Native American Settlement in Niagara

The first record of human settlers to the Niagara Peninsula came from southwestern Ontario between 1300 and 1400 A.D.

One of the earliest native tribes called themselves the “Onguiaahra”. It is one of the names from which the name “Niagara River” originated.

Among the early settlers were an Iroquois group of Native Americans called “Atiquandaronk” (pronounced Attouanderonks). Their name was given to them by their enemies, the Huron Native Americans and the Iroquois Native Americans.

The French explorers that came to Niagara gave this Native American tribe the name “Neutrals” because of their position and status as peace keepers between the two warring Native American nations – the Huron’s and the Iroquois.

The Neutral Native Americans were the leaders of a group of ten tribes of the Iroquois Nation. Other tribes included the Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Huron, Petun, Erie and the Susquehannock.

The Neutral tribe was governed by a “Queen of Peace” named “Jikonsaseh”. She preserved the peace and neutrality of the Neutral tribe as well as maintaining a separation between the Huron’s in the West and the Iroquois in the East. Jikonsaseh lived in a village called “Keinuka” which was located just east of the Niagara River.

In the early 1600’s, the Neutrals had a population of 20,000 – 40,000. The Neutrals were well structured and had a developed hierarchy both politically and economically. The Neutrals brought with them many skills. In addition to being peace keepers and fierce warriors, they were also traders, farmers and business people. The Neutrals brought the humble beginnings of industry to the Niagara Frontier.

In 1626 Etienne Brule, the first European, arrived in Niagara. This signaled the beginning of the onslaught of European explorers coming to the “New World” including Niagara.

The Seneca Native Americans occupied the east bank of the Niagara River near Lake Ontario.

In 1639 the Wenroe Native Americans, a transient tribe who lived in villages along the east side of the Niagara River who feared the Seneca Native Americans, escaped to Huron territory with the aid of the Neutral Native Americans.

In 1640, the state of war broke out among the Seneca and Huron Native Americans. This war began when a Seneca warrior was killed while attempting to take refuge in a Neutral Native American village by a Huron Native American. The warrior was an Onondaga Native American Chief, named Annenraes.

The Seneca blamed the Neutral for their part in the killing of the chief. The Seneca planned to avenge his death by attacking the Huron and Neutral Native Americans. In 1647, the Seneca along with a group of Onondaga Native Americans began advancing towards Huron territory. On route, the Onondega war party met Chief Annenraes in the forest. Contrary to reports of his death, Chief Annenraes was alive and safe. This did not alter the plans of the Seneca Native Americans as they continued to wage war against the Huron and the Neutral Native Americans.

In 1649, the Seneca and other members of the Iroquois Nation attacked the Wenroe and Huron Native Americans.

Over the next six years the Native American Wars continued and soon the Huron Nation located in the north was in ruins and scattered throughout the country.

The warring Iroquois Native Americans were victorious. They no longer had any enemies that would divide their warriors. In 1652, the Iroquois moved into the Niagara area, forcing the Neutral Native Americans eastward to the area of Albany, New York.

By 1653, the Neutral Native Americans had all but ceased to exist as a Native American Nation. Some of the remaining Neutrals were adopted by the Seneca while others joined the Huron’s at Mackinac.

In 1654, the Erie Native Americans lived in villages along the south side of Lake Erie. The Erie Native Americans attacked a Seneca Village. They ran into a Seneca war party who was returning from a raid upon the Huron Native Americans. Included in those Native Americans captured was Chief Annenraes of the Onondaga tribe.

In retaliation, the Seneca sent 1,800 warriors against the Erie tribe only to be beaten back. Chief Annenraes was burned to death at the stake at an Erie Native American village.

In 1655, the Seneca Native Americans attacked in immense numbers and massacred the Erie Native Americans. This battle marked the end of the Erie Native Americans along Lake Erie.

The Mississauga Native Americans gradually moved into those areas left vacant by the Neutral and Erie Native Americans.

In 1680, French explorer, Rene-Robert Chevalier, Sieur de La Salle wrote of meeting the Mississauga Native Americans.

In 1722, Tuscarora Native Americans lived on a reservation on the east bank of the Niagara River. The Seneca Native Americans adopted the Tuscarora and O’Neida Native Americans. Both tribes became members of the Iroquois League of Six Nations. In 1745, the French forced the Mississauga Native Americans to the east side of the Niagara River. The Mississauga’s were granted temporary admittance into the Iroquois Nation.

During the war between the French and the British, the Mississauga Native Americans supported the French and the Iroquois supported the British. During the American Revolution, the Mississauga Native Americans supported the British. Following the American Revolution, the Mississauga Native Americans settled along the banks of the Chippeway River (Village of Chippawa).

In 1788, nearly 600 Mississauga Native Americans lived at Queenston.

In 1850, a Mississauga Native American was reported to have killed the last deer on Goat Island.

In the early 1800’s, Delaware Native Americans lived upon the banks of the Cattaraugus Creek.

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