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We Cannot Make Land


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Red Jacket.

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Red Jacket's We Cannot Make Land Speech.


It follows the full text transcript of Red Jacket's We Cannot Make Land speech, delivered at a village near Buffalo, New York - Summer of 1819.


Red Jacket - Speech Brother,

We understand that you have been appointed by our great Father, the President, to make these communications to us. We thank the Great Spirit for this pleasant day given us for our reply, and we beg you to listen.

Brother, previous to your arrival at this council fire, we were told that our great Father had appointed a commissioner to meet us. You have produced your commission, and it has been read and explained to us.

You have also explained the object of your mission, and the wishes of the President in sending you to the council fire of the Six Nations. We do not doubt that the sealed document you produced, contained the words of the President, our great Father.

When first informed of your appointment, we supposed that you were coming to meet us on a very different subject. Since the war of the Revolution, we have held various councils with our white brothers, and in this same manner. We have made various speeches, and entered into several treaties, and these things are well known to our great Father; they are lodged with him. We, too, perfectly understand them all. The same interpreters were then present as now.

In consequence of what took place during the late war, we made it known to our great Father, through our interpreter, that we wished to have a talk. Our application was not complied with. We sent a messenger to brighten the chain of
friendship with our great Father, but he would not meet around the council
fire, and we were disappointed.

We had supposed that the commissioner he has now sent, came forward to brighten the chain of friendship, to renew former engagements. When we made a treaty at Canandaigua with Colonel Pickering in 1794, we were told, and thought that it was to be permanent, and to be lasting, between us and the United States forever.

After several treaties had been entered into under our great Father, General Washington, large delegations from the Six Nations were invited to meet him. We went and met him in Philadelphia. We kindled a council fire. A treaty was then
made, and General Washington then declared that it should be permanent
between the red and white brothers; that it should be spread out on the
largest and strongest rocks, that nothing could undermine or break; that
it should be exposed to the view of all.

Brother, we shall now see what has been done by the United States. After this treaty had been formed I then said that I did not doubt, but that the United States would faithfully perform their engagements. But I told our white brothers at that time, that I feared eventually they would wish to disturb those contracts.

You white brothers have the faculty to burst the stoutest rocks. On our part we would not have disturbed those treaties.

Shortly after our interview with our great Father, General Washington, at Philadelphia, a treaty was made at Canandaigua, by which we widened our former engagements with our white brothers, and made some new ones. The commissioner, Colonel Pickering, then told us that this treaty should be binding and should last, without alteration for two lives. We wished to make it extend much farther, and the Six Nations then wished to establish a lasting chain of friendship. On our part, we wished the treaty to last as long as trees grow, and waters run. Our Brother told us that he would agree to it.

Brother, I have reminded you of what had taken place between our confederates, the Six Nations, and our white brothers, down to the treaty of Canandaigua. At the close of that treaty it was agreed, it being as strong and binding, as by my former comparisons I have explained, that if any difficulty should occur, if any monster should cross the chain of friendship, that we would unite to remove those difficulties, to drive away the monster; that we would go hand in hand and prolong the chain. So it was agreed.

Brother, many years ago we discovered a cloud rising that darkened the prospect of our peace and happiness. We heard eventful things from different quarters, from different persons, and at different times, and foresaw that the period was not very distant, when this threatening cloud would burst upon us.

Brother, during the late war we intended to take no part. Yet residing within the limits of the United States, and with the advice of General Porter, we agreed around our council fire, that it was right, and we took a part.

We thought it would help to promote our friendship with our white brothers, to aid the arms of the United States, and to make our present seats still stronger. These were our reasons.

What were the results?

We lost many of our warriors. We spilt our blood in a cause between you, and
a people not of our color.

Brother, these things may be new to you, but they are not new to your government. Records of these things are with our great Father, the President. You have come, therefore, for a very different purpose from the one we expected.

You come to tell us of our situation, of our reservations, of the opinion of the President that we must change our old customs for new ones; that we must concentrate in order to enjoy the fair means you offer of civilization, and improvement in the arts of agriculture.

