George Washington Papers

Timothy Pickering to Tobias Lear, 3 May 1792

Timothy Pickering to Tobias Lear

Philaa May 3d 1792.

Dear Sir,

I inclose the information given me by Colo. Louis.1 The copy of the letter from his nation bears date the 24th of January. I sent to the war-office for the Original, which I found was dated Feby 24th.2 Bad travelling at the breaking up of winter and ten days sickness, Louis says have occasion so much delay in his journey. He is anxious to return. In great haste sincerely yours

T. Pickering

ALS, MHi: Pickering Papers.

1Lt. Col. Louis Cook’s information, which was written at Philadelphia on 3 May 1792, reads: “That 12 Indians came round, N. Side of Lake Erie from the Westward, as far as Taronto, on the North Side of Lake Ontario opposite Niagara, then six went back, not being used to Snow shoes. Six kept on, as far as the Mohawk Castle, 40 miles above Cataraqui. There 2 were left, & fo[u]r fearing the small pox, the message was carried to the Caughnawauga Indians by one Cayuga, who had had the Small pox.

“When the Caghnawaga Council was convened, the Cayuga Head Warrior addressed them in these words.

“‘Brothers I have come to your place. I am sent a messenger from the Shawanese, to you the seven tribes in Canada. Nevertheless brothers, be assured, that the principal nations at the Westward are concerned in this message. They invite you to hold a general council at Buffaloe Creek. To you Warriors I deliver the invitation strings (a large bunch of long strings). It is your part, from the Strength of your bodies, on any occasion, to carry the messages of the Sachems. Now Notify all your 7 tribes to repair to that place, with two prime counsellors & two head warriors from each nation. Pass by no one of your 7 tribes unnotified. And then also call upon all the Five Nations for like representation at that Council Fire.

“‘Brothers, At that place, I, the Shawanoe Nation, will meet you. There we will settle all our great national concerns: and if you are not yet fully ascertained of the real intentions of the Western Indians, I, the Shawanoe nation, will then inform you.

“‘The Western Indians have said, They will not listen to any single nation, until you, the 7 tribes, are in full council, & speak with one voice.’

“ (Here ends the Message by that Runner.)

“After which, in private conference, I, (Colo. Louis) questioned the runner, to obtain his real sentiments of the disposition of the Western Indians; saying to him You must certainly know what their minds are; & you must know what occasions the war. Perhaps it is on account of land, that they will not listen to the voice of peace. Tell me the real truth. He answered—‘As to land, it has but small influence in this affair. They say, as to that, it may easily be adjusted. But they say, they will not hearken to the voice of a single nation; altho’ they may speak of peace, which is good. They desire in the first place, to have the complete voice of the 7 tribes in Canada & of the 5 nations, by their deputies. They are disposed to peace: but in order to that they want to bind themselves together in a peace for the good of Indians, which shall have no dependance on any white people, of any nation; nor ever oblige Indians to assist them, if in any future time they should quarrel. We Indians (said they) must all live in peace with one another; And when this business shall be finished, make proclamation, that we will never take part with any white people, in any future quarrel between them, And then we will entreat both sides, never more to ask our aid. Let us Indians live in peace.’

“I then told the Cayuga, If he had now related to me the real truth, without any disguise, I should attend to it—I would rise myself, & go to the place appointed for the Council Fire (at Buffaloe Creak). Otherwise, I would not meddle with it; but let every nation shift for themselves. To this he answered—‘I have spoken nothing but the truth, the very truth.’

“(Here ended our private conference)

“After the first Council at Caughnauwaga, and the private pre conference, the Chiefs of the 7 nations thus replied to the Cayuga Runner.

