Seneca (tribe)

Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma

The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma enjoys the same tribal sovereignty as all recognized Indian tribes in the United States. Theirs is a limited sovereignty--the tribes are recognized as "domestic dependent nations" within the United States--but to the degree permitted by that sovereignty, they are an independent nation outside of state law. The tribe's sovereignty means the state of Oklahoma is limited in the extent to which it can intervene legally in tribal matters.

With a Class II casino and cigarette manufacturing plant near Grove, Oklahoma, which makes their highly popular Sky Dancer cigarettes. The Seneca-Cayuga tribe has, in a manner of only a few decades, gone from being a destitute people to enjoying a fair amount of social prosperity by investing a large portion of their profits back into their community.

The new wealth generated by the tribe's gaming and other enterprises has enabled the tribe to provide many benefits for the members on the tribal rolls. As with all other tribes, the Seneca-Cayuga themselves define who qualifies to be on those rolls. The Seneca-Cayuga requirements are: All persons of Indian blood whose names appear on the official census roll of the Tribe as of January 1, 1937; All children born since the date of the said roll, both of whose parents are members of the Tribe; Any child born of a marriage between a member of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe and a member of any other Indian tribe who chooses to affiliate with the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe; Any child born of a marriage between a member of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe and any other persons if such child is admitted to membership by the Council of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe.


The Seneca, or Onödowága' (meaning "People of the Great Hill"), traditionally lived in what is now New York between the Genesee River and Canandaigua Lake. Likewise the name Cayuga (Gayogohó:no’) means "People of the Great Swamp."

Belonging to the Iroquoian linguistic family, the largest division of the Five Nations (or League of the Iroquois) who were first found living in New York. The Five Nations of this Iroquois confederation was composed of Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Cayuga; later known as the Six Nations when Tuscarora joined the confederation.

There was a well-known confederation of Iroquois Indian bands drawn from throughout the Northeast that included the Mingo (from the upper Ohio River), Conestoga, Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Tuscarora, and Onondaga (driven into Ohio by early colonists) and the Seneca of Sandusky (who had lived in New York at the outset of the American Revolution). After the war, the Cayuga moved to Ohio, where they were granted a reservation along the Sandusky River. They were joined there by the Shawnee of Ohio and the rest of the confederacy.

The Indian Claims Commission's opinion in Strong v. United States, 31 Ind. Cl. Comm 89 at 114, 116, 117 details the separation of one small group of the Seneca-Cayugas' ancestors (who are known as Mingoes) from the Six Nations and their migration to Ohio in the mid 1700's as follows: "The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma constitutes the descendants of those Mingoes who were living in Ohio in the 18th century . . . About 1800 these Senecas of Sandusky were joined by a portion of the Cayugas who had sold their lands in New York...Based upon the record in these proceedings, we believe that by the time of the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty, the Mingoes in Ohio were small, independent bands, no longer politically subservient to the Six Nations of New York. . . [B]eginning shortly before 1750, the Mingoes themselves were asserting their independence from the Six Nations of New York . . . The only conclusion which can be reached from an analysis of the activities of these Mingoes in Ohio during the 18th century is that they constituted independent bands who often acted in concert with other Ohio Indians. Their actions do not support the conclusion that they remained politically affiliated with the Six Nations of New York."

In 1831, the tribe sold their land in Ohio and accepted a reservation in the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory. They were a prosperous people who, preparing to leave Ohio, heavily loaded their baggage (clothing, household goods, tools, seed) onto a steamboat to sail to St. Louis. The trip to their new home took eight months plagued by delays, blizzards, disease, and death. Upon their arrival in Indian Territory, they found their lands overlapped those of the Cherokee. Another band (the Mixed Band of Seneca and Shawnee) also traded their Ohio lands for a tract in Indian Territory which was wholly within the Cherokee Nation. An 1832 treaty- the first made by the U.S. with the immigrant Indians within the boundaries of Oklahoma- adjusted the boundaries and created the "United Nation of Seneca and Shawnee."

During the Civil War, their homeland became a battleground. Eventually, most fled to Kansas for safety. In 1867, federal negotiators sold part of their lands to various tribes and arranged for the separation of the Shawnee (who then became the Eastern Shawnee).

In 1881, a band of Cayuga from Canada joined the Seneca Tribe in Indian Territory. In 1902, shortly before Oklahoma became a state, 372 members of the joint tribe received land allotments.

The mission of Cayuga (east of Grove), the Dobson Museum (Miami), the State Museum of History (Oklahoma City), and the Philbrook Museum (Tulsa) all contain information about the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe.

Today, the tribal roll numbers approximately 5,000 members, many of whom live throughout Ottawa and Delaware Counties. The tribal headquarters is located in Miami, Oklahoma.

The current Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma is a Federal Corporation chartered under the Act of June 26, 1936.


Opposition comes from groups like the Upstate Citizens for Equality, a group which opposes Haudenosaunee land claims in upstate New York as well as the state-tax-free basis that the tribe's enterprises can operate under, part of the benefit of being a limited sovereignty.

The tribe intervened in the land claim filed by the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York asserting that it was composed of descendants of the Cayuga Nation. However, from the prior decision of the U.S. Indian Claims Commission in Strong v. United States it appears that they were not a party to the treaties between the Cayuga Nation and New York and should not have any claim based on the loss of land that occurred after they left New York. The Seneca Nation of Indians used this argument when the tribe attempted to intervene in their land claim against New York over land around Cuba (town), New York. The Seneca Nation ultimately settled their claim to the property arround Cuba Lake.

The tribe has long sought land in New York upon which to build another casino. The tribe applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to have land located in New York taken into trust. The US Dep't of the Interior rejected the tribe's trust application.


The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma have an electorate system of government, consisting of two governing bodies: the Reservation Business Committee (RBC), which acts as the Tribe's council that oversee the daily governing of the Tribe, and the Grievance Committee, which acts as the Tribe's judiciary.

The Reservation Business Committee consists of seven members: Chief, Second Chief, Secretary-Treasurer and four RBC Members. The current chief is Leroy Howard. The Grievance Committee consists of five members. On odd years, Chief, First and Third RBC Members, and First, Third and Fifth Grievance Committee Members are elected. On even years, the Second Chief, Secretary-Treasurer, Second and Fourth RBC Members and Second and Fourth Grievance Committee Members are elected. All elected terms are for two years.


  • Administration on Aging Program
  • Adult Education Program
  • Adult Vocational Training Program
  • Child Care & Development Program
  • CDGB Program
  • Higher Education Program
  • Housing Improvement Program & NAHASDA
  • Indian Child Welfare Program
  • Johnson O'Malley Program
  • Social Services/Child Protection Program
  • Substance Abuse Program
  • Tax Commission
  • Tribal Enrollment

Official Address

Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma
R2301 E. Steve Owens Boulevard
Miami, OK 74355 Miami (Main) Office
P.O. Box 1283
Miami, Oklahoma 74355
Telephone: 1-918-542-6609
Toll Free: 1-888-313-6609
Fax: 1-918-542-3684

Grove Office
23701 South 655 Road
Grove, Oklahoma 74344

Telephone: 1-918-787-5452
Toll Free: 1-866-787-5452
Fax: 1-918-787-5521



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