skip mobile navigation
skip top site navigation

Brothertown Indian Nation reacquires tribal collection from Oneida Nation

Government Administrative Office

Oneida Nation photo

Front (L-R): Councilman Kirby Metoxen, Chairman Tehassi Hill, Brothertown Indian Nation Chairman Robert Fowler, Treasurer Cristina Danforth, Brothertown Indian Nation Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Courtney Gerzetich, and Vice Chairman Brandon Yellowbird-Stevens. 

Back (L-R): Councilwoman Marie Summers, Secretary Lisa Liggins, and Councilman David Jordan.

June 10, 2022

(Oneida Reservation, WI) – An amendment to a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Oneida Nation and the Brothertown Indian Nation was approved during the June 8, 2022, Oneida Business Committee (OBC) Meeting. This amendment allows the Brothertown Nation to reacquire historical materials that had been obtained by Oneida more than a decade ago.

“In 2010 the Oneida Nation paid $75,000 to a private collector to obtain historical materials which became known as the Brothertown Collection,” Oneida Nation Intergovernmental Affairs Director Melinda J. Danforth said. “The collection was initially placed in the care of the Oneida Cultural Heritage Department for professional management to ensure the collection was secure and cared for.”

A MOU was signed in 2016 between the two First Nations whereby Oneida would turn the collection back over to Brothertown once the $75,000 purchase fee was repaid. Subsequent OBC work sessions were held in which the committee supported the idea of a more traditional debt repayment from Brothertown in exchange for the return of their historical materials.

“Since that time the Brothertown Nation has paid for the digitization of those records and we received the request to formally amend the MOU and look into a more cultural, traditional settlement so Brothertown could obtain their collection and retain copies of the digitization,” Danforth said. “We worked with the Oneida Law Office, Brothertown Nation Chairman Fowler, Vice Chairwoman Jessica Ryan, and Phyllis Tousey to formalize this amendment which recognizes this as a traditionally settled debt. Brothertown has agreed to provide $500 in calico, a digitized copy of the collection, and a strand of wampum which will be exchanged in 2023 during bicentennial events being hosted here in Oneida.”

“This is very important for our tribe,” an emotional Chairman Fowler said. “Years ago my father tried to obtain this collection and it never materialized. Thanks to all of you we will get back some of our history which is so important to us.”

The efforts to return the collection to Brothertown began several years ago. “I want to recognize prior Oneida Nation Secretary Lisa Summers who worked on this initiative during her last term,” Oneida Nation Secretary Lisa Liggins said. “Unfortunately, those efforts stalled out due to the onset of COVID, but we’re very glad we were able to complete this project and return the collection to you (Brothertown).”

The Brothertown Collection is a time capsule of sorts. “There are tons of photographs in here,” Brothertown Indian Nation Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Courtney Gerzetich said. “There is also a very important record book of our Peacekeepers, as well as letters from some of our Brothertown soldiers sent home while they served in the Civil War. Oneida has high-quality copies of these materials so hopefully everybody gets to use and enjoy them.”