring to their ceremonial tribal stones. Onondagas, O-nun-dah-ga-o-no, "people of the hills." Cayugas, Gue-u-ghew-o-no, "people of the marshland," about the head of Cayuga Lake. Senecas, Nun-da-wah-o-no, "great hill people," referring to a high hill near which their main early castle stood. The name Iroquois was one given the Confederates by their Algonquin enemies and is said to mean "real snakes." The Indians used fully as uncomplimentary names regarding their enemies as white men have ever done.

The common name Mohawk came from one given this tribe by its Algonquin enemies — the name of Mohowaug signifying "they eat living creatures." Roger Williams gave us a lively paragraph concerning them when he wrote: "The Maguagogs, or Men-eaters, that live three or four hundred miles west from us, make a delicious, monstrous dish of the heads and brains of their enemies." The enemies of the Mohawks also called them "Bears."

The Mohawk name for flint was "Kanna," which was probably the root word for the name Ca-ni-en-ga. This name was written as Annies, Agniers, Agniez, Agniehronons, by the French. The Mohawk name for our river is said to have been Te-non-an-at-che, "river flowing through mountains."

Champlain distinguished the Five Nations as Iroquois, meaning the Mohawks, and Entonhonorons, which covered the Oneida, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas. Both of these terms he learned from the Algonquins. Later French writers called them the upper and lower Iroquois. The Dutch called the Mohawks, Maquaas and, like the French, combined the other four Iroquois nations under the name of Senecas. To the English, they were the Five Nations with their five tribal names, the Mohawks being the most in evidence as the nearest and most affecting the English interests.

Besides its national name, each tribe of the Iroquois had a formal ceremonial title by which it was addressed in council. The primal necessity felt by human beings for synonyms was probably largely responsible for these ceremonial tribal designations. We seem to need two names for ideas as well as for objects in order to avoid tiresome repetition. David Cusick, the native Tuscarora historian, gives these council names as follows:

Mohawks: Te-haw-re-ho-ge, "A speech divided," meaning "many people of one voice," or "in union there is strength," "E pluribus unum."

Oneidas: Ne-haw-re-tah-go-wah, meaning "Big Tree," referring to Hiawatha's finding them beside a large tree, which they had just cut down.

Onondagas: Seuh-ne-keh-te, meaning "Bearing the Names," as the Onondagas were the wampum keepers of the League. Their castle was the Iroquois capital, as they were the middle nation.

Cayugas: Soh-ne-na-we-too-na, meaning "Great Pipe."

Senecas: Hoo-neen-ho-ho-ne-tah, meaning "Possessing a Door," or "The People of the Door," or, in the spirit of the phrase, "Keepers of the Western Door of the Iroquois Long House.

Tuscaroras (who became the sixth nation after 1711): Tup-hah-te-ehn-yah-wah-kou, meaning, "The People who Embrace the Great Tree," referring to the fact that they were received by the Oneidas and given lands, and that the latter's council name was the "Big Tree."

[Photo: Council of the Onondaga Turtle Clan.]

[Photo: The False Face Ceremony of the Cayugas.]

The national devices of the different Iroquois nations were: Mohawks, flint and steel; Oneidas, a stone in the fork of a tree (where they sometimes placed this ceremonial stone); Onondagas, cabin on top of a hill; Cayugas, a great pipe; Senecas, cabin on a mountain top.

The Mohawks, Onondagas and Senecas were the "elder brothers." The Oneidas, Cayugas and Tuscaroras were the "younger brothers." The precedence given the Mohawks as the first of the elder brothers would indicate that they were the descendants of the original Iroquois nation, tribe, or family, from which the other nations had branched out in the remote past.

* * *

When Henry Hudson sailed up the river which today bears his name, in 1609, he met several tribes of Indians, with whom he had both peaceful and warlike dealings. These were all Algonquins, chief of whom were the Mahikans who ruled the Albany and Upper Hudson districts and the Catskill Mountains. The other Algonquin tribes on the Hudson River and its mouth were the Manhattans (on Manhattan and Staten Island); the Canarsies (occupying Kings County, and the Rockaway Bay section); the Sankhikans (in the Jersey City and Newark sections). On the west bank of the Hudson above the Sankhikans, were the Tappans (of Rockland County), the Warranawankongs (in Orange County, around present Newburg), the Wappingers (on both sides of the Hudson at Poughkeepsie); the Esopus (around Kingston and vicinity); and the Mahikan or Mohican, northward nearly to Lake George.

On the east side of the Hudson, above the Manhattans on Manhattan Island were the Siwaneys (in lower Westchester County); the Sintsinks (near Sing Sing); and the Kitchawanks (upper Westchester County); the Weckquaeskecks (in middle Westchester County); the Pachami (just north of Poughkeepsie); the Waeranoecks (opposite Kingston).

