Greater Ancestors

World Museum

Cannibals of the Iroquois

Cannibals of the Iroquois



The stone giants, who principally inhabited the far West, resolved to come East and exterminate the Indians. A party of Senecas, just starting out on the war-path, were warned of their impending danger and were bidden to accept the challenge to fight the stone giants and appoint a time and place. This they did. At the appointed time the giants appeared at the place, which was near a great gulf. Then there came a mighty wind from the west (tornado) which precipitated the whole race of giants down into the abyss, from which they were never able to extricate themselves, and the God of the West Wind was ever after held in reverence by the Senecas.

Related by Mr. O’BEILLE BEILLE, grandson of Cornplanter.

in the tradiion of oral history.


In the olden days the hunters always took their wives with them on their expeditions. It was a wife’s duty to fetch home the game that was killed and prepare and cook it.

A great hunter set forth upon a hunting excursion and took his wife with him. He found so much game that finally he built a wigwam and settled down. One day he had gone hunting in one direction while his wife was sent in another to collect the game he had killed the previous day.

When she returned towards home one evening, laden with game, she was surprised at hearing a woman’s voice, and as she entered her surprise changed to fear, for she saw a stone giant woman nursing the chief’s child. “Do not be afraid,” said the giantess; “come in.” And as the wife obeyed she told her that she had run away from her cruel husband, who wanted to kill her, and that she wished to stay a while with the hunter’s family. She had come from very far, from the land of the Stone Giants, and was very tired, and added that they must be careful what food they gave her. She could not eat raw food, but it must be well cooked, so thoroughly cooked, indeed, that she could not taste the blood, for if she once tasted blood she might wish to kill them and [p.63] the child and eat them. She knew that the woman’s husband was a mighty hunter, and she knew that his wife brought in the game, but now she would do it instead; then she said that she knew where to find it and would start after it at once.

After a while she returned, bringing in one hand a load which four ordinary men could not have carried. The woman cooked it, and they dined together.

As evening came on the Stone Giantess bade the woman go out and meet her husband and tell him of her visit; so she started, and the hunter was much pleased to hear of the help she had given.

In the morning, after he had gone on his hunting expedition, the giantess said, “Now I have a secret for you: My husband is after me. In three days he will be here. We shall have a terrible fight when he comes, and you and your husband must help me to kill him.”

In two days afterwards she said, “Now your husband must remain at home, for mine is coming. But do not be afraid; we shall kill him, only you must help catch and hold him. I will show you where to strike him so that the blow will go right through to his heart.” The hunter and his wife were both frightened at this, but she reassured them, and they all three awaited the coming of the giant. So she placed herself in the entrance, and as he came in sight she was ready. She seized him and threw him on the ground. “Now,” she said, “strike him on the arms, now on the back of the neck”; and so he was finally killed. Then said she, “I will take him out and bury him,” which she did.

She staid a while quietly with the hunter and his wife, fetching in the game and being useful until, they were ready to leave and return to the settlement. Then she said, “Now I must go home to my people, for I need fear nothing.” So she bade them farewell.

And this is the end of the story of the Stone Giantess.


A Stone Giant challenged a Seneca chief to a race. The challenge was accepted, and the time for the start appointed two days later.

The hunter employed the time in making a pair of moccasins, and in due time the race began. The hunter was in advance; he led the way over cornfields and through bushes, over and around brooks, and went a weary distance until he was very tired and his moccasins were nearly worn off his feet. At last he began to climb rocks. Now, the Stone Giant had no power to raise his head and could not tell where the hunter was when once he was above him, and in this dilemma he had recourse to a charm, and took from his pocket a human finger. He placed it upright upon his hand, and it immediately pointed the way for him to go.