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Francis Parkman

1823 - 1893

How they Lived

There is not alot of information readily available about how the Susquehannocks (Andastes) lived other than general statements made about specific incidences.  However, out of all of the other Indian tribes in the area, they were said to be most like the Iroquois and Hurons (mostly in language) and as I began to read about these two tribes, I found the information about them to be quite helpful in clarifying the Susquehannocks strange behaviors I have read about but was at a loss to understand.

The most clear and helpful information I have found on this topic has been from Francis Parkman, "The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century"

Fortified Villages

First - it is important to note that not all of the villages were fortified like that of Spanish Hill. However, the description below of the general way in which a fortified village was constructed is consistent with what was found at Spanish Hill.

"The fortifications of all this family of tribes were, like their dwellings, in essential points alike. A situation was chosen favorable to defence,—the bank of a lake, the crown of a difficult hill, or a high point of land in the fork of confluent rivers. A ditch, several feet deep, was dug around the village, and the earth thrown up on the inside. Trees were then felled by an alternate process of burning and hacking the burnt part with stone hatchets, and by similar means were cut into lengths to form palisades. These were planted on the embankment, in one, two, three, or four concentric rows,—those of each row inclining towards those of the other rows until they intersected. The whole was lined within, to the height of a man, with heavy sheets of bark; and at the top, where the palisades crossed, was a gallery of timber for the defenders, together with wooden gutters, by which streams of water could be poured down on fires kindled by the enemy. Magazines of stones, and rude ladders for mounting the rampart, completed the provision for defence. The forts of the Iroquois were stronger and more elaborate than those of the Hurons; and to this day large districts in New York are marked with frequent remains of their ditches and embankments." Francis Parkman, "The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century"


These tribes generally all lived in what is referred to as "longhouses" - as described below:

"They covered a space of from one to ten acres, the dwellings clustering together with little or no pretension to order. In general, these singular structures were about thirty or thirty-five feet in length, breadth, and height; but many were much larger, and a few were of prodigious length. In some of the villages there were dwellings two hundred and forty feet long, though in breadth and height they did not much exceed the others. [ Brebeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1635, 31. Champlain says that he saw them, in 1615, more than thirty fathoms long; while Vanderdonck reports the length, from actual measurement, of an Iroquois house, at a hundred and eighty yards, or five hundred and forty feet! ] In shape they were much like an arbor overarching a garden-walk. Their frame was of tall and strong saplings, planted in a double row to form the two sides of the house, bent till they met, and lashed together at the top. To these other poles were bound transversely, and the whole was covered with large sheets of the bark of the oak, elm, spruce, or white cedar, overlapping like the shingles of a roof, upon which, for their better security, split poles were made fast with cords of linden bark. At the crown of the arch, along the entire length of the house, an opening a foot wide was left for the admission of light and the escape of smoke. At each end was a close porch of similar construction; and here were stowed casks of bark, filled with smoked fish, Indian corn, and other stores not liable to injury from frost. Within, on both sides, were wide scaffolds, four feet from the floor, and extending the entire length of the house, like the seats of a colossal omnibus. [ Often, especially among the Iroquois, the internal arrangement was different. The scaffolds or platforms were raised only a foot from the earthen floor, and were only twelve or thirteen feet long, with intervening spaces, where the occupants stored their family provisions and other articles. Five or six feet above was another platform, often occupied by children. One pair of platforms sufficed for a family, and here during summer they slept pellmell, in the clothes they wore by day, and without pillows. ] These were formed of thick sheets of bark, supported by posts and transverse poles, and covered with mats and skins. Here, in summer, was the sleeping place of the inmates, and the space beneath served for  storage of their firewood. The fires were on the ground, in a line down the middle of the house.

Each fire sufficed for two families, who, in winter, slept closely packed around them. Above, just under the vaulted roof, were a great number of poles, like the perches of a hen-roost, and here were suspended weapons, clothing, skins, and ornaments. Here, too, in harvest time, the squaws hung the ears of unshelled corn, till the rude abode, through all its length, seemed decked with a golden tapestry. In general, however, its only lining was a thick coating of soot from the smoke of fires with neither draught, chimney, nor window. So pungent was the smoke, that it produced inflammation of the eyes, attended in old age with frequent blindness. Another annoyance was the fleas; and a third, the unbridled and unruly children. Privacy there was none. The house was one chamber, sometimes lodging more than twenty families." Francis Parkman, "The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century"

Concerning their social structure (Clans):

"In the organization of the savage communities of the continent, one feature, more or less conspicuous, continually appears. Each nation or tribe—to adopt the names by which these communities are usually known—is subdivided into several clans. These clans are not locally separate, but are mingled throughout the nation. All the members of each clan are, or are assumed to be, intimately joined in consanguinity. Hence it is held an abomination for two persons of the same clan to intermarry; and hence, again, it follows that every family must contain members of at least two clans. Each clan has its name, as the clan of the Hawk, of the Wolf, or of the Tortoise; and each has for its emblem  the figure of the beast, bird, reptile, plant, or other object, from which its name is derived. This emblem, called totem by the Algonquins, is often tattooed on the clansman's body, or rudely painted over the entrance of his lodge. The child belongs, in most cases, to the clan, not of the father, but of the mother. In other words, descent, not of the totem alone, but of all rank, titles, and possessions, is through the female. The son of a chief can never be a chief by hereditary title, though he may become so by force of personal influence or achievement. Neither can he inherit from his father so much as a tobacco-pipe. All possessions alike pass of right to the brothers of the chief, or to the sons of his sisters, since these are all sprung from a common mother. This rule of descent was noticed by Champlain among the Hurons in 1615. That excellent observer refers it to an origin which is doubtless its true one. The child may not be the son of his reputed father, but must be the son of his mother,—a consideration of more than ordinary force in an Indian community." Francis Parkman, "The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century"

Here is an illustration by Ellsworth Cowles (in 1933) of an effigy found right below Spanish Hill.


