Here’s the Background, Events and Aftermath of Sullivan/Clinton! It provides teachers with ideas for lesson plans, homework assignments and student projects. Version 1.0 is on the webpage below. Download the “Educator’s Guide PDF v1.0”. Future updates will be made available from this page.


Working Plans for Enriching Our Primary, Secondary, and Higher Education History Curriculums © 2004, All Rights Reserved


Version 1.0
Fall 2004

Developed By
Dr. Robert Spiegelman

Table of Contents

Part One: Teacher’s Introduction

A. Overview and Goals

One day, Seneca Chief Cornplanter told President Washington what the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign of 1779 really meant for his people: “When your army entered the country of the Six Nations, we called you Town Destroyer: and to this day when that name is heard, our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling close to the necks of their mothers.” Ordered by Washington, Sullivan/Clinton was the largest expedition until then mounted against the native peoples of North America. By largely removing the Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga from their ancestral homelands and finally confiscating the remaining Mohawk towns, its victory helped blaze the trail for America’s westward expansion.

The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign also helped paved the way for building the Erie Canal, and by so doing, enabled Manhattan’s rise to national and world prominence. Although Sullivan/Clinton has fallen off the radar screen, it still has profound lessons to impart. This year is its 225th anniversary, and events across New York are commemorating it — upstate and downstate — from the early spring through the late fall. This makes the fall term — indeed, any term — an ideal time to re-introduce the nearly-forgotten Sullivan-Clinton Campaign back into our classroom curricula and into general public awareness.

This plan is a living document, a work-in-progress. It aims to help teachers introduce their students to this truly major event and to deepen their understanding of it in many engaging ways. It makes extensive use of the website as a flexible and multi-level educational tool: a way to bring together texts, photographs and dynamic maps for classroom presentations and student assignments — ranging from homework, writing assignments and term papers, to debates, photo-essays and mock “press conferences.” This plan will help spark the ideas of teachers and students alike.

This plan-in-progress provides teachers with these useful tools to help their students:

  • Learn about the Iroquois experience during and after the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign.
  • Develop awareness and skills for thinking intelligently about historical events, and how these events might relate to current events.
  • Revive and expand history as a truly exciting, engaging and emotional subject — as a never-ending, evolving story that everyone can contribute to.
  • Identify, understand and actually record historical traces, often hidden in plain sight, through the creative use of students’ reading, writing and multimedia skills and experiences.
  • Develop library and Internet skills for research purposes.
  • Use and develop websites and Internet blogs and galleries as a means of expression.

For teachers, it aims to:

  • Introduce Sullivan/Clinton into lesson plans and assignments.
  • Support the sharing of specific experiences with other teachers, via postings to the Sullivan/Clinton Website’s Educator’s page.
  • Encourage the search for and development of Iroquois historical and cultural resources in public and school libraries and on the Internet.

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B. Sullivan/Clinton Background & Basics


The historical overviews that follow are drawn from the texts of the Sullivan/Clinton interactive map. Together they provide a solid orientation to introduce teachers to the Sullivan/Clinton Campaign and its Aftermath, both then and as its legacy continues today.

The American Revolution — that white man’s “family quarrel” — engulfed and finally tore apart the centuries-old Iroquois Confederacy, known as the Six Nations. Their people (whose descendents live in New York today) call themselves the Haudenosaunee, or, “People Building a Longhouse.” Under relentless pressure to take sides, those who joined with England — most Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga and Mohawk — would finally fight their brothers and sisters — the Oneida and (most of) the Tuscarora — who, in turn, joined the Yankee cause.

In 1779, as the War of Independence raged on, George Washington boldly ordered two Generals, John Sullivan and James Clinton, to clear-cut the Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga nations from their ancestral homelands in western New York. These countries should “not merely be overrun,” Washington insisted, “but destroyed.” He envisioned an inland empire to replace both English rule and Iroquois sovereignty.

The English Empire, for its part, was happy to recruit and to partly sustain its allied Iroquois fighters, especially in frontier raids against Yankee settlements. However, England would not and/or could not send enough soldiers to defend its allies’ homelands against the Sullivan-Clinton juggernaut.

The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign intended and carried out a scorched earth policy. It transformed Iroquois Country from one of Earth’s most fertile regions into fields of fire and ash. Exceeding 6,200 soldiers — roughly 25% of the rebel army —, it was the largest military operation launched (to that date) against native North Americans. (It ranks as the 2nd largest in US history, after Jesup’s 1837 campaign against the Florida Seminoles.) Sullivan/Clinton was also newborn America’s first invasion of a sovereign territory. The year 2004 marks its 225th Anniversary. Some commemorative events are being held upstate, across western New York; and, probably for the first time, downstate in New York City.

In 1779, Gen. Sullivan reported back to Congress that the Campaign burned 40 towns and their surrounding fields; consuming at least 160,000 bushels of corn and “vast quantity of vegetables of every kind.” More recently, Anthony Wallace’s study (1969) tallied a total of 500 dwellings and nearly 1 million bushels of corn destroyed. Allan Eckert’s study (1978) estimated that 50 towns and nearly 1,200 houses were burned. While these figures may vary, every account shows an earth-shaking defeat for America’s native peoples that cannot truly be expressed in numbers. Iroquoia would never be the same.

Typical Officers’ diaries give glowing accounts of highly-developed towns, “beautifully situated, almost encircled with a clear flat which extends for a number of miles; where the most extensive fields of corn were, and every kind of vegetable that can be conceived.” Yet, in the end, General Sullivan would exult: “I flatter myself that the orders with which I was entrusted are fully executed, as we have not left a single settlement or field of corn in the in the country of the Five nations, nor is there the appearance of an Indian on this side of Niagara.” Armed with vastly superior numbers and cannons, Sullivan had brought shock and awe to Indian Country.

All this happened before the coming “Winter of Hunger,” the worst in recorded memory. It is largely untold how over 5,000 Iroquois refugees fled, northwest, to England’s overtaxed Ft. Niagara, and its woeful supply of food and shelter. Few know how over eight miles of makeshift shelters harbored rampant outbreaks of scurvy, hundreds of starving, and mass burial pits routinely filled in with lime by work crews from the fort. Remnants of that winter’s dead are reported to still surface during road work to this very day.

The next Spring, Iroquois fighters rearmed and fought back with guerrilla actions against Yankee settlements and caused damage to them. But the overwhelming fact is that Sullivan/Clinton made refugees of the vast majority of the Haudenosaunee. And what it did not achieve by cannon and numbers was carried out by one-sided land treaties (backed by potential force): that is, the near total dispossession and removal of the Haudenosaunee people. Sullivan-Clinton’s “discovery” of verdant Iroquoia had literally blazed the way both to massive land speculation and westward expansion. Indeed, the Fall of Iroquoia is forever entwined with the Birth of the American Republic.

What follows is a set of “at a glance” briefs to help orient teachers to some major aspects of both Iroquois history and the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign and its Aftermath through the present day:

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The Iroquois Confederacy & The Haudenosaunee People

Centuries ago, the Peace Maker, called forth a sign in the sky and brought together five previously warring nations together to form the Iroquois Confederacy. It was during a total eclipse. Most now date it to the year 1451. Others date it to 1142. Yet another to 1090!

These Nations were the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk in 1722, the Tuscarora joined to form The Six Nations. They called themselves the Haudenosaunee, or “People of the Longhouse.”

