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Summary account of the Five Nations—Their early
history-Government-Conquests—Population-Territory-Intercourse with European Colonies—Their war with the Adirondacks--Adventures of PISKARET
– Their negotiations with the French, in 1684–Anecdotes of the Onondaga Chief, GARANGULA-His speech at the Council, and effects of it-Remarks on his character-History of the Five Nations continued to the time of Adario-.His exploits~ Their object and results-War between the confederates and the French-Adventures of BLACK-KETTLE.
Having concluded our notices of the most eminent Indians of New-England, it now becomes proper, following merely the progress of history, to turn our attention to another section of country, and to a period of time which has not yet furnished us any considerable share of its abundant material. We refer to the Middle States, and particularly to a large portion of the State of New York, which, with other neighboring territory, was formerly occupied by that famous confederacy commonly called, by the English, the Five Nations. Owing to circumstances not necessary here to be detailed, these tribes-and, as an almost necessary consequence, all the distinguished individuals they produced-came forward in their intercourse with the foreign colonies around them, to fill the prominent station before filled by the Indians of New-England, much as the latter had, in their turn, succeeded the red men of the South.
The Five Nations were the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Cayugas, the Onondagas and the Senecas. The Virginian Indians gave them the name of Massawomekes ; the Dutch called them Maquas, or Makakuase ; and the French, Iroquois. Their appellation at home was the Mingoes, and sometimes the Aganuschion, or United People.*
When the French settled in Canada, in 1603, they found the Iroquois living where Montreal now stands. They were at war with the Adirondacks,-a powerful tribe residing three hundred miles above TroisRivieres,-in consequence of the latter having treacherously murdered some of their young men. Previous to this date, their habits had been more agricultural than warlike; but they soon perceived the necessity of adopting a different system. The Adirondacks drove them from their own country, and they retreated to the borders of the lakes, where they have ever since lived. This misfortune it was,-ostensibly at least a misfortune,—which gave the earliest impulse to the subsequent glorious career of these Romans of the West.
Fortunately for them, their sachems were men of a genius and spirit which adversity served only to stimulate and renew. They, finding their countrymen discouraged by the disconfiture suffered on the banks of the St. Lawrence, induced them to turn their arms against a less formidable nation, called the Satanas, then dwelling with themselves near the lakes. That people they subdued, and expelled from their territory. Encouraged by success, and strengthened by discipline, they next ventured to defend themselves against the inroads of their old conquerors on the north ; and at length the Adirondacks were even driven back, in their turn, as far as the neighborhood of what is now Quebec. But a new emergency arose.
The French made common cause with the nation just named against their enemies, and brought to the contest the important aids of civilized science and art. The Five Nations had now to set wisdom and wariness, as well as courage and discipline, against an alliance so powerful.
* Governor Clinton's Discourse before N. Y. H. Soci
& Custer was not built till 1698 the 'Chaumplum hark w to shoot in
Their captains came forward again, and taught them the policy of fighting in small parties, and of making amends for inferior force, by surprisal and stratagem. The result was, that the Adirondacks were nearly exterminated, while the Iroquois, proudly exalting themselves on their overthrow, grew rapidly to be the leading tribe of the whole north, and finally of the whole continent.
The efforts necessary to attain that ascendant, may be fairly estimated from the character of the first vanquisher and the first victim. The Adirondacks fought long and desperately. In the end they adopted their adversaries' plan of sending out small parties, and of relying especially on their captains. Five of these men, alone, are said, by their astonishing energy and bravery to have well nigh turned the balance of the
One of the number was PISKARET, in his own day the most celebrated chieftain of the north. He and his four comrades solemnly devoted themselves to the purpose of redeeming the sullied glory of the nation, at a period when the prospect of conquest, and perhaps of defence, had already become desperate. They set out for Trois Rivieres in one canoe; each of them being provided with three muskets, which they loaded severally with two bullets, connected by a small chain ten inches in length. In Sorel River, they met with five boats of the Iroquois, each having on board ten men. As the parties rapidly came together, the Adirondacks pretended to give themselves up for lost, and began howling the death-song. This was continued till their enemy was just at hand. They then suddenly ceased singing, and fired simultaneously on the five canoes. The charge was repeated with the arms which lay ready loaded, and the slight birches of the Iroquois were torn asunder, and the frightened occupants tumbled overboard as fast as possible. Piskaret and his comrades, after knocking as many of them on the head as they pleased, reserved the remainder to feed their revenge, which was soon afterwards done by burning them alive in the most cruel tortures.
This exploit, creditable as it might be to the actors in the eyes of their countrymen, served only to sharpen the fierce eagerness for blood which still raged in the bosom of Piskaret. His next enterprise was far more hazardous than the former: and so much more so, indeed, even in prospect, that not a single warrior would bear him company. He set out alone, therefore for the country of the Five Nations, (with which he was well acquainted,) about that period of the spring when the snow was beginning to melt. "Accustomed, as an Indian must be, to all emergencies of travelling as well as warfare, he took the precaution of putting the hinder part of his snow-shoes forward, so that if his footsteps should happen to be observed by his vigilant enemy, it might be supposed he was gone the contrary way. For further security he went along the ridges and high grounds, where the snow was melted, that his track might be lost.
On coming near one of the villages of the Five Nations, he concealed himself until night, and then entered a cabin, while the inmates were fast asleep, murdered the whole family, and carried the scalps to his lurking-place. The next day, the people of the village sought for the murderer, but in vain. He came out again at midnight, and repeated his deed of blood. The third night, a watch was kept in every house, and Piskaret was compelled to exercise more caution. But his purpose was not abandoned. He bundled up the scalps he had already taken, to carry home with him as a proof of his victory, and then stole warily from house to house, until he at last discovered an Indian nodding at his post. This man he despatched at a blow, but that blow alarmed the neighborhood, and he was forced immediately to fly for his life. Being, however, the fleetest Indian then alive, he was under no apprehension of danger from the chase. He suffered his pursuers to approach him from time to time, and then suddenly darted away
from them, hoping in this manner to discourage as well as escape them. When the evening came on, he hid himself, and his enemies stopped to rest. Feeling no danger from a single enemy, and he a fugitive, they even indulged themselves in sleep. Piskaret, who watched every movement, turned about, knockevery man of them on the head, added their scalps to his bundle, and leisurely resumed his way home.
To return to the Five Nations. The career of victory, which began with the fall of the Adirondacks, was destined to be extended beyond all precedent in the history of the Indian tribes. They exterminated the Eries or Erigas, once living on the south side of * the lake of their
own name. They nearly destroyed the powerful Anderstez, and the Chouanons or Showanons. They drove back the Hurons and Ottawass among the Sioux of the Upper Mississippi, where they separated themselves into bands, “proclaiming, wherever they went, the terror of the Iroquois."* The Illinois on the west also were subdued, with the Miamies and the Shawanese. The Niperceneans of the St. Lawrence fled to Hudson's Bay, to avoid their fury. “The borders of the Outaouis," says an historian, " which were long thickly peopled, became almost deserted.”+ The Mohawk was a name of terror to the farthest tribes of New-England; and though but one of that formidable people should appear for a moment on the hills of the Connecticut or Massachusetts, the villages below would be in an uproar of confusion and fear. Finally they conquered the tribe of Virginia, west of the Alleghanies; and warred against the Catawbas, Cherokees, and most of the nations of the South.
The result of this series of conquests, was, that the Five Nations finally became entitled, or at least laid claim, to all the territory not sold to the English, from the mouth of Sorel River, on the south side of lakes Erie and Ontario, on both sides of the Ohio, until it
* Herriot's History of Canada. + Ibid.