Tuscarora community holds Condolence Ceremony, welcomes new chief

Contributed photoThis picture shows the traditional “placing of the antlers” on the head of Tom Jonathan. The “placing of the antlers” represents a new chief being raised by his clanmother, Linda Hill. 

Tuscarora community members gathered last month to celebrate the historic event of having a chief and clanmother condoled for the first time in 52 years.

A Condolence Ceremony is to mourn the loss of a chief and to raise a new man to be a chief to replace the former chief and it instructs the chiefs of their duties. The Condolence Ceremony took place at the Onondaga Longhouse in Syracuse on May 11. Two other Onondaga chiefs were condoled along with Tuscarora Bear Chief, Tom Jonathan and Tuscarora Bear Clanmother Linda Hill.

Clanmother Linda Hill or Neyakuønaøníhrè, is the daughter of the late Harry and Flora (Hewitt) Jacobs, who was also a Bear clanmother. In the Haudenosaunee matrilineal society, the clan chooses the clanmother and the clanmother chooses the chief.

New Chief Tom Jonathan is the son of Gerald Jonathan and the late Lorraine (Hewitt) Jonathan. Married to Angela (Patterson) Jonathan with three children and one grandchild. He takes on the Sachem, head, Bear Chief title of Nihnuhkaå:we meaning “He anoints the hide”. New chiefs take the late chiefs title, passing on the names throughout the generations.

Tom has been retired for five years from Carpenter’s Local 276 where he worked for 42 years, the last 25 years with Oakgrove Construction, working to make brides safer throughout Western New York. His hobbies include the Tuscarora History Group, working on cars, and traveling the Sprint Car circuit with his son Derek.

Clanmother Linda Hill carried out the traditional “placing of the antlers” on Tom Jonathan’s head, which represents the raising of a new chief being raised by his clanmother.

The Tuscarora headdress worn by most men lack deer antlers, this right is only given to Sachem chiefs. The deer antlers signify the duty of the chief to watch over his clan, his head is up and alert like a deer’s. If there is a presence of danger, to the people or the culture, it is the chief’s job to make it known to his clan.

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