The Iroquois Book of Rites
Horatio Hale

Part 3 out of 5

So much is to be said here, and the Hymn is to be sung again, and then
he is to go on and walk about in the house again, saying as follows:

"Hail, my grandsires! Now hear, therefore, what they did--all the rules
they decided on, which they thought would strengthen the House. Hail, my
grandsires! this they said: 'Now we have finished; we have performed
the rites; we have put on the horns.'

"Now again another thing they considered, and this they said: 'Perhaps
this will happen. Scarcely shall we have arrived at home when a loss
will occur again.' They said, 'This, then, shall be done. As soon as he
is dead, even then the horns shall be taken off. For if invested with
horns he should be borne into the grave,' oh, my grandsires, they said,
'we should perhaps all perish if invested with horns he is conveyed to
the grave.'

"Then again another thing they determined, oh my grandsires! 'This,'
they said, 'will strengthen the House.' They said, if any one should be
murdered and [the body] be hidden away among fallen trees by reason of
the neck being white, then you have said, this shall be done. We will
place it by the wall in the shade."

25. "Now again you considered and you said: 'It is perhaps not well that
we leave this here, lest it should be seen by our grandchildren; for
they are troublesome, prying into every crevice. People will be startled
at their returning in consternation, and will ask what has happened that
this (corpse) is lying here; because they will keep on asking until they
find it out. And they will at once be disturbed in mind, and that again
will cause us trouble.'"

26. "Now again they decided, and said: 'This shall be done. We will pull
up a pine tree--a lofty tree--and will make a hole through the
earth-crust, and will drop this thing into a swift current which will
carry it out of sight, and then never will our grandchildren see it

27. "Now again another thing they decided, and thought, this will
strengthen the House. They said: 'Now we have finished; we have
performed the rites. Perhaps presently it will happen that a loss will
occur amongst us. Then this shall be done. We will suspend a pouch upon
a pole, and will place in it some mourning wampum--some short
strings--to be taken to the place where the loss was suffered. The
bearer will enter, and will stand by the hearth, and will speak a few
words to comfort those who will be mourning; and then they will be
comforted, and will conform to the great law.'"

28. "Now, then, thou wert the principal of this Confederacy,
Dekanawidah, with the joint principal, his son, Odadsheghte; and then
again _his_ uncle, Wathadodarho; and also again _his_ son,
Akahenyonh; and again _his_ uncle, Kanyadariyu; and then again
_his_ cousin, Shadekaronyes; and then in later times additions were
made to the great edifice."

* * * * *

29. Now listen, ye who established the Great League. Now it has become
old. Now there is nothing but wilderness. Ye are in your graves who
established it. Ye have taken it with you, and have placed it under you,
and there is nothing left but a desert. There ye have taken your
intellects with you. What ye established ye have taken with you. Ye have
placed under your heads what ye established--the Great League.

30. Now, then, hearken, ye who were rulers and founders: [Footnote: The
names in this version are in the orthography of John Buck's MS.]

Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
That was the roll of you,
You who were joined in the work,
You who completed the work,
The Great League.

31. Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
That was the roll of you,
You who were joined in the work,
You who completed the work,
The Great League.

32. Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
That was the roll of you,
You who were joined in the work,
You who completed the work,
The Great League.

33. Ye two were principals,
Father and son,
Ye two completed the work,
The Great League.
Ye two aided each other,
Ye two founded the House.
Now, therefore, hearken!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
That was the roll of you,
You who were joined in the work,
You who completed the work,
The Great League.

34. Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
That was the roll of you,
You who were joined in the work,
You who completed the work,
The Great League.

35. Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
That was the roll of you,
You who were joined in the work,
You who completed the work,
The Great League.

36. These were his uncles:
Now hearken!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
These were the cousins:
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
These were as brothers thenceforth:
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
Continue to listen!
Thou who wert ruler,
That was the roll of you!

37. Then his son:
He is the great Wolf.
There were combined
The many minds!
That was the roll of you.

38. These were his uncles,
Of the two clans:
That was the roll of them!

39. These were as brothers thenceforth:
This was the roll of you.

40. This befell
In ancient times.
They had their children,
Those the two clans.
He the high chief,
This put away the clouds:
He was a war chief;
He was a high chief--
Acting in either office:
This was the roll of you!

41. Then his son,
With his brother,
This was the roll of you!

This was the roll of you!

43. Then they who are brothers:
This was the roll of you.

This was the roll of you!

45. Then his uncle,
With his cousin,
This was the roll of you!

With his cousin,
This was the roll of you!

With his cousin,--then
This was the roll of you!

48. Then, in later times,
They made additions
To the great mansion.
These were at the doorway,
They who were cousins,
These two guarded the doorway:
With his cousin,
This was the roll of you!

49. Now we are dejected
In our minds.



[Originally presented as one page Onandaga, followed by one page
English translation. This is confusing in electronic texts, so have
changed it here to be the complete Onandaga text followed by the
complete English translation.]

[*** Original used ' ' for syllable breaks and ' ' (two spaces) for word
breaks. Changed to '-' for syllable breaks and a single space for word

1. a. Yo o-nen o-nen wen-ni-sr-te o-nen wa-ge-ho-gar-a-nyat
ne-tha-non-ni-sr-son-tar-yen na-ya-ne o-shon-tar-gon-go-nar
nen-tis-no-war-yen na-ye-ti-na gar-weear-har-tye ne swih-ar-gen-ahr
ne-tho-se hen-ga-ho-gar-a-nyat nen-tha-o-ta-gen-he-tak
ne-tho-har-ten-gar-ton-ji-yar-hon-on nar-ye-en-gwa-wen-ne-kentar
ne-ten-gon-nen-tar-hen na-a-yen-tar.

1. b. Tar onon na-on-gen shis-gis-war-tha-en-ton-tye na
on-gwr-non-sen-shen-tar-qua nar-te-har-yar-ar-qui-nar
nan-gar-wen-ne-srh-ha-yo-ton-har-ye nen-gar-nen-ar-ta
ho-ti-sgen-ar-ga-tar nen-o-ne gar-nen-ar-ti kon-hon-wi-sats nen-o-ni
tar-ga-non-tye na on-quar-sat-har nen-o hon-tar-gen-hi-se-non-tye nen-o
wen-gr-ge go-yar-da-nen-tar-hon nen-tho nr-ta-war ta-har-yar-ar-qui-nar
nen-gar-wen-ne-sar han-yo-ton-hr-tye tar o-nen-ti
tya-quar-wen-ne-gen-har nen-a-shen ne-yar-quar-tar-ta-gen.

1. c. O-nen-ti-a-wen-hen nar-ya-he-yr-genh thar-ne-ho-ti-e-quar-te
nen-on-quar-noh-shen-ta-qua nen-o on-qua-jas-harn-ta-qua
nar-ye-gen-na-ho-nen nar-ye-na te-was-hen nen-ne-gon-hi-war na-tho
na-ho-te-yen-nen-tar-e tar-day-was-shen nen-ne-yo-e-wa
na-ar-wen-ha-yo-dar-ge nen-on-quar-twen-non-ty o-nen en-hen-wa-yar-shon
nen-nat-ho-on-ne-yar-quar-ya-ar nen-a-shen ne-yar-quar-tar-te-ken.

1. d. O-nen-ti-eh-o-yar nen-ton-ta-yar-quar-wen-ni-ken-ar
nar-ya-hi-yar-gen na-ar-quar-ton sis-jih-wa-tha-en-ton-tye o-yar-na
son-quar-yo-ten-se-nar tar-nr-ye-ti-na hon-sar-ho-har-we-ti-har-tye
nen-qr-nen-hr-te ho-ti-sken-ar-ga-tar nen-o-ne gar-nen-har-te
gon-thon-we-sas on-sar-ho-na-tar-que-har-tye nar-ya-har-tes-gar-no-wen
na o-nen na-en-gar-ya-tye-nen-har nen-war-thon-wi-sas ar-ques-sis-jit
nar-te-yo-nen-ha-ase en-war-nten-har-wat-tha nen-on-quar-ta-shar o-nen
o-yar-nen-eh-te-ge-non-tyes on-quar-te-shar nr-ya-o-ne
sar-o-har-we-ti-har-tye o-nen o-yar nens-o-ni-ta-gen-hi-se-non-tyes
o-wen-gar-ge ga-yr-tr-nen-tak-hon ne-tho nr-te-war

I. e. O-nen ty-a on-yar ta-ya-quar-wen-ne-ken-har nen-a-sen
ne-yar-quar-tar-te-gen o-nen-ty ton-tar-wen-ten-eh nen-o-nen
thon-tar-yar-tyar-ton-tye nen-wa-gon-yon-wenjar-nan-har tar-o-nen
ha-o-yar nen-ta-yo-quar-wen-ne-ken-e-har-tye. O-nen-te-ar-wen-han o-nen
war-quar-de-yen-non-nyar-hen na-shar-non-wa nr-o-tas-are-quar-hen-ten
o-nen wa-tya-quar-ha-tar-wen-ya-hon nen-ar-o-ar-shon-ar
nen-tar-yon-quar-ty ne-tho hon-ne-yar-quar-ya-ar nen-ar-shen

2. O-nen-ti-eh-o-yar nen-ton-tar-yar-quar-wen-ne-ken-har
nen-o-son-tar-gon-go-nar nen-ti-sno-war-gen. O-nen-ti
ton-sar-gon-en-nya-eh-tha ar-guas hi-yar-ga-tha te-jo-ge-grar O-nen-ti
sar-gon-ar-gwar-nen-tak-ten sken-nen-gink-ty then-skar-ar-tayk. O-nen
en-gar-ar-qui-ken-nha ne-tho tens-shar-ar-tyen. O-nen
yo-nen-tyon-ha-tye. Ar-ghwas ten-yo-ten-har-en-ton-nyon-ne. Ne-tho
tens-gar-ar-tye a-ghwas sken-non-jis ten-yo-yar-neh ne onen
en-gr-ar-gwen-har o-ty-nen-yar-wen-har hen-jo-har-ten-har
sar-ne-gon-are. Ne-tho han-ne-yar-gwar-ya-ar nen-ar-sen

3. O-nen-ti-ch-o-yar nen-ton-ta-yar-quar-wen-ne-ken-har. O-nen-nen-ti
war-tyar-war-see-har-an-qua te-shar-hon-tar-gar-en-tar
nen-they-yon-tar-ge-har-te nen-te-sar-nar-ton-ken hon-ne-ty
ar-war-na-gen-tar wen-jar-wa-gar ha-e nar-ya-har ten-skar-har-we-tar-han
nen-o-ge-gwr-en-yone nen-tye-sar-nar-ton-ken o-ty-nen-yar-wen-har
nen-en-jo-har-ten-ar sar-ne-gon-are ne-tho hon-ne-yar-war-ya-ar
nen-a-sen ne-yar-quar-tar-te-kenh.

4. O-nen-ti-eh-o-yar nen-ton-tar-yr-quar-wen-ne-ken-tye hon-nen
ton-sar-war-kon-ha-jar-ha-jan nen-they-gar-kon-ha-shon-ton-har-tye
hon-nen-ti nen-sar-kon-ge-ter-yen-has hon-nen-oni
nen-ton-sar-gon-nen-ha-tieh o-nen o-tieh-nen-yar-wen-har
nen-en-jo-har-tyen-har sar-ne-gon-are ne-tho hon-ne-yar-quar-yar-ar
nen-a-sen ne-yar-qwr-tar-te-kenh.

