June 27, 2012

Undaunted courage – Teyoninhokarawen/John Norton

The War of 1812 was full of courageous leaders who inspired and defended their beliefs. One of the noblest leaders was Teyoninhokarawen, better known as John Norton.

John Norton was the son of a Cherokee father and a Scottish mother. Norton was born and raised in Scotland before coming to Canada in the ranks of the British Army. He later become a teacher and an interpreter where he embraced the native culture. Through his work as an interpreter, Norton was accepted into the Mohawk tribe and became the adopted nephew of Joseph Brant. Eventually, Norton became chief under the name Teyoninhokarawen.

John Norton
During the War of 1812, Norton served as an Indian Agent for the British government and held the rank of captain in the British Army. Norton encouraged the Iroquois Confederacy in the Grand River Settlement to join the British against the Americans. Norton fought in many battles throughout the war including Queenston Heights (were he was wounded), Beaver Dams, Chippawa and Lundy’s Lane, among others.

Throughout the war, Norton placed the welfare and interests of the Iroquois on both sides of the Niagara as a top priority. An example of this occurred in July 1814 when Norton allowed nations from the American side of the Niagara to address the Grand River Iroquois in Burlington. The purpose of this meeting was to end the Iroquois involvement in the war.

Near the end of the war, Norton was promoted to the rank of major and granted a pension of 200 pounds annually for his service. In 1815, he traveled to Britain with his wife and son where he wrote a lengthy memoir concerning his experiences and the history of native people. Norton eventually returned to Canada and settled on a large tract of land that overlooked the Grand River where he began to translate the bible into Mohawk. Later in life Norton left Canada and traveled west in order to live with the Cherokee nation. He never returned to Canada and is believed to of died in the late 1820s or early 1830s.

Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond described Norton in 1815 by stating, “This man is of the coolest and most undaunted courage and has led the Indians with the greatest gallantry and much effect on many occasions against the enemy.” John Norton played a crucial role in aiding the British cause during the War of 1812 and his contribution, along with his warriors, helped to stave off American advances in Niagara.

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