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New York Province  

New York State



The Iroquois Confederacy

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New York Province



In 1664 Nieuw Nederland became a posession of James, Duke of York and the brother of King Charles II. The southern part was granted to John, Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret and reveived tghe name “New Jersey” or “Nova Cæsarea”. The northern part comprising the colony of Renselaerswijck and Frort Oranje  (today: Albany) at the top of the river Hudson, was renamed New York. In this province the arms of James were used.


Carved coat of arms of James II (1633-1701) as Duke of York, in the style of Grinling Gibbons.


The royal arms with the label for the second son surrounded by a garter badge, a ducal crown above; the whole placed on an admiralty anchor, the cable entwined with oak branches on either side. Below, the collar of the order of the garter and the obverse and reverse of the medal by John Roettier, struck to commemorate the Battle of Lowestoft, 3 June 1665. The medals are inscribed 'IAC DUX EBOR ET ALB FRATER AUG CAR. II REGIS' and 'GENVS ANTIQVVM'. The arms were probably carved between 1665 and 1673 (when James was disbarred as Lord High Admiral by the Test Act) or in 1684. They may have come from the cabin of one of the royal yachts, possibly the 'Anne'. The remains of gilding can be seen on the lettering, anchor and crown. The carving is mounted, as acquired, on a fabric covered and framed backing. [1]

Great seal of the province of New York, 1670-1673, 1674-1687

On the charter of the city of Albany[2]


There are several impressions of this seal in the first Vol. of Land Papers, in the Secreatry’s office. They are incumbent, buth those to the patent of Renselaerswijcj (1685) and to the charterd of the city of Albany (1686) are pendent. The earliest impression in the Secretary’s office is to a patent dated 20th August, 1670, and from the fact that the patents issued by Governor Nicalls are sealed only with this signet, it is inferred that the Great Seal now reproduced was received in October, 16769, at the same time as the seal presented by Governor Lovelace to the city of New York. It was in use until 1687, with the exception of Colve’s brief administration in 1674.


Later,  the achievement of the Union and its successors came on the seal of the province. This consisted of a coat of arms quarterly, surrounded by the strap of the order of the garter and royally crowned. The shield was supported by the english lion and the scottish unicorn and below was the motto DIEU ET MON DROIT.


The seal of James II for New York is descibed in a warramt dated 14th August 1687. The description reads: ‘on the one side our Royal effigies on Horseback in Arms over a Landskip of Land and Sea, with a Rising Sun, and a Scrole containing this motto, Aliusq : et Idem. And our Titles round the cricumference of the said Seal; There being also engraven on the other side Our Royal Arms with the Garter, Crown, Supporters and Motto, with this Inscription round ye Circumference  Sigillum Provinciæ Nostræ Novi Eboraco etc., in America.’ Despatches of the above date were received in New York on the 21st November folowing; the seal was in use, it is supposed, until Leisler’s usurpation in June 1689.



The warrant for the seal of King William and Queen Mary was brought over by Governor Sloughter and bears the date of 31st May 1690. It served as the model for all the Great Seal of New York subsequently received from England, and has . on one side, the effigies of the King and Queen, and two Indians kneeling offering as presents – the one, a roll of Wampum, the other a Beaver –skin. Around the circumference are their Majesties’titles: GUVILIELMVS III ET MARIA II DEI GRA MAG BRIT FRAN HIB REX ET REGINA FID DEF.  On the reverse are the Royal arms with the garter, crown, supporters. and motto, and this inscription: SIGILLVM : PROVINC : NOSTR : NOV :  EBOR :  ETC : IN : AMERICA. These arms are, it will be remarked, the same as those on the Stuart seal, with the addition however, of an escutcheon of pretence, containing a Lion ramnpant on a field billety for the arms of Nassau, of which house King William was a member. It has some worthy of attention. Much importance has been attached to this seal from the fact that it was affixed to several patents in this country after the Kng’s death. But the objections made to the validity of thiose patents, on that account, must disappear when the fact is understood that this seal was not superseded until September, 1705, - three years and a half after teh King’s demise


1st seal of Queen Anne, 1705


There were two Great Seals for the province during the reign of Queen Anne.

