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What is the Seneca Nation?

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  • Written By: Bethney Foster
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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The Seneca Nation is one of six Native American tribes that make up the Iroquois Confederacy. There are 7,200 people enrolled as members in the Seneca Nation. Located on land set aside under the Treaty of Canandaigua of 1794, the nation owns three territories, including the city of Salamanca, in the western part of New York. The headquarters of the nation is in Irving, N.Y.

The nation's territories are the Allegany Reservation, the Cattaraugus Reservation, and the Oil Springs Reservation. The Allegany Reservation is made up of nearly 20,500 acres (8,300 hectares) and is located along both sides of the Allegany River. The Cattaraugus Reservation has more than 21,000 acres (8,500 hectares). The Oil Springs Reservation is 1 square mile (2.5 square kilometers) and includes petroleum springs that were traditionally used for medicinal purposes by the Seneca.

The Seneca were traditionally an agricultural society and grew crops of corn, beans, and squash. Hunting, fishing, and gathering supplemented the foods that were cultivated. As the western-most tribe in the Iroquois Confederacy, the Seneca people were known as the keeper of the Western door.

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Traditionally, the home of the Seneca was a longhouse, which was a bark-covered shelter that housed an extended family that was part of the same clan. The Seneca people trace their clan membership through their mothers. The oldest woman in the longhouse was the head of the household. When a man married, he moved into the bride’s longhouse. All property belonged to women, and the clan mothers appointed and removed the tribe’s chiefs.

The chief system ended when the Constitutional Convention of Seneca people established the nation in 1848. The constitution of the nation calls for the election of 16 councilors to four-year terms. This tribal council makes up the legislative branch of the government. A president, treasurer, and clerk are elected to two-year terms and make up the executive branch. A judiciary branch is made up of the peacemaker, appellate, and surrogate courts.

The Seneca Nation, also known as the Seneca Nation of Indians, the Seneca Nation of New York, and Salamanca, is a federally recognized tribe. The tribe owns several gambling houses, including the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in Buffalo, N.Y., the Seneca Gaming and Entertainment in Irving, N.Y., and the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls. The nation also has a thriving tourism industry.

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