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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 Indian names are often significant of something in nature, as

's name in the Seneca language is Ky-on-twa-ky; Connu-
dia signifies a handsome lake, Ogis-quah-tah is dry musk, Oenda
means the first ripe corn, Yeang-qwa-haunt, chew-tobacco, &c. They
are also frequently named from occurrences that happen near the time
of their birth, and their names are occasionally changed in consequence
of remarkable circumstances taking place, or of particular employ-
ments, or acts of individuals.

It is supposed that in a general way the Indians rather exceed white
people in longevity, often living, as they imagine, to the age of ninety
and one hundred years; but as they keep no written records of births
or other occurrences, nor have any regular method of computing time,
other than by moons and winters, or the remembrance of remarkable
events, very few of their elderly people can give a correct account
how old they are. There is now living on the Alleghany river an old
woman, who can call her descendants round her to the sixth generation.

There was also an Indian living at Cattaraugus

, in the year 1800,
who said he was one hundred and twenty-one years of age. He said
he had been in Philadelphia when it was a very small town, and gave
such a circumstantial and regular account of his life, as (together with
his aged brow and furrowed cheeks,) induced me to credit his relation.

The Indians are frequently skilful in the application of simples, as
also in the knowledge of the medicinal qualities of divers herbs and

They, however, practice bleeding on trivial occasions, and when a
person has been a considerable time sick, in a lingering condition, and
the foregoing applications prove ineffectual to restore him to health, it
is common for the friends of the diseased person to collect, and, dressing
two or more men with masks and other accoutrements, as in times of
public worship, they repair to the habitation of the sick, which they
go round, rattling and rubbing the tortoise shell, and whooping in a
frightful manner.

Although this is a known custom, and in time of health gives no
alarm, yet on the debilitated Indian, whose fears are awakened by
knowing what is to be endured, it has considerable effect. The men
then enter the house, continuing the noise and acting every wild con-
tortion and manœuvre which their imaginations devise. Sometimes
they pull the sick person (male or female,) about the house, dirtying
them with their black hands, rubbing their heads and bodies over with
ashes, and handling the patient in so rough a manner, that a person
unacquainted with their custom, might suppose they were going to kill
him. After this wild treatment, and having thoroughly dirtied the
house with ashes, they withdraw, and leave the nurse to clean after