Census of the Iroquois in 1844

New York, October 31st, 1845.

In conformity with your instructions of the 25th June last, I proceeded to the several Iroquois reservations therein named, and I have the honor herewith to transmit to you the census returns for each reservation, numbered from I to VIII, and distinguished by the popular name of each tribe, or canton.

I. The question of the original generic name, by which these tribes were denoted, the relation they bear to the other aboriginal stocks of America, and the probable era of their arrival, and location within the present boundaries of this State, is one, which was naturally suggested by the statistical inquiries entrusted to me. Difficult and uncertain as any thing brought forward on these subjects must necessarily be, it was yet desirable, in giving a view of the present and former condition of the people that the matter should be glanced at. For, although nothing very satisfactory might be stated, it was still conceived to be well to give some answer to the intelligent inquirer, to the end, that it might, at least, be perceived the subject had not escaped notice.

A tropical climate, ample means of subsistence, and their consequence, a concentrated and fixed population, raised the ancient inhabitants of Mexico, and some other leading nations on the continent, to a state of ease and semi-civilization, which have commanded the surprise and admiration of historians. But it may be said, in truth, that, in their fine physical type, and in their energy of character, and love of independence, no people, among the aboriginal race, have ever exceeded, if any has ever equaled, the Iroquois.

Discoveries made in the settlement of New York, west of the DE o WAIN STA, or Stainwix Summit, have led to the belief, that there has been an ancient period of occupation of that fertile and expanded portion of the State, which terminated prior to the arrival of the Iroquois. Evidences have not been wanting to denote, that a higher degree of civilization than any of these tribes possessed, had, at a remote period, begun to develope itself in that quarter. But, hither to, the notices and examinations of the antiquities referred to, although highly creditable to the observers, and abounding in interest, have served rather to entangle, than reveal, the archaeological mystery which envelopes them. Some of these antiquarian trails, not appearing to the first settlers to be invested with the importance, as industrial or military vestiges, now attached to them, have been nearly or quite obliterated by the plough. The spade of the builder and excavator has overturned others; and at the rate of increase, which has marked our numbers and industry, since the close of the revolutionary war, little or nothing of this kind will remain, in a perfect state, very long.

To gratify the moral interest belonging to the subject, by full and elaborate plans and descriptions, would require time and means very different from any at my command the past season; but the topic was one which admitted of incidental attention, while awaiting decisions and obviating objections which some of the tribes urged to the general principles and policy of the census. And while the subject of a full archaeological and ethnological survey of the State is left as the appropriate theme of future research, facts and traditions, bearing on these subjects, were obtained and minuted down, at various points.

In availing myself of the liberty extended to me in this particular, by your instructions, I have, in fact, improved every possible means of information. Notes and sketches were taken down from the lips of both white and red men, wherever the matter itself and the trustworthiness of the individual appeared to justify them. Many of the ancient forts, barrows and general places of ancient sepulchre were visited, and of some of them, accurate plans, diagrams or sketches made on the spot, or obtained from other hands. A general interest was manifested in the subject by the citizens of western New York, wherever it was introduced, and a most ready and obliging disposition evinced, on all hands, to promote the inquiry.

The result of these examinations, and collections made by the way side, it is my intention to report in the form of Historical and Ethnological Minutes, which will be engrossed without loss of time from my original notes. These minutes, when properly arranged and copied, will constitute a document supplementary to the report here offered. It is not to be interred, however, that they will exhibit a compact and full digest of Iroquois history. Attention has rather been given to the lapses in their history, and to the supplying of data for its future construction. Little more has ever been thought of. This part of my investigations will be communicated, there fore, as a contribution to the historical materials of the Slate, touching its aborigines. Satisfied that the New York public regard the subject with decided approbation, and well aware of the munificence which has marked the State policy, with regard to the acquisition of historical documents from abroad, I may, I trust, be permitted to indulge the hope, that the Legislature will likewise extend its countenance to this portion of the labor which, as the State Marshal under the act, I have performed.

II. The present being the first time1 that a formal and full census of a nation or tribe of Indians has been called for, with their industrial efforts, by any American or European government exercising authority on this continent, the principles and policy of the measure presented a novel question to the Iroquois, and led to ex tended discussions. As these discussions, in which the speakers evinced no little aptitude, bring out some characteristic traits of the people, it may be pertinent, and not out of place here, briefly to advert to them.