“‘Brother, Your message looks all right. We are inclined to embrace it, for the sake of diffusing peace, which is good. But how shall we undertake this? Unless we first send word to our brothers of the 13 Fires? altho’ we of the 7 tribes live over the line, nevertheless they are our neighbours. Should we rise and go out, & take by the hand our brothers the Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Stockbridge Indians, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senekas to the end of the United House—then it may be toward the Sitting Sun, ‘when there is Evil, what would the 13 Fires say to us? It is therefore expedient & friendly for us to acquaint them with this your message, & that we shall embrace it.’

“‘Now Brothers (Say the Chiefs of the 7 tribes, addressing the 13 Fires) If you approve of this measure, and give us a word of encouragement, we will pursue it; and you shall hear from us.’

“(Colo. Louis adds. What ever shall be done in the council at Buffaloe Creek, we intend shall be agreed to by the Western Indians. And if we proceed, we will take them by the hand, and bring them down to the Great Council Fire of the U. States; for at no other place do we think a final peace can be established. The Caghnawagas & Oneidas will now afford great help in the Council at the Buffaloe, in laying the foundation for what shall finally be agreed on in the Great Council at the Westward.

“I am confident (says Louis) we shall carry our point and bring about a peace. And in order to effect this it was the Genl Opinion of the Caghnawagas, that no white people should be admitted into the Great Council at the westward. But at the Buffaloe they may be present as spectators; but not to intermeddle in the business).

“(The answer of the Cayugas Runner, as to the real cause of the war, not being satisfactory to T[imothy] P[ickering] he mentioned it to Colo. Louis; & asked—if the land be not the cause of the war, what do the Western Indians contend? He answered—The Shawanese are very angry, and they have drawn the other nations into the war. But now the Ottowas and others have said to the Shawanese—‘You have undertaken to sell land, altho you did not own a foot. If the war goes on, we shall all lose our land and be ruined. Now you must send to the 7 nations in Canada, & the 5 nations, & hold a council; and we will hear their voice, for peace: but we will not hear the King, nor the 13 Fires, nor [Joseph] Brant.[’]

“(Colo. Louis explained the situation of the Shawanese as to land, by comparing them to the Tuscaroras, who were permitted to reside among the 5 nations, but never were allowed to join in the sale of lands).

“To the Question of T.P.—Do not the western Indians complain of the 13 Fires, that they are grasping all their lands, quite to the Mississipi? He answered—They were not uneasy for their land, till Brant went among them, & told them that the U. States claimed the whole country.

“(He says, that as soon as he returns, the Chiefs of the 7 nations will set off, & send two runners in canoes to Oswego, to take the Oneidas by the hand, & so on thro’ the 5 nations, till they reach Buffaloe and that they will not look at the King, because this is altogether Indian business.[)] It was the opinion of the 7 nations, that if peace were not now made, the United States would make such a strong war as would issue in the destruction of all the Indian nations. And Louis says also that the same is the fixed opinion of the Western Indians. And this is the reason why they want a general council.

“That so firm a peace may be made by the voice of all, that Indians may never more have war. This is the disposition of a great majority of the various nations of Indians. And if this intended council should not effect a peace, all will despair, & conclude to fight and die.

“Colo. Louis says, That Runners of the 7 nations were to set off as soon as the ice should be gone to the Western Indians, with this message ‘Keep in your war parties, till we can meet together in council & see what we can do.’

“He supposes it will be the last of May before the Council can be held at Buffaloe Creek, which may last a fortnight. Then they will proceed to the Westward.

“Colo. Louis thinks it will not be adviseable for Capt. Hendrick [Aupaumut] to proceed to the Westward by the Quarter where the war is carried on. That the summer before last a Caughnawaga was sent with a message from Fort Pitt, The Hostile Indians took him prisoner—and, tho’ they spared his life, because he was a Caughnawaga, they would not hear his message. He says Tis contrary to the custom of Indians to listen to any such messenger. runners with such messages must always go round, & come in at the back door” (MHi: Pickering Papers).

2For “the Message from the 7 nations of Canada,” see Lear to Pickering, this date, n.1.

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