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Chief John (Teyoninhokarawen) Norton
Chief John (Teyoninhokarawen) Norton
 Chief John (Teyoninhokarawen) Norton 
Norton, Chief John (Teyoninhokarawen)
b. 1760 (?) - d. 1831 (?)

Nationality: Canadian

Allegiance: British

Category: American Indian

Summary:

   An important commander of the allied British and Native American war effort on the U.S.-Canadian border, Mohawk Chief John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen) was born of a Cherokee father and a Scottish mother most probably in Scotland and spent his formative years in Britain. He came to Canada with a British Army infantry regiment in the 1780s but soon left the army becoming a teacher and interpreter. Despite his mixed blood, under Indian law he was regarded as a full-blooded Indian.

Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant of the Grand River Iroquois realized Norton's abilities and adopted the young man as his nephew. When Brant died in 1807, Norton became chief of the tribe. He led the Mohawks through the majority of the war, from June 1812 to December 1814, as his warriors fought beside the British regulars in Canada in most of the actions on the Canadian war front. He and his warriors assisted General Brock at Detroit and at Queenston Heights and, after Brock's death at Queenston (October 13, 1812), they fought in 1813 at Fort George, Stoney Creek, Beaver Dams, and in numerous skirmishes. He and his men participated in the capture of Fort Niagara and the burning of Buffalo that same year. In the summer of 1814, the Norton and his warriors were intimately involved in the British-Indian forces that fought in the battles of Chippewa and Lundy's Lane. Norton ended his service with the British at the siege of Fort Erie in late 1814.

A useful ally to the British, Norton was able to carry on the war effort despite mounting friction with Indian agent William Claus. This friction was to follow Norton into his post-war retirement from the military, although he successfully collected his pension and lived in peace on the Grand River reservation with his wife until he was accused of killing a man in a duel in 1823.

While in Britain in 1816, Norton completed his journal which provides a valuable account of the War of 1812 from the Indian perspective as well as an extraordinary look at aboriginal life at the time. Norton's journal indeed is one of the best War of 1812 accounts and is recommended reading, although his enemies accused him of exaggerating and lying. The chief is last known to have left the Grand River reservation around 1826 and travelled with a young Cherokee cousin south to the Gulf of Mexico and then west toward California. It is probable that he died while on this trip. A nephew believed the chief lived until 1831.

Further Reading:

Carl Benn, The Iroquois in the War of 1812. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.

Carl F. Klinck and James J. Talman, eds. The Journal of Major John Norton. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1970.

Portrait of John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen) courtesy of the Champlain Society, Toronto

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Copyright © Christopher T. George, 2012