The Iroquois Book of Rites
by Horatio Hale
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We are naturally led to ask how it happens that only three clans are found among the Caniengas and Oneidas, while the other nations have eight. Mr. Morgan was inclined to think that the other five once existed among the two former nations, and had become extinct. [Footnote: League of the Iroquois, p. 81. Ancient Society, p. 92.] The native annalists of those nations, however, affirm that no more than three clans ever existed among them. This assertion is now confirmed, indirectly but strongly, by the testimony of the Book of Rites, which seems to show that only three clans were recognized in the whole confederacy when the League was formed. All the towns of the united nations were distributed among the three primary clans of the Wolf, the Tortoise and the Bear. If the other clans existed, it was probably merely as septs or divisions of these three. [Footnote: "The Turtle family, or the Anowara, was the most noble of the whole League; next came the Ochquari, or clan of the Bear, and the Oquacho, or that of the Wolf. These three were so prominent that Zeisberger hardly recognizes the others."—De Sckweinitz's Life of Zeisberger, p.79. Zeisberger had been adopted into the nation of the Onondagas and the clan of the Tortoise. His knowledge of the laws and usages of the Kanonsionni was acquired chiefly in that nation. Charlevoix makes the Bear the leading clan of the Iroquois. It would seem that the relative rank of the clans varied in the different nations. The chiefs of the Wolf clan come first in the list of Oneida councillors.] It is more likely, however, that these additional clans were of later creation or introduction. Their origin, as well as their restriction to the three western nations, may be easily explained. The successive conquests achieved by the Iroquois in the early part of the seventeenth century had the result of incorporating with their people great numbers of Hurons, Eries, Attiwandaronks, Andastes, and other captives belonging to tribes of the same stock, speaking similar dialects, and having usages closely resembling those of their captors. Of these captives, some were directly adopted into the Iroquois families and clans; but a larger number remained for a time in separate towns, retaining their own usages. They were regarded, however, and they regarded themselves, as Iroquois. Constant intercourse and frequent intermarriages soon abolished all distinctions of national origin. But the distinction of clan-ship would remain. The Hurons (or, at least, the Tionontates, or Tobacco Nation) had clans of the Deer and the Hawk, and they had a Snake clan bearing a name (yagonirunon) not unlike the name of the Onondaga Eel clan (ogontena), and evidently derived from the same root. The other conquered nations had doubtless some peculiar clans; for these brotherhoods, as has been shown, were constantly in process of formation and change among the Indian tribes. Almost all the captives were incorporated with the three western nations of the League, to whom the conquered tribes were mostly nearer than to the Caniengas and Oneidas. The origin of the additional clans among the Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas is thus readily understood.

One fact, important in its connection with the structure of the federal council, remains to be noted, and if possible, elucidated. The councillors of each nation were divided into classes, whose part in the deliberations of the councils bore a certain resemblance to that held by the committees of our legislatures. The operation of this system cannot be better described than in the words of Morgan: "The founders of the confederacy, seeking to obviate, as far as possible, altercation in council, and to facilitate their progress to unanimity, divided the sachems of each nation into classes, usually of two or three each, as will be seen by referring to the table of sachemships. No sachem was permitted to express an opinion in council, until he had agreed with the other sachem or sachems of his class upon the opinion to be expressed, and had received an appointment to act as speaker for the class. Thus the eight Seneca sachems, being in four classes, could have but four opinions, the ten Cayuga sachems but four. In this manner each class was brought to unanimity within itself. A cross-consultation was then held between the four sachems who represented the four classes; and when they had agreed, they appointed one of their number to express their resulting opinion, which was the answer of their nation. The several nations having, by this ingenious method, become of 'one mind' separately, it only remained to compare their several opinions to arrive at the final sentiment of all the sachems of the League. This was effected by a conference between the individual representatives of the several nations; and when they had arrived at unanimity, the answer of the League was determined." [Footnote: League of the Iroquois, p, 112.]

A careful consideration of the facts, in the light cast upon them by the evidence of the "Book of Rites" and the testimony of the Canadian Iroquois, leaves no doubt that these classes were originally identical with the clans. Among the Caniengas and Oneidas this identity still exists. Each of these nations received nine representatives in the federal council. These were—and still are—divided into three each composed of three members, and each class representing a clan. In the Canienga tribe the members of the first class are all of the Tortoise clan, those of the second class are of the Wolf clan, and those of the third class of the Bear clan. Among the Oneidas, the councillors of the first class belong to the Wolf clan, those of the second class to the Tortoise clan, and those of the third class to the Bear clan. Such was the information which Mr. Morgan received from his Seneca friends, and such I found to be the fact among the Iroquois now in Canada. When we come to the other nations we find a wholly different state of things. No correspondence now exists between the classes and the clans. The Cayugas have now, as has been shown, eight clans; but of these only six, according to the list given by Morgan, and only five in that furnished to me by the Canadian chiefs, are represented in the council. These are distributed in three classes, which do not correspond to the clans. In Morgan's list the first class has five members, the first of whom belongs to the Deer clan, the second to that of the Heron, the third and fourth to that of the Bear, and the fifth to that of the Tortoise. In my list this class also comprises five chiefs, of whom the first two (identical in name with the first two of Morgan) belong to the Deer clan, while the third (who bears the same name as Mr. Morgan's third) is of the Bear clan. In the "Book of Rites" the first Cayuga class comprises only two chiefs, but their clans (which were supposed to be known to the hearers) are not indicated. The fourteen Onondaga councillors are divided into five classes, according to Morgan, and also in the modern Canadian list. The "Book of Rites" seems to give only four, but none of these—according to the evidence of the Canadian chiefs—correspond with the modern clans; and the same councillor, in lists received from different sources, is found to belong to different classes and different clans. Thus the distinguished title of Skanawati is borne, in Mr. Morgan's list, by a chief of the fifth class and of the third clan. In the list obtained by me at Onondaga Castle this chief is of the fourth class and of the Ball clan. The great Seneca chief Kanyadariyo is, in Mr. Morgan's list, a member of the Tortoise clan, while among the Canadian Senecas he belongs to the Wolf clan. In short, it is evident that the introduction of the new clans among the western nations has thrown this part of their constitutional system into confusion. The probability is that when the confederacy was established only three clans, Bear, Wolf and Tortoise, existed among the Iroquois, as only three clans, Bear, Wolf and Turkey, existed in recent times among their Algonkin neighbors, the Lenni Lenape, or Delawares. Thus the classes of their Council grew spontaneously out of their clan system, as the senators of each clan would naturally consult together. Afterwards new clans arose; but it seems probable that when the list of councillors comprised in the "Book of Rites" was written—that is, about the middle of the last century—the correspondence of classes and clans was still maintained. The number of both was increased in the western tribes, but each class was still composed of chiefs of the same clan. The written book fixed the classes to a certain extent, but the clans to which their members belonged continued to vary, under the influence of political and social changes. If, at the death of a councillor, no member of his clan was found qualified to succeed him, a successor would be elected from another clan which was deemed to be in some way connected with him. I was assured by the Onondaga chiefs of the New York Reservation that this was their rule at present; and it is quite sufficient to account for the departure, in the western nations, from the ancient system. It is evident that after the nations and clans were rent to fragments by the dissensions and emigration caused by the American Revolution, these changes would, for a time, be necessarily frequent. And thus it happens that chiefs are found in the duplicate confederacies which after this disruption were established in Canada and New York, who bear the same titular designation, but differ both in the clans and in the classes to which they belong.



With the arrival at the Council House the "opening ceremony" is concluded. In the house the members of the Council were seated in the usual array, on opposite sides of the house. On one side were the three elder nations, the Caniengas, Onondagas, and Senecas, and on the other the younger, who were deemed, and styled in Council, the offspring of the former. These younger members, originally two in number, the Oneidas and Cayugas, had afterwards an important accession in the Tuscarora nation; and in later years several smaller tribes, or, as they were styled, additional braces of the Extended House, were received;—Tuteloes, Nanticokes, Delawares and others. In the Onondaga portion of the book the younger tribes speak as "we three brothers." The earliest of the later accessions seems to have taken place about the year 1753, when the Tuteloes and Nanticokes were admitted. [Footnote: N. Y. Hist. Col., Vol. 6, p. 811. Stone's Life of Sir William Johnson, p. 414.] These circumstances afford additional evidence that the Book was originally written prior to that date and subsequent to the year 1714, when the Tuscaroras were received into the League.

If the deceased chief belonged to one of the three older nations, the duty of conducting the condoling ceremony which followed was performed by the younger nations, who mourned for him as for a father or an uncle. If he were a chief of one of the younger nations, the others lamented him as a son or a nephew. The mourning nations selected as their representative a high chief, usually a distinguished orator, familiar with the usages and laws of the League, to conduct these ceremonies. The lamentations followed a prescribed routine, each successive topic of condolence being indicated by a string of wampum, which, by the arrangement of its beads, recalled the words to the memory of the officiating chief. In the "Book of Rites" we have these addresses of condolence in a twofold form. The Canienga book gives us the form used by the elder nations; and the Onondaga supplement adds the form employed by the younger brothers. The former is more ancient, and apparently more dignified and formal. The speaker addresses the mourners as his children (konyennetaghkwen, "my offspring,") and recites each commonplace of condolence in a curt and perfunctory style. He wipes away their tears that they may see clearly; he opens their ears that they may hear readily. He removes from their throats the obstruction with which their grief is choking them, so that they may ease their burdened minds by speaking freely to their friends. And finally, as the loss of their lamented chief may have occurred in war—and at all events many of their friends have thus perished—he cleans the mats on which they are sitting from the figurative bloodstains, so that they may for a time cease to be reminded of their losses, and may regain their former cheerfulness.

