Gayusuta and Washington

Gayusuta and Washington

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Natives versus Settlers: the Berkeley Hundred Massacre, 1622

Berkeley Plantation, the ancestral home of the Harrison family, including POTUS William Henry Harrison, is one of the oldest established homes in America.  Settlers first came to Berkeley, then known as Berkeley Hundred in 1619.  Hundreds were townships, meant to be settled by groups of individuals or family often working under a specific charter.  Berkeley's charter called for an annual service of Thanksgiving, which is why Berkeley can claim to be a site for the first Thanksgivings in America.  Of course, at that time, Thanksgiving referred to a solemn church service or day of fasting and prayer, not a feast with family and friends as we know today.

Berkeley is also known for the tragedy that took place there in 1622, during the early stages of the Powhatan Wars.  For the first few decades of settlement, the various Native tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy had been hospitable to English settlers, gladly sharing corn and other foodstuffs and trading for skins and trade goods.  As time wore on and more settlers arrived in Virginia, demands for foodstuffs from the local tribes became more insistent.  Native leaders rightly pointed out that they needed the food for their own families, too, but their concerns fell on deaf ears.  Tensions between the Natives and Settlers exploded into war in 1622, with local Native leaders being ordered to provide the foodstuffs and, when they did not, their villages were attacked.  The Natives had no choice but to defend themselves. 

Settlements throughout Virginia were attacked, and one of those was the settlement at Berkeley.  Nine settlers were killed in an attack on the settlement.  Word soon spread to the colony of Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts and sparked the beginnings of hand-picked companies of men who were familiar with the terrain and with hunting and fighting techniques of the local Natives.  In 1622, Captain John Smith (not that John Smith), wrote about his company of men that, after the Berkeley Plantation attack, he and ten men "ranged that unknown country for fourteen weeks", on the lookout for similar attacks from Natives around Plymouth.  Soon the words ranger and ranging became used to describe men who were experienced in this type of warfare, the distant forbears of ranger units in the United States Army and elsewhere. 

Friday Reprise: Egushawa of the Ottawa

The Northwest Indian War (1785-1795), brought together some of the finest Native commanders ever seen in this early period of American history.  We've focused on Blue Jacket of the Shawnee, Little Turtle of the Miami and Buckongahelas of the Delaware/Lenape.  There were others, too, among them Egushawa of the Ottawa, who may have been related to Pontiac.

Egushawa (c 1726-1796) would have been born in the area of the Detroit River region, not far from the later British Army outpost of Fort Detroit.  His name means "bringer together" in the Ottawa language, a skill he was good at when it came to uniting his people under his leadership later in life.  Little is known of his youth and early adulthood.  If he was born in 1726, he would have been old enough to participate in the Seven Years War (1755-1762) and later Pontiac's Rebellion (1764).  At some point, he became a war chief and later a principal political chief among the Ottawa.  He is sometimes called a successor to Pontiac, though Pontiac never had as much power during his lifetime.

The first time Egushawa appears on paper, he was mentioned in a land grant of an island in the Detroit River to Alexis Masonville in 1774.  At that time, Ottawa influence extended through what is now Michigan to Northwestern Ohio to the Maumee River.  When the Revolution broke out, Egushawa was living near the mouth of the Maumee River, near present day Toledo, Ohio.  He assisted British officials with efforts to recruit Native warriors to support the British war effort on the frontier.  Henry Hamilton, the British Lieutenant Governor at Fort Detroit, awarded him a sword.  Like many future Native leaders, he was present at the Battle of Oriskany.  In 1778, he accompanied Hamilton's expedition to recapture Fort Vincennes from General George Rogers Clark.  Hamilton was captured by Clark instead, but Egushawa escaped.  Later, he participated in an invasion of what is now Kentucky where two American outposts were captured. 

In 1783, the British ceded their land rights in the United States and Northwest Territory without consulting their Native allies.  This left tribes in the Northwest Region in the lurch, having to agree to peace treaties to keep what they could of their land and hunting rights.  Egushawa opposed this and considered none of these treaties to be valid.  When the Shawnee began agitating for the various tribes to come together to form the Western Confederacy, they found Egushawa and the Ottawa to be willing allies.  The British, who had not abandoned Detroit or Mackinack, clandestinely supported the Confederacy through advice and supplies of arms, but did not provide troops or leadership.  Egushawa was part of the Native army who defeated Col. Josiah Harmer in 1790.  Later, he was present at the Battle of the Wabash in 1791.

