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The Iroquois Book of Rites by Horatio Hale

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The aboriginal composition now presented to the public has some peculiar
claims on the attention of scholars. As a record, if we accept the
chronology of its custodians,--which there is no reason to question,--it
carries back the authentic history of Northern America to a date
anterior by fifty years to the arrival of Columbus. Further than this,
the plain and credible tradition of the Iroquois, confirmed by much
other evidence, links them with the still earlier Alligewi, or
"Moundbuilders," as conquerors with the conquered. Thus the annals of
this portion of the continent need no longer begin with the landing of
the first colonists, but can go back, like those of Mexico, Yucatan and
Peru, to a storied past of singular interest.

The chief value of the Book of Rites, however, is ethnological, and is
found in the light which it casts on the political and social life, as
well as on the character and capacity of the people to whom it
belongs. We see in them many of the traits which Tacitus discerned in
our ancestors of the German forests, along with some qualities of a
higher cast than any that he has delineated. The love of peace, the
sentiment of human brotherhood, the strong social and domestic
affections, the respect for law, and the reverence for ancestral
greatness, which are apparent in this Indian record and in the
historical events which illustrate it, will strike most readers as new
and unexpected developments.

The circumstances attending the composition of this record and its
recent discovery are fully detailed in the introductory chapters. There
also, and in the Notes and Appendix, such further explanations are given
as the various allusions and occasional obscurities of the Indian work
have seemed to require. It is proper to state that the particulars
comprised in the following pages respecting the traditions, the usages,
and the language of the Iroquois (except such as are expressly stated to
have been derived from books), have been gathered by the writer in the
course of many visits made, during several years past, to their
Reservations in Canada and New York. As a matter of justice, and also as
an evidence of the authenticity of these particulars, the names of the
informants to whom he has been principally indebted are given in the
proper places, with suitable acknowledgment of the assistance received
from each. He ventures to hope that in the information thus obtained, as
well as in the Book of Rite's itself, the students of history and of the
science of man will find some new material of permanent interest and




















NOTE A.--Names of the Huron-Iroquois Nations

NOTE B.--Meaning of _Ohio, Ontario, Onontio, Rawennito_

NOTE C.--The Era of the Confederacy

NOTE D.--The Hiawatha Myths

NOTE E.--The Iroquois Towns

NOTE F.--The Pre-Aryan Race in Europe and America



A.D. 1535 TO 1780. ]




At the outset of the sixteenth century, when the five tribes or
"nations" of the Iroquois confederacy first became known to European
explorers, they were found occupying the valleys and uplands of northern
New York, in that picturesque and fruitful region which stretches
westward from the head-waters of the Hudson to the Genesee. The Mohawks,
or Caniengas--as they should properly be called--possessed the Mohawk
River, and covered Lake George and Lake Champlain with their flotillas
of large canoes, managed with the boldness and skill which, hereditary
in their descendants, make them still the best boatmen of the North
American rivers. West of the Caniengas the Oneidas held the small river
and lake which bear their name, the first in that series of beautiful
lakes, united by interlacing streams, which seemed to prefigure in the
features of nature the political constitution of the tribes who
possessed them. West of the Oneidas, the imperious Onondagas, the
central and, in some respects, the ruling nation of the League,
possessed the two lakes of Onondaga and Skeneateles, together with the
common outlet of this inland lake system, the Oswego River, to its issue
into Lake Ontario. Still proceeding westward, the lines of trail and
river led to the long and winding stretch of Lake Cayuga, about which
were clustered the towns of the people who gave their name to the lake;
and beyond them, over the wide expanse of hills and dales surrounding
Lakes Seneca and Canandaigua, were scattered the populous villages of
the Senecas, more correctly styled Sonontowanas or Mountaineers. Such
were the names and abodes of the allied nations, members of the
far-famed Kanonsionni, or League of United Households, who were destined
to become for a time the most notable and powerful community among the
native tribes of North America. [Footnote: See Appendix, note A, for the
origin and meaning of the names commonly given to the Iroquois nations.]

The region which has been described was not, however, the original seat
of those nations. They belonged to that linguistic family which is known
to ethnologists as the Huron-Iroquois stock. This stock comprised the
Hurons or Wyandots, the Attiwandaronks or Neutral Nation, the Iroquois,
the Eries, the Andastes or Conestogas, the Tuscaroras, and some smaller
bands. The tribes of this family occupied a long, irregular area of
inland territory, stretching from Canada to North Carolina. The northern
nations were all clustered about the great lakes; the southern bands
held the fertile valleys bordering the head-waters of the rivers which
flowed from the Allegheny mountains. The languages of all these tribes
showed a close affinity. There can be no doubt that their ancestors
formed one body, and, indeed, dwelt at one time (as has been well said
of the ancestors of the Indo-European populations), under one roof. There
was a Huron-Iroquois "family-pair," from which all these tribes were
descended. In what part of the world this ancestral household resided is
a question which admits of no reply, except from the merest
conjecture. But the evidence of language, so far as it has yet been
examined, seems to show that the Huron clans were the older members of
the group; and the clear and positive traditions of all the surviving
tribes, Hurons, Iroquois and Tuscaroras, point to the lower St. Lawrence
as the earliest known abode of their stock. [Footnote: See Cusick,
_History of the Six Nations_, p. 16; Colden, _Hist, of the Five
Nations_, p. 23; Morgan, _League of the Iroquois_, p. 5;
J.V.H. Clark, _Onondaga_, vol. I, p. 34; Peter D. Clarke,
_Hist. of the Wyandots_. p. I.]

Here the first explorer, Cartier, found Indians of this stock at
Hochelaga and Stadacone, now the sites of Montreal and Quebec.
Centuries before his time, according to the native tradition, the
ancestors of the Huron-Iroquois family had dwelt in this locality, or
still further east and nearer to the river's mouth. As their numbers
increased, dissensions arose. The hive swarmed, and band after band
moved off to the west and south.

As they spread, they encountered people of other stocks, with whom they
had frequent wars. Their most constant and most dreaded enemies were the
tribes of the Algonkin family, a fierce and restless people, of northern
origin, who everywhere surrounded them. At one period, however, if the
concurrent traditions of both Iroquois and Algonkins can be believed,
these contending races for a time stayed their strife, and united their
forces in an alliance against a common and formidable foe. This foe was
the nation, or perhaps the confederacy, of the Alligewi or Talligewi,
the semi-civilized "Mound-builders" of the Ohio Valley, who have left
their name to the Allegheny river and mountains, and whose vast
earthworks are still, after half-a-century of study, the perplexity of
archaeologists. A desperate warfare ensued, which lasted about a hundred
years, and ended in the complete overthrow and destruction, or
expulsion, of the Alligewi. The survivors of the conquered people fled
southward, and are supposed to have mingled with the tribes which
occupied the region extending from the Gulf of Mexico northward to the
Tennessee river and the southern spurs of the Alleghenies. Among these
tribes, the Choctaws retained, to recent times, the custom of raising
huge mounds of earth for religious purposes and for the sites of their
habitations, a custom which they perhaps learned from the Alligewi; and
the Cherokees are supposed by some to have preserved in their name
(Tsalaki) and in their language indications of an origin derived in part
from the same people. Their language, which shows, in its grammar and
many of its words, clear evidence of affinity with the Iroquois, has
drawn the greater portion of its vocabulary from some foreign
source. This source is conjectured to have been the speech of the
Alligewi. As the Cherokee tongue is evidently a mixed language, it is
reasonable to suppose that the Cherokees are a mixed people, and
probably, like the English, an amalgamation of conquering and conquered
races. [Footnote: This question has been discussed by the writer in a
paper on "Indian Migrations as evidenced by Language," read before the
American Association for the Advancement of Science, at their Montreal
Meeting, in August, 1882, and published in the American Antiquarian for
January and April, 1883.]

The time which has elapsed since the overthrow of the Alligewi is
variously estimated. The most probable conjecture places it at a period
about a thousand years before the present day. It was apparently soon
after their expulsion that the tribes of the Huron-Iroquois and the
Algonkin stocks scattered themselves over the wide region south of the
Great Lakes, thus left open to their occupancy. Our concern at present
is only with the first-named family. The native tradition of their
migrations has been briefly related by a Tuscarora Indian, David Cusick,
who had acquired a sufficient education to become a Baptist preacher,
and has left us, in his "Sketches of Ancient History of the Six
Nations," [Footnote: Published at Lewiston, N. Y., in 1825, and
reprinted at Lockport, in 1848. ] a record of singular value. His
confused and imperfect style, the English of a half-educated foreigner,
his simple faith in the wildest legends, and his absurd chronology, have
caused the real worth of his book, as a chronicle of native traditions,
to be overlooked. Wherever the test of linguistic evidence, the best of
all proofs in ethnological questions, can be applied to his statements
relative to the origin and connection of the tribes, they are invariably
confirmed. From his account, from the evidence of language, and from
various corroborating indications, the course of the migrations may, it
is believed, be traced with tolerable accuracy. Their first station or
starting point, on the south side of the Lakes, was at the mouth of the
Oswego river. Advancing to the southeast the emigrants struck the Hudson
river, and, according to Cusick's story, followed its course southward
to the ocean. Here a separation took place. A portion remained, and kept
on their way toward the south; but the "main company," repelled by the
uninviting soil and the turbulent waste of waves, and remembering the
attractive region of valleys, lakes, and streams through which they had
passed, retraced their steps northward till they reached the Mohawk
river. Along this stream and the upper waters of the Hudson they made
their first abode; and here they remained until, as their historian
quaintly and truly records, "their language was altered." The Huron
speech became the Iroquois tongue, in the form in which it is spoken by
the Caniengas, or Mohawks. In Iroquois tradition, and in the
constitution of their league, the Canienga nation ranks as the "eldest
brother" of the family. A comparison of the dialects proves the
tradition to be well founded. The Canienga language approaches nearest
to the Huron, and is undoubtedly the source from which all the other
Iroquois dialects are derived. Cusick states positively that the other
"families," as he styles them, of the Iroquois household, leaving the
Mohawks in their original abode, proceeded step by step to the westward.
The Oneidas halted at their creek, the Onondagas at their mountain, the
Cayugas at their lake, and the Senecas or Sonontowans, the Great Hill
people, at a lofty eminence which rises south of the Canandaigua
lake. In due time, as he is careful to record, the same result happened
as had occurred with the Caniengas. The language of each canton "was
altered;" yet not so much, he might have added, but that all the tribes
could still hold intercourse, and comprehend one another's speech.

