The midwinter festival of the Iroquois, commonly called Indian New Year.
On the third day of what the Seneca term Niskowûkni ne`' Sade:'goshä or the moon of midwinter, a council of head men is called and officers elected to officiate at the Gänä?yasta` or midwinter thanksgiving ceremony to be held two days later. Officers are chosen from each of the two brotherhoods 2 of clans.
On the first day of the ceremony officers called Ondeyä, dressed in buffalo skins, meet and lay out a route of houses which each pair of Ondeyä is to visit. This settled, they draw the buffalo heads over their heads and start out.
There are three excursions of Ondeyä from their lodges, one at about 9 a.m., one at about 12 p.m. and one at about 3 p.m. Two Ondeyä, carrying corn pounders painted with red stripes, knock at the door of a house and entering intone:
Hail, nephews. Now also the cousins with you. Now also you see the big heads.
Ye he:! Gwäwandê!
Onen`'dîq wodewê'noye: ne` ne:`se:so gwäwamê!
Onen`'dîq i:swa:gen' noîwane`!
This is repeated and the Ondeyä depart.
At noon the Ondeyä repair to their meeting place and emerging again go over the same route. Their message as they enter a lodge at this time is:
Hail. Be clean! Do not he confused, O nephews. Do not tread upon things, nephews, cousins, when you move.
Yêhe! Jokwehon! sänon'di gwä'wandî! dänondodädê, gwä'wandî nene'se:so nänondo`'yäno`!
At 3 p.m., returning to the same lodge, the message is:
Yêhe:! Oisendase` susniun'nano ne?' swaisê`' dûgayio` sändo.' One?' dîq îtchigaine`son nongwûk'sado` nenwande` sä'non dîq îtch'nonadoktê` ongwûkädo`. One?' dîq nêkho`' non'jiyê.
After one has intoned this message or announcement the other pokes up the ashes with a basswood paddle and sings a song.
The first day is spent in this way, formal announcements being given by the officers.
On the morning of the second day all the lodges are visited by officers called Hade:yäyo`. Later, say 9 a.m., clan officers, known as Hana'sishê, begin their round of visits. Two men and two women are chosen from the phratries and going in couples to the various houses conduct a thanks or praise service. The burden of their words is a thanksgiving to God for the blessings that have been received by that house during the past year.
When this ceremony is over these officers throw up a paddle (Wadigusä'wea) signifying that the ceremony is over. At this time a chief makes a long thanksgiving speech in the council house.
At noon the "big feather" dancers visit every lodge and dance the sacred dance. Two women at least must participate. On entering a lodge the leader of the feather dancers must say:
Onên`''dîq' hodo`'issoin'yûnde sedwa:'â'wûk gäon'ya?ge? honoñ'ge`. Ne:kho`'nai' hodo'isshongonoindi ne`' häwonn'. Hodawisa'sse:` Osto'wägowâ.
Onên`'dîq'dji'wûsnowät nê`' gissän äyêno:gwe:` Osto'wägowâ. Gagwe:gon,' onên`' dîq,' djiwûsnowät heniyon` swao'iwayandon`!
At about 2 p. in. public dances begin in the "long house."
The Society of Bears, which during the early afternoon had been holding a session in the house of some member, enter the long house and dance publicly. The same is true of the False Face Company.
Other dances are the Pigeon song dance (Tcä'kowa) and the Gâda:'ciot. The only dance in which physical contact is permitted is the Yêndonîssontâ` or "dance of the beans." Dancers hold each other's hands as they circle around the singers. This is to represent the bean vine as it clings to a sapling or corn stalk.
On the morning of the third day the priest arises before daylight and standing at the door of the council house begins his song of thanks. The song is sung until dawn appears and then the priest ceases. Should a fierce wind be blowing it is believed that when the words of the song float upward the Great Spirit will say, "Cease your movements, Oh wind, I am listening to the song of my children."