Under the Great Law of Peace, the Six Nations are allies in the Confederacy. Each nation has control in its own territory. For dealings between nations, the overall Grand Council is convened. Within nations, there is some autonomy for local settlements. Within settlements, there is some autonomy for the nation’s various clans. Clan Mothers and faith-keepers also have responsibility to be spiritual advisors. All have their own meetings as the occasion warranted. Today, the Iroquois Confederacy continues as the world’s oldest participatory democracy.

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The American Revolutionary War, 1775-1783

The American Revolution broke apart the Longhouse.

Originally, most of the tribes tried to stay neutral in the “family quarrel” between the English authorities and their rebellious American colonists. But soon, after years of struggling to stay neutral, that was no longer possible.

Under continual pressure by both British and Yankee agents, and with their future homelands hanging in the balance, every band would finally back one side or the other. As the Haudenosaunee practiced democracy, most tribes had factions, bands or individuals that backed one or the other white opponents. Most sided with the English authorities - with whom they had long-standing treaties, trade relations and even family ties. A sizable minority, especially the Oneidas, sided with the Yankee colonists.

As a civil war between opposing white forces, the American Revolution led to a civil war among different Iroquois groups, in which brother would fight brother. The Fall of Iroquoia is forever entwined with the birth pangs of the American Republic.

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The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign

George Washington’s orders to Gen. Sullivan were that Iroquoia should not merely be overrun, but destroyed.

The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign was financed in 1778 and planned out in early 1779. Between April and October of 1779, more than 6,200 soldiers marched in the largest military operation ever before launched against the native peoples of North America.

There are two parts to the saga. Part One, is the run up. It shows the cycle of attacks in 1778 that paved the way to the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign: Wyoming, Oquaga and Cherry Valley. Part Two is the invasion of Iroquoia by routes taken by Van Schaick, Sullivan, Clinton, Brodhead, Butler, and Gansevoort. Each one burned scores of towns, including the Onondaga, Seneca and Cayuga capitals.

In toto, the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign destroyed roughly 50 towns, 1 million bushels of corn, 50 thousand bushels of vegetables, and 10 thousand fruit trees. Forty Yankee soldiers were reported killed, as were scores of Indians with no final tally. And 5,000 refugees fled north to Ft. Niagara to face the winter of 1779-80 – the worst in recorded memory. Iroquoia was no more.

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Tragic Aftermath

The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign burned the Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga homelands, destroyed their crops and made most of their people into refugees. Eyewitness Mary Jemison said “what were our feelings when we found that there was not a mouthful enough to keep a child from perishing with hunger.” Thousands fled northwest to England’s stronghold, Ft.Niagara, seeking food and shelter. The fort was already overwhelmed by Loyalist refugees. In a few weeks time, 5,036 native people would live in 8 miles of poorly-constructed wigwams and dugouts.

Soon came the worst winter in memory - the “Winter of Hunger.” The snows lay fivefeet deep for months. Entire families froze to death. So did the animals, which Indians had usually hunted for food. Hundreds died from exposure to cold, starvation, malnutrition and disease. Regular work details were sent out from the fort to bury the dead in mass graves, then cover them over with lime.

When the spring came, Indian warriors regrouped and took revenge on American frontier settlements. But the families suffered greatly, and the point of no return had been crossed. Their longhouses, towns, fields and the graves of ancestors were gone for good. When the Revolutionary War ended, no mention of Indians or of their rights was made by the Peace Settlement of 1783. Then, Treaties would “legally” take away most of their remaining lands.

Iroquoia, as it used to be, was a thing of the past.

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Shopping for Land

George Washington’s life and career were focused on land. He was not only a soldier and commander, but also a surveyor, speculator, landowner. He had long owned lands in Virginia, in Ohio Indian Country and would soon own land in New York’s Mohawk Valley.

During the Revolutionary War, Washington had New York headquarters in West Point, and Newburgh. In 1781 and 1783, he made time for two long journeys, with two goals in mind: developing future inland waterways and buying well-placed lands in the former Indian Country.

In July of 1783, Washington and his friend, New York’s Governor George Clinton, took a 700+ mile trip through the Mohawk Valley. Accompanied by an armed entourage of soldiers and officers, they visited historic sites like Oriskany Battlefield. But, in the end, they were shopping for land. With no Indians to fear, they’d soon become partners in a 6,000+ acre purchase. It was located southwest of Utica, just between the towns of Clinton and New Hartford, in today’s Oneida County. (The approximate route of Washington-Clinton’s 1783 trip is shown by Scene 5 of the Sullivan/Clinton Mapset.)

The exact origin of New York’s nickname, “The Empire State” is still a mystery. But many historians point to a remark by Washington in this period suggesting that New York might become the “seat of Empire.” New York City did serve as America’s capital in 1785.

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The Spoils of Victory

After the Revolutionary War, the lands of Iroquoia first became part of the public domain, then quickly turned into a few large land empires and a few small Indian reservations. Haudenosaunee territories were surveyed, taken away by treaty and sold off to speculators. This Scene shows some major acquisitions before 1800.

In 1790, roughly 1.75 million acres were surveyed and allotted to some soldiers and officers in the absence of pay. Known as the Military Tract (1789), it was subdivided into 26 (later 28) townships with “civilized” names. Some got Greek or Roman names like Ulysees, Brutus, Hannibal, Hector and Homer. Others got English names like Locke, Dryden and Stirling. Many acres were sold to big land companies and speculators. Their former Iroquois place names became things of the past.

Other vast regions of New York land were sold off to wealthy speculators. One such team was Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham (1788) who bought 6 million acres (owned by the State Massachusetts) called the Phelps-Gorham Purchase. When they failed to keep up payments, their lands were sold off to Robert Morris, who amassed 5 million acres. Known as “the financier of the American Revolution,” Morris was America’s richest man and his purchase the largest in North America.

When Morris’s fortunes suddenly declined, he sold off 3.25 million acres to the Dutchowned Holland Land Company (1791/2). He’d also sell another 1.2 million acres to the Londonbased Pulteney Associates. But to finalize the Holland Land Purchase, Morris first had to terminate the Seneca’s remaining land claims. He did so at the Big Tree Treaty Conference (1797), near the former Little Beard’s Town, using alcohol, bribery, divisive gift-giving and nonstop pressure to sell. The Holland Purchase totaled 3.25 million acres. Morris initially kept 500,000 acres for himself, known as the Morris Reserve (1797).

As Iroquoia was gradually surveyed and sold off, the pathway opened for gradual Western Settlement. However, the steady stream of new settlers would become a flood tide with the completion of the Erie Canal (1825).

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Grand Canals & Railroads

Once the Iroquois were removed from their land, huge investments were made in a new transportation technology — canals! The vision was to link the Hudson River to the Great Lakes by water. And, canals were the answer — the wave of the future. They’d link distant regions and move settlers and supplies to the West and create the future. Big Albany landowners like Philip Schuyler, Robert Livingston Jr. and Stephen Van Rensselaer and rich merchants like Philadelphia’s Gouverneur Morris began to invest in waterway improvement and mini-canals. Their efforts paved the way toward a crowning achievement - The Erie Canal. Completed in 1825, the Erie was America’s Grand Canal - the communications highway of the day.

The 363-mile long Erie Canal is linked to the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. The removal of Iroquoia made it possible. Also, the champion of the Erie Canal project was New York’s Governor DeWitt Clinton - the very son of General James Clinton. On opening day, October 26, 1825, DeWitt rode the lead boat across the Canal from Buffalo (on Lake Erie) to Albany; then down the Hudson River to Manhattan. The barge that carried him was named Seneca Chief. Inside, an epic painting showed Clinton, dressed in a Roman toga, pushing open the Gateway to the Grand Canal. Another boat, Noah’s Ark, carried pairs of insects, wild animals and two Seneca boys.

