The Onondaga ceremonies give thanks and reflect the surrounding living
world. Dances and songs are performed in a counter-clockwise direction.
The bean plant, the mother earth, the moon, and the stars; all move in
this life providing direction and so do we when we dance. In this fashion,
the songs that were given to us so long ago are still being carried on
Our songs are sung using drums and rattles. Drums are
usually made of cedar trees with deer hide stretched over the top. A
small portion of a cedar log is hollowed out and waterproofed. Water
is then poured into the bottom of the drum and the deer hide is stretched
over the top of the cedar. The wet leather is then stretched and tightened
before playing for a "nice" tone.
The Onondaga and Haudenosaunee generally use two types of rattles. The horn
rattle usually accompanies the water drum. The horn rattle is
an animal horn, which also has been hollowed out. Then seeds are placed
inside and a wooden top, bottom and handle are added. These rattles are
used by the singers who accompany the lead singer who plays the water drum.
second type of rattle is the turtle rattle. This
rattle is very sacred to the Haudenosaunee and is only used in a few select
ceremonies. The snapping turtle are caught for the sole purpose for making
this special rattle. Once the turtle has been scarified and hung to dry,
skilled craftsmen carve wooden braces that are braced inside the shell
along with seeds before the rattle is sewn back together. Individuals who
own such rattles take great care in preserving their rattles as a turtle's
life was sacrificed for the ceremonies it now participates in.