Cornplanter, Jesse

Quantity: 46 drawings
Acquisition: Drawings 1-35 from Arthur C. Parker
Drawings 36-46 from New York State Museum
Access: Photostats and Iroquois Indian Games and Dances available for unrestricted use. Originals are kept in the vault. Two business days notice are required for retrieval.
Processed by: Billie Aul, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts and Special Collections. Revised August 1996.

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These drawings depict Seneca Indians participating many everyday and ceremonial activities. There are also drawings depicting events related to the Longhouse religion. Except for drawing number 35, they were done by Jesse Cornplanter between about 1900 and 1909. Arthur C. Parker has provided annotations for many of the drawings.

Drawing number 35 is by Roger Lay and was done around the same period. It has an annotation by Arthur C. Parker as well.

This collection was originally two collections, SC12845 (items 1-35) and SC13801 (items 36-46). The collections were merged in 1992.

Biographical Note

Jesse Cornplanter, whose Seneca name was Hayonhwonhish, was born September 16, 1889 on the Cattaraugus Reservation. His father was Edward Cornplanter (Seneca name Sosondowah), a Faithkeeper of the Longhouse religion.

At an early age Jesse took an interest in drawing. Arthur C. Parker, an ethnologist, met him and asked him to make drawings of Seneca life for Parker to use as part of his ethnological studies of the Seneca. It is these drawings which make up the bulk of this collection.

In 1917, Jesse enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to Europe during World War I. He was part of Company G, 147th Infantry, 37th Division. He was wounded during the war and received the Purple Heart among other military honors. He was honorably discharged in 1919.

Jesse was well known as an informant for researchers working with the Iroquois, including Arthur C. Parker, William Fenton and Charles E. Bartlett. When he became a Faithkeeper himself, he worked with Fenton and Parker to record the rituals and songs connected with his duties to insure their preservation for subsequent generations.

Two of his own books documenting Iroquois life were published. Iroquois Indian Games and Dances is a collection of his drawings. Legends of the Longhouse records many Iroquois traditional stories. In addition, he illustrated The Code of Handsome Lake, a book produced by his father and Arthur C. Parker.

In addition to his other creative activities, Jesse was noted as a fine craftsman. He died March 3, 1957. He gave his personal papers to Charles E. Bartlett who in turn, gave them to the anthropology department at the State University of New York at Geneseo. There is a published guide to this collection entitled Handbook for Archival Research in the Dr. Charles E. Bartlett Iroquois Collection. Memorials for Jesse Cornplanter appear in the New York State Archeological Association's Bulletin, #10, July, 1957, pp 1-3, 18.


Bailey, Nick. "Jesse Cornplanter -- A Tribute," New York State Archeological Association. The Bulletin, #10, July 1957, p18.

Bartlett, Charles E. "Jesse J. Cornplanter," New York State Archeological Association. The Bulletin, #10, July 1957, pp1-3.

Cornplanter, Edward. The Code of Handsome Lake, the Seneca Prophet. Introduction by Arthur C. Parker. Translation by William Bluesky. New York State Museum, Museum Bulletin, #163. Albany, NY: University of the State of New York, 1913.

Cornplanter, Jesse J. Iroquois Indian Games and Dances. N.p., n.d. (Copy included with collection)

Cornplanter, Jesse J. Legends of the Longhouse. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1938.

Judkins, Russell A., ed. Handbook for Archival Research in the Dr. Charles E. Bartlett Iroquois Collection. Geneseo, NY: State University of New York College, Geneseo, Dept. of Anthropology, 1989.

List of Drawings

  1. Oswinedoh and Hat-toh, the Winter Spirit, n.d.
  2. The Snow Snake Game, 1905.
  3. The Dance of the Bear Society, ca. 1904.
  4. Dark Dance of Pygmy Society, n.d.
  5. Buffalo Society Dance, n.d.
  6. Death Chant and Dance, n.d.
  7. Purification Ceremony of the Society of Otters, 1906.
  8. March of the Towisas . . ., 1905?
  9. Ganiodaiu Wandering in the Cornfield, 1905.
  10. The Murderer Discovered, n.d.
  11. The Sick Man, n.d.
  12. Drunken Men at Cornplanter Village, n.d.
  13. Chiefs Whipping the Women who Used the Witch Poison, n.d.
  14. Scenes about a Seneca Bark Lodge, 1905.
  15. The Mythical Messenger of Death to the Seneca is a Vaporous Panther . . ., n.d.
  16. The Door-Keepers Dance, Reproduction by F. Starr, 1903.
  17. Heno, the Spirit of Thunder, n.d.
  18. No title, view of eagle flying, n.d.
  19. Wizards and Witches "Shoot from Trees," ca. 1905.
  20. Carving the False Face, n.d.
  21. Horned Serpent, 1908.
  22. Raising the Slain Hero.
  23. Indians Playing Snow Snake, 1905.
  24. The False Face March, 1903.
  25. Lodge Dance of Eagle Society, 1905.
  26. Cattaraugus Indians False Face Dance, 1902.
  27. Indian New Year's on the First Day, 1900 or 1901.
  28. Women's Dance, n.d.
  29. Handsome Lake Preaching, 1905.
  30. The Flying Head of the Tornado, 1906.
  31. The Great Serpent of Bare Hill, 1909.
  32. The Pacification of Atotaroh, ca. 1906.
  33. The Door-Keepers "Doctor Mask," 1903.
  34. No title. View of a winter spirit? battering tree (bringing winter to forest?), 1906.
  35. Lay, Roger. Society of the Mystic Animals, 1905.
  36. Indian False Face, n.d.
  37. Seneca Gagonsa Society Doctors at Work, n.d.
  38. Indian Squaws Pounding Corn, n.d.
  39. Cooking for Long House Feast, n.d.
  40. Indian New Year, 1901?
  41. Feather Dance in Seneca Long House, 1903.
  42. Seneca War Dance, n.d.
  43. Gagonsa Society Ceremony in Seneca Long House, n.d.
  44. Seneca Indian War Dance, n.d.
  45. Bowl Game in Seneca Long House, 1903.
  46. Seneca Indian Ready to Play Ball, 1908.
  47. Copy of Iroquois Indian Games and Dances (this was not microfilmed with the rest of the collection).
Last Updated: May 24, 2021