Manataka American Indian Council


 

 

The

ONEIDA NATION

 

"We realize that we must continue our beliefs and traditions against all odds and must determine for ourselves what is best for our people. Only by overcoming the evil and corruption we have faced, can we accomplish and restore our land and people back to health and unity".
Maisie Shenandoah, Wolf Clanmother - Oneida Nation


ONEIDA
THEIR BEGINNING AND
IMMORTAL IMPRESSION ON THE U.S.

 

The Oneida or Onyotaa:ka, "The People of the Standing Stone" have lived in their country for more than 10,000 years. They began as most cultures do: gatherers and hunters. Further development led to the permanent settlements of villages. Now they could farm and not just merely hope on luck to get enough food as before. The people lived in longhouses made mostly of bark. They stood 20 feet wide and a 100 or more feet long. 

The Oneida Nation started at the St. Lawrence River down to present day Pennsylvania. The Oneida, together with the Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga and later the Tuscarora formed the Iroquois Confederacy. 

This confederacy was to become the most famous National Government on the continent.  Under the Great Law of Peace, the Iroquois Confederacy bound the nations of one blood treating each other as though family. Under the Great Law, members of each nation were divided into clans with the women deciding the leader of each clan. 

The Oneida Nation had three clans: Bear, Turtle and Wolf.  

The Great Law prevailed for some time. In the 1600s when the Europeans first began to contact these tribes, each nation sought peaceful co-existence as the Law demanded.  Eventually, they would trade pelts and furs for brass kettles, spun cloth, iron tools, and other European goods.

(Also read:  Constitution of the Six Nations, Great Law of Peace, Peace Bringers and Combing Snakes Out

Then the American colonies began to rise up. The Oneida were the first  allies of their cause. The other tribes sided with better supplied and equipped army of the British. The horrible winter at Valley Forge everyone reads about naught mention the 600 bushels of corn the Oneida carried there for them. Nor is told of the most courageous woman, Polly Cooper, who remained with Washington's frozen troops to teach them the proper usage of the corn and rationing.  

In December 1777 the Continental Congress had this to say of the Oneida: "Hearken to what we have to say to you in particular. . .It rejoices our hearts that we have no reason to reproach you in common with the rest of the Six Nations.  

"We have experienced your love, strong as the oak, and your fidelity, unchangeable as truth. You have kept fast hold of the ancient covenant-chain, and  preserved it free from rust and decay, and bright as silver. Like brave men, for glory you despised danger; you stood forth, in the cause of your friends, and ventured your lived in our battles. While the sun and moon continue to give light to the world, we shall love and respect you. As our trusted friends, we shall protect you; and shall at all times consider your welfare as our own". 

The Oneida did suffer for backing the Americans. The other of the Six Nations continued attacks against the Oneida fortress and lands until they were forced out from their homes as refugees until 1784 when they finally returned home.  

1794 saw a magnificent document: The Treaty of Canandaigua granting the Oneida special protection for their lands and continual recognition of their sovereignty. This treaty was different from those granted other nations. The treaty reads in part: 

"WHEREAS, in the late war between Great-Britain and the United States of America, a body of the Oneida and Tuscorora and the Stockbridge Indians, adhered faithfully to the United States, and assisted them with their warriors; and in consequence of this adherence and assistance, the Oneidas and Tuscororas, at an unfortunate period of the war, were driven from their homes, and their houses were burnt and their property destroyed: And as the United States in the time of their distress, acknowledged their obligations to these faithful friends, and promised to reward them..."


Flag of the Oneida Nation


The Oneida, or Onyota'a ka are one of the original five members of the Iroquois League, being situated in what today is upper New York State. The traditional lands of the Oneida were the second most easterly of the Iroquois, situated between the easternmost Mohawk and the Onondaga (ENAT, 168). Their name means either, the "People of the Boulder" or "People of the Standing Stone". This refers to a significant rock formation found within the lands of the Oneida. 

