The Onondaga Nation residents consist of mostly Onondagas. But we do have individuals and families of other nations residing within our borders.
How does one know if you are Onondaga?
A long time ago when the Creator placed us upon Mother Earth, each family was asked to to go out of the village and tell about the animal they have witnessed. When they reported what they saw, that became the “clan” of your family.
The women who are our life givers were given the important responsibility of carrying on the clans and the citizenship of the Haudenosaunee. At Onondaga, there are nine “clans” which are; wolf, turtle, beaver, snipe, heron, deer, eel, bear, and hawk.
Only an Onondaga woman can provide Onondaga children. Only an Onondaga woman of the turtle clan can provide Onondaga turtle clan children, etc. Therefore, children are very proud of their clans as it automatically gives them a link to their female ancestors back to the beginning of our people.
The clan system lives throughout the Haudenosaunee. People of your clan but of different nations are still considered to be part of your family. This is important as when you travel through the different nations of the Haudenosaunee. You know that there are people willing to welcome you to their lands as being part of their family.
The role of clans also plays a part in marriage. When a young person looks to marry, they look to individuals from other clans. Even if you are not of “blood relations”, they are a part of your clan family. Since clan members no longer all live in one longhouse, mothers, grandmothers, and aunts watch to make sure that its a good match.
Our clan system is also important in our way of life. When you are in need of help in tough times such as sickness or death, it is the duty of the members of the other clans to help. The Creator gave us this method of helping each other to make sure that we care one another to make us strong which has helped us survive as a people for countless centuries. We look to our relations in the other clans for help.
Gift from the Creator
Elders remind us that the Creator gave us all a special gift. That this gift is an element that benefits the community. That finding that gift and using that gift makes the Creator happy. People who boast or do not utilize their gift saddens the Creator. Gifts come in all forms from leaders, speakers, hunters, singers, midwives, dancers, runners, lacrosse players, farmers, fishermen, healers, astronomers, crafters, builders, cooks, teachers, comedians, and so on.
Those skills helped the Onondaga community survive in the past when we lived in communal homes as well as present day 21st century Onondaga where people use these skills to work in the Onondaga community as well as the neighboring Syracuse, NY community. Now Onondaga community members work as teachers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, iron workers, engineers, chefs, etc. We are thankful that the Creator has given us so many gifts to share with each other.