AN ANALYSIS OF THE 1613 TAWAGONSHI TREATY
Chief Irving Powless Jr and Dr. Robert Venables (retired professor of Native American Studies at Cornell) have formed a relationship over the past 30+ years. Here are some of the issues that they discuss.
AN ANALYSIS OF THE 1613 TAWAGONSHI TREATY
“Here at Tawagonshi met with us the undersigned Jacob Eelckens and Hendrick Christiaenssen, authorized by letter and obligated to examine into the trade with the aboriginal owners or directors of the country hereabouts.”
The Validity of the 1613 Tawagonshi Treaty
One of the basic questions asked by scholars in tracking the history of Haudenosaunee relations with the Dutch is What is the date of the first treaty? Answers include 1613, 1618, 1623, 1634, 1643, or sometime later. (George T. Hunt, The Wars of the Iroquois: A Study in Intertribal Trade Relations, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1940, 25-30; GSF 1987: 383). The date does not matter to the Haudenosaunee, because the Two Row Wampum is their record of the treaty. The meaning of the treaty is its most significant component. The Two Row emphasizes the long peaceful trade and political relationships the Haudenosaunee have had with the Dutch and then the English. This long alliance continued until a civil war among the white colonists, known as the American Revolution, threw that steadfast friendship into chaos.
Separate Paths, Separate Sovereignties, Mutual Cooperation.
From a European legal point of view, this imposition of vassalage upon Indian leaders meant that if any of their people or their descendants resisted, this resistance would be regarded as a rebellion against the legitimate, sovereign English government. Such rebellions would not be considered as “wars” between sovereign nations, and thus the Indians would have no rights under European rules of warfare. As in Europe, if Indian “rebels” were defeated, they and their families would be at the complete mercy of the conqueror. Indian warriors and their entire families could be killed or enslaved, and their lands could be forfeited.
After 1613, the Haudenosaunee continued to maintain the principles of the Two Row Wampum and to constantly affirm in councils that the Covenant Chain trumped any claims of sovereignty that the English tried to assert. For example, the 1710 visit by four Mohawk Haudenosaunee leaders to Queen Anne is one of the most famous diplomatic visit by any Indian nation to any capital of Europe, the United States, or Canada. In addition to extensive records, various portraits survive, the most impressive being paintings by John Verelst. The four diplomats brought “belts of wampum” – of unknown number -- and gave them to a monarch whom they considered to be an ally, a friend, and ‑‑ most importantly ‑‑ their equal. The ambassadors’ leader was Te Ye Neen Ho Ga Prow (Hendrick) of the Wolf Clan. The Verelst painting of Saga Yean Qua Prab Ton, known as Brant, dramatically illustrate how he was intricately tattooed upon his face and chest. Hendrick and Brant, together with Oh Nee Yeath Ton No Prow (John) and Elow Ob Koam (Nicholas, a Mahican), presented the belts of wampum to Queen Anne at St. James Palace on April l9, l7l0. Their speech to Queen Anne was prepared in advance, and its delivery was apparently a complicated affair. They spoke through their interpreter and friend, Captain Abraham Schuyler, and then another friend, Major David Pigeon, read the speech to the Queen in English (Richmond P. Bond, Queen Anne’s American Kings, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952, 1). The diplomats described themselves and the Haudenosaunee they represented as allies of the queen. The word “subject” is not used. Called by their hosts the "Four Kings," they were in fact simply the ambassadors of their people. The English documents recording the speech below and printed by the Public Archives of Canada were all dated 1710 (John G. Garratt, The Four Indian Kings, Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1985, 77-89). But the speech includes a reference to “six nations” rather than five. Perhaps this is a reference to the Mahicans as a sixth nation: many Mahicans had been adopted by the Mohawks. One of the four diplomats was Elow Ob Koam (Nicholas) was a Mahican who had been adopted into the Mohawk nation. In 1710, the Tuscaroras – the people who became known among the colonists as the sixth nation -- had probably not yet taken full refuge among the Haudenosaunee. Admittance under the Tree of Peace was a long process, evidently from about 1714 to about 1722. However, it would be fascinating if future research could prove that the Tuscaroras were already under the Tree of Peace by 1710. [The italics are in the original. The bold has been added in this report for emphasis.]
And in token of our Friendship, we hung up the Kettle, and took up the Hatchet…. As a Token of the Sincerity of the Six Nations, We do here, in the Name of All, present Our Great Queen with these BELTS of WAMPUM….
…we have been in Alliance with our Great Queen’s Children [that is, the English colonists].
