Tonawanda Reservation, Genesee County, New York

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The Tonawanda Indian Reservation is an Indian reservation of the Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians located in western New York, USA. The band is a federally recognized tribe and, in the 2000 census, had 543 people living on the reservation. Although most of the reservation lies in Genesee County, portions are within the boundaries of Erie and Niagara counties.

The Tonawanda Reservation is also known as the Tonawanda Creek Reservation. Currently, it has more than a half dozen businesses located on Bloomingdale Road within the reservation. Several sell untaxed, low-price cigarettes and gasoline. Other businesses sell Seneca craft goods, groceries, and prepared food.



After various cultures of indigenous peoples succeeded each other in the Great Lakes area, in historic times, the five nations of the Iroquois coalesced. Before the mid-17th century, they had formed the Iroquois Confederacy. The Seneca were one of the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee.

During the American Revolutionary War, most of the Iroquois sided with the British, as they hoped to end colonial encroachment. After the war, most of the Seneca and other Iroquois were forced to cede their land to the US. They migrated with Joseph Brant and other Iroquois tribes to Ontario, Canada.

Those who stayed in New York were assigned reservations. The Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians split from the rest of the tribe in the 19th century to preserve their traditional practices, including selection of life chiefs by heritage. The Seneca of this reservation worked with self-taught anthropologist Lewis H. Morgan in mid century to teach him about the Iroquois kinship and social structures.

He published the results of his work in 1851 as The League of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee or Iroquois. His insights about the significance and details of kinship structure in Native American societies influenced much following anthropological and ethnological research. Much of the information was provided by his colleague and friend Ely S. Parker, a Seneca born on the reservation in 1828. Morgan dedicated his book to Parker and credited him with their joint research.

Over the years, the size of the reservation has been reduced by sales of land to surrounding communities.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the part in Niagara County has a total area of 0.8 mi² (2.1 km²) and none of the area is covered with water. The Census Bureau reports the part of the reservation in Genesee County has a total area of 9.3mi² (24.0 km²). 9.2 mi² (23.8 km²) of it is land and 0.1 mi² (0.2 km²) of it (0.76%) is water. The Census Bureau reports the part in Erie County has a total area of 1.8 mi² (4.8 km²). None of the area is covered with water.

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