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NOVEMBER 2, 2012

Red Jacket retained great influence through his life in his home community of the Buffalo Creek reservation (now part of the city of Buffalo). Always a passionate defender of the traditional ways and religion, he struggled with the white settlers and their governments over the loss of land. He also saw his own people becoming Christian and adopting the ways of white people, which he interpreted as the signalling the end of the Indian culture. Near the end of his life, he said, "...when I am gone, and my warnings shall no longer be heard, or regarded, the craft and avarice of the white man will heart fails, when I think of my people, who are soon to be scattered and forgotten."

Red Jacket is reported to have said on his deathbed, "..white men will come and ask you for my body. They will wish to bury me. But do not let them take me...bury me among my people." He also directed that services for his burial could be conducted as his Christian wife wished, and so he was buried in the Indian cemetery near the Christian mission church in Buffalo Creek following his death on January 20, 1830. Comedian Henry Placide had a marble slab erected over his grave which was steadily eroded by souvenir hunters and vandals who chipped pieces from it. He and the other Indians buried there were not to rest undisturbed, however. The Buffalo Creek Treaty of 1842 eliminated the Buffalo Creek reservation and the cemetery grounds were encroached by white burials and settlement.  By 1851, some Buffalonians were talking about moving the remains of Red Jacket from the Seneca Indian cemetery.

Charles E. Clark, one of the original proprietors of Forest Lawn Cemetery, proposed a tribute at Forest Lawn to the Native Americans who aided America during its wars for independence. Forest Lawn historians suggest that his purpose in proposing this may have been to secure a celebrity burial and so generate sales of burial plots. This offer of land for burial of Indian remains was later accepted by the Buffalo Historical Society.

In 1885, the Buffalo Historical Society recorded everything related to the removal and reburial of Red Jacket's remains and other Senecas by publishing an entire volume dedicated to Red Jacket. In the introduction they said, "The project of re-interring the remains of Red Jacket and of contemporary chiefs, lying in neglected graves in the vicinage of Buffalo, has for a score of years been discussed and advocated by prominent members of the Buffalo Historical Society. In public addresses, on different occasions, Messrs. Lewis F. Allen, Orlando Allen, Orsamus H. Marshall, William P. Letchworth and others have, in earnest and touching language, urged the measure as a fitting and pious duty toward the distinguished chiefs and leaders of the hapless aborigines whom we have dispossessed...On the twenty-ninth day of December, 1863, the late Chief Strong...delivered a lecture, the theme of which was Red Jacket. He concluded with an eloquent appeal, addressed to his white brethren, to rescue the remains of Red Jacket and other eminent chiefs from threatened profanation and bury them in Forest Lawn Cemetery."

In 1879, the Historical Society obtained the remains of Red Jacket from Humphrey Tolliver, unofficial sexton at the Seneca Indian Cemetery, and placed them in a plain pine box. The remains were stored in the vault of the Western Savings Bank until the re-interment project came to fruition in 1884.

The Historical Society formed a committee in early 1884 to raise funds for the large task; they were able to obtain subscribers to pay for the foundation for the statue above, erect headstones for others reburied, pay all expenses for the Indian delegates and for the ceremonies held October 9, 1884.

  • Red Jacket (known as Otetiani in his youth and Sagoyewatha (Keeper Awake) Sa-go-ye-wa-tha after 1780 because of his oratorical skills) (c. 1750–January 20, 1830) was a Native American Seneca orator.

  • Red Jacket's birthplace has long been a matter of debate. Some historians claim he was born at the Old Seneca Castle near present-day Geneva, New York, near the foot of Seneca Lake.  Others believe he was born near Cayuga Lake and present-day Canoga,  while others place his birth south of Branchport, on Keuka Lake near the mouth of Basswood Creek.

  • Chief of the Wolf Clan

  • Red Jacket became famous as an orator, speaking for the rights of his people. He played a prominent role in negotiations with the new United States federal government after the war. In 1792 he led a delegation of 50 people to Philadelphia. The US president George Washington presented him with a special "peace medal", a large oval of silver plate engraved with an image of Washington on the right-hand side shaking Red Jacket's hand; below was inscribed "George Washington", "Red Jacket", and "1792". Red Jacket wore this medal on his chest in every portrait painted of him.  (Today the medal is held in the collection of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society)

  • In his later years, Segoyewatha lived in Buffalo, New York.  On his death, his remains were buried in an Indian cemetery. In 1876, William C. Bryant presented a plan to the Council of the Seneca Nation to rebury Red Jacket's remains in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo.  This was carried out on October 9, 1884.

red jacket statue.jpg
Red Jacket ITC Mp3Artist Name
00:00 / 00:13
Wolf Man ITC Mp3Artist Name
00:00 / 00:09

ITC audio clip asking if Chief Red Jacket was present.  Voice clearly states, 'Red Jacket'

ITC recording of voice saying, 'Wolf Clan'.  Red Jacket was the Chief of the Clan of the Wolves.

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