The tide turned at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, when the Native forces were defeated and Egushawa was wounded.  With the British unwilling to provide shelter to their families or more open support of their effort, the Natives, including Egushawa, had no choice but to agree to the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, ceding most of Southwest Michigan but preserving at least some hunting range for the Ottawa in northwestern Ohio.  Egushawa, who was old by the standards of the time, died the following year.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tellico Blockhouse and the Treaties of Tellico

Blockhouses on the frontier served several purposes, including defense for local Settlers.  They were also centers of trade and could be meeting places for treaty parleys with local tribes.  Tellico Blockhouse, on the Little Tennessee River in what is now Monroe County, Tennessee served as the focal point for four treaties with the Cherokee.  The blockhouse was named for one of the principal Overhill Cherokee towns, Great Tellico.

The period of 1775-1794 saw continual skirmishing between the Cherokee, particularly the Overhill Cherokee and White Settlers who were coming into the Tennessee Valley.  Cherokee leader Hanging Maw opened talks with North Carolina Governor William Blount, who had control over what is now Tennessee, to build a blockhouse and fort in the area and appoint an agent to treat with the Cherokee.  Hanging Maw donated the land and construction began in 1794.  In 1795, Congress passed what was known as the factory act, formalizing relations with Native tribes through what they called factories, what we now know as agencies or trading posts.  Each factory was headed by an Indian Agent, or factor in the language of the time, whose job it was to serve as a liaison with the local tribe. 

The Blockhouse was surrounded by a palisade and quickly became the focal point for the surrounding community, both Natives and Settlers.  It even made the itinerary for foreign visitors, such as Louis-Philippe, Duc of Orleans and future King of France, who was one of many royal dignitaries to visit the frontier.  The fort remained in operation until 1807, when it was abandoned.  Modern archaeologists have uncovered the fort site and even artifacts from the people who lived and passed through it.  An outline of stones gives the blockhouse and palisade dimensions and layout.  Tellico Blockhouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The four treaties concluded at Tellico Blockhouse included:

Treat of 1794, which brought an end to the Cherokee-American Wars.  Hanging Maw represented the Overhill Cherokee and John Watts was the signatory for the Chickamauga Cherokee.

First Treaty of Tellico of 1797, dealt with the problem of forcing squatters from Cherokee lands.  The Cherokee agreed to a cession of land in exchange for financial compensation. 

Second Treaty of Tellico of 1804, the Cherokee ceded land in Northern Georgia in return for financial compensation.

The Third and four Treaties of Tellico, signed on October 25 and October 27, 1805, acquired the area between the Cumberland and Duck Rivers.  The Cherokee leaders who signed were later accused of having done so for personal financial gain. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Reprise: Major John Norton (Snipe)

He was recognized at the time as one of the best Native war leaders of the War of 1812, ranking just behind Tecumseh.  But his life and contributions to the British war effort in Canada have long been overshadowed by the Shawnee leader.  Perhaps for this reason, or for others that we'll get to later, Major John Norton has never received his due in a scholarly or popular biography.  Research by a trained expert would certainly help the amateur historians and Norton fans, because John's life was an enigma, wrapped in riddle and surrounded by mystery and clouded with misinformation.

According to a video put out by the Canadian Bible Society, John's father was a Cherokee baby rescued by a kindly Scottish officer during a raid on the Cherokee village of Keowee (near present-day Clemson, South Carolina) in 1760.  Then, ten years later, John Norton himself was baptized at the Kirk in Dunfermline, Scotland, the son of this Cherokee and a Scottish woman with the last name of Anderson.  Nobody stopped to figure the unlikelihood of a ten-year-old fathering a child.  I wrote to the Canadian Bible Society for clarification, but got no answer.  In his Journal, written years later, and in other reminiscences written by people who knew and met him, John Norton is described as a full-blooded Cherokee.  He believed himself to be full-blooded Cherokee, although he would surely have known he was mixed-race. 