When Captain Corstiaensen sailed on his tenth voyage to New Netherlands in 1614, he sailed up the Mauritius (Hudson River) to present Albany. Here he founded a trading post called Fort Nassau and here he met Algonquins who were deadly enemies of the Iroquois. From these Algonquins he learned of the nearest of the Five Nations, which was called Mohowaugs or "Man-eaters" by the Algonquins.

In 1609, when the Dutch explored Hudson River and when Champlain met the Mohawks in a fateful battle on the shore of the lake which bears his name, the Iroquois League of Five Nations was already ranged along the Iroquois trail, from the Schoharie River westward to the Genesee. It claimed and ruled over all the territory of New York State including even that occupied by the (Hudson) "River" Algonquin Indians, which region was subsequently usurped, bought or claimed and ruled over by the Dutch West India Co., so that the Iroquois and Dutch rule defined and early created what is now the State of New York. Both the Iroquois and the Dutch were destined to play a very great part in the making of American history.

The order of the Iroquois Republic or the League of Five Nations, and their separate territories, in 1609 following the Iroquois Trail westward was: Mohawks, present Schenectady to Frankfort; Oneidas, Frankfort to Chenango; Onondagas, Chenango to Auburn; Cayugas, Auburn to Waterloo; Senecas, Waterloo to Genesee River.

On the north, the Mohawk territory ran to the St. Lawrence River and on the south to present Delaware County; the Oneidas, north to the St. Lawrence and south to Delaware and Broome counties; the Onondagas, north to Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands and south into the present Tioga and Broome counties; the Cayugas, north to Lake Ontario and south to Chemung, Steuben, and Allegany counties.

These Five Nations had "castles" and villages only along or close to the Iroquois Trail. Over the remainder of their country they claimed suzerainty — it was their hunting and fishing grounds and other tribes or nations were not to trespass without the permission of the ruling Iroquois Nation.

In 1609 the Iroquois of the Five Nations were merely one branch of a great Indian family, which had probably originally been one tribe or clan. These New York Iroquois were five united, warlike nations, surrounded by enemies except where they had made vassals of certain adjoining nations or tribes. If it had not been for their union, they would have been annihilated. As it was, in the century following the Dutch settlement of New Netherland in 1613-1614, the Iroquois conquered practically all the tribes surrounding them and, if the wars of the English Colonies and New France had not finally exhausted them they might have conquered all the Indian tribes of North America. In individual fighting prowess they were not greatly superior to their neighbors, but their idea of union, gave them a tremendous advantage over the surrounding tribes, whom they conquered one after another. Had their surrounding enemies united they could have destroyed the Iroquois, but the warriors of the Five Nations were the only savages of North America who had progressed so far as to grasp the idea that "in union there is strength."

This united warfare of the Iroquois enabled them not only to conquer the Indian territory of Northeastern North America, but it gave them a great place in history. It was very largely this barrier which prevented the skilled and united warriors of New France from sailing down the lake of Champlain and the Hudson River, and thereby conquering the weak and disunited English colonies. In those early times, it is a historical fact that the English governors used the Iroquois as catspaws in the same way the governors of New France cunningly made musket fodder of their Algonquin allies. It was lucky for both the white combatants that their savage dupes did not turn upon their wily white allies and drive them into the sea from which they came. In view of the well known instability and vacillation of the savage character, it is a great credit to the Mohawk that he never broke "the chain of friendship" with his Dutch or English allies of Fort Orange and Albany. Although the other Five Nations frequently wavered in their allegiance to their English allies, the Mohawks always remained the great bond of strength which kept this ancient alliance firm and unbroken. Had the Mohawks ever failed the English, the whole course of American history would have been changed.

In 1609, when Champlain fired the shot, from his arquebus, which killed two chiefs of the Mohawks, he made that tribe forever enemies of New France, and unalterably friends and allies of the Dutch and English. Against the savage warfare of the Mohawks, the splendid fighters of New France could make but little headway, and behind this Mohawk path of blood and flame, the gradually uniting English colonies at last grappled with and overthrew their common foe. This victory of the Colonies and England over New France is one of the great moments of history, for it made all North America English-speaking, with an influence upon the history of the world which is beyond computation.

A factor which early gave the Mohawks great power was the fact that the Dutch of Fort Orange, about 1640, began to sell the Mohawks guns with which they proceeded to make rapid conquests. They were then able to war with the Canadian Algonquins and Hurons on an equal footing, for these latter savages had received firearms from the French traders at an early date.

This chapter deals only with the Mohawks and the Iroquois up to the time of the location of the Dutch trading post of Fort Nassau (near present Albany) in 1614. Their later history is connected with that of the Dutch colony of New Netherland and the English pioneers of New York, and is treated under the chapters, in this work, which cover those periods.

