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
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.