The Onondaga Reservation is located in Onondaga County, New York, south of the city of Syracuse. It is recognized by the United States Government as a politically independent entity. The Onondaga people are one of the original five constituent nations of the Iroquois Confederacy that occupied much of present-day New York State, and were called the “Keepers of the Fire” by the other nations. They have a traditional form of government, where chiefs are nominated by clan mothers. Onondaga culture continues to evolve and incorporate aspects of both traditional and modern ways of life.
Fred Wolcott (1862-1946), who took most of the photographs of this collection, photographed and documented daily life on the Onondaga Nation territory around 1910. It is not known whether Wolcott took the photographs because of a personal interest in the Haudenosaunee people or for a commissioned project. In 1986, forty years after his death, the Onondaga Department of Parks organized this collection and published it in a book, <cite>ONONDAGA: Portraits of a Native People</cite>, and listed Wolcott as author and photographer.