George Catlin, born Wilkes-Barre, PA 1796-died Jersey City, NJ 1872
oil on canvas
21 3/4 x 16 3/4 in. (55.3 x 42.5 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.
George Catlin described Seneca Steele as having a “hatchet in his hand.” The artist probably took this portrait in Washington, in February 1831. (Catlin, 1848 Catalogue, Catlin’s Indian Gallery, SAAM online exhibition)
Oscar Howe (Mazuha Hokshina), Yanktonnai Nakota, 1915-1983
Paper, watercolor, ink
30.1 x 45.2 cm
South Dakota; USA
Part of a series of paintings commissioned by Dr. Oscar Brousse Jacobson (1882-1966, artist, scholar, Native art patron, and director of the University of Oklahoma's School of Art from 1915 to 1954) for "North American Indian Costumes, 1564-1950," a book by Oscar B. Jacobson and Oscar Howe and published by Editions d'Art C. Szwedzicki. Nice, France, 1952. The original paintings were purchased by MAI from Dr. Jacobson before 1966.
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Blacksnake, a Seneca/Six Nations chief, was one of the few Indian leaders who remained on the American side in the War of 1812, fighting in several battles on the Niagara frontier.
Although Seneca soldiers were honorably mustered out, the War of 1812 was a disaster for American Indians. They suffered major defeats at Horseshoe Bend and the loss of their most gifted leader, Tecumseh. The Treaty of Ghent promised them peace, "to restore . . . all . . . [their] possessions, rights, and privileges," but Britain’s abandonment of Indian allies after the war ended its ability to resist an expanding America.
Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology, 4: 1-126.
This work is an extended description of the structure of words in the Seneca language. A description of the grammar of Seneca words has already been published in the International Journal of American Linguistics (Chafe, 1960, 1961 a). A major omission from that work, however, was a comprehensive list of the verb roots, noun roots, and particles of the language, with specification of their grammatical peculiarities and examples of their use. The present work is designed to fill that gap. Its chief purpose is to make available a Seneca dictionary, or lexicon. Since, however, the dictionary contains many references to paragraphs in the Seneca Morphology mentioned above, it was thought useful to republish that work as part of this volume. Republication seems all the more useful in view of the fact that the original Seneca Morphology is scattered through eight numbers of two different volumes of the journal. Minor revisions and corrections have been made, but extensive changes, however desirable they might have been, were out of the question because the references in the dictionary were already keyed to paragraph numbers in the original version, as were the references given in the Grammatical Commentary of Seneca Thanksgiving Rituals (Chafe, 1961 b). Seneca is at present the native language of a few thousand persons, most of whom live on the Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Tonawanda Reservations in western New York State and on the Grand River Reserve in Ontario, Canada. There are few if any speakers now under 30 years of age. Seneca is historically important as the language of the Five (now Six) Nations of the Iroquois and as the language of Handsome Lake, the Iroquois prophet (Parker, 1913; for a history of the Seneca see Parker, 1926). Within the Iroquoian language family, Seneca is a member of the Northern Iroquoian subgroup, which includes also Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora among the languages still spoken. Seneca is most closely related to Cayuga, but the two are different enough to be considered separate languages. The dialect differentiation within Seneca itself is minor. Earlier works on Seneca include several brief grammatical sketches (Voegelin and Preston, 1949, and Holmer, 1952, 1953, 1954) and texts (Hewitt, 1903, 1918). A list of still earlier sources is available in Pilling (1888). The material on which this work is based was obtained during four summers of fieldwork, 1956-59, on the three New York reservations. It consists of an extensive corpus of Seneca words and texts, including formal speeches, legends, historical accounts, and conversations. I am deeply grateful for the assistance provided by numerous speakers of Seneca, above all by Solon Jones and Leroy Button of the Cattaraugus Reservation, Lena P. Snow, Tessie Snow, and Edward Curry of the Allegany Reservation, and Corbett Sundown and Betsy Carpenter of the Tonawanda Reservation. Appreciation is also due to William N. Fenton, Floyd G. Lounsbury, the Smithsonian Institution, Yale University, and especially to the New York State Museum and Science Service, under whose auspices the fieldwork was conducted. Both the Smithsonian Institution and the University of California provided support for the completion of the manuscript, and thanks are due to Karlena Glemser, Myra Rothenberg, and Aura Cuevas for their help in this regard. The lexicon of a language is a vast terrain which no one could hope to explore fully during a few scattered field trips. Although grammatical analysis can perhaps lead to a point of diminishing returns after a reasonable period of investigation, I doubt that such a point has even been approached for the vocabularies of any languages except those few which have a long tradition of lexicography. Certainly the experience which I and others have had with American Indian languages refutes the ethnocentric myth that such languages are poor in their means of expression. What is given in the dictionary of this work is simply what I was able to obtain in a period that was totally inadequate for the purpose. In making this lexical material available, I have had several possible uses of it in mind. I should say first that I have not intended that anyone should use it for learning to speak the Seneca language, although I would be very happy if someone were to find it helpful for that purpose. Above all I have wanted to provide data that can be used in comparative Iroquoian studies. Such work is stymied, as it is in most American Indian language families, by the absence of detailed lexical material. This is the first modern dictionary of any Iroquoian language, and I fervently hope that other and better ones will follow. Reconstruction, subgrouping, and the possible establishment of relationships outside the family cannot proceed without them. Second, the listing of roots with examples of their use will serve to elucidate the morphological patterns of the language beyond the few examples provided in the morphology, and to show something of the scope and frequency of constructions mentioned there. I regret the absence of syntactic examples; this compilation is a byproduct of a preoccupation with morphology. Examples of syntactic patterns as well as further morphological examples may be culled from my "Seneca Thanksgiving Rituals" and from Hewitt's texts. Finally, this material may prove useful in "language and culture" studies of various kinds.