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p. 75



After the declaration of the laws of the League, there follows a passage of great historical importance. The speaker recites the names of the chiefs who represented the Five Nations in the conference by which the work of devising their laws and establishing their government was accomplished. The native name of the confederacy is here for the first time mentioned. In the guttural and rather irregular orthography of the Book it is spelt Kanonghsyonny. The Roman Catholic missionaries, neglecting the aspirate, which in the Iroquois pronunciation appears and disappears as capriciously as in the spoken dialects of the south of England, write the word Kanonsionni. It is usually rendered by interpreters the "Long House," but this is not precisely its meaning. The ordinary word for "long house" is kanonses or kanonsis, the termination es or is being the adjective suffix which signifies long. Kanonsionni is a compound word, formed of kanonsa, house, and ionni, extended, or drawn out. The confederacy was compared to a dwelling which was extended by additions made to the end, in the manner in which their bark-built houses were lengthened,---sometimes to an extent exceeding two hundred feet. When the number of families inhabiting these long dwellings was increased by marriage or adoption, and a new hearth was required, the end-wall,---if this term may be applied to the slight frame of poles and bark which closed the house,---was removed, an addition of the required size was made to the edifice, and the closing wall was restored. Such was the figure by which the founders of the confederacy represented their political structure, a figure which was in itself a description and an invitation. It declared

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that the united nations were not distinct tribes, associated by a temporary league, but one great family, clustered for convenience about separate hearths in a common dwelling; and it proclaimed their readiness to receive new members into the general household. 1

The names of the six great chiefs who, as representatives of their several nations, formed the confederacy, are in this narrative linked together in a manner which declares their political kinship. The first rulers or heads of the combined households were the Canienga Dekanawidah with his "joint-ruler" and political son, the Oneida Otatsehte (or Odadsheghte), whose union with Dekanawidah was the commencement of the League. Next follows Otatsehte's uncle (and Dekanawidah's brother), the Onondaga Wathadodarho (Atotarho), who is accompanied by his son, the Cayuga Akahenyonh. The uncle of the Cayuga representative, the Seneca chief Kanadariyu, and his cousin, Shadekaronyes, represent the two sections into which the great Seneca nation was divided. The name of Hiawatha does not appear in this enumeration. According to the uniform tradition of the Five Nations, he was not merely present in the convention, but was the leading spirit in its deliberations. But he did not officially represent any nation. By birth a high chief of the Onondagas, he had been but newly adopted among the Caniengas. Each of these nations had entrusted its interests to its own most influential chief. But the respect with which Hiawatha was regarded is indicated, as has been already remarked, by his place in the list of fifty councillors, with whose names the Book concludes. Though so recently received among the haughty Caniengas, whose proud and jealous temper is often noticed by the missionaries and other early observers, his

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name is placed second in the list of their representatives, immediately following that of Tekarihoken, the chief who stood highest in titular rank among the nobles of the Kanonsionni, and whose lineage was perhaps derived from the leader of their primitive migrations.

The tradition runs that when the political frame of their confederacy had been arranged by the members of this convention, and the number of senators who should represent each nation in the federal council had been determined, the six delegates, with Hiawatha and some other advisers, went through all the nations, selecting--doubtless with the aid of a national council in each case--the chiefs who were to constitute the first council. In designating these,---or rather, probably, in the ceremonies of their installation,---it is said that some peculiar prerogative was conceded to the Onondagas,---that is, to Atotarho and his attendant chiefs. It was probably given as a mark of respect, rather than as conferring any real authority; but from this circumstance the Onondagas were afterwards known in the council by the title of "the nominators." The word is, in the Canienga dialect, Rotisennakehte,---in Onondaga, Hotisennakehte. It means literally, "the name-carriers,"--as if, said one of my informants, they bore a parcel of names in a bag slung upon the back.