The Canal sparked a transportation revolution. Railroad-building soared as links were made between the Canal and cities and towns across central and western New York. New “feeder canals” were built to complete the network. Commerce exploded as Canal traffic propelled Manhattan from America’s 5th largest seaport into first place. Manhattan became America’s leading financial hub and, eventually, today’s world-class city. Like nothing before, the Erie Canal opened the way to Western Settlement and to all the Indian removals that came with it.

Between 1830s and 1918, New York’s Canal System was expanded, widened and deepened; natural rivers were “canalized,” installed with modern locks, dammed and renamed the NY State Barge Canal. Today, the NY State Canal System is a 524-mile long, commercially viable waterway linking the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, and Lake Champlain. It is designated as one of America’s “National Heritage” corridor.

A memorial plaque on Newtown Battlefield commends Sullivan/Clinton for “Opening Westward the Pathway of Civilization.” This is partly because the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign blazed a trail that made America’s Grand Canal possible.

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County Lines & Famous Names

Before 1614, the lands of New York were under Indian stewardship. In 1624, Holland formally set up a colony, naming it “New Netherlands.” In 1664, England ousted the Dutch, renaming their new colony “New York.” In 1683, it was divided into 12 counties. And to the west of Albany County stood a vast region whose stewards were the Haudenosaunee peoples.

Today, the State of New York State consists of 62 Counties. Most are shown in Scene 8 of the Sullivan/Clinton Mapset.) Some were carved out of former counties. Then, as white settlement increased and population grew, new counties were split off, formed and given new names. (Moving the cursor over any shape will show the county’s name.)

Some counties are linked in different ways to the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign or to its Aftermath. They are named for players like Sullivan and Schuyler, key places like Niagara, Tioga and Chemung, and targeted tribes like the Seneca and Cayuga and Onondaga.

Many county names have Indian references. These include four of the Iroquois Six Nations, though not the Tuscaroras or Mohawks. Other names linked with the Iroquois are Chemung, Tioga, Cattaraugus Chautauqua and Schenectady. Others, Allegany and Chemung, have Delaware ties. New York State overflows with rivers, valleys and towns named by first peoples dispossessed from their homelands.

Four counties are named for American presidents: Madison, Monroe, Jefferson and Washington.

Several are named for American Generals in the Revolutionary War: Putnam, Greene, Montgomery, Herkimer, Warren, Steuben and Wayne.

Others are named after statesmen such as Hamilton, Franklin and Livingston and New York Governors such as Clinton, Tompkins, Broome and Yates. Two names linked to the state’s English past are Delaware, after a Virginia colonial governor, Westchester and Essex. Other counties honor Steamboat Inventor and Canal Promoter, Robert Fulton and Christopher Columbus.

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New York: The Empire State

What once was Iroquoia — networks of villages, fields, orchards, woods, clearances, rivers, trade rotes and hunting grounds — has become a Developer’s Paradise. Today, New York State is honeycombed by over one hundred thousand miles of super Highways, county and rural Roadways, airport Runways and barge and boat Canals.

New York State’s Empire State Development agency officially describes this infrastructure as follows: “New York has over 500 airports and landing facilities and direct flights to over 150 cities worldwide. The State harbors thousands of miles of rivers, 33 deep river ports, and ready access to the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway and the world’s oceans. New York’s roadways span 112,000 miles and its interstate highways cross 1,500 miles. New York has more than 4,000 miles of freight and passenger railways. Our transportation systems, northeast crossroads location and shared border with Canada give New York-based businesses a competitive edge.” New York is divided into 71 “Empire Zones” to promote its economic growth.

Completed in 1956, the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90 and 87) became the Empire State’s new Grand Canal. Between Buffalo and Albany, its I-90 roughly parallels (and intersects) the old Erie Canal; and between Albany and New York City, it (I-87) closely parallels (and crosses) the Hudson River. Today the state Canal System still exists as a 524-mile, commercially viable waterway linking the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, and Lake Champlain.

Thruway legislation consciously named its major sections old Indian Trails: the Iroquois Trail (the mainline between New York City and Buffalo), the Erie Path (the Erie Extension), the Mohican Path (the New England Thruway), the Algonquin Path (the Berkshire Extension) and the Tuscarora Path (the Niagara Extension). In this way, New York’s Superhighway planners have subsumed the pathways that once linked indigenous nations and homelands across the New York region.

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Iroquoia Today

Before Dutch, English and American settlement, Iroquoia spanned 80% of today’s New York. Mohawk scholar George-Kanentiio has calculated that only about 87,000 acres remained of the original 25 million. This is .034% of what was held.

Today, descendants of the Haudenosaunee people still live in New York as well as in Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Canada. There’s a growing rebirth of traditional legacies. Their numbers are growing as well. Some are repurchasing their former lands. And long-standing land claims disputes dating back to Sullivan-Clinton days persevere in the courts.

What follows summarizes where the Haudenosaunee people live today:

The Cayugas do not have a reservation or land base. Their lands once included Cayuga, Seneca, Chemung, Schuyler, Wayne, Tompkins and part of Tioga counties, nearly 2 million acres. Most members live on or near the Seneca Nation of Indians reservations. Fierce court battles will eventually decide their right to return.

Mohawk Nation bands live mostly in Canada. Their lands once included Schoharie, Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Saratoga, Montgomery, Fulton, Herkimer, Hamilton, Warren, Washington and points further north. Today, the 14,460 acres of the Ahkwesáhsne reservation straddles both sides of the New York-Canada border, along the St. Lawrence River. The New York side occupies 14,000 acres in Franklin and St. Lawrence counties, at Akwesasne, east of Massena. The smaller Canadian part consists of Snye and St. Regis, Quebec and Cornwall Island, Ontario. Tyendinaga sits on the Bay of Quinte, near Belleville, Ontario. Wáhta lies southeast of Parry Sound, Ontario. Ohswéken exists on the Grand River, near Hamilton, Ontario. Kanehsatáke sits near Oka, Quebec. And Kahnawáke resides south of Montreal.

Onondaga national territory (which is not a reservation) has consisted of 7,300 acres, south of Syracuse, in Onondaga County. Onondagas also live on the Cattaraugus and Six Nations Reserve in Canada. Besides Onondaga, they once held Cortland, Jefferson, Oswego and parts of Tioga and Broome counties.

The Oneidas were long since shrunk down to 32 acres south of the city of Oneida, in Madison County. But purchases in recent years have boosted the total beyond 3,000 acres and climbing. More recent purchases have boosted the total beyond 3,000 acres and are climbing. They are what remains of roughly 6 million acres once under their stewardship.

The Senecas of New York live in several reservations. The Seneca Nation of Indians holds three: the Allegany reserve (originally, 30,000+), in Cattaraugus County; the Cattaraugus reserve (22,000+), in Erie County; and Oil Springs (640) in Allegany County, for a current total of 50,000+ acres. It is also the only tribe that owns an American city — Salamanca, NY. Another distinct Seneca group lives on the 7,549 acre Tonawanda reserve near Akron, NY, in Erie, Niagara and (mostly) Genesee counties. The Seneca/Cayuga of Oklahoma live on 5,000-acres in Miami, Oklahoma. Their forbearers were pressured to leave the Ohio Valley in 1831; the Cayuga joined them in 1881. And, in Canada, Seneca descendants live in the Six Nations (Grand River) Reserve in Brantford, Ontario. Their forbearers were the 78 Senecas who followed Joseph Brant into Canada after the American Revolution. The Seneca once were stewards of nearly half of New York.

