The Onondaga people and the rest of the nations of the Haudenosaunee had
their own style. Since we are woodland people, we dress different that
natives peoples who reside in the plains. Feathers that cascade away from
a person's body is indeed well suited for the open plains but not for carving
your way through wooded paths.
Long ago, the Onondagas relied on the animals to provide clothing. The deer was
obviously a great source for food and clothing. The all parts of the deer
were utilized. The brain was used to help cure and tan the hide. The hide
was used for dresses, leggings, moccasins, aprons, and wraps. Sinew was
made from the deer for sewing and for making bows, the bone of the deer
was used to make knives, arrowheads and elaborate combs.
Then after contact with our white brothers, we began to adapt their clothing
materials to our style of clothing. Beads made from clam shells were gradually
replaced by glass and sinew by cotton thread. The women wore loose fitting
blouses often decorated with a beaded yoke. Woolen skirts and leggings
now began to be decorated with beadwork. But nothing hasn't replaced the
feel of deerskin moccasins lined with rabbit fur.
The men have gone through similar changes in dress. Leggings once solely
made of deer, are at time substituted with wool. And the transition to
men always wearing decorative shirts is relatively new to our area. In
fact when the Tuscaroras first joined the Haudenosaunee in the late 1700's,
they we identified as "The Shirt Wearers".
The distinctive feature of the men's Haudenosaunee dress
is our headgear. The Gustoweh is a fitted hat made
of strips of wood. The wood is then covered and adorned with eagle, hawk,
pheasant, or turkey feathers. The Gustoweh is also used to identify an
individual's nation. A man wearing his Gustoweh with one feather pointing
upward and another pointing downwards, indicates he is Onondaga. A man
who has one feather pointing skyward is identified as Seneca. Each nation
has their own way of identifying each other by our Gustoweh.