Even in the glory days of the Iroquois League, long before there was ever United States, the symbol of the Oneida people was a great tree (ibid, 169). This continues right up to today. The tree is a white pine; this tree was selected by Deganawada, the Peacemaker ("The Oneida Indian Nation Seal", undated) because its needles stay green forever. The Peacemaker had a vision of the tribes coming together in peace under a "great tree". It is Deganawada and Hiawatha who are credited with uniting the Iroquois nations in the 16th century (ENAT, 104). The Peacemaker, according to legend, instructed the nations of the Iroquois to "bury their weapons of war under the sacred roots, and never unearth them again to use on each other" ("The Oneida Indian Nation Seal").  

The seal of the Oneida Nation is red, appearing frequently as a reddish-orange or even orange. The red color recalls the blood spilled before the union of the five original nal nations. The trunk of the white pine is white and ends with four roots, the white represents purity while the four roots spread to the four directions of Mother Earth.  

It bears the great tree of the Oneida in the center and pictured upon it are three clan totems, a wolf, bear and turtle. The tree is topped by an eagle with wings outstretched. The eagle is the national bird of the United States and the Iroquois. Its placement symbolizes that it is watching out for the Oneida and will scream out a warning of any impending danger. All totems appear in black. The clan totems are sheltered by the protection of the "Great Tree".  

The green of the tree symbolizes that the Oneida's way of life, their government and the Oneida People shall prosper so long as they adhere to the Great Law (ibid.) that was brought to the Oneida and the other Iroquois nations by the Peacemaker from the Creator. 

Below the eagle is "Hiawatha's Belt" (AIDD, plate 18), the wampum symbol of the creation of the Iroquois League around 1570. It appears in the original colors of the belt - white bearing the tree and links in bluish-purple or purple. The color purple represents peace ("The Oneida Indian Nation Seal", undated) These reflect the natural coloring of the shells from which the original "Hiawatha's Belt" of wampum was constructed. 

By 1987 the Oneida were reduced to sharing a reservation with the Onondaga and having a small 32 acre unrecognized reservation for themselves. Despite the reduction of the Oneida to just 32 acres, they remain proud of their long history of cooperation with the United States. Since 1988, with the passage of the Native American Gaming Act, the Oneida and their Turning Stone Casino, which opened in 1993 (New York Times, Feb. 16, 1996, B6), have managed to repurchase some 3,500 acres. This is still a far cry from the nearly 270,000 acres they ruled in the 1700s, but a major leap forward for the Oneida.

The Oneida and the sixth member of the Iroquois League, the Tuscarora who joined in 1722, were the only members to side with the United States in its fight for independence.  

Today the Oneida continue to seek the restoration of lost lands and an improving way of life for their kinsmen. As part of their self awareness, the Oneida people use their seal on a white flag to represent themselves. This flag, manufactured by Americana Flag, while used by the Oneida nation has, as far as can be determined, has never been formally adopted by the Oneida government.  


ONEIDA CLOTHING

Haudenoshaunee, or Iroquois clothing consisted mostly of garments made of animal pelts which were added to and substituted by trade cloth after European contact. 

In the winter, the men wore shirts, leggings and moccasins made from buckskin. The women wove grasses into skirts and covered them with fur and wore leggings underneath. 

In the summer, the men usually wore a breach cloth made from deerskin while the women wore grass skirts. Children usually wore nothing in the warmer weather.  

Once contact with Europeans took place, Iroquois dress changed considerably. Men wore shirts, pants or leggings made from trade cloth.  Capes, sashes, kilts, as well as elaborate jewelry and feathers were worn on special occasions. Women wore full dresses made from deerskin and trade cloth or a skirt and blouse. Furs and blankets were used in the wintertime as a protection from the cold.



