When the tension between the American colonies and the British grew into armed conflict, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy tried at first to remain neutral and then to reach agreement on which side to support. Representatives of the six member Nations debated through several meetings of the Grand Council, many in favor of supporting the British, with whom the Confederacy had substantial trade relations, and a few – primarily the Oneidas – passionately on the side of the colonists. In the end, the Grand Council decided to let each Nation choose its own path in the conflict. The Oneida Indian Nation and some Tuscaroras joined with the colonists, becoming the young nation’s first allies and providing critical help on the battlefield and off.
In 1777, the Oneidas played a key role in the battles of Oriskany, Fort Stanwix and Saratoga. These battles were crucial to winning the Revolutionary War. In that one year, the Oneida Indian Nation contributed more to the birth of the United States than any other community of comparable size in the colonies.
U.S. to Oneidas – 1777
“We [the United States] have experienced your [Oneida] love, strong as an 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 contrive 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.”
– Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (Dec. 1777) W.C. Ford et al., eds Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress (34 vols.).