Seneca Council House, Letchworth Park, New York

Inscription: This ancient Seneca Council House stood at Ga-o-ya-de-a ‘Where the Heavens Rest Upon the Earth’ on the Genesee River in days antedating the American Revolution. In it gathered the war parties ‘that fought in the defense of their country.’ Before it prisoners ran the gauntlet. Around its council fires sat famous warriors and chiefs. It was rededicated Oct. 1, 1872 by the last Indian Council of the Genesee.”

At this council Ga-yeh-twa-geh ‘Nicholson Parker’ gave the opening address which was as follows:

“Brothers: I will say a few words. We have come here as representatives of the Seneca Nation to participate in the ceremonies of the day. In this ancient Council House, before its removal to this spot, our fathers, sachems and chiefs, often met to deliberate on matters of the moment to our people in the Village of Ga-o-yah-de-o ‘Caneadea’. We are here to rake over the ashes of its hearth, that we may find perchance a single spark with which to rekindle the fire, and cause the smoke again to rise above this roof, as in days that are past. The smoke is curling upward and the memories of the past are enwreathed with it.

Brothers: When the Confederacy of the Iroquois was formed, a smoke was raised which ascended so high that all the nations saw it and trembled. This League was formed, it may be, long before the Kingdom of Great Britain had any political existence. Our fathers of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee were once a powerful nation. They lorded it over a vast territory, comprising the whole of the State of New York. Their power was felt from the Hudson to the banks of the Mississippi, and from the great basins of sweet water in the north to the bitter waters of the Mexican Gulf. We have wasted away to a remnant of what we once were. But, though feeble in numbers, the Iroquois are represented here. We have delegates from the Mohawks, who were the Keepers of the Eastern Door of the Long House; and the Senecas, who were the guardians of the Western Door. When the big guns of General Sullivan were heard in this valley, we were one people. But the tribes of the Iroquois are scattered, and will soon be seen no more.

Brothers: We are holding council, perhaps for the last time in Gen-nis-he-o. This beautiful territory was once our own. The bones of our fathers are strewn thickly under its sod. But all this land has gone from their grasp forever. The fate and the sorrows of my people should force a sigh from the stoutest heart.

Brothers: We came here to perform a ceremony, but I cannot make it such. My heart says that this is not a play or a pageant. It is a solemn reality to me, and a mockery of days that are past and can never return. Neh-hoh, that is all.”

Continuing up the river from this ancient council house the warriors passed many ancient fort and village sites of the old Iroquois. They visited the site of the Seneca Village called, Ga-o-ya-de-a ‘Where the Heavens Rest Upon the Earth’. On a stone monument marking the site was the inscription: “Here in 1782 Major Moses Van Campers, a soldier of the Revolution captured by the Senecas, Keeper of the Western Door of the Iroquois Confederacy, ran the gauntlet thirty rods west to their ancient Council House, which is now preserved in Letchworth Park. This boulder was placed by the Catherine Schuyler Chapter N. S. D. A. R. 1908.”

From this ancient village site the warriors headed north-east over the hills to the City of Batavia where they were once again on the main Iroquois Trail. Not far from there they headed north, their destination, the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation where they visited friends. At Tonawanda they saw a marker that was erected near the site of the Homestead of Ely Parker. The inscription on this marker was: “Homestead of Ely Parker, Secretary to General Grant, born in 1823, died 1895 – Sachem of the Wolf Clan – Seneca title, Do-no-ho-ga-wa.”


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