The following, relative to the Iroquois Indians, of which the Six Nations were a part, is by J. N. B. Hewitt:

"The Indians of the Six Nations or the Iroquois Confederacy, were a branch of the Iroquois family of red men, perhaps the most important of the Indian families of North America. As before stated, the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations of the Eighteenth Century, was composed of Mohawks, Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas, in the order named, from east to west. The Mohawks occupied the valley of the river to which they gave their name. The word Iroquois is said to mean, in Algonquin, 'real natural snakes,' an appellation which seemed proper to the Algonquin tribes who were deadly enemies of the Iroquois. The Iroquois of the Six Nations called themselves the Aguinoshioni, or Konoshioni, signifying 'cabin makers,' or 'people of the Long House.' This 'Long House' became figurative of their political organization, extending from the shores of Lake Erie to the banks of the Hudson. The Mohawks kept the eastern door, the Senecas the western door. The chief tribes of the Iroquois Indians were the Hurons, Wyandots, Tionontates (or Tobacco nation), Attiewendaronk (or Neuter nation), Erie (or Cat nation), Canastogas (or Susquehannocks), Tceroki (Cherokee), the Nottoways, and the Six Nations — Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Mohawks.

"The Iroquoian Indians, before the coming of the white man, occupied New York, Pennsylvania, the region about Lake Erie, north of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Valley. Others of the kindred tribes of the Iroquoian family lived in two areas in the present southern states, one in the eastern Carolinas, and the other partly in the western Carolinas, and parts of the States of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Virginias. The Hurons or Wyandot tribe lived about Lake Simcoe and the St. Lawrence; the Tiononates, west of Lake Ontario and south of the Hurons and in New York; the Erie nation south of Lake Erie; the Canastogas (or Susquehannocks) and their allies, along the Susquehanna; and the Iroquois or Five Nations, in central New York.

"The western southern Iroquois area was occupied by the Tceroki (Cherokees), and the eastern southern Iroquois area was the home of the Tuscaroras, the Nottoways and other kindred but unimportant tribes. Many of the tribes mentioned, although of kindred blood, were deadly enemies and waged a constant war against each other."

Says Hewitt regarding Iroquois characteristics: "The marriage tie was not a bond of strength, being broken for the good or convenience of the persons or families concerned — the line of descent was in the female, and the children were virtually the property of the clan.

In the Iroquois pantheon the gods of the sky, the sun, the moon, the earth, the stars, thunder and lightning, storm, and wind, fire, and of dreams (the mouthpiece of the sky god), were the chief and most influential. The treatment of disease and wounds was in the hands of the shamans (medicine men) mainly.

"Long houses of bark and saplings for dwellings, and caches of riven pieces of timber for the storage of their (maize) vegetables, roots, squashes, and gourds, were built by these people. They constructed palisades around their chief towns or villages. The tillage of the land was carried on mainly by the women and girls, but labor was not considered degrading. They raised tobacco and many kinds of vegetables, including a kind of potato. They also manufactured sugar and syrup from the sap of the maple tree, and it was from them that the white people learned the process of this manufacture.

"Their government was in the hands of the chiefs, divided into two classes, one of every class belonging to every clan. These chiefs were nominated by the suffrage of the women of the clan to which they belonged by birth or adoption, but such nomination had to be passed upon by the tribal, and, among the Iroquois (Five Nations), by the federal council as well. The chiefs held office for life unless deposed for cause. In statecraft the Iroquois were politic and crafty, but magnanimous to captives (providing they were spared from torture). Their cunning and caution were proverbial among their Indian neighbors. The adoption of captives into full citizenship with the free Iroquois, to replace those lost in battle or captured, was a marked policy of the Iroquois, and it was by means of aliens, under the discipline of Iroquois institutions and under the guidance of Iroquoian commanders, that the confederacy was able to complete its war parties, depleted by almost incessant warfare, and to hold high its name and power for so long a time. During the lengthy period of their intercourse with the Dutch and English colonists, before the Revolution, these Indians were remarkably noted for their good faith when once their word was given."

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The original defenses of the Iroquois were earthworks, which were always square, whereas those of the Algonquins were round — the square shape showing an advanced state of civilization over the round form. The course of the Iroquois migration eastward can be traced to a certain extent, by the remains of the square earthworks. In nearly every other characteristic, the great Iroquois family differed from the Algonquins. By the time of the Dutch settlement at present Albany in 1614, the Iroquois had abandoned earthworks and built palisades, although they sometimes combined the two. These palisades, or walls of logs, surrounded their chief villages and involved a great amount of labor and time in construction. They were called "castles" by the Dutch and English, not because they had the appearance but because they had somewhat the strength of the European castles — or rather because they were the only structures, in the New World, which in character approximated the castles of the Old World. The Iroquois form of palisaded defense was adopted by the Dutch and English for their early fortifications. The Colonial and Revolutionary American forts were generally built in this manner and the Mohawk Valley settlers built palisaded defenses around their homes, which frequently then were called "forts," as they actually were, in a limited way.

The great rock wall, which extends for forty miles along the west side of the lower Hudson, took its name — the Palisades — from its fancied resemblance to the upright log walls of the Indian towns.