As a general fact, the policy of a census, and its beneficial bearings on society, were not understood or admitted. It seemed to these ancient cantons to be an infringement on that independence of condition which they still claim and ardently cherish. In truth, of all subjects upon which these people have been called on to think and act, during our proximity to them of two or three centuries, that of political economy is decidedly the most foreign and least known to them, or appreciated by them, and the census movement was, consequently, the theme of no small number of suspicions and cavils and objections. Without any certain or generally fixed grounds of objection, it was yet the object of a fixed but changing opposition. If I might judge, from the scope of remarks made both in and out of council, they regarded it as the introduction of a Saxon feature into their institutions, which, like a lever, by some process not apparent to them, was designed, in its ultimate effects, to uplift and overturn them. And no small degree of pith and irony was put forth against it by the eloquent respondents who stood in the official attitude of their ancient orators. Everywhere, the tribes exalted the question into one of national moment. Grave and dignified sachems assembled in formal councils, and indulged in long and fluent harangues to their people, as if the very foundations of their ancient confederacy were about to be overturned by an innovating spirit of political arithmetic and utilitarianism. When their true views were made known, however, after many days and adjourned councils, I found there was less objection to the mere numbering of their tribes and families, than the [to them] scrutinizing demand, which the act called for, into their agricultural pro ducts, and the results of their industry. Pride also had some weight in the matter. “We have but little,” said one of the chiefs, in a speech in council, “to exhibit. Those who have yielded their as sent, have their barns well stored, and need not blush when you call.”

Another topic mixed itself with the consideration of the census, and made some of the chiefs distrustful of it. I allude to the long disturbed state of their land question, and the treaty of compromise which has recently been made with the Ogden Company, by which the reversionary right to the fee simple of two of their reservations has been modified. In this compromise, the Tonewandas, a considerable sub-tribe or departmental band of Senecas, did not unite; yet the reservation which they occupy is one of the tracts to be given up. They opposed the census, from the mere fear of committing themselves on this prior question, in some way, not very well understood by them, and certainly not well made out by their speakers. It is known that for many years, the general question of ceding their reservations, under the provisions of an early treaty of the State with the Six Nations, had divided the Senecas into two parties. A discussion which has extended through nearly half a century, in which Red Jacket had exhibited all his eloquence, had sharpened the national acumen in negotiation, and produced a peculiar sensitiveness and, suspicion of motive, whenever, in latter times, the slightest question of interest or policy has been introduced into their councils. This spirit evinced itself in the very outset of my visit, on announcing to certain bands the requirements of the census act Some of them were, moreover, strongly disposed to view it as the preliminary step, on the part of the Legislature, to taxation. To be taxed, is an idea which the Iroquois regard with horror. They had themselves, in ancient days, put nations under tribute, and understood very well the import of a State tax upon their property.

“Why,” said the Tonewanda chief, Deonehogawa, (called John Blacksmith,) “why is this census asked for, at this time, when we are in a straitened position with respect to our reservation? Or if it is important to you or us, why was it not called for before? If you do not wish to obtain facts about our lands and cattle, to tax us, what is the object of the census? What is to be done with the information after you take it to Governor Wright, at Skenectati?”

Hoeyanehqui, or Sky-carrier, a Buffalo chief, in answer to a question as to their views of the abstract right of the State to tax the tribes, evaded a direct issue, but assuming the ground of policy, compared the Iroquois to a sick man, and said, “that he did not believe the State would oppress one thus weak.”

Kaweaka, a Tuscarora chief of intelligence, speaking the English language very well, in which he is called William Mount-Pleasant, gave a proof, in yielding to the measure promptly, that he had not failed to profit by the use of letters. “We know our own rights. Should the Legislature attempt to tax us, our protection is in the Constitution of the United States, which forbids it. “This is the first appeal, it is thought, ever made by an Iroquois to this instrument. The clause referred to, relates however, wholly to representation in Congress, [Vide Art. 1, Sec. II, 2d.] from the privileges of which it excludes “Indians not taxed,” clearly implying that such persons might be represented in that body if “taxed.” Civilization and taxation appear to be inseparable.

III. Having detailed the steps taken in procuring the census, it only remains to subjoin a few remarks, which I beg leave to add, on the general features of the statistics and the results of their agriculture upon their condition and prospects.

The printed queries being prepared exclusively for a population in a high state of prosperity and progress, embrace many items for which there was no occasion, among pseudo hunters, herdsmen, or incipient agriculturists. Neither privileged to vote, nor subject to taxation, nor military service, or covered by the common school sys tem, or bearing any of the characteristic tests of citizenship, the questions designed to bring out this class of facts remained mere blanks. Others required to institute comparisons between a civilized and quasisavage state, were left by the tenor of your instructions, to my own discretion. I should have been, I am free to confess, happy to have extended these comparative views, much more fully than I have, going further into their vital statistics, their succedaneous modes of employment and subsistence, some parts of their lexicography, besides that affecting the names of places, and a few kindred topics, had not the Legislature omitted to make provision for the expenses incidental to such extended labors, and the department to which I applied giving me little encouragement that the oversight would be remedied. I have, however, proceeded to render the comparative tables effectual, and, I trust, satisfactory, and to this end, I have assumed obligations of a very limited pecuniary character, and incurred others for travel and some few kindred objects, which I trust the Legislature, with whom alone the subject rests, will meet.

It cannot be said that the Iroquois cantons of New York have as yet, any productive commerce, arts and manufactures. They are, to some extent, producers; furnish a few mechanics, and give employment to, and own a few lumber mills; but it is believed, while some of the bands, and at least one of the entire cantons, namely, the Tuscaroras, raise more grain and stock, than is sufficient for their own full subsistence, the average of the agricultural products of the whole people is not more, at the most favorable view, than is necessary for their annual subsistence. If so, they add nothing to the productive industry of the State. But it is gratifying to know that they are at least able to live upon their own means; and their condition and improvement is (certainly within the era of the temperance movement among them,) decidedly progressive and encouraging. They have reached the point in industrial progress, where it is only necessary to go forward. Numbers of families are eminently entitled to the epithet of good practical farmers, and are living, year in and year out, in the midst of agricultural affluence. That the proportion of individuals, thus advanced, is as considerable as the census columns denote it to be, is among the favorable features of the enquiry. There would appear to be no inaptitude for mechanical ingenuity, but hitherto, the proportion of their actual number who have embraced the arts, is, comparatively, very limited, not exceeding, at most, two or three to a tribe, and the effort has hitherto been confined to silver smiths,4 blacksmiths, carpenters and coopers. A single instance of a wheelwright and fancy wagon maker occurs.

Viewed in its extremes, society, in the Iroquois cantons, still exhibits no unequivocal vestiges of the tie which bound them to the hun ter state; and even, among the more advanced classes, there is too much dependence on means of living which mark either the absolute barbaric state, or the first grade of civilization. Hunters they are, indeed, no longer; yet it was desirable to ascertain how much of their present means of subsistence was derived from the chase. This will be found to be denoted in appropriate columns. It is gratifying to observe, that the amount is so small, nor is it less so, to the cause of Indian civilization, to remark, that the uncertain and scanty reward of time and labor which the chase affords, is less and less re lied on, in the precise ratio that the bands and neighborhoods advance in agriculture and the arts. In cases where the cultivation of English grains and the raising of stock have thoroughly enlisted attention, the chase has long ceased to attract its ancient votaries, and in these instances, which embrace some entire bands, or chieftaincies, it has become precisely what it is, in civilized communities, where game yet exists, an amusement, and not a means of reward.

That delusive means of Indian subsistence, which is based on the receipt of money annuities from the government, still calls together annually, and sometimes oftener, the collective male population of these tribes, at an expense of time, and means, which is wholly disproportioned, both to the amount actually received, and the not un important incidental risqué, moral and physical, incurred by the assemblage. I have denoted both the gross sum of these annuities, and the distributive share to heads of families, obtained from the office of the local government agent at Buffalo. These are believed to be authentic in amount. Estimated at the highest rate which can be taken, the sum, per capita, of these annuities, will not, on an average of crops and prices, for a series of years, equal the cash value of seven bushels of wheat a product, which, as a means of actual subsistence to the Indian family, would be of double or treble value. But this is far from being the worst effect of both the general and per capita cash distribution. Time and health are not only sacrificed to obtain the pittance, but he is fortunate who does not expend the amount in the outward or return journey from the council house, or in the purchase of some showy but valueless articles, while attending there.