Each of the other nations had also its peculiar name in the Council, distinct from the mere local designation by which it was commonly called. Thus the Caniengas had for their "Council name" the term Tehadirihoken. This is the plural form of the name of their leading chief, Tekarihoken. Opinions differ much among the Indians as to the meaning of this name. Cusick, the Tuscarora historian, defines it "a speech divided," and apparently refers it to the division of the Iroquois language into dialects. Chief George Johnson, the interpreter, rendered it "two statements together," or "two pieces of news together." Another native informant thought it meant "one-word in two divisions," while a third

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defined it as meaning "between two words." The root-word of the name is the Canienga orihwa, or karihwa (properly karihöa), which is defined "thing, affair, speech, news." 1 It also apparently means office; thus we have the derivatives garihont, "to give some charge or duty to some one," and atrihont, "to be an officer, or captain." The name is in the peculiar dual or rather duplicative form which is indicated by the prefix te and the affix ken or ke. It may possibly, therefore, mean "holding two offices," and would thus be specially applicable to the great Canienga noble, who, unlike most of his order, was both a civil ruler and a war-chief. But whether he gave his name to his people, or received it from them, is uncertain. In other instances the Council name of a nation appears to have been applied in the singular number to the leading chief of the nation. Thus the head-chief of the Onondagas was often known by the title of Sakosennakehte, "the Name-carrier." 2

The name of the Oneida nation in the Council was Nihatirontakowa--or, in the Onondaga dialect, Nihatientakona--usually rendered the "Great-Tree People,"--literally, "those of the great log." It is derived from karonta, a fallen tree, or piece of timber, with the suffix kowa or kona, great, added, and the verb-forming pronoun prefixed. In the singular number it becomes Niharontakowa, which would be understood to mean "He is an Oneida." The name, it is said, was given to the nation because when Dekanawidah and Hiawatha first went to meet its chief, they crossed the

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[paragraph continues] Oneida creek on a bridge composed of an immense tree which had fallen or been laid across it, and noted that the Council fire at which the treaty was concluded was kindled against another huge log. These, however, may be merely explanations invented in later times.

The Cayugas bore in Council the name of Sotinonnawentona, meaning "the Great-Pipe People." In the singular it is Sononnawentona. The root of the word is kanonnawen, which in composition becomes kanonnawenta, meaning pipe, or calumet. It is said that the chief who in the first Council represented the Cayugas smoked a pipe of unusual size, which attracted the notice of the "name-givers."

Finally the Seneca mountaineers, the Sonnontowanas, bore the title, in the Canienga speech, of Ronaninhohonti, "the Door-keepers," or literally, "they who are at the doorway." In the singular this becomes Roninhohonti. In the Onondaga dialect it is Honinhohonta. It is a verbal form, derived from Kanhoha, door, and ont, to be. This name is undoubtedly coeval with the formation of the League, and was bestowed as a title of honor. The Senecas, at the western end of the "extended mansion," guarded the entrance against the wild tribes in that quarter, whose hostility was most to be dreaded.

The enumeration of the chiefs who formed the confederacy is closed by the significant words, "and then, in later times, additions were made to the great edifice." This is sufficient evidence that the Canienga "Book of Rites" was composed in its present form after the Tuscaroras, and possibly after the Nanticokes and Tuteloes, were received into the League. The Tuscaroras were admitted in 1714; the two other nations were received about the year 1753. 1

An outburst of lamentation follows. The speaker has recited the names of the heroes and statesmen to whom the united nations were indebted for the Great Peace which had

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so long prevailed among them. He has recalled the wise laws which they established; and he is about to chant the closing litany, commemorating the fifty chiefs who composed the first federal council, and whose names have remained as the official titles of their successors. In recalling these memories of departed greatness his mind is filled with grief and humiliation at the contrast presented by the degeneracy of his own days. It is a common complaint of all countries and all times; but the sentiment was always, according to the missionaries, especially strong among the Indians, who are a conservative race. The orator appeals to the shades of their ancestors, in words which, in the baldest of literal versions, are full of eloquence and pathos. The "great law" has become old, and has lost its force. Its authors have passed away, and have carried it with them into their graves. They have placed it as a pillow under their heads. Their degenerate successors have inherited their names, but not their mighty intellects; and in the flourishing region which they left, nought but a desert remains. A trace, and not a slight one, of the mournful sublimity which we admire in the Hebrew prophets, with a similar cadence of "parallelism" in the style, will be noticed in this forest lament.