Although the Iroquois traded furs for axes, they did not build log houses for nearly a century after the coming of the white man. This was not because the Iroquois was not keen and intelligent in seeing the advantage of better methods of construction, but because of his sense of Iroquois unity and his intense nationalism, which was natural and elemental. From the beginning of Iroquois history, we know that this people voluntarily put aside the better methods and even superior tools of their conquered enemies. They realized that to preserve their typical tools, customs, and life, meant the very preservation of their nation. They had no false sense of the supposed advantages of cosmopolitanism. Therefore the Iroquois, as a people, refused Christianity, and kept to their pagan rites, because they realized the new religion meant the end of their national life. The same spirit accepted the axes with which to kill their enemies, but not for the building of log houses. They considered the log houses belonged to the white man, but the bark house was Iroquois.

This Iroquois national consciousness and their keen intelligence as to the dangers these innovations held for their Indian life, kept the Confederates alive and united as a nation, when less sensible Indian tribes had been dissipated and destroyed by the white man's invasion, his rum, his tools, his diseases, and his new ways and methods. This strong Iroquois nationalism is but an exemplification of a national characteristic which has likewise preserved certain white peoples intact through long centuries, while others have been destroyed through the innovation of many foreign ideas which break down and kill the basic vital national sense. America of today could take to heart and profit by the lesson of Iroquois nationalism.

The Iroquois warriors made their captives take off their own moccasins and put on those of Iroquois make before entering a Confederated town. Similarly today, we could insist that everybody in America today, should drop all foreign propaganda and wear nothing but Old Glory over the heart.

* * * * *

The Iroquois houses were long and narrow, made of slabs of elm bark and subdivided by bark screens, for the use of many families. Each family had its fireplace, in the center of the floor space, for cooking and heating, while a vent in the roof carried off the smoke. Elevated benches were made for beds, and bunches of corn hung from the rafters. The length of these bark cabins gave them the name "long houses."

These bark dwellings are shown in the illustrations to this article which shows the development of the Iroquois habitations from the bark long house to the log house built after the fashion of the white man's.

These Indian group illustrations are taken from the Iroquois Indian exhibit in the New York Museum in the Education Building at Albany. This unusual collection should be visited by every American who is interested in this most historically important Indian nation. In a few hours' time, one can here gain an insight into the life of the Five Nations which could not be supplied by months of reading on the subject.

The eastern Indians never used the skin tepees, so familiar in pictures of the life of the Sioux and other red men of the plains. The bark habitations of the Iroquois were much superior to those of the Algonquins, who generally lived in round huts of bark, or wigwams, a name coming from the Algonquin word we-kou-om-ut, meaning "in his house." The Iroquois culture and life habits more nearly resembled those of the Indians of the midsouthern states than they did the Algonquins. The Iroquois did not wear war bonnets, like those of the plains Indians. All Iroquois dress was adapted for forest wear.

Dr. [William M.] Beauchamp says: "The Iroquois had a strong, but, in some ways, very vague religious belief. Unseen deities ruled their lives through mystic dreams, and these dreams must always be observed, however unpleasant this might be. All things, to them, had a touch of the supernatural. Trees, rocks, and animals had inner souls. There were viewless spirits, fairies and flying heads. Stone giants and monstrous beasts were frequent. The great Holder of the Heavens was a dwarf in size, for what need had omnipotent power of physical strength? The beasts of the field were their ancient kindred, necessary for food but reverently treated." The early settlers are unanimous in saying that the Indians worshipped or acknowledged the supernatural power of only the devil, but of course, the pioneers were unfamiliar with their difficult language and with their secret religious life and rites. We cannot rely any more implicitly upon the observations of the first settlers than we can depend upon their maps.

North American Indians are classified as nomadic and sedentary, the latter being people who cultivated the fields and who lived in permanent towns, which they kept until fuel and fields were exhausted or until some strong enemies drove them out and burned their castles.

In the case of the Mohawks, in historic times, practically the only reason for the changes of their village locations was enemy warfare which burned their castles and forced them to seek new town sites. During the 190 or more years of Mohawk life in the Valley, they occupied five series of castles. The first series may have been destroyed or made untenable in the Mohican war of 1626; we do not know the reason for the second removal; the third and fourth series of towns were destroyed by the French., and the Mohawks decamped from the fifth series because of the Revolutionary war, after an occupancy of three-quarters of a century.

Their weapons were simple at first. An ungrooved stone axe, a long bow and arrows; defensive armor, including a shield at times; a club with bone or stone inserted in the head, and a knife of stone or bone, were the main parts of a warrior's armament. Nets and bone harpoons were used in fishing and occasionally lines with bone hooks. Weirs and hurdles were also employed, but in shallow water; spearing was the favorite sport. Arrows were tipped with bone, stone, or horn. Blowguns were largely used. Beauchamp says:

"Baskets and mats were woven in an artistic manner, and weaving embraced other simple articles. Thread and cords were made of Indian hemp and the inner bark of the elm, sinews being also used for many things.

