Chief John Norton (Teyoninhokovrawen)

Chief John Norton (Teyoninhokovrawen) was born c. 1760 in Scotland and died on abt 1831 in the Southwestern US. He was a British Army officer during the War of 1812

Chief John Norton
Norton, John (Teyoninhokovrawen)
c. 1760
abt 1831
Southwestern US

The Iroquois Chief John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen) emerges as one of the most intriguing personalities of the War of 1812. Many details about his life remain unclear, but his role in the conflict between British and U.S. forces in North America is quite well documented. He was born the son of a Cherokee father and a Scottish mother, probably around the year 1770. It seems that Norton's father joined the British Army and eventually settled in Scotland where he later married.

Norton was most likely educated in Scotland and followed his father into the army at a young age. He was stationed in Ireland at the age of 14 and found himself in Quebec in 1785. While with his regiment at Niagara in 1787, he deserted the army. It must have been during this time that he became involved with the Six Nations of the Grand River.

For a time, Norton taught at the Bay of Quinte, an Iroquois village west of Kingston. He also began the first of his many rambles throughout North America, traveling through the Ohio region as a trader and establishing many contacts. The call of the Grand River settlement proved to be stronger. Norton was especially inspired by the Mohawk chief, Thayendanega (Joseph Brant). Norton acquired Mohawk language and culture, and was adopted into the community as Thayendanega's nephew. He acquired the status of chief from his adopted uncle and was given the name "Teyoninhokarawen". which is Mohawk for "open door." The name suggests that Norton had a strong, dual nature; he was a chief for peace and a chief for war. Like Tecumseh, Norton came to believe that the best hope for the First Nations lay in native solidarity. The multi-ethnic nature of the Grand River community reinforced this vision. Embarking on a year-long journey in 1809, Norton traveled south to learn about his Cherokee ancestry and become acquainted with the conditions of other First Nations in the US

As the British-American conflict approached in 1812, Norton was considered an obvious ally by the British administration. He had retained aspects of his white heritage (he was a devout Anglican) and had maintained close contact with the British while living on the Grand River.

Norton distrusted politicians. He preferred dealing with military leaders and it was through a military alliance that Norton hoped to make gains for the First Nations.

Despite Norton's influence, many of the Iroquois were wary of an alliance with either the British or Americans. But Norton had the support of a young hereditary chief of the Grand River community, Brant's son, Ah'You'wa'eghs. Together they secured a sizable force with which to fight alongside General Brock. Norton and his warriors were present at Detroit and Queenston Heights, where they figured prominently in the battles on the Niagara in the summer of 1814. At Chippawa, the Grand River Iroquois fought their New York cousins in a bloody confrontation. After this tragic event the Six Nations of the Iroquois decided to withdraw from the war altogether.

Norton and his warriors are perhaps most associated with the Battle of Queenston Heights. Their chilling war cries are credited with discouraging the American militia from crossing into Canada, and they frustrated the invading U.S. forces long enough for British reinforcements to arrive. For his part in the victory, Norton was given the "Rank of Captain of the Confederate Indians."

After the war, Norton went back to Scotland with his wife and son. They eventually returned to Grand River, but it appears that some years later Norton became estranged from his family. He left the Niagara and is thought to have traveled in the area that would become the southwestern United States.
Norton probably died in late 1831.

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