The Tuscarora Indian Nation lives on a 6,249 acre reservation near Lewiston, NY, in Niagara County. Most of their land claims have focused on what were their original North Carolina homelands until 1713, when they began to migrate north after many were slain in war and sold into slavery.

The sheer survival of the Haudenosaunee people is a testimony to their endurance and spirit. In spite of Sullivan-Clinton and its legacy of dispossession and one-sided land treaties, they not only persist, but continue to struggle for their lands, to reaffirm their traditions and to adorn the earth.

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Part Two: Ideas, Lessons and Units


What follows is a set of evolving lessons and supporting information. Teachers should use them as they wish. Feel free to mix and match them, and let them help to spark your further creative ideas.


OVERVIEW: Centuries ago, the Iroquois Peace Maker called forth “a sign in the sky,” and brought together five Indian nations to form the Iroquois Confederacy. It was during a total eclipse. Most date it to the year 1451. Others date it to 1142. Yet others to 1090! These, the Five Nations, were the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk. In 1792, the Tuscarora, refugees from a war in North Carolina, joined them to form the Six Nations. They called themselves the Haudenosaunee, or “People Building a Long House.”

Under the Great Law of Peace, the Six Nations are allies in the Confederacy. Each Nation controls its own territory. For dealings between Nations, the overall Grand Council is convened. Within Nations, there is some autonomy for local settlements. Within settlements, there is some autonomy for the Nation’s various clans. Clan Mothers and faith-keepers are the clans’ spiritual advisors. All clans have their own meetings as necessary. The Six Nations continue, today, as the world’s oldest participatory democracy.

As a point of orientation, examine the website’s Sullivan/Clinton Map. The first map scene shows the roughly where the Haudenosaunee Six Nations had lived until the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign of 1779.

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RESOURCES: On the Web, see for an authoritative orientation to the philosophy, culture, history of the Haudenosaunee peoples. At see the Texts/Articles section: “The Winter of Hunger, Refugees of Niagara 1779-1780.” See images on the Audio/Visual page as well as the “Sullivan/Clinton Video” and “Longhouse Burning.” View/read the “Ganondagan House of Peace” video and study guide and visit its related website at Consult the book Forgotten Founders and Debating Democracy by Bruce E. Johansen. Further resources will be added in future updates of this plan. And be sure to explore and add resources of your own!

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Divide up the class into small groups. Each group then researches and makes a presentation to the class about a single key aspect of Iroquois life or culture. This could include: men and women’s primary activities; the central meaning of corn; the cooking of traditional Iroquois foods; the meaning of traditional Iroquois holidays; the place of dreams and storytelling. Each group could have the option to retell or even re-enact aspects of traditional Iroquois legends.

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Research the Great Law of Peace and Iroquois democracy. In a composition or class presentation, compare and contrast Haudenosaunee ways of governance and decision-making (e.g., councils and Grand Councils) with American democracy as it existed (a) at the time of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign; and (b) after Independence. What contributions did Iroquois democracy make to American democracy? How did it influence the American Constitution? What differences were there? What were/are the similarities? Could Iroquois forms of participatory democracy be implemented today? Why? And, to what extent? Or why not?

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GOAL: Present the historical landscape of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign and familiarize students with its basic facts, personalities and documents.

OVERVIEW: The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign was the largest expedition until then mounted against native North Americans. It targeted the Iroquois Six Nation Confederacy: specifically, the Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga nations. It also finally confiscated the remaining major Mohawk towns (after many had left or fled to Canada). Indeed, the Fall of Iroquoia is forever entwined with the Birth of the American Republic.

The year was 1779. In the midst of the American Revolution, Commander-in-Chief George Washington ordered two of his Generals John Sullivan and James Clinton and more than 6,200 men — nearly 25% of the entire rebel army — to clear-cut and burn the resisting Iroquois nations (those that had sided with the British) from one of Earth’s most fertile regions. They should “not merely be overrun,” Washington insisted, “but destroyed.” And England, for its part, couldn’t and/or wouldn’t send enough forces to defend its Indian allies.

Indeed, between April and September 1779, almost all of Iroquoia was reduced to shattered hearths and fields of fire. The estimates vary (in the literature) between 160,000 to 1 million bushels of corn and other vegetables, 40 to 50 towns and 500 to 1200 homes, destroyed by Sullivan/Clinton. And all this destruction happened on the eve of the worst winter in recorded memory. All this, before the 1783 Treaty of Paris (that ended the Revolutionary war) left Indians out of the picture. In addition, postwar land treaties and illegal actions by land speculators finished the dispossession that Sullivan/Clinton had begun on the battlefield.

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RESOURCES: At See the Map page, esp. Scene 3 and the actual map-image of the “Invasion of Iroquoia;” plus Period Texts; and the compelling Facts: Lost & Found; and informative Articles: “Refugees of Niagara 1779-1780: The Winter of Hunger”; as well as the book Fields of Fire, Morton Mintz’s Seeds of Empire and Barbara Graymont’s The Iroquois in the American Revolution. Further resources will be added in future updates.

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Students should first navigate (several times) and carefully study each of the three scenes of the Sullivan/Clinton Map on the website. Then ask students to write a description of what’s going on in each scene. Then have students list (at least) one question(s) raised by any scene(s), which they’d be interested in learning more about. Assign each student to research one or more such questions in depth, then produce either (a) a written report; or (b) a class presentation, e.g., acting as a government official giving a briefing, a chief (sachem) at a Council Fire, or an eyewitness at a mock “press conference” taking questions from (student) reporters.

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Have students view Scene 3 of the Sullivan/Clinton map, which depicts the full-scale invasion of Iroquoia, several times; then, at their own pace, study the information on the screen using the mouse/cursor (to view the tool tips). Then break the class into groups and have each report one or more phases of the attack — by Van Schaick, Brodhead, Clinton, Sullivan, Butler and/or Gansevoort. What did each phase do and how did it fit into the whole invasion plan? What challenges did fighters on all sides encounter? Also, students/groups should research how the different nations (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Tuscarora) actually (or might have) experienced the attack. How did the English react to it?

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GOAL: To explore why Gen. Washington and the Continental Congress regarded the Iroquois as a threat. And to understand their reasons for wanting to remove the Iroquois from their ancestral homelands.

OVERVIEW: The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign of 1779 was the largest expedition ever before mounted against the Indians of North America. (It was the 2nd biggest such operation in U.S. history.) Deploying 6,200 troops — nearly 1/3 of the Continental Army — in the heat of the Revolution, Washington’s aim was to forever crush Iroquois power and remove the tribes from their ancestral New York homelands — in one of Earth’s most fertile and irrigated regions. He ordered that they “not be merely overrun, but destroyed.”

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RESOURCES: See Gen. Washington’s “Marching Orders,” the first homepage entry at See also, excerpts from Gen. Sullivan’s Official Report both on the Home Page and in Period Texts. Read Fields of Fire, Frederick Cook, ed., Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan Against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779, Morton Mintz’s Seeds of Empire and Barbara Graymont’s The Iroquois in the American Revolution. Further resources will be added in future updates of this plan. And be sure to explore and add resources of your own!

