Treaty of 1744 - A rousing “Jo-Ha!”
In the summer of 1744, Indian chiefs from the six Iroquois nations came to Lancaster to meet with representatives of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia to resolve land disputes.
Canassatego - the smartest man in the room
The star of the Lancaster Treaty of 1744 was Canassatego, chief of the Onondaga nation and prominent diplomat. He recommended that the colonies adapt a form of government similar to the Iroquois by forming a confederacy. He feared that the colonies lacked a strong coordinated policy to address the military threat of New France. His words were published and read by colonial leaders such as Benjamin Franklin, and influenced the United States Constitution forty years later. Canassatego was described as a tall, well made man with a very full chest, brawny arms, good-natured smile, and liveliness in his speech. He was assassinated in 1750 by pro-French forces.
Indians mingled with the townspeople
Hundreds of Indians from the six Iroquois nations, many traveling by canoe down the Susquehanna, set up a large village of wigwams in Lancaster a few blocks from the courthouse. Smoke from the cooking-fires along with the smell of bear grease filled the summer air. Delegates from the British colonies found lodging in taverns throughout Lancaster. The event was quite entertaining for the people of Lancaster, often hanging out of windows for a closer look at the gaily-painted Indians. Likewise, the Indians checked out the town and the townspeople with equal curiosity as they traded in the shops and at the market. Many townspeople were shocked to see the Indians eat their food with their hands.
Two weeks that changed the nation
Known as the Treaty of 1744, the two-week meeting shaped our nation’s history. Discussions in the courthouse were lively and included much rum drinking. In exchange for Indian land claims in Maryland and Virginia, the Indians bargained for gunpowder, shot, guns, blankets, clothing, and rum. Indian leaders made lengthy speeches, exchanged belts of wampum, applauded, and shouted “Jo-Ha!” The treaty also created a strong alliance between the settlers and Indians, protecting Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War. In the spirit of cooperation, the Indians advised colonial leaders on how to create a better form of government modeled after the Iroquois League of nations.
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The Forgotten Founding Father - Chief Canassatego