Aug 20, 1891 – The Mohawks’ letter to Prince Arthur on the Silver Covenant Chain

The following document is a copy of a letter sent by Tortoise Totem, Joseph J. Brant De-ka-ri ho-ken and 4 others to Prince Andrew on the topic of the silver covenant chain relationship between the Mohawks and the British Crown on August 20th, 1891.

August 20th, 1891

To His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught and Chief of the Six Nation – Ka Ra Kou Tye [Prince Arthur’s adopted Mohawk name]

May it please your Royal Highness,

Brother Chief Ka Ra Kou Tye, Whereas we the Six Nation Mohawk Chiefs warriors and people resident on the Tyendynaga Reservation in the County of Hastings province of Ontario and the Dominion of Canada, desires to say a few words concerning the affairs and touching the welfare of the Six Confederate Nation. 

Brother Chief — Whereas we the Six Nation Mohawk Chiefs warriors and people have taken it into serious and careful consideration to cause it to remind your Royal Highness and Her Most Gracious and Excellent Majesty concerning the treaties subsisting between us, the Six Nation and the British Government, and moreover we thought that it would be proper and necessary in order to represent the tokens thereof to show that we still remember the Covenant Chain entered into between the Six Nation and the British Government, and also to remind your Royal Highness and her Excellent Majesty that our Council Fire is to be perpetuated as long as the sun shall endure, that it was understood that if our Council Fire at any time should be extinguished, we would no longer be a nation.

Brother Chief, concerning that upon our first acquaintance we shook hands and finding we should be useful to one another, entered into a perpetual covenant of brotherly love and mutual friendship, and though we were at first only tied together by a rope, yet this rope might grow rotten and break, we tied ourselves together by an iron chain; lest time and accident might rust and destroy this chain of iron, we afterwards made one of silver, the strength and brightness of which would reject all decay; the ends of this silver chain were fixed to the immovable mountains and in so firm a manner that the hands of no mortal enemy might be able to remove it; and therefore we would take great care to keep it from breaking or from getting any rust or filth upon it, that we would be as one flesh and blood so that if any enemy should intend to hurt or strike one party the other should immediately give him notice and rise up and help him; and a good road should always be kept open between our habitations. 

The silver covenant chain and the Two Row Wampum.

Brother Chief – We will now refer to the actions of Her Majesty’s Canadian Government; where they do not fully recognize the treaties entered into between the Six Nations and the British Government; when they have cast the treaties behind their backs and passed laws to encroach on our liberties and rights and privileges: 

1st – That we are restricted by the British North American Act, that it gives the Canadian Government full power to legislate for the Six Nations and other Indians whether we are satisfied or not. 

2nd – That we are to confirm according to the Indian Act which is imperious to our nationality. 

3rd – That they have passed a Franchise act to give us the rights of voting for a Member of Parliament, which has caused divisions among us Indians. 1st – The Conservative party; 2nd – the reform party: 3rd – the confederate party of Ri-di-noh-shio-ni. 

Sir William Johnson conferring with Indians, by Henry Ernest Schnakenberg.

Since Sir William Johnson said to the Nine Confederate Nations of the 21st of June 1755, “United amongst brethren is the best and surest defense against every enemy, brothers joined together with love and confidence. And like a great bundle of sticks which cannot be broke whilst they’re bound together, but when separated from each other a child may break them.” 

Brother Chief – Whereas we the Six Nations and our allies the Seven Nation held a general Congress the 20th of last August 1890; and we were sorely grieved to find ourselves bound by the British North American Act; and it appears to us that the child has grown up and separated the bundle of sticks, which is contrary to the Wampum Treaty between the Six Nation and the British Government; the first four rows are white, the next one dark; these three more rows are white in colour also. Figures of two men will be seen, one at each end of the dark rows, which represent the Six Nations and the British Government. The dark row means the path of peace between the Six Nation and the British Government. The two Governments shall always be looking towards one another, and if at any time the Six Nations desire to see his British brother, the British will come on. Likewise, the British in desiring to see his brother the Six Nation will come on the same path. Should at anytime bushes grow upon this path and form obstructions, they will cut them down on both sides, and make it as it was at first. 2nd. But having 2 dark rows represents the two Governments, namely Six Nations and the British Government and the two Governments shall exist and shall not interfere with each other, of which the British made an illustration; that the British will remain in his vessel meaning his Government, and that the Six Nation also will abide in their bark canoe, meaning the Government and that the British will never make any compulsory laws for the Six Nations and that the treaty between them shall remain unmolested forever.

Brother Chief – We presume that you are aware that when the British supremacy on this continent was in peril that our forefathers shed brooks of blood on behalf of the English Nation, and at the time of the revolutionary war that our forefathers relinquished over two millions acres of their hereditary grounds, excluding their castles, and therefore that it is very hard to suffer such treatment in return from the Canadian Government by passing laws without first obtaining the consent of the Six Nation, which laws aim to curtail our treaty rights and to abolish our Nationality as a people. We find that it is contrary, according to Sir William Johnson’s letter to the Earl of Dartmouth, December 16th 1773 saying “Indeed, it is the first instance wherein the Six Nations were induced to make the atonements required by our laws, for as they derive no benefit from and are not admitted to partake of them, they think it peculiarly hard to deviate from their own ancient usages. In such cases, which were even confirmed by agreement between them and the white people at the first settlement of the country and generally practiced to the present time.” And moreover, Sir William Johnson said to the Six Nations “I called the Almighty Spirit above to witness who made us all and knows our hearts, who created the sun which shines upon us and in whose hands are the thunder and lightning, that we are your brethren, have no ill designs whatsoever against you.” But we cannot help ourselves but think the Canadian Government has ill designs against Indians by passing laws to shackle and heartsore us the Six Nations and other Indians, which is contrary to the treaties for them to pass; but if the treaties still exist between us, Indians and the British Government, our desire is for the Canadian Government to adhere to the said treaties, because our forefathers faithfully adhered to them, faithfully and with pleasure. 

Prince Arthur of Connaught in the robes of the Order of the Garter, coloured from black and white.

And in the name of our people, we assure your Royal Highness and Her Excellent Majesty of our never failing loyalty to the Crown of which we are ancient allies sealed by the blood of our forefathers, and which we never will disagree. The Six Nations have always maintained good faith and will perpetuate as conveyed in our ancient Wampum treaties, the silver chain which does not tarnish. Brother Chief we solicit your Royal Highness and our Mother Most Noble and Gracious, Excellent Majesty to protect us Indians from the operation of Her Majesty’s Canadian Government. 

Brother Chief — We also solicit Your Royal Highness through your love of Justice to cause it to present us copies of our treaties and the state papers, also of our relating to the Six Nations; 1st Four folio volumes recording all the solemn treaties and transactions of the Indian Affairs, and the patents according to the date of treaties; 2nd, Patents 30 July 1684, April 14th Patent, May 1st of the same year. 

1761, March 25 patent April 13

1762, May 29 patent June 19

1763, Sept. 9 patent Sept, 23

And a copy of our Deed issued by Sir Frederick Haldiman 1783 or 1784 for the Six Nation Mohawk of the Township of Tyendinaga Reservation, and we will look forward with pleasure knowing that your Royal Highness will do all you can to further our requests and to have the articles addressed in our names to our Post Office. 

We have the honor to be your most esteemed and devoted brethren

Marysville, East Hastings, Ontario, Can.

April 20th, 1891. 

(Sd) Tortoise Totem, Joseph J. Brant De-ka-ri ho-ken and 4 others.

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