The condolence of the younger brothers, expressed in the Onondaga book, is more expansive and more sympathetic. Though apparently disfigured and mutilated by repeated transcriptions, it bears marks of having been originally the composition of a superior mind. All such topics of consolation as would occur to a speaker ignorant or regardless of a future life are skillfully presented, and the whole address is imbued with a sentiment of cordial tenderness and affection. Those who have been accustomed to regard the Indians as a cold-hearted people will find it difficult to reconcile that view of their character with the contrary evidence afforded by this genuine expression of their feelings, and, indeed, by the whole tenor of the Book.

This address concludes with the emphatic words, "I have finished; now point me the man;" or, as the words were paraphrased by the interpreter, "Now show me the warrior who is to be the new chief." The candidate for senatorial honors, who is to take the place and name of the deceased councillor, is then brought forward by his nation. His admission by the assembled Council, at this stage of the proceedings, is a matter of course; for his nation had taken care to ascertain, before the meeting, that the object of their choice would be acceptable to the councillors of the other nations. The ceremony of induction consisted in the formal bestowal of the new name by which he was henceforth to be known. A chief placed himself on each side of the candidate, and, grasping his arms, marched him to and fro in the Council house, between the lines of the assembled senators. As they walked they proclaimed his new name and office, and recited, in a measured chant, the duties to which he was now called, the audience responding at every pause with the usual chorus of assent.

When this ceremony was finished, and the new councillor had taken his proper seat among the nobles of his nation, the wampum belts, which comprised the historical records of the federation, were produced, and the officiating chief proceeded to explain them, one by one, to the assemblage. This was called "reading the archives." In this way a knowledge of the events signified by the wampum was fastened, by repeated iteration, in the minds of the listeners. Those who doubt whether events which occurred four centuries ago can be remembered as clearly and minutely as they are now recited, will probably have their doubts removed when they consider the necessary operation of this custom. The orator's narrative is repeated in the presence of many auditors who have often heard it before, and who would be prompt to remark and to correct any departure from the well-known history.

This narrative is not recorded in the Book of Rites. At the time when that was written, the annals of the confederacy were doubtless supposed to be sufficiently preserved by the wampum records. The speeches and ceremonies which followed, and which were of equal, if not greater importance, had no such evidences to recall them. From this statement, however, the "hymn" should be excepted; to each line of it, except the last, a wampum string was devoted. With this exception, all was left to the memory of the orator. The Homeric poems, the hymns of the Vedas, the Kalewala, the Polynesian genealogies, and many other examples, show the exactness with which a composition that interests a whole nation may be handed down; but it is not surprising that when the chiefs became aware of the superior advantages of a written record, they should have had recourse to it. We need not doubt that Chief David of Schoharie, or whoever else was the scribe appointed to this duty, has faithfully preserved the substance, and, for the most part, the very words, of the speeches and chants which he had often heard under such impressive circumstances.

The hymn, or karenna, deserves a special notice. In every important council of the Iroquois a song or chant is considered a proper and almost essential part of the proceedings. Such official songs are mentioned in many reports of treaty councils held with them by the French and English authorities. In this greatest of all councils the song must, of course, have a distinguished place. It follows immediately upon the address of greeting and condolence, and is, in fact, regarded as the completion of it, and the introduction to the equally important ceremony which is to follow, viz., the repetition of the ancient laws of the confederacy. This particular hymn is of great antiquity. Some of the chiefs expressed to me the opinion that it was composed by Dekana-widah or Hiawatha. Its tenor, however, as well as that of the whole book, shows that it belongs to a later period. The ceremonies of the council were doubtless prescribed by the founders of the League; but the speeches of the Book, and this hymn, all refer to the League as the work of a past age. The speakers appeal to the wisdom of their forefathers (literally, their grandsires), and lament the degeneracy of the later times. They expressly declare that those who established the "great peace" were in their graves, and had taken their work with them and placed it as a pillow under them. This is the language of men who remembered the founders, and to whom the burial of the last of them was a comparatively recent event. If the league was formed, as seems probable, about the year 1450, the speeches and hymn, in their present form, may reasonably be referred to the early part of the next century. There is reason to believe that the formation of the confederacy was followed by wars with the Hurons and Algonkin tribes, in which, as usual, many changes of fortune took place. If the Hurons, as has been shown, were expelled from their abode on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence, the Mohegans, on the other hand, inflicted some serious blows upon the eastern nations of the confederacy. [Footnote: See the Jesuit Relation for 1660, p. 6.] The Delawares were not conquered and reduced to subjection without a long and sanguinary struggle. In a Condoling Council we might expect that the tone of feeling would be lugubrious; but the sense of loss and of danger is too marked in all the speeches of the Canienga Book to be merely a formal utterance. It does not appear in those of the Onondaga Book, which is seemingly of later composition.

The "karenna," or chant of the Condoling Council, may be styled the National Hymn of the Iroquois. A comparison between it and other national hymns, whose chief characteristics are self-glorification and defiance, might afford room for some instructive inferences. This hymn, it should be remarked, brief as it is, is regarded by the Indians as a collection of songs. Each line, in fact, is, in their view, a song by itself, and is brought to mind by its own special wampum string. In singing, each line is twice repeated, and is introduced and followed by many long-drawn repetitions of the exclamation aihaigh (or rather haihaih) which is rendered "hail!" and from which the hymn derives its designation. In the first line the speaker salutes the "Peace," or the league, whose blessings they enjoy. In the next he greets the kindred of the deceased chief, who are the special objects of the public sympathy. Then he salutes the oyenkondonh, a term which has been rendered "warriors." This rendering, however, may have a misleading effect. The word has nothing to do with war, unless in the sense that every grown man in an Indian community is supposed to be a soldier. Except in this hymn, the word in question is now disused. An elderly chief assured me that he had sung it for years without knowing its precise meaning. Some of his fellow-councillors were better informed. The word is apparently derived from ankwe, man, which in the Onondaga dialect becomes yenkwe. It comprises all the men (the "manhood" or mankind) of the nation—as, in the following verse, the word wakonnyh, which is also obsolete, signifies the "womanhood," or all the women of the people with whom the singer condoles. In the next line he invokes the laws which their forefathers established; and he concludes by calling upon his hearers to listen to the wisdom of their forefathers, which he is about to recite. As a whole, the hymn may be described as an expression of reverence for the laws and for the dead, and of sympathy with the living. Such is the "national anthem,"—the Marseillaise,—of the ferocious Iroquois.

The regard for women which is apparent in this hymn, and in other passages of the Book, is deserving of notice. The common notion that women among the Indians were treated as inferiors, and made "beasts of burden," is unfounded so far as the Iroquois are concerned, and among all other tribes of which I have any knowledge. With them, as with civilized nations, the work of the community and the cares of the family are fairly divided. Among the Iroquois the hunting and fishing, the house-building and canoe-making, fell to the men. The women cooked, made the dresses, scratched the ground with their light hoes, planted and gathered the crops, and took care of the children. The household goods belonged to the woman. On her death, her relatives, and not her husband, claimed them. The children were also hers; they belonged to her clan, and in case of a separation they went with her. She was really the head of the household; and in this capacity her right, when she chanced to be the oldest matron of a noble family, to select the successor of a deceased chief of that family, was recognized by the highest law of the confederacy. That this rank and position were greatly prized is shown by a remarkable passage in the Jesuit Relations. A Canienga matron, becoming a Christian, left her country, with two of her children, to enjoy greater freedom in her devotions among the French. The act, writes the missionary, so offended her family that, in a public meeting of the town, "they degraded her from the rank of the nobility, and took from her the title of Oyander, that is, honorable (considerable)—a title which they esteem highly, and which she had inherited from her ancestors, and deserved by her good judgment, her prudence, and her excellent conduct; and at the same time they installed another in her place." [Footnote: Relation of 1671, p. 6. The word oyander in modern pronunciation becomes oyaner. It is derived from the root yaner, noble, and is the feminine form of the word royaner, lord, or nobleman,—the title applied to the members of the federal council.]

The complete equality of the sexes in social estimation and influence is apparent in all the narratives of the early missionaries, who were the best possible judges on this point. Casual observers have been misled by the absence of those artificial expressions of courtesy which have descended to us from the time of chivalry, and which, however gracious and pleasing to witness, are, after all, merely signs of condescension and protection from the strong to the weak. The Iroquois does not give up his seat to a woman, or yield her precedence on leaving a room; but he secures her in the possession of her property, he recognizes her right to the children she has borne, and he submits to her decision the choice of his future rulers.



