Oneida Nation and their Clans
The Oneida Nation, a distinguished member of the Iroquois confederation and one of the Grand River nations, takes great pride in its history, cherished traditions, and unique way of life. Embedded within their culture are captivating stories, each told in its own distinctive manner, making every nation’s version truly special. The elders emphasize that there is no right or wrong way to narrate these tales, celebrating the diversity of storytelling within the Iroquois community. Central to their indigenous customs is the profound reverence for clans, which are held in high esteem across families and generations. Each Nation has a distinct set of clans, some sharing common animals but maintaining their individuality. Clans symbolize the animals they represent and the profound connection between the families representing them and the clans they embody. As a result, individuals belonging to the same clan are considered family, forging strong bonds even in the absence of biological ties. We are recognized as On^yota’a:ka (People of the standing stone). We are known as a matrilineal society, which means that we honor the women in our lives and follow the clans of our mothers. Each clan holds significant meanings and moral values.
The Turtle Clan is associated with the land and earth, drawing inspiration from the Iroquois creation story of the earth growing on the back of a turtle. Thus, they possess a profound environmental connection to Mother Earth.
Another prominent clan is the Bear Clan, renowned for their skills in medicine and healing. Oneida stories recount how the Bear Clan was gifted sacred healing knowledge from an elder possessing vast expertise in health and well-being.
The Wolf Clan, on the other hand, plays the role of pathfinders, bestowed with the wisdom of leading people towards greatness. Their knowledge of pathfinding comes directly from the Creator, underscoring their pivotal role within the community
The ancestral stories are honored and as a sense of guidance and the Iroquois people. Passed down through countless generations, these sacred stories remain deeply cherished and integral to their way of life. Upholding tradition is a paramount value, as the Iroquois hold steadfast to the teachings of their ancestors and celebrate those who embrace the traditional ways intended by the Creator. The Great Law, a cornerstone of their society, emphasizes the interrelatedness of all clan members. For example, if one belongs to the Turtle Clan, they are connected to every other Turtle Clan family.
As the Oneida Nation and other Iroquois peoples continue to honor their heritage, they find solace in the traditional teachings and clan connections that define their existence. These enduring traditions strengthen their sense of community and instill a profound respect for the environment and their shared humanity. Preserving and passing on these remarkable customs ensures that the legacy of the Iroquois people remains vibrant for generations to come.
Elm, D. (n.d.). The Oneida Creation Story.
Oneida Language and Cultural Centre