Women have been a central figure in all homes throughout Oneida history.
Honoring women is a long-established part of the Oneida culture. Like many ancient societies around the world, the Haudenosaunee revered women for their ability to create and nurture new life. But while other societies worshipped a mix of gods and goddesses, the Haudenosaunee is one of the few Native American cultures whose creation story features a woman creating the earth’s abundance.
According to some versions of the Haudenosaunee creation story, Sky Woman brought strawberries, tobacco, and other plants to this world when she fell from the sky and planted them on the earth that the water animals packed on Turtle’s back. When Sky Woman’s daughter died after giving birth to twins, Sky Woman buried her in the earth. The Three Sisters – corn, beans and squash, the sustainers of life – grew from the head of the daughter’s grave; sacred tobacco grew over her heart; and strawberries and other medicinal plants grew at her feet.
The Peacemaker, in bringing together the Five Nations – from east to west, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca – under the Great Law of Peace, reinforced women’s roles for Haudenosaunee culture. To this day, women are the keepers of each nation’s culture; they are responsible for passing down their knowledge and heritage to their children, and, as such, they are entrusted under the Great Law with responsibility for the nation’s lands and political future.