5. O-nen-ti-eh-o-yar nen-ton-tar-yar-qwar-wen-ne-ken-har
nar-ya-ti-ar-wen-han nen-tar-ehe-tar-nen-jar-tar-ti-war-ten
nen-ton-gar-ke-sen nen-na-hon-yar-na on-har-wen-ne-gen-tar nar-ya-na
sar-hon-ta-je-wants as-kar-we ar-san-nen-sen-wen-hat ne-tho o-ni
nis-nen-yar-wen-hon-sken-are-gen-tar hor-go-war-nen-nen-hon-yar-na
an-har-wen-ne-gen-tar are-we ar-sen-nen-sun-sar-wen-hat ne-tho
on-ne-yar-quar-ya-ar nen-ar-sen ne-yr-qwar-tr-ta-kenh.

6. O-nen-ti-eh-o-yar nen-ton-tar-yar-quar-wen-ne-ken-hr
nar-ye-ti-na-ar-wen-han nen-an-har-ya-tye-nen-har nen-na-hon-yar-na
nr-ya-ti-nar nen-ne-yo-sar-tar ken-yar-tar nen-ji-gar-han
nen-ta-hon-gren-tar wi-nar-na-ge-ne-yo-snon-wa
nen-o-yar-en-sar-tyar-tar-nyar-ten a-ren ne-tho one-yar-qwar-yaar
nen-ar-sen ne-yr-quar-tar-te-kenh.

7. O-nen-ti-eh-o-yar nen-ton-tr-yar-quar-wen-ne-ken-har
nr-ya-ti-ar-wen-han sar-gon-nr-tar-eh-ya-tars nen-gr-nr-gar-yon-ne-ta-ar
nen-jar-ne-qr-nar-sis-ah nen ne-tho war-ar-guar-sins-tar
na-tho-ti-an-sar-wa nen-thon-gr-gey-san e-his-an-skas-gen-nen one-ha-yat
nen-war-o-yan-quar-a-ton-on-tye nen-yar-gar-ker ta-gr-nr-squaw-ya-an-ne
ne-tho on-ne-yar-quar-ya-ar nen-ar-sen ne-yar-quar-ta-te-kenh.

7. b. Tar-o-nen sar-gon-yan-nen-tar-ah tar-o-nen-ti ton-tar-ken-yar-tas.



I. a. Now--now this day--now I come to your door where you are mourning
in great darkness, prostrate with grief. For this reason we have come
here to mourn with you. I will enter your door, and come before the
ashes, and mourn with you there; and I will speak these words to comfort

I. b. Now our uncle has passed away, he who used to work for all, that
they might see the brighter days to come,--for the whole body of
warriors and also for the whole body of women, and also the children
that were running around, and also for the little ones creeping on the
ground, and also those that are tied to the cradle-boards; for all these
he used to work that they might see the bright days to come. This we
say, we three brothers.

I. c. Now the ancient lawgivers have declared--our uncles that are gone,
and also our elder brothers--they have said, it is worth twenty--it was
valued at twenty--and this was the price of the one who is dead. And we
put our words on it (_i.e._ the wampum), and they recall his
name--the one that is dead. This we say and do, we three brothers.

I. d. Now there is another thing we say, we younger brothers. He who has
worked for us has gone afar off; and he also will in time take with him
all these--the whole body of warriors and also the whole body of
women--they will go with him. Rut it is still harder when the woman
shall die, because with her the line is lost. And also the grandchildren
and the little ones who are running aruund--these he will take away; and
also those that are creeping on the ground, and also those that are on
the cradle-boards; all these he will takeaway with him.

1. e. Now then another thing we will say, we three brothers. Now you
must feel for us; for we came here of our own good-will--came to your
door that we might say this. And we will say that we will try to do you
good. When the grave has been made, we will make it still better. We
will adorn it, and cover it with moss. We will do this, we three

2. Now another thing we will say, we younger brothers. You are mourning
in the deep darkness. I will make the sky clear for you, so that you
will not see a cloud. And also I will give the sun to shine upon you, so
that you can look upon it peacefully when it goes down: You shall see it
when it is going. Yea! the sun shall seem to be hanging just over you,
and you shall look upon it peacefully as it goes down. Now I have hope
that you will yet see the pleasant days. This we say and do, we three

3. Now then another thing we say, we younger brothers. Now we will open
your ears, and also your throat, for there is something that has been
choking you and we will also give you the water that shall wash down all
the troubles in your throat. We shall hope that after this your mind
will recover its cheerfulness. This we say and do, we three brothers.

4. Now then there is another thing we say, we younger brothers. We will
now remake the fire, and cause it to burn again. And now you can go out
before the people, and go on with your duties and your labors for the
people. This we say and do, we three brothers.

5. Now also another thing we say, we younger brothers. You must
converse with your nephews; and if they say what is good, you must
listen to it. Do not cast it aside. And also if the warriors should say
anything that is good, do not reject it. This we say, we three brothers.

6. Now then another thing we say, we younger brothers. If any one
should fall--it may be a principal chief will fall and descend into the
grave--then the horns shall be left on the grave, and as soon as
possible another shall be put in his place. This we say, we three

7. Now another thing we say, we younger brothers. We will gird the belt
on you, with the pouch, and the next death will receive the pouch,
whenever you shall know that there is death among us, when the fire is
made and the smoke is rising. This we say and do, we three brothers.

7. b. Now I have finished. Now show me the man! [Footnote: _i. e._,
"Point out to me the man whom I am to proclaim as chief, in place of the


* * * * *

The meaning of the general title, _Okayondonghsera Yondennase_, has
been already explained (Introduction, p. 48). In the sub-title, the word
_oghentonh_ is properly an adverb, meaning firstly, or
foremost. This title might be literally rendered. "First the ceremony,
'At-the-wood's-edge' they call it."

1. The chiefs, in their journey to the place of meeting, are supposed to
have passed the sites of many deserted towns, in which councils had
formerly been held. Owing to the frequent removals of their villages,
such deserted sites were common in the Iroquois country. The speaker who
welcomes the arriving guests supposes that the view of these places had
awakened in their minds mournful recollections.

_Desawennawenrate_, "thy voice coming over." This word is explained
in the Glossary. It is in the singular number. According to the Indian
custom, the speaker regards himself as representing the whole party for
whom he speaks, and he addresses the leader of the other party as the
representative and embodiment of all who come with him. Throughout the
speeches "I" and "thou" are used in the well understood sense of "we"
and "ye." In like manner, tribes and nations are, as it were,
personified. A chief, speaking for the Onondagas, will say, "I (that is,
my nation) am angry; thou (the Delaware people) hast done wrong." This
style of bold personification is common in the scriptures. Moses warns
the Israelites: "Thou art a stiff-necked people." "Oh my people!"
exclaims Isaiah; "they which lead thee cause thee to err."

2. _Denighroghkwayen_, "let us two smoke." This word is in the dual
number, the two parties, the hosts and the guests, being each regarded
as one individual.

The difficulties and dangers which in the early days of the confederacy
beset the traveler in threading his way through the forest, from one
Indian nation to another, are vividly described in this section. The
words are still employed by their speakers as an established form,
though they have ceased to have any pertinence to their present

3. _Alnuah deyakonakarondon_, "yea, of chiefs,"--literally, "yea,
having horns." The custom of wearing horns as part of the head-dress of
a chief has been long disused among the Iroquois; but the idiom remains
in the language, and the horns, in common parlance, indicate the chief,
as the coronet suggests the nobleman in England. Among the western
Indians, as is well known, the usage still survives. "No one," says
Catlin, "wears the head-dress surmounted with horns except the
dignitaries who are very high in authority, and whose exceeding valor,
worth, and power are admitted by all." These insignia of rank are, he
adds, only worn on special and rare occasions, as in meeting embassies,
or at warlike parades or other public festivals, or sometimes when a
chief sees fit to lead a war-party to battle. [Footnote: _Letters and
Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American
Indians._ By George Catlin; p. 172.] The origin of the custom is
readily understood. The sight, frequent enough in former days, of an
antlered stag leading a herd of deer would be quite sufficient to
suggest to the quick apprehension of the Indian this emblem of authority
and pre-eminence.

5. _Sathaghyortnighson_, "thou who art of the Wolf clan." The clan
is addressed in the singular number, as one person. It is deserving of
notice that the titles of clan-ship used in the language of ceremony are
not derived from the ordinary names of the animals which give the clans
their designations. _Okwatho_ is wolf, but a man of the Wolf clan
is called _Tahionni_,--or, as written in the text,
_Taghyonni_. In ordinary speech, however, the expression
_rokwaho_, "he is a Wolf," might be used.

The English renderings of the names in the list of towns are those which
the interpreters finally decided upon. In several instances they doubted
about the meaning, and in some cases they could not suggest an
explanation. Either the words are obsolete, or they have come down in
such a corrupt form that their original elements and purport cannot be
determined. As regards the sites of the towns, see the Appendix, Note E.

6. _Deyako-larakeh ranyaghdenghshon_,--"the two clans of the
Tortoise." Respecting the two sub-gentes into which the Tortoise clan
was divided, see _ante_, p. 53. _Anowara_ is the word for
tortoise, but _raniahten_ (or, in the orthography of the text,
_ranyaghdengh_) signifies, "he is of the Tortoise clan."

7. _Jadadeken roskerewake_, "thy brother of the Bear clan."
_Okwari_ is bear, but _roskerewake_ signifies "he is of the
Bear clan." _Rokwari_, "he is a Bear," might, however, be used with
the same meaning.

8. _Onghwa kehaghshonha_, "now recently." It is possible that
_onghwa_ is here written by mistake for _orighwa_. The word
_orighwakayongh_, which immediately follows, signifies "in ancient
times," and the corresponding word _orighwake-haghshonha_ would be
"in younger times." The period in which these additions were made,
though styled recent, was probably long past when the "Book of Rites"
was committed to writing; otherwise many towns which are known to have
existed at the latter date would have been added to the list. In fact,
the words with which the catalogue of towns closes--"these were the
clans in ancient times,"--seem to refer these later additions, along
with the rest, back to a primitive era of the confederacy.

9. _Rawenniyo raweghniseronnyh_, "God has appointed this day," or,
literally, "God makes this day." In these words are probably found the
only trace of any modification of the Book of Rites caused by the
influence of the white visitors and teachers of the modern Iroquois. As
the very fact that the book was written in the alphabet introduced by
the missionaries makes us certain that the person who reduced it to
writing had been under missionary instruction, it might be deemed
surprising that more evidences of this influence are not apparent. It is
probable, however, that the conservative feeling of the Council would
have rejected any serious alterations in their ancient forms. It seems
not unlikely that David of Schoharie--or whoever was the penman on this
occasion--may have submitted his work to his missionary teacher, and
that in deference to his suggestion a single interpolation of a
religious cast, to which no particular objection could be made, was
allowed to pass.

The word _Rawenniyo_, as is well known, is the term for God which
was adopted by the Catholic missionaries. It is, indeed, of
Huron-Iroquois origin, and may doubtless have been occasionally employed
from the earliest times as an epithet proper for a great divinity. Its
origin and precise meaning are explained in the Appendix, Note B. The
Catholic missionaries appropriated it as the special name of the Deity,
and its use in later times is probably to be regarded as an evidence of
Christian influence. That the sentence in which it occurs in the text is
probably an interpolation, is shown by the fact that the words which
precede this sentence are repeated, with a slight change, immediately
after it. Having interjected this pious expression, the writer seems to
have thought it necessary to resume the thread of the discourse by going
back to the phrase which had preceded it. It will be observed that the
religious sentiment proper to the Book of Rites appears to us confined
to expressions of reverence for the great departed, the founders of the
commonwealth. This circumstance, however should not be regarded as
indicating that the people were devoid of devotional feeling of another
kind. Their frequent "thanksgiving festivals" afford sufficient evidence
of the strength of this sentiment; but they apparently considered its
display out of place in their political acts.

