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Farming is the chief employment of the Six Nations Indians, and the products are typical of the varying soils of the different reservations. While more land is under cultivation than heretofore, the barns are mainly old and in bad condition. This is largely true of similar buildings upon the adjoining farms of the white people, as farming has not of late netted an amount sufficient for repairs. The Indians, with no cash capital, as a rule, have been compelled to lease their lands to the white people for cash rent or work them on shares. The death of influential men, such as John Mountpleasant and Asa Thompson, of Tuscarora, left large estates under pecuniary burdens without ready money to develop the land. The general failure to maintain fencing has been partly due to crop failures and scant returns, but in a large degree to the improvidence of the farmers themselves. Such men as Daniel Priutup and Isaac John, of Tuscarora; Moses Stevenson, Theodore Jimerson, Thomas Kennedy, and Andrew John, in his prime, of Cattaraugus; Edward M. Poodry and Warren Sky, of Tonawanda; William C. Iloag, of Allegany; Marsh Pierce, of Cornplanter, and Josiah Jacobs, of Onondaga, who work their lands and seldom rent them, and who maintain buildings and fences and take fair care of their implements, keep steadily on the advance. In nearly all directions valuable agricultural implements are exposed to the weather, and no economy attends farm work generally.

With the exception of Tuscarora, old orchards are on the decline, and more than one-half of the 4,823 apple trees of Cattaraugus are not in condition, through age and neglect, to bear large crops. A few new orchards have been started, but there is neither Indian labor attainable nor sufficient money realized from crops to hire other labor; neither is there any method by which tillable and arable land can be turned into money. With few exceptions, farming is done under wearing conditions, and many young men prefer to seek other employment.

The business of farming, except by a few of the Saint Regis Indians, is carried on only to the extent of barely securing crops for home use. A larger proportion of the Saint Regis than of any other Indians own at least 1 horse, and a cow is regarded as a necessity; hence, small crops of corn and oats are found quite general among those of small means; but this sort of farming does not improve the soil. Neglect of the few implements used and the wretched condition of the fences testify to a lack of ambition in agricultural labor.

For many years each reservation had its agricultural fair grounds with annual exhibitions, which stimulated both stock raising and farming, and handsome profits were realized. Premiums were awarded, and the state of New York contributed its part. Horse races, foot races, and games attracted large attendance, but their management fell into speculative hands, and, being distrusted, the best farmers ceased to compete for premiums and withdrew their support. All the grounds, except those of the Iroquois Agricultural Society, on the Cattaraugus reservation, have been converted to other uses. The annual fair held at Cattaraugus in 1890 was widely published, and the programme included not only games, races, and premiums, but a Grand Army reunion, at which several posts were to be present, and the attractions of dress parade, review, and sham battle were to mark two days of the entertainment. Colonel T. G. Parker, of Gowanda, a veteran of sterling merit, consented to preside over the military department, and actually pitched tents sufficient for a small battalion, but he left at the close of the first day. The attendance was small, even from the immediate neighborhood, the exhibition hardly more than several good farms could have furnished singly, and the receipts, a little more than $100, were insufficient to pay the incidental expenses of the enterprise. The result was that at the annual meeting for election of officers the old life members rallied their strength and made a clean sweep of the incumbents, electing as a new board the most efficient men on the reservation, with the declared purpose of governing the society, independent of speculators and local pools. The ability, responsibility, and influence of the new board, consisting of Moses Stevenson, Walleck Scott, Sylvester Lay, sr., Thomas Kennedy, William Kennedy, Chester C. Lay, Samuel Jimerson, Job King, T. F. Jimerson, Nathaniel Kennedy, John Lay, and N. H. Parker, will command the confidence of the people and of their white neighbors. The recognized decline of interest in county fairs elsewhere had its effect upon these reservation fairs; but they had become occasions for questionable games and ceased to command respect and support.

