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96. The Seneca Peacemakers

In the course of the long war with the Cherokee it happened once that eight Seneca determined to undertake a journey to the south to see if they could make a peace with their enemies. On coming near the border of the Cherokee country they met some hunters of that tribe to whom they told their purpose. The latter at once hurried ahead with the news, and when the peacemakers arrived they found themselves well received by the Cherokee chiefs, who called a council to consider the proposition. All but one of the chiefs favored the peace, but he demanded that the eight delegates should first join them in a war party which was just preparing to go against a tribe farther south, probably the Creeks. The Seneca agreed, and set out with the war party for the south; but in the fight which resulted, the Seneca leader, The Owl, was captured. The other seven escaped with the Cherokee.

A council was held in the enemy's camp, and it was decided that The Owl should be burned at the stake. The wood was gathered and everything made ready, but as they were about to tie him he claimed the warrior's privilege to sing his death song and strike the post as he recited his warlike deeds. The request pleased his enemies, who put a tomahawk into his hands and told him to begin.

He told first his exploits in the north, and then in the west, giving times and places and the number of scalps taken, until his enemies were so pleased and interested that they forgot the prisoner in the warrior. It was a long story, but at last he came to the battle in which he was taken. He told how many relatives he had killed of the very men around him, and then, striking the post with his tomahawk, "So many of your people have I killed, and so many will I yet kill;" and with that he struck down two men, sprang through the circle of warriors, and was away. It was all so sudden that it was some moments before his enemies could recover from their surprise. Then they seized their weapons and were after him through the woods, but he had had a good start and was running for his life, so that he outran the chase and finally reached the Cherokee camp in safety and rejoined his seven companions.

On this proof of good will the Cherokee then concluded the treaty, and the peacemakers returned to their own country.--Arranged from Schoolcraft, Notes on Iroquois, p. 258.

Next: 97. Origin Of The Yontoñwisas Dance