January 15, 2014

He has made the mist disappear for them – John Smoke Johnson

The War of 1812 produced many well-known native leaders that we think of today, such as John Norton and Tecumseh. However, one lesser-known individual, John ‘Smoke’ Johnson, made a large impact during his involvement in the war and after. 

John ‘Smoke’ Johnson was born a full-blooded Mohawk in 1792 in Upper Canada. His native name, Sakayengwaraton, translates to “he has made the mist disappear for them” and this translation helped earn his better-known name as Smoke Johnson. Johnson was well acquainted with Joseph Brant and they both regularly attended the Mohawk Church near Brantford.
John Smoke Johnson
At the age of 20, Johnson joined John Norton serving throughout the War of 1812. Johnson fought at Queenston Heights, Stoney Creek and Lundy’s Lane. In addition, legend has it that Johnson kindled the fire that burned Buffalo in December 1813. For his service, he was awarded a pension of $20 per month.

After the war, Johnson took a lead role in the Grand River community. He served as a speaker of the Grand River Council for over 40 years, and although he was a staunch Anglican, he served the community by encouraging traditional Iroquois values. Until his death in August 1886 at the age of 93, Johnson remained physically and mentally active in the community earning the title “grand old man” in the Six Nations community.

If you want to find out more about Iroquois involvement in the War of 1812, come out to Old Fort Erie on February 1 for The Niagara 1814 Campaign Symposium where Richard Hill will talk about the Iroquois involvement in 1814. The symposium will also include presentations by Donald and Dianne Graves, and Doug Kohler. Click here for more information and to register.

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