Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Six Nations Ethnic Admixture - Indian, White and Black

There is a belief, probably more entrenched in the White community, that most Six Nations members are "full blooded".  Most or all at Six Nations know that is not true, and many of my circle have spoken with pride of their British or other White ancestors.  A Canadian anthropologist, studying the Six Nations, was given the information that the last person there to claim "full blood status" was one Andrew Spragge, a Cayuga who died in 1869 (David Boyle, The Pagan Iroquois: Archaeological Report of the Minister of Education 1898, Toronto, Ministry of Education, 1898). 

Admixture with Whites goes back as far as the earliest appearance of the Dutch to the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys.  As early as 1844, a Dutchman Johannes Megapolensis Jr., a Dutch Reformed minister who preached to the Mohawks and made careful observations commented thus, The women are exceedingly addicted to whoring; they will lie with a man for the value of one, two, or three schillings, and our Dutchmen run after them very much (Snow, Gehring and Starna, 1996, p. 43).  One can only guess at how many half - Dutch children were born in this fashion, but since lineage was traced through the maternal side, absorbing these children into Mohawk society would pose no problems.  There are numerous reports of half - Dutch Mohawks living in Mohawk Country in the 1600s, some of whom such as "Smit's Jan" became famous in their own right.  Furthermore, Gideon Hawley, who went to Oquaga as a missionary in 1753, noted that nearly every family of the Oneida and Tuscarora inhabitants of that village had 'more or less' white blood in their veins; while James Dean who taught and interpreted at Oneida missions for many years thought that by the end of the Revolution there was not a pure Oneida in existence, many of that nation being mixed with white blood as well as other strains (Kelsay, 1984, p. 24).

What is lesser known, or simply less spoken about, is the Black ancestry in many families - perhaps even all to some degree.  The latter subject is one that when I was younger, you could gently rib someone about - although sometimes it would not turn out well (especially if at a party and alcohol was involved).  The truth being that having a Black ancestor did not give someone "bragging rights", but rather was seen as a source of embarrassment.  Times have changed, and frankly I don't know whether perceptions have changed to keep up or not.  It would be exceedingly rare for a Six Nations member to marry a Black person (I am not aware of any such marriages), although some women may have had children out of wedlock with Black males - although that too is a rarity due to taboos.  There is no such taboo in relation to White males.  All this has caused havoc in determining who is a Six Nations member and entitled to all the pertinent rights, including the right to live on the Reserve.

When I was young, just as an example, the family across the road were all descended from one female.  She had a "relationship" with a White male or males, and all of her children took her last name.  All of the children were registered Band members.  Some married White people who then came to live on the Rez, some left the Rez to reside in the wider community.  One adopted a child (White father, Indian mother) from another Reserve.  This type of situation was very common and can be traced back as a pattern through many generations.  An inspection of the census records between 1851 and 1921 shows clearly how a "modified" nuclear family was typical at Six Nations.  There were often family constellations that defied easy description as some children were living at home with the mother and father (often it is unclear which children are those of the mother and which are those of the father and which are those of both of them), and others scattered around various homes in the vicinity. 

The government for many years defined who was Six Nations and who was ineligible.  The Indian Act of 1876 gave primary inspiration but rules have come and gone over the years (e.g., the "two grandmother rule").  The biggest change was in 1876 where a matrilineal system was replaced by a Canadian - modelled patrilineal system of descent.  If your father was Lower Cayuga you were Lower Cayuga - replacing the previous matrilineal definition of tribal membership.  This is a very complicated matter that is peripheral to the subject matter for the present posting.  Much of the responsiblity of deciding who is in and who is out now rests with the Membership Office, an arm of the Elected Council.

Going back a bit in history, some of the families were headed by a White male.  Among the most noteworthy are the families of Scots Archibald Russell (Mohawk wife) and Daniel MacNaughton (Cayuga wife).  They and their children resided in intact nuclear families.  Similar examples, where Indian men married White women, including Mohawks George Martin (wife Catherine Roelston) and George H. M. Johnson (wife Emily Howells).  All of these families resided on the consolidated Reserve.