The first verse is as follows:
Onên`' dîq' okno'wi, Onên`' dîq', dasênni`' dottonde:
Gâo'yä gütc i'ja`! Yoändjâ:?gê igên's
Onên`' dîq' o`gai'wayi` onê`'
Onên`' dîq' wadi'waye:îs.
The song begins with the singer's face to the west; he turns and sings in all directions, that all may hear his voice.
A legend relates that this song originated ages ago. An old woman is said to have been with child and before her son was born, from the heavens came this song.
Only one or two Indians sing this now, no others being able for some reason. After the song the priest calls upon the Great Spirit in these words:
Ye, ye-e, ye:e:!
Dane`'agwa none`'nengä' ne:'wa
Onên`' dîq dasa`'tondat' gäogê`gê`tci'ja', etc., etc.
At about 9 a.m. another officer of religion enters the long house and sings the Ganio`dai'io` song:
I love my world, I love my time, I love my growing children, I love my old people, I love my ceremonies.
At noon various societies and companies which have been holding sessions in private lodges adjourn to the council house to engage in public ceremonies. The great feather dance is celebrated at noon. Afterward nearly all the common dances are given, among which is the woman's football game and dance.
The morning of the third day is greeted as the previous day, by the song and prayer of the priest.
At 9 a.m. of the fourth day the Gonio`dai'io` song is chanted again. Meanwhile the company of harvest dancers hold their dances at private houses going to the long house (ganon'sûsgen?) at noon. Soon after the Bird Society or Gane`'gwäe: enters the council house and begins its dance. Two dancers are chosen from each phratry, as are also two speakers. The evening is devoted to the Trotting, Fish, Pigeon, Bear, False Face, Buffalo and other dances. At 10 p.m. the ceremonies cease.
On the fifth day the dawn ceremony is repeated and at 9 a.m. the Ganio`dai'io` song is sung. Societies hold meetings in their own lodges.
At about 1 p.m. a company of women dancers visit each house, dance and sing and return to the long house. False Face beggars also roam from lodge to lodge in search of sacred tobacco. In the afternoon and evening various dances are held in the long house. At about 11 p.m. the Husk Face Company enters the long house and engages in their public ceremony. After this dance the people are dismissed by a chief.
The morning of the sixth day is devoted to the dog sacrifice and the tobacco offering. Afterward the Adon'we` are sung. This song may be translated: I am now going home, I step upon another
world, I turn and extend my arms for a friend to lead me, I pray all may go where I go. Now the earth is smoky and none can see the other world [as I do].
On the seventh day the Honon'diont hold a morning dance and then proceed to cook the feast. Costumed feather dancers enter the long house and dance. The "wind is open for names," or opportunity is now given to bestow names. At this point if a boy is to be named the priest rises and says, "Hio`gêne:`', dji'wagä ne-e!
"Hu`', hu`', hu`'hu`'-a:!" respond the people.
If a girl is to be named there is no ceremony other than the mere announcement of the name. A speech is now made by a chief bidding people make ready for the sacred bowl game.
Honon'diont visit each lodge exacting from every person stakes for the sacred gamble. Each phratry is to play against the other The Honon'diont then meet and match articles, value for value.
The night previous every person endeavors to have a prophetic dream, whereby they may know the result of this game. No one must cheat in this game for "it is God's."
The great feather dance is repeated and names bestowed on this day. At night the Husk Faces return and give a. grand final dance.
The ninth day is the last one of the midwinter's ceremony. Early in the morning the priest gives a thanksgiving "sermon." At 5 p.m. occurs the dance in honor of the "three sisters," Diohe:`'ko, (these-we-live-on). Afterward the woman's dance is held, alternating with the following men's dances, Trotting, Pumpkin, Pigeon and Beans. The feast is then distributed and the people disperse.
81:1 Taken at Newtown, Cattaraugus reservation, January 1905, by A. C. Parker.
81:2 See Phratries.