Revisiting Red Jacket, alias Cow Killer

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Lately I’ve been thinking about names and what they mean. The Seneca orator Red Jacket had several of them. Red Jacket lived on the Buffalo Creek reservation, and according to Christopher Densmore, he was less influential than other leaders—though his name increasingly appears in council speeches in the 1780s and 1790s.[1] U.S. Indian commissioner Timothy Pickering recorded his Seneca name as “Saco-que-y-wan-tau,” translating as “Sleeper Wake up.”[2] Usually Red Jacket seems to appear in the records as Red Jacket—but I am interested in a fourth name. According to most historians Red Jacket’s alias, Cow Killer, was derogatory, meant to tease him for “his distinct disinclination to fight during the American Revolution.”[3] Continue reading