Clans of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy)
The clan is a means of identity for Native people. A clan is a very large family. Among the Haudenosaunee (Ho-deeno-sho-nay), the clan is traced through the women. What your mother is, that is your clan also.
Animal symbols are used to identify Clan Family membership. These symbols were designated centuries ago. The people observed the creatures of the natural world. They learned many things from animals and respected them. The people showed their respect by using animal symbols as part of their identity. There are 9 clans. The clan animal symbols can be grouped (for easier recall) by the element of our surroundings in which they are “at home”, e.g. birds are “at home” in the air. Some of the animals live on land and others are at home in the water. The groups are:
Air - Hawk, heron and snipe
Land - Bear, deer and wolf
Water - Turtle, beaver and eel
Everyone in the clan is considered your relative, no matter which nation they are from. Therefore, a person cannot marry within his or her own clan. For example, a woman from the Hawk clan marries a man from the Bear clan. Their children would belong to the Hawk clan.
Long ago, the clan was also called your “longhouse family.” Your mother, father and their children were called the “fireside family.” A Haudenosaunee child had many grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and cousins. You were never alone. The clan is a very large group of people who are your relatives - to care about and to care about you.
The people of what came to be known as the Iroquois Confederacy, or the Six Nations, referred to themselves as “Haudenosaunee” which translates to “People of the Longhouse.” The longhouse was a dwelling that housed many small family groups (Fireside Families = nuclear families) in an extended family (=clan) living environment.
The pictures on this page depict the 9 clans of the Haudenosaunee as represented by the 5th grade class of the Native American Magnet School under the direction of the Art Teacher, Thomas Murphy. Students who created the papier-mâché likenesses of the clan animals are credited as follows:
Turtle - José Giusti and Dominic Nilsson
Heron - Daija Muniz and Victoria Negron
Eel - (Not named)
Snipe - Miranda Casillas
Deer - Kaynesha Artison and Zion Worke
Wolf - Alexander Whitt
Hawk - Asha Bakari, Jennel McAndrew and Aries McGrath
Beaver - Israel Gonzalez and Abdikadir Omar
Bear - Jacob Adiges, Devon Andrews and Austin Cosmé
Congratulations to the 5th grade class and to Mr. Murphy for doing such a great job.
If you have further questions, please contact the Native American Resource Program office at 816-3183.