Before the time the Reserve was consolidated there were White males who obtained land grants (usually 1200 acres) in the Haldimand Tract after marrying Six Nations women.  Among these include White men who married Mohawk women, William Kennedy Smith (married Mary Hill) and Solomon Phelps (married Esther Hill).  The children of these men married members of the White community and did not move to the consolidated Reserve, but lived in nearby Brantford or Mt. Pleasant.  Further downriver were White men who had served during the War of the American Revolution with Chief Joseph Brant and were given "Brant Leases".  These include Lt. John Young (married Catherine Hill, Mohawk), Capt. John Dochstader (married first Mohawk woman, second Cayuga woman, third Onondaga woman), his nephew Sgt. John Dochstader (married Catherine Thom a Delaware woman), and Pvt. John Huff (married an unnamed Delaware woman).  Most of their descendants simply integrated into the local White community, although a few did end up residing on the consolidated Reserve.

Then there were some who were more "shadowy", it not being entirely clear as to their ancestral composition.  One good example is John Garlow of German descent who in 1822 moved to the area near the Mohawk Village from Upstate New York.  His wife was enumerated as Mohawk, although there seems to be some confusion about her specific ancestry (in my opinion, more likely Oneida).  Their descendants remained on the consolidated Reserve, settling in large numbers along the "Garlow Line".

In looking through the Anglican Church registers for the Mohawk Chapel and St. John's (situated on the consolidated Reserve), one can see a rather large number of marriages between Six Nations and Whites.  There would of course be unofficial liaisons, and also marriages recorded by travelling Methodist ministers so it is unclear as to the absolute numbers of Indian - White marriages in the Haldimand Tract.

In looking at the typical Six Nations surnames one would find in the telephone book today, some reflect the White ancestry of the progenitor, and some are clearly from a male whose name may or may not be White - and the truth can only be settled by research.  Some surnames reflecting a White male progenitor include MacNaughton, Dochstader, Maracle, Garlow; while those whose origin is Six Nations (although the biological progenitor at some link in the chain may have been White) include Silversmith, Johnson, Hill, Powless and Claus (a Dutch contraction from Nicholas).  Each name would need to be traced to its roots, easier said than done in many to most cases.

Then there are the Black males who started families with Six Nations women.  The phenomenon is typically traced in some way to the institution of slavery.  Some of the 30 slaves of Joseph Brant, and lesser numbers "belonging" to other high ranking Six Nations (e.g., Aaron Hill) did merge with the Six Nations community.  The earliest example I have found is one John Smart, who escaped to the Canajoharie Village in New York in the middle of the 18th Century and was given sanctuary.  I am assuming that Peter Smart of Canajoharie was his son, and that the family of Smarts who arrived at Tyendinaga during the Loyalist migration were of this lineage.  More clear, thanks to the documentary evidence, is the relationship between Black males with the surnames Settles, Hill, Jackson, Schyler, Mike, and Morey.  Of this group, the Mike and Schyler families ended up on the consolidated Reserve, and the Morey family eventually moved to Burford, and the destination of the others is unknown to me.

Being of Black ancestry could create problems, despite the apparent welcoming some received.  For example, Michael Anthony, despite being the son of a Delaware chief George Anthony, and being a minister and a primary informant for anthropologists such as Frank Speck due to their knowledge of this history of their people, was "dehorned" by Six Nations Council.  An informant to someone studying the records (John A. Noon), stated that Anthony had Black ancestry at some point in his lineage and so was ineligible to be a chief.  He was replaced as a Delaware Chief by John Cayuga who did not suffer from the same stigma.  It is known that due to their early history in the Southern USA, many Tuscarora were of partial Black ancestry - which in some cases left them under a cloud of suspicion.  Members of the Mike family, acknowledged as part Black, were not impacted to any apparent large extent because they did not aspire to a chiefship or any office where their "credentials" would include the amount of Black ancestry.  So the Six Nations were pretty much the same as the surrounding White people in their views on Blacks - generally tolerated, but not exactly made to feel that they were on an equal footing.

