What was once the site of a Cayuga village called Chonodote or Peachtown for its some 1,500 peach trees is now called Aurora—population 908—and the site of Wells College.
And the university—located near Cayuga Lake in New York—takes the time to honor the original residents of the area with the Native American Peachtown Festival.
The festival is a week-long event centered around educating the students and community about the Native American history of the area, which is rich.
The Cayugas had lived near what is now Aurora since 1600 or earlier, according to a history of the village by Welsey Harden. “The original name of this village was Deawendote, or Village of Constant Dawn. Later, however, because of the large peach orchards at this village, it was nicknamed Chonodote or Peachtown. Both the original name, Deawendote, and the present name, Aurora, almost certainly were chosen because of the fact that an eastern ridge obscures the rising sun causing the vicinity of the village to have a longer dawn than usual.”
But in 1779 during the Revolutionary War the orchards were destroyed and the Cayugas had fled toward what is now Buffalo, New York.
The Cayuga are one of five nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of New York state—others are the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas and Senecas. The confederacy, according to Haudenosauneeconfederacy.ca, was “intended as a way to unite the nations and create a peaceful means of decision making.”
During the festival, Wells College associate professor of political science Susan Tabrizi gave a lecture on how the American Constitution was influenced by the principles of the Great Law of Peace, the constitution of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
This year, a peach tree was planted at the college to commemorate the history of the area and the Haudenosaunee.
“It is the local history and we don’t want to be ignorant of the rich historical past that includes Native American history,” Ernie Olson, who teaches anthropology and religion at Wells told Auburnpub.com. “They’re the original inhabitants of the land.”
And the area is seeing an increase in Native American residents according to Dan Hill, a Cayuga and Heron clan member who recently returned from California. He told Auburnpub.com, “We belong here” and helped organize the Peachtown Festival to help the public get to know Cayuga culture and history.