The Oneida were among the first tribes of the American Indians and the Native American group. They were amongst the five founding tribes of the Iroquois colony in upstate New York, especially near the Great Lakes. Although they ultimately abandoned their homeland to make a home for themselves in what is now the United States, they were not alone in making the migration. Many tribes from all around North America made their way west to establish homes in what is now the United States of America.
Two hundred years ago, in what was then considered to be the American Heartland, the first American Oneida group of Indians made their way into what we know today as Wisconsin. The Oneida homeland covered approximately twelve thousand acres. Their reservation had twelve distinct parcels that were collectively referred to as Oneida land. These lands included not only the homelands that are still used today by the Oneida, but also parts of what are now Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota. The reservations had at least three different parcels, collectively known as a string of oneida, which numbered about six million acres.
In 1776, after the successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, the French captured the Oneida and sold them to the French government. The French government, in an effort to encourage further development of these lands, granted the Oneida special settlements known as outposts. In these outposts, the oneida were allowed to graze and grow their own food. These outposts also allowed the Oneida to experiment with crops that would help to support their lifestyle and create products for selling back in America.
In the late winter and early spring of 1822, the United States Congress passed two important pieces of legislation. One was called the “Oneida Treaties,” which established the basis for the ceded orchard land to be used by the Oneida and Wisconsin tribes. The second piece of legislation gave the ceded orchard lands the same rights and privileges that the whites had when they had ceded their lands to the British. These two pieces of legislation marked the beginning of what is now the United States federal government’s relations with the Oneida and Wisconsin Indians.
By the middle of the summer, the United States Congress had passed the “New York Purchase.” This act made it possible for the Oneida and Wisconsin Indians to become citizens of the new nation. Because this was not true of all Indians, the United States government waived any claims of tribal lands that were not ceded in the process of settling the American debt. Thus, the Oneida became one of the first groups in the new nation to be considered for membership in this new institution. A treaty was then reached in which the federal government agreed to furnish fifty thousand dollars in grants to the Oneida Nation, including their living and other expenses, and to provide twenty thousand dollars to each of the new Five Civilized Tribes to assist them in building schools and settlements.
These grants from the federal government were extremely generous; but in addition, the government also promised to reimburse each man and woman who lived on the Menominee River in Wisconsin and the Menominee River in New York City proper, free of all income, gift, and property taxes. For a long time, the Oneida and other Indian tribes waited for this new tax relief. But finally, in 1822, just before the end of their bitter winter, the Oneida began to use the new opportunity to organize a strike among the Menominees against their paymasters. The strike was to allow the men and women of the Menominee to get a proportionate share of all the general proceeds from the new tax system.
Because of the massive support that the Oneida tribe had garnered, the United States government relented and began to back up their words. In addition to the federal grants, the United States government also gave each member of the tribe a few acres of land in the middle of Lake Okeechobee in Florida. That was to be their reservation, and the men and women who lived on the reserve could sell it to any person who wished to buy their tribal lands and resettle there. As a result of these and other Indian policy changes, more than a hundred thousand free American Indian lands were added to the open market each year. And now, instead of being a reserve where one had to settle for generations, these lands were available to anyone with enough financial capital. As a result, more American Indian families are able to live decent lives off the land.
By encouraging their reservations and selling off their lands to settlers, the Oneida and other Indian tribes helped create more affordable housing than it is now. They also encouraged the development on the lands by giving their lands to the federal government. This helped to relieve poverty in the following year and ensured that there would be enough money to purchase everything from houses to farms. So even though the Oneida tribe did not receive any benefits directly, the federal government definitely helped out by selling off lots of its lands.