Diabetes Awareness Campaign: Trekking Along the Erie Canal.
North Tonawanda
Little Falls
St. Johnsville
The Oneida Perfectionists
Oneida Perfectionists.
The Summer of Love was in 1969 in San Francisco! Young baby boomer adults flocked to Haight-Ashbury with their tie-dyed T-shirts and flowers. They wanted free love and communal living. They were so avant-garde, so daring, so—new. Or so they thought.
The Oneida Perfectionists were more than 100 years ahead of them. About 300 men and women lived in a 93,000 square foot brick mansion which is located in what is now called Kenwood. Around the grounds were 14 acres of gardens, their Garden of Eden. They were “Bible Communists” who believed that Christ had returned and heaven was on Earth. They believed in the possibility of personal and social perfection.
Their utopian community was self sufficient developing various industries including canning of fruits and vegetables, production of silk thread, production and sale of animal traps. And their most successful enterprise was Oneida Silver Company which is still making first class silverware.
The culture of the community centered within the Big Hall, which was a large room with gallery, stage and rows of seats. It was in this room that the group heard lectures, listened to music concerts, and watched plays. It was also in the hall where the group gathered to make decisions and practice their habit of “mutual criticism.”
A more controversial practice was their “complex marriage,” which in truth meant that there was no monogamy. In fact pairing due to mutual attraction was prohibited. If that wasn’t controversial enough, their method of procreation was a form of eugenics which they termed stirpiculture. It involved choosing males based on a perceived strong lineage. In practice most men were not allowed to breed. John Humphrey Noyes, the founder and leader of the group, and his chosen few fathered most of the children.
The perfect harmony did not last. Noyes wanted one of his sons to assume the leadership while another man tried to wrest control. Some members wanted to follow their natural inclinations to enter into traditional exclusive relationships.
But the greatest conflict centered on at what age, and by whom, should the children become sexually active. Eventually charges of statutory rape were made against Noyes and he fled in 1879. Soon afterwards the group abandoned the complex marriage and many entered traditional marriages.
As the members drifted apart, they established a joint-stock corporation to run the various businesses. Throughout the 20th century, the company prospered. In the early decades the less profitable businesses were sold off and the production was limited to the silverware. The Oneida Company Limited ceased production in 2005.
The last original member of the community passed away in 1950 at the age of 100. Many descendants of the community still live in the area.

Oneida Indian Nation
Shako'wi Cultural Center.
Shako'wi Cultural Center
The modern Oneida Nation is a very successful American Indian tribe. There are branches in Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada, but the main group is centered in the town that bears their name.
The Oneida is one of the six nations of the historic Iroquois Confederation. Sometime over 500 years ago the charismatic Indian leader, Hiawatha, following the visions of the Peacemaker brought together leaders of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk peoples and established the Great Law of Peace. They established a method of deliberative lawmaking to mete out justice while recognizing the independence of the nations, protecting equal rights for all. In 1721 another nation, the Tuscarora, joined them. They called themselves Haudenosaunee. The French called them Iroquois.
When the Dutch, English and German settlers moved into upstate New York during the 17th century, the Iroquois kept the peace with their new neighbors. Unfortunately war was thrust upon by the French and their Indian allies, the Huron. Raiding parties struck the valley killing Europeans and Indians alike. The French offered bounties to Huron for each scalp they returned with. The Iroquois joined forces with the British to defeat the French.
A generation later war broke out between the colonists and the British Crown. Just as there were differences in loyalty among the Europeans settlers, so was there a division among the Iroquois. Unhappy with the way the British administration had treated them, the Oneida and the Tuscarora sided with the patriots. The other five nations stayed loyal to the British
There were great acts of bravery on both sides as well as some great acts of atrocity committed by both the red and white peoples. The civil war among the Iroquois caused a lot of bitterness which lasted for a number of decades. The Treaty of Canandaigua in 1794 recognized the Oneida’s sovereignty. And as recognition of their support of the new country, they were promised protection of them and their lands from encroachment of other tribes and the Europeans.
However, mistrust, fear, discrimination, and greed chipped the lands from the Indian peoples. For almost two centuries, the Oneida suffered in poverty. In the latter part of the 20th century, the Oneida prevailed in their struggle the regain their ancestral land. As they got more of their land back their economic conditions vastly improved. Today, the Oneida Indian Nation control fifteen different enterprises including a chain of gasoline station, cattle production, and gaming. The last industry began as a bingo parlor within a trailer to the very successful Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona. The OIN is considered the largest employer in the area providing jobs to over 5,000.
Despite all their travails, the Oneida are proud of their continual relationship with the United States. Their soldiers have fought honorably in all the wars and conflicts of the United States. In there own words: “Allies in war and peace, the Oneida Indian Nation continues to hold tight to its covenants with the United States.”
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