KIND CORRESPONDENCE: JOHN GRAY LAND OF LONG, LONG AGO -- AND RELATED MATTERS -- AKWESASNE [HUNTER GRAY, NOVEMBER 7 2004]
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR
This kind correspondence
provides welcome and important insights into that which provided substantial
economic independence for my g/g/g/ grandfather, John Gray, in his militant
advocacy of Native rights in the Rocky Mountains -- advocacy that he
successfully pursued for many, many years.
This is Akwesasne correspondence relating to Mohawk land -- and
specifically land owned by my g/g/g/ grandfather, John Gray [also known in the Far West as Ignace Hatchiorauquasha.] This land and its probable sale before he went West in 1816 with his 16 year old wife, Marienne Neketichon, may be the key factor which gave John Gray sufficient economic independence as a free fur trapper to launch -- and then play out -- a major and long standing role as an effective advocate of Native American rights in the Rocky Mountains.
[The Northeastern reservations were small and circumscribed. Restless young Mohawk men went into the Western fur trade as early as the 1790s. When that began to fade in the mid-19th Century [as the demand and price of beaver declined], the Mohawks often turned to employment with traveling circuses. And then, sometimes with other Iroquois, the men frequently went into and remain in the always dangerous work of high steel construction: e.g., buildings, bridges.]
The forthcoming settlement of the Mohawk land claim is discussed at
The three Mohawk governmental bodies in the Akwesasne/St Regis setting are the St Regis Mohawk Tribal Council, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, and the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs. All are in agreement in the Claims situation.
The White Roots of Peace was a predominately Mohawk caravan that traveled across the country and into parts of Canada in the 1970s. It was made up of elders; traditional activists; editors
and staff of the influential Native newspaper/magazine, Akwesasne Notes -- and its purpose was to remind Indian people of the importance of preserving traditions, religion, and knowledge. It placed
heavy emphasis on self-sufficiency and trusting the Land and Forests to
provide food and related sustenance.
As Francis Jock so rightly suggests, I am certain that John Gray would be
very proud of the fact that a really great school -- with heavy Mohawk
enrollment -- now sits on the land he once owned.
----- Original Message -----
From: Francis Jock
Sent: Monday, November 01, 2004 6:14 PM
Subject: History of Land owned by John Gray
Greetings: My name is Francis Saksari Jock, St. Regis
and Akwesasne Mohawk.
In 1816 the St. Regis Mohawks sold land to New York State which included a parcel owned by John Gray. The land has recently been included in the Mohawk Land Claim, which the three governing entities are preparing to settle with the state and the Federal governments. I'm doing some research into the history of the original land owners and have noted that at that time, John Gray owned land along with William Chapman, Samuel McMurphy and Jonathan Rich.
I am interested in learning if you have any information I could add to my
research regarding the property and the transfer to its title to other
Incidentally, a book I have states that William Gray died in captivity by
the Brits in Montreal during the War of 1812. I would be interested learning more about his life and demise, if you could pardon the intrusion into your ancestry.
Mr Francis Jock - from Hunter Gray, 11/02/04
Thank you very much for your very interesting letter. You are certainly to
be commended for your research and commitment. I am
sending this to a few of our immediate family members who are much
interested in these things. I am sorry to say that I have no firm and full
information specifically addressing your question. . . This is a sketch of
that which we do know:
We do pick up John Gray's trail in the year you mention, 1816, when he came into the Columbia and Snake River country from Akwesasne [this is Snake River country right here] to join other Iroquois [almost all Mohawk] and a very few St Francis Abenaki as a fur hunter for the British. At that point, he was about 21 or 22 years old and was accompanied by his 16 year old wife, Marienne Neketichon [Mary Ann Charles], from Kahnawake. We believe it is significant that John Gray was well equipped with horses [maybe one mule], traps, firearms -- and in no way seems to have been perennially beholden/in debt to the British in the in the sense the British liked "their" trappers to be.
Eventually, he and the other Indians left the British after the
Natives "struck" Ogden of HBC in 1825, just south of here [ we are in the
Pocatello area], and joined the Americans. [And it would be very logical and
understandable for John Gray to have not liked the British, given what had
had happened to his father, William L. Gray.] I have always attributed that
economic independence of his to stem from some sort of legacy left him by
his father who was obviously a person of means. Your date is 1816 and so is that of his departure from St Regis and the arrival out here of he and
Marienne. It is obviously possible that he sold whatever land Mr Gray might have left him in order to "stake" his new life in the Far West. [It is what I would have done and, as a matter of fact, did do in another setting on a long ago occasion in the West.]
John Gray does not seem to have planned a
return to Akwesasne. Ultimately, after a very good life on many fronts, he
was knifed to death at French Settlement on the Missouri [now Kansas City]
in 1843 by a Shoshone woman. Marienne Gray stayed on in that setting but
eventually moved to Ft Scott in eastern Kansas where she died of cholera in
1862. His several offspring appear to have stayed in that general region
but his oldest son, Peter [our direct ancestor, born 1818], may well have
gone down into the immediately adjoining Indian Territory with those
Iroquois from the East who were "moved" into that setting.
