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TEKAWIROÑTE (Tagawirunte, William of Canajoharie, William Johnson), Mohawk warrior; the name means two infants stand out; probably born in the early 1750s at Canajoharie (near Little Falls, N.Y.), son of William Johnson, future superintendent of northern Indians, and an unidentified Mohawk woman; probably d. 6 Aug. 1777 at Oriskany (near Rome, N.Y.).

In 1764 his father sent Tekawiroñte to Moor’s Indian Charity School in Lebanon, Connecticut. Eleazar Wheelock, the Congregationalist minister who had established the school, was at first pleased with the boy’s behaviour but later complained of his pride and violent temper. The students were required to labour as well as to study, but when Tekawiroñte was ordered by Wheelock’s son to saddle his horse, the boy refused because, he said, he was the son of a gentleman and Wheelock’s son was not. On 10 Dec. 1766 Tekawiroñte was sent home as “too litigious.”

In 1767 his father sent him to Thomas Barton, a Church of England clergyman at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to continue his education. The youth was conducting himself well and beginning to learn surveying when some murders of Indians and other lawless actions against them by Pennsylvania frontiersmen caused him to become morose and lose interest in his work. In March 1768 he was sent home. There Tekawiroñte was often in neighbourhood trouble, and in June 1770 his father threatened to “take no farther notice of him.” However in 1774, when Sir William died, he left the youth 1,000 acres of land, £100, and enough livestock to start a farm.

In May 1775, at the approach of the American revolution, Guy Johnson, successor to Sir William as Indian superintendent, fled to Canada, taking with him many Mohawk warriors, among them Tekawiroñte. Tekawiroñte apparently participated in the defence of Canada against the invading Americans in that summer’s campaign around Lake Champlain and the upper St Lawrence. He fought at Fort Saint-Jean on 6 Sept. 1775 and was erroneously reported killed. He returned home later in the fall, boasting about his exploits and making threats. This behaviour did not please his neighbours, and brawling seems to have ensued. Late in 1775 he stabbed a man to death in a tavern fight and fled home forever.

He went first probably to the Indian country and then on to Fort Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.). In the spring of 1776 John Butler, the acting Indian agent, sent the youth to a Six Nations council at Onondaga (near Syracuse, N.Y.) in an attempt to prevent the Oneidas from breaking the Iroquois League and siding with the Americans. This embassy failed. The Oneidas were deeply attached to their rebel missionary, Samuel Kirkland, and the Americans made great efforts throughout the war to supply them with enough trade goods to live upon.

Tekawiroñte led a small party that captured two rebel soldiers near Fort Bull, east of Oneida Lake, in the fall of 1776. In the spring of 1777 he met Joseph Brant [Thayendanegea*], who was probably a relative, and about 300 other Indians and loyalists at the Indian village of Oquaga (near Binghamton, N.Y.). When Barrimore Matthew St Leger set out on his march to the Mohawk valley Brant’s party joined him at Oswego, N.Y. It took part that summer in the siege of Fort Stanwix (Rome, N.Y.) and the ambush at Oriskany in which a William Johnson, probably Tekawiroñte, was killed.

Isabel T. Kelsay

Hamilton College Library (Clinton, N.Y.), Kirkland mss, Dean to Kirkland, 22 March 1776; Kirkland to Philip Schuyler, [8 June 1776]. N.Y. Hist. Soc. (New York), Tryon County committee of safety papers, 30 Dec. 1775. N.Y. State Library (Albany), Fonda papers, Jelles Fonda notebook, list of Indians killed at Oriskany. PAC, MG 19, F1, 25, p.63. American archives (Clarke and Force), 4th ser., III, 739, 1245; 5th ser., III, 755. The documentary history of the state of New-York . . . , ed. E. B. O’Callaghan (4v., Albany, N.Y., 1849–51), IV, 351, 367. Johnson papers (Sullivan et al.). N.Y., Secretary of state, Calendar of historical manuscripts, relating to the war of the revolution, in the office of the secretary of state, Albany, NY. (2v., Albany, 1868), I, 190. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), VIII, 658–62, 719–21. “Proceedings of a general court martial . . . for the trial of Major General Schuyler . . . ,” N.Y. Hist. Soc., Coll., [ser.3], XII (1879), 103–4.

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Cite This Article

Isabel T. Kelsay, “TEKAWIROÑTE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 24, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/tekawironte_4E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/tekawironte_4E.html
Author of Article:   Isabel T. Kelsay
Title of Article:   TEKAWIROÑTE
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1979
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   April 24, 2024