The same characteristics mark the chanted litany which closes the address. There is not merely parallelism and cadence, but occasionally rhyme, in the stanzas which are interspersed among the names, as is seen in the oft-repeated chorus which follows the names composing each clan or "class":--

Etho natejonhne,

This litany is sung in the usual style of their mourning or religious chants, with many long-drawn repetitions of the customary

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ejaculation haihhaih,--an exclamation which, like the Greek "haí! haí!" belongs to the wailing style appropriate to such a monody. The expressions of the chant, like those of a Greek chorus, are abrupt, elliptical, and occasionally obscure. It is probable that this chant, like the condoling Hymn in the former part of the Book, is of earlier style than the other portions of the work, their rhythmical form having preserved the original wiords with greater accuracy. Such explanations of the doubtful passages as could be obtained from the chiefs and the interpreters will be found in the notes.

The chant and the Book end abruptly with the mournful exclamation, "Now we are dejected in mind." The lament which precedes the litany, and which is interrupted by it, may be said to close with these words. As the council is held, nominally at least, for the purpose of condolence, and as it necessarily revives the memory of the departed worthies of their republic, it is natural that the ceremonies throughout should be of a melancholy cast. They were doubtless so from the beginning, and before there was any occasion to deplore the decay of their commonwealth or the degeneracy of the age. In fact, when we consider that the founders of the League, with remarkable skill and judgment, managed to compress into a single day the protracted and wasteful obsequies customary among other tribes of the same race, we shall not be surprised to find that they sought to make the ceremonies of the day as solemn and impressive as possible.

But there are other characteristics of the "Book of Rites," prominent in the Canienga section, and still more marked in the Onondaga portion, which may well excite our astonishment. They have been already noticed, but seem to deserve fuller consideration. It will be observed that,.from beginning to end, the Book breathes nothing but sentiments of kindness and sympathy for the living, and of reverence for the departed,--not merely for the chief whom they have come

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to mourn, but also for the great men who have preceded him, and especially for the founders of their commonwealth. Combined with these sentiments, and harmonizing with them, is an earnest desire for peace, along with a profound respect for the laws under which they lived. The work in which these feelings are expressed is a genuine composition of the Indians themselves, framed long before they were affected by any influences from abroad, and repeated among them for centuries, with the entire assent of the hearers. It affords unquestionable evidence of the true character both of those who composed and of those who received it.


76:1 The people of the confederacy were known as Rotinoñsioñni,---They of the Extended House." In the Seneca dialect this was altered and abridged to Hotinoñsoñni, the ñ having the French nasal sound. This word is written by Mr. Morgan, "Hodenosaunee."

78:1 See Bruyas, sub voce Garihöa. Mr. Morgan (League of the Iroquois, p. 97), who derived his information from the Senecas, says that the name "was a term of respect, and signifies 'neutral,' or, as it may be rendered, the shield." He adds, "its origin is lost in obscurity."

78:2 "Il y avait en cette bande un Capitaine qui porte le nom le plus considerable de toute sa Nation, Sagochiendagehtè."--Relation of 1654, p. 8. Elsewhere, as in the Relation for 1657, p. 17, this name is spelt Agochiendagueté.

79:1 The former date is well known; for the latter, see N. Y Hist. Col., Vol. 6, p. 311; Stone's Life of Sir William Johnson, p. 434.

80:1 For the translation, see ante, p. 33.

Next: Chapter VIII: The Iroquois Character