Indian Reservations

Indian Reservations



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The Indian reservation system established tracts of land called reservations for Native Americans to live on as white settlers took over their land. The main goals of Indian reservations were to bring Native Americans under U.S. government control, minimize conflict between Indians and settlers and encourage Native Americans to take on the ways of the white man. But many Native Americans were forced onto reservations with catastrophic results and devastating, long-lasting effects.

Treaty of Hopewell

In 1785, the Treaty of Hopewell was signed in Georgia—the largest state at the time—placing the native Cherokees under the protection of a young United States and setting boundaries for their land.

But it wasn’t long before European settlers intruded on Cherokee land. The Cherokees cried foul and revolted against the white settlements. To reestablish peace between the Cherokees and the settlers, the Treaty of Holston was signed in 1791 in which the Cherokees agreed to give up all land outside of their established borders.

Not only did the federal government want Native Americans to give up their land, they also encouraged them to become farmers and Christians. In the early 19th century, settlers moved into southern Cherokee territory en masse and wanted their government representatives to claim the land.

The United States acted to remove all Indian nations from the southeast. Georgia agreed to cede her western land to the government in return for Indian land title.

Andrew Jackson

After the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson hoped to move eastern Indian tribes past the Mississippi River—but most Indians rejected his idea. When Georgia held lotteries to allocate seized Indian land, the battle-weary Creeks who’d sought sanctuary in east Alabama fought for their independence against the militia of Andrew Jackson, which included so-called “friendly Indians.”

After suffering a devastating defeat at what became known as the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the Creeks yielded more than 20 million acres of land to the federal government.

Over the next several years, the government passed several acts to diminish Indian autonomy, despite the Cherokee forming a new constitution-based government of their own. And in December 1828, Georgia ordered the seizure of the remaining Cherokee land in their state.

Indian Removal Act

On May 28, 1830, the Indian Removal Act was signed by President Jackson. The Act allowed the government to divide land west of the Mississippi to give to Indian tribes in exchange for the land they’d lost. The government would pick up the cost of relocating the Indians and helping them resettle.

The Indian Removal Act was controversial, but Jackson argued it was the best option since settlers had rendered Indian lands incompatible with sustaining their way of life.

Trail of Tears

Over the next few years, the Choctaw, Chicasaw and Creeks were forced to move westward on foot, often in chains and with little or no food and supplies. Even some Indians in the North were forced to relocate.

In 1838, President Martin Van Buren sent federal troops to march the remaining southern Cherokee holdouts 1,200 miles to Indian territory in the Plains. Disease and starvation were rampant, and thousands died along the way, giving the tortuous journey the nickname “Trail of Tears.”

A group of Seminoles, however, refused to leave and hunkered down in Florida. They fought federal troops for almost a decade before their leader was killed and they finally surrendered.

The Indian Appropriations Act

As white settlers continued westward and needed more land, Indian territory shrank—but there was no more land for the government to move them to.

In 1851, Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act which created the Indian reservation system and provided funds to move Indian tribes onto farming reservations and hopefully keep them under control. Indians were not allowed to leave the reservations without permission.

Life on Indian Reservations

Daily living on the reservations was hard at best. Not only had tribes lost their native lands, but it was almost impossible to maintain their culture and traditions inside a confined area.

Feuding tribes were often thrown together and Indians who were once hunters struggled to become farmers. Starvation was common, and living in close quarters hastened the spread of diseases brought by white settlers.

Indians were encouraged or forced to wear non-Indian clothes and learn to read and write English, sew and raise livestock. Missionaries attempted to convert them to Christianity and give up their spiritual beliefs.

The Dawes Act

In 1887, the Dawes Act was signed by President Grover Cleveland allowing the government to divide reservations into small plots of land for individual Indians. The government hoped the legislation would help Indians assimilate into white culture easier and faster and improve their quality of life.

