Seneca Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma

We are of the Hotinoshonni (People of the Longhouse) or also know as the Iroquois and or The Six Nations. We originally lived in and around the area today called New York; we also had villages throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Through history not all of the Six Nations were relocated to Oklahoma. The Six Nations are starting from the east to west, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and the Tuscarora.

During the Revolutionary War the Iroquois were located between the British and the American people. The Iroquois tried to remain neutral in this war because it was between those two nations and did not concern them. As time went on and the battles came closer and closer to our villages, it became very difficult to remain neutral and still protect our homes and our people. The leaders of the Iroquois came together in council, (there are 51 Chiefs among the Iroquois and they made up the council) it was decided in this council that each nation was free to join the war as they saw fit. This broke the peace within the Iroquois because some of the Nations wanted to fight for the Americans and some for the British. During this time there were a good number of people who wished to remain neutral and these people began to move westward into to the lands now called Pennsylvania and Ohio. Our people often had temporary villages in these areas before for hunting, trapping and fishing. Now they would become homes more on a permanent basis. At the close of the war a treaty of Peace was worked out between the Americans and the British the land was divided and all through the talks the Iroquois people were left out of the treaty negotiations. This in turn left the Iroquois people with a lot less land than before the war; both the Americans and the British began to claim ownership of all the land, the process of making Treaties with the Indian Nations and creating smaller Reservations for them to reside on escalated.

Known collectively as Mingo or as Seneca, they are the ancestors of today’s Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma. In 1817 the United States established two reservations for the Ohio “Seneca.” One was for the Seneca of Sandusky, a mingling of Cayuga, Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Erie, Conestoga, and others, along the Sandusky River, and the second was for a consolidated band of Seneca and Shawnee at Lewistown. Although there were members from all the Six Nations within in these two groups they were called the Seneca of Sandusky and the Seneca–Shawnees of Lewistown. By this time the Cayuga Nation had been divided into three different factions, one group going to the Six Nations reserve (Oshweken) on Canada’s side another stayed in New York to live among the Seneca within the Cattaraugus Reserve, and the third group moved to reservation areas in Ohio joining their relations along the Sandusky River.

In the 1831-32 the U.S. made treaties with the Seneca of Sandusky and the Seneca-Shawnee of Lewistown to give up their lands in Ohio and move west of the Mississippi river to Indian Territory or today called Oklahoma. Both groups exchanged their Ohio reserves for adjoining land in the Indian Territory in 1831. Approximately 358 Seneca of Sandusky reached the Cowskin (Elk) River in present Delaware County, Oklahoma, in summer 1832. About 258 members of the Mixed Band of Seneca and Shawnee arrived later that year. Following negotiations with the Stokes Commission in December 1832, the tribes readjusted their reservation boundaries and joined together as “the United Nation of Senecas and Shawnees.”

In 1838 A treaty was made at Buffalo Creek in New York, this treaty was to remove all the remaining New York Indians to lands west of the Mississippi River this included what was left of the Cayuga in New York. Although the Treaty was made, the effort to remove all Tribal Nations from within the state of New York failed. Only a small faction actually moved to the reservation set aside within the State of Kansas, known as the Reservation for New York Indians. Many of the hardships encountered paid it tolls on them some removing back to reservations in New York and the remaining went north to the Wyandotte in Kansas and south to the Seneca Agency in Indian Territory.

With the onset of the Civil War and despite the pro-Confederate stance of their leaders, most Seneca and Shawnee spent the Civil War years as refugees in Kansas among old friends and allies the Ottawa and Wyandotte Nations. At the close of the Civil War and the people returned to their own lands in Indian Territory to find their homes and farms in shambles and growing wild. In 1867 a treaty was made with the US government to separate the United Nation of Seneca and Shawnees, and reorganize into a single Seneca Tribe and the Shawnee became known as the Eastern Shawnee. Both surrendered lands that was divided to accommodate eight more tribes being moved to the area from Kansas.

During the 1870s and early 1880s the Seneca received newcomers, including Cayuga, Mohawk, and Seneca proper, from Canada and New York, and had a population of roughly 255 in 1890. The Seneca Reservation was first allotted to 130 individuals in 1888; by 1902 a total of 372 allotments had been issued. In 1937 the U.S. passed the Indian Reorganization Act, at this time the “Seneca” and Cayuga people had decided to combine all their annuities and reorganize under this act to become the federally recognized Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma.

The name “Seneca” had become the common name used to describe the Six Nation people relocated to the Indian Territory. The fact remains they are a mixed group of people, families from the original Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora) including descendents of Erie, Conestoga, Tutelo and others adopted in from past wars, conflicts and intermarriages. Cayuga remains to be the more dominant lineage and identity including the language spoken within the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe in Indian territory.