Oneida Nation of Wisconsin

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Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
Total population
21,321 (US Census 2000)
Regions with significant populations
English, Oneida (historical Iroquoian)
Christianity, Native
Related ethnic groups
Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Tuscarora
A watertower for the Oneida Nation in Oneida

The Oneida Nation of Wisconsin is a federally recognized tribe of Oneida people, with a reservation located in parts of two counties on the west side of the Green Bay metropolitan area. The reservation was established by treaty in 1838, and the tribe negotiated that it would hold the land communally.

Under the Dawes Act, the land was allotted in 1892 to individual households. The nation kept control of most of the land until sales were allowed in the early 20th century, when members were often tricked out of their property. They used the land for farming and harvesting timber. They now control about 22% of their former reservation property and are working to reacquire the land.

In 1988 the nation established the state's first modern lottery, known as Big Green. Since the late 20th century, the nation developed the gaming Ashwaubenon Casino on its property, which is generating revenue for economic development and welfare. Of the more than 21,000 members, roughly half live on the reservation.


The 'Oneida Nation of Wisconsin are descendants of an indigenous Iroquoian-speaking nation that arose in present-day central-western New York. They became one of the original Five Nations of the powerful Iroquois Confederacy. Although many Oneida of what was called the Christian Party had allied with the rebels during the American Revolutionary War, afterward the tribe was under pressure to cede lands in New York to the new federal government. Their territory was encroached on by European-American settlers and the people suffered from harassment by settlers who did not distinguish between former allies and enemies (four of the six Iroquois nations had been allied with the British.) Many began to relocate from New York in the 1820s and 1830s to Wisconsin, where they were offered land.

By a treaty in 1838, the Oneida accepted a reservation, and chief Daniel Bread negotiated to ensure that the land was to be held communally by the tribe.[1]

20th century[edit]

From the early 20th century, Oneida activists from Wisconsin and New York renewed efforts in their land claim against New York State. Laura "Minnie" Cornelius Kellogg (1880-19xx), educated at Barnard, Stanford and Columbia, testified to Congress and lobbied officials in New York. She and her husband were accused of embezzlement but cleared in Canada. Their efforts helped keep attention on the land claim issue.[2]

During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration organized the Federal Writers Project, which produced state guides and also helped preserve much of Oneida culture. Its Oneida Language and Folklore Project gathered hundreds of stories and material about their culture.[3]

Geography and population[edit]

The reservation comprises portions of eastern Outagamie and western Brown counties. The shape of the reservation is an angled rectangle directed to the northeast, laid out along the Fox River, which runs in the same direction. The reservation has a land area of 265.168 km² (102.382 sq mi) and a 2000 census population of 21,321 persons, over half of whom live on reservation land. Some is included within the boundary of the city of Green Bay. The only community entirely on the reservation is Oneida.


The Oneida reorganized their government in the 1930s under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. They have an elected government, with a Tribal Chair (Ed Delgado until a summer 2014 election) and a nine-person Business Committee, elected to three-year terms by the full membership of the nation. Additional committees and commissions are appointed or elected as needed, including for judicial functions.

In addition, the General Tribal Council consists of 75 members. It has meetings twice a year to discuss larger issues.


As a sovereign nation, the people set their rules for membership. They require members to document that they have at least 1/4 Oneida blood (blood quantum). They do not require ancestry through the maternal line, as does the Oneida Indian Nation of New York.


The Oneida had a rural economy for many years, based on subsistence farming in the 19th century and timber harvesting. During the New Deal, the tribe benefited from employment related to the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps, which helped build infrastructure for the community.

In the mid to late-1980s the Nation started a bingo game program televised on Green Bay stations. A caller read the numbers on the bottom of the screen, and a lighted number board was shown in the upper part of the screen. Winners could redeem winning cards at the tribe's bingo hall.

In 1988, the Nation sold the first "modern" lottery tickets in the state at their reservation. The state had authorized a state lottery, but it did not begin operations until 1991. The main game offered by the Oneida Nation was Big Green, which began as a pick-6-of-36 jackpot game.[4]

Since that time, the Nation has developed the Ashwaubenon Casino on the reservation for gaming, entertainment, etc. It generates revenues for reinvestment in economic development and welfare. The gaming complex includes related hotel, conference and other facilities. Since developing gaming casinos after 1988, the Oneida tribe has, in a matter of a few decades, gone from being a destitute people to enjoying a fair amount of social prosperity. They have invested a large portion of their profits back into their community, including a sponsorship of the Green Bay Packers.

The issue of Oneida Nation's contributions to the larger community has raised controversy, as has Indian gaming throughout the country. The lottery game Big Green offered on the reservation pre-dates the launch of the statewide Wisconsin Lottery in 1988.

The new wealth generated by the tribe's gaming and other enterprises has enabled the tribe to provide many benefits for its members on the tribal rolls. Oneida members have assistance for dental, medical and optical insurance, and college education. They receive annual per capita payments related to profits from the casino, an amount determined each year.

Many citizens of Green Bay, and many members of the Oneida tribe, have voiced concerns about the potential long-term detrimental effects of relying on casino gaming revenues for the social structure and economy of Green Bay and within the tribe. Similarly, numerous residents have questioned the state's reliance on the Wisconsin Lottery to raise money for state programs. Such systems are considered regressive in terms of tax policy.

In the early 21st century, the Oneida Nation is one of the largest employers in northeastern Wisconsin with over 3,000 employees, including 975 people in tribal government. The Tribe manages more than $16 million in federal and private grant monies, and a wide range of programs, including those authorized by the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.

Notable people[edit]

A women's dance and ceremonial collar, made in traditional style by Oneida artist Karen Ann Hoffman, ca. 2007. In the collection of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.


Points of interest[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c James W. Oberly, "The Dawes Act and the Oneida Indian Reservation of Wisconsin", p. 188, in The Oneida Indians in the Age of Allotment, 1860-1920, (editors) Laurence M. Hauptman, L. Gordon McLester, University of Oklahoma Press, 2006
  2. ^ Hauptman (1988), Iroquois and New Deal, pp. 11-13
  3. ^ Lawrence C. Hauptman, The Iroquois and the New Deal, Syracuse University Press, 1988, p. xi
  4. ^ "Oneida Tribal Icon Purcell Powless dies at age 84", Green Bay Press Gazette, 7 November 2010
  5. ^ Hauptman (1988), Iroquois and New Deal, p. xii

Further reading[edit]

  • Hauptman, Laurence M. The Iroquois and the New Deal, Syracuse University Press, 1988, pp. 164-176
  • Oneida Lives: Long-Lost Voices of the Wisconsin Oneidas, edited by Herbert S. Lewis and L. Gordon McLester, University of Nebraska Press, 2005. (Accounts collected from 1939-1942 by the WPA Writers' Project)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°29′12″N 88°12′20″W / 44.48667°N 88.20556°W / 44.48667; -88.20556