THE WYANDOTS - EARLY HISTORY OF THE NATION - ROMANCES AND FOLK LORE - WYANDOTS' VERSION OF THE CREATION - THEIR ALLEGIANCE TO THE FRENCH - THEIR WARS AT AN END - BECAME A CIVILIZED NATION.
The Indian word was "Wyandot." The English added another "t" to the end and it became "Wyandott." Then the French tacked on a letter "e" and so it became "Wyandotte.
Three ways there are of spelling the name of the ancient Indian nation that gave its name to our county and to the village of the early days that grew into a city which afterwards lost its identity by merging itself into the metropolis of Kansas, known to the world as Kansas City, Kansas. It is the French version that generally is accepted by people of the twentieth century. Nobody ever thinks of writing it after the English fashion. But there are a few conscientious writers of history, quite a number of the old pioneers and many descendants of the Indians who cling to the simple old Indian way of spelling the name, because of its significance in the history of America, because of old associations, because of memories that make it dear. Are these not reasons, good and sufficient, for perpetuating forever the Indian name, "Wyandot?"
The Frenchmen in Canada preferred to call them Hurons and they were on earth when the shores of New England and Canada were first sighted by white men. They were a powerful nation more than two centuries before Kansas was on the map as a territory or state. They were a dominant factor in the wars along the shores of the Great Lakes for nearly one hundred years before the Declaration of Independence was framed. They were leaders in the great confederation of Indians that tried in vain to turn back the tide of immigration to their hunting grounds, and for many years they waged war against the Americans to make the Ohio river the boundary between the United States and Canada.
The Wyandots were good warriors, and when they lost they knew how to be good quitters. They accepted the white man's civilization, discarded ancient customs, and embraced the teachings of the Christian missionaries. They became first and foremost among the civilized Indians of America.
The coming of the Wyandots to this Kansas country, in 1843, brought an end to centuries of Indian savagery. Out of the chaotic conditions of the past came a new order of things. They built houses, erected churches and established schools. They welcomed the white settler, took him into partnership and founded an organized state of society.
The Wyandots brought with them from Ohio a constitution and a stock of ideals of self-government founded on ideas of justice and equity. Here in Wyandotte county they set up the first territorial government Kansas and Nebraska ever had, and they picked a man from their council to act as governor. They were here at the framing of the Wyandotte constitution, and after they saw the job was finished they helped to adopt it and to bring Kansas into the Union as a state.
As the Wyandots were leaders among the Indians of the east, so they became leaders of the people of the west when Kansas was in the making. Through all of the sixty-eight years that have passed since first they came, they, or their descendants, have helped in every stage of the development of Kansas, of Wyandotte county, of its cities and towns and of its people's interests.
Truly the Wyandots, by their conduct and their achievements, present an example of a nation of Indians repaying, with interest many times compounded, every care bestowed on them, every effort made for their uplifting, by their pale face brothers and sisters.
Now, only a little more than fifty years after this great and glorious Indian nation dissolved its tribal relations, the original name has come into disuse. Our county is called "Wyandotte" the French way of spelling. The Indian name has been stricken from the charter of the city that grew up from the old Wyandot village. And with ruthless hand and an absence of feeling it is proposed to destroy the historic old Huron cemetery in the heart of Kansas City, Kansas, where are buried many of the greatest Indian statesmen and civilians America has ever known.
The Wyandot Indians have a remarkable history. They were of northern origin, descended from a branch of the Iroquois. When first discovered their villages were along the St. Lawrence river in Ontario. Near them were the villages of the Senecas, with whom for many years they were closely allied and on terms of peace. Such relations, however, could not always exist among Indians. There was a falling out and the Senecas waged war against the Wyandots, and in this they were joined by others of the Five Tribes, as the Iroquois were known. The country formerly occupied by the Wyandots' ancestors was the north side of the St. Lawrence river down to Coon lake, and thence up the Utiwas. Their name for it was Cu-none-tot-tia. The Senecas occupied the opposite side of the river and the island on which Montreal now stands. They were both large tribes, consisting of many thousands. They were blood relations, claiming each other as cousins.
