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Oil Springs Reservation
Oil Springs Reservation or Oil Spring Reservation is an Indian reservation in southwestern New York, United States, of the federally recognized Seneca Nation. As of the 2010 census, the Indian reservation has one resident; in 2005 no tribal members 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 it 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.
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 Seneca are believed to have conquered the territory in 1638 as one of their first conquests of the Beaver Wars, by which they and related Iroquois peoples 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; these were led chiefly by Mohawk. In retaliation, the Sullivan Expedition swept through Iroquois country, destroying more than 40 Seneca villages, and associated crops and winter stores.
After the Crown's defeat, the Seneca as allies of the British were forced by the United States to surrender most of their land. In the Treaty of Canandaigua, the Senecas 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 the Tonawanda Reservation. (Seneca diplomat Cornplanter was later awarded an additional 1500-acre plot in Pennsylvania by the US government for his personal property, as was Mary Jemison, who sold her plot a few years later.) 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 Oil Springs (along with the Allegany and Cattaraugus reservations) intact.
The Seneca Nation of Indians formed as a federally recognized tribe in 1848, counting the Oil Springs Reservation as one of its three territories (along with the Allegany and Cattaraugus). Oil Springs is the only one of the three Seneca territories without a recognized capital or any representation in Seneca government.
In the 1850s, the Senecas began a case to evict squatters (including Philonus Pattison, Benjamin Chamberlain, Stanley Clark, William Gallagher, and future New York governor Horatio Seymour) in order to restore control and use of Oil Springs to the tribe. Thanks to the efforts of influential Seneca leader Governor Blacksnake, the reservation was returned to the Senecas in 1861, two years after Blacksnake died. Blacksnake, who had attended the negotiations of the Treaty of Big Tree, testified 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 similar to the other lands of the Seneca.
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.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the Allegany County portion of the Indian reservation has a total area of 0.6 square miles (1.6 km2). Most of it is land while 1.64% is water.
The Cattaraugus County portion of the Indian reservation, located in the Town of Ischua, has a total area of 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2), all land.
As of the census 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.
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