Saturday, May 31, 2008
In Mohawk Country: Early Narratives About Native People
Edited by Dean R. Snow, Charles T. Gehring, William A. Starna
1996, Syracuse University Press
This is an amazing collection of accounts by early European settlers and missionaries on the native peoples of the northeast and Canada, specifically the Mohawks and other Haudenoshonee. Some of the more harrowing stories come from French Jesuits who were "converting" the Hurons near the St. Lawrence and were captured and tortured by raiding Mohawk war parties. Prisoners were typically beaten, tied up and left to the elements (and devilish children), then had their nails or last knuckles pulled out, beards pulled out, and finally roasted alive, to be eaten. One of the most descriptive and informative accounts comes from a Dutch preacher in 1644 Fort Orange/Renselaerswick/Beverwyck (now Albany, the fourth-oldest European city in the Americas, denoted elsewhere in the book as a "wretched little fort"; nearby Schenectady is said to be a "dirty little village"), who describes the land and everyday life of the Mohawks (who, because of linguistic problems, are sometimes called three different names). Another amazing story comes from a French fur trader who was captured and adopted into a Mohawk family to replace a lost son (a role he slipped right into, even if it meant nonstop murder of enemies). In his awkwardly phonetic English he describes the routine killing of women and children, and even disgusting cannibalistic acts, such as a marathon prisoner torture session where a woman's fetus was torn out of her, cooked, and force fed back to her. New York's first lawyer, one Adriaen Cornelissen van der Donck, wrote a highly detailed account of everyday native customs. Many of the French missionary stories (heavy on religious dogma) tend to bog down the book as it delves into the 1660s. Other writers include Peter Schuyler (Albany's first mayor, circa 1686).
Some related words:
Abnaquiois: Abenakis (east of the Iroquois)
Andastogehronnons: Susquahannocks "of New Sweden" (shores of Virginia)
Andiatarocté: Iroquois name for Lake George, "there where the lake is shut in"
Cahoos: Cohoes Falls
Canajoharee: The Boiling Pot
Coxsackie: moagh sachy, or "place of the owl"; oxsakie: owl field
Euyrons: Hurons, or French Indians
Gandarago or Gannagaro, Tinniontoguen, Gandaouagué, Cahaniaga or Canagora, Canajorha, Tionondogue, Oneugiouré or Osserrïon: Mohawk villages
Irinakhoiw: Algonquin word for Iroquois, "real adders"
Irokoits or Iroquotes: Iroquois
Mahingans: Mohicans or Mohegans, "wolves"
Maqua: bear (name for Mohawks)
Maquaaskill: Mohawk River
Mascoutens: Fire Nation
Onneiout or Onyades: Oneidas
Onnontaehronnons or Onondaëronnons: Onondagas
Qiogué: Iroquois name for the Hudson River (called the Van Maurice by the Dutch)
Ossaraqué: fishing spot between Lake George and Albany
Riquehronnons: Eries, Cat Nation
Schoonechtendeel: Schenectady, "end of the woods"
Tionnontaatehronnons: Petuns, or Tobacco Nation
Trakwaehronnons: nation conquered by Mohawks