Todadaho Sid Hill, Traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
|Regions with significant populations|
|English, Onondaga, Other Iroquoian languages.|
|Longhouse, Handsome Lake, Gai'hwi:io, Kanoh'hon'io, Kahni'kwi'io, Other Indigenous Religion|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Seneca Nation, Oneida Nation, Tuscarora Nation, Mohawk Nation, Cayuga Nation, other Iroquoian peoples|
The Onondaga people (Onondaga: Onöñda’gaga’,Hill Place people) are one of the original five constituent nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy in northeast North America. Their traditional homeland is in and around present-day Onondaga County, New York, south of Lake Ontario. They are known as Gana’dagwëni:io’geh to the other Iroquois tribes. Being centrally located, they are considered the "Keepers of the Fire" (Kayečisnakwe’nì·yu’in Tuscarora) in the figurative longhouse that shelters the Five Nations. The Cayuga and Seneca have territory to their west and the Oneida and Mohawk to their east. For this reason, the League of the Iroquois historically met at the Iroquois government's capital at Onondaga, as the traditional chiefs do today.
Onondaga peoples also live near Brantford, Ontario on Six Nations territory. This reserve used to be Haudenosaunee hunting grounds, but much of the Confederacy relocated there as a result of the American Revolution. Although, the British promised the security of Haudenosaunee homelands, the 1783 treaty of Paris ceded the territory over to the United States.
According to oral tradition, The Great Peacemaker approached the Onondaga and other tribes to found the Haudenosaunee.The tradition tells that at the time the Seneca nation debated joining the Haudenosaunee based on the Great Peacemaker's teachings, a solar eclipse took place. The most likely eclipse to be recounted was in 1142AD, which was visible to the people in the land of the Seneca.
This oral tradition is supported by archeological studies. Carbon dating of particular sites of Onondaga habitation shows dates starting close to 1200AD ± 60 years with growth for hundreds of years.
In the American Revolutionary War, the Onondaga were at first officially neutral, although individual Onondaga warriors were involved in at least one raid on American settlements. After Americans attacked on their main village on April 20, 1779, the Onondaga later sided with the majority of the League and fought against the American colonists in alliance with the British. After the United States was accorded independence, many Onondaga followed Joseph Brant to Upper Canada, where they were given land by the Crown at Six Nations.
On November 11, 1794, the Onondaga Nation, along with the other Haudenosaunee nations, signed the Treaty of Canandaigua with the United States, in which their right to their homeland was acknowledged by the United States in article II of the treaty.
In 1816, 450 Onondaga were living in New York, 210 of whom lived on Buffalo Creek Reservation.
The Onondaga Nation was crucial in forming the Iroquois League which led them to be very well revered by their peers. The "Tree of Peace" was planted on Onondaga Land.Onondaga has been regarded as the capital of Iroquois land. The Onondaga were known as the Central Fire-Keepers of the Confederacy. The Onondaga were known as the guardians or watch keepers of the league. They were keepers of the law in order to preserve traditions and institutions. The culture hero Hyenwatha was an Onondaga Indian. He was essential in the early organization of the league. The title of Thadodaho was always held by an Onondaga chief. He was to be the chief arbitrator of the Lords of the Confederacy. The Onondaga maintained the largest number chieftainship titles as well as the largest number of clans among the Iroquois. Handsome Lake, the Seneca prophet who was the author of the scripture thats about the new religion of the Iroquois died at Onondaga.
The Onondaga practice the sprinkling of ashes when juggling the treatment of the sick.They also do a public confession of sins upon a string of wampum. The wampum is employed on all matters of public importance. Their funerals were known to be quiet and solemn with the women covering their faces. There were also special events such as the Planting Feast which would happen in May or when the Onondaga believed the ground was ready. This was three days for penitential and religious services. One day for the children's dance, and one each for the Four Persons, the Holder for the Heavens, the Thunder, and for gambling. The Strawberry Feast comes when the berries are ripe. This day there are dancing for the Thunder and a feast of strawberries. The Green Bean Dance comes when the green beans are fit for use. This day there are dances for the Thunder and a mixture of war and feather dances. The Green Corn dance always comes after the Green Bean dance. This day there are three days for religious services, one for the children, one for the Four Persons, one for the Holder of the heavens, and one for the Thunder with the feast. The Onondaga's Thanksgiving feast in October closely resembled the Green Corn Dance.
