Cornplanter/Gyantwahia

Cornplanter/Gyantwahia

b. ca. 1730s – d. 2/18/1836

As a young man Cornplanter was known to be a valiant warrior in battle. And although he became a Seneca war chief, he was a seeker of peace not war. When speaking of war he once said, “A fight is a hard business.”

During American Revolution favored neutrality, but went with majority which favored siding with the British. After the Revolution (and the defeat of the British) he felt it wisest to seek a course of positive diplomacy. He served as a negotiator between the U.S. and the Senecas and travelled extensively to Washington and Albany urging protection of Hodinosõni lands. He met with U.S. President George Washington, the “Town Destroyer.”

In 1791 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed legislation conveying lands to Cornplanter (Cornplanter Grant, 640 acres) in recognition of his efforts to avoid hostilities between Pennsylvania and eastern/Ohio Indian nations.

In time he became disillusioned with the relationship between the U.S. and the Hodinosõni.

Cornplanter was born into the wolf clan and was the son of a Seneca mother and a Dutchman. Cornplanter’s English name was John O’Bail (Abeel). Came from an influential Seneca family along the Genesee River. He signed the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty. Handsome Lake was his half-brother. He was an uncle to Governor Blacksnake. Red Jacket was kin.

In 1866 a monument was erected by Pennsylvania in honor of Cornplanter. This is believed to be first monument erected in honor of a Native American in the United States. Hon. James Ross Snowden of Philadelphia gave the dedicatory address. Snowden said in part:

He was a dauntless warrior and wisest statesman of his nation, the patriarch of this tribe and the peacemaker of his race. He was a model man from nature’s mould. Truth, temperance, justice and humanity, never had a nobler incarnation or more earnest and consistent advocate then he. As we loved him personally, and revere the nobel, manly character he bore, we erect this tribute to his memory, that those who live after us may know and imitate his virtues.