(Richmond P. Bond, Queen Anne’s American Kings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952), 94-95)
The idea that a smaller nation can be an ally of a larger power but not a “subject” or legal subordinate was defined by G.F. [Georg Friedrich] von Martens (1756-1821). He was a professor of international law at Göttingen, Germany, when he wrote Summary of the Law of Nations (1788). His work became a standard of international law. Von Martens wrote that sovereignty is not eliminated by an alliance or other association with a more powerful nation. He listed examples of smaller, sovereign nations, islands, and even cities that were allied to greater powers. These included Monaco; The City of Geneva, Switzerland; the Republic of Genoa (now a part of Italy); the Kingdom of Naples (now a part of Italy); The Order of Malta
(Island of Malta); The Island of Sardinia (now a part of Italy); and The Bishopric of Basel, Switzerland. Von Martens summarized the sovereignty of these and others like them as follows:
(Martens, Summary of the Law of Nations, quoted by Howard Berman, “Perspectives on American Indian Sovereignty and International Law, 1600 to 1776” in Oren Lyons and John Mohawk, eds., Exiled in the Land of the Free (Santa Fe, New Mexico: Clear Light Publishing, 1992), 349-350, at footnote 14. cf. 130.)
The success of the Haudenosaunee in asserting their sovereignty and the principles of the Two Row were demonstrated on October 7, 1772, when General Thomas Gage, the commander of all British troops, wrote to Sir William Johnson, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern Colonies:
(General Thomas Gage, 7 October 1772, to Sir William Johnson, in James Sullivan et al., eds., The Papers of Sir William Johnson, 14 vols.; (Albany, New York: University of the State of New York, 1921‑1965), XII , 995).
In 1783, at the end of the American Revolution, the Mohawk leader Aaron Hill (Kanonaron) again reaffirmed the Two Row Wampum, noting that the Haudenosaunee are “a free People Subject to no Power on Earth, that they were the faithful Allies of the King of England, but not his Subjects.” (Aaron Hill at Fort Niagara, May 18, 1783, Allan Maclean to Sir Frederick Haldimand, May 18, 1783, in The Haldimand Papers, 232 volumes, hand copied for the Public Archives of Canada from the originals in the British Museum, The Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa, B. 103: 177.)
Nevertheless, throughout the colonial period and into the twenty-first century, non-Indian governments have continually challenged the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee. The reason for this continuing challenge to Haudenosaunee sovereignty rests in the most fraudulent documents in history: the documents that have created an equally fraudulent European ideology known as the Doctrine of Discovery. This legal concept began in 1492 with claims of the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in their grant to Christopher Columbus but culminating in a declaration by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 (appropriately titled a “Papal Bull”). This concept was soon adapted by the other colonizing European nations and became the primary ideology that served as the basis for the occupations by various European nations throughout the Western Hemisphere. The English based their claims on the 1497 voyage of John Cabot (an Italian sailing for England). (The documents on the early implementations of the Doctrine of Discovery are reprinted in Henry Steele Commager, ed., Documents of American History, 9th edition, Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 1973, 1-6.)
Although the Doctrine of Discovery is easily the most fraudulent “land claim” in the history of the Western Hemisphere, the Europeans took it seriously, and it is still taken seriously by the United States, Canada, and all the other governments of the Western Hemisphere. The Doctrine of Discovery was most recently affirmed in 2005 by the United States Supreme Court, which affirmed and quoted a 1985 case. The Doctrine was defined as:
(United States Supreme Court, City of Sherrill, New York, Petitioner v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York et al. (544 U.S. 2005). “The opinion of the court” was delivered by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; page 3, footnote 1.)
The English Claims under the Doctrine of Discovery and the 1613 Treaty
Debates among non-Indians regarding Haudenosaunee treaty dates began in the 1600s. The issue was sovereignty and the Doctrine of Discovery. Because the 1613 treaty is between equals, and is also clearly proclaimed in the Two Row Wampum, the issue of sovereignty is at heart of the current debate over the 1613 treaty, and indeed all treaties made with the Haudenosaunee. The English began debating the date of the first Haudenosaunee treaty in the seventeenth century. The debate centered on which European nation had the primary right to the lands of the Haudenosaunee and of other Indian nations in what is now New York under the Doctrine of Discovery. While England had already asserted its claims in Virginia and New England, the English pressed their claim to what is now New York. The Dutch had surrendered New Netherlands (New York) to the English in 1664 when the Dutch chose not to resist the presence of a small English fleet off Manhattan. By right of conquest, the English absorbed the rights of the Dutch. But the English now had to contend with a French treaty with the Haudenosaunee in 1624, and thus to block the claim of France to the Haudenosaunee homeland. The French claim was in turn based on the 1524 voyage of Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian sailing for France, and on the 1534 and 1535 voyages of Jacques Cartier. Cartier encountered an Iroquoian speaking people on the St. Lawrence both in 1534 and 1535 (this is yet another reason it is in the interests of the United States to claim that the ancestors of the Haudenosaunee do not include the so-called “St. Lawrence Iroquois”). (Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, New York: Oxford University Press, 1971, 301-302, 339-463; also see the first known European encounter with an Iroquoian-speaking people: Jehan Poullett, manuscript account of Jacques Cartier's 1534 voyage, reprinted in W.P. Cumming, R.A. Skelton, and D.B. Quinn, eds., The Discovery of North America, New York: American Heritage Press, 1971, 96‑97.)
