Treaties Recognition Week: Haldimand Proclamation granted new homeland for pro-loyalist war losses
The Haldimand Proclamation was not made for all Haudenosaunee. It was the decree that established a new homeland for pro-loyalist Iroquois.
Haldimand writes that he was directed by the King, “that a convenient tract of land under his protection should be chosen as a safe and comfortable retreat for them and others of the Five Nations, who have either lost their settlements within the Territory of the American States, or wish to retire from them to the British”.
Haldimand wrote that “said Mohawk Nation and such others of the Five Nation Indians” were to settle along the Grand River “which them and their posterity are to enjoy forever”.
Pro-rebel territories, and those who wished to stay in America on the other hand, were sorted out during the Treaty of Fort Stanwix.
You can’t talk about the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784 without first talking about the American Revolution, the Promise of 1775, and the Pledge of 1779.
The Promise of 1775, was made publicly by the colonial Governor-in-Chief of Quebec and British North America, Sir Guy Carleton, at a Grand Council between the kings officers and indigenous nations held in Montreal. The British had called the gathering and asked all the indigenous nations in “Canada” for their help in the coming battles. The British knew they needed the indigenous warriors to have a fighting chance at protecting territorial boundaries.
At that time the Iroquois Confederacy had already seen divided loyalties with some Mohawks fighting as allies to the French and others allied to the British during the French and Indian War. These communities were settled along the St. Lawrence River and included the Onondaga village of Oswegatchie along with the Mohawk villages of Akwesasne, Kahnawake and Kanesatake. They operated in a separate confederacy called the Seven Nations of Canada that included the Abenaki of Odanak ad Becancour, along with the Huron of Jeune-Lorette.
This council operated separate from the Grand Council of New York based territories that met at Onondaga.
Governor Carleton had called both the Seven Nations and representatives from the New York territories to Montreal — along with other smaller indigenous nations who were invited to hear the proposal and consider aiding the British. Carleton made this Promise to all those indigenous communities — full restoration for any losses they would incur as a result of fighting allied to the British — at the expense of the government.
The key thing to note here is that the reward would be for taking a pro-loyalist position in the war.
The American Revolutionary War officially began that year, and by the summer of 1777, two years later, the Iroquois Confederacy had plunged into chaos. Mohawks, Onondaga, Senecas and Cayuga sided with the British; while many Oneidas and Tuscaroras chose to fight alongside American rebels.
In the summer of 1777, the Battle of Oriskany officially began the war among the nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. Pro-rebel Oneidas fought pro-loyalist Mohawks and killed one another. According to historians, the pro-loyalist nations held a council and sent the pro-rebel Oneidas a bloody hatchet. It was the end of peace.
The collective governance of the Iroquois Confederacy was in shambles. At the same time, the Onondagas were battling an epidemic and saw a string of deaths in their leadership. All of this culminated in the Onondagas making a decision to extinguish the council fire. Governance of the Iroquois was delegated to the individual villages.
Joseph Brant led a group of “volunteers” who waged notorious destruction against rebel villages in the spring and summer of 1778. In retaliation the Americans and their allied Oneidas destroyed three large and important villages: Ticonderoga, Canojaharie and Aughugo.
Those three villages were the economic hubs of the Iroquoian world — as they tended important farmlands that were critical to the survival of everyone living in the area.
In retaliation for the losses of those three critical villages — Brant would lead a war party of British, Senecas and Mohawks into what is known as one of the most horrific attacks of the entire war — the Cherry Valley massacre of November 1778.
That winter, the Iroquois people of the Mohawk Valley became impoverished refugees — camping outside Fort Niagara relying entirely on British charity for food, shelter and survival. The residents of Ticonderoga, Canojarharie and Aughugo went from being the caretakers of the most bountiful food harvests in the entire region to beggars — many families starved to death.
In the following Spring of 1779 – six councils took place among the displaced Iroquois at Fort Niagara that brought in 3000 invited indigenous people from various communities, villages and nations. Around this same time there was no unity among the Onondagas with some allying with the British and others siding with the Oneidas and Tuscaroras to the American side. The Confederacy was split and the pro-rebel Onondagas said they considered this to be a second extinguishment of the council fire, though not everyone agreed.
This is where the Pledge comes in. Destruction of the Iroquois economies and homes was devastating. Joseph Brant — seeing the writing on the wall — pressed the new Governor, Sir Fredrick Haldimand, to make good on the promise of Sir Guy Carleton that losses of the indigenous allies would be restored at the expense of the British.
Haldimand agreed, upheld the promise, and issued an official Pledge in April 1779 writing in a letter to the Iroquois that “the Mohawks of the Villages of Conajoharie, Tiyondarago and Aughwago, whose settlements there, had been upon account of their steady attachment to the King’s service and the Interest of the Government Ruined by the Rebels; having informed me, that my Predecessor Sir Guy Carleton, was pleased to promise, as soon as the present Troubles were at an End, the same should be restored at the Expense of the Government, to the state they were in before these broke out, and said promise appearing to me Just, I do hereby Ratify the same, and assure them the said Promise, as far as in me lies, shall be faithfully executed, as soon as that happy Time Comes.”
Just 11 days after Haldimand issued his Pledge, American forces began the notorious Sullivan campaign, laughing a genocide that decimated life in the territories by destroying shelters and food storage, making survival in the Mohawk Valley unsustainable.
The war continued until 1783 when the Treaty of Paris concluded the Battle between the Americans and the British. The British surrendered their territories and agreed to American occupation that effectively split the Iroquois territory in half. This left the United States responsible for entering into treaty with the Indigenous people who had aided them in the war, as well as any others who wanted to remain. Thus, negotiations began between the Americans and the Six Nations, who had consent to negotiate for the Ottawa, Chippewa, Huron, Potawatomi, Mississaugas, Miami, Delaware, Cherokees, Chickasaw, Chocktaw and Creek nations. However the Americans only committed to negotiating for the Six Nations.
The Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1784 was set — recognizing the Oneidas and Tuscaroras as allies; and berating the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga and Senecas as ‘defeated enemies’. The treaty recognized all of the Six Nations as sovereign nations, and promised their protection and territorial boundaries would be honoured. It was signed in October 1784, ratified by the US in 1785 but never ratified by the Six Nations.
This left the official terms of pro-loyalist restoration of war losses up to Haldimand. He purchased land along the Grand River and in 1783 settlement along that territory began. In October 1784, just days after Treaty in Fort Stanwix was signed, the Haldimand Proclamation was issued.
The Haldimand Proclamation was the manifestation of Haldimand’s Promise, and the restoration of territory — the Grand River Valley for the Mohawk Valley.