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Skenandoah , Christian Oneida Indian Chief
Kusick, Christian Chief of the Tuscarora Tribe

From Colonel McKenry's Book on the Indians
      Who has not heard of the famous Oneida chief Skenandoah? He whose pathway, for sixty- years, had been marked with blood; whose war-whoop had resounded through many a terrified settlement, and until the regions of the Mohawk rang with it; and who was in all respects, the cruel, the indomitable savage. One would suppose that habits, stiffened by so long a period of indulgence, could not be easily, if at all softened and remoulded; that the spirit of the warrior having been so long indulged in the practices so congenial to the feelings of the savage, could not be subdued, and made to conform to all that is gentle, and peaceful and pious. But all this was effected in the person of this chief. He was awakened under the preaching of the Rev. Mr. Kirkland, and became a convert to the faith of the Christian. The tomahawk, the war-club, and the scalping-knife fell from his grasp; the desolations which he had produced he mourned over; he saw, in his mythology, nothing but chimeras; he was penitent - and was forgiven. Nor did he ever abandon the faith he had adopted, but continued a peaceful, faithful, devoted Christian, until his death, which occurred when he was over a hundred years old.

      A while previous to his death, a friend calling to see him, and inquiring after his health, received this answer (which most of you, doubtless have heard,) - "I am an aged hemlock. The winds of a hundred winters have whistled through my branches. I am dead at the top (referring to his blindness.) - Why I yet live, the great good Spirit only knows. When I am dead, bury me, by the aide of my minister and friend (meaning Mr. Kirkland,) - that I may go up with him at the great resurrection!" He was accordingly so buried, and I have seen his tomb.


      Another case was that of Kusick. Chief of the Tuscaroras. He was also an Indian, and had served under La Fayette, in the army of the Revolution. It was usual for him, in company with A few of his leading men, to visit, once in every two or three years, the State of North Carolina, whence his tribe originally came, to see after some claims they had on that State. In passing through Washington, the old chief would call at my office, for the purpose of submitting his papers, and of counselling with me. On one of these occasions, he made a call before breakfast, at my residence, accompanied by his companions. A neighbor had stepped in to see me, on his way to his office, and our conversation turned on Lady Morgan's France, which had been just then published, and was lying on my table. We spoke of La Fayette. The moment his name was mentioned, Kusick turned quick upon me his fine black eyes, and asked, with great earnestness, -

"Is he yet alive? The same La Fayette that was in the Revolutionary war!"

"Yes, Kusick," I answered, "he is alive; and he is the same La Fayette who was in that war. That book speaks of him as being not only alive but looking well and hearty." I'm glad to hear it."

"Then you know La Fayette, Kusick?'

"O, yes," he answered, "I knew him well, and many a time in the battle, I threw myself between him and the bullets, - for I loved him."

"Were you in commission?"

"O, yes," he replied, "I was a lieutenant; General Washington gave me a commission."

      My friend (who was the late venerable Joseph Nourse, at that time Register of the Treasury) and myself, agreed to examine the records, and see if the old chief was not entitled to a pension. We (or rather he) did so. - All was found to be as Kusick had reported it; when he was put on the pension list.

      Some years after, in 1827, when passing through the Tuscarora reserve, on my way to the wilderness, I stopped opposite his log cabin, and walked up to see the old chief. I found him engaged drying fish. After the usual greeting, I asked if he continued to receive his pension.

      "No," said the old chief, "no; Congress passed a law making it necessary for me to swear I cannot live without it. Now here is my little log-cabin, and it's my own; here's my patch, where I can raise corn, and beans, and pumpkins; arid there's Lake Oneida, where I can catch fish. "With these I can make out to live without the pension; and to say I could not would be to lie to the Great Spirit!"

      Here was principle, and deep piety; and a lesson for many whose advantages had far exceeded those of this poor Indian. In connection with this, I will add another anecdote, in proof of his veneration for the Deity. He breakfasted with me on the morning to which I have referred; and knowing him to be a teacher of the Christian religion among his people, and an interpreter for those who occasionally preached to them, I requested him to ask a blessing. He did so and in a manner so impressive, as to make me feel that he was deeply imbued with the proper spirit. He employed in the ceremony his native Tuscarora. I asked him why, he spoke very good English, he had asked the blessing in his native tongue? He said, "when I speak English, I am often at a loss for a word. When, therefore, I speak to the Great Spirit, I do not like to be perplexed, or have my mind distracted, to look after a word, When I use my own language, it is like my breath; I am composed." Kusick died an honest man and a Christian; and though an Indian, has doubtless entered into his rest.


[From Colonel McKenry's Book on the Indians, Volume II. pp. 83-86, via the Tennessee Baptist, January 6, 1848, p. 1, CD edition. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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