Thayendanegea or Joseph Brant (March 1743 – November 24, 1807) was a Mohawk military and political leader, based in present-day New York, who was closely associated with Great Britain during and after the American Revolution. Perhaps the American Indian of his generation best known to the Americans and British, he met many of the most significant Anglo-American people of the age, including both George Washington and King George III.
While not born into a hereditary leadership role within the Iroquois League, Brant rose to prominence due to his education, abilities and his connections to British officials. His sister, Molly Brant, was the consort of Sir William Johnson, the influential British Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the province of New York. During the American Revolutionary War, Brant led Mohawk and colonial Loyalists against the rebels in a bitter partisan war on the New York frontier. He was accused by the Americans of committing atrocities and given the name “Monster Brant”, but the charges were later found to be false. After the war, he relocated with most of his people to Canada to the Six Nations Reserve, where he remained a prominent leader.
Joseph was born in 1743, probably in April, in the Ohio Country somewhere along the Cuyahoga River. This was during the hunting season when the Mohawk traveled to the area. He was named Thayendanegea, which in the Mohawk language can mean “two wagers (sticks) bound together for strength”, or possibly “he who places two bets.” As the Mohawk were a matrilineal culture, he was born into his mother’s Wolf Clan. Anglican Church records at Fort Hunter, New York, noted that his parents were Christians and their names were Peter and Margaret Tehonwaghkwangearahkwa. His father died when Joseph was born.
After his father’s death, his mother Margaret (Owandah), the niece of Tiaogeara, a Caughnawaga sachem, returned to the province of New York from Ohio with Joseph and his sister Mary (also known as Molly). They settled in Canajoharie, a Mohawk village on the Mohawk River, where they had lived before.
On September 9, 1753 his mother married again, to a widower named Brant (Canagaraduncka), a Mohawk sachem. Her new husband’s family had ties with the British; his grandfather Sagayendwarahton (Old Smoke) was one of the Four Mohawk Kings to visit England in 1710. The marriage bettered Margaret’s fortunes, and the family lived in the best house in Canajoharie. Her new alliance conferred little status on her children as Mohawk titles and leadership positions descended through the female line.
Canagaraduncka was a friend of William Johnson, the influential and wealthy British Superintendent for Northern Indian Affairs, who had been knighted for his service. During Johnson’s frequent visits to the Mohawk, he always stayed at the Brants’ house. Brant’s half-sister Molly established a relationship with Johnson, who was a highly successful trader and landowner. His mansion Johnson Hall impressed the young Brant so much that he decided to stay with Molly and Johnson. Johnson took an interest in the youth and supported his English-style education, as well as introducing him to influential leaders in the New York colony.
Seven Years War and education
Starting at about age 18 during the French and Indian War (part of the Seven Years War), Brant took part with Mohawk and other Iroquois allies in a number of British actions against the French in Canada: James Abercrombie’s 1758 expedition via Lake George that ended in utter defeat at Fort Carillon; Johnson’s 1759 Battle of Fort Niagara; and Jeffery Amherst’s 1760 expedition to Montreal via the St. Lawrence River. He was one of 182 Native American warriors awarded a silver medal from the British for his service.
In 1761, Johnson arranged for three Mohawk, including Brant, to be educated at Eleazar Wheelock’s “Moor’s Indian Charity School” in Connecticut. This was the forerunner of Dartmouth College, which was later established in New Hampshire. Brant studied under the guidance of Wheelock, who wrote that the youth was “of a sprightly genius, a manly and gentle deportment, and of a modest, courteous and benevolent temper.” Brant learned to speak, read, and write English, as well as studying other academic subjects. He met Samuel Kirkland at the school, later a missionary to Indians in western New York. In 1763, Johnson prepared for Brant to attend King’s College in New York City. The outbreak of Pontiac’s Rebellion upset his plans, and Brant returned home to avoid hostility toward Native Americans. After Pontiac’s rebellion, Johnson did not think it safe for Brant to return to King’s College.
