Learn more about issues and topics that relate directly to the Oneida Nation government, community, and people.
Below you will find article and information directly related to sovereignty and what that means to the Oneida Nation.
As early as 1832, the United States Supreme Court recognized the inherent rights of tribes to be free from State regulations. In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the Court explained, “The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force. . .” 31 U.S. 515 (1832). While federal Indian policy has gone through many changes since 1832, the Courts continue to recognize the ability of Tribes to enact their own laws and be governed by them.
In Williams v. Lee, the Supreme Court concluded: “Congress has also acted consistently upon the assumption that the States have no power to regulate the affairs of Indians on a reservation. The cases in this Court have consistently guarded the authority of Indian governments over their reservations.” 358 U.S. 217 (1959). The most recent Indian law case before the Supreme Court demonstrates the Court’s commitment to this position. In Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land and Cattle Co., the Supreme Court recognized that tribal sovereignty “centers on the land held by the tribe and on tribal members within the reservation.” 128 S.Ct. 2709 (2008).
The Tribe exercises its right to govern itself, its land and its people by enacting laws and policies. You can find these laws and policies on the Tribe’s website at www.oneidanation.org/Government/. The next article will focus on the Business Committee’s recent adoption of the Local Land Use Reimbursement Policy.
From 1785 to 1846 a total of 26 treaties were made by which the State of New York acquired almost all of the Oneida lands. The following is a list of significant treaties, Acts of Congress and other government actions that impacted the Oneida Nation and people:
- May 1776 – Continental Congress deemed it necessary to procure assistance of the Indians against the British. Attractive remunerative offers were made. No material aid, however, resulted.
- 1777 – An article was incorporated in the New York State Constitution declaring invalid all purchases of territory from the Natives since October 17, 1774 and forbidding cession in the future without permission from the State.
- July 9, 1778 – The Articles of Confederation were adopted by the Continental Congress
- 1783 – Treaty of Paris – End of the Revolutionary War
- 1784 – Fort Stanwix Treaty – guaranteed territorial integrity of the Oneida Nation.
- 1785 – Fort Herkimer Treaty – Oneidas sold a portion of their land between the Unadilla and Chenago Rivers from the source of the rivers to where they empty into the Sesquehanna River for $11,000. The land given to the Tuscarora was included in the cession. Oneidas lose 300,000 acres.
- Sept 17, 1787 – Adoption of the U.S. Constitution
- 1788 – Fort Schuyler Treaty (formerly Fort Stanwix). Oneidas cede all lands in New York to the state. Approximately 5 ½ million acres. They reserved 300,000 acres in Madison and Oneida Counties for themselves. New York paid the Oneidas $2,000 in cash and $2,000 in clothing, $1,000 in provisions and $500 to build grist and saw mills. In addition, New York promised an annuity of $600
- 1789 – Fort Herkimer Treaty
- 1784-1871 – Treaty Era, Mission schools were present in Wisconsin. Boarding schools existed in Tomah, Wittenberg, Keshena (St. Michael’s), and Bad River (St. Mary’s); Removal started before 1785, the year of the Revolutionary War. Tribes would be moved to the west, by Oklahoma.
- 1790 – The articles as finally adopted gave Congress the sole and exclusive power of “regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indian, not members of any of the States, provided that the legislative right of any State within its own limits be not infringed or violated
- 1790 – Adoption of the Non-Intercourse Act.
- 1793 – Adoption of the Non-Intercourse Act.
- Nov 11, 1794 – Pickering Treaty – guaranteed territorial integrity of the Oneida Nation – provided annuity to assist Oneidas and other members of the Six Nations.
- Dec 2, 1794 – Treaty noting the loyalty of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras during the Revolution and gave a grant of $5,000 to settle all claims.
- 1821 – The Oneidas purchase land from the Menominees and Hochunks by Treaty: lands to be located on both sides of the Fox river for a consideration of $2,000.
- 1822 – First party of Oneidas settles in Duck Creek, Wisconsin. (100th Anniversary of the Stone Church booklet, July 26, 1986).
- 1822 – The Menominee negotiated 9 million acres of land to the Oneida Tribe in Wisconsin. The Oneida Tribe did not experience forcible removal since the Tribe negotiated. Forcible removal means to use the Army to round up the Indian people to relocate.
- 1823 – President Monroe sanctions Oneida land purchases.
- 1827 – Treaty at Butte des Morts (Wisconsin) between the U.S. and the Menominees defrauding Oneidas who were not participants in the treaty.
- 1830 – Congress passed the Indian Removal Act through President Andrew jackson. The Removal Act wanted Tribes to move from the East to the West of the Mississippi.
- Feb 8, 1831 – Oneidas receive 500,000 acres from the Menominees
- 1831-38 – February 8, 1831, the original treaty, signed with the Menominee Tribe, nine (9) million acres, was reduced to 500,000 acres due to the Stambaugh Treaty. The Stambaugh Treaty reduced the holding to 500,000 for the Oneida, Brothertown and Stockbridge
- Mar 12, 1837 – Oneida was established as Duck Creek in Brown County, but the name was changed to Oneida on August 5, 1850.
- Jan 3, 1838 – Buffalo Creek Treaty The treaty gave 1.8 million acres of land to move the Oneidas to Kansas City, Missouri. 5,000 acres of land was in Canada. Some of the Wisconsin Oneida’s moved to Kansas City
- Jan 3, 1838 – 1838 CensusCounted 654 Oneida People. A formula was created to give 100 acres per Oneida tribal member. The total land base is 65,430 acres
- Jan 15, 1838 – Treaty of Buffalo Creek – Oneidas ceded certain lands in Wisconsin reducing reserve to 65,436 acres. They also ceded lands in New York and agreed to immigrate to land set aside in the Kansas Territory.
- Feb 3, 1838 – Oneida Treaty Reduction in Land (500,000 to 65,430 acres) established 65,430 acre boundary of the Oneida Reservation.
- 1846 – Albany – Treaty made with the state with representatives of New York, Wisconsin and Canadian Oneidas to dispose of the Missionary Lot in Westmoreland, Oneida County, for a total of 22.5 acres
- 1848 – Wisconsin becomes a state
- Aug 5, 1850 – The Duck Creek name was changed to Oneida. Originally known as Duck Creek, Wisconsin in Brown County, the name was changed to Oneida, Wisconsin on August 5, 1850
- 8, 1887 – The Dawes Allotment Act divided tribal property into small parcels of 160 acres or less.
- June 18, 1934 – Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, also known as the ‘Wheeler-Howard Act’ or the ‘Indian New Deal.’ The IRA began a new era of federal government and tribal relations.
Fee to Trust
Why Can Indian Nations Have Land Taken Into Trust?
To understand why tribes are entitled to have land taken into trust for them, it’s important to understand the history of tribal land. In 1838, 10 years prior to Wisconsin gaining statehood, the Tribe entered into a treaty with the United States to forever reserve 65,400 acres of land for the use and occupancy of the Oneida people. Less than fifty years later, in 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment Act which authorized the destruction of previously protected tribal land bases in order to disband Indian tribes and assimilate Indian people into mainstream society. Congress recognized tribal economy, culture and religion were inherently tied to the tribal land base. Tribal lands were dealt out to individual Indians who then received title to the land. With few exceptions, this land soon became taxable. Through tax foreclosures, mortgage foreclosures and predatory acquisitions, the Oneida people lost title to much of the land on the Oneida Reservation.
Throughout the country, allotment had devastating effects to tribal land bases and Indian communities. In 1934, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act to reverse the effects of allotment. This new Act allowed the Secretary of the Interior to acquire land in trust for tribes and individual Indians to rebuild tribal land bases and communities and to restore tribal management of tribal affairs.
What Does the Fee-to-Trust Process Look Like?
When the Tribe buys land on the open market, the Tribe purchases the land in “fee.” This means the land is taxable and the Tribe holds the title to the land. When the federal government takes land into “trust” status, the Tribe gives ownership of the land to the United States. The land is no longer taxable and the United States holds the title to the land in trust for the Tribe.
The fee-to-trust process begins with the Tribe submitting an application to the BIA. The Tribe also sends out a consultation letter to the municipality, county and state government asking those governments to send information to the BIA about the property. During the application process, sometimes the BIA asks the Tribe for more information or to resolve some property issues such as incorrect legal description or title defects. After reviewing the application materials and information from the local governments, the Secretary of the Interior determines whether to take the land into trust. If the Secretary decides to take the land into trust, and once the time line for an appeal has run or if the Secretary’s determination to take land into trust is upheld on appeal, the Secretary signs a warranty deed and the property is placed into trust.
What are the Benefits of Taking Land Into Trust?
When land is taken into trust status, it is removed from the local tax rolls. In addition, when land is taken into trust, the Tribe receives technical expertise and legal protections involving transactions on the land from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, such as assistance with leases, mortgages, easements, as well as trespass and unauthorized wood cutting concerns.
The primary purpose to take land into trust is to restore its inalienable status and revive the federal protection of title to the land and technical assistance offered to trust land. When land is placed in trust status, the land cannot be sold, leased or encumbered without tribal approval. This fee-to-trust process creates a protected land base and provides a safe environment to nurture and promote Oneida culture, economy, health and political infrastructure. Returning the land to its original status as inalienable, to forever be held by the United States for the benefit of the Tribe, ensures that tribal investments within the Oneida Reservation will never be lost.
Why tribes are entitled to have land taken into trust for them?
It’s important to understand the history of tribal land. With respect to the Oneida Tribe, many Oneida people migrated from New York in the 1820s. A number of factors influenced the decision to move to Wisconsin, including a fear of the United States’ removal policy, vast loss of land due to treaties with New York, scarcity of timber, loss of resources, the desire to escape the hostile climate caused from the Revolutionary war and rampant racial strife, and attempt to prevent cultural changes. In 1838, 10 years prior to Wisconsin gaining statehood, the Tribe entered into a treaty with the United States to forever reserve 65,400 acres of land for the use and occupancy of the Oneida people.
In 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment Act which authorized the destruction of previously protected tribal land bases in order to disband Indian tribes and assimilate Indian people into mainstream society. Congress recognized tribal economy, culture and religion were inherently tied to the tribal land base. Tribal lands were dealt out to individual Indians who then received title to the land. With few exceptions, this land soon became taxable. Through tax foreclosures, mortgage foreclosures and predatory acquisitions, the Oneida people lost title to much of the land on the Oneida Reservation.
Although allotment did not disestablish or diminish reservations, it had devastating effects to tribal land bases and Indian communities. In 1934, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act to reverse the effects of the General Allotment Act. The Indian Reorganization Act permitted the Secretary of the Interior to acquire land in trust for tribes and individual Indians to rebuild tribal land bases and communities and to restore tribal management of tribal affairs.