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Religion of the Six Nation Tribes

With the exception of the Tuscaroras, each of the Six Nations has one or more council houses, in which the people assemble for business or purely Indian ceremonies, religious or social. There is also a council house or town hall on the Mount Hope road of the Tuscarora reservation, but the pagan party has no footing among this people. The council houses, formerly built of logs, are practically in disuse, and frame buildings, about 40 by 80 feet, with fireplace or simple chimney at each end, which allows separate sittings for the sexes, have taken their place. A new building of this kind on the Tonawanda reservation and 1 at Carrollton, on the Allegany reservation, are indicated on the maps of these reservations. The sides of 3 ancient council houses at Cattaraugus and of 2 at Tonawanda are also indicated. The religious differences of the Indians actually characterize grouped settlements on each reservation. Thus, the majority of the Christian Indians live upon the central road in Onondaga, upon and east of the main road of Tonawanda; between Salamanca and Red House, in Allegany; and upon the main route from Versailles to Irving, in Cattaraugus. As a general role, both internal and external comforts, conveniences, and indications of thrift are alike in contrast. The pagans chiefly occupy the western and southeastern parts of Tonawanda, the Carrollton district, and the country below the Red House, in Allegany, and almost exclusively people the Newtown and Gowanda roads, in Cattaraugus, There are exceptions, but the groupings are everywhere maintained. Onondaga Reservation Onondaga Reservation at Onondaga the council house is central upon what is...

Tonawanda Reservation Map and Occupants, 1890

The Tonawanda Reservation, in the counties of Erie, Genesee, and Niagara, New York, as originally surveyed in 1799, and as reserved by the treaty at Big Tree, covered 71 square miles. Coincident with a treaty between the United States and this band of Seneca Indians, March 31, 1859, promulgated November 5, 1859, the claim of the Ogden Land Company was extinguished, and the present reservation limits embrace 7,549.73 acres, lying partly in each of the counties of Erie, Genesee, and Niagara. One heavy dirt road, almost impassable in the spring or an ordinarily wet season, runs out from the center of Akron, sending a fork into the reservation at a distance of more than 3 miles. A second road, running northeasterly from Akron, enters the reservation at a distance of about 25 miles, at the point where the West Shore railroad enters the reservation, as indicated on the map. Up to this point the road is very well maintained. Half a mile from this point lies a triangular piece of land, which is occupied by the Indian Baptist Church, the Indian Methodist Church, an old council house, schoolhouse No. 2, and the new house of Eliza, with of David Moses, a chief of the Wolf tribe, and a prominent member of the christian party. From this central triangle 3 roads take their departure. The first runs northwest, leaving the reservation by a bridge across Tonawanda creek, near the canal feeder. The last farm on the left, one of the best on the reservation, belongs to an elder in the Indian Presbyterian Church, and a man in high repute. The...

Reservations of the Six Nations in New York and Pennsylvania, 1723-1890

The accompanying map was prepared in 1771 under the direction of William Tryon, captain general and governor in chief of the province of New York, and is as nearly suggestive of the then recognized boundary of the Six Nations as any that has had official sanction. In 1851 Lewis H. Morgan, assisted by Ely S. Parker, a Seneca chief; and afterward an efficient staff Officer of General Grant, and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, prepared a map for a volume entitled League of the Iroquois, which aimed to define the villages, trails, and boundaries of the Five Nations as they existed in 1.720. Indian names were assigned to all lakes, watercourses, and villages, and the various trails from village to village as far as the Ne-ah-ga (Niagara) River. Unfortunately, the work was not stereotyped, and the book itself is a rare possession. Another map, so ancient as to almost crumble at the touch, represents the territory of Michigan as visited by the Five Nations, and by a footnote relates the visit of 80 Ne-car-ri-a-ges, besides men, women, and children, who came from “Misilmackinac” May 30, 1823, asking to be admitted as a seventh nation into the league, just as the Tuscaroras had been adopted as a sixth. It has some data as to “carrying places” which are not upon the Governor Tryon map. The latter has historic value from its description of “the country of the Six Nations, with part of the adjacent colonies”, recognizing at the time the independent relations which they sustained to Great Britain. The vast tract then controlled by the Seneca Indians is clearly defined,...

Seneca Tribe

Seneca Tribe: A prominent and influential tribe of the Iroquois. When first known they occupied that part of western New York between Seneca Lake and Geneva River, having their council fire at Tsonontowan, near Naples, in Ontario county.

Iroquois Tribe

Iroquois Indians, Iroquois People, Iroquois First Nation (Algonkin: Irinakhoiw, ‘real adders’, with the French suffix –ois). The confederation of Iroquoian tribes known in history, among other names, by that of the Five Nations, comprising the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca. Their name for themselves as a political body was Oñgwanonsioñni’, ‘we are of the extended lodge.’ Among the Iroquoian tribes kinship is traced through the blood of the woman only; kinship means membership in a family, and this in turn constitutes citizenship in the tribe, conferring certain social, political, and religious privileges, duties, and rights which are denied to persons of alien blood; but, by a legal fiction embodied in the right of adoption, the blood of the alien may be figuratively changed into one of the strains of the Iroquoian blood, and thus citizenship may be conferred on a person of alien lineage. In an Iroquoian tribe the legislative, judicial, and executive functions are usually exercised by one and the same class of persons, commonly called chiefs in English, who are organized into councils. There are three grades of chiefs. The chiefship is hereditary in certain of the simplest political units in the government of the tribe; a chief is nominated by the suffrages of the matrons of this unit, and the nomination is confirmed by the tribal and the federal councils. The functions of the three grades of chiefs are defined in the rules of procedure. When the five Iroquoian tribes were organized into a confederation, its government was only a development of that of the separate tribes, just as the government of each of the...

Ely S. Parker Homestead, Tonawanda Reservation

Ely Parker was a Seneca Indian of the Wolf Clan. He was born on the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation in 1832. His boyhood name was Hasanoanda ‘Coming to the Front’. Later he was made a chief of his clan and received the title, Do-ne-ho-ga-weh ‘He Holds The Door Open’. Ely Parker received an academic education and studied law and civil engineering. At Galena, Illinois, while he was employed as an engineer on a government project, he met Ulysses S. Grant. He became a close friend of Grant. This friendship continued till death. Ely Parker took part in the Civil War of the United States. His distinguished service in the Vicksburg Campaign was noticed by General Grant who made him a member of his staff. He rose rapidly in rank, finally becoming Brigadier General. He was Grant’s personal and official Secretary. At General Lee’s surrender it was Parker who wrote the Articles of Capitulation. In 1869 Ely Parker was appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He held several important positions under the City Government of New York. General Parker was a close friend of Lewis H. Morgan, noted Ethnologist and helped him prepare his book, “League of the Iroquois” first published in 1851. The success of this book was largely due to the help of Parker who, being a chief of his people, knew the laws and customs of the Iroquois and thus was able to give Morgan valuable information, then unknown to white people. Ely Parker was a brother of Nicholas Parker or Gayeh-twa-gah’ a noted Seneca of this time. His sister, Gahano or Caroline Parker was the last woman to...

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