My idea, and my idea only, is that John himself was the baby rescued in 1760, the son of a Cherokee parent and a Scottish parent.  Many Scots did immigrate to North Carolina following the failure of the Jacobite Rising in 1745, so there were plenty of opportunities for a Cherokee man and a Scottish or mixed-race Scottish woman to meet by 1759-60.  The soldier who rescued the child was also named John Norton, and he may have bestowed this name on both John and his Cherokee father, which makes the matter all the more confusing.  At some point before he was ten years old, the soldier, John and either or both of his parents travel back to Dunfermline, Scotland, where young John would have been taken for baptism and registry in the Kirk at around 10 years old.  Young John remained in Scotland, was educated, and may have apprenticed to a printer, but around 1784 decided to join the army instead.  He was initially based in Scotland, than Ireland, and finally came to Niagara, in what was then called Upper Canada, where the British still maintained some bases on the frontier even though the Treaty of Paris required them to withdraw from the former Colonies as well as the Ohio River Valley.  While there, he became fascinated with the culture of the Six Nations and got to know Joseph Brant.  In 1788, John was discharged from the army and adopted into the Mohawk tribe as Brant's nephew.  His personal name would have been Snipe, we'll get to his more commonly-known Native name later.

John traveled to Quinte Bay, Ontario and tried teaching school.  That lasted about a year.  He worked for several years in a trading post owned by another Mohawk leader, John Desoronto.  Throughout his ramblings in the region, he continued his studies of the various Iroquois dialects and cultures.  Eventually, he would be described as able to speak almost a dozen Native dialects, as well as English, French and German.  He would later pick up Spanish.  If this seems unlikely today, it's because we don't live on a frontier where being able to pick up the rudiments of a language quickly is a means of survival.  As a trading post employee, and later a translator for the British Indian Department, he would have needed to constantly hone his skill at languages, both Native and the major European languages spoken by immigrants in the area. 

John's work kept him in contact with his adopted uncle, Joseph Brant, who noticed the younger man's leadership and negotiating ability.  At some point, Brant proposed making Norton an Iroquois Pine Tree Chief.  These non-hereditary specialized chiefs were specifically called for the in the Iroquois Constitution as a way to honor and make use of men with specialized skills who could aid the tribes in dealing with urgent issues.  Upon his investiture, Norton was given the name Teyoninhokawrawen, which means Open Door, or Open the Door.  I've seen speculation that this refers to his possible role as guardian of the Council House door, but both Norton and an earlier chief who held the title were also noted warriors and diplomats.  War chiefs of the Iroquois, such as the Seneca Red Jacket and even Brant himself, often undertook diplomatic missions on behalf of their people.  John himself was sent by Brant to England in 1804 and, while there, his life took another strange turn.

Like Brant, Norton was a deeply religious man who took a keen interest in the work of the various Anglican missionaries on Mohawk land.  Since some of these missionaries did not speak the Iroquois languages, he and Brant often acted as interpreter for Sunday sermons and the like.  With his ability at languages and interest in religion, while he was in London in 1804, he met with the founders of the British and Foreign Bible Society.   He was asked to translate a book of the Bible into Mohawk and he chose the Gospel of John.  After several months of working hours at a time on the translation, he completed his work and the Gospel was published by the Bible Society.  When Norton returned to Canada to report on the results of his mission to Brant, he carried several copies of the Mohawk Gospel of John with him.  Unfortunately, by the time he arrived home, Brant's health was failing and John's efforts to distribute the Mohawk translation fell by the wayside to other urgent matters. 

The British Indian Department was trying to take a firmer hand in affairs on the Six Nations and other reserves.  Their distrust focused on one leader who seemed to resent that, their former employee John Norton.  There were several reasons for this.  Whites who did not understand Native culture did not believe that Norton was a bona fide adopted Mohawk or duly-appointed chief.  Nor did they buy his claim of being part Cherokee.  Higher ups at the Indian Department felt that Norton was an imposter and a nuisance who needed to be shown his place.  Discouraged and fed up, John traveled to Cherokee country, trying to find his father's family.  He did find relatives and a family tree written as a preface to a 20th century publication of his journal places him in a kinship group that included Cherokee Leader John Watts, and thus by extension, Sequoyah, Dragging Canoe and Nancy Ward.  He found his father's grave and the remains of his village, then returned to Canada in 1810, meaning to publish the journal.  On the way back to Canada, he traveled through Shawnee country, meeting Tecumseh and Tenskwata. 