1 The first, the warrant for which bears date 3rd May, 1705, was brought out by Col. Nott, of Virginia, and was reveived on 6th September following, when that of William and Mar was defaced, and sent back to Eng;land broken. On the one side are the Queen’s effigy and theIndians offering their tokens of submission, as before, with the royal titles ANNA DEI GRA MAG BRIT FRAN ET  HIB  REGINA FID DEF. On the reverse, the Stuart arms as already described- the escutcheon of Nasau  having been removed on the death of the King – with crown, garter, supporters, and motto, and this inscription: SIGILLVM : PROVINCIÆ : NOSTRÆ : NOV :  EBORACI :  IN : AMERICA. Motto SEMPER EADEM.

2nd seal of Queen Anne, 1710


2. The Union between England and Scotland, in 1706, rendering a new seal requisite, a second one was ordered on 29th October, 1709, and received on the arribal of Governor Hunter, 14th June, 1710, when that of 1705 was broken. The Queen´s effigy, the Indians with the Royal titrles, are the same as on the first seal; on the reverse, the Royal arms, now changed in onsequence of the Union; on the first and fourth quarters England empales Scotland; on the second are the lilies of France; on the third te Harp for Ireland, and the former motto SEMPER EADEM. Around the circumference is the inscription: SIGILLVM : PROVINCIÆ : NOSTRÆ : NOV :  EBORACI :  IN : AMERICA.


The seal of King George I, 1718


The seal of King George I was ordered  8th October, 1717, and received ‘by Hopkins’ on 1st July, 1718, when that of Queen Anne was broken and returned to the Board of Trade. On the one side are the effigy ofhis Majesty, two Indians offering presents; and around the cricumference the royal titles: GEORGIVS D G MAG BRIT FRAN ET HIB REX BRUN ET LVN DVX SA RO IM ARC THES ET PRIN ELEC.  On the reverse,  the Royal arms, garter, crown, supporters, and motto, and tyhis inscription: SIGILLVM : PROVINCIÆ : NOSTRÆ : NOV :  EBORACI :  IN : AMERICA.  The SEMPER EADEM of the last seal is replaced by DIEU ET MON DROIT;  and on the escutcheon we have, first, the rams of England empaling thoseof Scotland; second, France; third, Ireland; fourth, gu. two lions passant guard. in pale or, for Brunswick; impaling or, semée of hearts gu. a lion ramp. az., for Luneburgh, on a point in point gu. a horse courant ar., for Saxony; on the centre ofthe fourth quarter an escutceon gu. charged with the crown of Charlemagne, or, as Arch-Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire.


Seal of King George II, 1727


The seal of Kimg George II is a finer speciment of the arts than the last, and exhibits a progresive change in the drass and drapery of the principal figure. The kneeling Squaw is introduce here for the first tie nude, and great care is bestowed in delineating the skin she offers, in which we can almost trace the perfect outline of the aniimal to which it belonged. There is another improvement wothy of remark, - the inscriptions on this and the next seal are on the sides opposite to those they heretofor occupied. The words SIGILLVM : PROVINCIÆ : NOSTRÆ : NOV :  EBORACI :  IN : AMERICA are appropriately on the side representing American gifts; whilst the Royal titles GEORGIVS    II D G MAG BRI FR ET HIB REX F D BRUN ET LUN DUX S R I ARC TH ET PR EL.  surround the Royal arms on the reverse side. These arms are the same as those last described, but their design and finish are immensely superior.


