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Title: An Address, Delivered Before the Was-ah Ho-de-no-son-ne or New Confederacy of the Iroquois - Also, Genundewah, a Poem
Author: Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, 1793-1864, Hosmer, William H. C. (William Howe Cuyler), 1814-1877
Language: English
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  AUGUST 14, 1845.




  W. H. C. HOSMER,




  Sign of the American Eagle, Buffalo-Street.




In a country like ours, whose institutions rest on the popular will, we
must rely for our social and literary means and honors, exclusively on
personal exertions, springing from the bosom of society. We have no
external helps and reliances, sealed in expectations of public
patronage, held by the hands of executive, or ministerial power. Our
ancestors, it is true, were accustomed to such stimulants to literary
exertions. Titles and honors were the prerogatives of Kings, who
sometimes stooped from their political eminences, to bestow the reward
upon the brows of men, who had rendered their names conspicuous in the
fields of science and letters. Such is still the hope of men of letters
in England, Germany and France. But if a bold and hardy ancestry, who
had learned the art of thought in the bitter school of experience, were
accustomed to such dispensations of royal favors, while they remained in
Europe, they feel but little benefit from them here; and made no
provision for their exercise, as one of the immunities of powers, when
they came to set up the frame of a government for themselves.

No ruler, under our system, is invested with authority to tap, his
kneeling fellow subject on the crown of his head, and exclaim, "Arise,
Sir, Knight!" The cast of our institutions is all the other way, and the
tendency of things, as the public mind becomes settled and compacted,
is, to take away from men the prestige of names and titles; to award but
little, on the score of antiquarian merit, and to weigh every man's
powers and abilities, political and literary, in the scale of absolute
individual capacity, to be judged of, by the community at large. If
there are to be any "orders," in America, let us hope they will be like
that, whose institution we are met to celebrate, which is founded on the
principle of intellectual emulation, in the fields of history, science
and letters.

Such are, indeed, the objects which bring us together on the present
occasion, favored as we are in assembling around the light of this
emblematic COUNCIL FIRE. Honored by your notice, as an honorary member,
in your young institution, I may speak of it, as if I were myself a
fellow laborer, in your circle: and, at least, as one, understanding
somewhat of its plan, who feels a deep interest in its success.

Adopting one of the seats of the aboriginal powers, which once cast the
spell of its simple, yet complicated, government, over the territory, a
central point has been established HERE. To this central point,
symbolizing the whole scheme of the Iroquois system, other points of
subcentralization tend, as so many converging lines. You come from the
east and the west, the north and the south. You have obeyed ONE
impulse--followed ONE principle--come to unite your energies in ONE
object. That object is the cultivation of letters. To give it force and
distinctness, by which it may be known and distinguished among the
efforts made to improve and employ the leisure hours of the young men of
Western New York, you have adopted a name derived from the ancient
confederacy of the Iroquois, who once occupied this soil. With the name,
you have taken the general system of organization of society, within a
society, held together by one bond. That bond, as existing in the
TOTEMIC tie, reaches, with a peculiar force, each individual, in such
society. It is an idea noble in itself, and worthy of the thought and
care, by which it has been nurtured and moulded into its present
auspicious form.--The union you thus form, is a union of minds. It is a
band of brotherhood, but a brotherhood of letters. It is a confederacy
of tribes, but a literary confederacy. It is an assemblage of warriors,
but the labor to be pursued is exclusively of an intellectual character.
The plumes with which you aim to pledge your literary arrows, are to be
plucked from the wings of science. It is a council of clans, not to
consult on the best means of advancing historical research; of promoting
antiquarian knowledge; and of cultivating polite literature. The field
of inquiry is broad, and it is to be trodden in various ways. You seek
to advance in the paths of useful knowledge, but neglect not the flowers
that bedeck the way. You aim at general objects and results, but pursue
them, through the theme and story of that proud and noble race of the
sons of the Forest, whose name, whose costume and whose principles of
association you assume. Symbolically, you re-create the race. Thus
aiming, and thus symbolizing your labors, your objects to resuscitate
and exhume from the dust of by-gone years, some of those deeds of valor
and renown which marked this hardy and vigorous race. There is in the
idea of your association, one of the elements of a peculiar and national
literature. And whatever may be the degree of success, which
characterizes your labors, it is hoped they will bear the impress of
American heads and American hearts. We have drawn our intellectual
sustenance, it is true, from noble fountains and crystal streams. We
have all England, and all Europe for our fountain head. But when this
has been said, we must add, that they have been off-sets from foreign
fountains and foreign streams. And nurtured as we have been, from such
ample sources, it is time, in the course of our national developments,
that we begin to produce something characteristic of the land that gave
us birth. No people can bear a true nationality, which does not
exfoliate, as it were, from its bosom, something that expresses the
peculiarities of its own soil and climate. In building its intellectual
edifice, we must have not only suitable decorations, but there must come
from the broad and deep quarries of its own mountains, foundation
stones, and columns and capitals, which bear the impress of an
indigenous mental geognosy.

And where! when we survey the length and breadth of the land, can a more
suitable element, for the work be found, than is furnished by the
history and antiquities and institutions and love, of the free, bold,
wild, independent, native hunter race? They are, relatively to us, what
the ancient Pict and Celt were to Britain, or the Teuton, Goth and
Magyar to Continental Europe. Looking around, over the wide forests, and
transcendent lakes of New York, the founders of this association, have
beheld the footprints of the ancient race. They saw here, as it were, in
vision, the lordly Iroquois, crowned by the feathers of the eagle,
bearing in his hand the bow and arrows, and scorning, as it were, by the
keen glances of his black eye, and the loftiness of his tread, the very
earth that bore him up. History and tradition speak of the story of this
ancient race.--They paint him as a man of war--of endurance--of
indomitable courage--of capacity to endure tortures without
complaint--of a heroic and noble independence. They tell us that these
precincts, now waving with yellow corn, and smiling with villages, and
glittering with spires, were once vocal with their war songs, and
resounded with the chorusses of their corn feasts. We descry, as we
plough the plain, the well chipped darts which pointed their arrows, and
the elongated pestles, that crushed their maize. We exhume from their
obliterated and simple graves, the pipe of steatite, in which they
smoked, and offered incense to these deities, and the fragments of the
culinary vases, around which, the lodge circle gathered to their forest
meal. Mounds and trenches and ditches, speak of the movement of tribe
against tribe, and dimly shadow forth the overthrow of nations. There
are no plated columns of marble; no tablets of inscribed stone--no gates
of rust-coated brass. But the MAN himself survives, in his generation.
He is a WALKING STATUE before us. His looks and his gestures and his
language remain. And he is himself, an attractive _monument_ to be
studied. Shall we neglect him, and his antiquarian vestiges, to run
after foreign sources of intellectual study? Shall we toil amid the
ruins of Thebes and Palmyra, while we have before us the monumental
enigma of an unknown race? Shall philosophical ardor expend itself, in
searching after the buried sites of Nineveh, and Babylon and Troy, while
we have not attempted, with decent research, to collect, arrange and
determine, the leading data of our aboriginal history and
antiquities?--These are inquiries, which you, at least, may aim to

No branch of the human family is an object unworthy of high philosophic
inquiry. Their food, their language, their arts, their physical
peculiarities, and their mental traits, are each topics of deep
interest, and susceptible of being converted into evidences of high
importance. Mistaken our Red Men clearly were, in their theories and
opinions on many points. They were wretched theologists, and poor
casuists. But not more so, in three-fourths of their dogmas, than the
disciples of Zoroaster, or Confucius. They were polytheists from their
very position. And yet, there is a general idea, that under every form,
they acknowledged but one DIVINE INTELLIGENCE under the name of the

They paid their sacrifices, or at least, respects, to the imaginary and
phantastic gods of the air, the woods and water, as Greece and Rome had
done, and done as blindly before them. But they were a vigorous, hardy
and brave off-shoot of the original race of man. They were full of
humanities. They had many qualities to command admiration. They were
wise in council, they were eloquent in the defence of their rights. They
were kind and humane to the weak, bewildered and friendless. Their
lodge-board was ever ready for the way farer. They were constant to a
proverb, in their _professed_ friendships. They never forgot a kind act.
Nor can it be recorded, to their dispraise, that they were a terror to
their enemies. Their character was formed on the military principle, and
to acquire distinction in this line, they roved over half the continent.
They literally carried their conquests from the gulf of St. Lawrence to
the gulf of Mexico. Few nations have ever existed, who have evinced more
indomitable courage or hardihood, or shown more devotion to the spirit
of independence than the Iroquois.

But all their efforts would have ended in disappointment, had it not
been for that principle of confederation, which, at an early day,
pervaded their councils, and converted them into a phalanx, which no
other tribe could successfully penetrate, or resist. It is this trait,
by which they are most distinguished from the other hunter nations of
North America; and it is to their rigid adherence to the verbal compact,
which bound them together, as tribes and clans, that they owe their
present celebrity, and owed their former power.

