Storytelling is an important component of the Oneida’s culture. These oral traditions and legends have been passed from generation to generation, teaching Oneidas how to live, act, and care for one another, as well as how to manage during the unpredictable seasons.

A majority of these stories took place in the familiar setting of the woods, featuring woodland creatures. Other tales told stories of little people, flying heads and the thunders. More than entertainment, these stories teach children the values of their culture, such as honesty and kindness.

The legends presented here are only one version of these ageless stories.

Oneida Indian Nation Member Brooke Thomas (Wolf Clan) reads a favorite legend, The Legend of How the Bear Lost His Tail, that was recently illustrated and translated into Oneida for a language learning book.

The new book is the first in a series produced in collaboration with Madison-Oneida BOCES.

Autumn Color

What do the Big Dipper and a giant bear have to do with the changing color of the leaves? Find out with this Haudenosaunee legend. Many years ago, a hunter discovered the tracks of a great b [...]

Oneida Elders Stories: The last treatment

Storytelling is an important component of the Oneida’s oral tradition. Some stories are intended to teach a lesson, and they are passed from generation to generation to show others how behav [...]

Oneida Elders Stories: What did he see?

The Oneida oral tradition is filled with wonderful tales from our Elders which knit generations together through stories. Whether scary, interesting, or amusing, these stories strengthen bon [...]

A Lacrosse Legend

The following story is one version of a Haudenosaunee tale that teaches every creature has a purpose and importance according to the Creator’s plan. Lacrosse is in the forefront of the legen [...]

The Haudenosaunee Creation Story

The Haudenosaunee have always recognized that people are complex, possessing both good and bad qualities. The Creation story serves as a reminder: no human is flawless– the Great Spirit alon [...]

The Legend of the Gift of Tobacco

Long before there were classrooms, chalkboards, pencils and erasers, the People of the Oneida Indian Nation were effectively teaching their children through stories. These tales are rich wit [...]

The Legend of the Three Sisters

There are several legends surrounding the Three Sisters; indeed, almost every American Indian nation seems to have its own. The Cherokee legend involves three women who helped each other sta [...]

Godasiyo, the Woman Chief

As Haudenosaunee legends were passed down from generation to generation, the stories took on many variations. The legends we present here are only one version of these ageless stories. At th [...]

How the Clans were Chosen

The legend of how the three clans were chosen is believed to have its origins in the Haudenosaunee mourning process. Long ago, the entire village used to mourn the death of a family member, [...]

The Legend of the No Face Doll

To this day, the Haudenosaunee people do not put faces on their corn husk dolls, learn why. The Haudenosaunee people respect what they call the sustainers of life, the Three Sisters - Corn, [...]

The Legend of Thunder Boy

Wishing to dispel fear, the ancient people sought an explanation for the booming phenomenon of thunder. This tale illustrates why the Haudenosaunee people never fear the rumbling that often [...]

The Legend of the Hermit Thrush

The legend of the hermit thrush was told by parents to teach their children the value of honesty. Long, long ago the birds had no song. It was a time when only humans had this melodious gift [...]

The Legend of the Mosquitoes

The Haudenosaunee have an explanation as to why these pesky creatures torment people during the milder months. Every year as the warm weather returns, an unpleasant accompaniment to balmy cl [...]

The Legend of How the Bear Lost His Tail

Do you know why a bear has a short tail and why sometimes can be heard growling in the woods for what seems like no particular reason? Find out the belief of the Haudenosaunee. In the beginn [...]

How Medicines Came to the Haudenosaunee

The Bear Clan is attuned to spiritual well-being and medicinal healing, and the health of each village has rested in the hands of Bear Clan medicine women since the beginning of time, read w [...]

How the Chipmunk got its Stripes

This legend tells how a dispute between Chipmunk and Bear led to the markings on Chipmunk’s back. Bear thought herself a very powerful creature and was always trying to exhibit her strength [...]

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