Conestoga Area Historical Society, Lancaster County, Pa.

The Conestoga Area Historical Society

Native American Topics


Shenks Ferry People

Article on the Susquehannock by Lee Sultzman.

Article on Shawnee (Pequea) by Lee Sultzman

The Susquehannocks are an interesting people, they seem to have had a good reputation amongst their contemporaries, below are two accounts of the Susquehannocks from contemporary (to the Susquehannock) sources. Keep in mind these are two positive accounts, we shouldn't assume that the Susquehannock are saints, they could at times be treacherous, deadly and cruel. The Susquehannocks lived in a much harsher time when being kind could be a fatal mistake. None the less, the Susquehannocks were often characterized as smart and brave, as these stories show.

An Interesting account of the Susquehannocks
Selected Manuscripts of General John S. Clark Relating to the Aboriginal History of the Susquehanna

Edited by
Louise Welles Murray
Director, Tioga Point Museum
Athens, Pennsylvania, 1931

"La Salle (the French Explorer) gives an interesting account of one of the campaigns of the Iroquois against the Gandastogues1 apparently when seated on the West Branch. The account was given in Paris in 1678. He says:
"Some years since about four hundred Iroguois went to destroy the village of Gandastogue. Two savages of the village hunting in the forest on the Iroquois' trail perceived this party at a distance and one said to the other, 'go quickly to warn our brothers that the enemy are coming to encamp here to-night and surprise them, and that I remain here to stop them if I can'. After which, observing that the enemy were studying what course to pursue, he perceives the chief, who commanded, advance some distance before the others and climb into a tree to reconnoitre, leaving his gun at the foot of the tree. This savage had a gun, a bow, arrows, lance, etc. He takes aim at the chief and knocks him from the tree, then runs to him and girdling his scalp, tears it off and hangs it on his belt; the enemy believing that their leader had fired upon some wild beast ran towards him, found him dead and scalped and discovered this savage who was waiting for them. They shouted to him to surrender and give them information. He refused the one and the other. The entire band spread out to shut him in, and an Iroquois gaining his rear, the savage who pretended not to perceive him suddenly turned upon him and killed him with the gun he had taken from the first; he ran to the man he had just killed and not having time to scalp him took his gun which was charged, fired upon an Iroquois who was trying to take him in flank and wounded him, after which he fled with great speed, throwing into the stream all that could impede him, only retaining his bow and arrow. The swiftest of the Iroquois band breaks out in pursuit, and the savage perceiving that he would overtake him and was already near, stopped suddenly, shot, and pierced with the point of the arrow he had reserved, after which throwing away his bow plunged into the woods; night came and he escaped. The expedition of the Iroquois was checked by the courage of this savage, for they never leave their dead in a strange county. They accordingly carried the bodies home, where they arrived crying that they had met a spirit or something more than human who had stopped them * * *.

I heard no details of the history of the Iroquois except they had destroyed in the last ------- more than one hundred thousand men, comprising more than fifty nations, and that the last which they wholly destroyed was that of the Gandatogues to which belong the brave savage whose adventure I have related." It is not known what became of the savage. The whole nation was utterly destroyed, those who escaped death being brought home prisoners by the Iroquois in 1677."

Source: Vol. 1 Page 347-348; 362. Pierre Margry, ed., Découvertes et établissements des Français dans l'ouest et dans le sud de l'Amérique septentrionale, 1614-1754 (6 vols., Paris: Jouast, 1876-86)
Note: Pierre Margry was a French historian who collected materials related to the founding of New France (Canada), his material was published in his 6 Volume set noted above. Because of the difficulty documenting material from this period this is probably the best information we'll find.

Father Peter Raffeix, a Jesuit missionary with the Cayuga people wrote the following account of the Susquehannock, it was reproduced in Early chapters of Cayuga history: Jesuit missions in Gotogouen 1656-1684; also an account of the Sulpitian mission among the emigrant Cayugas, about Quinte Bay, in 1668. by Charles Hawley, and John Gilmary Shea

The day of Ascension, twenty Senecas and forty of our young braves, went from this town to make an attack upon the Andastes, whose country is four days' journey from here. The Senecas, who formed a band by themselves, the others having previously gone by water, were attacked by a party of sixty young Andastes, from fifteen to sixteen years of age, and put to flight with a loss of two of their men - one killed on the spot and the other carried away prisoner. The youthful victors, learning that the band of the Cayugas had gone by water (via Cayuga Lake and the Susquehanna River) immediately took to their canoes in hot pursuit, and overtaking them beat them in the fight. Eight of the Cayugas were slain in their canoes, and fifteen or sixteen wounded by arrows and knives or half killed by strikes of the hatchets. The field of battle was left with the Andastes, with a loss, it is said, of fifteen or sixteen of their number. God preserves the Mandates who have barely three hundred men of war. He favors their arms to humble the Iroquois and preserve to us peace and our missions.

1 The Jesuit Relations were a series of letters and journals kept by the Jesuit Missionaries (Catholic Priests) who were sent to New France (Canada). Their series begins about 1608 and continues to 1700. The Susquehannocks are mentioned in these references many times as friends to the Huron and enemies of the Iroquois.

No one knows what the Susquehannocks called themselves, that has been lost to history. Most Native American groups call themselves "Our People", "The People" in their native language. The first reference to the Susquehannocks is in the Voyages of Samuel Champlain for 1615 where he calls them the"Carantouan" His map places them in the general area of the Pa./New York border but it now looks like this was a small fort and not the main village. Etienne Brule, an associate of Champlains, who had visited the village located it on the 40th parallel, which makes it much further south, at Turkey Hill in Lancaster County.
The Hurons called them the "Andastoerrhonons", the French called them the Andasta, later this name was modified to Andastogas. In Jesuit Relations for 1663 (p. 47)1 they are called Andastogueronnons (using the Huron word). The next change in the name is Gandastogas which first appears in Jesuit Relations for 1667 (Mission Du Sault, 1667, p. 153), in this citation they seem to make a distinction between Gandastogue which is a place name and Gangdastogues which is the people's name (Jesuit Relations, 1669-1670, p. 105). The last change in the name is to Conestoga, probably developed after contact with Europeans. I haven't been able to find much explanation for the evolution of the name other than a reference to the fact that the Hurons were consolidating into a smaller area as a result of Iroquois assault and the various dialects of the Huron were being changed as the Huron came into closer contact with each other.

An account in "The Indian Tribes of North America" by John R. Swanton in Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 145—1953 [726 pages—Smithsonian Institution] has the following definition, Andaste or Conestoga, from Kanastóge, "at the place of the immersed pole." I'm not sure how serious to take this definition, most native American names tell you something about the people, "at the place of the immersed pole" seems nondescriptive for a people the Huron seemed to think of as friends. I remain uncommitted on just what Conestoga means.


Barry Kent, former archaeologist for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has established that the word Conestoga is a derivative of the Susquehannock word Connadago or town. Dr. Kent cites a his evidence a manuscript published in 1666 by George Alsop.1 (See Kent, Barry, Susquehanna's Indians, Published by The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, 2001, P. 29)

Since this document was contemporary to the Susquehannocks, we have to regard this as a highly reliable source. This is given an additional ring of truth because the Huron and Susquehannock languages were very similar and the Huron word for village is Canada which is similar to the Susquehannock word Connadago.

1Narratives of Early Maryland, 1633-1684, Clatyon Hall, ed., Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1970, p. 370.

Send Comments to

Return to CAHS Index Page