In March 1764, Brant participated in one of the Iroquois war parties that attacked Lenape villages in the Susquehanna and Chemung valleys. They destroyed three good-sized towns, burning 130 houses and killing the cattle. No enemy warriors were seen. The Algonquian-speaking Lenape and Iroquois belonged to two different language families; they were traditional competitors and often warred at their frontiers.
Marriages and family
On July 22, 1765, in Canajoharie, Brant married Peggie (also known as Margaret). Said to be the daughter of Virginia planters, Peggie had been taken captive when young by Native Americans. After becoming assimilated with midwestern Indians, she was sent to the Mohawk. They lived with his parents, who passed the house on to Brant after his stepfather’s death. He also owned a large and fertile farm of 80 acres (320,000 m2) near the village of Canajoharie on the south shore of the Mohawk River; this village was also known as the Upper Mohawk Castle. Brant and Peggie raised corn, and kept cattle, sheep, horses, and hogs. He also kept a small store. Brant dressed in “the English mode” wearing “a suit of blue broad cloth.”
Peggie and Brant had two children together, Isaac and Christine, before Peggie died from tuberculosis in March 1771. After attacking his father in a fight, Isaac died as a young man of a wound. Brant married a second wife, Susanna, but she died near the end of 1777 during the American Revolutionary War, when they were staying at Fort Niagara.
While still based at Fort Niagara, Brant started living with Catherine Adonwentishon Croghan, whom he married in the winter of 1780. She was the daughter of Catharine (Tekarihoga), a Mohawk, and George Croghan, the prominent Irish colonist and British Indian agent, deputy to William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern District. Through her mother, Adonwentishon became clan mother of the Turtle clan, the first in rank in the Mohawk Nation. The Mohawk had a matrilineal kinship system, with inheritance and descent through the maternal line. As the clan matriarch, Adonwentishon had the birth right of naming the Tekarihoga, the principal hereditary sachem of the Mohawk who would come from her clan. Through his marriage to Catherine, Brant also became connected to John Smoke Johnson, a Mohawk grandson of Sir William Johnson and relative of Chief Hendrick.
With Catherine Croghan, Brant had seven children: Joseph, Jacob (1786–1847), John (selected by Catherine as Tekarihoga at the appropriate time; he never married), Margaret, Catherine, Mary, and Elizabeth (who married William Johnson Kerr, grandson of Sir William Johnson and Molly Brant; their son later became a chief among the Mohawk).
With Johnson’s encouragement, the Mohawk named Brant as a war chief and their primary spokesman. In the spring of 1772, Brant moved to Fort Hunter to stay with the Reverend John Stuart. He became Stuart’s interpreter and teacher of Mohawk, collaborating with him to translate the Anglican catechism and the Gospel of Mark into the Mohawk language. His interest in translating Christian texts had begun during his early education. At Moor’s Charity School for Indians, he did many translations. Brant became Anglican, a faith he held for the remainder of his life.
Aside from being fluent in English, Brant spoke at least three, and possibly all, of the Six Nations’ Iroquoian languages. From 1766 on, he worked as an interpreter for the British Indian Department.
In 1775, he was appointed departmental secretary with the rank of Captain for the new British Superintendent’s Mohawk warriors from Canajoharie. When Loyalists were threatened after the war broke out in April 1775, Brant moved to the Province of Quebec, arriving in Montreal on July 17. His wife and children went to Onoquaga in south central New York, a Tuscarora Iroquois village along the Susquehanna River, the site of present-day Windsor.
On 11 November 1775, Guy Johnson took Brant with him to London to solicit more support from the government. They hoped to persuade the Crown to address past Mohawk land grievances in exchange for their participation as allies in the impending war. The British government promised the Iroquois people land in Quebec if the Iroquois nations would fight on the British side in what was shaping up as open rebellion by the American colonists. In London, Brant was treated as a celebrity and was interviewed for publication by James Boswell. He was received by King George III at St. James’s Palace. While in public, he dressed in traditional Mohawk attire. He was accepted as a Mason and received his ritual apron personally from King George.