But the Dawes Act had a devastating impact on Native American tribes. It decreased the land owned by Indians by more than half and opened even more land to white settlers and railroads. Much of the reservation land wasn’t good farmland, and many Indians couldn’t afford the supplies needed to reap a harvest.

Prior to the Indian reservation system, women Indians farmed and took care of the land while men hunted and helped protect the tribe. Now, men were forced to farm, and women took on more domestic roles.

The Indian Reorganization Act

After a review of life on Indian reservations known as the Meriam Survey, it was clear the Dawes Act was severely detrimental to Native Americans.

The law was ended in 1934 and replaced with the Indian Reorganization Act with the goals of restoring Indian culture and returning surplus land to tribes. It also encouraged tribes to self-govern and write their own constitutions and provided financial aid for reservation infrastructure.

Modern Indian Reservations

Modern Indian reservations still exist across the United States and fall under the umbrella of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The tribes on each reservation are sovereign and not subject to federal laws.

They handle most reservation-related obligations but depend on the federal government for financial support. On many reservations, the main sources of revenue are tourism and gambling.

According to the BIA, 567 federally-recognized American Indian tribes and Alaskan natives reside in the United States. The BIA is responsible for improving their quality of life, providing them with economic opportunities and improving their assets which the BIA holds in trust.

Despite their efforts, living conditions on reservations aren’t ideal and are often compared to that of a third-world country. Housing is overcrowded and often below standards, and many people on the reservations are stuck in a cycle of poverty.

Health care on reservations is provided through Indian Health Services, but it’s underfunded and, in some cases, practically non-existent. Many Native Americans die from lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Infant mortality rates are significantly higher for Indians than for whites, and alcohol and drug abuse is on the rise. Many people leave the reservations for urban areas in search of employment and improved living conditions.

The Indian reservation system was originally established as a result of the greed and prejudice of early American settlers and the federal government. Despite its challenges then and now, Native Americans continue to hold on to their heritage and thrive as a community.

Sources

1851: Congress creates reservations to manage Native peoples. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Native Voices.
Bureau of Indian Affairs. USA.gov.
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA): Mission Statement. U.S. Department of the Interior: Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Cherokee Removal. New Georgia Encyclopedia.
Indian Removal Timeline. University of Houston Digital History.
Indian Treaties and the Removal Act of 1830. Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs.
Living Conditions. Native American Aid.
The Battle of Horseshoe Bend: Collision of Cultures. National Park Service.


Indian Reservation History

A natural result of land cessions by the Indians to the U. S. Government was the establishment of reservations for the natives. This was necessary not only in order to provide them with homes and with land for cultivation, but to avoid disputes in regard to boundaries and to bring them, more easily under control of the Government by confining them to given limits. This policy, which has been followed in Canada under both French and English control, and also to some extent by the colonies, was inaugurated by the United States in 1786. It nay he attributed primarily to the increase of the white population and the consequent necessity of confining the aboriginal population to narrower limits. This involved a very important, even radical, change in the habits and customs of the Indians, and was the initiatory step toward a reliance upon agricultural pursuits for subsistence. Reservations in early days, and to a limited extent more recently, were formed chiefly as the result of cessions of land thus a tribe, in ceding land that it held by original occupancy, reserved from the cession a specified and definite part thereof, and such part was held under the original right of occupancy, but with the consent of the Government, as it was generally expressly stated in the treaty defining the bounds that the part so reserved was “allotted to” or “reserved for” the given Indians, thus recognizing title in the Government. However, as time passed, the method of establishing reservations varied, as is apparent front the following return, showing the method of establishment of the various reservations, given by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in his Report for 1890: By Executive order, 56 by Executive order under authority of Congress, 6 by act of Congress, 28 by treaty, with boundaries defined or enlarged by Executive order, 15 by treaty or agreement and act of Congress, 5 by unratified treaty, 1 by treaty or agreement, 51.