It is proposed to inquire into the principles of this confederacy, and
to make a few brief suggestions on its origin and history. In the time
that has been given me, I have had but little opportunity for research,
and even this little, other engagements, have not permitted me, fully to
employ. The little that I have to offer, would indeed have been confined
to the reminiscence of former reading, had I not been called, the
present season, to make a personal visit to the reservation still
occupied by the principal tribes.

1. Prominent in its effects on the rise and progress of nations, in the
geographical diameter of the country they occupy. And in this respect,
the Iroquois were singularly favored. They lived under an atmosphere the
most genial of any in the temperate latitude. Equally free from the
extremes of heat, and humidity, it has been found eminently favorable to
human life. Inquiries into the statistics of vitality will abundantly
denote this. Many of the civil sachems lived to a great age. And the
same may be said of those warriors who escaped the dart and club, until
they came to the period, not a very advanced one, when they ceased to
follow the war path.

They possessed a country, unsurpassed for its various advantages, not
only on this continent, but on the globe.--It afforded a soil of the
most fruitful kind, where they could, with ease and certainty, always
cultivate their maize. Its forests abounded in the deer, elk, bear and
other animals, whose flesh supplied their lodges. It was irrigated by
some of the sublimest rivers of the continent, whose waters ran south
and north, east, and by the Alleghanies, west, till they all found their
level, at distant points, either in the Gulfs of St. Lawrence and
Mexico, or in the intermediate shores of the Atlantic. Lakes of an
amazing size, compared to those of Europe, bounded this territory on the
north and north east. Its own bosom, was spotted, with secondary sheets
of water, like that of the Cayuga, upon whose banks we are assembled.
These added freshness and beauty to the thick, and almost unbroken
continuity of these forests.

Nations doubtless owe some of their characteristics to the natural
scenes of their country, and if we grant the same influence to the red
sons of the forest, they had sources of animating and elevating thoughts
around them.--Men who habitually cast their views to the Genesee and the
Niagara--who crossed in their light canoe, the Ontario and Erie, wending
their way into the sublime vista of the upper lakes: men, who threaded
these broad forests in search of the deer, or who descended the powerful
and rapid channels of the Alleghany, the Susquehanna, the Delaware and
the St. Lawrence, in quest of their foes, must have felt the influence
of magnitude and creative grandeur, and could not but originate ideas
favorable to liberty and personal independence. Their very position,
became thus the initiatory step in their assent to power.

2. Such was the country occupied, at the era of the discovery, by the
Iroquois. They lived, to employ their own symbolic language, in a long
lodge extending east and west, from the waters of the Ca-ho-ha-ta-tea[A]
to those of Erie. Their most easterly tribe, the Mohawks, extended their
occupancy to a point which they still call, with dialectic variations,
Skan-ek-ta-tea, being the present site of Albany. To this place, or, as
is more generally thought, to this geographical vicinity, the commercial
enterprize of Holland, sent an exploring ship in 1609. Here begins the
certain and recorded history of the Iroquois. We have only known them
200 years. All beyond this, is a field of antiquarian inquiry.

[A] Hudson.

From the historical documents recently obtained by the State from
France, and deposited in the public offices at the capitol, it is seen
that this people are sometimes called the NINE nations of the Iroquois.
Algonquin tradition, which I have recently published, denotes that they
originally consisted of EIGHT tribes. (ONEOTA.) Whatever of truth or
error, there may be in these terms, it is certain that, at the period of
the Dutch discovery and settlement referred to, they uniformly described
themselves as the FIVE NATIONS, or United People, under the title of
AKONOSHIONI.[B] The term Ongwe Honwee, which Colden mentions as
peculiarly applied to themselves, as proudly contradistinguished from
others, is a mere equivalent, in the several dialects, at this day, for
the term Indian, and applies equally to other tribes, throughout the
continent, as well as to themselves. By the admission of the Tuscaroras
into the confederacy, they became known as the Six Nations. The
principles of their compact, were such as to admit of any extension.
They might as well, for aught that is known, have consisted of Sixteen
as Six Tribes, and like our own Union, they would have been stronger and
firmer in their power, with each admission.

[B] Or Ho-de-no-son-ne.

I have directed some few inquiries to their plan of union. It appears to
have originated in a proposal to act in concert, by means of a central
council, in questions of peace and war. In other respects, each tribe
was an independency. It had no right to receive ambassadors from other
tribes.--Messages delivered to a frontier tribe, were immediately
transmitted to the next tribe in position, and by them passed on, to the
central councils. They affirm that these messages were forwarded, with
extraordinary celerity, by runners who rested not, night or day. The
power to convene the general council, for despatch of public business,
was in the presiding or executive chief of the Central Tribe.

This power to make war or peace, or cession of sovereignty, was given
up, on the principle of an equal union in all respects, without regard
to numbers. It was strictly federative, or a union of tribes. The assent
to a measure, was given by tribes. Whether all were required to assent,
or a majority was sufficient, is not known. It is believed they
_required_ entire unanimity.

3. But another principle, of the deepest importance, ran throughout the
organization of all the tribes, more remote in its origin, and still
more influential, it may be thought, in forming a more perfect union,
and giving strength and compactness to the government. It was the plan
of the TOTEMIC BOND. This bond was a fraternity of separate clans in
each tribe. It was based on original consanguinity, and marked by a
heraldic device, as the figure of a quadruped, or bird. This appears to
be an ancient feature in their organization, and is also found among
other North American tribes. The Algonquin tribes, who possess the same
organization, and from whose vocabulary we take the name, call it the
Totem. The institution of the totem, or inter-fraternity of clans,
existed, and is also found, with well marked features, among the
Iroquois. It had, however, one characteristic, which was peculiar, to
these nations.--It was employed to mark the descent of the chiefs, which
ran exclusively by the female. The law of marriage, interdicting
connexions within the clan, and limiting them to another, was probably
established in ancient times, among the other nations who adhere to this
institution, but, if so, it has dropped, or dwindled into mere

Totem, is a term denoting the device, or pictorial sign, which is used
by each individual, to determine his family identity. As many as have
the same totem are admitted to be of the same family or clan. In this
respect, it is analogous to coats of arms. It differs from them in this,
that no person can marry another of the same arms and totem. They are
related. The reason for keeping up this interdict, in cases where the
degree of relationship must often be very small, or is entirely lost,
appears to be one of policy, and will be, as far as possible, explained.

Originally, there appears to have been three leading families or clans,
among all the North American Indians, whose devices were, respectively,
the TURTLE, the WOLF, and the BEAR. This triad of honored clans, existed
and still exists among nations diverse in their languages, and remote in
position, and may be considered as a proof of their common origin. These
totems were regarded as of the highest authority--a fact which may
denote either original paternity in these clans, or some distinguished
action or services, analogous, perhaps, to the well known events of the
Curatii and Horatii.

It is certain, at least, that amongst each of the Iroquois tribes, as
well as the great Algonquin family, there existed the totem or clan of
the turtle, the wolf, and the bear. I will take, however, as an
illustration of the Totemic organization of the tribes, the instance of
the NUN-DO-WA-GA, or Senecas. The facts here employed have recently been
communicated to me by their distinguished chief DE-O-NE-HO-GA-WA. The
tribe consists of eight clans. They are, in the order communicated, the
wolf, the turtle, the bear, the beaver, the snipe or plover, the falcon
or hawk, the deer and the cranes. The present reigning clan is the wolf,
the clan to which the noted orator, Red Jacket, and my informant, both
belonged. We may assume, that what appear to have been fundamental
principles, were actually so, and are to be regarded as the
constitutional basis.

Each clan is entitled to a chief. Each chief has a seat in council. The
chiefs are hereditary, counting by the female line. By this law of
descent, no chief could beget an immediate successor. And herein
consisted one of the marked points of political wisdom in their system.
It is this law of descent which best distinguishes it from the system of
government of other nations on this continent, and in Asia. No such rule
is known to exist, but may exist, among the Mongol race, or other
Asiatic stocks, to whom these people have usually been traced. If so,
the law of descent, in this regard, is indigenous and original. What
disquisitions have we not seen, that a certain Iroquois chief was in the
regular line of the chieftainship, by the father? whereas, it is clear,
that the son of a chief could never, in any case, succeed his father.
The descent ran, so to say, in the line of the queen-mother. If a chief
die, his brother, next in age, would succeed him. These failing, his
daughter's male children, if connected with the reigning totem, would
succeed. Her children constituted the chain of transmission; but the
heir to the chieftainship, whether by acknowledged succession, or by
choice in case of dispute or uncertainty, had his claims uniformly
submitted to a called council, and if approved, the sachem was regularly
installed to the office. Councils had this right from an early day, and
are known to have ever been very scrupulous and jealous in its
exercise, and continue to be so, at this time.

By the establishment of this law of descent, the evils of a hereditary
chieftainship were obviated. And the succession was kept in healthy
channels, by the right of the council to decide, in all cases, and to
set aside incompetent claimants. This right was so exercised, as to give
the nation the advantages of the elective power, and to avail itself of
all its talent.

