The many facets of the relationships between Indians and Americans were on full display recently here in New York except for actual violence. The events below occurring within a short period of time highlight the pitfalls, challenges, hopes, and fears facing our peoples. The story is on ongoing one with an unknown end. Indeed, part of the story is to remember what has happened. In some sense the story will never end as long as there are people alive to remember and continue the journey our peoples have taken together in our intertwined pasts.
The June newsletter of the New York State Archaeological Association (NYSAA) and the New York Archaeological Council (NYAC) contains an item on the Montaukett Indian Nation Recognition Bill. Allison McGovern (who spoke online to our AIA Westchester Society last year) reported that Bill S6889 supporting state recognition of the Montaukett Indian Nation in eastern Long Island had passed the NY Assembly and Senate. The bill also has been sent to the Governor’s Office for signing. To track the actions on the bill click here:
McGovern noted that the Montaukett recognition bill has passed the Assembly and Senate several times before, and that it was vetoed every time by Governor Cuomo. This situation reflects the anomaly that Indian nations need to be recognized legally by the state or country in order to receive certain functions and access certain funding.
The effort to erase Indians from the American culture continues in full force. The latest example is with the mascot change in the Odessa-Montour and Watkins School Glen districts in New York. The topic was a big feature in the Sunday Journal News downstate (7/31/22). The “Welcome to Seneca Nation” prominently displayed in the gymnasium at Watkins Glen has been painted over. In addition, an arrow painted on the basketball court will be removed when the costs permit it given the effort required to sand the wood and repaint the floor with the appropriate lines. As everyone knows the arrow is a uniquely Indian symbol.
The genesis for the erasure was an interview with Seneca Nation of Indians spokesperson Joe Stahlman in 2020. According to the article, Stahlman denounced such mascots and logos but said the use of the Senecas nickname at Watkins Glen was acceptable. The reaction of the community seem receptive to the logo change and the continuation of the Seneca’s school nickname. The effort then became one of removing Seneca Nation of Indians imagery within the constraints of the schools’ budgets. Roughly 25 murals have been painted over or replaced so far by Odessa-Montour.. One sign in front of the school will be retained for historic purposes. It will be part of lessons imparted to students as to why the name was changed was “Indians” to “Grizzlies.’ So the students will learn about the logo change but what if anything will they learn about the Seneca Nation of the Indians itself?
Will they learn about the ongoing sovereignty struggle between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York dating back to colonial times before New York even became a state?
Will they learn about the Seneca Nation of Indians siding with the British in the American Revolution including the bloody battle at Oriskany fought against the Oneida Indian Nation?
If students continue to know about the nearby Seneca Lake but are not taught about the Seneca Nation of Indians, will they think of them as Americans or as a foreign people who legally live in America but who do not want to?
INDIAN ALLY AND INDIAN ENEMY
The anniversary of the aforementioned Battle of Oriskany showdown between the Seneca Nation of Indians and their British allies and the Oneida Indian Nation and their American allies was August 6. As part of the recent Sense of Place blog on the American Revolution 250th, I wrote about the Fort Plains Museum conference. The bus trip the day prior to the presentations included visits to the key sites of the battle. The Oriskany battlefield is owned by the New York State’s Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation agency (NYSOPRHP) but operated by the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS also operates the Fort Stanwix site in Rome. All these military maneuverings involving these sites were part of the larger Battle of Saratoga campaign in 1777. As also just mentioned in the same blog, Saratoga County has launched its funded 250th Commission precisely on the theme of the battle being the turning point in the war.
On Saturday, August 6th, the Oneida Indian Nation, in partnership with Fort Stanwix and the Rome Historical Society (RHS), held a day of local history education events centered on the battle. The program consisted of:
- A presentation by the RHS and the Oneida about the battle
- A “Solemn Commemoration” at the battle site in recognition of those who fought there including a re-enactment of the militia march, a musket salute in memory of the fallen, presentation of wreaths and ceremonial offerings, along with guest speakers. There is no indication of whether British and /or Seneca are included in the ceremony.
- Film showing of the award-winning animated film “My Home: An Oneida Legend,” and the documentary, “The People of the Standing Stone: The Oneida Indian Nation, the War for Independence, and the Making of America.”
The media contact for the program is a member of the Oneida Indian Nation. There is nothing to suggest that the Seneca Nation of Indians participated in the event.
The Oneida Indian Nation consider themselves the first ally of the United States and are closely connected with the Marquis de Lafayette both during the American Revolution and his return in 1824-1825. Being an ally of a country is not the same as being part of a country. The question which can be asked of both Indian Nations is do they want to be part of the United States and New York State.
The headline in The New York Times (7/31/22) was “For Indigenous Athletes, Lacrosse Is Much More Than a Game.” The people involved were Haudenosaunee. The team name Haudenosaunee Nationals Lacrosse changed last spring from the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team. According to the team website:
The name “Iroquois” is a French variant on a term for “snake” given to us by the Huron. It is actually a derogatory term. As many of our people lost our language through forced assimilation via government policies and residential boarding schools, the English name “Iroquois” stuck. Many researchers over the years have used the term “Iroquois” when writing about us. So when we formed a National Lacrosse Team back in 1983, we used the name “Iroquois Nationals” since that is what most people knew us by. For 39 years we have referred to our team as the “Iroquois Nationals.”
However, as our people have begun to revitalize our languages and culture, we felt it was time to change our name to what we collectively call ourselves: “Haudenosaunee” (ho-dee-no-show-nee) which translates to “People of the Longhouse.” This name change is one of a series of actions we are taking as our people continue to regain what has been lost through colonialism.
