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Description of the boundaries of the Oneida Indian Nation

When the federal government entered into treaties with Indian tribes, the actual text of the treaties usually left out the details of such things as boundaries; instead, these details were recorded in minutes of the treaty proceedings.

The text of the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua states that the Oneida Indian Nation “shall be secure in their lands forever,” but the lands referred to are specified in a treaty the Oneidas signed with the State of New York in 1788 – before adoption of the U.S. Constitution and the prohibition against states making treaties.

A book titled Proceedings of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs published in 1861, describes the boundaries of the Oneida Indian Nation reservation established in 1788 and affirmed in the federal Treaty of Canandaigua. In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that these boundaries are still in effect because the Oneidas’ aboriginal title never has been extinguished.

The eastern boundaries are described in the minutes as tracts granted to various individuals. Today, those boundaries form the eastern lines of the towns of Verona, Vernon and Augusta. Other geographical markers described in the minutes still exist.

This is how the minutes detail the boundaries of the Oneida Indian Nation (keep in mind that English rules of spelling and capitalization were dramatically different in the 18th century):

“Beginning at the Wood Creek opposite to the Mouth of the Canada Creek… (following the eastern town lines of Verona, Vernon and Augusta), thence due South until it intersects a due West Line from the Head of the Tianaderha or Unadilla River; thence from the said Point of Intersection due West until the Deep Spring bears due North; thence due North to the Deep Spring, thence the nearest Course to the Canesarage Creek, and thence along the said Creek, the Oneida Lake and the Wood Creek to the Place of Beginning, shall be reserved for the following several Uses. That is to say, the Lands lying to the Northward of a Line parrallel to the Southern Line of the said reserved Lands, and four Miles distant from the said Southern Line, the Oneidas shall hold to themselves and Posterity forever for their own Use and Cultivation, but not to be sold, leased or in any other Manner aliened or disposed of to others. The Oneidas may from Time to Time forever make Leases of the Lands between the said parrallel Line (being the Residue of the said reserved Lands) to such Persons and on such Rents reserved as they shall deem proper; but no Lease shall be for a longer Term than twenty-one Years from the making thereof; and no new Lease shall be made until the former Lease of the same Lands shall have expired.”

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