15. _Nene karcnna_, "the song," or "hymn." The purport of this
composition is explained in the Introduction (_ante_,
p. 62). Before the Book of Rites came into my possession I had often
heard the hymn repeated, or sung, by different individuals, in slightly
varying forms. The Onondaga version, given me on the Syracuse
Reservation, contains a line, "_Negwiyage teskenonhenhne_" which is
not found in the Canienga MS. It is rendered "I come to greet the
children." The affection of the Indians for their children, which is
exhibited in various passages of the Book, is most apparent in the
Onondaga portion.

_Kayanerenh_. This word is variously rendered,--"the peace," "the
law," and "the league," (see _ante_, p. 33). Here it evidently
stands for _Kayancrenhkowa_, "the Great Peace," which is the name
usually given by the Kanonsionni to their league, or federal

_Deskenonghweronne_, or in the modern French orthography,
_teskenonhweronne_, "we come to greet and thank," is a good example
of the comprehensive force of the Iroquois tongue. Its root is
_nonhwe_, or _nanwe_, which is found in _kenonhws_, I
love, like, am pleased with--the initial syllable _ke_ being the
first personal pronoun. In the frequentative form this becomes
_kenonhweron_, which has the meaning of "I salute and thank," i.e.,
I manifest by repeated acts my liking or gratification. The _s_
prefixed to this word is the sign of the reiterative form:
_skenonhweron_, "_again_ I greet and thank." The terminal
syllable _ne_ and the prefixed _te_ are respectively the signs
of the motional and the cislocative forms,--"I _come hither_ again
to greet and thank." A word of six syllables, easily pronounced (and in
the Onondaga dialect reduced to five) expresses fully and forcibly the
meaning for which eight not very euphonious English words are
required. The notion that the existence of these comprehensive words in
an Indian language, or any other, is an evidence of deficiency in
analytic power, is a fallacy which was long ago exposed by the clear and
penetrative reasoning of Duponceau, the true father of American
philology. [Footnote: See the admirable Preface to his translation of
Zeisberger's Delaware Grammar, p. 94.] As he has well explained,
analysis must precede synthesis. In fact, the power of what may be
termed analytic synthesis,--the mental power which first resolves words
or things into their elements, and then puts them together in new
forms,--is a creative or co-ordinating force, indicative of a higher
natural capacity than the act of mere analysis. The genius which framed
the word _teskenonhweronne_ is the same that, working with other
elements, produced the steam-engine and the telephone.

_Ronkeghsota jivathondek_. Two translations of this verse were
given by different interpreters. One made it an address to the people:
"My forefathers--hearken to them!" i.e., listen to the words of our
forefathers, which I am about to repeat. The other considered the verse
an invocation to the ancestors themselves. "My forefathers! hearken ye!"
The words will bear either rendering, and either will be consonant with
the speeches which follow.

The lines of this hymn have been thus cast into the metre of
Longfellow's "Hiawatha:"--

"To the great Peace bring we greeting!
To the dead chiefs kindred, greeting!
To the warriors round him, greeting!
To the mourning women, greeting!
These our grandsires' words repeating,
Graciously, O grandsires, hear us!"

16. _Enyonghdentyonko kanonghsakonghshen_,-"he will walk to and fro
in the house." In councils and formal receptions it is customary for the
orator to walk slowly to and fro during the intervals of his
speech. Sometimes, before beginning his address, he makes a circuit of
the assembly with a meditative aspect, as if collecting his
thoughts. All public acts of the Indians are marked with some sign of

21. _Eghnikonh enyerighwawetharho kenthoh_,--"thus they will close
the ceremony here." The address to the forefathers, which is mainly an
outburst of lamentation over the degeneracy of the times, is here
concluded. It would seem, from what follows, that at this point the
candidate for senatorial honors is presented to the council, and is
formally received among them, with the usual ceremonies, which were too
well known to need description. The hymn is then sung again, and the
orator proceeds to recite the ancient laws which the founders of their
confederacy established.

22. _Watidewennakarondonnyon_, "we have put on the horns;" in other
words, "we have invested the new chief with the ensigns of office,"--or,
more briefly, "we have installed him." The latter is the meaning as at
present understood; but it is probable that, in earlier days, the
panoply of horns was really placed on the head of the newly inducted

23. _Aghsonh denvakokwanentonghsacke_, etc., "as soon as he is dead"
(or, according to another rendering, "when he is just dying") the horns
shall be taken off. The purport and object of this law are set forth in
the Introduction, p.67.

24. _Ne nayakoghstonde ne nayeghnyasakenradake,_ "by reason of the neck
being white." The law prescribed in this section to govern the
proceedings of the Council in the case of homicide has been explained in
the Introduction, p. 68. The words now quoted, however, introduce a
perplexity which cannot be satisfactorily cleared up. The aged chief,
John S. Johnson, when asked their meaning, was only able to say that
neither he nor his fellow councillors fully understood it. They repeated
in council the words as they were written in the book, but in this case,
as in some others, they were not sure of the precise significance or
purpose of what they said. Some of them thought that their ancestors,
the founders, had foreseen the coming of the white people, and wished to
advise their successors against quarreling with their future
neighbors. If this injunction was really implied in the words, we must
suppose that they were an interpolation of the Christian chief, David of
Schoharie, or possibly of his friend Brant. They do not, however, seem
to be, by any means, well adapted to convey this meaning. The
probability is that they are a modern corruption of some earlier phrase,
whose meaning had become obsolete. They are repeated by the chiefs in
council, as some antiquated words in the authorized version of the
scriptures are read in our own churches, with no clear
comprehension--perhaps with a total misconception--of their original

27. _Enjonkwanekheren_, "we shall lose some one," or, more
literally, we shall fail to know some person. This law, which is fully
explained in the Introduction, p. 70, will be found aptly exemplified in
the Onondaga portion of the text, where the speeches of the "younger
brothers" are evidently framed in strict compliance with the injunctions
here given.

28. _Jadakweniyu_. This word, usually rendered "ruler," appears to
mean "principal person," or perhaps originally a "very powerful person."
It is a compound word, formed apparently from _oyata_, body or
person, _kakwennion_, to be able, and the adjective termination
_iyu_ or _iyo_, in its original sense of "great." (See
Appendix, Note B.) M. Cuoq, in his Iroquois Lexicon, defines the verb
_kiatakwenniyo_ as meaning "to be the important personage, the
first, the principal, the president." It corresponds very nearly to the
Latin _princeps_, and, as applied in the following litany to the
fifty great hereditary chiefs of the Iroquois, might fairly enough be
rendered "prince."

_Kanonghsyonny_, in modern orthography, _Kanonsionni_. For the
origin and meaning of this word, and an explanation of the following
section, see the Introduction, p. 75.

_Yejodenaghstahhere kanaghsdajikowah_, lit., "they added
frame-poles to the great framework." Each of these compounds comprises
the word _kanaghsta_, which is spelt by Bruyas, _gannasta_,
and defined by him, "poles for making a cabin,--the inner one, which is
bent to form the frame of a cabin." The reference in these words is to
the Tuscaroras, Tuteloes, Nanticokes, and other tribes, who were
admitted into the confederacy after its first formation. From a
manuscript book, written in the Onondaga dialect, which I found at
"Onondaga Castle," in September, 1880, I copied a list of the fifty
councillors, which closed with the words, "_shotinastasonta
kanastajikona Ontaskaeken_"--literally, "they added a frame-pole to
the great framework, the Tuscarora nation."

29. _Onenh jathondek, sewarihwisaanonghkwe Kayanerenghkowa,_--"now
listen, ye who completed the work, the Great League." This section,
though written continuously as prose, was probably always sung, like the
list of chiefs which follows. It is, in fact, the commencement of a
great historical chant, similar in character to the 78th Psalm, or to
some passages of the Prophets, which in style it greatly resembles. In
singing this portion, as also in the following litany to the chiefs, the
long-drawn exclamation of _hai_, or _haihhaih_, is frequently
introduced. In the MS. book referred to in the last note, the list of
councillors was preceded by a paragraph, written like prose, but with
many of these interjections interspersed through it. The interpreter,
Albert Cusick, an intelligent and educated man, assured me that this was
a song, and at my request he chanted a few staves of it, after the
native fashion. The following are the words of this hymn, arranged as
they are sung. It will be seen that it is a sort of cento or
compilation, in the Onondaga dialect, of passages from various portions
of the Canienga Book of Rites, and chiefly from the section (29) now
under consideration:--

_ Haihhaih!_ Woe! Woe!
_Jiyathonick!_ Hearken ye!
_Xivonkliti!_ We are diminished!
_ Haihhaih!_ Woe! Woe!
_Tejoskawayenton._ The cleared land has become a thicket.
_ Haihhaih! _ Woe! Woe!
_Skakentahenyon._ The clear places are deserted.
_ Hai!_ Woe!
_Shatyherarta--_ They are in their graves--
_Hotyiwisahongwe--_ They who established it--
_ Hai!_ Woe!
_Kayaneengoha._ The great League.
_Netikenen honen_ Yet they declared
_Nene kenyoiwatatye--_ It should endure--
_Kayaneengowane._ The great League.
_ Hai!_ Woe!
_Wakaiwakayonnheha._ Their work has grown old.
_ Hai!_ Woe!
_Netho watyongwententhe._ Thus we are become miserable.

The closing word is the same as the Canienga _watyonkwentendane_,
which is found in the closing section of the Canienga book. The lines of
the Onondaga hymn which immediately precede this concluding word will be
found in Section 20 of that book, a section which is probably meant to
be chanted. It will be noticed that the lines of this hymn fall
naturally into a sort of parallelism, like that of the Hebrew chants.

30. _Dekarihaokenh_, or _Tehkarihhoken_. In John Buck's MS.
the list of chiefs is preceded by the words "_Nene Tehadirihoken_,"
meaning the Caniengas, or, literally, "the Tekarihokens." For an
explanation of this idiom and name, see _ante_, p. 77.

_Ayonhwahtha_, or _Hayeirwatha_. This name, which, as
Hiawatha, is now familiar to us as a household word, is rendered "He who
seeks the wampum belt." Chief George Johnson thought it was derived from
_oyonwa_, wampum-belt, and _ratiehwatha_, to look for
something, or, rather, to seem to seek something which we know where to
find. M. Cuoq refe/s the latter part of the word to the verb
_katha_, to make. [Footnote: Lexique de la Langue Iroquois,
p. 161] The termination _atha_ is, in this sense, of frequent
occurrence in Iroquois compounds. The name would then mean "He who makes
the wampum-belt," and would account for the story which ascribes to
Hiawatha the invention of wampum. The Senecas, in whose language the
word _oyonwa_ has ceased to exist, have corrupted the name to
_Hayowentha_, which they render "he who combs." This form of the
name has also produced its legend, which is referred to elsewhere
(p. 87). Hiawatha "combed the snakes out of Atotarho's head," when he
brought that redoubted chief into the confederacy.

_Shatekariwalf_, "two equal statements," or "two things equal."
This name is derived-from _sate_ or _shate_, equal, and
_kariwa_, or _karihwa_, for which see the Glossary.

