Onondaga people

The Onondaga (Onöñda’gaga’ or "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’[1] 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.

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


According to oral tradition, The Great Peacemaker approached the Onondaga and other tribes to found the Haudenosaunee.[2] 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.[3][4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

In 1816, 450 Onondaga were living in New York, 210 of whom lived on Buffalo Creek Reservation.[7]


The Onondaga in New York have a traditional form of government, with chiefs nominated by clan mothers, rather than elected.

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.[8] 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.[9]

Notable people



Other spellings encountered

See also


  1. Rudes, B. Tuscarora English Dictionary Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999
  2. Bruce E. Johansen (2006). The Native Peoples of North America: a History. Rutgers University Press. pp. 136–138. ISBN 978-0-8135-3899-0.
  3. Johansen, Bruce E. (Fall 1995). "Dating the Iroquois Confederacy" (PDF). Akwesasne Notes New Series. 01 (3/04): 62–3. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
  4. Johansen, Bruce Elliott; Mann, Barbara Alice (2000). "Ganondagan". Encyclopedia of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-313-30880-2. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
  5. Tuck, James A. (1990). Onondaga Iroquois Prehistory: A Study in Settlement Archaeology (reprint ed.). Syracuse University Press. p. 197. ISBN 978-0-8156-2511-7.
  6. "1794 Pickering Treaty With the Six Nations". 1794 Canandaigua Treaty Commemoration Committee, Inc. Archived from the original on 2006-04-26. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  7. Hauptman, Laurence (2008). Seven Generations of Iroquois Leadership: The Six Nations Since 1800. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-3165-1.
  8. Archived 2010-12-06 at the Wayback Machine, Syracuse Post Standard, n.d., accessed 11 Nov 2015
  9. "Supreme Court rejects Onondaga Indian Nation's land claim against New York". CNYCentral.com. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  10. "Current Clan Mothers." Haundenosaunee Confederacy. Retrieved 11 Sept 2012.

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