The Pine Creek killings, also known as the Walker Affair, occurred in June 1790. Two Seneca Indians, after an afternoon of drinking in a public house, boasted about the murder and scalping some years earlier of one John Walker. The inflammatory boasts were made in the presence of Walker's three sons, and later that night the Walkers, along with a fourth man, tracked down the two Seneca, torturing and killing them. The four vigilantes went into hiding, and the Pine Creek residents feared a retaliatory attack. They petitioned Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Mifflin to either send troops or treat with the tribe. At this point, President Washington sent Timothy Pickering, who he had appointed commissioner to the Iroquois Indians, on a special mission to calm the situation. In the present letter, Pickering enlists the assistance of Oliver Phelps, a leading merchant and land speculator whose many contacts with Seneca leaders made him a valuable ambassador to the Iroquois people.
"By a late law of the United States, all transactions with the Indians are to be conducted by their authority through the President. He is now here. The Supreme Executive Council of this State have laid before him your letter and the other papers relative to the murder of the Indians on Pine Creek, on the west branch of the Susquehannah. In consequence of which the President has desired me, in behalf of the United States, to meet the relations of the murdered Indians, the principal men of their tribes, & the chiefs of the Seneca nation, at some convenient place and at as early a day as will admit of the transportation from hence of a few goods to be given as a compensation to the friends of the deceased.
"With that spirit of just economy which marks all his public acts, the president wishes the assembly of Indians on this occasion may be as small as possible. He sees no propriety in the idea suggested of holding a treaty with them: because they and the United States are already at peace. To him nothing appears necessary but reasonably to compensate the relations of the deceased, to give them satisfactory assurances that the most diligent endeavours will be used to bring the offenders to condign punishment; and to make this compensation & give these assurances in presence of the chiefs and head warriors, that they may be witnesses to their nation of the Justice of the United States.
"The atrocious murder above mentioned, the President views with utter abhorrence; & is determined to pursue the offenders with same zeal as if the unfortunate men they killed had been citizens of the United States.
"These sentiments I pray you to impress on the minds of the Indians. You know the justice & inviolable integrity of the President, and that they may perfectly confide in his assurances."
Pickering did attend a conference at Tioga Point in November, at which Red Jacket and Cornplanter were also present. The Seneca were mollified by the official expressions of regret and condemnation, and this conference may further have served to dissuade the Six Nations from joining western Indian peoples in the Northwestern Indian War.
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