Seal of King George III


The warrant for the seal of Kig George III bears date 9th July, 1767; it was received on the following 3rd October (seven years after the death of George II.) and the preceding seal was reurned to the Colonial office. The principal side, were the Indians offering their gifts to the Kimg, is surrounded by the inscription SIGILLUM : PROVINCIÆ : NOSTRÆ : NOV :  EBORACI :  IN : AMERICA; on the revers are the royal arms (as last described) with the royal titles GEORGIVS    II D G MAG BRI FR ET HIB REX F D BRUN ET LUN DUX S R I AR THES ET EL. This was the Great Seal of the Province of New York down to the Revolution. [3]


New York State



In 1775 a republican government was established which signed the declaration of independence  on 4 July 1776. It would take until 1783 before the last british troops had disappeared.


The arms


First coat of arms of New York State,

by Amos Doolittle, 1791


Arms: A rising sun over three mountains rising out of the sea

Crest: a demi earthglobe showing the northern hemisphere on which an eagle is seated





The second achievement of state (1809)


Repeated attempts to find a “description in writing of the Arms and of the Great and Privy Seal of this State recorded and deposited in the office of the Secretary of this State.” proved unsuccesful.IN order to reëstablish the original Arms of the State of New York and to provide for the use thereof on public seals, the State legislature, by an act passed on 20 May 1882.adopted the Great Seal of the State now in Use.

The act reads as follows:

“Section 1. The device of arms of this state as adopted March sixteenth, seventeen hundred and seventy-eight , is hereby declared to be correctly decribed as followd:

“Charge. Azure, in a landscape, the sun in fess, rising in splendor, or, behind a range of three mountains, the middle one the highest, in base, a ship and sloop under sail, passing and about to meet on a river, bordered below by a grassy shore fringed with shrubs, all proper.

“Crest. On a wreath, azure and or, an Amnerica eagle, proper rising to the dexter, from a two-thirds of a globe terrestrial showing the North Atlantic ocan with tehoutines of its shores.

“Supporters. On a quasi compartment formed by the extension of the scroll.

“Dexter. The figure of Loberty proper, her hair disheveled and decorated with pearls, vested azure, sandaled gules, about the waist a cincture or, fringed gules, a mantle of the last dependin from the shoulders behind tomthe feet, in the dexter hand a staff ensigned with a Phrygian cap or, the sinister arm embowed, the hand supporting the shield at the dexter cheif point, a royal crown by her sinister foot dejected.

“Sinister. The figure of Justice proper, her hair isheveled and decorated with pears, vested or, sandaled, cinctured and mantles as Liberty, bound about the eyes with a fillet proper, in the dexter hand, a straight sword hilted or, erect, resting on the sinister chief point of the shield, the sinister arm embowed, holding before her her scales proper.

“Motto. On a scroll below the shield argent, in sable EXCELSIOR.” [4]


Æ See the illustration in the head of this article.


The Great Seal

The Great Seal of New York was originally devised in 1777  by a committee consisting of Messrs. John Jay, Gouverneur Morris, and John Schloss Hobart, appointed by the Constitution of the State in 1777. The seal was thus described:

“ A rising sun, over three mountains; motto underneath, “Excelsior;” legend, “ THE GREAT SEAL OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK.”  The reverse is a huge rock, rising out of the sea, and the legend ,FRUSTRA, 1777.”

This devise was adopted on 6 March 1778.


The Great Seal of New York was modified in: 1798, 1799, 1809, and 1882


In 1798 a new pendent seal was adopted having for device the arms of the State.



A fourth seal, was adopted in 1809.

The seal of 1809


The fifth seal showed the achievement adopted in 1882

Great Seal 1882

Great seal, present





New York Military Forces


Civil War


General Regulations for the Military Forces of  the State of New York, 1866

103th Regiment flag


New York Army National Guard





Description: That for regiments and separate battalions of the New York Army National Guard: From a wreath of colors, the full rigged ship “Half Moon” all Proper.


Symbolism: The crest is Henry Hudson’s ship “Half Moon” in which he discovered the Hudson River in 1609.


Background: The crest was approved for the color bearing organizations of the State of New York on 29 December 1922.


Distinctive Unit Insignia.



