The Oneida people had a different name for themselves before Columbus arrived. They called themselves the On yote a-ka. (Listen to the audio story for pronunciation.) It’s one small part of their heritage, but still an important part of who they are. Most people reach a certain age when they want to know more about themselves and where they come from. For the Oneida people (and other Native Americans) around Milwaukee – they have an organization that can provide some answers.
Mark Powless is the director of Southeastern Oneida Tribal Services or SEOTS, a social service organization working with the Oneida and other Native American people in the area. They’re trying to maintain connections between other Oneida people in the area – a difficult task considering their relatively small numbers here.
Through language and craft classes, field trips and culture camps SEOTS is helping to maintain connections to culture and history that may have otherwise been lost. I went with Mark and one of his youth groups to visit an new art studio run by Oneida artist Kristelle Ulrich. Mark is showing the kids a positive role model they can identify with and look up to.
Check out links to SEOTS and Kristelle’s studio space below: