Joseph Brant was born in 1742 along the Ohio River. He was a member of the Mohawk Indians. His parents lived in New York but were in the Ohio Country on a hunting trip when Brant was born. His Indian name was Thayendanegea. He attended Moor's Charity School for Indians in Lebanon, Connecticut, while still a boy. Brant learned English and white customs as a student there. His brother-in-law, British General Sir William Johnson, financed Brant's education. Johnson hoped Brant would provide him with assistance in negotiating with the Indians residing in the northeastern English colonies. The French and Indian War interrupted his education. Johnson withdrew the thirteen-year-old Brant from school to assist him against the French and their native allies. Brant returned to the school following the conflict. It was at Moor's Charity School for Indians that Brant converted to the Anglican faith. He would eventually serve as a missionary among the Indians for the Anglican Church. Upon graduating from school, Brant served as an interpreter for Johnson and his eventual successor, Guy Johnson.
As the American Revolution loomed closer, British military officials appointed Brant as a captain in the English Army. They hoped that this appointment would convince the Mohawks to side with England in the hostilities. English officials in America also sent Brant to England to confer with the king. Brant met King George III on two separate occasions. The British government promised Brant that the Mohawks would have all land returned to them seized by English colonists before the conflict if the Indians remained loyal to England. During the Revolution, Brant served in the English military. He participated in the capture of New York City in 1776. He also led attacks against American settlements and outposts in New York and Pennsylvania.
With England's defeat in the American Revolution and their relinquishing of all land south of Canada, north of Florida, and east of the Mississippi River in the Treaty of Paris (1783), Brant now had to deal directly with the Americans, who claimed his tribe's land. He eventually settled his followers in Canada but spent the remainder of his life encouraging Indians in New York and the Northwest Territory to work together to stop further American seizure of the natives' lands. He called for the Indians to unite together as one in negotiating with the whites. His message was a precursor of Tecumseh's Confederation, which Tecumseh formed in the early 1800s.
Brant died in Canada on August 24, 1807.