A wider isolation and, consequently, a somewhat greater change of
language, befell the "sixth family." Pursuing their course to the west
they touched Lake Erie, and thence, turning to the southeast, came to
the Allegheny river. Cusick, however, does not know it by this name. He
calls it the Ohio,--in his uncouth orthography and with a locative
particle added, the Ouau-we-yo-ka,--which, he says, means "a principal
stream, now Mississippi." This statement, unintelligible as at the first
glance it seems, is strictly accurate. The word Ohio undoubtedly
signified, in the ancient Iroquois speech, as it still means in the
modern Tuscarora, not "beautiful river", but "great river." [Footnote:
See Appendix, note B.] It was so called as being the main stream which
receives the affluents of the Ohio valley. In the view of the Iroquois,
this "main stream" commences with what we call the Allegheny river,
continues in what we term the Ohio, and then flows on in what we style
the Mississippi,--of which, in their view, the upper Mississippi is
merely an affluent. In Iroquois hydrography, the Ohio--the great river
of the ancient Alligewi domain--is the central stream to which all the
rivers of the mighty West converge.

This stream the emigrants now attempted to cross. They found, according
to the native annalist, a rude bridge in a huge grape-vine which trailed
its length across the stream. Over this a part of the company passed,
and then, unfortunately, the vine broke. The residue, unable to cross,
remained on the hither side, and became afterwards the enemies of those
who had passed over. Cusick anticipates that his story of the grape-vine
may seem to some incredible; but he asks, with amusing simplicity, "why
more so than that the Israelites should cross the Red Sea on dry land?"
That the precise incident, thus frankly admitted to be of a miraculous
character, really took place, we are not required to believe. But that
emigrants of the Huron-Iroquois stock penetrated southward along the
Allegheny range, and that some of them remained near the river of that
name, is undoubted fact. Those who thus remained were known by various
names, mostly derived from one root--Andastes, Andastogues, Conestogas,
and the like--and bore a somewhat memorable part in Iroquois and
Pennsylvanian history. Those who continued their course beyond the river
found no place sufficiently inviting to arrest their march until they
arrived at the fertile vales which spread, intersected by many lucid
streams, between the Roanoke and the Neuse rivers. Here they fixed their
abode, and became the ancestors of the powerful Tuscarora nation. In the
early part of the eighteenth century, just before its disastrous war
with the colonies, this nation, according to the Carolina surveyor,
Lawson, numbered fifteen towns, and could set in the field a force of
twelve hundred warriors.

The Eries, who dwelt west of the Senecas, along the southern shore of
the lake which now retains their name, were according to Cusick, an
offshoot of the Seneca tribe; and there is no reason for doubting the
correctness of his statement. After their overthrow by the Iroquois, in
1656, many of the Eries were incorporated with the ancestral nation, and
contributed, with other accessions from the Hurons and the
Attiwandaronks, to swell its numbers far beyond those of the other
nations of the confederacy.

To conclude this review of the Huron-Iroquois group, something further
should be said about the fortunes of the parent tribe, or rather
congeries of tribes,--for the Huron household, like the Iroquois, had
become divided into several septs. Like the Iroquois, also, they have
not lacked an annalist of their own race. A Wyandot Indian, Peter
Doyentate Clarke, who emigrated with the main body of his people to the
Indian Territory, and afterwards returned for a time to the remnant of
his tribe dwelling near Amherstburg, in Canada, published in 1870 a
small volume entitled "Origin and Traditional History of the Wyandots."
[Footnote: Printed by Hunter, Rose & Co., of Toronto.] The English
education of the writer, like that of the Tuscarora historian, was
defective; and it is evident that his people, in their many wanderings,
had lost much of their legendary lore. But the fact that they resided
in ancient times near the present site of Montreal, in close vicinity to
the Iroquois (whom he styles, after their largest tribe, the Senecas),
is recorded as a well-remembered portion of their history. The flight of
the Wyandots to the northwest is declared to have been caused by a war
which broke out between them and the Iroquois. This statement is
opposed to the common opinion, which ascribes the expulsion of the
Hurons from their eastern abode to the hostility of the Algonkins. It
is, however, probably correct; for the Hurons retreated into the midst
of the Algonkin tribes, with whom they were found by Champlain to be on
terms of amity and even of alliance, while they were engaged in a deadly
war with the Iroquois. The place to which they withdrew was a nook in
the Georgian Bay, where their strongly palisaded towns and
well-cultivated fields excited the admiration of the great French
explorer. Their object evidently was to place as wide a space as
possible between themselves and their inveterate enemies. Unfortunately,
as is well known, this precaution, and even the aid of their Algonkin
and French allies, proved inadequate to save them. The story of their
disastrous overthrow, traced by the masterly hand of Parkman, is one of
the most dismal passages of aboriginal history.

The only people of this stock remaining to be noticed are the
Attiwandaronks, or Neutral Nation. They dwelt south of the Hurons, on
the northern borders of Lakes Erie and Ontario. They had, indeed, a few
towns beyond those lakes, situated east of the Niagara river, between
the Iroquois and the Eries. They received their name of Neutrals from
the fact that in the war between the Iroquois and the Hurons they
remained at peace with both parties. This policy, however, did not save
them from the fate which overtook their Huron friends. In the year 1650
the Iroquois set upon them, destroyed their towns, and dispersed the
inhabitants, carrying off great numbers of them, as was their custom, to
be incorporated with their own population. Of their language we only
know that it differed but slightly from the Huron. [Footnote: "Our
Hurons call the Neutral Nation Attiwandaronk, meaning thereby 'People of
a speech a little different.'"--_Relation_ of 1641, p. 72. Bruyas,
in his "_Iroquois Root-words_" gives _gawenda_ (or
_gawenna_), speech, and _gaRONKwestare_, confusion of
voices. ] Whether they were an offshoot from the Hurons or from the
Iroquois is uncertain. It is not unlikely that their separation from the
parent stock took place earlier than that of the Iroquois, and that they
were thus enabled for a time to avoid becoming embroiled in the quarrel
between the two great divisions of their race.



How long the five kindred but independent tribes who were afterwards to
compose the Iroquois confederacy remained isolated and apart from one
another, is uncertain. That this condition endured for several
centuries is a fact which cannot be questioned. Tradition here is
confirmed by the evidence of language. We have good dictionaries of two
of their dialects, the Canienga (or Mohawk) and the Onondaga, compiled
two centuries ago by the Jesuit missionaries; and by comparing them with
vocabularies of the same dialects, as spoken at the present day, we can
ascertain the rate of change which prevails in their languages. Judging
by this test, the difference which existed between these two dialects in
1680 (when the Jesuit dictionaries were written) could hardly have
arisen in less than four hundred years; and that which exists between
them and the Tuscarora would demand a still longer time. Their
traditions all affirm--what we should be prepared to believe--that this
period was one of perpetual troubles. The tribes were constantly at war,
either among themselves, or with the neighboring nations of their own
and other stocks, Hurons, Andastes, Algonkins, Tuteloes, and even with
the distant Cherokees.

There are reasons for believing that attempts were made during this
period to combine the tribes, or some of them, in a federal
alliance. But if such connections were formed, they proved only
temporary leagues, which were dissolved when the dangers that had called
them into being had passed away. A leader of peculiar qualities, aided
by favoring circumstances, was able at last to bring about a more
permanent union. There is no exact chronology by which the date of this
important event can be ascertained; but the weight of evidence fixes it
at about the middle of the fifteenth century. [Footnote: The evidence on
this point is given in the Appendix, note C. It should be mentioned that
some portion of the following narrative formed part of a paper entitled
"A Lawgiver of the Stone Age," which was read at the Cincinnati meeting
of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in August,
1882, and was published in the Proceedings of the meeting. The
particulars comprised in it were drawn chiefly from notes gathered
during many visits to the Reserve of the Six Nations, on the Grand
River, in Ontario, supplemented by information obtained in two visits to
the Onondaga Reservation, in the State of New York, near Syracuse. My
informants were the most experienced councillors, and especially the
"wampum-keepers," the official annalists of their people. Their names,
and some account of them, will be given in a subsequent chapter. It
should be mentioned that while the histories received at the two
localities were generally in close accord, thus furnishing a strong
proof of the correctness with which they have been handed down, there
were circumstances remembered at each place which had not been preserved
at the other. The Onondagas, as was natural, retained a fuller
recollection of the events which took place before the flight of
Hiawatha to the Caniengas; while the annalists of the latter tribe were
better versed in the subsequent occurrences attending the formation of
the League. These facts should be borne in mind by any inquirer who may
undertake to repeat or continue these investigations. When the
narratives varied, as they sometimes did in minor particulars, I have
followed that which seemed most in accordance with the general tenor of
the history and with the evidence furnished by the Book of Rites.]

