MARCH 15, 1873


Born on the Six Nations Reserve on the Grand River, Levi became the Cayuga’s hereditary chief, or deskaheh, on the Confederacy Council in 1917.  A strong orator, he became deputy speaker in 1918 and speaker in 1922.  As government actions during and after World War I threatened Indian sovereignty, including conscription and removal of an individual’s Indian status, Deskaheh challenged the Six Nations’ status as subjects of the British crown.  In 1923, Deskaheh went to the League of Nations to lobby for recognition of the Six Nations as an independent state.  He stayed for over a year, but his efforts proved fruitless.  In 1924, the government replaced the hereditary council with an elected council.  As a result, Deskaheh lost his right to speak for the Six Nations.  Disillusioned and in poor health, he returned.  He died on the Tuscarora Reservation on June 27, 1925.  His trip to the League of Nations marks the first attempt by North American First Nations to take claims for sovereignty to an international forum. 

Source:  Smith, Donald B., "Deskaheh," The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2/7/2006.  Retrieved 6/24/2019,
Photo:  Author unknown, 1922.    Public Domain.  Public Domain in U.S.:  Pre 1/1/1925.  Public Domain elsewhere where copyright term is author’s life plus 100 years or less.

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