The setting aside of reservations by treaty was terminated by the act of Mar. 3, 1871, which brought transactions with the Indians raider the immediate control of Congress and substituted simple agreements for solemn treaties. By sundry subsequent laws the matter has been placed in control of the President. Reservations established by Executive order without au act of Congress were not held to be permanent before the general allotment act of Feb. 8, 1887, under which the tenure has been materially changed, and all reservations, whether created by Executive order, by act of Congress, or by treaty, are permanent. Reservations established by Executive order under authority of Congress are those which have been authorized by acts of Congress and their limits defined by Executive order, or first established by Executive order and subsequently confirmed by Congress. The Indian titles which have been recognized by the Government appear to have been:

  1. The original right of occupancy, and
  2. The title to their reservations, which differs in most cases from the original title in the fact that it is derived front the United States. There have been some titles, and a few of them still exist, which the Indian Bureau deems exceptions to this rule, as where the reservation was formed by restricting the original areas or where reservations have been patented to tribes by the Government.

Examples of the latter class are the patents to the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek nations. In a few instances the Indians purchased the lands forming in whole or in part their reservations. The construction given to these by the Indian Bureau and the courts is that they are not titles in fee simple, for they convey no power of alienation except to the United States, neither are they the same as the ordinary title to occupancy they are “a base, qualified, or determinable fee,” with a possibility of reversion to the United States only, “and the authorities of these nations may cut, sell, and dispose of their timber, and may permit mining and grazing, within the limits of their respective tracts, by their own citizens.” The act of Mar. 1, 1889, establishing, a United States court in Indian Territory, repealed all laws having the effect of preventing the Five Civilized Tribes in said Territory (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole) from entering into leases or contracts with others than their own citizens for mining coal for a period not exceeding ten years. As a general rule the Indians on a reservation could make no leases of land, sales of standing timber, or grants of wining privileges or rights of way to railways without the authority of Congress. On the other hand, it was obligatory upon the Government to prevent any intrusion, trespass, or settlement on the lands of any tribe or nation of Indians unless the tribe or nation had given consent by agreement or treaty.

The idea of removing the Indians residing east of the Mississippi to reservations west of that river was a policy adopted at an early date. The first official notice of it appears in the act of Mar. 26, 1804, “erecting Louisiana into two territories, and providing the temporary government thereof.” By treaty with the Choctaw in 1820 they had been assigned a new home in the west, to include a considerable portion of west Arkansas, with all that part of the present Oklahoma south of the South Canadian and Arkansas Rivers. In 1825 President Monroe reported to the Senate a formal “plan of colonization or removal” 1 , of all tribes then residing east of the Mississippi, to the same general western region. In accordance with this plan the present Oklahoma, with the greater portion of what is now Kansas, was soon after constituted a territory, under the name of “Indian Territory,” as a permanent home for the tribes to be removed from the settled portions of the United States. Most of the northern portion of the territory was acquired by treaty purchase from the Osage and Kansa. A series of treaties was then inaugurated by which, before the close of 1840, almost all the principal Eastern tribes and tribal remnants had been removed to the ” Indian Territory,” the five important Southern tribes Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole, being guaranteed autonomy under the style of “Nations.” By subsequent legislation Kansas was detached from the Territory, most of the emigrant tribes within the bounds of Kansas being again removed to new reservations south of the boundary line. By other and later treaties lands within the same Territory were assigned to the actual native tribes, Kiowa, Comanche, Wichita, Cheyenne, etc., whose claims had been entirely overlooked in the first negotiations, which considered only the Osage and Kansa along the eastern border. Other tribes were brought in at various periods from Texas, Nebraska, and farther north, to which were added, as prisoners of war, the Modoc of California (1873), the Nez Percé of Oregon and Idaho (1878), and the Chiricahua Apache of Arizona (1889), until the Indian population of the Territory comprised some 40 officially recognized tribes.