At this time two great dangers, the one from without, the other from
within, pressed upon these tribes. The Mohegans, or Mohicans, a powerful
Algonkin people, whose settlements stretched along the Hudson river,
south of the Mohawk, and extended thence eastward into New England,
waged a desperate war against them. In this war the most easterly of the
Iroquois, the Caniengas and Oneidas, bore the brunt and were the
greatest sufferers. On the other hand, the two western nations, the
Senecas and Cayugas, had a peril of their own to encounter. The central
nation, the Onondagas, were then under the control of a dreaded chief,
whose name is variously given, Atotarho (or, with a prefixed particle,
Thatotarho), Watatotahro, Tadodaho, according to the dialect of the
speaker and the orthography of the writer. He was a man of great force
of character and of formidable qualities--haughty, ambitious, crafty and
bold--a determined and successful warrior, and at home, so far as the
constitution of an Indian tribe would allow, a stern and remorseless
tyrant. He tolerated no equal. The chiefs who ventured to oppose him
were taken off one after another by secret means, or were compelled to
flee for safety to other tribes. His subtlety and artifices had acquired
for him the reputation of a wizard. He knew, they say, what was going on
at a distance as well as if he were present; and he could destroy his
enemies by some magical art, while he himself was far away. In spite of
the fear which he inspired, his domination would probably not have been
endured by an Indian community, but for his success in war. He had made
himself and his people a terror to the Cayugas and the Senecas.
According to one account, he had subdued both of those tribes; but the
record-keepers of the present day do not confirm this statement, which
indeed is not consistent with the subsequent history of the

The name Atotarho signifies "entangled." The usual process by which
mythology, after a few generations, makes fables out of names, has not
been wanting here. In the legends which the Indian story-fellers recount
in winter, about their cabin fires, Atotarho figures as a being of
preterhuman nature, whose head, in lieu of hair, is adorned with living
snakes. A rude pictorial representation shows him seated and giving
audience, in horrible state, with the upper part of his person enveloped
by these writhing and entangled reptiles. [Footnote: This picture and
some other equally grotesque illustrations, produced in a primitive
style of wood engraving, are prefixed to David Cusick's History of the
Six Nations. The artist to whom we owe them was probably the historian
himself. My accomplished friend, Mrs. E. A. Smith, whose studies have
thrown much light upon the mythology and language of the Iroquois
nations, and especially of the Tuscaroras, was fortunate enough to
obtain either the originals or early copies of these extraordinary
efforts of native art.] But the grave Councillors of the Canadian
Reservation, who recite his history as they have heard it from their
fathers at every installation of a high chief, do not repeat these
inventions of marvel-loving gossips, and only smile with good-humored
derision when they are referred to.

There was at this time among the Onondagas a chief of high rank, whose
name, variously written--Hiawatha, Hayenwatha, Ayonhwahtha,
Taoungwatha--is rendered, "he who seeks the wampum belt." He had made
himself greatly esteemed by his wisdom and his benevolence. He was now
past middle age. Though many of his friends and relatives had perished
by the machinations of Atotarho, he himself had been spared. The
qualities which gained him general respect had, perhaps, not been
without influence even on that redoubtable chief. Hiawatha had long
beheld with grief the evils which afflicted not only his own nation, but
all the other tribes about them, through the continual wars in which
they were engaged, and the misgovernment and miseries at home which
these wars produced. With much meditation he had elaborated in his mind
the scheme of a vast confederation which would ensure universal
peace. In the mere plan of a confederation there was nothing new. There
are probably few, if any, Indian tribes which have not, at one time or
another, been members of a league or confederacy. It may almost be said
to be their normal condition. But the plan which Hiawatha had evolved
differed from all others in two particulars. The system which he devised
was to be not a loose and transitory league, but a permanent government.
While each nation was to retain its own council and its management of
local affairs, the general control was to be lodged in a federal senate,
composed of representatives elected by each nation, holding office
during good behavior, and acknowledged as ruling chiefs throughout the
whole confederacy. Still further, and more remarkably, the
confederation was not to be a limited one. It was to be indefinitely
expansible. The avowed design of its proposer was to abolish war
altogether. He wished the federation to extend until all the tribes of
men should be included in it, and peace should everywhere reign. Such is
the positive testimony of the Iroquois themselves; and their statement,
as will be seen, is supported by historical evidence.

Hiawatha's first endeavor was to enlist his own nation in the cause. He
summoned a meeting of the chiefs and people of the Onondaga towns. The
summons, proceeding from a chief of his rank and reputation, attracted a
large concourse. "They came together," said the narrator, "along the
creeks, from all parts, to the general council-fire." [Footnote: The
narrator here referred to was the Onondaga chief, Philip Jones, known in
the council as Hanesehen (in Canienga, Enneserarenh), who, in October,
1875, with two other chiefs of high rank, and the interpreter, Daniel La
Fort, spent an evening in explaining to me the wampum records preserved
at "Onondaga Castle," and repeating the history of the formation of the
confederacy. The later portions of the narrative were obtained
principally from the chiefs of the Canadian Iroquois, as will be
hereafter explained.] But what effect the grand projects of the chief,
enforced by the eloquence for which he was noted, might have had upon
his auditors, could not be known. For there appeared among them a
well-known figure, grim, silent and forbidding, whose terrible aspect
overawed the assemblage. The unspoken displeasure of Atotarho was
sufficient to stifle all debate, and the meeting dispersed. This
result, which seems a singular conclusion of an Indian council--the most
independent and free-spoken of all gatherings--is sufficiently explained
by the fact that Atotarho had organized, among the more reckless
warriors of his tribe, a band of unscrupulous partisans, who did his
bidding without question, and took off by secret murder all persons
against whom he bore a grudge. The knowledge that his followers were
scattered through the assembly, prepared to mark for destruction those
who should offend him, might make the boldest orator chary of
speech. Hiawatha alone was undaunted. He summoned a second meeting,
which was attended by a smaller number, and broke up as before, in
confusion, on Atotarho's appearance. The unwearied reformer sent forth
his runners a third time; but the people were disheartened. When the
day of the council arrived, no one attended. Then, continued the
narrator, Hiawatha seated himself on the ground in sorrow. He enveloped
his head in his mantle of skins, and remained for a long time bowed down
in grief and thought. At length he arose and left the town, taking his
course toward the southeast. He had formed a bold design. As the
councils of his own nation were closed to him, he would have recourse to
those of other tribes. At a short distance from the town (so minutely
are the circumstances recounted) he passed his great antagonist, seated
near a well-known spring, stern and silent as usual. No word passed
between the determined representatives of war and peace; but it was
doubtless not without a sensation of triumphant pleasure that the
ferocious war-chief saw his only rival and opponent in council going
into what seemed to be voluntary exile. Hiawatha plunged into the
forest; he climbed mountains; he crossed a lake; he floated down the
Mohawk river in a canoe. Many incidents of his journey are told, and in
this part of the narrative alone some occurrences of a marvelous cast
are related, even by the official historians. Indeed, the flight of
Hiawatha from Onondaga to the country of the Caniengas is to the Five
Nations what the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina is to the
votaries of Islam. It is the turning point of their history. In
embellishing the narrative at this point, their imagination has been
allowed a free course. Leaving aside these marvels, however, we need
only refer here to a single incident, which may well enough have been of
actual occurrence. A lake which Hiawatha crossed had shores abounding in
small white shells. These he gathered and strung upon strings, which he
disposed upon his breast, as a token to all whom he should meet that he
came as a messenger of peace. And this, according to one authority, was
the origin of wampum, of which Hiawatha was the inventor. That honor,
however, is one which must be denied to him. The evidence of sepulchral
relics shows that wampum was known to the mysterious Mound-builders, as
well as in all succeeding ages. Moreover, if the significance of white
wampum-strings as a token of peace had not been well known in his day,
Hiawatha would not have relied upon them as a means of proclaiming his
pacific purpose.