"Baskets, bark vessels and carved wooden bowls were found in every house, and every Iroquois had his capacious and often handsome wooden spoon.

"At the period of European contact, pottery had gone beyond simple lining, pinching, and dotting, and many clay vessels were ornamented with the human face and figure. According to the maker's taste or skill, such vessels were rude or elegant. This is true of the early pipes, which the Iroquois made chiefly of fine clay. They were often simple and of a curved trumpet form, but frequently the bowl had some fanciful figures facing the smoker. Sometimes the pipes were ornamented throughout."

The true Iroquois canoe was of elm bark, quite clumsy in comparison with the graceful birch bark of the northern Algonquins and Hurons. On the Mohawk River dugouts were sometimes used. Snowshoes were used in winter and the back frame for carrying burdens. The sled was but rarely used.

Iroquois dress was scanty in summer and ample in winter with the usual ornaments of feathers, shells, and embroidery. Perforated or grooved teeth were much used for necklaces and so forth, and the introduction of bronze and silver along with the white man's blanket greatly changed the aboriginal costume. Elaborate bone combs were a favorite vanity of the Iroquois squaw and maidens, and stockings and mittens were in use. Of course, all these garments were of skins and furs, before the advent of the white man, after which they were largely of cloth.

In the long house in winter and outside in summer, the large wooden mortar and pestle were in constant use for mealing corn. They are somewhat used today by the Indians on the New York State reservations. A number of household utensils made from wood or horn, had their place in the Iroquois housewife's home.

Lacrosse was the Indian's great sport, although they had athletic competitions such as running and jumping. Their outdoor warfare and strenuous exercise in the work of the village made them splendid athletes. They had an ancient game of dish and bowl; the snow snake game, played by the boys in winter, is an inexplicable affair to a white man, as the writer can testify after seeing Indian boys play it in the winter on the Cattaraugas reservation.

[Photo: Harvest Time Among the Senecas.]

[Photo: The Seneca Hunter's Family.]

Wampum — shells strung on threads and made into belts — was introduced among the Iroquois only shortly before the coming of the white man. It had great value to the Indian. Wooden masks were made by the Iroquois over 200 years ago, and are still made today.

Worship was varied, and consisted mainly of singing and dancing. At the original great Iroquois feast, dreams were related and the wildest follies committed. This became the white dog feast. There are many minor feasts, mostly of thanksgiving, also with singing and dancing. Thirty-two of these dances have been enumerated and described by Morgan.

"The story-teller was a favorite personage among the Iroquois as with all savage people who have no writing. He told tales of the relations of man to the lower creatures, pathetic, or comic stories wherein men, beasts, and birds met as friends or foes, often as kindred. Then there were the grotesque and fanciful tales of flying heads, stone giants, vampires, monstrous beasts, serpents and witches."

The myths and legends which were told around the fire by the Iroquois story-teller, were often poetic and sometimes beautiful. Frequently they reveal the savage soul in an ugly light. The Iroquois story of Nya-gwa-ih, the Celestial Bear, is said to be one common to all the Indian tribes of North America. This Indian Celestial Bear is Ursa Major (the Great Bear) of the astronomers, and the Great Dipper of all of us. In the Indian story, the hunted bear became the bowl of the dipper, while the pursuing hunters were the stars of the handle.

Miss Harriet Maxwell Converse has preserved many of these Iroquois traditions in her writings, which have been arranged by Mr. Arthur Caswell Parker (Ga-wa-so-wah-no), State Archaeologist, himself a member of the Seneca Nation. They have been published in New York State Museum Bulletin No. 125, by the University of the State of New York, Albany, N. Y.

* * * * *

The early Dutch explorers of New Netherlands all agree that, like all barbaric peoples, both the Algonquins and the Mohawks were extremely immoral and lax in all their sexual and matrimonial relations. There were individual exceptions to this rule, and it is probable that this savage licentiousness belonged to the Indian's early years, as in middle and old age, there seem to have been established matrimonial and family ties. The moral delinquencies mentioned were merely in keeping with the stage of development through which the Indians were passing, as was their general lack of personal cleanliness, which also was a matter of comment to the early explorers. Our own white ancestors went through the same savage periods, in which the red men were found at the time of the discovery of America. It is questionable just how far to believe the accounts of the first settlers. It is human nature to desire some individual or some people to look down upon, as the process reacts to the superiority of the critic — in his own mind. It is also pleasing to some natures to make a story as bad as possible. That the early white settlers frequently were uncleanly and lax in certain particulars, is a matter of history.

* * * * *

The origin of man had different versions in many tribes. Many American Indians shared, with the Iroquois, the creative myth, in which a woman falls from the sky, and alights on the back of a turtle, which henceforth supports the world.

A Seneca version is that a Seneca deity raised the land of Konoshioni above the waters and sowed five handfuls of seed, from which sprang the Five Nations.

