When they met Europeans for the first time, the Cayuga occupied three large villages in present-day New York State. The Cayuga were (and remain) part of the larger Iroquois Confederacy, which also includes the Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Mohawk, and Tuscarora nations. While their main settlements were fairly compact, the Cayuga hunted in territory ranging from Lake Ontario in the north to the Susquehanna River in the south. The primary unit of Cayuga political life was the village, or town, and each of the three Cayuga towns was home to around 2,000 people.
The towns of Iroquois country were the most densely settled places in the Native American or European Northeast until the nineteenth century, with an average population of 200 people per acre. Cayugas lived with their families and other clan members in longhouses. In fact, the Iroquois Confederacy was often conceived as a longhouse, where all five member nations dwelled.
Most Iroquois families were matrilineal, meaning that descent was traced through the mother, and matrilocal, in that men often moved into the homes of their wives' mothers. Between the 1640s and the 1680s, the nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, including the Cayuga, fought continually with their neighbors. Wars broke out over access to European trade goods, and the captives from these wars were often adopted into the Iroquois world as a way of recouping population losses brought on by European diseases.
The result of these conflicts was that by the turn of the eighteenth century, the Iroquois had established themselves as the main Native American power brokers in the Northeast and had forced the Huron to scatter into the Great Lakes region. Separate treaties, each of which confirmed Iroquois neutrality, were established in 1701 with the English and the French. In the 1720s, the Cayuga, like the other Iroquois nations, increased their diplomatic power by acting as negotiators between Native American and European worlds.
At the same time, they grew increasingly dependent on European trade goods and aware of increasing European military power. During the early decades of the eighteenth century, the Cayuga succeeded at playing the French and the English off one another to the natives' advantage in terms of trade and diplomacy. They also continued to accept members of defeated tribes into their villages, and Tutelos, Saponis, Nanticokes, and Conoys joined the Iroquois Confederacy in 1753 as nonvoting members under the auspices of the Cayuga.
The French and Indian War pitted the British Empire against the French in an all-out struggle for control of North America. The Iroquois officially remained neutral, but the Cayuga often joined the French and other allied Native American peoples in raiding Anglo-American settlements. The Mohawks, on the other hand, sided with the English as it became increasingly clear that the French would lose.
The end of the war brought peace to Iroquois country, but it also took away the option of pitting the English against the French. As a result, Cayuga power was reduced drastically. After the French vacated Iroquois country in 1763, a new flood of Anglo-American settlers swept over the area.
Earlier conflict had erupted when white settlers moved too far up the Susquehanna River, and tensions continued to increase in the region throughout the eighteenth century. In response, when war broke out between Great Britain and its North American colonies in 1776, the Cayuga, like many other Native American groups, sided with the English, hoping that an English victory would slow American expansion. This proved disastrous, as American forces burned the Cayuga heartland in 1779, sending Cayugas as refugees to other tribes.
By 1807, the state of New York had acquired most of the Cayugas' land base. Many Cayugas fled to the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada, while others moved near present-day Buffalo, New York, and eventually to Kansas, Ohio, and Oklahoma. Part of the Cayugas' current land claim is based on the fact that their treaty was negotiated by the state of New York and the United States Congress never formally ratified the treaties.
Matthew Jennings See also: French and Indian War; Iroquois Confederacy; Native American-European Conflict; Native American-European Relations; Native Americans. Bibliography Becker, Mary Druke.“Cayuga. ” In Encyclopedia of North American Indians, edited by Frederick E.
Hoxie. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Richter, Daniel K.
The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The People of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992. Richter, Daniel K., and James Merrell, eds.
Beyond the Covenant Chain: The Iroquois and Their Neighbors in Indian North America, 1600 1800. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1987.
BEIs and Cayuga pictures please… Mapq8Waterfowl – Moose Manor Farms Mapq8Cayuga Duck Male North Rhinewestphalia Germany Stock Photo Getty … Mapq8