Wisconsin Historical Society Press
A Nation within a Nation: Voices of the Oneidas in Wisconsin
By L. Gordon McLester III and Laurence M. Hauptman (Editors)
352 pages, 23 b/w photos and 4 maps, 6 x 9Buy
"A Nation within a Nation" gathers first-person accounts, biographical essays, and scholars' investigations focusing on the period of 1900-1969.
In the wake of removal from their native New York, the Oneida people settled near what is now Green Bay, on 65,000 acres of commonly held land. But in 1887, the Dawes Act paved the way for a devastating break-up of the reservation, and within a lifetime the Oneidas saw their land holdings plummet to less than 200 acres. Throughout struggles with poverty, oppression, and government interference and assimilationism, Wisconsin Oneidas remained connected as a community and true to their Iroquois roots. They also refused to relinquish their dream of reclaiming their land, and in recent years have not only stopped the land-loss, but have begun to reverse it.
Editors L. Gordon McLester III and Laurence M. Hauptman show how Wisconsin Oneida leadership has helped to shape history, for Native Americans, Wisconsin and the United States. A story of survival and of the Native American quest for recognition of sovereignty, "A Nation within a Nation" is community history at its best.
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L. Gordon McLester III is an Oneida tribal historian. He is coeditor of "The Oneida Indian Journey" and "The Oneida Indians in the Age of Allotment"and coauthor of "Chief Daniel Bread and the Oneida Nation of Indians," all with Laurence M. Hauptman. McLester lives in Oneida, Wisconsin.
Laurence M. Hauptman is SUNY Distinguished Professor of History at SUNY New Paltz, where he has taught Native American history since 1971. The author, coauthor, or coeditor of fifteen books on the Iroquois and other Native Americans, Hauptman has testified as an expert witness before Congress, federal courts, and has served as a historical consultant for the Wisconsin Oneidas, the Cayugas, the Mashantucket Pequots, and the Senecas. "The Oneida Indian Journey," which Professor Hauptman coedited with L. Gordon McLester III, won the Wisconsin Historical Society prize for best community history in the year 2000.
Wisconsin Historical Society Press: What are the origins of "A Nation within a Nation?" How did the project come together?
Laurence Hauptman: "A Nation Within A Nation: Voices of the Oneidas in Wisconsin" is the fourth book in a series that began over thirty years ago. I met Gordon McLester in 1977 and we have worked together on different historical projects since that time. McLester's focus has been in interviewing hundreds of Oneidas and preserving the information gathered. He has coordinated numerous historical conferences at Oneida and in Milwaukee, bringing academics, Indian and non-Indian, as well as community elders together to talk about the Oneida historical experiences on and off their reservation. My role was largely in locating and using archival records and manuscript collections relating to Wisconsin Oneida history and bringing back this information and sharing it with the Oneida community. With so many misconceptions held about the nature and status of Native American communities, this four-book project was aimed to educate the public. By collecting and publishing community history, the Oneidas saw the importance of using what was collected for curriculum development to teach their own children about the their nation's incredible accomplishments.
WHS Press: What were some of the most surprising or interesting things you learned about the Oneidas in Wisconsin?
LH: I learned two things from this project. First, I learned how determined the Oneidas were and still are in maintaining their Iroquoian ways even though they are now approximately 1100 miles from their original homeland in New York State. Their strength occurred despite facing removal from New York, policies intent on to dividing up their Wisconsin lands or terminating their separate treaty status with the United States, and, until recently extreme levels of poverty. Second, I learned about the key role that Oneidas played in American history from the American Revolution to the present, including their important military contributions as well as their contemporary roles in regional and national Indian policymaking.
WHS Press: How was writing and compiling "A Nation within a Nation" a personal experience? How do you feel connected with the book?
LH: There is a heroic quality to Oneida history. Listening to tribal elders reflect on their experiences in overcoming a multitude of problems, I came to realize that most historians too often treat Native peoples as merely victims and as peoples in decline, not giving Native Americans credit or recognizing their abilities to navigate the system, survive, and succeed. "A Nation Within A Nation" clearly counters this false impression.
WHS Press: This is the final volume in a series about Oneida communities across the United States and Canada. How does the history of the Oneida in Wisconsin compare with the experiences of other communities?
LH: I work with the Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras) in New York and Canada and have worked with the Pequots and Wampanoags in southern New England. I have taught Native students in New Mexico and have done field work in Oklahoma. I have never found a Native community more interested in preserving its history and promoting its dissemination than the Wisconsin Oneidas. Since their WPA Oneida Language and Folklore Project in the late 1930s where they worked cooperatively with professors from the University of Wisconsin, they have done so much, and McLester is conducting and digitizing hundreds of interviews.
WHS Press: What do you hope readers take away from "A Nation within a Nation?"
LH: Oneidas are a vibrant, adaptive community of Native Americans. On one hand, they are a separate people and don't see themselves as a minority, but as their own nation based on treaties with the United States. They have maintained their way of life, their inherent sovereignty, one not given to them by Washington, D.C., Albany, or Madison officials, but by the Creator. At the same time, they are a nation within a nation part of the greater mosaic of cultures that make up the United States, contributing much to the American past and present.
2011 National Indie Excellence Awards
Winner in the Multicultural Nonfiction Category
2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Finalist in the Multicultural Nonfiction Category
"Laurence Hauptman and Gordon McLester have taken an inner-perspective approach to the modern history of the Oneidas in Wisconsin — a New Indian History. Using voices of the people, this insightful history portrays the ongoing struggle to maintain Oneida sovereignty." —Donald L. Fixico, Distinguished Foundation Professor of History, Arizona State University
"Anyone interested in the Iroquois Oneida story, white-native relations, Wisconsin's past, or upper Great Lakes history will want to own this book. Fortified with lucid introductions by Hauptman and McLester, readers will enjoy exploring this collection of enlightening articles and evocative memoirs. This is a significant and highly readable volume." —Carl Benn, PhD, author of "The Iroquois in the War of 1812" and "Mohawks on the Nile"
"From studies of Wisconsin Oneida military veterans, women's lacemaking, and national engagements with federal Indian policy initiatives, the book offers a refreshing change from the standard 'tribal history' paradigm. The multivocal character of this volume points the way to future collaboratively-based inquiry into the history of Native American nations." —Jon Parmenter, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University
"The Oneidas have confronted more than two hundred years of governmental efforts to absorb their lands and identity. Here, Wisconsin Oneidas chronicle their twentieth-century struggle to turn the tide of this assault and assert their sovereignty as a distinct people. Their experiences are at once sad, inspiring, and illuminating." —John W. Hall, Ambrose-Hesseltine Assistant Professor of U.S. Military History, University of Wisconsin–Madison
"Like most Indian nations, the