David Cusick, the native Tuscarora historian, says that the Iroquois were hid in a great mountain at Oswego Falls. On their release by Tarenyawagon (Holder of the Heavens), they went down the Mohawk and the Hudson to the Sea. They retraced their steps and settled successively as the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. A southern Iroquois nation went west and split at the Mississippi, one part crossing it and the other remaining behind. The latter section became the Tuscaroras. They turned southeast, entered North Carolina, and settled there, remaining until 1711, when they were driven out in a bloody war with the white settlers.

There may be something of historical truth in the foregoing legend, with some reservations. The sea, at Manhattan Island, may have been the end of the Iroquois migration of some of the Iroquois tribes. After reaching this point they may have retraced their steps and selected lands which they had seen and passed on their journey, or else went northward to new national seats. The whole may be a foggy picture of part of the Iroquois migration from the west to the east.

The Iroquois were subject to waves of superstition and in a witch scare among the Onondagas, very similar to that of Salem, so many of the tribe of both sexes were killed that it threatened their extermination. This witchcraft panic was the result of a malicious dreamer's vagaries. On the Oneida reservation an old woman was killed as a witch about 1800. A belief in witchcraft was somewhat general among the more primitive minded white Americans of Colonial days.

"The wampum belts were the national sagas, codes of ethics and ceremonials. They recorded history, established moral laws, and ceremonies. Songs were to be learned that religious rites might be duly observed; other songs preserving the names, deeds, and virtues of their ancestors, had to be exactly learned for condoling the dead or raising new chiefs. Points of etiquette had to be observed, for they were a punctilious people, having precise rules for every public act; how to speak; how to dance; many a regulation for private life. They often looked upon their white friends as an unpolished people, pitying them for their lack of good manners. Sometimes they even showed them a better way."


The Iroquois were noted for statecraft, for their skill as diplomats and for their eloquence in council.

* * * * *

The Mohawks were an offshoot of the Huron tribe, possibly the original branch of what later divided into the Five Nations. They were the "elder brothers" of the Oneidas, and closely related to them, so that the Oneidas may have been a development of the Mohawks. The Cayugas were strongly attached to the Senecas as a younger tribe, and may have been a branch of that large and important nation.

The Mohawks were the "elder brothers" of the Iroquois League. They, with the Senecas and Onondagas, constituted the three "elder brothers," while the Oneidas, Cayugas, and later the Tuscaroras, were the "younger brothers."

When Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence in 1535, he found savages speaking the Mohawk language all the way from present Quebec to the great Mohawk castle of Hochelaga on the site of present Montreal.

At that time, it is probable that the Oneidas were located on both banks of the St. Lawrence in the country southwest of that of the Mohawks, with Oneida forts north and south of present Ogdensburg. About 1575 a great war broke out between the Algonquins of Canada and the Mohawks, in which the Oneidas, and probably the Onondagas, were involved. This war lasted intermittently until 1622, when the Mohawks and Algonquins first discussed peace.

The Oneidas were probably engaged in this Algonquin war, the details of which are obscure, but which involved Mohawks, Oneidas, and Onondagas. The Oneidas fled southward to the vicinity of Cazenovia Lake and Chittenango Creek. Their earliest known fort, built about 1590, was a mile southeast of Perryville, where there was a remarkable stone (now destroyed) which may have given the tribe their name which means "People of the Upright Stone." At the time of Champlain's unsuccessful attack on them, they were located at Nichol's pond near Fenner (present Madison County). When Van den Bogaert visited them in 1634, they were located at Munnsville on the upper Oneida Creek.

The Onondagas were situated in Jefferson County around Sandy Creek at the outbreak of the Algonquin war. Onondaga traditions say that they issued from the ground at the head of the Te-can-on-ou-a-ron-e-sie, the south branch of the Et-ca-ta-ra-ga-ren-re, or the River of Sables. During the war, the Onondagas migrated from Jefferson County to the Oswego and Seneca rivers, and from there into the Onondaga hills, near Limestone Creek, where they probably located in 1580, and took their name, which means "People of the Hills."

The Mohawks stayed in the Vermont mountains until they had recovered their strength, in the meantime constantly warring with the Algonquins. Shortly before 1600, they migrated southward along Lake Champlain and Lake George, to the Mohawk Valley. This period was formerly put further back but the approximate date is 1590 or shortly before.

Cartier found the great Mohawk castle of Hochelaga on the site of Montreal and a numerous Iroquois population along the St. Lawrence River in 1535.

When Champlain ascended this great river in 1603, the Mohawks had disappeared and the Algonquins had taken their place. The Algonquins' account of the facts concerning the disappearance of the Mohawks was given to Champlain in 1609 and the story was subsequently written by De la Potherie, Charlevoix, Colden and others. This traditional account of the beginning of the Mohawk-Algonquin feud is as follows:

Some time after Cartier's visit, the Mohawks and neighboring Algonquins joined forces and lived peaceably, side by side, on the St. Lawrence. The Mohawks cultivated the fields and the Algonquins hunted; each supplying the needs of the other.

