The Erie are a no-longer-extant American Indian tribe whose descendants may be included among today's Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma. The Erie were an obscure group who lived south of Lake Erie during the 1600s. No known European visited an Erie village, and the tribe's language was not recorded. Scholars speculate that they were Iroquois, based on similarities between them and other Iroquoian-speaking peoples. Tribe information has been obtained from the archeological record and secondhand French sources.
It is believed that the Erie were an alliance of several tribes, with each having one or more towns. These sedentary villages were densely populated and extended from present Buffalo, New York, south to Toledo, Ohio, and east to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Two identified settlements were Rigue and Gentaienton, whose inhabitants were known respectively as the Riquehronnons and the Gentaguehronons. Erie is from Erieehronons, one of various French spellings of the Wyandot (Huron) name for the tribe. The French knew them as la nation de Chat (Raccoon Nation), a reference to the raccoons or "wild cats" in their region.
The Erie blocked access to the hunting grounds of the Ohio Valley. As a result, warfare between the Erie and the Five Nations Iroquois began in the 1650s. The Iroquois defeated the Erie in 1654 and achieved complete victory in 1656. The Erie dispersed. Many were subsequently captured by the Iroquois, including one Ohio Valley band that surrendered to the Seneca in 1680.
Numerous Erie were among the Iroquoian bands and tribal remnants that occupied Ohio during the 1700s. Known collectively as Mingo or as Seneca, they also included Conestoga, Mohawk, Cayuga, and others. In 1817 some Ohio "Seneca" received a reservation along the Sandusky River. An unknown number of Erie were among the Seneca of Sandusky who removed to the Indian Territory (present Oklahoma) in 1832. Beginning in 1888 they and/or their descendants were allotted land on the Seneca Reservation in present Ottawa and Delaware counties in Oklahoma.
SEE ALSO: AMERICAN INDIANS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Michael N. McConnell, "Erie," in Encyclopedia of North American Indians, ed. Frederick E. Hoxie (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996). Marian E. White, "Erie," Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15, Northeast, ed. Bruce G. Trigger (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978). Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951).
Jon D. May
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