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Dale’s Daily Data: Red Jacket

Segoyewatha aka Red Jacket (Getty Images)

There’s Red Jacket Parkway in South Buffalo.   There’s a Red Jacket dorm complex on the UB Campus.  There’s a Red Jacket dining hall at SUNY Geneseo.  There’s a Red Jacket apartment house in Buffalo at Main and Allen.  You’ll find a section of the Buffalo River known as Red Jacket peninsula.  There’s Red Jacket Fire Company in Seneca Falls and a Red Jacket School District near Canandaigua.  A Red Jacket Yacht club on the shores of Cayuga Lake.  There are statues of Red Jacket in Forest Lawn Cemetery and one in Penn Yann. 

So who’s Red Jacket?  Probably the most famous of Seneca Indians who played a major role in negotiations between the Six Nations of the Iroquois and the new United States.  His real name was Segoyewatha, who headed a delegation of 50 Iroquois to Philadelphia to meet with President George Washington where they negotiated the Peace Treaty of Canandaigua and allowing the sale of a large section of the Finger Lakes.  Red Jacket originally opposed the sale, but some history books say bribes of liquor and  trinkets changed his mind.  It was the second diplomatic agreement between American Indians and the United States and part of that treaty requires a payment of calico cloth each year from the U-S government.   

During that meeting with Washington, Red Jacket was given a special peace medal, a large silver plate with the image of the two of them shaking hands and the inscription “George Washington”, “Red Jacket” and “1792.”  Red Jacket wore that medal in every portrait that was every painted of him and it’s now in the collection of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.   

So why is he called Red Jacket?  It’s because of the red jacket he always wore – a gift of the British Army.  The Senecas sided with the Red Coats during the Revolutionary war, but Red Jacket supported the American side.  He lived his later years in Buffalo and is buried at Forest Lawn.

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