A long time ago when the Creator placed us upon Mother Earth, each family was asked 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 your family.
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 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 it’s 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 for 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.
This post can be found on the Onondaga Nation website.