Friday, February 7, 2020
The Journal of William Allinson
I decided to publish this account online where it can be easily found and used by others. It provides a very clear picture of the time period after the Wars of the 18th century and the resolutions of the early 19th century. Enjoy! Thanks to Darren Bonaparte who unknowingly causes me to deep dive into history with a casual comment online. Nyaweh Darren.
I may post in the future other related information from the other volumes which are concerned with Seneca people and their relationship with their Quaker neighbors. Stay tuned. - MJG
The original papers can be found in the Special Collections of Haverford College under the (Allinson family papers)
MC 968, Box 11, Folder 4 William Allinson diary, volume 2
Journal of William Allinson, describing visit to Indians of New York State in 1809. Quaker Collection. Haverford College. Volume 2.
Transcription by Michael Galban - Seneca Art & Culture Center 10/01/2019
*pay close attention to page 44 where the only historic description of Handsome Lake “Conundio” is mentioned. He wears the scalplock hairstyle and has his skin around his ear separated and stretched which were signs of male adulthood but also emblems of the warrior class. - MJG
Longevity after living to the age of about 90 and as they suppose 100 years or upwards, but as they keep no written records of births or any other occurrences, nor have any regular mode of computing time, other than by moons or winters or their remembrance of remarkable events the most of them can give no correct account how old they are. While we were nearing Silver Heels’ house a smart old woman who was sitting on the ground looking on, we were told could call her descendants round her to the 6th generation.
Some of them are subject to the rheumatism which is supposed may be a consequence of their traveling the woods in all weathers night or day – wading the rivers and suffering their clothing to dry on them – I often lying out exposed with little or no shelter to wet or cold – but from the observations I have made on the inhabitants, where we have stopped coming along. The rheumatism is a complaint prevailing in this climate and therefore not wholly to be imparted to the Indian exposures.
The children are generally born in the woods where the woman accompanied by her Mother or some other elderly woman retires on the occasion and if cold, builds a fire – the babe is immediately wrapped in a blanket and in 3 or 4 hours the Mother returns with it to her own habitation. She washes her blanket soon after in cold water and sometimes on the same day without injury to herself and in two or three days after, goes into the woods, and collects and carries home heavy loads of wood on her back with the infant on the top of it tied to a board – the boards for this purpose are about two feet and a half in length and one in breadth with a little hoop in front to protect the head of the child or to suspend a curtain to cover it from flies or cold – at the bottom is a little foot board and at the sides are loop holes for the purpose of fastening the child which is placed in an erect position with its hands down its sides and then swathed with a piece of cloth from the feet to the chin so tight as to be unable to disengage itself – if the weather is cold and the child young a wild cat skin or some other skin with soft fur is put next to it. And if it be
A female a little block is placed between the heels to give the toes a inclination inwards, but if a male the feet are left to take the natural direction. One consequence of this is that the track of the different sexes may be easily distinguished. The children in their situation are carried about at pleasure and if taken into the wood are laid down or set up against stumps or trees as occasion requires while the mother is employed in gathering wood or any other service. A few times in the day they loosen them, but the children are so habited to it that they become quiet (when uneasy out) by being placed in again, this is continued till they are about 9 months old and answer the purpose of keeping them straight as well as tending and carrying them with more ease and security. Johnathan Thomas said he once knew an Indian woman who went out pregnant and in ten days returned with the infant on her back and two hundred young pigeons – picked and opened ready for dressing enclosed in a piece of bark – all the product of her own labour except that her husband felled the tree for her which the young pigeons were in.
When the Indians die the women generally inter them, having dug the grave they lay bark under and above the dead body and their all with earth, with persons of note they mostly bury clothing and provisions and since Friends have been here they are more in the way of having coffins which the men make, but rarely attend at the internment – even now and formerly not at all – when the corpse is then interred, every morning for nine days successively, the female relatives and neighbors of the deceased collect at the deceased’s habitation hall into a kind of throbbing lamentation and then to crying and wailing for the space of half an hour or more – after which they disperse. When the days of mourning are then ended, they meet and council to dry up their tears after this, they endeavor to discard all marks of lamentation.
They acknowledge One Supreme Being whom they call Ou’wau’nee’o and believe Him to be the Creator of all
good things – the author of Happiness and the rewarder, both in this world and the next for all good actions. They believe also that there is an evil spirit who they call Nuh’she’o’nau and who influences to bad actions and is the creator of all that is bad, wolves, rattlesnakes, poisonous weeds, bad thoughts and deeds and everything that is productive of unhappiness both in Man and on the Earth.
They believe there is a place of happiness called Hight’ca’anongay and that when they die, and their lives have been regular in this world they ascend and are received there among the spirits of good men and women where the Great Spirit is the head of all.
He then presents and hangs about their necks a string of implements for hunting and providing themselves a comfortable living and they are sent to hunt in a warm country where there is plenty of game, fertile for corn, beans and other good fruits.
The place of punishment they call Owhou’ja’gou nong gech and consider it the reverse of that of happiness being a cold and barren country – little game and nothing to kill it with – or to procure other necessaries. That the Bad Spirit there is governor of all
And greatly increases their distresses.
They assemble arrayed in their best clothing and ornaments twice in the year to render thanks to the Good Spirit for the favours which he hath conferred upon them – the first is in the fall of the year when the Corn, Beans Squashes and Potatoes are ripe, and the other about the middle of winter when they return with game and skins from hunting. At these times the men, women, and children collect, and an examination takes place what uneasiness’s are among them and what evil acts each one has committed of these, it is also common that they make confession, the design of which is that all wring things, should be done away and that where differences have existed a reconciliation take place and a promise on the part of the offenders to try and do better for the future which time the council assembled forgives them. They then divide into small companies, men and women apart and dance around and in each house in the town. These dancing companies are preceded by two men, appointed for the purpose, who are dressed in the most frightful manner they can
Devise, being covered with bear skins and a bag of ashes tied about their middles behind them and a hole to admit the ashes to run about as they move. Their faces are covered by a large painted mask having a high mane on the crown made of the coarsest long horse hair standing almost erect and large eyes encircled with a flame colored ring – the mouth is open and shows their own teeth with which they grin in a terrific manner and their hands are blacked so as to leave mark with every person they lay them on. In their hands they carry the shell of a mu tortoise which has been dried for the purpose with a stick thrust through it which extends the neck and large head to its full extent and the inside of the shell are a quantity of pebbles which when shaken make a dismal rattle. These men going from house to house rub this rattle on the sides of and up and down the
Door ports – they also frequently enter into a house but say nothing nor do any injury – as they travel about if they meet with any persons male or female in their way they pursue them – those who turnabout and receive them in a friendly way they shake hands with, yet say nothing – but it is rather expected that many should run as if terrified – these are pursued and if overtaken before getting into a house are laid hold of and blacked with their hands but no other injury is offered except a frightful yelling noise, nothing is spoken.
The design of these frightful representations is to personify and imitate the Bad Spirit and to remind the Indians of the necessity to amend their ways and avoid wrong things. After these ceremonies are performed, they collect at the Council House where they array and paint a dog (a white one is preferred) The poor dog is then killed and thrown on
A fire prepared for the purpose. The Indians meanwhile, dancing around the fire and hooping with a great noise. The dog is esteemed by them as approaching the nearest to themselves of any other animal and therefore is devoted on these occasions as a sacrifice to the Great Spirit, and together with their dancing is under a profession of pleasing Him – during this ceremony they are feasting occasionally on Corn vegetables and venison – this venison is taken by encircling a large space of hunting ground, all of the deer killed are devoted to this feast.
About a pound of tobacco of a particular kind which they consider as particularly agreeable to the Great Spirit, is also thrown on the fire while the dog is burning, in the smoke whereof the Spirit of the dog ascending is believed to be received by the Great Spirit as a sacrifice of a good savour – during this ascension one of their chiefs whom they call their minister addresses the Great Spirit in a speech, the purpose of which is an acknowledgement for favours received – Thanks for the preservation in times past and imploring his continued care and
Protection. He then addresses the people advising how they ought to conduct themselves and pointing out some of the prominent evils which they should avoid – one of the greatest of these is stealing and another is for the husband to desert and separate himself from his wife during pregnancy. But taking the life of another is not considered a crime so capital, as they are left at liberty to revenge it by taking the life of the murderer – this may be done with impunity by the nearest relative of the deceased and they then consider the dues of blood to be done away. The before described feasting and dancing is continued at intervals and by companies for a period of from five to ten days. Formerly, toward the latter part of the time many of them became intoxicated, but at present among the Indians of this neighborhood this is entirely dismissed – and although the feast is conducted with considerable noise and apparent confusion, it also is attended at intervals with such solemnity and on the part of many of them purely on
A religious ground and from sincere and good motives.
Formerly they had the image of a man which at the time of those feasts was decorated in the Indian stile with wampum and trinkets etc. This was elevated on a pedestal of about 6 feet in height and their dance and feasting were performed round it and their addresses made to it – being considered by them a representative of the Great Spirit – about the year 1802 this image fell down and a council was held what was to be done – Some were for erecting another – others for discarding such a representation entirely – Henry O’beal undertook to throw it in the river, the council first consenting that he should do it if he would take upon himself and be answerable for any judgement which might follow – this being agreed to and tumbling it in the river, it floated
down the stream about eleven miles and lodged on an island – Conudiu was appointed successor and intercessor to endeavor to keep the peace with the Great Spirit by averting judgements etc. They also esteem him a great doctor and a prophet – When disposed to communicate anything to the Indians in their way, he wraps or covers himself with his blanket and lying down quite still with two little heaps of tobacco smoking beside him, he pretends leave the body and ascends to the upper regions where he says he holds communion with the Angels and receives from them information respecting such things as the Great Spirit designs they should be imparted to the Indians. After he has lain about half an hour, he throws off his blanket and opening his eyes sets up – a council is then called, and the subject of his pretended vision is communicated. These professed revelations have in some instances had a remarkable effect upon the Indians – his first visions in their way were
Told about 10 years ago and was that the Indians should leave off drinking Rum and refrain from selling their lands. A reformation accordingly took place, but it may be remarked that before this, Friends had been laboring with them much in some respects – Conundiu contrived an advocate herein and some time after being desirous of encouraging and pleasing his converts, he told them that he had another vision and saw the bad spirit, in a frightful form and having wings, alight behind a certain house, but that after looking about for some time and finding that the Indians had declined drinking rum and he had nothing to do there, he flew over to Buffelo, another village, where the Indians drank rum and where he found plenty of business.
The sacrifice of the dog is now disapproved by some of them and Henry Obeal (who though in some respects he has been a dissipated character in other is still in the commission of wrong things is notwithstanding
A discerning and enlightened man) intends to open his objections in council – he also believes with respect to witchcraft, that it does not exist and occasionally expresses this opinion among them, but has to do it with care and thinks he has already incurred the displeasure of many whose prejudices in this particular are yet string.
In time of war, they formerly roasted and eat their captives, there are one or two among them here who have partaken of this in human feasting, but of latter time this custom is exploded by this nation.
The marks (before described) are sometimes worn as a cure for diseases which cures in this way, are supposed to be effected by operating on the imagination.
War is considered in its origin to proceed from the evil spirit – that is the first aggressor is inst9gated by him – but when aggression has taken place they consider it not only justifiable to revenge the injury but even believe that by so doing they are employed in the service of the Good Spirit and that if they are killed in battle they are received into the place
They have, besides their jubilee devotional hearts and sacrifices, a kind of family worship which is when they are sitting together particularly in the evening. If one of the heads of the family feels an impulse to address the Great Spirit he or she yields to it with an audible voice, and this, among the more serious class, is frequently performed tho’ not on any stated days or times as they are sometimes exercised in this way when their friends are with them and the subject of aspiration is a Thanksgiving for preservation of their particular family or tribe and for supplying the various necessaries and comforts of life – desiring their continuance.
If an Indian of any particular tribe dreams a remarkable dream respecting a deceased relative being hungry or in need of sympathy or assistance in any way, the Indians of his tribe are informed of it and a hunting takes place in consequence – the game then taken
Is prepared and cooked and a feast of dance in a religious way is instituted by the parties engaged, which continues for a day or more.
Formerly, when a stranger or distant friend entered an Indian habitation it was common to set before them such provisions as they had cooked in the house which the guest partook of without ceremony, except that of thanks, but Friends have rather advised then not to give their provisions indiscriminately to wandering and idle persons least it should encoure indolence and be a source of oppression on to the industrious and frugal – in this respect therefore there is some change.
When a Seneca Indian leaves his friend he tells him he is done, which amounts to farewell – but if any circumstance takes place which has given umbrage he withdraws and says nothing – this is clear evidence that he is offended.
Notwithstanding stealing is considered a great crime, it not unfrequently takes place – when the person committing a theft is discovered, complaint is made to the Chiefs who dispatch a runner commanding
Him to appear before the council – this mandate he immediately obeys. The charge is then opened to him and if he is guilty, confession is made and the property taken is restored if in being – every Chief or warrior in council is then at full liberty to express what they think, one by one, all which he is obliged to hear – this is considered a sever punishment, but no other is inflicted. Should the person charged deny that he is guilty, he is considered innocent, for it is remarkable in them that they confess when justly charged – Jonathan told me that on such occasions, he had frequently been a witness, their countenance and eyes betrayed them immediately and of itself has been sufficient evidence to him that the gospel has been preached in them, or in other words, that the witness for truth is placed in their minds.
