Substance of the Speech of Good Peter to Governor Clinton and the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, at Albany, on the occasion referred to in the discourse.

Brother governor of the State of New York, and all the other great chiefs of the State of New York, open your ears, and all you chiefs of the Five Nations here assembled, open your ears.

The business we have now met about is of the greatest importance; how happy must we all be if we can arrange it for our mutual good.

We have this day assembled, and smoked our pipes in peace. That you may know the reason of my addressing you, I would inform you that my brethren, the Cayugas, and my children, the Senecas, requested me to be their mouth on this solemn occasion, and understanding that it is agreeable to the great chief of New York, I now stand here. You will possess your minds in peace, for I have no disposition to oppose you in any respect, but shall move forward in the strait path.


In the first place, I would inform you that last Spring we were invited to a treaty at Muskingum -- where your voice also called upon us to attend: some of our nation went there, and have not yet returned.

When our uncles, the chiefs, left our council-fire, their only business at Muskingum was the establishment of a good peace. This mission was agreeable to us all -- even the warriors; for although the clouds blacken in the south, and the winds sometimes blow, yet as long as our sachems labor for a peace, the minds of our young men are composed.

This, great chief, I only observe, to open the way for what is to follow. Shortly after, the cloud from the south began to rise; we again saw the effulgence of the sun; but as soon as we saw it, an evil spirit commenced its work, threatening the annihilation of our territory.


Although I observed to you that an evil spirit had invaded our peace, yet do not suppose that the Five Nations were disposed to cherish this enemy; we were deceived: we believed it to be a good spirit, sent by the great council of the State, and we thought that we should not injure ourselves by opening our ears to their voice. This was indeed new to us, for never before had the Five Nations such a meeting with any of our brethren of this island. We had invariably conferred together according to ancient and settled usage.

It would be tedious to go into detail, and state at large the means by which we were misled. We cannot see but a small depth into the heart of man, and can only discover the work of his tongue. It appears that you then sensibly sympathized with us in our situation, and looking back to ancient times, endeavored to discover a method of recovering our sinking territory.

Soon after this the Oneida nation heard your voice. Although it was small at first, yet it gave us life to find that you would extend your arm and save our country. It informed us that you would kindle a council fire at Fort Stanwix, inform us of our situation, and relieve us of our difficulties. It also directed us to send it on to the other nations -- which we did. At the council fire at Fort Stanwix, but one nation, the Onondaga, attended; there was a strange bird that flew about your voice, and related strange stories. This bird kept flying about while you held this council fire. After your patience had been exhausted in waiting several days, you then determined to take us, one by one, as we came to the council fire -- and with this we were content.

When you had finished with the Onondagas, you then showed the agreement to us, the Oneidas, pointed out the true path, and opened our eyes. We then comprehended your sentiments as they were laid before us. You raised us from sinking into an unfathomable gulph, and placed us on a high mountain; you erected a fortification around us, so that no evil spirits or strange birds could fly over and disturb us; you completed an agreement to our mutual satisfaction: it is firm and unalterable -- no evil spirits shall be able to erase the lines. We are now fixed, and dwell in peace.

I need not enlarge upon the council at Fort Stanwix, and the proceedings at that place. You remember you saw a few Senecas there. You welcomed them, although they were neither invited, nor sachems, but little children; they then told you with what difficulty they leaped over the mound at Canasake.

You also remember, that when those Seneca young men left you, you gave them good advice. As your patience was not yet exhausted, and your love for the Five Nations continued in full force, you invited the Senecas, through them, to meet you at Albany this winter, to consult upon subjects connected with their welfare. You also requested their attendance from the remotest parts of the nation. They again heard your voice: you opened their eyes, and it pierced them to the heart to see their territory shrinking, and that by and by the warriors would not be at liberty to hunt upon their land, and to provide for their women and children.

Soon after this, the headmen and warriors deliberated on our message, and determined that it would be for the good of the Five Nations, and prevent our utter destruction to repair to this place. Although some of our sachems have not returned from the southward, yet we are persuaded that our deliberations and proceedings will meet their approbation.

