Niskayuna is a town in Schenectady County, New York, United States. The population was 21,781 at the 2010 census. The town is located in the southeast part of the county, east of the city of Schenectady, and is the easternmost town in the county.
The Town of Niskayuna was formed on March 7, 1809, with an original population of 681. The name of town was derived from early patents to Dutch settlers: Nis-ti-go-wo-ne or Co-nis-tig-i-one, both derived from the Mohawk language. The 19th-century historians Howell and Munsell mistakenly identified Conistigione as an Indian tribe, but they were a band of Mohawk people known by the term for this location. The original meaning of the words translate roughly as "extensive corn flats", as the Mohawk for centuries cultivated maize fields in the fertile bottomlands along the river later named for this people. They were the easternmost of the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Among the Mohawk chiefs who lived in the area were Ron-warrigh-woh-go-wa (meaning in English the great fault finder or grumbler), Ka-na-da-rokh-go-wa (a great eater), Ro-ya-na (a chief), As-sa-ve-go (big knife), and A-voon-ta-go-wa (big tree). Of these, the first strongly objected to selling communal lands to the whites. He ensured that the Mohawk retained the rights of hunting and fishing on lands they deeded to the Dutch and other whites. He was reported to have said that "after the whites had taken possession of our lands, they will make Kaut-sore [literally spoon-food or soup] of our bodies." He generally aided the settlers during the mid-18th century against the Canadiens in the French and Indian War, the North American front of the Seven Years' War.
The first European settlers of this town were Dutch colonists who chose to locate outside the manor of Rensselaerwyck to avoid the oversight of the patroons and the trading government of New Netherland. Harmon Vedder obtained a patent for some land here in 1664, soon after the founders in 1661 gained land in what developed as the village and city of Schenectady.
Among the early settlers were the Clute, Van Vranken, Vedder, Vrooman, Groot, Tymerson, Consaul, Pearse, Van Brookhoven, Claase, Jansen, and Krieger (Cregier) families, who were ethnic Dutch. Captain Martin Cregier, the first burgomaster of New Amsterdam, later settled in Niskayuna; he died in 1712.
The Erie Canal of 1825 and later enlargements brought increased traffic and trade through the valley. During the 19th and 20th centuries, industries developed along the Mohawk River, especially concentrated in Schenectady in this county. Farming continued in outlying areas. The headquarters of General Electric and Westinghouse Electric developed in the city of Schenectady, which became a center of broad-reaching innovation in uses of electricity and a variety of consumer products.
After World War II, the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory was opened in 1946 in Niskayuna, under a contract between General Electric and the US government. In 1973, the General Electric Engineering Development Center moved from downtown Schenectady to River Road in Niskayuna. Today, it is the world headquarters of the four GE Global Research centers. Due to high-level scientific and technological jobs associated with these businesses, Niskayun has a high level of education among its residents and a high per capita income of towns in the capital area.
In 2008 a massive ice storm brought down power lines and caused outages, leaving much of the town in the dark for one to five days. The storm caused a total of one million dollars in damage to property, including several old-growth trees.
The following sites in the town are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: George Westinghouse Jones House, Niskayuna Railroad Station, Niskayuna Reformed Church, and Rosendale Common School.