It is the custom of the officiating orator, while the chant is going on, to walk to and fro in the council-house. When the hymn is finished, he breaks out into a passionate invocation to their forefathers, and a lament over the degeneracy of the times. This, as the French missionaries inform us, was a favorite topic of Indian speakers. [Footnote: See the Relation of 1659, p. 57: "C'est la plainte ordinaire des Capitaines [of the Hurons] que tout se va perdant, a faute de garder les formes et coustoumes de leurs ancestres."] Among the Iroquois, who could look back to an era of genuine statesmen and heroes, the authors of their constitution, this complaint must have had a peculiar force and sincerity. After this appeal to the founders of their state, there naturally followed an address to the Council and the people, reciting "all the rules they decided on, which they thought would strengthen the house." By "the house" was meant, of course, the house of many hearths, to which they likened their confederacy. The "rules" or laws which follow require some explanation, that their full value may be understood.

The first law prescribes that when a chief dies his office shall not perish with him. This is expressed, in their metaphorical style, by an injunction that the "horns," or insignia of office, shall not be buried with the deceased chief, but shall be taken off at his death, to be transferred to his successor. This rule is laid down in the most urgent and impressive terms. "We should perhaps all perish if his office is buried with him in his grave." This systematic transmission of official rank was, in fact, the vital principle of their government. It was in this system that their federal union differed from the frequent and transitory confederacies common among the Indian tribes. In general, among nearly all the tribes, the rank of a chief was personal. It was gained by the character and achievements of the individual, and it died with him. Hence their government and policy, so far as they can be said to have had any, were always uncertain and fluctuating. No person understood the Indian usages better than Zeisberger. His biographer has well described the difference which existed in this respect between the Iroquois and their neighbors. "The Algonkins," he writes, "knew nothing of regular government. They had no system of polity; there was no unity of action among them. The affairs even of a single tribe were managed in the loosest manner." After briefly, but accurately, delineating the Iroquois system of councils, he adds: "Thus they became both a political and a military power among the aborigines; the influence of their league was felt everywhere, and their conquests extended in every direction." [Footnote: De Schweinitz: Life of Zeisberger, p. 39.] The principle that "the chief dies but the office survives,"—the regular transmission of rank, title and authority, by a method partly hereditary and partly elective,—was the principle on which the life and strength of the Iroquois constitution depended.

Next followed a provision of hardly less importance. The wars among the Indian tribes arise almost always from individual murders. The killing of a tribesman by the members of another community concerns his whole people. If satisfaction is not promptly made, war follows, as a matter of course. [Footnote: Relation, of 1636, p. 119. "C'est de la que naissent les guerres, et c'est un sujet plus que suffisant de prendre les armes contre quelque Village quand il refuse de satisfaire par les presents ordonnez, pour celuy qui vous aurait tue quelq'un des vostres."—Brebeuf, on the Hurons.] The founders of the Iroquois commonwealth decreed that wars for this cause should not be allowed to rise between any of their cantons. On this point a special charge was given to the members of the Great Council. They were enjoined (in the figurative language employed throughout the Book) not to allow the murder to be discussed in a national assembly, where the exasperation of the young men might lead to mischief, but to reserve it for their own consideration; and they were required as soon as possible to bury all animosities that might arise from it. The figure employed is impressive. They were to uproot a huge pine-tree—the well-known emblem of their League—disclosing a deep cavity, below which an underground stream would be swiftly flowing. Into this current they were to cast the cause of trouble, and then, replacing the tree, hide the mischief forever from their people.

How strictly in spirit these injunctions were followed, and with what good effect, their whole history shows. A notable instance of the readiness and ingenuity of their statesmen in finding the means of public reconciliation in such cases is given in the Jesuit narrative. On the 24th of July, 1657, a great council was held at Onondaga to consider three matters, all of special import. First in order was the necessity of appeasing a threatened quarrel between two of the leading nations, the Senecas and the Caniengas, caused by a misadventure in which a Seneca "captain" had been killed by some warriors of the eastern nation. Next in importance was the reception of a large party of Frenchmen, headed by Father Francis le Mercier, the Superior of the Jesuit missionaries in Canada, who had come to form a settlement among the Iroquois. And, finally, they had to prepare the plan and the means for an expedition against some hostile tribes. Before the meeting of the Council the Frenchmen had paid a formal visit to the Seneca delegates, whom they found "filling the air with songs of mourning" for their slaughtered chief, and had manifested their sympathy by a present, "to alleviate the grief" of the mourners. This incident seems to have suggested to the assembled councillors a method of effecting—or at least of announcing—the desired accommodation, and of paying at the same time a happy compliment to their reverend visitors. By common consent the affair was referred to the arbitrament of the Father Superior, by whom the difference was promptly settled. [Footnote: On the: Grand conseil le 24 du mois de Juillet, ou toutes les Nations remisent entre les mains d'Achiendase qui est nostre Pere Superieur le diffrend Centre les Sonnontoueeronnons et les Agnieronnons, qui fait bien et termine.—Relation of 1657, p. 16.] It was not necessary for the politic senators to inform their gratified visitors that the performance in which they thus took part was merely a formality which ratified, or rather proclaimed, a foregone conclusion. The reconciliation which was prescribed by their constitution had undoubtedly been arranged by previous conferences, after their custom in such matters, before the meeting of the Council. [Footnote: For a curious instance of the manner in which questions to be apparently decided by a Council were previously settled between the parties, see the Life of Zeisberger, p. 190: "Gietterowane was the speaker on one side, Zeisberger on the other. These two consulted together privately,—Zeisberger unfolding the import of the strings [of wampum which he had brought as ambassador] and Gietterowane committing to memory what he said."] So effective was this provision of their constitution that for more than three centuries this main cause of Indian wars was rendered innocuous, and the "Great Peace" remained undisturbed. This proud averment of their annalists, confirmed as it is for more than half the period by the evidence of their white neighbors, cannot reasonably be questioned. What nation or confederacy of civilized Europe can show an exemption from domestic strife for so long a term?

The third rule or ordinance which the founders enacted "to strengthen the house" is of a remarkable character. It relates to the mortuary usages of the people; and when these are understood, the great importance of this law becomes apparent. Among the Indians of the Huron-Iroquois family the ordinary mourning for the dead became exaggerated into customs of the most extravagant character, exhausting the time and strength of the warriors, and devouring their substance. The French missionaries have left us an account of these singular usages among the Hurons, some of which excited their respect, and others their astonishment. "Our savages," they wrote, "are in no way savage as regards the duties which nature herself requires us to render to the dead. You would say that their efforts, their toils and their commerce had no other end than to amass the means of honoring the departed. They have nothing too precious for this object. To this they devote their robes of skins, their hatchets and wampum, in such profusion that you would fancy they made nothing of them; and yet these are the riches of their country. Often in midwinter you will see them going almost naked, while they have at home, laid up in store, good and handsome robes, which they keep in reverence for the dead. This is their point of honor. In this, above all, they seek to show themselves magnificent." [Footnote: Brebeuf, Relation of 1636, p. 128.]

During the three days that preceded the burial of the dead, or the removal of his remains to the scaffold, the wails, groans and lamentations of the relatives and neighbors resounded in the cabin where he lay. All the stored riches were brought forth and lavished in gifts "to comfort the mourners." The mourning did not end with the burial; in fact, it may be said to have then only begun. The "great mourning," as the missionaries term it, lasted for six days longer, during which the mourners lay, face downward, upon their mats, and enveloped in their robes, speechless, or replying only by an ejaculation to those who addressed them. During this period they had no fire in the house, even in winter; they ate their food cold, and left the cabin only at night, and as secretly as possible. The "lesser mourning" lasted for a year, during which they refrained from oiling their hair, attended public festivals rarely, and only (in the case of women) when their mothers ordered, and were forbidden to marry again.

This, however, was not all. Once in twelve years was held a great ceremony of re-interment,—a solemn "feast of the dead," as it was called. Until the day of this feast arrived, funeral rites in honor of the departed were repeated from time to time, and feasts were held, at which, as the expression was, their names were revived, while presents were distributed, as at the time of their death. The great Feast of the Dead, however, was the most important of all their ceremonies. The bodies of all who had died in the nation during the preceding twelve years were then exhumed, or removed from the scaffolds on which they had been laid, and the festering corpses or cleansed bones were all interred together in a vast pit lined with robes of beaver skins, the most precious of all their furs. Wampum, copper implements, earthenware, the most valued of their possessions, were cast into the pit, which was then solemnly closed with earth. While the ceremony was going on, rich presents of all descriptions, the accumulations of the past twelve years, were distributed by the relatives of the deceased among the people. In this distribution, strange to say, valuable fur robes were frequently cut and torn to pieces, so as to be rendered worthless. A lavish display and reckless destruction of wealth were deemed honors due to the shades of the departed. [Footnote: See the Relation for 1636, p. 131. A most vivid and graphic description of these extraordinary ceremonies is given in Parkman's admirable work, The Jesuits in North America, Chapter 7.]

The Attiwandaronks, or Neutrals, who were the nearest neighbors of the Iroquois, were still more extravagant in their demonstrations of affection for their lost friends. They, too, had their feasts of the dead, at regular intervals. In the meantime the bodies were kept in their houses as long as possible—"until the stench became intolerable." Then, when this proximity could no longer be borne, the remains were left for a period to decay on a scaffold in the open air. After a time the remaining flesh was removed from the bones, which were arranged on the sides of their cabins, in full view of the inmates, until the great day of general interment. With these mournful objects before their eyes, renewing constantly the sense of their loss, the women of the household were excited to frequent outbursts of grief, expressed in wailing chants. [Footnote: "Cet object qu'ils ont devant les yeux, leur renouvellant continuellement le resentiment de leurs pertes, leur fait ordinairement letter des cris, et faire des lamentations tout a fait lugubres, le tout en chanson. Mais cela ne se fait que par les femmes."—Relation of 1641, p. 73.]