A still further evil, flowing from these annual gatherings for the payment of Indian annuities, is the stimulus which it produces in assembling at such places traders and speculating dealers of various kinds, who are versed in this species of traffic, and who well know the weak points of the native character, and how best to profit by them. In effect, few of the annuitants reach their homes with a dime. Most of them have expended all, and lost their time in addition. Health is not infrequently sacrificed by living on articles, or in a manner not customary at home. The intemperate are confirmed in intemperance; and the idle, foppish and gay, are only more enamored of idleness, foppishness and pleasure. That such a system, introduced at any early day, when it was policy for governments on this continent, foreign and domestic to throw out a boon before wandering, hostile, and savage tribes, to display their munificence, and effect temporary interests, should have been continued to the present day, is only to be accounted for, from the accumulated duties, perpetually advancing jurisdiction, and still imperfectly organized state of that sub-department of the government, which exercises its, in some respects, anomalous administrative functions, under the name of the Indian Bureau. So far as the Iroquois are affected by the policy adverted to, their interests demand an immediate consideration of the subject on enlarged principles. It behooves them to meditate whether, as a people, now semi-civilized, and exercising, in their internal polity, the powers of an independent government, some more beneficial appropriation of the fund could not be made. Perhaps nothing would better serve to advance and exalt them, as a people, than the application of these annuities to constitute a confederate school fund, under some compact or arrangement with the State, by which the latter should stipulate to extend the frame-work of the common school system over their reservations.

Horticulture, to some extent, and in a limited sense, was always an incident to the hunter state among these tribes, so far, at least, as we are acquainted with their history. They brought the zea maize with them, we must concede, on their early migration to the banks of the Mohawk, and the Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Seneca basins; for this grain is conceded, on all hands, to be a tropical, or at least a southern plant, and if so, it reveals the general course of their migration. It is of indigenous origin, and was not known to Europe before the discovery. We learned the mode of cultivation from them, and not they from us. This grain became the basis of their fixity of population, in the 14th or 15th centuries, and capacity to undertake military enterprises. It was certainly cultivated in large fields, in their chief locations, and gave them a title to agriculturists; but it is equally certain that they had a kind of bean, perhaps the same called frijoles by the early Spaniards, and; some species of cucurbita. These were cultivated in gardens.

The tables will show a general and considerable advance, or any probable assumed basis, of the cultivation of corn. We cannot consider this species of cultivation, however, as any characteristic evidence of advance in agriculture, while the more general introduction of it, and the harvesting of large fields of it by separate families, is undoubtedly to be considered so. Taking the item of corn as the test, another and an important result will be perceived. In proportion as the cereals are cultivated, the average quantity of corn is diminished; and these are the very cases where, at the same time, the degree of civilization is most apparent in other things.

The condition of herdsmen is deemed by theorists and historians to be the first step in the progress from the hunter state. But we are in want of all evidence to show that there ever was, in America, a pastoral state. In the first place, the tribes had tamed no quadruped, even in the tropics, but the lama. The bison was never under any subjection, nor a fleece ever gathered, so far as history tells us, from the Bighorn or Rocky Mountain sheep. The horse, the domestic cow, the hog and the common sheep, were brought over after the discovery; and the Iroquois, like most of their western brethren, have been very slow, all advantages considered, in raising them. They have, in fact, had no pastoral state, and they have only become herdsmen at the time that they took hold of the plough. The number of domestic animals now on their reservations, as shown by the tables, bears a full proportion to their other industrial field labors. It will be seen, that while horses, neat cattle and hogs are generally raised, sheep come in, at more mature periods of advance, and are found only on the largest and best cultivated farms. Sheep, therefore, like the cereals, become a test of their advance. With this stage, we generally find, too, the field esculents, as turnips, peas, &c. and also buckwheat. I have indicated, as a further proof of their advance as herdsmen and grazers, the number of acres of meadow cut. The Iroquois cultivate no flax. They probably raise no rye, from the fact that their lands are better adapted to wheat and corn.

The potato was certainly indigenous. Sir Walter Raleigh, in his efforts at colonization’s, had it brought from Virginia, under the original name of openawg. But none of the North American tribes are known to have cultivated it. They dug it up, like other indigenous edible roots from the forest. But it has long been introduced into their villages and spread over the northern latitudes, far beyond the present limit of the zea maize. Its cultivation is so easy and so similar to that of their favorite corn, and its yield so great, that it is remarkable it should not have received more general attention from all the tribes. With the Iroquois, the lists will denote that, in most cases, it is a mere item of horticulture, most families not planting over half an acre, often not more than a quarter of an acre, and yet more frequently, none at all.

