At the age of 22, Mary Cornelius Winder (Wolf Clan) began her lifetime crusade – a letter-writing campaign petitioning the government to make amends and give the Oneidas back their land. Through written testimony, Mary fought for the recovery of thousands of acres guaranteed to the Oneidas in the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua.
For 30 years, until the time of her death in 1954, Mary – who had little formal education and spoke only Oneida until she attended school – sent letter after letter. She wrote President Washington asking the federal government to redress the egregious wrongs perpetrated against the Oneidas.
She died three years after the Oneida land claim was officially filed, but the work she began continued, and still does. The Nation eventually won the land claim initiated by Mary, who inherited this mission from her father, Wilson Cornelius, then passed it along to her daughter Gloria and grandson Ray Halbritter.