Description: A gold color metal and enamel device 3.18 cm in height consisting of a shield divided per pairle white, red and blue and bearing the crest for the Army National Guard of the State of New York proper (on a wreath orange and blue, the full rigged ship “Half Moon” in gold).


Symbolism: The red, white and blue of the shield are the national colors of the United States. The crest is Henry Hudson’s ship “Half Moon” in which he discovered and explored the Hudson River in 1609. The twists of the wreath are orange and blue, the color of the house of Nassau and refers to the original settlement of New York by the Dutch.


Background: The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for the Sate Staff and Detachment and 27th Infantry Division Headquarters, Headquarters Company, and Division Headquarters Detachment, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment Special Troops, New York National Guard on 9 June 1930. It was redesignated for the 42d Replacement Company, New York National Guard on 14 November 1956. It was redesignated for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and noncolor bearing units of the New York Army National Guard on 5 February 1971. The insignia was redesignated effective 1 February 1983, for Headquarters, State Area Command, New York Army National Guard.


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia



Description: On an ultramarine blue trapezoid with a 32 mm scarlet border, 8.26 cm) in height and  6.35 cm in width overall, a scarlet sword surmounted by a stylized yellow crown of seven points.


Symbolism: New York State is represented by the crown, recalling the crown on the Statue of Liberty, symbol of the city and state, which emphasizes the traditional freedoms long associated with New York. The sword represents the National Guard and denotes readiness. Blue refers to the many waterways and natural water resources of New York and is taken from the state flag. Red reflects courage; gold is for excellence.


Background: The shoulder sleeve insignia was authorized for Headquarters, State Area Command, New York Army National Guard on 18 February 1994.  (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-811)


The Iroquois Confederacy


Territory of the Iroquois Confederacy before the joining of Tuscarora


The Iroquois Confederacy was initially a league of five tribes living between the Hudson River and the St Lawrence and Lake Erie. The tribes spoke the Iroquoian language which was a family of languages spoken by the Iroquois peoples. The Iroquois gave their name to the Iroquoian branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock.

The Iroquoian Confederacy was first founded c1550, prior to major European contact, and initially consisted of five tribes: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca tribes, which were known as the Five Nations. The Tuscarora tribe joined the Confederacy in 1722, as non-voting members of the league, and the collective tribes became known as the Six Nations. The powerful Iroquois coalition grew quickly by invading neighboring tribes and absorbing their land into Iroquois territory. The Iroquois Confederacy aimed to create an empire by incorporating subservient, conquered peoples. It was also known as the "League of Peace and Power".


The official symbolism of the Confederacy was laid down in the Iroquois Confederacy Constitution (15th century). The articles concerned read:


Official Symbolism

Article 55.

 A large bunch of shell strings, in the making of which the Five Nations Confederate Lords have equally contributed, shall symbolize the completeness of the union and certify the pledge of the nations represented by the Confederate Lords of the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onondaga, the Cayuga and the Seneca, that all are united and formed into one body or union called the Union of the Great Law, which they have established. A bunch of shell strings is to be the symbol of the council fire of the Five Nations Confederacy. And the Lord whom the council of Fire Keepers shall appoint to speak for them in opening the council shall hold the strands of shells in his hands when speaking. When he finishes speaking he shall deposit the strings on an elevated place (or pole) so that all the assembled Lords and the people may see it and know that the council is open and in progress. When the council adjourns the Lord who has been appointed by his comrade Lords to close it shall take the strands of shells in his hands and address the assembled Lords. Thus will the council adjourn until such time and place as appointed by the council. Then shall the shell strings be placed in a place for safekeeping. Every five years the Five Nations Confederate Lords and the people shall assemble together and shall ask one another if their minds are still in the same spirit of unity for the Great Binding Law and if any of the Five Nations shall not pledge continuance and steadfastness to the pledge of unity then the Great Binding Law shall dissolve.


Article 56

Five strings of shell tied together as one shall represent the Five Nations. Each string shall represent one territory and the whole a completely united territory known as the Five Nations Confederate territory.