On one occasion, when the Iroquois wished to try hunting, the Algonquins consented, willing to show their superior skill. Six of each went along, but the Algonquins left the Iroquois in the camp, taking the hunt to themselves, but taking nothing else. Three days passed and they killed nothing. Then the Iroquois went out secretly with great success. Night came on, and their jealous companions killed them all while asleep. When this was at last discovered, the Algonquins scornfully refused redress to their injured friends. The Mohawks were powerless to do anything then, but they "bound themselves by oath to perish to a man, or to have their revenge."

The Mohawks withdrew from the St. Lawrence River and moved southward into the northern mountain region of Vermont. Here they made their homes and practiced warfare and rigorously trained themselves until the time was ripe for avenging their murdered kinsmen, when they started out upon the warpath against the enemy. Charlevoix says: "They poured all at once upon the Algonquins and commenced the war of which we saw (1622) only the conclusion and which set all Canada on fire. Those who suffered most were the Hurons, who engaged in war as allies, auxiliaries or neighbors to the Algonquins, or because they lay in the way of both. * * * The Iroquois alone used circumspection in war, and there is no doubt that this is one of their superiorities which they have acquired over the enemies who have never yielded to them in valor and might easily have crushed them by numbers."

The Indians who accompanied Champlain, on his expedition of 1609 down the lake which bears his name, told him that "the Vermont shore belonged to the Iroquois and that there were beautiful valleys and fertile cornfields there."

On the Island of Montreal, the Mohawks left over thirty acres of cleared land where they formerly cultivated the soil. The Mohawks had their revenge, for by the early eighteenth century, there were but few Algonquins left in the neighborhood of Montreal. They had been wiped out in nearly a century and a half of incessant warfare with their Mohawk avengers and the other nations of the Iroquois League.

From Vermont, the Mohawks came southward over Lake Champlain and down Lake George to the Hudson. Thence they came westward over the Mohawk, and located, at first, in strongholds somewhat back from the river. This itinerary is indicated by the Dekanawida legend.

From now on, our story of the Mohawks has to do with their residence for nearly two centuries, along the beautiful river which bears their name. When the Mohawks first entered our Valley, the Mohicans dominated its eastern end and remains of their village sites have been uncovered in the townships of Amsterdam, Montgomery County, and Glenville, Schenectady County. The Algonquin Mohicans probably were driven out or retreated before the Mohawk invasion of the Valley about 1590. When Hudson came to the site of present Albany in 1609, Mohicans still lived on that site and on the islands at the mouth of the Mohawk, on one of which they had their castle of Menominee. In 1630, these Indians sold their lands to the agents of Van Rensselaer and then moved southward into present Rensselaer County.

The first four sites of the Mohawks, in the Valley which bears their name, were (from west to east): Otstungo, Garoga, Briggs Run, Cayadutta. These are names given them by Mr. Samuel Ludlow Frey, merely for location as the Mohawks' names for these castles is unknown. The towns had disappeared before the settlement at Albany and are known only through digging and study by the white man.

Otstungo was the most westerly site, located on the Otstungo, a branch of the Otsquago (four miles southwest of Fort Plain); Brigg's Run was on the north shore (four miles west of Fonda); Cayadutta, on the north shore (two miles northwest of Fonda). These are all mentioned more in detail in the chapter dealing with the first Mohawks' village in our Valley, wherein Mr. Frey's account of Garoga is given.

Two writers have given us excellent pictures of the towns of the Mohawks in two of their most important locations, at the time of the coming of the white man.

One account is that of the great Mohawk Castle of Hochelaga, on the site of present Montreal, when the Mohawks dominated the greater part of the lower St. Lawrence River. This is by one of America's greatest historians, Francis C. Parkman. The picture of Hochelaga gives us a clear view of the Mohawks when they, with the Oneidas and Onondagas, were masters of the St. Lawrence River. The second account is that of the Mohawk Indian castle of Garoga, situated about ten miles north of its outlet into the Mohawk River at Palatine Church. This site was occupied by the Mohawks after they had fled (about 1590) from Canada to Vermont, and from there to the Mohawk Valley, following their bitter war with the Algonquins. The very name "Canada" is Mohawk in its origin. It means "village" and "village neighborhood." Hochelaga was the great "Kanada" of the Mohawks, which has gradually spread until it now embraces half of the North American continent.

The account of Garoga is by Mr. S. L. Frey, the leading authority on the Mohawk Indians, and is given in the next chapter.

Cartier really discovered the Mohawks on his voyage of 1535 and Parkman gives us our first historical picture of the famous savages who later retreated to the Mohawk Valley and there made world history.

