The Onondaga and the Haudenosaunee saw the colonists growing and uniting to become a new government called the United States of America. After fighting with the Haudenosaunee in the French and Indian War, the colonists called upon the Haudenosaunee to a meeting at Ft. Pitt in 1775 to ask in their aide in the upcoming revolution against the British.
The Haudenosaunee pledged neutrality with this statement, “We see this as a fight between father and son. We will not join either side. But we are free men, if any choose to fight for you, they may.”
During the American Revolution, some Mohawks led by Joseph Brant chose to fight with the British and to defend the Proclamation Line. This line was established after the French and Indian War by King George as a boundary between the colonists and Indian lands. The Mohawks saw the colonial settlements in violation of the Proclamation Line and trespassers in their territory. Many colonial homes were attacked.
With the Haudenosaunee standing in the way of westward expansion of the new Republic and with General George Washington seeking revenge against the raids of colonial homes, he ordered the termination of the Haudenosaunee and sent these orders to General Sullivan.
“The Expedition you are appointed to command is to be directed against the hostile tribes of the Six Nations of Indians, with their associates and adherents. The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements, and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent their planting more.”
“I would recommend, that some post in the center of the Indian Country, should be occupied with all expedition, with a sufficient quantity of provisions whence parties should be detached to lay waste all the settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner, that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.”
In April 1779, the colonial army attacked the capital of the Haudenosaunee, the Onondaga Nation. The Onondagas, who were honoring the neutrality agreement, were not prepared for the attack. For over 8 miles south of Onondaga Lake, the colonial army followed the orders of General Washington killing and burning. The surviving Onondaga were homeless; some began to rebuild; some headed west to find shelter with their brother nations the Cayuga and Seneca. In August and September, the campaign resumed with multiple attacks against the Cayuga and Seneca Nations with the army again killing Haudenosaunee people and destroying their villages.
The Haudenosaunee took notice of General George Washington’s actions. When George Washington was elected President of the newly formed United States, Seneca Chief Cornplanter addressed President Washington in 1790.
“When your army entered the country of the Six Nations, we called you Hanadagá:yas (Town Destroyer): and to this day when that name is heard our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling close to the necks of their mothers. Our counsellors and warriors are men, and cannot be afraid; but their hearts are grieved with the fears of our women and children, and desire that it may be buried so deep as to be heard no more.”
Since that day, the Haudenosaunee have referred to all of the Presidents of the United States as Hanadagá:yas.