Onyota'a:ka (People of the Standing Stone)


Artwork by John Kahionhes Fadden (Mohawk)


OVERVIEW: Written by Kanatiiosh

The Oneida call themselves Onyota'a:ka, which means People of the Standing Stone. The name refers to the large rock that each Oneida village had where they would gather to conduct ceremonial activities.

The Onyota'a:ka are one of the original Five Nations to accept the Peacemaker's message and joined together with the Mohawk, Onondaga, Seneca, and Cayuga to form the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which is also know as the Iroquois Confederacy. Haudenosaunee translates to mean (People of the Longhouse), which refers to the type of homes built by the Haudenosaunee.

In the picture (above), the artist (Kahionhes) depicts the Onyota'a:ka by showing a man wearing a kastoweh (feathered hat) containing three eagle feathers placed near a stone to represent that the Oneida are known as the People of the Standing Stone. When reading the Aiionwatha (Hiawatha) Belt, looking northward, the square located between the Mohawk Nation square located on the far right-hand side and the Onondaga Nation located in the center of the Aiionwatha Belt represents the Oneida Nation.

The Hiawatha belt represents the founding of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. When the Peacemaker came to the warring Five Nations, he carried with him the message of Kaianeraserakowa (the Great Law of Peace). The Peacemaker came to the Haudenosaunee with his message of Skennen (Peace), Kariwiio (The Good Word), and Kasatensera (strength), which contains the principles of peace, equality, respect, love, and justice. The Peacemaker envisioned the uniting of these Nations in peace as one extended Longhouse with each Nation having their own hearth fire. In other words, each Nation would have a shared sovereignty in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the responsibility to protect the Peace, the Natural World, and the Future Generations to come, while retaining the sovereignty over their own Nations. The joining together of the Five Nations is perhaps the oldest example of nations uniting under a single form of government and spirituality. Interestingly, the Haudenosaunee draw no distinction between what is political and what is spiritual, for our spiritual leaders are also the political leaders.

The Oneida are known as the Younger Brothers, which has significance when the Grand Council of Chiefs, composed of all fifty chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, meet to discuss matters of importance to the entire Confederacy. In the picture (above), the man is wearing a kastoweh, which is a feathered hat. One can identify the Nation that the wearer is from by the number of eagle feathers and the position of these feathers worn on the kastoweh.

Onyota'a:ka men wear three eagle feathers on their kastowehs, like the Mohawk. However, there is a major difference in the way the three feathers are worn. The Oneida wear two of the three feathers in an upright position and the third feather is tilted downward, whereas, the Mohawk wear, in their kastowehs, all three eagle feathers in an upright position. If the man were a chief of the Onyota'a:ka Nation, he would wear attached to his feathered hat deer antlers that symbolize his authority as one of the nine chiefs of the Oneida Nation.

The Onyota'a:ka have three clans. The three clans are Turtle, Bear, and Wolf. Clans are inherited matrilineal (passed down from one's mother). In other words, if your Mother is of the Bear clan, then you are of the Bear. If your father is of the Wolf clan, but your mother has no clan then you would have no clan, even though your father has a clan, because clans are passed on from mother to sons and daughters. Some mistakenly think that when a man marries a women he becomes her clan, this is untrue. If you are born with a clan, that clan remains yours through out your life.

The Onyota'a:ka also have Clan Mothers (female leaders), from each clan (Turtle, Bear, & Wolf). There are also faith-keepers who, among their responsibilities, have the responsibility to be spiritual advisors.

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Website created May 27,2000:Updated August 2001

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