The different sexes are very jealous and shy of each other so that it is rare to see a man and woman even of the same tribe conversing together without witnesses and when a woman has occasion to go abroad it is accounted honorable to take one or more children with her to testify, if needful,
that she has been orderly – there are too many proofs that this is only a pretended shyness, yet being sanctioned and established by custom it is productive of serious evils – the Indians appear to be as well calculated and possess talents for social and rational enjoyment as any people, but custom putting a negative on an open friendly acquaintance of the sexes, the natural tendency whereof would be the improvement of their minds and a knowledge of the good qualities one of the other with the undersigned production, in many instances, of permanent attachments – they enter into marriage very early before their judgement is ripe for the choice, without affection and knowledge of each others dispositions – the consequence of which is, that separations often take place so that there are many instances now here of men who have turned off several wives and of women who have discarded as many husbands – then on both sides, marry again (in a clandestine way) to others
And in some instances, change back again, and thus, what ought to be esteemed the most serious and important connection in life, is lightly formed and dissolved and shifted about in a manner unknown among a people rightly civilized. In these separations the mother takes the children and uses them kindly. They are very fond of children and indulge them in most of their wishes, using little restraint or correction of any kind, yet sometimes if obstinate, tho very young, they will plunge them in the river and if one dip is not sufficient it is repeated till they become very quiet, which they soon do – as the children get a little older they will sometimes talk to them a long time in a kind of harangue or speech setting forth what the child should do and what leave undone – this at times has such an effect that the tears will trickle down the cheeks of the child before the speech is ended – at other times they ridicule them for doing wrong and tell them they are not wise in doing so. To tell an Indian he is not wise is a grating stigma.
When a person has been sick for a considerable time in a lingering condition and
The application of roots and herbs or other medicine proves ineffectual to restore, it is common for their friends to collect and dressing two men with masks in the manner described at times of public worship, they repair to the habitation, which they go round rattling and rubbing the tortoise shells and whooping in a frightful manner – this although it is a known custom and in time of health does not alarm them, yet has considerable affect on the debilitated Indian whose fears being thus previously awakened by knowing what it to be endured. The men enter the house continuing the noise and acting every wild contortion and maneuver which their imaginations devise – sometimes they pull the sick person whether male or female, about the room dirtying them with their black hands and rubbing their heads and bodies over with ashes and handling in such a manner that a person unacquainted with their custom would almost suppose they were going to kill the patient – after this wild treatment of
Of the sick person and dirtying the house thoroughly with their ashes they withdraw, and the burse or some other Indian undertakes to clean after them – Absurd as this practice appears it is said that in many cases it has a beneficial effect by restoring perspiration, working on the imagination and rousing the indisposed person to a salutary exertion. Their idea is that they drive away the evil spirits in this way.
The ancient custom when an Indian died who was the head of a family was to take out his goods, and burn the hut, the design of this destroying the habitation was to prevent and differences which might arise among his descendants or survivors respecting the possessing it. That so peace might be preserved.
When an Indian of distinction and property dies, his gun, blanket, knife, trinkets and other property are preserved about 12 and sometimes 18 months, before a division is made – this delay is in consequence of an opinion which
they entertain that it is not decent or respectful to bring them into use sooner – they are then brought into council and held up to public view, the Indians present being informed that here are the goods of such a deceased chief - on the articles being severally held up any of the young men who incline, are at liberty to advance and snatch them away, till the whole are thus distributed – the relative of the deceased making no claim in consequence of connection – this custom still prevails among some of the Indians in the southern states but some of the more thoughtful among the Senecas, since their building of good houses and increase of property, do not seem satisfied with the foregoing customs and in two or three instances they have made wills to divide their possessions and improvements among their children – this is a natural consequence of an advance toward civilization and must obtain more place among them.
The gun and other things were formerly buried with the deceased, but lately this custom is much discontinued.
They believe in the resurrection of the spirit but not of the body and that for some time after death it is common for it to ascend and descend – in order therefore for its accommodation, as also perhaps from motives of decency and respect, a tomb is erected over the grave, sometimes formed with logs and having a roof of bark – at others, it is constructed with boards and the roof of the same – if made in this way, a small hole perhaps the size of a key hole, is cut at the head of the tomb both above and below to allow ingress and egress to the departed spirit – this custom continues.
Already in degree, it is taking place when Friends first came among them they has one common field and although each planted his particular spot, there were many idlers who partook the labour of the more industrious – they now clear, enclose and plant their particular spots of land where choice induces them and build themselves comfortable houses – these improvements if they incline to leave (as they sometimes do in order to settle elsewhere) are sold to such as incline to purchase and although the fee in the soil cannot be conveyed, being the property of the Nation, yet improvements so sold are considered the property of the purchaser,
Who without molestation enjoys his privilege – the first sale of this kind was considered an innovation and made considerable stir but it is now done without objection and is no small stimulus to individual exertion.
It sometimes happened formerly that ancient Indians who were disabled from hunting by infirmity being tired of life would request to be buried alive, a grave hole was then dug in which a seat was formed in the digging. The ancient Indian was then let down and taking his last seat the other Indians began to fill in the earth doing it very gently and tenderly till it had risen to his chin – a pause was then made and some ceremony used, after which the young warriors threw in the dirt very hastily so as to prevent them being witnesses to his struggles and to terminate his sufferings as speedily as might be.
The Indian men formerly plucked out their beards as also the hair from their heads except a tuft on the crown which was left to grow pretty long – In time of war this was laid hold of by an enemy who had the power, and the skin to which it was attached severed with a knife – This they denominated scalping – the instrument used in plucking
The head and beard was formed by twisting a wire of the common knitting needle size on a piece of round hard wood about ½ an inch in diameter and two inches in length – on the wood being withdrawn, the wire forms a spring or kind of pincers and being applied to the face or head and then pressed with the thumb and finger at each end, took such fast hold of the hairs which had inserted themselves between the wires when a little open, they were readily extracted by the roots – this instrument is light of carriage and will last an age. Plucking the hair from the head is now discontinued, and in many instances the younger men shave their beards.
Indian parents commonly give their children names significant of something in nature, as Cornplanters name in the Indian language is Ky’ea’twach’che – Conundiu, signifies a Handsome Lake – Ogish,quah’tak is Dry Mush – Oendo, means First Ripe Corn – These names are changed occasionally in consequence of remarkable circumstances taking place or of particular employments or acts of individuals and latterly some of these younger class and children have taken and appear pleased with being names after white people.
They are not delicate in their eating but will feast apparently with a relish on meat much tainted and even peopled with inhabitants, sometimes even rotten.
They are very jealous of encroachments on the rights and privileges of each other and offenses of this nature have often given occasion for war between nations – when such offenses occur they hold private councils and if they determine to engage, they endeavor to do it by surprise – such an excel in artifice and courage are appointed their chiefs and have the management of their war concerns.
