Museum of the American Revolution: America's first ally, the Oneida Nation, gets its due

Most of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy sided with the British during the Revolutionary War. But the Oneida decided to throw in their lot with the colonists. (Some Tuscaroras joined them.)

Perhaps because of the efforts of patriot missionary the Rev. Samuel Kirkland, who worked with them in New York state most of his adult life, the Oneida abandoned their neutrality and fought alongside the colonials, becoming the nation's first ally. They played a key role in the bloody 1777 Battle of Oriskany, suffering many casualties.

That battle also marks the beginning of internecine Iroquois warfare -- members of other nations fought with the British -- and the site is known in oral histories of the Iroquois nations as "A Place of Great Sadness."

During the war, many Oneida formed friendships with George Washington, the Marquis de La Fayette, and other prominent leaders of the rebellion. 

The museum features a tableau with leaders and members of the Oneida Nation -- Skenandoah, Wá:li,  Grasshopper, Han Yerry, Two Kettles, and Powless -- standing in a field and debating the merits of taking the colonials' side in the coming war. They recognized the risks were very high, and discussed their decision with great seriousness. 

The Oneida are strong supporters of the museum, reflected in their $10 million gift to aid construction. The museum, in turn, has named the entire second-floor atrium the Oneida Indian Nation Atrium.