Petitions of the Life Chiefs

These transcripts were made from documents found in the collections of the Canada's Department of Indian Affairs. They originate from the time when Canada was trying to bring elections to the Mohawk communities. The original file has an enormous amount of material pertaining to the other Mohawk communities but I have only included the Akwesasne material herein. Please note that the paragraph formatting has been modified for this webpage but the original spellings are intact. Researchers will want to consult the originals.

Petitions of the Life Chiefs to Preserve Traditional Government

(transcribed from Vol. 2320, file # 63812.2, RG-10, NAC, reel # C-11201)

To Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen,

Whereas we have taken into serious consideration concerning the affairs touching the welfare of the Seven Nations residing at St. Regis, that we the said Iroquois of St. Regis cannot cease of our original treaty which was sanctioned by His Most Excellent Majesty, the King of England, and the Thirteen Colonies.

Madam, it is extremely hard to cease of our original treaty which is to be perpetuated as long as the Sun shall give light and water runs and grass grows, so we cannot see why that we should be treated as minors since the Covenant Chain of Brotherly Love should exist between the Seven Nations of the Iroquois and the English - that the covenant chain should not tarnish but it is to be always kept bright, because we all know that the brightness of the great gold chain of which it is made would admit of no decay.

Madam, we have agreed to stand by according to the treaty existing between you and us, - that it is better to be steadfast to our original treaty which was sanctioned by His Most Gracious Majesty, the King of England.

Madam, concerning the International boundary line according to our original treaty.

That does not interfere with it whatever, but it covers the whole plantation.

Madam, concerning the question referred to by all our treaties from the time of discovery to the time of the last treaty - 1st. That the English have made an illustration that they shall abide in their vessel - 2nd - That the Indians of the Iroquois remain in our Birchbark Canoe; 3rd- That the English shall make no compulsory laws for the Indians, but the treaties are to be unmolested forever.

Madam, we thought it further necessary to inform Your Majesty that General Henry B. Carrington of the United States has been here to confer with the Iroquois of St. Regis concerning our treaty-rights, - if we, the Seven Nations of St. Regis, do remember of our original treaties from the French to English rule, and also to the rule of the first President of the United States; - that we are justly informed by His Honor Mr. Carrington that our original treaty still exists, and will not be molested or disturbed but will perpetuate as long as the Sun shall endure. But we do not wish to hold of what is not belonging to us - meaning the elective form of trustees, We do not believe that it is calculated to promote our welfare. We all know that all nations adhere to their own form of Government and of their systematic constitutions.

Madam, you have now heard our words concerning the treaty existing between us, the Iroquois of St. Regis, and the English; and also you have received our anxiety to maintain our treaty rights, and, moreover, that our desire is that the elective form of trustees should be abolished because it creates impatience and bribery, - meaning the use of Spirituous liquors.

Madam, we will now sign our names, so you will know of whom has the majority of the consideration of the Iroquois of St. Regis.

Witnessed by Jeremiah Hill
Chief of the Mohawks
of the Bay of Quinte of Six Nations June 21 1892

Peter + Tirens
Louis + Ahnatakarias
Louis + Tarbell
Francis + Tirens
Peter + Gray
Sylvester + Gray
John + Tarbell

Superintendent General of Indian Affairs,

Sir, the Indians who assembled in Council held at St. Regis County of Huntingdon Quebec Canada with peace and impartiality showeth each Band of Indians elected candidates to represent at the council to adjust Indian rights - regarding the introduction of Whiteman system of election called Indian Act among the Indians. Sir Governor it only breeds sorrow, contention, hatred, disrespect of family ties, spite against one another and absence of unity among us Indians. Also creates two distinct parties at the elections. This law was never authorized its adoption among the Indians. Therefore Sir we deliver it to you - free ourselves from it and ask you to accept for it is you, white man’s law and not of the Indians. We are glad that there is one way to recover brotherly feelings it is by substituting the seven lords (chiefs) appointed by each of the seven totems according to the ancient customs which we know gave us peace, prosperity, & friendship and brotherly feelings in every cause either for personal good or for the benefit of the whole band. There seemed to be one family only. We desire to adhere to the Iroquois system of government where the source of power will lie in parallel with Whitemen law. This ancient constitution is called “lordship.” We will elect our lords who shall have full power to control the varied affairs that we Indians have. This petition was made on 22 Sept. 1894.

St. Regis
September 2nd 1894

1. We the Seven Nations of Iroquois Indians of St. Regis do hereby in humbleness address you “His Excellency the Governor General of Canada.”

The time has come when we wish to inform you of the “Renewal of our Laws and Customs”. We have been polishing the laws on our wampum, and the rights of our Treaty and our agreements with the Government.

We do throw off from us all other laws which have brought us troubles of every shape and description. We have seen that such laws are not for us, so we return to our own laws.

We put our own laws over every other for our own benefit.

We therefore, address you, to defend us, when we are in trouble, according to the dictates of our Treaty.

We, appeal to you, in hope that you will grant our requests, we the Indians of the Seven Nations of Iroquois.

It is now over a year ago, on the Twenty Fourth of October, 1895, a Grand Council of Indians of different Bands and tribes, was held on our Reservation.

On that day we elected twelve Life Chiefs, according to the different bands. Two members of each Band were duly elected, according to the dictates of our wampum.

The Caughnawaga Band were here, on our Reservation and took part in the proceedings by raising up our Life Chiefs.

The Twelve Life Chiefs also received medals according to the Laws of our Wampum, which says, The Laws of the “White man” and the “Indian Brave” will forever walk side by side but never mingle together.

We have followed our laws and have raised Life Chiefs, amongst us

Life Chiefs of St. Regis and their different Bands.

