New Activity at Once-Bustling Metropolis of Ganondagan

VICTOR, N.Y. -- Southeast of Rochester in the Ontario County town of Victor, a National Historic Landmark marks the place where the Seneca Nation of Indians thrived nearly 300 years ago.

The Ganondagan State Historic Site is at the intersection of State Route 444 and Boughton Hill Road. It's home to the Senecas, one of six nations comprising the Iroquois Confederacy.

Ganondagan attracts visitors from all over the world who stop to learn the history of the Seneca people.

"There was a huge village here.  There were about 150 of the Bark Longhouses that housed about 4,500 of my ancestors," said Ronnie Reitter, site interpreter. "It was a thriving metropolis in Native times and due to the fur trade, this village was attacked in 1687 by the Marquis de Denonville, who was coming after the beaver fur trade."

The French wiped out the village and 1687 marked the end of Ganondagan. The Senecas relocated to an area near Geneva.  

In 1964, the Victor site was put on the National Register for Historic Places. Twenty years later, New York State purchased some of the land making Ganondagan a New York State Historic Site.  In 1987, the visitor center opened, allowing the the Senecas the opportunity to share their history with others.

"This is local history.  Our people have survived and it's important for people to know that we're here," Reitter said.

One of the ways the Senecas keep history alive is through the Iroquois White Corn Project.  Initiated three years ago, it's a non-profit agriculture business run by Friends of Ganondagan.  With corn being a primary food source for the early Seneca people, it's grown using heirloom seeds.  The corn is then harvested and processed by hand, the same way it was done hundreds of years ago.

This year, Ganondagan will open a brand-new Seneca Arts and Culture Center. It will replace the current Visitor Center, which has a capacity for 26 people.  The new facility, set to open July 25 to coincide with Ganondagan's Summer Festival, will be a 17,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility.

"We have a huge gallery that's going to have a longhouse model, it's going to have a town model, it's going to talk about the history, what daily life was like," Reitter said.

Ganondagan is open to visitors May 1 through the end of October.  The new Seneca Arts and Culture center will make it a year-round attraction.