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Minutes of a Conference between his Excellency De Witt
Clinton, and Pollard and Capt. Strong, the Represen, tatives of the Sachem Chiefs of the Seneca Nation, February 7, 1820.
SPEECH OF THE INDIAN REPRESENTATIVES.
Brother!-I am happy to find you enjoying good health, at the great council fire, in Albany. Although our number is small now before you, yet we come not without authority. We are authorized and instructed to make these communications. We come in company with an agent of the United States. What we do, was agreed upon in a council of the Seneca Nation, before we left home.
Brother !—Last summer, when you were at Buffalo, you will recollect that we had an interview with you, and stated our grievances. We had heard bad accounts before, concerning our reservations. You then stated to us, that you were not prepared to give us an answer to our request, and that
would prefer receiving a delegation from us, in Albany, at the commencement of the winter. We now come. We intended to have come sooner; but the United States' agent having agreed to come with us, and he having been detained at Canandaigu, in making his report, we have been prevented.
Brother !–Our principal object is, to obtain a full and fair statement of you, concerning our reservation. Reports are in circulation, that we have no rights. We want a statement under your hands, what we have, and what we have not. We want to know
whether we can go on with our improvements whether we are safe from the claims of those who have preemption rights; or, whether we are to be swept away, and robbed and plundered of our own.
Brother! You can but recollect the treaty between Governor George Clinton, and the Seneca Nation. The treaty embraced a conveyance from us to the people, of a strip of land, of one mile, on the straights of Niagara. The treaty contained a condition that we should enjoy the free privilege of passing the ferry at Black Rock, without paying toll.
This right was confined to the Seneca Nation. The enjoyment of this privilege is interrupted. The man who has the care of the ferry, cannot discriminate and determine what Indians have a right to pass toll free. The Six Nations wish to pass toll-free. They are now prevented, and oftentimes have no money to pay. They want a general right. The lease of the ferry expires soon. In consequence of the late war, the papers concerning the before-mentioned treaty, are lost. We now ask a copy of that treaty on parchment.
Brother!—Upon our domains at Buffalo, there are many depredations. We want a commissioner or an attorney appointed to settle our difficulties with the white people-to stand forth on all occasions, as the protector of our interests, and as a pacificator in all disputes which we may have.
Brother !--We last summer informed you of our wishes to receive instruction, and to hear the preaching of the gospel. We solicit aid, that we may instruct our children, build a small edifice in which we
can have religious worship;-we solicit aid too, that will encourage in us a better knowledge of agriculture. : Brother ! We have been defrauded in the sale of our reservation on Genesee river. The land called Bayard's reservation, was purchased by Oliver Phelps, and no equivalent has ever been realized by us. Have we any remedy? ... Brother!-One thing more: We wish to speak of the Cattaraugus reservation. We have the right of ferriage on one side of the river. A man, by the name of Mack, deprives us of this right. Have we any remedy?
Brother! We have been brief. We hope to be understood. We ask answers to our solicitations as soon as they can be given. We depart in the spirit of peace, and may the Great Spirit bless you.
TO THE SACHEMS, CHIEFS AND WARRIORS OF THE
Brethren !—I have received your communication by your representatives, Pollard and Capt. Strong ; I am rejoiced to hear of your welfare; may the Great Spirit continue to bless you.
Brethren!-You desire to know the full extent of your rights in your reservations. This request is reasonable. You have an absolute and uncontrolled right to those lands, to all that they contain, and to all that they can produce. To prevent a recurrence of frauds, which have too often been practised by our people on our Red brethren, our laws have ordained,
that no sale of Indian land shall be valid, without the
oppression. The Great Spirit looks down on the conduct of mankind, and will punish us, if we permit the remnant of the Indian nations, which is with us, to be injured. We feel for you, brethren: we shall watch over your interests; we know that in a future world we shall be called upon to answer for our conduct to our fellow creatures.
I am pleased to hear of your attention to agriculture, education, and religion. Without agriculture,
you will suffer for want of food or clothing: without education, you will be in a state of mental darkness: and without religion, you cannot expect happiness in this world nor in the world to come.
Brethren,---Your suggestions about the appointment of an attorney, to guard you against the intrusions and trespasses of the whites; about the free passage of the Indians over the ferry at Black Rock about the ferriage on your side of Cattaraugus reservation; and about the erection of a house of worship and education, will be transmitted to the great council, who will, I am persuaded, grant these requests.
Brethren,--I recommend to you, to refrain from those vices which have nearly exterminated all our red brethren. Cultivate sobriety and justice, and may the Great Spirit look down upon you with eyes of mercy!
DE WITT CLINTON. Albany, 9th February, 1820.
I know not what effect the succeeding document may have on my readers, but to me it is „deeply affecting ; and furnishes a triumphant proof of the genius of these extraordinary people for eloquence. It is worthy of remark that the interpreter himself was unable to write, though a better evidence than this of the genuineness of the memorial, as proceeding from the unprompted Indians, may, I think, be found in the character of the language. The style is primitive; the short sentences teem with power; à serene majesty is spread over the entire composi