The value of farm implements and the crop statement afford a fair idea of the real farming done on the respective reservations. Steam thrashers, self-binding reapers, and the best adjuncts to hand labor have accumulated, but the tendency of late to lease lands has caused a suspension of the purchase of these implements. Specific details of the implements owned are found upon the special schedules. Much that is called farming is simply living off the small patches of land adjoining houses or cabins—a listless existence, with little ambition or means to do better. At the same time they erect their own buildings and do good work. The house of Jaris Pierce, at Onondaga, was built entirely by himself, and exhibits tasteful inside finish, furnishing, paper, and paint.


The contrast between this enumeration and those enumerations heretofore reported by Indian agents, by the Society of Friends, and by the New York state officials is especially noticeable in the matter of stock. Only 22 sheep are carried upon the schedules. Formerly many were raised in Tuscarora, Cattaraugus, and Allegany, and some on the other reservations. Each reservation having open boundaries on all sides, except where the better farmers build to the line, and pasture land being almost invariably unfenced, with the added fact that the public lands, as a rule, are open to an entire nation, there is such danger from dogs that the industry has been abandoned. Now and then one man, like Job King (Beaver), of Cattaraugus, a professional horse-jockey, keeps good stock for propagation as a business. He also raises "game" or "fighting cocks", but in this respect he stands alone, professionally. There are in all 11 stallions and 9 bulls upon the reservations, belonging to farmers who desire to raise their own stock for draught or other home purposes. E. M. Poodry, of Tonawanda, makes a specialty of "Chester white" swine, but mainly for his own use. With the exception of the fancy stock of Job King, the ordinary domestic fowls fall into every farm list as barnyard fowls for home use. This diversion of Indian farmers from stock raising accounts for the fact that very little butter is made for the general market, especially at Cattaraugus, in the vicinity of cheese factories. The large amount of green peas and sweet corn noticed on several schedules is accounted for by the existence of large "canning establishments" on the eastern border of the reservation.


Basket making is a success, and many of the old people are proficients in this work. The summer resorts of Niagara and Saratoga, as well as the state and county fairs of New York, afford a ready market for their wares. Besides the ash and hickory splint, corn husks are also used for baskets, salt bottles, and sieves. Among the oldfashioned people, partly from habit as well as for economy, the domestic industries of their ancestors are still practiced.

Basket making has recently risen to the most important place among the activities of the Saint Regis Indians. It occupies the time of one or more of nearly every family, and the schedules show that nearly one-sixth of the entire population have suddenly concentrated their energies upon this occupation. It guarantees a good support, with prompt pay, and the beauty, variety, and artistic combinations of the new designs prove the enterprise a success. The sales made during the census year by the Saint Regis Indians netted a little more than $55,000, or an average of $250 to each family, and nearly ten times as much as was realized from the sale of crops by the few farmers who made farming their regular business.

Already enterprising firms have seized upon this expanded basket industry, so that a single house at Auburn has extended its agencies throughout the United States. To the Indian a new field is opened, and this work becomes a legitimate, standard occupation, on as sound a basis as any other hand manufacture, and is stimulative of systematic industry. The introduction of the Diamond dyes and the obligation to follow patterns, instead of indifference as to similarity in the stock of any single invoice, develop the Indian where he is most deficient. It also cute off his roaming, peddling habits, and secures for him not only home work but a home market. The subdivision of the labor, as witnessed in many families, also has its good effect.

The Tuscaroras near Niagara are especially skillful in bead work, but every reservation has its experts as well as its novices at this calling. Among the Saint Regis Indians 10 or 12 still engage in bead work, but the demand is very small and confined mainly to summer watering places. 27 sewing machines were in use. Berry picking and nutting employ many, especially women. Mr. William C. Hoag, of Allegany, gave employment during the census year to as many as 50 persons, who earned from $2 to $4 per day, realizing 1,000 bushels of blackberries alone during the season.

Sugar making, which formerly figured largely upon the annual reports of Indian agents, has disappeared with the maple trees, which were sold for wood. A small but young maple grove at Tonawanda, owned by Chauncey Abram, also one of 200 trees at Cattaraugus, owned by John Jimerson, several groves of small trees at Saint Regis, and a few hundred scattering trees are the only hints of this once profitable industry.

