Erie Indians

Erie Tribe: Meaning in Iroquois, “long tail,” and referring to the panther, from which circumstance they are often referred to as the Cat Nation. Also called:

  • GA-quA’-ga-o-no, by L. H. Morgan (1851).

Erie Connection. The Erie belonged to the Iroquoian linguistic family.

Erie Location. All of northern Ohio, except possibly the northwestern corner, and in portions of northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York. In the southeastern part of the State they perhaps reached the Ohio River. (See also Indiana, New York, and Pennsylvania.)

Erie Villages: The names of but two villages are known, Gentaienton and Riqué. There are supposed to have been several subdivisions, but their names have not been preserved.

Erie History. Little is known of this tribe until the final struggle which resulted in its destruction as a nation at the hands of the Iroquois and the incorporation of most of the remnants among the conquerors. The war lasted from 1653 to 1656 and seems to have been unusually bloody, the victory of the Iroquois having been determined probably by the fact that they possessed firearms. Some of the so-called Seneca of Oklahoma may be descended from Erie refugees.

Erie Population. Hewitt (1907) considers 14,500 a conservative estimate of Erie population at the time of the last war, but Mooney (1928) allows only 4,000.

Connection in which they have become noted. The historical prominence of the Erie tribe itself is confined to the war in which it was destroyed. Its claim to present remembrance arises from the adoption of the name for one of the Great Lakes; for an important city in Pennsylvania upon its shores; counties in New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania; places in Weld County, Colo.; Whiteside County, Ill.; Neosho County, Kans.; Monroe County, Mich.; Cass County, N. Dak.; Loudon County, Tenn.; Erieside in Lake County, Ohio; and Erieville in Madison County, N. Y., and some smaller settlements; also an important railroad.


Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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