Four Gallant Warriors

The four gallant warriors now made their way to the settlement at Gau-strau-yea (Kienuka). When they arrived, they saw only the eldest people, from about upwards of sixty-five years of age, and the younger children, from about fourteen years of age and under. While they were traveling they saw two boys picking up sticks for firewood. One of them asked the smaller boy where his father was. The bright little fellow spoke promptly and said, “Gone to war.” Before the older boy could divert his attention by touching him, the little fellow finished his answer. This they took to be news, and immediately dispatched one of their numbers home to make the report. When this one made his report to Onea-gah-re-tah-wa, he at once dispatched runners to the other nations of the league to inform them of what had happened to their father, the Seneca nation, and the desecration of their fort. The three that were left after the one was dispatched home, went onto a settlement of the same nation at Gill Creek, above Niagara Falls, where they found the people the same as at Gau-straw-yea. The elders and the youngers only were at home. They also asked a boy there where his father was. He answered: “At Kah-kwah-ka,” which is south of Buffalo. These three spies took pains to get at Kah-kwah-ka in the night. When they got there they found a great multitude gathered, and engaged in the war dance. The spies went right among the multitude without being suspected, because their language was the same as the Squawkihows, and took part in the dances. They saw the warriors in their dance have a head of a bear, tossing it about and striking it with the war club, and at the same time exclaiming: “We will have the head of Onea-gah-re-tah-wa, (the Seneca Sachem) and strike it thus” at the same time hitting it with their club. And the war chief said that they would start in the morning and on the third day they would have the head of Onea-gah-re-tah-wa strung up on a pole. With that the spies dispatched home the second one to make his report of what they saw and heard, and this one retired from the crowd privately some little time before daybreak. The two still remained with the crowd, talking and chatting with them as if they were one of their nations.

In the morning the grand march took their place in the war path towards their intended destruction. The ablest warriors took the front rank; then came the older ones; after them the boys upwards of fourteen years of age; lastly came the able bodied females. Thus they marched until the next night, when they prepared ground for a dance, and went through the same performance as the night before. Now the third spy withdrew from the crowd just before daybreak to make his report and keep the Seneca posted in the advance of the enemy. On the second day the march was renewed, and proceeded in the same order as on the first day. The next night was also spent as that of the last in flattering themselves of the wonderful things that they were to accomplish. About two hours before daybreak the last spy also withdrew from the crowd and made for home, to inform them how far off they were from the Seneca settlement. After the last one had made his report, Onea-gah-re-tah-wa arose from his seat, with that majestic movement which only would become him as the head Sachem of the Seneca nation, and said: “To you, first, my most beloved comrades, the Chiefs and Sachems of our noble nation, I would bring to your minds the past in a few words, and it may be for the last time. How often have we sat together around the council fire of our nation. I congratulate you all in the good feeling that has always prevailed in our deliberations of various subjects in relation to the welfare and happiness of our nation, and more particularly our sisters and their offspring, and we have not been unmindful even of those that are not yet born, for in them have we hoped of the existence of our nation. Have not the nations of the Iroquois respected and even honored your counsels around the great council fire of the league, and now is destruction awaiting your dawn? But if that is the will of the Great Spirit, by running we cannot flee from it. And to you, our sisters, have we not ever been mindful of you in our deliberations and ever wished you success: and have we not, as it were, embraced you and your children in our arms to protect you? We now commend you to the Great Spirit, who is our helper. And now to you, most noble warriors, in whom the council looks for the enforcement of their decrees. In bringing difficulties and contentions among yourselves, have we not brought back to you peace, by meting out to you justice; and in your troubles have we not whispered in your ears words of consolation? And we have ever placed you close to our hearts. In you is the power of the nation, and in you we look for safety. You have understood it that our nation has been given into the hands of our enemy by the Queen and we are now in jeopardy. As I have said, we cannot, by running, flee from the decree of the Great Spirit, but if He is for us we shall prevail. He will give strength to our bow, direct our arrows, give might to our arms and direct our blows, and put to flight our enemy, and we shall conquer. He is able to give us peace in this our time of trouble, if we all but trust in Him. It is he that made us and He is able to preserve us from our enemies. Now my dear relatives in the different ties of blood, it is not meet that we should have our blood spilt within our domain, nor to have the dead bodies of our enemies strewed within our settlement. We must now march and meet our foe. We must not turn our heel to them; but if we are to be exterminated, let the last drop of Seneca blood be spilt upon the bosom of our mother earth, and let the sun in the heavens be the witness that we die in the defense of our wives, children and homes, which is pleasing in the sight of the Great Spirit.”

They now made their march, and after they had advanced a number of miles they met the enemy. It was now sometime in the afternoon. A desperate battle ensued. The storm of the arrows headed with flint, and also the creased poisoned arrows was kept up until evening, when a peculiar war cry was given, which indicated rest, at which in an instant the storm of arrows ceased, when the Sachems of the two parties came near together and deliberated on the conditions of rest during the night, that each party should retreat a ways and rest without either molesting the other during the night, but in the morning they should come together and resume the battle.

