The Iroquois called him Quidor, meaning “the Indians’ friend.” To his fellow colonists, he was Peter Schuyler—son of a Dutch magistrate from Amsterdam—who rose to become one of the most popular colonial leaders of his day.
Peter Schuyler was born at Albany, in the colony of New Netherland. He was seven years old when the colony changed from Dutch to English hands. He joined the colonial militia at the age of 27, and soon rose to the rank of colonel. In 1686, he became the first mayor of Albany.
In his capacity as mayor, Schuyler gained another important position—chairman of the board of Indian commissioners. These commissioners were responsible for all negotiations between the colonies and the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy—the Native American tribes who were allied with the English settlers.
In the more than 30 years he served as commissioner, Schuyler became a close confidant and friend to the Iroquois. He learned their culture and language, led them in combat, and dealt fairly with them.
In 1689, war broke out between the French and their Indian allies and the English colonies. In 1691, Schuyler—in his role as a major in the militia—led a raid into Canada with 260 men, half English and Dutch militia, and half Iroquois warriors. Schuyler’s forces inflicted heavy casualties on the French, killing more than 200 of the enemy while suffering only modest losses themselves.
Over the next several years, Schuyler led many military actions against the French forces. When a treaty ended the war in 1697, Schuyler was sent to Canada to arrange a prisoner exchange of French, English and Indian captives.
For the next 25 years, Schuyler remained very close to the Iroquois tribes and was instrumental in keeping them allied to the English, despite the best efforts of the French to pull them over to their side. In 1710,Schuyler traveled with four Mohawk chiefs to London in order to ask Queen Anne for England’s help in eliminating the French once and for all.
The visit was a sensation.Schuyler had a personal meeting with the Queen, and she offered him a knighthood, which he declined. The queen agreed to send support, but part of the fleet ran into trouble on the high seas and the invasion was called off. By 1712, hostilities had ended and things would remain peaceful between for more than 30 years.
Peter Schuyler died in 1724. He spent much of his adult life in the service of the colonies—helping to defend them against the French, and gaining the respect and admiration of the Iroquois tribes with whom he maintained a long and lasting relationship.