"It is recorded of him that a bruised reed he never
broke. Cease then to call yourselves Christians, lest you declare to the
world your hypocrisy. Cease too to call other nations savage, when you are
tenfold more the children of cruelty than they."
Portrait by Romney
Chief Joseph Brant was the son of Ahyonwaeghs, Chief John Brant of the Mohawks. Brant was born in 1742 on the banks of the Ohio river. a Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) whose Iroquois name was "Thayendanegea", meaning "Strength". He attended school in Lebanon, Connecticut at Moor's Charity School for Indians. He learned to speak English there and also studied Western History there and literature. He later became an interpreter for an Anglican Missionary and translated the prayer book at the Gospel of Mark into Mohawk. Brant was soon recognized by the British military during the French and Indian Wars, and was eventually made Secretary to the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs (1774).
In 1775 Brant received a captain's commission. He was sent to England to assess whether the British would or would assist the Mohawk recover their lands. Brant met with the King on two occasions and a dinner was held in his honour.
Joseph Brant was an officer for the British military during the U.S. War of Independence. A gifted speaker, he was also a masterful leader who was able to quickly adapt to change. He was able to carry on negotiations with the British, with whom he sided against the colonies, and also to deal with the young American Republic. Brant became known for his terrorizing raids against early American communities in support of the British. In 1778 the Iroquois under Joseph Brant, along with British regulars, attacked American settlers on the western New York and Pennsylvania frontiers from Brant's base at Ouaquaga on the Susquehanna River.
After the war's end, Brant served as a representative of the Mohawk people to the US Continental Congress. He was a guest of President Washington after peace had been made with the Six Nations, which included the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations. After failing to obtain a fair land settlement for his people, Brant and many Mohawks moved to Canada, where they succeeded in obtaining a British grant of land on the Grand River in Ontario. The tract of 675,000 acres encompassed the Grand River from its mouth to its source, six miles deep on either side.
Brant was actively involved in the Anglican Church and Freemasonry. He was initiated Hiram's Cliftonian Lodge No. 47 (1776) on a visit to England. He had the distinction of having his Masonic apron given to him from the hand of King George III. He was later a Founding Master of Brantford Lodge No. 11 (1798) and affiliated as well with Barton Lodge No.10 at Hamilton, Ontario. The town of Brantford, Ontario on the Grand River was named for him.
His scholarly activities include the writing of a concise history of the Bible, and an exposition of a catechism into the Mohawk language. Towards the end of his life, he was reportedly working on a history of the Six Nations. Joseph Brant passed away at his home near Burlington on November 24, 1807. Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington was named in his honour.
Brant was buried by the side of the small Anglican Chapel on the Six Nations Reserve. Her Majesty's Chapel of the Mohawks was built in 1785 by order of King George III. The simple wooden structure is the oldest Protestant church in Ontario. It is the only church outside the United Kingdom with the status of Chapel Royal. In 1850 Freemasons restored Brant's tomb and placed a memorial on it. In 1886 a bronze statue of Brant was unveiled at Brantford.
Molly Brant (KoŮwatsi-tsiaiťŮni)
Molly Brant (KoŮwatsi-tsiaiťŮni), Joseph Brant's sister, was a powerful woman in her on right. Her traditional Mohawk matrilineal upbringing served her well. Iroquois women enjoyed more power and higher status than did white women of the time. Striking an independent course she was a distinguished leader who actively helped the Loyalist cause.
Brant's half-sister Molly married General Sir William Johnson, a highly successful trader and agent for the British. Johnsonís German wife Catherine died in 1759. Molly was reputed to be Johnson's mistress and she married him in a native ceremony later that year. Johnson was the British Superintendent for northern Indian affairs.
On a visit to the Mohawk ancestral lands in western New York, the young Brant was impressed by the wealth of the Johnson's home. Twelve year old Brant stayed with Molly and Johnson. When Brant was 19, Johnson sent him to Moor's Indian Charity School where he converted to Christianity and became an aide to missionaries.
It was due largely to Johnsonís relationship with Molly that Joseph Brant received the favor and protection of Sir William and through him the British government, which set Brant on the road to promotion.
Molly eventually settled in Kingston, Ontario where she was active in church and community life. She died on April 16, 1796, at the age of about 60. She was buried in the church burial ground adjacent to where St. Paul's Church is now located.
Click here for a more complete history of Molly Brant