That the Iroquois in ancient times had funeral customs similar to those of their sister nations, and not less revolting, cannot be doubted. How these shocking and pernicious usages were abolished at one swoop is shown by the brief passage in the Book of Rites now under discussion. The injunctions are laconic, but full of meaning. When a death occurs, the people are told, "this shall be done." A delegation of persons, officially appointed for the purpose, shall repair to the dwelling of the deceased, bearing in a pouch some strands of mourning wampum. The leader, holding these strands, and standing by the hearth, shall address, in the name of the whole people, a few words of comfort to the mourners. And then "they shall be comforted," and shall go on with their usual duties. To this simple ceremony—supplemented, in the case of a high chief, by the rites of the "Condoling Council,"—the preposterous funeral usages, which pervaded the lives and wasted the wealth of the other nations of this stock, were reduced, by the wisdom of the Iroquois legislators.

In considering these remarkable laws, it becomes evident that the work which Hiawatha and Dekanawidah accomplished was really a Great Reformation, not merely political, but also social and religious. They desired not only to establish peace among the nations, but also to abolish or modify such usages and beliefs as in their opinion were injurious to their people. It is deserving of notice that a divinity unknown, at least in name, to the Hurons, received special reverence among the Iroquois. The chief characters of the Huron pantheon were a female deity, Ataensic, a sort of Hecate, whom they sometimes identified with the moon, and her grandson, Juskeha, who was sometimes regarded as the sun, and as a benevolent spirit, but most commonly in their stories appears as a fantastic and capricious goblin, with no moral attributes whatever. In the Iroquois mythology these deities are replaced by a personage of a much higher character. Taronhiawagon, the Holder of the Heavens, was with them the Master of Life. He declared his will to them in dreams, and in like manner disclosed future events, particularly such as were important to the public welfare. He was, in fact, the national god of the Iroquois. It was he who guided their fathers in their early wanderings, when they were seeking for a place of abode. He visited them from time to time, in person, to protect them from their enemies and to instruct them in useful arts.

It is possible that the Iroquois Taronhiawagon may have been originally the same as the Huron Juskeha. Some eminent authorities on Indian mythology are inclined to this opinion. On the other hand, the earlier Jesuit missionaries give no hint of such identity, and the Tuscarora historian, Cusick, seems to distinguish between these divine personages. But whether we accept this view or seek for any other origin, there seems reason to suppose that the more exalted conception of this deity, who is certainly, in character and attributes, one of the noblest creations of the North American mythologies, dates from the era of the confederacy, when he became more especially the chief divinity and protector of the Kanonsionni. [Footnote: See for Taronhiawagon the Jesuit Relations for 1670, pp. 47, 66, and for 1671, p. 17: also Cusick, pp. 20, 22, 24, 34. For Juskeha, see the Relation for 1635, p. 34; 1636, pp. 101-103; 1640, p. 92. Lafitau in one place makes Tharonhiawagon a deified man, and in another the grandson of Ataensic.—Moeurs des Sauvages Ameriquains, Vol. 1. p. 146 and p. 244.]



After the declaration of the laws of the League, there follows a passage of great historical importance. The speaker recites the names of the chiefs who represented the Five Nations in the conference by which the work of devising their laws and establishing their government was accomplished. The native name of the confederacy is here for the first time mentioned. In the guttural and rather irregular orthography of the Book it is spelt Kanonghsyonny. The Roman Catholic missionaries, neglecting the aspirate, which in the Iroquois pronunciation appears and disappears as capriciously as in the spoken dialects of the south of England, write the word Kanonsionni. It is usually rendered by interpreters the "Long House," but this is not precisely its meaning. The ordinary word for "long house" is kanonses or kanonsis,—the termination es or is being the adjective suffix which signifies long. Kanonsionni is a compound word, formed of kanonsa, house, and ionni, extended, or drawn out. The confederacy was compared to a dwelling which was extended by additions made to the end, in the manner in which their bark-built houses were lengthened,—sometimes to an extent exceeding two hundred feet. When the number of families inhabiting these long dwellings was increased by marriage or adoption, and a new hearth was required, the end-wall,—if this term may be applied to the slight frame of poles and bark which closed the house,—was removed, an addition of the required size was made to the edifice, and the closing wall was restored. Such was the figure by which the founders of the confederacy represented their political structure, a figure which was in itself a description and an invitation. It declared that the united nations were not distinct tribes, associated by a temporary league, but one great family, clustered for convenience about separate hearths in a common dwelling; and it proclaimed their readiness to receive new members into the general household. [Footnote: The people of the confederacy were known as Rotinonsionni, "They of the Extended House." In the Seneca dialect this was altered and abridged to Hotinonsonni, the n having the French nasal sound. This word is written by Mr. Morgan, "Hodenosaunee."]

The names of the six great chiefs who, as representatives of their several nations, formed the confederacy, are in this narrative linked together in a manner which declares their political kinship. The first rulers or heads of the combined households were the Canienga Dekanawidah with his "joint-ruler" and political son, the Oneida Otatsehte (or Odadsheghte), whose union with Dekanawidah was the commencement of the League. Next follows Otatsehte's uncle (and Dekanawidah's brother), the Onondaga Wathadodarho (Atotarho), who is accompanied by his son, the Cayuga Akahenyonh. The uncle of the Cayuga representative, the Seneca chief Kanadariyu, and his cousin, Shadekaronyes, represent the two sections into which the great Seneca nation was divided. The name of Hiawatha does not appear in this enumeration. According to the uniform tradition of the Five Nations, he was not merely present in the convention, but was the leading spirit in its deliberations. But he did not officially represent any nation. By birth a high chief of the Onondagas, he had been but newly adopted among the Caniengas. Each of these nations had entrusted its interests to its own most influential chief. But the respect with which Hiawatha was regarded is indicated, as has been already remarked, by his place in the list of fifty councillors, with whose names the Book concludes. Though so recently received among the haughty Caniengas, whose proud and jealous temper is often noticed by the missionaries and other early observers, his name is placed second in the list of their representatives, immediately following that of Tekarihoken, the chief who stood highest in titular rank among the nobles of the Kanonsionni, and whose lineage was perhaps derived from the leader of their primitive migrations.

The tradition runs that when the political frame of their confederacy had been arranged by the members of this convention, and the number of senators who should represent each nation in the federal council had been determined, the six delegates, with Hiawatha and some other advisers, went through all the nations, selecting—doubtless with the aid of a national council in each case—the chiefs who were to constitute the first council. In designating these,—or rather, probably, in the ceremonies of their installation,—it is said that some peculiar prerogative was conceded to the Onondagas,—that is, to Atotarho and his attendant chiefs. It was probably given as a mark of respect, rather than as conferring any real authority; but from this circumstance the Onondagas were afterwards known in the council by the title of "the nominators." The word is, in the Canienga dialect, Rotisennakehte,—in Onondaga, Hotisennakehte. It means literally, "the name-carriers,"—as if, said one of my informants, they bore a parcel of names in a bag slung upon the back.

Each of the other nations had also its peculiar name in the Council, distinct from the mere local designation by which it was commonly called. Thus the Caniengas had for their "Council name" the term Tehadirihoken. This is the plural form of the name of their leading chief, Tekarihoken. Opinions differ much among the Indians as to the meaning of this name. Cusick, the Tuscarora historian, defines it "a speech divided," and apparently refers it to the division of the Iroquois language into dialects. Chief George Johnson, the interpreter, rendered it "two statements together," or "two pieces of news together." Another native informant thought it meant "one word in two divisions," while a third defined it as meaning "between two words." The root-word of the name is the Canienga orihwa, or karihwa, (properly karihoa), which is defined "thing, affair, speech, news." [Footnote: See Bruyas, sub voce Gorihoa. Mr. Morgan (League of the Iroquois, p. 97), who derived his information from the Senecas, says that the name "was a term of respect, and signifies 'neutral,' or, as it may be rendered, the shield." He adds, "its origin is lost in obscurity."] It also apparently means office; thus we have the derivatives garihont, "to give some charge of duty to some one," and atrihont, "to be an officer, or captain." The name is in the peculiar dual or rather duplicative form which is indicated by the prefix te and the affix ken or ke. It may possibly, therefore, mean "holding two offices," and would thus be specially applicable to the great Canienga noble, who, unlike most of his order, was both a civil ruler and a war-chief. But whether he gave his name to his people, or received it from them, is uncertain. In other instances the Council name of a nation appears to have been applied in the singular number to the leading chief of the nation. Thus the head-chief of the Onondagas was often known by the title of Sakosennakehte, "the Name-carrier." [Footnote: "Il y avait en cette bande un Capitaine qui porte'le nom le plus considerable de toute sa Nation, Sagochiendagehte."—Relation of 1654, p. 8. Elsewhere, as in the Relation for 1657, p. 17, this name is spelt Agochiendaguete.]