The Onondaga peoples place great emphasis on giving thanks, and this is reflected in their ceremonies. Ceremonial songs would be performed in the longhouse, and danced to in a counter-clockwise direction, since this is the life providing direction of Mother Earth, moon, and stars.The more spirited the singing and dancing, the more thanks is given to the Creator. The Onondaga peoples rely on the lunar calendar for their ceremonies that occur, and there are "faith keepers" responsible for initiating the ceremonies based on the different moons.
Some factors that defined Onondaga life were a continued placement of villages on defensive high points away from rivers and the presence of defensive earthen embankments.A gradual evolution of pottery vessels and smoking pipe forms and decorations. A gradual evolution of stone and bone tools and implements. Continuity in subsitence systems. Continuity of house forms and inferred communal living. The continued use of human face motifs. Evidence for bear ceremonialism and cannibalism.
The Onondaga in New York have a traditional form of government, with chiefs nominated by clan mothers, rather than elected. The Onondaga follow the Haudenosaunee matriarch clan system. Only an Onondaga woman can provide Onondaga children.Members of a clan are considered to be family, even if members in the clan are from different nations. When it comes to marriage, partners must be from outside the clan. Onondaga peoples believe it is their duty to help and support their clan in tough times, sickness, and death.
On March 11, 2005, the Onondaga Nation in the town of Onondaga, New York, filed a land rights action in federal court, seeking acknowledgment of title to over 3,000 square miles (7,800 km2) of ancestral lands centering in Syracuse, New York. They hoped to obtain increased influence over environmental restoration efforts at Onondaga Lake and other EPA Superfund sites in the claimed area. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the Onondagas' claim in 2012, and the Supreme Court in 2013 declined to hear an appeal.
The Onondaga very much enjoyed sports and physical activity. Lacrosse and foot races were always known to be favorites of the Onondaga people.They also adopted many games from European settlers such as mumble the peg, marbles, some games of ball, pull away, and fox and geese in the snow. Hide and seek and blindman's bluff were played but no games with song.
Hiawatha, also known as Ayenwathaaa or Aiionwatha, was a precolonial Native American/Indian leader and co-founder of the Iroquois Confederacy. He was a leader of the Onondaga people, the Mohawk people, or both. According to some accounts, he was born an Onondaga but adopted into the Mohawks.
Among the Haudenosaunee the Great Law of Peace is the oral constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy. The law was written on wampum belts, conceived by Dekanawidah, known as the Great Peacemaker, and his spokesman Hiawatha. The original five member nations ratified this constitution near modern-day Victor, New York, with the sixth nation being added in 1722.
Wampum is a traditional shell bead of the Eastern Woodlands tribes of Native Americans. It includes white shell beads hand fashioned from the North Atlantic channeled whelk shell and white and purple beads made from the quahog or Western North Atlantic hard-shelled clam. Before European contact, strings of wampum were used for storytelling, ceremonial gifts, and recording important treaties and historical events, such as the Two Row Wampum Treaty or The Hiawatha Belt. Wampum was also used by the northeastern Indian tribes as a means of exchange, strung together in lengths for convenience. The first Colonists adopted it as a currency in trading with them. Eventually, the Colonists applied their technologies to more efficiently produce wampum, which caused inflation and ultimately its obsolescence as currency.
The Seneca are a group of Indigenous Iroquoian-speaking people native to who historically lived south of Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes in North America. Their nation was the farthest to the west within the Six Nations or Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee) in New York before the American Revolution.
The Oneida are an American Indian tribe and First Nations band. They are one of the five founding nations of the Iroquois Confederacy in the area of upstate New York, particularly near the Great Lakes.
Six Nations is the largest First Nations reserve in Canada. As of the end of 2017, it has a total of 27,276 members, 12,848 of whom live on the reserve. It is the only reserve in North America that has representatives of all six Iroquois nations living together. These nations are the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca and Tuscarora. Some Lenape also live in the territory.
The Cayuga was one of the five original constituents of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), a confederacy of Native Americans in New York. The Cayuga homeland lies in the Finger Lakes region along Cayuga Lake, between their league neighbors, the Onondaga to the east and the Seneca to the west. Today Cayuga people belong to the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario, and the federally recognized Cayuga Nation of New York and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma.
Handsome Lake was a Seneca religious leader of the Iroquois people. He was a half-brother to Cornplanter, a Seneca war chief.