On May 16, 1535, Jacques Cartier sailed from St. Malo on a voyage of discovery to the New World. Fortune led him into the St. Lawrence, and on the site of Quebec, he found the Indian village of Stadaconne, where he probably met the first Mohawks ever seen by a white man. Here he heard of the great town of Hochelaga, farther upstream. The River St. Lawrence, the Mohawk capital, and its surrounding district all bore the name of Hochelaga. On October 2, 1535, Cartier reached this Mohawk town. Francis Parkman describes Cartier's visit and Hochelaga as follows:

"Where are now seen the quays and storehouses of Montreal, a thousand Indians thronged the shore, wild with delight, dancing, singing, crowding about the strangers and showering into the boats their gifts of fish and maize; and, as it grew dark, fires lighted up the night, and far and near, the French could see the excited savages leaping and rejoicing by the blaze. At dawn of day, marshaled and accoutred, they set forth for Hochelaga. An Indian path led them through the forest which covered the site of Montreal. The morning air was chill and sharp, the leaves were changing hue, and, beneath the oaks, the ground was thickly strewn with acorns.

"They soon met an Indian chief with a party of his tribesmen, or, as the old narrative has it, 'one of the principal lords of the said city, surrounded by a numerous retinue.' Greeting them, after the concise courtesy of the forest, he led them to a fire kindled by the side of the path for their comfort and refreshment, seated them on the earth and made them a long harangue, receiving in a requital for his eloquence, two hatchets, two knives, and a crucifix, the last of which he was invited to kiss. This done, they resumed their march, and presently issued forth upon fields covered far and near with ripened maize, its leaves rustling, its yellow grain gleaming between the parting husks. Before them, wrapped in forests painted by the early frost, rose the ridgy back of the mountain of Montreal, and below, encompassed by its cornfields, lay the Indian town.

"Nothing was visible but its encircling palisades. They were of trunks of trees set in a triple row, the outer and inner ranges inclined till they met and crossed, near the summit, while the upright row between them aided by transverse branches, gave to the whole an abundant strength.

"Within were galleries for the defenders, rude ladders to mount them, and magazines of stone to throw down on the heads of assailants. It was a mode of fortification practiced by all the tribes speaking dialects of the Iroquois.

"The voyagers entered the narrow portal. Within they saw some fifty of those large oblong dwellings, so familiar in after years to the eyes of the Jesuit apostles in Iroquois and Huron forests. They were fifty yards or more in length and twelve or fifteen wide, framed of sapling poles closely covered with sheets of bark, and each containing many fires and many families.

"Here Cartier and his followers stopped while the surrounding houses of bark disgorged their inmates — swarms of children and young women and old, their infants in their arms. They crowded about their visitors crying with delight, touching their beards, feeling their faces, holding up the screeching infants to be touched in turn.

"Strange in hue, strange in attire, with moustached lip and bearded chin, with arquebus and glittering halberd, helmet and cuirass — were the marvelous strangers demigods or men? Due time allowed for this feminine rapture and the warriors interposed, banished the women and children to a distance, and squatted on the ground around the French, row within row of swarthy forms and eager faces, 'as if,' says Cartier, 'we were going to act in a play.' Then appeared a troop of women bearing a mat with which they carpeted the bare earth for the behoof of their guests.

"The latter being seated, the chief of the nation was borne before them on a deerskin, by a number of his tribesmen, a bedridden old savage, paralyzed and helpless, squalid as to the rest of his attire, and distinguished only by a red fillet, inwrought with the dyed quills of the Canada porcupine, encircling his lank black hair.

"They placed him on the ground at Cartier's feet and made signs of welcome for him, while he pointed feebly to his powerless limbs and implored the healing touch from the hands of the French chief. Cartier complied and received in acknowledgment the red fillet of his grateful patient. And now, from surrounding dwellings appeared a woeful throng, the sick, the lame, the blind, the maimed, the decrepit, brought forth and placed on the bare earth before the perplexed commander, 'as if,' he says, 'a god had come to cure them.'

"His skill in medicine being far behind the emergency, he pronounced over his petitioners a portion of the gospel of St. John, of infallible efficiency on such occasions, made the sign of the cross, and uttered a prayer, not for their bodies only, but for their miserable souls. Next he read the passion of the Savior, to which, though comprehending not a word, his audience listened with grave attention.

"Then came a distribution of presents. The squaws and children were recalled, and with the warriors, placed in separate groups. Knives and hatchets were given the men, beads to the women, and pewter rings and images of the Agnus Dei flung among the children, whence ensued a vigorous scramble in the square of Hochelaga.

"Then there was a blare of trumpets and, bidding their hosts farewell, they formed their ranks and defiled through the gates once more. A body of Indians followed them and guided them to the top of the neighboring mountain. Cartier called it Mount Royal — Montreal — and thence the name of the busy city, which now holds the site of the vanished Hochelaga."

From the summit Cartier looked out "east, west, and south, and saw the mantling forest over all, and the broad blue ribbon of the river glistening amid a realm of verdure. Beyond, to the bounds of Mexico, stretched a leafy desert, and the vast hive of industry, the mighty battle ground of later centuries, lay sunk in savage torpor, wrapped in illimitable woods."

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