Oneida Members have proudly served as members of the military not only on behalf of their Nation, but on behalf of the United States of America. From the bloody battlefield at Oriskany during the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in the Middle East, Oneidas have stepped up to the challenge of protecting democracy and promoting peace.
Here is a look at some of our Veterans and their record of service.
Chief Shenendoah prevented a massacre of settlers in German Flats and encouraged the Oneidas to fight on the side of the Americans during the War of Independence. He was given the name of the “white man’s friend” by his fellow Indians.
Shenendoah signed two treaties with the federal government. The first treaty, the Veteran’s Treaty, recognized the Oneidas’ sacrifices and their help during the Revolutionary War. The second was the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty which recognized Oneida sovereignty, land rights and tax freedoms.
Annuity (treaty) cloth continues to be sent to the Oneida Nation as stipulated by the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, the oldest valid treaty in the United States. In accordance with its terms, the United States deliver bolts of cloth – known as treaty cloth or annuity cloth — to the Oneida Nation and its fellow members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Although the disbursement has changed and the yardage diminished since the 18th century, the symbolism of the cloth remains steadfast – the treaty is a living document, 18 years younger than the U.S. Constitution, but equally as valid and ageless.
Polly Cooper was an Oneida woman who according to Oneida oral tradition, walked more than 400 miles from her home in Central New York to Valley Forge in the cruel winter of 1777 -78 to help feed Gen. George Washington’s starving troops. Polly Cooper, along with several Oneidas, carried 600 barrels of corn to feed the troops. The corn they brought was white corn and quite different from the yellow version that is prepared simply. By contrast, the white corn requires extended preparation before it can be eaten. The soldiers, however, were desperate for food when Polly Cooper and her fellow Oneidas arrived, and they tried to eat the corn uncooked. The Oneidas stopped the soldiers, knowing that if they ate the raw corn it would swell in their stomachs and kill them.
Polly Cooper taught the soldiers how to cook the white corn, taking them through the preparation process and the lengthy cooking time. She stayed on after the other Oneidas departed for their homeland and continued to help the troops.
After the war, the Colonial Army tried to pay Polly Cooper for her valiant service, but she refused any recompense, stating that it was her duty to help her friends in their time of need. However, she did accept a token of appreciation offered by Martha Washington — a shawl and bonnet. The shawl has been handed down by successive descendents of Polly Cooper.
Reporting on the Aug. 6, 1777 Battle of Oriskany – where at least 60 Oneidas fought with the colonists — the newspaper Pennsylvania Journal & Weekly Advertiser of Sept 3, 1777 described Oneida Han Yerry and his family as…
“… a friendly Indian, with his wife and son, who distinguished themselves remarkably on that occasion. The Indian killed nine of the enemy, when, having received a ball through his wrist that disabled him from using his gun, fought with his tomahawk. His son killed two and his wife, on horseback, fought by his side with pistols during the whole action.”
Han Yerry’s wife, Tyonajanegen aided her husband on the field of battle by loading his gun for him. For six hours, the duration of the fight, she fought side by side with her husband.
Tyonajanegen then went forth and notified the other colonists of the great bloodshed that had ensued from the British ambush of the colonists at Oriskany.
“In the 1777 campaign, the Oneidas were instrumental,” said Larry Arnold, chairman of the Friends of Saratoga Battlefield. “They were the first sovereign nation to recognize the country of the United States. People don’t realize the staggering losses the Oneidas sustained during the Revolutionary War.” The United States Congress in 1777 recognized the Oneida contribution to the Revolutionary War stating
“We have experienced your love, strong as the oak, and your fidelity, unchangeable as truth. You have kept fast hold of the ancient covenant-chain, and preserved it free from rust and decay, and bright as silver. Like brave men, for glory you despised danger; you stood forth, in the cause of your friends, and ventured your lives in our battles. While the sun and moon continue to give light to the world, we shall love and respect you. As our trusty friends, we shall protect you; and shall at all times consider your welfare as our own.”
Below is a partial listing of Oneida Indian Nation Member Veterans of the Armed Services:
- Jonathan Jordan, actual last name was Jurden. When he enlisted it was changed to Jordan. b. 2-24-1840 – 1909. Son of Henry Jurden and Sophia Denny (Sophia, a daughter of Jennie Sconondoa, thought to be the daughter of old chief Sconondoa). Co. E, 98th Reg. NY Inf. Volunteers.