Article 57

Five arrows shall be bound together very strong and each arrow shall represent one nation. As the five arrows are strongly bound this shall symbolize the complete union of the nations. Thus are the Five Nations united completely and enfolded together, united into one head, one body and one mind. Therefore they shall labor, legislate and council together for the interest of future generations. The Lords of the Confederacy shall eat together from one bowl the feast of cooked beaver's tail. While they are eating they are to use no sharp utensils for if they should they might accidentally cut one another and bloodshed would follow. All measures must be taken to prevent the spilling of blood in any way.


Article 58

There are now the Five Nations Confederate Lords standing with joined hands in a circle. This signifies and provides that should any one of the Confederate Lords leave the council and this Confederacy his crown of deer's horns, the emblem of his Lordship title, together with his birthright, shall lodge on the arms of the Union Lords whose hands are so joined. He forfeits his title and the crown falls from his brow but it shall remain in the Confederacy. A further meaning of this is that if any time any one of the Confederate Lords choose to submit to the law of a foreign people he is no longer in but out of the Confederacy, and persons of this class shall be called "They have alienated themselves." Likewise such persons who submit to laws of foreign nations shall forfeit all birthrights and claims on the Five Nations Confederacy and territory. You, the Five Nations Confederate Lords, be firm so that if a tree falls on your joined arms it shall not separate or weaken your hold. So shall the strength of the union be preserved.


A string of Wampum of 36 cm long. (1765-1830)  [6]

Article 59

A bunch of wampum shells on strings, three spans of the hand in length, the upper half of the bunch being white and the lower half black, and formed from equal contributions of the men of the Five Nations, shall be a token that the men have combined themselves into one head, one body and one thought, and it shall also symbolize their ratification of the peace pact of the Confederacy, whereby the Lords of the Five Nations have established the Great Peace. The white portion of the shell strings represent the women and the black portion the men. The black portion, furthermore, is a token of power and authority vested in the men of the Five Nations. This string of wampum vests the people with the right to correct their erring Lords. In case a part or all the Lords pursue a course not vouched for by the people and heed not the third warning of their women relatives, then the matter shall be taken to the General Council of the women of the Five Nations. If the Lords notified and warned three times fail to heed, then the case falls into the hands of the men of the Five Nations. The War Chiefs shall then, by right of such power and authority, enter the open council to warn the Lord or Lords to return from the wrong course. If the Lords heed the warning they shall say, "we will reply tomorrow." If then an answer is returned in favor of justice and in accord with this Great Law, then the Lords shall individually pledge themselves again by again furnishing the necessary shells for the pledge. Then shall the War Chief or Chiefs exhort the Lords urging them to be just and true. Should it happen that the Lords refuse to heed the third warning, then two courses are open: either the men may decide in their council to depose the Lord or Lords or to club them to death with war clubs. Should they in their council decide to take the first course the War Chief shall address the Lord or Lords, saying: "Since you the Lords of the Five Nations have refused to return to the procedure of the Constitution, we now declare your seats vacant, we take off your horns, the token of your Lordship, and others shall be chosen and installed in your seats, therefore vacate your seats." Should the men in their council adopt the second course, the War Chief shall order his men to enter the council, to take positions beside the Lords, sitting between them wherever possible. When this is accomplished the War Chief holding in his outstretched hand a bunch of black wampum strings shall say to the erring Lords: "So now, Lords of the Five United Nations, harken to these last words from your men. You have not heeded the warnings of the women relatives, you have not heeded the warnings of the General Council of women and you have not heeded the warnings of the men of the nations, all urging you to return to the right course of action. Since you are determined to resist and to withhold justice from your people there is only one course for us to adopt." At this point the War Chief shall let drop the bunch of black wampum and the men shall spring to their feet and club the erring Lords to death. Any erring Lord may submit before the War Chief lets fall the black wampum. Then his execution is withheld. The black wampum here used symbolizes that the power to execute is buried but that it may be raised up again by the men. It is buried but when occasion arises they may pull it up and derive their power and authority to act as here described.


