Brant, Joseph (1743–1807)

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Joseph Brant (whose Mohawk name was Thayendanegea, “He Places Together Two Bets”) flourished in both the Mohawk world and the British colonial world. He led the Mohawks against the Americans during the War for Independence and advocated a pan-tribal identity that would continue to influence the region’s native peoples through the era of Tecumseh and the War of 1812. Brant was born in Ohio in 1743 to Tehonwaghkwangeraghwa of Canajoharie, New York, and his wife, Margaret Aoghyatonghsera. Shortly after his birth, Joseph’s father died. The surname Brant came from Joseph’s stepfather, an elite Mohawk and contemporary of the highly respected chief King Hendrick. This was one of the avenues through which Brant rose to prominence in Mohawk society. It bears mentioning that Sir William Johnson, the de facto British ambassador to the Iroquois, took a special interest in Brant’s education. Johnson intended to create a peaceful trading empire using an army of fluent translators who could maneuver between the British colonial and Mohawk worlds. Brant’s family connections allowed him access to the highest rungs of colonial society. From 1761 to 1763, he studied English at Eleazar Wheelock’s famous missionary school in Lebanon, Connecticut. (The school was the alma mater of Samson Occom, a well-known Mohegan preacher, and later it would relocate to New Hampshire and become Dartmouth College.) While under Wheelock’s tutelage, Brant learned the skills necessary to be a missionary. Reverend Wheelock described his appearance and demeanor in 1763, noting that Joseph was “a young Mohawk … of a Family of Distinction in that Nation … of a Sprightly Genius, a manly and genteel Deportment, and of a Modest courteous and benevolent Temper.” Mohawk chief Joseph Brant known as Thayendanegea in his native tongue fought with the British in the War for Independence, because he believed that an American victory would destroy the Indian nation. (Brown Brothers, Sterling, Pennsylvania) Brant returned to Canajoharie in 1763 and, by 1770, was the head of a fairly profitable European-style farm, where he grew wheat for profit and kept livestock. He also continued to raise more traditional Mohawk crops, namely, corn, beans, and squash. During this period, Brant married Margaret, an Oneida woman, who bore his first child, Isaac, at Fort Ontario in 1767, as well as his daughter. Brant remained active in politics as well, translating for Sir William Johnson and Johnson’s nephew Guy Johnson, who replaced William as superintendent of Indian affairs. Brant’s first wife and his second wife, Susanna, both died; he had seven children by his third wife, Catherine. Brant’s ties to the British in North America ran deep; he owed his success to men such as William Johnson and Eleazar Wheelock. For Brant, however, the years before the American War for Independence made clear the difficulties of maintaining both white and Native American ways, or at least maintaining a semblance of Mohawk autonomy in the face of an expanding American empire. Settlement during this time period pushed farther and farther into Iroquois country, with devastating results for traditional Iroquois hunting grounds. On the eve of war, in 1775 and 1776, Brant visited London. He met King George III and became convinced that the British, and not the Americans, had the best interests of the Iroquois in mind. The British guaranteed their support and protection against American encroachment. Brant returned home confident in his own abilities as a statesman and in the Iroquois’s ability to resist American imperialism. The Iroquois Confederation as a whole tried to remain neutral in the Revolutionary War. This policy actually broke apart the confederation, as the Oneida and Tuscarora chose to support the Americans and the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Seneca fought on the British side. Joseph’s leadership against the Americans during the war was truly remarkable. He led an army of loyalist whites and Native Americans into Oriskany, New York, on August 6, 1777, and surprised a sizable force of American militia stationed there. Although not technically a war chief, Brant led an army in New York and Ohio for most of the war. Despite Brant’s accomplishments, the British lost the war; to make matters worse, reneging on their earlier promises, the British did not mention Native American rights in the Treaty of Paris. The end result of these negotiations was that Native Americans who supported the British during the war were now left on their own to face the fledgling American nation. That nation, in turn, began to expand through conquest, treaty, and purchase, with little regard for Native American cultures or peoples. Brant’s leadership against the Americans did not go entirely unrewarded. In exchange for his military service (and the land in New York from which he was forced), Brant and his allies received a vast tract of land in Ontario, on the Grand River. Brant, who viewed military action as a last resort, continued to advocate pan-tribal resistance to American expansion until his death in Burlington, Ontario, on November 24, 1807. Matthew Jennings See also: Brant, Mary “Molly”; Iroquois Confederacy; Mohawk; Native American-European Conflict; Native AmericanEuropean Relations; Revolutionary War. Bibliography Kelsay, Isabel Thompson. Joseph Brant, 1743–1807: Man of Two Worlds. