Red Jacket

Seneca chief (1750-1830)

Red Jacket (known as Otetiani in his youth and Sagoyewatha [Keeper Awake] Sa-go-ye-wa-tha as an adult because of his oratorical skills) (c. 1750–January 20, 1830) was a Seneca orator and chief of the Wolf clan, based in western New York. On behalf of his nation, he negotiated with the new United States after the American Revolutionary War, when the Seneca as British allies were forced to cede much land following the defeat of the British; he signed the Treaty of Canandaigua (1794). He helped secure some Seneca territory in New York state, although most of his people had migrated to Canada for resettlement after the Paris Treaty.

Red Jacket's speech on "Religion for the White Man and the Red" (1805) has been preserved as an example of his great oratorical style.


  • Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all, but He has made a great difference between His white and His red children. He has given us different complexions and different customs. To you He has given the arts. To these He has not opened our eyes. We know these things to be true. Since He has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that He has given us a different religion according to our understanding? The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for His children; we are satisfied. Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own. ... Brother, we are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest, and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.
    Brother, you have now heard our answer to your talk, and this is all we have to say at present. As we are going to part, we will come and take you by the hand, and hope the Great Spirit will protect you on your journey and return you safe to your friends.
    • Quoted from The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. VIII., Red Jacket on the Religion of the White Man and the Red, Speech delivered at a council of chiefs of the Six Nations in the summer of 1805 after Mr. Cram, a missionary, had spoken of the work he proposed to do among them.

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