Manataka American Indian Council
Ancestral Land Areas
of the Six Nations Iroquois
Land Area of the Six Nations Iroquois in New York State
Included in this region are not only large sections of New York but parts of
Ontario, Quebec, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Within this area dwelt many tens of
thousands of Iroquois along with refugees from dozens of other nations. Pequots,
Nanticokes, French, English, Africans, Conestogas, Lenni Lenape, Hurons,
Abenakis, Tutelos and many others built their communities within Haudenosaunee
territory or immigrated to the Confederacy as families and individuals.
Within the actual borders of present day New York State the Confederacy held
active jurisdiction to 4/5ths of the state’s current area or over 39,000 of its
49,576 square miles.
As defined by the Haudenosaunee, each member nation was given custodial
responsibility over specific territories. Within this region the nations were to
provide food, shelter, clothing and medicine for their citizens and visitors
while living in a state of ecological balance with other species of life.
The Haudenosaunee believed their territory was as a longhouse, the ancestral
housing style used by the Iroquois. Inside this long, rectangular building lived
each nation, or as a family. Each “family” had its own hearth and gathered its
own food but were bound to respond to the needs of their relatives while living
in a state of tolerance and respect. No singular nation had the right to breach
the peace of the longhouse by disruptive behavior.
The longhouse was on a east-west axis. Those who lived at its eastern entrance
were the Mohawks, or the Keepers of the Eastern Door. They are also known as the
People of the Flint.
Indigenous Mohawk land went north to the St. Lawrence River (including the Isle
of Mont Royal now the city of Montreal) and south to the Delaware River. It’s
boundaries were the Oswegatchie and Unadilla rivers in the west and Lake
Champlain-Hudson River in the east. The total acreage within the State is
9,941,760 or 15,534 square miles.
This figure is arrived at, as are all others, by totaling the land area of each
county within the ancestral regions of the nations, then adding to that number
the area of towns and districts adjacent to the ancient boundary lines when a
county straddles such borders. In all instances, oral traditions are the basis
for determining the boundary lines, which in turn use rivers, lakes or natural
land formations in defining territory.
It is this area which the St. Regis Tribal Council, an entity created by New
York State in 1892 and imposed upon the Mohawks at Akwesasne, is seeking to
"forever" cede to the State without any authority by the Mohawk people to do so.
In exchange for surrendering millions of acres of aboriginal lands the Tribe is
required to pay millions of dollars to the local counties and agrees that
"federal trust" shall be a condition of any territory added to Akwesasne's
current land base.
Immediately west of the Mohawk Nation were the Oneidas. Their principle
communities were clustered southeast of Oneida Lake were smaller towns to the
north and south. The Oneidas are known as the “younger brothers” to the Mohawks.
They are also called the “People of the Standing Stone”.
Their homeland went north-south from the St. Lawrence River to the Susquehanna
and from West Canada Creek in the east to the middle of Lake Oneida and the
Chittenango Creek in the west. The land area of the Oneidas consisted of
3,724,160 acres or 5,819 square miles.
Adjacent to the Oneidas were the People of the Hills or the Onondagas. Their
natural borders were Oneida Lake-Chittenango Creek in the east, Lake Ontario-St.
Lawrence River to the north, Susquehanna River to the south and Skaneateles Lake
to the west. They retain aboriginal title to 2,670,720 acres or 4,173 square
Along the great wetlands now called the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge lived
the People of the Pipe or the Cayuga Nation. Their homelands contained some of
the most fertile of all the Haudenosaunee territory. The Cayugas had 1,998,720
acres (3,123 square miles) from Skaneateles Lake to Seneca Lake east-west and
north from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania.
The People of the Great Hill are known as the Seneca Nation. Their territory was from Seneca Lake to the Niagara River and from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania border and far beyond. Within New York they have 6,558,720 acres or 10,248 square miles of homeland.
The Tuscarora Nation, or the Shirtwearers, returned to Iroquois territory in the
first decade of the eighteenth century (1710). They had villages on
Oneida-Mohawk land along the Susquehanna-Delaware rivers and south of Oneida
Lake. They were compelled to move to the Niagara region during the American
It is important to note the above figures include only that area currently
within the boundaries of New York and not land in other U.S. jurisdictions.
As of 1998 the Iroquois land base in New York consists of the following:
Mohawks, 14,460 acres along the St. Lawrence in Franklin County.
Oneidas began the decade with 32 acres and have expanded to an estimated 5,000 in Oneida and Madison counties.
Onondaga Nation has 7,300 acres south of Syracuse in Onondaga County.
Cayugas have no land base in New York State as of April, 1998.
Tuscaroras have a land area of 5,778 acres next to the city of Niagara Falls. East of their reservation is Tonawanda Seneca Nation territory with its 7,317 acres straddling Eire, Genesee and Niagara counties.
South of Buffalo is the Cattaraugus Seneca territory of 17,025 acres and nearby Allegany consisting of 30,984 acres. Northeast of Allegany is the one square mile Oil Springs reservation of 640 acres.
The total land holdings for the Iroquois is 88,716 acres of the original 25,000,000, about .034 percent of the ancestral Haudenosaunee territory in New York State.
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