The Onondaga (Onoñda'gega',) meaning the People of the Hills, are one of the original five nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy. Their traditional homeland is in and around Onondaga County, New York. They are known as the “Keepers of the Central Fire.” The Cayuga and Seneca nations were located to their west. The Oneida and Mohawk nations were located to their east. Onondaga is the capital of the Iroquois Confederacy. Traditional Haudenosaunee chiefs met and still meet at centrally located Onondaga to conduct meetings. The Haudenosaunee decided to remain neutral during the American Revolutionary War. However, on April 20, 1779, American colonists attacked an Onondaga main village. It was then that the Onondaga decided to side with the British and to fight against colonists. After the war, some Onondaga followed Joseph Brant to Ontario, Canada to form a new community called the “Six Nations of Grand River” or “Ohsweken” or “Six Nations”. Those Onondaga who remained on a small portion of their original territory, maintain their traditional government.
There are 2 Onondaga 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 two Onondaga communities.
Click the arrows to move to the next slide.
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.
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.
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.