Red Jacket (Seneca Chief)
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, B.F.A.

Red Jacket was a Seneca Chief. The Seneca were the westernmost of the great stream of migrants which we now call the Iroquois. They may have been descendants of the mound-building nations that occupied Ohio and then, for some unknown reason, had fled. He was born in 1750 in upper New York State near Conaga, Seneca County, New York. His father was a Cayuga. His mother was a Seneca of the Wolf Clan. At age 10, he was given the name Otetiani or "always ready." At manhood, he was called Sagoyewatha (Sa-Go-Ye-Wat-Ha) which means "he keeps them awake," and he became chief of the Seneca tribe. Red Jacket was a Pine Tree chief who outshown the hereditary chiefs and he dominated tribal and village society. As a reformed drunkard, Red Jacket advocated social harmony through temperance. The name "Red Jacket" was given to him by the British soldiers who gave him a "red coat," when he fought with the British against the colonies. Red Jacket became one of the greatest orators in America.

Here are some of his thoughts:

........."our forefathers crossed the Great Water and landed on this island (Turtle Island). Their numbers were small. We took pity on them, and they sat down among us. We gave them corn and meat. They gave us poison in return."

........"There was a time when our forefathers owned this great island. The Great Spirit had made it for the use of the Indians. He had created the Buffalo, the Deer, and other animals for food. He had made the Bear and the Beaver. Their skins served us for clothing. He has scattered them over the country, and taught us how to take them. He had caused the Earth to produce Corn for bread (Parker, Arthur Caswell, Red Jacket London: University of Nebraska Press, 1998).


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