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1984. Robinson, Helen Caister. Joseph Brant: A Man for His People. Don Mills, Ontario: Longman Canada, 1971. Sugden, John. “Brant, Joseph.” In Encyclopedia of North American Indians, edited by Frederick E. Hoxie. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Brant, Mary Molly (c. 1736–1796) Probably born in 1736, Mary Brant, sometimes called Konwatsi’tsiaienni (“someone lends her a flower”), was the daughter of Margaret, a Mohawk woman, and her first husband, whose name is unknown. Educated by British missionaries, she was literate in English and held status in Anglicized Mohawk circles, although she does not seem to have held any particular matrilineal importance as a clan mother or hereditary female leader, as is sometimes reported in older texts. She appears in records of a 1754–1755 diplomatic mission of the Mohawk to Philadelphia, among twelve men representing the Iroquois. Best known by the surname of her stepfather, the Mohawk sachem Nichus Brant, Mary came into contact with the British Indian Agent and land magnate Sir William Johnson through her brother (perhaps half-brother) Joseph Brant at Johnson Hall, New York. By September 1759, she was living as “housekeeper” with Johnson, his children by his previous German common-law wife, and the first of the couple’s eight children. Given tremendous status as the unofficial “Lady Johnson,” Brant was able to dispense patronage to the Six Nations of the Iroquois. She also added to Johnson’s prestige among the native population, especially as he acknowledged, educated, and provided for their two sons and six daughters in a generous and magnanimous style. Johnson and Brant may have married in a Mohawk ceremony, but they never wed legally under British law or in the Church of England, although the local parish treated her as his wife. In 1765, Brant fell seriously ill from smallpox and was badly scarred. Johnson died in 1774, leaving her considerable property, slaves, and a substantial financial settlement carefully structured to protect her holdings from her stepchildren. During the American Revolution, Brant was crucial in holding the Mohawk to their loyalty to the British Crown, using Johnson’s prestige to involve them in the contest for the Mohawk Valley. She provided key intelligence, obtained from Mary Aaron, the Mohawk mistress of General Philip Schuyler, and warned General Barry St. Leger that the patriots were sending relief to the besieged Fort Stanwix; this information allowed the British to plan the bloody ambush at Oriskany. After 1777, subject to increasing harassment, including the sack of Johnson Hall, Brant and her younger children fled to Cayuga and Niagara. There, she worked amongst the Mohawk and loyalist Oneida to refuse a peace offer after the British surrender at Saratoga. As a refugee in British Canada, Brant was invaluable in keeping order among loyalist British and Native American refugees. Several times, she arranged safe passage for British loyalists through hostile Oneida lands to Canada. She demanded privileged treatment from the British commanders of Fort Carleton (Kingston, Ontario), who provided for her entourage, including slaves, out of the slim resources of the official provisions list and built her a house. In 1783, Brant submitted a claim for 1,206 pounds in damages to her property, which was promptly paid by Guy Carleton, who also granted her a pension of 100 pounds per year, the largest granted to any Native American by the British during the American Revolution. Brant also insisted that all her daughters continue their British education, and she saw four of them married into the loyalist landowners of Ontario. Mary Brant’s contributions to the British cause and her role in loyalist activities were overlooked in nineteenth-century histories of the American Revolution, which characterized her as a virtuous helpmeet of Sir William Johnson rather than an independent actor in the conflict. Recognized as a leader of the local elite in British Upper Canada, she died in April 1796 and was buried from the Kingston Episcopal church. Margaret Sankey See also: Brant, Joseph; Mohawk; Native American-European Conflict; Native American-European Relations; Revolutionary War. Bibliography Flexner, James Thomas. Lord of the Mohawks. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979. Gundy, Pearson. “Molly Brant: Loyalist.” Ontario Historical Society Papers and Records 45 (1953): 97–108. Kelsay, Isabel Thompson. Joseph Brant: 1743–1807. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1984. Potter-Mackinnon, Janice. While the Women Only Wept: Loyalist Refugee Woman. Montreal and Quebec: Queens-McGill University Press, 1993. Joseph Brant Quotes. QuotesGram travelquaz


Brant, Joseph (1743–1807)

Statue In Ottawa’s Valiants Memorial Of Joseph Brant (1743-1807 … travelquaz

Brant, Joseph (1743–1807)

Gilbert Stuart: Joseph Brant and events leading up to the Battle … travelquaz

Brant, Joseph (1743–1807)

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