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Location: Tuscarora Reservation

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...

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Tuscarora Reservation Map and Occupants, 1890

The Tuscarora Reservation, in Niagara County, New York, is formed from 3 adjoining tracts successively acquired, as indicated on the map. Their early antecedents as kinsmen of the Iroquois, their wanderings westward to the Mississippi, and their final lodgment at the head waters of the rivers Neuse and Tar, in North Carolina, are too much enveloped in tradition to be formulated as history, but courageous, self supporting, and-independent, after long residence upon lands owned by them in that colony, they first came into collision with white people, then with other tribes of that section, until finally, overpowered by numbers,...

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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 O├▒gwanonsio├▒ni’, ‘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...

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School Operations among the Tuscarora Indians

For the earlier part of the history of school operations among the Tuscarora Indians, I can do no better than to give the report of Rev. John Elliot to the Secretary of War, in the year 1832, viz.: “To the Secretary of War : “This will show the operations of the schools from their organization in 1805, to September 30, 1832. “The first school among the Tuscarora was taught by Rev. Mr. Homes, the first missionary. This, according to the best information, was in 1805. What amount has been expended, either from the fund of the society or by the Government, to sustain its operation, I am wholly unable to state. The Indians converted their Council House into one for public worship, and also one for school operations, until 1828, when, with a little assistance from abroad, they completed a convenient chapel, 28 x 38 feet, for public worship. In 1831 they raised and finished a frame school house 24 x 20 feet, at an expense probably of $200. This sum, with the exception of $8, the Indians obtained by contributions among themselves. “We have but one teacher, whose whole time is engrossed in the concerns of the school (Mrs. Elliot and myself are occasionally employed). Her name is Elizabeth Stone, and the compensation she receives is only the means of support, the same that we receive. Ninety scholars...

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Miss Mary Thayer Labors as a Missionary Teacher

In the year of 1850 there was another school house built by the natives under the proposition of Miss Mary J. F. Thayer. I have here a brief history of her labors among the Tuscarora, from her own writings, which is very interesting, to wit: At the invitation of Rev. G. Rockwood (then the ordained missionary at Tuscarora) Miss M. J. F. Thayer commenced her labors among the Tuscarora as teacher on April 30, 1849, in the old school-house opposite Mr. Rockwood’s house, receiving from the American Board one dollar and fifty cents per week, besides her board. There were but few scholars, and these were very irregular in their attendance. Miss T. visited the parents and tried to get them interested. She finally came to the conclusion that time and money were thrown away on that little day school, and drew up a paper, which was read to the Tuscarora at their New Year’s feast, January 1, 1850, in which she detailed her plans and wishes, asking their aid in executing them. Their response was cordial and hearty. They resolved to build a new school-house; the site was selected on a corner near Isaac Miller’s, and the people, as one man, went to work with great alacrity, under the leadership of one of their chiefs, Wm. Mt. Pleasant, and had, before the next New Year’s, a snug house,...

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Antique Rock Citadel of Kienuka

There has been much said by different writers of aboriginal forts, and fort builders of western New York, in availing themselves of steeps, gulfs, defiles, and other marked localities, in establishing works for security or defense. This trait is, however, in no case more strikingly exemplified than in the curious antique work of Kienuka. The term “Kienuka,” means the stronghold or fort; but the original name of this fort is Gau-strau-yea, which means bark laid down; this has a metaphorical meaning, in the similitude of a freshly peeled slippery elm bark, the size of the fort and laid at the bottom as a flooring, so that if any person or persons go in they must be circumspect, and act according to the laws of the fort, or else they will slip and fall down to their own destruction. The citadel of Kienuka is situated about four miles eastward of the inlet of Niagara gorge at Lewiston, on a natural escarpment of the ridge on the Tuscarora reservation, known at present by the name of the Old Saw Mill. There is quite an interesting tradition connected with the antique fort Gau-strau-yea. At the formation of the confederacy of the Iroquois, there was a virgin selected from a nation which was called Squawkihaws (a remote branch of the Seneca nation), and was ordained a Queen or Peacemaker, who was stationed at...

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