Hendrick Theyanoguin

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This engraving was sold in London after Hendrick's death in the Battle of Lake George.[1] He holds a belt of wampum in his left hand.[2]

Hendrick Theyanoguin (c. 1691 – September 8, 1755), whose name had several spelling variations, was an important Mohawk leader and member of the Bear Clan; he resided at Canajoharie or the Upper Mohawk Castle in colonial New York.[3] He was a Speaker for the Mohawk Council. Hendrick formed a close alliance with Sir William Johnson, the Superintendent of Indian affairs in North America.

Until the late 20th century, Hendrick's biography was conflated with an older Mohawk leader given the same first name in baptism, Hendrick Tejonihokarawa (also known as Hendrick Peters) (c. 1660 – c. 1735). The latter was a member of the Wolf Clan (an important difference, as shown by the historian Barbara Silvertsen) and based in Tiononderoge, the Lower Castle, closer to the English base in Albany. He was one of the "four Indian kings" who visited England and Queen Anne in 1710.[3] The English built Fort Hunter in Tionondaga in 1711 with an Anglican mission. The Mohawk village became mostly Christianized early in the eighteenth century.


Hendrick Theyanoguin was born to a Mohawk woman and a Mohegan man in Westfield, Massachusetts. He was born into his mother's Bear Clan. The Mohawk and all the Iroquois nations have a matrilineal kinship system in which the mother's children belong to her clan, and hereditary offices and property are passed through her line.[3] The mother's oldest brother plays a prominent role in her children's lives, especially for boys. Theyanoguin was baptized as "Hendrick" by Godfridius Dellius of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1692. The English referred to him as Hendrick Peters or King Hendrick.[4]

At some point, Theyanoguin resettled at Canajoharie, a Mohawk town which Europeans called the "Upper Castle", in the Mohawk River valley upriver and west of Schenectady. He became a chief of the Mohawk Bear clan and would have participated in the Mohawk Council. He was not one of the fifty League sachems of the Iroquois Grand Council, made up of representatives of the Five Nations (six, when the Tuscarora were admitted in 1722).

Theyanoguin worked to continue the alliance with the English to preserve Mohawk and Iroquois interests in New York. They depended more on diplomacy than warfare, and tried to preserve neutrality during the English-French rivalries and conflicts of the colonial years.

During the French and Indian War (the North American theater of the Seven Years' War, 1754-1763), Theyanoguin led a group of Mohawk warriors to accompany William Johnson, the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, through the Hudson Valley in his expedition to Crown Point.

In 1753 Theyanoguin made a speech he made a famous and critical speech to the governor of New York saying: "Brother, by and by you will expect to see the Nations (the Six Nations of the Iroquois) down here" (i.e. in New York), and contemporary newspapers and broadsheets made much of the fear of this threat.[5]

Theyanoguin was killed at the Battle of Lake George on September 8, 1755, on a mission to stop the southern advance of the French army.

Sir William Johnson did not establish a mission in Canajoharie until 1769, when he paid for the Indian Castle Church to be built nearby. This was several years before the American Revolutionary War. Today it has been designated as part of the Mohawk Upper Castle Historic District, a National Historic Landmark.


  1. ^ Hinderaker, 6.
  2. ^ Anderson, 39.
  3. ^ a b c Sivertsen, Barbara J. Turtles, Wolves, and Bears: A Mohawk Family History (1996), genealogy, reprint Heritage Books, 2007
  4. ^ Hinderaker. "Searching for Hendrick", p. 6
  5. ^ The World Atlas of Revolutions, Andrew Wheatcroft, p.15

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