TEIORHÉÑHSEREˀ (Tayorheasere, Teyarhasere, Tigoransera, Tiyerhasere, Tyorhansera, called Little Abraham by the whites), Mohawk chief, member of the wolf clan; son of Old Abraham, a prominent chief; d. 1780 at Fort Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.).
Teiorhéñhsereˀ was a pine tree chief, an elected leader chosen for his rhetorical or military skills. He first appears in the records in 1755. In the late spring of the following year he participated in a conference between the superintendent of northern Indians, Sir William Johnson, and representatives of the Six Nations then gathered at Fort Johnson (near Amsterdam, N.Y.). In the Seven Years’ War he led at least one war party against the French and was with Amherst at the surrender of Montreal in 1760. He must have distinguished himself in his early career for Sir William, an accurate judge of men, called him “the Best Indian of the Mohawks.”
Even in the midst of war Teiorhéñhsereˀ found time to use his considerable oratorical powers in a cause for which he fought most of his life – the struggle to save Mohawk lands from encroachment by whites. As one of the leaders of Fort Hunter, the lower village of the Mohawks, Teiorhéñhsereˀ kept up the fight for his people’s lands during the 1760s. The next decade, however, was to see this struggle made much more difficult by the outbreak of revolution.
At the beginning, Teiorhéñhsereˀ 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, however, proved impossible. The Mohawks were attracted to the British for many reasons: their links with the Johnson family, their regard for their missionary, John Stuart*, their resentment toward American land-grabbers, and – since the Americans could not adequately furnish the Indians with essential supplies – their reliance upon the more dependable flow of British trade goods. As a result, the Mohawks were generally regarded as friends of the crown, and after the battle of Oriskany (near Rome, N.Y.) in August 1777, many were driven from their homes to the safety of Montreal.
Teiorhéñhsereˀ and a few others, however, chose to remain despite considerable danger from local rebels who resented their presence. He may well have decided to stay behind because Major-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 Teiorhéñhsereˀ, one of the few Mohawks of any stature to remain in hostile territory, did so in hopes of preventing the loss of his people’s land.
While at Fort Hunter, the courageous chief tried to prevent bloodshed between rebels and loyalists, both Indian and white. Unfortunately for Teiorhéñhsereˀ, his neutral conduct made him a traitor in the eyes of British officials. 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 Kaieñˀkwaahtoñ and Kanonraron (Aaron Hill) and arrested by Guy Johnson, Sir William’s successor. The ageing chief did not survive the ordeal; he died in prison. In a sense Teiorhéñhsereˀ was fortunate, for he was spared the pain of witnessing the irrevocable loss of his people’s homeland.
National Archives (Washington), RG 360, M247, roll 172, item 153, v.1, ff.414–46, Philip Schuyler to J. Hancock, 23 Jan. 1776; roll 173, item 153, v.3, ff.286–91, Philip Schuyler to H. Laurens, 15 March 1778. New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division, Schuyler papers, Indian boxes, box 13, Conference between commissioners for Indian Affairs and the Six Nations, 26 April–10 May 1776; box 14, Board of Commissioners for Indian Affairs in the Northern Department, minutes, 9 Jan. 1778; box 14, Jelles Fonda to the commissioners, 21 April 1778. PAC, RG 10, A2, 1822–26, 1829–32. American archives (Clarke and Force), 4th ser., III, 485, 487; 5th ser., I, 1040, 1045–46. Johnson papers (Sullivan et al.). NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), VII, 115; VIII, 658–59, 725. Graymont, Iroquois. R. T. Pastore, “The Board of Commissioners for Indian Affairs in the Northern Department and the Iroquois Indians, 1775–1778” (unpublished phd thesis, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind., 1972), 125–29, 151–52, 165–77, 184, 200.