They generally paint themselves red but on some occasions streaks of black are intermixed – painting with red, though expressive of war is also used to denote cheerfulness and sometimes to hide the true expression of the countenance and in this way, when rubbed around the eye, it has a wonderful effect – it also makes them look fierce – Black mostly denotes trouble – In their marches, they are as careful as possible to conceal their tracks and make very little fire, in order to prevent its being discovered that a multitude has passed – when engaged they are very fierce, scalping those whom they kill and taking prisoners all they can – these are taken home with them and arraigned before council where it is determined which should be put to torture and which preserved alive. The latter are sometimes adopted in families in the place of relatives who have been killed in the war – in such cases they are treated kindly and often mix in marriage with the nation receiving them.
They are very fond of ornaments and among the women particularly silver broaches. JS told us that he once
Saw 700 of these on one garment. When an Indian believes he has received an injury he is never satisfied without revenge and if he cannot obtain it on the aggressor he seeks to do it on some of his same tribe or family – to illustrate this disposition, I may here relate an account that was given me of an old Indian man on the Allegany River whom I saw and shook hands with, who passes among them by the name of Stiff Arms – In an Indian war many years since, when he was young, he was shot in an engagement through both his arms – the ball passing near the elbows entirely disabled him for resistance. And he thought it necessary to make his retreat – in this situation it seems likely he would have perished but some of his own tribe found and took care of him, feeding him for a long time and dressing his wounds – hostilities between the contending parties being by this time over, and himself and his tribe returned home, the thoughts of
the injury he had sustained rankled in his mind and he endeavored for a considerable time to prevail with some of his friends to go with him to their nation by whom he was wounded to make retaliation, but its distance was so long (being I think about three thousand miles) and the danger of the undertaking so great, that they would not join him – unwilling to relinquish his design, he set out alone and traveled till he reached the borders of his enemy – he then stripped himself naked and for several days and nights lay in the woods and cornfields in the vicinity of the enemies town watching to catch some f them who might be separated from the rest – by observation he at length found that the warriors had gone away on an expedition of hunting or war and on
Entering the village he killed and scalped a woman and two children and immediately made his retreat, traveling through the wilderness, night and day with the greatest expedition he was capable of till almost famished – after extreme hardships endured he at length reached home and says he then felt satisfied – he still relates the circumstance with great apparent satisfaction – says he thinks he did right and that if he had not obtained revenge he never should have felt easy. However desperately cruel this act may appear to the Christian, and in rational view however unjust, that the innocent should be made to suffer for the guilty, yet great allowance is to be made for the unfettered Indian who by education is taught to believe that the revenge for an aggression is a duty – That the family or the tribe are implicated with this individual aggressor – and that if he falls in obtaining his desires, he will undoubtedly die happy.
20th, Staid about home and employed part of the time digging five feet deep in a mound in the field under an apprehension that it had once been an Indian place of internment but in this we were disappointed. We however found a number of pebble stones which on breaking open presented us the impression of marine shells – we were also shewn a flint stone taken from the river shore inclosing a shell of this kind – and about this house and premises there are large rough stones suitable for building which are apparently composed entirely of marine shells and a kind of earth or clay in a petrified state. They told us that in the top of the mountain, which is here near us and in full view, are abundance of stone of this description and that petrification is very common and discoverable in various ways throughout this mountainous country – that wherever this petrification prevails the inhabitants are subject to the complaint before mentioned of a swelling of the throat, here denominated the guitan (?)
21st and 5th of the week sat with the family in their week day meeting – after dinner the Indian runner who went with our message to Cattaraugus came in having been quite to Buffelo, called 75 miles by the Indian Path – he left their town on First Day about eleven o’clock and returned to it about the same hour having performed the journey wholly on foot in 4 days – being about 150 miles – he brought a
Short letter from Jacob Taylor an extract from which I insert as it shews the place Jacob has with the Indians and also touches on their improvement –
“Buffelow Creek ano 19th 1809 –
I have now a short opportunity to note that I arrived here last Sixth Day at the pressing request of the Allegany and Cattaraugus Chiefs, to attend a council of the Six Nations – I find the principle business is to adopt some permanent measure to prevent and more sales of their lands. – The War Department are mostly in favour of the plan and I rather think it will be carried into effect – they have received their presents a few days since at this place from the U.S. I think I never saw so many Indians together before that conducted with so much propriety – the number could not be well ascertained but it was though there was about one thousand and I don’t remember to see one drunken Indian amongst them –
I believe wool and other articles we shall want can be obtained at this place – the agent says he will furnish the Cattaraugus Indians with wheels, or unite in any measure proper to forward the object of improvement – the Chief Warriors wife has learned to spin tolerably well, and
Intends to purchase a wheel of her own and commence spinning after corn harvest-“
22nd and 6th Day – We have had summer weather since being here and today several fine showers being the first rain of consequence that we have seen since leaving home – In the evening Jacob Taylor arrived here, having rode from Cattaraugus today – he informs that the Indians propose being home tomorrow and giving us a hearing in council on First Day – Jacob was very entertaining this evening in some encouraging accounts of Indian improvement and relating some anecdotes of their discernment talents – he also read us an Indian letter to the agent of the U.S. for the Six Nations on Indian affairs – being as follows –
“Tuskarora Village March 8th 1808.
Mt Granger –
We Chiefs must inform you, as you are superintendent that bad thing happen in our Nation. Last Saturday we very sorry. – We hope you will not be angry with us about it when you know truth about it, - one William belong Oneida Nation, - very bad man, he kill one wife in Oneida, - he then run away, come amongst us. -he get drunk
very often – beat his wife very much, many times most kill her – he often say would kill some our people – Last Saturday he come home drunk – he try to kill his son, a young chief, - the knife from his Father – his son break it, - run to Bush where his mother and children make sugar, soon William follow him, - come to camp – all run into bush but one young man brother to William wife, - he has come from Grand River to visit – he would not run, - he think William had gun, most dark – he think he hear gun snap – William staid behind tree, - he then shot , - William then go away – He lie all night in cold, next morning was found dead – may be froze more death than shot kill him – we do not know – Monday we buried him – the young man that kill him gone Grand River – we hope you will advise what is right - we send knife broke you may see it – we hope you will not think murder – our whole Nation mourn – we hope our Nation will not be blame – we mean to keep
Sabbath, and hear Gospel, and try to persuade all our nation not drunk whiskey. We shamed any of our people get drunk – we wish you send letter by young man bring this, and tell when you here our fine place – We send our love to you.
