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In the Onöndowa´ga:´(Seneca) culture, oral tradition is very important and is taught through stories in the familial ganöhsa´ (house). The Great Law of Peace provides for ga´säde:nyö´ (clans), which are important in everyday life of the Onöndowa´ga:´. Lineage, or the blood line, is matrilineal (through the mother). So mothers, daughters, sisters in the Hodinöhsö:ni´(People of the longhouse) world define the family. The eldest woman of a clan is responsible for nominating, installing and removing chiefs. Usually the eldest woman of a clan can also be the keeper of the names and bestows names on individuals in her clan. Traditionally, women own the land and when a man and woman decide to marry, he moves to her household. If he displeases her, all she does is set his clothes outside the household and he has to live someplace else.
Two moieties exist in the Onöndowa´ga:´ clan system: animal and bird. Each ga´sä:de´ (moiety "side") has 4 clans. The animal side consists of the bear, turtle, wolf, and beaver. The bird side consists of the heron, hawk, snipe, and deer. Accordingly the animal side marries the bird side and vice versa. The animal and bird clans have assigned roles and duties pertaining to ceremonies, funerals, and mid-winter games. In this way, one side takes care of the other in their time of need.
Clans are still important to the Onöndowa´ga:´. Those who follow the Gaiwi:yoh (good message) or a traditional way of life retain the roles and functions of the clans. Other enrolled and non-enrolled members may claim a clan name, but do not live according to or practice the Code of Handsome lake.
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