Seneca Indian chief Red Jacket, or Sa-Go-Ye-Wat-Ha (1758-1830)


Last Updated: 6 years

Dispute exists about where in New York Red Jacket was born. It could have been at Old Seneca Castle near Geneva, NY, near Cayuga Lake, or even Keuke Lake. His family did spend much time there when he was a boy, and his mother was buried there. So the Keuke Lake location is the most probable.

Red Jacket, Seneca chief

As a boy and young man, his name was Otetiani. He acquired the name Segoyawatha (or Sa-Go-Ye-Wat-Ha) when he became a Sachem. His more common name, Red Jacket, came from his favorite coat, a braided red jacket given to him by the British during the Revolution.

Like all Iroquois leaders, Segoyawatha was born into his mother’s wolf clan and later became one of the 50 Iroquois Sachems in 1791. As such, he often had to work with Joseph Brant, his counterpart for the Mohawk, during the American Revolution when both the Seneca and Mohawk chose to ally with the British.

They were not friends but could work together in council for the benefit of their people. After the Revolution,Segoyawatha came into his own as a negotiator on behalf of his people with the United States government.

In 1792, he led a delegation to Philadelphia and met with George Washington. There, he was presented with the unusually large peace medal which appears in his portraits. He was also presented with a rifle with a silver-inlaid stock bearing his initials and the wolf clan emblem. Both of these pieces survive.

The gun is in a private collection and the medal is in the possession of the Buffalo Historical Society.

Along with his cousins Cornplanter and Handsome Lake, he was a signatory of the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, which imposed punitive land cessions on the Seneca for having sided with the British during the Revolution, but did confirm other tracts of land for them in New York.