Caughnawaga Tribe

Caughnawaga Indians (Gă-hnă-wă-‘ge, ‘at the rapids’ ). An Iroquois settlement on the Sault St Louis on St Lawrence River, Quebec. When the hostility of the pagan Iroquois to the missions established in their territory frustrated the object of the French to attach the former to their interests, the Jesuits determined to draw their converts from the confederacy and to establish them in a new mission village near the French settlements on the St Lawrence, in accordance with which plan these Indians were finally induced to settle at La Prairie, near Montreal, in 1668. These converts were usually called “French Praying Indians” or “French Mohawks” by the English settlers, in contradistinction to the Iroquois who adhered to their own customs and to the English interests.

In 1676 they were removed from this place to Sault St Louis, where Caughnawaga and the Jesuit mission of St Francois du Sault were founded. The village has been removed several times within a limited area. The majority of the emigrants came from the Oneida and Mohawk, and the Mohawk tongue, somewhat modified, became the speech of the whole body of this village. The Iroquois made several unsuccessful efforts to induce the converts to return to the confederacy, and finally renounced them in 1684, from which time Caughnawaga became an important auxiliary of the French in their wars with the English and the Iroquois.

After the peace of Paris, in 1763, many of them left their village on the Sault St Louis and took up their residence in the valley of Ohio river, principally about Sandusky and Scioto Rivers, where they numbered 200 at the outbreak of the American Revolution. From their contact with the wilder tribes that region many of them relapsed into paganism, although they still retained their French allegiance and maintained connection with their brethren on the St Lawrence.

About 1755 a colony from Caughnawaga formed a new settlement at St. Regis, some distance farther up the St Lawrence. As the fur traders pushed their way westward from the great lakes they were accompanied by Caughnawaga hunters. As early as 1820 a considerable number of this tribe was incorporated with the Salish, while others found their way about the same period down to the mouth of Columbia River in Oregon, and north even as far as Peace River in Athabasca. In the west they are commonly known as Iroquois.

Some of the Indians from St Regis also undertook these distant wanderings. In 1884 Caughnawaga had a population of 1,485, while St Regis (in Canada and New York) had about 2,075, and there were besides a considerable number from the 2 towns who were scattered throughout the west. In 1902 there were 2,017 on the Caughnawaga Reservation and 1,386 at St Regis, besides 1,208 on the St Regis Reserve, New York.

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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4 thoughts on “Caughnawaga Tribe”

  1. My biological father was of the Caughnawagan from Canada. I never met him but was going to meet him before he had a heart attack. I am 76 yrs. old now and wonder about his people. I was born in Buffalo, NY and my mother was a Cayuga from the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in NY. All I know of him was his name was Bill Doolittle and a engineer for the NY Central. I was born in 1943 and he and my mother were intimate. If anyone knows anything about him I would love to hear from them. Thank you

  2. This is interesting. Some of my ancestors from the Rice Family became part of the tribe in late 1700’s. See below. Does anyone have anymore info on this? Trying to trace some Rice family members. Thks

    Silas and Timothy were taken to Canada, where they had
    Indian wives, and children by them. To Silas, the Indians
    gave the name Tookanourras. Timothy was named Oughtsorangoughlon,
    and became the third of six chiefs of the
    Cognawaga tribe. In that capacity, he addressed a speech
    to Col. Burgoyne, employed in an expedition against Canada,
    in the French war of 1755, or later ; afterwards Gen. Bur
    goyne, who surrendered himself and his army to Gen. Gates,
    at Saratoga, in the Revolutionary war.
    ” Timothy visited Westboro’, Sept., 1740, with an inter
    preter,—himself having lost his mother tongue,—and viewed
    the place, &c., where he was captured ; of which he had a
    clear remembrance, together with the circumstances under
    which he was taken ; as he also had of several persons then
    living.” Nothing said or done could induce him to remain
    at Westboro’. He returned to Canada, where he and his
    brother Silas were living in the summer of 1790.
    From a history of the Willia?is Family, by Dr. Stephen
    W. Williams, and published, 1847, we extract the follow
    ing, which may be interesting to the descendants of Marlboro’
    (then including Westboro’) Rice families, that had children
    carried into captivity :

  3. The school I teach at is in the Mohawk Valley. The yearbook is named the “Caughnawagan”. I am very aware of the rich Native American heritage in this are. I grew up here as well. The Mohawk Castle Osernanon is across the river (now Auresville Shrine). I wanted to find out the roots of this tribe. Now I know!

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