Cornplanter

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For other uses, see Cornplanter (disambiguation).
Cornplanter
Cornplanter.jpg
Chief Cornplanter, portrait by Frederick Bartoli, 1796
Tribe Seneca
Born c. 1732
Canawaugus (now part of Caledonia, NY)
Died 1836
Cornplanter Tract, Pennsylvania
Successor Edward Cornplanter
Native name Gaiänt'wakê, Kaintwakon
Nickname(s) John Abeel, John O'Bail
Known for War chief during the French and Indian War. Fought with British during American Revolutionary War. Known for his diplomacy. Opposed liquor; worked with Quakers to bring farming to the Seneca. His home, the Cornplanter Tract, was flooded by Kinzua Dam.
Parents Aliquipiso, (Seneca), Johannes Abeel (Dutch)
Relatives Son, Edward Cornplanter. Brother, Half-Town; half-brother, Handsome Lake. Uncle, Guyasutha. Nephew, Governor Blacksnake.

John Abeel (ca. 1730s–February 18, 1836), known as Gaiänt'wakê (Gyantwachia - ″the planter″) or Kaiiontwa'kon (Kaintwakon - "By What One Plants") in the Seneca language and thus generally known as Cornplanter, was a Seneca war chief and diplomat. As a war chief, Cornplanter fought in the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. In both wars, the Seneca and three other Iroquois nations were allied with the British. After the war Cornplanter led negotiations with the United States and was a signatory of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1784). He helped gain Iroquois neutrality during the Northwest Indian War.

In the postwar years, he worked to learn more about European-American ways and invited Quakers to establish schools in Seneca territory. Disillusioned by his people's poor reaction to European-American society, he had the schools closed and renewed some Seneca ways. The United States government granted him about 1500 acres of former Seneca territory in Pennsylvania in 1796 for "him and his heirs forever", which became known as the Cornplanter Tract. It was flooded in 1965 by the Kinzua Dam, and most of the remaining residents were relocated to the Allegany Reservation of the federally recognized Seneca Nation of New York.

Early life[edit]

He was the son of a Seneca mother, Aliquipiso, and a Dutch father, an Albany fur trader named Johannes "John" Abeel (last name sometimes Gaelicized to O'Bail). His father was a gunsmith and was gladly accepted into the Indian community to fix their guns. Although his Father was white, Cornplanter was considered Indian because in that time a child's race was determined by his or her mother's race. His Seneca name, Gaiänt'wakê (often spelled Gyantwachia), means “the planter,” and another variation, Kaintwakon, means “by what one plants.” He was born at Canawaugus (now in the Town of Caledonia) on the Genesee River in present-day New York State around 1750. He was raised by his mother among the Seneca. As the Seneca and other Iroquois nations had a matrilineal system of kinship, Cornplanter was considered to be born into his mother's clan, the Wolf Clan (A well respected Indian Clan consisting of many leaders in the relations between U.S settlers and Indians), and gained his status from them. [1]

War chief[edit]

Cornplanter first became known as war chief of the Seneca when they allied with the French against the English during the French and Indian War (part of the Seven Years' War between the European nations). He was present at Braddock's defeat.[2]

During the American Revolution, both Cornplanter and his uncle, Chief Guyasutha, wanted the Iroquois to remain neutral. He believed the Iroquois should stay out of the white man's war. "War is war," he told other Iroquois. "Death is death. A fight is a hard business."[citation needed] Both the British and the American Patriots had urged the Iroquois nations to stay neutral.

Both sides initially told Indians that there was no need for their involvement. When the fighting between the Colonists and the British heated up, however; both sides sequentially tried to recruit the Iroquois as allies. The British offered large amounts of goods, specifically rum and other goods. The Iroquois League met together at Oswego in July 1777, to vote on their decision. Although Guysutha and Cornplanter voted for neutrality, when the majority of chiefs voted to side with the British, they both honored the majority decision. Because of the status of the Seneca as War Chiefs among the Iroquois, most of the Iroquois Confederacy followed suit. The Iroquois named Sayenqueraghta and Cornplanter as war chiefs of the Iroquois. Four of the Iroquois nations were allies of the British: the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga and Cayuga.

Cornplanter joined forces with the Loyalist Lt. Colonel John Butler and his rangers at the 1778 Battle of Wyoming Valley in present-day Pennsylvania. They killed many settlers and destroyed their properties, in what became known in United States history as the Wyoming Valley Massacre.

