Red Jacket
Seneca Orator and Political Leader
(1750-1830)

Red Jacket
Red Jacket was born into the Wolf clan in a Seneca village near present-day Geneva. During the Revolutionary war, he was a messenger for British officers, and received his namesake coat as a reward. His talents lay in diplomacy and oratory, a skill long prized in Iroquois political culture. In the 1780s Red Jacket assumed the role of council orator and with it the name Segoyewatha, traditionally translated as "He Keeps Them Awake." His oratory marked nearly every major treaty council between whites and Senecas from the 1780s to the 1820s, usually articulating a diplomatic middle course between two competing factions; the followers of Cornplanter, who pursued accommodation with the U.S. and the supporters of the Mohawk Joseph Brant, who allied with the British. Red Jacket's positions were consistent; the Iroquois Confederacy should remain neutral in disputes between the United States and British Canada; broker an honest peace between the new republic and the Shawnees, Miamis, and other western Indians with whom it remained at war; resist Christian proselytization; and maintain a land base within the boundaries claimed by the state of New York.


Despite
his vigorous opposition during and after treaty councils, Red Jacket signed the Big Tree Treaty. He became a celebrity among white audiences captivated by stereotypes of the "Vanishing Indian." Red Jacket died at his home and was buried on the Buffalo Creek reservation in 1830. Against his dying wishes, Red Jacket was re-interred, at Forest Lawn cemetery in Buffalo.

Information gathered from a book by Anthony F.C. Wallace, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970); and online at the Encyclopedia of North American Indians: http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/naind/html/na_032200_redjacket.htm

(Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War: The Impact on Livingston County, page 30)