The Oneidas were one of the few tribes to openly declare their support for Americans during the Revolution. The tribe was part of the Six Nations Confederacy. Most of those tribes sided with the British, but the Oneidas sided with the Patriots. In large part, their allegiance can be credited to the work of an American missionary, the Reverend Samuel Kirkland. He was good and kind to them, and they respected him. Kirkland’s efforts were important! Indeed, early in the war, Washington wrote to Congress, soliciting assistance for Kirkland’s missionary and peacekeeping efforts.
“[Reverend Kirkland] can need no particular Recommendation from me,” Washington wrote, “But as he now wishes to have the Affairs of his Mission & publick Employ put upon some suitable Footing, I cannot but intimate my Sense of the Importance of his Station, & the great Advantages which have & may result to the United Colonies from his Situation being made respectable. All Accounts agree that much of the favourable Disposition shewn by the Indians may be ascribed to his Labour & Influence.”
Congress was receptive to the idea and approved funds for Kirkland’s efforts to “promote the happiness of the Indians, and attach them to these colonies.”
The Oneidas were also doubtless influenced by other factors. For instance, an earlier boundary negotiation had not gone well for the Oneidas. Perhaps they were wondering if the British would respect their sovereignty. It’s not like the British had a great track record of respecting the American colonists, either!
The Oneidas heard that Washington’s army was having a tough time at Valley Forge. It was cold! They lacked sufficient clothing and food. Diseases wreaked havoc. Washington wrote of this time: “To see Men without Cloathes to cover their nakedness, without Blankets to lay on, without Shoes, by which their Marches might be traced by the Blood from their feet, and almost as often without Provisions as with; Marching through frost and Snow . . . is a mark of patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be parallel’d.”
The Oneidas decided to help. A group of tribe members, including a woman named Polly Cooper, set off toward Valley Forge. They brought as many as 600 baskets of corn with them. Once they arrived, Polly showed the Continentals how to cook the corn. The process of cooking white corn, making it edible for human consumption, was pretty different from the yellow corn that Americans normally ate. Polly endured the rest of the winter at Valley Forge with the American army, cooking for them and nursing sick soldiers.
According to oral legend, Polly would not accept payment for her services. However, the soldiers were so grateful that they gave her a black shawl. In some versions of the story, the soldiers themselves bought the shawl. In others, Martha Washington herself gave the shawl to Polly. The Oneidas still keep that shawl as a treasured artifact, to this day.
The Oneidas helped the American effort at other points during the war, too. Naturally, those are stories for another day. wink emoticon
Yes, obviously, the relationship between Americans and Indian tribes has had difficulties. But there were good moments, too. Shouldn’t we remember both the good and the bad, to get a balanced picture of our founding?
If you enjoyed this post, please don’t forget to “like” and SHARE. Our schools and media don’t always teach our own history! Let’s do it ourselves.
Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2016 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the Facebook “share” feature instead of cutting/pasting.
The Bible of the American Revolution
The Bible of the American Revolution
BY PHYLISS SCHLAFLY
Did you know that Congress once printed Bibles? At the time of the American Revolution, the British government had strict laws about printing Bibles. Only a few printers were licensed to do so, and none of them was in the American colonies, so all Bibles had to be imported from England. The Revolutionary War naturally interrupted trade with England, and there was a severe shortage of Bibles in America.
In 1777, U.S. clergy petitioned the Continental Congress to have Bibles printed in America. In response, Congress passed a resolution to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, and other countries, but in the chaos of the war, they never arrived. So three years later, another resolution to print Bibles in America was introduced in Congress, and printer Robert Aitken petitioned Congress for permission to print them. Congress granted him permission and financial support to print Bibles. His Bibles included an endorsement and recommendation from Congress on the first page.
More American versions of the Bible were printed soon after. In the United States, printers had the freedom to print the Scriptures freely without government approval. That was a radically different situation from what they had been used to under British rule, and it was a great victory for religious freedom.
We now live in a country where prayer and Bible readings in public schools have been outlawed by the Supreme Court for over fifty years. We’re told it’s a violation of the Constitution to display the Ten Commandments in a county courthouse or to have a nativity scene at city hall. But interestingly, the Continental Congress did not consider for a moment whether their appropriation for printing the Bible was an affront to religious freedom. They knew it wasn’t. When we look at changes in America, we should be concerned about our loss of religious liberty.
The Moral Liberal recommends: Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America)
Leave a comment
Filed under Commentary
Tagged as Alfred Lord Tennyson, American colonies, American Revolution, Bible, Congress, Continental Congress, Jefferson, religious, revolutionary, spiritual, the American Revolution, the Continental Congress, war, Washington