New York Indian Reservations

How things change in a little under 100 years.  In the WWI draft, literally hundreds of men were registered on New York’s Indian reservations, with more registered off of the reservation, but within the county.  Likely a result of a choice between two different offices and simply which one they visited. 

Today, although the reservations certainly still exist, their Native population has shrunk considerably.  I’ve included information about each of New York’s Reservations below.  I must say that I’ve not found the smaller ones mentioned in the draft registrations, so  they probably didn’t have a separate registration office. 

In the descriptions of the Reservations below, you’ll notice the theme of gambling, tax free tobacco products and gasoline.  While many tribes have opened casinos and other forms of gaming, the jury is certainly out on whether the long term effects, economically, culturally and socially will be more positive or negative.  The opinions of the Native people themselves, as evidence by the commentary about the chiefs being divided, are split on the topic as well. 

All things considered, I must say that it’s somewhat karmic that the Indians, through casinos, are profiting from the vices of others, given that much of what they lost can be attributed at least in part to their attraction to the white man’s “fire water.”

1.  The Allegany Reservation (Uhì·yaʼ in Tuscarora) is an American Indian reservation in Cattaraugus County, New York, United States. The population was 1,020 at the 2010 census. The reservation is primarily occupied by members of the Seneca of the Iroquois, but a smaller number of Cayuga, another Iroquois tribe, also reside there. Historically, the reservation’s land was home to the Wenrohronon, whom the Senecas eliminated during the Beaver Wars in the 1650s.

2.  The Cattaraugus Reservation is an Indian reservation of the Seneca Indian Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy located in New York. As of the 2000 census, the Indian reservation had a total population of 2,412. Its total area is about 34.4 mi. It is divided among three counties for census purposes: Cattaraugus County, Chautauqua County and  Erie County

The reservation stretches from Lake Erie inward along Cattaraugus Creek, along either side of NY 438.  Interstate 90 crosses through the reservation with the closest exit being in Irving, New York.  The tribe has a Bingo Hall with a Poker Room and various video slot machines.

The reservation is mostly rural, with one-family homes along Route 438 interspersed with businesses such as tobacco shops and is divided into several communities such as Newtown, Bucktown, Pinewoods, Eleven Acres, Ozarks and Indian Hill.

3.  The Oil Springs Reservation is an Indian reservation of the Seneca tribe located in New York, USA. As of the 2010 census, the Indian reservation had one resident. Although the reservation is controlled by the Seneca tribe, as of 2005 no tribal members actually live on the Oil Springs Reservation. It is divided between two counties: Allegany County and Cattaraugus County. The reservation is northwest of the village of Cuba and includes a couple of Native owned gas stations.

The petroleum-tainted water of the spring was used for the natives medicinally and was known to Jesuit missionaries as early as the 17th century.

4.  The Oneida (Onyota’a:ka or Onayotekaono, meaning the People of the Upright Stone, or standing stone, Thwahrù·nęʼ in Tuscarora) are a Native American/First Nations (Canada) people and are one of the five founding nations of the Iroquois Confederacy in the area of upstate New York.  They own lands in Madison and Oneida Counties, although there is debate as to whether, because they once sold the land, it can be considered as “ancient tribal land” today.  The status of the land affects the tribes ability to open casinos and participate in gaming, otherwise illegal in New York.

The Iroquois call themselves Haudenosaunee (“The people of the longhouses”) in reference to their communal lifestyle and the construction of their dwellings.  Originally the Oneida inhabited the area that later became central New York, particularly around Oneida Lake and Oneida County.

5.  The Onondaga Reservation is an Indian reservation in Onondaga County, New York, United States. It is the territory of the Onondaga Nation. The population was 468 at the 2010 census.

The Onondaga Reservation is a politically independent entity, as the nation is federally recognized by the United States government.

6.  The Poospatuck Reservation is an Indian reservation in the community of Mastic, Suffolk County, New York, United States. The population was 271 at the 2000 census.

The reservation is the smallest in New York State. It is located in Mastic on the north side of Poospatuck Creek, on the east side of Poospatuck Lane, and south of Eleanor Avenue. Poospatuck is situated in the southeast corner of Suffolk County’s Town of Brookhaven; and is the township’s sole Indian reservation. It’s about 70 miles or 1½ hours from New York City.

The reservation is recognized by the state of New York but not the Bureau of Indian Affairs – an important difference in the debate over Indian gaming.

