The Cayuga Nation (Guyohkohnyoh), meaning the People of the Great Swamp, was one of the five original members of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy. Their traditional homeland lay in the Finger Lakes region along Cayuga Lake, between the Onondaga and Seneca nations. The Haudenosaunee decided to remain neutral during the American Revolutionary War. However, political relations between the Cayuga, the British, and the colonists during the American Revolution were complicated. Generally the Cayuga favored the British.  The Cayuga were the only Haudenosaunee nation left without a reservation in the US. Some members of the Cayuga Nation today live with the Seneca Nation in western New York. There are three Cayuga bands. The two largest, the Lower Cayuga and the Upper Cayuga, still live in Ontario, at Six Nations of the Grand River. 

  

There are 4 Cayuga communities in the United States and Canada shown in blue on the map above.

Click on the images below for information on each of the four Cayuga communities.

Click the arrows to move to the next slide. 

Photographs of Cattaraugus contributed by Lily Jones, Seneca Bear Clan

CATTARAUGUS, NY

CATTARAUGUS, NY

The Seneca community of Cattaraugus is located in western New York on the eastern shore of Lake Erie. Following the American Revolution, the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 recognized that much of the land in western New York belonged to the Seneca. Three years later, the Treaty of Big Tree was signed and all but a small portion of the property was sold to the Holland Land Company. The four largest pieces of unsold land became Allegany, Tonawanda, Buffalo Creek, and Cattaraugus reservations.

CATTARAUGUS, NY

CATTARAUGUS, NY

Cattaraugus is 21,680 acres in size and home to about 3,000 people.  Most of those who live there are Seneca, but some Cayuga and non-Native people live there too. In 1848 Cattaraugus joined with Allegany reservation in a political revolution.  Together they formed the Seneca Nation of Indians and established a new type of government where all the members of the Seneca Nation over 18 can vote to elect their leaders.

CATTARAUGUS, NY

CATTARAUGUS, NY

In 1875, Thomas Indian School, a boarding and day school, was constructed at Cattaraugus.  Some of the students who attended were orphaned, others were removed from their homes by authorities, and still others enrolled because it was close by.  Most of the students were Seneca from Cattaraugus and Allegany reservations. 

CATTARAUGUS, NY

CATTARAUGUS, NY

The school required the students to speak only English and to dress in the fashion of non-Natives at that time.  Older students helped to grow and put aside all the food necessary for school meals.  Thomas Indian School operated until 1957.  Many elders from the Cattaraugus community still recall their days at the school and, even though some things about the school made them sad, some were sorry to see it close. 

CATTARAUGUS, NY

CATTARAUGUS, NY

Cattaraugus Creek still runs through the reservation providing a place to fish, swim, and picnic, but today the New York State Thruway also goes through the community.  There are artist studios, private businesses, a bingo hall, library, daycare center, health center and senior housing.  Most of the youth play on soccer, basketball, or lacrosse teams. 

CATTARAUGUS, NY

CATTARAUGUS, NY

Like many other Iroquois communities, the original language is spoken by very few people.  Combining computer technology with traditional methods, a dedicated group of community members aided by Seneca elders are working to preserve their language for future generations.  This is especially difficult since many of the people who remember the language are well over 70 years old.  But the elders know how important it is, so they work hard too. 

SENECA-CAYUGA, OK

SENECA-CAYUGA, OK

After the Revolutionary War, a group of Seneca and Cayuga moved from their traditional lands in New York to Ohio, where the US granted them a reservation along the Sandusky River. In 1831, the Tribe sold their land in Ohio and accepted a reservation in the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Upon their arrival in Indian Territory, the Seneca-Cayuga people found their assigned lands overlapped those of the Cherokee.

SENECA-CAYUGA, OK

SENECA-CAYUGA, OK

An 1832 treaty – the first made by the U.S. with the immigrant Indians within the boundaries of Oklahoma – adjusted the boundaries and created the "United Nation of Seneca and Shawnee." In 1902, shortly before Oklahoma became a state, 372 members of the joint tribe received individual land allotments in exchange for becoming US citizens and withdrawing from the traditional tribe.

SENECA-CAYUGA, OK

SENECA-CAYUGA, OK

Today, the tribal roll numbers approximately 5,000 members. The current Seneca–Cayuga Nation is a Federal Corporation chartered under the Act of June 26, 1936. On May 15, 2014 The U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Miami Agency conducted a referendum election to change the Constitution and Bylaws at the request of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma Business Committee. As a result of this referendum, the members voted to change the Name to the Seneca-Cayuga Nation.

SHARE FARM

SHARE FARM

In 1779, armies under the direction of George Washington conducted a scorched earth operation across central New York. The soldiers burned all Native villages and crops in their path. This campaign, led by Major General John Sullivan and Major General James Clinton resulted in the total destruction and devastation of Iroquois villages. The Cayuga were particularly hard hit and were driven from their ancestral homelands.

SHARE FARM

SHARE FARM

The Cayuga people fled west, north, and south and continue to live hundreds of miles from their traditional homeland. In 2001 a group was formed to try and help the Cayugas come back to their homelands. This group SHARE (Strengthening Haudenosaunee American Relations through Education) works to educate and promote awareness. When SHARE was formed the Cayugas had no property in their traditional homeland.

SHARE FARM

SHARE FARM

In December 2005, the S.H.A.R.E. (Strengthening Haudenosaunee-American Relations through Education) Farm was signed over to the Cayuga nation by a group who purchased and developed the 70-acre farm in Springport, NY about 30 miles north of Ithaca. This is the first property which the Cayuga Nation has owned. It is the first time they have lived within the borders of their ancestral homeland in more than 200 years.

SHARE FARM

SHARE FARM

The Cayuga continue to debate the issue of establishing a Land Trust for the property through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The SHARE farm is located at the center of the original Cayuga ancestral land, where once 50 longhouses stood.  The farm currently has a 70-tree apple orchard with different types of apples, a medicinal herb garden, berry patches and a ''big old beautiful farmhouse.

SHARE FARM

SHARE FARM

Members of SHARE and Cayugas from all over visit the farm regularly to help keep it maintained. The farm is also used for many education events and there are plans to construct a longhouse there to begin the process of re-teaching Cayuga culture. The long-term goal is to eventually have several Cayuga families move to the farm and start a community.

SIX NATIONS

SIX NATIONS

The Six Nations of the Grand River is a reserve located approximately 25 km southwest of the city of Hamilton, Ontario; between the cities of Brantford, Caledonia, and Hagersville. During the American Revolution, Captain Joseph Brant convinced many Iroquois to ally with the British. For their aid during the war, they were deeded a tract of land along the Grand River in Ontario. Much of the original tract was surrendered or sold and the reserve currently has 46,000 acres.

SIX NATIONS

SIX NATIONS

The Six Nations of the Grand River has the largest population of all First Nations in Canada. In 2005, total band membership was 22,294 with 11,297 people living within the Six Nations Reserve. The Reserve is centered on the village of Ohsweken and is home to newspapers, approximately 300 native businesses, a library, an arena and other sports facilities, social services, including men and women's shelter and band council offices, shopping centers, several schools, four longhouses, and numerous churches. The reserve has both a traditional Iroquois council of chiefs and an elected band council conforming to Canadian government requirements.

SIX NATIONS

SIX NATIONS

There are approximately 2,674 houses on the Reserve, most in rural areas, with a few in urban subdivisions. Fire protection is provided by the Six Nations Volunteer Fire department.

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