History 8; 6
April 6, 2011
a) Seneca, or Onandowaga, “People of the Great Hill", as they referred to themselves as, traditionally occupied what is now present day New York, between the Genesee River and Canandaigua Lake. They were vigorous in power over their league, plentiful in numbers, and one of the primary members of the confederation of Iroquois tribes, formed in 1570, consisting of the other member nations: the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Tuscaroras. The heartlands of the league’s confederation expanded from the Hudson River to the shores of Lake Erie. The Seneca Indians were the west most nation within the Iroquois League, in relation to all the other members of confederacy. They settled and lived the farthest west, at one time, claiming all of the lands in Western New York, spanning from the Genesee to Niagara Rivers, and a portion of the state of North Western Pennsylvania. However, some were later forced to migrate elsewhere. Since prehistoric times, they were there, before the formation of the Iroquois League, just growing rapidly in their numbers and power, being true conquers when it came to war tactics, and possessing their vast lands immensely rich in resources like it was in their culture. Having the widespread land, The Seneca Indians were clearly farming people with the major occupation of agriculture to prove it. Their nation’s economy was based mainly on the cultivation of corn, both the green and mature variety, beans, and squash – the fundamental food commonly known as the three sisters. These three heavily relied on plants were believed to be precious gifts from the Great Spirit, Deohako, which could only grow and thrive together while in the same mounds. Additionally, Seneca women grew supplementary crops of pumpkins, beans, and tobacco and later that of orchard fruits. The women would harvest and gather wild berries and medical herbs, roots, and nuts. The Seneca men did their part, hunting the roaming deer and elk during the fall, and then in spring, the fish swimming nonchalantly in the rivers and the shore of Lake Ontario. The land was proficient for agricultural purposes, hunting, and fishing, but despite all their plentiful and rich resources graciously provided by their land, corn had always been the principal food of the Iroquois, along with the staple beans and squash. b) In the villages of the Seneca tribes, they lived in longhouses, long wood-framed houses covered in strips of bark, elm bark considerably being the best type. Being up to 50 to 150 feet in length, 20 to 25 feet wide, and 15 to 20 feet high, the size was determined from the number of families living in that particular communal dwelling. They accommodated anywhere from 5 families to 20, being up to around 60 people. Windowless, the light wafted in from the high, wide doors at each end, and from above openings in the roof. The central passageway had a number of small fires (generally 3-5) along the length of the longhouse that vented through the roof vents, providing great warmth and comfort against the treacherous elements clawing at their doors. Both sides of the passageway were lined with platforms having cornhusk mats for sleeping and in between, higher storage units. Seneca Villages contained several of these long, bark-covered houses and central areas used as social and political meeting places enclosed skillfully by a palisade, an eighteen foot wooden stake fence, to protect from intruders, such as other tribes. The Seneca Indians were a sedentary but formidable nation of fierce warriors, rooted to their cultural lifestyle and prosperous, immense lands. Most of the Seneca didn’t face much need or the requirement for migration until 1838, either by force or by choice- besides those times of fishing, hunting, and trading trips in their hand-crafted canoes anyway. They had rich, vast spaces- that of a thriving, independent economy- as the most populous and superior nation in...