How the Finger Lakes Got Their Names: Some Upstate NY History

If you’ve ever been to the Finger Lakes Region, you’re familiar with the beauty of the lakes, and the forest and picturesque, friendly towns surrounding the lakes.  The lakes themselves feature beautiful blue waters, popular for all sorts of on-water activities.  The forest surrounding the lakes move from the gorgeous newness of spring, to the rich greens of summer, and turn spectacular colors in the autumn.  Upstate New York is truly worthy of a bed and breakfast vacation!

However, there are some things about this region that aren’t quite as obvious.  For example, have you ever paid attention to the NAMES of the Finger Lakes?  Some of the more notable monikers include Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, and Canandaigua.  If you guessed that these have Native American origins, you are 100% correct!  Like so many natural landmarks, and even state names in the country, those who named the Finger Lakes gave a nod to the original inhabitants of the area.

The Haudenosaunee first came to this region as early as the 16th century… maybe even before that.  These “People of the Longhouse” consisted of several different tribes (who all spoke Iroquoian) whose matriarchal societies believed that the different peoples should live together as a family would in a single longhouse.

So what is a longhouse?  Honestly, it is exactly what it sounds like: a very large, single-roomed building that is long and narrow.  While there is plenty of space overall, those living in a longhouse are required to live closely and in harmony, as the narrowness of the structure requires close contact.

Five “nations” (or tribes) originally made up what is now referred to as the Iriquois League:  The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca.  Sound familiar?  Of course, four of these tribes’ names were given to Finger Lakes.  The Mohawk River was named after its namesake.  All of these are also names of towns within the state.  Counties in NY also bear some of these names.  In 1720, the Tuscarora clan from North Carolina was also brought into the League (which now has a town named after them).

Of the New York-based clans, their tribe locale is roughly reflected in the features that bear their names.  This means, of course, that members of the Cayuga tribe likely walked the very land where the bed and breakfast is located today.

Why not visit and walk where they walked?  A welcoming room awaits you here at The Inn at Gothic Eves: your home-away-from-home.  Explore the many parks, the shores of the lakes, and see why the Iroquois loved this area enough to stay!

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