_Etho natejonhne_, "this was your number," or, this was the extent
of your class. These words, or the similar form, _etho
natehadinhne_, "this was their number," indicate apparently that the
roll of chiefs belonging to a particular class or clan is
completed. They are followed by three other words which have been
already explained (_ante_, pages 33 and 80),
_sewater-ihwakhaonghkwe, sewarihwisaanonghkwe, kayanerenhkowa_. In
the written litany these three words are omitted toward the
close,--probably to save the penman the labor of transcription; but in
the actual ceremony it is understood that they are chanted wherever the
formula _etho natejonhne_, or _etho natchadinhne_, occurs. In
the modern Canienga speech this verb is thus conjugated in the
plural,--_etho_ being contracted to _eh_:--

_ehnatetionhne_, we were that number;
_ehnatejionhne_, ye were that number;
_ehnatehadinhne_, they were that number.

The three Canienga councillors of the first class all belong to the
Tortoise clan.

31. _Sharenhowane_; in Onondaga, _Showenhona_. This name was
translated by the interpreters, "he is the loftiest tree." It seems
properly to mean "he is a great tree-top," from _karenha_, or
_garenha_, which Bruyas renders _cime d'arbre_, and
_kowane_, great.

_Deyonnhehgonh_, or _Teyonhehkwen_, "double life," from
_onnhe_, life. My friend, Chief George Johnson, who bears this
titular appellation, tells me that it is properly the name of a certain
shrub, which has a great tenacity of life.

_Ohrenregowah_; in Onondaga, _Owenhegona_. The interpreters
differed much in opinion as to the meaning of this name. Some said "wide
branches;" another, "a high hill." The root-word, _ohrenre_, is
obsolete, and its meaning is apparently lost.

The three chiefs of the second class or division of the Caniengas belong
to the Wolf clan.

32. _Dehennakarine_; in Onondaga, _Tehennakaihne_; "going with
two horns." The root is _onakara_, horn; the termination
_ine_, or _ihne_, gives the sense of going; _de_ or
_te_ is the duplicative prefix.

_Aghstawenserontha_ (Onon. _Hastawensenwa_), "he puts on the
rattles." Mr. Bearfoot writes, "_Ohstawensera_ seems to have been a
general name for anything denuded of flesh, but is now confined to the
rattles of the rattlesnake."

_Shosgoharowane_ (Onon. _Shosgohaehna_), "he is a great
wood-drift." "_Yohskoharo_, writes Mr. Bearfoot, means an
obstruction by driftwood in creeks or small rivers."

The councillors of the third Canienga class are of the Bear clan.

33. _Ise seniyatagweniyohkwe_, "ye two were the principals."
_Atagweniyo_, or _adakweniyu_ (see _ante_, note to Sec. 28)
here becomes a verb in the imperfect tense and the dual number. The
reference is either to Dekanawidah and Odatsehte, the chiefs of the
Caniengas and Oneidas, who worked together in founding the confederacy,
or, rather, perhaps, to their two nations, each regarded as an
individual, and, in a manner, personified.

_Jatatawhak_, or, more properly _jatatahwak_, means,
literally, "son of each other." It is from the root-word _kaha-wak_
(or _gahawak_), which is defined by Bruyas, _avoir pour
enfant_, and is in the reciprocal form. Here, however, it is
understood to mean "father and son," in reference to the political
relationship between the Canienga and Oneida nations.

_Odatsehte_ (Onon., Tatshehte), "bearing a quiver,"--or the pouch
in which the arrows are carried. According to the tradition, when
Dekanawidah's brother and ambassador formally adopted _Odatsehte_
as the political son of the Canienga chief, he took the quiver off his
own shoulder, and hung it upon that of the Oneida chieftain.

_Kanonhgwenyodon_, "setting up ears of corn in a row." From
_ononhkwenha_, an ear of corn.

_Deyohhagwente_ (Onon., _Tyohagwente_), "open voice" (?) This
is another obsolete, or semi-obsolete word, about which the interpreters
differ widely in opinion. "Hollow tube," "windpipe," "opening in the
woods," "open voice," were the various renderings suggested. The latter
would be derived from _ohakwa_ or _ohagwa_, voice, and the
termination _wente_ or _gwente_, which gives the sense of

The three chiefs of the first Oneida class belong to the Wolf clan.

34. _Shononhsese_ (Onon., Shononses), "his long house." or, "he has
a long house." From _kanonsa_, house, with the adjective
termination _es_, long.

_Daonahrokenagh_ (Onon., Tonaohgena), "two branches." This is
another doubtful word. In modern Canienga, "two branches" would be

_Atyatonentha_ (Onon., Hatyatonnentha), "he lowers himself," or,
literally, "he slides himself down," from _oyata_, body, self, and
_tonnenta_, to slide.

The councillors of the second Oneida class are of the Tortoise clan.

35. _Dewatahonhtenyonk_ (Onon., _Tehatahonhtenyonk_), "two
hanging ears," from _ohonta_, ear.

_Kaniyatahshayonk_ (Onon., _Kanenyatakshayen_). This name was
rendered "easy throat," as if derived from _oniata_, throat; but
the Oneida form of the word seems to point to a derivation from
_onenya_ (or _onenhia_), stone. This word must be regarded as
another obsolete compound.

_Onwatsatonhonk_ (Onon., _Onwasjatenwi_), "he is buried."

The three chiefs of the third Oneida class are of the Bear clan.

36. _Eghyesaotonnihsen_, lit., "this was his uncle,"--or, as the
words would be understood by the hearers, "the next are his uncles." The
Onondaga nation, being the brother of the Canienga, was, of course, the
uncle of the Oneida. In John Buck's MS. the Onondagas are introduced
with more ceremony, in the following lines:

_Etho yeshodonnih_; These are the uncles;
_Rodihsennakeghde_, They, the name-bearers--
_Tehhotiyena_, They took hold here;
_Rodihnonsyonnihton_. They made the League.

That is, they helped, or joined, in making the League.

_Thatotarho, Wathatotarho_ (Onon.,
_Thatotarho_). _Thatotarho_ is the passive voice and
cislocative form of _otarho_, which is defined "to grasp," or
"catch" (_accrocher_) but in the passive signifies "entangled."
This great chief, whose name is better known as Atotarho (without the
cislocative prefix), is of the Bear clan.

_Etho ronaraschsen_, "these were cousins," or rather, "the next
were cousins." This cousinhood, like all the relationships throughout
the book, is political, and indicates some close relationship in public
affairs. The announcement applies to the following chiefs, Enneserarenh
and Dehatkahthos, who were the special aids and counselors of Atotarho.

_Enneserarenh_ (Onon. _Hanesehen_). One Onondata chief said
that he knew no meaning for this word. Another thought it might mean
"the best soil uppermost." It is apparently from some obsolete root.

_Dehatkahthos_ (Onon. _Tchatkahtons_), "he is two-sighted,"
or, "he looks both ways." Another rendering made it "on the watch." This
and the preceding chief belong now to the Beaver clan. In one of the
Onondaga lists which I received, these two, with their principal,
Atotarho, formed a "class" by themselves, and were doubtless originally
of the same clan.

_Waghontenhnonterontye_, "they were as brothers thenceforth;" or,
more fully rendered, "the next continued to be brothers." This
declaration refers to the three next following chiefs, who were
connected by some special political tie. The first who bore the name
were, probably, like the two preceding chiefs, leading partisans and
favorites of the first Atotarho.

_Onyatajiwak_, or _Skanyadajiwak_ (Onon., _Oyatajiwak_).
One authority makes this "a fowl's crop;" another, "the throat alone,"
from _oniata_, throat, and _jiwak_, alone; another defined it,
"bitter throat." Mr. Morgan renders it "bitter body,"--his informant
probably seeing in it the word _oyata_, body. This chief belongs
now to the Snipe clan.

_Awekenyade_. "the end of its journey,"--from awe, going, and
_akonhiate_(Can.) "at the end." This chief is of the Ball tribe,
both in Canada, and at Onondaga Castle. In the list furnished to
Mr. Morgan by the Senecas, he is of the Tortoise clan.

_Dehadkwarayen_ (Onon., _Tchatkwayen_). This word is
obsolete. One interpreter guessed it to mean "on his body;" another made
it "red wings." He is of the Tortoise clan.

In the Book of Rites the first six chiefs of the Onondagas make but one
class, as is shown by the fact that their names are followed by the
formula, _etho natejonhne_, "this was the number of you." It may be
presumed that they were originally of one clan,--probably that of the
Bear, to which their leader, Atotarho, belonged.

37. _Yeshohawak_, _rakwahhokowah_, "then his next son, he the
great Wolf." The chief who follows, _Ronenghwireghtonh_, was
evidently a personage of great importance,--probably the leading chief
of the Wolf class. He forms a "clan" by himself,--the only instance of
the kind in the list. The expression, "there (or, in him) were combined
the minds," indicates--as Mr. Bearfoot suggests--his superior
intellect. It may also refer to the fact that he was the hereditary
keeper of the wampum records. The title was borne in Canada by the late
chief George Buck, but the duties of record-keeper were usually
performed by his more eminent brother, John (_Skanawati_).

_Rononghwireghtonh_ (Onon., _Honanwiehti_), "he is sunk out of
sight." This chief, who, as has been stated, alone constitutes the
second Onondaga class, is of the Wolf clan.

38. _Etho yeshotonnyh tekadarakehne_, "then his uncles of the two
clans." The five chiefs who follow probably bore some peculiar political
relation to Rononghwireghton. The first two in modern times are of the
Deer clan; the last three are of the Eel clan. It is probable that they
all belonged originally, with him, to one clan, that of the Wolf, and
consequently to one class, which was afterwards divided into three.
_Kawenenseronton_ (Onon., _Kawenensenton_). A word of doubtful
meaning; one interpreter thought it meant "her voice suspended."
_Haghriron_ (Onon., _Hahihon_), "spilled," or "scattered."

39. _Wahhondennonterontye_. This word has already occurred, with a
different orthography, and is explained in the Note to Section 36.
_Ronyennyennih_ (Onon., _Honyennyenni_). No satisfactory
explanation could be obtained of this word. Chief John Buck did not know
its meaning. _Shodakwarashonh_ (Onon., _Shotegwashen_), "he
is bruised." _Shakokenghne_ (Onon. _Shahkohkenneh_), "he saw
them." As stated above, the three chiefs in this class are of the Eel

40. _Shihonadewiraralye_, "they had children," or, rather, "they
continued to get children." Mr. Bearfoot writes in regard to this word:
"Yodewirare, a fowl hatching, referring to the time when they were
forming the league, when they were said to be hatching, or producing,
the children mentioned--i.e., the other tribes who were taken into the
confederacy." _Tehhodidarakeh_, "these the two clans." Taken in
connection with the preceding lines of the chant, it seems probable that
this expression refers to the introduction of other clans into the
Council besides the original three, the Bear, Wolf and Tortoise, which
existed when the confederacy was formed. _Raserhaghrhonh_ (Onon.,
_Sherhakwi_), "wearing a hatchet in his belt," from _asera_,
hatchet. This chief is of the Tortoise clan. _Etho
wahhoronghyaronnyon_, "this put away the clouds." These "clouds," it
is said, were the clouds of war, which were dispelled by the great chief
whose name is thus introduced, _Skanawadyh_, or as now spelt,
_Skanawati_. He had the peculiar distinction of holding two
offices, which were rarely combined. He was both a high chief, or "Lord
of the Council," and a "Great Warrior." In former times the members of
the Great Council seldom assumed executive duties. They were rarely sent
out as ambassadors or as leaders of war-parties. These duties were
usually entrusted to the ablest chiefs of the second rank, who were
known as "Great Warriors," _rohskenrakehte-kowa_. Skanawati was an
exception to this rule. It would seem that the chief who first bore this
title had special aptitudes, which have come down in his family. A
striking instance, given in the "_Relations_" of the Jesuit
missionaries among the Hurons, has been admirably reproduced by
Mr. Parkman in the twenty-third chapter of his "Jesuits in North
America," and cannot be better told than in his words. In the year 1648,
during the desperate war between the Kanonsionni and the Hurons, the
Onondagas determined to respond to the pacific overtures which they had
received from their northern foes.

