About the name

During the War of 1812, some of the British soldiers could not tell the difference between their Indigenous allies and their Indigenous foes. Nor could they distinguish between an Ojibwe, a Mohawk, a Shawnee, a Sauk, a Wendat nor a Sioux.  One of the ways that they dealt with the cultural and language divide was the salutation “Sago Neechie [Shekon Niijii]” which is actually composed of words from two unrelated languages.  Shekon is the Mohawk word “greetings” or “hello” and Neechie [Niijii] is a shortened Ojibwe word for “my friend” (niijikiwenh).  British soldiers using this greeting covered their bases – Ojibwe, Odaawaa, Potawatomi, Nipissing, Mississauga, and Algonquins would understand Niijii and Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora would understand Shekon.

Using this dual language greeting could mean life or death as revealed by British soldier John Le Couteur of the 104th Foot.  Le Couteur reported that after a battle with the Americans he met British Lieutenant Gladwin who was badly wounded.  Gladwin told Le Couteur that after an exchange of fire with the Americans he had “ridden among the American Indians, mistaking them for ours, shook hands with them, and ‘Sago Nitchee’d’ them all around. They were greatly admiring this fine person and splendid Uniform when five or six riflemen [American] rushed from the wood and shouted: ‘Seize Him! Stop Him!’” At this point Gladwin realized he was with Oneidas who were allied with the Americans, and quickly fled. Gladwin told Le Couteur that “The magnaminous [sic] Indians, having shaken hands with Him, did not fire a shot at Him or at his men but discharged their volley above them [orig].” The Americans, however, had no qualms about firing at the fleeing British. In fact, Gladwin received his wound from them and two of his men were killed and five wounded.[1]

After discussing the need for an online forum for Indigenous historians, a suitable name was sought.  The above story was fitting.  This website contains articles, opinions, essays, and notes authored solely by Indigenous scholars and Indigenous historians of various nationalities.  Non-Indigenous people can approach in friendship and peruse to find Indigenous voice and opinion, in fact you are invited to spread the word – Shekon Niijii!

[1] Donald E. Graves (ed), Merry Hearts Make Light Days: The War of 1812 Journal of Lieutenant John Le Couteur, 104th Foot.” Montreal, PQ: Robin Brass Studio, p. 131.