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Interpreting the Evidence

New York Relations with the Mohawk

  1. Load Message from the Mohawk and Canajoharie Indians to Acting Governor James DeLancey, 1755 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Topics: Indigenous Relations in 1775, French and Indian War, Communication in the 1770s

 ​​​​Skills: Responding to text, Metaphor as a literary device, Friendly letter writing

This document shows Mohawk and Canajoharie petitioning British government leaders asking for assistance and protection. The very close relationship the indigenous people had with Sir William Johnson at a time where such distrust and war were rampant. The petition shows the strength of communication and the trust and hopes indigenous groups had in British Government leaders at the time.

Historical Context: The French and Indian War (1689-1763) was a battle between the British and French for territory and colonial domination in North America.  The indigenous people throughout the colonies divided, some supporting the British and others supporting the French. In 1775 Sir William Johnson was appointed as Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He worked to create an ally relationship between the Six Nations and England. Most of the support from the indigenous groups during this time was a direct result of Sir Williams’s relationship with them. In this document, Sir William Johnson (referred to as Brother Warreghijagey in the text) in February 1755 meets with the Mohawk and Canajoharie; he agrees to take their message to the British Colonial Governor of New York James DeLancey (referred to as Brother Goragh). The message conveys their concern and apprehension of pending danger and is asking for assistance from the governor. Later that year Johnson’s troops were attacked at Lake George by the French; this battle was the only win for British troops that year. 

Essential Question: What is the relationship between the Mohawk and Canajoharie and the British Government Officials in the 1750s?


Mount Johnson February the 7th 1755
att a meeting of the Mohawks & Canajoharies Indians, Laurence a Mohawk & their first
Warriour stood up, and spoke in behalf of both Castles as follows

Brother Warraghijagey
When the news of your intention of going to New York reached our ears, Both Men, & Women mett together in Council and then concluded to embrace the favourable opertunity of sending a message by you to our Brother Goragh, which We now earnestly entreat you to deliver to Him with these strings of Wampum -

Brother Goragh,
When We had the pleasure of seeing you last summer at Albany, the air seemed to us pleasant, the sky pritty serene & clear. but to our great concern we now observe, thick, & heavy clouds arizeing on all sides, and driveing this way, which seems to portend a storm, Should it blow hard, we are very apprehensive of Danger, haveing no shelter, To you therefore Brother (in whose power it is to draw on, or disperse those Dark Clouds) We make known our fears, not doubting but You (Out of a Brotherly affection) will either remove them, and Ease the Minds of our old, & young people, or cover us from the pending storm.

four strings of Black Wampum

Verbatim as delivered to me
Wm Johnson
Mount Johnson Feb. 7, 1755
Message from the Mohawk & Cannajohary Indians desiring something may be done to remove
their present Apprehensions of Danger
Feb 28. Read in Council

Document Analysis:

1.      Provide historical context from the historical background section.

2.      Read the document with the whole class.

3.      Define the literary device Metaphor, as a device that suggests one thing is another thing or direct comparison between two, unlike things.

 ​​​​Applying Historical Knowledge to Document:

1.      How can you tell women have a role in government in the indigenous culture?

2.      Why do you think strings of wampum were included?

3.      What are the Mohawks and Canajahaire concerned about?

4.      How might the colonial governor of New York ease the minds of Indigenous groups?

 ​​​​​​Optional Extension Activity

The following activity could be completed in order to extend students’ thinking and encourage them to make connections:

Have students write a response to the message, as if they are Governor DeLancey.  This is to be in the form of a friendly letter, responding to all of the Indigenous concerns and explaining the British role in New York in 1775.