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Seneca: Warriors & Statesmen

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The Seneca, a remarkable people by any measure, lay claim to many individuals of distinction and honor. Chief Sagoyouwatha, also known as Red Jacket, was a Seneca orator and an eloquent spokesman for his people. Red Jacket did not agree with Cornplanter's cooperation with the emerging government of the United States and the selling of Indian land. In an address made in 1811 to a council of whites in New York State, Red Jacket explained:


"Your application for the purchase of our lands is to our minds very extraordinary. We are determined not to sell our lands but to continue on them.


At the treaties held for the purchase of our lands, the white men, with sweet voices and smiling faces, told us they loved us, and that they would not cheat us. These things puzzle our heads, and we believe that the Indians must take care of themselves, and not trust in your people."


A few years after this address by Red Jacket, Cornplanter, too, became disillusioned with the treatment of his people by whites and the federal government. His outlook grew similar to that of Red Jacket. Loss of land over the years contributed significantly to changes in viewpoint.


Land has always been the very root of Indian existence and identity, and its loss-particularly ancestral burial lands-was traumatic to the spiritual heritage of the Cornplanter heirs-and to the integrity of the American government in their eyes.