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SAHONWAGY (Sahonwadi; the name probably means the one on his boat – Shahũwà:ke in Floyd G. Lounsbury’s orthography, but he signed Sahonwagy; also known as Paulus Petersen, Pauly Peters, Paulus, Poulous, and Powless), Mohawk sachem and schoolmaster; son of Theyanoguin*, probably b. at Fort Hunter, New York; d. after 1787, probably at the Six Nations settlement on the Grand River (Ont.).

In July 1753 the missionary John Ogilvie suggested Sahonwagy to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel as a schoolmaster in the place of Paulus Petrus, a Mohawk who had died some time before. Sahonwagy, he added, “may at the same time officiate as Clerk, and read Prayers to the Indians in . . . [my] Absence.” In December the SPG agreed to engage him at a salary of £7 per annum. Although described by Ogilvie as a Fort Hunter Mohawk, Sahonwagy established himself at Canajoharie (near Little Falls, N.Y.), where by June 1755 he was teaching upwards of 40 children every day.

Both as a sachem and as a member of an influential Mohawk family, Sahonwagy was of service to the British during the Seven Years’ War. In May 1756 he attended a council between Sir William Johnson and the Oneida sachem Canaghquiesa (Kanaghgwasea), and that summer he drew pay as an Indian captain. He was at Fort Herkimer (Herkimer, N.Y.) in March 1758, when he promised to go on a scouting mission near Oswegatchie (Ogdensburg). Such activities cut into his work as a schoolmaster, however, and in February 1759 Ogilvie suspended his salary “because of several Complaints that he was so taken up with War-parties, that he had greatly neglected the Instruction of the Children.”

Between 1761 and 1763 Sahonwagy and the other Canajoharie sachems were involved in a struggle over land claims with George Klock, a local miller who used copious quantities of rum to obtain Indian signatures to land deeds. In July 1763 Sahonwagy and Nicholas Brant wrote to Johnson complaining that Klock had threatened to kill Brant and his wife and requesting Johnson’s intervention to “Provent trouble or Els there will be Mischeiff Done here on one Side or Another.”

Sahonwagy was reappointed reader at Canajoharie by the missionary John Stuart* in 1775, but in 1777 the American revolution drove many of the Canajoharie and Fort Hunter Mohawks to Canada. Christian Daniel Claus, at the instance of these Indians, prepared a new edition of the Mohawk Book of Common Prayer in 1780, and Sahonwagy oversaw the correction of proof. The next year he was reported by Claus to be teaching the refugee Mohawks who were living near Montreal. Some time after that he moved to the Grand River settlement. He reported to Claus in August 1785 that he was well pleased with the land and that “the crops [were] all growing splendid.” The lack of a teacher at the settlement disturbed him, and he offered to take up the position provided he were given supplies. He advised against the use of a white teacher, pointing out that “if he does not understand our language, he cannot restrain them [the children] from doing wrong.” In February 1787 he, along with Joseph Brant [Thayendanegea*], Karonghyontye (David Hill), Kanonraron (Aaron Hill), and others, signed a deed granting land on the Grand River to some whites. The Paulus who was at Fort George (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.) in August 1802 was probably his son.

Gus Richardson

PAC, MG 19, F1, 3, pp.49–50; 4, p.79; 24, pp.24–25; F6, 4, pp.555–56. USPG, Journal of SPG, 12, pp.307–9; 13, pp.182–83; 14, p.186. Johnson papers (Sullivan et at.), II, 589, 624, 780; IV, 54–55, 165–66; XI, 984; XIII, 175, 274–75. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), VII, 112; VIII, 816. The valley of the Six Nations . . . , ed. and intro. C. M. Johnston (Toronto, 1964), 71. J. W. Lydekker, The faithful Mohawks (Cambridge, Eng., 1938).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Gus Richardson, “SAHONWAGY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 18, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/sahonwagy_4E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/sahonwagy_4E.html
Author of Article: Gus Richardson
Title of Article: SAHONWAGY
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1979
Year of revision: 1979
Access Date: September 18, 2014