Brant returned to Staten Island, New York in July 1776. He participated with Howe’s forces as they prepared to retake New York. Although the details of his service that summer and fall were not officially recorded, Brant was said to have distinguished himself for bravery. He was thought to be with Clinton, Cornwallis, and Percy in the flanking movement at Jamaica Pass in the Battle of Long Island in August 1776. He became lifelong friends with Lord Percy, later Duke of Northumberland, in what was his only lasting friendship with a white man.
In November, Brant left New York City and traveled northwest through Patriot-held territory. Disguised, traveling at night and sleeping during the day, he reached Onoquaga, where he rejoined his family. At the end of December, he was at Fort Niagara. He traveled from village to village in the confederacy, urging the Iroquois to enter the war as British allies. Many Iroquois balked at Brant’s plans. Joseph Louis Cook, a Mohawk leader who supported the rebel American colonists, became a lifelong enemy of Brant’s.
The full council of the Six Nations had previously decided on a policy of neutrality at Albany in 1775. They considered Brant a minor war chief and the Mohawk a relatively weak people.
Frustrated, Brant returned to Onoquaga in the spring to recruit independent warriors. Few Onoquaga villagers joined him, but in May he was successful in recruiting Loyalists who wished to retaliate against the rebels. This group became known as Brant’s Volunteers. In June, he led them to Unadilla to obtain supplies. There he was confronted by 380 men of the Tryon County militia led by Nicholas Herkimer. Herkimer requested that the Iroquois remain neutral but Brant responded that the Indians owed their loyalty to the King. They hoped to evict the European settlers from their territory.
In July 1777 the Six Nations council decided to abandon neutrality and enter the war on the British side. Four of the six nations chose this route, and some members of the Oneida and Tuscarora, who otherwise allied with the rebels. Brant was not present. Sayenqueraghta and Cornplanter were named as the war chiefs of the confederacy. The Mohawk had earlier made Brant one of their war chiefs; they also selected John Deseronto.
In July, Brant led his Volunteers north to link up with Barry St. Leger at Fort Oswego. St. Leger’s plan was to travel downriver, east in the Mohawk River valley, to Albany, where he would meet the army of John Burgoyne, who was coming from Lake Champlain and the upper Hudson River. St. Leger’s expedition ground to a halt with the Siege of Fort Stanwix. Brant played a major role in the Battle of Oriskany, where a Patriot relief expedition was stopped. St. Leger was eventually forced to lift the siege, and Brant traveled to Burgoyne’s main army to inform him. Burgoyne restricted participation by native warriors, so Brant departed for Fort Niagara, where his family joined him and he spent the winter planning the next year’s campaign. His wife Susanna likely died at Fort Niagara that winter. (Burgoyne’s campaign ended with his surrender to the Patriots after the Battles of Saratoga.)
In April 1778, Brant returned to Onoquaga. He became one of the most active partisan leaders in the frontier war. He and his Volunteers raided rebel settlements throughout the Mohawk Valley, stealing their cattle, burning their houses, and killing many. On May 30, he led an attack on Cobleskill and in September, along with Captain William Caldwell, he led a mixed force of Indians and Loyalists in a raid on German Flatts. In the Battle of Wyoming in July, the Seneca were accused of slaughtering noncombatant civilians. Although Brant was suspected of being involved, he did not participate in that battle.
In October 1778, Continental soldiers and local militia attacked Brant’s home base at Onaquaga while his Volunteers were away on a raid. The soldiers burned the houses, killed the cattle, chopped down the apple trees, spoiled the growing corn crop, and killed some native children found in the corn fields. The American commander later described Onaquaga as “the finest Indian town I ever saw; on both sides [of] the river there was about 40 good houses, square logs, shingles & stone chimneys, good floors, glass windows.” In November 1778, Brant joined his Mohawk forces with those led by Walter Butler in the Cherry Valley massacre.