"They chose for their envoy," continues the historian, "Scandawati, a
man of renown, sixty years of age, joining with him two
colleagues. [Footnote: _Scandawali_ is the Huron--and probably the
original Onondaga--pronunciation of the name.] The old Onondaga entered
on his mission with a troubled mind. His anxiety was not so much for his
life as for his honor and dignity; for, while the Oneidas and the
Cayugas were acting in concurrence with the Onondagas, the Senecas had
refused any part in the embassy, and still breathed nothing but
war. Would they, or still more, the Mohawks, so far forget the
consideration due to one whose name had been great in the Councils of
the League, as to assault the Hurons while he was among them in the
character of an ambassador of his nation, whereby his honor would be
compromised and his life endangered? 'I am not a dead dog,' he said, 'to
be despised and forgotten. I am worthy that all men should turn their
eyes on me while I am among enemies, and do nothing that may involve me
in danger.' Soon there came dire tidings. The prophetic heart of
the old chief had not deceived him. The Senecas and Mohawks,
disregarding negotiations in which they had no part, and resolved to
bring them to an end, were invading the country in force. It might be
thought that the Hurons would take their revenge on the Onondaga envoys,
now hostages among them; but they did not do so, for the character of an
ambassador was, for the most part, held in respect. One morning,
however, Scandawati had disappeared. They were full of excitement; for
they thought that he had escaped to the enemy. They ranged the woods in
search of him, and at length found him in a thicket near the town. He
lay dead, on a bed of spruce boughs which he had made, his throat deeply
gashed with a knife. He had died by his own hand, a victim of mortified
pride. 'See,' writes Father Ragueneau, 'how much our Indians stand on
the point of honor!'"

It is worthy of note that the same aptitude for affairs and the same
keen sense of honor which distinguished this highspirited chief survives
in the member of his family who, on the Canadian Reservation, now bears
the same title,--Chief John Buck,--whom his white neighbors all admit to
be both a capable ruler and an able and trustworthy negotiator.

In Canada _Skanawati_ is of the Tortoise clan. At Onondaga, where
the original family has probably died out, the title now belongs to the
Ball clan.

41. _Yeshohawak_, "then his next son,"--or rather, perhaps, "then,
next, his son." The Cayuga nation was politically the son of the
Onondaga nation. _Tekahenyonk_ (Onon., _Hakaenyonk_), "he
looks both ways," or, "he examines warily." In section 28 (_ante_
p. 126) this name is spelt _Akahenyonh_. The prefixed _te_ is
the duplicative particle, and gives the meaning of "spying on both
sides." This and the following chief belong, in Canada, to the Deer
clan, and constitute the first Cayuga class. _Jinontaweraon_
(Onon., _Jinontaweyon_), "coming on its knees."

42. _Katakwarasonh_ (Onon., _Ketagwajik_), "it was bruised." This
name, it will be seen, is very similar to that of an Onondaga
chief,--_ante_, Note to Section 39. The chief now named and the one
who follows are of the Bear clan. _Shoyonwese_ (Onon.,
_Soyonwes_), "he has a long wampumbelt." The root-word of this
name is _oyonwa_, wampum-belt, the same that appears in
_Hayonwatha_. _Atyaseronne_ (Onon., _Halyasenne_), "he
puts one on another," or "he piles on." This chief is of the Tortoise
clan, and completes, with the two preceding councillors, the second
Cayuga class.

43. _Yeshonadadekenah_, "then they who are brothers." The three
chiefs who follow are all of the Wolf clan, and make the third class of
the Cayuga councillors. _Teyoronghyonkeh_ (Onon.,
_Thowenyongo_), "it touches the sky." _Teyodhoreghkonh_
(Onon., _Tyotowegwi_), "doubly cold." _Wathyawenhehetken_
(Onon., _Thaowethon_), "mossy place."

44. The two following chiefs are of the Snipe clan, and constitute the
fourth and last Cayuga class. _Atontaraheha_ (Onon.,
_Hatontaheha_) "crowding himself in." _Teskahe_ (Onon.,
_Heskahe_) "resting on it."

45. _Yeshotonnih_, "and then his uncle." The Seneca nation, being
the brother of the Onondaga, is, of course, the uncle of the Cayuga
nation. _Skanyadariyo_ (Onon., _Kanyataiyo_), "beautiful
lake;" originally, perhaps, "great lake." (See Appendix, Note B.) This
name is spelt in Section 28 (_ante_, p. 128) _Kanyadariyu_.
The prefixed _s_ is the sign of the reiterative form, and when
joined to proper names is regarded as a token of nobility,--like the
French _de_, or the German _von_. [Footnote: See J. A. Cuoq:
_Jugement Errone_, etc., p. 57. "Le reiteratif est comme un signe
de noblesse dans les noms propres."] _Kanyadariyo_, was one of the
two leading chiefs of the Senecas at the formation of the
confederacy. The title belongs to the Wolf clan.
_Yeshonaraseshen_, lit., "they were cousins." In the present
instance, and according to the Indian idiom, we must read "Skanyadariyo,
with his cousin, Shadekaronyes." _Shadekaronyes_ (Onon.,
_Shatekaenyes_), "skies of equal length." This chief (whose
successor now belongs to the Snipe clan) was in ancient times the head
of the second great division of the Senecas. These two potentates were
made a "class" in the Council by themselves, and were thus required to
deliberate together and come to an agreement on any question that was
brought up, before expressing an opinion in the council. This ingenious
device for preventing differences between the two sections of the Seneca
nation is one of the many evidences of statesmanship exhibited in the
formation of the League.

46. _Satyenawat_, "withheld." This chief, in the Canadian list, is
of the Snipe clan; in Mr. Morgan's Seneca list, he is of the Bear
clan. His comrade in the class, Shakenjowane, is, in both lists, of the
Hawk clan. _Shakenjowane_ (Onon., _Shakenjona_), "large

There has apparently been some derangement here in the order of the
classes. In Mr. Morgan's list, and also in one furnished to me at
Onondaga Castle, the two chiefs just named belong to different
classes. The variance of the lists may be thus shown:--

_The Book of Rites_. _The Seneca and Onondaga Lists_.
Second Seneca Class.
_Satyenawat_ _Kanokarih_
_Shakenjowane_ _Shakenjowane_.
Third Seneca Class.
_Kanokarih_ _Satyenawat_
_Nisharyenen_ _Nisharyenen_.

Satyenawat and Kanokarih have changed places. As the Book of Rites is
the earlier authority, it is probable that the change was made among the
New York Senecas after a part of their nation had removed to Canada.

47. _Kanokarih_ (Onon., _Kanokaehe_), "threatened."
_Nisharyenen_ (Onon., _Onishayenenha_), "the day fell down."

One of the interpreters rendered the latter name, "the handle drops."
The meaning of the word must be considered doubtful. The first of these
chiefs is of the Tortoise clan, and the second is, in Canada, of the
Bear clan. In Mr. Morgan's list he is of the Snipe clan. The disruption
of the Seneca nation, and the introduction of new clans, have thrown
this part of the list into confusion.

48. _Onghwakeghaghshonah_, etc. The verses which follow are
repeated here from the passage of the Book which precedes the chanted
litany. (See _ante_, Section 28.) Their repetition is intended to
introduce the names of the two chiefs who composed the fourth and last
class of the Seneca councillors. _Yatehhotinhohhataghkwen_, "they
were at the doorway," or, according to another version, "they made the
doorway." The chiefs are represented as keeping the doorway of the
"extended mansion," which imaged the confederacy.
_Kanonghkeridawyh_, (Onon., _Kanonkeitawi_,) "entangled hair
given." This chief, in Canada, is of the Bear clan; in New York,
according to Morgan's list, he is of the Snipe clan.
_Teyoninhokarawenh_, (Onon., _Teyoninhokawenh_,) "open door."
In both lists he is of the Wolf clan.

Mr. Morgan (in his "League of the Iroquois," page 68,) states that to
the last-named chief, or "sachem," the duty of watching the door was
assigned, and that "they gave him a sub-sachem, or assistant, to enable
him to execute this trust." In fact, however, every high chief, or
_royaner_ (lord), had an assistant, or war chief
(_roskenrakehte-kowa_, great warrior), to execute his
instructions. The Book of Rites shows clearly that the two chiefs to
whom the duty of "guarding the doorway" was assigned were both nobles of
the first rank. Their office also appears not to have been warlike. From
the words of the Book it would seem that when new tribes were received
into the confederacy, these two councillors had the formal office of
"opening the doorway" to the new-comers--that is (as we may suppose),
of receiving and introducing their chiefs into the federal council.

In another sense the whole Seneca nation was deemed, and was styled in
council, the Doorkeeper (_Ronhohonti_, pl., _Roninhohonti_) of
the confederacy. The duty of guarding the common country against the
invasions of the hostile tribes of the west was specially committed to
them. Their leaders, or public representatives, in this duty would
naturally be the two great chiefs of the nation, Kanyateriyo and
Shadekaronyes. The rules of the League, however, seem to have forbidden
the actual assumption by the councillors of any executive or warlike
command. At least, if they undertook such duties, it must be as private
men, and not in their capacity of nobles--just as an English peer might
serve as an officer in the army or as an ambassador. The only exceptions
recognized by the Iroquois constitution seem to have been in the cases
of Tekarihoken and Skanawati, who were at once nobles and
war-chiefs. (See _ante_, pages 78 and 159.) The two great Seneca
chiefs would therefore find it necessary to make over their military
functions to their assistants or war-chiefs. This may explain the
statement made by Morgan ("League of the Iroquois," p. 74) that there
were two special "war-chiefships" created among the Senecas, to which
these commands were assigned.

49. _Onenh watyonkwentendane kanikonrakeh_. The condoling chant
concludes abruptly with the doleful exclamation, "Now we are dejected in
spirit." _Enkitenlane_, "I am becoming poor," or "wretched," is
apparently a derivative of _kitenre_, to pity, and might be
rendered, "I am in a pitiable state." "We are miserable in mind," would
probably be a literal version of this closing ejaculation. Whether it is
a lament for the past glories of the confederacy, or for the chief who
is mourned, is a question which those who sing the words at the present
day would probably have a difficulty in answering. It is likely,
however, that the latter cause of grief was in the minds of those who
first composed the chant.

It is an interesting fact, as showing the antiquity of the names of the
chiefs in the foregoing list, that at least a fourth of them are of
doubtful etymology. That their meaning was well understood when they
were borne by the founders of the League cannot be questioned. The
changes of language or the uncertainties of oral transmission, in the
lapse of four centuries, have made this large proportion of them either
obsolete or so corrupt as to be no longer intelligible. Of all the
names it may probably be affirmed with truth that the Indians who hear
them recited think of their primitive meaning as little as we ourselves
think of the meaning of the family names or the English titles of
nobility which we hear or read. To the Iroquois of the present day the
hereditary titles of their councillors are--to use their own
expression--"just names," and nothing more. It must not be supposed,
however, that the language itself has altered in the same degree. Proper
names, as is well known, when they become mere appellatives, discharged
of significance, are much more likely to vary than the words of ordinary


1 _a. Yo onen onen wen ni sr te,_ "oh now--now this day." It will
be noticed that this address of the "younger brothers" commences in
nearly the same words which begin the speeches of the Canienga
book. This similarity of language exists in other parts of the two
books, though disguised by the difference of dialect, and also by the
very irregular and corrupt spelling of the Onondaga book. To give some
idea of this irregularity, and of the manner in which the words of this
book are to be pronounced, several of these words are subjoined, with
the pronunciation of the interpreter, represented in the orthography of
the Canienga book:

_Words as written._ _As pronounced by La Fort._

wen ni sr te wennisaate
ho gar a nyat hogaenyat
son tar yen sontahien
na ya ne nayeneh
o shon ta gon gonar osontagongona
gar weear har tye gawehehatie
on gwr non sen shen tar qua ongwanonsenshentakwa
ga nen ar ta (or, ga nen ar ti) ganenhate
kon hon wi sats konthonwitsas
o wen gr ge ohwengage
nar ya he yr genh nayehiyaken.

