Red Jacket

Red Jacket (Otetiani), Aboriginal leader (b near Conaga, Seneca County, NY 1750; d at Seneca Village, near Buffalo, NY, 30 Jan 1830). Red Jacket was the son of Thadahwahnyeh (his father) of the Cayuga Turtle Clan, and Ahweyneyonh, a Seneca of the Wolf Clan. In recognition of his oratory skills, he was later called Sagoyewatha (he keeps them awake). Otetiani was also known as Red Jacket because of an ornate red officer's coat he received from the British in recognition of wartime service during the American Revolution. He supported the American side during the War of 1812.

The American Revolution split the Iroquois Confederacy. The Oneida and Tuscarora supported the American colonists, while the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca sided with the British. It was during the American Revolution that Red Jacket became a hostile opponent of Joseph Brant, who had questioned his courage in battle. Red Jacket had retreated when confronted by General John Sullivan's American troops in 1779, and later attempted to negotiate a separate treaty with the Americans. In the Treaty of Paris (1783), the British ceded the lands between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River to the United States. However, the British had recognized these lands as sovereign "Indian Territory" with the Quebec Act (1774). Red Jacket did not accept that the British could cede land that belonged to the First Nations. After the Revolution, Red Jacket made efforts to accommodate the new American republic.

He met with George Washington in 1792 and received a "peace medal" from the president. Red Jacket, along with Seneca chiefs Cornplanter (Kaintwakon), Handsome Lake (Ganioda'yo) and Little Beard (Sigwaahdohgwih) negotiated the Treaty of Canandaigua in 1794. This established the conditions for the purchase of lands from the Six Nations south of the Great Lakes.

Although all members of the Six Nations had agreed to remain neutral with the outbreak of war in 1812, the Mohawk immediately sided with the British. Red Jacket successfully argued for the Seneca to support the Americans. Although in his sixties, he led the Seneca at the Battles of Fort George and Chippawa. After the war, Red Jacket spent his remaining years in Buffalo, New York.