Seneca Nation of New York

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Seneca Nation of Indians
Capital Irving, New York
Jimerson Town, New York
Largest city Salamanca, NY
Official languages Seneca language (national)
English (national)
Government Republic
 -  President Barry E. Snyder, Sr.
 -  2005 estimate 7,800
Currency United States dollar
Time zone EST
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officer present an award to Art John, Director of Emergency Response for the Seneca Nation of Indians, 2009

The Seneca Nation of New York, also known as the Seneca Nation of Indians (Salamanca) is a federally recognized tribe of Seneca people in New York.[1] The tribe has two headquarters: one in Irving, New York on the Cattaraugus Reservation, and the other in Jimerson Town on the Allegany Indian Reservation.[2] It is one of two Seneca tribes in New York, the other being the Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians, which broke off from the Seneca Nation in 1857.


The tribe was established in 1848 by a Constitutional Convention of Seneca people residing on the Allegany and Cattaragus Territories in present-day New York. The Seneca Nation of Indians Constitution established a tripartite governing structure based on general elections of 16 Councilors, three Executives (President, Treasurer, Clerk), and Court justices (Surrogates and Peacemakers). These elections are held every two years, concurrent with Election Day in the rest of the United States. The leadership rotates between the two reservations each elections, and no officer can serve consecutive terms because of this; there are no other term limits, and officers can serve as many nonconsecutive terms as they want (provided they win election).[3]


The government is primarily under one-party rule, with the Seneca Party having complete control over the political process. The Seneca Party has cemented their place through bribing people for votes and busing voters in from out of state during elections, both of which are implicitly condoned.[4] Despite the one-party rule, there are numerous factions and disputes within the Seneca Party, tensions that were exacerbated during attorney Robert Odawi Porter's Presidency in 2011 and 2012; supporters of Porter have been at odds with supporters of the John family, an old-line, politically powerful family in Seneca circles. In November 2011, the John family led a vote to strip Porter of most of his powers and give the title of chief executive officer to Michael "Spike" John, a vote that the Seneca clerk (believed to be a Porter ally) invalidated under conflict of interest statutes. The de facto impeachment move came after what John supporters said was the politically motivated charges against Susan Abrams, a John ally.[4] Spike John is the cousin of Maurice "Moe" John, who served as Seneca president from 2006 to 2008 and ran unsuccessfully for Seneca President against Porter in 2010.[4] The 2012 elections were marked by a split in the Seneca party and one of the most wide-open (and bitterly contested) Seneca elections in several years: five candidates faced off against each other for the post, including two endorsed by the two separate factions in the Seneca Party.[5] In the end, Barry Snyder, a John ally who had previously served several other terms as President (including the one immediately before Porter), was re-elected to the post.

Economic development[edit]

The tribe owns and operates the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, located in Buffalo, New York.[6] They also own Seneca Gaming and Entertainment in Irving; Seneca Allegany Casino in Salamanca; Seneca Nation Bingo, Allegany in Salamanca; and Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls.[2] Through a tribal-owned holding company, the tribe owns a telecommunications firm, Seneca Telecommunications; a construction management company, SCMC LLC; and a radio station, WGWE. Under the Porter administration, the Seneca Nation has made an effort to diversify its business offerings and has promoted, through an economic development corporation, the creation of new Seneca-owned businesses, outside the nation's traditional strongholds of gasoline and tobacco products. One of the tobacco products is a brand of cigarettes called Native Pride. The tribe also owns its own small chain of smoke shops and gas stations under the "Seneca One Stop" brand; the vast majority of smoke shops on Seneca reservations, however, are independently owned. The refusal of Seneca businesses to pay New York state excise taxes, and the resulting price advantage the Senecas have over non-Senecas as a result, has been a source of controversy for several decades.

Relationship with non-Senecas[edit]

The relationship between the Seneca Nation and the surrounding population has been contentious, both in regard to excise tax advantages and in regard to property rights. In the 1990s, the Senecas won a prolonged court battle to assume ownership of all land on their reservation, including that owned by private non-Senecas, and demanded the previous owners all sign leases with the nation or be evicted.[7] In 2012, the Senecas ordered a mass eviction of eighty residents of Snyder Beach on the Cattaraugus Reservation, deeming their presence a long-standing "illegal occupation".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pritzker, 469
  2. ^ a b "New York Casinos." 500 Nations. (retrieved 31 May 2010)
  3. ^ "Government." Seneca Nation of Indians. (retrieved 31 May 2010)
  4. ^ a b c Herbeck, Dan (November 15, 2011). Resentments abound in Seneca power struggle. The Buffalo News. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  5. ^ Herbeck, Dan (October 27, 2012). A bitter battle to lead Seneca Nation. The Buffalo News. Retrieved October 27, 2012.
  6. ^ "Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino." Seneca Gaming Corporation. (retrieved 31 May 2010)
  7. ^ a b Herbeck, Dan and Kathleen Ronayne (July 28, 2012). Senecas plan to evict Snyder Beach residents. The Buffalo News. Retrieved July 28, 2012.


  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.

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