Flemish Bastard

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Chief Canaqueese (Cangueese) was a Mohawk war chief and intercultural mediator who lived in the 17th century. Due to his multitude of connections between settler populations, Canaqueese is referred to by various names including The Flemish Bastard, Bastard Flamand, The Dutch Bastard, Smits Jan, and Smith's John.[1] He was an important intermediary between the French, Dutch and Mohawks during the Beaver Wars and participated in numerous attempts to reach a peace agreement between the Mohawks and the French.[1]

European sources refer to him as Canaqueese, Smits Jan, Smits Jon and the Flemish Bastard. He was given these different names by the various nations he interacted with. Canaqueese was his Mohawk name. Smits Jan was his Dutch name, one that he was probably given at his baptism or while visiting Dutch settlements in New Netherland. Smits Jon was an anglicized version of his Dutch name. It was given to him by the British after they conquered New Netherland and renamed it New York in 1664. Finally the Flemish Bastard was the name given to him by French Jesuits who saw him as "an execrable issue of sin, the monstrous offspring of a Dutch Heretic father and a pagan woman."[2][3] There is limited information about his early life since he first appears in the historical records in 1650, while leading a band of Mohawk warriors in an attack on the French settlement at Trois Rivières. However, we know that he was born in the Dutch village of Schenectady to a Mohawk mother and a Dutch father.[4]

It would seem that he was brought up by his mother and her relatives in a Mohawk village and considered fully Mohawk. This possibility can be explained by the fact that the matrilineal Mohawks saw individuals born of Mohawk women and European men as fully Mohawk. European sources further point to this, since Dutch sources do not mention his Dutch background, suggesting that he appeared Mohawk in dress and in custom. Only the records of the French Jesuits describe Canaqueese as an individual of partially Dutch descent.[3] Canaqueese probably participated in the Mourning Wars of the late 1640s. In these wars, the Seneca and Mohawk allied to attack, and eventually destroy, the Hurron Confederacy of Southern Ontario. There are no records that prove Canaqueese was involved in these wars. However, the fact that Irroquois warriors were promoted based on merit, and that he was referred to as a war chief in the Jesuit Relations detailing the Iroquois attack on Trois-Rivières of 1650, strongly suggests that Canaqueese had proven his skill in previous battles, most likelythe Mourning Wars.[5]

Affiliations[edit]

Canaqueese's role as an interpreter and courier between both colonial and native groups stems from his mixed background. The matrilineal system of the Natives explains Canaqueese's identification as fully Mohawk, despite his father's Dutch origin. An affiliation with the Dutch is consistent in Canaqueese's narrative, stemming from his beginnings of learning the Dutch language. This was done through the trading of beaver pelts in the summer months with Dutch settlers officials in Fort Orange, Rensslaerswick and Beverwijck.[6]

After the Dutch established a relationship with Canaqueese, they introduced him to the inter-colonial relationships of North America by enlisting him as a courier, bringing letters from Fort Orange to Canada in 1653 that would facilitate a peace agreement between French and Mohawks.[7] The Dutch recommended Canaqueese to the French as a negotiator, describing him in letters as a savage much loved by the Mohawks.[8] Canaqueese's biculturalism was an important factor in his role as a mediator.

It seems as though through his intermediary efforts, Canaqueese's relationship with several European colonies increased his position within Mohawk territory, as he gained important information on European policies and plans in regard to Mohawks.[9]

Chimney speech[edit]

In 1654, concerned that relations between the French and the other Iroquois nations threatened Mohawk control over trade with the Europeans, Canaqueese went on two diplomatic journeys to Canada. During these journeys, he warned the French that they should work directly with the Mohawks, who considered themselves to be the leaders of the Iroquois nations, instead of with the Onondagas. The assembly of the five Iroquois Nations frequently referred to themselves as the Longhouse, or "the completed cabin", a symbol of their binding ties to each other.[10]

Below, Canaqueese's speech to some of the Jesuit missionaries, including Father Simon Le Moyne:

