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by Jud Hartmann
 
 
 
 

"Canassetego" by Jud Hartmann

An event of far reaching consequences occurred at the 1744 Treaty of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, At this important gathering, attended by many Indian nations, colonial governors and other representatives of the British colonies, an old Iroquois chief, whose features (in the words of Cadwallader Colden, Lieutenant Governor of New York) "reminded me of the busts of Cicero. . .and whose oratory would have pleased in any part of the world", delivered a memorable and dramatic metaphor. Canassetego, an unusually tall and well-muscled man, speaker of the Grand Council at Onondaga and spokesman for the most powerful Indian confederacy ever created in North America, strode forward to address the immense gathering. Frustrated by the repeated inability of the colonies to unite in a concerted effort against the common enemy, French Canada, Canassetego took from his quiver a single arrow. Effortlessly he broke it in two. "You are all separate and easily broken as this single arrow", he said. Then, taking from his quiver five arrows wrapped in a ceremonial snakeskin (representing the Iroquois League), he showed that they had a combined strength which could not be broken. "Our wise forefathers," he continued, "established union and amity between the Five Nations. This has made us formidable. This has given us great weight and authority over our neighboring nations. We are a powerful confederacy and by your observing the same methods . . . you too will acquire fresh strength and power; Therefore whatever befalls you, do not fall out with one another."

Canassetego's admonition would echo throughout the colonies for over a generation, not only as a rallying cry against the French but against British tyranny as well. His speech was to be the catalyst in initiating a series of ideas and events, beginning with Franklin's Albany Plan of Union (1754), and leading ultimately to the birth of a new nation thirty-two years later, exactly to the day, on the 4th of July, 1776.


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