Photo by Alex Hamer
Haudenosaunee Youth displaying the Hiawatha Belt, which returned to Onondaga Lake on October 14.

Hiawatha Belt Returns to Onondaga Lake

Alex Hamer

Before European contact on Turtle Island the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy was born on the shores of Onondaga Lake in what is now central New York State. The Hiawatha belt was created to symbolize the unity between the five nations. The Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk comprised the original union, before adding the Tuscarora later on.

New York State was in possession of the belt from 1900 until 1989 when the Hiawatha Belt was returned to the Onondaga Nation after efforts to reclaim it by Nation leaders. Since its return the belt has never been back on the shores of the birthplace of the Haudenosaunee until October 14, 2016.

The historic return of the Hiawatha belt was filmed as a part of an upcoming PBS series slated for airing sometime in 2017. The four-hour series produced by Providence Pictures will feature a section on first democracies, which will include the Haudenosaunee contribution to the world.

Tadadaho, Sid Hill of the Onondaga Nation told the crowd gathered that: “We have to educate because there are still people here in Syracuse that don’t know we still exist.”

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vincentnative's picture
Submitted by vincentnative on's 7're forgetting the Hurons. There is a belt that commemorates that. It is appropriately named the Belt of Seven Nations. It is the belt Nicholas Vincent brings with him to speak to King George.

bullbear's picture
Submitted by bullbear on
As I understand the region that is described is referred to as the Northeastern Woodlands. There are a vast number of tribes that make their homes in this region and they are truly rich in culture, history, and traditions. Here in the Southwest we know very, very little about these tribal nations. Mostly we have heard of the Mohawks who help build the high rise buildings as fearless steel workers. As for Hiawatha, many of us tribes do not know for a fact that he was an actual leader rather than a fictional character. What this should tell us is that far too little is written and taught about the historically rich area of the tribal nations in the northeastern region. And simply put, the four-hour series is only a beginning account of what the nations experienced and it was not always on the friendliest of terms. The Hiawatha belt came to be nearly 500 years ago and its story remains so very prevalent in the 21st century. I look forward to the release of the PBS mini-series.

Deanna MAD's picture
Deanna MAD
Submitted by Deanna MAD on
A lot has been written, awareness is the issue.

vincentnative's picture
Submitted by vincentnative on
To Neil: