Ganondagan State Historic Site

The Seneca people once lived in an agricultural community near what is today Victor, New York. This National Historic Landmark tells their story. 

Interpreter talking with young girl at Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, New York (photo courtesy of Finger Lakes Visitors Connection)

The Seneca people founded an agricultural community called Ganondagan on a hilltop near the eleven narrow bodies of water that give New York’s Finger Lakes region its name.

Ganondagan blossomed into a community where some 4,000 Seneca dwelled in 150 bark longhouses. In 1687, it was destroyed during the ongoing Beaver Wars that French, English and Native American forces waged to control the lucrative fur trade.

Today, Ganondagan’s former locale is a National Historic Landmark, and its serene landscape is punctuated not only by a reproduction longhouse outfitted with 17th-century items ranging from moccasins and leggings to trade goods, but also by the modern Seneca Art & Culture Center where visitors can listen to Native American interpreters reciting age-old stories and view the fascinating “Iroquois Creation Story” film about the Earth being formed on the back of a great turtle.

The site’s rich storytelling continues outdoors. Follow the Earth Is Our Mother Trail to appreciate the Seneca people’s profound respect for nature or walk the Trail of Peace for lessons in their history and traditions.

For the Seneca people, the arrival of snowflakes each year means outdoor fun, and thanks to the Native American Winter Games held at the Ganondagan State Historic Site every February, winter visitors can experience the same seasonal activities that those of the culture have enjoyed for generations.

Besides snowshoeing, dog sledding and maple-syrup making, the family-friendly event offers a rare opportunity to discover pastimes such as snowsnake, a favorite Seneca sport in which teams compete to see how far they can throw carefully crafted sticks that slither and slide down a slick trough of snow. 7000 County Road 41, Victor, New York 14564, 585/924-5848.