While the majority of the Confederacy ultimately chose to continue their support of England, most of the Oneida and some of their dependents, the Tuscaroras, chose to support the American cause. The alliance between the Six Nations and England had been largely due to the work of one man, Sir William Johnson.
The Oneida Nation and some Tuscaroras joined with the colonists, becoming the young nation’s first allies and providing critical help on the battlefield and off. In 1777, the Oneidas played a key role in the battles of Oriskany, Fort Stanwix and Saratoga. These battles were crucial to winning the Revolutionary War.
The Oneidas and Tuscarora had sided with the Colonists during this time. It was named the Sullivan Campaign and General Sullivan along with his army of 3500 men took no mercy.
Many tribes such as the Iroquois, Shawnee, Cherokee and Creek fought with British loyalists. Others, including the Potawatomi and the Delaware, sided with American patriots. But no matter which side they fought on, Native Americans were negatively impacted.
At the time, two groups of Oneida existed: the Christian Party and Pagan Party. Williams reinvigorated members of the Oneida Christian Party, who had converted to Christianity during the 1700s. Williams also converted members of the Oneida Pagan Party, which clung to Iroquois traditional religion.
By the early 1900s, illegal state treaties nearly depleted the Oneida Indian Nation of its homeland. The Oneidas did what they had to do to survive. Today, the Oneida Indian Nation has regained more than 18,000 acres of their original homelands – the most they have had recognized sovereignty over since 1824.
After the war began to turn in England’s favor in 1758, the Iroquois decided to officially join the war as allies to the British. Realizing that the British might win, the Iroquois reasoned it would benefit them to be on the winning side.
“Shekoli” [say-go-lee]. An Oneida greeting, meaning “Hello”.
The Cherokee remained allies of the British until the French and Indian War. At the 1754 outbreak of the war, Cherokee warriors took part in British campaigns against the French Fort Duquesne (at present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and the Shawnee of the Ohio Country.
The Delawares and Shawnees became France’s most important allies. Shawnees and Delawares, originally “dependents” of the Iroquois, had migrated from Pennsylvania to the upper Ohio Valley during the second quarter of the 18th century as did numerous Indian peoples from other areas.
The British colonists were supported at various times by the Iroquois, Catawba, and Cherokee tribes, and the French colonists were supported by Wabanaki Confederacy member tribes Abenaki and Mi’kmaq, and the Algonquin, Lenape, Ojibwa, Ottawa, Shawnee, and Wyandot tribes.
Apaches and Navajos, for example, raided both each other and the sedentary Pueblo Indian tribes in an effort to acquire goods through plunder.
The Oneida community believed strongly in a system of free love known as complex marriage, where any member was free to have sex with any other who consented. Noyes believe that complex marriage would move the community beyond divisive commitments to a single partner or family.
Feeling pressure from white settlers, the Oneida, or “People of the Standing Stone,” emigrated to Wisconsin from their ancestral home in New York between 1824 and 1838 in a few groups. The Oneida numbered around 650 people by 1838, and signed a treaty in the same year to establish reservation boundaries.
One of the founding members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Oneidas have many beliefs and traditions that have stood the test of time – devotion to their homelands, commitment to collaboration and respect for the gifts of the Creator.