Article 60

A broad dark belt of wampum of thirty-eight rows, having a white heart in the center, on either side of which are two white squares all connected with the heart by white rows of beads shall be the emblem of the unity of the Five Nations. [ ed note: This is the Hiawatha Belt, now in the Congressional Library. ] The first of the squares on the left represents the Mohawk nation and its territory; the second square on the left and the one near the heart, represents the Oneida nation and its territory; the white heart in the middle represents the Onondaga nation and its territory, and it also means that the heart of the Five Nations is single in its loyalty to the Great Peace, that the Great Peace is lodged in the heart (meaning the Onondaga Lords), and that the Council Fire is to burn there for the Five Nations, and further, it means that the authority is given to advance the cause of peace whereby hostile nations out of the Confederacy shall cease warfare; the white square to the right of the heart represents the Cayuga nation and its territory and the fourth and last white square represents the Seneca nation and its territory. White shall here symbolize that no evil or jealous thoughts shall creep into the minds of the Lords while in Council under the Great Peace. White, the emblem of peace, love, charity and equity surrounds and guards the Five Nations.


Article 61

Should a great calamity threaten the generations rising and living of the Five United Nations, then he who is able to climb to the top of the Tree of the Great Long Leaves may do so. When, then, he reaches the top of the tree he shall look about in all directions, and, should he see that evil things indeed are approaching, then he shall call to the people of the Five United Nations assembled beneath the Tree of the Great Long Leaves and say: "A calamity threatens your happiness." Then shall the Lords convene in council and discuss the impending evil. When all the truths relating to the trouble shall be fully known and found to be truths, then shall the people seek out a Tree of Ka-hon-ka-ah-go-nah, [a great swamp Elm ], and when they shall find it they shall assemble their heads together and lodge for a time between its roots. Then, their labors being finished, they may hope for happiness for many days after.


Article 62 

When the Confederate Council of the Five Nations declares for a reading of the belts of shell calling to mind these laws, they shall provide for the reader a specially made mat woven of the fibers of wild hemp. The mat shall not be used again, for such formality is called the honoring of the importance of the law.


Article 63

Should two sons of opposite sides of the council fire agree in a desire to hear the reciting of the laws of the Great Peace and so refresh their memories in the way ordained by the founder of the Confederacy, they shall notify Adodarho. He then shall consult with five of his coactive Lords and they in turn shall consult with their eight brethren. Then should they decide to accede to the request of the two sons from opposite sides of the Council Fire, Adodarho shall send messengers to notify the Chief Lords of each of the Five Nations. Then they shall despatch their War Chiefs to notify their brother and cousin Lords of the meeting and its time and place. When all have come and have assembled, Adodarhoh, in conjunction with his cousin Lords, shall appoint one Lord who shall repeat the laws of the Great Peace. Then shall they announce who they have chosen to repeat the laws of the Great Peace to the two sons. Then shall the chosen one repeat the laws of the Great Peace.


Article 64

At the ceremony of the installation of Lords if there is only one expert speaker and singer of the law and the Pacification Hymn to stand at the council fire, then when this speaker and singer has finished addressing one side of the fire he shall go to the opposite side and reply to his own speech and song. He shall thus act for both sides of the fire until the entire ceremony has been completed. Such a speaker and singer shall be termed the "Two Faced" because he speaks and sings for both sides of the fire.


Article 65

I, Dekanawida, and the Union Lords, now uproot the tallest pine tree and into the cavity thereby made we cast all weapons of war. Into the depths of the earth, down into the deep under-earth currents of water flowing to unknown regions we cast all the weapons of strife. We bury them from sight and we plant again the tree. Thus shall the Great Peace be established and hostilities shall no longer be known between the Five Nations but peace to the United People.


The Iroquoian Confederacy initially consisted of five tribes who were in close proximity of the Iroquois territory.

