Oneidas are famous for their hospitality. Noted as warm, welcoming and sharing hosts, Oneidas continue this tradition that spans centuries. The following is a written account of such generosity as recounted in the book, The Jesuit Relations And Allied Documents: Travels And Explorations Of The Jesuit Missionaries In North America 1610 – 1791.
Events from Sept. 30 — 31, 1655 are chronicled in an excerpt from the chapter titled, “Journey Of Fathers Joseph Chaumont And Claude Dablon To Onontague [a main Onondaga village], A Country of the Upper Iroquois”:
“On the 30th, we left the water, and prepared for our trip overland to Onontague. In the afternoon, there appeared 60 Oneoutchoueronon [Huron name for Oneida] Warriors, on their way to fight the so called Neds perces, beyond the rapids. They were led by Atondatochan [an Oneida chief], the same who came to Montreal in the second Embassy sent by the village of Oneout [main village of the Oneida]. He is a man of fine appearance, and an eloquent speaker. He begged us to stay here one day longer, that he might learn our errand.
“These Warriors, having all assembled on the 31st, Father Chaumonot, after the ceremonies customary on such occasions, addressed Atondatochan; he said, first, that he congratulated himself and thanked God at seeing that great man, whose voice had rung out so loud at Montreal that it was still to be heard there, so great was its strength…
“After the Father had spoken for half an hour, the Chief began the song of response; and all commenced to sing; in wondrous harmony; in a manner somewhat resembling our plain-chant.
“The first song said that it would take all the rest of the day to thank the Father for so good a speech as he had made them.
“The second was to congratulate him upon his journey and his arrival.
“They sang a third time to light him a fire, that he might take possession of it.
“The fourth song made us all relatives and brothers; the fifth hurled the hatchet into the deepest abyss, in order that peace might reign in all these countries….
“The seventh song pleased us still more, its purpose being to open their hearts, and let us read their joy at our coming. At the close of their songs, they made us a present of two thousand porcelain beads. …
“They then invited us to a feast which concluded the ceremonies.”
Friendship and kindness are timeless. Extending a hand to its neighbors is the Oneida way today, as it was yesterday, and as it will be unto the seventh generation to come.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 edition of The Oneida newsletter.