The name of the Oneida nation in the Council was Nihatirontakowa—or, in the Onondaga dialect, Nihatientakona—usually rendered the "Great-Tree People,"—literally, "those of the great log." It is derived from karonta, a fallen tree or piece of timber, with the suffix kowa or kona, great, added, and the verb-forming pronoun prefixed. In the singular number it becomes Niharontakowa, which would be understood to mean "He is an Oneida." The name, it is said, was given to the nation because when Dekanawidah and Hiawatha first went to meet its chief, they crossed the Oneida creek on a bridge composed of an immense tree which had fallen or been laid across it, and noted that the Council fire at which the treaty was concluded was kindled against another huge log. These, however, may be merely explanations invented in later times.

The Cayugas bore in Council the name of Sotinonnawentona, meaning "the Great-Pipe People." In the singular it is Sononnawentona. The root of the word is kanonnawen, which in composition becomes kanonnawenta, meaning pipe, or calumet. It is said that the chief who in the first Council represented the Cayugas smoked a pipe of unusual size, which attracted the notice of the "name-givers."

Finally the Seneca mountaineers, the Sonnontowanas, bore the title, in the Canienga speech, of Ronaninhohonti, "the Door-keepers," or literally, "they who are at the doorway." In the singular this becomes Roninhohonti. In the Onondaga dialect it is Honinhohonta. It is a verbal form, derived from Kanhoha, door, and ont, to be. This name is undoubtedly coeval with the formation of the League, and was bestowed as a title of honor. The Senecas, at the western end of the "extended mansion," guarded the entrance against the wild tribes in that quarter, whose hostility was most to be dreaded.

The enumeration of the chiefs who formed the confederacy is closed by the significant words, "and then, in later times, additions were made to the great edifice." This is sufficient evidence that the Canienga "Book of Rites" was composed in its present form after the Tuscaroras, and possibly after the Nanticokes and Tuteloes, were received into the League. The Tuscaroras were admitted in 1714; the two other nations were received about the year 1753. [Footnote: The former date is well known; for the latter, see N. Y. Hist. Col., Vol. 6, p. 311; Stone's Life of Sir William Johnson, p. 434.]

An outburst of lamentation follows. The speaker has recited the names of the heroes and statesmen to whom the united nations were indebted for the Great Peace which had so long prevailed among them. He has recalled the wise laws which they established; and he is about to chant the closing litany, commemorating the fifty chiefs who composed the first federal council, and whose names have remained as the official titles of their successors. In recalling these memories of departed greatness his mind is filled with grief and humiliation at the contrast presented by the degeneracy of his own days. It is a common complaint of all countries and all times; but the sentiment was always, according to the missionaries, especially strong among the Indians, who are a conservative race. The orator appeals to the shades of their ancestors, in words which, in the baldest of literal versions, are full of eloquence and pathos. The "great law" has become old, and has lost its force. Its authors have passed away, and have carried it with them into their graves. They have placed it as a pillow under their heads. Their degenerate successors have inherited their names, but not their mighty intellects; and in the flourishing region which they left, naught but a desert remains. A trace, and not a slight one, of the mournful sublimity which we admire in the Hebrew prophets, with a similar cadence of "parallelism" in the style, will be noticed in this forest lament.

The same characteristics mark the chanted litany which closes the address. There is not merely parallelism and cadence, but occasionally rhyme, in the stanzas which are interspersed among the names, as is seen in the oft-repeated chorus which follows the names composing each clan or "class":—

Etho natejonhne, Sewaterihwakhaonghkwe, Sewarihwisaanonghkwe, Kayaterenhkowa. [Footnote: For the translation, see ante, p. 33.]

This litany is sung in the usual style of their mourning or religious chants, with many long-drawn repetitions of the customary ejaculation haihhaih,—an exclamation which, like the Greek "ai! ai!" belongs to the wailing style appropriate to such a monody. The expressions of the chant, like those of a Greek chorus, are abrupt, elliptical, and occasionally obscure. It is probable that this chant, like the condoling Hymn in the former part of the Book, is of earlier style than the other portions of the work, their rhythmical form having preserved the original words with greater accuracy. Such explanations of the doubtful passages as could be obtained from the chiefs and the interpreters will be found in the notes.

The chant and the Book end abruptly with the mournful exclamation, "Now we are dejected in mind." The lament which precedes the litany, and which is interrupted by it, may be said to close with these words. As the council is held, nominally at least, for the purpose of condolence, and as it necessarily revives the memory of the departed worthies of their republic, it is natural that the ceremonies throughout should be of a melancholy cast. They were doubtless so from the beginning, and before there was any occasion to deplore the decay of their commonwealth or the degeneracy of the age. In fact, when we consider that the founders of the League, with remarkable skill and judgment, managed to compress into a single day the protracted and wasteful obsequies customary among other tribes of the same race, we shall not be surprised to find that they sought to make the ceremonies of the day as solemn and impressive as possible.

But there are other characteristics of the "Book of Rites," prominent in the Canienga section, and still more marked in the Onondaga portion, which may well excite our astonishment. They have been already noticed, but seem to deserve fuller consideration. It will be observed that, from beginning to end, the Book breathes nothing but sentiments of kindness and sympathy for the living, and of reverence for the departed,—not merely for the chief whom they have come to mourn, but also for the great men who have preceded him, and especially for the founders of their commonwealth. Combined with these sentiments, and harmonizing with them, is an earnest desire for peace, along with a profound respect for the laws under which they lived. The work in which these feelings are expressed is a genuine composition of the Indians themselves, framed long before they were affected by any influences from abroad, and repeated among them for centuries, with the entire assent of the hearers. It affords unquestionable evidence of the true character both of those who composed and of those who received it.



The popular opinion of the Indian, and more especially of the Iroquois, who, as Mr. Parkman well observes, is an "Indian of the Indians," represents him as a sanguinary, treacherous and vindictive being, somewhat cold in his affections, haughty and reserved toward his friends, merciless to his enemies, fond of strife, and averse to industry and the pursuits of peace. Some magnanimous traits are occasionally allowed to him; and poetry and romance have sometimes thrown a glamour about his character, which popular opinion, not without reason, energetically repudiates and resents. The truth is that the circumstances under which the red and white races have encountered in North America have been such as necessarily to give rise to a wholly false impression in regard to the character of the aborigines. The European colonists, superior in civilization and in the arts of war, landed on the coast with the deliberate intention of taking possession of the country and displacing the natives. The Indians were at once thrown on the defensive. From the very beginning they fought, not merely for their land, but for their lives; for it was from their land that they drew the means of living. All wars between the whites and the Indians, whatever the color or pretence on either side, have been on both sides wars of extermination. They have been carried on as such wars always have been and always will be carried on. On the side of the stronger there have been constant encroachments, effected now by menace and now by cajolery, but always prefaced by the display and the insolence of superior power. On the side of the weaker there have been alternations of sullen acquiescence and of fierce and fruitless resistance. It is not surprising that under such circumstances the character of each party has been presented to the other in the most forbidding light.

The Indians must be judged, like every other people, not by the traits which they display in the fury of a desperate warfare, but by their ordinary demeanor in time of peace, and especially by the character of their social and domestic life. On this point the testimony of missionaries and of other competent observers who have lived among them is uniform. At home the Indians are the most kindly and generous of men. Constant good humor, unfailing courtesy, ready sympathy with distress, and a truly lavish liberality, mark their intercourse with one another. The Jesuit missionaries among the Hurons knew them before intercourse with the whites and the use of ardent spirits had embittered and debased them. The testimony which they have left on record is very remarkable. The missionary Brebeuf, protesting against the ignorant prejudice which would place the Indians on a level with the brutes, gives the result of his observation in emphatic terms. "In my opinion," he writes, "it is no small matter to say of them that they live united in towns, sometimes of fifty, sixty, or a hundred dwellings, that is, of three or four hundred households; that they cultivate the fields, from which they derive their food for the whole year; and that they maintain peace and friendship with one another." He doubts "if there is another nation under heaven more commendable in this respect" than the Huron "nation of the Bear," among whom he resided. "They have," he declares, "a gentleness and an affability almost incredible for barbarians." They keep up "this perfect goodwill," as he terms it, "by frequent visits, by the aid which they give one another in sickness, and by their festivals and social gatherings, whenever they are not occupied by their fields and fisheries, or in hunting or trade." "They are," he continues, "less in their own cabins than in those of their friends. If any one falls sick, and wants something which may benefit him, everybody is eager to furnish it. Whenever one of them has something specially good to eat, he invites his friends and makes a feast. Indeed, they hardly ever eat alone." [Footnote: Relation for 1636, p. 117.]

The Iroquois, who had seemed little better than demons to the missionaries while they knew them only as enemies to the French or their Huron allies, astonished them, on a nearer acquaintance, by the development of similar traits of natural goodness. "You will find in them," declares one of these fair-minded and cultivated observers, "virtues which might well put to blush the majority of Christians. There is no need of hospitals among them, because there are no beggars among them, and indeed, none who are poor, so long as any of them are rich. Their kindness, humanity and courtesy not merely make them liberal in giving, but almost lead them to live as though everything they possess were held in common. No one can want food while there is corn anywhere in the town." It is true that the missionaries often accuse the Iroquois of cruelty and perfidy; but the narrative shows that these qualities were only displayed in their wars, and apparently only against enemies whose cruelty and perfidy they had experienced.

