Focus on Treaties for Native American Heritage Month
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Treaty of Buffalo Creek

Although some historians claim it was one of the most blatant government-assisted land frauds in U.S. history, the Treaty of Buffalo Creek (1838), with the Seneca, Tuscarora, St. Regis, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Oneida of New York, succeeded in achieving land cessions without actually resettling the tribes on the territory in Kansas that was set aside for them.

During January 1838, the Seneca, under protest, sold their four remaining reservations (at Allegany, Cattaraugus, Tonawanda, and Buffalo Creek) to the Ogden Land Company, with a representative of the United States in attendance.

Under the terms of the treaty, the Seneca relinquished title on their homelands to the Ogden Land Company for 500,000 acres in Wisconsin purchased on their behalf by the U.S. government. The United States, in exchange, granted the Iroquois as a whole (as well as the Stockbridge-Munsee) rights to 1.8 million acres in northeastern Kansas. For their 202,000 acres in New York State, the Native peoples (mostly Seneca) were paid $202,000, or about $1 an acre. Having compensated the Seneca, the government now urged them to march to Indian Territory (later Oklahoma) in a manner earlier experienced by the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. The Seneca fought this plan bitterly. Despite revelations of fraud, forgery, and bribery on the part of Ogden Land Company's negotiators, Congress, pressured by President Andrew Jackson, who favored Indian removals, ratified the treaty.

In 1842, in another treaty negotiation, also concluded at Buffalo Creek, the Allegany and Tonawanda reservations were returned to the Seneca, but Ogden Land Company retained preemption rights. In 1857, the Tonawanda Seneca were allowed to repurchase part of the land sold to Ogden Land Company almost two decades earlier.

Bruce Elliott Johansen and Barbara Alice Mann


Further Reading
Hauptman, Laurence M. The Iroquois in the Civil War: From Battlefield to Reservation. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1993; Johansen, Bruce E., and Barbara Alice Mann, eds. Encyclopedia of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000; Morgan, Lewis Henry. League of the Iroquois. 1851. Secaucus, N.J.: Corinth Books, 1962.
 

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