- Seneca Art & Culture Center
- Get Involved
Ganondagan Hiking Trails
You can walk the land of the Seneca at Ganondagan State Historic Site on three marked trails. Illustrated signs mark the trails where visitors can learn about the significance of plant life to the Seneca, and about Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) customs and beliefs. The Trail of Peace details bits of Seneca history and oral tradition. The Earth is Our Mother Trail identifies plants and explains their uses for the Seneca. At Fort Hill (the granary) is the Granary Trail, where you can relive a day in July through journal entries from the Denonville campaign, when a large French army led by the Governor of Canada attacked and destroyed Ganondagan. Trail Map
The Earth is Our Mother Trail
The Genesee Valley, heartland of the Seneca, lay within a great hardwood forest which then stretched from the Atlantic to the Great Plains. The Seneca land was blanketed by hardwood trees of enormous size and watered by numerous streams which teemed with fish. Iroquoia, the Haudenosaunee country, sustained a vast variety of animal and bird life, including wolf, eagle, elk, and bobcat, rarely seen in this vicinity today.
Traditional Seneca see a benevolent natural world which provides human beings with everything necessary for a healthy and spiritually satisfying life. There are contradictions such as disease, bad luck, and famine; but, generally speaking, the natural world, especially the plants and animals, are perceived as allies in life. Seneca oral tradition expresses a consciousness about the relationships between the natural world and human happiness. Today, traditional Seneca open and close every formal gathering with thanks to the natural world for all its gifts. That speech, called the Thanksgiving Address, articulates some of the benefits derived from various grasses, herbs, and trees.
There are many Seneca uses of plants. Plants provide the material for tools, for ceremonial objects, for games, for clothing, for works of art. When Seneca pick a plant for medicinal purposes, they seek not only the chemically active "agent" within the plant, but also the spiritually nurturant qualities of that plant. Significant attention is paid to the more spiritual aspects of the interaction between plants and human beings.
The trail provides a glimpse into the relationship between the Seneca people and the plant world. The plants are living survivors of the great forest which was, and is, Onondowahgah, the land of the Seneca.
Trail Map: Earth is Our Mother
Trail distance: .89 miles
The Granary Trail at Fort Hill
The Seneca call this site Gah:ha-da-yan-duk, "a fort was there", and early European settlers named it Fort Hill. By any name, the picketed granary which topped this 30-acre mesa has a fascinating history.
The fortifications were made of oak logs, perhaps 13 feet long and sunk 3 feet into the ground. The palisade ran for 800 paces in a rough oval. At the northwest corner of the mesa we find a natural entrance, a gradual slope which connects the crest to the low land. The Seneca could use Gah:ha-da-yan-duk as a refuge in the event of an enemy attack. A spring was located within reach of the fortifications to provide water during a lengthy siege. No spring is evident near the top today, and historians speculate the spring may have migrated down the hill over the centuries.
Gah:ha-da-yan-duk is interesting for a number of reasons. It is the site of a fortification which is not primarily a dwelling place, but a granary. The amount of corn discovered there speaks to the complexity and development of the Seneca economy. It is clear from descriptions of the granary that this was a major depository of corn, and that from here grain was transported to towns within the Iroquois Confederacy and, quite possibly, to those of other Indian nations.
The Seneca built a picketed granary atop Fort Hill to protect the two things they valued most: their lives and their corn. The location of Gah:ha-da-yan-duk is significant to the Seneca. From this hill, looking south on a clear day, the observer can see Bare Hill, the legendary birthplace of the Seneca nation.
Trail distance: .64 miles
The Trail of Peace
The Seneca have the same creation story as the other nations of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy. The story goes that Twins -- spirits of the Sky World -- created the world on the back of a great spirit turtle. Consequently, Earth is a great Turtle Island aswim in an endless black sea. The Haudenosaunee story of Turtle Island portrays mankind with the power of mind to manipulate the laws of nature and postulates that abuse of this power would lead to a desolate future. Fortunately, humans also possess the ability to celebrate nature, and in Seneca cosmology, it is the duty of human beings to enhance the life forces of Turtle Island through celebration, consciousness, and responsible behavior.
The Peacemaker had a powerful effect on Seneca life and thinking. He described a world of peace fashioned after a longhouse -- with the sky for its roof, and the earth its floor -- where all the member nations of mankind lived under the Great Law. The Seneca embraced this vision wholeheartedly, becoming the Keepers of the Western Door of the symbolic Longhouse. Reputed a "capital" of the Seneca Nation, Gannagaro was a prosperous and vital center of Seneca life until its destruction in 1687. Following the Denonville Campaign of that year, the Seneca built numerous smaller villages throughout their country, but they never again built a center on the scale of Gannagaro, now known as Ganondagan.
Stops along the Trail of Peace include:
Haudenosaunee -- People of the Longhouse
Gayanesshagowa -- The Great Law of Peace
Jikonhsaseh -- The Mother of Nations
Gannagaro -- Pole in the Water
Hanuwane -- Great Turtle Island
Wenishadenyoh -- The Ceremonial Year
Deohako -- The Things That Sustain Us
Dyagodiyu -- The Place of a Battle
Trail distance: .7 miles
Self-Guided Tours & GPS Files
Seasonal Hiking Pages
Each season brings its own beauty, its own sights, and its own sounds along the trails at Ganondagan.
To help you get the most enjoyment from the trails - no matter the season, please refer to the seasonal trail pages we have created. Each page notes the activities for and key sights of each season.