The apple is the Iroquois banana. From the earliest introduction of this fruit into New York and New France, from the genial plains of Holland and Normandy, these tribes appear to have been captivated by its taste, and they lost no time in transferring it, by sowing the seed, to the sites of their ancient castles. No one can read the accounts of the destruction of the extensive orchards of the apple, which were cut down, on Gen. Sullivan s inroad into the Genesee country in 1779, without regretting that the purposes of war should have required this barbaric act. The census will show that this taste remains as strong in 1845, as it was 66 years ago.

Adverse to agricultural labor, and always confounding it with slavery, or some form of servitude, at least, deeming it derogatory, the first effort of the Iroquois to advance from their original cornfield and garden of beans and vines is connected with the letting out of their spare lands to white men who were cast on the frontiers, to cultivate, receiving for it some low remuneration in kind or otherwise, by way of rent. This system, it is true, increased a little their means of subsistence, but nourished their native pride and indolence. It seems to have been particularly a practice of the Iroquois, and it has been continued and incorporated into their present agricultural system. I have taken pains to indicate, in every family, the amount of land thus let, and the actual or estimated value received for it. These receipts, I was informed, low as they are in amount, are gene rally paid in kind, or in such manner as often to diminish their value and effect, in contributing to the proper sustenance of the family.

I have been equally careful to ascertain the number of families who cultivated no lands, and insert them in the tables. The division of real property among this people appears to fall under the ordinary rules of acquisition in other societies. But it is not to be inferred in all cases, that the individual returned as without land has absolutely no right to any, or having this right, has either forfeited or alienated it, although the laws of the tribes respecting property, permit one Iroquois to convey his property in fee to another. It is only to be inferred, in every case, that they are non-cultivators. In a few cases the persons thus marked are mechanics, and rely for support on their skill. In the valley of the Alleghany, some of them are pilots in conducting rafts of lumber or arks down that stream. It would have relieved the industrial means of this band of the Senecas, extended as they are for forty miles along both banks of this river, could the amount received for this species of pilotage have been ascertained, together with the avails derived from several saw-mills owned by them, and from the lumber trade of that river generally. But these questions would have remained a blank in other tribes.

Not a few persons amongst the Onondagas and Tuscaroras, and the Tonewandas and other bands of Senecas, living in or contiguous to the principal wheat growing counties, labor during the harvest sea son as reapers and cradlers, for skill and ability in which occupations they bear a high reputation, and receive good wages in cash. There are a few engaged some parts of the year, as mariners on the lakes. It will be sufficient to denote these varied forms of incipient labor and strength of muscle and personal energy among these tribes, which it was, however, impracticable to bring into the tables.

Individual character vindicates its claims to wealth and distinction among these tribes in as marked a manner as among any people in the world. Industry, capacity and integrity, are strongly marked on the character and manners of numbers in each of the tribes. The art, of speaking, and a facility in grasping objects of thought, and in the transaction of business, separate and distinguish persons as fully as physical traits do their faces. And it is to be observed that these intellectual traits run very much in certain families. That there are numbers, on the contrary, who are drones in the political hive, who do not labor, or labor very little; others who are intemperate; others who neither work nor own land, or would long remain proprietors of them, were new divisions and appropriations made, and all of whom are a burden and drawback upon the industrious and producing classes, it requires little observation to show. Admitting what reforms teaching and example may accomplish among these, it is yet certain that of this number there are many who do not assimilate, or appear to constitute material for assimilation, in tastes and habits with the mass, nor appear likely to incorporate with them in any practical shape where they now reside, in their advances in agriculture, government and morals. The hunter habit in these persons is yet strong, but having nothing to stimulate it, they appear loth to embrace other modes of subsistence. Others stand aloof from labor, or at least all active and efficient labor, from a restless desire of change, or ambition to do something else than plough and raise stock; or from ill-luck, penury, or other motives. The proportion of the population who thus stand still and do not advance in civil polity, are a strong draw-back on the rest. It is conceived to be a pertinent question whether this class of the population would not find a better theatre for their progress and development by migrating to the west, where the general government still possess inappropriate territory at their disposal. It is believed by many that their migration would result in benefit to both parties. The question is one which has been often discussed by them in council, and is not yet, I should judge, fully settled. A point of approach for the Iroquois has already been formed in the Indian territory by the Senecas and Shawnees from Sandusky in Ohio, who, at the last accounts (vide President s Message to Congress, 1844,) number in the aggregate 336 souls. They are located on the Neosho river, (a branch of the Arkansas,) west of the western boundary of the State of Arkansas, where the reports of the government agents represent them as raising horses, cattle and other stock, and being producers of grain. In any view, the subject of the several classes of persons represented in the accompanying tables, as semi-hunters and non-cultivators, or individuals without lands, is one entitled to attention. They should not be permitted to live within the boundaries of the State without lands. The State should cherish all who choose to remain as vestiges of a once powerful race, to whose wisdom and bravery we owe the preservation of the domain. It would be unjust to expect the industrious and fore handed Iroquois to redivide their lands with the poor, and, to some extent, thriftless numbers of the cantons; while it may, at the same time be observed, that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to provide by legislation, suitable guards against their deterioration and depopulation in their present locations without destroying wholly the fabric of their confederation, chieftainships and laws.