Rooting or herb gathering has almost disappeared. Dr. David Hewett (Kar-ner-to-nah-ner), of the Turtle tribe, at Tuscarora, and now 75 years of age, has had prolonged success as an Indian doctor, and Dwight Jimerson, of Allegany, devotes much time to collecting and drying the black cohosh and stone root for Buffalo druggists; but the days of the old " medicine man " have passed away. Young men from each of the reservations, including Chief Phillip T. Johnson, of Tuscarora, are " traveling men " for so-called Indian medicines, and make themselves welcome and successful through the prestige of their Indian character and good address.

Other young men, like Ed. Cornplanter, of Cattaraugus, have joined traveling shows as acrobats or minstrels, and others have played the part of musicians in theatrical orchestras or bands. These classes of industry, with their contact with the world and fair wages, draw enterprising men from home and largely reduce the percentage of intelligent labor.


Trapping and hunting are almost unknown. A few Saint Regis Indians, as indicated upon the special schedules, act as professional guides to tourists, who make the vicinity of Saint Regis the base of visitation to the streams and forests of Canada.

Fishing still occupies a few families of the Saint Regis, at the mouth of the Raquette river. The only suits at law brought against these Indians were such as grew out of their resistance to the execution of the New York game laws. The Indians claim that their fishing rights under formal treaties can not be set aside by state statutes. As a matter of fact, the sawmills so fill the channel with sawdust that the number of game fish that can reach the vicinity of white settlers is absolutely insignificant. The few families that do fish catch suckers and mullets for the most part, and just about enough to supply the market demand of the reservation each spring; so that the imposition and execution of the law have neither necessity nor equity for their support.

The following, copied from the special schedule of John Jimerson's family, illustrates what one thorough farmer exhibited as his standing during the census year:

Ukdkr Cultivation.—A peach orchard of 90 acres, an apple orchard of 200 trees, 200 maple trees, and 1 acre of raspberries.

Chops.—Oats, 300 bashels; wheat, 100 bushels; buckwheat, 20 bushels; beans, 40 bushels; corn, 100 bushels; turnips, 20 bushels; potatoes, 150 bushels; onions, 20 bushels; 250 cabbages, and 15 tons of hay.

Stock.—3 horses and 1 colt, 8 cows, 4 heifers, 3 calves, 5 sheep, 29 swine, 2 hives of bees, and 150 domestic fowls.

Implements.—Self-binding reaper, mower, fanning mill, harrows, 2 large and 13 small cultivators, plows, horse hoe and corn shelter, hoes and hand potato diggers, lumber wagon, spring wagon, buggy, sled, sleigh, and cutter.


Mechanical trades are followed by few and apprenticeships are rare. The Indians are unable to buy tools, and carpentry, smithing, and house painting are only engaged in sufficiently for local demand, 2 carpenters, 1 blacksmith, 1 stonemason, and 3 "job workers" constituting the force of professional mechanics, and 2 doctors, 1 nurse, 1 teacher, and nearly 20 traveling showmen complete the occupations of the Saint Regis Indians.

Among the Six Nations Indians, while many are poor, there are but a few absolute paupers. 1 old man on the Tonawanda reservation, mentioned in the special schedules, is a wanderer from house to house, and 2 upon the Cattaraugus reservation, alike aged, depend upon transient charity. During the year 1890 the state agent at the Onondaga reservation furnished relief to several needy families upon the order of the chiefs from funds in his possession, collected for the nation as the rent of quarries placed in his custody. Overseers of the poor appointed by the Indians have general oversight of needy cases, and the general hospitality among these people rarely fails to meet every case with prompt relief. There are a few chronic loafers on each reservation, who hang around and live upon their neighbors at random, but the proportion of such cases is not greater than among white people. Sympathetic aid to the really needy is proverbial and exemplary.