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To begin, teachers can present and/or students can study Washington’s orders to Sullivan and Clinton. They should also become familiar with Loyalist-Indian attacks on frontier settlements, such as Wyoming and Cherry Valley, which were given as the reason for launching the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. Then have students research and articulate why most Iroquois nations were considered a threat to the American cause, but not others.. Students should also examine the English response to the Campaign and determine if it was or was not adequate, and explain how and why they might have reached their conclusions.

In another assignment, students are asked to advise Washington on whether or not to proceed with the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. Each student will write two position papers in response. One will discuss the benefits of the plan and explain why the orders to proceed should be given. The other will argue against the plan and perhaps explore or question the morality of the Campaign itself. All students should tackle the question of whether or not there was a way to avoid war with the Iroquois and explain why or why not.

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GOAL: To track and rediscover the Iroquois capitals today and develop students’ basic and advanced map-reading skills.

OVERVIEW: Out of roughly 50 villages, the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign destroyed (3) or confiscated (2) a total of five Iroquois capitals (called “castles,” as in the Mohawk Lower Castle). Those destroyed belonged to the Cayuga (Goi-O-Guen), Onondaga (Onondaga), and Seneca (Little Beard’s Town) nations. Those taken over were the Mohawks’ two major villages (Upper and Lower Castles).

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RESOURCES: See the following: The “Tales of Three Cities” Gallery and the Sullivan/Clinton Map and Scenes 1 and 9A of the interactive CD MapSet. Also the Appendix of the book Fields of Fire, which lists many of the road markers (and former sites) and where to go to find them in or near your area. Further resources will be added in future updates of this plan. And be sure to explore and add resources of your own!


Take an online field trip. Create four study groups, or let each student choose one capital to research. Then, students should study Scenes 1, 2 and 3 of the Sullivan/Clinton MapSet (or the CD), to see where and when the destruction took place. Next, students should locate these sites on a NY State road map, and notice how far from home they are. Third, students should visit the “Tale of Three Cities” Gallery. Fourth, students should use selected websites and library books to learn about Iroquois village life before the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign took place.

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Students should then go into the Tale of Three Cities Gallery and the Alternate Takes Gallery and do the following: (1) click to enlarge each image; (2) add a comment online for that photograph by clicking the “Comment” link and then filling in the form.

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Take a real field trip and produce a photographic historical record of the site(s). Have students consult and learn to read a road map or atlas Then visit any or all of these old capitals where they still exist, hidden in plain sight. The Cayugas’ Goi-O-Guen on Rt. 90, just outside Aurora, NY, has historical markers. The Onondaga site on both sides of Rt. 11 is not marked. And the Seneca site, Little Beard’s Town, is mentioned on a plaque on a stone in Boyd-Parker Park, just off Rt. 39 between Cuylerville and Geneseo. Some of these sites might be right “in your backyard;” others might be too far away to visit. In that case combine a real trip with the virtual trip online.

Each student or group should have a disposable camera to photograph any site and its surroundings today. Student(s) should also develop a caption or series of captions for each of the photos. We will then arrange to post your class’s material in a special new gallery called Students Viewing History. Simply contact us to do this. Thus, any teacher/class that sends us materials can have its own, online gallery on this website.

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GOAL: To familiarize students with the relationships among the three main participating groups — the Iroquois Confederacy, the English government and the American colonists — in the years leading up to the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. And to encourage critical and proactive thinking about how and why the centuries-old Iroquois Confederacy was finally destroyed.

OVERVIEW: The American Revolution broke apart the Longhouse. Originally, most of the tribes tried to stay neutral in the “family quarrel” between the English authorities and their rebellious American colonists. But, soon, Iroquois neutrality was no longer possible.

Under great pressure from both adversaries and with their future homelands hanging in the balance, every tribe backed one side or the other. Most nations had factions that backed the opposing sides. While there were no formal binding orders to back one side or the other, the majority of individuals in most Iroquois nations sided with the English — with whom they had long-standing treaties, trade relations, and some family ties. A minority, which consisted of the Oneida and most (but not all) of the Tuscarora, sided with the colonists. The tragic result is: brother battled and killed brother.

RESOURCES: In the Map section of, Scene 2 of the MapSet shows how, in practice, the American Revolution divided the Iroquois Six Nations. Further resources will be added in future updates of this plan. And be sure to explore and add resources of your own!

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Discuss what neutrality means. Then students can research the history of how the Iroquois’ neutrality was violated and the Six Nations became divided. Have each student choose one of the Six Nations and research and write about its particular experience with neutrality: why and how they maintained their neutrality and how it was finally broken. Students should also write about which side was chosen and include their opinion on their Nation’s final decision.

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For group or individual assignment: Write an essay or make an in-class presentation to explain: how and why four of the Iroquois Nations (Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga) came to support the English side in the American Revolution while the Oneida and Tuscarora nations sided with the American colonists and split with the other Haudenosaunee nations.

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GOAL: The goal is to learn: Who are the Three Sisters? Why are they significant to the Iroquois? And why did the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign target them?

OVERVIEW: The Three Sisters, “De-o-ha-ko,” were corn, beans and squash. “De-o-ha-ko” means “the foods that sustain them.” They were the basis of the traditional Iroquois diet, the foundation of their physical well-being and a key dimension of Iroquois spirituality. They were also targeted by the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, which knowingly destroyed their abundant fields near the outset of the fall harvesting season.

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RESOURCES: Carol Cornelius’s fine book, Iroquois Corn: In a Culture-Based Curriculum: A Framework for Respectfully Teaching about Cultures and consult Ganondagan’s House of Peace, Educational Video and Study Guide.


Students should research the Three Sisters, and then write a short essay about their significance to the Iroquois. Then write, illustrate or make up a variation of a traditional Iroquois story using the Three Sisters as characters within it. The story should try to impart a useful lesson(s) about daily life.

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Research the Three Sisters. Then write an essay about their physical and spiritual significance to the Iroquois and how and why they were made principal targets of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign.

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GOAL: This is an opportunity to explore a complex case of real-life ethics. Students will explore questions of personal and collective responsibility under extreme conditions. The focus is the controversial death of two Yankee scouts, Lt. Thomas Boyd and Sgt. Michael Parker, during the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. After researching and discussing all sides of the story, students will understand the complexity of:

  1. determining what actually happened to Boyd and Parker and when,
  2. assigning responsibility or blame for the two soldiers’ tragic deaths.

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OVERVIEW: The Boyd-Parker killings were dramatic and remain controversial. On the one hand, the two were killed by their Iroquois/Seneca captors. Their bodies were found in a bad state. On the other hand, Boyd’s scouting party was trying to locate Little Beard’s Town, the Seneca capital — and the Iroquois Western Door — in order to burn it down.. They two scouts were killed on or about September 14, sometime shortly before Little Beard’s Town was totally destroyed on September 15. Analysts disagree on whether they were disfigured before or after their actual deaths. Boyd and Parker are mostly remembered as heroes; indeed, they are the only individual victims of the ten thousand participants in the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, white or red, who are widely remembered and memorialized. But there is also much to debate about these deaths and their circumstances and meanings: Are they simply heroes? Under what circumstances did they die? Who is finally responsible for their deaths?

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RESOURCES: See the “Boyd/Parker” entry (the first one in “Hot Topics” section). For an alternative, opposite outlook on Boyd/Parker see Further resources will be added in future updates of this plan. And be sure to explore and add resources of your own!


Assign students to write a 3—5 page position paper (or “legal brief”), which sets forth the relevant facts of the Boyd-Parker deaths and argues for a specific interpretation of the case. Students should closely consider: Who were Boyd and Parker?, and What were they doing on September 13, 1779? And, of course, who or what factors were ultimately responsible for their deaths? Then, assist the students in arranging a debate or a “mock trial,” as described in assignments 2 and 3 below.

