Who can depose a chief?

SIX NATIONS – When trying to understand the relationship between Six Nations and the Crown, as it was interpreted and understood by the Six Nations Chiefs Council, one must go back to that time. Fortunately, there are more records of the Five, and Six Nations on files in archives in Ottawa and in Six Nation’ archives than any other tribe in North America. With these written records, we can go back in time to understand the intent behind these agreements and discussions leading up to and resulting from the issue at hand, at that time.

The following are extracts from the Minutes from Annual Confederacy Meeting of May 4th, 1805. One point of discussion was in response to five condoled Chiefs of the Mohawk Nation being deposed by Chiefs from some of the another of the Six Nations. This is of particular interest in light of the recent “dehorning” (removal) of Cayuga Chief Sam General, essentially, for standing against the Haudenosaunee Development Institute and demanding transparency.

Minutes: May 4th, 1805.

Henry Tekarahgen, principal chief and First Sachem of the Mohawk Nation speaks:

Brothers: In consequence of some late extraordinary transactions at the pretended Council at Buffalo Creek, and afterwards at Niagara, we think it necessary to inform the public of their sentiments in regard to these affairs, in order to do this, it will be necessary to mention some things that have happened many years ago.

(He goes on to explain the reason for the Haldimand Deed of 1784 and, importantly, what the Chiefs themselves understood it to be.)

Brothers: In the year 1776, Sir Guy Carlton on of His Majesty’s Generals and then Commander in Chief of that Provence of Quebec promised the Indians in general that any loss they might sustain by the war, which had new commenced should be fully and amply compensated; … confiding in His Excellence promise. The Mohawks exerted themselves to the utmost of their abilities, they were also instrumental in confirming others of the Six Nations in their attachment to the King and their conduct during the war is still fresh in our memory.

Brothers: The promise of Sir Guy Carlton was confirmed by his successor General Haldimand and at the peace, a Deed was executed by him for lands on the Mohawk and Susquehanna Rivers, and at their request extended to such others of the Six Nations as wished to settle there.

Brothers: At the time we obtained the grant from His Excellency General Haldimand, we represented to him the advantage it would be to us to have a few white families settle among us in order to show our people the benefits of agriculture and the advantage of having good roads to which his Excellency readily assented and there are now a sufficient number settled for thee purposes.

Brothers: After several years residence on the Grand River we considered it to be for the interest of the people that part of our lands should be sold and the process put to interest, we accordingly with the consent and approbation of the Chiefs self-part of the said lands and received some of the interest which was applied to sundry public use for the benefit of our people.

(Denies rapidly spreading rumours of Brant embezzling money for his own enrichment.)

Brothers: Conscious that in all our transactions we had adhered to the strictest Rules of Justice, we, for a long time disregarded these unfounded aspersions, when we found however, that our very silence was construed into guilt and the evil spread wider and wider, we convened a Council of all the Sachems at the Mohawk Village, in June of 1804, at which the Commandant of Fort George and the Deputy Superintendent General assisted.

At this Council, all the acts of our Chiefs were approved and to be buried in oblivion. Nothing however was sufficient to satisfy the malcontents, like the Jacobins of France they panted for nothing less than a total change in the whole order of things, and abolition of all the customs and institutions of  their ancestors, and to accomplish this, it was necessary in some way of other to sacrifice our much esteemed Brother and Principal Chief Captain Brant and the other Chiefs who adhered to him and his Council.

Defeated however in this malicious scheme in a council of the nations who are the only competent Judges of their Chiefs who know and acknowledge his great merit and usefulness to the Nation who had often witnessed and admired his valour in the field and his wisdom in the Council, they repaired to Buffalo Creek within the limits of the United States and held a council with the Senecas and others.

What was transacted at that strange self-created council it is impossible for us to say, but as the leaders don’t tell us of anything, we conclude they found their powers too weak and adequate to the task they had undertaken, and yet discouraged, they repaired with all speed to the King’s Council Fire at Niagara to regulate our affairs and make Chiefs of our Nations.

Articles of impeachment were there drawn up without citing us to appear at their tribunal, and without even the form or ceremony of a Treat, we were deposed and five new chiefs with the title as Warrior Chiefs appointed in our stead.

Permit us to ask what right the Senecas have to intermediate in our affairs, let us ask these august Legislators from whence they deserved the right of pulling down and raising up Chiefs at their pleasure. Is it from our customs or the customs of our Ancestors. Can any Chief or Sachem be made except by the Chiefs and Sachems of his Nation and at their council fire, and is not merit the only ladder by which they attain to that honour and distinction and can these Warrior Chiefs claim any for themselves.

Brothers: … we hope the eyes of our people may be opened and that they may see the evil consequences of discord and disunion and to distinguish their real from pretends friends; … such proceedings as we have now stated appear like the act of a mob who imagine that numbers authorize them to trample upon honour and justice: If any of our proceedings are wrong or that we have acted against the interests of the King, our Father, we earnestly request that we may be informed of it, that if in our power it may be rectified.

Brothers: As the proceedings in the late Council at Niagara appear to be levelled chiefly against Captain Brant, permit me in a few words to state some of his services … (goes on to list many accomplishments made under Brant’s leadership, noting that many trips taken on behalf of the Grand River Mohawks and such others, he paid for out of his own pocket).

We therefore Brothers, confirm the rank that Captain Brant has heretofore held amongst us and to which we will adhere as long as we live.

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