With the arrival at the Council House the "opening ceremony" is concluded. In the house the members of the Council were seated in the usual array, on opposite sides of the house. On one side were the three elder nations, the Caniengas, Onondagas, and Senecas, and on the other the younger, who were deemed, and styled in Council, the offspring of the former. These younger members, originally two in number, the Oneidas and Cayugas, had afterwards an important accession in the Tuscarora nation; and in later years several smaller tribes, or, as they were styled, additional braces of the Extended House, were received,--Tuteloes, Nanticokes, Delawares and others. In the Onondaga portion of the book the younger tribes speak as "we three brothers." The earliest of the later accessions seems to have taken place about the year 1753, when the Tuteloes and Nanticokes were admitted. 1 These circumstances afford additional evidence that the Book was originally written prior to that date and subsequent to the year 1714, when the Tuscaroras were received into the League.
If the deceased chief belonged to one of the three older nations, the duty of conducting the condoling ceremony which followed was performed by the younger nations, who mourned for him as for a father or an uncle. If he were a chief of one of the younger nations, the others lamented him as a son or a nephew. The mourning nations selected as their representative a high chief, usually a distinguished orator, familiar with the usages and laws of the League, to conduct
these ceremonies. The lamentations followed a prescribed routine, each successive topic of condolence being indicated by a string of wampum, which, by the arrangement of its beads, recalled the words to the memory of the officiating chief. In the "Book of Rites" we have these addresses of condolence in a twofold form. The Canienga book gives us the form used by the elder nations; and the Onondaga supplement adds the form employed by the younger brothers. The former is more ancient, and apparently more dignified and formal. The speaker addresses the mourners as his children (konyennetaghkwen, "my offspring,") and recites each commonplace of condolence in a curt and perfunctory style. He wipes away their tears that they may see clearly; he opens their ears that they may hear readily. He removes from their throats the obstruction with which their grief is choking them, so that they may ease their burdened minds by speaking freely to their friends. And finally, as the loss of their lamented chief may have occurred in war--and at all events many of their friends have thus perished--he cleans the mats on which they are sitting from the figurative bloodstains, so that they may for a time cease to be reminded of their losses, and may regain their former cheerfulness.
The condolence of the younger brothers, expressed in the Onondaga book, is more expansive and more sympathetic. Though apparently disfigured and mutilated by repeated transcriptions, it bears marks of having been originally the composition of a superior mind. All such topics of consolation as would occur to a speaker ignorant or regardless of a future life are skillfully presented, and the. whole address is imbued with a sentiment of cordial tenderness and affection. Those who have been accustomed to regard the Indians as a cold-hearted people will find it difficult to reconcile that view of their character with the contrary evidence afforded by this genuine expression of their feelings, and, indeed, by the whole tenor of the Book.
This address concludes with the emphatic words, "I have finished; now point me the man;" or, as the words were paraphrased by the interpreter, "Now show me the warrior who is to be the new chief." The candidate for senatorial honors, who is to take the place and name of the deceased councillor, is then brought forward by his nation. His admission by the assembled Council, at this stage of the proceedings, is a matter of course; for his nation had taken care to ascertain, before the meeting, that the object of their choice would be acceptable to the councillors of the other nations. The ceremony of induction consisted in the formal bestowal of the new name by which he was henceforth to be known. A chief placed himself on each side of the candidate, and, grasping his arms, marched him to and fro in the Council house, between the lines of the assembled senators. As they walked they proclaimed his new name and office, and recited, in a measured chant, the duties to which he was now called, the audience responding at every pause with the usual chorus of assent.
When this ceremony was finished, and the new councillor had taken his proper seat among the nobles of his nation, the wampum belts, which comprised the historical records of the federation, were produced, and the officiating chief proceeded to explain them, one by one, to the assemblage. This was called "reading the archives." In this way a knowledge of the events signified by the wampum was fastened, by repeated iteration, in the minds of the listeners. Those who doubt whether events which occurred four centuries ago can be remembered as clearly and minutely as they are now recited, will probably have their doubts removed when, they consider the necessary operation of this custom. The orator's narrative is repeated in the presence of many auditors who have often heard it before, and who would be prompt to remark and to correct any departure from the well-known history.
This narrative is not recorded in the Book of Rites. At
the time when that was written, the annals of the confederacy were doubtless supposed to be sufficiently preserved by the wampum records. The speeches and ceremonies which followed, and which were of equal, if not greater importance, had no such evidences to recall them. From this statement, however, the "hymn" should be excepted; to each line of it, except the last, a wampum string was devoted. With this exception, all was left to the memory of the orator. The Homeric poems, the hymns of the Vedas, the Kalewala, the Polynesian genealogies, and many other examples, show the exactness with which a composition that interests a whole nation may be handed down; but it is not surprising that when the chiefs became aware of the superior advantages of a written record, they should have had recourse to it. We need not doubt that Chief David of Schoharie, or whoever else was the scribe appointed to this duty, has faithfully preserved the substance, and, for the most part, the very words, of the speeches and chants which he had often heard under such impressive circumstances.