Butler’s forces were composed primarily of Seneca angered by the rebel raids on Onaquaga, Unadilla, and Tioga, and by accusations of atrocities during the Battle of Wyoming. The force rampaged through Cherry Valley, a community in which Brant knew several people. He tried to restrain the attack, but more than 30 noncombatants were reported slain in the attack.
The Patriot Americans believed that Brant had commanded the Wyoming Valley massacre of 1778, and also considered him responsible for the Cherry Valley massacre. At the time, frontier rebels called him “the Monster Brant”, and stories of his massacres and atrocities were widely propagated. The violence of the frontier warfare added to the rebel Americans’ hatred of the Iroquois and soured relations for 50 years. While the colonists called the Indian killings “massacres”, they considered their own forces’ widespread destruction of Indian villages and populations simply as part of the partisan war, but the Iroquois equally grieved for their losses. Long after the war, hostility to Brant remained high in the Mohawk Valley; in 1797, the governor of New York provided an armed bodyguard for Brant’s travels through the state because of threats against him.
Some historians have argued that Brant had been a force for restraint during the campaign in the Mohawk Valley. They have discovered occasions when he displayed compassion, especially towards women, children, and non-combatants. Colonel Ichabod Alden said that he “should much rather fall into the hands of Brant than either of them [Loyalists and Tories].” But, Allan W. Eckert asserts that Brant pursued and killed Alden as the colonel fled to the Continental stockade during the Cherry Valley attack.
Lt. Col. William Stacy of the Continental Army was the highest-ranking officer captured by Brant and his allies during the Cherry Valley massacre. Several contemporary accounts tell of the Iroquois stripping Stacy and tying him to a stake, in preparation for what was ritual torture and execution of enemy warriors by Iroquois custom. Brant intervened and spared him. Some accounts say that Stacy was a Freemason and appealed to Brant on that basis, gaining his intervention for a fellow Mason. Eckert, a historian and historical novelist, speculates that the Stacy incident is “more romance than fact”, though he provides no documentary evidence.
Commissioned as officer, 1779
In February 1779, Brant traveled to Montreal to meet with Frederick Haldimand, the military commander and Governor of Quebec. Haldimand commissioned Brant as Captain of the Northern Confederated Indians. He also promised provisions, but no pay, for his Volunteers. Assuming victory, Haldimand pledged that after the war ended, the British government would restore the Mohawk to their lands as stated before the conflict started. Those conditions were included in the Proclamation of 1763, the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, and the Quebec Act in June 1774.
In May, Brant returned to Fort Niagara where, with his new salary and plunder from his raids, he acquired a farm on the Niagara River, six miles (10 km) from the fort. To work the farm and to serve the household, he used slaves captured during his raids. Brant also bought a slave, a seven-year-old African-American girl named Sophia Burthen Pooley. She served him and his family for many years before he sold her to an Englishman for $100. He built a small chapel for the Indians who started living nearby. There he also married for a third time, to Catherine Croghan (as noted above in Marriage section).
Brant’s honors and gifts caused jealousy among rival chiefs, in particular the Seneca war chief Sayenqueraghta. A British general said that Brant “would be much happier and would have more weight with the Indians, which he in some measure forfeits by their knowing that he receives pay.” In late 1779, after receiving a colonel’s commission for Brant from Lord Germain, Haldimand decided to hold it without informing Brant.
In early July 1779, the British learned of plans for a major American expedition into Iroquois Seneca country. To disrupt the Americans’ plans, John Butler sent Brant and his Volunteers on a quest for provisions and to gather intelligence in the upper Delaware River valley near Minisink, New York. After stopping at Onaquaga, Brant attacked and defeated American militia at the Battle of Minisink on July 22, 1779. Brant’s raid failed to disrupt the Continental Army’s plans, however.
In the Sullivan Expedition, the Continental Army sent a large force deep into Iroquois territory to attack the warriors and, as importantly, destroy their villages, crops and food stores. Brant and the Iroquois were defeated on August 29, 1779 at the Battle of Newtown, the only major conflict of the expedition. Sullivan’s Continentals swept away all Iroquois resistance in New York, burned their villages, and forced the Iroquois to fall back to Fort Niagara. Brant wintered at Fort Niagara in 1779–80.