Because of the French claims and their 1624 treaty with the Haudenosaunee, the English were eager to find a date prior to 1624. One date that the English claimed was 1623, the year before the French treaty. This 1623 date was, as historian George T. Hunt sarcastically remarked in 1940, “a most convenient date” and a fraud (George T. Hunt, The Wars of the Iroquois: A Study in Intertribal Trade Relations, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1940, 26). Hunt rejected the validity of another treaty that other white scholars claimed to be true: a 1618 treaty made at “the vale of Tawasentha or Norman’s Kill” (George T. Hunt, The Wars of the Iroquois: A Study in Intertribal Trade Relations, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1940, 26; Norman’s Kill is also the site of the 1613 Tawagonshi Treaty). Hunt also dismissed the validity of another treaty which other non-Indian writers had accepted: a treaty in 1643, because it was only “an informal agreement” (George T. Hunt, The Wars of the Iroquois: A Study in Intertribal Trade Relations, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1940, 27). The land claims of France and England were continually asserted on battlefields throughout the Northeast. While some Haudenosaunee fought on the side of France, England eventually defeated the French in Canada by 1763, winning in no small part because of England’s own Haudenosaunee allies. The historian Fred Anderson notes that “the Seven Years’ War could not have begun unless a single desperate Iroquois chief had tried to keep the French from seizing control of the Ohio Valley; nor could the war have reached the conclusion it did, without the participation of native peoples …. [the war] began when the diplomatic miscalculations of the Six Nations of the Iroquois allowed the French and British empires to confront each other over the control of the Ohio Valley” (Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, xviii-xix; cf. 7-32, and passim. The role of the Haudenosaunee in the Seven Years War relative to that war’s global scale is in Daniel Baugh, The Global Seven Years War, 1754-1763, Harlow, England: Pearson, 2011, 45-46, 51-52, 56-59, 77-81, 131-139, 210, 333-334, 386-390, 489, and 656).
The Treaty of 1613 Reflects the Abilities of the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch to Communicate. This may seem to be an obvious statement, but both the 1613 treaty and the Two Row Wampum describe concepts beyond “I will trade you this for that.” The wording of the treaty indicates a sophisticated understanding of languages by both the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch. This was possible because the Dutch had been trading with Indian nations along the Hudson River Valley since 1598. (The date 1598 is noted in “Report of the Board of Accounts,” The Hague, The Netherlands, December 15, 1644, in E. B. O'Callaghan, ed., Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, 15 vols.; Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons, and Co., 1854-1883, I, 149). Thus the date 1598 marks the start of the development of language/translation skills among the Dutch, the Haudenosaunee Mohawks, and other Native nations such as the Mahicans. Because the Dutch had been in the Hudson River Valley since 1598, Mohawk translators and Dutch translators had undoubtedly achieved more than the basic vocabularies of each other’s languages by 1613. The stimulus to learn languages in order to trade was stimulated in 1609 when Henry Hudson sailed up the river that bears his name. He and his crew of the Dutch ship Half-Moon encountered Native peoples near present-day Albany. These Indians, perhaps including Mohawks but certainly Mahicans, approached Henry Hudson with pelts that the Indians had already prepared because these Indians had traded with the Dutch for more than a decade. The pelts were exchanged for European goods, and basic diplomatic gestures of hospitality were exchanged (Eamanuel Van Meteren, 1610 and Johan de Laet in 1630, in J. Franklin Jameson, ed., Narratives of New Netherland, 1609-1664, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909, 7 and 49).
By the late 1500s, archaeological evidence indicates that Mohawk towns were also obtaining European goods from French traders along the St. Lawrence, “either through trading or raiding” (William Engelbrecht, Iroquoia: The Development of a Native World, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2003, 138 and 137-138). These French goods from the late 1500s may have had an additional source as well. Dutch traders eager to share the French fur trade in Canada had occasionally set up partnerships with French traders in Rouen, a major French port on the Seine