In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.
Please introduce yourself with your name and title.
Sheri Doxtator, elected chief for the Oneida Nation of the Thames. The name Oneida comes from the original Onyota’a:ka, which means People of the Standing Stone. Oneida is a member of the Six Nations, also known as the Iroquois.
Can you share with us your Native name and its English translation?
Teyotawunli (pronounced day yo dah wun lee), it means Travelling Woman. A'no:wál niwaki’taló:t?? is how to say, "I am of the Turtle Clan."
Where is your nation located?
Our physical location is Southwold, Ontario, Canada, but we refer to our territory as Oneida Settlement. We are located next to the Thames River, and this is why we refer to ourselves in English as the Oneida Nation of the Thames.
Where were the Oneida people originally from?
What is now known as New York State, in the U.S.A.
How often are elected leaders chosen?
We currently follow the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada regulations with regards to our elections. This means that elections occur every two years.
How often does the council meet?
We have established regular meetings to be four times a month, but we realize that special meetings may need to be called from time to time. The council relies on a portfolio system that may see regular monthly meeting of various committees dealing with a large variety of issues concerning our nation.
How did your life experience prepare you to lead your nation?
I feel that I am honored to have been chosen to take over the “family business.” My father, Harry Doxtator, and grandfather Manson Ireland also held elected office as both chiefs and councillors. It is with great love and respect to my mother, Linda, and my grandmothers Christine and Elsie that these men and I have been able to hold these titles.
I have been involved with leadership roles and youth councils at the Assembly of First Nations and the National Association of Friendship Centres and in almost every educational institution I have attended since I started school at the age of four. My work experience with a variety of Indigenous organizations on Turtle Island at local, regional, national, and international levels has also prepared me for my current role as elected chief.
Are you a descendant of a historical leader? If so, who?
None that I know of.
Approximately how many members are in your nation?
The currently population for Oneida Nation of the Thames is almost 5900.
To read the full interview, visit the NMAI series here.