We can now see that the plan of universal federation and general peace which Hiawatha devised had nothing in itself so surprising as to excite our incredulity. It was, indeed, entirely in accordance with the genius of his people. Its essence was the extension to all nations of the methods of social and civil life which prevailed in his own nation. If the people of a town of four hundred families could live in constant "peace and friendship," why should not all the tribes of men dwell together in the same manner? The idea is one which might readily have occurred to any man of benevolent feelings and thoughtful temperament. The project in itself is not so remarkable as the energy and skill with which it was carried into effect. It is deserving of notice, however, that according to the Indian tradition, Hiawatha was impelled to action mainly by experience of the mischiefs which were caused in his own nation through a departure from their ordinary system of social life. The missionaries, in describing the general harmony which prevailed among the Hurons, admit that it was sometimes disturbed. There were "bad spirits" among them, as everywhere else, who could not always be controlled. [Footnote: Relation of 1636, p. 118: "Ostez quelques mauvais esprits, qui se rencontrent quasi partout," etc.] Atotarho, among the Onondagas, was one of these bad spirits; and in his case, unfortunately, an evil disposition was reinforced by a keen intellect and a powerful will. His history for a time offered a rare instance of something approaching to despotism, or the Greek "tyranny," exercised in an Indian tribe. A fact so strange, and conduct so extraordinary, seemed in after-times to require explanation. A legend is preserved among the Onondagas, which was apparently devised to account for a prodigy so far out of the common order of events. I give it in the words in which it is recorded in my journal. [Footnote: This story was related to me in March, 1882, by my intelligent friend, Chief John Buck, who was inclined to give it credence,—sharing in this, as in other things, the sentiments of the best among his people.]

"Another legend, of which I have not before heard, professed to give the origin both of the abnormal ferocity and of the preterhuman powers of Atotarho. He was already noted as a chief and a warrior, when he had the misfortune to kill a peculiar bird, resembling a sea-gull, which is reputed to possess poisonous qualities of singular virulence. By his contact with the dead bird his mind was affected. He became morose and cruel, and at the same time obtained the power of destroying men and other creatures at a distance. Three sons of Hiawatha were among his victims. He attended the Councils which were held, and made confusion in them, and brought all the people into disturbance and terror. His bodily appearance was changed at the same time, and his aspect became so terrible that the story spread, and was believed, that his head was encircled by living snakes."

The only importance of this story is in the evidence it affords that conduct so anti-social as that of Atotarho was deemed to be the result of a disordered mind. In his case, as in that of the Scottish tyrant and murderer, "the insane root that took the reason prisoner," was doubtless an unbridled ambition. It is interesting to remark that even his fierce temper and determined will were forced to yield at last to the pressure of public opinion, which compelled him to range himself on the side of peace and union. In the whimsical imagery of the narrative, which some of the story-tellers, after their usual fashion, have converted from a metaphor to a fact, Hiawatha "combed the snakes out of the head" of his great antagonist, and presented him to the Council changed and restored to his right mind.



Few popular notions, it may be affirmed, are so far from the truth as that which makes the Iroquois a band of treacherous and ferocious ravagers, whose career was marked everywhere by cruelty and devastation. The clear and positive evidence of historical facts leads to a widely different conclusion. It is not going too far to assert that among all uncivilized races the Iroquois have shown themselves to be the most faithful of allies, the most placable of enemies, and the most clement of conquerors. It will be proper, in justice to them, as well as in the interest of political and social science, to present briefly the principles and methods which guided them in their intercourse with other communities. Their system, as finally developed, comprised four distinct forms of connection with other nations, all tending directly to the establishment of universal peace.

1. As has been already said, the primary object of the founders of their League was the creation of a confederacy which should comprise all the nations and tribes of men that were known to them. Experience, however, quickly showed that this project, admirable in idea, was impossible of execution. Distance, differences of language, and difficulties of communication, presented obstacles which could not be overcome. But the plan was kept in view as one of the cardinal principles of their policy. They were always eager to receive new members into their League. The Tuscaroras, the Nanticokes, the Tuteloes, and a band of the Delawares, were thus successively admitted, and all of them still retain representative in the Council of the Canadian branch of the confederacy.

2. When this complete political union could not be achieved, the Iroquois sought to accomplish the same end, as far as possible, by a treaty of alliance. Two notable examples will show how earnestly this purpose was pursued, and how firmly it was maintained. When the Dutch established their trading settlements on the Hudson River, one of their first proceedings was to send an embassy to the Five Nations, with proposals for a treaty. The overture was promptly accepted. A strict alliance was formed, and was ratified in the usual manner by an exchange of wampum belts. When the English took the place of the Dutch, the treaty was renewed with them, and was confirmed in the same manner. The wampum-belts then received by the Confederates are still preserved on their Canadian Reservation, and are still brought forth and expounded by the older chiefs to the younger generation, in their great Councils. History records with what unbroken faith, through many changes, and despite many provocations from their allies and many enticements from the French rulers and missionaries, this alliance was maintained to the last.

If it be suggested that this fidelity was strengthened by motives of policy, the same cannot be affirmed of the alliance with the Ojibways, which dates from a still earlier period. The annalists of the Kanonsionni affirm that their first treaty with this widespread people of the northwest was made soon after the formation of their League, and that it was strictly maintained on both sides for more than two hundred years. The Ojibways then occupied both shores of Lake Superior, and the northern part of the peninsula of Michigan. The point at which they came chiefly in contact with the adventurous Iroquois voyagers was at the great fishing station of St. Mary's Falls, on the strait which unites Lake Superior with Lake Huron; and here, it is believed, the first alliance was consummated. After more than two centuries had elapsed, the broken bands of the defeated Hurons, fleeing from their ravaged homes on the Georgian Bay, took refuge among the Ojibways, with whom they, too, had always maintained a friendly understanding. Their presence and the story of their sufferings naturally awakened the sympathy of their hosts. The rapid spread of the Iroquois empire created alarm. A great agitation ensued among the far-dispersed bands of the Ojibway name. Occasional meetings between hunting-parties of the younger warriors of the two peoples,—the Iroquois arrogant in the consciousness of their recent conquests, the Ojibways sullen and suspicious,—led to bitter words, and sometimes to actual strife. On two occasions several Ojibway warriors were slain, under what provocation is uncertain. But the reparation demanded by the Ojibway chiefs was promptly conceded by the Iroquois Council. The amplest apology was made, and for every slain warrior a pack of furs was delivered. The ancient treaty was at the same time renewed, with every formality. Nothing could more clearly show the anxiety of the Iroquois rulers to maintain their national faith than this apology and reparation, so readily made by them, at the time when their people were at the height of their power and in the full flush of conquest. [Footnote: The Ojibway historian, Copway, in his "Traditional History of the Ojibway Nation" (p. 84), gives the particulars of this event, as preserved by the Ojibways themselves. Even the strong national prejudice of the narrator, which has evidently colored his statement, leaves the evidence of the magnanimity and prudence of the Iroquois elders clearly apparent.] These efforts, however, to preserve the ancient amity proved unavailing. Through whose fault it was that the final outbreak occurred is a question which the annalists of the two parties differ. But the events just recounted, and, indeed, all the circumstances, speak strongly in favor of the Iroquois. They had shown their anxiety to maintain the peace, and they had nothing to gain by war. The bleak northern home of the Ojibways offered no temptation to the most greedy conqueror. To the Ojibways, on the other hand, the broad expanse of western Canada, now lying deserted, and stretching before them its wealth of forests full of deer, its lakes and rivers swarming with fish, its lovely glades and fertile plains, where the corn harvests of the Hurons and Neutrals had lately glistened, were an allurement which they could not resist. They assumed at once the wrongs and the territories of their exiled Huron friends, and plunged into the long-meditated strife with their ancient allies. The contest was desperate and destructive. Many sanguinary battles took place, and great numbers of warriors fell on both sides. On the whole the balance inclined against the Iroquois. In this war they were a southern people, contending against a hardier race from the far north. They fought at a distance from their homes, while the Ojibways, migrating in bands, pitched their habitations in the disputed region.

Finally, both sides became weary of the strife. Old sentiments of fellowship revived. Peace was declared, and a new treaty was made. The territory for which they had fought was divided between them. The southwestern portion, which had been the home of the Attiwandaronks, remained as the hunting-ground of the Iroquois. North and east of this section the Ojibways possessed the land. The new treaty, confirmed by the exchange of wampum-belts and by a peculiar interlocking of the right arms, which has ever since been the special sign of amity between the Iroquois and the Ojibways, was understood to make them not merely allies but brothers. As the symbol on one of the belts which is still preserved indicates, they were to be as relatives who are so nearly akin that they eat from the same dish. This treaty, made two centuries ago, has ever since been religiously maintained. Its effects are felt to this day. Less than forty years ago a band of the Ojibways, the Missisagas, forced to relinquish their reserved lands on the River Credit, sought a refuge with the Iroquois of the Grand River Reservation. They appealed to this treaty, and to the evidence of the wampum-belts. Their appeal was effectual. A large tract of valuable land was granted to them by the Six Nations. Here, maintaining their distinct tribal organization, they still reside, a living evidence of the constancy and liberality with which the Iroquois uphold their treaty obligations.