After your inquiry came yesterday [it is 2 am Mountain Time, Tuesday], I
went through many notes I have on John Gray and family and friends -- drawn from many sources -- but there is nothing on land owned by him in the St Regis region. Again, it doesn't mean there was not but only that I have no record on it.
William Gray, of Scottish American background, was born at Cambridge, New York and enlisted on the side of the American Revolution when he was 17 [probably in 1776 or so.] After the War, he removed to St Regis, married into the Tribe [I am not precisely sure of his wife's family name], and established a mill or mills at what came to be known as Gray's Mills and is now Hogansburg. [You most likely know all of this.] He was a man of honor and capability and, early on, became very well trusted by the Indian people with whom he was associated. He served as a primary interpreter for many, many years and his name, of course, appears on some of the treaties and related agreements. During the War of 1812, he served as interpreter and guide for the Americans, dying of wounds in Quebec while in British captivity [as you suggest.] I can only add that the British treated him well and with respect.
We have several Gray "pages" on our large Lair of Hunterbear website. You
probably have seen that site but, if not, its "address" is
[I hope all of this comes through OK. To me, this computer stuff -- a faith
to which I came late, December 1998 -- is all 20th Century witchcraft.]
Anyway, around those two Gray pages are several others. And all of them are listed in the upper end of our website directory,
I, myself, now 70, grew up in the Southwest, within and immediately around the Navajo Nation -- with whom our connections and relationships could not be more personally and enduringly close and strong to this very moment. We came here to Eastern Idaho in 1997 and live on the 'way far up western edge of Pocatello. The high, high hills which quickly fade into mountains begin practically in our back yard. About an hour away at the most is the wild Winter Camp area consistently used by John and Marienne Gray and family for the many years they were in the Far West. That is why we came here and bought this specific outlying home. I visited the Gray camp area pretty faithfully several times a week for years.
But in early July, 2003, I was struck by the most lethal version of SLE Lupus, and almost died three times or so -- and was duly hospitalized three times. Eventually, I "escaped" from the hospital [hopefully for good] but was too weak to walk. No cure exists for
this debilitating disease nor any hope for a real remission. It remains a
lethal menace for me at every point. The doctors, who mean well, really
didn't expect me to walk much again. I have proven them very wrong. Last spring I began to walk on the edges of the hills and mountains and rough country and, in the summer , with new size 16 Lowa mountain boots, began going further and further and now walk several times a week right into the "Gray country". It takes much longer than it once did, but it goes a little faster each time, and I am "coming along." We always fight on. I have no intention of rolling over and dying.
I remember the good Mr Jock who traveled with the White Roots about 30 years ago.
I do wish you well in all respects. Again, you are to be commended on your
interests and research and obvious commitment to the Mohawk people.
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
Francis Jock to Hunter: 11/02/04
Thank you for your reply. It is kind of you to remember the journey of the
White Roots of Peace. The journey was undertaken by relatives, and although it was many years ago, I have often heard from the people of the west of their journey and the message they carried to them. I saw my Uncle today, and he looks well and is in good spirits, as I hope you are today.
The property I mentioned consisted of some 50 acres, or about 1/4 of Lot 11 of the land that the St. Regis Indians was ceded to New York State in 1818. This is part of the "six mile square" land reserved for the St. Regis
Indians in the Treaty with the Seven Nations of Canada. The ceded land was subdivided into 38 lots, surveyed by Simon DeWitt in 1818. Lot 11 sits on a ridge overlooking the Little Salmon River and there is an indication on the map of the presence of two structures on the property. I believe one to be a house, the other perhaps a barn. The land faces the south and the Adirondack mountains grace the skyline in smiling bemusement of our hurry to conquer nature.
Prior to the Act which authorized the sale of the land by New York, the
settlers leased the land from the St. Regis Indians. The clerk for the
Indians was a man named John Hunsden, who seems to have leased 4 other connecting parcels. It is likely that before the subdivision by the
surveyor, his lease consisted on only one large parcel. It has been reported
the Hunsden was responsible for arranging the land sale to the State. It
seems likely that John Gray's property would have been leased as well, up to the time of the sale to the state. I'd like to fill in the gaps here, and I
hope to be able to research this further in the future.
Upon examination of the map and in comparison to present day, I thought that you might like to know that in the early 1960's the U.S. and New York State built Salmon River Central School on the site. Here's a website to look
for some background about the school's operation:
Over half of the students in attendance there are from the Reservation. I
graduated from Salmon River, as they say "many moons ago". I think your
ancestor would be proud to know what became of his land.
I purchased land in the land claim area some time ago, and it appears to be
adjacent to John Gray's land, as shown on the map. Naturally, more research is needed here. I thought that you would like to see a photograph (southern winter view), which is attached. It is much more attractive in the spring and summer, naturally.
Take care, my friend, I wish you good health and good spirit.
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]