Cayuga Tribe

Cayuga Man

The Cayuga are a tribe of the Iroquoian confederation that formerly occupied the shores of Cayuga Lake, New York. Their name means “People of the Great Swamp.”

The tribe’s local council was composed of four clan kinship groups, which became the pattern of the Iroquoian Confederation. In 1660 they were estimated to number 1,500, but by 1778, they were reduced to 1,100.

At the beginning of the American Revolution, a large part of the tribe was removed to Canada and never returned, while the rest were scattered among the other tribes of the Confederacy. During the Revolution, Cayuga warriors fought on both sides, while others abstained. However, the Iroquois generally sided with the British, causing the Americans to make raids against them. Soon after the Revolution, many Cayuga sold their lands in New York, with some going to Ohio, where they joined other Iroquois and became known as the Seneca of the Sandusky, or Mingo. These were later moved to Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

In November 1794, the New York Cayuga Nation and other Iroquois nations signed the Pickering Treaty with the United States. They ceded much of their lands in New York to the United States, forced to do so as allies of the defeated British. It was the second treaty the United States entered into.

Today, there are four Cayuga bands. The two largest, the Lower Cayuga and Upper Cayuga, live in Ontario, Canada, at Six Nations of the Grand River. Those that live in the United States belong to the Cayuga Nation of New York in Versailles and or to the combined Cayuga-Seneca Nation in Oklahoma.

©Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2021.

Also See:

Indian Removal Act

Native American Photo Galleries

Native American Tribes List

Native Americans – First Owners of America