Brother, at the treaty of Canandaigua, we were promised that different kinds of mechanics, blacksmiths, and carpenters, should be sent among us; and farmers with their families, that our women might learn to spin. We agreed to receive them. We even applied for these benefits. We were told that our children were too young to be taught. Neither farmers or mechanics were sent.

Brothers, we had thought that the promises made by one President, were handed down to the next. We do not change our chiefs as you do. Since these treaties were made, you have had several Presidents. We do not understand why the treaty made by one, is not binding on the other. On our part we expect to comply with our engagements.

Brother, you told us when the country was surrounded by whites, and in possession of Indians, that it was unproductive, not being liable to taxes, nor to make roads nor improvements, it was time to change.

As for the taxing of Indians, this is extraordinary; and was never heard of, since the settlement of America. The land is ours, by the gift of the Great Spirit. How can you tax it? We can make such roads as we want, and did so when the land was all ours. We are improving our condition. See these large stocks of cattle, and those fences. We are surrounded by the whites, from whom we can procure cattle, and whatever is necessary for our improvement. Now that we are confined to narrow limits, we can easily make our roads, and improve our lands.

Look back to the first settlement by the whites, and then look at our present condition. Formerly we continued to grow in numbers, and in strength. What has become of the Indians, who extended to the salt water?

They have been driven back and become few, while you have been growing numerous, and powerful. This lands is ours, from the God of Heaven. It was given to us. We cannot make land. Driven back and reduced as we are, you wish to cramp us more and more. You tell us of a pre-emptive right. Such men you say own one reservation, and such another. But they are all ours, ours from the top to the bottom. If Mr. Ogden had come from heaven, with flesh on his bones, as I we now see him, and said that the Heavenly Father had given him a title, we might then believe him.

Brother, you say that the President has sent us word that it is for our interest to dispose of our lands. You tell us that there is a good tract of land at Allegany. This too is very extraordinary. Our feet have covered every inch of that reservation. A communication like this has never been made to us, at any of our councils. The President must have been disordered in mind, when he offered to lead us off by the arms, to the Allegany reservation. I have told you of the treaty we made with the United States. Here is the belt of wampum, that confirmed that treaty. Here too is the parchment. You know its contents. I will not open it. Now
the tree of friendship is decaying; its limbs are fast falling off. You are at fault.

Formerly we called the British brothers. Now we call the President, our Father. Probably among you, are persons with families of children. We consider ourselves the children of the President. What would be your feelings, were you told that your children were to be cast upon a naked rock, there to protect themselves?

The different claims you tell us of, on our lands, I cannot understand. We are placed here by the Great Spirit, for purposes known to him. You have no right to interfere. You told us that we had large and unproductive tracts of land. We do not view it so. Our seats, we consider small; and if we are left here long, by the Great Spirit, we shall stand in need of them. We shall be in want of timber. Land after many years' use wears out; our fields must be renewed, and new ones improved, so that we have no more land in our reservations than we want.

Look at the white people around us, and back. You are not cramped for lands. They are large. Look at that man. [Mr. Ellicott, agent of the Holland Land Company.] If you want to buy, apply to him. He has lands enough to sell. We have none to part with. You laugh, but do not think I trifle. I am sincere. Do not think we are hasty in making up our minds. We have had many councils, and thought for a long time upon this subject. We will not part with any, not with one of our reservations.

We recollect that Mr. Ogden addressed his speech to you, therefore I have
spoken to you. Now I will speak to Mr. Ogden.

Brother, you recollect when you first came to this ground, that you told us you had bought the pre-emptive right. A right to purchase given you by the government. Remember my reply. I told you, you had been unfortunate in buying. You said you would not disturb us. I then told you as long as I lived, you must not come forward to explain that right. You have come. See me before you. You have heard our reply to the commissioner sent by the President. I again repeat that, one and all, chiefs and warriors, we are of the same mind. We will not part with any of our reservations.

Do not make your application anew, nor in any other shape. Let us hear no more of it. Let us part as we met, in friendship.



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