3. When a neighboring people would neither join the confederacy nor enter into a treaty of alliance with it, the almost inevitable result would be, sooner or later, a deadly war. Among the nomadic or unsettled Indian tribes, especially the Algonkins and Sioux, the young men are expected to display their bravery by taking scalps; and a race of farmers, hunters, and fishermen, like the Iroquois, would be tempting victims. Before the confederacy was formed, some of its members, particularly the Caniengas and Oneidas, had suffered greatly from wars with the wilder tribes about them. The new strength derived from the League enabled them to turn the tables upon their adversaries. But they made a magnanimous use of their superiority. An enemy who submitted was at once spared. When the great Delaware nation, the Lenapes, known as the head of the Algonkin stock, yielded to the arms of the Kanonsionni, they were allowed to retain their territory and nearly all their property. They were simply required to acknowledge themselves the subjects of the Iroquois, to pay a moderate tribute in wampum and furs, and to refrain thenceforth from taking any part in war. In the expressive Indian phrase, they were "made women." This phrase did not even imply, according to Iroquois ideas, any serious humiliation; for among them, as the French missionaries tell us, women had much authority. [Footnote: "Les femmes ayant beaucoup d'autorite parmi ces peuples, leur vertu y fait d'autant plus de fruit qu'autre part."—Relation of 1657, p. 48.] Their special office in war was that of peace-makers. It was deemed to be their right and duty, when in their opinion the strife had lasted long enough, to interfere and bring about a reconciliation. The knowledge of this fact led the Lenapes, in aftertimes, to put forward a whimsical claim to dignity, which was accepted by their worthy but credulous historian, Heckewelder. They asserted that while their nation was at the height of power, their ancestors were persuaded by the insidious wiles of the Iroquois to lay aside their arms, for the purpose of assuming the lofty position of universal mediators and arbiters among the Indian nations. [Footnote: Heckewelder's History of the Indian Nations, p. 56.] That this preposterous story should have found credence is surprising enough. A single fact suffices to disprove it, and to show the terms on which the Delawares stood with the great northern confederacy. Golden has preserved for us the official record of the Council which was held in Philadelphia, in July, 1742, between the provincial authorities and the deputies of the Six Nations, headed by their noted orator and statesman, the great Onondaga chief, Canasatego. The Delawares, whose claim to certain lands was to be decided, attended the conference. The Onondaga leader, after reciting the evidence which had been laid before him to show that these lands had been sold to the colonists by the Delawares, and severely rebuking the latter for their breach of faith in repudiating the bargain, continued: "But how came you to take upon you to sell land at all? We conquered you. We made women of you. You know you are women, and can no more sell land than women. Nor is it fit that you should have the power of selling lands, since you would abuse it. This very land that you now claim has been consumed by you. You have had it in meat and drink and clothes, and now you want it again, like children, as you are. But what makes you sell land in the dark? Did you ever tell us that you had sold this land? Did we ever receive any part of the price, even the value of a pipe-stem from you? You have told us a blind story—that you sent a messenger to inform us of the sale; but he never came among us, nor have we ever heard anything about it. And for all these reasons we charge you to remove instantly. We don't give you the liberty to think about it. We assign you two places to go, either to Wyoming or Shamokin. You may go to either of those places, and then we shall have you more under our eyes, and shall see how you behave. Don't deliberate, but remove away; and take this belt of wampum." [Footnote: Golden: History of the Five Nations, Vol. II, p. 36 (2d Edition).]

This imperious allocution, such as a Cinna or a Cornelius might have delivered to a crowd of trembling and sullen Greeks, shows plainly enough the relation in which the two communities stood to one another. It proves also that the rule under which the conquered Delawares were held was anything but oppressive. They seem to have been allowed almost entire freedom, except only in making war and in disposing of their lands without the consent of the Six Nations. In fact, the Iroquois, in dealing with them, anticipated the very regulations which the enlightened governments of the United States and England now enforce in that benevolent treatment of the Indian tribes for which they justly claim high credit. Can they refuse a like credit to their dusky predecessors and exemplars, or deny them the praise of being, as has been already said, the most clement of conquerors?

4. Finally, when a tribe within what may be called "striking distance" of the Confederacy would neither join the League, nor enter into an alliance with its members, nor come under their protection, there remained nothing but a chronic state of warfare, which destroyed all sense of security and comfort. The Iroquois hunter, fisherman, or trader, returning home after a brief absence, could never be sure that he would not find his dwelling a heap of embers, smoldering over the mangled remains of his wife and children. The plainest dictates of policy taught the Confederates that the only safe method in dealing with such persistent and unappeasable foes was to crush them utterly. Among the most dangerous of their enemies were the Hurons and the eastern Algonkins, sustained and encouraged by the French colonists. It is from them and their historians chiefly that the complaints of Iroquois cruelties have descended to us; but the same historians have not omitted to inform us that the first acquaintance of the Iroquois with triese colonists was through two most wanton and butcherly assaults which Champlain and his soldiers, in company with their Indian allies, made upon their unoffending neighbors. No milder epithets can justly describe these unprovoked invasions, in which the Iroquois bowmen, defending their homes, were shot down mercilessly with firearms, by strangers whom they had never before seen or perhaps even heard of. This stroke of evil policy, which tarnished an illustrious name, left far-reaching consequences, affecting the future of half a continent. Its first result was the destruction of the Hurons, the special allies and instigators of the colonists in their hostilities. The Attiwandaronks, or Neutrals, with whom, till this time, the Iroquois had maintained peaceful relations, shared the same fate; for they were the friends of the Hurons and the French. The Eries perished in a war provoked, as the French missionaries in their always trustworthy accounts inform us, by a perverse freak of cruelty on their own part.

Yet, in all these destructive wars, the Iroquois never for a moment forgot the principles which lay at the foundation of their League, and which taught them to "strengthen their house" by converting enemies into friends. On the instant that resistance ceased, slaughter ceased with it. The warriors who were willing to unite their fortunes with the Confederates were at once welcomed among them. Some were adopted into the families of those who had lost children or brothers. Others had lands allotted to them, on which they were allowed to live by themselves, under their own chiefs and their native laws, until in two or three generations, by friendly intercourse, frequent intermarriages, and community of interests, they became gradually absorbed into the society about them. Those who suppose that the Hurons only survive in a few Wyandots, and that the Eries, Attiwandaronks, and Andastes have utterly perished, are greatly mistaken. It is absolutely certain that of the twelve thousand Indians who now, in the United States and Canada, preserve the Iroquois name, the greater portion derive their descent, in whole or in part, from those conquered nations. [Footnote: "Ces victoires lear caasant presque autant de perte qu'a leurs ennemis, elles ont tellement depeuple leurs Bourgs, qu'on y compte plus d'Estfangers que de naturels du pays. Onnontaghe a sept nations differentes qut s'y sont venues establir, et il s'en trouve jusqu'a onze dans Sonnontoiian." Relation of 1657, p. 34. "Qui feroit la supputation des francs Iroquois, auroit de la peine d'en trouver plus de douze cents (i. e. combattans) en toutes les cinq Nations, parce que le plus grand nombre n'est compose que d'un ramas de divers peuples qu'ils ont conquestez, commes des Hurons, des Tionnontateronnons, autrement Nation du Petun; des Attiwendaronk, qu'on appelloit Neutres, quand ils estoient sur pied; des Riquehronnons, qui sont ceux de la Nation des Chats; des Ontwaganha, ou Nation du Feu; des Trakwaehronnons, et autres, qui, tout estrangers qu'ils sont, font sans doute la plus grande et la meilleure parties des Iroquois." Ret. de 1660, p. 7. Yet, it was this "conglomeration of divers peoples" that, under the discipline of Iroquois institutions and the guidance of Iroquois statesmen and commanders, held high the name of the Kanonsionni, and made the Confederacy a great power on the continent for more than a century after this time; who again and again measured arms and intellects with French generals and diplomatists, and came off at least with equal fortune; who smote their Abenaki enemies in the far east, punished the Illinois marauders in the far west, and thrust back the intruding Cherokees into their southern mountains; who were a wall of defence to the English colonies, and a strong protection to the many broken bands of Indians which from every quarter clustered round the shadow of the "great pine tree" of Onondaga.] No other Indian community, so far as we know, has ever pursued this policy of incorporation to anything near the same extent, or carried it out with anything like the same humanity. Even towards the most determined and the most savage of their foes, the Kanonsionni, when finally victorious, showed themselves ever magnanimous and placable.

The common opinion of the cruelty of the Iroquois has arisen mainly from the custom which they occasionally practiced, like some other Indians, of burning prisoners at the stake. Out of the multitude of their captives, the number subjected to this torture was really very small,—probably not nearly as large in proportion as the number of criminals and political prisoners who, in some countries of Europe, at about the same time, were subjected to the equally cruel torments of the rack and the wheel. These criminals and other prisoners were so tortured because they were regarded as the enemies of society. The motives which actuated the Iroquois were precisely the same. As has been before remarked, the mode in which their enemies carried on their warfare with them was chiefly by stealthy and sudden inroads. The prowling warrior lurked in the woods near the Iroquois village through the day, and at night fell with hatchet and club upon his unsuspecting victims. The Iroquois lawgivers deemed it essential for the safety of their people that the men who were guilty of such murderous attacks should have reason to apprehend, if caught, a direful fate.

