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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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The genealogy of each particular tribe is traced, according to their
degrees of consanguinity, by the side of the mother. They do not live
in separate villages, but are settled promiscuously throughout the Sene-
ca nation

. There are also a number of inferior chiefs appointed at
each village, who are called upon as counsellors, when occasions re-
quire, and no business of importance is transacted without their privity
and concurrence.

These chiefs are empowered to inculcate good precepts, and encour-
age the youth and warriors to sobriety and good actions. And although
their women are degraded below the rank they maintain in more civil-
ized societies, yet even here they possess considerable influence, in re-
gulating the conduct of the men, in various respects. Some of the more
wise and knowing among them are frequently admitted into their coun-
cils, and give their sentiments publicly on matters of importance.

They are very jealous of encroachments on what they esteem their
rights and privileges; and offences of this nature have often given rise to
war between nations. Such of the captives taken in war as are pre-
served alive, are sometimes adopted into families, in the place of rela-
tives who have been killed in the war. In such cases they are treated
kindly: and several of this description remain among the Senecas

, who
have intermarried with them, and become so habituated to their man-
ners and mode of life, that they show no inclination to leave them.

It is said many of the devoted number of captives were formerly
roasted and eaten. There was living, since Friends settled among the

, one or two Indians residing on the Alleghany river, who had
partaken of this inhuman feasting; but the custom has long since been
exploded by this nation.

Though honesty, in a general way, may be reckoned one of their
signal virtues, yet instances of stealing sometimes occur.

When any discovery is made that would lead to detection of the
person committing a theft, complaint is made to the chiefs, who despatch
a messenger commanding his appearance forthwith before the council;
this mandate he instantly obeys; the charge is then opened to him, and
if he is guilty, and confession is made, the property taken is restored,
if in being. Every Chief or warrior in council is then at liberty to ex-
press what they think, or wish to say, one by one, on the occasion,
which the offender is obliged to hear. This is considered a severe pu-
nishment, but no other is inflicted. Should the person charged deny
that he is guilty, he is considered innocent - for it is remarkable that
they generally confess when justly charged, and also that their eyes
and countenances immediately betray them. There is no corporeal
punishment practised among them, except where the crime is consider-
ed worthy of death.