RED JACKET 1758 - 1830


Red Jacket 1758-1830


Red Jacket was a Seneca chief.

The Seneca lived in what's today the western State of New York and the eastern State of Ohio.


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Red Jacket's real name was Otetiani, which means Always Ready. He switched it to Sagoyewatha, which means He Keeps Them Awake, when he became chief.


During the American Revolution, Sagoyewatha sided wit the British. The British, in turn, gave him one of their red coats, and hence the English name. He kept their trust and more red coats kept coming once the first one wore out.


As a chief, the tricky challenge of the day, of course, was to balance the dealings with the whites on the one hand and to keep the trust of his people on the other.

Red Jacket knew how to handle himself and, in the process, he became known for his skills as a diplomat and public speaker.


Case in point was Red Jacket's response to Mr. Crane, a missionary from the Boston Missionary Society, who visited the Seneca in the summer of 1805 in search of new sheep.

This was Missionary Crane's introduction to the Seneca. Scroll down for Red Jacket's reply.

My Friends, I am thankful for the opportunity afforded us of meeting together at this time. I had a great desire to see you, and inquire into your state and welfare. For this purpose I have traveled a great distance, being sent by your old friends, the Boston Missionary Society.

You will recollect they formerly sent missionaries among you, to instruct you in religion, and labor for your good.

Although they have not heard from you for a long time, yet they have not forgotten their brothers, the Six Nations, and are still anxious to do you good.

Brothers, I have not come to get your lands, or your money, but to enlighten your minds, and instruct you how to worship the Great Spirit, agreeably to his mind and will, and to preach to you the gospel of his Son, Jesus Christ. There is but one religion, and but one way to serve God, and if you do not embrace the right way, you can not be happy hereafter.

You have never worshipped the Great Spirit, in a manner acceptable to him, but have all your lives, been in great errors and darkness. To endeavor to remove these errors, and open your eyes, so that you might see clearly, is my business with you.

Brothers, I wish to talk with you as one friend talks with another; and if you have any objections to receive the religion which I preach, I wish you to state them; and I will endeavor to satisfy your minds, and remove the objections.

Brothers, I want you to speak your minds freely; for I wish to reason with you on the subject, and if possible remove all doubts, if there be any on your minds. The subject is an important one, and it is of consequence, that you give it an early attention, while the offer is made you.

Your friends, the Boston Missionary Society, will continue to send you good and faithful ministers, to instruct and strengthen you in religion, if on your part you are willing to receive them.

Brothers, since I have been in this part of the country, I have visited some of your small villages, and talked with your people. They appear willing to receive instruction, but as they look up to you, as their elder brothers in council, they want first to know your opinion on the subject.

You have now heard what I have to propose at present. I hope you will take it into consideration, and give me an answer before we part.

The chiefs discussed the matter for about two hours, after which Red Jacket replied with his
We Never Quarrel About Religion speech.

After Red Jacket had finished his speech, the chiefs tried to shake hands with the missionary, who in turn jumped up from his seat, said, there was no fellowship between the religion of God and the works of the devil, and he could not therefore join hands with them.

When this was interpreted to the Indians, they smiled and retired from the interview, without saying anything further.

Mr. Crane afterward regretted the course he had taken, saying that he

"supposed by shaking hands with them, they would regard it as signifying his approval of what they had said."

- You can read this and more in Life and Times of Red Jacket by Colonel William L. Stone.



In the summer of 1819, Red Jacket delivered his We Cannot Make Land speech at a council held near Buffalo. What was the occasion?

Colonel Aaron Ogden, owner of Ogden Company, had bought the so-called preemptive rights to lands of the Seneca and consequently wanted them to move to a reservation on the Allegheny River.

Many people traveled many miles to see Red Jacket setting Ogden straight.





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