There is as much variety in the social life and manners of the Six Nations Indians as between the white people of different states or sections. Among the pagans the regular stated dances afford the chief occasions for " parties and suppers ". The " maple dance ", when the sap first flows in the spring, has lost much of its zest, as the sugar maple has almost disappeared. The "berry festival" (ha-nuu-da-yo) celebrates the advent of the strawberry, "the first ripening fruit", and the berries, prepared in large bark trays and sweetened with maple sugar, attract old and young to the delicious repast and the general merrymaking at its close. When the whortleberry comes, "the first fruit of trees", a similarly jolly occasion is experienced. The green-corn festival (ah-oake-wa-o) honors the first standard product of tilling the soil. A previous "planting festival ", where Indians had " spells " of helping each other, as they still do in chopping wood and raising houses and barns, brought many together, but "good things to eat" formed the chief attraction. There are 13 annual festivals; all of them, aside from exercises that are strictly " religious ", abound in stories, wit, repartee, and badinage, characteristic of the Indian, who has a keen sense of humor, is ready with practical jokes, and quick to see the grotesque or ridiculous. Double meanings are quickly caught and played upon, and loud peals of laughter mingle with ceremony, feast, or sport. Even at annuity distributions and trials before the peacemakers a keen sense of humor involuntarily manifests itself. At the adjournment of an exciting divorce case at the Cattaraugus courthouse, when the Iroquois Agricultural Society was holding its fair in 1890, an invitation was sent to the court and attendants to "take dinner on the fair grounds at the expense of the society", which action was promptly denounced by Noah Twoguns, a quick-witted attorney, in the most solemn manner, while the whole arraignment of the society was but the introduction to an equally solemn motion, that the invitation be accepted on condition that it be changed to read "to take dinner on a table on the fair grounds ". The incident is one of hundreds to show how watchful they are for fun. This comes partly from good nature and partly because it is not hard work, significant of the Indian's habit of making things easy and living for the present, whatever may betide the morrow.

The same spirit prevails among the christians, but as their religious observances follow different methods their social reunions are usually "surprise parties ", although every year has its picnic, in which everybody joins. On one occasion nearly 100 persons, old and young, gathered, without warning to the host, well supplied with choice cake, cold meats, and accompaniments that would have been acceptable anywhere. Instrumental and vocal music, jokes, and merrymaking ran on until 4 o'clock in the morning without an incident to mar the occasion. At an Onondaga reception in Jacob Scanandoah's hall a brass band furnished music, and a bountiful modern supper followed. Christmas has its usual civilized observances, of which the Christmas tree is a grand spectacle. In 1890 the Presbyterian church at Cattaraugus had three large trees as high as the ceiling, loaded with presents, including photograph albums, books, sleds, handkerchiefs, shawls, neckties, and other useful articles, as well as bags of candy for each of the 300 or more who were present. Not the least suggestive series of articles successively " called off" were an immense pumpkin, a large squash, a turkey, a chicken, a bag of flour, and some smaller tokens for Mr. Renciman, their minister. During the whole distribution, introduced by spirited music, the witty comments of Porter Kennedy upon the articles taken from the trees and upon the characteristics or names of the recipients kept old and young alike in constant good humor. The victims of these witticisms laughed with the rest, and the whole occasion was suggestive of a way of approach to this people.

The nations differ in manifestations of this common social peculiarity. A large party at Thomas Kennedy's had both music and ordinary dancing, and with the musical training of the Thomas Orphan Asylum and the two brass and string bands on the reservation the social gatherings are more largely musical. At Tuscarora the large society connected with the Baptist church and the limited number of large parties mutually shape social life into a mere industrial form; but an annual picnic is observed by everybody, and public grounds, as represented on the map, are assigned for that purpose. Tonawanda, Allegany, and Onondaga have less of the social spirit, outside of the pagan dances, but the growth of sensible, social reunions is apparent. The accusation that these Indians indulge in vulgar stories is refuted by careful observation and the judgment of trustworthy writers upon Indian life and character. Indian vocabularies are especially deficient in the means of profaning the Great Spirit. Their manner of living has been degraded and at times beastly, but no worse than among the debased white people in well-known sections of the United States. No customs, practices, or " orgies " attributed to the pagan dances of the Six Nations are as low, sensual, and demoralizing as those which have from time to time been the accompaniment of some licensed entertainments in American cities.

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