The letter _r,_ it will be seen, is not a consonant. In fact, it is
never heard as such in the modern Onondaga dialect. As used by La Fort,
its office is either to give to the preceding vowel _a_ the sound
which it has in _father,_ or by itself to represent that sound. The
_a,_ when not followed by _r,_ is usually sounded like
_a_ in _fate_, but sometimes keeps the sound of _a_ in
_far._ The _e_ usually represents the English _e_ in
_be,_ or, when followed by _n,_ the _e_ in _pen._
The _i_ and _y_ are commonly sounded as in the word
_city._ The _g_ is always hard, and is interchangeable with
_k._ The _t_ and _d_ are also interchangeable.

While the syllables in the original are written separately, the words
are not always distinguished; and it is doubtful if, in printing, they
have in all cases been properly divided. The translation of the
interpreter, though tolerably exact, was not always literal; and in the
brief time at our command the precise meaning of some of the words was
not ascertained. No attempt, therefore, has been made to form a
glossary of this portion of the text.

In the original the addresses of the "younger brothers" are divided into
sections, which are numbered from one to seven, and each of which, in
the ceremony, is called to mind by its special wampum-string, which is
produced when the section is recited. As the first of these sections is
of much greater length than the others, it has been divided in this
work, for the purpose of ready reference, into sub-sections, which are
numbered 1_a_, 1_b_, and so on.

1 _b_. _Nenthaotagenhetak_, "by the ashes," or "near the
hearth." The root-word is here _agenhe_, the Onondaga form of the
Canienga word _akenra_, ashes, which is comprised in the compound
form, _jiudakenrokde_, in Section 27 of the Canienga book. It will
be seen that the spokesman of the younger nations is here complying
strictly with the law laid down in that section. He "stands by the
hearth and speaks a few words to comfort those who are mourning."

1 _c_. "_It was valued at twenty._" The interpreters explained
that by "twenty" was understood the whole of their wampum, which
constituted all their treasure. A human life was worth the whole of
this, and they freely gave it, merely to recall the memory of the chief
who was gone. Among the Hurons, when a man had been killed, and his
kindred were willing to renounce their claim to vengeance on receiving
due satisfaction, the number of presents of wampum and other valuables
which were to be given was rigidly prescribed by their customary
law. [Footnote: _Relation_ of 1648, p. 80.] From this custom would
easily follow the usage of making similar gifts, in token of sympathy,
to all persons who were mourning the loss of a near relative,

1 _d_. "_Because with her the line is lost._" The same
sentiment prevailed among the Hurons. "For a Huron killed by a Huron,"
writes Father Ragueneau in the letter just quoted, "thirty gifts are
commonly deemed a sufficient satisfaction. For a woman forty are
required, because, as they say, the women are less able to defend
themselves; and, moreover, they being the source whence the land is
peopled, their lives should be deemed of more value to the commonwealth,
and their weakness should have a stronger support in public justice."
Such was the reasoning of these heathen barbarians. Enlightened
Christendom has hardly yet advanced to the mark of these opinions.

I _e. "Where the grave has been made,"_ &c. The recital of Father
Ragueneau also illustrates this passage. "Then followed," he writes,
"nine other presents, for the purpose, as it were, of erecting a
sepulchre for the deceased. Four of them were for the four pillars which
should support this sepulchre, and four others for the four cross-pieces
on which the bier of the dead was to rest. The ninth was to serve as his

2. "I will make the sky clear to you." In this paragraph the speaker
reminds the mourners, in the style of bold imagery which the Iroquois
orators affected, that continued grief for the dead would not be
consonant with the course of nature. Though all might seem dark to them
now, the sky would be as clear, and the sun would shine as brightly for
them, as if their friend had not died. Their loss had been inevitable,
and equally sure would be the return of the "pleasant days." This
reminder, which may seem to us needless, was evidently designed as a
reproof, at once gentle and forcible, of those customs of excessive and
protracted mourning which were anciently common among the Huron-Iroquois

3. _"You must converse with your nephews,"_ &c. The "nephews" are,
of course, the chiefs of the younger nations, who are here the
condolers. The mourners are urged to seek for comfort in the sympathy of
their friends, and not to reject the consolations offered by their
visitors and by their own people.

4. _"And now you can go out before the people, and go on with your
duties,"_ &c. This, it will be seen, corresponds with the injunctions
of the Canienga book. (See Section 27, _ante,_ p. 127): "And then
they will be comforted, and will conform to the great law."

6. _"Then the horns shall be left on the grave,"_ &c. The same
figure is here used as in the Canienga book, Section 23 (_ante,_
p. 125). It is evident that the importance of keeping up the succession
of their councillors was constantly impressed on the minds of the
Iroquois people by the founders of their League.

7. _"And the next death will receive the pouch."_ The "mourning
wampum," in modern days, is left, or supposed to be left, with the
kindred of the late chief until another death shall occur among the
members of the Council, when it is to be passed on to the family of the
deceased. This economy is made necessary by the fact that only one store
of such wampum now exists, as the article is no longer made. It is
probable that in ancient times the wampum was left permanently with the
family of the deceased, as a memorial of the departed chief.

_"Where the fire is made and the smoke is rising," i.e.,_ when you
receive notice that a Condoling Council is to be held in a certain
place. The kindled fire and the rising smoke were the well-understood
images which represented the convocation of their councils. In the
Onondaga book before referred to (_ante,_ p. 152) a few pages were
occupied by what might be styled a pagan sermon, composed of
exhortations addressed to the chiefs, urging them to do their duty to
the community. The following is the commencement of this curious
composition, which may serve to illustrate both the words now under
consideration and the character of the people. The orthography is much
better than that of La Fort's book, the vowels generally having the
Italian sound, and the spelling being tolerably uniform. The translation
was made by Albert Cusick, and is for the most part closely literal: The
discourse commences with a "text," after the fashion which the pagan
exhorter had probably learned from the missionaries:--

Naye ne iwaton ne gayanencher:

Onen wahagwatatjistagenhas ne Thatontarho. Onen wagayengwaeten, naye ne
watkaenya, esta netho tina enyontkawaonk. Ne enagenyon nwatkaonwenjage
shanonwe nwakayengwaeten netho titentyetongenta shanonwe
nwakayengwaeten, ne tokat gishens enyagoiwayentaha ne oyatonwetti.

Netho hiya nigawennonten ne ongwanencher ne Ayakt Niyongyonwenjage ne

Ottinawahoten ne oyengwaetakwit? Nayehiya, ne agwegeh
enhonatiwagwaisyonk ne hatigowanes,--tenhontatnonongwak gagweki,--oni
enshagotino-ongwak ne honityogwa, engenk ne hotisgenrhergeta, oni ne
genthonwisash, oni ne hongwagsata, oni ne ashonsthateyetigaher ne
ongwagsata; netho niyoh tehatinya agweke sne sgennon enyonnontonnyonhet,
ne hegentyogwagwegi. Naye ne hatigowanens neye gagwegi honatiiwayenni
sha oni nenyotik honityogwa shanya yagonigonheten. Ne tokat gishen naye
enyagotiwatentyeti, negaewane akwashen ne honiyatwa shanityawenih.


"The law says this:

"Now the council-fire was lighted by Atotarho. Now the smoke rises and
ascends to the sky, that everybody may see it. The tribes of the
different nations where the smoke appeared shall come directly where the
smoke arises, if, perhaps, they have any business for the council to

"These are the words of our law,--of the Six Nations of Indians.

"What is the purpose of the smoke? It is this--that the chiefs must all
be honest; that they must all love one another; and that they must have
regard for their people,--including the women, and also our children,
and also those children whom we have not yet seen; so much they must
care for, that all may be in peace, even the whole nation. It is the
duty of the chiefs to do this, and they have the power to govern their
people. If there is anything to be done for the good of the people, it
is their duty to do it."

7 _b. "Now I have finished! Now show him to me!"_ With this laconic
exclamation, which calls upon the nation of the late chief to bring
forward his successor, the formal portion of the ceremony--the
condolence which precedes the installation--is abruptly closed.




The meaning of the term _Kanonsionni,_ and of the other names by
which the several nations were known in their Council, are fully
explained in the Introduction. But some account should be given of the
names, often inappropriate and generally much corrupted, by which they
were known to their white neighbors. The origin and proper meaning of
the word _Iroquois_ are doubtful. All that can be said with
certainty is that the explanation given by Charlevoix cannot possibly be
correct. "The name of Iroquois," he says, "is purely French, and has
been formed from the term _hiro,_ 'I have spoken,' a word by which
these Indians close all their speeches, and _koue,_ which, when
long drawn out, is a cry of sorrow, and when briefly uttered, is an
exclamation of joy." [Footnote: _History of New France,_ Vol. i,
p. 270.] It might be enough to say of this derivation that no other
nation or tribe of which we have any knowledge has ever borne a name
composed in this whimsical fashion. But what is decisive is the fact
that Champlain had learned the name from his Indian allies before he or
any other Frenchman, so far as is known, had ever seen an Iroquois. It
is probable that the origin of the word is to be sought in the Huron
language; yet, as this is similar to the Iroquois tongue, an attempt may
be made to find a solution in the latter. According to Bruyas, the word
_garokwa_ meant a pipe, and also a piece of tobacco,--and, in its
verbal form, to smoke. This word is found, somewhat disguised by
aspirates, in the Book of Rites--_denighroghkwayen,_--"let us two
smoke together." (_Ante._ p. 114, Section 2). In the indeterminate
form the verb becomes _ierokwa,_ which is certainly very near to
"Iroquois." It might be rendered "they who smoke," or "they who use
tobacco," or, briefly, "the Tobacco People." This name, the Tobacco
Nation (_Nation du Petun_) was given by the French, and
probably also by the Algonkins, to one of the Huron tribes, the
Tionontates, noted for the excellent tobacco which they raised and
sold. The Iroquois were equally well known for their cultivation of this
plant, of which they had a choice variety. [Footnote: "The Senecas still
cultivate tobacco. Its name signifies '_the only tobacco,'_ because
they consider this variety superior to all others."--Morgan: _League
of the Iroquois,_ p. 375.] It is possible that their northern
neighbors may have given to them also a name derived from this
industry. Another not improbable supposition might connect the name with
that of a leading sept among them, the Bear clan. This clan, at least
among the Caniengas, seems to have been better known than any other to
their neighbors. The Algonkins knew that nation as the Maquas, or
Bears. In the Canienga speech, bear is _ohkwari_; in Onondaga, the
word becomes _ohkwai_, and in Cayuga, _iakwai_,--which also is
not far from _Iroquois_. These conjectures--for they are nothing
more--may both be wrong; but they will perhaps serve to show the
direction in which the explanation of this perplexing word is to be

The name of _Mingo_ or _Mengwe,_ by which the Iroquois were
known to the Delawares and the other southern Algonkins, is said to be a
contraction of the Lenape word _Mahongwi_, meaning the "People of
the Springs." [Footnote: E. G. Squier: _"Traditions of the
Algonquins,"_ in Beach's Indian Miscellany, p. 28.] The Iroquois
possessed the headwaters of the rivers which flowed through the country
of the Delawares, and this explanation of the name may therefore be
accepted as a probable one.

