KAKȣENTHIONY (Cachointioni, Caghswoughtiooni, Casswettune, Kaghswoughtioony, Kaghswughtioni, Red Head), an important member of the Onondaga council, and official speaker of the Onondagas; d. c. June 1756 at the Onondaga castle (near Syracuse, N.Y.). His son Ononwarogo was usually called the young Red Head by the British and gradually became known as Red Head after the death of Kakȣenthiony.
Kakȣenthiony first appears in historical records in 1748, when he spoke at a conference of Iroquois with Governor La Galissonière [Barrin] in Montreal. On behalf of the Confederacy he denied British claims that the Six Nations were vassals of the British crown. The Iroquois “had not ceded to any one their lands, which they hold only of heaven,” he was reported to have said.
In July 1751 Kakȣenthiony and numerous other Onondaga chiefs attended a conference with Governor La Jonquière [Taffanel]. Claiming to represent the Six Nations Council, they apparently intended to sell the portage at Oneida Lake (N.Y.) to the French. Some Oneidas, however, rejected the delegation’s claim to speak for the Six Nations. The sale would have been a blow to the British, since the land was on the route from Albany to Oswego, the only British post on the Great Lakes. After considerable dissension within the Confederacy, the land was instead deeded to William Johnson*.
Since 1701, when Teganissorens* and other Iroquois leaders had concluded a treaty with New France, the official policy of the Confederacy had been neutrality in the struggle between the French and British. In the early 1750s Kakȣenthiony was apparently still attempting to maintain this stand, but efforts to keep on good terms with both sides failed to prevent the Iroquois from being increasingly weakened by the expansion of the European powers. He lamented to Johnson in 1753 that “we dont know what you Christians French, and English together intend we are so hemm’d in by both, that we have hardly a Hunting place left, in a little while, if we find a Bear in a Tree, there will immediately Appear an Owner for the Land to Challenge the Property, and hinder us from killing it which is our livelyhood, we are so Perplexed, between both, that we hardly know what to say or to think.”
By the early stages of the Seven Years’ War in America, Kakȣenthiony appears to have been won to a policy of cooperation with the British. On behalf of Johnson, who had been appointed superintendent of northern Indians, he delivered a speech on 21 June 1755 to a thousand Indians assembled at Mount Johnson (near Amsterdam, N.Y.). In February 1756 at another major conference Kakȣenthiony, as speaker, presented Johnson with an immense belt of wampum “as a pledge of our inviolable attachment to you, and of our unshaken resolution, of joining you in all your measures. . . .” Although this commitment did not mark the end of neutralist and pro-French sentiment among the Six Nations, it foreshadowed their eventual decision to join the British side in the war.
By June 1756 Kakȣenthiony was dead, and Johnson along with the Six Nations chiefs mourned his passing in a condolence ceremony at the Oneida castle (near Oneida, N.Y.).
[The identification of Red Head with Sequaresera in the index of the Johnson papers is an error deriving from an editorial misreading of a letter in the collection. The name Kaghswoughdioony appears in the Johnson papers for a Mohawk who accompanied the British forces to Montreal in 1760; he is not the same person as the subject of this biography. a.e.]
Johnson papers (Sullivan et at.), I, 365, 925–27; II, 579; IX, 80, 82, 110–20, 366–75. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), VI, 812, 964–88; VII, 55, 61, 67, 133–34; X, 232, 234. W. N. Fenton, The roll call of the Iroquois chiefs; a study of a mnemonic cane from the Six Nations reserve (Washington, 1950), 56–57.