- Jacob Cornelius enlisted in the Union Army Company A of the 86th New York Infantry. Months after enlisting, on Aug. 30, 1862, he perishes in battle at Second Bull Run.
- Abram Elm, Private, 8th New York Volunteer Infantry, Aaron Antone (Turtle Clan), Co. 4, 16th N.Y.H.A., John Arvin, 16th N.Y. Artillery, Martin Polison, 3rd N.Y. Heavy Artillery, Martin Powless (Turtle Clan), Private, 3rd N.Y. Vols. and Thomas Powless (Turtle Clan), 21st Reg. N.Y. Vols. also served.
From the: Canastota Courant, 19 Oct. 1917, Military spotlight:
- Baptist Powliss of Oneida, a full blood Oneida Indian, was a member of the Madison County contingent which went to Camp Dix. He said, “I will send you a toothbrush made from the bristles of the Kaiser’s moustache.”
- First Lieutenant John Powless (Turtle Clan) was a commissioned officer in the Army during World War I and continued to serve after its end as a machine gun instructor.
From the Oneida Democratic Union, April 10, 1919:
- Lt. John Powless, a full blooded Oneida Indian, has re-enlisted in the Army. He was recently discharged and came home with the intention of staying here but the lure of the army was too strong. He was a machine gun instructor at Camp Hancock, Ga., and now goes to Ft. Slocum.
- By the age of 26 in 1945, Tech Sgt. Raphael Gonyea (Wolf Clan) was a veteran of numerous combat missions in the European theater. He had joined up in 1942 and became a gunner and radio operator on a B-24 Liberator, flying in 25 combat missions for the Army Air Forces (the braches were one during the war). During Raphael’s stint of duty his plane was hit twice. The first time was on his seventh bombing mission over Germany. The plane had to make an emergency landing perilously close to the front lines just before Christmas. His 25th bombing mission over Germany was even more dangerous. Once again the plane was hit by flak with the pilot attempting to get the hobbled plane back over Allied lines. However, it became necessary for the crew to parachute to safety in a small town in Yugoslavia. The same flak that hit his plane also struck his leg, leaving him with an injury that would lead to his Purple Heart.
- Exandine Shenandoah (Wolf Clan) was in the Pacific fighting the Japanese during WWII. Enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1941 at age 18, Exandine saw action throughout the South Pacific including Guam and Guadalcanal. Exandine was an MP, military police, with the rank of sergeant. While serving in the Pacific he contracted malaria, which plagued him for the remainder of his life.
- Oliver Hill Sr. (Wolf Clan) was a private in the Army during the World War II.“He really didn’t say much of anything, actually he was told not to talk about it by the Army, and he stayed loyal to that,” said Clint Hill, Turtle Clan Representative. “The only thing I know is that he put up pontoon bridges and that he served in the Philippines.”
- Theodore (Ted) Phillips (Turtle Clan) was a staff sergeant in the Army serving in World War II and the Korean Conflict. Born in 1925, he enlisted in the Army while in his teens and remained in active service until 1945. He was called up again as a reservist to go to Korea. Ted was on the medic ambulance crew that went into the concentration camps. He helped take the survivors out of the camps, bringing them to medical facilities. Ted was also a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge.
- Keller George (Wolf Clan Representative) served in the Army in the Korean Conflict and later joined and retired as a staff sergeant from the Air Force where he was a radar operator. During his years in the service he served stateside and in Europe.
- Glen Wheelock (Turtle Clan), Army; Howard Luther Lazore (Wolf Clan), Army; and William Winder (Wolf Clan), Army, also served.
- Art Jones (Turtle Clan) was drafted into the Army in 1948 at 18 years old, serving between 1948 – 1950. His stint in the Army was in Korea during a tense pre-conflict period. Stationed at an outpost on the 38th parallel between North and South Korea, Art was a medal-winning sharp shooter, putting his time in on guard duty. “There were 1,000 North Koreans along the border and there were 12 of us guys at the outpost with one round of ammo each,” said Art. “There were also a few South Korean troops, but it’s a good thing the North Koreans didn’t attack.”
- James Bigtree (Turtle Clan) enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1958. He was stationed in Vietnam as a corporeal and on Jan. 11, 1966 in the Quang Nam province he was wounded by hostile small arms fire and died from the resulting injuries. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
- Robert Johnson (Turtle Clan) served in the Marine Corps in Viet Nam, flying a helicopter(CH). HE went on to fly presidents.