The first of the Iroquois nations, the "oldest brother" of the
confederacy, has been singularly unfortunate in the designations by
which it has become generally known. The people have a fine, sonorous
name of their own, said to be derived from that of one of their ancient
towns. This name is _Kanienke_, "at the Flint." _Kansen_, in
their language, signifies flint, and the final syllable is the same
locative particle which we find in _Onontake,_ "at the mountain."
In pronunciation and spelling, this, like other Indian words, is much
varied, both by the natives themselves and by their white neighbors,
becoming _Kanieke, Kanyenke, Canyangeh,_ and _Canienga._ The
latter form, which accords with the sister names of Onondaga and Cayuga,
has been adopted in the present volume.

The Huron frequently drops the initial _k,_ or changes it to
_y._ The Canienga people are styled in that speech _Yanyenge,_
a word which is evidently the origin of the name of _Agnier,_ by
which this nation is known to the French.

The Dutch learned from the Mohicans (whose name, signifying Wolves, is
supposed to be derived from that of their leading clan) to call the
Kanienke by the corresponding name of _Maqua_ (or _Makwa_),
the Algonkin word for Bear. But as the Iroquois, and especially the
Caniengas, became more and more a terror to the surrounding nations, the
feelings of aversion and dread thus awakened found vent in an
opprobrious epithet, which the southern and eastern Algonkins applied to
their obnoxious neighbors. They were styled by these enemies
_Mowak,_ or _Mowawak_ a word which has been corrupted to
_Mohawk._ It is the third person plural, in the sixth "transition,"
of the Algonkin word _mowa_, which means "to eat," but which is
only used of food that has had life. Literally it means "they eat them;"
but the force of the verb and of the pronominal inflection suffices to
give to the word, when used as an appellative, the meaning of "those who
eat men," or, in other words, "the Cannibals." That the English, with
whom the Caniengas were always fast friends, should have adopted this
uncouth and spiteful nickname is somewhat surprising. It is time that
science and history should combine to banish it, and to resume the
correct designation. [Footnote: William Penn and his colonists, who
probably understood the meaning of the word _Mohawk_ forbore to
employ it. In the early records of the colony (published by the
Pennsylvania Historical Society) the nation is described in treaties,
laws, and other public acts, by its proper designation, a little
distorted in the spelling,--_Canyingoes, Ganyingoes, Cayinkers,

The name _Oneida_, which in French became _Onneyoutk_ or
_Onneyote_, is a corruption of a compound word, formed of
_onenhia_, or _onenya_, stone, and _kaniote_, to be
upright or elevated. _Onenniote_ is rendered "the projecting
stone." It is applied to a large boulder of syennite, which thrusts its
broad shoulder above the earth at the summit of an eminence near which,
in early times, the Oneidas had planted their chief settlement.

As has been already stated, _Onondaga_ is a softened pronunciation
of _Onontake_, "at the mountain,"--or, perhaps, more exactly, "at
the hill." It is probable that this name was unknown when the
confederacy was formed, as it is not comprised in the list of towns
given in the Book of Rites. It may be supposed to have been first
applied to this nation after their chief town was removed to the site
which it occupied in the year 1654, when the first white visitors of
whom we have any certain account, the Jesuit Father Le Moyne and his
party, came among them,--and also in 1677, when the English explorer,
Greenhalgh, passed through their country. This site was about seven
miles east of their present Reservation. I visited it in September,
1880, in company with my friend, General John S. Clark, who has been
singularly successful in identifying the positions of the ancient
Iroquois towns. The locality is thus described in my journal: "The site
is, for an Indian town, peculiarly striking and attractive. It stretches
about three miles in length, with a width of half a mile, along the
broad back and gently sloping sides of a great hill, which swells, like
a vast oblong cushion, between two hollows made by branches of a small
stream, known as Limehouse creek. These streams and many springs on the
hillside yielded abundance of water, while the encircling ridges on
every side afforded both firewood and game. In the neighborhood were
rich valleys, where--as well as on the hill itself--the people raised
their crops of corn, beans, pumpkins, and tobacco. There are signs of a
large population." In the fields of stubble which occupied the site of
this ancient capital, the position of the houses could still be traced
by the dark patches of soil; and a search of an hour or two rewarded us
with several wampum-beads, flint chips, and a copper coin of the last
century. The owner of the land, an intelligent farmer, affirmed that
"wagon-loads" of Indian wares,--pottery, hatchets, stone implements, and
the like--had been carried off by curiosity seekers.

The name of the _Cayugas_ (in French _Goyogouin_) is variously
pronounced by the Iroquois themselves. I wrote it as I heard it, at
different times, from members of the various tribes. _Koyukwen,
Koiukwe, Kwaiukwen, Kayukwe._ A Cayuga chief made it _Kayukwa,_
which is very near the usual English pronunciation of the word. Of its
purport no satisfactory account could be obtained. One interpreter
rendered it "the fruit country," another "the place where canoes are
drawn out." Cusick, the historian, translates it "a mountain rising from
the water." Mr. Morgan was told that it meant "the mucky land." We can
only infer that the interpreters were seeking, by vague resemblances, to
recover a lost meaning.

The _Senecas_, who were called by the French _Tsonontouan_ or
_Sonnontouan_, bore among the Iroquois various names, but all
apparently derived from the words which appear in that appellation,
--_ononta_, hill, and _kowa_ or _kowane,_ great. The
Caniengas called them _Tsonontowane_; the Oneidas abridged the word
to _Tsontowana_; the Cayugas corrupted it to _Onondewa_; and
the Onondagas contracted it yet farther, to _Nontona_. The Senecas
called themselves variously _Sonontowa, Onontewa,_ and
_Nondewa._ _Sonontowane_ is probably the most correct form.

The word _Seneca_ is supposed to be of Algonkin origin, and like
_Mohawk_, to have been given as an expression of dislike, or rather
of hostility. _Sinako_, in the Delaware tongue, means properly
"Stone Snakes;" but in this conjunction it is understood, according to
the interpretation furnished to Mr. Squier, to signify "Mountain
Snakes." [Footnote: _"Traditions of the Algonquins,"_ in Beach's
_Indian Miscellany,_ p. 33.] The Delawares, it appears, were
accustomed to term all their enemies "snakes." In this case they simply
translated the native name of the Iroquois tribe (the "Mountain
People"), and added this uncomplimentary epithet. As the name, unlike
the word Mohawk, is readily pronounced by the people to whom it was
given, and as they seem to have in some measure accepted it, there is
not the same reason for objecting to its use as exists in the case of
the latter word,--more especially as there is no absolute certainty that
it is not really an Iroquois word. It bears, in its present form, a
close resemblance to the honorable "Council name" of the
Onondagas,--_Sennakehte,_ "the title-givers;" a fact which may
perhaps have made the western nation more willing to adopt it.



The words _Ohio, Ontario_ and _Onontio_ (or
_Yonnondio_)--which should properly be pronounced as if written
_Oheeyo, Ontareeyo,_ and _Ononteeyo_--are commonly rendered
"Beautiful River," "Beautiful Lake," "Beautiful Mountain." This,
doubtless, is the meaning which each of the words conveys to an Iroquois
of the present day, unless he belongs to the Tuscarora tribe. But there
can be no doubt that the termination _io_ (otherwise written
_iyo, iio, eeyo_, etc.) had originally the sense, not of
"beautiful," but of "great." It is derived from the word _wiyo_ (or
_wiio_) which signifies in the Seneca dialect _good,_ but in
the Tuscarora, _great_. It is certain that the Tuscaroras have
preserved the primitive meaning of the word, which the Hurons and the
proper Iroquois have lost. When the French missionaries first studied
the languages of these nations, traces of the original usage were
apparent. Bruyas, in the "Proemium" to his _Radices Verborum
Iroquaorum_, (p. 14), expressly states that _jo (io)_ in
composition with verbs, "signifies magnitude." He gives as an example,
_garihaioston_, "to make much of anything," from _garihea_,
thing, and _io_, "great, important." The Jesuit missionaries, in
their _Relation_ for 1641, (p. 22) render _Onontio_ "great
mountain," and say that both Hurons and Iroquois gave this title to the
Governor of that day as a translation of his name, Montmagny.

_Ontario_ is derived from the Huron _yontare_, or
_ontare_, lake (Iroquois, _oniatare_), with this
termination. It was not by any means the most beautiful of the lakes
which they knew; but in the early times, when the Hurons dwelt on the
north and east of it and the Iroquois on the south, it was to both of
them emphatically "the great lake."

_Ohio,_ in like manner, is derived, as M. Cuoq in the valuable
notes to his Lexicon (p. 159) informs us, from the obsolete _ohia,_
river, now only used in the compound form _ohionha_. _Ohia_,
coalescing with this ancient affix, would become _ohiio,_ or
_ohiyo,_ with the signification of "great river," or, as the
historian Cusick renders it, "principal stream."

M. Cuoq. in his _"Etudes Philologiques"_ (p. 14) has well explained
the interesting word _Rawenniio,_ used in various dialectical forms
by both Hurons and Iroquois, as the name of the deity. It signifies, as
he informs us, "he is master," or, used as a noun, "he who is master."
This, of course, is the modern acceptation; but we can gather from the
ancient Huron grammar, translated by Mr. Wilkie, (_ante_, p. 101)
that the word had once, as might be supposed, a larger meaning. The
phrase, "it is the great master," in that grammar (p. 108) is rendered
_ondaieaat eOarontio or eOauendio_. The Huron _nd_ becomes in
Iroquois _nn_. _EOauendio_ is undoubtedly a form of the same
word which appears in the Iroquois _Rawenniio_. We thus learn that
the latter word meant originally not merely "the master," but "the great
master." Its root is probably to be found in the Iroquois _kawen_,
or _gawen_ (Bruyas, p. 64), which signifies "to belong to any one,"
and yields, in combination with _oyata_, person, the derivatives
_gaiatawen_, to have for subject, and _gaiatawenston_, to
subject any one.



Mr. Morgan, in his work on "Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the
Human Family" (p. 151), fixes the date of the formation of the Iroquois
league at about the middle of the fifteenth ^ century. He says: "As near
as can now be ascertained, the league had been established about one
hundred and fifty years when Champlain, in 1609, first encountered the
Mohawks within their own territories, on the west coast of Lake
George. This would place the epoch of its formation about A. D. 1459."
Mr. Morgan, as he informed me, deduced this conclusion from the
testimony of the most intelligent Indians whom he had consulted on the
subject. His informants belonged chiefly to the Seneca and Tuscarora
nations. Their statements are entirely confirmed by those of the
Onondaga record-keepers, both on the Syracuse Reservation and in
Canada. When the chiefs at Onondaga Castle, who, in October, 1875, met
to explain to me their wampum records, were asked how long it had been
since their league was made, they replied (as I find the answer recorded
in my notes) that "it was their belief that the confederacy was formed
about six generations before the white people came to these parts."
Hudson ascended the river to which he gave his name in September,
1609. A boat from his ship advanced beyond Albany, and consequently into
the territories of the League. "Frequent intercourse," says Bancroft, in
his account of this exploration, "was held with the astonished natives
of the Algonquin race; and the strangers were welcomed by a deputation
from the Mohawks." If we allow twenty-five years to a generation, the
era of the confederacy is carried back to a period a hundred and fifty
years before the date of Hudson's discovery,--or to the year 1459. This
statement of the Onondaga chiefs harmonizes, therefore, closely with
that which Mr. Morgan had heard among the other nations.

