October 31, 2012

He keeps them awake

Sagoyewatha, also known as Red Jacket, was the Seneca War Chief who fought with the Americans during the War of 1812. The name Sagoyewatha means ‘he keeps them awake,’ which refers to his great oratory abilities. The name Red Jacket refers to his favourite embroidered coat given to him by the British for his service in the American Revolution.

Red Jacket fought on the British side during the American Revolution. When the British were defeated, Red Jacket was part of a delegation that met with George Washington. The delegation ceded Iroquois lands in upstate New York to the new American government for their alliance with the British. During the meeting with Red Jacket, Washington presented a peace medal to Red Jacket, which he worn in many portraits.

Red Jacket
Red Jacket was a reformed drunkard who advocated for social harmony through temperance. He rose to prominence due to his personal political talent as an advisor to the hereditary leadership. He managed to outshine the hereditary Peace Chiefs and dominated tribal/village society.

During the War of 1812, Red Jacket decided to keep his warriors out of the war. However, during the British raid in December 1813 along the American side of the Niagara, Red Jacket and his warriors helped to defend people from British attacks. By July 1814 Red Jacket and his warriors fought as part of the American Left Division invading into the Niagara. After the Battle of Chippawa, which saw many Iroquois fighting their own people, Red Jacket sent a peace envoy to the Grand River Iroquois. Red Jacket proposed that the Iroquois on both sides of the Niagara withdraw from the war. Due to Red Jacket’s proposal, many Iroquois on the British side decided to withdraw from the war.

Today you can see a statue of Red Jacket in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York. If you are passing through the area, make sure you stop to pay tribute to a brave warrior.

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