So when I drive the roads of Six Nations and attend events there does it surprise me to see blonde hair and blue eyes in the children of Six Nations members - no, not in the least.  One only need look at the very light eyed Chief MacNaughton, Tekarihogea, Chief of the Hereditary Confederacy Council of Chiefs (HCCC) to get a sense of his biological ancestry.  What is important at Six Nations is not biology (although it is a consideration) but ones lineage, and the knowledge of how one "fits in" at Six Nations.

So basically you have Six Nations members living on or off the Reserve who are Indian, White and Black.  Some are physically indistinguishable from those in the surrounding community, and may have little knowledge of the history and culture of their own people.  You have White people who are White, Indian and Black whose ancestors were part of the Six Nations community, but they have no Reserve or Status Indian rights, but who are well versed in the history and culture of Six Nations.  There are other mix and match scenarios out there, but it all boils down to whether you are accepted as a Six Nations member by the Membership Office.  However when push comes to shove, such as in the Caledonia crisis of 2006, there are only two groups - Six Nations and other.  One aligns oneself with one side or the other since there is no middle ground.  Admixture means little "on the ground", what counts is if you have a Status Card or not - which will pretty well drive you to one camp or the other.  The exception is the White solidarity supporters who, despite their ignorance of the situation at Six Nations, stand tall with Six Nations in common cause.  All very strange, but not so much if you live here.



  1. And they all lived happily ever after.
    As usual an interesting fable, with little facts.

    1. Facts: See for example, John A. Noon, "Law and Government of the Grand River Iroquois", Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology, 1949. This book, which I have ordered to ensure that there is always a copy on my library shelves (although I have two residences), uses Council Minutes from the 19th Century - verbatim. So for example Anthony's "ineligibility" was predicated on his mother being a Shawnee with some Black ancestry. I have references for everything I state - you just have to ask if perchance I left it out since most will not be going to the original source.

  2. I've read a few of your items, won't be visiting again. Don't like it when people hide behind alias

  3. Being Haudenosaunee is totally different from being of Six Nations. Educate yourself on our Great Law. The answers are there.

    1. Wes, I have read the Kayenkeragowagh - have you? I am well aware of the switch over to Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) to put distance from Six Nations - especially for those who are supporters of the longhouse faith and traditions - perhaps a third at "Six Nations" - the name of the Reserve.

      Haudenosaunee is not a name that is going to be familiar to all that many of my readers (and it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue with ease) so I must take this into consideration - and don't plan to provide an explanation every time I use a term. Best to stick with Six Nations which everyone understands. You dare not say Iroquois these days because some consider it to be a "Colonial" or some other epithet. Actually it is historically accurate and if someone wants to find data on the Internet, they would be best advised to do google searches of "Six Nations" since they will most likely find what they are looking for. However if you search using "Haudenosaunee" and you want to find references to scholarly work on say the 20th Century, it could be a problem.

      It is easy to be critical, it is more difficult to attempt to understand.

  4. My apologies to those who comment on earlier postings from months ago. I have no way of knowing that there are comments that I need to address. Perhaps there is a flagging feature on this site that I have not yet found. DeYo.

  5. I've done a lot of research on the Morey family. In the 1851 census John Morey, an 83 year old black man who was born in the U.S. is living in Burford with 3 of his children, even though I know there is at least a 4th. By 1861, 3 of the children are living in Stanhope Twp which is quite a way north east- near Haliburton, Ontario. Some records state that John Morey (the father) was a slave from the US who married "a daughter" of Joseph Brant (or Elizabeth - Joseph Brant's daughter), but there is no proof. There IS proof that some of the descendants of Morey petitioned the government for the land that was originally given to Morey by Brant but was taken away by settlers. In THAT record, there is a mention of a Mohawk woman named Sarah who married John Morey. Who knows? Either way...there is definitely a black man who either married or fathered several children by an Indian woman and they lived just outside Six Nations in 1851.