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The History Center blog shares research and findings about local history, excerpts from the History Center Archives, information about upcoming exhibits and other opportunities on how to get involved with The History Center in Tompkins County. To learn more or view the archival materials mentioned, visit us in downtown Ithaca, follow us on social media @TompkinsHistory, or subscribe to our monthly newsletter History Happenings

Women's Nomination Belt & the Clans of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫ'

Fri, November 05, 2021 5:40 PM | Anonymous

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is a matrilineal society organized by clans. Traditionally each clan is represented and led by a woman known as a clanmother. The Women’s Nomination Belt codifies the right of the clanmothers to nominate the chiefs who represent each Nation at Haudenosaunee councils. Clanmothers also gave names to newborn, and adopted clan members and were the heads of longhouses.

Each Nation within the Haudensosaunee has a different number of clans. The clans are named after animals from three elemental categories: water, air, and land. For the Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' (Cayuga) Bear, Wolf, and Deer clans represent land, the Turtle, Eel, and Beaver clans represent water, and the Snipe, Heron, and Hawk clans represent air. Clan members are considered relatives even if they come from different Nations. For example, a Bear clan member of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' and a Bear clan member of the Seneca (Onöndowa'ga:') would consider each other family. The current Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' Nation council and clanmothers represent six clans: Deer, Bear, Wolf, Turtle, Snipe, and Heron.

Replica weaving of the Women's Nomination Belt by Rich Hamell

Visit the ‘Art of Wampum’ on display at the Tompkins Center for History & Culture for the month of November 2021.

Explore for a virtual version of the exhibit, and additional learning materials.

Explore for more information about Indigenous history in Tompkins County.

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