Oneida Declaration of Neutrality, 1775
The Oneida nation, one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), issued a formal declaration of neutrality on June 19, 1775 to the governor of Connecticut after the imperial crisis between Great Britain and their North American colonies erupted into violence. This declaration hints at the Oneida conceptions of their own sovereignty among the Six Nations confederacy, the independence of other Native American nations, and how the Oneida understand the conflict as a war “between two brothers.” Samuel Kirkland, a missionary living in Iroquois country, interpreted and transcribed the Oneida’s words and sent them to Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut.
A Speech of the Chiefs and Warriors of the Oneida Tribe of Indians, to the four New-England Provinces, directed to Governour Trumbull; and by him to be communicated:
As our younger brothers of the New-England Indians, (who have settled in our vicinity) are now going down to visit their friends, and to move up parts of their families that were left behind, with this belt by them, we open the road wide, clearing it of all obstacles, that they may visit their friends and return to their settlements here in peace.
We Oneidas are induced to this measure on account of the disagreeable situation of affairs that way; and we hope, by the help of God, that they may go and return in peace. We earnestly recommend them to your charity through their long journey.
Now we more immediately address you, our brother, the Governor and the Chiefs of New-England.
Brothers! We have heard of the unhappy differences and great contention betwixt you and old England. We wonder greatly, and are troubled in our minds.
Brothers! Possess your minds in peace respecting us Indians. We cannot intermeddle in this dispute between two brothers. The quarrel seems to be unnatural; you are two brothers of one blood. We are unwilling to join one other side in such a contest, for we bear an equal affection to both of you, Old and New-England. Should the great King of England apply to us for our aid, we shall deny him. If the Colonies apply, we will refuse. The present situation of you two brothers is new and strangetous. We Indians can not find nor recollect in the traditions of our ancestors the like case or a similar instance.
Brothers! For these reasons possess your minds in peace, and taken umbrage that we Indians refuse joining in the contest; we are for peace.
Brothers! Was it an alien, a foreign Nation, which struck you, we should look into the matter. We hope, through the wise government and good pleasure of God, your distresses may soon be removed, and the dark cloud be dispersed.
Brothers! As we have declared for peace, we desire you will not apply to our Indian brethren in New-England for their assistance. Let us Indians be all of one mind, and live in peace with one another, and you white people settle your own disputes betwixt yourselves.
Brothers! We have now declared our minds; please write to us that we may know yours. We, the sachems, warriors, and female governesses of Oneida, send our love to you, brother Governour, and all the other chiefs in New-England.
Signed by the Chief Warriors of the Oneida: William Sunoghsis, Viklasha Watshaleagh, William Kanaghquassea, Peter Thayehcase, Germine Tegayavher, Nickhes Ahsechose, Thomas Yoghtanawca, Adam Ohonwano, Quedellis Agwerondongwas, Handerchiko Tegahpreahdyen, John Skeanender, Thomas Teorddeatha.
Caughnawaga, June19, 1775.
Interpreted and wrote by Samuel Kirkland, Missionary.
American archives : consisting of a collection of authentick records, state papers, debates, and letters and other notices of publick affairs, the whole forming a documentary history of the origin and progress of the North American colonies; of the causes and accomplishment of the American revolution; and of the Constitution of government for the United States, to the final ratification thereof…, Peter Force, ed. (Washington: M. St. Claire Clark and Peter Force, 1837), 1116-1117.