Tecumseh's revolt began in 1811, putting any publication plans on hold.  The War of 1812 further pushed any thoughts of Bible translating or diplomacy to the back burning.  Norton led Six Nations warriors during several battles, including Queenstown Heights, Lundy's Lane, Stoney Creek, and Beaver Dams.  During Queenstown Heights, when the death of General Sir Isaac Brock disorganized the British advance, Norton coordinated attacks of his warriors, demoralizing the Americans who were terrified of the Natives.  This allowed the new commander time to organize his men and launch a crushing counter-attack.  General Sheaffe later praised the 'judicious dispostions' Norton had undertaken to put his men where they were needed the most.  He also led a force of warriors during Tecumseh's defeat at the Battle of the Thames in 1813.  Norton remained almost constantly in the field as a war leader, but did take time off in 1813, as well, to marry a young Lenape woman who had been baptized with the Christian name of Catherine.  He'd had a son, John, Jr., by a previous relationship.  With the conclusion of the War of 1812, he had earned the brevet rank of Major.

In 1816, Norton took his young son and new wife to England for another diplomatic mission on behalf of the Six Nations.  While he conducted business in London, his son John, Jr., went to Dunfermline to be educated.  Catherine also received tutoring and lessons in deportment as befitted a lady.  They later returned to Canada, where Norton had an estate near where the town of Caledonia now stands.  He tried the life of a farmer, but couldn't make his farm successful, sinking deeper into debt.  Catherine developed a relationship with the farm overseer, a young Native man who had served under her husband in several battles.  Hurt and humiliated, Norton challenged the man to a duel and killed him.  He was charged with murder and convicted of manslaughter, forced to pay the stiff fine of 25 pounds.  After talking matters over with his son John, Norton decided that the most dignified course was to leave Ontario for awhile and let things settle down. 

He went back to Cherokee Country, accompanied by his son and some Cherokee friends who wanted to return to their own country.  John, Jr., soon returned to Canada, but without his father, who indicated that he would be returning later.  A friend also claimed to receive a letter from Norton in 1826, stating his intent to return to Grand River.  But he never came back.  A relative seeking to claim his estate said that he could prove that Norton died in Laredo, then Mexico in 1831, but the case never came to court.  John, Jr., did not claim his father's land and left the Reserve.  Norton's estate was finally auctioned in 1848.  No one knows why Norton went to Mexico, why he failed to return home, how he died, or where he is buried.  A window in the Mohawk Chapel commemorates his translation of the Gospel of John.  The picture of him in red, with the battle axe, hangs in Syon House, the London home of the Dukes of Northumberland.  A full length portrait of him in the blue outfit also hangs in Syon House, but there are no other monuments to him.  He died as mysteriously as he had lived.

Later: I've posted the Canadian Bible Society video below:

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Great Leader: Gray Lock of the Western Abenaki

American fascination with celebrity has taken unique turns throughout our history.  One example of this is/was the tendency is a fascination with Native opponents in various "Indian Wars".  The first of many such would be Gray Lock/Wawanolet, a Western Abenaki leader during a conflict known as Dummer's War, sometimes known as Father Rale's War, 1722-1725.

The tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy, including the Abenaki, Mikmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot, lived in what is now Nova Scotia and portions of New England, including Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont.  At that time, Massachusetts controlled what would later become Maine and Vermont.  The Wabanaki tribes, like many Algonquian-speaking people, allied with the French.  Iroquoian-speaking peoples tended to ally with the English and the various tribes came into repeated conflict in the 17th century over the beaver trade.  As more and more English settlers infiltrated what is now New England and portions of Nova Scotia, they came into increasing conflict with Natives.  The tribes had been missionized by French priests, who often served as liaisons with the government of New France, providing weapons, advice and tacit support. 

During this conflict, Wawanolet emerged as a leader, known to the English by their name for him, Gray Lock.  How or why he got this name remains unknown.  His Native name refers to one who puts others off his track.  He made his presence known in Massachusetts through a series of raids, including settlements at Northfield and Rutland, killing some Settlers and taking others captive.  To combat the threat, Massachusetts authorities erected a fort near what is now Brattleboro, Vermont named Fort Dummer, after the then-acting governor of Massachusetts.  In 1724, Gray Lock struck settlements at Deerfield, Northampton and Westfield.  Captain Benjamin Wright set out with a company of militia, but quickly realized he faced a more powerful opponent and withdrew, Gray Lock's warriors tracking him every step of the way. 

