ONONDAGA NATION - Onoñda'gega'
People of the Hills
Sherri Waterman Hopper, Onondaga

Sherri is noted for the traditional Iroquois outfits she makes for herself, her family and others. She credits her interest in fashion design to her mother who used to make Iroquois outfits for her family and the community at Onondaga. As a teenager Sherri helped her mother by cutting out the patterns of the outfit she and her siblings wore when they danced at fairs during the summer. Sherri became very interested in researching traditional dress and when she began to make her own dresses she was able to experiment with styles such as Victorian puffed sleeves or drop waists, front or back gathers. She tried different color schemes, used ribbons in a variety of ways, and  researched bead designs and the addition of accessories such as Glengarry caps.

Sherri had planned to further her fashion designing skills at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe where she was enrolled, but when the program was cut, she focused on jewelry and pottery making. True to her interest in Iroquois designs, she produced trade silver brooches in the style of 18th and 19th century Iroquois silversmiths.

Sherri formed her own dance troupe composed of her daughter, Jada, son, Ike and other Onondaga friends and family. Sherri’s interest in teaching and caring for the well being of others  is evident in much of what she has done over the years.  For many years she worked at the North American Indian Club in Syracuse to help Indian youth through counseling, teaching and coordinating educational opportunities. She enjoys sharing her knowledge of Iroquois dress by teaching others through demonstrations and workshops.   


The Onondaga (Onoñda'gega',) meaning the People of the Hills, are one of the original five nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy. Their traditional homeland is in and around Onondaga County, New York. They are known as the Keepers of the Central Fire.”  The Cayuga and Seneca nations were located to their west.  The Oneida and Mohawk nations were located to their east.  Onondaga is the capital of the Iroquois Confederacy. Traditional Haudenosaunee chiefs met and still meet at centrally located Onondaga to conduct meetings. 

The Haudenosaunee decided to remain neutral during the American Revolutionary War. However, on April 20, 1779, American colonists attacked an Onondaga main village. It was then that the Onondaga decided to side with the British and to fight against colonists.  After the war, some Onondaga followed Joseph Brant to Ontario, Canada to form a new community called the “Six Nations of Grand River” or “Ohsweken” or “Six Nations”.  Those Onondaga who remained on a small portion of their original territory, maintain their traditional government.

Onondaga Gustoweh (one feather points up and one feather points down) There can be variations in the height of the feathers depending on the maker. In this particular Gustoweh, the feather hanging from the brim is decorative. 

There are 2 Onondaga communities in the United States and Canada shown in blue on the map below:

Ø    ONONDAGA:  south of Syracuse, NY on Rte. 11A

Ø sIX NATIONS: west of Buffalo, NY near Brantford, Ontario