For American Indians, as in many communities, joining the military is a sacrifice to protect the freedom of family, friends and others living in the United States. Natives have served in the military at higher proportions per capita than any other ethnic group, and have been fighting as American allies since the Revolutionary War. A pivotal point in that war was the Battle at Oriskany, fought in the Oneida Indian Nation’s backyard in Central New York.
The Oneidas played an integral role in that battle as well in the war itself, and their history has been intertwined with the development of Central New York ever since. For years, the Oneidas have worked closely with organizations in the area to help share their story with the tourists and the general public. On the military side, they’ve worked closely with Fort Stanwix in Rome, New York, as well as other military posts.
The Nation’s latest endeavor merges the Oneida military tradition and area history to form a new business: Oneida Heritage, a retail and rental outlet located in Sherrill, New York. The store, which opened last week, focuses on American wars and rents and sells military uniforms, war paraphernalia and other equipment.
Among the items at the store are military guns, uniforms, costumes, cannons and a Jeep from World War II, all arranged amid large dioramas spotlighting the history of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, Civil War and WWII.
According to a press release, the new retail experience represents “an effort to bring the past to life and preserve the culture and history of the Oneida Indian Nation and the entire region,” and brings important artifacts to the public eye.
Oneida Heritage also offers Oneida handcrafted jewelry, baskets, artwork and lacrosse sticks, and handmade American Indian pottery for sale. The store will include a variety of books and DVDs for any level of history buff.
During Oneida Heritage’s grand opening, a uniform belonging to the late Oneida member Theodore (Ted) Phillips, Turtle Clan, was donated for display. Phillips was a staff sergeant in the Army serving in WWII and the Korean Conflict. He was a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, and helped rescue concentration camp victims by ushering them to medical facilities as a member of the medical ambulance crew.
Stories like that of Phillips have grown in popularity through re-enactment efforts, historical celebrations, movies, television and documentaries on wars. These are the areas Oneida Heritage hopes to impact while sharing a Native perspective on history.
Oneida Heritage also plans to create a program for veterans and will be working closely with groups dedicated to the forts and battlefield sites. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located at 245 W. Seneca Turnpike, Sherrill. For more information, call (315) 363-1735 or visit www.OneidaHeritage.com.