Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 13, 2001 - Issue 27



A Shout Passes on Tradition


New generation goes New Yea-ing on Onondaga Nation


by Luis Perez of Syracuse Online


artwork by Barbara Lavallee Treasured Traditions



On New Year's Day, 3year-old twins Jocelynn and Elliana Jacobs walked up to the door of their great-great-grandmother's home on the Onondaga Nation carrying pillowcases.

Nikki Bucktooth, the girls' mother, told the girls to give a good yell.

A chorus of small voices followed: "New Yea ... New Yea ... New Yea." Sue "Granny" Thomas, 86, let the little ones in and offered cookies as a treat.

Along with the goodies, Thomas was passing on an Onondaga tradition to a new generation. It was the twins' first year out "New Yea-ing."

On New Year's Day, Onondaga children travel from home to home wishing families and friends well and yelling "New Yea" at the door. In return, they receive treats, such as homemade cookies, doughnuts, cupcakes or fruit.

"New Yea-ing" was traditionally done to mark the Onondagas' midwinter celebration. But as an acknowledgment of modern times and other cultural influences, it became a New Year's Day tradition.

Bucktooth and Jesse Jacobs, the girls' father, recalled their own childhood going from door to door collecting treats.

"When I was little, it was as big as Halloween," Bucktooth said.

Jacobs said he was told the traditional greeting is "New Yea" because that's how the younger children pronounced "New Year."

The number of people yelling at Thomas' door seemed to be down this year, but that was probably because of the weekend snowfall, she said.

Wray Smoke and Jeremiah Krigbaum, both 11, and Guy Printup, 12, weren't worried about the snow. They were having too much fun.

The boys planned to go around New Yea-ing until they got tired, they said. Around midday, Smoke counted hot cocoa offered at one home as the best treat of the day. Printup thought chocolate chip cookies were the best.

"It's just to have fun," Krigbaum said. "And it's not every day people give out free food."

Many adults accompanied the younger children, some pulling them along on wagons or sleds, and others driving carloads of youths.

Freeman Bucktooth, Jocelynn and Elliana's grandfather, recalled his New Yea-ing days fondly.

"You'd always remember those homes that just made those doughnuts," he said, and every so often, someone would even give away pies.

Onondagas: The Firekeepers




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