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"The Code of Handsome Lake, the Seneca Prophet"


Held at: Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections [Contact Us]370 Lancaster Ave, Haverford, PA 19041

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The Indian Committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting began in 1795 and continues to the present day (as the Quaker Fund for Indigenous Communities). Previous to this, Philadelphia area Friends formed the Friendly Association for Regaining and Preserving Peace with the Indians by Pacific Measures. The "Friendly Association" grew out of the violence of the French-Indian War of the mid-1700s and was active as a formal organization from circa 1755 to 1764 (Parrish "Friendly Association History").

Work of the Indian Committee included running schools for Native Americans, monitoring relevant legislation, and helping Native Americans combat frauds and abuses. The committee worked primarily with the Seneca on the Allegany and Cattaraugus Reservations in New York.

In 1798, Cornplanter (Gaiänt'wakê) invited five Quaker missionaries to the Seneca Nation to instruct the members in husbandry and to establish a school. This group included three young men, Henry Simmons, Halliday Jackson, and Joel Swayne, as well as two Quaker elders, John Pierce and Joshua Sharpless. The men established a mission, including a model farm and a school, which was run by Henry Simmons beginning in the fall of 1798. Handsome Lake (Sganyodaiyo), Cornplanter's half brother, was exposed to Quakerism through these missionaries.

Sources: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Indian Committee finding aid

Handsome Lake, also known as Sganyodaiyo (1735-1815), was born circa 1735, in a Seneca village in present day New York. He was a Seneca religious leader and reformer among the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy and was prominent in the alliance of New York tribes. He was the half brother of Cornplanter, a Seneca chief. Handsome Lake played an important role in reviving the traditional religion among the Six Nations. His preaching combined traditional Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) religious beliefs with a revised code meant to revive traditional cultural values. This code was later published as "The Code of Handsome Lake" by Arthur C. Parker. He died in 1815.

Arthur Caswell Parker (1881-1955) was born in 1881 on the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nation of New York, the son of Frederick Ely Parker, a mixed race Seneca, and Geneva Hortense Griswold, a woman of Scots-English descent. He was an anthropologist who at the beginning of the 20th Century studied the Iroquois. Highly respected both by academics and the Iroquois, he wrote numerous works on their material culture, linguistics, folklore, archeology, and ethnology. He was the director of the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences from 1924 to 1945. In 1935, he was elected first president of the Society for American Archaeology. In 1944, Parker helped to found the National Congress of American Indians. He died in 1955.

This collection is comprised of the single volume manuscript "The Code of Handsome Lake, the Seneca Prophet," published by the Education Department Bulletin of the New York State Museum. Handsome Lake's 'Code' attempted to simplify the spiritual practices of the Iroquois, preaching temperance, a strict moral code, and self-determination. It also contains the prophecies of Handsome Lake, who believed the world would end (by fire) in the year 2100. The manuscript also contains descriptions of Iroquois religious rituals and myths at the turn of the 20th century.


Processed by Kara Flynn; completed October, 2015.

Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
Kara Flynn
Finding Aid Date
October, 2015
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Collection Inventory

Manuscript, 1912.
Volume 1

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