Wounded and service in Detroit area, 1780–83
In early 1780, Brant resumed small-scale attacks on American troops and Colonial settlers the Mohawk Valley. In February 1780, he and his party set out, and in April attacked Harpersfield. In mid-July 1780 Brant attacked the Oneida village of Kanonwalohale, as many of the nation fought as allies of the American colonists. Brant’s raiders destroyed the Oneida houses, horses, and crops. Some of the Oneida surrendered, but most took refuge at Fort Stanwix.
Traveling east, Brant’s forces tracked towns on both sides of the Mohawk River: Canajoharie on the south and Fort Plank. He burned his former hometown of Canajoharie because it had been re-occupied by American settlers. On the raiders’ return up the valley, they divided into smaller parties, attacking Schoharie, Cherry Valley, and German Flatts. Joining with Butler’s Rangers and the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, Brant’s forces were part of a third major raid on the Mohawk Valley, where they destroyed settlers’ homes and crops. Brant was wounded in the heel at the Battle of Klock’s Field.
In April 1781, Brant was sent west to Fort Detroit to help defend against Virginian George Rogers Clark’s expedition into the Ohio Country. In August 1781, Brant soundly defeated a detachment of Clark’s force, ending the American threat to Detroit. He was wounded in the leg and spent the winter 1781–82 at the fort. During 1781 and 1782, Brant tried to keep the disaffected western Iroquois nations loyal to the Crown before and after the British surrendered at Yorktown in October 1781.
In June 1782, Brant and his Indians went to Fort Oswego, where they helped rebuild the fort. In July 1782, he and 460 Iroquois raided forts Herkimer and Dayton, but they did not cause much serious damage. Sometime during the raid, he received a letter from Governor Haldimand, announcing peace negotiations, recalling the war party and ordering a cessation of hostilities. Brant denounced the British “no offensive war” policy as a betrayal of the Iroquois and urged the Indians to continue the war, but they were unable to do so without British supplies.
Other events in the New World and Europe as well as changes in the British government had brought reconsideration of British national interest on the American continent. The new governments recognized their priority to get Britain out of its four interconnected wars, and time might be short. Through a long and involved process between March and the end of November 1782, the preliminary peace treaty between Great Britain and America would be made; it would become public knowledge following its approval by the Congress of the Confederation on April 15, 1783. Nearly another year would pass before the other foreign parties to the conflict signed treaties on September 3, 1783, with that being ratified by Congress on January 14, 1784, and formally ending the American Revolutionary War.
After the war
In ending the conflict with the Treaty of Paris (1783), both Britain and the United States ignored the sovereignty of the Indians. Britain had accepted the American demand that the boundary with British Canada should revert to its location after the Seven Years’ War with France in 1763, and not the revisions of the Quebec Act as war with the colonists approached. The difference between the two lines was the whole area south of the Great lakes, north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi, in which the Six Nations and western Indian tribes were previously accepted as sovereign. For the Americans, the area would become the Northwest Territory from which six-and-a-half new States would later emerge. While British promises of protection of the Iroquois domain had been an important factor in the Six Nations’ decision to ally with the British, they were bitterly disappointed when Britain ceded it and regarded it as territory of the new United States. Just weeks after the final treaty signing, the American Congress on September 22, stated its vision of these Indian lands with the Confederation Congress Proclamation of 1783; it prohibited the extinguishment of aboriginal title in the United States without the consent of the federal government, and was derived from the policy of the British Proclamation of 1763.
