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Return to Shako:wi, and Where’s the Stone?

Earlier this week, we took a small road trip out toward Oneida, NY, and had some time to stop in again to see the Shako:wi Cultural Center, a small, beautiful museum built and maintained by the Oneida Indian Nation on their land. We had visited the museum before, gathering much knowledge about the history of this small tribe of the Iroquois Five Nations League. This time, we spent less time studying and more time admiring the various pieces of artwork and artifacts.

The building itself is a work of art. It is crafted of native white pine, constructed by deft Oneida craftsmen, without nails or spikes. It’s lovely. And the logs are impressive.

Shakowi

Pine Logs1

Pine Logs2

I even liked the utility shed, built as a log cabin.

Utility Cabin

A lovely Rose (or is it Mock Rose? Or wild Rose?) grew at the end of the parking lot. I just HAD to take a photo. Brilliant color!

Rose

At the edge of the lot, under a spruce tree, was something odd-looking. A piece of modern art, construed to have some mysterious Indian meaning? A monument with some historical meaning?

Bucket

Uh, no. A broken 5-gallon bucket set on top of some electrical wires. Sheesh!!

The monument to the greatest Oneida, Schenando (also known as Schenadoah or Skenandoah), is just outside the door of the museum. I wrote about Skenandoah here.

The Oneida Nation’s history always interests me. The Oneidas were the only Iroquois tribe to join the American Patriots against the British, in the War for Independence. For their service, the Oneidas were promised that we would never take their land from them, and that we would live side-by-side in peace. Unfortunately, that promise has not been kept, and to this day, New York State government and the Oneida Nation are in litigation over the rights and use of the land that had been confiscated by the State. The Shako:wi Museum had a very large display about the late Chief William Rockwell (whose property is just down the street) and his fight to retain his land and regain his Nation’s land. There were newspaper clippings and photos of displaced Oneidas, litteraly thrown out on the streets because banks had sold out their land from under them, to private investors and owners. All a very sad story.

I looked around for any information about the location of the Oneida Stone. There are a few “Oneida Stones” in the area (these stones were the ancient altars for the Oneidas– unusual stones because they are not native to this area of New York State. Some suppose a glacier carried these stones here, and the Oneidas’ tales tell of how their people followed a walking stone to this area, to settle). We have seen the Oneida Stone at Nichols Pond in Smithville, a very large stone at the edge of the swamp there. But this other, smaller stone that I was seeking was once placed on an old concrete display platform at Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica, when the white man had owned one of the smaller Oneida Stones. It had been removed from Utica when the Oneidas started to flex their muscle as a Nation again (1960s to 1990s), but I had no idea where this stone went. It’s been a fun adventure, seeking out the stone. I once thought that the Skenandoah Boulder was this stone, but I discovered later that it is not.

I asked the lady at the Museum’s front desk where the Oneida Stone was, as I’d heard that it was located somewhere in this vicinity, on Oneida land. She seemed puzzled, not knowing of any monument with a stone anywhere. She said there was a stone that had been returned to Chief Rockwell’s land a few years ago, and said it was somewhere down the road from here.

After our museum visit, the kids and I hopped in the car to look for the stone.

Nothing. !! Weird! Where on earth is this stone?

I drove around Territory Road in Oneida in a circle, then finally stopped at the Oneida Health Clinic (the only building that seemed to have people in it) to ask. They had no idea. Because it was getting late, we had to start making our way home. As I zipped out of the area, I happened to spot a tiny boulder on someone’s lawn, at the edge of their driveway. It was surrounded by tall grasses, not having been “weed-whacked,” although the lawn was mowed. The driveway led up to a small rectangular house, a private residence. Could this have possibly been the Oneida Stone? Just sitting at the edge of a lawn, shaded by weeds? I was driving too fast to stop. But I think next time I drive down here, I’ll knock on the house and see what the residents say. Quite the mystery!

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About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

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