Takahi Datiaono (Greetings My relatives )
I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At one time the whole western region of this state (including Pittsburgh) was the sovereign territory of the Onödowa’ga:’ who are known to the world as the Senecas. The Senecas left a legacy of their presence in the Pittsburgh area in the form of place names that honor their history here such as Seneca Valley. Also individual Seneca historical figures such as Chief Guyasutta, who lived in what is now Sharpsburg and Clan Mother Aliquippa, who lived in what is now McKeesport are still remembered in our region
This indigenous nation was a member of a traditional confederacy of five, and then later, six Native tribes called the Haudenosaunee. (the Iroquois Confederacy).
This confederacy included, from west to east along the southern shore of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the SENECA in the region of western New York state, western Pennsylvania, and eastern Ohio, the CAYUGA in the region of Cayuga Lake, the ONONDAGA in the region of Onondaga Lake, the ONEIDA on Oneida Lake, and the MOHAWK in the eastern region of New York State as far as the border with New England.
This confederacy of five tribes is thought to have been formed some time between 1400 and 1600 AD. Much later, during the 1600's a sixth Iroquoian tribe migrated up from the South and joined the confederacy. They were the TUSCARORA.
These people identified themselves as the LONGOUSE PEOPLE (Haudenosaunee), not only because their traditional dwellings were long multi-family rectangular structures made of elm bark, but also because they imaged their confederacy to be a huge metaphorical longhouse stretching from Seneca territory in the west to Mohawk territory in the East with one entrance in the Seneca end of the longhouse and another in the Mohawk end.
They commemorated the formation of their league with a traditional belt made of purple and white wampum shell beads. This belt symbolically represented the union of the original five nations in the form of four rectangles that stood for the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida and Mohawk nations and a central tree-shaped pattern that represents the Onondaga nation, in whose centrally located territory they established the capital of their union. The tree represents a legendary pine tree originally planted in Onondaga territory by the founders of the league.
The Iroquois people maintain their traditions to this day and that is reflected in the celebratory regalia of their women and men
Present-day chiefs of the Iroquois Confederacy
Present-day clan mothers of the Iroquois Confederacy
The Iroquois lost most of their territory after the American Revolution in 1794 and they were restricted to tiny reservations in New York State, Canada and Pennsylvania. The last surviving Seneca reservation in Pennsylvania was assigned to Seneca Chief Cornplanter by George Washington in the late 1700's via a solemn treaty.
The Cornplanter Grant Seneca people were featured in lots of historical and ethnographic records of Pennsylvania.
These are photos of the Seneca residents of Pennsylvania's Cornplanter Grant in the early 20th century
Phoebe Gordon making baskets at the Cornplanter Grant. Ms. Gordon is constructing a two-handled, split-oak basket. Photo courtesy of the Deardorff Archive, Warren County Historical Society.
Sherman Redeye with hand-made bows on the Cornplanter Grant, 1948. Image courtesy of the Deardorff Archive, Warren County Historical Society.
Using a brush seine for fishing on the Cornplanter Grant. The brush seine was used to drive the fish so they could be caught by others. Image courtesy of the Deardorff Archive, Warren County Historical Society.
Chief John Jacobs, the leader of the Cornplanter's Grant community in 1908
Two members of the Cornplanter Seneca Tribe canoeing down the Monongahela for the 1908 Pittsburgh Sesquicentennial Celebration.
In the 1960's some powerful political and business concerns in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania finalized plans to create a flood control project that would help attenuate the catastrophic damage that occasional inundations of the Allegheny River inflicted on the city all too frequently. Unfortunately this project included the construction of a dam in the upper region of the river, in Warren County, Pennsylvania, which would result in the creation of a huge reservoir lake that would almost totally flood the whole of Cornplanter Grant as well as a portion of the Seneca Allegeny Indian Reservation a few miles north in New York State. The Senecas fought the project in the courts and in the realm of public opinion but eventually they lost the battle. Money and politics won over the solemn word of George Washington.
The dam was built and was named KINZUA DAM. The reservoir that it created is called KINZUA RESERVOIR.
The Cornplanter Grant residents were forcibly moved north across the border to live with their fellow Senecas in New York State on the Allegeny Indian Reservation. Many members of that New York State reservation were also affected by the flooding, which extended well north of the state border. This youtube video outlines the story of this injustice.
The Seneca still remember this painful part of their history since many of the people who were uprooted by this event are still alive.
To this day members of the Seneca Nation still cross the border from western New York state into Pennsylvania to offer sacred ceremony, mourn and pray on the flooded banks of their ancient territory on the Beautiful Waters (Allegheny River) in Warren County.
A song called NOW THAT THE BUFFALO'S GONE by the famous Canadian Indigenous singer Buffy Sainte-Marie memorialized this injustice with a verse that states "A TREATY FOREVER GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED. THAT TREATY'S BEEN BROKEN BY KINZUA DAM".