In 1783, Brant consulted with Governor Haldimand on Indian land issues and in late summer of 1783, Brant traveled west and helped initiate the formation of the Western Confederacy. In August and September he was present at unity meetings in the Detroit area, and on September 7 at Lower Sandusky, Ohio, was a principal speaker at an Indian council attended by Wyandots, Delawares, Shawnees, Cherokees, Ojibwas, Ottawas, and Mingos. The Iroquois and 29 other Indian nations agreed to defend the 1768 Fort Stanwix Treaty boundary line with European settlers by denying any Indian nation the ability to cede any land without common consent of all.
Brant was at Fort Stanwix from late August into September for initial peace negotiations between the Six Nations and New York State officials, but he did not attend later treaty negotiations held there with the commissioners of the Continental Congress in October. Brant expressed extreme indignation on learning that the commissioners had detained as hostages several prominent Six Nations leaders and delayed his intended trip to England attempting to secure their release. The Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1784) was signed on October 22, to serve as a peace treaty between the Americans and the Iroquois, but it forced the cession of most Iroquois land, as well as greater lands of other tribes to the west and south. Some reservations were established for the Oneida and Onondaga, who had been allies of the American rebels.
With Brant’s urging and three days later, Haldimand proclaimed a grant of land for a Mohawk reserve on the Grand River in present-day Ontario on October 25, 1784. Later in the fall, at a council at Buffalo Creek, the clan matrons decided that the Six Nations should divide, with half going to the Haldimand grant and the other half staying in New York. Brant built his own house at Brant’s Town which was described as “a handsome two story house, built after the manner of the white people. Compared with the other houses, it may be called a palace.” He had about twenty white and black servants and slaves. Brant thought the government made too much over the keeping of slaves, as captives were used for servants in Indian practice. He had a good farm of mixed crops and also kept cattle, sheep, and hogs.
In November 1785, Brant traveled to London to ask King George III for assistance in defending the Indian confederacy from attack by the Americans. The government granted Brant a generous pension and agreed to fully compensate the Mohawk for their losses, but they did not promise to support the confederacy. (In contrast to the settlement which the Mohawk received, Loyalists were compensated for only a fraction of their property losses.) He also took a diplomatic trip to Paris, returning to Quebec City in June 1786. In December 1786 Brant, along with leaders of the Shawnee, Delaware, Miami, Wyandot, Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi nations, met at the Wyandot village of Brownstown and renewed the wartime confederacy in the West by issuing a statement to the American government declaring the Ohio River as the boundary between them and the whites. Nevertheless, despite Brant’s efforts to produce an agreement favorable to the Brownstown confederacy and to British interests, he also would be willing to compromise later with the United States.
In 1790, after Americans attacked the Western Confederacy in the Northwest Indian War, member tribes asked Brant and the Six Nations to enter the war on their side. Brant refused; he instead asked Lord Dorchester, the new governor of Quebec, for British assistance. Dorchester also refused, but later in 1794, he did provide the Indians with arms and provisions.
In 1792, the American government invited Brant to Philadelphia, then capital of the United States, where he met President George Washington and his cabinet. The Americans offered him a large pension, and a reservation in upstate New York for the Mohawks to try to lure them back. Brant refused, but Pickering said that Brant did take some cash payments. George Washington told Henry Knox in 1794 “to buy Captain Brant off at almost any price.” Brant attempted a compromise peace settlement between the Western Confederacy and the Americans, but he failed. The war continued, and the Indians were defeated in 1794 at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The unity of the Western Confederacy was broken with the peace Treaty of Greenville in 1795.
In early 1797, Brant traveled again to Philadelphia to meet the British diplomat Robert Liston and United States government officials. In a speech to Congress, Brant assured the Americans that he would “never again take up the tomahawk against the United States.” At this time the British were at war with France and Spain. While in Philadelphia, Brant also met with the French diplomat Pierre August Adet where he stated: “[H]e would offer his services to the French Minister Adet, and march his Mohawks to assist in effecting a revolution and overturning the British government in the province.” When Brant returned home, there were fears of a French attack. Russell wrote: “the present alarming aspect of affairs — when we are threatened with an invasion by the French and Spaniards from the Mississippi, and the information we have received of emissaries being dispersed among the Indian tribes to incite them to take up the hatchet against the King’s subjects.” He also wrote that Brant “only seeks a feasible excuse for joining the French, should they invade this province.” London ordered Russell to prohibit the Indians from alienating their land. With the prospects of war to appease Brant, Russell confirmed Brant’s land sales. Brant then declared: “[T]hey would now all fight for the King to the last drop of their blood.”