In the morning the battle was renewed, even with more vigor than the day before, until nearly noon, when the war cry of rest was again given. The fight was again suspended for the purpose of taking refreshments.

At this time Onea-gah-re-tah-wa said to the Chiefs of the Squawkihows, “While we are resting let us have a recreation by having a wrestling between the two parties, and each one should have a war club in his belt, and the one that is defeated should die at the hands of his victor with the war club.” The Squawkihows accepted the challenge. Then the wrestling was continued to several contests, in which the Seneca were victorious. There were several of the very ablest warriors of the Squawkihows killed in this simple contest of wrestling.

They again resumed the battle. At this time the Seneca reserved quite a number of their smartest warriors, with each of them a bunch of bark prepared for the purpose of tying prisoners. They were in the rear and laid low. The battle was still more deepcrate. They finally came in hand-in-hand. Then they made use of their war clubs. At this time the

Squawkihows summoned to their aid their reserved company, which they kept in the rear. The young women came on the flank of the Seneca ranks, and beat them with clubs, which made the Senecas falter for a while. Finally they called on their reserved warriors, who made a desperate charge on the enemy and made them retreat. The Seneca began taking prisoners. They tied their hands behind them to trees. In this way they took a great many prisoners, particularly the females. The warriors rallied and fought as they retreated. After a while a company suddenly broke off from their ranks and ran away. In a moment they had disappeared in the forest. Those that remained rallied again and fought as they were retreating until evening, when all at once the whole company wheeled right around, gave a spring, and off they went. The Senecas made their pursuit, every now and then taking a prisoner until dark, when they rested and camped for the night.

The next morning they selected the best runners, the ablest bodied and the most skilled in the arts of war, who were sent out to exterminate the nation, to begin at the settlement of fort Gau-strau-yea, and so on south to the other settlements of the nation.

When the Seneca invaders came at the fort (Gau-strau-yea), they found it was evacuated and all the settlement had fled. The trail they left behind pointed southward plainly. The invaders followed to the next settlement at Gill Creek, above Niagara Falls, which they found vacated. They still followed on, bent on retaliation. They then came to the settlement of Kah-kwas, which they also found evacuated. They kept on the pursuit until they came to the settlement of the Eries, and also found it evacuated as the others. Still they kept on their pursuit, and when they came to the Alleghany river they saw pieces floating, which indicated the making of canoes. They immediately ascended the river. After they had gone some ways they found where the enemies had been encamped, and saw indications where they had built several canoes. The fires indicated that they must have just embarked that morning and rowed down the river. They went down the river some distance, and finally gave up the chase. The invaders returned to their settlement the Seneca nation. A glorious victory crowned their severe trial and labor.

A grand council was called of the Seneca nation for the just returned warriors to make their report of the glory they had won, and the complete overthrow of the enemy. After they had finished making their report a great feast was made, and after that they were again permitted to smoke the calumet of peace, and once more settle down as heretofore, as one of the bright stars of heaven, among the several nations of the Iroquois. At night they had a general dance, both young and old, irrespective of sex, to celebrate the great victory they had won.

The Squawkihows have never been heard of since, as a nation, to the present time. It is supposed that they must have gone in the far west and changed their name: but this is merely a supposition. Those that the Seneca took captives are still among the different settlements of the Seneca nation, more particularly among the Cattaraugus reservation.

That is the way the Seneca came in possession of so large a dominion. They held their domain east of the Genesee river, and also took possession of the dominion of the Squawkihows, which run from Lake Ontario and along Niagara river and Lake Erie to the Pennsylvania line.

The office of the Queen Ge-keah-sau-sa, of fort Gau-strau-yea, for several hundred years (it is said by the Seneca about six hundred years ago she evacuated the fort), the Iroquois did not reordain, for the reason, as it is alleged by them, that the female is the weaker sex of humanity. Physically, it must follow that they are weaker also mentally, as it is evinced by the treachery of the Queen in her easily being decoyed in making her rash decision concerning the massacre in the fort, and also in the giving up of the Seneca nation in the hands of their enemy. They considered it not prudent to vest so much authority in the weaker sex. And as no one has been considered capable or worthy of the high honor that Ge-keah-sau-wa once reigned, until about twenty-five years ago, from the year 1878, there was a Virgin selected from among the Tonawanda band of the Seneca nation by the name of Caroline Parker, sister to Eli Parker, once in General Grant’s staff, and Commissioner of Indian Affairs, who was ordained to the high office of Queen, or Ge-keah-sau-sa. She is now the wife of a noted Sachem of the Tuscarora nation, Mr. John Mount Pleasant, of no common wealth. She is located about two miles southwest of the antique fort Gah-strau-yea, or Kienuka, on the Tuscarora reservation, where she ever held open her hospitable house, not only to the Iroquois, but of every nation, including the pale faces. Allegorical speaking, she has ever had a kettle of hominy hanging over her fire-place, ready to appease the hunger of those who trod her threshold.

Johnson, Elias. Legends, Traditions, and Laws of the Iroquois, or Six Nations and History of the Tuscarora Indians. Lockport, New York: Union Printing and Publishing Co. 1881.

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