After frequent conferences with our brethren, the Senecas, we determined to repair to this ancient council fire; we thought it agreeable to ancient usage to take with us two brothers of the Onondagas and Oneidas, as witnesses, to this place, where our ancestors kindled their council fires, the smoke of which reached the heavens, and round which they sat and talked of peace. I observed at first, that I should only touch upon one event after another. But need I call your attention to the councils and treaties held here by your and our forefathers. They then had but one head and heart; the chain of friendship was made of silver, so that it would not rust. Our ancestors, you know, frequently met to brighten this chain, with a design to see whether any evil spirit, that disturbs the peace of brethren, shook at it or sat upon it.

But I must leave this pleasant subject, the paths of our ancestors. You have seen some of our brethren of the Five Nations, the Cayugas; you have opened your mind, and encouraged us to believe that you can save our sinking country; and that if any of your people have overleaped the bounds prescribed, you can erase the lines. This has given us great encouragement and universal pleasure.


The Cayugas and Senecas here present, thank you from the bottom of our hearts, that you have communicated freely with us. When we heard your first and second voice we were glad; but now we are quite rejoiced. It convinces us that you remembered and cherished the treaties between you and our forefathers. The great spirit gave our ancestors and us this island, and we know that you are anxious to promote his design that we should have a place whereon to live. We love our country, and our fathers loved their country.

We said we were glad to meet you and hear your voice, and to feel assured that you are able to save our sinking territory: we now put it all under your power: put your hands over the whole, reserving to us such a dish as you shall prescribe for us. This is perfectly agreeable to the usages of our ancestors, who loved peace, and loved their land; and why? because they loved their women and children; and while they loved peace and their land they enjoyed happy days.

We repeat that we rejoice in this meeting and in these proceedings. Those we have left behind, and those that will return from the south, will also rejoice at the result of our conferences. Our little ones can now look with pleasure for fish in the streams, and our warriors can hunt for wild beasts in the woods, and feel confident that they will not be driven from their country. (A string of black wampum with six rows.)


I have repeatedly said that I was glad to hear your mind; your words have sunk deep into my heart, and have raised up my land and country, that were about to sink. I entreat you, by this string, to keep firm to your word, and to reach out your hand over my country. Our dish we will reserve. This transaction will rejoice not only our absent friends, but our children’s children, to the latest generation. They will declare, with joy, that Auqilanda, [An Indian name to Governor Clinton, which signifies rising sun.] the governor of New York, has rescued their country from destruction. (A string of white wampum with six rows.)

You have heard our voice; we now entreat you to open you ears, and hear a speech from our sisters, the governesses.


Our ancestors considered it a great offence to reject the counsels of their women, particularly of the female governesses. They were esteemed the mistresses of the soil. Who, said our forefathers, bring us into being. Who, cultivate our lands, kindle our fires, and boil our pots, but the women?

Our women say, that they are apprehensive their uncles have lost the power of hunting, as they were about destroying their country; but they take this opportunity of thanking you for preventing their fall down the precipice to which their uncles had brought them.

They entreat that the veneration of their ancestors, in favor of women, be not disregarded, and that they may not be despised: the Great Spirit is their maker.

The female governesses beg leave to speak with that freedom allowed to women, and agreeable to the spirit of our ancestors. They entreat the great chief to put forth his strength and preserve them in peace; for they are the life of the nation; your power cannot be disputed. Those that disturb them are your subjects, and you can punish them. They rejoice that while their counsellors are settling a peace at Muskingum, and you are here laboring for their good, tranquillity will spread over the whole country. (Six strings of wampum.)

Then Good Peter added:


Possess your mind in peace. You are sensible that in affairs of importance omissions may be made, and that a person is always allowed afterward to correct them.

You have greatly encouraged us, by promising to watch over our peace, and to provide for our welfare. It is probable that when we have completed our business here, some bad men may break over the fence you have set around us. There are, excuse us brother, some bad men among the white people of this island; they may not hear your voice as far as our country: we therefore propose that Peter Ryckman, our child, may live among us in your behalf, look at our affairs, and watch over our interests.

You have now heard our minds, and the resolutions we had formed before we left our country. I only act here as an agent, by the request of my brothers, the Cayugas, and I am now released from my engagements.

Return to the Historical Documents page   |   Go to the Erie Canal home page