The ancestral homeland of the Mohawk Nation is the Mohawk River Valley of present day New York State. The Mohawks are considered the easternmost Nation within the Iroquois/Six Nation Confederacy and as such are referred to as the Keepers of Eastern Door. The original Five Nation Confederacy was made up of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca Nations. When the Tuscaroras were adopted into the Iroquois Confederacy around 1722 the Iroquois became known as the Six Nations Confederacy.
Our ancestors were military allies of the British Crown during the American Revolution as well as many previous wars between England and France. Fighting as allies of the British Crown during the American Revolution, some of the bloodiest battles took place in the Mohawk Valley. Although the official position at the onset of the revolutionary war was one of neutrality, our ancestors later assisted the British as the Mohawk Valley broke out in warfare. One of the many promises made our ancestors gain their support was that their homeland villages would be restored at the end of the war. However, when the war ended with the signing of the 1783 Treaty of Paris, Britain gave up the Mohawk homelands to the American rebel forces.
In recompense for the loss of the homelands and in recognition for their faithful military alliance with the British Crown, the Six Nations were to select any of the unsettled lands in Upper Canada. As a result of this Crown promise, our ancestors selected lands on the north shore of Lake Ontario for settlement. These lands were not unknown to the Six Nations people as they were part of a vast northern territory controlled by Iroquois Confederacy prior to the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The Bay of Quinte is also the birthplace of Tekanawita, the Peacemaker that brought the original Five Nations Iroquois Confederacy under a constitution of peace in the 12th century.
After travelling by canoe from Lachine, Quebec, our ancestors arrived on the shores of the Bay of Quinte on May 22, 1784. About 20 families, approximately 100-125 people, were met by Mississaugas who lived in the area. It is our tradition to mark the anniversary of the Landing with a re-enactment of landfall, and a thanksgiving for the safe arrival of our ancestors.
Although the Crown had promised the lands to the Six Nations the year before, our ancestors found some of the lands had been occupied by Loyalist families. After nine years of reminding the Crown of promises made at the close of the war, the Six Nations were granted a tract of land although smaller than originally promised. The land came to be known as the Mohawk Tract, about the size of a township, approximately 92,700 acres on the Bay of Quinte. A deed to this land known as the Simcoe Deed or Treaty 3 ½ was executed on April 1, 1793 by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe.
Not long after the Mohawks made settlement, many United Empire Loyalists continued to come into the Bay of Quinte area. Within a span of 23 years (1820-1843) two-thirds of the treaty land base under the Simcoe Deed was lost as the government made provisions to accommodate settler families. Today, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte have approximately 18,000 acres remaining of the original treaty land base and the current membership numbers over 8000.
Derived from the colours used in the wampum belts:
WHITE: Emblem of something good, of peace and purity.
PURPLE: Emblem of more important affairs of a civic nature.
Because of his ability to see far, the Peacemaker placed him at the top of the Great Tree of Peace. If he sees in the distance any evil approaching or any danger threatening, he will at once warn the Haudenosaunee, the People of the Confederacy.
Symbolizes the Great Peace and the Great Law (Kaianerekowa) that was established by the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee.
It is provided thus: There are now the Five Nations League Chiefs standing with joined hands in a circle… be firm so that if a tree should fall upon your joined hands, it should not separate you or weaken your hold. So shall the strength of your union be preserved.