Iroquois Nation - Links

The Iroquois
Excerpts from "The Town of Newstead Septquicentennial 1823-1998"

The Iroquois Nation occupied all of present New York State. The Iroquois are believed to have fought their way through hostile tribes from the south. The Seneca Nation of the Iroquois lived on the shores of Seneca Lake and westward, and were known as the Keepers of the Western Door. The Indians on the Tonawanda Reservation are Senecas, who occupy the Cattaraugus and Allegany Reservations.

It is known that there were Indian villages at Oakfield, Elma, Buffalo and Big Tree. There were two villages in Akron - one at Falkirk (now upper East Avenue) and at Brooklyn Street.

As late as 1974 while plowing a field east of the Sugg barn on Stage Road, an Indian burial plot was discovered by Glen Sugg. A minimum of 24 individuals were found in separate graves called ossuaries. Pieces of ceramics found there were dated as early Iroquois pottery around 1500-1550 A.D. After skeletal analysis were completed, the remains were re-interred on the Tonawanda Reservation.

In the counties of Erie, Niagara and Genesee is the Seneca Reservation of the Tonawanda Band of Senecas. As a member of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) its reservation status differs from any other in New York State, in that it is owned by enrolled Tonawanda Senecas.

Throughout time Indians have lived and prospered from this region's many natural resources. The Tonawanda Creek is one, being an important waterway, and the Onondaga flint outcropping at Diver's Lake, another.

Earlier inhabitants like the Wenros, Neutrals and Mound Builders preceded the Seneca (Onodowaga) "People of the Great Hill"" here in Western New York. After the European trade wars of France and England and the Revolutionary War, treaties were made that relinquished Seneca territory. The Big Tree treaty of 1797 created eleven reservations and the Canandaigua Lake and Genesee River regions were vacated.

Tonawanda Reservation

The original Tonawanda Reservation occupied 46,209 acres (72 sq. miles). Again in 1826 it was reduced to 12,800 acres. The year 1842 was to see the removal of the Tonawanda people to Kansas; however, through hard fought negotiations including those of Ely S. Parker (Wolf clan Chief), Tonawanda was able to repurchase 7,549.73 acres back with the $256,000 removal funds set by the United States. As a result, the Seneca Nation of Indians at Allegany and Cattaraugus was established. They created their own constitution and elective form of government, thus separating themselves from the Haudenosaunee. On November 5, 1857, a treaty established Tonawanda Band of Senecas as a title holder of the present day reservation. The Seneca as "Keeper of the Western Door" of the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) remains a sovereign nation with the other five tribes. Cayuga, Tuscarora, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk.

League of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee)

Representatives of other nations of the Iroquois were invited to a Council meeting on the Onondaga Reservation near the site of the present city of Syracuse. The Council members formed the great League of the Iroquois, to preserve peace among the nations of the Iroquois, being the first and original League of Nations. The Council decided upon a Constitution and made laws necessary to establish the new government. The League did not interfere in internal affairs of the member nations, but dealt with war and "foreign" relations with other tribes. According to prominent Indians on the Tonawanda Reservation, many principles stated in the constitution of the League were later incorporated in our own Constitution of the United States. It is known that the authors of our Constitution knew the Iroquois League and its principles. After the League was formed, peace reigned among the Iroquois nations. The Iroquois League or Confederacy, as it is often called, is still in existence The members still meet at Council Fires on the Onondaga Reservation at Syracuse when there is business to conduct.

The founding of the Haudenosaunee brought its traditional form of government called the Great Law (Gayaneshagowa) that the Creator sent through Deganawidah (the Peacemaker). The weapons of war were buried under a white pine, establishing the Tree of Peace of a united people. Through its laws, a Grand Council of Tonawanda Seneca Chief's Council is elected by his respective clan women and clan mother. Clans are represented by the following animals turtle, wolf, bear, beaver, deer, hawk, heron and snipe.

The Senecas, as well as the entire Iroquois Nation, were forest living Indians The forests provided their homes, food and clothing.

The Indians were helpful in many ways to the white settlers. They taught them many ways of the forests and the trails they used were followed by them to make many of our roads. One trail ran from the Hudson Valley eastward, crossed the Genesee River at Avon, went through Batavia, down the north side of Tonawanda Creek, over the side of Akron, through Clarence and Williamsville to Buffalo. A branch turned off outside the present Village of Akron near the Meadville Road and went to Lewiston and Niagara Falls Another branch went from Clarence to the Cayuga Creek at Lancaster and on to the Seneca village near Elma. These Indian trails formed many of the important roads now used in this part of New York State.

Ely S. Parker

Ely S. Parker (1828-1895) acted as an interpreter for the Tribal Council in meetings with the State and Federal governments as a teenager. Later, he became a sachem chief of the wolf clan inheriting the title name of Do-ne-ho-ga-wa (he keeps the door open). As military secretary to General Grant, he drafted the surrender terms at Appomattox signed by General Robert E Lee during the Civil War. He was the first Indian to be appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs (1869)

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Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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