Seneca Indians

The Seneca Indians were traditionally inhabitants of the New York area between the Genesee River and Canandaigua Lake.  However, recent evidence has pointed to the fact that they may have lived all the way down to the Allegany River, and up into North Western Pennsylvania.    They were a very large group, with over ten thousand warriors documented by the end of the seventeenth century.  The Seneca Indians were later known as “Keepers of the Western Door” because they settled the farthest west of all the Haudenosaunee Nations.

The Economy

In the beginning, the Seneca Indians lived primarily on corn, beans and squash. They were the staple foods of the Seneca Indians diet.  In this society, the women were primarily the growers and harvesters of the tribe.   They gathered medicinal plants, roots, berries, nuts, vegetables and fruit.  In fact, unlike most other tribes of its time, the Seneca women held sole ownership of the land and the homes they occupied.  They had virtually the same rights as the men they served, in some cases probably more. In fact in the Seneca Indians tribe, the women also tended to any domesticated animals they may be raising for food such as deer, dogs, turkeys, etc. Women had a lot of power over large family groups, in fact they were often referred to as the “clan mother.”

Seneca Indian men were primarily in charge of locating and developing areas to settle, including clearing the forest for planting and harvesting crops. They were also responsible for hunting and fishing for their families.  They hunted bear, moose and bison, and were very good fishermen.  Other diet staples were beaver, raccoon, rabbit, corn, rice, beans and berries. The men were often away for long periods at a time, so the women were left to take care of everything themselves.

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