- Oneida -

Allies in War, Partners in Peace

Smithsonian Statue Details

• Located on the fourth floor of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

• Statue is a bronzed embodiment of the friendship that was forged between the Oneida Nation and the United States during the Revolutionary War. Statue depicts Oneida Chief Shenendoah and an Oneida woman, Polly Cooper, along with Gen. George Washington. The statue is a commemoration of the bonds between two nations - the Oneida and the United States.

• The 19-½ foot, 2,200 lb. statue created by Utah-based sculptor Edward Hlavka. See Slideshow.

Significant items of note:
• Polly Cooper
When a group of Oneidas walked from their home in Central New York to Valley Forge — a journey of several hundred miles during the winter of 1777-1778 — they carried with them life-saving corn. Polly Cooper was among the group and she taught the soldiers how to prepare the corn. After the Oneida men returned home, she remained and helped the troops. Accepting no payment for her services, she eventually accepted a gift bonnet and shawl from Martha Washington. The shawl is still in existence today.
Cooper is depicted holding a basket of corn.

• Shenendoah (Skenandoah)
Held in great esteem by the Oneidas, Shenendoah was the wampum keeper and inaugurator of government-to-government relations with the colonists during the Revolutionary War. He choose to fight with the colonists, basing that decision on his great friendship with the Rev. Samuel Kirkland, missionary to the Oneidas and founder of Hamilton College (Clinton, N.Y.).

One of Shenendoah’s prized possessions was a silver pipe given to him by New York State Gov. Daniel Tompkins. He’s depicted with a similar pipe tucked in his belt. He is also wearing a traditional Oneida headdress, known as a kasto:wíhé' (or kostoweh). The Oneida kasto:wíhé' has two feathers straight up, and one down, which denotes it from other members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

• George Washington
Gen. Washington asserted during the Revolutionary War that “[t]he Oneidas have manifested the strongest attachment to us throughout the dispute.”

Washington is holding a wampum belt which symbolizes an agreement between the U.S. and the Oneida Nation that neither will interfere in the internal affairs of the other.

• White Pine
High above the central figures is a white pine tree. The pine is significant to the Oneidas and other members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Tuscarora).

The Peacemaker united the warring nations with his message of the Great Law of Peace, unearthing the white pine and burying the weapons of war, such as a hatchet and a war club, underneath it. The roots of the tree are visible and extend in the four directions, welcoming others to embrace peace and live under the branches of the tree in harmony.

The tree is home to:
Eagle – perched at the top, ready to warn nations of approaching danger.
Arrows – five bound arrows, strength in unity, symbolize the union of the Haudenosaunee. They are located at the back of the piece.
Rock – is located in the tree. The rock was used by Oneidas to mark boundary lines.

• Oneida Clans
Turtle, wolf, and bear have a dominant place in the statue, representing the three clans as determined by the mother’s lineage.

• The Three Sisters
Known as the sustainers of life, the Three Sisters – corn, beans and squash – are represented in the intricate work.

• The Seventh Generation
A little girl at the back of the statue represents the future, the seventh generation to come.

• No Face doll
The girl is holding a no-face doll, which is a nod to an allegory told by the Oneidas to teach children about the foibles of vanity. According to legend, the doll constantly marveled at her beauty and was warned by the Creator not to do so. After ignoring the warning, a hawk snatched the doll’s face.

• Oneida belt
Across the base of the sculpture is the Oneida belt comprised of six squared joined together – each representing one of the nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

See also: The American Revolution Center

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