The Onondaga were one of the original member tribes of the League of the Iroquois or the Five Nations Confederacy. The Onondaga live mostly on Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada, and the Onondaga Indian Reservation in New York State. In the 1980s they numbered approximately 1,500. In late aboriginal and early historic times the Onondaga occupied a narrow strip of territory extending from the extreme southeastern shore of Lake Ontario south to the upper waters of the Susquehanna River. In 1650 they numbered about 1,750.

During the American Revolution the Onondaga were forced by circumstances to side with the British and subsequently had to cede much of their territory in New York to the United States. Between 1788 and 1842 their remaining lands, which formed the Onondaga Indian Reservation, located south of Syracuse, New York, were gradually reduced through treaties and land sales. In the mid-nineteenth Century the majority of Onondaga sold their remaining New York lands and resettled on Six Nations Reserve.

Traditionally, the Onondaga were a hunting and farming people, but gathering and fishing were also important Subsistence activities. Onondaga village was the site of the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy and was considered to be its capital. The Onondaga held fourteen of the fifty hereditary sachem positions in the council of the League of the Iroquois, one of which was the chief of the council, and were known as the "Keepers of the Council Fire."

See also Iroquois


Blau, Harold (1967). "Mythology, Prestige and Politics: A Case for Onondaga Cultural Persistence." New York Folklore Quarterly 23:45-51.

Bradley, James W. (1987). Evolution of the Onondaga Iroquois: Accommodating Change, 1500-1655. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

Tuck, James A. (1971). Onondaga Iroquois Prehistory: A Study in Settlement Archaeology. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

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