Seneca people

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Seneca
Onödowáʼga꞉
Iroquois 6 Nations map c1720.png
Map of the Iroquois with the Seneca, "Keepers of the West Door", to the west (c. 1720).
Total population
11,000
Regions with significant populations
 United States
( New York,  Oklahoma)
 Canada
( Ontario)
Cattaraugus Reservation2,412[1]
Tonawanda Reservation543
Allegany Reservation1,099
Niagara Falls TerritoryOntario
Languages
Seneca, English
Religion
Longhouse (Handsome Lake), Kai'hwi'io, Kanoh'hon'io, Kahni'kwi'io, Christian denominations
Related ethnic groups
Onondaga Nation, Oneida Nation, Tuscarora Nation, Mohawk Nation, Cayuga Nation, other Iroquoian peoples

The Seneca (/ˈsɛnɪkə/) (Seneca: Onödowáʼga:, "Great Hill People") are Iroquois Native Americans. They lived around Lake Ontario. They are part of the Northeastern Woodlands culture. They speak the Seneca language. This language is part of the Iroquoian language family. The Seneca were one of the Six Nations or Iroquois League. They are the most westerly nation of the Iroquois. They were next to the Cayuga. They were also the largest nation of the Iroquois. The US government recognizes three tribes today. They are the Seneca Nation of Indians (New York), the Tonawanda Seneca Nation (New York) and the Seneca-Cayuga Nation (Oklahoma). About 10,000 Seneca natives live in the United States and 1,000 in Canada.[2]

History[change | change source]

Early History and Culture[change | change source]

The Seneca were originally from New York State. They joined the Iroquois Confederacy in the 12th century.[3] The Seneca had the largest population of the Iroquois nations.[4]

Seneca lived in longhouses in permanent villages. The largest village was Ganondagan with 150 longhouses. There were threats of war from neighboring Natives. These Natives included the Huron (Wyandot) the Susquehannock (Conestoga) and the Lenape people (Delaware, Minnisink and Esopus). The Seneca were strong warriors and captured other towns. Their territory was in Eastern New York. It was between Seneca Lake and Genesee River. It was also in New York from Niagara Country to the Allegheny river.[5] Seneca was divided into a western and eastern branch.

Seneca did hunting and gathering. They also farmed the Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash). Women grew these plants and collected plants, roots, berries, nuts, and fruit. The Seneca society was matrilineal. This meant inheritance and family were through the mother's side. However, women were not much in politics and diplomacy. Seneca men developed towns. Men also went hunting in the fall and fishing in the spring.[6]

Expansion and Power[change | change source]

Seneca joined the Fur trade. In the 17th century, the Iroquois confederacy conquered neighboring territories. The Iroquois replace people who died from disease with captives. The Iroquois defeated the Huron (Wyandot). The Senecas also defeated the Neutral confederacy in 1650 in the west. They defeated the Andaste (Susquehannock) in the south. The Seneca had strong diplomacy in the region.[7] The Seneca led a powerful confederacy with the Cayuga, Onondagas, Oneidas, Mohawks and later the Tuscaroras. The Seneca were the "Keepers of the West Door" or "Door-Keepers". The Seneca sent eight sachems to the Great Council of the Iroquois.[8]

European Contact[change | change source]

Seneca had different interactions with Europeans. The French Marquis de Denonville led an attack against the Seneca people in 1687. He destroyed many towns, including Ganondagan. The Iroquois were allies with the British in the Covenant Chain.[9] The Seneca eventually were allies with the Dutch and the British during the Seven Year's War. There was much conflict between Seneca and American colonists. Seneca did not support the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. They did not like that Americans were moving West into their land. Many colonists also had negative views about the Iroquois. The British tried to get the Iroquois on their side.[10]

American Revolution[change | change source]

Seneca woman Ah-Weh-Eyu (Pretty Flower), 1908.

The Seneca eventually supported the British during the American Revolution. Some Iroquois wanted to support Americans and others not. This conflict led to the division of the Iroquois Confederacy. Seneca fought with British in the Cherry Valley massacre and the Battle of Minisink. The Seneca and Iroquois had victories against the colonists from 1777 to 1778. In response, General John Sullivan (general) led a planned attack against the Iroquois. Sullivan and his troops destroyed villages and weakened the Iroquois.[10] The Iroquois Confederacy fell apart.

After the American Revolution[change | change source]

After the American Revolution, Seneca lost much land. They gave up lands in the Treaty of Canandaigua (1794) and Treaty of Big Tree (1797). In the Treaty of Buffalo Creek (1838), the Seneca had to move to Missouri.[11] Many Seneca people moved to Canada after the war. The Seneca Nation of Indians in New York formed a modern republican government in 1848.[9]

Many Senecas lost land so the Kinzau Dam could be built in the 1960s.[12]

Today[change | change source]

Most members of the Seneca live in New York. There are about 8,000 members of the Seneca Nation of Indians . They live on six reservations. They include Allegany, the Cattaraugus near Gowanda, New York; the Buffalo Creek Territory, the Niagara Falls Territory in Niagara Falls, New York, and the Oil Springs Reservation. Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians has about 1,200 citizens. They live Tonawanda Reservation near Akron, New York. The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma live near Miami, Oklahoma.

The Seneca have diverse businesses. These include retail sales, arts and crafts, smokeshops, sports clothing, gasoline and cigarette sales and casinos.

Notable Seneca[change | change source]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. (2000 Census)
  2. "History". SNI. Retrieved 2022-08-16.
  3. Bruce E. Johansen (Fall 1995). "Dating the Iroquois Confederacy" (PDF). Akwesasne Notes. New Series. 01 (3/04): 62–3.
  4. Anthony F.C. Wallace, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca (New York: Vintage Books, 1969). ISBN 0-394-71699-X
  5. "About Us - Seneca Nation of Indians". SNI. Retrieved 2022-08-16.
  6. "Seneca | History, Culture, & Traditions | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2022-08-16.
  7. Folts, James D. The Westward Migration of the Munsee Indians in the Eighteenth Century, The Challenge: An Algonquian Peoples Seminar.Map 4. Albany: New York State Bulletin No. 506, 2005. p. 32.
  8. Waldman, Carl. Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. United States: Facts On File, Incorporated, 2014.p. 259.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Seneca nation - New World Encyclopedia". www.newworldencyclopedia.org. Retrieved 2022-08-16.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Raphael, Ray (2001). A People's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence. New York: New Press. pp. 247. ISBN 9781565846531.
  11. Merrill, Arch. Land of the Senecas. New York: American Book-Stratford Press, 1949.
  12. "The complicated history of the Kinzua Dam and how it changed life for the Seneca people". EHN. 2020-01-30. Retrieved 2022-08-16.