In victory and as equals, our ancestors signed treaties in good faith with the newly-created American government. The continuing presence of Oneida people in the United States military reaffirms those agreements and tells us those treaties are still valid. Oneida People have served proudly in every conflict since the Revolutionary War.
I served for 22 years in the Army and Air Force, retiring as a Master Sargent. Once in a while, someone will ask me why I served a country that often ignores our treaties, a country that treated us worse in victory than it treated Germany or Japan in defeat. As there is a history of military service in my family, it was a natural thing for me to do. My father fought in World War II, after the Oneida Indian Nation declared war on Germany so Oneida men could enlist. My father’s brother fought and died in WWI. And now my son has served in the Persian Gulf War, and I know he’d go back if called upon.
I never drew a distinction between the United States and the Oneida Indian Nation. I went to Korea to defend the United States, that’s true. But I also defended the lands here – our Oneida lands. My ancestors fought with the colonists, and pledged, in the words of our legendary Oneida leaders, “to share the fruits of victory or be buried in a common grave.” That is the obligation my ancestors made, and I will honor it. My ancestors have been in this area since time immemorial, and this area is where we’ll always be.
When I look at the United States flag, I see the red that symbolizes the blood spilled in war. That’s our blood, too. If I could live my life all over, I would serve in the United States military again. These are the reasons why I’m so pleased that our military contributions are at long last being recognized, and are coming out of the shadows and into the light of day.
Originally published in The Oneida, Vol. 7, No. 4 in May 1996