We perceive in this system, an effective provision for breaking
dynasties, and securing at each mutation of the chieftainship, a fresh
line of chiefs, who were subject to a life limit. Each clan having the
same right to one chief, a perpetual, yet constantly changing body of
sachems, was kept up, which must necessarily change the body entirely in
one generation. Yet, like the classes in our senatorial organization,
the change was effected so slowly and gradually, that the body of chiefs
constituted a political perpetuity.

In contemplating this system, there is more than one point to admire.
History gives us no example of a confederacy in which the principle of
political and domestic union, were so intimately bound together. By the
establishment of the Totemic Bond, the clans were separated on the
principle of near kindred, between which all marriage was inhibited.
Every marriage between these separated clans, therefore, bound them
closer together, and the consequence soon must have been, their entire
amalgamation, had it not been provided, that each clan, through the
female line, should preserve inviolate forever, its own Totemic
independency. In other words, the female was never so incorporated into
a new relation by the matrimonial tie, as to lose her family name, and
her mother's ancestral rights. If, for example, a deer totem female,
married a wolf or hawk male, she was still counted in the clan of the
deer, and never gave up her political rights, to the wolf or hawk
clans, which had provided for her a husband. Her position may, perhaps,
be better understood, by observing that the married woman, still
retained her maiden name--the sir name of her family. By this means she
preserved the identity of her clan, and with it, its heraldic and
political rights. Not only so, the property of a female, never vested
in, or belonged to the husband. This trait is still in full vogue, among
each of the tribes. Its operation has been witnessed the present year.

Matrons had also the right to attend and sit in council, and there were
occasions, in which they were permitted to speak. For this purpose, a
speaker was assigned to them, and this person became a standing officer
in the council.--It might pertain to the nations to bring in
propositions of peace. Such propositions might prejudice the character
of a warrior, but they were appropriate to the female, and the wise men
knew how to avail themselves of this stroke of policy. We speak of the
general and burdensome subjection of the female, among our Red Men--a
condition, indeed, inseparable from the hunter state, but here is a
trait of power and consideration, which has not yet been reached by
refined nations.

With respect to the cause of descent through the female line, it is
believed there are sound and politic reasons for such a custom, in the
nomadic state; but we have not time to examine them. The whole subject
of the separation of the tribes into a fixed member of original clans;
the connexion of these clans, preserved by the totems, and the selection
of the female as the preserver of these totemic ties, is one of deep
interest, and worthy of your inquiries. So far as the investigation has
been carried, it appears, that the primary object of this organization
was to preserve the NAMES of the original founders of the nation.--These
founders are said to have been the children of two brothers, and were
cousin-germans. But why preserve their names? What object was to result
from it? Were the persons who bore the names of the wolf, and the
turtle and the falcon and other species, famed as hunters or warriors?
Had they delivered their people, from imminent peril, or performed any
noble act? Had they conducted their people across the sea, from other
countries? Did they expect to return, and was _this_ the object of
preserving their names, in the line of their descendants? Or was the
institution, as it does not appear to have been, mere caprice? Nothing
could give more interest to your enquiries than a search into these
obscure matters. They are, in fact, at the foundation of their system of
government, and will enable you, with more clearness, to ascertain and
fix its principles.

4. Of this government itself, we know very little, beyond the fact, that
it had attained great celebrity among the other tribes. It was evidently
founded on the overthrow of that of the ancient Alleghans. It appears to
have been full of intricacies, yet simple. A republic, yet embracing
aristocratic features. A mere government of opinion; yet fixed,
effective, and powerful. It would be well to sift it, by the best lights
yet within reach. These are verbal and traditionary. There is little to
be had from books.

If we look at the political theory of this government it had traits both
peculiar and prescient. Their councils were not constituted, primarily,
by elective representation. Yet they secured the chief benefits of it.
The chiefs, had a life office, and were incapable of transmitting it to
their descendants. The organic council was a representation of tribes,
not of members. This aristocratic feature, was balanced and its tendency
to absorb authority prevented, by permitting the warriors to sit in
these primary councils. In these councils, there was free discussion and
full deliberation. But there was no formal vote taken, nor any measure
carried by counting persons, or ascertaining a majority or plurality.
Tradition declares against any such test. The popular sense appears to
have been secured alone by the scope and tenor of the debates. I cannot
learn that there ever was any formal expression, equivalent to the
modern practice of taking of the sense of the council on a measure.
Perhaps something of this kind is to be found in the approbatory
response, from which the French are said to have made up the word

If the aristocratic feature of life-sachemship, was counteracted by the
influence of the warriors in council, at the Council Fire of the Tribes;
this feature was shorn still more of its objectionable tendencies in the
General or Central Council of the Confederacy. Chiefs attended this
national assemblage, as delegates or representatives, although not
elected representatives, of their tribes. The number depended on
circumstances; and varied with the occasion. They were sent, or went, to
deliberate on a specific question, or questions, for which, the tribe
was summoned, by the Executive Sachem of the Nation holding the high
office of Attotarho,[C] or Convener of the Council. This central
council, headed by this kind of a Presidency, was in fact, more purely
democratic in its structure, than the home councils. It consisted
essentially of a Congress of Chiefs, having a right as chiefs to attend,
or delegated for the purpose, and aided also, by the warriors. It had
the character of being a representative national body, delegated for a
single session; and of a local body of life chiefs constituting the home
sachemry, or a limited senate.

[C] The corresponding word in the Seneca dialect is Tod-o-dah-hoh.

Such I apprehend to have been the structure of the Iroquois government.
It was strong, efficient and popular.--It had its fixity in the life
tenure of the chiefs and the customs of proceeding. The voice of the
warriors constituted a counterbalance, or species of second estate. But
practically, whatever the theory, the chief and warriors, acted as one
body. They came, generally, to advocate, or announce what had already
been decided on, in the body of the tribe.

It is evident, in viewing this scheme of a native federative
government, that its tendencies were always in favor of the power of the
separate tribes. No people ever existed, who watched more narrowly the
existence of power, and its innate tendency to centralize, and usurp.
Suspicious to a fault, their eyes and ears were ever open to the least
tone or gesture of alarm. They had only confided, to the Central
Council, the power to make war or peace, and to regulate public policy.
This Central Council, received embassies, not only from the numerous
nations with whom they warred; but the delegates of the crowns of France
and England, often stood in their presence.

The assent of each tribe is believed to have been requisite to an
alliance, or rupture. When this had been given at the central council,
it was explained before the local council, and the concurrence of the
body of the tribe, was essential to make it binding and effective. In
case of war, there was no fixed scale by which men were to be raised. It
was deemed obligatory for each tribe to raise men according to its
strength. But each was left free to its own action, being responsible
for such action, to PUBLIC OPINION. All warriors were volunteers, and
were raised for specific expeditions, and were bound no longer. To take
up the war club, and join in the war dance, was to enlist. There was no
other enlistment--no bounties--no pay--no standing force--no public
provisions--no public arms--no clothing--no public hospital. The martial
impulse of the people was sufficient. All was left to personal effort
and provision. Self dependence was never carried to such height. The
thirst for glory--the honor of the confederacy--the strife for personal
distinction, filled their ranks; and led them, through desert paths, to
the St. Lawrence, the Illinois, the Atlantic seaboard and the southern
Alleghanies. Nor did they need the roll of the river to animate their
courage, or regulate their steps. Theirs was a high energetic devotion,
equal or superior to even that of ancient Sparta and Lacedæmon. They
conquered wherever they went. They subdued nations in their immediate
vicinity. They exterminated others. They adopted the fragments of
subjugated tribes into their confederacy, sunk their national homes into
oblivion, and thus repaired the irresistable losses of war. They had
eloquence, as well as courage. Their speakers maintained a high rank
along side of the best generals and negotiators of France, England and
America. We owe this tribute to their valor and talents. One thousand
such men, equipped for war as _they_ were, and led by _their_ spirit,
would have effected more in battle, than the tens of thousands of
effeminate Aztecks and Peruvians who shouted, but often did no more than
_shout_, around the piratical bands of Cortez and Pizarro.

5. I have left myself but little time to speak of the origin and early
history of this people--topics which are of deep interest in themselves,
but which are involved in great obscurity. They are subjects which
commend themselves to your attention, and offer a wide field for your
future research. There are three periods in our Indian history:

1. THE ALLEGORIC AND FABULOUS AGE. This includes the creation, the
deluge, the creation of Holiness and Evil, and some analogous points, in
the general and shadowy traditions of men, which our hunter race, have
almost universally concealed under the allegoric figures, of a creative
bird or beast, or the exploits of some potent personage, endowed with
supernatural courage or power. In this era, the earth was also covered
with monsters and giants, who waged war, and drove men into caves and
recesses; until the interposition of the original creative power, for
their relief.

2. THE ANTE-HISTORICAL PERIOD, in which tradition begins to assume the
character of truth, but is still obscured by fable. This period includes
the early discoveries by the Northmen, the reputed voyage of Prince
Madoc, &c.