NATIVE PEOPLE EMPOWERED

Joanne Shenandoah
Oneida Nation


Joanne Shenandoah - Oneida Nation


Joanne Shenandoah is a multiple award winning Native American composer, vocalist and performer. She is a Wolf Clan member of the Iroquois Confederacy - Oneida Nation. Her original compositions, combined with a striking voice, enables her to embellish the ancient songs of the Iroquois using a blend of traditional and contemporary instrumentation. Ms. Shenandoah's music reflects the indigenous philosophy and culture which continues to have a profound effect on the world today. From traditional chants to contemporary ballads about Native ways, her music has been described as an emotional experience, a "Native American Trance"

Joanne's Biography -  http://www.joanneshenandoah.com/biography.cfm

 

About the Three Sisters


THREE SISTERS - An Iroquois traditional teaching - White corn is a traditional food of the Oneidas and is one of the Three Sisters - Corn, Beans and Squash.  A long time ago, the human started taking for granted some of the beings of the plant and animal world.  The Three Sisters wanted to leave this world, but the humans agreed to acknowledge them at ceremonies every year to encourage them to stay. 

See 'Cookin' with Three Sisters' Recipes Section


ONEIDA LONGHOUSES

Photo by Maggie Sypniewski, London, Ontario, Canada


The Oneida people did not live in tepees as is the common misconception of Native Americans. Instead they lived in longhouses. These buildings could be between 30 and 300 feet long and housed many families. Int he roof were holes for the smoke from the fires inside to escape. Usually, the number of smoke holes also indicated the number of families living in the longhouse. The beds were in a bunkbed style and were covered with furs to make it more comfortable for the people to sleep on. The family's belongings were stored on shelves above the beds and the center aisle was used for socializing. In the winter, elders would tell stories to the children in the center aisle to help teach them.



ONEIDA GAMES
Lacrosse


Played at many colleges and universities across the country, Lacrosse was a game invented by the Iroquois people.  

Called Ga-lahs by the Oneida, the original version of Lacrosse required great skill. A hard wooden ball was passed from player to player who carried a long stick with a basket-like head attached to it. Each player would catch the ball in the basket and try to carry it to the goal. 

Today, Lacrosse is played on a standard playing field, but when the Haudenoshaunee played it, the playing field could be of any size. Sometimes it was the length of a village and could even go as far as several miles. 

The Iroquois had many reasons for playing Lacrosse. Often it was for fun and to build stamina, but sometimes it would determine land boundaries between the six nation, settle disputes or prepare the young men for war. 

It also had a spiritual purpose. For example, the Oneida Creation Story describes the Spirit World as a place where the residents lack sickness and death due to playing Lacrosse.

SEE 'NATIVE GAMES' SECTION - MANY NATIONS REPRESENTED


CREDITS:
Oneidas for Democracy - http://oneidasfordemocracy.org/

Treaties with Oneida Indians (1834 to 1841) - http://www.angelfire.com/tx4/oneida/page9.html

The Oneida Indians of Wisconsin - http://www.jefflindsay.com/Oneida.shtml

Oneida Action Newsletter - http://www.angelfire.com/indie/oneidas/

Constitution of the Iroquois Nations - http://www.constitution.org/cons/iroquois.htm

Turtle Tracks Newsletter - www.turtle-tracks.org

 

 

 

Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal

by Patty Loew

From origin stories to contemporary struggles over treaty rights and sovereignty issues. Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal explores Wisconsin's rich Native tradition. This unique volume -- based on the historical perspectives of the state's Native peoples -- includes compact tribal histories of the Ojibwe, Potawatomi. Oneida, Menominee, Mohican, Ho-Chunk, and Brothertown Indians. Author Patty Loew focuses on oral tradition -- stories, songs, the recorded words of Indian treaty negotiators, and interviews -- along with other untapped Native sources, such as tribal newspapers, to present a distinctly different view of history. Elders and tribal historians in each of the Native communities represented here participated in the book's development -- recommending sources, making suggestions, and offering criticism as the book unfolded. Lavishly illustrated with maps and more than ninety photographs. Indian Nations of Wisconsin is indispensable to anyone interested in the region's history and its Native peoples. Wisconsin Historical Society, October 2001, Soft Cover, 248pp.  $28.95

Proceeds from book purchases go to support the nonprofit, cultural, educational and religious purposes of the Manataka American Indian Council.  Thank you for your support.

Notice: Occasionally books may be discontinued or out of stock without prior notice. With written permission, your order may be filled from the 'shelf'.  Shelf books are new, but some may be slightly discolored or sale tags may be still attached. Fulfillment rate: 98.6%.

 

 

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