Oneida Design 1 Header

Cultural Symbols

Arched Domes

The arched domes are a series of semi circles in a row, usually with a small curlicue on the tops of the arches. These semi circles represent the sky world where Sky Woman once resided. The two curved lines or curlicues are the celestial tree. In the Creation Story, Sky Woman fell through the hole created when the celestial tree was uprooted.

The arched domes appear in several variations, some where the celestial tree is quite large and very elaborate. The arched domes are often seen around the border of skirts and leggings, sometimes around the band of the kustoweh.

Turtle Island

When Sky Woman fell from the Sky World, she landed on the back of the turtle. There she walked in circles, packing down the earth brought to the surface by the water animals. The back of the turtle grew and grew becoming the North American Continent, therefore it is often referred to as the Great Turtle Island. The turtle is also significant because it is one of the clans of the Iroquois. Each member nation of the Iroquois Confederacy has a number clans to which the people belong. The Oneida have three clans; the turtle, the bear and the wolf.


The tobacco is the most sacred of all the plants. When “real” tobacco (pure and free of additives, commercial fertilizers, etc) is burned, the smoke spirals skyward, taking prayers and messages directly to the Creator. It is burned at ceremonies and is presented as an offering to the Creator for requests and to give thanks.

The Three Sisters

Corns, beans and squash, also known as the Three Sisters, represent the food spirits. In the Creation Story, when Sky Woman’s daughter died in childbirth, corn, beans, and squash grew from her grave. They became the main staples in the Iroquois diet. The Iroquois believe that each plant has a female spirit. They are planted, nourished and harvested by the Iroquois women. The Three Sisters can be seen in a billboard sized painting at the entrance of the Three Sisters Subdivision on West Mason Street in Green Bay. The painting is by Oneida artist, Scott Hill.

The Circle

The very shape of the logo is in itself significant. Being round, it represents the cyclical world-view traditionally espoused by the Oneidas. All of the elements are depicted within a circle which represents the Circle of Life. Within the border are the words, “Sovereign Nation of the Oneida” and on the newer version, “Sovereign Oneida Nation of Wisconsin”. Inherent within the culture, and based on treaty and other legal relationships, the Oneida continue to comprise a Nation with retained rights and governmental integrity. The smaller circle within the larger circle represents our eldest brother, the Sun, and our grandmother, the Moon.

The Eagle

The eagle at the top of the tree is the strongest and highest flying of all birds. He is ever watchful over the Oneida Nation and the Confederacy and warns of danger. He also is believed to carry messages to and from the Creator.

The Tree

The tree is a White Pine which represents law and peace among the nations. It is said that this tree does not change and neither does peace. In the Iroquois language there is no term to separate peace and law. It is a way of life characterized by wisdom and graciousness. The branches of the tree signify the shelter, protection and security that the people found in union under the tree of peace. Under this tree were buried all the weapons of war

The Roots of Peace

The four roots on the turtles back spread to the four directions to remind the people that whoever would seek the peace, protection and solace of the Confederacy, they need only trace the roots back to their source and take shelter there. If any nation should want to adopt the laws they should trace the roots to its source and discipline their minds to obey the way of life of the Ukwehuwe, to always consider the way of life of all of the people.

The tree sits on the back of the turtle because in the Creation Story, Sky Woman fell from the sky and landed on the back of the turtle, and over time, it became what we now call the Great Turtle Island (the North American continent).

The Peace Pipe

Although the Iroquois men were renowned for the quality of the clay pipes they made and they were indeed the basis for the pipes later used by the whites, it remains unclear why the long stem pipe was used in the original logo design. The early Iroquois pipes were made of clay or stone, usually with some type of figure carved onto the bowl representing humans, animals or birds. The Iroquois pipes were usually only about three to six inches in length. The “peace pipe” was more symbolic of the type used by many of the western nations.