Ought not one to enter a house by the door, and not by the chimney or roof of the cabin, unless he be a thief, and wish to take the inmates by surprise? We, the five Iroquois Nations, compose but one cabin; we maintain but one fire; and we have, from time immemorial, dwelt under one and the same roof. Well, then, will you not enter the cabin by the door, which is at the ground floor of the house? It is with us [Mohawk], that you should begin; whereas you, by beginning with the [Onondagas], try to enter by the roof and through the chimney. Have you no fear that the smoke may blind you, our fire not being extinguished, and that you may fall from the top to the bottom, having nothing solid on which to plant your feet?[11]

Unfortunately for the Iroquois, this assertion of power did not translate into an effective monopolization on trade with the Europeans. The Iroquois tried to prevent Father Le Moyne from going to Onondaga, and when he travelled west anyway, they held him and his party captive.[12] Eventually, the Onondagas convinced the Mohawks to allow Father Le Moyne to continue on his journey. This event highlighted the tension between the Iroquois nations, despite their claims of a united group, and the importance of trade between the Native American and European populations.

Beaver Wars[edit]

Chief Canaqueese played a role as both a military leader and a mediator in the Beaver Wars, a series of conflicts between the French and the Iroquois that took place during the mid-17th Century.[13]

Although Canaqueese is first mentioned as a war chief in 1650, when he led an attack on Trois-Rivières, he probably earned this title by participating in the earlier Iroquois-Huron conflicts of the 1640s.[14] Subsequent references to Canaqueese during the so-called Beaver Wars largely highlight his role as a mediator between the Mohawks and French. From 1653-4, Canaqueese delivered letters between Fort Orange and Quebec to facilitate a peace treaty between the French and the Mohawks.[1] Throughout the course of these negotiations he made use of his connections with the Dutch, who wrote a letter recommending Canaqueese to the French, and assuring them of the Mohawk's honourable intentions. Canaqueese's reputation played a pivotal role in securing the peace settlement, and his work as mediator assuaged the French's initial skepticism about the Mohawk commitment to peace.[15] It was shortly after this episode that Canaqueese gave his famous speech about Iroquois diplomatic policy in Quebec.

Canaqueese again played an important mediating role in establishing the peace between the Mohawks and French in the late 1660s. In July 1666, aware that the French were preparing an attack on Mohawk lands, a group of Mohawk warriors ambushed some French officers in Lake Champlain, killing seven and taking four prisoner. In response, Governor Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy imprisoned several members of an Oneida delegation in Quebec. Canaqueese and three other Mohawk headmen traveled Quebec to exchange the prisoners and ratify a peace treaty between the two nations.[16] These Mohawk leaders were troubled by the lack of support that their English and Dutch allies were providing them, and had decided to seek peace with the French.[17]

The delegation arrived August 28, but talks broke down in early September when Governor de Tracy imprisoned the Mohawk delegates. During the fall of 1666 violence between the French and Mohawks resumed. Canaqueese was released from custody in November by Intendant Jean Talon, and sent back to Mohawk country with an official offer for peace.[18] This peace required that the Mohawks release some of their Huron, Algonquin, and French captives, who had been adopted into Mohawk villages according to Iroquois practice.[19]

After Canaqueese made series of diplomatic missions in spring 1667, peace between the Mohawks and French was successfully established and the Mohawks released their prisoners.20 This peace settlement lasted for more than a decade, and led to a period of Mohawk migration north into New France. Canaqueese took part in this migration, settling in the St. Lawrence Valley in 1667.[20]

Fighting against Iroquois with Denonville[edit]

