Six Nations land cessions

The Six Nations land cessions were a series of land cessions by the Iroquois "Six Nations"[1] and Delaware Indians in the late 17th and 18th centuries in which the natives ceded nearly all of their vast conquered lands as well as ancestral land within and adjacent to the northern British colonies of North America. The land cessions covered most or all of the modern states of New York, Pennsylvania, western Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, Kentucky, northeastern Ohio and extended marginally into northern Tennessee and North Carolina. The lands were bordered to the west by the Algonquin tribal lands of Ohio Country, Cherokee lands to the south, and Creek and other southeastern tribal lands to the southeast.


The cessions were accomplished by a series of purchases and treaties between the Indians and Britain, the state or Province of New York, or (later) the United States between 1682 and 1797. Previous to the cessions, by the Nanfan Treaty of 1701, the Iroquois had gifted to the British their lands to the north and west of the Ohio River, part of the lands usurped by conquest in the Beaver Wars of the latter 17th century.

During the early 19th century removals of Indians, most of the Oneida people, one of the original Five Nations, migrated to Wisconsin. Other Iroquois migrated to Ontario or Oklahoma Indian Territory. As of the 21st century, the Iroquois are confined to 20 settlements and 8 reservations in New York, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Ontario, and Quebec.

Iroquois and Delaware landsEdit

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the ancestral lands of the Iroquois were the territory of what is today upper New York state. The Delaware were spread out in the Hudson and Delaware River Valleys along the northeastern Atlantic seaboard. During the Beaver Wars of the second half of the 17th century, the Iroquois conquered lands extending as far as the Mississippi River in the west and Tennessee River in the south. The Delaware, under pressure from early European coastal settlements, migrated to the midwest along the Ohio River Valley and eventually settled along the upper Wabash River in Indiana. In 1701, the Six Nations abruptly changed course, and leveraged their newly conquered (or at least claimed) lands to obtain favored treatment and protection from the British at New York. The instrument was called the Nanfan Treaty, in which the Indians ceded most of what would become Ohio Country and Illinois Country along with the future state of Michigan and part of Quebec to the British. The effect of the Nanfan treaty was almost nil, since the resident tribes of the ceded territory, who were not parties to the treaty, were in effective control of the land when the Iroquois withdrew, and the British made no attempt to colonize the area. On the other hand, it didn't cost anything - the Iroquois gifted the land.

Treaties and purchasesEdit

Between 1682 and 1684, William Penn acquired as many as 10 individual deeds from the Delaware for lands in southeast Pennsylvania forming Chester, Philadelphia and Bucks counties. These lands were acquired under the Covenant Chain forged in the early 17th century with the New York Iroquois.

Purportedly, in late 1682, William Penn made a treaty with the Delaware under an ancient elm tree, referred to as the Treaty of Shackamaxon. While no firm evidence of such a treaty exists, it's possible that there was such a treaty and that the record of it was destroyed.

In 1722, Alexander Spotswood, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Colony, had arranged the Treaty of Albany with the (then) Five Nations.[2] That treaty renewed the Covenant Chain and agreed to recognize the Blue Ridge Mountains as the demarcation between the Virginia Colony and the Five Nations (who that same year became known as the "Six Nations" with the addition of the Tuscarora).

Colonial governments were unable to prevent white settlers from moving beyond the Blue Ridge and into the Shenandoah Valley in the 1730s. When the Haudenosaunee Confederacy objected, they were told that the agreed demarcation was to prevent their trespassing east of the Blue Ridge, but not to prevent the English from expanding west of them. In 1743 the Iroquois skirmished with some Valley settlers. The Iroquois were on the verge of declaring total war on the Virginia Colony when Governor Gooch paid them the sum of 100 pounds sterling for any settled land in the Valley which they claimed.

The following year, at the Treaty of Lancaster, the Iroquois sold all their remaining claim to the Shenandoah Valley for 200 pounds in gold and 200 pounds in goods.[3] At the same time, it was an attempt to make peace between the Iroquois and the southern Catawba.[4] Even so, a difference in interpretation remained. The Virginians believed that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy had relinquished to the Crown any claim they had on all the lands within the 1609 Chartered boundaries of Virginia. They considered these boundaries to extend to the Pacific, or at least up to the Ohio River. The Iroquois understood that they had ceded only their lands up to the Ohio watershed; in other words, only the Shenandoah Valley east of the Allegheny Mountains.[5] The negotiations were conducted in the old courthouse, which stood in the center of Lancaster at the time. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, built in 1874 to commemorate the U.S. Civil War, now stands on the site of the Treaty in Penn Square.[6]

This difference was partly resolved at the 1752 Treaty of Logstown, where the Haudenosaunee Confederacy recognised English rights southeast of the Ohio River. Nevertheless, the Cherokee, the Shawnee, and other nations continued to claim by possession large portions of the area beyond the Allegheny Ridge. At the 1758 Treaty of Easton with the Shawnee ending "Braddock's War" (a portion of the French and Indian Wars), the colonies agreed to settle no further west of the Alleghenies (the Eastern Divide). The Royal Proclamation of 1763 confirmed this territory as Indian land.[7]

By the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, the Iroquois finally sold all their remaining claims between the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers.

Ohio CountryEdit

After the Nanfan Treaty, small numbers of Iroquois continued to live in Ohio, and broke away from the Six Nations. They later came to be called Mingos.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Five Nations" before 1722.
  2. ^ "Treaty of Albany"
  3. ^ Joseph Solomon Walton, 1900, Conrad Weiser and the Indian Policy of Colonial Pennsylvania pp. 76-121.
  4. ^ Walton, p. 114 ff.
  5. ^ Walton, p. 117, 223-224.
  6. ^ Harris, Bernard (2009-04-17). "Treaty of Lancaster mural coming to city center". Lancaster New Era. Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. Archived from the original on 2013-01-27. Retrieved 2009-07-11. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Jayme A. Sokolow, 2003 The Great Encounter: Native Peoples and European Settlers in the Americas p. 206.

External linksEdit