Who are the Cayuga Indians?

Lori Kilchermann

The Cayuga Indians were originally found in what is now New York state in the United States. While many Cayuga descendants remain in the New York area, many more were forced to migrate to what is now Wisconsin and Oklahoma, as well as to Ontario, Canada. Cayuga Indians are comprised from several mixed tribes.

Like many Native American groups, the Cayuga used canoes for trade, fishing, and warfare.
Like many Native American groups, the Cayuga used canoes for trade, fishing, and warfare.

Cayuga Indians are members of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Cayuga, Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida and Onondaga, as well as the Tuscarora were all tribes that made up the Confederacy. These Indian nations remain linked and often are referred to as the Six Nations. In many areas, these Indians are referred to as members of the Long House. This reflects the type dwelling that the Cayuga Indians are known for.

The members of the tribal council were chosen by the clan mothers. Cayuga Indians were also subject to decisions of the Iroquois Great Council. In this council, 10 Cayuga chiefs represented the tribe. Individual tribes made decisions that were overseen by the great Council. The American founding fathers used this Great Council as a basis for their representative democratic society.

In the 1700s, the Cayuga Indians lost all of their tribal land. They weren't given a reservation of their own and were forced to live with other tribes. In upper New York state, the Cayuga Indians live with the Senecas and Onondagas. They do still retain their own council of chiefs independent of the governments of the other tribes. Cayuga Indians also live with mixed tribes on reservations in Oklahoma, Wisconsin and in smaller communities in New York. In Canada, the Cayuga live with the Iroquois on the Six Nation reserve.

Cayuga speak English language in most areas; however, in Canada, some speak the native Cayuga language. Cayuga is a complex language with many sounds that are not found in the English language. While some of the Cayuga are working diligently to preserve the native tongue, Cayuga is considered to be an endangered language since most of the children are no longer learning it.

The Cayuga lived in villages of longhouses. These were structures made of wood that were up to 100 feet long. An entire clan might inhabit a longhouse. This meant that there could be up to 60 Indians living in a single structure. Modern Indian families live in their own single family home. Longhouses currently are built only for display by the modern Cayuga.

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