Little Abraham Tyorhansera, Mohawk Indian, Wolf Clan Chief

I was very surprised to find this man listed in the Forgotten Patriots document as a Revolutionary War veteran.  Do you recall why perhaps?  Yes, indeed, the Mohawks, for the most part, joined the British, in Canada, and fought AGAINST the American cause.  So finding the Wolf Clan Chief listed as a patriot caused me to pause and consider.

Looking further, we find that Little Abraham was the son of Old Abraham.  Not surprising. 

In 1755 he first appears in the records as a pine tree chief, elected because of his military prowess.  In 1760 he is referred to by Sir William Johnson as the “best Indian of the Mohawks.”

His lifelong crusade was to protect Indian lands from the whites who were encroaching upon them.  He worked to this end in the 1760s, but the 1770s, with the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he saw life get much harder and his quest more difficult.  Initially the Mohawks attempted to remain neutral.  Tyorhansera declared that the Six Nations had “no inclination or purpose of interfering in the dispute between Old England and Boston.” As he put it, the Iroquois considered the revolution “a family affair” and would “sit still and see you fight it out.”

Neutrality didn’t work.  The Mohawks resented American land-grabbers.  They were close to the British and since the Americans could not adequately furnish the Indians with essential supplies-their reliance upon the more dependable flow of British trade goods increased, as did their relationship with the British. As a result, the Mohawks were generally regarded as British allies.  After the battle of Oriskany (near Rome, N.Y.) in August 1777, many Mohawks were driven from their homes to the safety of Montreal.

Surprisingly, he and a few other Mohawks chose to remain.  The reason is unclear.  It could be because General Philip John Schuyler, an American Indian commissioner, had intimated to the Mohawks that if they deserted their villages they would never be allowed to return. Quite possibly Tyorhansera remained in hopes of preventing the loss of his people’s land.  Even then, he tried to remain neutral and prevent bloodshed.

Unfortunately, either his neutrality or the fact that he did not remove to Canada, or both, made him a traitor in the eyes of the British. When he went to Niagara in February 1780 to try to negotiate a prisoner exchange and to appeal for an end to Iroquois involvement in the war, he was denounced by Kaieñkwaahtoñ and Kanonraron (Aaron Hill) and arrested by Guy Johnson.  Sadly, the ageing chief did not survive the ordeal and he died in prison.

In a sense his death was a blessing, for he was spared the pain of witnessing the irrevocable loss of his people’s homeland.  There is no happy ending to this story.

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About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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One Response to Little Abraham Tyorhansera, Mohawk Indian, Wolf Clan Chief

  1. laurie carlineo says:

    I feel he did the right thing tryin to save the indian land.

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