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Legendary Native American Figures: Oniate (Dry Fingers, Dry Hand, Oniata)

Name: Oniate
Tribal affiliation: Seneca, Cayuga, Iroquois
Alternate spellings: Oniatė, Oniaten, Oniatän, Oniatä, Oniata, Onyate, O'nya:te:, O'nya:ten
Pronunciation: oh-nee-ah-ten
Also known as: Dry Hand, Dry Fingers
Type: Ghost, monster

Oniate, the Dry Fingers or Dry Hand, is a disembodied mummified arm of Iroquois (especially Seneca and Cayuga) folklore. In some stories Dry Fingers is purely a bogeyman, appearing in deserted areas to terrorize people passing by. But in other stories Dry Fingers is a vengeful apparition that only punishes badly behaved people, especially those who speak evil of the dead, sow discord, or pry into other people's business. The arm can fly, and any person touched by its withered, dried finger is killed, afflicted with a disease, or struck blind.

The Oniate is not to be confused with Onatah, an Iroquois corn spirit and fertility goddess. There was also a heroine named Oniata in one of the folktales told by the Seneca chief Cornplanter, who is not related to the Dry Fingers (though both names are sometimes spelled the same in English.) Oniatė literally means "dry fingers" in Cayuga and Seneca (onya means "fingers" and means "dried out"); the names of the corn goddess and folktale heroine both come from the word for "corn," oneo.

Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends

When the Chenoo Howls: Native American Tales of Terror:
    Eerie collection of stories about Native American ghosts and other monsters, told by an Abenaki storyteller.
Skywoman: Legends of the Iroquois:
    Wonderful illustrated collection of Iroquois Indian legends, by Oneida and Mohawk authors.
Legends of the Iroquois:
    Another good book of Iroquois stories, told by a Mohawk elder.
Seneca Myths and Folk Tales:
    Classic collection of Seneca Indian legends.

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Additional Resources

 People of the Longhouse
 Iroquois Indian mythology
 Iroquois culture
 Iroquois family
 Seneca words
 Cayuga words
 New York Indian reservation
 Woodland tribe



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