An unoccupied district near the center of the Territory, known as Oklahoma, had become the subject of controversy with intruding white settlers, and was finally thrown open to settlement in 1889. In 1890 the whole western portion of Indian Territory was created into a separate territory under the name of Oklahoma. In the meantime, under provisions of an allotment act passed in 1887 (see Land tenure), agreements were being negotiated with the resident tribes for the opening of the reservation to white settlement. In 1906 a similar arrangement was consummated with the five autonomous tribes of the eastern section, or Indian Territory, the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole, together with the several small tribes in the northeast corner of Indian Territory. In the following year, 1907, the whole of the former Indian Territory was created into a single state under the name of Oklahoma.

According to the report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the number of reservations in the United States in 1908, including the 19 Spanish grants to the Pueblo Indians, was 161, aggregating 52,013,010 acres.


Digitized Native American Reservation Records: Photos

Опубликовано: Lauren Van Zandt в Native American Records 11.08.2017 15:05:57

The National Archives has digitized thousands of documents, images, and movies related to Native American history and culture.  This is the fourth in a series of blogs highlighting the records available online through the National Archives catalog.

Federal agencies, especially the Bureau of Indian Affairs, documented the Native American residents of reservations as well as their living and working conditions.  The photos in the entries document daily life, work (especially farming), construction projects, houses, reservation schools, and traditional crafts.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

Photographs, 1900-1960: 852 photographs mostly focusing on agriculture, land, and Civilian Conservation Corps-Indian Division projects created by the Rosebud Agency.

Three Affiliated Tribes (Arikara, Hidatsa and Mandan) (North Dakota)

Photographs, 1900-1960: 866 photographs, including photos of areas of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation that were flooded by the Construction of the Garrison Dam in 1946.

Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe (Wyoming)

Photographs, 1898-1953: 16 photos of reservation activities created by the Wind River Agency.

Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe (North Dakota)

Photographs, ca. 1914 - ca. 1936: 300 photos recording daily life of Native Americans at the Fort Totten Agency in North Dakota.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (North Dakota)

Photographs, ca. 1930-ca. 1949: 5277 photographs documenting projects, including Civilian Conservation Corps-Indian Division projects, from the Standing Rock Agency.

Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate (South Dakota)

Photographs, 1920-1965: 735 photographs documenting residences and projects, including Civilian Conservation Corps-Indian Division projects, on the Lake Travers Indian Reservation in North Dakota and South Dakota (Sisseton Agency).

Oglala Sioux (South Dakota)

Pine Ridge Agency: Miscellaneous Photographs, 1923 – 1955: Over 2,000 black and white photos from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  Includes photos of building projects, farming and industry on the reservation, cultural events, and individuals.

Main Decimal Files, 1900 – 1965: 26 photos documenting life on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (Minneconjou, SiHaSapa, Oohenumpa, and Itazipco bands of the Lakota or Great Sioux Nation) (South Dakota)

Cheyenne River Agency: Photographs, 1900 – 1960: 87 photos from the Aberdeen Area Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Salish and Kootenai Tribes (Montana)

Glass Negatives and Photographs, 1911-1939: 65 images documenting the Flathead Irrigation Project in Montana.

Southern Ute Tribe (Colorado)

Industrial Survey for the Southern Ute Agency, Colorado (Decimal Files, 1879-1952): 19 photographs documenting "homes, farms, and general life of a band of Southern Utes"

Colorado River Reservation (Arizona and California)

Central Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority, 1942 – 1945: Several photographs of residents of the Colorado Indian Reservation, which housed a War Relocation Authority center for Japanese internees in WWII.

Lac du Flambaeau Agency (Wisconsin)

Surveys of Indian Industry, 1922: 132 photos of Chippewa and Potawatomi Native Americans posed with their houses. Each photo includes a list of all the members of the households, their occupations, and observations about their work habits and personalities.

Tsimshian Indian Community (Alaska and British Columbia)

Photographs of the Inhabitants of Metlakatla, British Columbia and Metlakatla, Alaska, ca. 1856 – 1936: During this period, Tsimshian lived both on federally recognized reservations and independent villages.

Multiple Reservations

Minneapolis Area Office: Photographs, 1920 – 1971: 13 photos of from rural Minnesota, the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota, and Talihina, Oklahoma.

