Skip to main content

News Release

Mothers of the Seneca Nation of Indians

The Mothers of the Nation are hosting a luncheon today at the Seneca Allegany Administration Building to commemorate International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The focus for this year’s International Women’s Day is on “breaking the bias” and raising awareness of women’s efforts to end inequality and discrimination.

In January 2022, the Mothers of the Nation, an entity provided for in the Seneca constitution, was re-established in an effort to reassert the role and authority of the women of the Seneca Nation. Prior to the establishment of a Seneca Republic in 1848, the Seneca were part of the Iroquois Confederacy — also known as the Haudenosaunee, or People of the Longhouse. The Confederacy was comprised of six nations including the Seneca, known as the Keepers of the Western Door, the Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, Cayuga, and Tuscarora.

The Iroquois were renowned as a matrilineal, matriarchal society. Women were instrumental in the traditional governance structures; they selected leaders, were the land owners, held property, and were conferred with on major decisions such as entering into war. The Seneca broke from the Confederacy in 1848, deposing their chiefs after fraudulent land dealings, and established an elected form of government. The new Seneca republic was a significant departure from the long-standing traditional value system of the Iroquois and effectively disenfranchised Seneca women. Women were not allowed to vote or hold office in the new republic for 116 years–it wasn’t until 1964, after several women’s right-to-vote referenda were defeated, that Seneca women won the right to vote. A few years later, Seneca women also won the right to hold office.

The women did retain significant powers in the 1848 Constitution in the form of consent for treaty-making. The constitution reads: “the power of making treaties shall be vested in the Council, subject to the approval of at least three-fourths of the legal voters and the consent of three-fourths of the mothers of the Nation.”

Breaking the bias has significant meaning to Seneca women as the Mothers of the Nation were catalyzed this year to raise their voices and concerns over significant decision making. The Mothers of the Nation organized a petition drive in January in opposition to President Pagels’ decision to enter into a Settlement Agreement to pay more than $800 million in disputed gaming payments to New York State. The Mothers were effective in bringing about an amended Council resolution that halted the disputed payments to the state on February 12, 2022. The Mothers maintain that their constitutional consent extends to the Gaming Compact, and a new compact, as it is an agreement of significant magnitude with a foreign government.

The Mothers of the Nation are committed to protecting the Nation’s assets for the best benefit of the children, the community, and to ensure long-term sustainability for the future of the Seneca people.

Seneca Nation of Indians - seal, logo small

Related coverage:

Seneca Nation's women unite to oppose president's gaming settlement agreement

Seneca Nation, New York State agree to start Compact discussions — settle existing legal dispute