Thus, we are now called the Haudenosaunee Nationals and have begun the process of changing all touchpoints affected by our name change, including our website, social media accounts, jerseys, business cards, etc. There are a number of places, items, and products that are affected by this and it will take time to get all of them changed. In the meantime, we say “nya:weh” for your patience and support through this effort!
So the term “Iroquois” ultimately derives from a slur by one Indian nation, the Huron, against the other, the Haudenosaunee, that was adopted by the French who were allies of the Huron against the British and Haudenosaunee. Left unsaid is why the Americans adopted the French term for the Haudenosaunee.
According to the website of the Iroquois Museum located in the Mohawk Valley (where I used to go with the teachers on the IHARE Teacherhostels/Historyhostels):
We acknowledge that the Iroquois Museum is located on the ancestral lands of the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk people). We honor all Haudenosaunee through our educational exhibitions, events and activities. We value their connection to this valley and offer our respect to all Haudenosaunee people of the past and present.
Presumably at some point the Iroquois Museum will have to change its name as well and all museums and textbooks with the word Iroquois will have to change too.
In any event, the now-named Haudenosaunee National teams consists of people from the six nations – Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Seneca, Onondaga, and Tuscarora. According to the article, the Haudenosaunee carry their own passports but are not members of the United Nations or the International Olympic Committee. Note the presence of the word “nation” in the title of both of those organizations.
To join the I.O.C., the Haudenosaunee would have to form a National Olympic Committee. That way they could compete independent from the United States as Puerto Rico does (and in the World Baseball Classic as well). The article notes that the purple Haudenosaunee flag flies at lacrosse arenas during the matches.
The game that you see out there, the long-stick game, is our game. It’s taken our team around the world. And it’s given an opportunity for people to understand that the Indian nations are still here (Oren Lyons, Haudenosaunee team founder).
The article concludes with the words of Kason Tarbell, a member of the team:
Western society keeps trying to push us back down and erase us from history books, but with our flag showing with every other country, we still here and we’re still fighting.
Here we witness an example of Indian nations expressing their independence from the United States.
SHINNECOCK NATION BREAKS GROUND ON NEW LONG ISLAND CANNABIS DISPENSARY
This was the headline in a Syracuse newspaper (7/12/22) about the actions of the Shinnecock Indian Nation across the state on eastern Long Island the previous day.
The Shinnecock Nation in Southampton, Long Island, held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for a forthcoming cannabis dispensary – a new venture for the nation.
“This means a lot, what we’re going to do today,” said Chenae Bullock, managing director for Little Beach Harvest. “What we’re doing with this sacred plant is going to heal not only the Shinnecock community, but people around the world.” “We’re giving this plant a voice again,” Bullock said.
Shinnecock Nation Chairman Bryan Polite noted that the dispensary opening will offer many opportunities for the community, like educating tribal members on the cannabis market and creating career paths both in and outside of the dispensary.
“This is bringing us back to our agricultural roots,” Polite said. “This is a magical, medicinal plant and there are so many ways to use it, and I’m thankful to be able to put a shovel in the ground and get this going.”
ULSTER COUNTY AND RAMPOUGH LENAPE NATION RENEW PEACE TREATY
In a press release, Ulster County Clerk Nina Postupack announced a ceremonial Peace Tree Planting and an historic Peace Treaty Renewal between Ulster County and the Ramapough Lenape Nation. The ceremony renews the 1665 Richard Nicolls Esopus Peace Treaty which is part of the Ulster County Clerk’s Archival Collection. The public renewal took take place at the Hudson River Maritime Museum on August 5.
The day of peace, healing, and good relations according to the press release began earlier in the day with the planting of a Tree of Peace at the former Kingston Visitors Center. The Esopus apple tree commemorates the death of two Ramapough Lenape Nation women who ate apples from a local tree. They thought they were eating the fruit of the land. A Dutch settler thought they were stealing from him and so shot them.
The Tree of Peace is a metaphor for how peace can grow if it is nurtured. Like a tall tree, peace can provide protection and comfort. Like a pine tree, peace spreads its protective branches to create a place of peace where we can gather and renew ourselves. Like the White Pine, peace also creates large white roots (tsyoktehækęætaˀkona) that rise out of the ground so people can trace their journey to the source. Kawisente, Chief of the Bear Clan of Kahnawake, Kanienkehaka was the ceremonial leader.
As these examples attest, the relations between the Indian Nations and the United States are in a state of flux. Almost one year ago on August 25, 2021, I asked in a blog What Are You Doing for the Indian Citizenship Act (1924) Centennial? The answer so far is nothing. Although the Indian Citizenship Act refers to individuals, I additionally addressed the status of Indian Nations. The Supreme Court decision under John Marshall declaring Indian Nations as “dependent” became the law of the law as an example of not “might makes right” but “might makes for what happens.” Consequently Indian Nations do not negotiate treaty issues with the President of the United States, Secretary of State, and Senate as in the recent decision to expand NATO include Finland and Sweden. Instead, they are relegated to a subordinate position with the Department of Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs. The questions we should be discussing now are:
Do Indian Nations want to be part of the United States?
For those who respond positively, what is legal format by which they would be with the negotiations between the President and the leaders of the various Indian Nations?
For those who respond negatively, how do we separate them from the United States so they are recognized as independent countries?
What do you think? Should the same questions be addressed to Confederates?