Mohawk vs. Mohawk:
The Battle of Lake George
From the Land of Flint to the Land Where the Partridge Drums The Migration from the Mohawk Valley to Kahnawake and Akwesasne
by Darren Bonaparte
Even though Mohawks fought for both the French and English in the colonial war period, contact was maintained between the northern and southern Kanienkehaka. Contrary to what some might say, the familial bonds were never completely severed. This led to some very odd situations on the battlefield, as we will see in this account of a confrontation between Kahnawake Mohawks and their brothers from the Mohawk Valley as found in The Journal of Major John Norton (1970):
“…When Scouts brought information of the advance of the French and their Native Allies, he detached Five Hundred of the Mohawk; the Latter formed the Front, when they came to a Spring of Water, all of them ran down to drink, without any orders: at this place the French had ranged an ambuscade in the form of a Half Moon, & the Mohawk had thus fallen into the Middle of it. In this Situation, they were surprised by a Caughnawague man rising up and calling out in their language “Of what Nation are you?…” They answered, “We are Mohawks and Five Nations… Of what People are you?” He replied, “We are Caughnawagues & others… Stand aside, for we only make War against English, and do not desire to hurt any of our brothers, the Native Tribes.” At this moment, one of the Party fired, and the native Allies of the French immediately made an impetuous charge rushing down the hill, on which they had been ranged, they mixed in promiscuous fight with the Mohawks, who resisted with much valour, but they were forced by superior numbers to a Retreat, which they effected. They were so intermixed with their Foes, that the straggling Fire kept up by the Militia was as injurious to them, as to the Enemy.
In this confusion, a Mohawk Warrior happened to encounter his friend, a Caghnawague…they saluted each other, and shook hands. In the meantime another came up, who making a Blow at the Mohawk…the latter parried it and killed him… A Second instantly rushed on, making a similar effort…he killed him also; His friend stood a passive Spectator of the Slaughter of his Comrades: so strong was the Band of Friendship, that even when meeting in hostile array, it obliged them to spare each other. The Caghnawague then exclaimed “Oh – my friend, we have met in disagreeable circumstances: Let us then part.” The Mohawk mixed in the Crowd, who could not distinguish him from their Friends, until he found a convenient opportunity of rejoining his party. His escape was facilitated by the Mark of Distinction which the French had caused their Native Allies to wear; it was a Narrow Strip of White Linen fastened to the Lock of Hair on the top of the Head…this man happened to have thin plates of silver hanging from the same part which were not distinguishable on slight inspection.”
By Darren Bonaparte, historian and author of The Wampum Chronicles. Reprinted with permission.
Darren Bonaparte is a cultural historian from the Akwesasne First Nation. He is a frequent lecturer at schools, universities, museums, and historical sites in the United States and Canada. He has written four books, several articles, and the libretto for the McGill Chamber Orchestra’s Aboriginal Visions and Voices. Darren is a former chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. He is the creator of The Wampum Chronicles and historical advisor to film and television. He currently serves as the Director of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.
Next week: Akwesasne’s ‘Neutrality”