Early one morning he arrived at a Canienga town, the residence of the
noted chief Dekanawidah, whose name, in point of celebrity, ranks in
Iroquois tradition with those of Hiawatha and Atotarho. It is probable
that he was known by reputation to Hiawatha, and not unlikely that they
were related. According to one account Dekanawidah was an Onondaga,
adopted among the Caniengas. Another narrative makes him a Canienga by
birth. The probability seems to be that he was the son of an Onondaga
father, who had been adopted by the Caniengas, and of a Canienga
mother. That he was not of pure Canienga blood is shown by the fact,
which is remembered, that his father had had successively three wives,
one belonging to each of the three clans, Bear, Wolf, and Tortoise,
which composed the Canienga nation. If the father had been of that
nation (Canienga), he would have belonged to one of the Canienga clans,
and could not then (according to the Indian law) have married into it.
He had seven sons, including Dekanawidah, who, with their families,
dwelt together in one of the "long houses" common in that day among the
Iroquois. These ties of kindred, together with this fraternal strength,
and his reputation as a sagacious councillor, gave Dekanawidah great
influence among his people. But, in the Indian sense, he was not the
leading chief. This position belonged to Tekarihoken (better known in
books as Tecarihoga), whose primacy as the first chief of the eldest
among the Iroquois nations was then, and is still, universally
admitted. Each nation has always had a head-chief, to whom belonged the
hereditary right and duty of lighting the council fire and taking the
first place in public meetings. But among the Indians, as in other
communities, hereditary rank and personal influence do not always, or
indeed, ordinarily, go together. If Hiawatha could gain over Dekanawidah
to his views, he would have done much toward the accomplishment of his

In the early dawn he seated himself on a fallen trunk, near the spring
from which the inhabitants of the long house drew their water. Presently
the wife of one of the brothers came out with a vessel of elm-bark, and
approached the spring. Hiawatha sat silent and motionless. Something in
his aspect awed the woman, who feared to address him. She returned to
the house, and said to Dekanawidah, "A man, or a figure like a man, is
seated by the spring, having his breast covered with strings of white
shells." "It is a guest," said the chief to one of his brothers; "go and
bring him in. We will make him welcome." Thus Hiawatha and
Dekanawidah--first met. They found in each other kindred spirits. The
sagacity of the Canienga chief grasped at once the advantages of the
proposed plan, and the two worked together in perfecting it, and in
commending it to the people. After much discussion in council, the
adhesion of the Canienga nation was secured. Dekanawidah then dispatched
two of his brothers as ambassadors to the nearest tribe, the Oneidas, to
lay the project before them. The Oneida nation is deemed to be a
comparatively recent offshoot from the Caniengas. The difference of
language is slight, showing that their separation was much later than
that of the Onondagas. In the figurative speech of the Iroquois, the
Oneida is the son, and the Onondaga is the brother, of the
Canienga. Dekanawidah had good reason to expect that it would not prove
difficult to win the consent of the Oneidas to the proposed scheme. But
delay and deliberation mark all public acts of the Indians. The
ambassadors found the leading chief, Odatsehte, at his town on the
Oneida creek. He received their message in a friendly way, but--required
time for his people to consider it in council. "Come back in another
day," he said to the messengers. In the political speech of the Indians,
a day is understood to mean a year. The envoys carried back the reply to
Dekanawidah and Hiawatha, who knew that they could do nothing but wait
the prescribed time. After the lapse of a year, they repaired to the
place of meeting. The treaty which initiated the great league was then
and there ratified by the representatives of the Canienga and Oneida
nations. The name of Odatsehte means "the quiver-bearer;" and as
Atotarho, "the entangled," is fabled to have had his head wreathed with
snaky locks, and as Hiawatha, "the wampum-seeker," is represented to
have wrought shells into wampum, so the Oneida chief is reputed to have
appeared at this treaty bearing at his shoulder a quiver full of arrows.

The Onondagas lay next to the Oneidas. To them, or rather to their
terrible chief, the next application was made. The first meeting of
Atotarho and Dekanawidah is a notable event in Iroquois history. At a
later day, a native artist sought to represent it in an historical
picture, which has been already referred to. Atotarho is seated in
solitary and surly dignity, smoking a long pipe, his head and body
encircled with contorted and angry serpents. Standing before him are two
figures which cannot be mistaken. The foremost, a plumed and cinctured
warrior, depicted as addressing the Onondaga chief, holds in his right
hand, as a staff, his flint-headed spear, the ensign, it may be
supposed, which marks him as the representative of the Caniengas, or
"People of the Flint." Behind him another plumed figure bears in his
hand a bow with arrows, and at his shoulder a quiver. Divested of its
mythological embellishments, the picture rudely represents the interview
which actually took place. The immediate result was unpromising. The
Onondaga chief coldly refused to entertain the project, which he had
already rejected when proposed by Hiawatha. The ambassadors were not
discouraged. Beyond the Onondagas were scattered the villages of the
Cayugas, a people described by the Jesuit missionaries, at a later day,
as the most mild and tractable of the Iroquois. They were considered an
offshoot of the Onondagas, to whom they bore the same filial relation
which the Oneidas bore to the Caniengas. The journey of the advocates of
peace through the forest to the Cayuga capital, and their reception, are
minutely detailed in the traditionary narrative. The Cayugas, who had
suffered from the prowess and cruelty of the Onondaga chief, needed
little persuasion. They readily consented to come into the league, and
their chief, Akahenyonk ("The Wary Spy"), joined the Canienga and Oneida
representatives in a new embassy to the Onondagas. Acting probably upon
the advice of Hiawatha, who knew better than any other the character of
the community and the chief with whom they had to deal, they made
proposals highly flattering to the self-esteem which was the most
notable trait of both ruler and people. The Onondagas should be the
leading nation of the confederacy. Their chief town should be the
federal capital, where the great councils of the league should be held,
and where its records should be preserved. The nation should be
represented in the council by fourteen senators, while no other nation
should have more than ten. And as the Onondagas should be the leading
tribe, so Atotarho should be the leading chief. He alone should have the
right of summoning the federal council, and no act of the council to
which he objected should be valid. In other words, an absolute veto was
given to him. To enhance his personal dignity, two high chiefs were
appointed as his special aids and counselors, his "Secretaries of
State," so to speak. Other insignia of preeminence were to be possessed
by him; and, in view of all these distinctions, it is not surprising
that his successor, who two centuries later retained the same
prerogatives, should have been occasionally styled by the English
colonists "the Emperor of the Five Nations." It might seem, indeed, at
first thought, that the founders of the confederacy had voluntarily
placed themselves and their tribes in a position of almost abject
subserviency to Atotarho and his followers. But they knew too well the
qualities of their people to fear for them any political subjection. It
was certain that when once the league was established, and its
representatives had met in council, character and intelligence would
assume their natural sway, and mere artificial rank and dignity would be
little regarded. Atotarho and his people, however, yielded either to
these specious offers, or to the pressure which the combined urgency of
the three allied nations now brought to bear upon them. They finally
accepted the league; and the great chief, who had originally opposed it,
now naturally became eager to see it as widely extended as possible. He
advised its representatives to go on at once to the westward, and enlist
the populous Seneca towns, pointing out how this might best be done.
This advice was followed, and the adhesion of the Senecas was secured by
giving to their two leading chiefs, Kanya-dariyo ("Beautiful Lake") and
Shadekaronyes ("The Equal Skies"), the offices of military commanders of
the confederacy, with the title of doorkeepers of the "Long-house," that
being the figure by which the league was known.

The six national leaders who have been mentioned--Dekanawidah for the
Caniengas, Odatsehte for the Oneidas, Atotarho for the Onondagas,
Akahenyonk for the Cayugas, Kanyadariyo and Shadekaronyes for the two
great divisions of the Senecas--met in convention near the Onondaga
Lake, with Hiawatha for their adviser, and a vast concourse of their
followers, to settle the terms and rules of their confederacy, and to
nominate its first council. Of this council, nine members (or ten, if
Dekanawidah be included) were assigned to the Caniengas, a like number
to the Oneidas, fourteen to the lordly Onondagas, ten to the Cayugas,
and eight to the Senecas. Except in the way of compliment, the number
assigned to each nation was really of little consequence; inasmuch as,
by the rule of the league, unanimity was exacted in all their
decisions. This unanimity, however, did not require the suffrage of
every member of the council. The representatives of each nation first
deliberated apart upon the question proposed. In this separate council
the majority decided; and the leading chief then expressed in the great
council the voice of his nation. Thus the veto of Atotarho ceased at
once to be peculiar to him, and became a right exercised by each of the
allied nations. This requirement of unanimity, embarrassing as it might
seem, did not prove to be so in practice. Whenever a question arose on
which opinions were divided, its decision was either postponed, or some
compromise was reached which left all parties contented.

The first members of the council were appointed by the convention--under
what precise rule is unknown; but their successors came in by a method
in which the hereditary and the elective systems were singularly
combined, and in which female suffrage had an important place. When a
chief died or (as sometimes happened) was deposed for incapacity or
misconduct, some member of the same family succeeded him. Rank followed
the female line; and this successor might be any descendant of the late
chief's mother or grandmother--his brother, his cousin or his
nephew--but never his son. Among many persons who might thus be
eligible, the selection was made in the first instance by a family
council. In this council the "chief matron" of the family, a noble dame
whose position and right were well defined, had the deciding voice. This
remarkable fact is affirmed by the Jesuit mission-ary Lafitau, and the
usage remains in full vigor among the Canadian Iroquois to this
day. [Footnote: "La dignite de chef est perpetuelle et hereditaire dans
sa Cabane, passant toujours aux enfans de ses tantes, de ses soeurs, on
de ses nieces du cote maternel. Des que l'arbre est tombe, il fault,
disent ils, le relever. La matrone, qui a la principale autorite, apres
en avoir confere avec ceux de sa Cabane, en confere de nouveau avec ceux
de sa Tribu [clan], a qui elle fait agreer oelui qu'elle a choisi pour
succeder, ce qui lui est assez libre. Elle n'a pas toujours egard au
droit d'ainesse, et d'ordinaire, elle prend celui qui paroit le plus
propre a soutenir ce rang par ses bonnes qualites."--_Lafitau: Maurs
des Savages Ameriquains_, p. 471.] If there are two or more members
of the family who seem to have equal claims, the nominating matron
sometimes declines to decide between them, and names them both or all,
leaving the ultimate choice to the nation or the federal council. The
council of the nation next considers the nomination, and, if
dissatisfied, refers it back to the family for a new designation. If
content, the national council reports the name of the candidate to the
federal senate, in which resides the power of ratifying or rejecting the
choice of the nation; but the power of rejection is rarely exercised,
though that of expulsion for good cause is not unfrequently exerted. The
new chief inherits the name of his predecessor. In this respect, as in
some others, the resemblance of the Great Council to the English House
of Peers is striking. As Norfolk succeeds to Norfolk, so Tekarihoken
succeeds Tekarihoken. The great names of Hiawatha and Atotarho are still
borne by plain farmer-councillors on the Canadian Reservation.