The Abenaki made peace in 1725, but Gray Lock refused to be part of the treaty parley.  For the next two decades, Settlers in Massachusetts would learn of his continued existence through his lightening raids.  He died around 1750.  Mount Greylock in western Massachusetts was named for him.  A monument to him stands in Battery Park, Burlington, Vermont. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

People of the Beautiful River: the Maliseet

This Algonquian-speaking tribe were part of the Wabanaki Confederacy along with the Abenaki, Mikmaq, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy.  Their home range was the St. John River Valley in what is now New Brunswick and Canada and portions of Maine.  Their name for the river, Wolastoq means, Beautiful River, and the tribe's name for themselves, Wolastogiyik means People of the Beautiful River.  The more common name, Maliseet, was a reference by the Mikmaq, which referred to People Who Speak Differently, the two tribes speaking different forms of Algonquian dialect.

Like other Algonquian tribes, the Maliseet practiced agriculture supplemented by hunting and gathering.  They established trading relations with the French for beaver furs, and many Maliseet people learned to speak French and converted to Christianity.  Disease took its toll on the Maliseet, and the various colonial and trade wars were also destructive.  However, as beaver supplies dwindled, the Maliseet turned their attention more and more to farming.  By doing so, they were able to retain much of their traditional homeland.  The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians was one of the first tribes to sign a treaty with the new United States government and is today a federally recognized tribe.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday Reprise: Koquethagechton/White Eyes of the Lenape/Delaware

Native American leaders tried a variety of strategies to cope with the influx of White Settlers onto their hunting ranges.  While some preferred all-out resistance, others tried to negotiate and work with the inevitable as best the could.  Even then, the results were almost always tragic.  White Eyes' story is a case in point. 

Koquethagechton was born somewhere in Pennsylvania (c 1730-1778), and his clan heritage marked him out as a man in a position for leadership.  He received his warrior's training and later married a young woman, Rachel Doddridge, who'd been captured from her Settler family as a little girl and assimilated into the tribe.  They had one son, whom they named after a personal friend of the family.   White Eyes first came to the attention of British authorities as a messenger during the French and Indian War.  Settlers and Colonial authorities referred to him by a variety of names, including William or Captain Grey Eyes.  Most likely, the names referred to some feature of his eyes that stood out as different from other Natives, but is not recorded now.  Despite the fact that he did not speak English well, he was singled out by Colonial authorities as being useful for facilitating interaction between Whites and Natives, a role he seemed willing to play. 

By 1773, he had risen to prominence among his people as speaker of the Delaware Head Council.  By that time, he had migrated from his birthplace in Pennsylvania to the Muskingum River Valley in Ohio.  There, many Delaware came under the influence of the Moravian missionaries and turned to Christianity.  White Eyes chose to retain his traditional beliefs, but tried to make sure that Christian Delaware remained part of the larger Lenape community.  He established his own town, called White Eyes' Town, near where Coshocton, Ohio is today.  In 1774, the Lenape Grand Council named him Principal Chief of their Nation.  White Eyes' first attempts at negotiations failed, as he was unable to persuade the Shawnee not to escalate the conflict that became Lord Dunmore's War.  However, he served as an intermediary between the Virginians and the warring tribes and helped negotiate the Treaty of Camp Charlotte, October, 1774, which ended that War. 

White Eyes' ultimate aim was a separate Lenape state in the Ohio Valley where his people could live without fear of encroachment on their lands.  He was willing to talk to British colonial officials in hopes of making that a reality, but the Revolution intervened.  He opened negotiations with the Americans and, in 1776, personally visited and spoke to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, requesting a separate homeland for his people.  In 1778, representatives of the United States and the Lenape signed the Treaty of Fort Pitt, which promised, among other things, a separate Lenape State.  American negotiators took the treaty back to Philadelphia, where it was never presented to Congress for action.  The treaty also provided that the Lenape would act as guides to American forces trying to dislodge the British from the Ohio Valley.

In early November, 1778, White Eyes joined an expedition led by American General Lachlan McIntosh as a guide and negotiator.  He died soon after and the Americans reported his death to his people as smallpox.  Only years later did White Eyes' friend, United States Indian Agent George Morgan, write a letter to Congress requesting a pension for White Eyes' widow and child.  In that letter, he claimed that White Eyes had been killed by an American militiaman.  The assassination was covered up at the time to avoid alienating the Lenape and inflaming other tribes in the frontier.   White Eyes' widow, Rachel, who had assimilated to her husband's people, was also murdered by White Militia in 1788.  George Morgan took their son in and raised him as his own child.  He was successful in securing for White Eyes' son a scholarship to the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), all expenses paid by the Continental Congress.  Unfortunately, the young man died in 1798.