I afterwards (in 1882) put the same question to my friend, Chief John
Buck, the keeper of the wampum-records of the Canadian Iroquois. He
thought it was then "about four hundred years" since the League was
formed. He was confident that it was before any white people had been
heard of by his nation. This opinion accords sufficiently with the more
definite statement of the New York Onondagas to be deemed a confirmation
of that statement.

There are two authorities whose opinions differ widely, in opposite
directions, from the information thus obtained by Mr. Morgan and
myself. David Cusick, in his _"Sketches of Ancient History of the Six
Nations,"_ supposes that the League was formed "perhaps 1000 years
before Columbus discovered America." His reasons for this supposition,
however, do not bear examination. He makes Atotarho the hereditary
title of a monarch, like Pharaoh or Caesar, and states that thirteen
potentates bearing that title had "reigned" between the formation of the
confederacy and the discovery of America by Columbus. The duration of
each of these reigns he computes, absurdly enough, at exactly fifty
years, which, however, would give altogether a term of only six hundred
and fifty years. He supposes the discovery of America to have taken
place during the reign of the thirteenth Atotarho; and he adds that the
conquest and dispersion of the Eries occurred "about this time." The
latter event, as we know, took place in 1656. It is evident that
Cusick's chronology is totally at fault. As an Iroquois chief was never
succeeded by his son, but often by his brother, it is by no means
improbable that thirteen persons may have held successively the title of
Atotarho in the term of nearly two centuries, between the years 1459 and

On the other hand, Heckewelder, in his well-known work on the "History,
Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations." cites a passage from a
manuscript book of his predecessor, the Rev. C. Pyrlaeus, formerly
missionary among the Mohawks, from which a comparatively recent date
would be inferred for the confederation. The inference, however, is
probably due to a mistake of Heckewelder himself. The passage, as it
stands in his volume, [Footnote: P. 56 of the revised edition of 1875,
published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.] is as follows:--

"The Rev. C. Pyrlaeus, in his manuscript book, p. 234, says: 'The
alliance or confederacy of the Five Nations was established, as near as
can be conjectured, one age (or the length of a man's life) before the
white people (the Dutch) came into the country. Thannawage was the name
of the aged Indian, a Mohawk, who first proposed such an alliance.'"

The words which Heckewelder has here included between parentheses arc
apparently explanations which he himself added to the original statement
of Pyrlaeus. The first of these glosses, by which an "age" is explained
to be the length of a man's life, is doubtless correct; but the second,
which identifies the "white people" of Pyrlaeus with the Dutch, is
probably wrong. The white people who first "came into the country" of
the Huron-Iroquois nations were the French, under Cartier. It was in the
summer of 1535 that the bold Breton navigator, with three vessels
commissioned to establish a colony in Canada, entered the St. Lawrence,
and ascended the great river as far as the sites of Quebec and Montreal.
He spent the subsequent winter at Quebec. The presence of this
expedition, with its soldiers and sailors of strange complexion and
armed with terrible weapons, must have been known to all the tribes
dwelling along the river, and would naturally make an epoch in their
chronology. Assuming the year 1535 as the time when the white people
first "came into the country," and taking "the length of a man's life"
at seventy-five years (or three generations) we should arrive at the
year 1460 as the date of the formation of the Iroquois
League. [Footnote: There is an evident difference between the expression
used by my Onondaga informants and that which is quoted by Heckewelder
from Pyrlaeus. The latter speaks of the time before the white people
"came into the country;" the Onondagas referred to the time before they
"came to these parts." The passage cited from Bancroft seems to indicate
that the white men of Hudson's crew presented no novel or startling
aspect to the Mohawks. The French had been "in the country" before

The brief period allowed by Heckewelder's version is on many accounts
inadmissible. If, when the Dutch first came among the Iroquois, the
confederacy had existed for only about eighty years, there must have
been many persons then living who had personally known some of its
founders. It is quite inconceivable that the cloud of mythological
legends which has gathered around the names of these founders--of which
Clark, in his "Onondaga," gives only the smaller portion--should have
arisen in so short a term. Nor is it probable that in so brief a period
as has elapsed since the date suggested by Heckewelder, a fourth part of
the names of the fifty chiefs who formed the first council would have
become unintelligible, or at least doubtful in meaning. Schoolcraft, who
was inclined to defer to Heckewelder's authority on this point, did so
with evident doubt and perplexity. "We cannot," he says, "without
rejecting many positive traditions of the Iroquois themselves, refuse to
concede a much earlier period to the first attempts of these interesting
tribes to form a general political association." [Footnote: "_Notes on
the Iroquois_ p. 75,"]

In view of all the facts there seems no reason for withholding credence
from the clear and positive statement of the Iroquois chroniclers, who
place the commencement of their confederate government at about the
middle of the fifteenth century.



While many of the narratives of preternatural events recounted by Clark,
Schoolcraft and others, in which the name of Hiawatha occurs, are merely
adaptations of older myths relating to primitive Iroquois or Algonkin
deities, there are a few which are actual traditions, though much
confused and distorted, of incidents that really occurred. Among these
is the story told by Clark, of the marvelous bird by which Hiawatha's
only daughter was destroyed. Longfellow has avoided all reference to
this preposterous tale; but to Mr. Clark, if we may judge from the
fullness and solemnity with which he has recorded it, it appeared very
impressive. [Footnote: _"Onondaga"_ Vol. I, p. 25.] According to
his narrative, when the great convention assembled at the summons of
Hiawatha, to form the league of the Five Nations, he came to it in
company with his darling and only daughter, a girl of twelve. Suddenly a
loud rushing sound was heard. A dark spot appeared in the sky. Hiawatha
warned his daughter to be prepared for the coming doom from the Great
Spirit, and she meekly bowed in resignation. The dark spot, rapidly
descending, became an immense bird, which, with long and pointed beak
and wide-extended wings, swept down upon the beautiful girl, and crushed
her to atoms. Many other incidents are added, and we are told, what we
might well believe, that the hero's grief for the loss so suddenly and
frightfully inflicted upon him was intense and long protracted.

That a story related with so much particularity should be utterly
without foundation did not appear probable. It seemed not unlikely that
a daughter of Hiawatha might have been killed at some public meeting,
either accidentally or purposely, and possibly by an Indian belonging to
one of the bird clans, the Snipe, the Heron, or the Crane. But further
inquiry showed that even this conjecture involved more of what may be
styled mythology than the simple facts called for. The Onondaga chiefs
on the Canadian Reserve, when asked if they had heard anything about a
strange bird causing the death of Hiawatha's daughter, replied at once
that the event was well known. As they related it, the occurrence became
natural and intelligible. It formed, indeed, a not unimportant link in
the chain of events which led to the establishment of the
confederacy. The catastrophe, for such it truly was, took place not at
the great assembly which met for the formation of the league, but at one
of the Onondaga councils which were convened prior to that meeting, and
before Hiawatha had fled to the Caniengas. The council was held in an
open plain, encircled by a forest, near which temporary lodges had been
erected for the Councillors and their attendants. Hiawatha was present,
accompanied by his daughter, the last surviving member of his
family. She was married, but still lived with her father, after the
custom of the people; for the wife did not join her husband in his own
home until she had borne him a child. The discussions had lasted through
the day, and at nightfall the people retired to their lodges. Hiawatha's
daughter had been out, probably with other women, into the adjacent
woods, to gather their light fuel of dry sticks for cooking. She was
great with child, and moved slowly, with her faggot, across the
sward. An evil eye was upon her. Suddenly the loud voice of Atotarho was
heard, shouting that a strange bird was in the air, and bidding one of
his best archers shoot it. The archer shot, and the bird fell. A sudden
rush took place from all quarters toward it, and in the rush Hiawatha's
daughter was thrown down and trampled to death. No one could prove that
Atotarho had planned this terrible blow at his great adversary, but no
one doubted it. Hiawatha's grief was profound; but it was then,
according to the tradition of the Canadian Onondagas,--when the last tie
of kindred which bound him to his own people was broken,--that the idea
occurred to him of seeking aid among the eastern nations. [Footnote:
This account of the events which immediately preceded Hiawatha's flight
differs somewhat from the narrative which I received from the New York
Onondagas, as recorded in the Introduction (p. 22). The difference,
however, is not important; and possibly, if it had occurred to me to
inquire of these latter informants about the incident of the bird, I
might have heard from them particulars which would have brought the two
versions of the story still nearer to accord. The notable fact is that
the reports of a tradition preserved for four hundred years, in two
divisions of a broken tribe, which have been widely separated for more
than a century, should agree so closely in all important
particulars. Such concurrence of different chroniclers in the main
narrative of an event, with some diversity in the details, is usually
regarded as the best evidence of the truth of the history.]

Clark's informants also told him much about a snow-white canoe in which
Hiawatha--or, rather, Ta-oun-ya-wa-tha--made his first appearance to
human eyes. In this canoe the demigod was seen on Lake Ontario,
approaching the shore at Oswego. In it he ascended the river and its
various branches, removing all obstructions, and destroying all enemies,
natural and preternatural. And when his work was completed by the
establishment of the League, the hero, in his human form of Hiawatha,
seated himself in this canoe, and ascended in it to heaven, amid "the
sweetest melody of celestial music."

The nucleus and probable origin of this singular story is perhaps to be
found in the simple fact that Hiawatha, after his flight from the
Onondagas, made his appearance among the Caniengas a solitary voyager,
in a canoe, in which he had floated down the Mohawk river. The canoes of
the Caniengas were usually made of elm-bark, the birch not being common
in their country. If Hiawatha, as is not unlikely, had found or
constructed a small canoe of birch-bark on the upper waters of the
stream, and used it for his voyage to the Canienga town, it might
naturally attract some attention. The great celebrity and high position
which he soon attained, and the important work which he accomplished,
would cause the people who adopted him as a chief to look back upon all
the circumstances of his first arrival among them with special
interest. That the canoe was preserved till his death, and that he was
buried in it, amid funeral wails and mournful songs from a vast
multitude, such as had never before lamented a chief of the Kanonsioani,
may be deemed probable enough; and in these or some similar events we
may look for the origin of this beautiful myth, which reappears, with
such striking effect, in the closing scene of Longfellow's poem.



The list of towns comprised in the text contains twenty-three names. Of
this number only eight or nine resemble names which have been in use
since the Five Nations were known to the whites; and even of this small
number it is not certain that all, or indeed any, were in these more
recent times applied to their original localities. My friend, General
John S. Clark, of Auburn, N. Y., who has made a special study of the
positions of the Indian tribes and villages, and whose notes on this
subject illustrate the excellent work of Dr. Hawley on the early history
of the Cayuga nation, [Footnote: _Early Chapters of Cayuga
History:_ By Charles Hawley, D.D., President of the Cayuga Historical
Society.] has favored me, in a recent letter, with the following brief
but valuable summary of what is known in regard to the Iroquois towns:--

"When the Mohawks were first known, they occupied three principal towns
on the south side of the Mohawk river, between Ganajoharie and Schoharie
creeks. The most eastern was that of the "Turtles" (or Tortoise clan),
and was usually designated as such, and by the Dutch as the Lower or
First Castle. The Middle or Second Castle was commonly termed the
village of the "Bears;" while the Third or Upper Castle was generally
called Teonnondoge or Tionnontogen, a name apparently having reference


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