On a beautiful spring day in April, the Oneida Indian Nation hosted its renowned Elders Dinner for the first time since the pandemic began. Making up for the lost time, over 250 Members and their families and guests gathered to celebrate and honor our most cherished generation.

To begin the event, the Nation’s Language Instructor Chelsea Jocko (Wolf Clan) recited the Thanksgiving Address in the Onyota’a:ká: language.

She was introduced by Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, who then spoke about how far the Oneida Indian Nation has come in such a short amount of time. Just recently, the Nation put an additional 270 acres of Oneida Indian Nation lands into federal trust. To date, the Nation has restored more than 18,000 acres of its homelands – the most it has had recognized sovereignty of since the early 1800s.

“The foundation of our Nation is strong,” Ray stated. “It is built on a legacy of resiliency that began in time immemorial and continues today. This resiliency allows us to continue the unending work of restoring our homelands, defending our sovereignty and securing a successful future for our Nation unto the Seventh Generation.”

He also introduced the Nationʼs newest enterprise, Wáht Maple Farm, and announced that the Elders were getting to sample the first batch from the successful first sugaring season. Elders tried the syrup on fry bread with maple butter – a tasty appetizer to the dinner.

“It was delicious and light; not too sweet,” Oneida Elder Penny Raymond (Turtle Clan) said after tasting the syrup. “I think it’s great we’re getting into the maple business so our community can connect more with our culture.” Penny regularly attends the dinner with several of her family members and participates in the Nation’s Elders Program.

One of the items on the expansive buffet menu was traditional corn soup. Karen Pierce (Turtle Clan), who works at the Heritage store at Turning Stone where she makes numerous beaded items, assisted Turning Stone’s culinary team to prepare the soup with meat and vegetarian options.

Well-known Native blues band, Corn Bred, featuring Murray Stout (Turtle Clan) on drums, entertained everybody for the 2-hour event. As in years past, there were several door prizes and great raffles that all attendees could enter. Prizes ranged from gift cards to use at the Nation’s enterprises to rounds of golf at Shenendoah or Kaluhyat golf courses.

Yawʌʼkó – thank you so much – to all that attended!

Click on the digital photo album below to see photos from past Elders Dinners