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FIVE NATIONS continued. Remarks on their oratory
Circumstances favorable to it-Account of a
Enough perhaps has already appeared respecting the Five Nations to justify the observation of an eminent writer, that they were no less celebrated for eloquence than for military skill and political wisdom. * The same obvious circumstances prompted them to exce ence in all these departments; but in the former, their relations with each other and with other tribes, together with the great influence which their reputation and power attached to the efforts of their orators abroad, gave them peculiar inducements, facilities and almost faculties for success. Among the Confederates, as among the Indians of all the East and South, a high respect was cherished for the warrior's i virtues; but eloquence was a certain road to popular favour. Its services were daily required in consultations at home and communications abroad. The coun-1 cil-room was frequented like the Roman forum and i the senate-house of the Greeks. Old and young went there together; the one for discipline and distinction, and the other to observe the passing scenes, , and to receive the lessons of wisdom.”f The kind of oratory for which Garangula and oth* Governor Clinton.
er public speakers of his Confederacy were distinguished, it cannot be expected of us to analyse with much precision. Indian oratory is generally pointed, direct, undisguised, unpolished; but forcible in expression and delivery, brilliant in flashes of imagery, and naturally animated with graphic touches of humor, pathos, or sententious declaration of high-toned principle,--according in some measure to the occasion, but more immediately to the momentary impulse of the speaker as supported by his prevalent talent. If the orators of the Five Nations differed much from this description, it was in qualities which they owed, independently of genius, to their extraordinary opportunities of practice, and to the interest taken in their efforts by the people who heard, employed and obeyed them.
“ The speakers whom I have heard,” says Mr. Colden, “had all a great fluency of words, and much more grace in their manner, than any man could expect, among a people entirely ignorant of the liberal arts and sciences.” He adds, that he had understood them to benot knowing their language himself)-very nice in the turn of their expressions; though it seems but few of them were such masters of the art as never to offend their Indian auditories by an unpolite expression. Their greatest speakers attained to a sort of urbanitas or atticism.*
For the purpose of better illustrating some points which are barely alluded to in these observations, as well as to introduce several new characters, not easily appreciated without the context of circumstances in which they appeared, we shall furnish a somewhat detailed account of a General Council of the Confederates holden at Onondaga, in January 1690. The object of it was to take order upon a message sent them from the Count de Frontenac, Governor of Canada, the purport of which will appear in the proceedings. It may be premised, that the Onondaga coun
* History of the Five Nations.
cil-house was commonly preferred on these occasions, on account of the central position occupied by that tribe in regard to the other four.* The English authorities at Albany were formally invited to attend ; but they contented themselves with sending their public Interpreter, to take note of what passed, together with three Indians instructed in their name to dissuade the Five Nations from entertaining thoughts of peace, or even consenting to a cessation of arms.
The Council opened on the 22d of the month, eighty sachems being present. In the first place SADEKANATIE, an Onondaga, rising in his place, addressed himself to one of the English messengers from Albany. He informed him, that four deputies were present from the Canadian Governor, viz.: three Indians who had formerly been carried prisoners to France, and a sachem of the Praying Indians in the French interest who lived near Montreal; and that Governor Frontenac had notified them of his appointment, and of his having brought over with him from France TAWERAHET and twelve other Indians formerly carried prisoners to that country. Then taking in his hand the wampum-beltt sent by the Count, and holding it by the middle, he added:
What I have said relates only to one half of the belt. The other half is to let us know that he intends to kindle his fire again at Cadaraqui next spring. He therefore invites his children, and the Onondaga Captain Decanesora, in particular, to treat there with him about the old chain."
ADARAHTA was Chief Sachem of the Praying In
* It is impossible to say how much influence this. cireumstance might have on the ambition of the Onondaga orators. It will be observed, that the tribe enjoyed rather more than its equal share of rhetorical distinction.
+ The practice of confirming stipulations and making proposals by belts, so commonly adopted among the Indians, cannot be understood in any way better than by observing the various instances mentioned in the text.
dians, a community principally made up of members of several tribes, including the Five Nations, who had been induced by the French to settle themselves upon their territory, and were serviceable to them in various capacities. “I advise you,” said Adarahta, holding three belts in his hand, “to meet the Governor of Canada as he desires. Agree to this if you would live.” He then gave a belt of wampum. “Tawerahet,” he proceeded, “ sends you this other belt, to inform you of the miseries which he and the rest of his countrymen have suffered in captivity ; and to advise you to hearken to Yonondio, if you desire to live. This third belt is from Thurensera, Ohguesse, and Ertel,* who say by it to their brethren: We have interceded for you with your order, and therefore advise you to meet him at Cadaraqui in the spring. It will be well for you.'”
A Mohawk chief, one of those instructed by the Albany magistrates to represent their wishes at the council, now delivered the message they had given him. He had treasured it up word for word. The Interpreter, who had the same message in writing, followed him while he spoke, and found him correct to a syllable.
CANNEHOOT, a Sepeca sachem, next proceeded to give the Council a particular account of a treaty made during the summer previous, between his own tribe and some Wagunha messengers, one of the Canadian nations, on the river Uttawas. The latter had acts ed on the behalf of seven other tribes; and he wished the other four members of his own Confederacy to ratify what had been done by the Senecas. The articles proposed by the Wagunhas were as follows:
1.“We are come to join two bodies into one,”—delivering up at the same time two prisoners.
2. “We are come to learn wisdom of the Senecas, * Indian names—meaning Day-Dawon, Partridge, and Rose, given to Frenchmen well known to the Five Nations. The policy of sending such messages is sufficiently obvious.
and of the other Five Nations, and of your brethren of New-York ;"--giving a belt.
3. “We by this belt wipe away the tears from the eyes of your friends, whose relations have been killed in the war. We likewise wipe the paint from your soldier's faces* ;"-giving a second belt.
4. “We throw aside the axe which Yonondio put into our hands by this third belt.”
5. “Let the sun, as long as he shall endure, always shine upon us in friendship ;"--giving a red marble sun, as large as a plate.
6. “Let the rain of heaven wash away all hatred, that we may again smoke together in peace;"-giving a large pipe of red marble.
7. “Yonondio is drunk-we wash our hands clean from his actions;"—giving a fourth belt.
8. “Now we are clean washed by the water of keaven ; neither of us must defile ourselves by hearkening to Yonondio."
9. “ We have twelve of your nation prisoners; they shall be brought home in the spring ;'-giving a belt to confirm the promise.
10. “We will bring your prisoners home when the strawberries shall be in blossom, at which time we intend to visit CORLEAR, (the Governor of New-York] and see the place where the wampum is made.”
When Cannehoot had done, the Wagunha presents were hung up in the council-house, in sight of the whole assembly. They were afterwards distributed among the several Five-Nations, and their acceptance was a ratification of the treaty. A large belt was also given to the Albany messengers, as their share. A wampum belt sent from Albany, was in the same manner hung up, and afterwards divided. The NewEngland colonies, called by the Confederates KinShon, sent the wooden model of a fish, as a token of
* The Indians universally paint their faces on going to war, to make their appearance more terrific to the enomy. To wipe off the paint, was to make peace.