Oil Springs Reservation

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Oil Springs Reservation
Indian Reservation
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Oil Springs Reservation
Location of Oil Springs Reservation in New York
Coordinates: 42°13′56″N78°18′20″W / 42.23222°N 78.30556°W / 42.23222; -78.30556 Coordinates: 42°13′56″N78°18′20″W / 42.23222°N 78.30556°W / 42.23222; -78.30556
  Total0.96 sq mi (2.5 km2)
  Land0.95 sq mi (2.5 km2)
  Water0.01 sq mi (0.00 km2)
 (2010) [2]
(2016) [3]
  Density1.0/sq mi (0.40/km2)
Website http://www.sni.org/oilsprings.html

Oil Springs Reservation or Oil Spring Reservation is an Indian reservation of the federally recognized Seneca Nation that is located in southwestern New York, United States. As of the 2010 census, the Indian reservation had one resident; in 2005 no tribal members had lived on the property. The reservation covers about one square mile (2.6 km2), divided between the present-day counties of Allegany and Cattaraugus. The reservation is northwest of the village of Cuba. It is bordered by the Town of Cuba and the Town of Ischua.


The Seneca and earlier indigenous peoples had learned to use the petroleum-tainted water of the spring at this site for medicinal purposes. French Jesuit missionaries learned about its properties from the Seneca and recorded the spring as early as the 17th century. Today the Seneca operate two tax-free gas stations on this reservation to generate revenue for their people's welfare.


When the French Jesuit missionary Joseph de La Roche Daillon reached this area in 1627, the Oil Springs were held by the now defunct Wenro, an Iroquoian-speaking tribe. The Wenro abandoned the area in 1639, hoping to retrench with their allies the Huron further northwest, as their eastern neighbors, the Seneca of the Iroquois Confederacy, were attacking these tribes and rapidly conquering territory in order to expand their hunting grounds for the fur trade. [4] The Seneca, Mohawk, and other three nations of the Iroquois Confederacy were trying to dominate the lucrative fur trade with the French in this area.

During the 18th century, the Seneca sided with the British Crown in most wars, including the American Revolutionary War. Seneca warriors were part of allied British-Iroquois raids against rebel colonial settlements in the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys; these attacks were led chiefly by Mohawk warriors under Joseph Brant. In retaliation, the Sullivan Expedition organized by American rebels swept through Iroquois country in western New York, destroying more than 40 Seneca villages, and their associated crops and winter stores. The surviving people fled to Canada, and many starved that winter.

After the Crown's defeat, Britain ceded control of its territory in the lower colonies to the new United States, including the lands controlled by the Iroquois nations. In addition, due to the ferocity of the war in New York, most residents wanted the Indians expelled even though two nations had supported the rebels. The Seneca and other Iroquois nations were forced to cede most of their lands to the US. In the Treaty of Canandaigua, the Seneca negotiated the right to keep five plots: the territory around Oil Springs and the Allegheny River, the land surrounding Cattaraugus Creek, the former Neutral lands around Buffalo Creek, and their primary site of what is now known as the Tonawanda Reservation.

Seneca diplomat Cornplanter, who had aided in negotiations with the United States representatives, was later granted an additional 1500-acre plot in Pennsylvania by that state legislature as personal property for him and his descendants. Mary Jemison, a European-American woman who had been taken captive and assimilated into the Seneca tribe, was also granted land but sold her plot a few years later and established Jemison Town on the Allegany Reservation. Many Seneca moved to Canada, settling with other Iroquois at the Six Nations Grand River Reserve in what is now Ontario.

During the federal Indian Removal period of the 1830s, the Ogden Land Company negotiated the right to buy all of the remaining Seneca lands in New York. They convinced the Seneca chiefs to sign the Treaty of Buffalo Creek to that effect. In the end, Ogden purchased only the Buffalo Creek Reservation and left intact Oil Springs (along with the Allegany and Cattaraugus reservations).

In 1848 the Seneca Nation of Indians formed as a federally recognized tribe, counting the Oil Springs Reservation as one of its three territories (along with the Allegany and Cattaraugus reservations). Oil Springs is the only one of the three Seneca territories without a recognized capital or any jurisdictional representation in Seneca government.

In the 1850s, the Seneca began a case to evict squatters (including Stanley Clark, Philonus Pattison, Benjamin Chamberlain, William Gallagher, and future New York governor Horatio Seymour) from the Oil Springs Reservation, in order to restore control and use to the tribe. Clark and others had surveyed the land and allotted portions to influential men, including Seymour.