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After the “legal briefs” are written, those assigned or willing should set up rival teams to debate who is responsible for Boyd and Parker’s deaths. Some debating points to consider are: Was it the Indians who actually killed them? Was it General Washington who gave orders, or Generals Sullivan and Clinton, who destroyed the nearby Seneca Capital? Or, was it Lt. Boyd for disobeying his orders to come back before dawn and jeopardized his men?

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Set up a “mock trial” in which students volunteer (or are assigned, as is sometimes the case in the real world) to give closing arguments about who bears “guilt” or “innocence” in the Boyd- Parker deaths. The opposing arguments should respectively defend or indict the Native Americans who killed Boyd and Parker, or Boyd and Parker themselves; or those who ordered them to find the Indian capital for burning. “Closing arguments” are presented to a jury of the other students, who will deliberate and reach a final determination in the case.

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OVERVIEW: News correspondents are often right “on the spot” and ideal eyewitnesses to the events that happen around them. But only sometimes do they understand and report an event’s full importance. Investigative reporters have more time to go deeper and develop a fuller, “big picture.” And then, over time, work of both reporters is corrected, confirmed, or sometimes even disproven altogether by the work of historians. Today, news reports shape how we understand our world. Being a reporter during the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign would pose interesting and important challenges. The aim of this exercise is for students to report on the Campaign as an eyewitness reporter: either for an American newspaper, an English newspaper or an Iroquois council meeting. These different accounts will then be compiled, compared and contrasted.

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GOAL FOR JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: Have students assume the role of an investigative journalist to increase their curiosity and interest in reporting about their world and interpreting the facts. Teachers should point out different biases at work, discuss what objectivity means, the difficulties in achieving it and how best to handle those difficulties.

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GOAL FOR HIGH-SCHOOL AND COLLEGE STUDENTS: Studying the Boyd-Parker case, the class will consider how the wording of news reports can affect its meaning and influence how its history will later be written. Also, the goal is to show how writing — both news and history — reflects the different interests and biases of writers, reporters, and historians. Also, this will allow teachers and students to explore the larger idea that cultures with a written history have an advantage in leaving their accounts, whereas cultures with oral histories, should they so choose, may have a more difficult time in transmitting their accounts of their own stories. These accounts often conflict and complicate the questions under study.

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RESOURCES: Actual (and often amazing) day-by-day journals by eyewitness officers can be found in Frederick Cook, ed., Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan Against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779. (Some can also be found online.) Also, see the sullivanclinton.comArticles” section for Timothy Shaw’s article, “The Refugees of Niagara,” the Interview with Peter Jemison in Fields of Fire; and the essay, “In Sullivan/Clinton’s Wake: What’s Remembered and What’s Forgotten, or How and Why its Scholarship Still Matters,” by Robert Spiegelman, in the forthcoming Journal of the Chemung Valley Historical Society. Further resources will be added in future updates of this plan. And be sure to explore and add resources of your own!

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ASSIGNMENTS FOR HIGH-SCHOOL AND COLLEGE STUDENTS: Assign students to write a news report on the impact of the Sullivan-Clinton campaign on Iroquois Country. They should imagine being news correspondents in 1779 and traveling from town to town — with the Yankee soldiers, with the Iroquois or on their own — through Onondaga territory (in April), Seneca territory , Cayuga country, or the Mohawk Valley (all in September). Each student or small group (news team) should write three news stories. Before they start, ask them to consider: Will they support the Campaign and therefore leave things out? Will they condemn the Campaign and therefore also leave things out? Or, will they try to report everything they see? And, finally, have them think about what to do if and when they disagree with their editor about what to cover and how to write it.

Discuss the differences that words can make in our understanding of historical events: for example, between a “battle” and a “massacre,” an “expedition” and an “invasion,” an “anniversary” and a “memorial.” See the several images of Boyd-Parker themes (e.g., the Memorial Park near Geneseo-Cuylerville and the Groveland Ambush site) in the Americana Gallery and on the website. Discuss do these differences influence the writing and remembrance of history.

Look at:

  1. the Appendix of Fields of Fire, or
  2. the Tales of Three Cities Gallery, or
  3. visit an actual Iroquois site.

Then select one or more New York historical markers and rewrite it, as if it had been written and posted by an Iroquois historian. What would it say?

Discuss Why the Battle of Newtown called a “battle” rather than a “massacre” like Wyoming Valley and Cherry Valley Massacres? Why are the deaths of the Yankee scouts, Boyd and Parker, so widely publicized, whereas, by comparison, the removal and winter plight of the many Native American refugees has gone mostly unmentioned?

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GOAL FOR ALL STUDENTS: To teach students how to “read” an image, and what it means. To show them how images, titles and captions all work together to produce meanings. To develop thinking and reading skills and to help students recognize how their own interpretive processes enter into the reading of images. To encourage students to reflect on the power of images to shape memories and create a historical record of events. And to help students develop a photo essay or a magazine article that brings together both photos and texts.

OVERVIEW: We continually interact with images in the world around us.. Interpreting images is intriguing and complex. It can also be fun to “read” them. We often relate new images to images already stored in our memories. The captions or titles that often accompany images are used to try to tell viewers “exactly” what the photo or painting “really means.” Some captions invite viewers to guess or think more deeply about the meaning(s) of the image.

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Image interpretations are colored by personal experiences and personal social values. The website’s Galleries are filled with interesting images. Some comment on the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign; some comment on how Indians have been and continue to be judged and treated by the majority culture. What is especially satisfying as well as maddening is that there’s no final, fixed meaning of these images. So encourage students to interpret these images. Below are some ideas for how to proceed:

RESOURCES: The Sullivan/Clinton website Gallery features 6 galleries and over 150 images. The six galleries are titled:

  1. Americana
  2. Alternate Takes
  3. A Tale of Three Cities
  4. Iroqouia!
  5. Big City Indians
  6. Hidden in Plain Sight/Off the Beaten Path

These images depict historical aspects of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign and old Iroqouia; the sites as they look today; and contemporary representations of the Iroquois and other indigenous people. Further resources will be added in future updates of this plan. And be sure to explore and add resources of your own!

Add Comments: The Galleries enable you to assign students to enter comments on any of the images. Click on any image to enlarge it to fit the full-screen. A link appears at the bottom labeled “[add comment]”. Simply click on it to open another window: this allows students enter any relevant comment they wish. Then just add the student’s name (or nickname) and click “Save.” The comment will automatically be displayed under the image (with its author’s name). Students can revisit and add further comments and information over time

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Add Images: This website Gallery section is available to any teacher who wants to start a class gallery on any Sullivan/Clinton or Iroquois-related topic. Students can then fill the gallery with pertinent images, titles and captions of their own. To set up a gallery, contact us.

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ASSIGNMENT 1: Arrange with us to set up a new gallery just for your class. Let students provide images, captions and further comments of their own. Choose one image and have a student write a caption. Then provide another caption that brings out a different or even completely opposite meaning. This exercise provides students with a sense of how images are open to interpretation and how differing titles and captions can influence what things mean. It also provides them with wider insight into how images in the print and broadcast media can be made to inform the public and carry diverse points of view.

ASSIGNMENT 2: Students can select one or more images (and/or captions) that interest them. For example, they might be intrigued or annoyed by the words on a historical marker or sign, or be especially moved by a specific image in one of the Galleries. Teachers can assign a written essay or presentation to the class about what the image means to the students and why it’s of special interest or importance to everyone.

