Akwesasne and the American Revolution

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

Thomas Williams

Thomas Williams, or Tehorakwaneken, was another controversial figure from this era who was closely associated with Cook. He was the grandson of Eunice Williams, the “unredeemed captive” from Deerheld. He was born in Kahnawake sometime around 1758 or 1759. One account of his life states that he became a chief at Kahnawake in 1777, then joined the American forces under General Burgoyne, seeing action at Ticonderoga, New York and Royalton, Vermont, among others. He and his family frequently visited his relatives in Massachusetts and Vermont after the war and spent a great deal of time hunting in the Lake George area where he had a hunting camp. (Hough 1853:200-203)

William Gray

Another man closely associated with Cook was a white man named William Gray, who was born around 1760 in Cambridge, New York. As a teenager he joined the American forces during the Revolutionary War; he was taken prisoner by the British and held in Quebec for the rest of the conflict. When he was released he moved to Kahnawake for a time, then relocated to Akwesasne where he married a Mohawk woman and raised a family. He learned the language so well that he became the interpreter for the chiefs. He eventually convinced his parents and other family members back in Cambridge to move with him to Akwesasne, where he established a saw mill and general store in what is now Hogansburg. (Hough 1853:198-200) His influence on Akwesasne politics, like that of Cook and Williams, grew stronger with his involvement in negotiations with officials from New York State in the last decade of the 1700’s. These men, along with Joseph Brant, are considered the most controversial figures in Akwesasne history because of these negotiations.

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:Treaties of Contention: The Quitclaims of Cook and brant