Saturday, May 28, 2016

Native American Biographies: Seneca (Iroquois Confederacy) Leaders

Red Jacket  Seneca  Red Jacket distinguished himself as an orator rather than a fighter.  He received his nickname of Red jacket because of his fondness of wearing red jackets, first given to him by the British.  At the Council of Oswega he and Cornplanter urged Iroquois neutrality during the Revolutionary War.  When the council as a whole voted for aiding the British he joined with this decision and fought with the British.  He did not distinguish himself in battle, leaving the field on a couple of occasions.  However he often served as speaker.  He participated in many treaty conferences, arguing against Indian assimilation.  President George Washington gave him a medal.  He never rose to become a member of the Iroquois Council.  This may have been because of conflict he had with Handsome Lake.  Handsome Lake thought he was a hypocrite.  Red Jacket did not like religious people, and could not see how Christians could not reach agreement on their religion.

Handsome Lake Seneca.  Handsome lake was a Seneca Chief during the Revolutionary War.  However, he is most noted as a Seneca Prophet.  He founded the Long House Religion which is still practiced by Seneca in Canada, Oklahoma and New York.  Practice of this religion started after Handsome Lake had a vision when he was ill.  His vision taught him about the Great Spirit, and was called the Good Word.  He had many subsequent visions.  His visions have similar qualities to Biblical visions.  He prescribed different punishments in hell for different sins.  This is how he excoriated Red Jacket, talking about his future punishments in hell.  He did no use alcohol, and encouraged others to abstain.  When Handsome Lake died the Seneca were divided into two factions, those who followed him and those who wanted the old ways.  By the Civil War those seeking the old ways had disappeared.  They had either become Christian or joined his movement.  By the Civil War almost all the Seneca People were religious, either Christian, or Long House or both. 

Cornplanter Seneca.  Cornplanter was the son of a Seneca woman and a Dutch father.  He has half-brother to the prophet Handsome Lake.   He was teased for having light skin as a child.  He argued for Iroquois neutrality during the Revolutionary War.  However his view did not prevail and he sided with the British as was the Iroquois Council decision.  He fought in several engagements, and at one point came upon his father, but refused to take him prisoner.  After the war he emerged as a proponent of peaceful relations with the Americans.  He did not like their tactics of taking Seneca land, but also maintained that peaceful relations were best.  He promoted America to other tribes.  Cornplanter met George Washington, and requested technical assistance for his people.  Washington recommended the Quakers who established a model farm and school for the Seneca.  The relationship between the Seneca and Quakers continues to this day.   He assisted the state of Pennsylvania in obtaining the Erie Triangle as part of the state.  A few years later, Pennsylvania erected a monument in his honor, the first monument to honor a Native American in the United States.

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