My mother gave birth to me around the year of 1725 at the time of harvest. My mother’s family witnessed the birth in our longhouse and accepted me into the Tuscarora tribe, one of the sixth nations of the Iroquois confederacy. I grew up within the Iroquois Confederacy on the land of upper New York. As a young girl, I helped my mother plant crops of corn, beans, squash, and wild berries and by keeping the fire alive in our longhouse.
On long nights my mother use to tell me stories about the Tuscarora war, the migration to New York, and the bloodshed between the Indians and the colonists over land. My mother was only 10 when North Carolinians aided by the South sold hundreds of Indians into slavery, and her family escaped death by wandering northward to seek protection of the Iroquois.
Everyone in the Tuscarora tribe speak of the “white men” and the death they brought to the Indians. They believe that every coastal Indian tribe in the Southern Colonies has been devastated by now. Now and then, I hear talk of “the white’s man rum”, smallpox, and measles. My mother always tells me not to worry about the diseases that plague Native Americans, because our ancestors had suffered from them so we can live today.
I have seen colonists before on our land because the Mohawks, one of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, have developed a fur trade with the British colonies. The Iroquois confederacy suffered its own misfortunes from European nations. It always seems like every other country wants a piece of our land and we’re forced to fight for our survival against the French, Dutch, and the British colonists. I never understood the relationship between the Indians and the colonists until the French and Indian War.
Around 1759, my husband and son fought for the British against the French. The British bribed the Iroquois confederacy with European weapons and goods to defend the colonies. We defended the British Empire and their colonies. Our own enemies and us against the French and the Huron Indians for seven years. We fought for the Ohio River valley, land we use to own, but never can have.
Throughout my life, I watched the Iroquois Confederacy fall apart even more as white men demand for liberty and freedom. I watched British officers and colonial leaders influence the Indian tribes to go against one another for war. The influence of Christianity spread by the British and the colonists changed the Indians, not for the good, but for the worst. My tribe, Tuscarora, and the Oneidas stayed with the colonies, but the other four of the six nations were persuaded by the promises and the prospect of the future, and joined the British.
All I saw was brother against brother, fighting for sides that promise to correct the past through the gifts of European rum and guns. The Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, a devout Anglican, persuaded by the British Empire’s promises of less American expansion and freedom, broke the confederacy I once knew. Our own tribes became weak, our religions influenced and lost by Christian missionaries, and the revolution gave us no liberty, but rum and guns. Diseases and guns is what the revolution left us. We fought for the rights of our own oppressors. The colonists achieved their own nation and land to call their own, but our own tribes are left with broken promises and no land. America became the land of the free through the blood of Indians.
Emile Louis Vernier (1829-1887) Image credit
Books: American Pageant Eleventh Edition