- Chip Isaacs (Turtle Clan) served in the Army.
- Leonard P. Babcock, “Johnny” (Turtle Clan) served in the Navy.
Gulf and Iraq War
- The date of Sept.11 has the power to evoke strong emotions. For Tom Jones (Turtle Clan) the day has dual significance. On that date in 1989 the then 29 year old joined the Army. Twelve years later the events that transpired on 9/11 — in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania — resulted in his personal involvement in the war on terror. “Three weeks after 9/11 I was in Kuwait and stayed for six months, then I went back to Germany where I was stationed,” said Tom, a chief warrant officer 2, working in air defense. “In April of 2003 I was back to Kuwait and crossed over into Iraq. It was scorching heat in the middle of a sand storm. It was horrendous; the sand can peel your skin off.” A tech expert, he tested and fired five patriot missiles successfully during the first Gulf War. The second time he was deployed to the region he was stationed on the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, where his unit manned the sophisticated, computerized patriots. Tom works on the radar communications systems or as he refers to them “the eyes and ears of the patriot”. If the system should go down he reports it and then another unit picks up his units duties till they are functional again. Aside from his tours in the Middle East and Europe, Tom also served 13 months in South Korea.
- Nichola Aregano-Diaz (Turtle Clan), corporeal U.S. Marine Corps, volunteered for a third tour in Iraq. A satellite operator in the service, Nichola has been discharged.
- Daysha (Honyoust) Hatfield, Marine Corps, served in Afghanistan in 2004.
Others who have served:
- Ken Dillon (Bear Clan) joined the Air Force at 18 and retired 20 years later in 1978 as a tech sergeant. He started his career as a radar operator until that job was phased out. He then went on to air traffic controller. During his stint in the Air Force, Ken served in Canada, Germany, Alaska and Michigan.
- Harry Brummell (Turtle Clan) enlisted in the U.S. Navy after graduating from high school and retired after 21 years of service.
- Irving Lyons (Turtle Clan) served 20 years in the Army with stints in Korea and at bases throughout the United States
- Anthony T. Burning (Turtle Clan), U.S.S. North Dakota, Navy
- Ken Phillips (Turtle Clan), Marine Corps
- Ed Bred (Turtle Clan), Navy
- Mandy Glass-Ceraulo (Bear Clan), Marine Corps
- Irving “Johnny” Logan (Wolf Clan), Navy
- Gilbert Stout (Turtle Clan), Army
- Carl Fogelberg (Turtle Clan), Army
- Alfred “Bud” Dilapi (Turtle Clan), Navy
- Mike Pedersen (Wolf Clan), Army
- Vince Holt (Turtle Clan), Navy
- Charles Patterson (Bear Clan), Navy
- Richard Sequin (Wolf Clan), Marine Corps
- Robert Homer (Wolf Clan), Army
- Stewart Homer (Wolf Clan), Marine Corps
- Eli Homer Jr. (Wolf Clan), Army
- Jerry Majewski (Turtle Clan), Army
- Wellington George (Wolf Clan), Air Force
- Wilson Stevens (Bear Clan) Navy
- David Wheelock (Turtle Clan), Army
- John Patterson (Bear Clan), Air Force
- Duane Hill (Wolf Clan), Army
- Shane Hill (Wolf Clan), Navy
- Edwin Crampton (Bear Clan)
- John Miles (Turtle Clan), Army
- Robert Miles (Turtle Clan), Army
- Terry Altman (Turtle Clan), Navy
- Brian Chapman (Turtle Clan), Navy
- Ronald Overton (Wolf Clan), Marine Corps
- Clint Hill (Turtle Clan), Marine Corps
- Donald Johns (Turtle Clan), Army
- Mike Mason (Turtle Clan), Army National Guard
- William Eckhard (Turtle Clan), Air Force
- Christopher Scott (Turtle Clan), Marine Corps
- Heather Kuhl (Wolf Clan), Air Force
- Will Kuhl (Wolf Clan), Army
- David Ernenwein (Turtle Clan) Army
- Lisa Latocha (Wolf Clan) Army, 1990-1992
- Kenneth Homer “Looney” (Wolf Clan) Navy
- Keith Boylan (Wolf Clan) Marines, 1994-1998