In the 12th century, the Cayuga Nation, along with the Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk Nations united under the Great Law of Peace to form the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) Confederacy in order to end inter-tribal fighting and bring a sustainable peace to the land.
This structure of government and its constitution influenced the creation of many modern day constitutions. Many goverance principles of the Haudenosaunee were installed into the American form of government. These principles were given to the Haudenosaunee as gifts from the Peacemaker.
Official Tribal Name: Cayuga Nation of New York
Address: 2540 SR-89 – Seneca Falls, NY 13148 or P.O. Box 803 – Seneca Falls, NY 13148
Phone: (315) 568-0750
Fax: (315) 568-0752
Official Website: http://www.cayuganation-nsn.gov/
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:
Gayogohono – Swamp people or People of the Great Swamp
Common Name: Cayuga
Meaning of Common Name:
From an Algonquian word meaning “real snakes.”
Iroquois League, Six Nations, Five Nations
Alternate spellings / Mispellings:
Name in other languages:
State(s) Today: New York
The Cayuga Nation’s homeland is found in the Finger Lakes Region of a territory now called New York. Cayuga Lake and its northern shores were the primary locations of many villages of the Cayuga people.
The Six Nations or Haudenosaunee (“People of the Longhouse”) are also referred to as the Iroquois Confederacy. The Haudenosaunee is an alliance of Native Nations that reside in what is now called New York, including the Senecas, the Cayugas, the Onondagas, the Oniedas, the Mohawks and the Tuscaroras. Before the Tuscaroras joined the alliance, they were referred to as the Five Nations. They were also known as the League of the Iroquois.
Jay’s Treaty – John Jay and Alexander Hamilton negotiated a treaty with Great Britian to avert War and establish peace.
1784 – Treaty of Fort Stanwix signed Oct. 22, 1784 between the Haudenosaunee and the United States.
1794 – The Treaty of Canandaigua was signed between the Sachems of the Six Nations Confederacy Nations and the United States of America on November 11, 1794. This Treaty affirmed the Cayuga Nation’s rightful reservation as 64,000 acres of sovereign land. Unfortunately, the Treaty was ignored by New York. The Cayuga homeland was not returned to its owners.
Reservation: Allegany Reservation
Over a series of illegal land transactions and treaties, New York State has taken all the lands of the Cayuga Nation. In accordance with the Treaty of Canandaigua and the Constitution of the United States of America, the State of New York neglected to seek Federal approval for these land transactions and claimed powers of the state in Indian Affairs, for which they have none. As a result, the State of New York still claims that the Cayuga Nation has no reservation and will not permit the Cayuga Nation free use and enjoyment of a Treaty established reservation. Some Cayuga people live on the Allegany Reservation, which was reserved for the Seneca people.
All lands the Cayuga Nation now holds have been privately purchased by the tribe.
Cayuga tribe acquires first large parcel in more than 200 years
Land Area: The Cayuga Nation currently holds approximately 824 acres in its land portfolio.
Tribal Headquarters: Seneca Falls, NY
Time Zone: Eastern
Population at Contact:
In 1660, there were approximately 1,500 Cayuga. In the beginning of the 18th century, the Cayuga primarily lived in three villages, composed of at least 30 longhouses. About 500 people lived in each of these villages.
Registered Population Today:
The Cayuga Nation has approximately 493 enrolled members who primarily live in Western New York, but also can be found throughout the United States.
Tribal Enrollment Requirements:
A Cayuga Mother and all her children will be members of the Cayuga Nation, regardless of blood quantum. Descent and inheritance are passed through the maternal lines. The tribe requires members to have a mother who is Cayuga.
The Cayuga Nation does track the genealogy of each member. It goes from the farthest back ancestor up to the present of the enrolled member. Today, the Cayuga Nation can go back to the early 1800’s when they were at Buffalo Creek.
The Cayuga Nation, like all other Haudenosaunee Nations (People of the Longhouse) are governed in accordance with the Great Law of Peace. The Great Law of Peace was established to provide peace and emphasizes the principle of “consensus” instead of “majority rule”. This principle requires more cooperation and negotiation for each of the Hoyaneh (Chiefs of the Confederacy) to come to a unanimous decision.
The Grand Council is comprised of Elder Brothers, Younger Brothers and one Firekeeper. The Mohawk Nation (Keeper of the Eastern Door) and the Seneca Nation (Keeper of the Western Door) are the Elder Brothers. The Onondaga Nation is the Firekeeper. The Oneida Nation, Tuscarora Nation and the Cayuga Nation are the Younger Brothers. Each of the Hoyaneh represents their respective clan and is a caretaker of the peace.
Chieftainships are hereditary.
Name of Governing Body: Council of Chiefs
Number of Council members:
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers: 3
Iroquois -> Northern Iroquoian -> Lakes Iroquoian -> Five Nations and Susquehannock -> Seneca–Onondaga -> Seneca–Cayuga ->Seneca and Cayuga
There were at one time two distinct dialects of Cayuga. One is still spoken in Ontario, the other, called “Seneca-Cayuga,” was spoken in Oklahoma until the 1980s. The Lower Cayuga dialect is spoken by those of the Lower End of the Six Nations and the Upper Cayuga are from the Upper End. The main difference between the two is that the Lower Cayuga use the sound [ɡj] and the Upper use the sound [dj]. Also, pronunciation differs between individual speakers of Cayuga and their preferences.
Cayuga is the traditional dialect of the Cayuga Nation. However, because many members of the Cayuga Nation have integrated and are living among the Senecas, many members are now familiar with the Seneca language.
Number of fluent Speakers:
Cayuga is spoken on Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, in Ontario, Canada. As of 2012, 79 people are said to be fluent speakers of Cayuga.
Bands, Gens, and Clans
The Cayuga Nation is made up of five clans. These clans signify family lineage and a Cayuga citizen’s clan is determined by the clan of their mother. Today, there are five clans – Bear, Heron, Snipe, Turtle and Wolf.
Each clan has a Clan Mother, whose role it is to take care of her clan members.
Each Clan has Council Representatives who form the decision making body of the Nation, which are called Chiefs, Sub-Chiefs, or Seat Warmers.
Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma and the Canadian-recognized Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario, Canada.
Senecas, Onondagas, Oniedas, Mohawks and the Tuscaroras.
The Cayuga tribe was one of the original Five Nations of the League of the Iroquois, who traditionally lived in New York. When the Tuscarora joined the Iroquois Confederation in 1722, the confederacy was then known as the Six Nations.
Ceremonies / Dances:
Green Corn Ceremony
Modern Day Events & Tourism:
Legends / Oral Stories:
Art & Crafts:
The Cayuga Nation controls several businesses, including Lakeside Trading convenience stores; Pullens Towing and Recovery service; Harford Glen Water, a pure water bottler; Gakwiyo Garden, which grows 35 types of fruits and vegetables and provides food for over one hundred member households; Cayuga Corner, which sells fresh produce and flowers; and Cayuga Sugar Shack, an ice cream stand and miniature golf course in Seneca Falls. They own Lakeside Entertainment, which includes two Class II Gaming facilities; however, both are temporarily closed due to ongoing legal battles with the State of New York.
Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:
Famous Cayuga Chiefs
In the News:
Midwinter Rites of the Cayuga Long House
Cayuga: Webster’s Timeline History, 1600 – 2007
Indians: The Six Nations of New York, Cayugas, Mohawks (Saint Regis), Oneidas, Onondagas, Senecas, Tuscaroras
Jesuit missions among the Cayugas : from 1656 to 1684
Lacrosse Legends of the First Americans