Squaw Island (Buffalo)
Coordinates: Squaw Island is an island separating the Niagara River and the Black Rock Canal, located within the city limits of Buffalo, New York. Today, the historic island is home to two public parks and a water treatment facility. On January 22, 2015, the Buffalo Common Council will entertain a resolution to replace the island's name, which some consider racist and derogatory.
For centuries, Squaw Island was known to the native Seneca Indians as Deyowenoguhdoh (pronounced de-dyo-we-no-guh-do), meaning 'divided island,' so-called for a small marshy creek that once ran through the property. However, during his 1679 expedition of the Great Lakes, explorer Robert de La Salle gave the land mass its current name, a gesture to the area's native population. Not until the early 19th Century did the island leave the hands of the Seneca Nation. In fact, Philip Kenjockety, a prominent Seneca Indian and namesake of Scajaquada Creek, owned a corn field on the island at the time of his death in 1808. Kenjockety is known to have traveled the creek that once divided Squaw Island by canoe during his travels to and from Canada.
On October 9, 1812, the HMS Detroit became grounded on Squaw Island after this a six-gun brig of the Royal Navy was captured by American naval forces on the waters of Lake Erie at Fort Erie during the War of 1812. Light winds and swift waters at the mouth of the Niagara River made it impossible for the Americans to escape British artillery at nearby Fort Erie. After a fierce exchange of gunfire and the exhaustion of American ammunition, the ship was left to the river's current before reaching her unplanned final destination of Squaw Island, within range of both British and American batteries. Both the British and Americans contested the grounded Detroit until her battered hulk was set afire and burned by American forces.
Squaw Island remained in the hands of the Senecas until 1816, when the Nation gifted the property to Captain Jasper Parrish for his service to them as an agent and interpreter. Parrish later sold the island to local attorney Henry F. Penfield in 1823.
At the southern tip of Squaw Island is Broderick Park, the location of the former Black Rock ferry, a major transportation link across the Niagara River between Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ontario. The ferry operated continuously at this location between 1825 and the middle of the 20th Century, when service was discontinued. The ferry's dock along the western edge of the park was used as an Underground Railroad station from at least the 1830s until the American Civil War. Escaped slaves that arrived at the park would take the ferry and other boats from this location across the Niagara River to Canada, thus securing their freedom.
Extending from the southern tip of Squaw Island is a long, narrow stone pier known as Bird Island Pier, completed in 1860. The structure once connected Squaw Island to the former Bird Island, a small land formation, rocky on its southern end with fertile soil to the north. Kenjockety's father cultivated corn there. The island was noted in the personal journal of DeWitt Clinton, who surveyed the area prior to construction of the Erie Canal. This 1829 map of the Niagara River and proposed Black Rock Harbor illustrates the then-proposed Bird Island Pier connecting Squaw Island to Bird Island. By 1880, however, Bird Island disappeared, the rock which composed it having been used to construct the Black Rock Pier to support the Erie Canal.
In later years, Squaw Island came into public ownership and its northern end was used as a landfill; the area was eventually capped and turned into today's Squaw Island Park. A City of Buffalo water treatment facility began operations on the island in 1938. The facility's construction slightly expanded the size of the island.
- Schulman, Susan (16 January 2015). "Council to consider name change for Squaw Island". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- Collins, Bennett (23 November 2014). "Squaw Island: Time to Change the Name". Buffalo Rising. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- Marshall, Orsamus H. (1880). The Niagara Frontier. Buffalo, New York: Bigelo Brothers, Buffalo Historical Society. p. 418. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- Parker, Arthur C. (1919). The Life and Times of Gen. Ely S. Parker. Buffalo, New York: Buffalo Historical Society. p. 15. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- Montague, Nathan L. "Broderick Park: Underground Railroad Station in Buffalo, New York". Department of Archaeology, University at Buffalo. University at Buffalo. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- Campbell, William W. (1849). The Life and Writings of DeWitt Clinton. New York, New York: Baker and Scribner. p. 139. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
- "Bird Island WWTP". Buffalo Sewer Authority. City of Buffalo. Retrieved 16 January 2015.