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Beyond Penn's Treaty

Sketch of the Manners, Customs, Religion and Government of the Seneca Indians in 1800

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Manners and Customs of the Seneca Nation of Indians, in the year 1800.

In their persons, the Senecas

are generally of a moderate stature
and well proportioned, though instances of dwarfishness and deformity
are sometimes to be seen among them. Their complexion is of a cop-
per colour, and the hair black - that of the men being generally cut
close, excepting a small tuft on the crown of the head, which is suf-
fered to grow long, and is tied in a small roll on the top, on which they
frequently wear a silver tube, about three inches in length. Some,
also, let small locks grow obliquely projecting over their shoulders.
They very generally extract their beards by means of a spiral spring
ring made of wire, about the common knitting needle size, and about
two inches in length; this being applied to the face, and pressed be-
tween the thumb and finger, forms a kind of pincers, and takes so fast
hold of the beard as readily to extract it. This is also frequently made
use of to extract the hair from the head instead of cutting, and some-
times the operation is performed between their thumb and the blunt
edge of a knife.

Their eyes are black, keen, and penetrating - their countenance open
and engaging in general, and a great object of their vanity is, to give
every possible decoration to their persons, by painting their faces a
variety of colours, among which vermilion and charcoal are their

They most generally use the red, but streaks of black are occasion-
ally intermixed. Black mostly denotes trouble; but the red, though it
makes them look fierce, as in time of disturbance, is expressive of war –
so it is also used to denote cheerfulness, and sometimes to hide the true
expression of the countenance - and in this way, when rubbed round
the eyes, it has a wonderful effect.

Their dress is simple and commodious. It consists of tight leggings
reaching above the knee, made of cloth or flannel - a strip of cloth
about a foot wide and three or four feet long, according to the size of
the person, is drawn inwards at each end, and hangs down behind and
before, over a belt tied round the waist for that purpose - the outward
ends of this are frequently ornamented with silver brooches. A close
vest or shirt reaching somewhat below the waist, made of linen or
calico, and in some instances a short waistcoat, with an overcoat of cloth,
or blanketing, (which they call match-coat,) clumsily made, and the