Signed by seven Chiefs in English – but written by Nicholas Cusick (one of their number)
23rd. Cloudy and some rain – no account yet of the Indians return and we have to exercise patience – I’ll therefore employ part of the time in describing the farm – know then whom it may concern that it lies on the East side of the Allegany River at the distance of about half a mile – it is bounded on that side, being the west, by the Indian Reservation and on the East by land of the Holland Company of whom it was purchased about the year 1803 for $1.25 cents per acre and contains 692 acres – about 60 of which is cleared and perhaps 22 of the 60 may be called meadow or bottom land, lying on the Tunasassa Creek which runs through it – part of this meadow is considerably improved and very good (say 12 acres) the rest is capable of being made so and will all bear culture with the plow. The cleared upland produces well but is not the most fertile – the residue mostly well-timbered with W. Pine, Hemlock, Beech, Birch, Sugar Maple etc. The house is
Pleasantly situate fronting the south, on an agreeable eminence and commands a view of the meadows – creek, race, tanyard, saw and grist mill, cowpens, piles of boards etc. These are encompassed by woods and to the south west is a considerable mountain containing petrified curiosities – on the north the ground is rising but not immediately and the Pine trees here rear their lofty heads. The house is a very comfortable one, suited judgement for the occasion – its inhabitants are a very clever company, each following, or, and believe sincerely endeavoring t fill up their allotments and several services, and therefore there is not one barren or unprofitable among them – they appear to be impressed with the inesteemable value of accordance and consequently live in love.
This example cannot be lost to the Indian neighbors, who often visit them – indeed the seed sown has in many instances produced comfortable fruit – May they be preserved is my sincere petition!
As for us, we are here treated as princes and feed on the fat of the land – flesh from the field and fish from the lucid stream; butter of kine, excellent indeed and vegetables first rate in quality; are prepared by the representa-
tives of neatness and good humour, inviting to the eye, and pleasant to the tastes – beside other nice sauce, we are favored with good appetites, as the diminished luxuries on the (illegible) board often spread, daily bears witness. Thus are we favoured day by day from the bounteous giver of every good, to whom with propriety, the aspiration may arise. “What shall we render for all thy benefits?”
Corn Planters town called Genuch’sha’tago (or the Burnt House) has about 11 families who live in it and is about 13 miles from Cold Spring, down the river – Genes’ing’guh’ta (or amongst the hills) has 3 or 4 families and is 3 miles from Cold Spring – all on the west side of the Allegany and on its banks – From Cold Spring to Pittsburg by water is called 210 miles, and by land 150 – The Allegany River is a beautiful stream. There about 90 or 100 yards wide – is fordable when the waters are low – and for about half the summer season navigable for boats of 8 to 12 tons – French Creek puts into the Allegany about 90 miles from here and Conowongo about 30 miles – are both navigable waters – the 1st has 14 miles land carriage to Lake Erie and the other 8 miles and heads in Chautaukqua Lake.
24th and 1st of the week, no message being received from the Indians, Joel set off this morning
Toward the town to know whether council was to be held today, but on his way was met by J.P. one of the Indian Chiefs who was coming to inform us that it was deferred till tomorrow- we were therefore at liberty to stay at home and sat with the Family in their usual way. After dinner a couple of Indian girls (one of them Cornplanters daughter) came to learn to make soap – this introduced a conversation respecting the propriety of continuing the practice of grinding for them and instructing in the various arts of housewifery on this day of the week – my own opinion is that it is time to shew a discontinuance as preparatory to a total discontinuance. Others of the committee do not appear to be like minded, supporting the Indians to be not yet ripe on account of their prejudices and want of knowledge of days – some of the Friends stationed here have for some time been uneasy and others think the Indulging Indians in this respect is unfavorable – I hope eventually all will work right – Yesterday the committee with Friends of this family agreed upon a address to the Indians being previously drawn up by JS since being here – in substance being – First, to remind them of friends continued care comes at regard for them – then stating that we had been viewing their farms and varied improvements and had felt desires for their further advancement in every good work – next that if the men would do more work on their farms and would encourage their wives and daughters in learning to spin, weave etc, our belief was, that they would derive great advantage from it.
That Jon Thomas was willing to weave for them free of cost for one year provided 2 or 3 of their women, in that time, would learn to weave, but if they neglected this the benefit designed by his thus instructing them would not fully answer our wishes.
Their custom of husbands and wives separating was next touched upon and our sense therein conveyed that such a practice was displeasing to the Great Spirit – and often left their children in poverty and distress.
We also expressed a desire that they would think very seriously indeed before they condemned and killed any for supposing them guilty of witchcraft reminding them that about 100 years since such a practice prevailed in one neighborhood among white people and before put a stop to some of those who had been judges of others, were them selves charged with the same offenses and executed. On these two subjects desiring their careful consideration but not wishing a reply at this time -
that they avail themselves of every advantage to be derived from our Friends living among them while they continued here -
That they had seen the bad effects of playing cards and other games and that although there was an improvement there was yet room for more, and if their principle Chiefs and wise men would discourage the practice we thought a use would arise to their young people -
That our Friends had lived with them many years in harmony and friendship – if any part of conduct towards them had not been quite to their wishes we desired they would speak their minds freely and let us know –
Dates ano 25 1809 and signed by A. Jean(?) Ja Brown (?) T Steward (?) JWA
After Breakfast set out to attend the Council at Cold Spring – I stopped in at several Houses on our way to the Town to shake hands with the Indians – Then went to the Council House which is a Building nearly the center of the Town about 40 feet in length + 20 in breadth – having a door at each end
and two holes in the peak of the roof to admit the ascending of the smoke from Council Fires – which are built on the ground about 12 feet from each door – These fires are daily used by the Inhabitants for cooking or other purposes, being a kind of public privilege the open doors admitting ready ingress and egress to them at pleasure – the floor is laid by nature and on each side from one end to the other is a platform laid covered with board, skins, ect. – about 6 feet in width and 16 inches in heighth – over these at the heighth of five feet is another platform which serve to throw up skins corn or any lumbering articles and to the Rafters was suspended a quantity of old corn some of it near the openings in the roof being as black as smoke could make it – this they don’t mind but use it for making bread and other purposes, perhaps preferring it. I observed in their houses generally the corn was stored by suspending it with the husk in this way – as the Indians were not generally collected, it afforded opportunity to make some observations – Conudius’ house stands the nearest to the Council House and within a few yards – Our attention was here accepted by the sound of music and dancing – and feeling some inclination to be witnesses, we were informed that it would give no offense and so went inside of the door – In the middle of room lay the Hommany block and an old bench apparently designed to prevent an encroachment on that part of the floor – and to preserve regularity of circuit around them – These rude regulators were encompassed by 18 and 20 females (occasionally more), some elder
