The historical Seneca occupied territory throughout the Finger Lakes area in Central New York, and in the Genesee Valley in Western New York, living in longhouses on the riversides. The villages were well fortified with wooden stake fences, just one of the many industrious undertakings.
Approximately 1,000 Seneca live in Canada, near Brantford, Ontario, at the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation.
Numerically, the Seneca were the largest of the Iroquois member nations at the inception of the Confederacy 500 years ago, and they grew even larger and stronger from the mid-1600s through the early 1700s through conquests, adoptions and assimilations of smaller groups of Indians.
In the 1760s, the Ohio Seneca lived in eastern Ohio near Steubenville. By the early 1770s, they had moved to central Ohio. One of their villages was on the banks of the Scioto River at the site of modern-day Columbus.
The Seneca in New York were one of the most powerful members of the Iroquois confederacy. Many of these the group that became known as the Ohio Seneca left New York, hoping to find a better life in the Ohio Country. Upon arriving in Ohio, these natives had limited contact with their original tribe in New York.
With a proud and rich history, the Seneca were the largest of six Native American nations which comprised the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations, a democratic government that pre-dates the United States Constitution.
In their own language, the Senecas call themselves Onandowaga, which means “people of the mountain.”
Gai’wiio, (Seneca: “Good Message”) also called Longhouse Religion, new religious movement that emerged among the Seneca Indians of the northeastern United States, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, in the early 19th century.
The Senecas believed that they broke out of the earth at a great, treeless mountain at the head of Canandaigua Lake. They were preceded in their occupancy of the country by a race of “civil, enterprising and industrious people.” Their name was derived from this hill.
The Seneca traditionally lived between Seneca Lake and the Genesee River in western New York. Like the other Iroquois, the Seneca lived in longhouses. Longhouses were large, rectangular homes made of a wooden frame covered with bark. Several related families lived together in a single longhouse.
The Delaware natives, also called the Lenape, originally lived along the Delaware River in New Jersey. They speak a form of the Algonquian language and are thus related to the Miami natives, Ottawa natives, and Shawnee natives.
After the Revolution After the American victory, the British ceded their claim to land in the colonies, and the Americans forced their allies, the Mohawks and others, to give up their territories in New York. Most of the Mohawks migrated to Canada, where the Crown gave them some land in compensation.
Most scholars agree that the Cherokees, an Iroquoian-speaking people, have lived in what is today the Southeastern United States— Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama —since at least A.D. 1000.
During the colonial period the British, the “wise men,” assured the Indians that both they and the British were children of a great Father, the King, who was powerful and good. The Seneca believed them and “promised to obey” this great Father. When the Revolution came, the Seneca kept their promise.
Seneca clothes Seneca men wore breechcloths with leggings. Seneca women wore wraparound skirts with shorter leggings. Men did not originally wear shirts in Seneca culture, but women often wore a long tunic called a kilt or overdress. The Senecas usually wore moccasins on their feet.