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Oneida Nation of New York

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The Oriskany Battlefield entered a month of mourning Aug. 6 for the 650 people who died in the Aug. 6, 1777, battle. Federal, state and local officials joined members of the nation in the Annual Solemn Commemoration Ceremony which featured performances by the Mohawk Valley Frasiers, dedication of wreaths and musket salutes. At dusk, 650 candles were lighted to honor and remember those who died in one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolutionary War. The 800 troops of Brig. Gen. Nicholas Herkimer and 60 allied Oneida warriors defended a surprise British and Tory attack led by Sir John Johnson, Col. John Butler and Mohawk Joseph Brant. Herkimer died of wounds shortly after the battle. His army is credited with stopping the crown's eastward advance. Because of the Oneida loyalty at Oriskany, the United States ;promised to protect Oneida land. Subsequently, however, the nation lost almost all of its 6 million acres to New York state and land companies. The nation's federal suit to reclaim 250,000 acres in central New York remains unresolved.

Saying they hoped to bring peace to the 32-acre Oneida reservation, members and others planted a Peace Tree Aug. 1. Joanne Shenandoah, one of the organizers, said the reenactment of one of the Iroquois most sacred ceremonies was meant to help bring peace to the world and to the nation. She said unrest has resulted from a home inspection and renovation project the leadership hoped to start earlier this year. She said the stated goal is to provide safe housing, but charged it was a thinly veiled attempt to get rid of some members labeled "dissidents" by the leadership. While lawyers on both sides attempt to resolve the issues, she said the tree-planting was intended to spiritually start the healing. Overseeing the ceremony was Jake Swamp, a spiritual leader from Akwesasne Mohawk territory in western New York. He said the story of the peace tree is one of the oldest of the Iroquois -which include Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga and Seneca tribes. The story holds that war ended with the coming of the Peacemaker. Once unified, the nations planted a tall, eastern white pine, to symbolize peace.

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