Jefferson County History Center: Native Americans of Area Predate Iroquois Confederation

img_2070The Native Americans of this area predate the Iroquois Confederation.

[Photo above: A diorama at the Jefferson County History Center, created by executive director Ken Burkett (pictured above), is based upon archaeological evidence found nearby.]

Our Native Americans

When reading about the Iroquois Confederation, the groups that came together sometime between 1450 and 1570 AD (or perhaps as early as 900 according to some sources) under the legendary Hiawatha, we learn that the five original Indian tribes of the Confederation were the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and the Seneca.

How are these five tribes related to the Native Americans of our area?

A recent history of Pennsylvania includes a map showing Native American groups that existed around 1550. They are the Monongahelas to the south; the Eries, Susquehannocks, and Iroquois to the north; and the Munsees, Shenk’s Ferry People, and Lenapes to the east.

In our area, the area east of the Allegheny River and south of the Clarion, are the words “Poorly Known Groups.”

We know that when Joseph Barnett arrived with his family, there were very few Native Americans here.

County historian Kate Scott quotes his daughter, “When we came to Port Barnett, in the spring of 1797, there were but two Indian families there. One was Twenty Canoes, and Caturah, which means Tomahawk. The two Hunts were here, but they were alone. Jim Hunt was on banishment for killing his cousin. Captain Hunt and Jim Hunt were cousins. Captain Hunt was an under-chief of the Munsey (sic) tribe. In the fall other Indians came here to hunt. I have forgotten their names, with the exception of two, John Jamieson, who had seven sons, all named John; the other was Crow, he was an Indian in name and in nature. He was feared by both the white and Indians. He was a Mohawk….”

When the colonists or rebels revolted against the British, the tribes of the Iroquois Confederation were told they could choose whom they would follow. Four fought with the British, and two, the Onondagas and Tuscarawas, with the colonists. Captain Joseph Brant, a Native American, led both Iroquois and British soldiers. After the Revolution, many of the Senecas who had fought with the British followed colonial loyalists into Canada, but one group settled around Buffalo, New York.

Might the descendants of those “Poorly Known Groups” have joined these Senecas? Perhaps. Or might they have traveled south and merged with the Monongahelas? Perhaps? Or north to the Mohawks? We do not know. Perhaps future archaeologists will provide a more concise answer.

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.


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