An unlikely island of gambling, golf, gastronomy and getaway sits in the middle of what was once farmland and forests. As our nation was in its infancy, the Oneida People made up one of the nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter says that League of Iroquois People is a dynamic part of the country's history and, "it was a time of great turmoil."
That great turmoil included the battles between the French and British for control of the Colonies, and eventually included the American Revolution. Halbritter says, "Throughout all those struggles our people were in the middle of it. Because of where we live, right here, is not only in the heartland of New York, but the struggle between the Colonists and Britain. This was our land. This is where we lived. This was a great struggle. We were sought by both sides to ally with one or the other, King George or George Washington. Our people decided to stay true to the Colonists. It was at a great cost to our people, but we kept our word. We kept our alliance strong and we stayed true. We lost about a third of our population in that struggle. Many our homes, our villages were burned. Many of our people suffered and perished like some of the Colonists. So we were united in an incredible story and an incredible time in history where the founding of this country, the birth of this nation took place. We were very proud of the fact that, not only were we on the winning side, but our people held true to their values and true to sustaining this American Concept, this American Idea.
And the Oneida People became a part of the documentation of the Land of the Free. Halbritter says, "Our chiefs were invited to go to Philadelphia, to witness the Signing of the Constitution. Many people don't know that."
For the Oneida's efforts and sacrifices, the new United States Government established official peace and friendship with the Iroquois Nations. The Treaty of 1794 affirms certain land rights for the Oneidas in the State of New York.
Halbritter says, "Every year, from that day until now, we receive Treaty Cloth as a sign of the Treaty's validity, of the adherence of this country's words to the Treaty, of the fact that it represents so many things to us. Interestingly, the Cloth is
a certain amount of money was allocated for the Cloth. And, there was no inflationary clause, so it means the amount of money remains the same. Only so much Cloth can be purchased so over time smaller pieces of the cloth were available. One of the reasons they gave cloth was - our people gave up some of our lands so as a result of giving up some of your lands you lost the ability to hunt. And, they used to make their clothes of leather and furs, and they supplemented the loss of that land with cloth so we could make clothes with that cloth. It honors this country. It honors our people. And, it honors the sacrifices that so many people made. It's a contract. It's one nation's word to another. And so, out of this foundation, if you will, arise all of the issues that our people struggle with, and have for all these generations.