3. THE PERIOD OF ACTUAL HISTORY, dating from the earliest voyage of
Columbus and his companions.

I have alluded, in a preceding part of this address, to the mode of
studying their early history. Where little or nothing is to be obtained
from books, it requires a cautious investigation of these traditions and
antiquities. Ethnology, in all its branches, has a direct and practical
bearing on this subject. The physical type of man, the means of his
subsistence, the state of his arts, the language he speaks, the
hieroglyphics he carves, the mounds he builds--the fortifications he
erects,--his religion, his superstitions, his legendary lore--the very
geography of the country he inhabits, are so many direct and palpable
means of acquiring historical evidence. It is from the investigation of
these, that tribes and nations are grouped and classified, and the
original stocks of mankind denoted, and the track of their dispersion
over the globe traced. And they constitute so many topics of study and

In relating their traditions, our Red Men are prone, to connect, (as if
these were portions of a continuous and consistent narrative) the most
_recent_ and most _remote_ events, which dwell in their memory. And from
their present residence and recent history, to run back, by a few
sentences, into purely fabulous and allegoric periods. Fiction and fact,
are mingled in the same strain. In listening to those relations, it is
important to establish in the mind, historical periods, and to separate
that which is grotesque or imaginative from the narration of real
events. The latter, may be sometimes distorted by this juxtaposition,
but it is, in general, easy to separate the two, and to re-adopt them,
on their own principles. The early nations of Europe and Asia, pursued
the same system. Their men were soon traced into gods, and their gods,
soon ended in sensualists, or demons. Greek and Roman history, before
the period of Herodotus, must have been little better than a jargon of
such incongruities, and nearly all the earlier part of it, is no better
now. To teach our children these nonsensical fables, is to vitiate their
imagination, and the thing would never have been dreamt of, in a moral
age, were not the ancient mythology, inseparably mixed up with the
present state of ancient history, poetry and letters. We must teach it
as a fable, and rely on truth to counteract its effects.

The Iroquois have their full share in the fabulous and allegoric
periods, and an examination of their tales and traditions will be found,
I apprehend, to give ample scope to poetry and imagination. In their
fabulous age, as recorded by Cusick, they have their war, with flying
Heads, the Stone Giants, the Great Serpent, the Gigantic Musquito, the
Spirit of Witchcraft, and several other eras, which afford curious
evidences of the way-farings and wanderings of the human intellect,
unaided by letters, or the spirit of truth.

Actual history plants its standard close on the confines of these
benighted regions of fable and allegory. It is not proposed to enter
into much detail on this topic. The modern facts are pretty well known,
but have never been thoroughly investigated or arranged. Of the earlier
facts in their origin and history, we know very little. The first
writers on the subject of the Indians generally, after the settlement of
America, dealt in wild speculations, and were carried away with
preconceived theories, which destroy their value. Colden, who directed
his attention to the Iroquois, scarcely attempted any thing beyond a
specific relation of transactions, which are intended for the
information of the Board of Trade and Plantations, and these do not come
down beyond the peace of Ryswick. There is a large amount of printed
information, adequate for the completion of their history in the 18th
and 19th centuries, but most of the works are of rare occurrence, and
are only to be found in large libraries at home and abroad. Other facts
exist in manuscript official documents, numbers of which, have recently
been obtained by the State, from foreign offices, and are now deposited
in the Secretary's office at Albany. The lost correspondence on Indian
affairs, of Sir William Johnson, may yet come to light, and would
necessarily be important. Private manuscripts and the traditions of aged
Indians, still living, would further contribute to their history. They
are a people worthy the separate pen of a historian, and it may be hoped
that an elaborate and full work, may be produced.

Where the Iroquois originated? is a question, which involves the prior
and general one, of the origin of the Red Race. So far as relates to
their proximate origin, on this continent, I am inclined to think, that
it was in the tropical latitudes extending west from the Gulf of
Mexico.--Facts indicate the great tide of our migration, to have been
from that general race. The zea maize which is a southern plant, came
from that quarter, and was spread, as the tribes moved from the south to
the north, the east, and northeast, and north west. Which of the
ancient Indian stocks came first we know not. The Iroquois, if we follow
one of their own authors, have strong claims to antiquity, but we cannot
accept this in full. That they migrated up the valley of the
Mississippi, and the Ohio to its extreme head (they call the Alleghany
Oheo) is probable. Our actual knowledge on this subject, historically
speaking, is very small, and we must grope our way through dark and
shadowy traditions. These, however, sustain the general fact stated,
which is helped out by other accessions. That they had crossed the great
artery of the continent, (the Mississippi river) prior to the Algonquin
race, but after the Alleghans, is shown by the traditions of the latter.
[P.W.][D] With this race, tradition asserts, that they formed an
alliance, at a remote era, and maintained a bloody war, for many years,
against the ancient Alleghans, who are supposed, in these wars, to have
erected the fortifications and mounds, of the Mississippi valley. That
this ancient Alleghanic empire of the West, so to call it, fell before
the combined courage and energy of the Iroquois and Algonquins, and that
the defeated tribes either retired down the waters of the Mississippi,
or were in part incorporated with themselves, or yet exist in the Far
West, under other names, we have various traditions for asserting or

[D] Indian Picture Writing.

Thus far we are speaking of the ante-historical period. When the
colonies came to be planted, and our ancestors spread themselves along
the Atlantic coast, from the initial points of settlement in Virginia,
Nova Belgica, and New England, the Iroquois were already well seated,
and spoke and acted, whenever they desired to make allusion to the
matter, as if they had been _forever_ seated on the soil they then
occupied. To conceal the fact of their title being held by right of
conquest, or to supply the actual want of history, one tribe, the
Oneidas, asserted that they had sprung from a rock. Another, the
Wyandots, alleged that they came out of the ground by the fiat of the
great spirit. [Oneota.] None of them acknowledged a _foreign origin_
beyond seas. None of them acknowledged, at first, that they knew aught
of the ancient mound-builders and people who built the old
fortifications in the West, or in their own country; but they
subsequently connected, or accommodated these mounds, to their war with
the Alleghans. This is in accordance with Indian policy, and suspicious
foresight. When closely questioned, they told Gov. Clinton that these
old works were by an _earlier_ people, and that their oldest traditions
related to their wars with the Cherokees, and the people of the extreme
south. That they originally dwelt in those latitudes--that they migrated
north through the Ohio valley, around the Alleghanies, and came into
Western New-York from the borders of the Lakes and the St. Lawrence, are
points very well denoted by their languages, vestiges of arts,
geographical nomenclature and history, so far as we have had the means
of recording it.

Cartier, in 1535, found them seated at Hochelaga, the present site of
Montreal. They had an ancient station, as low down the Connecticut at
least, as Northfield. Towards the north of lakes Ontario and Erie, they
extended to the chain of lakes which stretches through from the northern
shores of the former to lake Huron. It is seen from Le Jeune, that they
ordered the Wyandots of the ancient Hochelaga Canton, who had formed an
alliance with the French and with the Algonquins, to quit that spot, and
remove into the territory south of the lakes. And in default of this,
they warred against them, and drove them west, through the great chain
of lakes to Michilimackinac, and even to the western extremity of lake

The period of the settlement of Canada, ripened causes of hostility to
the entire Algonquin, or as they called them, Adirondak race, into
maturity. The Wyandot alliance with the French gave an edge to this
contest, and having soon been supplied with guns and ammunition by the
Dutch, they defeated this race in several sanguinary battles between
Montreal and Quebec, and drove them out of this valley, by the way of
the Ontario river, and pursued them to their villages and hunting
grounds in area of lakes Huron, Michigan and Algoma. They defeated the
Kah Kwahes or Eries. They pushed their war parties, from the lakes,
through to the MIAMI, the WABASH, and the ILLINOIS, on the latter of
which they were encountered by La Salle and his people, in his early
expedition, in the seventeenth century. Their great avenue to the west,
the avenue by which, in part at least, they appear to have migrated at
an early day, was the Alleghany river, through which, they continued to
exercise their ancient or acquired authority in the Ohio valley, and the
Alleghanian range.

Back on this route, they continued their war expeditions against the
tribes of the southern Alleghanies _at_ and, for some time, _after_ the
era of the first settlement of the country. The point of their
hostility, was directed against the Catawbas, the Cherokees, and their
allies, the Abiecas, Hutchees and others. Smith encountered them on
these wars, in the interior of Virginia, in 1608. And it is well known,
that they brought off their brothers, the Tuscaroras, after the
settlement of North Carolina, and gave them a location among themselves,
and a seat at their council fire, in Western New-York.

Launching their war canoes on the Delaware and the Susquehanna, they
extended their sway over the present area of New-Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Delaware and Maryland, bringing under their sovereign power, that member
of the great Algonic family of America, who call themselves Lenni
Lenapees, but who are better known in our history as Delawares. Go which
way the traveler will, even at this day, for a thousand miles west,
southwest and northwest of their great council fire at Onondaga, and the
inquirer will find that the name of a NADOWA, which is the Algonquin
term for Iroquois, was a word of terror to the remotest tribes. Writers
tell us it was the same throughout New England. By the peaceful and wise
policy of the Dutch prior to 1664, and of the English subsequent to that
date, this confederacy was kept in our interest; and he must be a
careless reader of our history, who does not know, that they formed a
perfect wall of defence against the encroachments of the French Crown
upon our territories. It was to curb this power, and gain some permanent
foot-hold on the soil, that La Salle built fort Niagara in 1678.
Vaudruiel, the Governor General of New France, could give no stronger
reason to his King, for taking post on the straits of Detroit, and
fortifying that point, in 1701, than that it would enable him to "curb
the Iroquois." [Oneota.]

