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Tompkins County is located in the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ (Cayuga Nation). The Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ  (Guy-uh-KO-no) "People from the Swampy Land", are one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (sometimes referred to as the Iroquois Confederacy). Tompkins County was also home to the native nations adopted by the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ ; the Saponi and the Tutelo (Deyodi:ho:nǫˀ), who fled to this region in the mid 1700's, escaping colonization by European immigrants farther South. The History Center and all our programs occur on land that has been cared for and called home by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy for over 1,000 years, and the Indigenous cultures ancestral to the Confederacy for time immemorial.  

The State of New York declared a "American Indian Day" of recognition in 1916, and as part of the 1976 bicentennial celebrations President Gerald Ford proclaimed October 10th-16th Native American Awareness Week. In 1986 President Reagan proclaimed November 23rd-30th "American Indian Week." This week of recognition of the Indigenous nations of North America was celebrated in September in 1988, and in December 1989.

In 1990 President George H. Bush signed joint resolution G.J.Res.577 designating the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month. Although it is more commonly referred to as Native American Heritage Month or American Indian Heritage Month. In 2008 commemorative language was amended to include Alaskan Natives.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick with Brandon Lazore (Onondaga) and Lazore's design for the Two Row Renewal Mural located on Green Street in downtown Ithaca. 2013.

Detail of 'The Two Row wampum (Gä•sweñta’). The Two Row is the first recorded treaty between the Haudenosaunee and European settlers, created after a series of meetings in 1613 between the Mohawk and Dutch immigrants'. Belt woven by Rich Hamel, and included in the 'Art of Wampum' 2021 exhibit.  

Two and a half miles north of Robert H. Treman State Park, is the Town of Ithaca’s Tutelo Park, which honors the nearby 18th century town of Coreorgonel (Translation: Where We Keep the Pipe of Peace). Coreorgonel was settled in the mid 1700's by the Tutelos who had fled British Euro-colonial intrusion in their homelands of modern-day Virginia. The Tutelos were subsequently adopted by the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ. In 1779 the scorched earth Sullivan-Clinton Campaign ordered by General George Washington destroyed twenty five or more Tutelo houses, and extensive croplands at their town of Coreorgonel. American soldiers diaries do not record loss of life at the burning of Coreorgonel. It is assumed that the Tutelos and Saponinis who had lived in the community escaped and joined other Haudenosaunee refugees fleeing the genocidal campaign that burned more than forty villages across New York State displacing tens of thousands of Haudenosaunee from their homelands. 

From 1993-1996, Cornell landscape Architecture professor Sherene Baugher and local city planner George Frantz conducted an archaeological study of Inlet Valley to identify and preserve Native American sites, although the exact location of the Tutelos village site was not found.

On September 23rd, 2007, Tutelo Park was established in Inlet Valley. The opening ceremony, attended by surviving Tutelo elders, included a memorial to the Tutelos, storytelling, performances from the Haudenosaunee singers and dancers, and other Native American crafts, workshops, activities, and food. The celebration was an expansion on the annual relighting of the sacred Tutelo Council Fire, which represents a symbolic return of the Tutelo to the Inlet Valley.


For pronunciation of the names of the original inhabitants of the Ithaca area, Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ is approximately Guy-yo-KO-no and Haudenosaunee is approximately Ho-di-no-SO-ni*. Cayuga or Kayuga is considered an anglicization (English-derived) of  Please listen to Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ language teacher Stephen Henhawk’s pronunciation in this video  associated the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ language course he taught at Cornell. Saponi is pronounced "Sah-PO-nee", and Tutelo is "Too-tuh-low".

The History Center uses the spellings and terms for the Indigenous peoples of this region currently most in use by the traditional leadership of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ *. The previous common-place name used to represent the Six Nations, "Iroquois", is believed to be a gallicized (French-derived) word from a Huron/Algonquian word which translates to "Black Snakes" or "real adders". It is interpreted by some as a derogatory term used during a period when the Huron and Haudenosaunee were warring, and was not a term originating in a Haudenosaunee language. Haudenosaunee translates to "People building an extended house" or "People of the Longhouse" and describes both the traditional structures the Six Nations lived in, and a representation of the original agreement of their Confederacy (Hiawatha Belt); learn more about the use of Haudenosaunee vs. Iroquois in this video from New York State Museum. There are still multiple treaties, political agreements, community groups, and institutions that use the moniker "Iroquois" but it is falling out of favor in preference to Haudenosaunee.

*Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ and Haudenosaunee are both words originating in the Iroquoian family linguistic group and may have subtle differences in pronunciation in different dialects. They may also be presented with a variety of spellings in the Roman alphabet. Here are some examples: 

  • Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ - also: Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫɁ, Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ', Gayogohó:nǫ˺, Gayogohó:nǫ7, Gayógweo:nö’, Guyohkohnyoh, Goiaconyo, Goiacono, Kwĕñio’ gwĕn
  • Haudenosaunee - also: Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nih, Hodinöhsö:ni’, Hodinoshoni, Hodenosaunee, Hodenushonnees
  • Iroquois - see also: Irekwa, Ieroquois, Irokois, Irkwah

The Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫɁ People in the Cayuga Lake Region: A Brief History


DONATE a copy to Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ Lanugage Students

Published by the Tompkins County Historical Commission in 2022

Professor Kurt Jordan's history of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫɁ brings forward a part of the history of the Cayuga Lake region that had been formerly romanticized or forgotten altogether. It begins at the end of the last ice age 13,000 years ago, and traces the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫɁ people up to the reoccupation of their traditional territory in 2003, and through current events through 2021. Jordan’s short (80-page) book is constructed as a Western-style history that relies mainly on the written record, archaeological evidence, and some community-based oral histories that Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫɁ people shared with him. Readers will think differently about ancient history, recent events, and the landscape of the region after reading this book. Kurt Jordan is Associate Professor of Anthropology and American Indian and Indigenous Studies at Cornell University. He currently directs Cornell's American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP). Jordan has studied the archaeology and history of Indigenous peoples in the Finger Lakes region in conjunction with members of the Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nih Nations since 1999.




We encourage educators at all levels teaching in Tompkins County to include Haudenosaunee perspectives in your lesson plans and teaching. A number of Haudenosaunee-created learning materials are shared with permission and available for download on our Educator-Resources History at Home web page. 

Group of Six, a collective of Indigenous youth artists from the Six Nations of the Grand River reservation created a 70 page coloring book highlighting Mohawk and Cayuga words and customs. 

The Seneca-Cayuga Nation of Oklahoma has also made their Ceremonial Calendar Coloring Book available for public use.


Download the Speak Cayuga app for free from the App Store and learn how to speak Cayuga, the native language of the Gayogohó:nǫˀ.


Learn about the Haudenosaunee from these Indigenous Led Institutions & Organizations

Visit Ganondagan State Historic Site and Seneca Art & Culture Center in Victor NYGanondagan State Historic Site located in Victor, NY is a National Historic Landmark, the only New York State Historic Site dedicated to a Native American theme (1987), and the only Seneca town developed and interpreted in the United States. Spanning 569 acres, Ganondagan (ga·NON·da·gan) is the original site of a 17th century Seneca town, that existed there peacefully more than 350 years ago. The culture, art, agriculture, and government of the Seneca people influenced our modern understanding of equality, democratic government, women’s rights, ecology and natural foods.

Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center is a Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Heritage Center focused on telling the story of the native peoples of central New York. The history is told through the lens of the Onondaga Nation and covers topics such as Creation, European Contact, The Great Law of Peace, and more. The Onondagas, or People of the Hills, are the keepers of the Central Fire and are the spiritual and political center of the Haudenosaunee.

Skä•noñh, is an Onondaga welcoming greeting meaning “Peace and Wellness.”

Seneca-Iroquois Museum in Salamanca NY proudly houses an extensive collection of Hodinöhsö:ni’ historical and traditionally designed decorative and every-day-use items and archaeological artifacts. SINM, along with the Seneca Nation Archives Department, are the safe keepers of historical documents, including articles, special publications, historical and family photographs and various multi-media productions regarding the Onöndowa’ga:’ and Hodinöhsö:ni’.

Virtual Tours and Educational videos – Seneca Iroquois National Museum

Gayogohó:nǫˀ Learning Project is a partnership of indigenous and non-indigenous people working to promote awareness and practice of Gayogo̱hó:nǫˀ (Cayuga) language in its ancestral homeland and beyond. We hope to carry the idea of sgę́:nǫˀ gó:wah into our work, cultivating peace and cooperation through education and community outreach.

Connect with Modern Cayuga/Gayogohó:nǫˀ & Saponi  Communities in North America

Groups or political affiliations with Tutelo descendants are encouraged to reach out to us to be featured here.

Physical Address

Located inside the Tompkins Center for History & Culture

110 North Tioga Street

(On the Ithaca Commons) 

Ithaca NY, 14850 USA

Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ Territory


Exhibit Hall Wednesday-Saturday 10am-6pm - CLOSED Sun-Tues

Cornell Local History Research Library & Archives - By appointment only. Please contact


Email: Refer to Contact page for individual emails, General inquiries to

Phone: 607-273-8284


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