Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Iroquois (IV): The Oneida People

Location:   Upstate New York
Year:   13th Century?

An Oneida woman in traditional garb
The Oneida People occupied a broad swath of land in the shape of a northwestward-to-southeastward bearing rectangle, bounded in the north by the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, and in the south by the Delaware River. To the east lay the lands of the Mohawks, while to the west lay the lands of the Onondagas. Oneida tribal lands occupied approximately 10,000 square miles in upper central New York State.

"Oneida" means "People of the Standing Stone." There was a large natural pillar near their main settlement. Most of the Oneida lived in the region around Oneida lake. They were fishermen and agriculturalists, and created clothing and handicrafts much prized among the Iroquois. 

The Oneida thrived for most of their history. In 1720, they ceded part of their traditional homeland to the Tuscarora, who, under pressure from white settlers, surrendered their lands in the Carolinas and moved north to Haudenosaunee country to become the Sixth Nation.   

To that point, the Oneida had had very limited contacts with Europeans. Any European goods they acquired were bought via the Mohawks.  As a result of involvement in the Mohawk clashes with the French, relatively few Oneidas had become Catholics even though Jesuit missionaries moved among them. In 1766, Samuel Kirkland, a Congregational Minister and missionary appeared among the Oneidas to preach the gospel, and was successful in converting many Oneidas to the faith he represented. 

In 1768, the Oneidas, along with the other Iroquois tribes, signed the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, ceding Kentucky to Euro-American settlement. At the time, however, the Iroquois had little influence with the Shawnee and Cherokee who actually lived in that area. 

In 1774, the Oneidas breached the unity of the Iroquois League by allying themselves with the American colonists-cum-Patriots in the Revolutionary War. The Oneidas still consider themselves the "First Allies" of the United States, and in 1777, provided the decisive force that made the Battle of Oriskany a Patriot victory. 

Most other Iroquois sided with the British. This division in the Confederation was to prove dire. And although individual Oneida were close friends and advisors of  such men as George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, most Americans saw them as unwanted "Indians."  

After the war, by the terms of the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, the Oneidas were forced to cede all but 500 square miles of their 10,000-square mile homeland to the United States. Ultimately, they were left with only 32 acres of land in New York State. The other Iroquois tribes were likewise dispossessed. 

With nowhere to live, most of the Oneidas resettled in Canada. During the 19th Century, all but a minim of the Oneidas remaining in New York were forcibly relocated to a reservation in Wisconsin.  The total population of Oneida People is approximately 30,000.

Today, the Oneida Indian Nation is headquartered in Verona, New York. The Oneida have bought real estate, litigated land claims, and have built several casinos in order to increase the tribe's wealth.  Recently, the OIN sued the NFL over the use of the "Redskins" name, claiming it does harm to the image of Native Americans.

No comments:

Post a Comment