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Fulfilling a $10 Million Promise

Oneida Nation donates seventh $1m donation to National Museum of the American Indian

The Oneida Indian Nation continues to make good on its promise to contribute $10 million to the National Museum of the American Indian.

On May 11, Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation Representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, and members of the nation’s council presented a $1 million check to Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian’s Washington-based National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Gover traveled to the Oneidas’ central New York homeland to accept the donation.

"We are honored to be joined by the Director of the National Museum of the American Indian,” Halbritter said. “Not only can you travel to Washington to visit the museum and learn about the rich history of American Indians, you can also travel to places like the Oneida homelands to see the future of Native people.”

The $1 million donation is the seventh installment of a $10 million pledge the nation made in 2004. “We are proud to be able to take one more important step today toward our $10 million contribution,” Halbritter said. “Even during difficult economic times, we understand that preserving our history and teaching future generations about our past remains our most solemn responsibility.”

The National Museum of the American Indian is the first national museum dedicated to the preservation, study, and exhibition of the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of American Indians. Established by an act of Congress in 1989, the NMAI has three facilities: the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., which opened on September 21, 2004; the George Gustav Heye Center, a permanent museum in New York City; and the Cultural Resources Center, a research and collections facility in Suitland, Maryland. According to the museum website, the museum “works in collaboration with the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere to protect and foster their cultures by reaffirming traditions and beliefs, encouraging contemporary artistic expression, and empowering the Indian voice.”

The Oneida Nation, located in Central New York, has contributed more than its $10 million pledge to the museum; it has also contributed an exhibit called Allies in War, Partners in Peace. The exhibit, which is located on the fourth floor of the museum, is a 19-foot, 2,200-pound bronze statue that depicts the friendship forged between the Oneida Indian Nation and the United States during the Revolutionary War. Designed by noted Utah-based sculptor Edward Hlavka, the statue represents Oneida Chief Shenendoah and an Oneida woman, Polly Cooper, along with Gen. George Washington. The Oneidas fought alongside the colonists as allies at the important Revolutionary War Battles at Oriskany (N.Y.) and Saratoga (N.Y.), as well as carrying their corn hundreds of miles to help Washington’s starving troops at Valley Forge.

The NMAI is vital to preserving American Indian history and culture, Halbritter noted. “The National Museum of the American Indian, like the Smithsonian’s Museum for African American History and Culture and the nearby Holocaust Museum, ensure that we never erase, forget, or rewrite our collective history,” he said. “These museums give visitors an accurate portrayal of our history—both good and bad. They allow us to feel pride in our ancestors and help prevent us from making some of the same mistakes we've made throughout history.”