Joseph Badger, one of the early missionaries in Ohio, who won the confidence of the chiefs and influential men of the nation, relates this story of the falling out of the Wyandots and the Senecas, which led to an almost interminable war between the two tribes. A man of the Wyandots wanted a certain woman for his wife; but she objected, and said he was no warrior, he had never taken any scalps. To accomplish his object, he raised a small war party and in their scout fell upon a party of Seneca hunters, killing and scalping a number of them. This procedure began a war between the two nations, which lasted more than a century, which they supposed was fully a hundred winters before the French came to Quebec. They (the Wyandots) owned they were the first instigators in the war, and were generally beaten in the contest. Both tribes were greatly wasted in the war. They often made peace, but the first opportunity, the Senecas could get an advantage against them they would destroy all they could - men, women and children. The Wyandots, finding they were in danger of becoming exterminated concluded to leave their country and go far to the west. With their canoes, the whole nation made their escape to the upper lakes and settled in the vicinity of Green Bay, in several villages; but, after a few years, the Senecas made up a war party and followed them to their new settlements; fell on one of their villages, killed a number, and returned. Through this long period they had no instruments but bows, arrows and the war-club.
Soon after this the French came to Quebec, began trading with the Indians, and supplied them with firearms and utensils of various kinds. The Senecas, having been supplied with guns and learned the use of them, made out a second war party against the Wyandots; came upon them in the night, fired into their huts, and scared them exceedingly; they thought at first their enemies were armed with thunder and lightning. But the Senecas did not succeed as well as they intended. After a few years they made out a third party, fell upon the Wyandot villages, and took them nearly all; but it so happened at this time that nearly all the young men of the village had gone to war with the Fox tribe, living on the Mississippi.
Those few that escaped the massacre by the Senecas agreed to give up and go back with them and become one people, but requested of the Senecas to have two days to collect what they had and make ready their canoes and join them on the morning of the third day at a certain point, where they had gone to wait for them, and hold a great dance through the night. The Wyandots sent directly to the other villages which the Senecas had not disturbed and got all their old men and women, and such as could fight, to consult on what measures to take. They came to the conclusion to equip themselves in the best manner they could, and go down in perfect stillness so near the enemy as to hear them. They found them engaged in a dance and feasting on two Wyandot men they had killed and roasted, and as they danced they shouted their victory and told how good their "Wyandot beef" was. They continued their dance until the latter part of the night, and, being tired, they all laid down and soon fell into a sound sleep.
A little before day the Wyandot party fell on them and cut the all off; not one was left to carry back the tidings. This ended the war for a great number of years. Soon after this the Wyandots got guns from the French and began to grow formidable. The Indians who owned the country where they resided for a long time proposed to them to go back to their own country. They agreed to return, and, having prepared themselves as a war party, they returned - came back to where Detroit now stands, and agreed to settle in two villages - one at the place above mentioned, and the other where the British fort, Malden, now stands.
But previous to making any settlement they sent out in canoes the best war party they could, to go down the lake some distance, to see if there was an enemy on that side of the water. They went down to Long Point, landed, and sent three men across to see if they could make any discovery. They found a party of Senecas bending their course around the point, and returned with the intelligence to their party. The head chief ordered his men in each canoe to strike fire, offer some of their tobacco to the Great Spirit, and prepare for action. The chief had his son, a small boy, with him. He covered the boy in the bottom of the canoe. He determined to fight his enemy on the water. They put out into the open lake; the Senecas came on. Both parties took the best advantage they could, and fought with the determination to conquer or sink in the lake. At length the Wyandots saw the last man fall in the Seneca party; but they had lost a great number of their own men, and were so wounded and cut to pieces that they could take no advantage of the victory, but were only able to gain the shore as soon as possible and leave the enemy's canoes to float or sink among the waves. This ended forever the long war between the two tribes.
This story of their origin and the folk lore of the Wyandots, was once told to the writer by William Elsey Connelley. The tribe of the Wyandots was divided into twelve great clans, each of which bore the name of some animal or bird, by which it was always known. These clans were called the Snake, the Deer, the Bear, the Porcupine, the Wolf, the Beaver, the Hawk, the Big Turtle, the Little Turtle, the Prairie Turtle, the Mud Turtle and the Striped Turtle. Of these, however, now remain only the Snake, Deer, Bear, Porcupine, Wolf, Big Turtle and Little Turtle. The others have become extinct. The clan was a great family, and a woman stood at the head of it. Men and women of a certain clan were considered brothers and sisters and marriage was prohibited within the clan. When a warrior took unto himself a spouse he retained his clanship, but the pappooses became members of the mother's clan. The head chieftain of the whole tribe was inherent with the Deer clan until the death of Long Bark, sometimes called Half King, in 1788. He was succeeded by Tarhee of the Porcupine clan, known also as the Crane, and a celebrated Indian of his time. The chieftainship of the tribe continued with the Porcupines until it became elective. The Wolf clan was the mediator and counselor of the tribe. It was a supreme court of the nation and from its decisions in clan counsel there was no appeal. When two clans got into a difficulty which they could not settle between themselves, the Wolf clan was called upon to decide, and all the other clans were sworn to support the decision.
