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The reservation of the Seneca Indians is located 20 miles south of the Quapaw agency. It contains 51,058 acres. The land is varied, being agricultural, grazing, and timber. Indications of the presence of lead and zinc are shown along the bluffs on Grand River and also on the east line next to Missouri.
The most of the Senecas have farms, some quite large, and under a good state of cultivation, and also have mowers, thrashers, and all necessary farming implements.
There are 255 Indians in all, 130 males and 125 females; 198 speak and 74 read English.
The old men are still Indians, and many of them claim to be full bloods, yet they have some of the white mans ways. They are stout, healthy, quite active, and all dress in citizens clothes. The young men are the most intelligent, partaking more of the ways of the white man. They dress well, and many of them have good educations, some few speaking nothing but English. The women are more industrious than the men, are neat housekeepers, dress well and wear hats and bonnets. A few have musical instruments in their homes, and are good musicians.
These Indians have taken their lands in severalty. Their houses are log and frame, well built, roomy, and quite comfortable, with modern and useful furniture. The men are almost all farmers. Some of the younger ones while at industrial schools have learned trades. They do but little at them after returning home.
They have but 1 church, in which Methodists and Quakers worship alternately, a number of Indians belonging to each denomination. They have no schoolhouse on their reservation, the children attending the Wyandotte boarding school, although some are at the industrial schools at Lawrence (Kansas) and Carlisle (Pennsylvania).
The Senecas are neither on the increase nor decrease. The number of deaths in the last year was 6 and births 7. There is very little crime, and that is confined to minor offenses. They are a peaceable and law-abiding people.
They have 2 missionaries, one a Methodist, the other a Quaker. The older Indians keep alive many traditions.
They also keep up seine of their old dances, one of which was on August 15 of this year (1890). They call it the “corn dance”. They formed a large circle, in the center of which each placed a portion of the products of the soil or chase. When this was done, the medicine man placed himself near the center, in which a small fire was burning. He then commenced a speech, which lasted an hour, and while speaking kept dropping incense in the fire. After he was through speaking, the old men and women formed a circle around the fire and danced, after which the children born in the last year were brought forward and named by the medicine man, which was also done with a speech. They then danced around the vegetables, meats, and other products in the center, after which 4 men were selected and began to distribute the eatables to the Indians, and the feast began. These dances were not participated in except by the old men and women. The latter were most gaudily dressed.
They speak the Seneca language, and in their councils even will not talk English, but speak through an interpreter. They have abandoned hereditary chiefs and now elect one every year. They have about lost the art of making trinkets, beadwork, bows and arrows, and other Indian curiosities, and have abandoned the Indian mode of burial of the dead. In their cemeteries they have tombstones of quite large dimensions. Polygamy has been entirely abandoned among. these people, and the marriage relation is well kept.
The government, under an old treaty, furnishes this tribe with blacksmiths and carpenters, who do all the horseshoeing, wagon work, and the repairing of farm implements. The allotment gave 160 acres to heads of families, 40 acres, to children under 21 years, and 80 acres to single men and women. These people are self-sustaining.