IV. Whether the Iroquois have advanced in population since they have laid aside the character of warriors and hunters, and adopted, agriculture as their only means of support, we have no accurate data for determining. That their ancient population was overrated, and very much overrated, at all periods of our history, there can be little question. We may dismiss many of these rude conjectures, of the elder writers, as entitled to little notice, particularly that of La Houton, who estimates each canton at 14,000 souls. Still, after making every abatement for this tendency in the earlier authors to exaggerate their actual numbers, it could have been no small population, which, at one time, attacked the island of Montreal with twelve hundred armed warriors, and at another (1683) marched a thousand men against the Ottagamies.

Smith puts the whole number of fighting men, in 1756, with a moderation which is remarkable, compared to others who had touched the subject, at about twelve hundred. Giving to each warrior a home population of five, which is found to hold good, in modern days, in the great area of the west, we should have an aggregate of 6,000 a result, which is, probably, too low. Douglass, four years afterwards, gives us data for raising this estimate to 7,500. Col. Bouquet, still four years later, raises this latter estimate by 250. It must be evident that their perpetual wars had a tendency to keep down their numbers, notwithstanding their policy of aiding their natural increase by the adoption and incorporation into the cantons, in full independence, of prisoners and captives.

Mr. Jefferson estimates the population of the Powhatanic confederacy or group of tribes, at one individual to the square mile.7 Gov. Clinton, who ably handled the subject in a discourse in 1811, estimates that, if this rule be applied to the domain of the Iroquois in New York, an aggregate of not less than 30,000 would be produced;8 but he does not pass his opinion upon an estimate made so complete ly without reliable data.

At a conference with the five cantons at Albany, in 1677, the number of warriors was carefully made out at 2,150, giving, on the pre ceding mode of computation, a population of 10,750, and this was the strength of the confederacy reported by an agent of the Gover nor of Virginia, who had been specially dispatched to the conference for the purpose of obtaining this fact. Either, then, in the subsequent estimates of 1756, ’60, and ’64, the population had been underrated, or there had, on the assumption of the truth of the above enumeration, which is moderate, been a decline in the population of 3,000 souls in a period of eighty-seven years. That there was a constant tendency to decline, and that the cantons were aware of this, and made efforts to keep it up, by the policy of their conquests, is apparent, and has before been indicated.

During the American revolution, which broke out but eleven years after the expedition and estimate of Bouquet, when he had put the Iroquois at 1,550 fighting men, it is estimated that the British government had in their interest and service 1,580 warriors of this confederacy. The highest number noticed of the friendly Oneidas and a few others, who sided with us in that contest, is 230 warriors, raising the number of armed men engaged in the war, to 1,810, and the gross population in 1776 to 9,050 souls. This estimate, which appears to have been carefully made, from authentic documents, is the utmost that could well be claimed. It was made at the era when danger prompted the pen of either party in the war to exhibit the military strength of this confederacy, in its utmost power; and we may rest here, as a safe point of comparison, or, at least, we cannot admit a higher population.

