The Nanfan Treaty


The Iroquois Confederacy attempt to strike a deal with The Crown.

19-07-2010_The_Nanfan_Treaty_and_the_Iroquois_Confederacy.mp3 Listen on Posterous

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The Deed from the Five Nations to the King, of their Beaver Hunting Ground, more commonly known as the Nanfan Treaty, was conducted in Albany, New York, on July 19, 1701.

The treaty was an agreement made between the representatives of the Iroquois Confederacy with John Nanfan, the acting colonial governor of New York, on behalf of the The Crown. The Iroquois, who claimed to have conquered this territory 80 years earlier, deeded the English a large tract of land north of the Ohio River when the Iroquois were allied with the English during King William’s War, the first of the French and Indian Wars.

As a vast majority of the Beaver Hunting Grounds described in the Nanfan Treaty were located in New France, the area colonized by France in North America, the French did not recognize this as a valid treaty. However, at the time, the Iroquois were also negotiating peace with the French and together they signed the Great Peace of Montreal later that same year. That treaty ended 100 years of war between the Iroquois, whom had been allied to the English, and the French, allied to the Hurons and the Algonquians. It provided 16 years of peaceful relations and trade before war started again.

The Iroquois, also known as the Haudenosaunee, the “People of the Longhouse” or more accurately, “They Are Building a Long House” and are actually an association of several tribes of indigenous people of North America. After the Iroquoian-speaking peoples coalesced as distinct tribes, based mostly in present-day upstate New York, around the 16th century they came together in an association known today as the Iroquois League, or the “League of Peace and Power”. The original Iroquois League was often known as the Five Nations, as it was comprised of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations. After the Tuscarora nation joined the League in 1722, the Iroquois became known as the Six Nations.

The Iroquois League has also been known as the Iroquois Confederacy, a decentralized political and diplomatic entity that emerged in response to European colonization. The League still exists, but the Confederacy dissolved after the defeat of the British and allied Iroquois nations in the American Revolutionary War.

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The Iroquois were a mix of farmers, fishers, gatherers, and hunters, though their main diet came from farming. The main crops they farmed were corn, beans and squash, which were called the three sisters and were considered special gifts from the Creator. These crops are grown strategically. The cornstalks grow, the bean plants climb the stalks, and the squash grow beneath, inhibiting weeds and keeping the soil moist under the shade of their broad leaves. In this combination, the soil remained fertile for several decades. The food was stored during the winter, and it lasts for two to three years. When the soil eventually lost its fertility, the Iroquois migrated.

Since they had no writing system, the Iroquois depended upon the spoken word to pass down their history, traditions, and rituals. As an aid to memory, the Iroquois used shells and shell beads. The Europeans called the beads wampum, from wampumpeag, a word used by Indians in the area who spoke Algonquian languages.

The type of wampum most commonly used in historic times was bead wampum, cut from various seashells, ground and polished, and then bored through the center with a small hand drill. The purple and white beads, made from the shell of the quahog clam, were arranged on belts in designs representing events of significance.

Certain elders were designated to memorize the various events and treaty articles represented on the belts. These men could “read” the belts and reproduce their contents with great accuracy. The belts were stored at Onondaga, the capital of the confederacy, in the care of a designated wampum keeper.

Women assumed a position in Iroquois society roughly equal in power to that of the men. Individual women could hold property including dwellings, horses and farmed land, and their property before marriage stayed in their possession without being mixed with that of their husband’s. The work of a woman’s hands was hers to do with as she saw fit. The chief of a clan could be removed at any time by a council of the mothers of that clan, and the chief’s sister was responsible for nominating his successor.

The Iroquois aimed to create an empire by incorporating conquered peoples and remolding them into Iroquois and thus naturalizing them as full citizens of the tribe. By 1668, two-thirds of the Oneida village were assimilated Algonquians and Hurons and at Onondaga there were Native Americans of seven different nations.

In the last few decades, some historians have stressed “The Iroquois Influence Thesis” in relation to the development of the Articles of Confederation or United States Constitution. Consensus has not been reached on how influential the Iroquois model was to the development of the United States’ documents, however, historians Donald Grinde and Bruce Johansen believed that the democratic ideals of the Great Law of Peace, the oral constitution whereby the Iroquois Confederacy was bound together, provided a significant inspiration to Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and other framers of the United States Constitution. The standing of the Influence Thesis was demonstrated by the United States Congress’ passing a resolution in October 1988 that specifically recognized the influence of the Iroquois League upon the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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While anthropologist Dean Snow believes “There is, however, little or no evidence that the framers of the Constitution sitting in Philadelphia drew much inspiration from the League”, Benjamin Franklin wrote in volume 4 of his published papers that “It would be a very strange thing, if six Nations of ignorant savages should be capable of forming a Scheme for such a Union … and yet that a like union should be impracticable for ten or a Dozen English Colonies”.

Interestingly, the Iroquois government has issued passports since around at least 1923, when Haudenosaunee authorities issued a passport to Cayuga statesman Deskaheh to travel to the League of Nations headquarters. Before 2001 these passports were accepted by various nations for international travel, but with increased security concerns across the world since the 9/11 and other terrorist attacks, this is no longer the case.

The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team was allowed by the U.S. to travel on their own passports to an international lacrosse tournament in England after the personal intervention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 14, 2010. But, the British government refused to recognize the Iroquois passports and denied the team members entry into the United Kingdom.

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This entry was published on May 18, 2012 at 7:43 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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