The Ongwehoñwe Singers & Dancers include members from the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations. These six nations made up the powerful native alliance that was centered in an area of what is now New York State. The U.S. government called it the Iroquois Confederacy, but tribal members refer to themselves as Haudenosaunee, which means “the people of the longhouse,” or Ongwehoñwe, often translated as “people” or “real people.”
Led by Gaehnew Printup, the troupe is comprised of young people who, following along at community celebrations, began learning traditional social dances as small children. Now entering adulthood, they formed the Ongwehoñwe Singers & Dancers to share these dances with others, with the goal of strengthening and preserving their culture for the coming generations.
Dance remains central to Haudenosaunee cultural expression. Many dances tell stories of nature, giving thanks to the Creator for the earth and its bounty; others help dancers maintain connections to their ancestors. While ceremonial dances with sacred significance are performed only among community members, social dances like the Rabbit, Smoke, and Old Moccasin Dances can be enjoyed by all audiences. Each is a conversation between singers and dancers, working together to express the beauty of Ongwehoñwe culture.