When the League was established, Hiawatha had been adopted by the
Canienga nation as one of their chiefs. The honor in which he was held
by them is shown by his position on the roll of councillors, as it has
been handed down from the earliest times. As the Canienga nation is the
"elder brother," the names of its chiefs are first recited. At the head
of the list is the leading Canienga chief, Tekarihoken, who represents
the noblest lineage of the Iroquois stock. Next to him, and second on
the roll, is the name of Hiawatha. That of his great colleague,
Dekanawidah, nowhere appears. He was a member of the first council; but
he forbade his people to appoint a successor to him. "Let the others
have successors," he said proudly, "for others can advise you like
them. But I am the founder of your league, and no one else can do what I
have done." [Footnote: In Mr. Morgan's admirable work, "_The League of
the Iroquois_," the list of Councillors (whom he styles
_sachems_), comprises the name of Dekanawidah--in his orthography,
Daganoweda. During my last visit to my lamented friend (in September,
1880), when we examined together my copy of the then newly discovered
Book of Rites, in which he was greatly interested, this point was
considered. The original notes which he made for his work were
examined. It appeared that in the list as it was first written by him,
from the dictation of a well-informed Seneca chief, the name of
Dekanawidah was not comprised. A later, but erroneous suggestion, from
another source, led him to believe that his first informant was
mistaken, or that he had misunderstood him, and to substitute the name
of Dekanawidah for the somewhat similar name of Shatekariwate (in Seneca
Sadekeiwadeh), which stands third on the roll, immediately following
that of Hiawatha. The term _sachem_, it may be added, is an
Algonkin word, and one which Iroquois speakers have a difficulty in
pronouncing. Their own name for a member of their Senate is
_Royaner_, derived from the root _yaner_, noble, and precisely
equivalent in meaning to the English "nobleman" or "lord," as applied to
a member of the House of Peers. It is the word by which the missionaries
have rendered the title "Lord" in the New Testament.]

The boast was not unwarranted. Though planned by another, the structure
had been reared mainly by his labors. But the Five Nations, while
yielding abundant honor to the memory of Dekanawidah, have never
regarded him with the same affectionate reverence which has always clung
to the name of Hiawatha. His tender and lofty wisdom, his wide-reaching
benevolence, and his fervent appeals to their better sentiments,
enforced by the eloquence of which he was master, touched chords in the
popular heart which have continued to respond until this day. Fragments
of the speeches in which he addressed the council and the people of the
league are still remembered and repeated. The fact that the league only
carried out a part of the grand design which he had in view is
constantly affirmed. Yet the failure was not due to lack of effort. In
pursuance of his original purpose, when the league was firmly
established, envoys were sent to other tribes to urge them to join it,
or at least to become allies. One of these embassies penetrated to the
distant Cherokees, the hereditary enemies of the Iroquois nations. For
some reason with which we are not acquainted, perhaps the natural
suspicion or vindictive pride of that powerful community, this mission
was a failure. Another, dispatched to the western Algonkins, had better
success. A strict alliance was formed with the far-spread Ojibway
tribes, and was maintained inviolate for at least two hundred years,
until at length the influence of the French, with the sympathy of the
Ojibways for the conquered Hurons, undid to some extent, though not
entirely, this portion of Hiawatha's work.

His conceptions were beyond his time, and beyond ours; but their effect,
within a limited sphere, was very great. For more than three centuries
the bond which he devised held together the Iroquois nations in perfect
amity. It proved, moreover, as he intended, elastic.--The territory of
the Iroquois, constantly extending as their united strength made itself
felt, became the "Great Asylum" of the Indian tribes. Of the conquered
Eries and Hurons, many hundreds were received and adopted among their
conquerors. The Tuscaroras, expelled by the English from North Carolina,
took refuge with the Iroquois, and became the sixth nation of the
League. From still further south, the Tuteloes and Saponies, of Dakota
stock, after many wars with the Iroquois, fled to them from their other
enemies, and found a cordial welcome. A chief still sits in the council
as a representative of the Tuteloes, though the tribe itself has been
swept away by disease, or absorbed in the larger nations. Many
fragments of tribes of Algonkin lineage--Delawares, Nanticokes,
Mohegans, Mississagas--sought the same hospitable protection, which
never failed them. Their descendants still reside on the Canadian
Reservation, which may well be styled an aboriginal "refuge of nations,"
affording a striking evidence in our own day of the persistent force of
a great idea, when embodied in practical shape by the energy of a master

The name by which their constitution or organic law is known among them
is _kayanerenh_, to which the epitaph _kowa_, "great," is
frequently added. This word, _kayanerenh_, is sometimes rendered
"law," or "league," but its proper meaning seems to be "peace." It is
used in this sense by the missionaries, in their translations of the
scriptures and the prayer-book. In such expressions as the "Prince of
Peace," "the author of peace," "give peace in our time," we find
_kayanerenh_ employed with this meaning. Its root is _yaner_,
signifying "noble," or "excellent," which yields, among many
derivatives, _kayanere_, "goodness," and _kayanerenh_,
"peace," or "peacefulness." The national hymn of the confederacy, sung
whenever their "Condoling Council" meets, commences with a verse
referring to their league, which is literally rendered, "We come to
greet and thank the PEACE" (_kayanerenh_). When the list of their
ancient chiefs, the fifty original councillors, is chanted in the
closing litany of the meeting, there is heard from time to time, as the
leaders of each clan are named, an outburst of praise, in the words--

"This was the roll of you--
You that combined in the work,
You that completed the work,
The GREAT PEACE." (_Kayanerenh-kowa_.)

The regard of Englishmen for their Magna Charta and Bill of Rights, and
that of Americans for their national Constitution, seem weak in
comparison with the intense gratitude and reverence of the Five Nations
for the "Great Peace," which Hiawatha and his colleagues established for
them. Of the subsequent life of Hiawatha, and of his death, we have no
sure information. The records of the Iroquois are historical, and not
biographical. As Hiawatha had been made a chief among the Caniengas, he
doubtless continued to reside with that nation. A tradition, which is in
itself highly probable, represents him as devoting himself to the
congenial work of clearing away the obstructions in the streams which
intersect the country then inhabited by the confederated nations, and
which formed the chief means of communication between them. That he
thus, in some measure, anticipated the plans of De Witt Clinton and his
associates, on a smaller scale, but perhaps with a larger statesmanship,
we may be willing enough to believe. A wild legend recorded by some
writers, but not told of him by the Canadian Iroquois, and apparently
belonging to their ancient mythology, gives him an apotheosis, and makes
him ascend to heaven in a white canoe. It may be proper to dwell for a
moment on the singular complication of mistakes which has converted this
Indian reformer and statesman into a mythological personage.

When by the events of the Revolutionary war the original confederacy was
broken up, the larger portion of the people followed Brant to
Canada. The refugees comprised nearly the whole of the Caniengas, and
the greater part of the Onondagas and Cayugas, with many members of the
other nations. In Canada their first proceeding was to reestablish, as
far as possible, their ancient league, with all its laws and
ceremonies. The Onondagas had brought with them most of their wampum
records, and the Caniengas jealously preserved the memories of the
federation, in whose formation they had borne a leading part. The
history of the league continued to be the topic of their orators
whenever a new chief was installed into office. Thus the remembrance of
the facts has been preserved among them with much clearness and
precision, and with little admixture of mythological elements. With the
fragments of the tribes which remained on the southern side of the Great
Lakes the case was very different. A feeble pretense was made, for a
time, of keeping up the semblance of the old confederacy; but except
among the Senecas, who, of all the Five Nations, had had least to do
with the formation of the league, the ancient families which had
furnished the members of their senate, and were the conservators of
their history, had mostly fled to Canada or the West. The result was
that among the interminable stories with which the common people beguile
their winter nights, the traditions of Atotarho and Hiawatha became
intermingled with the legends of their mythology. An accidental
similarity, in the Onondaga dialect, between the name of Hiawatha and
that of one of their ancient divinities, led to a confusion between the
two, which has misled some investigators. This deity bears, in the
sonorous Canienga tongue, the name of Taronhiawagon, meaning "the Holder
of the Heavens." The Jesuit missionaries style him "the great god of the
Iroquois." Among the Onondagas of the present day, the name is abridged
to Taonhiawagi, or Tahiawagi. The confusion between this name and that
of Hiawatha (which, in another form, is pronounced Tahionwatha) seems to
have begun more than a century ago; for Pyrteus, the Moravian
missionary, heard among the Iroquois (according to Heckewelder) that the
person who first proposed the league was an ancient Mohawk, named
Thannawege. Mr. J. V. H. Clarke, in his interesting History of Onondaga,
makes the name to have been originally Ta-oun-ya-wat-ha, and describes
the bearer as "the deity who presides over fisheries and
hunting-grounds." He came down from heaven in a white canoe, and after
sundry adventures, which remind one of the labors of Hercules, assumed
the name of Hiawatha (signifying, we are told, "a very wise man"), and
dwelt for a time as an ordinary mortal among men, occupied in works of
benevolence. Finally, after founding the confederacy and bestowing many
prudent counsels upon the people, he returned to the skies by the same
conveyance in which he had descended. This legend, or, rather, congeries
of intermingled legends, was communicated by Clark to Schoolcraft, when
the latter was compiling his "Notes on the Iroquois." Mr. Schoolcraft,
pleased with the poetical cast of the story, and the euphonious name,
made confusion worse confounded by transferring the hero to a distant
region and identifying him with Manabozho, a fantastic divinity of the
Ojibways. Schoolcraft's volume, which he chose to entitle "The Hiawatha
Legends," has not in it a single fact or fiction relating either to
Hiawatha himself or to the Iroquois deity Taronhiawagon. Wild Ojibway
stories concerning Manabozho and his comrades form the staple of its
contents. But it is to this collection that we owe the charming poem of
Longfellow; and thus, by an extraordinary fortune, a grave Iroquois
lawgiver of the fifteenth century has become, in modern literature, an
Ojibway demigod, son of the West Wind, and companion of the tricksy
Paupukkeewis, the boastful Iagoo, and the strong Kwasind. If a Chinese
traveler, during the middle ages, inquiring into the history and
religion of the western nations, had confounded King Alfred with King
Arthur, and both with Odin, he would not have made a more preposterous
confusion of names and characters than that which has hitherto disguised
the genuine personality of the great Onondaga reformer. [Footnote: This
subject is further discussed in the Appendix, Note D.]