The hymn, or karenna, deserves a special notice. In every important council of the Iroquois a song or chant is considered a proper and almost essential part of the proceedings. Such official songs are mentioned in many reports of treaty councils held with them by the French and English authorities. In this greatest of all councils the song must, of course, have a distinguished place. It follows immediately upon the address of greeting and condolence, and is, in fact, regarded as the completion of it, and the introduction to the equally important ceremony which is to follow, viz., the repetition of the ancient laws of the confederacy. This particular hymn is of great antiquity. Some of the chiefs expressed to me the opinion that it was composed by Dekanawidah or Hiawatha. Its tenor, however, as well as that of the whole book, shows that it belongs to a later period. The ceremonies of the council were doubtless prescribed by the
founders of the League; but the speeches of the Book, and this hymn, all refer to the League as the work of a past age. The speakers appeal to the wisdom of their forefathers (literally, their grandsires), and lament the degeneracy of the later times. They expressly declare that those who established the "great peace" were in their graves, and had taken their work with them and placed it as a pillow under them. This is the language of men who remembered the founders, and to whom the burial of the last of them was a comparatively recent event. If the League was formed, as seems probable, about the year 1450, the speeches and hymn, in their present form, may reasonably be referred to the early part of the next century. There is reason to believe that the formation of the confederacy was followed by wars with the Hurons and Algonkin tribes, in which, as usual, many changes of fortune took place. If the Hurons, as has been shown, were expelled from their abode on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence, the Mohegans, on the other hand, inflicted some serious blows upon the eastern nations of the confederacy. 1 The Delawares were not conquered and reduced to subjection without a long and sanguinary struggle. In a Condoling Council we might expect that the tone of feeling would be lugubrious; but the sense of loss and of danger is too marked in all the speeches of the Canienga Book to be merely a formal utterance. It does not appear in those of the Onondaga Book, which is seemingly of later composition.
The "karenna," or chant of the Condoling Council, may be styled the National Hymn of the Iroquois. A comparison between it and other national hymns, whose chief characteristics are self-glorification and defiance, might afford room for some instructive inferences. This hymn, it should be remarked, brief as it is, is regarded by the Indians as a collection of songs. Each line, in fact, is, in their view, a song by itself, and is brought to mind by its own special wampum
string, In singing, each line is twice repeated, and is introduced and followed by many long-drawn repetitions of the exclamation aihaigh (or rather haihaih) which is rendered "hail!" and from which the hymn derives its designation. In the first line the speaker salutes the "Peace," or the league, whose blessings they enjoy. In the next he greets the kindred of the deceased chief, who are the special objects of the public sympathy. Then he salutes the oyenkondonh, a term which has been rendered "warriors." This rendering, however, may have a misleading effect. The word has nothing to do with war, unless in the sense that every grown man in an Indian community is supposed to be a soldier. Except in this hymn, the word in question is now disused. An elderly chief assured me that he had sung it for years without knowing its precise meaning. Some of his fellow-councillors were better informed. The word is apparently derived from onkwe, man, which in the Onondaga dialect becomes yenkwe. It comprises all the men (the "manhood" or mankind) of the nation--as, in the following verse, the word wakonnyh, which is also obsolete, signifies the "womanhood," or all the women of the people with whom the singer condoles. In the next line he invokes the laws which their forefathers established; and he concludes by calling upon his hearers to listen to the wisdom of their forefathers, which he is about to recite. As a whole, the hymn may be described as an expression of reverence for the laws and for the dead, and of sympathy with the living. Such is the "national anthem,"--the Marseillaise,---of the ferocious Iroquois.
The regard for women which is apparent in this hymn, and in other passages of the Book, is deserving of notice. The common notion that women among the Indians were treated as inferiors, and made "beasts of burden," is unfounded so far as the Iroquois are concerned, and among all other tribes of which I have any knowledge. With them, as with civilized
nations, the work of the community and the cares of the family are fairly divided. Among the Iroquois the hunting and fishing, the house-building and canoe-making, fell to the men. The women cooked, made the dresses, scratched the ground with their light hoes, planted and gathered the crops, and took care of the children. The household goods belonged to the woman. On her death, her relatives, and not her husband, claimed them. The children were also hers; they belonged to her clan, and in case of a separation they went with her. She was really the head of the household; and in this capacity her right, when she chanced to be the oldest matron of a noble family, to select the successor of a deceased chief of that family, was recognized by the highest law of the confederacy. That this rank and position were greatly prized is shown by a remarkable passage in the Jesuit Relations. A Canienga matron, becoming a Christian, left her country, with two of her children, to enjoy greater freedom in her devotions among the French. The act, writes the missionary, so offended her family that, in a public meeting of the town, "they degraded her from the rank of the nobility, and took from her the title of Oyander, that is, honorable (considérable)--a title which they esteem highly, and which she had inherited from her ancestors, and deserved by her good judgment, her prudence, and her excellent conduct and at the same time they installed another in her place." 1
The complete equality of the sexes in social estimation and influence is apparent in all the narratives of the early missionaries, who were the best possible judges on this point. Casual observers have been misled by the absence of those artificial expressions of courtesy which have descended to us from the
time of chivalry, and which, however gracious and pleasing to witness, are, after all, merely signs of condescension and protection from the strong to the weak. The Iroquois does not give up his seat to a woman, or yield her precedence on leaving a room; but he secures her in the possession of her property, he recognizes her right to the children she has borne, and he submits to her decision the choice of his future rulers.
59:1 N.Y. Hist. Col., Vol. 6, p. 811. Stone's Life of Sir William Johnson, p. 414.
63:1 See the Jesuit Relation for 1660, p. 6.
65:1 Relation of 1671, p. 6. The word oyander in modern pronunciation becomes oyaner. It is derived from the root yaner, noble, and is the feminine form of the word royaner, lord, or nobleman,---the title applied to the members of the federal council.