"Allies in War, Partners in Peace" Statue
Visitors to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. are encouraged to begin their tour on the fourth floor, the level named for the Oneida Indian Nation.
Featured on this top floor is a pause area and in its confines is the statue “Allies in War, Partners in Peace,” a bronzed embodiment of the friendship that was forged between the Oneida Nation and the United States during the Revolutionary War.
“We wanted a statue that would tell the story of how the Oneidas embraced the colonists’ cause of freedom, fighting beside their colonial friends and aiding them in their time of need,” said Keller George, Wolf Clan council member, and a member of the board of trustees for the museum. “We also wanted symbols of importance in our culture to be allotted a presentation point, and I think the artist captured all these elements, telling our story as we have told it for generations.”
“The sculpture is so rich in history and Iroquois aesthetic that it should thrill many audiences,” added Gerald McMaster, Ph.D., director’s special assistant for mall exhibitions/deputy assistant director for cultural resources at the museums opening. “Already various people have marveled at it. It is so rich in detail from the story of the Oneidas’ relation with Gen. Washington through to the cultural content. We’ll have to ensure that an interactive display is nearby to point out these many, many details. I’m always so amazed by how rich our cultures are that all the Oneidas should be so very proud of their contribution to this country, both historically and culturally.”
Oneidas fought alongside the colonists in key battles of the war, including Oriskany and Saratoga. The alliance was further cemented when a group of Oneidas walked from their home in Central New York to Valley Forge, a journey of more than 400 miles, during the winter of 1777-78, carrying life-saving corn to feed the starving soldiers.
With them traveled Polly Cooper, who taught the soldiers how to prepare the corn. When the Oneida men returned to their homes, Polly Cooper remained and aided the troops. She would accept no payment for her services, but did accept a gift of a bonnet and shawl from Martha Washington. The shawl is still in existence today.
Shenendoah, also known as Skenandoah, is held in great esteem by the Nation and holds a deserving place in the statue. He was the wampum keeper and the inaugurator of government-to-government agreements. In addition, he played a major role in the Oneida Nation’s decision to side with the colonists during the Revolutionary War.
One reason Shenendoah chose to fight with the Americans was due to the friendship that existed between himself and the Rev. Samuel Kirkland, who was a missionary to the Oneidas and the founder of Hamilton College in Upstate New York. The friendship was so deep that Shenendoah asked to be buried next to Kirkland in the cemetery of the college.
See also: The American Revolution Center
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