elderly women and down to girls about 10 years of age – There, forming a circle were dancing, or shuffling round sideways, with a slow and solemn motion, and heads uniformly reclining to the sound of musick performed by a man in one corner of the room. This was done by beating slowly on a drum made by dried deerskin or some other kind of skin dressed a little in the manner of parchment and tightly stretched over the top of a churn or sometimes we were told an iron pot – They said he beat with two sticks and the sound of one of them put me in mind of tinkling symbols, being either hollow and enclosing something of the tinkling kind or else having some small bells attached to it. But it was so dark where he sat that I could not see – This sound he accompanied with a vocal tune or perhaps a song. But if the latter, his articulation was very indistinct – it however appeared to be in stanzas – at the end of which the female circle would cease their dancing and walk round with a quicker motion and some appearance of hilarity till after a circle or two, another stanza began – this dance and music continued for about 2 hours, after we were there and the dancers would step out occasionally dripping with perspiration (apparently to cool and get air) and then return again – they were much in their usual dress except the children, several of whom looked clean and dressed for the occasion. One in white cloth – another green, a third blue, etc. – and these had each a bunch of
small bells hung to the knee and made a noise not unlike the singing of locusts – a few of them were a little touched with paint – when the dance was over they had a feast being a kind of soup or samp-corn from we were told, of new corn shelled from the cob, a little meat, sugar etc. – it was boiled in the council house in a large kettle – this being carried into Conundius’, one of each family engaged in the dance and who had previously (we were told) contributed, repaired with their small kettles or wooden bowls to receive their share. After waiting for some time and ancient Indian blew a Trumpet to notify the inhabitants of council and they began to assemble – they were dressed and ornamented variously - many were painted with red streaks about the face head and eyes as fancy inclined – some had bandages of Indian workmanship round their heads and tufts of feathers of different colours – sometimes furs. The hair of some was shorn round the crown and left long round the temples and on the tops of the head – others had it left long in little tufts over the head and more tufts plaited – many had breast plates of different fancies – others back ornaments and ear bobs all of silver – one had one red legging and the other blue – some caps of fur with tufts of dyed feathers or caps of feathers and bandages and tips of fur others tails of long hair like horse hair dyed red hanging down their backs or erected or suspended from their ears – old Conundiu
had a blaze of vermillion from the corner of each eye – his ears were cut round in their manner and extended to a considerable length, on each ear were two silver quills – one about 3 ½ and the other 2 inches, the erect one having a tuft of red feathers stuck in at the lower end – part of his forehead and on his crown were also painted red and being nearly bald and a very grave countenance he looked venerable – on his arms were wide silver bracelets – his leggings were of red cloth and his covering, a blanket over all which he threw off in council and took up his long pipe.
They had a very great variety of other ornaments and trinkets such as nose bobs and plates resembling furniture for drawers – silver bands round their arms, wrists or ankles etc. and yet in a general way very dirty and careless in their persons – one of the chiefs was dressed in a wood rangers frock and many of them had no ornaments – John Pierce (who is a chief) was the only one among them who thought it worth a while to appear on this occasions in a full dress – he is tall and a good person – had a new white hat on with a high crown which was covered from the brim to the top with a bandage of green flowered silk – in front were two bunches or knots of green ribbon disposed with taste one above the other and on one side of them a tuft of dyed feathers of different colors – He wore a new coat of a neatly figure green calico
made a little in the manner of a frock and the bosom ruffled with the same – his legs covering or pantaloons were in the Indian manner with a seam sewed out leaving a strip of about an inch and quarter – this strip or edging on each leg was faced with blue silk neatly wrought with needlework of blue ornamented with red twines or curls – and edged with beads in the Indian stile – instead of a blanket his outer covering was about a yard and half of superfine white cloth which in council he threw off from his shoulder and pleasure – Young Fatty – another chief was pretty dirty – the hair shorn on the sides of his head but from the crown down the neck was left to grow – in the center quite long and was plaited down his back in a large plait – on each side of this the hair was left about 4 inches long and being so course and glossy resembled a strip of black feathers.
The council having at length taken their seats we were introduced and seated near the center – The chiefs present were Cornplanter – Tekiando (His Nephew) Johnson Silverheels – John Pierce, Tusendaquit (or Young Fatty) Tockawasoee (or go to War) Jacob Snow(?) and Old Conundiu – several of them are handsome even – Cornplanter has an expressive countenance and penetrating eyes, but owing to some cause either habit or injury, he keeps one of them about half shut – after a little time of silence and then a conference between the chiefs – Conundiu opened the business for which we had such and that they were now ready to hear – our communications
were then read and interpreted to them – after a little further conference among themselves Cornplanter made a reply, first to us and then an address to the Indians in a methodical and sensible manner – when our business was go thro’ – bade them farewell and returned home.
Left the settlement of our Friends at Tunasassa about 10 o’clock, Jacob Taylor accompanying us – JB Moses and myself keeping with him on the west side of the Alleghany in order to go by the Indians Saw Mill – which is about 10 miles from this town – on our way, passed several Indian pantations as good we thought, as any we had seen, particularly an Indian named Kah’shun’dee’, or the Fiery Fying Dragon – his wife was dressed in a silk short gown wearing a large silver cross at her breast – these the Indians have got from the Roman Catholics originally, but are now worn only by way of ornament – Kah’shun’dee was hauling oats of which we saw a considerable crop standing in the field in neat shock – he had a large barn (which Jacob told us was made with his own hands) in it a considerable quantity of Old Corn and grain of different kinds, a part of which we saw on passing by – he is industrious and wealthy – not fond of attending their feasts and councils and declines the appointment of a chief.
Our course after leaving Peter Snyders was
Nearly N West – here we had bid adieu to the Allegany and passing through rich country, reached Stephen Hazeltines before 4 O’clock. Called 20 miles from Tunahojia, road rough and muddy.
27th Our beds last night not being calculated to induce a morning indulgence, we rose before day and eat our breakfast a set off before it was light – in a little way riding fell into the Indian Path which we pursued upon of 20 miles and take it all together, perhaps the worst road we have passed over and day before – Moses concluded that after this he should not be afraid of any sort of road and I though while riding on a long sideling hill which really seemed dangerous, I should be wishing our friends at home should have a peep at us, could they have also had an assurance that we should get up through safely. As was the case not by our own might or management – but under the protecting care of the omnipotent arm – for which may our acknowledgments arise as acceptable incense to Him.
