Agwirondongwas, Gwedelhes

first name (variants): Good Peter
Birth: 1751 in Onaquaga, NY
Death: October 1792 in Buffalo Creek, NY
Affiliation

Oneida; Onaquaga Chiefs

Education

Educated by Elihu Spencer, an Anglo-American missionary. Could read Mohawk.

Faith

New Light Christian

Nationality

Oneida

Occupation

Lay Christian leader, member of Onaquaga council

Residence(s)
  • Onaquaga
Events

March 15, 1765: Good Peter arrived at Moor's Indian Charity School on the day that Eleazar Wheelock was examining prospective missionaries. Fortuitously, Elisha Gunn, an interpreter, was also present and could communicate Good Peter's request for missionaries. Wheelock later portrayed this meeting as a divinely inspired coincidence, although documents reveal that he was aware that Good Peter was arriving and had likely scheduled the meeting (e.g., 765159.1, 765201. Between the 1766 and the 1767 Narrative, Good Peter's visit turned from routine business to an act of God).

Marital status

Good Peter had at least one son, known as Peter II or "Pagan Peter." He did not sympathize with his father's religion and was a leader of the pagan Oneida faction.

Biography

Gwedelhes Agwirondongwas, also known as Good Peter, was an Oneida Christian leader who played a prominent role at Onaquaga (a composite Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, town in Oneida territory) throughout the second half of the eighteenth century. He received missionaries from Eleazar Wheelock and worked with Samuel Kirkland, a Moor’s alumnus who conducted a mission to the Oneidas from 1766 until his death in 1808. Elihu Spencer, a Yale-educated Anglo-American missionary, converted Good Peter to Christianity in 1748 and taught him to read and write Mohawk (a language very similar to Oneida). By 1757, Peter was preaching and leading services among the Oneidas. Along with Isaac Dakayenensere, another Oneida Christian leader, Good Peter sought missionaries (and, more especially, husbandry aid) from Eleazar Wheelock. He carried messages for General Schuyler during the Revolution, and was imprisoned by the British. After the Revolution, he worked vigorously to oppose illegal Oneida land sales and general exploitation by the state of New York. Good Peter worked closely with Samuel Kirkland throughout his mission and served as one of his deacons, even though he was cognizant of and opposed Kirkland’s role in promoting illegal land sales.

Sources

Andrews, Edward E. Native Apostles: Black and Indian Missionaries in the British Atlantic World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2013. Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. Hauptman, Laurence M. Conspiracy of Interests: Iroquois Dispossession and the Rise of New York State. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1999. Love, Deloss. Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Pilgrim Press 1899. McCallum, James. The Letters of Eleazar Wheelock’s Indians. Dartmouth College Press 1932. Silverman, David J. Red Brethren: The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in Early America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2010. Wheelock, Eleazar. A continuation of the narrative of the Indian charity-school : begun in Lebanon, in Connecticut ; now incorporated with Dartmouth-college, in Hanover, in the province of New-Hampshire. Hartford 1766.