Most people think that this effigy is of a mammoth, which it may very well be since Chemung is named for being the place where they found the long tusk of a mammoth.

Interestingly - Ellsworth Cowles told the story of upon finding this effigy - Louise Welles Murray turned to him and said, "Why Ellsworth, I believe you have just uncovered a QuisQuis"

I found and interesting piece called "THE LENAPE STONE OR THE INDIAN AND THE MAMMOTH BY H. C. MERCER" that describes the "Quis Quis":
( - the full text can be read at :  )

"David Cusic, the Tuscarora Indian, in his history of the Iroquois, among other instances, speaks of the Big Quisquis, [A word meaning " hog " in modern Iroquois.] a terrible monster who invaded at an early time the Indian settlements by Lake Ontario, and was at length driven back by the warriors from several villages after a severe engagement; and of the Big Elk, another great beast, who invaded the towns with fury and was at length killed in a great fight; and Elias Johnson, the Tuscarora chief, in his "History of the Six Nations," speaks of another monster that appeared at an early period in the history of his people, which they called Oyahguaharb, supposed to be some great mammoth who was furious against men, and destroyed the lives of many Indian hunters, but who was at length killed after a long and severe contest."

Strangely this led me to look for a picture of the Lenape Stone ....


They were very warlike and feared by all the other Indian nations, including the Iroquois:

More than any other reference to the (Susquehannocks) Andastes - is the reference to these people being very warlike. They were in fact referred to by many of the other Indian tribes in our area as "demons" or "devils".  I thought that I would "dig up" some of the accounts so that you could read them for yourselves, and see just why they were so feared by their neighboring tribes.

1.) From Jesuit Campanius' Nya Sverige. Dupanceau's Translation, p. 157 (an account of the Andastes after they had moved further south on the Susquehanna - and referred to as "the Minques" by the Dutch in that region):

"..the Minques or Minckus were the principal and were renowned for their warlike character.  These Indians lived at the distance of twelve moles from New Sweden, where they daily come to trade with us...They live on a high mountain, very steep and difficult to climb, their they have a fort, or square building surrounded by palisades, in which they reside n the manner that has been described.  There they have guns and a small iron cannon with which they shoot and defend themselves and take with them when they go to war. They are strong and vigorous both young and old; they are a tall people and not frightful in appearance.  When they are fighting they do not attempt to fly, but all stand like a wall as long as there is one remaining.  They forced the other Indians whom we have mentioned, and who are not so warlike as the Minques to be afraid of them, and made them subject and tributary to them, so that they dare not stir, mush less go to war against them..."

2.) From Francis Parkman, "The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century"

One enemy of their own race remained,—the Andastes. This nation appears to have been inferior in numbers to either the Hurons, the Neutrals, or the Eries; but they cost their assailants more trouble than all these united. The Mohawks seem at first to have borne the brunt of the Andaste war; and, between the years 1650 and 1660, they were so roughly handled by these stubborn adversaries, that they were reduced from the height of audacious insolence to the depths of dejection. [ 1 ] The remaining four nations of the Iroquois league now took up the quarrel, and fared scarcely better than the Mohawks. In the spring of 1662, eight hundred of their warriors set out for the Andaste country, to strike a decisive blow; but when they reached the great town of their enemies, they saw that they had received both aid and counsel from the neighboring Swedish colonists. The town was fortified by a double palisade, flanked by two bastions, on which, it is said, several small pieces of cannon were mounted. Clearly, it was not to be carried by assault, as the invaders had promised themselves. Their only hope was in treachery; and, accordingly, twenty-five of their warriors gained entrance, on pretence of settling the terms of a peace. Here, again, ensued a grievous disappointment; for the Andastes seized them all, built high scaffolds visible from without, and tortured them to death in sight of their countrymen, who thereupon decamped in miserable discomfiture. [ Lalemant, Relation, 1663, 10. ]

3.) From Relation, 1672, p. 24, Raffiex from Cayuga. June 24.

"On Ascension Day, twenty Tsonnontouans and forty of the proudest of our young braves set out for this town to go and strike a blow in the firlds of Andastigues (Andaste Nation), four days journey from here.  The Tsonnontouans, who formed a band apart, the others havong gone ahead by water, were attacked by sixty boys of 15 or 16 years old, from Andastogue, and put to flight with the loss of two of their men, one killed on the spot, the other taken prisoner.  These young victors having learned that the Goiguoens had gone by canoe, promptly embarked on canoes and pursued them with so much diligence, that having overtaken they engaged them.  Eight of our men were killed in their canoes, fifteen or sixteen have come back all cut up with arrow and knife wounds or half killed with tomohawk blows."

4.) From Relation 1661, p. 31, LeMoyne's Letter

"We do not doubt that it was a stroke of Providence which most seasonably made a diversion of arms and which has raised up for us the Andastogueronnons (Andastes), warlike Indians, at all times dreaded by the Upper Iroquois...

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