Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754

By Timothy J. Shannon | Go to book overview

[I] A Local Path to Albany: The Mohawk Valley

Brother:

. . . as soon as we come home we will send up a Belt of Wampum to our Brothers the 5 Nations to acquaint them the Covenant Chain is broken between you and us. So brother you are not to expect to hear of me any more, and Brother we desire to hear no more of you. And we shall no longer acquaint you with any News or affairs as we used to do.

--Mohawk chief Hendrick to New York governor George Clinton,

June 16, 1753

The story of the Albany Congress begins not in the council chambers and assembly halls of colonial capitals but on the fringe of British North America, along a frontier populated by Indians, colonial farmers, traders, and soldiers. In the mid-eighteenth century, the Mohawk Valley was an axis of empire, a borderland between the continent's British, French, and Native American inhabitants. At its eastern end, the Mohawk River flowed into the Hudson, the major interior waterway of New York. Moving west along the Mohawk took the traveler beyond the pale of European settlement into the homelands of the Six Iroquois Nations: from east to west, the Mohawks, Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas (see map 1.1).1 North of Albany, the Lake Champlain corridor led to the St. Lawrence River, Montreal, and Quebec.

____________________
1
It is important here to distinguish between the Iroquois League and the Iroquois Confederacy. The League, which originally included five nations (Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas) and expanded in the early eighteenth century to six (Tuscaroras), predated European contact. The League's orientation was intramural, focused on maintaining peace and cooperation among the member nations through councils and rituals held in Onondaga. The Confederacy took shape during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as the Iroquois gained influence among neighboring colonists and Indians. Its orientation was extramural, focused on extending Iroquois trade and diplomacy to outsiders, be they other Indians or colonists. Albany was the most common site of Iroquois-European diplomacy conducted under the aegis of the Covenant Chain. See Daniel K. Richter, "Ordeal of theLonghouse: The Five Nations in Early American History,"

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