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Jasper Parrish: Translator and Indian Agent

It appears that Jasper Parrish comes into the historical records as an 11-year old boy in 1778, when along with his father; he was captured by Monsie Indians (branch of the Delaware Indians) near Painted Post, NY. The two were taken to Cook House on the Mohawk lands. The father was sent to the British for captivity while the son was taken by an Indian known as Captain Mounsh and held throughout the winter and spring of 1779. He was then sold to a family of the Delaware Tribe along the Tioga River, remaining with them until 1780, when he was sold to a Mohawk Chief named Captain Hill.

In 1780 young Parrish was brought to Fort Niagara via Captain Hill wherein the Six Nations Chiefs negotiated with the British. There, he was accepted into the family of Chiefs. From then until the end of American Revolution, he lived in harmony with Captain Hill and the Mohawk tribe, becoming proficient in all aspects of Indian language and culture.

In 1784 he was brought to Fort Stanwix (Rome, Oneida County) and was released from captivity as part of terms affecting him and 93 other white, prisoners held by tribes of the Six Nations. He was taken first to Goshen in Orange County, and thence to his home near Lewiston. He had heard very little of the English language during his six years of captivity but well understood the language of the Iroquois tribes.

In 1790, Timothy Pickering, governmental sub-agent and Indian interpreter for the Washington Administration employed Parrish to help interpret meetings between the U.S. and the Six Nations at Tioga and ? in Tioga and Newtown Point (near Elmira).

In 1792, Secretary of War Henry Dearborn, acting under President Washington, hired Parrish as standing interpreter for the U.S. in all negotiations with the Six Nations.

“Sir: You are hereby with the approbation of the President of the United States, appointed a sub-agent to the Six Nations of Indians, residing within the territories of the said United States, now under the general superintendence of Callendar Irvine, Esquire. For your government in discharging the various duties of this appointment, you will from time to time, be furnished with general instructions, and particular directions, as circumstances may call for, or render necessary. Your compensation will be a salary of Four Hundred & Fifty dollars, per annum, payable quarterly, Yearly.”

He interpreted the negotiations between the U.S. government and the Six Nations at the Treaty of Canandaigua.

In 1803, Parrish became both sub-agent and Interpreter for the U.S. with the Six Nations. From then until the end of President Andrew Jackson’s second term, he performed any manner of tasks for the government and the Six Nations respectively.

During this time, he was the prime opponent of Red Jacket, the Seneca Chief who demanded to anyone who’d listen that the Six Nations avoid being converted to Christianity and the ways of the White Man.

In gratitude for his services, the Six Nations gave Parrish-and his fellow interpreter Horatio Jones*-an extensive grant of land along the Niagara River, in 1802. Parrish also helped to negotiate the 1815 sale of the remaining Seneca-held islands in the Niagara River as well as the 1823 purchase of Menominee (Wisconsin) lands.

Parrish had married the daughter of one General Edward Paine and produced 6 children.

He died in 1836 at Canandaigua, NY and was there buried.


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