The Shako:wi Cultural Center’s newest receptionist and tour-guide-in-training, Shoneida Hill (Turtle Clan), is excited to inform visitors about Oneida and Haudenosaunee culture. The 21-year-old is taking on a position once held by her mother, Karen Pierce (Turtle Clan).

“I was working in the bingo hall, but saw this opportunity to come to the cultural center,” Shoneida said. “I used to come here all the time as a kid and thought this would be a place I could learn more about my people.”

In her role, Shoneida takes calls to schedule visits with groups and individuals, and will offer tours to visitors and new hires of the Oneida Indian Nation with Cultural Programs Coordinator, Jessica Farmer. The two also designed a new sweatshirt that will be available for purchase at the center soon.

Shoneida returned to Oneida two years ago after graduating from Lake Shore High School near the Seneca Nation’s Cattaraugus Territory where she lived with her father, Heath Hill (Wolf Clan).

Both of her parents are dedicated to preserving and strengthening Oneida culture. Shoneida remembers how they previously took Oneida language classes when she was a child going to daycare at the Ray Elm Children and Elders Center. Heath continues to do social dance presentations across the region and Karen works as a sales associate at Oneida Heritage, which is opening its new location at Turning Stone Resort Casino in just a few weeks. She does beadwork as well, contributing replica wampum belts as well as numerous jewelry pieces to the store.

“I’m trying to learn our language, but pronunciations can be tricky,” said Shoneida. “But I know what my mom is saying when she tells me something in Oneida.”

Shoneida is eager to learn more and be an educational resource for the community at Shako:wi.

“I grew up here and I know a lot of people assume a lot about us as a people,” she said. “So I hope visitors will leave with more knowledge of our people outside of what is in school textbooks. I’m excited to be a part of that.”

The Shako:wi Cultural Center is located at 5 Territory Road in Oneida and is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m; and Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. For more information on the center and its offerings, call (315) 829-8801.