Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 251 pages) : illustrations, maps.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Maeve Kane

Committee Members

Christopher Pastore, Ryan Irwin, Richard Hamm


Early Republic, Iroquois, Native America, New York, Seneca, U.S. and the World, Land settlement, Indian allotments

Subject Categories

Native American Studies | United States History


New York’s western expansion began during the American Revolution. From then on, a variety of American settler groups and individuals attempted to possess and control Seneca land in what is now western New York. These American settler groups, such as missionaries, land speculators, state and federal officials, and land surveyors, carried out individual projects of dispossession and erasure throughout the nineteenth century. In the process, they shaped the space of the Seneca reservations and the trajectory of American expansion. In justifying dispossession, American settlers crafted elaborate sets of laws and rights. These conflicting claims became so entangled that dispossession was delayed, complicated, then avoided altogether. While settler groups constructed western expansion, the Senecas clung to narratives of their own sovereignty and fought for their land and autonomy. The Seneca experience during the nineteenth century is an anomalous story of an eastern Native nation that managed to stave off dispossession and remake their sovereignty in the face of settler encroachment. The continued presence of large Seneca reservations and separate political communities interrupts the Empire State’s physical and metaphorical landscape as well as the narrative of American expansion.