But, I do not stand before you to enter into a critical history of the
Iroquois' powers. Who has not heard of their fame and prowess--of their
indomitable courage in war,--of their admirable policy in peace: of
their eloquence in council: of the noble fire of patriotic
independence, which led them to defend the integrity of their soil
against all invaders; and of the triumphs they achieved, throughout
ABORIGINAL AMERICA, by the wisdom of their principles of confederation.
The history of their rise and early progress, we shall probably never
satisfactorily know. It is said by early writers, that the origin of
their confederation was not very remote. But so much as we know of
them--so much of their career as has passed while we have been their
neighbors, proves that they had well established claims to
antiquity--that they were a free, bold and valorous stock of the human
race--that they had thought to plan, language to express, and energy to
execute.--Compared to other races north of the tropics, there were two
principles, apparent in their history, which give them the palm, as
statesmen and warriors, although in some other departments of
intellectual attainment, they were probably excelled by certain of the
Algonquins. I allude to the principles of political union; and the wise
and humane policy, which led them to adopt, into their body, the
remnants of the nations whom they conquered. Here were two elements of
political power, in which they were not only a century in advance of
_all_ the other stocks of the north; but they were in advance of the
most prominent examples of the semi-civilized Indian tribes of _this_
day.--Neither the Choctaws, the Cherokees, or other expatriated tribes
now assembled on the Neosho territory, west of the Mississippi, although
they adopted governments for themselves, have had the wisdom to adopt a
general union.--The worst and most discouraging fact to the friends of
the aboriginal race, in these Tribes, is, that they will not
confederate. Discord, internal and external, has assailed them with
great power, in late years, and threaten even to defeat the humane
policy of the government, in their colonization.

So superior were the Iroquois, in this particular, so deeply imbued were
their minds with the wisdom of union; that had the discovery of the
continent, been postponed half a century longer, they would have
presented a compact representative empire in North America, far more
stable, energetic and sound, if not so brilliant as that of Mexico. They
were a people of physically better nerve and mould. Of ample stature and
great personal activity and courage, they were capable of offering a
more efficient resistance to their invaders. The climate itself was more
favorable to energetic action; and it can scarcely be deemed fanciful to
assert, that had Hernando Cortez, in 1519, entered the Mohawk Valley,
instead of that of Mexico, with the force he actually had, his ranks
would have gone down under the skillfulness of the Iroquois' ambuscades,
and himself perished ingloriously at the stake.

The number of warriors they could bring into the field, was large,
although it has probably been over-rated. Let it not be overlooked, in
estimating the ancient vigor and military power of this race, that in
1677, one year after the _final_ transfer of political power, in
New-York, from the Stadtholder of Holland to the British crown, the
Iroquois wielded more than 2000 hatches. [Clint's Dis. N. Y. Col. Vol.
2, p. 80.] Sixteen hundred of these warriors, are estimated to have
ranged themselves on the side of Great Britain, in the memorable contest
of the Revolution.

Misled in this contest, they certainly were--doubting long which of two
branches of the same white race, they should side with, but overpowered
by external pomp, by specious promises, and by false appearances, they
committed a fatal mistake. They fought, in fact, against the very
principles of republican confederation, which they had so long upheld in
their own body, and which, I may add, had so long upheld them. They
perilled all upon the issue; and the issue went against them. Their
great and eloquent leader Thayendanegea, better known as Joseph Brant,
had been educated in British schools, he could speak two tongues, and
his counsels prevailed. He was not in the old line of the
chieftainship, but had placed himself at the head of the confederacy by
his brilliant talents, and by favorable circumstances. That line fell
with the great Mohawk sachem Hendrick, at the battle of lake George, in
1755, and with the wise civilian Little Abraham, who in right of his
mother, succeeded him, and died at his Castle at Dionderoga. Brant was,
however, a man of great energy of character, of shrewd principles of
policy, and of great personal, as well as moral courage. As a war
captain and a civil leader, the Red Race of America has produced no
superior. He led 1580 tomahawks against the armies of the Revolution--at
his war cry 15,000 arrows were launched from their fatal bows. The voice
of Kirkland--the voice of Schuyler--the voice of Washington were exerted
in vain. Had he hearkened to these friendly voices, the Iroquois
confederacy would now have stood in the plenitude of power, and we
should not have assembled to-day to light the fires of this Young
Institution from its dying embers.

These things are past. The contest of the revolution was one, which our
fathers waged. Many of you may have heard the graphic recitals of those
days of peril, as I have, from the lips of actors, who now rest from
their toils.--They were days of high and sanguinary import. The deeds of
daring which they brought forth, came like a mighty tempest over the
face of this fair land. It prostrated many a noble trunk. It swept for
seven long years, over the beauteous lakes and forests, which now
constitute our homes. It left them almost denuded and desolate. But the
mild airs and gentle summer winds of peace succeeded. The hoarse voice
of the Iroquois, O-WAY-NE-O, has been transformed into the soft and
silver tones of GOD. Flowers and fruits, and fields of waving grain,
soon rose up in every valley, and shed their fragrance along every
sylvan shore. Joy and prosperity succeeded the arrowy storm of war. And
it has been given to us, to carry out scenes of improvement, and of
moral and intellectual progress, which providence, in its profound
workings, has deemed it best for the prosperity of man, that _we_, and
not _they_, should be entrusted with. We have succeeded to their
inheritance: but we regard them as brothers. We cherish their memory: we
admire their virtues; and we aim to rescue from oblivion their noble

I have merely alluded to the importance of the Iroquois decision at the
critical period, 1776. The erroneous policy they adopted, with some
exceptions, is among the events of past times, which wiser and more
learned and resplendent nations, than they professed to be, have
committed. We regret the error of the decision, but we hold fellowship
with the man. He is our brother; and we meet this day to consecrate a
literary institution in the land, more enduring, we trust, than deeds of
strife and battle, and better suited to elicit studies to exalt the
heart and dignify the understanding. Your weapons are not spears and
clubs, but letters. Your means are the quiet and peaceful paths of
inquiry. If these paths are often obscured by the foot of time and
tangled by the interlacings of history and antiquity, be it yours to put
the branches aside, and lead the right way. Truth is your aim, and
justice and benevolence your guides. They hold before you the lamp of
science so clearly, that you cannot mistake your way. While you essay,
with modesty and diligence to tread in this path, and render justice to
a proud and noble branch of the aboriginal race, your ultimate ends are
moral improvement, the accumulation of useful facts, and the general
advancement of historical letters.

You have selected, out of a wide field of aboriginal nations, the
history and ethnography of the Iroquois, as the theme of your particular
inquiries. To us, at least, these Tribes, stand in the most interesting
relations. They occupied our soil; they gave names to our rivers and
mountains. They figure in the foreground of our history. The very names
of the minor streams and lakes we dwell beside, bring up, by
association, the free and bold race, who once claimed them as their
patrimony. Before Columbus set out, on his solitary mule, to solicit the
patronage of Ferdinand and Isabella, they were here. Before Hudson
dropped anchor north of the, to him, wonderful peaks of the Ontiora, or
Highlands, they were here. Other Indian races have left their names on
other portions of the continent. The names of the Missouri and
Mississippi, the Alleghany and the Oregon, we trace to other stocks of
red men. But the Akonoshioni, or Iroquois, has consecrated the early
history of Western New-York. Their history is, to some extent, our
history; and we turn, with intellectual refreshment from the thread-bare
themes of Europe and the Europeans, to trace the humble sepulchres where
the Iroquois buried his dead--the mounds, which entombed his rulers or
his battle slain,--or lifted on high, his sacrificial lights--the long
and half obliterated trenches of embankments which encompassed his
ancient towns--the heaps of stone that lie at the angles and sally ports
of his simple fortresses, on the circular trenches, which enclosed his
beacon fires on the mountain tops. It is in localities of this kind,
that the ploughman turns up fragments of the Red Man's time wasted and
broken pottery--his stone pestles, his carved pipes, and his skilfully
chipped arrow heads, and spear heads, and tomahawks of stone. These, and
analogous remains, are the objects of our antiquarian researches.
Prouder monuments he had none. There was neither column, nor arch,
statue nor inscription. But we may trace, by a careful inspection of the
objects, the state and progress of his ancient and rude arts. We may
denote, by their occurrence, in the same localities, the era of the
arrival of the white man. We may establish other eras, from geological
changes,--the growth of forest trees, and other inductive means.

There are three eras in American antiquity.