The Mohawk tribe lived along the Mohawk River of the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York to South Quebec and East Ontario - Possessors of the Flint.

The Oneida tribe lived east of Lake Ontario, around Oneida Lake - Granite People

The Onondaga tribe lived between Lake Champlain and the Saint Lawrence River - People on the Hills

The Cayuga tribe lived around around Cayuga Lake in New York State - People of the Great Swamp

The Seneca tribe lived in New York State south of Lake Ontario and were the were the largest nation of the Iroquois Confederacy - Great Hill People

The Tuscarora tribe lived between the Oneida and the Onondaga


The heraldic emblems of the Mohawk are described by a dutch official writing in 1644:


The Mohawk (Mahakuase) Indians are divided into three tribes, which are called Ochkari, Anaware, Oknaho, that is, the Bear, the Tortoise and the Wolf. Of these, the Tortoise is the greates and most prominent; and they boast that they are the oldest descendants of the woman before mentioned. (having been saved by a tortoise). These have made a fort of palisade and they call theit castle Asserué. Those of the bear are the next to these, and their castle is called by them Banagiro. The last are a progeny of these, and their castle is called Thenondiogo. These Indian tribes each carry the beast after which they are named (as the arms in their banner) when they go to war against their enemies, and this is done as well for the terror of their enemies as for a sign of their bravery.[7]


At the end of the 19th century the heraldic system is described as follows:

Each canton or nation was subdivided into clans or tribes, each clan having a heraldic insignia (called totem). For this insignia one tribe would have the figure of a wolf; another, of a bear, another, of a deer; another, of a tortoise, and so on. By this totemsitc system they maintained a perfect tribal union. After the Europeans came, the sachem of a tribe affixed his totem, in the form of a rude representation of the animal that marked his tribe, to documents he was required to sign, like an ancient monarch affixing his seal.

The chief totems of the Five Nations – the bear, the wolf, the deer, the tortoise, and the beaver – were, one of them, the distinguishing mark of the delegate of each nation at the Grand Council of Congress of the Confederation, and appeared on his person. These constituted the Federal arms of the Confederacy when combined.



There were many totemic symbols besides those named, such as different birds – the eagle, the heron, the turkey, and the plover. The signatures were copied from the originals on documents

Fig 1 is a tortoise; Fig 2, is the signature of King Hendrick, with his totem a deer; Fig 3 is a potato totem; Fig 4, an eagle totem; Fig 5, a wolf totem, and Fig 6 , a beaver totem.

The totoise, the wolf and the bear were the totems of the three families into which each nation was divided. (as remarked in 1644) [8]


The tribal emblems of today:


Cayuga Nation of New York

Oneida Nation of New York



Onondaga Nation of New York



Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, New York

formerly the St. Regis Band of Mohawk Indians of New York



Seneca Nation of New York



Shinnecock Nation



Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians of New York



Tuscarora Nation of New York




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 © Hubert de Vries 2017-10-01




[1] http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/262584.html#Q4cx41khzRERljJS.99

[2] http://www.albion-prints.com/morgan-1851-antique-print-great-seal-of-the-province-of-new-york-1670-1673-273673-p.asp

[3] Zieber, Eugene: Heraldry in America. Published by the Department of Heraldry of the Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1895. Pp. 162-167

[4] Shankle, Georg Earlie: State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and other Symbols. The H.W. Wilson Comp.. New York, 1951.

[5] The first and second seal from: Lossing, Benson John: The Empire State: A compendious history of the commonweath of New York. 1887. Pp. 332-333

[6] McCordMuseum  http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/scripts/large.php?Lang=1&accessnumber=M13321&idImage=269983

[7] Johann Megapolensis, Jr., "A Short Account of the Mohawk Indians" Pp45-46 (Johannes Megapolensis Jr.: Korte schets van de Mahakuase Indianen in Nieuw Nederland, met aandacht voor hun land, lichaamsbouw, kleding, levenswijze en bestuurders, 1644.

[8] Lossing, op.cit 1887, pp. 6-7

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