[Note: This is a single part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that had important roles (Huron, Micmac, Assiniboine, etc.).
This history's content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism.
Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end to be of standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments...Lee Sultzman]
Western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania centering around the present town of Cuba, New York.
The Wenro were a small tribe of somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000 people. The number of their villages is unknown, but from the pattern of their dispersal in 1639, there appears to have been either two or three. The Wenro ceased to exist as a tribe in 1643. Any descendents would be found among the Iroquois, the Seneca of Oklahoma, or possibly the Wyandot.
Wenro is a short form of their Huron name, Wenrohronon, meaning "the people of the place of floating scum." The name derived from the location of their main village near the site of the famous oil spring at Cuba, New York. Other names given them by the Iroquois, with approximately the same meaning, were Ahouenrochrhonon and Ouenrionon.
What little is known about them has come to us from the Huron, since there was no direct contact between the Wenro and Europeans until after a large group of Wenro refugees came to the Huron villages in 1639. Oil was highly prized by the Iroquian tribes in the region for its medicinal properties, and the trade for this commodity is the major reason the Wenro maintained good relations with the Huron. It can safely be presumed that the Wenro lived in a manner very much like their other Iroquian neighbors. If true, they farmed extensively (corn, beans and squash) with hunting, gathering, and fishing providing the remainder of their diet. Political and social organization are unknown, but since all other Iroquian people traced descent through the
mother, it is probable the Wenro did also. None of their village sites have been specifically identified, so their housing (large longhouses) must have been the same as the Iroquois who lived in the area after the Wenro had been forced to abandon the area. It is not known whether their villages were fortified, but considering their situation, this should have been the case.
The Wenro occupied a strategic position at the eastern end of Lake Erie just south of Niagara Falls that possessed a valuable item in Native American trade, oil. This alone may have been the reason they were the first victim of the Beaver Wars. As a small tribe, they were required to protect themselves from the large confederations which surrounded them (specifically the Iroquois) through a three-way alliance with the Erie to the west and the Neutrals across the Niagara River in southern Ontario. However, their closest ties, language and cultural, appear to have been with the Neutrals. For reasons unknown, the Wenro alliance with the Erie and Neutrals ended during 1639. The withdrawal of their protection by the Neutrals apparently was critical. As an epidemic swept through the Wenro villages that year, the Iroquois learned that the Neutrals would no longer help and attacked the Wenro.
Quickly overrun, most of the Wenro were driven across the Niagara River into Ontario. Many moved in with the Neutrals, but one large group of about 600 Wenro were given refuge by the Huron Confederacy. However, one group of Wenro remained east of the Niagara River and fought with the Iroquois until 1643. Finally forced to abandon New York, the survivors fled west and became part of the Neutrals. At this point the Wenro had ceased to exist. Their reprieve was only temporary. The Wenro with the Huron were either killed or captured (and later adopted) in 1649 when the Iroquois destroyed the Huron Confederacy. Two years later, the same fate befell the Wenro that had become part of the Neutrals (1650-51), when the Iroquois vanquished this rival.