If the comparatively few instances of these political tortures which occurred among the Iroquois are compared with the awful list of similar and worse inflictions which stain the annals of the most enlightened nations of Europe and Asia, ancient and modern,—the crucifixions, the impalements, the dreadful mutilations—lopping of hands and feet, tearing out of eyes—the tortures of the rack and wheel, the red-hot pincers, the burning crown, the noisome dungeon, the slow starvation, the lingering death in the Siberian mines,—it will become evident that these barbarians were far inferior to their civilized contemporaries in the temper and arts of inhumanity. Even in the very method of punishment which they adopted the Indians were outdone in Europe, and that, strangely enough, by the two great colonizing and conquering nations, heirs of all modern enlightenment, who came to displace them,—the English and the Spaniards. The Iroquois never burnt women at the stake. To put either men or women to death for a difference of creed had not occurred to them. It may justly be affirmed that in the horrors of Smithfield and the Campo Santo, the innate barbarism of the Aryan, breaking through his thin varnish of civilization, was found, far transcending the utmost barbarism of the Indian. [Footnote: The Aryans of Europe are undoubtedly superior in humanity, courage and independence, to those of Asia. It is possible that the finer qualities which distinguish the western branch of this stock may have been derived from admixture with an earlier population of Europe, identical in race and character with the aborigines of America. See Appendix, Note F. ]



As the mental faculties of a people are reflected in their speech, we should naturally expect that the language of a race manifesting such unusual powers as the Iroquois nations have displayed would be of a remarkable character. In this expectation we are not disappointed. The languages of the Huron-Iroquois family belong to what has been termed the polysynthetic class, and are distinguished, even in that class, by a more than ordinary endowment of that variety of forms and fullness of expression for which languages of that type are noted. The best-qualified judges have been the most struck with this peculiar excellence. "The variety of compounds," wrote the accomplished missionary, Brebeuf, concerning the Huron tongue, "is very great; it is the key to the secret of their language. They have as many genders as ourselves, as many numbers as the Greeks." Recurring to the same comparison, he remarks of the Huron verb that it has as many tenses and numbers as the Greek, with certain discriminations which the latter did not possess. [Footnote: Relation of 1636, pp 99,100.] A great living authority has added the weight of his name to these opinions of the scholarly Jesuit. Professor Max Muller, who took the opportunity afforded by the presence of a Mohawk undergraduate at Oxford to study his language, writes of it in emphatic terms: "To my mind the structure of such a language as the Mohawk is quite sufficient evidence that those who worked out such a work of art were powerful reasoners and accurate classifiers." [Footnote: In a letter to the author, dated Feb. 14, 1882. In a subsequent letter Prof. Muller writes, in regard to the study of the aboriginal languages of this continent: "It has long been a puzzle to me why this most tempting and promising field of philological research has been allowed to lie almost fallow in America,—as if these languages could not tell us quite as much of the growth of the human mind as Chinese, or Hebrew, or Sanscrit." I have Prof. Max Miller's permission to publish these extracts, and gladly do so, in the hope that they may serve to stimulate that growing interest which the efforts of scholars like Trumbull, Shea, Cuoq, Brinton, and, more recently, Major Powell and his able collaborators of the Ethnological Bureau, are at length beginning to awaken among us, in the investigation of this important and almost unexplored province of linguistic science.]

It is a fact somewhat surprising, as well as unfortunate, that no complete grammar of any language of the Huron-Iroquois stock has ever been published. Many learned and zealous missionaries, Catholic and Protestant, have labored among the tribes of this stock for more than two centuries. Portions of the Scriptures, as well as some other works, have been translated into several of these languages. Some small books, including biographies and hymn-books, have been composed and printed in two of them; and the late devoted and indefatigable missionary among the Senecas, the Rev. Asher Wright, conducted for several years a periodical, the "Mental Elevator" (Ne Jaguhnigoageswatha), in their language. Several grammars are known to have been composed, but none have as yet been printed in a complete form. One reason of this unwillingness to publish was, undoubtedly, the sense which the compilers felt of the insufficiency of their work; Such is the extraordinary complexity of the language, such the multiplicity of its forms and the subtlety of its distinctions, that years of study are required to master it; and indeed it may be said that the abler the investigator and the more careful his study, the more likely he is to be dissatisfied with his success. This dissatisfaction was frankly expressed and practically exhibited by Mr. Wright himself, certainly one of the best endowed and most industrious of these inquirers. After residing for several years among the Senecas, forming an alphabet remarkable for its precise discrimination of sounds, and even publishing several translations in their language, he undertook to give some account of its grammatical forms. A little work printed in 1842, with the modest title of "A Spelling-book of the Seneca Language," comprises the variations of nouns, adjectives and pronouns, given with much minuteness. Those of the verbs are promised, but the book closes abruptly without them, for the reason—as the author afterwards explained to a correspondent—that he had not as yet been able to obtain such a complete knowledge of them as he desired. This difficulty is further exemplified by a work purporting to be a "Grammar of the Huron Language, by a Missionary of the Village of Huron Indians, near Quebec, found amongst the papers of the Mission, and translated from the Latin, by the Rev. John Wilkie." This translation is published in the "Transactions of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec," for 1831, and fills more than a hundred octavo pages. It is a work evidently of great labor, and is devoted chiefly to the variations of the verbs; yet its lack of completeness may be judged from the single fact that the "transitions," or in other words, the combinations of the double pronouns, nominative and objective, with the transitive verb, which form such an important feature of the language, are hardly noticed; and, it may be added, though the conjugations are mentioned, they are not explained. The work, indeed, would rather perplex than aid an investigator, and gives no proper idea of the character and richness of the language. The same may be said of the grammatical notices comprised in the Latin "Proemium" to Bruyas' Iroquois dictionary. These notices are apparently modeled to some extent on this anonymous grammar of the Huron language,—unless, indeed, the latter may have been copied from Bruyas; the rules which they give being in several instances couched in the same words.

Some useful grammatical explanations are found in the anonymous Onondaga dictionary of the seventeenth century, published by Dr. Shea in his "Library of American Linguistics." But by far the most valuable contribution to our knowledge of the structure of this remarkable group of languages is found in the works of a distinguished writer of our own day, the Rev. J. A. Cuoq, of Montreal, eminent both as a missionary and as a philologist. After twenty years of labor among the Iroquois and Algonkin tribes in the Province of Quebec, M. Cuoq was led to appear as an author by his desire to defend his charges against the injurious effect of a judgment which had been pronounced by a noted authority. M. Renan had put forth, among the many theories which distinguish his celebrated work on the Semitic languages, one which seemed to M. Cuoq as mischievous as it was unfounded. M. Renan held that no races were capable of civilization except such as have now attained it; and that these comprised only the Aryan, the Semitic, and the Chinese. This opinion was enforced by a reference to the languages spoken by the members of those races. "To imagine a barbarous race speaking a Semitic or an Indo-European language is," he declares, "an impossible supposition (une fiction, conradictoire), which no person can entertain who is familiar with the laws of comparative philology, and with the general theory of the human intellect." To one who remembers that every nation of the Indo-European race traces its descent from a barbarous ancestry, and especially that the Germans in the days of Tacitus were in precisely the same social stage as that of the Iroquois in the days of Champlain, this opinion of the brilliant French philologist and historian will seem erratic and unaccountable. M. Cuoq sought to refute it, not merely by argument, but by the logic of facts. In two works, published successively in 1864 and 1866, he showed, by many and various examples, that the Iroquois and Algonkin languages possessed all the excellences which M. Renan admired in the Indo-European languages, and surpassed in almost every respect the Semitic and Chinese tongues. [Footnote: See Jugement Errone de M. Ernest Renan sur les Langues Sauvages: (2d edit.) Dawson Brothers, Montreal: 1870; and Etudes Philologiques sur quelques Langues Sauvages de r Amerique. Par N. O., Ancien Missionaire. Ibid: 1866. Also Lexique de la Langue Iroquoise, avec notes et appendices. Par J. A. Cuoq, Pretre de St. Sulpice. J. Chapleau & Fils, Montreal: 1882. These are all works indispensable to the student of Indian languages.] The resemblances of these Indian languages to the Greek struck him, as it had struck his illustrious predecessor, the martyred Brebeuf, two hundred years before. M. Cuoq is also the author of a valuable Iroquois lexicon, with notes and appendices, in which he discusses some interesting points in the philology of the language. This lexicon is important, also, for comparison with that of the Jesuit missionary, Bruyas, as showing how little the language has varied in the course of two centuries. [Footnote: Radices Verborum Iroquaeorum. Auctore R. P. Jacopo Bruyas, Societatis Jesu. Published in Shea's "Library of American Linguistics" For the works in this invaluable Library, American scholars owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Shea's enlightened zeal in the cause of science and humanity.] The following particulars respecting the Iroquois tongues are mainly derived from the works of M. Cuoq, of Bruyas, and of Mr. Wright, supplemented by the researches of the author, pursued at intervals during several years, among the tribes of Western Canada and New York. Only a very brief sketch of the subject can here be given. It is not too much to say that a complete grammar of any Iroquois language would be at least as extensive as the best Greek or Sanscrit grammar. For such a work neither the writer, nor perhaps any other person now living, except M. Cuoq himself, would be competent.

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