Part of our way was up the Little Valley – then across the Broad Mountain 5 miles over and next the Hogback Mountain 6 miles over – on this for miles our path lay on the crown of the hill and the descent immediately and in some places steep, on either hand – we also several times, forded Cattaraugus Creek in its different branches and the main creek – the soil rode even today has been generally good and the timber
Fine even on the mountains – here we saw chestnut trees which we supposed 6 and 7 feet over (perhaps more) – also poplar, hemlock, sugar maple, ash, cucumber trees, beech etc. very large – near the main Cattaraugus Creek lay a body of sand much covered with black walnut and as rich as Bank Meadow – about the middle of the journey we fed our horses and eat a biscuit at a place of Indian encampment and before this had passed a grave enclosed in the Indian manner, where Jabcob told us a man was buried who perished in the woods about 4 years ago on his way from Buffaloe to Cold Spring – his horse just died and himself about 8 miles further – was warned before setting out of the danger of perishing but said he was so much like iron there was no danger – we also met an Indian on horseback from Grand River going to see the Allegany Indians, to some of whom he was related – Jacob talked with him, informing of our business ect – He replied in substance that he was pleased with meeting us and with the business we were engaged in, and wishing our preservation and safety on our
Journey bade us farewell – a few miles further we met another man on horseback named Pollard from Buffalo. He had a small child before him and his wife (we supposed) on another horse behind – she was well dressed and her neck ornamented with silver broaches so as to give it the appearance at a little distance of a richly silvered shawl. It has not felt quite pleasant to me that we made no return to the salutation and friendly wish of the first Indian and this one also greeting us in a similar way, I desired Jacob to tell him that we were pleased with meeting him on his way to visit his Friends at Allegany and brighten the chain of friendship – if he could also encourage them in useful industry it would be a good work – he received it cordially and we passed on – Jacob told us he was an industrious man and one of the great farmers among the Indians in that country – before 4 O’clock, reached the settlement of our Friends at Clear Creek called 25 miles from Hazeltines and after taking some refreshment, spent the evening in view of the farm and improvements.
28th Went to see the Indians improvements – our way except about a quarter of a mile being on their reservation which is very rich land and well timbered but (as if it were designed for Indians who have not yet learned to labour, there are many hundred acres of flats without a tree, being covered with fern, wild grass, strawberry vines (which in their season give abundantly) and rich herbage in some places as high as our heads on horseback – the soil is black when wet and now when dry resembles ashes – the timber adjoining and bordering on is white and black oak – black walnut, sugar maple etc. – on the open plains were many horses feeding, belonging to the Indians – in about 5 miles we came to the village of the Muncy Indians, who are a part of the Delaware Tribe and about 152 in number – the Cattaraugus settlement of Senecas is about one mile further and they are about 250 persons. We stopped at the house of the Chief Warrior named Wyundegohta whose store house we found pretty well supplied with wheat, oats, old corn etc. and some of his women employed in shelling new corn which they had previously parched – this is to be dried in the sun and as wanted for use to be pounded and mixed with sugar, and is an excellent, nutritious, and portable food for traveling – we here saw many ornaments in their way – one head dree made with long feathers wrapped on the sides of the head with the white skin of some animal ornamented with the skin of a drakes head in spots – the feather part stuck out behind being highly colored and even the forehead was the head and beak of a bird (perhaps a raven) on each side of which from the eye was a tuft of long crim-
-son colored feathers – at the side of the room being a string of half-moons 14 in number, all of silver, the largest (which they said cost 6 dollars) being on the top and so regularly becoming smaller as they went to the bottom – on each was an engraving of some bird or animal – one pair of musical ornaments composed of dyed feathers and worn in their dances – a pair of mockasins richly wrought with porcupine quills and tipped with a very great number of silver quills containing tassels of dyed feathers or hair – besides many other things rich in their way – The land on which these two villages stand, perhaps 15 or 20 acres in each, is beautifully covered with white clover, green grass etc – and if it were enclosed and kept up with mowing we thought would cut the first crop near two tons per acre – after staying here a while and leaving it with them to fix a time when to receive us in council we rode about two miles further down the Cattaraugus Creek to see the Indians corn and oats etc. – the crops were not very good owing to several causes, the principle one poor cultivation, yet the land is superlatively good – those flats, containing many thousand acres of land in their bowels string marks of – being made ground – as we rode along the Creek on the opposite side and island is now forming, which the bank on which we were is washing away it at a depth of 10 to 12 feet, the logs are sticking out of the bank into the creek bearing the marks of having been there buried for a long series of years – On returning to the
Village, we rode about half a mile and forded the Cattaraugus Creek to the Indians saw mill – here we rode out of the main creek into the bed of the small creek which the mill is built on – the bottom of which is a slate rock – in about 80 or 100 yards we came to the spring mentioned on the 18th, Williams, an Indian had accompanied us with a fire brand, on the application of which to the effluence arising, it immediately burst into a blaze and burned with considerable heat as long as we inclined to view it and would have continued to burn as were told till extinguished by a sudden dash of water or blast of wind – I dashed a part it out with water from the creek but almost as soon as I had done , the air caught again AS then took his hat and blew it quite out –
The rock in this place is cracked across in several directions and the bubbling appears in the center where is the largest opening, at this place is first caught but soon extended itself for several feet along the other cracks, the flame emitting a sulpherous effluvia mixed with some other smell – the water in the creek was now very low, but Jacob told us that when was spring was covered with the creek as it often was it produced a much larger flame than we saw – At a small distance from the spring Jacob told us there was an ancient fortification containing about
END OF JOURNAL VOL 2
Posted by Michael Galban at 11:28 AM
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Ribbon Skirts in Haudenosaunee Country
There has been an incredible resurgence of Indigenous clothing styles happening all across turtle island. Beaded medallions are worn for everyday occasions, native designers are producing wonderful clothing lines, and the amount of sweet Native T-shirts available is just so satisfying.
One article of clothing which has gotten much attention lately is the "Ribbon Skirt". All across Indian Country, the ribbon skirt has become the garment of choice for formal occasions public and private. The designs are myriad but the essential use of colorful ribbon borders and cloth foundations are the standard.
More than a few people have asked me about the historic nature of the garment and whether or not it could be considered "traditional" to Haudenosaunee people. I hope that this post can help folks understand a bit about tradition and also about clothing history too.
Tradition is simply something that happens twice in a row usually. Native folks create new traditions all the time, and what was once traditional could be considered old fashioned and out of date tomorrow.
I am reminded of the era where the western "war bonnet" was so commonly seen in Haudenosaunee country. For a time, it was traditional headwear but that changed slowly and now the ash splint gustoweh is considered the traditional headdress - but even today, folks are looking into older styles and customs and bringing them forward like the porcupine quilled headdresses that are sometimes seen around. Things change and old becomes new and what was new becomes old.
To address the question of the women's ribbon skirt we should know a few things first. One, is that, modern cloth and ribbons are materials that were available only after Native people demanded them in the colonial period. But for Haudenosaunee people, that sort of commerce began a LONG time ago. By the mid 1600's, European goods were well known and commonly found in every Haudenosaunee community. Think about that for a second. That's a 350 year old traditional use of European cloth. I'd say that is a pretty strong tradition.
