George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Oneida Indians, 7 April 1793

From the Oneida Indians

Schenectady [N.Y.] the 7 of April 1793.


We do not like to disturb You, unless we are forced to it, by our wants, or to obtain that Justice which by our services and sufferings we have a right to claim, and cannot in any other manner obtain, in such case we turn our eys to You for that which we cannot procure from any other—We believe you will do Justice, and wish none of our Indian Nations to be wronged, nor that any individual among them should complain of not having been rewarded equally with others for services done to the United States.

The Oneyda’s were the only Nation of Indians, who held fast the Covenant chain which was made between the five Nations and the people of the United States, all the others deserted or fought against You, in the late War—You gave Coll Lewis Cook of the Caughnawags Tribe in Cannada, and a Number of our Oneyda Nation, Commissions to be Officers in the Army and service of Your people, of these last We are the remains, all the others are taken away by death.1

We have suffered hardship, undergone fateagues, and have fought with and for You—Because we held fast the covenant Chain with our Brethren of the United States our aged Fathers, our Wives and little ones, were oblidged for a time to remove from our lands, and frequently to suffer for want of necessarys— When peace was restored we returned with them and waited for the reward of our services.2

We acknowledge the goodness of our Brethren for what We have received, but have been informed that Coll Lewis Cook has also received commutation for half pay &c. This We have not received—We know not the reason—We impowered our trusty and good friend Cornelius A Van Slyke of Schenectady to transact our business for us, who informs us, that he has not yet been able to succeed3—We fear that evil disposed persons, have imposed upon You and us, or our calls would have been heard before now and Justice done to us as well as Coll Lewis Cook—You know our willingness to serve our brethren of the United States—We have but lately given a new proof of this and will do much more if required.

Father [ ] We have by this opened our hearts to You, We have strengthened the request of our friend Cornelius A Van Slyke made in our behalf—And We now wish to open our ears to hear, and our eyes to read what Answer You shall give us on this subject. Your Children

Capten X Hanjyrrie Thowaweh Thasogweh

Capten X John Otaawiton

Leutenant X Nicholas Kanatjogh

Leutenant X Cornelius Kakeghdotxa

L, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. This letter was docketed as “Recd May 25 1793.”

1On 3 April 1779 the Continental Congress, at the request of Gen. Philip Schuyler, authorized officer commissions for twelve Oneida and Tuscarora Indians (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 13:411; “List of Indians to have Commissions,” c.1778, Schuyler Papers, box 14, NN). The four signatories to this letter were among these twelve, and Schuyler soon added Louis Cook. Excluding Nicholas Kanatjogh (Kaghnatsho; Nicholas Cusick), a Tuscarora, the other three men, all Oneida, requested payment from Congress in 1791 for their wartime services. At that time Secretary of War Henry Knox recommended against awarding the Indians even one-half the pay of other army officers and instead suggested that they only be allowed to retain title to their lands (Journal of the House, 3:95; Knox to U.S. House of Representatives, 3 Mar. 1791, ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:123).

2For a complete, itemized list of claims by individual Oneida and Tuscarora Indians, see “Account of Losses sustained by the Oneidas & Tuscororas, in consequence of their attachment to the United States in the late war,” 27 Nov. 1794, Timothy Pickering Papers, MHi. These claims, with an award totaling $5,000, were settled by treaty on 2 Dec. 1794 (Kappler, Indian Treaties, description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends 2:37–39). Cusick and Kakeghdotxa were among the fifteen Indians who signed this treaty. The treaty also promised that the United States would build a gristmill, sawmill, and church for the Indians. Although the Oneida received their monetary compensation in June 1795, the United States still had not built the gristmill and church by 1797 (“Compensation for Losses,” 3 July 1795, and Oneida Chiefs to Pickering, 2 Sept. 1797, Pickering Papers, MHi).

3In 1791 Cornelius A. Van Slyke had represented some of these Indians during their appeal to Congress. Van Slyke, an attorney and slaveowner from Schenectady, N.Y., who had served in the Albany County militia during the Revolutionary War, had at least one Mohawk ancestor.

Index Entries