About the main events of his history, and about his character and
purposes, there can be no reasonable doubt. We have the wampum belts
which he handled, and whose simple hieroglyphics preserve the memory of
the public acts in which he took part. We have, also, in the Iroquois
"Book of Rites," which in the present volume is given in its original
form, a still more clear and convincing testimony to the character both
of the legislator and of the people for whom his institutions were
designed. This book, sometimes called the "Book of the Condoling
Council," might properly enough be styled an Iroquois Veda. It comprises
the speeches, songs, and other ceremonies, which, from the earliest
period of the confederacy, have composed the proceedings of their
council when a deceased chief is lamented and his successor is installed
in office. The fundamental laws of the league, a list of their ancient
towns, and the names of the chiefs who constituted their first council,
chanted in a kind of litany, are also comprised in the collection. The
contents, after being preserved in memory, like the Vedas, for many
generations, were written down by desire of the chiefs, when their
language was first reduced to writing; and the book is therefore more
than a century old. Its language, archaic when written, is now partly
obsolete, and is fully understood by only a few of the oldest chiefs. It
is a genuine Indian composition, and must be accepted as disclosing the
true character of its authors. The result is remarkable enough. Instead
of a race of rude and ferocious warriors, we find in this book a kindly
and affectionate people, full of sympathy for their friends in distress,
considerate to their women, tender to their children, anxious for peace,
and imbued with a profound reverence for their constitution and its
authors. We become conscious of the fact that the aspect in which these
Indians have presented themselves to the outside world has been in a
large measure deceptive and factitious. The ferocity, craft and cruelty,
which have been deemed their leading traits, have been merely the
natural accompaniments of wars of self-preservation, and no more
indicated their genuine character than the war-paint, plume and tomahawk
of the warrior displayed the customary guise in which he appeared among
his own people. The cruelties of war, when war is a struggle for
national existence, are common to all races. The persistent desire for
peace, pursued for centuries in federal unions, and in alliances and
treaties with other nations, has been manifested by few as steadily as
by the countrymen of Hiawatha. The sentiment of universal brotherhood
which directed their policy has never been so fully developed in any
branch of the Aryan race, unless it may be found incorporated in the
religious quietism of Buddha and his followers.



For a proper appreciation of this peculiar composition, some further
particulars respecting its origin and character will be needed. During
my earlier visits to the Reserve of the Six Nations, near Brantford, I
had heard of an Indian book which was used at their "Condoling
Councils," the most important of their many public gatherings. But it
was not until the month of September, 1879, that I had an opportunity of
seeing the work. At that time two copies of the book were brought to me
by the official holders, two of the principal chiefs of the
confederacy. One of these was Chief John "Smoke" Johnson, who for many
years had held the high office of Speaker of the Great Council, though,
of late, yielding to age and infirmity, he has withdrawn from the public
performance of its duties. His second name is a rude rendering of his
truly poetical Indian appellation, Sakayen-gwaraton, or "Disappearing
Mist." It signifies properly, I was told, the haze which rises from the
ground in an autumn morning and vanishes as the day advances. His
English name, and, in part, his blood, Chief Johnson derives from no
less distinguished an ancestor than Sir William Johnson, who played so
notable a part in colonial history during the last century, and who
exercised, perhaps, a greater influence on the destiny of the Iroquois
than any other individual since the formation of their confederacy. To
him, indeed, may be ascribed the distinction, such as it is, of
destroying the work which Hiawatha and Dekanawidah had founded. But for
the influence over the Indians which he had acquired, and was able to
bequeath to others, it is probable that the Six Nations would have
remained neutral during the Revolutionary War, and the disruption of
their League would not have taken place. Yet there can be no doubt that
he was sincerely attached to them, and desired their good. Unfortunately
for them, they held, as was natural, only the second place in his
affections. He was, by adoption, an Iroquois chief, but his first
allegiance was due to his native country, to whose interests, both in
the war with France and in the separation which he foresaw between
England and her colonies, he did not hesitate to sacrifice the welfare
of his red brethren. Against his subtle arts and overmastering energy
the wisest of their statesmen, worthy successors of the great founders
of their constitution, strove in vain, on each occasion, to maintain
that neutrality which was evidently the true policy of their
people. [Footnote: For the confirmation of these statements see the
excellent biographies of Sir William Johnson and Joseph Brant, by
Wm. L. Stone, _passim_.]

Sakayengwaraton is not an elected chief, nor does he bear one of the
hereditary titles of the Great Council, in which he holds so
distinguished a station. Indeed, his office is one unknown to the
ancient constitution of the Kanonsionni. It is the creation of the
British Government, to which he owes, with the willing consent of his
own people, his rank and position in the Council. The Provincial
administrators saw the need of a native official who should be, like the
Speaker of the English House of Commons, the mouthpiece of the Council,
and the intermediary between it and the representative of the Crown. The
grandson of Sir William Johnson was known as a brave warrior, a capable
leader, and an eloquent speaker. In the war of 1812, at the early age of
twenty, he had succeeded an elder brother in the command of the Indian
contingent, and had led his dusky followers with so much skill and
intrepidity as to elicit high praise from the English commander. His
eloquence was noted, even among a race of orators. I can well believe
what I have heard of its effects, as even in his old age, when an
occasion has for a moment aroused his spirit, I have not known whether
most to admire the nobleness and force of his sentiments and reasoning,
or the grace and flowing ease with which he delivered the stately
periods of his sonorous language. He has been a worthy successor of the
distinguished statesmen, Garagontieh, Garangula, Decanasora, Canasatego,
Logan, and others, who in former years guided the destinies of his
people. He is considered to have a better knowledge of the traditions
and ancient usages of the Six Nations than any other member of the
tribes, and is the only man now living who can tell the meaning of every
word of the "Book of Rites."

The other chief to whom I have referred is the Onondaga Councillor who
is known to the whites as John Buck, but who bears in council the name
of Skanawati ("Beyond the River"), one of the fifty titular names which
have descended from the time of Hiawatha. He is the official keeper of
the "wampum records" of the confederacy, an important trust, which, to
his knowledge, has been in his family for at least four generations. His
rank, his character, and his eloquence make him now, virtually, the
Iroquois premier--an office which among the Six Nations, as among the
Athenians of old and the English of modern days, is both unknown to the
constitution and essential to its working. His knowledge of the legends
and customs of his people is only inferior to that of the more aged
Speaker of the Council.

The account which Chief J. S. Johnson gave me of the book may be briefly
told. The English missionaries reduced the Canienga language to writing
in the early part of the last century. The Jesuit fathers, indeed, had
learned and written the language--which they styled the Iroquois--fifty
years before; but it does not appear that they had instructed any of the
Indians in the art of writing it, as their successors in the Eastern
Province have since done. The English missionaries took pains to do
this. The liturgy of their church was printed in the Mohawk tongue, at
New York, as early as the year 1714. [Footnote: This date is given in
the preface to the Mohawk Prayer Book of 1787. This first version of the
liturgy was printed under the direction of the Rev. Wm. Andrews, the
missionary of the "New England Society."] By the middle of the century
there were many members of the tribe who could write in the well-devised
orthography of the missionaries--an orthography which anticipated in
most points the well known "Pickering alphabet," now generally' employed
in writing the Indian languages of North America. The chiefs of the
Great Council, at once conservative and quick to learn, saw the
advantages which would accrue from preserving, by this novel method, the
forms of their most important public duty--that of creating new
chiefs--and the traditions connected with their own body. They caused
the ceremonies, speeches and songs, which together made up the
proceedings of the Council when it met for the two purposes, always
combined, of condolence and induction, to be written down in the words
in which they had been preserved in memory for many generations. A
Canienga chief, named David, a friend of Brant, is said to have
accomplished the work. In Stone's Life of Sir William Johnson, mention
is made of a Mohawk chief, "David of Schoharie," who in May, 1757, led a
troop of Indians from his town to join the forces under Sir William, in
his expedition to Crown Point, to repel the French invaders. [Footnote:
_Life of Sir William Johnson_, Vol. II. p. 29] Brant appears to
have been in this expedition. [Footnote: Ibid., p. 174] It is highly
probable that in Chief David of Schoharie we have the compiler, or
rather the scribe, of this "Iroquois Veda."