Canaqueese is not mentioned in any sources again until 1687, when he is listed as one of the "Christian Iroquois" who marched against the Seneca with the forces of Governor Denonville.[21] Mark Meuwese argues that attacking Iroquoia was "not necessarily an indication of his abandonment of an Iroquois identity," but that "since the Iroquois refugee communities on the St. Lawrence Valley were politically independent from the Five Nations, the Flemish Bastard may have sincerely viewed the Senecas as an obstacle to the interests of the Christian Indians."[22] The migration process of the Iroquois into New France had fundamentally altered the conception of Iroquois identity, and it was not uncommon for the new Native settlers to ally with the French and turn against their ancestral communities.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Grassman, Thomas. "Flemish Bastard (Bâtard Flamand, Dutch Bastard, Smits Jan, Smiths John)" In Dictionary of Canadian Biography: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2000.
  2. ^ Meuwese, Marcus P. "'For the peace and well-being of the country': Intercultural mediators and Dutch-Indian relations in New Netherland and Dutch Brazil, 1600-1664." PhD diss., University Notre Dame, 2003, 480.
  3. ^ a b Karl S. Hele. Lines Drawn upon the Water: First Nations and the Great Lakes Borders and Borderlands. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed February 28, 2013) : 44.
  4. ^ Lowensteyn, P. The Role of the Dutch in the Iroquois Wars. Canadian Association for the Advancement of Netherlandic Studies (1983): 5-13. Karl S. Hele., 44.
  5. ^ Karl S. Hele. Lines Drawn upon the Water: First Nations and the Great Lakes Borders and Borderlands. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed February 28, 2013) : 50.
  6. ^ Karl S. Hele. Lines Drawn upon the Water: First Nations and the Great Lakes Borders and Borderlands. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed February 28, 2013) : 49.
  7. ^ Linguistic Communication between the Dutch and Indians in New Netherland 1609-1664 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/481424) - page 36
  8. ^ Lowensteyn, P. The Role of the Dutch in the Iroquois Wars. Canadian Association for the Advancement of Netherlandic Studies (1983): 5-13.
  9. ^ Karl S. Hele. Lines Drawn upon the Water: First Nations and the Great Lakes Borders and Borderlands. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed February 28, 2013) : 55.
  10. ^ Midtrød, Tom Arne. The Flemish Bastard and the Former Indians: Métis and Identity in Seventeenth-Century New York. The American Indian Quarterly, Volume 34 (Winter 2010): 86.
  11. ^ The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610-1791. Relation of 1653-54 XLI. Ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites. Cleveland: Burrows, 1899. Canadiana, 87.
  12. ^ The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610-1791. Relation of 1653-54 XLI. Ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites. Cleveland: Burrows, 1899. Canadiana, 89.
  13. ^ Heidenreich, Conrad. Beaver Wars. The Oxford Companion to Canadian History. ed. Gerald Hallowell. Oxford University Press: 2004.
  14. ^ Karl S. Hele. Lines Drawn upon the Water: First Nations and the Great Lakes Borders and Borderlands. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed February 28, 2013) : 50.
  15. ^ Karl S. Hele. Lines Drawn upon the Water: First Nations and the Great Lakes Borders and Borderlands. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed February 28, 2013) : 51.
  16. ^ Parmenter, Jon, At The Edge of Woods. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010., 120.
  17. ^ Karl S. Hele. Lines Drawn upon the Water: First Nations and the Great Lakes Borders and Borderlands. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed February 28, 2013) : 57.
  18. ^ Meuwese, Marcus P. "'For the peace and well-being of the country': Intercultural mediators and Dutch-Indian relations in New Netherland and Dutch Brazil, 1600-1664. PhD diss., University Notre Dame, 2003, 59.
  19. ^ Parmenter, Jon, At The Edge of Woods. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010., 130.
  20. ^ Meuwese, Marcus P. "'For the peace and well-being of the country': Intercultural mediators and Dutch-Indian relations in New Netherland and Dutch Brazil, 1600-1664." PhD diss., University Notre Dame, 2003, 63.
  21. ^ Parmenter, Jon, At The Edge of Woods. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010., 190.
  22. ^ Meuwese, Marcus P. "'For the peace and well-being of the country': Intercultural mediators and Dutch-Indian relations in New Netherland and Dutch Brazil, 1600-1664." PhD diss., University Notre Dame, 2003, 62.