Tonawanda Band of Seneca
The Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians is a federally recognized tribe in the State of New York. They maintained the traditional form of government by Seneca chiefs (or more correctly, 'sachems') and clan mothers after the Alleghany and Cattaraugus Reservations broke away and formed the Seneca Nation of Indians (a republican form of government, electing a president, secretary, and council every two years) in 1848. The Tonawanda Senecas retrieved their horns of authority from the deposed chiefs at Alleghany and Cattaraugus and still continue to govern themselves in the traditional way. The Seneca are an Iroquois nation, one of the original five (and then six) of the historic Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy. Their people speak Seneca language, an Iroquoian language. This is one of two federally recognized tribes of Seneca, The Tonawanda Band of Seneca and The Seneca Nation of Indians, both Native Americans in New York state. In addition, there are Seneca in Oklahoma, who along with the Cayuga form the Seneca-Cayuga Nation. The majority of Seneca live in western New York, with a small number living in Canada: Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, within Ontario, Canada. In 1857, the Tonawanda Band signed a treaty with the United States, allowing them to buy back lands from the Ogden Land Company, taken fraudulently through the Buffalo Creek Treaty of 1838 and the Compromise Treaty of 1842. The treaties of 1838 and 1842 ultimately led to the revolt against the chiefs in Cattaraugus and Alleghany and the formation of the Seneca Nation of Indians.
On 15 January 1838, the United States government entered into the Treaty of Buffalo Creek, with nine Indian nations of New York, including the Seneca Nation. The treaty was part of the US' Indian Removal program, by which they persuaded or forced Native American peoples from eastern states to move west of the Mississippi River to lands reserved for them in the Kansas Territory. The US wanted the Seneca and other New York tribes to move there to free up lands in New York for European-American development. Under the treaty, the US acknowledged that the Ogden Land Company was going to buy the four remaining Seneca reservations in New York. The proceeds would be used to pay for the nation's removal to Kansas Territory.
In 1842, the US modified the 1838 treaty by the "Treaty with the Seneca of 1842". The new treaty reflected that the Ogden Land Company had purchased only two reservations, including the Tonawanda Reservation. The Seneca retained the Cattaraugus and Allegany reservations. At this time, the Seneca of the Tonawanda Reservation protested they had not been consulted on either treaty, nor had their chiefs signed either treaty. They refused to leave their reservation.
In 1848, the Seneca Indians of the Cattaraugus and Allegany reservations held a constitutional convention. They adopted a new form of constitution and government modeled on that of the United States, including tribal elections of chiefs. This was not their traditional practice, in which chiefs were selected by clan mothers and ruled for life (unless one displeased his clan's mother.)
The Tonawanda Band did not want to make such changes, and seceded from the main Seneca nation. They reorganized and re-established their traditional government with a Council of chiefs from each of their eight clans. In 1857, under the "Treaty with the Seneca, Tonawanda Band", the Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians secured federal recognition as an independent Indian nation. With their share of proceeds from the earlier land sale, they bought back most of the Tonawanda Reservation. They reorganized under a traditional government, where chiefs typically served for life. This traditional form governed by a consensus of leaders of the clans, which formed the basis of the band.
"The Tonawanda Band consists of eight 'clans': the Snipe, the Heron, the Hawk, the Deer, the Wolf, the Beaver, the Bear, and the Turtle. Each clan appoints a clan mother, who in turn appoints an individual to serve as Chief. The clan mother retains the power to remove a Chief and, in consultation with members of the clan, provides recommendations to the Chief on matters of tribal government. The clan mothers cannot disregard the views of the clan, nor can the Chiefs disregard the recommendations of the clan mothers."
- "Treaty of Buffalo Creek", 15 January 1838, 7 Stat. 550.
- "Treaty with the Seneca of 1842", Oklahoma State Library, accessed 22 Mar 2010
- PETER L. POODRY, DAVID C. PETERS, SUSAN LAFROMBOISE, JOHN A. REDEYE, and STONEHORSE LONE GOEMAN, Petitioners-Appellants, v. TONAWANDA BAND OF SENECA INDIANS; BERNARD PARKER, a/k/a Ganogehdaho; KERVIN JONATHAN, a/k/a Skongataigo; EMERSON WEBSTER, a/k/a Gauhnahgoi; DARREN JIMERSON, a/k/a Sohjeahnohous; HARLEY GORDON, a/k/a Gah-En-Keh; JAMES LOGAN; and DARWIN HILL,, 1995, accessed 22 Mar 2010
- "Treaty with the Seneca, Tonawanda Band", Oklahoma State Library, accessed 22 Mar 2010
- Treaty with the Seneca, Tonawanda Band, Oklahoma State University