Classified Files of the Extension and Credit Office, 1931 – 1946: 46 photographs documenting the agricultural activities of the Office of Indian Affairs Division of Extension and Industry based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Desk Files of the Tribal Operations Branch, 1934 – 1951: 32 photos from the records of Gerorge P. LaVatta, a BIA field agent. Photos document Native Americans working on the Hoover and Boulder Dams, Indian schools, and events at the Fort Hall reservation.

DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 – 1977: This series includes several photos featuring Native Americans at work both on and off reservations.  These photos are mixed in with photos of many other subjects.

Henry Peabody Collection, 1890 – 1935: 10 photos of Hopi and Wichita Native Americans.

Central Classified Files, 1927 – 1952: About 20 photos documenting forestry activities on reservations supervised by the BIA Phoenix Area Office, including Hopi and Navajo projects.

Of course, this blog post is far from comprehensive- for any researcher, a thorough perusal of the National Archives catalog is an absolute must.  For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.  Researchers interested in records described in the catalog that haven’t been digitized should get in touch with the appropriate National Archives reference unit using the contact information at the bottom of the page.


Kentucky Indian Tribe – Cherokee Tribe

Kentucky Indian Tribe – Cherokee Tribe

The Cherokee tribe took residence in the southeastern part of Kentucky. There are prevailing dilemmas as to in which area did the tribe really settled longer. It appears that the tribe was somehow nomadic, constantly moving from one place to another around Kentucky. Through the years, the tribe developed to the point of being worthy of being part of the Five Civilized Tribes along with Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole. Some of the clans belonging to this tribe were Aniwahya, Anigatogewi, Anikawi, and Anigilohi.


Indian Reservations - HISTORY

When white explorers entered the Klamath Basin in the 1820s, the Klamath Indians occupied the Upper Klamath Lake area, which included Klamath Marsh and the Sprague and Williamson rivers. The Modoc people inhabited the Tule Lake area of Northern California and Southern Oregon. Yahooskin land bordered Klamath territory to the west and extended east into present-day Lake and Harney counties. Native uprisings and valuable tribal land, however, convinced the U.S. Government to relocate many Native groups onto reservations throughout the country. The Treaty of 1864 merged the Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin tribes into the &ldquoKlamath Tribe&rdquo and onto a single reservation in the Klamath Basin.

The reservation contained thousands of acres of Ponderosa pine. The treaty provided for a sawmill and proceeds from timber and lumber sales funded a tribal government and a health clinic. By the 1950s, the Klamath Tribe was one of the wealthiest Native groups in the nation. In 1954, despite Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal opposition, Congress passed the Klamath Termination Act, which terminated federal recognition of the Klamath Tribe. The Act discontinued federal social services, such as free education, and organized tribal lands into national forest areas or areas that could be sold. This U.S. Government map, distributed in January 1961, explained how Klamath tribal lands would be organized into U.S. National Forest lands. According to anthropologist Patrick Haynal, the Klamath were targeted for termination because of their timber assets and because Congress was convinced that the Klamath people were virtually assimilated into &ldquowhite&rdquo society, meaning they no longer needed special assistance. By the 1970s, the majority of tribal members were living below the national poverty line.

Further Reading:
Haynal, Patrick. &ldquoTermination and Tribal Survival: The Klamath Tribes of Oregon.&rdquo Oregon Historical Quarterly 101, 2000: 270.

Stern, Theodore. The Klamath Tribe: A People and Their Reservation, Seattle, Wash., 1965.

Written by Robert Donnelly, © Oregon Historical Society, 2003.

Related Historical Records

Kintpuash (also spelled Keintpoos, Keiintoposes), better known as Captain Jack, was a Modoc Indian chief during the 1860s and early 1870s. In a desperate attempt to maintain his people&rsquos independence, Kintpuash led several Modoc bands in an unsuccessful war of resistance known to whites as the Modoc War. He was …

U.S. Army Lt. Lorenzo Lorain took this photograph of a group of Klamath and Modoc Indians in the summer or fall of 1860.