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OVERVIEW: The Erie Canal (completed in 1825) was a monumental engineering and commercial achievement — America’s Grand Canal, the great link between East and West, the main Artery of Commerce, the Internet of its day. Ultimately, the Erie Canal was made possible by Sullivan/Clinton’s removal of the Iroquois from central and western New York and by the land treaties that compressed what remained of the Six Nations into small parcels of land. All this, in turn, had great impact downstate, especially as the Erie Canal made possible Manhattan’s rise to national and world financial preeminence. The Canal was opened with a 363-mile journey across western NY, from Buffalo to Albany, and then down the Hudson River to New York City. Few people are aware that its lead barge was named The Seneca Chief. Or that its most prominent passenger was New York’s Governor DeWitt Clinton — the son of General James Clinton. The Erie Canal is part of the forgotten legacy of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign and vise versa.

RESOURCES: At, see documents and writings under texts/facts page and the Sullivan/Clinton MapSet, Scene 7. Also see The Erie Canal and New York State Canals. Further resources will be added in future updates of this plan. And be sure to explore and add resources of your own!

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Ask each student or team(s) of students to create two maps of western New York — one before and one after the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. Based on their research in books and on the web (including the Mapset of the Sullivan/Clinton website), the students’ maps should show as much detail as possible. Students should then compare the two maps and think critically about the influence of the Campaign on the region — that is, on the topography, county lines, towns, railroads and canals Locations of Indian reservations should be researched and represented. The maps should be presented to the class, and each student should explain what the map shows about the Campaign, its impact on the Iroquois Six Nations, and the future development of NY State.

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After background research, ask each student to write a critical essay explaining the importance of the Erie Canal in the creation of Manhattan. Assign the following specific questions: How did the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign help pave the way for the creation of the Erie Canal? How did the Erie Canal pave the way for the creation of Manhattan as America’s financial and commercial hub? What was the Iroquois contribution to the growth and economic success of New York State and New York City? If they could go back and direct the development process, would they have planned it in a different way?

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GOAL: To explore the enduring meaning and importance of the land and its health for the Iroquois/Haudenosaunee people. To raise awareness of the impact of economic development on indigenous peoples’ homelands. To raise awareness of the possible consequences of economic development for the natural environment and on public health. To examine a case study in the fate, over time, of a former important Iroquois capital.

OVERVIEW: On March 12, 1994, a section of the massive 6,000-acre Retsof salt mine collapsed under Cuylerville —site of the former Little Beard’s Town, the Seneca capital. Underground water flooded the mines, threatening local wells and, most seriously, the underlying aquifer — the source of people’s drinking water. The collapse allowed an underground lake of groundwater to enter the mine. Upwards of 20,000 gallons per minute was rushing into the mine, along with toxic gases. On September 2, 1995, the new mine owner — a giant Dutch multinational, Akzo Nobel — finally closed the mine under sustained public pressure. A few years later, a new salt mine was built nearby by the American Salt Company which posed new threats — including the prospect of destroying age-old Indian gravesites. This was hotly disputed and then shown to be a well-founded concern when remains were found. Today, plans for selling off methane gas continue to pose environmental concerns about the site, and monitoring continues to the present day.

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RESOURCES: At, read the entry for “Salt in the Wounds: The Mines at Little Beard’s Town.” In the “Tale of Three Cities” Gallery, view the images of Little Beard’s Town (it is the site of the Boyd-Parker Park site), including the site of the Retsof Mine collapse and the American Salt Company mine works. See the website ClarionCall for a lively overview of events from the Retsof collapse in 1995 to the end of 1999. Further resources will be added in future updates of this plan. And be sure to explore and add resources of your own!


Assign students to use the library and search the Internet for information on why and how their ancestral homelands have been so important to the Iroquois and continue contribute to their identity. One key topic is the vital importance of a people’s burial grounds to nourish their identity. Another major topic is the key role played by agriculture in the Iroquois way of life. Volunteers or selected students should give oral presentations to the class.


Assign students to research the long history of Little Beard’s Town and of the coming of the Retsof and American Salt Mines. One focus is on what has happened to the soil and to the plants and animals living there. In a critical essays or class presentations, students should explore: When, how and why did the salt mines come to this area? What economic and environmental effects have the mines had on their surrounding area? What impact has the mine had on the area’s indigenous and non-indigenous communities?

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GOAL: To understand that the Haudenosaunee people are alive today and to learn where they currently live (states, provinces, urban centers and reservations). To raise awareness and sensitivity to the experience of refugees and exiles both after Sullivan/Clinton and in the world today.

OVERVIEW: Between 1779 and the mid-19th, the sovereign Haudenosaunee people were almost totally removed from New York by the combination of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign and the land treaties that followed. Today their descendants continue to live in cities, towns and reservations in New York as well as in far-flung places stretching from Ontario, Canada, to Wisconsin to Oklahoma. Learning about the plight of Iroquois refugees and exiles in 1779 and thereafter can help students to better understand the plight of refugees in the world and media today — in places like the Middle East and Africa.

RESOURCES: The Internet offers useful sources on the location and activities of the Haudenosaunee/Iroquois people across North America. For a quick glance at Iroquois cultural and legacy resources in New York State. provides locations and thumbnail summaries of the Six Nations today. Also, see the final scene 9A of the Sullivan/Clinton Mapset and the “Legal Briefs” appendix of Fields of Fire. Further resources will be added in future updates of this plan. And be sure to explore and add resources of your own!

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Write a first-person story about an Iroquois boy and/or girl from the pre-Sullivan/Clinton era who time-travels and lands in the New York State of today. Then comes the American Revolution and the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. What would change? How would they feel? How would this affect them? What would they see that would frighten, offend or shock them? It is a productive way for young students to express their emotions about war and violence in an adult world that they must come to grips with.

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Further investigate the journey the Iroquois refugees took from their New York capitals to Ft.Niagara in the winter of 1780. Compare these experiences with those of any other refugees in the world today? Discuss why they are refugees, what could be done to help them now, and what could have been done to prevent their situation?

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Assign students to be a team of “war correspondents,” and investigate what happened to the former residents of Iroquoia after Sullivan/Clinton, or after the American Revolution, or how they are going about or struggling to return to their former homelands today.


Assign a research project on the lasting effects of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. This includes land claims, reparation demands, etc. For example, research the current Cayuga Land Claims dispute: the arguments for and against their sovereignty and rights to return. This assignment can also involve a field trip to visit the site of Goi-O-Guen, their historical capital on Route 90 near Aurora and the lands around Cayuga Lake that are still under dispute.


Assign students to research and write a critical essay, which will address the following questions: Can the way in which a country, tribe, ethnic group is first formed and its traditional continue to remain as a foundation for the identity of its people? How do big historical events like Sullivan/Clinton and their historical accounts first come to and/or continue to shape that culture or group of people? Can some aspects of traditional culture be “saved” even from or after disruptive events? Can they help sustain people through such events and their aftermath? Look for examples of how and why cultural ways and values change over time?


Have students choose a contemporary Iroquois artist (e.g., Seneca artist Peter Jemison, etc.) and write an essay about his or her work. Include visual examples of the artwork. Pay special attention to the concepts (messages) that the artist focuses on in their work. High-school and college students should incorporate research, recent criticism, and reviews where appropriate. If possible, give students the opportunity to visit galleries where art work is being exhibited: at places like Manhattan’s American Indian Community House, the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, and the Smithsonian Museums of the American Indian in Manhattan and Washington, etc.