By the census returns herewith submitted, the aggregate population of the three full, and four fragmentary cantons, namely, the Oneidas and Cayugas, still residing within the State, are denoted to be as follows, namely:

Senecas – 2,441
Onondaga – 398
Tuscaroras – 281
Oneidas – 210
Cayugas – 123
Mohawks – 20
St. Regis Canton – 360

By a statement submitted to Congress, on the 3d of December, 1844, the number of Oneidas, settled in Wisconsin, is put at 722; the number of Senecas, who have removed from Ohio into the Indian territory west of the Mississippi, at 125, and the number of mixed Senecas and Shawnees, at the same general location, at 211. Deducting one-half of the latter, for Shawnees, and there is to be added to the preceding census, in order to show the natural increase of the Iroquois, 953 souls. The number of the St. Regis tribe, who are based, as a tribe, on the Praying Indians of Colden, a band of Catholic Mohawks originally located at Caughnawaga is shown by the present year’s census to be 360. There are, at the village of Cornplanter, within the bounds of Pennsylvania, as numbered by me, the present year, 51 Senecas. Supposing that the Mohawks and Cayugas who fled to Canada at and after the revolutionary war, and who are now settled at Brantford on Grand river, Canada West, have merely held their own, in point of numbers, and deducting the number of Cayugas, namely, 144, found among the Senecas of Cattaraugus, and herewith separately returned, and taking Dalton’s estimate of the Mohawks and Cayugas in 1776, namely, 300 warriors for each tribe, there is to be added, to the census, to accomplish the same comparative view, two thousand eight hundred and fifty souls. From this estimate, there must be deducted, for a manifest error, in the original estimates of Dalton, in putting the Cayugas on the same footing of strength with the Mohawks, not less than 150 warriors or 750 souls, leaving the Canadian Iroquois at 2,106 say 2,000 souls.

Adding these items to the returns of the present census, and the rather extraordinary result will appear, that there is now existing in the United States and Canada a population of 6,942 Iroquois, that is to say, but 2,108 less than the estimated number, and that number placed as high as it well could be, at the era of the revolution in 1776. Of this number, 4,836 inhabit the United States, and 3,843 the State of New York. I cannot, however, submit this result without expressing the opinion, that the Iroquois population has been lower, between the era of the revolutionary war and the present time, than the census now denotes and that for some years past, and since they have been well lodged and clothed and subsisted by their own labor, and been exempted from the diseases and casualties incident to savage life, and the empire of the forest, their population has recovered and is Now On The Increase.

I have thus brought to a close, so far as relates to their population and industrial efforts, the inquiry committed to me respecting this nation. It would perhaps have gratified statistical curiosity and philosophical theory, to have exhibited fuller data on the subject of their longevity and vital statistics generally, but it may be considered in the light of an achievement to have accomplished thus much. The general result indicates five, with a large fraction, as the average number of the Iroquois family. Throughout each canton, the number of females predominates over the males. This is a fact which has been long known to hold good with respect to wandering, predatory and warlike tribes, but was not anticipated among peaceful, agricultural communities. But few years, however, have supervened since they dropped the hatchet and took hold of the plough; and in this time, it is apparent that the proportion of males to females has approached nearer to an equilibrium. The effects on vitality of agricultural labor and a cessation from war, are likewise favorable, so far as we can judge, compared with the known results among the sparse, ill fed, warring and errating hunters of the western forests and prairies. The average number of the Iroquois family is not higher than the common average of the hunter state. The number of children borne by each female is a considerable fraction over four. Of a population of 312 Tuscaroras, five have reached to and passed the age of 80, or over 1¾ per cent. Among the Senecas and Cayugas of Cattaraugus, the percentage is 1½, with a smaller fraction, 12 persons in 808 having passed that limit. Local causes have diminished this to one per cent nearly on the Buffalo reservation. On the contrary, it is found to be increased in the valley of the Alleghany to full two per cent. The ruling chief of that tribe, TEN WON NY AHS, of Teonegono, commonly called Blacksnake, is now in his ninety-sixth year, and is active and hale, and capable of performing journies to the annual assemblies of his people at Buffalo.

I should not have fulfilled the principal object in view, without directing some attention to the effects of the labors of past years in the introduction, into the Iroquois cantons, of education, letters and Christianity. So much of this branch of the inquiry as admits of arithmetical notice, will appear, either under the ordinary heads of the census, or the additional columns which have been prepared under the headings of “statistics of occupation and of morality.” The residue, comprising some remarks on the schools and churches, the present state of Iroquois society and manners, and the general condition and prospects of the cantons, will be included in the supplementary report and documents. I shall also defer to the same time, a particular notice of their annuities, and the extent of their ancient domain, and the periods of its cession to the State or general government.