The traditional territory of the Klamath and Modoc once encompassed the entire Klamath Basin. The Klamath inhabited the northern portion from Klamath Marsh south to present-day Klamath …

To some Klamath Tribal members, which included Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin Indians, the reservation symbolized subservience to Anglo-American society, and for greater than 70 years, the reservation had altered the tribes&rsquo way of life. The educational system administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs suppressed the use of their native …

This photo, taken shortly after the defeat of the Modoc Indians, shows some of the officers involved in the 1872-1873 conflict between the Modocs and the U.S. Army.

The Modoc War was fought over land. The Modocs refused to move from their traditional homeland to the Klamath Reservation, demanding instead …


Day Two

Start the day at Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, (727) 453-6500, in St. Petersburg along the western shores of Tampa Bay. From I-275 go east on Gandy Blvd. (Exit 28) turn south on San Martin Blvd., then east on Weedon Dr. N.E. The preserve will be the third turn on the left. This 3,164-acre nature preserve was home to at least four prehistoric cultures. Perhaps the most celebrated group is the Weeden Island Culture whose distinctive ornate pottery was first recorded on Weedon Island (the cultural period is spelled differently from the island) in 1924 by Jesse Walter Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution.

Visit Portavant Temple Mound at Emerson Point Preservenear Bradenton, (941) 776-6885, the largest temple mound in the Tampa Bay Area overlooking the scenic Manatee River. Take I-275 across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and stay right for U.S. 19, taking Business 41 into Palmetto. Turn right on 10th St. W. and continue to Snead Island. On Snead Island turn right on Tarpon Ave., left on 17th St. W. to the park. Emerson Point Park has witnessed extensive human use for more than 4,500 years. The most striking evidence is the 1,200 year-old temple mound and surrounding village middens. Interpretive signs describe the ways of life of former inhabitants and Florida pioneers.

Next, explore the South Florida Museum, (941) 746-4131, which houses the world-renowned Montague Tallant Collection of Florida artifacts. Known as one of the premier collections of Florida aboriginal artifacts, the collection includes pottery, shell tools, lithics, beads, gold, silver and other metals dating from the Paleo-Indian period to the arrival of the Spanish explorers. To get to the museum, take I-75 south to S.R. 64 (Exit 220) west about seven miles to downtown Bradenton. Turn right on 10th St. The museum is two blocks on the right.

Still have some energy? Head to Osprey, approximately six miles south of Sarasota off U.S. 41, and explore Historic Spanish Point, (941) 966-5214. Experience more than 5,000 years of human history on this 30-acre National Register historic site featuring shell middens, a pioneer era homestead and formal gardens. In "A Window To The Past," walk inside a 15-foot high midden where you are surrounded by a thousand years of human occupation.


Indian Reservations - HISTORY

Mattaponi History

Official Site of the

Mattaponi Indian Reservation

We are the Mattaponi, the “people of the river.” We have been in this region for over 15,000 years. The Mattaponi River will always remain the lifeblood of our tribe and an important part of our culture. Contemporary Mattaponi tribal life is still based deeply in the traditions of our ancestors, such as being faithful to our treaties and living in harmony with the natural world, while at the same time we have adapted to an ever-changing life in the Tidewater Virginia.

The Mattaponi were one of the original core tribes of the Powhatan chiefdom and the Great Chief Powhatan Wahunsenakah, the father of Pocahontas, who ruled most of Tidewater Virginia when the Europeans arrived in 1607. The Mattaponi agreed to the articles of peace with the European colonists in 1646, which was later ratified in 1677. Since 1646, the Mattaponi people have fulfilled their treaty obligations by presenting an annual tribute to the governor of Virginia as set forth by the original treaty. Each year at Thanksgiving time, the Mattaponi Tribe presents a tribute of wild game, fish, or turkey to the Governor of Virginia, keeping with their obligations to the 1646/1677 Peace Treaty.

