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Seneca Nation

Seneca Nation of Indians
CapitalIrving, New York
Jimerson Town, New York
Largest city Salamanca, NY
Official languages Seneca language (national)
English (national)
Government Republic
 -  President Barry E. Snyder, Sr.
 -  2005 estimate 7,800
Currency United States dollar
Time zone EST

The Seneca Nation of New York, also known as the Seneca Nation of Indians (Salamanca) is a federally recognized tribe of Seneca people in New York.[1] The tribe has two headquarters: one in Irving, New York on the Cattaraugus Reservation, and the other in Jimerson Town on the Allegany Indian Reservation.[2]


The tribe was established in 1848 by a Constitutional Convention of Seneca people residing on the Allegany and Cattaragus Territories in present-day New York. The Seneca Nation of Indians Constitution established a tripartite governing structure based on general elections of 16 Councilors, three Executives (President, Treasurer, Clerk), and Court justices (Surrogates and Peacemakers). These elections are held every two years, concurrent with Election Day in the rest of the United States. The leadership rotates between the two reservations each elections, and no officer can serve consecutive terms because of this.[3]


The government is primarily under one-party rule, with the Seneca Party having complete control over the political process. The Seneca Party has cemented their place through bribing people for votes and busing voters in from out of state during elections, both of which are implicitly condoned.[4] Despite the one-party rule, there are numerous factions and disputes within the Seneca Party, tensions that have been exacerbated since the election of attorney Robert Odawi Porter as President; supporters of Porter have been at odds with supporters of the John family, an old-line, politically powerful family in Seneca circles. In November 2011, the John family led a vote to strip Porter of most of his powers and give the title of chief executive officer to Michael "Spike" John, a vote that the Seneca clerk (believed to be a Porter ally) invalidated under conflict of interest statutes. The de facto impeachment move came after what John supporters said was the politically motivated charges against Susan Abrams, a John ally.[4] Spike John is the cousin of Maurice "Moe" John, who served as Seneca president from 2006 to 2008 and ran unsuccessfully for Seneca President against Porter in 2010.[4] The 2012 elections have been marked by a split in the Seneca party and one of the most wide-open (and bitterly contested) Seneca elections in several years: five candidates will face off against each other for the post, including two endorsed by the two separate factions in the Seneca Party.[5]

Economic development

The tribe owns and operates the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, located in Buffalo, New York.[6] They also own Seneca Gaming and Entertainment in Irving; Seneca Allegany Casino in Salamanca; Seneca Nation Bingo, Allegany in Salamanca; and Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls.[2] Through a tribal-owned holding company, the tribe owns a telecommunications firm, Seneca Telecommunications, and a radio station, WGWE. Under the Porter administration, the Seneca Nation has made an effort to diversify its business offerings and has promoted, through an economic development corporation, the creation of new Seneca-owned businesses, outside the nation's traditional strongholds of gasoline and tobacco products. The tribe also owns its own small chain of smoke shops and gas stations under the "Seneca One Stop" brand; the vast majority of smoke shops on Seneca reservations, however, are independently owned. The refusal of Seneca businesses to pay New York state excise taxes, and the resulting price advantage the Senecas have over non-Senecas as a result, has been a source of controversy for several decades.

Relationship with non-Senecas

The relationship between the Seneca Nation and the surrounding population has been contentious, both in regard to excise tax advantages and in regard to property rights. In the 1990s, the Senecas won a prolonged court battle to assume ownership of all land on their reservation, including that owned by private non-Senecas, and demanded the previous owners all sign leases with the nation or be evicted.[7] In 2012, the Senecas ordered a mass eviction of eighty residents of Snyder Beach on the Cattaraugus Reservation, deeming their presence a long-standing "illegal occupation".[7]

See also



  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.

External links

  • Seneca Nation of New York, official website
  • Seneca-Iroquois National Museum
  • Seneca Nation of Indians: Division of Tourism
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