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Resource sheets

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Formation of the Seneca Nation of Indians

For one century, the Onöndowa´ga:´ (Seneca) faced warfare and political turmoil associated with land grabbing.  The influx of European immigrants onto the Onöndowa´ga:´ territories affected the social, religious, and political institutions.  Warfare ceased by the end of the 18th century, but the pressure to assimilate to American culture practices as well as to sell land continued to exist.  The Onöndowa´ga:´ lost all their territories by 1838.  The Compromise Treaty of 1842 and the 1857 Tonawanda Treaty returned present day Onöndowa´ga:´ lands.

The history of detrimental land sales, the influence of the Quakers, and the dispute between the people and the Chiefs in 1848 culminated into a government revolution on December 4, 1848 on the Cattaraugus Territory.  The Onöndowa´ga:´ formed an elective government with executive, legislative, and judical branches, mirroring the United States form of government, who ironically modeled their new republic on the Hodinöhsö:ni´ (People of the longhouse) democratic form of government.

The Executive Branch (President, Treasurer, and Clerk) rotates every two years with the President and Clerk from one territory and Treasurer from the other territory.  The Legislative Branch has 8 elected Councilors from the Allegany Territory and 8 elected Councilors from the Cattaraugus Territory.  The Judicial Branch has 6 Peacemakers, 2 Surrogate Judges, and a Court of Appeals, which was created in 1993.  The Onöndowa´ga:´ are known as the Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI).

The SNI is a federally recognized tribal nation and holds title to three territories in the western region of New York State.  The Cattaraugus Territory is located in the counties of Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Erie and extends along the Cattaraugus Creek from Gowanda, N.Y. to the shore of Lake Erie.  The Allegany Territory  is located in Cattaraugus County and extends from the Pennsylvania border up the Allegany River to Vandalia, N.Y.  The Oil Springs Territory, which is one square mile, is located in Allegany County near Cuba Lake.

 

Produced by the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum Resource Team. ©Copyrighted material.  For more information, please contact us at:

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