The Oneida Nation, also called the "People of the Standing Stone,” is an American Indian tribe that is part of the Iroquois Confederacy. Also included in the confederacy are the Cayuga, Onondaga, Mohawk and Tuscarora tribes. Within the Oneida Nation are three clans: bear, turtle and wolf.
A giant white pine tree is the symbol of the Oneida Nation’s seal. In Oneida lore, the white tree represents purity, and its four roots reach out to the four directions of the earth. The background of the Oneida seal is red, representing the blood lost during battles.
The Oneida Nation began in a region of what is now Oneida County, New York, south of Oneida Lake. These people were hunters and gatherers and lived in longhouses made of bark that measured 20 feet (6 m) wide and at least 100 feet (30.5 m) long. When European settlers first began making contact with the Oneida tribes in the 1600s, the Oneida tried to live peacefully with them, according to tribal history. Other historical accounts also indicate that the Oneida were conservative in their dealings with others, including their allies. They also traded with the Europeans, often offering furs or pelts for iron tools, brass kettles and cloth.
There are conflicting accounts of the Oneida tribe’s relationship with settlers and its role in the Revolutionary War. A writer of the Jesuit Relation of 1666-68 indicated that the Oneida were the cruelest people among the Iroquois tribe. The writings paint a picture of the Oneida as being cruel, untrustworthy and prone to fighting. Other accounts also maintain that the Oneida warred with other Indian tribes and the settlers.
Other accounts indicate the Oneida were friendly with Jesuit missionaries and the French. These accounts maintain that it was other Iroquois who were enemies of the settlers. By some accounts, the Oneidas were a part of those seeking to break away from the control of Britain. Some Oneida warriors were used to scout British campaigns or operations. In the Battle of Oriskany in 1777, several dozen Oneida fought alongside the colonists.
Other Oneidas were believed to have remained neutral during the Revolutionary War. Some even supported the British and went to Fort Niagara in New York, where they lived under the British. After the war, the Oneida were among a group of other nations that signed the Treaty of Canandaigua with the U.S. government in 1794. The treaty gave the Oneida more than 5 million acres of land in New York. Subsequent treaties greatly reduced that amount of land.
By the 1830s, some of the Oneida tribe moved into Canada, settling near the Grand and Thames rivers in Ontario. Others re-established a new settlement near the original one in Oneida. By 1846, the Oneida sold most of the land they owned in New York, and some relocated to Green Bay Wisconsin.
As of 2010, the Oneida tribes included the Oneida Indian Nation in New York; the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin in the Green Bay area; the Oneida Nation of the Thames in Southwold, Ontario; and the Oneida at Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario.