Winter after winter, folks skiing and riding on the slopes of Holiday Valley are unaware that there is a wonderful surprise hiding just off the trails throughout the resort.

In 1992, Holiday Valley placed carved Clan Rocks throughout the resort to pay homage to the Seneca Nation, one of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy who occupied the land in Western New York where Holiday Valley is located. Within the Seneca Nation, there are eight clans and each clan is represented by an animal with certain respected traits. Seneca storyteller DuWayne Bowen provided the information below about the Seneca Nation and the meaning of each clan animal.

Holiday Valley designed the Clan Hunt Challenge for children enrolled in the children’s Mountain Adventure Program to encourage them to explore the resort while learning about local Native American culture. The program challenges kids to have a “Clan Hunt” where they ski around the resort with their instructor in search of the secret Indian Clan Rocks.  A map is provided and stickers representing the clans are placed at the location of each clan rock.  Once all the clan rocks are found, the kids head to The Fort, hidden away in the woods of Tannenbaum, to find out how the clans all tie together. Not only is this a great mountain adventure where kids learn how to follow a trail map, but they also learn about Native American culture in the Western New York area.

8 Seneca Nation Clans

There are eight clans among the Seneca people that are divided into the animal family and the bird family.

Snipe Clan

doh-wees’ doh-wee”

The snipe clan had the fewest members. The snipe is a gentle water bird but has a piercing cry.

Beaver Clan 

“nah-gohn-yaht’ goht”

The beaver is the busiest of all animals. He is admired for his working skills and perseverance. He is such a good worker that he can work during the day as well as the night.

Heron Clan – “joh-eh-seh”

The great blue heron is noted for his great patience. He is an excellent hunter and is admired for his great hue of blue.

Hawk Clan


The hawk is one of the best hunters in the world. He is swift, silent and deadly. He can see a rodent from his flight 1,000 feet in the air.

Deer Clan “nyo-geht”

The deer is admired for his swiftness, grace and beauty. He is one of the most revered of all the animals. The deer is so respected, he is the only animal included in the bird clan families.

Turtle Clan

“haht’ noh-wah”

At the time of creation, the great turtle gave permission to build the Earth upon his great shell. The Iroquois people call the Earth “Turtle Island.”

Bear Clan “nya-gwi”

The bear is revered by both man and animal. Bears are excellent warriors, wise, protective of young, fat and full of humor.

Wolf Clan


The most intriguing clan, the wolf is feared for his warrior and hunting skills. He is strong and swift. He is admired for his family loyalty and will take one mate for a lifetime. The wolf clan is part of many Native American people. The native wolf clan goes from ocean to ocean.

Seneca clanship is strong and was in place before recorded time, not only here but across all of North America. Each Seneca child follows the clanship of their mother and each child is named by the clan mother. An Indian name is never duplicated during a person’s life.

The clan mothers also decide which man will be “Chief” and have the power to take the title away. Men have no authority to be “Chief” until the clan mothers appoint them.

So next time you are exploring the slopes of Holiday Valley, try finding all eight of the Clan Rocks with your own Clan Hunt.

See you on the slopes!


Save the Date – Mark Your Calendar with Holiday Valley’s Upcoming Events


11 – Lisa Densmore Women’s Ski Clinic

16 – Boarding for Breast Cancer – Women snowboard clinics and Park Contest for all. Fundraiser for Buffalo area’s Women’s Oncology Program at Camp Good Days.

23 – Penguin Paddle – Slide down on your belly penguin style. Enjoy fun, food and auction items at this fundraiser for the Lounsbury Adaptive Program.


1 – Telestock – Join The City Garage for a day of peace, love and teleskiing.

9-10 – Winter Carnival – The granddaddy of spring events includes a Costume Parade, Dummy Downhill  and activities for kids.

16 – Quarter Pipe Competition, Guns n’ Hoses Race

17 – Northwind Super G – Grab that speed suit to race the clock on Northwind.

23 – Pond Skimming and Box Race – Sign up to skim across an ice water-filled pond

or just cheer on the skimmers and soak up the sun. Then race your homemade cardboard box down the slope with points for creativity, style and ingenuity.

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