SCONONDOA SPEECH

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A speech on the conflict over territory between the Iroquois League and the European powers and colonists, by the elder warrior Sconondoa, in 1752.

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“Are the Iroquois all Blind?” A speech made by the centenarian warrior Sconondoa to the Iroquois chiefs gathered at Albany, New York on 17 July, 1752 for a grand council with representatives of the British colonial governments Reprinted from the book, Wilderness Empire, by Allan W. Eckert (Little, Brown and Company, 1969, pp.194-197

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Sconondoa

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“My warriors, my children! My old ears play tricks with me. They tell me that they hear the English men asking the Iroquois to support them and that my Iroquois discuss this seriously. My old heart says this cannot be true, but yet I have heard it. …”

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“My children, none among all the Iroquois have lived as long as Sconondoa and no more than two or three even half as long. Yet, surely among you there must be some who remember what we are who we are and what we once had. …”

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“Are there none here who remember when the cry ‘the Iroquois are coming!’ was alone enough to make the hearts of the bravest warriors of other tribes fail within their breasts? …”

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“Are there none here who remember when this land was all ours and that though other tribes were round about, they were there by our forbearance and there was none who could stand before us; …”

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“… are there none here who remember that from the green sea to the east and the blue sea to the south, to the land of always-winter in the north and the land of always-summer in the west, they feared us?”

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“But then came the men in their boats and they brought us gifts. They asked for our friendship and we gave it to them. Then they asked for just a little land and we foolishly gave it to them. …”

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“Then, when they asked us for more land and we would not give it to them, they asked us to sell it to them and because they had goods that were new and powerful to us, we sold them some. …”

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“Then they asked us for more land and when we would not give it or sell it, they took it from us and we talked and talked and always it was we who gave in and signed a new treaty and took gifts for what was taken, …”

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“but the gifts were cheap and worthless and lasted but a day, while the land lasts forever .”

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“My children, my warriors, still they are nibbling at our land and now they do so under the pretense of protecting us from other white men who would take it from us. ...”

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“Are the Iroquois all blind? Do they not see what is happening? Do they not know, as in my old heart I know, that they play us one against the other until somehow the white man is suddenly on more of our land and we are pushed back?...”

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“My children, raise your heads! Open your eyes! Unstop your ears! Can you not see that it makes no difference whether these white men are of the French or the English or any other of the peoples from across the sea? All of them threaten our very existence. All of them!

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“When they came here they had nothing. Now, like a great disease they have spread all over the east until for twelve days’ walk from the sea there is no room for an Indian to stay and he is made unwelcome. Yet this was not long ago all Indian land. How has it gone?

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“As these white men have stained the east and the north with their presence, so now they extend themselves to the west and the northwest and the southwest, forcing all Indians to take sides for them or against them, whether they are French or English, but in such a game the Indian cannot win. ...”

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“Now we no longer have the strength or unity to carry a war across the country to a far-distant tribe. We do not dare do so, lest our own lands be stolen while we are gone. …”

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“And we, my children, where are we? The white man has come again. He wants more of our land, though he says differently. Shall we sell him another piece? Shall we let the tree under which our fathers sat lose another and another root, and cause another and another branch to fall? …”

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“Where are the chiefs of the Rising Sun people, whose home was easterly from the Onioto-people and who are not now permitted to return to where their council fires once burned brightly? …”

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“White chiefs now kindle their fires in those places. And there no Indian now sleeps but those who are sleeping in their graves. …”

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“Soon all the Mohawk land will be like this and then my house will soon be like theirs. Soon will a white man kindle his fire on the land of the Onioto-people and that of their wards, the Tuscaroras, …”

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“… and after that his fire will burn on the ashes of our own League fireplace at Onondaga. We will be no more, and his fire will sweep before it all trace of the Cayuga and the Setting Sun people. …”

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“Your Sconondoa will soon be no more; his village no more a village of Indians, his nation no more a nation, and his League broken like the ice of a river under the rains of spring. …”

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“My children, I am sick. The Iroquois people are sick. Our eyes rain like the black cloud that roars upon the trees of the wilderness. Long did the strong voice of Sconondoa cry, ‘Children, take care, be wise, be straight’. …”

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“Now he can only moan out a few words, then be silent. …The words have not always been heard, but one last time he will say them again, and he cries to your hearts to listen: …”

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“Drink no strong water; it makes you mice for white men who are cats. …Attach yourselves not to them, but stand alone against all white men. Become again a league of men who fear none but who themselves are feared by all! …”

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“I am an aged hemlock. The winds of one hundred winters and more have whistled through my branches; I am dead at the top. The generation to which I belong has run away and left me. Why I live, the great good spirit only knows.”

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Sconondoa Narrated by Edward J. Dodson, M.L.A.

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