1. Vestiges of their primary migration and origin.

2. Vestiges of their international changes and intestine wars, prior to
the discovery of the continent by Columbus.

3. Evidences of wars, migrations and remains of occupancy, subsequent to
the arrival of Europeans.

These are to be studied in the inverse order of their being stated. We
must proceed from the known to the unknown--from the recent, to the

Ethnography offers a species of proof, to determine the migrations and
divisions in the original family of man, which is to be drawn from
geographical considerations--the relative position of islands, seas and
continents--the means of subsistence as governed and limited by climate,
and soil; the state of ancient arts, agriculture, languages, &c.

Philology denotes the affinities of nations, by the analogies of words,
and forms of syntax, and the place of expressing ideas.

The remains of arts, monuments, inscriptions, hieroglyphics, picture
writing, and architecture, constitute so many means of comparing one
nation with another, and thus determining their affinities; and although
most of our aboriginal nations had made but little progress in these
departments, the state of ruins in Mexico, Central Mexico and Yucatan;
the mounds and fortifications of the West; and even the remains of forts
and barrows in Western New-York, entitle them to consideration.

There is another department of observation on our aborigines, which,
from the light it has shed on the mental characteristics of the Algic,
and some other stocks, offers a new field for investigation. I allude to
the subject of the imaginative legends and tales of the Red Race. Such
tales have been found abundantly in the lodge circles of the tribes
about the Upper Lakes and the source of the Mississippi. They reveal the
sources of many of their peculiar opinions on life, death, and
immortality, and open, if I may so say, a vista to the philosophy of
the Indian mind, and the theory of his religion.

An ample field for investigation is thus before you. And it is one full
of attractions alike for the man of science, research, learned leisure
and philosophy. But it is not alone to these, that the Red man and his
associations, present a field for study and contemplation. His history
and existence on this continent, is blended with the richest sources of
poetry and imagination. His beautiful and sonorous geographical
nomenclature alone, has clothed our hills and lakes and streams, with
the charms of poetic numbers.--The Red man himself, who once roved these
attractive scenes, with his bow and arrows, and his brow crowned with
the highest honors of the war path and the chase, was a being of NOBLE
MOULD. He felt the true sentiment of independence. He was capable of
high deeds of courage, disinterestedness and virtue. His generosity and
hospitality were unbounded. His constancy in professed friendship was
universal, and his memory of a good deed, done to him, or his kindred,
never faded. His breast was animated with a noble thirst of fame. To
acquire this, he trod the war path, he submitted to long and severe
privations. Neither fatigue, hunger or thirst were permitted to gain the
mastery over him. A stoic in endurance he was above complaint, and when
a prisoner at the stake, he triumphed over his enemy in his death song.
The history of such a people must be full of deep tragic and poetic
incidents; and their antiquities, cannot fail to illustrate it.--The
tomb that holds a man, derives all its moral interest _from_ the man,
and would be destitute of it, without him. America is the tomb of the
Red man.

A single objection, to the plan of the institution, remains to be
answered. It may be deemed too intricate and complex to secure unity in
action. The inquiries are admitted to be interesting and capable of
furnishing intellectual aliment for a literary society; but why not
establish it on plain principles, in the ordinary mode? All that is
sought, it may be said, could be accomplished without such a weight of
associated machinery. By organizing it on the basis of the several
tribes, and the several clans of each tribe; spreading over so wide an
area of territory, and adopting so many of the aboriginal peculiarities,
in terms, form of admission, and you have exposed the institution to
serious objections, and to the danger of an early decline. But, are not
these traits, rather the guarantees of its success and perpetuity? It
addresses itself, particularly to the YOUNG. To them, it brings the
attractions of novelty. Much of the ardor of association and desire of
action, peculiar to this age, may find its gratification in these
co-fraternal, and ceremonial observances; and be supposed to act as
stimulants to the higher, and ulterior objects of the association. These
objects are, both in their nature, and associations, of an inspiring
cast. They bring before you, a new world, with its ancient inhabitants,
as themes of contemplation. And these themes spring up, with a freshness
and vigor, well suited to attract the pen and pencil.--Tired with poring
over the dusty volumes, which detail the ruins of the temples and cities
of the eastern hemisphere, the spirit of research asks, whether, in the
very magnificence of the continent, there be not now a temple, whose
history is worth study? Cloyed with the accounts handed down of the
renowned places and renowned men of antiquity, it is inquired, whether
these broad forests and far-spread vistas of woods and waters, do not
conceal something of the foot-prints of past time, which is worth labor
and learning to investigate, and reveal?

Nature is found here, in some of her sublimest moods. She is still in
her questive youth, but it is a youth of gigantic proportions. Her
largest rivers occupy thousands of miles in displaying their winding
channels, between these sources and their outlets, in the sea. Her broad
forests still wave with their leafy honors unshorn. Her lakes occupy a
length and breadth and depth, which give them far more the aspect of
seas. Ships, bear a heavy commerce on their bosoms, and navies have
battled for supremacy upon their ample breasts. It is a region destined
for the human race to develope itself and expand in. It is a seat
prepared for the re-union of the different stocks of mankind. It is an
area of magnificent extent. Higher mountains fill other parts of the
world, and other parts of _this_ continent. The Alps, the Atlas, the
Andes and the Cordilleras reach into the skies, but they encumber the
earth with their vast proportions, and render the surface sterile. They
take away from the area of tillable soil, and add it to waste and
unprofitable districts. If our greatest elevations, are humble compared
to these, they are clothed with verdure, and break into countless
valleys, which afford a habitation to man. No country on the globe
abounds with so many beautiful lakes of every size, and our rivers
display a succession of cataracts and falls, alike attractive to the eye
of taste and art.

Is all this profusion designed to employ the pens of naturalists and
statesmen only? Is there no field in the mighty past, for the
philosopher and the historian? for the ethnologist and the antiquarian?
Is civilized man alone the only object, wanting in the consideration of
its former history? We answer, no. Centuries on centuries have passed
away, since first the Red man planted his foot on this continent. The
very paucity of his knowledge and simplicity of his arts, tell a story
of great antiquity. The diversities of language answer to the same end.
And, for aught that is known, long before the eras of Socrates and
Pythagoras, Plato and Confucius, the Mongol and the Persian. The Tartar
and the Mesopotamean, the Chinese and Japanese, and we know not how many
other shades of the Red man of Asia, were in AWONEO[E] or America. Of
their wonderful histories and wars and overturnings, by land and sea,
of their mixtures and intermixtures of blood and language and lineage
and nationality, we know little, or nothing. But, after all the
centuries of separation, we find in his physiological characteristics
and conformation of visage and expression, the same Asiatic type of
man--whom the first adventurers to these shores, did not hesitate to
pronounce the man of India. Use, has perpetuated the term, and if the
discoveries of geography, have, ages since, shown the appellation of
Indians, in the sense then employed, to be incorrect, physiologists and
ethnographers, have but found stronger and stronger proofs, that Asia,
in preference to every other quarter of the globe, was the true land of
his origin.

[E] Onondaga.

       *       *       *       *       *


In Indian mythology may be found the richest poetic materials. An
American Author is unworthy of the land that gave him birth if he passes
by with indifference this well-spring of inspiration, sending liberally
forth a thousand enchanted streams. It has given spiritual inhabitants
to our valleys, rivers, hills and inland seas; it has peopled the dim
and awful depths of our forests with spectres, and, by the power of
association, given our scenery a charm that will make it attractive
forever. The material eye is gratified by a passing glimpse of nature's
external features, but a beauty, unseen, unknown before, invests them if
linked to stories of the past, in the creation of which fabling fancy
has been a diligent co-worker with memory.

The red man was a being who delighted in the mystical and the wild--it
was a part of his woodland inheritance. Good and evil genii performed
for him their allotted tasks. Joyous tidings, freedom from disease and
disaster--success in the chase, and on the war path were traceable to
the Master of Life and his subordinate ministers:--blight that fell upon
the corn was attributed, on the contrary, to demoniac agency, and the
shaft that missed its mark was turned aside by the invisible hand of
some mischievous sprite. Deities presided over the elements. The
Chippewas have their little wild men of the woods, that remind us of
Puck and his frolicsome brotherhood, and the dark son of the wilderness,
like our first parents

                    --"from the steep
    Of echoing hill or thicket often heard
    Celestial voices."

My tent is pitched on the hunting grounds of the Senecas, (or
So-non-ton-ons) and I deem it not inappropriate to select for my theme
the Legend of their origin.

Different versions of the story are in circulation, but I have been
guided mainly, in the narrative part of my poem, by notes taken down
after an interview with the late Captain Horatio Jones, the Indian
Interpreter of the Six Nations.