7.  The St. Regis Mohawk Reservation is a Mohawk Indian reservation in Franklin County, New York, United States. It is also known by its Mohawk name, Akwesasne. The population was 3,288 at the 2010 census. The reservation is adjacent to the Akwesasne reserve in Ontario and Quebec. The Mohawk consider the entire community to be one unit. The reservation contains the villages of Hogansburg and St. Regis.

Under the terms of the Jay Treaty (1794), the Mohawk people may pass freely across the International Boundary. The two parts of the reservation are separated by the St. Lawrence River and the 45th parallel.

The Mohawk are one of the original Five Nations of the Iroquois, historically based in present-day New York, and the “Keepers of the Eastern Door”.

The reservation adopted gambling in the 1980s. It has caused deep controversy. Broadly speaking, the elected chiefs and the Warrior Society have supported gambling, while the traditional chiefs have opposed it. Today, the reservation is home to the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino and the Mohawk Bingo Palace.

The elected tribal governments on the New York and Canadian sides and the traditional chiefs of Akwesasne often work together as a “Tri-Council” concerning areas of shared interest, for example to negotiate land claims settlements.

The Mohawk Tribe views the reservation as a “sovereign nation,” but shares jurisdiction with the State of New York, the United States, and the Town of Bombay, in which it is located.

8.  The Shinnecock Reservation is an Indian reservation for members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation in the town of Southampton in Suffolk County, New York, United States. It lies on the east side of Shinnecock Bay on southeastern Long Island, near Tuckahoe, Shinnecock Hills, and the village of Southampton. The population was 504 as of the 2000 census.

On December 15, 2009, The New York Times reported an announcement by the Obama administration that the Shinnecock Indians on Long Island meet the criteria for federal recognition, signaling the end of a 30-year court battle. This will enable the tribe to move forward with its plans for a casino in New York City or its suburbs. The announcement all but assures that the 1,066-member Shinnecock Indian Nation will receive formal federal recognition, following a public-comment period of up to six months which must be held before the final order is issued. The reservation has been recognized by New York State but not the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs—a discrepancy which has defined the lines in proposals for the reservation to introduce Indian gaming.

9.  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 2010 census, had 483 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.

10.  The Tuscarora Reservation (Nyučirhéʼę in Tuscarora) is an Indian reservation in Niagara County, New York. The population was 1,152 at the 2010 census. The Tuscarora are a federally recognized tribe and the Sixth Nation of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy active before the American Revolutionary War.

The Tuscarora tribe had migrated in ancient times from the New York area to the South, where they were based in the Carolinas. After extended conflict with European settlers and other Native Americans at the beginning of the 18th century and defeat in the Tuscarora War, most of the tribe migrated North, beginning in 1722.

They first located in the territory of the Oneida tribe in central New York. By the early 1800s, they declared their tribe fully relocated and said that remnant Tuscarora who stayed in the South would no longer be considered part of the tribe. The Tuscarora and Oneida became allies of the American Continental cause during the American Revolution, and of the United States during the War of 1812. During both wars, they suffered attacks by British armed forces and their First Nations allies in central New York. The Tuscarora were given land from the Seneca tribe (territory which they had taken from the Neutral Nation) in 1797. In 1803, the US government granted the Tuscarora a reservation in Niagara County.

In 1960, through the efforts of the powerful appointed official, Robert Moses of New York City, New York State seized 550 acres of the Tuscarora reservation to form a reservoir for the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant operated by the New York Power Authority. New York needed 1,350 acres but only received 550 acres and had to pay $1,500 per acre per a United States Supreme Court Decision. This led to a displacement of tribal members and a serious disruption to their economy. After a lengthy court case and appeals, in 2003, the Power Authority agreed to compensate the tribe financially and return some unused land.

The reservation is a composite holding derived from (1) land given to the tribe the Seneca tribe, Land donated by the Holland Land Company, and (3) Trust territory held by the federal government.

In the draft registrations, we continually see the Lewiston Reservation mentioned.  What about Lewiston???

The Village of Lewiston, NY (also known as Yehęwakwáʼthaʼ in Tuscarora) is within the Town of Lewiston in Niagara County. The Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park lies at its southern border.

Lewiston is situated on the Niagara River, just across the river from Canada. It is half way between the world-famous Niagara Falls and historic Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York. Niagara Falls is about a ten-minute drive to the south. Visitors from Canada can take the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge across the Niagara River.

