Smithsonian

Excerpts from speeches by Canassatego, an Iroquois, as printed by Benjamin Franklin, 1740s

This speech shows the deep resentment that many Native Americans felt about colonial encroachment on their lands and their subsequent difficulties with self-support. Canassatego criticizes the fact that the settlements spoil Native American hunting, as well as that colonial horses eat grass that is meant for deer.

We know our lands are now become more valuable: the white people think we do not know their value; but we are sensible that the land is everlasting, and the few goods we receive for it are soon worn out and gone. For the future we will sell no lands but when Brother Onas [the proprietor of Pennsylvania] is in the country; and we will know beforehand the quantity of the goods we are to receive. Besides, we are not well used with respect to the lands still unsold by us. Your people daily settle on these lands, and spoil our hunting. . . .

If you have not done anything, we now renew our request, and desire you will inform the person whose people are seated on our lands, that that country belongs to us, in right of conquest; we having bought it with our blood, and taken it from our enemies in fair war. . . .

It is customary with us to make a present of skins whenever we renew our treaties. We are ashamed to offer our brethren so few; but your horses and cows have eat the grass our deer used to feed on. This has made them scarce, and will, we hope, plead in excuse for our not bringing a larger quantity: if we could have spared more we would have given more; but we are really poor; and desire you’ll not consider the quantity, but, few as they are, accept them in testimony of our regard. . . .

Our wise forefathers established union and amity between the five nations. This has made us formidable. This has given us great weight and authority with our neighboring nations. We are a powerful Confederacy, and by your observing the same methods our wise forefathers have taken you will acquire much strength and power; therefore, whatever befalls you, do not fall out with one another.

Credit: Excerpts from speeches by Canassatego, an Iroquois, as printed by Benjamin Franklin, 1740s.