In what is now Madison and Onondaga counties in Central New York sits many important places to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). These counties are the homelands of the Onondagas and the Oneidas. The Tuscarora, when joining the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in 1722, were granted land in primarily the Oneida homelands in the area.
This is by no means a complete list of public places offering Native tourism opportunities in the area. They are often marked by small blue signs. Here we present some of the lesser known places and events of Central New York.
Nichols Pond is a 45-acre Madison County Park located in the Town of Fenner, New York. The park sits on what was a main village site of the Oneida Indian Nation dating back to the 1400s. Across the street from the park there are still grain storage pits visible from when the Oneidas would store their food like dried corn.
The village site is positioned so the Oneidas could keep watch north across Oneida Lake in order to see if anyone was approaching from that direction.
The site was dug at in the 1950s by Dr. Peter Pratt and revealed where palisades protected the village from the west side. Pratt was an archaeology professor at the State University of New York at Oswego. He dug at several important Haudenosaunee locations including burial sites not be listed here.
Today, the Oneidas return to the site in Central New York for educational purposes with youth groups and to stay connected to the site. Marilyn John, Bear Clan Mother, who passed away in 2007 planted a white pine tree at the site many years ago. This symbolic planting of the tree is important as the white pine is the Tree of Peace in Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Culture.
The lake served both the Oneidas and the Onondagas within their respective territories. Oneida Lake was many things to the Nations of the Haudenosaunee. Canoes from all of the Six Nations traveled across Oneida Lake, Known as Tsioqui, White Waters in the Oneida language. Tsioqui was was once filled with 25-pound Atlantic salmon. Salmon is a traditional food of the Haudenosaunee. They were so plentiful in Oneida Lake and its tributaries, they were easily caught with spears or with bare hands, according to Early History of Atlantic Salmon in New York by Dwight A. Webster, a professor of fishery science at Cornell University.
The Onondaga had fishing villages on the west end of the lake within their territory known as Techiroguen. From this village the Onondaga could travel north to the Salmon River and then onto Lake Ontario. This was a major route for trade, hunting and fishing. The Mohawk River to the east of the lake was also traveled on and through a portage on what is now Rome, New York, Oneida Lake was also accessible for the Mohawks whose traditional territory is east of the Oneidas.
East of Chittenango, New York, along State Route 5 is a place known as Canaseraga, after a stream that runs through the area. There is a marker stating that it was the location of the first settlement of area colonists in 1790. This was the territory of a nearby Tuscarora village site in what was originally Oneida Indian Nation land, though the marker only mentions the colonists.
The settlers were viewed as squatters with complaints from the Oneidas and Tuscaroras repeatedly reaching then Governor George Clinton of New York. According to The History of Chenango and Madison County, New York by James H. Smith, the squatters were evicted by Colonel William Colbraith and their dwellings burned by Colbraith’s men in 1791. The Tuscarora and Oneidas that were present were recorded as being filled with sorrow by local author Guerdon Evans. “The Indians gathered around in quiet groups with hearts more full of sorrow for the white man than joy for justice secured them by righteous laws.” The Oneidas and Tuscaroras then led those they evicted west a few miles and gave them a place they were welcomed to live by Chittenango Creek.
Worth noting is that Canaseraga Creek also flows into Oneida Lake.
On Route 11 in the hamlet of Nedrow, New York is a plaque attached to a boulder that marks where the Iroquois Trail—sometimes known as the Great Indian Trail or Mohawk Trail—crossed East and West through Haudenosaunee territory. The path was used for trading, communications, and even traveling during times of war. The trail extended from what is now Albany, New York to the western portion of New York State in Seneca Territory. This was just a part of a trail system that led in all directions and eventually became many of the roadways that people use today.
This location is what is known as the Edge of the Woods between the Onondaga and Oneida territories. There is a spring that comes out of the ground here and then travels back underground into the side of a hill. Also a part of the Iroquois Trail this is where a traveler would stop and set up a small fire to show themselves and be greeted in by the other nation.