Kanienkehaka, circa 1669 - circa 1748

Note: All narratives about people are, to the extent possible, based on primary and secondary historical sources. Some narratives necessarily contain invented, yet plausible, scenarios and personal attributes. Please see About This Narrative to learn more about how this person's narrative was created.

Hatsirohawi - Prologue | Albany Trade Scene | About this Narrative |

1669 - 1698

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Hatsirohawi, born of "two worlds," successfully navigated complicated trading dynamics in Albany.
Illustration copyright Pamela Patrick White.

In the winter of 1669, a young Kanienkehaka mother gave birth to a tiny child. The leaders of her community entered the longhouse after the child was washed welcomed him into the world. He would be known as “Hatsirohawi,” which translates into “He carries the fire.” The community was known as Kanatsiohareke, situated on the Mohawk River. The child was a product of the intermingling of cultures during the mid 1600's. His father, Van Neck, was a bushloper, a trader who would travel through the woods to the Native communities seeking to trade for furs illegally, without permission from the English crown. Oftentimes, rogue traders would take Native women as wives, leaving behind children born of two worlds when they inevitably returned to the safety of their colonies. Hatsirohawi never knew his father during his childhood and would only meet him much later in his life.

Hatsirohawi grew to be a successful trader in his own right. As a young man he learned quickly that he owed his allegiance to the traders of Albany—both English and Dutch. His light complexion put traders at ease, and his skill at language made him a skillful negotiator. During his life, the tentative relationship between the Kanienkehaka and the English would never be resolved; yet as an adult, the warfare that sparked hostilities with the French made a lasting impression on Hatsirohawi. In 1690, he even traveled with Captain Schuyler to Canada to fight against the French above Lake Champlain. He returned with the party a month later, having successfully taken a prisoner which he would turn over to the authorities who would then negotiate the prisoner's return; he would receive a nice ransom for his trouble.

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Repeated waves of smallpox struck Kanienkehaka villages in the seventeenth century.
Courtesy of Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana Firenze.

During the winter of 1692, smallpox swept through his home community and swiftly took dozens of lives. Hatsirohawi was among the sick and dying, but after hearing of a remedy from an elder, he took the advice and bathed in a morass of warm oily spring water and soon recovered. Oil springs were found throughout the territory, and some were even used for divination; the oil was lit and as long as it remained so, the year would be mild. The smallpox disease was relentless, and finally, Hatsirohawi found himself without his mother and many close relatives. That year the funerals seemed endless, but when the spring arrived the sickness seemed to disappear with the snows.

Hatsirohawi - Prologue | Albany Trade Scene | About this Narrative |

Albany Trade Scene

When Hatsirohawi was nearly thirty winters old, he once again traveled with ten others to Albany, laden with furs he had procured north of the lakes. He was immediately set upon by the traders who had made their homes on the boundaries of the town. They would stand loitering around a post waiting for the Native traders to arrive. The energy and frenzy of activity was intoxicating. Shouts of invitation came from all directions, and the competition was fierce among the Dutch traders. He knew that these traders were unscrupulous and would try to ply him with promises of rum, so he ignored their advances and soon found himself in front of a home he had not noticed before. The older man standing in front had an air of confidence without being unapproachable. Hastirohawi chose to deal with him.

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In North America's northeast, beaver pelts were the most highly sought-after trade items by Europeans.
Copyright Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield, MA. All Rights Reserved.

The man asked to see his furs; Hatsirohawi was happy to show them. He removed the tumpline across his forehead and carefully untied the canvas cover to reveal 100 pounds of fine winter beaver and muskrat and two worn beaver robes. Beaver robes were prized by the traders because the guard hairs were already worn away, and the natural body oils from wearing the robes made superior beaver felt items. The man was impressed and reached across to shake the arm of Hatsirohawi; this was the ancient way that the Kanienkehaka greeted one another in peace. He introduced himself as Van Neck. Hatsirohawi realized that he was standing before his own father, yet he restrained his surprise and began the negotiation process. Van Neck was fair in his initial offer, yet Hatsirohawi knew that his furs were worth far more than the opening salvo. As the day wore on, Van Neck remained stalwart in the negotiation and would not give. As the sun reached its apex, Hatsirohawi began to pack up his furs, feigning disappointment in the man. Van Neck seemed flustered and began to rapidly backpedal, offering in the end even more than what Hatsirohawi had asked in the beginning. Hatsirohawi calmly reopened the pack and began to gather up his trade goods; knives, kettles, gunpowder, lead, and wool cloth all went into the tightly bound bundle and up on his back for the return trip.

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The Kanienkehaka, like many Native groups, often reworked copper trade goods into other useful or decorative items.
Courtesy Laboratoire et reserve d'archeologie du Quebec- Ministere de la Culture et des Communications.

As they parted ways, Hatsirohawi felt a tug of regret, but it soon passed as he walked back through the throngs of traders and Kanienkehaka. He soon was at the temporary camp where he was to wait for the others, but knowing that the camp would be flush with rum, he decided to make the long trek home alone. While he repacked his load and prepared his gun, two others arrived at the camp and together they decided to distance themselves from the group and camp that evening further along the river. Hatsirohawi was glad that he would have the safety of numbers on the return trip and that he wouldn’t lay awake as the sounds of his drunken comrades filled the night air. His thoughts turned to the comfort of his longhouse which awaited him back in Kanatsiohareke.

Hatsirohawi - Prologue | Albany Trade Scene | About this Narrative |

About this Narrative

Hatsirohawi is a character comprised of many accounts of Kanienkehaka traders and individuals from the time period. His life is typical of the events and hardships faced by numerous Kanienkehaka traders during the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth century. His life story is a composite of actual events and common cultural events that would have taken place during this time frame. The name “Hatsirohawi,” is currently held by a modern Kanienkehaka male who has given us permission to use it in this narrative. It would not be appropriate for a name to be simply plucked from the time period because there may be an individual holding that name currently, and that would create an awkward confusion. This narrative was written by Iakonikonriio "Tonia" Loran-Galban and Michael Galban.

See Further Reading for a list of sources used in creating this narrative. For a discussion of issues related to telling people's stories on the site, see: Bringing History to Life: The People in The Many Stories of 1704.

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