Oneida Lives: Long-Lost Voice of the Wisconsin Oneidas

Aug 15th, 2006 | By | Category: 18-1: The Winding Road to Student Success, Media Reviews

ONEIDA LIVES COVEREdited by Herbert S. Lewis
With the Assistance of L. Gordon McLester III
University of Nebraska Press (2005), 425 pages
ISBN 0-8032-8043-2, $29.95

Review by Sherrole Benton

Oneida Lives is a collection of biographical essays of Oneida people who lived during the Great Depression on the Oneida Reservation in Wisconsin.

After being deprived of their homelands and exhausted from decades of warfare, some of the Oneida people were forced to relocate from New York State in the early 1800s to “Indian Territory,” near present-day Green Bay.

In the early 1940s, about a dozen Oneida people were employed under the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) to interview other Oneida people and write about their lives for the “Oneida Ethnological Study.”

These essays provide a framework for readers to understand the conditions and choices Oneida people had at that time for making their livelihood or for their very survival.

Most of the interviews were originally conducted in Oneida and later translated into English. The collection has nine chapters with topics ranging from remembering traditional ways, to relocating and settling in new territory, to adjusting to the mainstream American culture of the early 1940s.

Sherrole Benton (Oneida/Ojibwe) is a freelance journalist and has experience in teaching college composition.

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