Secretary Haaland is the highest-ranking federal executive branch official to ever visit the Oneida homelands.

Today’s Visit by the First-Ever Native American Secretary of the Interior took place at the Oneida Indian Nation’s New 90,000-Square-Foot Community Center

Oneida Indian Nation Homelands (June 27, 2024) – United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland made history today when she became the first Native American Cabinet Secretary to visit the ancestral homelands of the Oneida Indian Nation. Secretary Haaland is the highest-ranking federal executive branch official to ever visit the Oneida homelands.

As Secretary of the Interior, Haaland is responsible for directing the United States’ relationship with Indian nations. The Secretary of the Interior also manages all federal lands, including national parks, public lands and wildlife refuges. She also oversees vast federal agencies that include the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management among many others.

During the trip, Secretary Haaland met with tribal leaders including Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter at the Nation’s new Mary C. Winder Community Center, where Representative Halbritter provided an update on the Nation’s government and economic activities and other federal tribal matters.

Representative Halbritter also provided Secretary Haaland a tour of the new 90,000-square-foot community center scheduled to open to Nation Members this Friday. The Oneida Community Center is among the largest tribal centers of its kind in the United States. A historic investment in preserving and strengthening the Oneida community for generations to come, the Mary C. Winder Community Center was created to support the cultural, social and physical well-being of all Nation Members. It includes a field house for lacrosse games and cultural events, areas for language and cultural learning and activities, communal gathering spaces, a library, an exhibit focused on the history of the Oneida Indian Nation and its incredible revitalization, an accessible swimming pool, a gymnasium, fitness center and running track, a children’s play area and more.

“It was an honor to welcome Secretary Haaland and share with her our new community center,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter. “We are grateful for the opportunity to welcome her to our ancestral homelands, share our latest investment in the success and well-being of our people and discuss other important matters. As the first Native person to serve as a U.S. Cabinet Secretary, her efforts to connect with tribal nations here in New York and across the U.S. are especially meaningful.”

Following Secretary Haaland’s visit today, the Oneida Indian Nation will host a grand opening ceremony tomorrow, June 28, for Nation Members at the Mary C. Winder Community Center. Scheduled festivities include remarks from Representative Halbritter and the community center’s general manager, Nichola Diaz, and a Haudenosaunee social dance exhibition.

For photos from Secretary Haaland’s visit to the Oneida Indian Nation, CLICK HERE.


About the Oneida Indian Nation

The Oneida Indian Nation is a federally recognized Indian nation in Central New York. A founding member of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (also known as the Six Nations or Iroquois Confederacy), the Oneida Indian Nation sided with the Americans in the Revolutionary War and was thanked by Congress and President George Washington for its loyalty and assistance. Today, the Oneida Indian Nation consists of about 1,000 enrolled Members, most of them living in Central New York. The Nation’s enterprises, which employ more than 5,000 people, include Turning Stone Resort Casino, YBR Casino & Sports Book, Point Place Casino, The Lake House at Sylvan Beach, The Cove at Sylvan Beach, Maple Leaf Markets, SāvOn Convenience stores, Verona Collective, a seed-to-sale cannabis operation, RV Park, and marinas. Proceeds from these enterprises are used to rebuild the Nation’s economic base and provide essential services, including housing, health care, and education incentives and programs, to its Members.


Media Contact:
Joel Barkin, Vice President for Strategic Communications and Community Engagement