Fort McCoy News Nov. 25, 2016

Oneida historian shares tribe's contributions

BY AIMEE MALONE
Public Affairs Office

An Oneida tribal historian shared her tribe's contributions to the United States as part of the National American Indian Heritage Month/Native American Heritage Month observance Nov. 15 at McCoy's Community Center.

Guest speaker Loretta Metoxen, 85, was born and raised on an Oneida farm in northeastern Wisconsin. She served in the Air Force during the Korean War.

She later returned home to raise a Family and serve the Oneida nation as a member of multiple civic and community organizations. She has been a tribal historian since 1996 and still is actively researching Oneida history and heritage.

Loretta Metoxen, tribal historian for the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, gives her presentation during the Fort McCoy observance of National American Indian Heritage Month/Native American Heritage Month Nov. 15 at McCoy’s Community Center. Metoxen, 85, is an Air Force veteran and is an accomplished author, writing about Oneida culture, history, and heritage.
Loretta Metoxen, tribal historian for the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin,
gives her presentation during the Fort McCoy observance of National
American Indian Heritage Month/Native American Heritage Month Nov.
15 at McCoy's Community Center. Metoxen, 85, is an Air Force veteran
and is an accomplished author, writing about Oneida culture, history,
and heritage.
Photo by Scott T. Sturkol


Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David J. Pinter Sr. provides additional comments at the end of  Loretta Metoxen’s presentation.
Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David J. Pinter Sr. provides
additional comments at the end of Loretta Metoxen's presentation.

Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

The Oneida tribe has a long and often-forgotten history of helping the United States, Metoxen said.

"The Oneida Indians saved this country from Great Britain," she said, explaining that the Oneida were early allies of American revolutionaries, and the majority joined forces with the rebels. One significant fight the Oneida participated in was the Aug. 6, 1776, Battle of Oriskany. Many Oneida fighters were killed during the battle, Metoxen said.

"They're not recognized for that because their names are obliterated from history because the United States Army did not keep track of all the names of the people who were fighting from the tribes," Metoxen said.

"We did have six commissioned officers. Their names are prominent. But the rest who succumbed there … their names are gone forever."

Another story of how the Oneida helped save American revolutionaries was how they fed George Washington's troops when the Soldiers were wintering over in Valley Forge, Pa.

"The Oneidas heard of Washington's plight and the plight of his Soldiers at Valley Forge, and so they sent 600 bushels of corn from Fort Stanwix, N.Y., down to the Army," Metoxen said.

The white corn sent down had to be specially prepared, so an Oneida woman named Polly Cooper stayed with Washington's army to show them how to properly prepare it. She ended up staying as a cook for the Washingtons.

"Martha (Washington) was so grateful for doing that that she purchased, in Philadelphia, a black shawl (for Cooper), and that black shawl survives today in Oneida, N.Y., … at the museum," Metoxen said.

Metoxen recommended the book "Forgotten Allies: The Oneida Indians and the American Revolution," by Joseph T. Glatthaar and James Kirby Martin, which details some of the other contributions made by tribal members during the war.

Many members of the tribe relocated to Wisconsin from New York prior to the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Land in upstate New York was at a premium, especially where the Erie Canal eventually was built.

"My great-grandparents … were born in New York," Metoxen said. "This is not ancient history."

The Oneida also fought in the Civil War, Metoxen said. About a tenth of the population of the Wisconsin Oneidas, 147 men, volunteered to fight for the Union.

Thirty-two of them died, and some were buried in mass or unmarked graves. One of her research projects as tribal historian is trying to locate these Oneida Soldiers and bring them home, she said.

In closing, Metoxen said she hoped each audience member was a little richer from hearing about her tribe's history and heritage.
Sgt. 1st Class Nastassia Williams with the 181st Multi-Functional Training Brigade said she thought the presentation was wonderful.

"I learned a lot about the Oneida tribe," Williams said. "She was awesome." Williams said she thought Metoxen was a very good representative of the Oneida for Native American Heritage Month.

The next Equal Opportunity observance will be in January celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For more information about Equal Opportunity events, call 608-388-6153.