John Norton (Mohawk chief)

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John Norton
John Norton.jpg
Teyoninhokovrawen (John Norton)
Born Unknown 1760's
Unknown, likely Scotland
Died Unknown - sometime after 1826
Nationality Mohawk

The Mohawk Major John Norton (Teyoninhokovrawen) played a prominent role in the War of 1812, leading Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) warriors from Grand River into battle against American invaders at Queenston Heights, Stoney Creek, and Chippawa.

Early life[edit]

Norton was born of a Cherokee father and a Scottish mother, in the early 1760s.[1] His father was taken as a boy by British soldiers when his hometown of Keowee was destroyed by the British. It seems that Norton's father eventually joined the British Army and moved to Scotland, where he married. John Norton was likely educated in Scotland. He served an apprenticeship as a printer, but ran away to join the army. He was stationed in Ireland before being relocated to Lower Canada in 1785.

While with his regiment at Niagara (Upper Canada) in 1787, he deserted the army. For a time, Norton taught at Tyendinaga on the Bay of Quinte, west of Kingston, Ontario. In 1791 he traveled through the Ohio region as a trader and established many contacts. During this time, he became increasingly involved with the Six Nations of the Grand River. In 1794, he returned to Fort Niagara where he served as an interpreter for the Indian department. He was adopted by the Mohawks, with Joseph Brant as his uncle. Norton moved to Grand River where he married an Iroquois woman.

Bible translator[edit]

In the spring of 1804, Teyoninhokarawen (John Norton), arrived in England to negotiate treaties with the English. At the request of the British and Foreign Bible Society, he translated the Gospel of John into Mohawk. His work would represent a number of firsts for the newly formed Bible Society: the First translation; First publication; First distribution in a foreign land.

In the Mohawk Chapel at Brantford Ontario, there is a memorial window of unusual significance which portrays the distribution of the Gospel in Mohawk in 1806. the bottom panel of the window records Norton’s preface to his translation: “Let us strictly adhere to what the Lord has transmitted to us in the Holy Scriptures, that thereby the unbelievers may know that love we bear the commandments of God.” (from bookmark produced by the Canadian Bible Society)

As a Mohawk Chief[edit]

Portrait of Major John Norton as Mohawk Chief Teyoninhokarawen by Mather Brown, ca. 1805. Yale Center for British Art

Norton was especially inspired by the Mohawk chief, Joseph Brant (Thayendanega). Norton acquired the Mohawk language and culture, and was adopted into the community as Thayendanega's nephew and appointed a "Pine Tree Chief" according to Iroquois custom in a public ceremony.[2] Norton led a handful of Six Nations warriors into battle in Tecumseh's offensive against the Americans at Tippecanoe. When the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States began Norton was quick to join General Isaac Brock at Detroit, despite the official neutrality of the Canadian Six Nations. Following Brock's success at Detroit, more Six Nations Iroquois joined the British, and their timely arrival at Queenston Heights, under the leadership of Major Norton, John Brant (Joseph's son), and Lieutenant Kerr of the Indian Department, was crucial to British victory.

Following Queenston Heights, John Norton continued to lead increasingly numerous Iroquois contingents into several of the war's most significant battles. His journal, published under the title The Journal of Major John Norton, 1816, offers one of the most thorough firsthand accounts of the War of 1812 as well as a rare firsthand account of life among the Cherokees around 1809-1810, at the start of their final golden age before the Trail of Tears. Norton's journal was not a private diary, but rather intended for publication.

Historian Carl Benn addresses the question of "how Mohawk" John Norton was and how "Mohawk" his journal account of the War of 1812 is, since his formative years were spent in the Scotland and he had Cherokee and Scottish parents. Benn concludes that "by the Mohawk standards of the period, John Norton was a Mohawk," while noting that "some of his adversaries used his origins to defame him."[3]

Departure from Canada and disappearance[edit]

Norton's final years are a mystery, with suggestions he had left Canada and moved to as far as Laredo, Mexico. Like his whereabouts, his date of death is unknown, though he died sometime after 1826.[4]

Family tree[edit]

(MEN) Walter G. McNaughton; George S. Norton; John (Teyoninhokovrawen) Norton; Abrham Q. Norton; Theodore D. Norton; Daniel Sheldon Norton; John M. Norton Sr.; John M. Norton Jr.; Daniel J. Norton; David R. Norton; Connor J. Norton; Alec R. Norton; Robert Norton; Peter Norton.

(WOMEN) Martha A. McNaughton; Florence T. Norton; Elizabeth M. Norton; Agness W. Norton; Jane P. Norton; Barbara W. Norton; Kathleen E. Norton; N/A, Amanda G. Norton.


  1. ^ Taylor, pg. 359
  2. ^ "The journal of Major John Norton, 1816, ed. Klinck, Carl F. pgs. cx-cxi". The Champlain Society, General series 46.; 1970. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  3. ^ Benn, Carl (1998). The Iroquois in the War of 1812. University of Toronto Press. pp. 7–9, 33. ISBN 978-0-8020-8145-2. . Online at Google Books
  4. ^


  • Taylor, Ann, The Divided Ground, Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution, 2006, ISBN 0-679-45471-3

External links[edit]