The copy of this book which Chief J. S. Johnson possessed was made by
himself under the following circumstances: During the prevalence of the
Asiatic cholera, in 1832, the tribes on the Reserve suffered
severely. Chief Johnson, then a young man and not yet a leader in the
Great Council, was active in attending on the sick. He was called to
visit an aged chief, who was not expected to live. The old chief
informed him that he had this book in his possession, and advised him,
as he was one of the few who could write the language, to make a copy of
it, lest by any accident the original should be lost. Johnson followed
this advice, and copied the book on loose sheets of paper, from which he
afterwards transcribed it into a small unbound book, resembling a
schoolboy's copy-book. He states that the original book contained,
besides the ceremonies of the Condoling Council, an addition by a later
hand, comprising some account of the more recent history of the Six
Nations, and particularly of their removal from New York to Canada. This
portion of it he unfortunately omitted to copy, and shortly afterwards
the book itself was destroyed, when the house of the old chief was
accidentally burned.

The other copy which I transcribed was held by Chief John Buck, in his
official capacity of record-keeper. It is written in a somewhat
different orthography. The syllables are separated, as in the usual
style of Indian hymnbooks, and some of the words, particularly the
proper names, show by their forms that the person who copied the book
was an Onondaga. The copy was evidently not made from that of Chief
Johnson, as it supplies some omissions in that copy. On the other hand,
it omits some matters, and, in particular, nearly all the adjurations
and descriptive epithets which form the closing litany accompanying the
list of hereditary councillors. The copy appears, from a memorandum
written in it, to have been made by one "John Green," who, it seems, was
formerly a pupil of the Mohawk Institute at Brantford. It bears the
date of November, 1874. I could not learn where he found his original.

The translation has been made from the dictation of Chief J. S. Johnson,
who explained the meaning of the archaic words in the modern Canienga
speech. This was interpreted in English by his son, Chief George
H. M. Johnson, and afterwards more fully elucidated by my esteemed
friend, the Rev. Isaac Bearfoot, who kindly came from his parish, at
Point Edward (near Sarnia), to the Reserve, to assist me in this
work. Mr. Bearfoot is an Onondaga by birth, but a Canienga by adoption,
and has a thorough knowledge of the Canienga language. He prepared the
revised edition of the hymnbook in that language, which is now used on
the Reserve. He is a good English scholar, and, having been educated in
Toronto for the ministry, has filled for some years, with much
acceptance, the office of pastor to a white congregation of the Church
of England. I am greatly indebted to him for his judicious assistance,
and, finally, for a complete revision of the entire version of the
Canienga portion of the book.

To my friend Chief George Johnson I am under still greater
obligations. Mr. Johnson, as has been stated, is the son of Chief
J. S. Johnson, and is himself a high chief of the Canienga nation. He
bears in the Great Council the name of Teyonhehkwen (otherwise spelt
Deyonheghgonh), meaning "Double Life," one of the titular names which
were borne by the companions of Hiawatha and Atotarho in the first
council. He succeeded in this title, according to the rules of the
confederacy, his maternal uncle, on the nomination of his mother, as the
chief matron of the family. Mr. Johnson is an educated gentleman. In
early life he was a pupil of the English missionaries. He now holds the
position of Government Interpreter for the Six Nations, and is, in fact,
the chief executive officer of the Canadian government on the
Reserve. His duties have several times brought him into collision with
the white ruffians who formerly infested the Reserve, and from whom he
has on two occasions suffered severe injuries, endangering his life. His
courage and firmness, however, have been finally successful in subduing
this mischief, and the Reserve is now as secure and as free from
disorder as any part of Canada. To Chief, George Johnson's assistance
and encouragement I owe most of the information contained in these
pages, and I am glad to have an opportunity of paying him this tribute
of respect and gratitude.

The second or supplementary part of the Book, which is in the Onondaga
dialect, was found on the, small Reservation in the State of New York,
near Syracuse, where a feeble remnant of the great Onondaga nation still
cling to the home of their forefathers. In October, 1875, during my
first visit to Onondaga Castle, as this Reservation is called, I
obtained from the intelligent interpreter, Daniel La Fort--a son of the
distinguished chief Abram La Fort (Dehatkatons), who is commemorated in
Clark's "Onondaga"--a list of the original councillors in the Onondaga
dialect, and also a copy, in the same dialect, of the "Condoling Song,"
which I had heard sung on the Canadian Reserve, and which I afterwards
found in the Canienga Book of Rites. He read them to me from a small
manuscript book, in which, as I then supposed, he had noted them for his
own convenience. When I afterwards discovered the Canienga book, it
occurred to me that I might have been mistaken on this point, and that
the manuscript from which he read was possibly a copy of the Book of
Rites in the Onondaga dialect. To clear up this point, I again visited
Onondaga Castle, in September, 1880. I then found, to my great
gratification, that his book was not a copy, but a valuable addition, or
rather an essential complement, to the Canienga book. The last-named
book comprises the speeches which are addressed by the representatives
of the three elder nations to the younger members of the League,
whenever a chief who belonged to the latter is lamented. The Onondaga
book, on the other hand, gives us the exhortations which are addressed
by the younger nations to the elder when a chief of the latter is
mourned. The circumstance to which it owes its preservation on the
Onondaga Reserve is easily explained. Of late years, since the
chieftainships among the New York Senecas and Tuscaroras have been made
purely elective offices, the only body of Indians in that State among
whom the original system of mingled descent and appointment has been
retained is the remnant of the intensely conservative Onondagas. Among
these, in spite of missionary efforts continued for two centuries,
paganism still lingers, and chiefs are still "raised up" as nearly as
possible after the ancient fashion. When a chief dies, the members of
his family or clan select another, who is presented to the national
council for induction. The ceremonies of condolence, with which the
proceedings commence, are modeled after the primitive form. As the
Onondagas were one of the elder nations, the addresses of condolence
must proceed from a younger brother. Fortunately for this purpose, a few
Oneidas reside on the Reserve, among whom is a single chief, by name
Abram Hill. To him is committed the duty of representing the "younger
brothers" on this occasion, and with it the charge of the wampum
strings, which are produced occasionally as the ceremony proceeds, each
string representing one section or topic of the condoling address.

La Fort said that he had copied his book from a manuscript in his
father's handwriting. This manuscript, unfortunately, was lost, and he
could not say whether his rather had first written it down from memory,
or had merely transcribed it from an earlier composition. However this
may have been, the substance of the composition undoubtedly dates from a
period preceding the disruption of the confederacy. The language,
indeed, so far as can be judged from the very irregular orthography, is
modern. If, as there is reason to suppose, the composition is ancient,
it has evidently undergone a "revision" at the hands of the later
copyists. In former times, as we know from the Jesuit vocabularies, the
sound of _r_ existed in the Onondaga dialect. Since their day this
sound has disappeared from it entirely. In La Fort's manuscript the
letter frequently occurred, but always, as his pronunciation showed,
either as a diacritical sign following the vowel _a_, to give to
that vowel the sound of _a_ in "far," or else as representing
itself this vowel sound. Thus the syllable which should properly be
written _sa_ was written by La Fort either _sar_ or _sr_.
But, though the language is modern, the speeches themselves, as I am
assured by Chief John Buck, are precisely those which are still in use
among his people in Canada, and which are believed to have been
preserved in memory from the days of their forefathers. [Footnote: The
disappearance of a vocal element from a language is a phenomenon with
which etymologists are familiar. The loss of the Greek digamma is a
well-known instance. The harsh guttural, resembling the German ch.
which formerly existed in the English language, has vanished from it,
leaving its traces in the uncouth orthography of such words as
_plough_, _high_, _though_, and the like. Within the past
three centuries the sound of _I_ has been lost from many words,
such as _walk_, _talk_, _balm_ and _calm_. The sound
of _r_ is disappearing from a large portion of the language. In
ordinary speech, _arm_ rhymes with _calm_, _morning_ with
_fanning_, _higher_ with _Sophia_. Modern French, as is
well known, has attained its present euphony through the disappearance
of consonantal elements from many words in which they formerly existed.]

The translation of La Fort's book was procured from him and another
educated member of his tribe; but there was not time to obtain all the
elucidations needed to ensure precise verbal accuracy throughout.