Fighting on the frontier was fierce. Patriot forces under Colonel Thomas Hartley burned Tioga. In reprisal, Cornplanter and Joseph Brant participated in the 1778 Loyalist-Iroquois attacks led by Captain Walter Butler and Butler's Rangers in Cherry Valley, New York, later known by the Americans as the Cherry Valley Massacre. During this campaign, Cornplanter's men happened to capture his father Johannes Abeel after burning his house. Cornplanter, who had once gone as a young man to see Abeel, recognized him and offered apology. He invited Abeel to return with the Seneca or to go back to his white family. When his father chose the latter, Cornplanter had Seneca warriors accompany him in safety.[citation needed]

After the victories of the Loyalist and Iroquois forces, commander-in-chief General George Washington commissioned Major General John Sullivan to invade Six Nation territory throughout New York and destroy Iroquois villages. At the Battle of Newtown, Iroquois and British troops were decisively defeated. But Sullivan and his army of 5,000 men caused greater damage in their scorched earth campaign. They methodically destroyed Iroquois villages, farms, stored crops and animals between May and September 1779 throughout the Iroquois homeland (upstate and western New York).[3] Cornplanter, along with Brant, Old Smoke, and Lt. Colonel John Butler, fought a desperate delaying action in order to allow the escape of many refugees, both Native and non-Native, who went to Canada. Surviving Iroquois suffered terribly during the following months in what they called “the winter of the deep snow.” Many froze or starved to death. Cornplanter and Seneca warriors continued to fight with the British against the Patriots, hoping to expel the colonists from their territory.

Post-Revolutionary War years[edit]

With Britain's final defeat in the war, Cornplanter recognized the need for a positive diplomatic relationship with the fledgling government of what the Iroquois called the "Thirteen Fires." He became a negotiator in disputes between the new "Americans" and the Seneca as well as other indigenous tribes. He was a signatory of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1784), and participated in later meetings with both presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.[1]

After the American Revolution, Native Americans west of the Allegheny Mountains mounted a resistance in the Northwest Indian War in Ohio and Indiana, hoping to repulse the Americans. Cornplanter kept the Iroquois neutral in this conflict. In addition, he tried to negotiate with the Shawnee on behalf of the U.S.

In 1790, Cornplanter and his brother Half-Town (also a chief) traveled to Philadelphia to meet with President George Washington and Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Mifflin; they were protesting the current treatment of their people. Cornplanter and Half-Town extracted an agreement from Washington and Mifflin to protect Iroquois land. [see: The speech of the Cornplanter ..., December 1, 1790, at external links.]

Cornplanter made many trips to the cities to strengthen relationships and talk with those who were interested in his people. He tried to learn the ways of the European Americans, as he saw it necessary for future relations between the Haudenosaunee and Americans. He was impressed by the beliefs and practice of the Quakers. He invited them to educate his son and develop schools in Seneca territory. He and his half-brother, the religious leader Handsome Lake, strongly opposed liquor among the Seneca.

During the War of 1812, Cornplanter supported the American cause, convincing his people to do so as well. At one point he offered to bring two hundred warriors to assist the U.S., but his offer was refused.

He allowed Quakers into his village to help the Seneca learn new skills when they could no longer rely on hunting or the fur trade as a way of life. He also encouraged men to join the women working in the fields to help increase their farming economy.

Eventually, Cornplanter became disillusioned with his relationship with the Americans. To help fight the drunkenness and despair suffered by many Indians, his half-brother Handsome Lake preached that the Iroquois must return to the traditional way of life and take part in religious ceremonies. Cornplanter felt his people were poorly treated by the Americans. He heeded Handsome Lake's prophecy that they should return to tradition and turn away from assimilation to white ways. He burned his military uniform, broke his sword, and destroyed his medals. He closed the schools but did not completely break relations with the Quakers; he retained a relationships of love and respect with them.

The Cornplanter Tract[edit]

In gratitude for his assistance to the state, the federal government gave Cornplanter a grant of 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) in Pennsylvania in 1796 along the western bank of the Allegheny River (about three miles (5 km) below the southern boundary of New York state) to him and his heirs "forever".[1] By 1798, 400 Seneca lived on the land, which was called the Cornplanter Tract or Cornplanter Grant (Cayuga: Gyonǫhsade:gęh [4]). In 1821 Warren County, Pennsylvania tried to force Cornplanter to pay taxes for his land, which he protested on the basis that the land had been "granted" to him by the U.S. government. After much talk, the state finally agreed that the Cornplanter Tract was exempt.