Various cultures of Native American tribes inhabited the Lewiston area for thousands of years, with the earliest known artifacts dating to 5000 B.C. By the 14th century, this area was inhabited by Iroquoian-speaking peoples. Before the mid-17th century, they had coalesced into the Five Nations, the historic Iroquois tribes of the Haudenosaunee based in present-day New York. In the early 18th century, they were joined by the Iroquoian Tuscarora from the South, who centuries before had migrated from the Great Lakes area to North Carolina. In 1722, the Iroquois accepted the Tuscarora as the Sixth Nation of the confederacy. The Tuscarora had a village here before the American Revolutionary War called Yehęwakwáʼthaʼ.

During the war, Tuscarora and Oneida Iroquois bands allied individually with the colonists or the British. Those who allied with the British went north with Joseph Brant before the end of the war and are part of the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario. Those allied with the American colonists stayed in New York. The Tuscarora Nation of New York is federally recognized and has occupied a reservation at Lewiston since the early 19th Century, although in the 1950s state and federal authorities took 22% of their reservation by eminent domain to construct what is now the Robert Moses Power Plant reservoir.

In addition to its ancient indigenous settlement, Lewiston became historically significant during European development of North America, and strategic in United States and Canadian history. It was the site from which the US invaded Canada in the Battle of Queenston Heights which took place October 13, 1812. It was the first major battle of the War of 1812. A commemorative sign marks the location where the American force embarked to cross the Niagara River. After the Americans lost the battle, a British retaliatory raid in December 1813 burned Lewiston to the ground and killed several civilians. While most American militia deserted, the local Tuscarora natives stood and fought a delaying action which bought enough time for the surviving citizens to escape, although their own village was burned as a result. The Historical Association has announced plans to construct a large scale bronze monument of thanksgiving to the Tuscaroras entitled “Tuscarora Heroes” to be unveiled on the 200th anniversary of the attack on December 19, 2013.


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Iroquois, Mohawk, New York, Oneida, Onondaga, Poospatuck, Seneca, Shinnecock, Tuscarora. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to New York Indian Reservations

  1. Lorre T. Prentiss says:


    • Cynthia Kennett-robbins says:

      That would be the St. Regis reservation. If he was born there or lived there he would be on their registry. It’s a beautiful place about 5 1/2 hours from here.

  2. adele rouser says:

    i am looking for info on stephen fowler, born 1803 in the tonawonda indian reservation in new york…have info on his daughter katherine, princess moon fowler whos mother was english, but no other info on her full blooded indian father stephen fowler…anyone know where i could find out more info?

  3. Pingback: 2013 – Native Heritage Project in Review | Native Heritage Project

  4. The Rev. Virginia W. Nagel says:

    I am looking for any information on a Mohawk woman named Pheobe Blood who married a man with the surname Hillman. She lived in the early 1800’s in the Mohawk village that is now known as Auriesville NY. She is my several-times-great grandmother and I am trying to find out more about her. If you know anything, please let me know at Thank you.

  5. Becky Hutchins says:

    Im looking for my great grandfather who was chief of northern new york tribe ,late 1800 to early 1900. his name was Joesph sauvore not sure of the spelling on last name ,my grandmother was a princess on the reservation her name was mary ida.she was disgraced and thrown out of her tribe because she was caught with my grandfather a frenchmen. i would like any information on joesph that anyone might be able to grandmother never shared any of her history with us .

  6. Amy Potter-Decker says:


    My great, great, great grandfather is “Joseph Brant”. He was the chief of the mohawk tribe. I wanted to visit the tribe and learn more of the culture! Please direct to someone who can help make this happen! My mothers maiden name was brant. Thank you

  7. Jack Servold says:

    I am seeking any info on my great great great grandfather surnamed Becker was supposed to be Onieda from Onandaga or Tonawanda Res.

  8. Pingback: 2014 in review | Native Heritage Project

  9. karen buck says:

    what does onondowaga honoejaide mean? it is on the bridge over I90. i get the “great hill people” part but can’t find honoejaide anywhere.

  10. One of my great great great ……..grandmothers was a Seneca Indian in Grand Island, how would I start searching for information about her?

