Diabetes Awareness Campaign: Trekking Along the Erie Canal.
North Tonawanda
Little Falls
St. Johnsville
Saturday, October 20
Oneida community.
Oneida community
I had never heard of the commune called the Oneida Perfectionists. As usual, Jerie had done her background research. When I heard that they were a 19th century utopia group that believed in free love I was interested. When I was in college it was the beginning of the sexual revolution. I tried to enlist but was rejected.
Seriously, it was interesting to learn about this group. The Mansion House, listed on the national register of historic buildings, was taken over by a nonprofit organization and is open to the public. It is a museum, an apartment complex, a B&B guest house, and a special functions facility.
There are thirty-seven apartments and eight guest rooms. Some of the tenants are descendents of the original members while others are from the general public. The guest rooms go for $100 a night.
While we were there the restaurant was closed in preparation for a wedding. But we were able to take a peak at the menu. What I saw interested me because they had a tapas menu. Tapas are the small dishes of appetizers that are popular in Spain. Since they don’t eat their evening meal until 9:30 or 10:00 pm, the Spanish eat tapas in the early evening. Many restaurants in the U.S. offer tapas, but few have true Spanish recipes. These were Spanish recipes. But they were not Spanish prices!
Oneida India Center.
Oneida Indian Center
A few miles from the Oneida Community Center is another community center. But this is one still very active. The Shako:wi Cultural Center was established by the Oneida Indian Nation to educate the general public about their history, traditions, and entrepreneurial success.
We had just fueled our car at one of their SavOn gas stations. Earlier we had seen billboards for the Turning Stone Casino and passed many prosperous looking farms.
The center is a white pine building housing a small museum, a gift shop with Oneida made crafts, and informational displays about the Oneida. They gave us a brief overview of the Oneida social structure. It is a matrilineal society which means that one’s mother determines to which nation and clan one belongs. The Oneida have three clans, Bear, Turtle, and Wolf. A clan is family, and therefore marriage within the clan is forbidden.
One display I found particularly interesting was the tradition dress of the various Iroquois nations and their differences in head dress. I knew that the stereotypical war bonnet of Hollywood was that of the plains Indians, but I didn’t just how varied was the head gear of what used to be called the Eastern Woodland Indians.
We met the greeter Judy, a very pleasant lady who patiently answered all of our questions. Her father was a former nation leader. In fact the name of the center was his given Oneida name. She also talked about the members who live in Wisconsin and others who live in Ontario.
Jerie asked Judy about the relationship of the Tuscarora. Do the Oneida consider them a part of the Iroquois Confederation? Some do, some don’t. They are relatively new to the area, having come from the south in the early 18th century. But there are language and custom connections.
Judy & Jerie.
Judy & Jerie
Judy tells me that many Indians have diabetes due to poor nutrition. She said diabetes is a poor people’s disease. Funny, I always thought it was a middle class disease. Too much food—not enough physical activity. Rich people can afford better food. And, they can join the best of clubs. And they have enough time to exercise.
Rich or poor, the disease is deadly. It doesn’t take money to walk, just a good pair of shoes. It’s a matter of adjusting one’s lifestyle. That means a diet that is well balanced and low in starch and other carbs. A friend once pointed out to me that the food pyramid doesn’t make sense. What do they feed cattle to fatten them up? Grain! Despite what the government says, a high carbohydrate diet of grains, potatoes, rice, and other starches is poison to most people. It makes them fat. The only people who should be eating carbohydrates are competitive athletes and physical laborers. My friend is paranoid and thinks it is an agri-business plot. I think we are prisoners of our cultural history. My motto is: “If one doesn’t work like a farmer, one shouldn’t eat like one!”
I am a carnivore and proud of it. Our cave man ancestors, the Cro-Magnon were tall, robust, with excellent bones and teeth. The remains of the ancient Egyptians and other grain eating cultures were shorter with dental cavities and, often, rickets.
Judy told me a similar story. She said that many records of the early European settlers remarked on the fact that the natives tended to be larger than they were. And she mentioned that Indians of Middle and South America with their corn based diet were smaller than their North American brethren who ate buffalo, deer, and fish. And, the younger generations of her people are taller due to a greater intake of protein.
As we left the center, we passed a large complex of barns and pastures. I’m not 100% sure, but I think it was one of the Oneida enterprises. It was a cattle breeding ground. Its sign read “Heifer Hotel.”
The honeymoon suite.
The honeymoon suite
Now, I may be from Massachusetts, but I spent several summers on my uncle’s farm in South Dakota. I have never seen a heifer hotel before. It gives a whole new meaning to contented cow.
All this talk of food made us hungry so we drove north to Lake Oneida for a shore side meal. Being from a harbor community, I have a hard time thinking of fresh seafood 400 miles inland. Jerie thinks I’m just a snob. Perhaps she’s right.
On the lake.
On the lake
She enjoyed her fish. I had chicken.
After dinner we drove to Verona which is just about three miles northwest of Rome. It is the location of Lock 21 of the Barge Canal. Since Lake Oneida is well below the Long Level, there are two locks to lower vessels down to the lake.
Jerie left me off at Stacy Basin where Ma and Pa picked me up the night before. She left me off so I could get in a few miles walking. She drove off to scout out the area and the three mile stretch to the Erie Canal Village.
We would meet at the lock in about an hour. Later when I rounded the bend to the approach to the lock, I saw her in the car, her head buried in reference books. She was ready to prep me with info for tomorrow’s trip to Rome.
Lock to Lake Oneida.
Lock to Lake Oneida
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