Family[edit]

Cornplanter was half-brother to Handsome Lake (Sganyadai:yo, ca. 1735-1815), a Seneca religious leader of the Iroquois. He was uncle to Governor Blacksnake (Thaonawyuthe, ca. 1760-1859),[5] a Seneca war chief who, like Cornplanter, had an exceptionally long life for a man of his times. Artist Jesse Cornplanter was his last known direct descendant (1889–1957).[6] Cornplanter had children as well. In the winter of 1790, he spent a year in Pennsylvania, during which he attended several Quaker gatherings. He was not converted by these gatherings, but he was impressed enough to send his children to the Quaker school the following year. This sparked an unexpected relationship between Cornplanter and the Quaker community.

Cornplanter Monument[edit]

Cornplanter died on the Cornplanter Tract in 1836. He requested a grave with no marker. The monument which was installed over his grave by the State of Pennsylvania in 1866 "is believed to be first monument erected in honor of a Native American in the United States."

Hon. James Ross Snowden of Philadelphia gave the dedicatory address. Snowden said in part:

He was a dauntless warrior and wisest statesman of his nation, the patriarch of this tribe and the peacemaker of his race. He was a model man from nature’s mould. Truth, temperance, justice and humanity, never had a nobler incarnation or more earnest and consistent advocate then he. As we loved him personally, and revere the nobel, manly character he bore, we erect this tribute to his memory, that those who live after us may know and imitate his virtues.[7]

Relocation of Cornplanter's grave after Kinzua Dam construction[edit]

In 1965, the new Kinzua Dam at Warren, Pennsylvania permanently flooded all but a small corner of the Cornplanter Tract and created the Allegheny Reservoir.[8] Cornplanter's grave, including the Cornplanter Monument, was subsequently moved to higher ground, at the Riverview-Corydon Cemetery, located in Elk Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania.[9][10][11][12] "The grounds are located west of the north central Pennsylvania town of Bradford, just about 100 yards from the New York state line. The cemetery contains what are believed to be the remains of Cornplanter, his descendants and residents of Corydon."[13][14] The State of Pennsylvania erected an honorary marker in 1966.[1] Most of the Seneca moved to the Allegany Reservation in New York.

Legacy[edit]

Biographies[edit]

Novel[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Chief Cornplanter". Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Cornplanter". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  3. ^ Stanley J. Adamiak. "The 1779 Sullivan Campaign: A Little-Known Offensive Strategic To The War Breaks The Indian Nations' Power". Retrieved 2006-11-11. 
  4. ^ "Cayuga: Our Oral Legacy - Home. Cayuga Digital Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  5. ^ Historic Seneca Leaders
  6. ^ Lester, Patrick D. The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters. Tulsa, OK: SIR Publications, 1995: 125
  7. ^ "Cornplanter - Gyantwahia Biography". Seneca Nation of Indians Blog / SNI Archives Dept. Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  8. ^ Wallace, Paul A. W.; Hunter, William A. (1999). Indians in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg, Pa: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. p. 174. ISBN 0-89271-017-9. "'For his many conciliatory acts, Pennsylvania gave him deeds for three tracts of land, only one of which he kept, the Cornplanter Grant, submerged in 1967 by the Kinzua Dam.'" 
  9. ^ "Cornplanter Cemetery - Warren County, Pennsylvania". Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  10. ^ "Chief Cornplanter - Find A Grave Flowers". Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  11. ^ "Cemetery Flooded by the Kinzua Dam". Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  12. ^ Dean Wells (2009-03-03). "Work on Cornplanter Cemetery set to begin with spring". The Times Observer, TimesObserver.com. Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  13. ^ Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. (December 1968). "Cornplanter, Can You Swim?". American Heritage Magazine 20 (1). Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  14. ^ Genaro C. Armas. "Erosion at Seneca cemetery dredge lingering bitterness". News From Indian Country. Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  15. ^ "Cornplanter State Forest". Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  16. ^ "Cornplanter Medal for Iroquois Research, Tiffany : Lot 456". Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  17. ^ A Citizens' Wilderness Proposal for Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest http://www.pawild.org/exec_summary.html
  18. ^ "Giving thanks for Chief Cornplanter's legacy - Topix". Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  19. ^ Chris Lareau (2009-12-17). "Cornplanter, can you swim?". Allegheny Almanac. Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  20. ^ "Center Street Bridge Dedicated as ‘Chief Cornplanter Bridge’". The Salamanca Press. 2011-11-10. Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  21. ^ Wells, Randy. "Betts recounts life of lesser-known Native American leader". The Indiana Gazette Online (Indiana County, PA). Retrieved September 23, 2012.  "Cornplanter is probably the most important of Native Americans, with the possible exception of Joseph Brant," Betts said. Betts is a retired Indiana University of Pennsylvania English professor and author."

References[edit]

External links[edit]