Michael L. Oberg
The Iroquois, the United States, and the Treaty of Canandaigua, 1794
University Press 2015
On November 11, 2015, leaders and citizens of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy–Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora–will gather in the small lakeside city of Canandaigua, New York to commemorate the 221st anniversary of a monumental treaty.
Negotiated between the Confederacy and representatives of new federal government in the autumn of 1794, the Treaty of Canandaigua recognized the sovereign status of the Six Nations as separate polities with the right to the “free use and enjoyment” of their lands. While state and private actors would soon violate the accord, seizing ever more Haudenosaunee territory, the Canandaigua Treaty remains a binding expression of “peace and friendship” between the the Confederacy (commonly known as the Iroquois) and the United States.
Michael L. Oberg tells this remarkable story of intercultural diplomacy in Peacemakers: The Iroquois, the United States, and the Treaty of Canandaigua, 1794 (Oxford University Press, 2015). Distinguished Professor of History at SUNY-Geneseo, Oberg narrates the twists and turns of war, dispossession, and resilience that brought sixteen hundred Haudenosaunee delegates, including Red Jacket, Cornplanter, and Handsome Lake, to a council with Colonel Timothy Pickering, an official representative of President George Washington.
“Brother, we the Sachems of the Six Nations will now tell our minds,” Red Jacket declared in 1794. “The business of this treaty is to brighten the Chain of Friendship between us and the fifteen fires.” The Haudenosaunee continue that effort today.