What is the origin of the phrase “bury the hatchet”?
Bury the hatchet is an Indianism (a phrase borrowed from Native American speech). The term comes from an Iroquois ceremony in which war axes or other weapons were literally buried in the ground as a symbol of newly made peace. European missionaries and settlers took note of the tradition in the seventeenth century. French records from 1644 relate that the Iroquois visiting Quebec “proclaim that they wish to unite all the nations of the earth and to hurl the hatchet so far into the depths of the earth that it shall never again be seen in the future” [translation from Thwaites’ monumental Jesuit Relations]. The first mention of the practice in English is to an actual hatchet-burying ceremony. Years before he gained notoriety for presiding over the Salem witch trials, Samuel Sewall wrote in 1680, “I writt to you in one [letter] of the Mischief the Mohawks did; which occasioned Major Pynchon’s goeing to Albany, where meeting with the Sachem the[y] came to an agreemt and buried two Axes in