Author: Johnson, Elias
Title: Legends, Traditions, and Laws of the Iroquois, or Six Nations, and History of the Tuscarora Indians
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): tuscarora; tuscaroras; indians; tuscarora indians; seneca; indian; tuscarora nation; seneca nation; treaty; council; ludlow ogden; nation; york indians
Contributor(s): West, Julius [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 77,023 words Grade range: 12-16 Readability (Flesch) score: 51
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by Elias Johnson
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IROQUOIS, OR SIX NATIONS AND
HISTORY OF THE TUSCARORA INDIANS
BY ELIAS JOHNSON, A NATIVE TUSCARORA CHIEF
PUBLISHED IN 1891
"A book about Indians!"--who cares anything about them?
This will probably be the exclamation of many who glance on my little page. To those who know nothing concerning them, a whole book about Indians will seem a very prosy affair, to whom I can answer nothing, for they will not proceed as far as my Preface to see what reasons I can render for the seeming folly.
But to those who are willing to listen, I can say that the Indians are a very interesting people, whether I have made an interesting book about them or not.
The Antiquarian, the Historian, and the Scholar, have been a long time studying Indian character, and have given plenty of information concerning the Indian, but it is all in ponderous volumes for State and College libraries, and quite inaccessible to the multitude--those who only take up such book as may be held in the hand, sitting by the fire,--still remain very ignorant of the Children of Nature who inhabited the forests before the Saxon set his foot upon our shores.
There is also a great deal of prejudice, the consequence of this ignorance, and the consequence of the representations of your forefathers who were brought into contact with the Indians, under circumstances that made it impossible to judge impartially and correctly.
The Histories which are in the schools, and from which the first impressions are obtained, are still very deficient in what they relate of Indian History, and most of them are still filling the minds of children and youth, with imperfect ideas. I have read many of the Histories, and have longed to see refuted the slanders, and blot out the dark pictures which the historians have wont to spread abroad concerning us. May I live to see the day when it may be done, for most deeply have I learned to blush for my people.
I thought, at first, of only giving a series of Indian Biographies, but without some knowledge of the government and religion of the Iroquois, the character of the Indians could not be understood or appreciated.
I enter upon the task with much distrust. It is a difficult task at all times to speak and to write in foreign language, and I fear I shall not succeed to the satisfaction of myself, or to my readers.
My title will not be so attractive to the American ears, as if it related to any other unknown people. A tour in Arabia, or Spain, or in India, or some other foreign country, with far less important and interesting material, would secure a greater number of readers, as we are always more curious about things afar off.
I might have covered many pages with "Indian Atrocities," but these have been detailed in other histories, till they are familiar to every ear, and I had neither room nor inclination for even a glance at war and its dark records.
To animate a kinder feeling between the white people and the Indians, established by a truer knowledge of our civil and domestic life, and of our capabilities for future elevation, is the motive for which this work is founded.
The present Tuscarora Indians, the once powerful and gifted nation, after their expulsion from the South, came North, and were initiated in the confederacy of the Iroquois, and who formerly held under their jurisdiction the largest portion of the Eastern States, now dwell within your bounds, as dependent nations, subject to the guardianship and supervision of a people who displaced their forefathers. Our numbers, the circumstances of our past history and present condition, and more especially the relation in which we stand to the people of the State, suggest many important questions concerning our future destiny.
Being born to an inauspicious fate, which makes us the inheritors of many wrongs, we have been unable, of ourselves, to escape from the complicated difficulties which accelerate our decline. To make worse these adverse influences, the public estimation of the Indian, resting, as it does, upon the imperfect knowledge of their character, and infused, as it ever has been, with the prejudice, is universally unjust.
The time has come in which it is no more than right to cast away all ancient antipathies, all inherited opinions, and to take a nearer view of our social life, condition and wants, and to learn anew your duty concerning the Indians. Nevertheless, the embarrassments that have obstructed our progress, in the obscurity which we have lived, and the prevailing indifference to our welfare, we have gradually overcame many of the evils inherent in our social system, and raised ourselves to a degree of prosperity. Our present condition, if considered in connection with the ordeal through which we have passed, shows that there is the presence of an element in our character which must eventually lead to important results.
As I do not profess that this work is based upon authorities, a question might arise in the breast of some reader, where these materials were derived, or what reliance is to be placed upon its contents. The credibility of a witness is known to depend chiefly upon his means of knowledge. For this reason, I deem it important to state, that I was born and brought up by Tuscarora Indian parents on their Reservation in the Town of Lewiston, N.Y. From my childhood up was naturally inquisitive and delighted in thrilling stories, which led me to frequent the old people of my childhood's days, and solicited them to relate the old Legends and their Traditions, which they always delighted to do. I have sat by their fireside and heard them, and thus they were instilled upon my young mind. I also owe much of my information to our Chief, JOHN MT. PLEASANT. I have also read much of Indian history, and compared them with our LEGENDS and TRADITIONS.