1. Francis X Hires             Bear Tribe
2. John X Shotsienhowane

3. Mitchell X Karekohe    Big Pipe
4. Joseph X Tawakkon

5. Joseph X Karekohe     Tortoise
6. Charles X Ires

7. Jacob X Karekohe       Lark
8. Peter X Hires

9. Charles X Karekohe    Wolf
10. Mitchell X Tekasetoken

11. Joseph X Karekohe    Rock
12. Louis X Karekohe

(Annex to “a” to P.C. 858, 26, April 1895)

To His Excellency Governor General of Canada &c. &c.

May it please Your Excellency
Humble Showeth:

Brother, Whereas We the undersigned have taken into serious consideration to cause it to declare our grievance, and to lay before Your Excellency that our anxiety is to be exempted of the Elective System form of Councilors, of which it is injurious to our nationality to which it is not calculated to promote our welfare, of which we have not derived of any benefit since the elective form of council existed among the Indians of Canada, and therefore that we thought that it is high time to cause it to lay before Your Excellency’s serious consideration, that we know every nation is made distinct through by the Great Spirit’s will.

We all know that the old times according to the Bible that the whole earth was one Language and of one speech therefore the Lord came down to see the City and the tower which the children of men builded, and the Lord confounded their language, and scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth.

It appears to us that it is extremely hard to be governed by a distinct nationality of course it has been prophesied before the advent of white men that mighty power is coming from the East to govern the country of the aborigines, and plunder their national freedom.

Brother, the prophesy is handed down from father to son and up to the present age. and therefore to compare the prophecy and actions of the Canadian Government that the Indians are looked upon as minors, and treat them as such, for it is plainly to be seen that the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs has the full power to control and management of the lands and property of the Indians of Canada.

Brother, we have counciled and put our heads together, to re-establish of our former customs of creating chiefs according to our own clans, and the forthcoming chiefs are already selected and you are to know them in the future to do business between the Government and us the Iroquois of St. Regis.

And we therefore give you the resolution passed in our Council October 24, 1894

Moved by Enias Tekarononto and seconded by Peter Kara Kwiio that Jack Oh ne ta ko, as chairman and Secretary. Carried.

Moved by Jacob Oten-en-re-kon and seconded by Mathias Whishe-ko-wa, That the chiefs be created Carried and also Joseph Sa-ko-ie-wat-the, pled the motion of creating chiefs.

The Chairman then declared unaminously Carried

Jacob One to kaho

We therefore give you the names of whom is selected to be fit proper persons to be created Chiefs selected according to our classes.

Clans 1st. The Great Plover -
Siser kak a sion kwas
Jacob Anionken

2 sec. The Little Plover
Cherine Ka-he-rien-nan-ta

3rd. The Tortoise
Paul Karon-ia-tsi-ko-wa

4th The Little Tortoise.
Louisa Tsa wen tinnon
Annias Tewen-ni-ta-ne-keh

5th The Wolf
Anen Ka ten ta ro ri
Jacob Onetotako

6th The Bear.
Mary Kaherine
Savats Tioherote

Your Excellency may understand the above stated names of the women’s side that they hold the symbolic totems of which they have the right to select their sachems.

Chiefs Sak Ohnetakalo
Wishe Kanonsase
Roren Kanonsase
Annais Teroniatase
Sose Sosawates
and 119 others

St. Regis, October 24, 1895

To-day were elected Chiefs, and also received medals the twelve men whose names are following:-

Francis Tirens
Matthew Satsienhowane
-both are of the band of the Bear

Mitchell Karikohe
Joseph Atawahkon
both are of the band of the Big Pipe

Joseph Karikohe
Charles Tirens
both are of the band of the Tortoise

Jacob Karikohe
Peter Tirens
both are of the band of the Lark

Charles Karikohe
Mitchell Teka se to ken
both are of the band of the Wolf

Joseph Karikohe
Mitchell Sakosennakete
both are of the band of the Rock

St. Regis
December 9, 1896

1. At this date a meeting was held by the “Life Chiefs” of which there are twelve of the “Seven Nations of Iroquois Indians.”

This meeting was called in regard to the building of certain railways which we hear will run across the Reservation.

These white men have not consulted us, in regard the proposed railway, and we have not consented to allow the said railway to pass through our Reservation, and which we regard as an encroachment on our lands.

We object to the surveying of our lands for the said purpose of building a railway across our reservation.

2. To you, Our Brother, in charge of Indian Affairs, we appeal in our distress, to recall your people from off our lands.

You whose duty is to protect us, and punish trespassing on our Reservation, for according to our “Treaty” a pale face is forbidden to turn an inch of soil on Indian Reservation.

With one accord we hope you will grant our requests. We will sign our names.

Life Chiefs of St. Regis
1. Francis X Hires
2. John X Shotsienhowane
3. Mitchell X Karekohe
4. Joseph X Tawakkon
5. Joseph X Karekohe
6. Charles X Hires
7. Jacob X Karekohe
8. Peter X Hires
9. Charles X Karekohe
10. Mitchell X Tekasetoken
11. Joseph X Karekohe
12. Louis X Karekohe

May 21, 1900

To Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen

Madam, we have been this day holding a general Council in regard to the trouble that is being brought to us by your Agents and officials from Ottawa, bringing to us laws of which we do not like and which we are not suited.
We have protested in vain against the action of the government in Ottawa so we beg to you to take our affair under consideration and pending satisfactory settlement of this question we await your action
hoping an early reply Madam

we remain &c.
Iroquois of St. Regis
Mitchell Friday
Franklin Co. N.Y.
God Save the Queen

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