A Guide to the Indian Tribes of OK: Cayuga



Written by: Muriel H. Wright

Foreword by: Arrell Morgan Gibson


The name of the Cayuga is from Kwĕñio’ gwĕn , “the place where the locusts were taken out.” The people of this Indian tribe are of the Iroquoian linguistic family, and they formerly lived on the shores of Cayuga Lake, New Yor­k, where they were counted as one of the Five Nations of the Iroquois.

  • Present Location: The Cayuga live in Ottawa County, having been allotted lands in severalty by 1891 among the Seneca in the southern part of the county. Some Cayuga live in New York, and a large number live near the Chippewa in Canada.
  • Numbers: The Cayuga in Oklahoma are counted among the Seneca (q.v.) in Ottawa County. No complete enumeration of the Cayuga in the United States was ever made. They numbered 223 in New York in 1944. Their population was estimated at approximately 1,100 in 1774-75.
  • History: At the start of the American Revolution, a large part of the Cayuga tribe left New York and moved to Canada, where many of their descendants are now living. Other bands of the tribe remained in this country scattered among their neighbors of the Iroquoian Confederacy. Soon after the close of the Revolutionary War, the Cayuga sold their lands to New York, some of the tribal bands moving to Ohio where they joined the remnants of other Iroquoian tribes (Erie, Conestoga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Mohawk) that became known as the Seneca of Sandusky. These people, including the band of Cayuga, moved to the Indian Territory in 1832, soon after concluding a treaty with United States commissioners at Washington (see Seneca). In the records of United States Indian affairs, these remnant Iroquoian tribes that formerly lived in New York are referred to as “New York Indians,” among whom the Cayuga are generally listed.

It was with the idea of joining their tribal kin among the Seneca in the Indian Territory than a band of Cayuga from Canada and a few from New York, something over 100 persons, came to the Quapaw Agency in 1881. Some of these people were adopted by the Seneca, but the late arrivals were finally forced to return to Canada after suffering many hardships. A part of them set out to return on foot from the Indian Territory, a report later stating that 13 of them died on the way. While the Cayuga are not listed as a separate tribe in the Quapaw Agency record, these people were locally well known and have had a part in the history of the Seneca (q.v.) in the Indian Territory. Their name is incorporated in that of the “Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma,” which received a corporate charter in 1937 under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936.