Have a round-table discussion with the whole class and brainstorm many of the common stereotypes of indigenous people. Discuss where these stereotypes came from, and how they affect indigenous people today.

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GOAL: To introduce students to the value and creative potential of timelines for understanding historical and present-day events. Complex events like the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign are better understood by placing them in relationship to other major events, and by plotting them out to indicate their beginning(s), high points, and ending(s).

OVERVIEW: Timelines are very useful and powerful ways to organize information in a sequential way. They are essential for helping to make sense of larger events composed of several moments or incidents which otherwise would be haphazard and confusing. Students need to learn skills for deciphering them as well as for creating them. The goal of creating a timeline provides a good and concrete way for students to learn history and have something tangible and attractive — in text and/or pictorial form — to show for their efforts and to feel proud of. It helps promote the sense that they can make sense of history and make it available, through research, to themselves and to others.

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RESOURCES: The Internet is well worth browsing to find a variety of useful concepts for both creating and representing timelines. Follow, for example, the evolution of the timeline on the Sullivan-Clinton website (coming soon). Consider purchasing Timeliner 5.0 by Tom Snyder Productions; which enables students to create, illustrate and print timelines with comparative ease. It also allows teachers and students to publish them on the Web.

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First, introduce the class as a whole to what a timeline is, how to create one, and why they are useful for understanding events. Start with a simple one to cover the important events in each of their lives since they were first born. Then move the students to a medium level event such as the local history of people’s towns or cities. Finally, start on a more complex time line for large-scale like the American Revolution, or the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, or the making of the Erie Canal. Then help students to choose a large or related event that greatly interests them and create a timeline of that event as part of a term project.

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Divide the class into four groups and have each do research from library books and the Internet to create an initial timeline. The first two groups could focus, say, on the biggest events of Iroquois/Haudenosaunee history. After that, those two groups would come together and compare their separate timelines, then fill in the respective “blanks” by combining the missing elements from one another’s work into a unified timeline. Meanwhile, the other two groups could focus on the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. After that, those two groups would come together and compare their separate timelines, then fill in the respective “blanks” by combining the missing elements from one another’s work into a unified timeline. Now, having an Iroquois Timeline and a Sullivan-Clinton timeline, the class as a whole can work on integrating the two. The resulting grand timeline will show where Sullivan-Clinton fits in the larger sweep of Iroquois history and how Iroquois history helps to explain the nature and consequences of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign.

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Using the previous lesson as a basis, students can be encouraged to experiment with different ways of creating a timeline. For example, it need not be linear but circular, spiral shaped or points (nodes) in a network. A pie can be sliced into component events; a spiral can display points along its path; a network can show multiple lines of cause and effect between events. This, in turn, will help students understand different concepts of time: especially how Western linear concepts of time are fundamentally different from indigenous peoples’ cyclical concepts of time. This will help to promote (and, in turn, be nourished by) their further research into Iroquois/Haudenosaunee understandings of nature and history.

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Part Three: More Tools and Info


This educator’s plan is part of an ongoing learning process. It will be followed by an update to be announced on It can be continued by teachers as follows:

  • Consult updates to this plan. Watch for announcements on this Educator’s Page.
  • Share information and ideas about using Sullivan-Clinton in the classroom. Please consult the Educator’s blog at
  • Arrange for a gallery to post your students’ photographs and captions regarding any aspect of Sullivan/Clinton. Please use the contact form.
  • Order Fields of Fire: The Sullivan Clinton Campaign, Then & Now, or the complete Sullivan/Clinton MapSet on CD for computer. Sample scenes of the MapSet can be also be viewed.
  • Write to with feedback for improving and adding to the next version of this Educator’s Plan.
  • Donate to our ongoing efforts to educate and distribute our products. Please go to our Donations page.

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Dr. Robert Spiegelman taught classes in elementary schools and colleges in the New York tri-state metropolitan area for 13 years. Since then he has been a freelance author, film producer, screenwriter, project-developer, research director and story consultant on a growing array of projects — from books and interactive installations to documentary and feature film projects.

For the last two years, Dr. Spiegelman has been researching the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign as part of a larger book and multimedia project on the history of 19th century dispossession. It’s led to his photographing sites of the former Iroquois capitals, developing an award-winning website about it called, finishing his book Fields of Fire, developing a 10-scene interactive Mapset as a teaching tool, a curriculum guide for educators, and writing the prize winning essay in the Booth Library/Chemung Valley Historical Society Competition for this year’s 225th Anniversary. In addition, Spiegelman has set up two multimedia installations called “Sullivan-Clinton, Then & Now,” one downstate at the American Indian Community House (AICH) in Manhattan and the other upstate at the Time & Space Ltd. Gallery in Hudson, NY, near the “Eastern Door” of the Longhouse. This fall, he will lecture on Sullivan/Clinton at AICH, conduct a teacher workshop at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan, and present a paper and multimedia project at the Iroquois Conference in Rensselaerville, NY.

Film and multimedia projects in progress include: Shattered Hearths, a multi-layered, book and multimedia project on 19th century dispossession and its ongoing impact; Taiping, a 19th century drama of the struggle for love and personal integrity during China’s Taiping Rebellion, history’s second bloodiest war; Old Shanghai, a Chinatown-like drama of murder and love, set amidst intrigues that led up to WWII; Due North, a saga of an indigenous woman’s quest for identity amidst the siren calls of crossover stardom; and Shanghai Reverie, a documentary on legendary Old Shanghai.

Texts in progress include: Staked Plains, a true 19th century history of entitlement and dispossession, told through a Gilded Age Victorian couple, whose traces and deeds still reverberate today; Old Shanghai, a novel of the struggle for love during historical upheaval political intrigue; To the Global Station, an analysis of the origins of globalization in the womb and aftermath of World War II; and Scarcity and Abundance, a study of how these twin notions have impacted American culture and social thought.

Dr. Spiegelman’s articles have appeared in Int’l Documentary, CA Quarterly, Social Policy and The Guardian (US), and sparked comment in Columbia Journalism Review.

He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the City University of New York, an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. in Philosophy from Queens College (CUNY).

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The following sources will provide educators and students with a wealth of material about the Sullivan/Clinton Campaign and the Haudenosaunee/Iroquois people:


  • Frederic Cook, ed. Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan
  • Orasmus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps & Gorham’s Purchase & Morris Reserve [New York]
  • Carol Cornelius, Iroquois Corn: In a Culture-Based Curriculum
  • Allan W. Eckert, The Wilderness War
  • Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution
  • Gil Herkimer, Roads to Niagara
  • Laurence M. Hauptman, Conspiracy of Interests: Iroquois Dispossession and the Rise of New York State.
  • Laurence M. Hauptman and L. Gordon McLester III, eds., The Oneida Journey.
  • G. Peter Jemison and Anna M. Schein, Treaty of Canandaigua 1784
  • Max M.Mintz, Seeds of Empire: The American Revolutionary Conquest of the Iroquois
  • Francis Paul Prucha, American Indian Treaties
  • Daniel K. Richter, The Ordeal of the Longhouse
  • Robert Spiegelman, Fields of Fire: The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, Then and Now
  • Christopher Vecsey and William A. Starna, eds. Iroquois Land Claims
  • Robert W. Venables, American Indian History.
  • Anthony F.C. Wallace, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca
  • Doug George-Kanentiio, How Much Land Did the Iroquois Possess?
  • Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian Hating and Empire-Building

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