Thanks to the efforts of influential Seneca leader Governor Blacksnake, the state appeals court ruled in the tribe's favor. The reservation was returned to the Seneca in 1861, two years after Blacksnake died. [5] Blacksnake, who had attended the negotiations of the Treaty of Big Tree, testified in court that he and Joseph Ellicott had surveyed the Oil Spring lands and that omission of the lands from the treaty was a mistake. He had a map copied by the Holland Land Company in which the Oil Spring reservation was marked similarly to the other lands of the Seneca. [5]

The U.S. Census of 1890 lists the name of the reservation as Oil Spring Reservation. It is unclear when the reservation's name was changed to Oil Springs; the change may have happened because people used a term that flowed more easily as language. A change shortly after the 1890 census would be consistent with the establishment of the United States Board on Geographic Names that same year, which altered and standardized several place names. [6]

The Seneca have operated a bingo and gaming hall at Oil Springs since 2014. [7]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the Allegany County portion of the Indian reservation has a total area of 0.59 square miles (1.5 km2). Most of it is land while 1.64% is water, most of which is a portion of Cuba Lake. [8]

The Cattaraugus County portion of the Indian reservation, in the Town of Ischua, has a total area of 0.37 square miles (0.96 km2), all land. [8]


Historical population
2000 11
2010 1−90.9%
2016 (est.)1 [3] 0.0%
U.S. Decennial Census [9]

As of the census [2] of 2010, there are no residents in the Town of Ischua area of the reservation. The single resident on the reservation is Native American and lives in the Allegany County portion of the property.

Related Research Articles

Allegany County, New York County in New York

Allegany County is a county in the southern tier of the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2010 census, the population was 48,946. Its county seat is Belmont. Its name derives from a Lenape word, applied by European-American settlers of Western New York State to a trail that followed the Allegheny River; they also named the county after this.

Cattaraugus County, New York County in New York

Cattaraugus County is a county in the western part of the U.S. state of New York, with one side bordering Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 80,317. The county seat is Little Valley. The county was created in 1808 and later organized in 1817.

Ischua, New York Town in New York, United States

IschuaISH-way is a town in Cattaraugus County, New York, United States. The population was 859 at the 2010 census. Ischua is also the name of a hamlet in the town. The town is on the eastern border of the county, north of Olean.

Allegany Indian Reservation Indian Reservation

Allegany Reservation is a Seneca Nation of Indians reservation in Cattaraugus County, New York, USA. In the 2000 census, 58 percent of the population within the reservation boundaries were Native Americans. Some 42% were European Americans; they occupy properties under leases from the Seneca Nation, a federally recognized tribe. The population outside of the rented towns was 1,020 at the 2010 census. The reservation's Native American residents are primarily members of the Seneca, but a smaller number of Cayuga, another Iroquois nation, also reside there, and at least one family is known to have descended from the Neutral Nation. Prior to the 17th century, this area was occupied by the Iroquoian-speaking Wenrohronon and Eriehronon. The more powerful Seneca eliminated these competing groups during the Beaver Wars beginning in 1638, as the Iroquois Confederacy sought to control the lucrative fur trade with the French and Dutch colonists.

Tonawanda Reservation Indian reservation in New York, United States

The Tonawanda Indian Reservation is an Indian reservation of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation located in western New York, United States. The band is a federally recognized tribe and, in the 2010 census, had 693 people living on the reservation. The reservation lies mostly in Genesee County, extending into Erie and Niagara counties. It is bordered by the Towns of Alabama, Pembroke, Newstead, and Royalton.

Salamanca (town), New York Town in New York, United States

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The Seneca are a group of indigenous Iroquoian-speaking people native to North America who historically lived south of Lake Ontario. Their nation was the farthest to the west within the Six Nations or Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee) in New York before the American Revolution.

Phelps and Gorham Purchase

The Phelps and Gorham Purchase was the purchase in 1788 of 6,000,000 acres (24,000 km2) of land in what is now western New York State from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for $1,000,000 (£300,000), to be paid in three annual installments, and the pre-emptive right to the title on the land from the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy for $5000 (£12,500). A syndicate formed by Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham bought preemptive rights to 6,000,000-acre (24,000 km2) in New York, west of Seneca Lake between Lake Ontario and the Pennsylvania border, from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The Cayuga was one of the five original constituents of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), a confederacy of Native Americans in New York. The Cayuga homeland lies in the Finger Lakes region along Cayuga Lake, between their league neighbors, the Onondaga to the east and the Seneca to the west. Today Cayuga people belong to the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario, and the federally recognized Cayuga Nation of New York and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma.

Economy of the Iroquois

The economy of the Haudenosaunee historically was based on communal production and combined elements of both horticulture and hunter-gatherer systems. Some have described the Iroquois economy as primitive communism. The tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy and other Northern Huron had their traditional territory in what is now New York State and the southern areas bordering the Great Lakes. The confederacy was originally composed of five tribes; the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca, who had created an alliance long before European contact. The Tuscarora were added as a sixth nation in the early eighteenth century after they migrated from North Carolina. The Huron peoples, located mostly in what is now Canada, were also Iroquioan-speaking and shared some culture, but were never part of the Iroquois.

