Monday, July 27, 2009

Mohawk Iroquois feared by French Settlers

In doing research for the Cummings-Genereaux family it was very apparent that all my relatives from early Canada lived in fear of the Iroquois Indians--so different than those relatives on my fathers side who married into the Mohawk tribes in the same time period The Mohawks arrived in what became to be known as the Mohawk Valley around 1575, before the Europeans came here. They consisted of only 5 nations, Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas and the "ancients" the Mohawks. Almost everyone knows the story of Longfellow's Hiawatha, this was based on the truth. Two Sachem's of the Mohawks met with the other chiefs of all the nations at Oneida Lake and formed the Iroquois Confederacy, which would become the dominate force in North East America. Its main purpose was to stop the tribes from fighting among there self, with a guarantee that they would not kill any one from the other tribe and would assist each other in further expansion They controlled all the land from Canada to Maine, along the Atlantic, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the great lakes area. There expansion was driven by the demand for Beaver pelts. The Dutch were in Albany early in the 1600's and became a allies of the Mohawks, trading the older models of fire arms and metal tools. The English who came a bit later took the same attitude toward the Mohawks, traded fair with them, even to help them in conquest they were making against tribes that the English were having trouble with. Even the Swiss were trading with the Delawares. When the French arrived it was a different mix. The Mohawks had for well over a hundred years fought the Algonquin and Huron nation and had been on the verge of driving them out of Canada. Samuel Champlain arrived and completely upset this, wanting to be friend;y with the natives to assure there protection for his trading post joined the Huron's in battle with a group of Mohawks, which took place on the lake that we call Champlain. He got off a lucky shot that killed two Mohawk chiefs -lucky for him but a tragedy for France. The Mohawks fled, but remembered.
They continued there attacks on the Huron and when the French villages were present burned them. then in 1615 Champlain joined a force of Huron's against the Oneida nation keepers of the western gate. this was more fuel to fire the hatred of the Huron and French. Now the Iroquois were more united and France was cut off from the beaver trade coming from the great lakes. So to stop the Iroquois raids on Kebec and Montreal Gov Tracy persuade Louis 14 King of France to send help which he did in the form of 1200 men of the Carignan-Salieres Regiment in the late 1665 period, it was mid winter before they had everyone converted to the Catholic religion, [non Catholic were not allowed to set foot on New France Soil, the officers and many of the men were Huguenots] and despite the weather 300 men of the Regiment with 200 volunteers made a sortie on the Mohawk valley, not equipped for winter weather and guides that got lost, it ended in terrible loss of men and equipment some Jesuit records indicate only 200 men returned, and these were saved by the Dutch who fed and clothed them at Schenectady. The loss of equipment gave the Mohawks access to the best fire arms available, up until this time they only had weapons that the Dutch traded to them. This was like throwing stones at the bee hive, the Mohawk Iroquois while only about 600 strong launched new waves of terror on the French, again in fall of 1666 Tracy led 1200 men with two field cannon, against this powerful Iroquois's nation they attacked and burned 4 Indian Castles, but the 600 or so Mohawks, men women and children, gathered up there possessions and moved into the forest, so no one was harmed, The wood Palisades and bark covered houses were burned. The French returned to Canada victoriously and the Iroquois with the help from the Dutch rebuilt there castles, the main or upper castle was Ti-on-non-to-gen. this was located on North side of the Mohawk river on the site of the present village of Nelliston, New York. Started in 1666 hurriedly finished by 1669 with the help of the Dutch Settlers. This was a very large castle or village , double Palisades enclosing some 30 long house ranging from 20 to 200 ft long. with a total population of about 300 of the "Wolf" clan. They would live here for some 20 years before moving again to Wagner's Hallow. A move they made about every 20 years

A tribe of only about 600 at its strongest point controlled the Iroquois confederation and this group stopped the French expansion and eventually made it to costly to continue their colonization of the new world. The Confederacy was weakened in the American Revolution when the Mohawk remained loyal to England and the Seneca's and Oneida Nations remained with the colonist.

I was very lucky as a young boy , my parents owned a house in Nelliston, New York when my dad would spade the garden in the spring and prepared it for planting I was allowed to pick up and save all the pieces of pottery, pipe stems and broken bone that were in the garden. For years these were in Cigar boxes in the garage, just curious items to a 8 or 9 year old, - oh how I wish I still had them. Apparently our garden was within the old village site of Ti-on-non-to-gen upper village of the Mohawk.
Having been born and lived in the Mohawk Valley I can understand why the Mohawks fought so hard to control it, the river furnished fish, surrounding forest gave then Venison, small game, and Maple sugar, the rich river soil furnished an abundance of the three sisters Corn, Beans, Squash. Of all the tribes the Mohawks were no doubt the best nourished and that might have been key to there physical ability to lead the other tribes.


Rosebud Collection said...

Another wonderful read. You know, my mom's family had an Indian burial ground on their farm in Southold, L.I.,N.Y..
You are doing a wonderful job with your research..What work..
Have a good weekend.

Ron Roscoe said...

What happened to the marriage of Etienne Racine to Abraham Martin's daughter Margarite.