Squawkie Hill

Squawkie Hill

The name Squawkie Hill is said to be derived from the tribal name Muskwaki, meaning “red earth”, a Michigan tribe conquered by the Seneca. Captives were re-named Squawkiha and taken to Newtown, New York, present-day Elmira, and incorporated into the Seneca Nation. Mary Kennedy, the last descendant of the Squawkiha, tells the story of how her family escaped Newtown in 1779 during the Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War and fled to the Genesee Valley. The land where they lived has since been known as Squawkie Hill. Although she was considered a member of the Seneca Nation, Mary never lost her identity as a Squawkiha.

Arthur C. Parker, State Archaeologist for the New York State Museum and a descendant of the Seneca, visited the home of Mary Kennedy on the Cattaraugus Reservation for an interview shortly before she died in 1905. He translated her story from the Seneca language to English.

The story was later adapted by Irene A. Beale in Genesee Valley Women, 1743-1985.

Here is an excerpt from a chapter in Genesee Valley Women, 1743-1985 devoted to Mary Kennedy:

Mary Kennedy (1825-1905), Squawkiha

Like the Hebrews who lamented, “By the water of Babylon, we sat down and wept, “ the Seneca Indians, forced out of the Genesee Valley, grieved for their lost homes. Some of them belonged to a group doubly exiled, the Squawkiha. Mary Kennedy has told her people’s story.

When the Iroquois exterminated certain tribes, resisters were killed, and those who surrendered were incorporated into the Iroquois nation. Adopted tribes were taught to forget their ancestry and to know themselves only as Iroquois. In an excursion to the west sometime in the 1700s, Seneca warriors fought the Muskwaki and took many captives to Gaunudasey, or Newtown, present-day Elmira, New York. As they were absorbed into the Seneca nation, their name was changed to Squawkiha.

Speaking in the early twentieth century, Mary Kennedy began her family history with her grandfather, who had no name. That is, he was called The Nameless One, and in the deepest sense he had no name because he was a displaced person who kept wandering through the woods in a discouraged way. He was still a Squawkiha.

In Mary’s account, “One day as my grandfather wandered, he heard voices. They were the voices of women. He drew closer and heard his own language spoken. Then was his heart glad, and then did he boldly go forth to greet them. He found two women, mother and daughter. They told him how they had wandered seeking food and shelter in the wilds and that they had nowhere to provide a home. ‘I will cease my wandering and build a home, and, when we return to the Seneca town, I will proclaim that I shall hereafter stand. I shall no longer be called The Nameless One because I wander, but I shall call myself Gadjeh, meaning Dish, for a dish does not move.’

“Thus did the mother and daughter go to the Seneca Country. Gadjeh married the daughter and cared for the mother. Several children were born, and so he enlarged his home again, and this daughter grew to womanhood and married and brought her husband home. So Gadjeh, ‘the immovable,’ enlarged his cabin again. In turn each of the nine daughters married and brought her husband home, and nine times was the back cabin greatly extended until it was a monstrous long-house. So then each of the nine daughters bore children, and Gadjeh was kept busy getting logs and barks, and he labored hard to provide food. Verily, he was ‘the dish’ and the feast bowl of a large and hungry family.

“Now since he labored so mightily, he thought himself a patriarch, able to preach to his great household. Each morning and evening he would call his family together and admonish them. One daughter did not like his urging her to industry and so took her husband away. He became a chief of a tribe elsewhere, for he had learned great wisdom from Gadjeh and loved to rule more than to build houses.

“Now this youngest child of Gadjeh was Ga-dji-ka-do-ni, meaning Salt Maker, who was my mother. When she was a young girl, our warriors went off to fight with your white friends against the government. Then the soldiers of Washington’s army came to destroy our village of Newtown [the opening battle of Gen. John Sullivan’s raid in 1779]. Our people fled in confusion, all trying to get to the Genesee country. My mother was strapped on the back of a pony which was whipped until it ran in fright with the others, and they reached Squawkie Hill. We call it Da-yo—it-go-o, meaning “where the river breaks through the hill.” It was near the land of Big Kettle [Gen. William Mills] and Little Beard’s Town [Cuylerville]. But the rope holding my mother slipped, and she slid under the pony’s belly. When it jumped over some fallen logs, her back was injured and never was straight. She was called Betsy by the whites.

“I [Mary] was born at Squawkie Hill. In 1887 I visited Mount Morris and walked across the bridge and hunted out the spot where I was born…When we went away there was no bridge, but a ford…I was born in Leaf-falling month [October] in 1825, and I am the last of the full-blood Squawkiha, and I even remember some of the tongue.

“Unlike the other Squawkiha, my father, Standing Cornstalk, had his house at the foot of the hill because the land there was richer. He had a large field of wheat a little way north. ..At this place my father took the name John Kennedy. He had to have a white name because there were so many whites to deal with him. I had a brother, and his name was Gago, and that name is in the Squawkiha language.

“A time of trouble came. We were told we must move, and one morning [in 1831] we went away, though fires still burned in our fireplaces. We went to Buffalo Creek Reservation, and in a few years we were pushed on the Cattaraugus [Reservation]. Then they tried to move us to Kansas, but we would not go.

“All the Squawkiha except the descendants of the nine daughters forgot their ancestry, but we know who we are. Somehow we are proud to be Squawkiha.”