Sifting through our old documents we found a very interesting letter drafted in 1803 by Ontario Land Surveyor, Samuel Peters, believed to be Samuel Jarvis’ great nephew or grandfather.
If so, it would show without doubt how much can change in a relatively short time regarding relationships between the Haudenosaunee and settlers in the Grand River area.
While the many indictments against Jarvis are staggering in his abuse of power while Superintendent of Indian Affairs, eventually leading to the fraudulent surrender of most of the Haldimand Tract, Peters was not cut from that cloth.
The handwritten letter is a personal one to Brant, it is not an official government document, however it clearly shows how not all settlers, or even government employees were complacent about the abuses of the Christian Church in sanctifying theft and religious bigotry by wrapping it in a pseudo-Christian veal, for power, wealth and greed.
The letter is long and goes into several issues, but a few remarks from this government employee of 1790s and very early 1800s. Remember, this is only a few years following the migration of the Mohawks under Joseph Brant along with others of the Six Nations in 1784 to 85.
It appears Peters knew Brant on more than a political level and felt comfortable enough to express his thoughts regarding how North America was stolen in the name of the Pope.
On this Community Awareness Week, we take a look back to those who came before and, rightfully or wrongfully, helped establish and shape the Six Nations of the Grand River community.
It appears Peters was quite knowledgeable of the difference between Christ and what is called the Christian Church and was openly critical of the latter.
“The Christian rulers are good and excellent; yet few Christians of the Roman and Protestant kind love or practice those rules — what is remarkable to me is that Popes, Bishops, Nobles and Kings who ought to be wise in doctrine and example, are the greatest strangers and enemies of Christianity,” reads the letter.
Peters, a churchman himself, living in London Ontario at the time of writing, went on to explain to Brant why European governments and clergy have felt they were doing God’s will by robbing First Peoples of their land, language, culture and even their lives.
“The Pope in 1492, gave, by his Bull to the King of Spain, all America, only because the Pope was, by his claim, the successor of Christ to whom God had given the heathen for his inheritance, and the western parts of the earth for his possession,” Peters writes.
“Had the Apostles and Christian Bishops, for the first six hundred years understood Christ’s words, that he has ‘other sheep that are not of this fold,’ which he will gather, the Pope would not have been content with the triple crown, which represents Asia, Africa, and Europe, but would have put on a quadruple crown to include America.
“What right then, would the Pope in 1493 have over America when (Paul) and the other 11 apostles hold no commission in America or over America. Hence, as the King of Spain had no valid title to America from the Pope, what right has the King of England in and over America, who is an excommunicated heretic from the Church of Rome?”
Peters then comes to a startling conclusion, which he shares with Brant.
“I consider you sir, as the Chief of the Mohawks, and the other five nations of Indians, the legal and just owners of the country lying between the waters St. Laurence, Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain, and Hudson’s River to the forks of Susquehanna.”
“I conclude that the people of America, belonging to the fold of Christ, not to the fold of the 12 apostles, because God gave America to Christ as said in Ps.2 vs 8 of the Christian Bible. (Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.)
“The Pope, Kings and (Bishops) in the old world, have not, and never had any divine authority in America over Christ’s sheep, the Gentiles; of course they are usurpers, robbers and deceivers.”
He then challenges Brant and his Mohawks to lighten up on their treatment and attitudes towards the Mississaugas.
“You have lust for fighting your gentile (non-Jewish) brethren in behalf of English Christians and the good and honourable Mississauga have, in part, lost their country for fighting you, their gentile brethren, in behalf of French Christians. Thus I see you and the Mississaugas have been crucified like Christ between two thieves (re) Jews and Romans.”
The letter also reveals that Samuel Peter Jarvis, whom Peters called Nikik, was adopted by the great Warrior Chief, Pontiac and wanted Brant to liaison with Pontiac to allow his young relative to live with and study under him. He was not aware that Pontiac had already died by the time the letter was written.