Earlier this summer participants in the Oneida Indian Nation’s Youth Work Learn Program and Early Learning Center visited the Oneida village located in Nichols Pond Park in the Town of Fenner. Ron Patterson (Wolf Clan), Brian Patterson, Oneida Nation Council Member, Bear Clan, and Jesse Bergevin, historic research specialist, spoke about the geographic features of the land that made the area such a great spot to build a village and detailed the Oneidas’ way of life in the early 1400s.
Many objects can still be found in the soil from Oneida ancestors that lived in the area over 600 years ago. The area is rich with many natural resources, including fertile land and fresh water.
Jesse educated the kids about the Oneida village at Nichols Pond. “The natural landform influenced where the palisades were placed to provide protection for the village. This gave us an idea where the village was located and its size.” He added that Oneidas would dry corn, which would later be stored in what are now called corn pits. Examples of the pits can be found across the road from the park.
The village at Nichols Pond would have been the principle village for Oneidas, where they would return to after their year’s hunting, fishing, and agricultural activities. Oneidas had the ability to see out to and beyond Oneida Lake from the area of Nichols Pond, which helped them keep an eye out for any potential visitors. Ron added, “Other tribes carried wampum so they could be identified when they travelled through the area.”
Brian concluded the talk with a few lessons on Oneida history and noted that Oneidas keep coming back to Nichols Pond because of its significance to the Oneida story. “We were the keepers of the southern door,” he said. “We were able to travel south all the way to the Carolinas and north up into Canada.”
The significance of the site can’t be understated. Several years ago Bear Clan Mother Marilyn John, who passed in 2007, planted a white pine tree, the Haudenosaunee Tree of Peace, at the site. Nichols Pond is a natural museum that is still full of signs connecting Oneidas to their past.