In closing this report, it may be well to notice the fact that there are yet remaining in the State, some vestiges of the Algonquin race, who, under various distinctive names, occupied the southern portion of the State at the era of its discovery and colonization. As the language of the census act refers to such Indians only as live on the ” reservations,” I have not felt it to be within the scope of my appointment to search out and visit these scattered individuals, although I should have been gratified to make this inquiry. It is believed that they are comprised by about twenty of the Shinecock tribe, who yet haunt the inlets and more desolate portions of Long island, and by a very few lingering members of the ancient Mohegans, who, under the soubriquet of Stockbridges, yet remain in Oneida county. The bulk of this people, so long the object of missionary care, mi grated to the banks of Fox River and Winnebago Lake, in Wisconsin, about 1822. They were followed to that portion of the west, about the same time, or soon after, by the small consolidated band of Nanticokes, Narragansetts, and other early coast tribes, who, in concentrating in the Oriskany valley, after the close of the revolutionary war, dropped their respective languages, learned the English, and assumed the name of Brothertons. Both these migrated tribes were in an advanced state of semi-civilization, and were good farmers and herdsmen at the era of their removal.

I am, sir,
With respect,

Your ob’t servant,
HENRY R. SCHOOLCRAFT, Marshal under the 15th section of the census act.

Secretary of State

Deaf And Dumb, Idiots, Lunatics And Blind

I could not learn that there ever was a child born blind among the Iroquois. The traditions of the people do not refer to any instance of the kind. They believe none has occurred. It is certain, from inquiries made on the several reservations, that no such person now exists. Yet it is a subject which, from the importance of the fact in aboriginal statistics, deserves to be further investigated.

Among the Oneidas, prior to the removal of the principal body of this tribe to Wisconsin, there was one lunatic a young man who was kindly taken care of, and who accompanied them on their removal to the west. There is also an instance of a deaf and dumb child, among those of the tribe who remain in the State. This person, who is a female, now under 12 years of age, was recently taken to the Onondaga reservation by her relatives, and is now at that location.

There is one idiot among the Onondagas, a young man under 21 years of age. He is supported by his relatives and friends.

I also found one idiot among the Tuscaroras.

My inquiries on the several reservations of the Senecas, at Tonewanda, Buffalo, Cattaraugus and Alleghany, did not result in detecting a single person who was either deaf and dumb, an idiot or a lunatic. As the Senecas are seven-fold more numerous than the highest in number among the other cantons, this result, if it should be verified by subsequent and fuller inquiries, after more thoroughly explaining the object of the information sought for to each band, would offer a remarkable exemption from the usual laws of population. There are no means of instruction for this class of persons on the reservations. The care of the three individuals above designated, calls for the same disproportionate tax on time, which is else where necessary, and the admission of these persons to the State Lunatic Asylum, and the Deaf and Dumb Institute at New York, free of expense, would seem to be due to them.

Among the St. Regis, which is the only tribe I did not visit and take the enumeration of, it is not known whether there be any per sons of either class.

One or two additional facts may be added to the preceding statistics in this connection.

I found three saw mills, with twenty-one gangs of saws, on the Alleghany reservation, and also two council houses and two public schools, constituting public property, belonging exclusively to this reservation, which were valued by the appraisers, under the treaty of 1842, at $8,219. 00.

On the Cattaraugus reservation, there is the church, council house and farms, connected with the schools, being the property of the Indians and not the missionary society, which were valued together, by the same appraisers, at $3,214.50.

There is on the Buffalo Creek Reservation, a saw mill, valued at $404.75, a church built originally at an expense of $1,700, valued at $1,200, and a council house, valued at $75; making a total amount of public property, including all the preceding, of $13,113.25.

The total amount of private valuations on the Buffalo and Tonewanda reservations, under the treaty of 1842, was not exactly ascertained, but it is about $80,000. This is entirely Seneca property and funds. Its payment to individuals, in the sums awarded, is based on their removal to Cattaraugus and Alleghany, agreeably to the terms of the compromise treaty of 1842.

The Onondagas possess one sawmill, well built and in good repair, which is of some value to them, and might be rendered more so, under a proper system of management.


Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Notes on the Iroquois: Or, Contributions to American History, Antiquities, and General Ethnology. E. H. Pease & Company. 1847.

Search Military Records - Fold3

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top