The great hill at the head of Canandaigua Lake, from whence the Senecas
sprung, is called Genundewah. Tradition says that it was crowned by a
fort to which the braves of the tribe resorted at night-fall, after
waging war with a race of giants. These giants were worshippers of
Ut-co, or the Evil Spirit, who sent, after their extermination, a great
serpent to destroy the conquerors. Quitting its watery lair in
Canandaigua Lake, the monster encircled their fortification. The head
and tail completed a horrid _ring_ at the gateway, and, when half
famished, the wretched inmates vainly attempted to escape. All were
destroyed with the exception of a pair, whose miraculous preservation is
related in the poem that follows. Ever after Genundewah was a chosen
seat of Iroquois Council, and wrinkled seers were in the habit of
climbing its sides for the purpose of offering up prayers to the Great






      Why, Chieftain, linger on this barren hill
      That overbrows yon azure sheet below?
      Red sunset glimmers on the leaping rill,
      Dark night is near, and we have far to go.
      This scene--replied he leaning on big bow--
      Is hallowed by tradition--wondrous birth
      Here to my Tribe was given long ago;
      We stand where rose they from disparting earth
    To light a deathless blaze on Fame's unmouldering hearth.


      A fort they reared upon this summit bleak
      Guided by counsel from the Spirit Land,
      And clad in dart-proof panoply would seek
      The plains beneath each morn, a valiant band,
      And warfare wage with giants hand to hand:
      They conquered in the struggle, and the bones
      Of their dead foemen on the echoing strand
      Of the clear lake lay blent with wave-washed stones,
    And pale, unbodied ghosts filled air with hollow moans.


      Ut-co, the scowling King of Evil, heard
      The voice of lamentation, and wild ire
      The depths of his remorseless bosom stirr'd;
      Of that gigantic brood he was the sire,
      And flying from his cavern, arched with fire,
      He hovered o'er these, waters--at his call
      Up rushed a hideous monster, spire on spire;--
      _Call_ so astounding that the rocky wall
    Of this blue chain of hills seemed tott'ring to its fall!


      With his infernal parent for a guide,
      The hungry serpent left his watery lair,
      Dragging his scaly terrors up the side
      Of this tall hill, now desolate and bare:
      Filled with alarm the Senecas espied
      His dread approach, and launched a whizzing shower
      Of arrows on the foe, whose iron hide
      Repelled their flinty points--and in that hour
    The boldest warrior fled from strife with fiendish power.


      The loathsome messenger of wo and death
      True to his dark and awful mission wound,
      Polluting air with his envenom'd breath,
      Huge folds the palisadoed camp around:
      Crouched at his master's feet the faithful hound,
      And raised a piteous and despairing cry;
      No outlet of escape the mother found
      For her imploring infants, and on high
    Lifted her trembling hands in voiceless agony.


      Forming a hideous circle at the gate
      The reptile's head and tail together lay;
      Distended were the fang-set jaws in wait
      For victims, thus beleaguered, night and day;
      And not unlike the red and angry ray
      Shot by the bearded comet was the light
      Of his unslumbering eye that watched for prey;
      His burnished mail flashed back the sunshine bright,
    And round him pale the woods grew with untimely blight.


      When famine raged within their guarded hold,
      And wan distemper thinn'd their numbers fast,
      Crowding the narrow gateway young and old
      With the fixed look of desperation passed
      From life to dreadful death--a charnel vast--
      The reptile's yawning throat entombed the strong,
      And lovely of the Tribe:--remained at last
      Two lovers only of that mighty throng
    To chaunt with feeble voice a nation's funeral song.


      Comely to look on was the youthful pair:--
      One, like the mountain pine erect and tall,
      Was of imposing presence;--his dark hair
      Had caught its hue from night's descending pall;
      Light was his tread--his port majestical,
      And well his kingly brow became a form
      Of matchless beauty:--like the rise and fall
      Of a strong billow in the hour of storm
    Beat his undaunted heart with glory's impulse warm.


      Graced was his belt by beads of dazzling sheen
      And painted quills--the handiwork of one
      Dearer than life to him;--though he had seen
      From the gray hills, beneath a wasting sun,
      Only the snows of twenty winters run,
      The warrior's right his scalp lock to adorn
      With eagle plumes in battle he had won:
      O'erjoyed were prophets old when he was born,
    And hailed him with one voice "_First Sunbeam of the Morn_."


      The other!--what of her?--bright shapes beyond
      This darkened earth wear looks like those she wore;
      Graceful her mien as lilly of the pond
      That nods to every wind that passes o'er
      Its fragrant head a welcome:--never more
      By loveliness so rare will earth be blest;
      Softer than ripple breaking on the shore
      By moonlight was her voice, and in her breast
    Pure thought a dwelling found--the Bird of Love a nest.


      Round her would hop unscared the sinless bird,
      And court the lustre of her gentle glance,
      Hushing each wood-note wild whene'er it heard
      Her song of joy:--her countenance
      Inspired beholders with a thought that chance
      Had borne her hither from some better land:--
      To deck her tresses for the festive dance
      Girls of the tribe would bring, with liberal hand,
    Blossoms and rose-lipped shells from bower and reedy strand.


      A thing of beauty is the slender vine
      That wreaths its verdant arm around the oak
      As if it there could safely intertwine
      Shielded from ringing axe--the lightning stroke--
      And like that vine the girl of whom I spoke
      Clung to her companion:--scalding tears
      Rained from her elk-like eyes, and sobs outbroke
      From her o'er-labored bosom, while her ears
    Were filled with soothing tones that did not hush her fears.


      Mourner! the hour of rescue is at hand!
      This hill will tremble to its rocky base
      When Ou-wee ne-you utters stern command;
      Joy ere another fleeting moon the trace
      Of clouding sorrow from thy brow will chase:--
      Fear not!--for I am left to guard thee yet
      Last of the daughters of a luckless race!
      We must not in the time of grief forget
    That light breaks forth anew from orbs that darkly set.


      Thus, day by day, would O-wen-do-skah strive
      To cheer the drooping spirits of the maid,
      And keep one glimmering spark of hope alive;
      In the deep midnight for celestial aid,
      While cowered the trembler at his knee, he prayed
      In tones that might have touched a heart of rock:
      One morn exclaimed he--"be no more afraid
      Bright, peerless scion of a broken stock,
    For Heaven the monster's coil is arming to unlock.


      "Reserved for some high destiny despite
      The downfall of our people we live on--
      My dreams were of deliverance last night,
      And peril of impending death withdrawn:
      A light, my weeping one, begins to dawn
      On the thick gloom by sorrow round us cast;
      The lead-like pressure of despair is gone,
      And rides a viewless courier on the blast
    Who whispers--Lo! the hour of vengeance comes at last.


      "Gorged with his meal of gore unstirring sleeps
      In his tremendous ring our mortal foe:
      Film-veiled his savage eye no longer keeps
      Grim watch for victims--warily and slow!
      Follow thy lover arrived with bended bow
      Of timber shaped, in many a battle tried--
      Some guardian spirit will before me throw
      A shield by human vision undescried
    Should he awake in wrath, and hence our footsteps guide."


      It was I ween a sight to freeze each vein
      That courses through our perishable clay
      When sallied forth with muffled tread the twain;
      A look of wild, unutterable dismay
      Convulsed Te-yos-yu's[F] visage while the way,
      A spear-length in advance, her lover led:
      Reaching the portal paused he to survey
      The dangerous pass through which a grisly head
    Deprest to earth he saw, its mouth with murder red.

[F] Bright eye.


      "On! On!"--he whispered--"and the sightless mole
      Our footfall must not hear, or we are lost:"
      Nerved to high purpose was his war-like soul
      As the dark threshold of the gate he cross'd;
      But fear that instant chilled his limbs with frost,
      For high its swollen neck the monster raised
      Gore dripping from its jaws with foam embossed,
      And rimmed with fire, and circling eye-ball blazed
    As light unwounding dart its horrid armor grazed.


      Sick by a foul and fetid odor made
      Recoiled the champion from unequal fray;
      Cut off all hope of rescue, he surveyed
      Fiercely the danger like a stag at bay:
      Where was Te-yos-yu?--she had swooned away,
      And hoof-crushed wild-flower of the forest brown
      Resembled her as soiled with mould she lay;
      Long on the _seeming corpse_ the chief looked down,
    For 'twas a sight the cup of his despair to crown.


      Kneeling at length, upheld he with strong arm
      Her beauteous head, but in the temples beat
      No pulse of life:--tears gushing fast and warm
      Refresh a heart, of transcient ill the seat,
      As raindrops cool the summer's midday heat;
      But when descends some desolating blow
      That makes this world a desert, how unmeet
      Is outward symbol!--and far, far below
    The water-mark of grief was Oh-wen-do-skah's wo!


      In broken tones he murmured--"must the name
      Of a great people be revived no more,
      And like an echo pass away their fame,
      Or moccasin's faint impress on the shore
      Of the salt lake when billows foam and roar?
      Black night enwraps my soul, for she is dead
      Who was its light--desire to live is o'er!"
      Scarce were these words in mournful accent said,
    When peals of thunder shook low vale and mountain-head.


      Up sprang the Chief;--and on a throne of cloud,
      Robed in a snowy mantle fringed with light,
      The Lord of life beheld:--the forest bowed
      Its head in awe before that presence bright,
      And a wild shudder at the dazzling sight
      Ran through the mighty monster's knotted ring
      Shaking the hill from base to rocky height;
      Rose from her trance the maid with fawn-like spring,
    And balanced in mid-air the bird on trembling wing.