The Mattaponi Tribe is state-recognized and continues to maintain its own sovereign government. The governing body today consist of the Chief, Assistant Chief, and Council.

T​he Mattaponi Indian Reservation was created from land long held by the Mattaponi by an act of the General Assembly in 1658, making it one of the oldest reservations in the country. Through the years both the Reservation’s physical size and the number of tribal members have diminished. The reservation presently encompasses approximately 150 acres, a portion being designated as wetlands. Although the tribal roll numbers 450 people, only 75 actually live on the Reservation.

The Reservation sits on the banks of the Mattaponi River, one of the most pristine rivers in the eastern United States. Facilities on the Reservation today include living quarters, a Baptist Church, a Museum, a Trading Post, a Fish Hatchery, a Marine Science Center, and a Community Tribal building that was formerly the Reservation school.

The Mattaponi Indian Reservation School building served as a school and church from 1890 to 1932. The school taught grades 1 through 8. The Baptist church was built in 1932, where the Mattaponi people continue to worship today. The school remained active until the 1960s, when Mattaponi children were able to attend public schools. The schoolhouse is currently used as the tribal center and pottery shop.

[Heritage/Culture]

Since the Assembly’s designation of the Reservation in 1658, the Mattaponi Tribe has maintained its heritage and many of its customs despite strong pressures to assimilate completely into mainstream culture.

The Mattaponi River, which bears the same name, has kept the Mattaponi alive for centuries. A wide variety of fish live in the Mattaponi River and provide the Mattaponi people with food. These include American Shad, Striped Bass (also called Rockfish), Catfish, Herring, and Perch. These fish are a staple of the Mattaponi diet.

​​ ​ The Mattaponi River bank also supplies the Mattaponi with clay for pottery. The Mattaponi people have perfected the art of pottery making. Replicas of ancestral pottery, as well as creative contemporary expressions, are made much the same way as in the 17th-century.

​Although many Mattaponi maintain jobs in nearby cities, tribal members still farm the reservation land. Traditionally, Powhatan woman performed farming. Now, gardening, such as planting soybeans, peas, corn and other grains, is a activity enjoyed by all. The Mattaponi people also fish, hunt, trap, and turtle.

​Efforts are also being made by tribal members to revitalize the Mattaponi Powhatan Algonquin language. ​​


Northern America

The earliest ancestors of Native Americans are known as Paleo-Indians. They shared certain cultural traits with their Asian contemporaries, such as the use of fire and domesticated dogs they do not seem to have used other Old World technologies such as grazing animals, domesticated plants, and the wheel.

Archaeological evidence indicates that Paleo-Indians traveling in the interior of Northern America hunted Pleistocene fauna such as woolly mammoths (Mammuthus species), giant ground sloths (Megatherium species), and a very large species of bison (Bison antiquus) those traveling down the coast subsisted on fish, shellfish, and other maritime products. Plant foods undoubtedly contributed to the Paleo-Indian diet, although the periglacial environment would have narrowed their quantities and varieties to some extent. Plant remains deteriorate quickly in the archaeological record, which can make direct evidence of their use somewhat scarce. However, food remains at Paleo-Indian sites including Gault (Texas) and Jake Bluff (Oklahoma) indicate that these people used a wide variety of plants and animals.

Although the artifacts recovered from many Paleo-Indian sites are predominantly, or even solely, stone tools, it is likely that these groups also made a wide variety of goods from perishable materials that have since disintegrated certainly, stone tools alone would have proved inadequate to the challenges these peoples encountered. One of the most distinctive Paleo-Indian artifact types is the Clovis point, the first of which was discovered on a kill site near what is now Clovis, New Mexico. Clovis points are lance-shaped, partially fluted, and used for killing mammoths and other very large game (see Clovis complex).

