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MINUTES OF TREATY KEPT BY GENERAL ROBT. V. RENSILEAR WITH THE INDIANS IN SCHENECTADY [manuscript docket title].
Schenectady. Aug. 28, 1780. - 5pp. plus docketing leaf. Folio. Old fold lines. Minor soiling and wear. Very good. A manuscript transcript of a mediation between Gen. Robert Van Rensselaer and the chiefs of the Oneida nation, regarding an Indian warrior who was found with a wampum belt which represented an alliance with the British against the American colonists. The Americans confronted the Oneida, demanding an explanation. During the spring of 1780, Indian war parties were constantly leaving British-held Fort Niagara for the frontiers of New York, Pennsylvania, and as far south as Virginia. The raiding parties ranged in size from six to seventy-five men. Returning to Fort Niagara, the parties brought prisoners, livestock, and reports of settlers killed and barns burned. Of the Six Nations that comprised the Iroquois Confederacy, the Oneida were the most sympathetic to the colonial cause. Though they tried to maintain neutrality, the Oneida eventually sided with the colonials, even fighting along side them in several battles. In the present document, the General puts forth four questions into the nature of the wampum belt and the man found with it, which the Oneida chiefs answer after questioning the prisoner. The prisoner also makes a speech, which is recorded here. The document reads, in part: "The following are questions asked by General Robt. Van Rensselaer at a Council held with the Sachems of the Oneida Nation this day at which was present General Van Rensselaer, and some gentlemen of this city. When the General [said] to them as follows. 1st, Brothers, does any of you know this Belt? 2ndly, What is the intention or meaning of the said Belt? 3dly, Whether it is customary for a warrior to carry such Belt unless sent on some extraordinary occasion? 4thly, Do you know how the prisoner came by this Belt, or can imagine what was his inducement for going off with it." Van Rensselaer's questions are followed by the response of the Sachems: "Brothers who are now in this room, and have called us by that name, attend to our answer concerning a Belt taken yesterday on suspicion, now before us, and questions added thereon, we are all strangers to the Belt and know not from whence it came. We will call a council of all the warriors, and endeavour to find out from whence it came, and the intention of it, as it may be off [sic] bad consequence both to you and us. Our head man, the Grasshopper, is gone to Albany, we wish for his return which will be between this and evening. An evil spirit is now working in the hearts of some of your brothers to do mischief. We will examine the prisoner who had the Belt, and endeavour to find out from him where he got the Belt, and what is the meaning of the Belt. Brothers let the prisoner be brought before us." It is then recorded that the prisoner confessed that the Belt was given to him by one Sehonendo, after which he was possessed by an evil spirit, though he is now repentant and apologetic. The council adjourned until the afternoon, at which point the Sachems have acquired some answers to Van Rensselaer's questions. They continue: "Brothers hear what we are going to say of the affairs that have happened unfortunate to us this day. We had a counsel in the morning and are now going to conclude. That Belt which was taken yesterday, we have some light of the speech intended to carry with it. The prisoner when he came to Fort Schuyler had that Belt. Sehonendo made a speech on it at Oneida, and then gave it to him the purport of which was, to deliver that silently to Sehonendo's son, and the meaning of the Belt, was, Son draw off. The son would not pay any attention to the Belt sent by his father, and it was his son's answer going by this Belt, which was that he would have nothing to say to his father but remain steady to the Americans, that when they came to Fort Herkimer Sehonendo's son gave the Belt to the prisoner, and would not carry it farther. This is the meaning of the Belt you now see, and the intention of this Belt's retur
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2014-10-02           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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