Conestoga Tribe

Conestoga Indians (Kanastóge, ‘at the place of the immersed pole’). An important Iroquoian tribe that formerly lived on Susquehanna river and its branches.  When first met by Capt. John Smith, in 1608, and until their conquest by the Iroquois confederation in 1675, they were in alliance with the Algonquian tribes of the east shore of Chesapeake bay and at war with those on the west shore.  They were described as warlike and as possessed of a physique far superior to that of all the other neighboring tribes.  By conquest they claimed the lands on both sides of Chesapeake bay, from the Choptank and Patuxent north to the territory of the Iroquois. In 1675, after their defeat, they established themselves on the east bank of the Potomac, in Maryland, immediately north of Piscataway Creek, below which the Doag (Nanticoke) were then living. They formed a close alliance with the Dutch and Swedes, and with the English of Maryland. The Iroquois had carried on relentless war against them, with varying success, which finally reduced them from 3,000(?) warriors in 1608 to about 550 in 1648, while their allies brought the aggregate to about 1,250. Champlain says that in 1615 they had more than 20 villages, of which only 3 were at that time engaged in war with the Iroquois, and that their town of Carantouan alone could muster more than 800 warriors. The Iroquois of the north drove the Conestoga down on the tribes to the south and west, who were allies of the English, a movement involving the Conestoga in a war with Maryland and Virginia in 1675. Finding themselves surrounded by enemies on all sides, a portion of them abandoned their country and took refuge with the Occaneechi on Roanoke river, while the rest remained in Pennsylvania. A quarrel occurred soon with the Occaneechi, who made common cause with the whites against the fugitive Conestoga, who were compelled to return to Susquehanna river and submit to the Iroquois. According to Colden they were all finally removed to the country of the Oneida, where they remained until they lost their language, when they were allowed to return to Conestoga, their ancient town. Here they rapidly wasted, until, at the close of the year 1763, the remnant, numbering only 20, were massacred by a party of rioters inflamed by the accounts of the Indian war then raging along the Pennsylvania frontier. About 1675 their stockade, where they were defeated by the Maryland forces, was on the east side of Susquehanna river, 3 miles below Columbia, Pennsylvania. Herrman’s map of 1676 located it at nearly the same point on the river, but on the west bank. The Swedes and Dutch called them Minqua, from the Delaware name applied to all tribes of Iroquoian stock; the Powhatan tribes called them Susquehannock, a name signifying ‘roily river,’ which was adopted by the English of Virginia and Maryland. The names of their villages are

  • Attaock.
  • Carantouan.
  • Cepowig.
  • Quadroque.
  • Sasquesahanough.
  • Testnigh.
  • Utchowig.

The Meherrin Indians, on the river of that name in south east Virginia, were officially reported to be a band of the Conestoga driven south by the Virginians during Bacon’s rebellion in 1675-76.

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

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