  11. Donald A. Warner says:

    My great grandfather, David Warner, (of German descent), met an Iroquois princess, Harriet Cordelia Davis, in New York while serving in the Army in the late 1850’s. After they got married, when she was 19 years old, she never saw her large extended family again, and he was excommunicated from our family because of the mixed marriage. Her father was George Norman Davis, (Pennsylvania), mother was Harriet Cordelia. They lived on a “reservation in New York”. I am trying to ID which reservation, which tribe they belonged to and why, in later life she wanted to move to Wyoming, “To be closer to her people”. They are buried in Chug Water, WY If anyone knows any of these names, I would enjoy making contact to explore my 5% Indian heritage, according to my DNA. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    • Jeannette Peterson says:

      I am related to a George Davis…. but the harriet cordelia davis does not sound familiar.. we are supposed to have some indian in us to but i am so confused over it my moms mom was full blooded blackfoot i was told and then later was told cherokee… only to find an obit in the paper of one of my grandmothers sisters saying she was proud of her seneca indian heritage.. I will talk to my cousing geoge davis and see if those names sound familar to him my email is :

  12. william r park sr says:

    My great grandmother was a full blooded Mohawk. An old photo shows her wearing a three feather necklace. Recently an Indian told me that to wear that necklace she had to be a shaman. Could that be true?

    Thanks, Bill Park

  13. Maya says:

    “In the draft registrations, we continually see the Lewiston Reservation mentioned. What about Lewiston???
    The Village of Lewiston, NY (also known as Yehęwakwáʼthaʼ in Tuscarora) is within the Town of Lewiston in Niagara County. The Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park lies at its southern border.”
    Can you tell me where to find the draft registrations you are refering to that speak of a Lewiston reservation?

  14. Edna Baker says:

    I am looking for information on my Great Grandmother Name Eliza Rhoads Cotton born on the Indian reservation Buffalo N.Y.

  15. Cathy says:

    I am the administrator for the Haudenosaunee Genealogy facebook group. We have almost 6000 members and it’s a very active website with scads of pictures and info. Thought you might be interested in joining and posting your questions for the people you are looking for.

    ~Cathy Jimerson

  16. Karen DeValera says:

    I just started researching my family. Most of them are now deceased however I remember my mother and cousin telling that they had family related to my greatgrandmother on the Shinnecock reservation and would often visit in the 1940’s. Her name is Pauline Harris and I am trying to find any of her family members. Any suggestions where to begin

  17. linda palmieri thall says:

    I was told that my great,great,great grandmother Almira Tompkins of Delaware County ,Ny was indian and buried on an Indian reservation. I do not know what tribe or reservation she may have been buried . She married an Avery Mulnix also of Delaware County,Ny and is buried in Estella Pa 1828-1906 but Almira is not buried with him. Is there any way I can find out about Almira ?

  18. Barb says:

    Were/are there any reservations in the St Lawrence County of New York? My family has roots in Newton Falls, a hamlet of Clifton.

  19. Are there any reservations near Schenectady, New York?

  20. Marcy Oliver says:

    I am wondering about the requirements for tribal membership with the Tuscarora Nation. Is tribal membership based on blood quantum or lineage? How is membership determined for this tribe?

  21. Brenda Finnicum says:

    Just found your comment on draft registration of men on the NY reservations. I assume you meant Native men. Were the Indian men American citizens? Only citizens can be drafted. Many Native men volunteered during WWI. Cato Sells, the then Commissioner of Indian Affairs had to send out instructions to draft boards to clarify who could be drafted and citizenship status of Native men. Maybe the forms were completed, but never sent to draft boards.

  22. Charlotte Anderson-Dill says:

    Searching for Baker family from Genesee Co..Le Roy, Batavia, near the Tonawanda Indian reservation. Could have moved here from Canada? Had my DNA tested and result is Haplogroup X. Last known Ancestor was John (1849-1914) & Susan Jane Baker (1854-1903). Was always told that my mother was an Indian woman.

  23. MAYA says:

    No results found for “WWI and WWII Draft Registrations. LEWISTON RESERVATION”.

  24. faith hancock says:

    I am looking for any information on Josephine F Tarbell. Her mother Ida Ellen Tarbell had her out of wedlock born 9/12/1895.

  25. Laura Sayers says:

    Any Mohawks in NY state?

  26. Iyanna says:

    Good morning my name is Iyanna and my great grandfather married a woman named Fannie Rose Abernathy or Fannie rose ghee she has two children who were named Hiawatha Abernathy and Nellie Oneda Abernathy and I’m trying to find which tribe those family members would be from and since my family lives in New York I figured maybe I check to see

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