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New York Indian Tribes

The following tribes at one time are recorded in history as having resided within the present state of New York. If the tribe name is in bold, then Alabama is the primary location known for this tribe, otherwise we provide the tribes specifics as it pertains to New York and then provide a link to the main tribal page.

Delaware Indians. Bands of two of the main divisions of the Delaware Indians, the Munsee and Unami, extended into parts of New York State, including the island of Manhattan. (See New Jersey.)

Erie Indians. The Erie occupied parts of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties.

Iroquois Indians. From Algonkin Irinakhoiw, “real adders,” with the French suffix -ois. Also called:

Connections. The Iroquois belonged to the Iroquoian linguistic stock, their nearest relations being the Tuscarora, Neutral Nation, Huron, Erie, and Susquehanna.

Location. In the upper and central part of the Mohawk Valley and the lake region of central New York. After obtaining guns from the Dutch the Iroquois acquired a dominating influence among the Indians from Maine to the Mississippi and between the Ottawa and Cumberland Rivers. (See also Indiana, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Canada.)

Subdivisions

There were five tribes, as follows: Cayuga, about Cayuga Lake; Mohawk, in the upper valley of Mohawk River; Oneida, about Oneida Lake; Onondaga, in Onondaga County and the neighboring section; Seneca, between Lake Seneca and Genesee River. Later there were added to these, for the most part not on terms of perfect equality, the Tuscarora from North Carolina, some Delaware, Tutelo, Saponi, Nanticoke, Conoy, New England Indians, and other fragments of tribes, besides entire towns from the Huron. Erie, Andaste, and other conquered peoples.

Villages

Cayuga Indians:

Mohawk Indians:

Oneida Indians:

Onondaga Indians:

Seneca Indians:

Iroquoian villages of unspecified tribe:

History. In Cartier’s time the five Iroquois tribes seem to have been independent and in a state of constant mutual warfare. At a later period, not before 1570 according to Hewitt (1907), they were induced by two remarkable men, Dekanawida and Hiawatha, to form a federal union. While the immediate object of the league was to bring about peace between these and other neighboring tribes, the strength which the federal body acquired and the fact that they were soon equipped with guns by the Dutch at Albany incited them to undertake extensive wars and to build up a rude sort of empire.

The related Tuscarora of North Carolina joined them in successive migrations, the greater part between 1712 and 1722, and the remainder in 1802. In the French-English wars they took the part of the English and were a very considerable factor in their final victory. Later all but the Oneida and part of the Tuscarora sided against the American colonists and as a result their principal towns were laid waste by Sullivan in 1779. The Mohawk and Cayuga, with other Iroquoian tribes in the British interest, were given a reservation on Grand River, Ontario. The remainder received reservations in New York except the Oneida, who were settled near Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The so-called Seneca of Oklahoma consist of remnants from all of the Iroquois tribes, the Conestoga, Hurons, and perhaps others, which Hewitt (in Hodge, 1910) thinks were gathered around the Erie and perhaps the Conestoga as a nucleus.

Population. In 1600 the Iroquois are estimated by Mooney (1928) to have numbered 5,500; in 1677 and 1685 their numbers were placed at about 16,000; in 1689 they were estimated at about 12,850; in 1774, 10,000 to 12,500; in 1904 they numbered about 16,100, of whom 10,418 were in Canada; in 1923 there were 8,696 in the United States and 11,355 in Canada; total, 20,051. By the census of 1910 there were reported in the United States 2,907 Seneca, 2,436 Oneida, 365 Onondaga, 368 Mohawk, 81 Cayuga, 1,219 St. Regis, and 61 unspecified, a total of 7,437, besides 400 Tuscarora. In 1930 the figure, including Tuscarora, was 6,866. In 1937, 3,241 Oneida were living in Wisconsin and 732 “Seneca” in Oklahoma.

Connection in which they have become noted. The group of tribes known as the Iroquois is famous from the fact that it had attained the highest form of governmental organization reached by any people north of the valley of Mexico. It is also noted, largely in consequence of the above fact, for the dominating position to which it attained among the Indian tribes of northeastern North America, and for its long continued alliance with the English in their wars with the French. Hiawatha, the name of one of the founders of the confederation, was adopted by Longfellow as that of his hero in the poem of the name, though the story centers about another people, the Chippewa. Lewis H. Morgan (1851) based his theories regarding the nature of primitive society, which have played a very important part in ethnology and sociology, on studies of Iroquois organization. The name Iroquois has been given to a branch of the Kankakee River, Ill., to an Illinois County and a village in the same, and to villages in South Dakota and Ontario. The names of each of the five constituent tribes have also been widely used.

Neutral Indians.

Wenrohronon Indians. Probably meaning “The people or tribe of the place of floating scum,” from the famous oil spring of the town of Cuba, Allegany County.

Connections. The Wenrohronon belonged to the Iroquoian linguistic stock. Their closest affiliations were probably with the Neutral Nation, which part of them finally joined, and with the Erie, who bounded them on the west.

Location. Probably originally, as indicated in the explanation of their name, about the oil spring at Cuba, N. Y. (See also Pennsylvania.)

History. The Wenrohronon maintained themselves for a long time in the above territory, thanks to an alliance with the Neutral Nation, but when the protection of the latter was withdrawn, they left their country in 1639 and took refuge among the Hurons and the main body of the Neutrals, whose fate they shared.

Population. Before their decline Hewitt (in Hodge, 1910) estimates the Wenrohronon at between 1,200 and 2,000. Those who sought refuge with the Hurons in 1639 numbered more than 600.

Connection in which they have become noted. The Wenrohronon are noted merely on account of their association with the oil spring above mentioned.