Beginning some 11,500 years ago, the climate in the Northern Hemisphere slowly became warmer and drier. Temperatures rose significantly over the next several thousand years, eventually averaging a few degrees higher than those experienced in the same areas during the early 21st century. Cold-adapted plant species such as birch and spruce retreated to the mountains and the far north, replaced in lower altitudes and latitudes by heat- and drought-resistant species including grasses, forbs, and hardwood trees. Very large animals such as mammoths and giant ground sloths were unable to cope with the change and became extinct other species, such as bison, survived by becoming smaller.


In the early North American landscape, numerous Indian nations populated the continent, each evolving according to the circumstances of their local environment. Success was based on maximizing opportunity - producing high agricultural yields deftly hunting game overpowering neighboring, rival nations absorbing vanquished foes and forming alliances to strengthen a nation's stature.

The Seneca Nation of Indians, known among their fellow Indians as the Onondowahgah, were among several nations in what is now New York State and Southern Ontario that typified the successful evolution over time to gain primacy among their neighbors - friend and foe alike.

Composed of eight clans - Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Beaver, Snipe, Heron, Deer and Hawk - the Seneca are said to have been released by the Creator from beneath a mountain and prospered as the People of the Great Hill. Because of the location of their initial settlements in relation to the four other member nations of the Iroquois Confederacy or Haudenosaunee(Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga and Mohawk), the Seneca came to be known as the Keepers of the Western Door. Any foreign emissaries wishing to gain access to the member nations of the Confederacy had to first pass through either the Senecas or the Mohawks (Keepers of the Eastern Door).

Numerically, the Seneca were the largest of the Iroquois member nations at the inception of the Confederacy 500 years ago, and they grew even larger and stronger from the mid-1600s through the early 1700s through conquests, adoptions and assimilations of smaller groups of Indians. Within the clans of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Seneca's numbered half the fighting force. Whenever the Sacred Tree of Peace (the Iroquois constitution) was threatened by an obstinate, warring nation, the Seneca's were the first to defend the Great Confederacy.

The early history of the Seneca Indians was one of great achievements (forming an important strategic alliance with the other members of the Confederacy), almost constant warfare with neighboring rival nations (principally the Huron), increasing pressure from European settlers and, ultimately, the fateful decision to side militarily with the British during the American Revolution.

As with the heralded, great Indian nations of North America, the Seneca were distinguished by charismatic, colorful, outspoken leaders who inspired members of the nation through oratory, bravery and mysticism. Their names are now inextricably linked with the Nation's rich and storied history: Red Jacket (Sa-go-ye-wat-ha), Destroy Town (On-on-da-kai), Handsome Lake (Sganyadai:yo), Cornplanter (Kaiiontwa'ko?), Blacksnake (or Governor Blacksnake) and Ely Parker (Do-ne-ho-ga-wa, brevet brigadier general and military secretary to General Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War).

Today, the Seneca Nation of Indians has a total enrollment of over 7,800 members and holds title to five reservations in New York - Cattaraugus, Allegany, Oil Spring, Niagara and Buffalo. Included on the Allegany Reservation is the City of Salamanca, known as the "only city in the world entirely on an Indian reservation."

Unlike many other Indian nations, the Seneca Nation owns their territories. Most other Indian territories are held in trust for each nation by the U.S. government.

The Seneca Nation of Indians elective form of government came into formal existence in 1848, when a new constitution was adopted. The majority of Seneca's chose to abandon the traditional chieftain system of government and to accept the elective form still in use today.

The constitution of the Seneca Nation of Indians provides for an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch. The executive branch consists of the President, Treasurer, and Clerk, who are elected every two years, with positions rotating between members of the Allegany and Cattaraugus Territories.

The legislative branch is comprised of a 16 member Tribal Council, with 8 members from Allegany and 8 members from Cattaraugus serving staggered four-year terms.

The judicial branch includes Peacemaker, Appellate, and Surrogate Courts, whose justices are elected by the members of the Nation. Seneca Nation members were made citizens of the United States as recently as 1924, and were then allowed to vote in public elections.


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