Culture

With a proud and rich history, the Seneca were the largest of six Native American nations which comprised the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations, a democratic government that pre-dates the United States Constitution.

The Seneca Nation of Indians currently has a total enrolled population of nearly 8,000 citizens. The territories are generally rural, with several residential areas. Many Seneca citizens live off-territory, some are located across the country, as well as in other countries. Off-territory residents comprise nearly 1/2 of the citizenship.

The Seneca are also known as the "Keeper of the Western Door," for the Seneca are the westernmost of the Six Nations.  At the time of the formation of the Iroquois League, the original five nations of the Iroquois League occupied large areas of land in the Northeast USA and Southeast Canada.

In the Seneca language we are known as O-non-dowa-gah, (pronounced: Oh-n'own-dough-wahgah) or "Great Hill People."

The historical Seneca occupied territory throughout the Finger Lakes area in Central  New York, and in the Genesee Valley in Western New York, living in longhouses on the riversides. The villages were well fortified with wooden stake fences, just one of the many industrious undertakings.

The people relied heavily on agriculture for food, growing the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash, which were known as Deohako,(pronounced: Jo- hay- ko) "the life supporters." In addition to raising crops, the early Seneca were also subsistence hunters and fishers.

The Senecas were also highly skilled at warfare, and were considered fierce adversaries. But the Seneca were also renowned for their sophisticated skills at diplomacy and oratory and their willingness to unite with the other original five nations to form the Iroquois Confederacy of Nations.

Today the Seneca Nation supports its own people and benefits surrounding communities with a variety of cultural, educational and economic efforts. Its varied enterprises include: world-class casino gaming, hospitality and entertainment, which employ over 3,500 people, as well as a convenience store chain (4 stores), construction management, and diverse holdings in business ventures.

Seneca culture and values remain strong and intact. Language, song, art, dance, and sports are all vital aspects of Seneca culture.  Although the number of fluent Seneca language speakers is diminishing and the language is considered at-risk, there are language programs at the Seneca Nation in place to help protect, preserve and develop a new generation of Seneca language speakers to keep the Seneca language alive.

Lacrosse is a sport that is played by male and female, young and old. Two new community sports complexes on each territory enable year-round lacrosse leagues and space for community programs, crafts and learning.

A Faithkeepers' School supports and ensures the ongoing practice of traditional teachings, arts, knowledge and the living culture of the Longhouse ways.

The vibrancy of the rich Seneca heritage is evident in the ongoing ceremonies, practices, and cultural events that are infused with dance, music and song, arts, crafts and traditional foods that honor and celebrate Seneca culture.