Six Nations Health and Race Admixture

An examination of the annual reports of the United States agents for many years indicates the classes of diseases heretofore most common among the Six Nations. The reluctance of the Indians to employ physicians springs from want of means, want of easy access to physicians, and, in some measure, to the fact that from time immemorial they have relied much upon the use of medicinal roots and herbs in ordinary ailments. The women are practical nurses. This lack of professional treatment and the ignorance of the names of diseases have almost, entirely prevented an accurate specification of the causes of death during the census year. The chief diseases reported, other than consumption and kindred lung troubles, of which there are many, have been scrofula and syphilitic ailments in some form. Their relations to the white people have open credited with these to a large extent but it can not be correctly claimed that pure white and pure Indian blood involves an enfeebled race. Catarrhal troubles and diseases of the eye are common with the Tuscaroras, due, they think, to exposure to the lake winds, while at Cattaraugus many attribute their coughs to the harsh winds that sweep up the valley from Lake Erie.

William Bone, of Allegany, claims that he is the only Seneca. It is not certain that any are purely such. The presence of the mustache and beard shows how largely the white element has united with the red, and many are of distinct white admixture. This admixture of blood also appears conspicuously among the children. It is a popular error to attribute to vice only all Indian approximation to the white man in respect of hair, complexion, and color. The Six Nations are not on the decline. In the Six Nations, from June 30, 1889, to June 30, 1890, the deaths were 161, the births, 185; gain, 24. This includes the St. Regis Indians and the Cornplanters, of Pennsylvania.

The Indians of New York invariably trace their stock to that of the predominant female sources, and as remotely as tradition will warrant, notwithstanding there may have been an occasional admixture of white female blood. This last incident is rare, that of Mary Jimerson, the Wyoming captive, being the most conspicuous. It is doubtful whether the Mohawks among the St. Regis, who are the proper representatives of the old Mohawks, are free from admixture with other tribes, Caughnawaga (of Montreal) is properly but another name for Mohawk.

The admixture of French, white blood is very marked among the St. Regis Indians. Other New England captive white people besides the Tarbells, of Groton, Massachusetts, left their impress upon these Indians, and also upon the Oneidas and Onondagas. The grandfather of a Seneca was a French officer. The spirit of each of the Six Nations is adverse to white admixture, and the jealousy of successive generations of “fading” Indians is still very marked among the old pagan element. This is fostered by the fact that children of a white mother, although of half blood, are not within the distribution of annuities, while the children of an Indian having a white father, although of half blood, share the distribution. As a general rule, the Indians themselves do not specially recognize as of exclusively pure Indian origin, with no admixture, those who assert that distinction. Intermarriage between clans, while technically prohibited, does not, as formerly, greatly prevent marriage between the tribes, so that the maternity of the Indian generally determines whether he is to be styled Seneca, Onondaga, or otherwise.

Six Nations,

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894.

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