The Covenant Chain was a series of alliances and treaties developed during the seventeenth century, primarily between the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee) and the British colonies of North America, with other Native American tribes added. First developed in the New York area at a time of violence and social instability for the colonies and Native Americans, the English and Iroquois councils and subsequent treaties were based on supporting peace and stability to preserve trade. They addressed issues of colonial settlement, and tried to suppress violence between the colonists and Indian tribes, as well as among the tribes, from New England to the Colony of Virginia.
The economy of the Haudenosaunee historically was based on communal production and combined elements of both horticulture and hunter-gatherer systems. Some have described the Iroquois economy as primitive communism. The tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy and other Northern Huron had their traditional territory in what is now New York State and the southern areas bordering the Great Lakes. The confederacy was originally composed of five tribes; the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca, who had created an alliance long before European contact. The Tuscarora were added as a sixth nation in the early eighteenth century after they migrated from North Carolina. The Huron peoples, located mostly in what is now Canada, were also Iroquioan-speaking and shared some culture, but were never part of the Iroquois.
The Treaty of Canandaigua also known as the Pickering Treaty and the Calico Treaty, is a treaty signed after the American Revolutionary War between the Grand Council of the Six Nations and President George Washington representing the United States of America.
The Cayuga Nation of New York is a federally recognized tribe of Cayuga people, based in New York, United States. Other organized tribes with Cayuga members are the federally recognized Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma and the Canadian-recognized Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario, Canada.
The Two Row Wampum Treaty, also known as Guswenta or Kaswentha and as the Tawagonshi Agreement of 1613 or the Tawagonshi Treaty, is a mutual treaty agreement, made in 1613 between representatives of the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee and representatives of the Dutch government in what is now upstate New York. The agreement is considered by the Haudenosaunee to be the basis of all of their subsequent treaties with European and North American governments, and the citizens of those nations, including the Covenant Chain treaty with the British in 1677 and the Treaty of Canandaigua with the United States in 1794.
The Tonawanda Seneca Nation is a federally recognized tribe in the State of New York. They have maintained the traditional form of government led by sachems selected by clan mothers. The Seneca are one of the original Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy. Their people speak the Seneca language, an Iroquoian language.
The Seneca–Cayuga Nation is one of three federally recognized tribes of Seneca people in the United States. It includes the Cayuga people and is based in Oklahoma, United States. The tribe had more than 5,000 people in 2011. They have a tribal jurisdictional area in the northeast corner of Oklahoma and are headquartered in Grove. They are descended from Iroquoian peoples who had relocated to Ohio from New York in the mid-18th century.
The Iroquois or Haudenosaunee are an indigenous confederacy in northeast North America. They were known during the colonial years to the French as the Iroquois League, later as the Iroquois Confederacy and to the English as the Five Nations, comprising the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca. After 1722, they accepted the Tuscarora people from the southeast into their confederacy, as they were also Iroquoian-speaking, and consequently became known as the Six Nations.
Tadodaho was a Native American and sachem of the Onondaga nation before the Deganawidah and Hiawatha formed the Iroquois League. According to oral tradition, he had extraordinary characteristics and was widely feared, but he was persuaded to support the confederacy of the Five Nations.
Samuel George was an influential Onondaga Indian chief, holding the title Hononwirehdonh, or "Great Wolf" for twenty-three years. He served in the War of 1812 and was a renowned healer and orator among Indians and whites. Modern-day historian Laurence Hauptman describes George as an Iroquoian conservative who supported traditional Iroquoian ceremonies, language, and land rights, but also allowed missionaries and schools on the reservation.
A Dish With One Spoon, also known as One Dish One Spoon, is a law used by indigenous peoples of the Americas since at least 1142 AD to describe an agreement for sharing hunting territory among two or more nations. People are all eating out of the single dish, that is, all hunting in the shared territory. One spoon signifies that all Peoples sharing the territory are expected to limit the game they take to leave enough for others, and for the continued abundance and viability of the hunting grounds into the future. Sometimes the Indigenous language word is rendered in English as bowl or kettle rather than dish. The Dish With One Spoon phrase is also used to denote the treaty or agreement itself. In particular, a treaty made between the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee nations at Montréal in 1701, as part of the Great Peace of Montreal is usually called the Dish With One Spoon treaty and its associated wampum belt the Dish With One Spoon wampum. The treaty territory includes part of the current province of Ontario between the Great Lakes and extending east along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River up to the border with the current province of Quebec. Some claim it also includes parts of the current states of New York and Michigan.
The flag of the Iroquois Confederacy or Haudenosaunee is the flag used to represent the six nations of the Haudenosaunee. It is a purple flag with four connected white squares and an eastern white pine tree in the center.