Cloth in all it's forms made up slightly more than half of the European goods incorporated into indigenous households during this colonial period. Here is a chart (stolen directly from "To Do Justice To Him and Myself" by Kees-Jan Waterman - worth picking up a copy...) identifying the percentage of trade goods that went out from a prominent Albany traders family.
From this cloth could be made: shirts, leggings, breech cloths, wearing blankets (matchcoats), hoods, mittens and yes. Skirts. Wrap skirts to be specific. These are simple garments made from a single length of cloth (wool most often) and decorated with silk ribbon in broad stacks of primary colors. Sometimes simple beaded edges or beaded decorations inside the ribbon trim were done. They were usually made to wrap around the hips with an overlap to one side of the dominant leg.
This is the origins of the classic Haudenosaunee women's skirt. Later, it becomes heavily beaded in beautiful lace beadwork designs. We can see that sort of skirt appearing in the mid 19th century. Here is an example form the NYS Museum that Caroline Parker-Mt Pleasant made during this period.
But what did the early examples from the 1700's look like? It's unfortunate that scant few extant examples exist. We get most of the information about what they looked like from descriptions, ledgers of available fabric and ribbon, and historic images of women from this era.
I am going to post a few images that show skirts of this era to give an idea of the variety but also of the cut and color pallet that these women preferred.
This first image is of Saint Kateri Tekawitha believed to be painted by Father Chauchetiere in the late 17th century. It still hangs in Kahnawake since that time.
Her clothing is typical of the late 17th century. Her "dress" is actually a patterned cloth shirt worn outside as a tunic. Patterned shirts were strictly a Native preference and traders complied with their tastes whenever they saw the change. Her skirt is a simple wrap skirt with subtle ribbon trim and matching side seam leggings.
The next image is an engraving from La Potherie (1722) of Haudenosaunee women dancing. I've seen some of these moves on some women today! The clothing is much the same as the 17th century. Simple wrap skirts trimmed in ribbon or woven tape, loose shirts but with the possible addition of an over coat like garment called a cassique/mantlet/bedgown.
Take notice of the women's hairstyles. They are parted down in the middle, with a single gathered and folded braid in the back. These "clubs" of hair are then wrapped in ribbon, or cloth or even shiny tanned eel skins. Sometimes these hair clubs were covered in wampum. Here is an image of two such wampum hair wraps.
The next image is from the studio of Benjamin West, an American-born artist who became known for his images of Native people while in England later in his life. This example shows a wonderful detail of women's clothing of the mid 18th century. The woman wears a cloth shirt (a bit unusual to be sleeveless but maybe cut down for summer use) with one arm out of its sleeve for nursing. Her skirt is a great example of ribbon or tape decorations. The white zigzag decorations are probably round glass "seed" beads sewn down one at a time which we see in other examples of clothing from this era. Her side-seam leggings are scalloped and trimmed out in ribbon like her skirt. Her moccasins are worn with the flap up and the leggings tucked inside. When wearing moccasins outdoors this prevents small pebbles or even ticks from getting inside your clothing.
This next image is an anonymous image from the 18th century. By the style and by the "hand" my best guess is that it was done by James Peachey, a artist working in the late 18th century with Native peoples being a favorite subject. It clearly shows a woman wearing a wrap skirt trimmed in ribbon or woven tape with small silver ring brooches in a simple horizontal pattern. Her wearing blanket (Matchcoat) is also trimmed in rows of ribbon as are her red wool leggings.
This next image is a detail from Thomas Davies painting of Fort La Galette on the St Lawrence River. You can see the Haudenosaunee woman wearing her blue wool skirt decorated in rows of yellow ribbon. She might be wearing buckskin leggings or possibly they are yellow wool like her wearing blanket.
These next two images are of Wendat/Wyandot people from the last quarter of the 18th century. Both women are wearing simple wrap skirts. Incidentally, the women are likely selling fingerwoven sashes which are held draped over their arms. Street vendors would walk around city centers or waterfronts selling their wares. Native women were known to sell herbs, moccasins, baskets and sashes in this method around Montreal during this period.
It is important to look at historic references to add some detail to what we might be looking at in the painted or drawn images.
"The dress which particularly distinguishes the women is a petticoat or strowd, blue, red or black, made of a piece of cloth about two yards long, adorned with red, blue or yellow bands laid double and bound about the body."
History of the Northern American Indians by David Zeisberger 1779-1780 among the Delaware and Mingo (Ohio Valley Seneca)
"...they wear a skirt of deerskin or cloth instead of a loincloth. This goes around the body, and is doubled over a belt or cord around the hips. This skirt, called a "matchicote", reached only to the knees, and often has ribbons for decoration or ornaments around the bottom, as well as porcupine quills and little bells."
Travels in New France by J.C. Bonnin 1751-1761
"the women wear an under petticoat called machicote, made of an ell of blue or red cloth of the quality like that of Berri or Carcassonne. The lower edge is ornamented with several strips of yellow, blue and red ribbon or English edge lace. This arrangement resembles a couriers frock. It is fastened around the waist by a strap. The shirt passes over and cover this."
Memoir upon the Late War in North America 1755-60 by Pierre Pouchot
We can also look at dolls of this time period. This is a wonderful doll from Cambridge showing a few details that are of importance. She is wearing the ubiquitous wrap skirt trimmed in woven tape and some simple beadwork. Also take notice of her beaded garters and a curious beaded cuff. It turns out the other cuff was removed and tucked into her beaded belt behind her back. These cuffs seem to be associated with both men and women.
Father Lafitau in the 17th century illustrates and describes their use. "1&2, Figures of the Indians of the Iroquois and Huron Tribes clothed in modern style, man and woman...8, Bracelet of wampum worked in little cylinders"
You can see clearly the woman and the man wearing these wampum bracelets. For an incomplete but relevant survey of these wampum and imitation glass wampum cuffs see, "Wampum Held by the Oneida Indian Nation, Inc. of New York: Research Relating to Wampum Cuffs and Belts" by Marshall Becker. Take notice of the small illustration numbered "8" which shows the cuff/bracelet clearly as an object.
Here is an example of the wampum cuff at the Peabody Museum Harvard.
To get back on track, here is a doll from the Wendat/Wyandot (Huron) people dated to the last quarter of the 18th century. She is wearing a wonderful printed cloth shirt with copious imitation glass wampum strands as a necklace and as earrings. Her skirt is trimmed in green wool woven ribbon/tape.
My hope is that this is posting is a basic tutorial for women's dress of the colonial period but mostly to demonstrate the use of ribbon skirts among the Haudenosaunee.
I am in no way any sort of cultural "police" who says what is traditional or not. I am just helping define the style, color and fit of this garment for this time period and hopefully informing folks about a tradition that was once the most common among their ancestors. I also want to suggest that these old style skirts ARE the actual ancestors of the modern ribbon skirt.
Have fun and enjoy life as the Creator intended.
Posted by Michael Galban at 12:34 PM