The language of the Wyandots is rich in folk lore, which was handed down from father to son. They had no written language and all records extant are in the English language. In language and folk lore the decadence has been more marked during that time than before. Information on these subjects easily obtainable ten years ago cannot be secured from any of the Wyandots. Connelley said that he had been actuated in his work solely by a desire to preserve the beautiful language and folk lore of this interesting people, now so rapidly passing away. "My work has been in the interest of science," he said, "and from a desire to preserve the true history of a brave and one of the most intelligent of the American races." Mr. Connelly has done some work for the bureau of ethnology at Washington on the language of the Wyandots and Shawnees. Among the folk lore stories he has written, as told him by old Wyandots, is that of the creation, or the genesis of the world, as the Wyandots believed it in the earliest times. Like all primitive people they tried to account for everything. The story is substantially as follows,
"In the beginning, the people were all Wyandots. They lived in Heaven. Hoo-wah-yooh-wah-neh, the Great Spirit or mighty chief, led them. His daughter, Yah-weh-noh, was a beautiful virgin. She became very ill and could not be cured. At last the chief medicine men of the tribe held a council. They said: 'Dig up the big apple tree that stands by the lodge of Hooh-wah-yooh-wah-neh, Have the beautiful virgin laid on a bed of boughs near it, so that she can watch the work. She will then be cured.'
"The strongest warriors of the tribe dug all around the roots of the tree, when lo! it fell through. The spreading branches caught Yah-Weh-noh and carried her with the tree down through the hole it left. Below all was water. Two swans saw the beautiful maiden falling. One of them said: 'I will catch her.' The two swans then called a council of all the swimmers and water tribes to decide what to do with the beautiful young woman. The turtle finally agreed that if some of the others would bring up from the bottom some earth and put it on his back he would carry the young woman. The earth was brought up and put on the turtle's back. Immediately a large island formed and became what is known as North America, which was to the Wyandots all the earth. The great turtle carried the island on his back. Occasionally he became tired and tried to shift his great load, which caused the island to shake and vibrate. Yah-weh-noh, in wandering about the island, found an old woman in a hut. She stopped with her and twins were born to Yah-weh-noh. They were boys. One was good and the other was all that was bad. The good one was called Made-of-Fire. The bad one was known as Made-of-Flint.
"When the boys grew to manhood they enlarged the island and agreed to people it with the things of the earth. They separated each to do half, according to his ideas of the fitness of things. Made-of-Fire made everything just as the Indians desired, for his heart was full of love. All the animals were kind and gentle and did not fear the Indians. Made-of-Flint, however, made the rough mountains and monster animals, and everything he made was abhorrent to the Indians' mind. When they had done, each, by agreement, inspected the other's work to modify it. Neither could completely destroy the other's creations. Each was dissatisfied with the other's work. Made-of-Fire because his brother's was all bad, and Made-of-Flint, because the other's was all good. Each changed the other's work as much as possible, which made all things have drawbacks as well as advantages.
"Made-of-Flint put the evil spirit into the water so that it would drown the Indians. Made-of-Fire had made the water so that it was harmless. In all the rivers and creeks the current ran up-stream on one bank, and on the other side it ran in the opposite direction, so that the Indian would never have to paddle his canoe except from one side to the other. He would go one way as far as he desired, then paddle to the other side and float back. This arrangement appeared to be particularly distasteful to Made-of-Flint. It aroused him to great anger. He dashed his mighty hand into the water and rolled it, and mixed the currents, so that they ran with double swiftness and strength all one way, thereby making it great labor to paddle the canoe against the stream. Made-of-Fire also made the Indian corn-plant grow without cultivation, but his evil-minded brother changed this also and made it hard to cultivate and uncertain in coming to a head, thus entailing much work on the squaws.
"After changing each other's works the brothers again met and agreed to people the world, each creating half of the people. Made-of-Fire, the good brother, created all Wyandots and no others, while he of the evil mind, created all other persons.
