Published on July 31, 2012 by Amy
Jesse J. Cornplanter (September 16, 1889–1957) was a Seneca artist and author. His Seneca name was Hayonhwonhish. As an author he wrote Legends of the Longhouse, which records many Iroquois traditional stories.
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Jesse Cornplanter was born in 1889 on the Cattaraugus Reservation in New York, and was the last direct descendent of Cornplanter, the Seneca war chief during the American Revolutionary War.
During World War I, Cornplanter enlisted in the US Army in 1917 and served in Europe. He was wounded during the war and received the Purple Heart.
Within his tribe, Cornplanter held many respected positions, including the ceremonial chief of the Long House and the chief of New Town, a traditional village. He sang for the Great Feather Dancer and was head singers for many ceremonies.
In 1901 the Seneca Director of the Rochester Museum, Arthur C. Parker commissioned Cornplanter to sketch scenes of contemporary Seneca life. This launched an eight-year collaboration between the two men. Forty-five of these drawings are in collection SC12845 at the New York State Library.
Though only in his teens, Cornplanter was gaining recognition for his skillful portrayals of his tribe. He never received formal art training, but that did not hinder his success. Frederick Starr commissioned Cornplanter to illustrate Iroquois Indian Games and Dances, a book depicting Iroquois life. In addition, Jesse Cornplanter illustrated The Code of Handsome Lake, a book authored by his father, Edward Cornplanter (Seneca name Sosondowah), and Arthur C. Parker. Cornplanter authored and illustrated his own book, Legends of the Longhouse published in 1938.
His paintings are considered to be in the Iroquois Realist Style, following in a painting tradition dating back to the 1820s work by Tuscarora brothers, David and Dennis Cusick.
Although best known for his illustrations, Cornplanter was also a traditional wood carver and greatly influenced successive generations of Haudenosaunee artists.