This post was written by Julita Braxton, AHMC Cataloger.
In the United States, the second Monday of October is a federal holiday commemorating the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, but it is also an opportunity to honor the people native to this land. This Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we will recognize one such person, Joseph Brant, also known as Thayendanegea.
Brant was a Mohawk war chief and political leader, born in 1742 at Cayahoga in present-day Ohio. Committed to Christian and secular education for native peoples, he provided translations of religious texts into the Mohawk language. One such translation is The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments, and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, according to the use of the Church of England…., which was published in London in 1787. The New-York Historical Society holds what is said to have been Brant’s personal copy.
Brant is probably best remembered for his political prowess and leadership on the battlefield. He was a Loyalist during the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and other conflicts in the New York and Ontario regions. An advocate for confederacy among northeastern indigenous nations, he was an active leader of the Six Nations. Thrice married with several children, he was also a family man. N-YHS has a small collection of his papers, including a personal letter written by Brant to his longtime friend James Wheelock, dated Grand River, March 20, 1802, that thanks Wheelock and his wife for the homey accommodations they made for his sons Joseph and Jacob at Dartmouth College. Of Joseph, Brant states that “…I am fully confident he could not have been in a better place and I shall ever remain thankful for your kind attention and that of the President’s [his brother John Wheelock]…” Joseph Brant died at his home at Grand River in Ontario in 1807.
Cataloging of the American Historical Manuscript Collection (AHMC), a group of 12,000 small and unique manuscript collections, is made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Peck Stacpoole Foundation, and the Pine Tree Foundation of New York.