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Tadodaho was a Native American and chief of the Onondaga nation. Tadodaho later came to refer to the most influential Native American chief in New York Statemarker; this reference has been used for centuries.

Legend of Tadodaho

Tadodaho was a Native American warrior and chieftain of the Onondaga people. Depending on the speaker's dialect and the writer's orthography, other versions of the name include Adodarhoh, Atartaho, Atotarho, Tatotarho, Thatotarho, and Watatohtahro. In the 1883 work The Iroquois Book of Writes edited by Horatio Hale, the term Atartaho is said to signify "entangled". In 1888, J. N. B. Hewitt recounted an Iroquois tale which refers to Tadodaho as a "misshapen monster". Jean Houston and Margaret Rubin write in Manual for the Peacemaker that Tadodaho had "matted and spiky hair", and that this visage lent itself to legends that he had snakes in his hair. He is said to have had a "twisted body", and could kill his enemies from a distance without seeing them. Tadodaho ruled with fear, and his people believed him to be a sorcerer. He scared his own people and also threatened other peoples including the Seneca and Cayuga nations. Tadodaho successfully led his Onondagas in raids against the nearby Cayuga people, and also traveled west and attacked the Seneca people.

Peace among the nations of the Haudenosaunee was delayed due to fear of Tadodaho. Deganawidah of the Mohawk people and Hiawatha of the Onondaga desired peace between the Haudenosaunee peoples, and the various chiefs were persuaded, except for Tadodaho, who was seen as a hindrance to the Great Law of Peace. He quashed three attempts by Hiawatha to initiate peace discussions among the nations. Hiawatha's daughter died after his first attempt to bring together a council was broken by Tadodaho, and his second daughter died after Tadodaho foiled a second council. The deaths of Hiawatha's daughters were ascribed to Tadodaho's powers. Hiawatha's third daughter died at the council fire of the third meeting, while Tadodaho was present. In Hewitt's 1888 recounting, he writes that Hiawatha cried: "All my children are now gone from me; they have been destroyed by Tha-do-da-ho, and he has spoiled our plans. It now behooves me to go among other people. I will start now."

According to Haudenosaunee legend, Hiawatha and Deganawidah utilized political and spiritual tactics and were able to garner Tadodaho's support. Hiawatha and Deganawidah walked with the chiefs of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga and Cayuga peoples to Canandaigua Lakemarker, while singing a song called the Peace Hymn. When they arrived at Canandaigua Lake, they were able to convince the Seneca people to join their cause of peace. Houston and Rubin recount a statement by Deganawidah, who asserted that he was ready to go meet with Tadodaho at Onondaga Lakemarker and win him over to his mission of peace: "We must seek the fire and look for the smoke of Tadodaho. He alone stands in our path. His mind is twisted, and there are seven crooks in his body. These must be straightened if the league is to endure."

Hiawatha and Deganawidah consulted with Jigonhsasee, also called Mother of Nations, who advised them on how to win Tadodaho to their cause. They used a holy medicine ceremony to soothe Tadodaho and heal his mind and body. In one recounting of the story, Jigonhsasee herself spoke privately with Tadodaho. Hiawatha combed the matted portions out of Tadodaho's hair, and Deganawidah massaged his body with herbs and wampum and smoothed out the seven crooks in Tadodaho's body. After Tadodaho was healed he permitted the Onondaga people to join the council of peace. Tadodaho joined the League of the Great Peace, and was given the title of "firekeeper" of the confederacy, and he was chairman of the council of nations. The final steps toward peace were conducted at Onondaga Lake.

The Tadodaho legend was maintained in Haudenosaunee society, and the present individual who chairs the council of nations is still called Tadodaho. Charles L. Henning writes in the work "Hiawatha and the Onondaga Indians", published in 1902 in the periodical The Open Court: "...the name Tadodaho remained in the tribe, and when a man was obliged to hold the office of head-chief of the Onondagas, he was always called Tadodaho. The Tadodaho is the only proper man to invite the people to the general council of the five nations, and for this reason he is considered the 'fire keeper,' because the Onondagas were the keepers of the great council fire."

Term for spiritual leader

The term Tadodaho later came to refer to the most influential Native American spiritual leader in New York State; this reference has been used for centuries. The Tadodaho in New York State is the spiritual leader of the Haudenosaunee, which includes the Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Mohawk, Seneca, and Tuscarora people, he is also called the "Head Chief of All the Six Nations". The six nations of the Haudenosaunee (also called Iroquois) are presided over by a Grand Council, which is led by the Tadodaho. The Great Council Fire of the whole Iroquois Nation is located within the Onondaga reservation.

Along with other Native American leaders, the Tadodaho is responsible for maintaining the history of the Haudenosaunee people. The position of Tadodaho is a lifetime appointment. According to tradition, when the previous Tadodaho dies, a confederacy council of chiefs from the Haudenosaunee chooses a leader from the Onondaga people.

George A. Thomas was Tadodaho in 1968, and began a call for the return of twenty-five wampum belts that were in the custody of the New York State Museummarker to be returned to Native American people. Thomas stated: "it was wrong for our grandfathers to give away the wampum. The wampum tells of old, old agreements and passes on the thoughts of our grandfathers. We would like to see them. Our people would like to touch them." An anthropologist called the conflict "the great wampum war", and the issue affected the relationship between the Iroquois people, the New York State Museum, and academia.

Leon Shenandoah was selected as Tadodaho on December 7, 1968. Shenandoah worked as a custodian at Syracuse Universitymarker. Shenandoah broke from the mold of his predecessor, who emphasized the religious leadership portion of the position, and instead asserted both the political responsibilities and spiritual nature of his role as Tadodaho. He died in 1996, and his death was mourned by Native Americans across the United States. He had served as Tadodaho for over twenty-five years.

Sidney Hill became the Tadodaho in 2002. As Tadodaho, Hill (referred to as "Tadodaho Sid Hill") led a group of people from the Onondaga Nation to file papers in United States federal court in 2005, claiming land ownership over 4,000 square miles in Upstate New York. The ownership assertion by the Onondaga included land from the Thousand Islandsmarker, through Syracuse and up to the border of Pennsylvaniamarker.

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