Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
October 2004

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia





[This text was originally published in 1907 by the Bureau of American Ethnology as part of its Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. It was later reproduced, in 1913, by the Geographic Board of Canada. The work done by the American Bureau was monumental, well informed and incorporated the most advanced scholarship available at the time. In many respects, the information is still useful today, although prudence should be exercised and the reader should consult some of the contemporary texts on the history and the anthropology of the North American Indians suggested in the bibliographic introduction to this section. The articles were not completely devoid of the paternalism and the prejudices prevalent at the time. While some of the terminology used would not pass the test of our "politically correct" era, most terms have been left unchanged by the editor. If a change in the original text has been effected it will be found between brackets [.] The original work contained long bibliographies that have not been reproduced for this web edition. For the full citation, see the end of the text.]



Oronhyatekha ('It [is a] burning sky'). A noted Mohawk mixed-blood, born on the Six Nations res., near Brantford, Ontario, in 1841: died at Augusta , Ga., Mar. 4, 1907 . In his childhood he attended a mission industrial school near his home, and later, entered the Wesleyan Academy at Wilbraham, Mass., and Kenyon College at Gambier, Ohio, where he remained two years, fitting himself for Toronto University, which he afterward entered. To cover expenses during his college vacation, he hired some white men, whom he dressed in Indian garb and exhibited with himself in a "Wild West" show. While a student at Toronto, in 1860, the chiefs of the Six Nations deputized Oronhyatekha to deliver an address to the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII) on the occasion of his visit to America . The Prince invited him to continue his studies at Oxford, which he entered under the tutelage of Sir Henry Acland, Regius professor of medicine. Returning to America a graduated physician; he practised for a time in Toronto. He married a grand-daughter of Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), the celebrated Mohawk, by whom he had a son and a daughter. Oronhyatekha was an enthusiast in secret society work. He was a prominent member of the Good Templars and of the Masonic fraternity, and in 1902, at Chicago, was elected president of the National Fraternal Congress. He was founder of the Independent Order of Foresters and held the office of Grand Ranger from 1881 until the time of his death. He delivered an address at the Indian centennial at Tyendinaga, Ontario, Sept. 4, 1884. One who knew him personally described Oronhyatekha as "a man of extraordinary parts. He impressed all with his remarkable refinement. The stranger would take him for a high-class Englishman, were it not for those racial marks which betrayed his Indian origin. He was an expert parliamentarian, of dignified and suave yet forceful address. He was a keen debater, poignant and witty when occasion demanded, could tell a good story, and had a faculty of withdrawing from any situation without leaving behind him rancour or injured feelings" ( New Indian , Stewart, Nev., Mar. 1907). Oronhyatekha was the author of an article on the Mohawk language, printed in the Proceedings of the Canadian Institute (n. s., X, 182-194, 1865; XV, 1-12, 1878).


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Source: James WHITE, ed., Handbook of Indians of Canada, Published as an Appendix to the Tenth Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, Ottawa, 1913, 632p., p. 373.




© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College