This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
U.S Constitution Article VI, Clause II
Treaty of Fort Stanwix
October 22, 1784
This was the first treaty between the United States and the Iroquois Confederacy. The treaty set out to define land boundaries between the United States and Native tribes under the control of the Confederacy. The treaty was necessary given Great Britain’s abandonment of their Native allies after the loss of the American Revolution, thus leaving Indigenous people out of the Treaty of Paris entirely. In order to prevent further conflicts between settlers and Natives, the treaty was negotiated but subsequently needed further clarification for there to be peace between the nations.
Treaty of Fort Harmar
January 9, 1789
This treaty mainly clarified the boundaries between the United States and Native nations. It served to clear up the issues the came about from the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784 that left many Native nations angry about the outcome due to the lack of clarification and little input from the smaller Native tribes.
Treaty of Canandaigua
November 11, 1794
The Canandaigua Treaty was a peace treaty between the United States and the Iroquois Confederacy. Not only did the treaty establish peace between the parties, but it reaffirmed the land boundaries and land rights of the Haudenosaunee. Colonel Timothy Pickering and General Isarael Chapin were the representatives sent by the United States, along with Quaker representatives. The Quaker representatives were invited by the Seneca people because “Quakers were a trust-worthy, peaceful people who could read English and help to ensure fair negotiations.”
“The land of the Seneka nation is bounded as follows: Beginning on Lake Ontario, at the north-west corner of the land they sold to Oliver Phelps, the line runs westerly along the lake, as far as O-yong-wong-yeh Creek, at Johnson’s Landing-place, about four miles eastward d from the fort of Niagara; then southerly up that creek to its main fork, then straight to the main fork of Stedman’s creek, which empties into the river Niagara, above fort Schlosser, and then onward, from that fork, continuing the same straight course, to that river; (this line, from the mouth of O-yong-wong-yeh Creek to the river Niagara, above fort Schlosser, being the eastern boundary of a strip of land, extending from the same line to Niagara river, which the Seneka nation ceded to the King of Great-Britain, at a treaty held about thirty years ago, with Sir William Johnson;) then the line runs along the river Niagara to Lake Erie; then along Lake Erie to the north-east corner of a triangular piece of land which the United States conveyed to the state of Pennsylvania, as by the President’s patent, dated the third day of March, 1792; then due south to the northern boundary of that state; then due east to the south-west corner of the land sold by the Seneka nation to Oliver Phelps; and then north and northerly, along Phelps’s line, to the place of beginning on Lake Ontario. Now, the United States acknowledge all the land within the aforementioned boundaries, to be the property of the Seneka nation; and the United States will never claim the same, nor disturb the Seneka nation, nor any of the Six Nations, or of their Indian friends residing thereon and united with them, in the free use and enjoyment thereof: but it shall remain theirs, until they choose to sell tie same to the people of the United States, who have the right to purchase.” (citation: Yale Law—http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/six1794.asp)
Treaty of Big Tree
September 15, 1797
The purpose of the Treaty of Big Tree was for the State of New York to acquire all Seneca land West of the Genesee River. The negotiations of the treaty took place in Geneseo, NY, where Jeremiah Wadsworth served as the representative for the United States. Prominent figures in attendance of the Seneca Indians included: Cornplanter, Handsome Lake, Red Jacket, Mary Jemison, Young King, Little Beard, and Farmer’s Brother to name a few. The Treaty resulted in the creation of eleven reservations (many of which would be retracted by the U.S. government in the years to come), as well as 17,929 acres that Mary Jemison managed to secure through using natural land borders as description instead of square miles.
Amrhein, Cindy. A History of Native American Land Rights in Upstate New York. The History Press, 2016.
Treaty of Buffalo Creek
January 15, 1838; 1842
The Treaty of Buffalo Creek came about due to the Indian Removal Act’s efforts to move Eastern tribes West of the Mississippi River. The treaty sought to purchase the remaining four Seneca reservations—Buffalo Creek, Tonawanda, Cattaraugus, and Allegany—and relocate the Senecas to a reservation in present day Kansas. Given how terrible and corrupt of a treaty this was from the perspective of the Senecas, there was much protest and, eventually, the decision was ratified through a new treaty of the same name in 1842. In the new treaty, the Seneca Nation was allowed to keep two reservations, Allegany and Cattaragus, the other two being sold to the United States. The United States, Seneca Nation and the state of New York and Massachusetts were parties present for the treaty.
Sources: Seneca Nation of Indians
When we discuss the territory of the Senecas, we are looking at the land depicted in the map below. If you click on the different colored areas in the map, you can see the various treaties that caused the Seneca’s territory to shrink and move as European settlers arrived in the New World.
If all of these treaties were signed, meaning some sort of agreement was made, why would there still be unethical or unlawful practices to get the Senecas to move from their land?