      "Notch on the twisted sinew of thy bow
      This fatal weapon"--Ou-wee-ne-you[G] cried,
      Dropping a golden shaft--"and pierce the foe
      Under the rounded scale that wall his side!"
      Then vanished, while again the valley wide
      And mountain quaked with thunder:--from the ground
      The warrior raised the gift of Heaven, and hied
      On his heroic mission while around
    The hill with closer clasp his train the serpent wound.

[G] Great Spirit.


      Flame-hued and hissing played its nimble tongue
      Between thick, ghastly rows of pointed bone
      Round which commingled gore and venom clung:
      Raging its flattened head like copper shone,
      And flinty earth returned a heavy groan
      Lashed by quick strokes of its resounding tail;
      Heard is like uproar when the hills bleak cone
      Is wildly beat by winter's icy flail,
    But in that moment dire the archer did not quail.


      Firm in one hand his trusty bow he held,
      And with the other to its glittering head
      Drew the long shaft while full each muscle swell'd;
      A twanging sound!--and on its errand sped
      The messenger of vengeance:--warm and red
      Gushed from a gaping wound the vital tide--
      Wrenched was the granite from its ancient bed,
      And pines were broken in their leafy pride,
    When throes of mortal pain the monster's coil untied.


      Down the steep hill outstretched and dead he rolled
      Disgorging human heads in his descent;
      Oaks that in earth had deeply fixed their hold
      Like reeds by that revolving mass were bent,
      Splintered their boughs as if by thunder rent:
      High flung the troubled lake its glittering spray,
      And far the beach with flakes of foam besprent,
      When the huge carcass disappeared for aye
    In depths from whence it rose to curse the beams of day.


      When winds its murmuring bosom cease to wake
      Through bright transparent waves you may discern
      On the hard, pebbled bottom of the lake
      Skulls changed to stone:--when fires no longer burn
      Kindled by sunset, and the glistening urn
      Of night o'erflows with dew the phantoms pale
      Of matron, maid, child, seer and chieftain stern
      Their ghastly faces to the moon unveil,
    And raise upon the shore a low heart-broken wail.


      The lovers of Genundewah were blest
      By the Great Spirit, and their lodge became
      The nursery of a nation:--when the West
      Opened its gates of parti-colored flame
      To give their souls free passage loud acclaim
      Rang through the Spirit Land, and voices cried
      "Welcome! ye builders of eternal fame!
      Ye royal founders of an empire wide
    The stream of joy flows by, quaff ever from its tide!"


      At Onondaga burned the sacred fire
      A thousand winters with unwasting blaze;
      In guarding it son emulated sire,
      And far abroad were flung its dazzling rays:
      Followed were happy years by evil days--
      Blue-eyed and pale came Children of the Dawn
      Tall spires on site of bark-built town to raise;
      Change groves of beauty to a naked lawn,
    And whirl their chariot wheels where led the doe her fawn.


      Where are the mighty?--morning finds them not!
      I call--and echo gives response alone;
      The fiery bolt of Ruin hath been shot,
      The blow is struck--the winds of death have blown!
      Cold are the hearths--their altars overthrown:
      For them with smoking venison the board,
      Reward of toilsome chase, no more will groan;
      Sharper than hatchet proved the conqueror's sword,
    And blood, in fruitless strife, like water they outpoured.


      The spotted Demon of Contagion came
      Ere the sacred bird of Peace could find a nest,
      And vanished Tribes like summer grass when flame
      Reddens the level prairie of the West,
      Or wasting dew drops when the rocky crest
      Of this enchanted hill is tipped with gold;
      And ere the Genii of the wild-wood drest
      With flowers and moss the grave mound's hollowed mould,
    Before the ringing axe went down the forest old.


      Oh! where is Gar-an-gu-la--Sachem wise?
      Who was the father of his people?--where
      King Hendrick, Cay-en-guac-to?--_who replies?_
      And Sken-an-do-ah, was thy silver hair
      Brought to the dust in sorrow and despair
      By pale oppression, though thy bow was strong
      To guard their Thirteen Fires?--they did not spare
      E'en thee, old chieftain, and thy tuneful tongue
    The death-dirge of thy race in measured cadence sung.


      Thea-an-de-nea-gua[H] of the martial brow,
      Gy-ant-wa,[I] Hon-ne-ya-was[J] where are they?
      Sa-go-ye-wat-hah![K] is _he silent_ now?
      No more will listening throngs his voice obey.
      Like visions have the mighty passed away!
      Their tears descend in rain-drops, and their sighs
      Are heard in wailing winds when evening gray
      Shadows the landscape, and their mournful eyes
    Gleam in the misty light of moon-illumin'd skies.

[H] Brunt.

[I] Corn Planter.

[J] Farmer's Brother.

[K] Red Jacket.


      Gone are my tribesmen, and another race,
      _Born of the foam_, disclose with plough and spade
      Secrets of battle-field and burial-place;
      And hunting grounds, once dark with pleasant shade,
      Bask in the golden light:--but I have made
      A pilgrimage from far to look once more
      On scenes through which in childhood's hour I strayed,
      Though robbed of might my limbs, my locks all hoar,
    And on this Holy Mount mourn for the days of yore,


      Our house is broken open at both ends
      Though deeply set the posts, its timber strong--
      From ruthless foes, and traitors masked as friends,
      Tutored to sing a false but pleasant song
      The Seneca and Mohawk guarded long
      Its blood-stained doors:--the _former_ faced the sun
      In his decline--the _latter_ watched a throng
      Clouding the eastern hills--their tasks are done;
    A game for life was played, and prize the white man won.


      Around me soon will bloom unfading flowers
      Ye glorious Spirit Islands of the just!
      No fatal axe will hew away your bowers,
      Or lay the green-robed forest king in dust:
      Far from the spoiler's fury, and his lust
      Of boundless power will I my fathers meet
      Tiaras wearing never dimm'd by rust,
      And they, while airs waft music passing sweet,
    To blest abodes will guide my silver-sandal'd feet.


    _The warrior's right his scalp lock to adorn
    With eagle plumes in battle he had won._--STANZA IX.

No one but a brave who has slain an enemy in battle, is allowed the
distinguished honor of wearing eagle feathers.

    _Rained from her elk-like eyes._--STANZA XII.

Objects clear and bright are often compared by the Indian to the elk's
eye. The definition of Muskingum is--"clear as an elk's eye."

    _Born of the foam._--STANZA XXXIV.

The red man believes that the whites sprang from the foam of the salt

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note:

Inconsistent capitalization (e.g. Gulf vs. gulf), spacing (e.g. north
east vs. northeast), and hyphenation (e.g. foot-prints vs. footprints)
have been left as in the original.

The following changes were made to the text:

p. 5: worty to worthy (worthy of the thought and care)

p. 6: expreses to expresses (expresses the peculiarities of its own

p. 6: Tueton to Teuton (the Teuton, Goth and Magyar)

p. 6: maze to maize (crushed their maize)

p. 7: Ninevah to Nineveh (buried sites of Nineveh)

p. 7: deciples to disciples (disciples of Zoroaster)

p. 8: progres to progress (progress of nations)

p. 9: Alleghany's to Alleghanies (by the Alleghanies)

p. 9: distatant to distant (at distant points)

p. 10: Susquehannah to Susquehanna (the Susquehanna, the Delaware and
the St. Lawrence)

p. 11: acient to ancient (an ancient feature)

p. 13: entititled to entitled (Each clan is entitled to a chief.)

p. 14: heriditary to hereditary (a hereditary chieftainship)

p. 16: eminent to imminent (from imminent peril)

p. 20: Heredotus to Herodotus (the period of Herodotus)

p. 24: amunition to ammunition (guns and ammunition)

p. 25: Ioroquois' to Iroquois' (the Iroquois' powers)

p. 25: Vandruiel to Vaudruiel (Vaudruiel, the Governor General of New

p. 28: beautious to beauteous (beauteous lakes and forests)

p. 29: resplendant to resplendent (more learned and resplendent nations)

p. 30: oblitered to obliterated (half obliterated trenches)

p. 31: subsistance to subsistence (means of subsistence)

p. 33: alterior to ulterior (ulterior objects)

p. 33: pouring to poring (poring over the dusty volumes)

p. 34: vallies to valleys (countless valleys)

p. 34: centures to centuries (Centuries on centuries)

p. 43: muflled to muffled (with muffled tread)

p. 44: is to in (head in awe)

p. 44: hilll to hill (Shaking the hill)

p. 44: single quotes to double quotes ("Notch on ... fatal weapon")

p. 44: side"! to side!" (that wall his side!")

p. 46: missing close quote added (quaff ever from its tide!")

p. 48: worn to won, and period at end of first line removed to match
quoted passage in poem (Note for STANZA IX.)

p. 48: missing period added (STANZA XXXIV.)

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Address, Delivered Before the Was-ah Ho-de-no-son-ne or New Confederacy of the Iroquois - Also, Genundewah, a Poem" ***

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