What tribe are you from?
I grew up and lived on the Oneida Nation rez in Wisconsin. I am part of the Turtle Clan (or Wolf, if you want to be pedantic)
Why do some people call your clan the Turtle Clan if it’s really the Wolf Clan?
Oneida is a Matriarchy and my ancestry is through my father which would put me in wolf clan. My Grandma is Turtle though, so i choose to go off of that.
Is your Oneida Nation related to the Oneida Nation in NY?
Same ones. We were moved forcefully from there
How many people are in your tribe?
There’s only about 15,000 people left in my tribe
Can you speak the Oneida language?
I know a handful of words. I know MAYBE 3 people that can hold a really shitty conversation. It’s pretty much forgotten
What kind of lodging/homes are on a reservation? Regular houses? Does the traditional teepee survive? Are teepees a Hollywood thing?
My great grandparents were part of the last generation to be taken from New York (Oneida Lake) They lived in longhouses/tepees. My grandma (who is still alive) was part of the first generation to be born on the rez. People live in regular homes though. There’s cool housing programs though the tribe that they expand every year.
What is the most common misconception that people have about you and/or your culture?
That (my tribe specifically) wear headdresses. Also rain dances are not a thing, they were never a thing and will never be a thing
How much of the old bush crafting/ living in the outdoor skills are still taught?
Not really. It’s more of people teaching beadwork/dancing/language.
What exactly is the significance of beadwork?
It is just as important as dancing as it connects us to our ancestors. There’s a lot of rules for when you bead though. You can’t bead when you’re tired, when it’s stormy, when its dark out, and a whole host of other things.
How much of native tradition is carried on in the reservation? Does anyone still believe in the spiritual ways of native Americans in the past?
To be honest, it is pretty much all lost or dead. We still observe certain traditions such as powwows. (I actually had a powwow just for me) The elders are dying faster than we can interview them and there isn’t much we can do. Just recently two of our oldest elders were stabbed and murdered in their own home and left to rot for almost a month. I would like to think the good outweighs the bad though
Any idea why the elders were murdered?
I actually knew the guy personally. He had a really rough life. (physical abuse by all his family) He was probably looking to rob them and things went south. I feel no remorse for this guy. Everything coming to his is what he deserves. He took two lives.
Rest in Peace Harry and Lorraine Brown Bear.
What is the biggest issue facing your tribes and/or natives in general?
Generational poverty. It’s sad how a lot of my people live.
How often does your reservation rely on tourism, if you had to take a guess?
We get 99.99 percent of our money from our . If you count that as tourism then quite a bit.
How big are your monthly membership checks from the ?
We have one large and members get 1000 dollars a year from it. Far from a monthly check. Elders get more money though and have other benefits such as free wood and housing
What’s the biggest obstacle to living on a reservation besides being low income/poor?
There is nothing here. It’s kinda sad actually
How bad is the drug/alcohol abuse on the reservation?
There is so much alcohol abuse it’s disgusting. There’s more heroin then meth from what I’ve seen. A lot of my family drinks and it will bring them to an early grave
What kind of changes do you think needs to take place for the betterment of people living on reservations?
The biggest change that i would like to see with Indians is to get off of welfare and actually have the US have good programs for a change. It’s so hard when people are this poor and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Leaving the rez is not looked down on the traditional sense. There’s more of a jealousy going on. Very few people can just leave.
What do you believe the government should do to improve the lives of people on your reservation?
They could keep honoring the treaties. I don’t think the government will ever help out besides that. It’s nice to dream though
Do you think reservations are good/useful? As an outsider, I’ve always thought they were pointless because there is more bad than good e.g. alcohol and drugs, poor education, poor job opportunities, poor healthcare, poor justice, etc.
If that happened the culture would die almost instantly. Reservations are the last thing that we have they may be broken but broken things can be mended. I would cry if the USA took my home away
Do you still harbor any deep rooted anger/frustration at the atrocities commited by the US Govt?
At this point the older i get the more i realize that nobody will ever give a shit about us. We will cease to exist and only become a footnote in a history book. I personally have moved on from the past, it’s just that nobody cares about their neighbors anymore
Have you found much prejudges or animosity between different native tribes? Or has the history of oppression unified the native peoples somewhat?
I’ll be blunt with this one. There are respectable tribes and there are not respectable ones. Theres a lot of shit some tribes do that make me angry
How do people in reservations view “Outsiders”?
The rez is open to the public as it stands right now. The tribe does not own 51% of the land and therefore cannot fully govern the territory. I don’t have any disdain for white people living here and i don’t really know anyone who does.
Do you feel like an American? I’m not suggesting that you should, but I just find the social status of American Indians odd in that way. You didn’t choose to have this government or culture put upon you, but do you accept it and feel a part of it?
If I lived on the rez forever I would never feel like a American Citizen.
Does it bother you at all to be called “Indian”?
Frankly, I have been an Indian longer than iv’e been a Native American and most people here like it that way.
What is your opinion of the team name of the Washnington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians?
Who gives a flying fuck! Let them have their team! Nobody really cares on my end haha
Do you guys actually care about Native Indian costume on Halloween?
I find them Hilarious
How do you and others you know feel about Thanksgiving?
I fucking love thanksgiving. Huge meal with all my family? Sign me up! I really don’t care about the implication at this point. White people are offended enough for me
How do you feel when you see hipster chicks get dream catchers tattooed?
Dreamcatchers are for children to ward nightmares away. They are kinda like a nightlight. The kids think they work but its all made up
Where do you live now and what are you doing for a living?
Right now I live in Appleton Wi. I’m currently on the path to becoming a Firefighter! I go back the the rez every weekend pretty much to visit my family.
How would you compare life on the reserve to the life you currently have in the city?
I can walk down the street without feeling like i’m going to get robbed. Also there is so much more things to do here. The rez is poor and boring to be honest. In Oneida you have to drive a good 40 minutes to get to any place of culture that is not a bar.
Do you have any idols?
My Father is my idol. He has worked hard all his life (and continues to do so) to give his children a future. He’s tough as nails and a big reason I’m going into a Firefighting career. He continues to volunteer at the Oneida Fire Department and hes a huge influence on my life.
What do you think is the perfect way to live life?
Free of stress and surrounded by loved ones