There are four treaties of Buffalo Creek, named for the Buffalo River in New York.

The Tonawanda Seneca Nation is a federally recognized tribe in the State of New York. They have maintained the traditional form of government led by hereditary Seneca chiefs (sachems) selected by clan mothers. The Seneca are one of the original Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy. Their people speak the Seneca language, an Iroquoian language.

Governor Blacksnake Seneca nation War Chief

Tah-won-ne-ahs or Thaonawyuthe, known in English as either Governor Blacksnake or Chainbreaker, was a Seneca war chief and leader. Along with other Iroquois war chiefs, he led warriors to fight on the side of the British during the American Revolutionary War from 1777 to 1783. He was prominent for his role at the Battle of Oriskany, in which the Loyalist and allied forces ambushed a force of rebels. After the war he supported his maternal uncle Handsome Lake, as a prominent religious leader. Governor Blacksnake allied with the United States in the War of 1812 and later encouraged some accommodation to European-American settlers, allowing missionaries and teachers on the Seneca reservation.

Buffalo Creek Reservation

The Buffalo Creek Reservation was a tract of land surrounding Buffalo Creek in the central portion of Erie County, New York. It contained approximately 49,920 acres (202.0 km2) of land and was set aside for the Seneca Nation following negotiations with the United States after the American Revolutionary War.

Seneca–Cayuga Nation Federally-recognized Native American tribe

The Seneca–Cayuga Nation is one of three federally recognized tribes of Seneca people in the United States. It includes the Cayuga people and is based in Oklahoma, United States. The tribe had more than 5,000 people in 2011. They have a tribal jurisdictional area in the northeast corner of Oklahoma and are headquartered in Grove. They are descended from Iroquoian peoples who had relocated to Ohio from New York in the mid-18th century.


The Wenrohronon or the Wenro People, were an Iroquoian indigenous nation of North America, originally residing in present-day western New York, who were conquered by the Confederation of the Five Nations of the Iroquois in two decisive wars between 1638-1639 and 1643. This was likely part of the Iroquois Confederacy campaign against the Neutral people, another Iroquoian-speaking tribe, which lived across the Niagara River. This warfare was part of what was known as the Beaver Wars, as the Iroquois worked to dominate the lucrative fur trade. They used winter attacks, which were not usual among Native Americans, and their campaigns resulted in attrition of both the larger Iroquoian confederacies, as it had against the numerous Huron.

Seneca Nation of New York Federally-recognized Native American tribe

The Seneca Nation of Indians is a federally recognized Seneca tribe based in western New York. They are one of three federally recognized Seneca entities in the United States, the others being the Tonawanda Band of Seneca and the Seneca-Cayuga Nation of Oklahoma. Some Seneca also live with other Iroquois peoples on the Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario.

Treaty of Big Tree was a formal treaty signed in 1797 between the Seneca Nation and the United States in which the Seneca relinquished their rights to nearly all of their traditional homeland in New York State— nearly 3.5 million acres. In the 1788 Phelps and Gorham Purchase the Iroquois had previously sold rights to their land between Seneca Lake and the Genesee River. The Treaty of Big Tree signed away their rights to all their territory west of the Genesee River except ten small tracts of land for $100,000 and other considerations. The money was not paid directly to the tribe, but was to be invested in shares of the Bank of the United States, and to be paid out to the Senecas in annual earnings of up to six percent, or $6,000 a year, on the bank stock.

Jimerson Town is a native planned community on the Allegany Indian Reservation within the bounds of Cattaraugus County, New York. Along with Irving on the Cattaraugus Reservation, Jimerson Town is one of two capitals of the Seneca Nation of Indians.

The Third Treaty of Buffalo Creek or Treaty with the Seneca of 1842 signed by the U.S. and the Seneca Nation modified the Second Treaty of Buffalo Creek. This reflected that the Ogden Company had purchased only two of the four Seneca reservations, the Buffalo Creek and Tonawanda reservations, that the Senecas had agreed to sell in the Second Treaty; it thus restored native title to the Allegany, Cattaraugus and Oil Springs reservations.


  1. "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jul 4, 2017.
  2. 1 2 "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau . Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  3. 1 2 "Population and Housing Unit Estimates" . Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  4. John Phillips Downs; Fenwick Y Hedley (1921). History of Chautauqua County, New York, and Its People. American Historical Society. p.  11 . Retrieved March 4, 2013.
  5. 1 2 Hauptman, Laurence (2008). Seven Generations of Iroquois Leadership: The Six Nations Since 1800. Syracuse University Press. ISBN   978-0-8156-3165-1.
  6. Extra Census Bulletin of the Eleventh Census (1890) of the United States (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Printing Office, 1892) (PDF). p. 28. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  7. "Seneca Gaming Oil Spring". 500nations. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  8. 1 2 "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  9. "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2016.