"Made-of-Flint's people were so bad and overbearing, repeatedly breaking their agreements, that a great war broke out between them and the Wyandots. All the works created by the brothers were destroyed so that Made-of-Fire, was compelled to put all his people into a great cavern in Canada, while he re-created the works destroyed. He had to make them just as they were before the destruction. When he was through he returned to the cavern, but his people had to wait there a Iong time, until the sun had ripened the new world, and made it habitable. When it had ripened he went out through an opening, but the people had to burrow through the earth to get out, like the seventeen-year locusts. After much trouble the Wyandots came out of the ground north of Quebec. They found Made-of-Fire there and some of the other people were there also."
This story suggests many of the incidents of the Book of Genesis in the creation and destruction of the world. In it the Indian's love of idleness and his accounting for the cause of hard work are brought out plainly.
The Wyandots sided with the French until the close of Pontiac's unsuccessful war for the extermination of the English. When the territory so long occupied by France passed into the control of the English they were divided into clans, mere fragments of their once great and powerful nation, and were settled along the lakes in Ohio and Michigan and across the Detroit river in Canada. Their last head chief, Tooh-dah-rehzook, who gave the confederacy of Indians its greatest power and influence in the War of the Revolution, died in Detroit in 1788. No longer were the tribes of the Wyandots united the as a nation.
In the War of 1812 a few of the Wyandots in Michigan and on the Canadian side of the Detroit river supported the British, but the Ohio clan refused to have a part in it. They maintained a strict neutrality, although their sympathies were with the Americans. That was a forward step for the Ohio Wyandots.
Weary and worn with the wars of more than two centuries, first with their brother red men, and later against the whites, they were ready to discard their weapons and devote themselves to the arts of peace. And ardently did the Wyandots apply themselves to this high and noble purpose. At the close of the War of 1812 the majority of the Wyandots who had remained faithful to the United States moved to a reservation which was granted them on the waters of the upper Sandusky river in Wyandot (it is still spelled the old way) county, Ohio. This reservation soon became the center of Indian civilization, the influence of which was to extend to all the other Algonquin and Iroquois tribes.
The teachings of the early Jesuit missionaries had made lasting impressions on the Wyandots and many primitive religious ideas had been cast aside. They were believers in a Great Spirit, a God of the Forests, that ruled supreme.
Then commenced the labors of the missionaries of the Methodist Episcopal church. It is recorded that at Upper Sandusky, among the Wyandots, was established in 1817 the first Methodist mission in the world. Among the Indians at that time were some sincere Catholics who would not accept the Protestant version until William Walker had compared the two and pronounced them the same in effect. In 1819 Dr. Charles Elliott was appointed by the Ohio conference as the first regular missionary of the Wyandots. He commenced reducing their language to writing. From that time, and as long as the Wyandots remained in Ohio, the conference sent men, many of them afterwards distinguished, to preach and to teach. In the long list appear the names of John C. Brooks, James Gilruth, Russell Biglow, Thomas Thompson, S. P. Shaw, S. M. Allen and James Wheeler, the latter assuming charge shortly before the Wyandots were to come to Kansas. Russell Biglow also was a presiding elder of the conference several years. Adam Poe, related to the poet, was a presiding elder in the time of the Wyandots.
The wives of the missionaries were good housekeepers and were motherly, refined women. Their influence had much weight in smoothing to a civilized plane the wild habits of the Indians. At first the women of the Wyandots rode their steeds in manly fashion, and the nation decked itself in all the flaming colors of semicivilized fashion. But in a few years feminine influence changed all. The Wyandot women were transformed into neat, intelligent and often well educated members of society. The men, with only a few exceptions, became industrious workmen, most of them farmers.
Some of the Wyandots were noted for their refinement and eloquence, especially in their chosen field of religion. Particularly was this true of Manoncue, an hereditary chief. One writer says that Henry Clay, in attendance on the general Methodist conference, at Baltimore in 1824, after listening to Manoncue, and observing his gestures and general bearing upon the platform, pronounced the Wyandot Indian the greatest orator in the United States. His personal appearance was magnificent, and it is said those who were able to understand him, pronounced his eloquence of language equal to his impressive bearing.
The Ohio reservation of the Wyandots, which was ten by twelve miles, was highly improved. It was estimated that previous to their departure for their lands, at the junction of the Missouri and Kansas rivers, over one hundred and twenty thousand dollars had been expended on the Upper Sandusky reservation. Colonel Kirby was appointed a commissioner to appraise the value of the improvements on the part of the United States and John Walker on the part of the Wyandot nation.
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