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43 The seventeenth-century Mohawk war chief, negotiator, intercolonial messenger, and “Christian Indian” of Dutch-Mohawk descent who is best known as the Flemish Bastard has remained an obscure individual in the historiography of Native–European relations in colonial North America. It is true that the Flemish Bastard has been recognized by some scholars. Historians of the Iroquois League of Five Nations, comprising the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations during the seventeenth century, have noted that the Flemish Bastard gave an important speech to French colonial officials in 1654 regarding the political structure of the Iroquois Confederacy. Several scholars have also correctly identified him as a prominent Mohawk war chief and negotiator during the First French–Iroquois War (ca. 1650–1667). Nevertheless , so far no comprehensive biographic study has been attempted about the Flemish Bastard. This is surprising, since the Mohawk leader functioned as a valuable and trusted messenger between French officials in Quebec, Mohawk chiefs in Iroquoia, and Anglo-Dutch authorities in Albany, New York, during the 1650s and 1660s. It is especially remarkable that the Flemish Bastard did not become a subject of the recent historical studies that analyzed the activities and roles of individuals who functioned as interpreters, brokers, or negotiators between indigenous peoples and European colonists.1 One possible reason why the Flemish Bastard has been neglected so far by contemporary historians is the lack of primary sources. There are a handful of references to him in the Jesuit Relations, the annual 3 FROM INTERCOLONIAL MESSENGER TO “CHRISTIAN INDIAN” The Flemish Bastard and the Mohawk Struggle for Independence from New France and Colonial New York in the Eastern Great Lakes Borderland, 1647–1687  MARK MEUWESE reports written by Jesuit missionaries and published in France to support the Jesuit missionary program in North America. There are also several references in other French documents, as well as Dutch and English colonial sources. However, many aspects about his life remain unclear. For example, between 1667 and 1687 there are no references to be found about the Flemish Bastard in the existing French, Dutch, or English colonial records.2 Another explanation for the Flemish Bastard’s relative obscurity in the historiography is that he was known under different names by the Iroquois and the various imperial European powers. The French Jesuits labelled the Mohawk chief the “Bâtard Flamand” (Flemish or Dutch bastard ) because they viewed him as “an execrable issue of sin, the monstrous offspring of a Dutch Heretic father and a pagan woman.”3 Contemporary French colonial officials and later historians of New France followed the Jesuits in using this name to denote the Mohawk chief and negotiator. Interestingly, Dutch colonial records do not refer to the mixed descent of the individual known to the French as the Flemish Bastard. Instead, Dutch colonists and officials at Fort Orange and Beverwijck (later Albany) always used “Smits Jan,” a Dutch name. It is not known whether Smits Jan was his baptismal name or a later name given to him by Dutch colonists and officials. When English colonial authorities made use of his services after the English conquest of New Netherland in 1664, they anglicized his Dutch name to “Smits John.” Finally, according to one Dutch colonial record, the Flemish Bastard also had an indigenous name. In a letter from Johannes Dijckman, West India Company commander at Fort Orange, to Jean de Lauson, governor of French Canada, dated 25 December 1653, a person who is almost certainly the Flemish Bastard is referred to as Canaqueese. Since this individual was carrying messages to de Lauson on behalf of the Mohawks and was described by Dijckman as “a savage who is much beloved by the Maquas [Mohawks],” it is likely that Canaqueese was a name given to the Flemish Bastard by the Mohawks.4 The confusion among historians about the various Dutch, French, and Iroquois names for the Mohawk war chief and negotiator has been amplified by the ongoing tendency of historians to impose anachronistic international boundaries on colonial North America. This inclination has especially been strong among scholars of New France and colonial New York. Recent studies have persuasively shown that colonial northeastern America was an interconnected region in which Aboriginal peoples and the various English, Dutch, French, and Swedish colonies were often 44 Chapter Three | Mark Meuwese dependent on one another for trade, communication, protection, and information. Despite this new scholarship, the influence of nationalistic approaches in history remains strong in the United States and Canada. The neighbouring colonies...


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