Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
January 2005

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


Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant)



Thayendanegea (Thayeñdane'ke n' 'He sets or places together two bets,' referring to the custom of fastening together the articles of approximate value placed as wagers by two phratries in tribal contests. The elements are t for te ' two'; ha ' he-it';' yenda' ' a wager'; -ne'ke n' ' set side by side iteratively'). A celebrated Mohawk chief, popularly known as Joseph Brant, who took an active part against the white settlers in the border wars during the Revolution, and who first came into official notice as a so-called "Pine-tree chief." He was born on the Ohio in 1742 while his parents were on a hunting expedition to that section. The home of his family was at Canajoharie Castle in the Mohawk valley, N.Y. His father, Tehowaghwengaraghkwin, according to Stone, was a full-blood Mohawk of the Wolf gens, and his mother was also Indian or at least half-blood. While Joseph was still young his father died, and the mother then married an Indian known among the whites as Brant: hence the name by which Brant is commonly known. His sister Molly, the elder child, became the acknowledged wife, according to the Indian method, of Sir William Johnson. Thayendanegea's career as a warrior began at the age of 13, when he joined the Indians under Sir William Johnson at the battle of lake George in 1755. Johnson sent him to Dr. Wheelock's charity school at Lebanon, Conn., where he learned to speak and write English, and acquired some knowledge of general literature and history. He married the daughter of an Oneida chief about 1765, and settled at Canajoharie, where he joined the Episcopal church and for a time led a peaceful life. His wife died in 1771, leaving a son and a daughter; in the year following he married his first wife's half-sister. He was with Johnson in the Niagara expedition of 1759, and took part in the Pontiac war of 1763, fighting on the English side. Having visited England in 1775, he returned prepared to devote his energies to the British cause in the Revolution, then imminent. He was given a colonel's commission by Gov. Carleton, and took an active part in the raid that desolated Minisink, Orange co., in 1779. He was conspicuous in the battle of Oriskany, Aug. 6, 1779 , but was not present at the massacre of Wyoming in 1778, as has been charged. After the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States in 1783, still retaining his commission in the British service and drawing half pay, Brant was granted a tract of land, 6 m. wide, on each side of Grand r., Ontario, on which he settled with his Mohawk and other Iroquois followers, and continued to rule over them until his death, Nov. 24, 1807. He was thrice married; his second wife died childless, but by his third wife he had seven children. His youngest son, John (Ahyouwaighs), became chief of the Mohawk tribe through his mother, who was the eldest daughter of the head chief of the Turtle gens. His daughter Elizabeth married William Johnson Kerr, grandson of Sir William Johnson. The last survivor of the Brant children was Catherine B. Johnson, who died in 1867. Thayendanegea was buried near the little church he had built on Grand r., 3 m. from Brantford, Ontario, and a monument placed over his grave bears the inscription, "This tomb is erected to the memory of Thayendanegea or Capt. Joseph Brant, principal chief and warrior of the Six Nations Indians, by his fellow-subjects, admirers of his fidelity and attachment to the British Crown." In 1870 the grave was desecrated and the bones were stolen by a physician and medical students, but most of them, including the skull, were recently restored to their former resting place.

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Source : Geographic Board of Canada, Handbook of Indians of Canada, Published as an Appendix to the Tenth Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, Ottawa , 1913, 632p., pp. 452-453.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College