Ehtho Niioton Ha’k Ne Onkwa’nik’on ira (2003)
EXHIBITION:Rick Bartow: From the Archive
“Ehtho Niiotòn Ha’k Ne Onkwa’nik’on ira” “Let us come together in one mind and one spirit. As one we give thanks for all that surrounds us.”
In 2003 Bartow drew this as part of a proposal for the new National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). It both commemorated the anniversary of the Oneida reunification, and the opening of NMAI. Reportedly, the diplomat/chief of the Oneida Nation, Skenandoa (also referred to as Shenendoah / Skenandoah, or Oskanondonha) spoke the words of the title in an address during the Revolutionary War to the Governor of the Connecticut Colony. The words referred to the division of the Iroquois Confederacy, which had experienced a schism over the decision of the Oneida to render assistance to George Washington and his struggling Continental Army in 1777-78. The other Nations within the Confederacy allied with Britain.
Oneida Tribal Historian Loretta Metoxen wrote “Chief Shenandoah (the deer) was an unwavering friend to the Americans. He believed in the cause of the Colonist and warned his white neighbors of British invaders. It was he and his Oneidas who saved Washington’s starving army at Valley Forge by bringing them several hundred bushels of corn.”
The treaty of Paris in 1783 formally ended the Revolutionary war and the tribal belt was assembled in 1784. The reason we have the tribal Oneida belt with the 6 diamonds is that signified the coming together of the 6 Iroquois Nations after the war because they had been split up during the war.
“Now, it is this wampum that the chiefs made as a record after the time when the war ended between Washington and the British. It was the Oneidas who fashioned this wampum to remind each other of their territories of the Six Nations. When we begin reciting this wampum, we always start to the right side. First, we have the territories of the Mohawk nation. In the middle, the diamond shape represents their fire. They are also known as the Keepers of the Eastern Door. All matters that come from the east from other tribes, they Of importance, then it is brought to the Six Nations Confederacy. The next square represents the territory of the Oneida Nation and it’s fire. Next the Onondaga Nation’s territory and it’s fire. They are also known as the central fire of the Six Nations. All matters pertaining to the Six Nations are brought here. Next is the Cayuga Nations Territory and it’s fire. The next one is the Seneca Nations territory and it’s fire. They are also know as the Keepers of the Western Door. All matters coming from the west are brought here, before they would go to the Six Nations Confederacy. Next we have the Tuscarora Nation and it’s territory in the middle represents their fire. This wampum is always in the care of the firekeeper of the Oneida Nation of chiefs. Every so often it would be taken out and it would be recited to remind everyone of it’s meaning. Now this is as much as I can convey at this time so these are all the words.” (Interview with Oneida Faithkeeper, 1996) (This text is copyright and courtesy of the Oneida Nation website.)
Bear, wolf, and turtle represent the three clans of the Oneida. The Oneida are one of the six nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy.