Maris B. Pierce papers
Maris B. Pierce was born at “Old Town” on the Allegany Reservation in 1811, the son of John Pierce. During his youth, he attended a Quaker school on the reservation. Later he was sent to the Fredonia Academy by his father, and then attended 2 years at the Academy in Homer, New York.
After his early education, Pierce went to Thetford, Vermont, to study and prepare for college. In 1836, at the age of 25, he entered Dartmouth College, becoming a part of the first generation of college educated Haudenosaunee. The year before graduating, Pierce was appointed as one of the four Seneca attorneys representing the Tonawanda, Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Buffalo Creek Reservations in Washington, D.C. Pierce fought the Treaty of Buffalo Creek of 1838 and assisted in its renegotiation in 1842. After graduating college, he settled on the Buffalo Creek Reservation and continued his advocacy against the removal of Seneca from their lands.
Pierce was appointed as the U.S. interpreter between the federal government and the Seneca Nation. In 1843, he married Mary Jane Carrol of Utica, daughter of a British Officer, and they had four children. After the Buffalo Creek Reservation was dissolved in 1842 and the Indians were pushed out, Pierce and his family moved to the Cattaraugus Reservation. Pierce and his wife became advocates and were active in the schools on the reservation, dedicating much of their time to teaching.
Pierce was continually relied on by his fellow Native Americans for his sound judgement and good sense of managing their affairs. He was involved in other important issues including fighting the illegal cutting and removal of timber from reservation lands, conducting censuses, and properly advocating for better education on the reservations.
Pierce, or “Ha-dya-no-doh” (Swift Runner), died at his residence on the Cattaraugus Reservation on August 9, 1874 at the age of 65. Mary J. Pierce donated her husband’s materials to the Buffalo Historical Society in October of 1884.
Scope of Collection
Collection includes correspondence with government officials, census officials, Indians, Quakers, friends and relatives, 1834-1874; sermons, speeches and other writings; copies of New York State and federal laws and bills concerning Indians, 1850-1874; and papers concerning the Seneca Nation, including Council minutes, treaties and agreements, financial reports, letters, and manuscripts written about the Senecas, 1787-1874. The Smithsonian Institution also holds a digitized copy of "Diary of a Seneca Chief, Maris B. Pierce, 1845-1857"
This digital collection is a full representation of the materials located at The Buffalo History Museum’s Research Library, with the exception of two volumes already available online. Both are made available through Hathi Trust, they are “A brief statement of the rights: of the Seneca Indians in the State of New York, to their lands in that state, with decisions relative thereto by the state and United States courts, and extracts from United States laws”, and “The Cornplanter Memorial: An Historical Sketch of Gy-ant-wa-chia -- the Cornplanter, and of the Six Nations of Indians by James Ross Snowden”. In addition, there is an online version of "Diary of a Seneca Chief, Maris B. Pierce 1845-1857" at the Smithsonian Institution.