Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oneida Clans

Brandon Chrisjohn

My new adventures of meditation has brought me face to face with my spirituality, or should I say my lack of spirituality. I originally started to meditate to find inner strength to heal myself. It clearly became a search for my spirituality as well. The signs and messages I have been sent have sparked ideas for new blogs.

In my first session with my meditation coach I was gifted the wolf as my first totem. How fabulous and appropriate is that? After all, I am wolf clan, and I tell people all the time I am a wolf. Which brings me to the point of this blog.... clans of the Oneida people.

The Iroquois Nation as a whole has nine different clans; turtle, bear, wolf, deer, beaver, eel, heron, hawk, and snipe. The Oneida people have the main three, of which all the Iroquois Nations have at least these, turtle, bear and wolf.

What are clans?
Clans are family groupings, and are always passed from a mother to a child. When the Iroquois people lived in long houses, they would live as an extended family all of the same clan. Of course husband would be a different clan, but they would move in with the wife's family after marriage. Every clan had 3 chiefs and Clan Mothers. The clan mothers were in charge of keeping traditions, choosing cheifs, choosing names, leading ceremonies, and sought out when any member of the clan needs guidance.

Do the animal clans have meaning?
Each animal represents a special role in the nation.

The turtle is the foundation of the world. The Iroquois people call the earth Turtle island, because in the creation story, turtle offered to hold Skywoman when she fell from the sky to the world
Crystal T. Henry

of water below. When muskrat put the tiny speck of dirt he scraped from the bottom of the sea, Skywoman danced in a circle on his back and the land of the earth grew larger and larger.

The turtle represents earth, solidarity, strength, patience, determination, wisdom and respect.

"Turtle Clan people need a strong base where they can live and grow roots. They move slowly to teach patience; lessons learned are not forgotten. Although Turtles may appear slow, their determination allows them to obtain their goals. The Turtle is a creature of two elements --earth and water. Because of this, the people of the turtle clan share a bond with both of these. They enjoying helping things grow --plants and people, yet enjoy their freedom just as a Turtle would in the water."(Judy Robb)

The bear clan are the keepers of all Earth's medicines. Long ago, a tattered man came to an Iroquois village. He went to each clan's longhouse and asked for food and shelter. One by one the clans turned him away since they had only enough for themselves. Finally he reached the bear clan's lodge and the woman at the door took pity and asked him to come in. She fed him and gave him a place to sleep, and as he slept she found him new clothes. He was very greatful, but soon became ill. She didn't know what to do, but he told her where to get a plant which would cure him. Sure enough she brought it back and prepared it the way he said and he was better, but the next day he was ill with something else. He again told her what plant and where to find it, and how to prepare it, and everytime she cured him, he soon had a new illness.This went on for days, until one day she came back to see her lodge glowing and inside stood a healthy, strong man. He explained he was the Creator, and had chosen her because of her kindness, to learn all the cures of all the sicknesses her people may get. To this day all medicine people are from the bear clan.

The wolf clan are the pathfinders. They are responsible for guiding the members of their Nation along the path the Creator wishes them to live.They are known as the fire keepers, keepers of knowledge and information.

"The Wolf is respected for its sense and importance of family, teaching us to use our ears and be watchful, just as a family does. In nature, the Wolf seeks out and explores new situations to find new knowledge and return it to the pack." "The Wolf Clan are often the ones to whom others turn to in time of need. They have a great sense of curiosity and while they might explore on their own they prefer the company of others.
"(Judy Robb)

The wolf represents, passion, benevolence, artistic ability, generosity, sympathy and understanding.

I would like to thank my cousin Brandon, and my cousin Terry's wife Crystal for allowing me to use their art in my blog. If you want to see more of their artwork you can find them here:
Brandon Chrisjohn
Crystal Henry


  1. This is beautiful Jess. I am so glad your meditation coach has helped spark an interest in you art work again. I know this is one passion that you should continue, you always take such pride in your art; it is beautiful. I get so many comments when I take it with me to different events.

  2. Thanks Tina, hehe. The art in this particular blog is Crystal's and Brandon's. But, my art is all over the rest of the blog entries.