The name usually given to the Book of Rites, or rather to its contents,
is, in the Canienga dialect, _Okayondonghsera Yondennase_ (or in
the French missionary orthography, _Okaiontonhstra Iontennase_),
which may be rendered "Ancient Rites of the Condoling Council."
[Footnote: _Okaionlonhsera_ is a substantive derived from
_akaion_, old, or ancient. The termination _sera_ gives it an
abstract sense. "The antiquities," or rather "the ancientnesses," is the
nearest literal rendering which our language allows, _Iontennase_
is a verbal form, derived from _kitenre_ (in Bruyas,
_gentenron_), to pity, or sympathize with. It may be rendered "they
who sympathize," or "the condolers." Both, words, however, have acquired
a special meaning in their application to these ceremonies.] Among the
many councils, civil and religious, tribal and federal, in which the
public spirit and social temper of the Iroquois found their most
congenial and most popular mode of display, the Yondennase, the
Condoling (or Mourning) Council, held the highest rank. It was, in a
certain way, typical of the whole, and comprised the elements of all the
other councils. In its earlier form this council was not peculiar to the
Iroquois. We know, from the Jesuit reports, that it was the custom of
the Hurons to hold a public lamentation for the death of a chief, and at
the same time to appoint another who should take his place and assume
his name. But that which among the Hurons was merely a tribal custom
became, in the Iroquois form of government, an important institution,
essential to the maintenance of their state. By the ordinances of their
League, it was required that the number of their federal senate should
be maintained undiminished. On the death of one of its members, it was
the duty of the nation to which he belonged to notify the other nations
of the event, and of the time and place at which he would be lamented
and his successor installed. The notice was given in the usual manner,
by official messengers, who bore for credentials certain strings of
wampum, appropriate to the occasion. The place of meeting was commonly
the chief town of the nation which had suffered the loss. In this nation
a family council, under the presidency, and subject, indeed (as has been
shown), to the controlling decision, of the chief matron of the deceased
senator's kindred--usually his mother, if she survived him--was in the
meantime convened to select his successor. The selection must be
approved both by his clan and by his nation; but as their sentiments
were generally known beforehand, this approval was rarely
withheld. Indeed, the mischief resulting from an unsuitable choice was
always likely to be slight; for both the national council and the
federal senate had the right of deposing any member who was found
unqualified for the office.

At the appointed day the chiefs of the other nations approached the
place of meeting. A multitude of their people, men and women, usually
accompanied them, prepared to take part both in the exhibitions of grief
and in the festivities which always followed the installation of the new
councillor. The approaching chiefs halted when they reached the border
of the "opening," or cleared space surrounding the town. Here took place
the "preliminary ceremony," styled in the Book of Rites,
"_Deyughnyonkwarakda_," a word which means simply "at the edge of
the woods." At this point a fire was kindled, a pipe was lighted and
passed around with much formality, and an address of welcome was made by
the principal chief of the inviting nation. The topics of this address
comprised a singular mixture of congratulation and condolence, and seem
to have been prescribed forms, which had come down from immemorial
antiquity, as appropriate to the occasion.

The guests were then formally conducted--"led by the hand," as the Book
recites--to the Council House of the town. They seem, anciently at
least, to have advanced in the order of their clans. The towns belonging
to the Wolf clan were first enumerated--probably as the chiefs belonging
to them took their places--then the towns of the Tortoise clan (or
double clan, as it is styled), and finally those of the Bear clan. In
all, twenty-three towns are named. Five of them are expressly stated to
have been "added lately." The residue are supposed to be the names of
the towns in which the people of the Five Nations resided at the time
when the confederacy was formed, though this point is uncertain. That
few of these can now be identified, is what would naturally be
expected. It is well known that the Indians had the custom of removing
their towns from time to time, at intervals varying from ten to twenty
years, as the fuel in their neighborhood became exhausted, and as the
diminished crops under their primitive mode of agriculture showed the
need of fresher soil. Only those villages would be permanent whose
localities offered some special advantages, as fortresses, fishing
places, or harbors. [Footnote: See Appendix, note E.]

This list of towns has another peculiarity which arrests the
attention. It apparently comprises all the towns of the League, but
these are divided among only three clans, those of the Wolf, the
Tortoise and the Bear. The other clans of the confederacy are not once
named in the book. Yet there are indications which show that when the
list of chiefs which concludes the book was written, at a date long
after this list of towns was first recited, other clans existed in three
of the nations. This is an important point, which merits further
consideration. Those who have read the admirable account of the "League
of the Iroquois," by Morgan, and his philosophic work on "Ancient
Society," are aware that he has brought out and elucidated with much
clearness and force the nature and results of the remarkable clan system
which prevails among the North American Indians. It is not universal, as
it does not seem to be known among the widely scattered bands of the
Crees and the Athapascans, or among the Indians of Oregon. [Footnote:
See _Ancient Society_, pp. 167, 175, 177.] It was found, however,
among the great majority of tribes in the region north of Mexico and
east of the Rocky Mountains, and was sufficiently alike in all to
indicate a common origin. Mr. Morgan finds this origin in a kinship,
real or supposed, among the members of each clan. He considers the clan,
or gens, and not the single family, to be the natural unit of primitive
society. It is, in his view, a stage through which the human race passes
in its progress from the savage state to civilization. It is difficult,
however, to reconcile this theory with the fact that among some races,
as for example, the Polynesian and Feejeean, which are in precisely the
same stage of social advancement as the North American Indians, this
institution is unknown; and even among the Indians, as has been said, it
is not everywhere found. There are many indications which seem to show
that the system is merely an artificial arrangement, instituted for
social convenience. It is natural, in the sense that the desire for
association is natural to man. The sentiment is one which manifests
itself alike in all stages of society. The guilds of the middle ages,
the masonic and other secret brotherhoods, religious organizations,
trade unions, clubs, and even political parties, are all manifestations
of this associative instinct. The Indian clan was simply a brotherhood,
an aggregate of persons united by a common tie, sometimes of origin,
sometimes merely of locality. These brotherhoods were not permanent, but
were constantly undergoing changes, forming, dividing, coalescing,
vanishing. The names of many of them show their recent origin. The
Chicasas have a "Spanish clan." [Footnote: _Ancient Society_,
p. 163.] The Shawnees had a "Horse clan." [Footnote: Ibid, p. 168.] The
Iroquois, of Eastern Canada, made up of fragments of all the Five
Nations, had an "Onondaga clan," and an "Oneida clan." [Footnote:
Rotisennakete, and Rotinenhiotronon. See J. A. Cuoq, _Lexique de la
Langut Iroquoise_, p. 154. The proper meaning of these names will be
hereafter shown.] It is a curious fact that, as Mr. Morgan states, "the
Iroquois claim to have originated a division of the people into tribes
[clans or gentes] as a means of creating new relationships, to bind the
people more firmly together. It is further asserted by them that they
forced or introduced this social organization among the Cherokees, the
Chippeways (Massasaugas) and several other Indian nations, with whom, in
ancient times, they were in constant intercourse." "The fact," he adds,
"that this division of the people of the same nation into tribes does
not prevail generally among our Indian races, favors the assertions of
the Iroquois." [Footnote: _League of the Iroquois_, p. 91.]
Further inquiry and reflection led this distinguished investigator to
take a totally different view, and to go to what may be deemed the
opposite extreme of regarding this clan system as an essential stage in
the growth of human society.

There can be no question that an idea of kinship pervaded the clan
system, and was its ruling element. It may, in many instances, have been
purely imaginary and, so to speak, figurative, like the "brotherhood" of
our secret associations; but it was none the less efficacious and
binding. As the members of a clan regarded themselves as brothers and
sisters, marriages among them were not allowed. This led, of course, to
constant intermarriages between members of the different clans of which
a nation was composed, thus binding the whole nation together. What the
founders of the Iroquois League did was to extend this system of social
alliances through the entire confederacy. The Wolf clansman of the
Caniengas was deemed a brother of the Wolf clansman of the Senecas,
though originally there may have been no special connection between
them. It was a tie apparently artificial in its origin, as much so as
the tie which binds a freemason of Berlin to a freemason of New
Orleans. But it came to have all the strength of a tie of
kindred. Mr. Morgan has well pointed out the wisdom shown by the
Iroquois founders, in availing themselves of this powerful element of
strength in the formation of their federal constitution. [Footnote:
_League of the Iroquois_, p. 82, _et seq_.] Their government,
though politically a league of nations, was socially a combination of
clans. In this way Hiawatha and Dekanawidah may be deemed to have given
to the system of clan-ship an extension and a force which it had not
previously possessed; and it is by no means unlikely that this example
may, as the Iroquois assert, have acted upon neighboring nations, and
led to a gradual increase in the number and influence of these

But here a discrepancy presents itself in the Iroquois system, which has
perplexed all who have written on the subject. Two of the Six Nations,
the Caniengas and Oneidas, had only three clans, the Wolf, the Tortoise
and the Bear; while the others had, or at least have, each eight or
nine, and these variously styled in the different nations. The three
which have been named are, indeed, found in all; but besides these
three, the Onondagas have five, Deer, Eel, Beaver, Ball and Snipe. The
Cayugas and Senecas have also eight clans, which are similar to those of
the Onondagas, except that among the Cayugas the Ball clan is replaced
by the Hawk, and among the Senecas both Ball and Eel disappear, and are
replaced by Hawk and Heron. The Tuscaroras have likewise eight clans,
but among these are neither the Hawk, the Heron or the Ball. In lieu of
them the Wolf clan is divided into two, the Gray Wolf and the Yellow
Wolf, and the Tortoise furnishes two, the Great Tortoise and the Little
Tortoise; [Footnote: It is deserving of notice that this division of the
Tortoise clan seems to exist in a nascent form among the Onondagas. The
name of this clan is Hahnowa, which is the general word for tortoise;
but the clan is divided into two septs or subdivisions, the
Hanyatengona, or Great Tortoise, and the Nikahnowaksa, or Little
Tortoise, which together are held to constitute but one clan. How or why
the distinction is kept up I did not learn. In the Book of Rites the
Tortoise clan is also spoken of in the dual number--"the two clans of
the Tortoise." It is probable, therefore, that this partial subdivision
extended throughout the original Five Nations, and became complete among
the Tuscaroras.] the Bear, the Beaver, the Eel and the Snipe remain, as
among the Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas.

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

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

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

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

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

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