January 16, 2011

Seneca Indians Quick Overview

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Seneca Indians were the westernmost indian nation within the Six Nations or Iroquois League, also known as the Iroquois Confederacy. They are also known as “Iroquois Indians.”

The word ‘Seneca‘ came from the name of one of their villages, Osininka. Seneca Indians called themselves Onandowaga, which means “People of the Great Hill.”

Traditionally, the Seneca Indians lived in what is now present New York between the Genesee River and Canandaigua Lake

Recent archaeological evidences indicate that these people lived all the way down to the Allegany River into what is now upper North Western Pennsylvania.

Seneca Indian history can be traced back before the formation of the Iroquois League.

The Seneca Indians were an independanat tribe of people long before the Iroquois Confederacy was formed. The Seneca Indian nation was one of the original members of the Iroquois League, or Kanonsionni (league of clans) formed in 1142.

The Mohawk, the Oneida , the Cayuga, the Onondaga, and the Tuscarora were the other members of the Iroquois Confederacy. These people today call themselves the Haudenosaunee (people of the longhouse) or Six Nations.

Seneca Indians were called “Keepers of the Western Door” because they settled and lived the farthest west of all the Nations within the Haudenosaunee. The Seneca were by far the most populous of the Haudenosaunee Nations, with the ability to raise over 10,000 warriors by the 17th century (Wallace, 1969).

The major occupations of the Seneca Indian tribal people were agriculture, hunting and fishing.

Seneca men were in charge of hunting, trading, and war, and Seneca women were in charge of farming, property, and family.

The Seneca Nation economy was based on the cultivation of corn, beans, and squash. These staple foods of the Haudenosaunee were called the Three Sisters. Seneca women grew and harvested the corn, beans, and squash. The women also gathered medicinal plants, roots, berries, nuts, and fruits. Women also tended to domesticated animals like deer, dogs, and turkeys.

Seneca women possessed ownership of all the land and the homes.

Seneca Indian tribes were ruled by Seneca women who made all the important decision regarding the land and resources. The woman in charge of a clan was called a Clan Mother.
,br> The Seneca chiefs made military decisions and trade agreements. Seneca men maintained the traditional title of War Sachems within the Haudenosaunee. A Seneca war sachem was in charge of gathering the warriors of the Haudenosaunee and leading them into battle.

Seneca men represented the Seneca Nation at the Iroquois Great Council, but only women voted to elect the Seneca representatives. Seneca Indian tribes people took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

Seneca Indians lived in longhouses that are also called iroquois indian longhouses.

Iroquois indian longhouses were large wood-frame buildings covered with sheets of elm bark. The houses could be a hundred feet long, and an entire clan lived in each one- up to 60 people. Their villages were surrounded by palisades due to warfare.

During the 19th Century these people adopted the customs and religions of immediate American neighbors and started building log cabins, practicing Christianity, and developed a more local agricultural economy. Presently, 15,000 to 25,000 (approx) Seneca Indians live in the United States and Canada, specifically in western New York, Oklahoma and near Brantford, Ontario.

Seneca Indians
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