In late 1800 and early 1801 Brant wrote to New York Governor George Clinton to secure a large tract of land near Sandusky, Ohio which could serve as a refuge. He planned its use for the Grand River Indians if they suffered defeat. In September 1801, Brant was reported as saying: “He says he will go away, yet the Grand River Lands will [still] be in his hands, that no man shall meddle with it amongst us. He says the British Government shall not get it, but the Americans shall and will have it, the Grand River Lands, because the war is very close to break out.” In January 1802, the Executive Council of Upper Canada learned of this plot, led by Aaron Burr and George Clinton, to overthrow British rule and to create a republican state to join the United States. September 1802, the planned date of invasion, passed uneventfully and the plot evaporated.
Brant bought about 3,500 acres (14 km2) from the Mississauga Indians at the head of Burlington Bay. Upper Canada’s Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe, would not allow such a sale between Indians, so he bought this tract of land from the Mississauga and gave it to Brant. Around 1802, Brant moved there and built a mansion that was intended to be a half-scale version of Johnson Hall. He had a prosperous farm in the colonial style with 100 acres (0.40 km2) of crops.
Joseph Brant died in his house at the head of Lake Ontario (site of what would become the city of Burlington, Ontario) on November 24, 1807 at age 64 after a short illness. His last words, spoken to his adopted nephew John Norton, reflect his lifelong commitment to his people: “Have pity on the poor Indians. If you have any influence with the great, endeavor to use it for their good.”
In 1850, his remains were carried 34 miles (55 km) in relays on the shoulders of young men of Grand River to a tomb at Her Majesty’s Chapel of the Mohawks in Brantford.
Brant acted as a tireless negotiator for the Six Nations to control their land without Crown oversight or control. He used British fears of his dealings with the Americans and the French to extract concessions. His conflicts with British administrators in Canada regarding tribal land claims were exacerbated by his relations with the American leaders.
Brant was a war chief, and not a hereditary Mohawk sachem. His decisions could and were sometimes overruled by the sachems and clan matrons. However, his natural ability, his early education, and the connections he was able to form made him one of the great leaders of his people and of his time.
The situation of the Six Nations on the Grand River was better than that of the Iroquois who remained in New York. His lifelong mission was to help the Indian to survive the transition from one culture to another, transcending the political, social and economic challenges of one of the most volatile, dynamic periods of American history. He put his loyalty to the Six Nations before loyalty to the British. His life cannot be summed up in terms of success or failure, although he had known both. More than anything, Brant’s life was marked by frustration and struggle.
His attempt to create pan-tribal unity proved unsuccessful, though his efforts would be taken up a generation later by the Shawnee leader Tecumseh.
Legacy and honors
During his lifetime, Brant was the subject of many portrait artists. Two in particular signify his place in American, Canadian, and British history:
George Romney’s portrait, painted during Brant’s first trip to England in 1775–76, hangs in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
The Joseph Brant Museum was constructed c. 1800 on land Brant once owned. An Ontario Historical Plaque was erected by the province to commemorate the Brant House’s role in Ontario’s heritage. His first house in Burlington was demolished in 1932.
The City of Brantford and the County of Brant, Ontario, are located on part of his land grant and named for him. The town of Brant, New York was also named for him.
Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ontario, is named for him; it is sited on land he had owned.
The township of Tyendinaga and the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory are named for him, by his traditional Mohawk name, in an alternate spelling.
The neighborhood of Tyandaga in Burlington was also named for him.
Brant is one of the 14 leading Canadian military figures commemorated at the Valiants Memorial in Ottawa.
A dormitory and one of the squadrons at the Royal Military College of Canada are named for him.