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The Code of Handsome Lake Transcription

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: DSA
Date: 03 Jun 2019

Biographical History

The Code of Handsome Lake: The Great Message is a transcription of a portion of the foundational oral text of the Seneca religious movement started by Handsome Lake (1735-1815). After originally beginning in 1799, the principles of The Code of Handsome Lake remained in the oral tradition until being codified in the mid-nineteenth century. This original document was lost, however, necessitating its re-codification from memory by the original document's last owner, Edward Cornplanter, around 1880. Cornplanter's original text remained in the Seneca language, and was translated into English by William Bluesky, a Seneca Christian preacher. This English translation, with explanatory notes, was published by Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca archaeologist employed by the New York State Museum, in the University of the State of New York's Education Department Bulletin No. 530 (November 1, 1912).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Code of Handsome Lake Transcription is a single item, being a typescript of Edward Cornplanter's text. The typescript is of much later vintage, likely the 1980s, and features the same text and annotations as The Great Message section of Arthur C. Parker's 1912 publication. A handwritten annotation on the first page of this typescript states, "from original manuscript."

Arrangement of the Collection

Single item.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Cornplanter, Edward, 1856-1918.
Handsome Lake, 1735-1815.
Parker, Arthur C. (Arthur Caswell), 1881-1955.

Corporate Bodies

Seneca Indians.


Indians of North America -- Religion.


New York (State)

Genres and Forms


Location of Originals

Original manuscript (fragment) held by the New York State Library Archives.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

The Code of Handsome Lake Transcription,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information


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