The traditional territory of the Cayuga Nation (alternate spellings include Guyohkohnyo and Gayogohó:no'), also known as the People of the Pipe or People of the Great Swamp, is located along the northern shore of the St Lawrence River and south into the Finger Lakes district of New York State. They were part of the Haudenosaunee, the Confederacy of the People of the Longhouse, known by the French as the the Iroquois Confederacy and by the English as the Five Nations (later the Six Nations). The original Iroquois Confederacy consisted of five nations: Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk and Seneca. When the Tuscarora (predominantly American nation) joined the confederacy they became the Six Nations. The Confederacy Council included ten Cayuga chiefs representing the Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Heron, and Snipe First Nations.

In the 1660s the war between the Susquehannock in the south and the Cayuga resulted in some of the Cayuga settling briefly along the north shore of Lake Ontario. In 1687, during an invasion of the Cayuga lands led by the French governor Brisay de Denonville, a group of Cayuga hunters were lured into Fort Cataraqui (later renamed Fort Frontenac), seized, imprisoned, and tortured, before being taken to France to work as slaves in the King's galleys.

Throughout the 17th century the Cayuga were involved in a series of conflicts known as the Iroquois Wars and fought as British allies during the American Revolution. The Cayuga were key allies of the British against the French during the 1750s and 1760s: Ottrowana, a Cayuga chief, provided the British with essential intelligence at that time. In 1779, in retaliation against the Cayuga for their support for the British, the American army under General John Sullivan burned many Cayuga villages including the communities at Cayuga Castle and Chonodote. Some survivors took refuge with other First Nations such as the Iroquois, and many Cayuga fled to safety in the Grand River territory. By the end of the war, almost half the Cayuga and many British Loyalists had moved north to the Grand River area. In exchange for their loyalty, General Frederick Frederick Haldimand, on behalf of the British, granted land to the Cayuga. In 1794, the Cayuga nation and other Confederacy nations signed the Treaty of Canandaigua with the United States.

Cayuga Today

Of the three Cayuga bands and the two largest bands, the Upper and Lower Cayuga, live mostly in Ontario. According to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, in 2007 there were 3101 registered Upper Cayuga and 3162 Lower Cayuga in Canada. The Cayuga language is related to other Northern Iroquoian languages such as Seneca. The 1999 census indicated that fewer than 100 people in Canada speak Cayuga; however, the language is still used during the rituals of the traditional Handsome Lake Religion on that reserve.

See also Aboriginal People: Eastern Woodlands.