Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Our First Allies: the Oneidas

This week I've been working on the historical note that I like to add at the end of my novels, this time for A Flight of Arrows, the sequel to the book that will soon be releasing, The Wood's Edge.

Writing the historical note for The Wood's Edge, even more so now for A Flight of Arrows, has caused me some heart wrenching. You see, there was so much more history I wish I might have worked into these stories. Granted, there is more history in The Pathfinders series than in any books I've written prior... but not so much that it overwhelms the story of the characters I've attempted to tell. That's a delicate balance I didn't want to tip.

The history I'm talking about is that of the Oneida Nation of the Iroquois. As I wrote in the Author's Note at the end of The Wood's Edge (here's a sneak peek for you, no plot spoilers):
Some years ago, while deep in research for a novel called Burning Sky, I read numerous accounts of the Haudenosaunee (the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy) and their experiences during the Revolutionary War. Those six nations are, east to west as they dwelled across what is now New York State, the Mohawks, Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. My focus during that early research was on the Mohawks. But another nation, the Oneidas, kept snagging my attention as I read book after book and followed countless research trails online.

Of all those nations long united under their Great Law of Peace, the Oneidas went against the majority of the Haudenosaunee and sided with the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Though some individuals managed to remain neutral, the rest, by and large, sided with the British. This brought about a breaking of a confederacy that had existed for centuries, amounting to a tragic mirroring of what was happening among the European colonies -- a civil war. As I came to understand the tremendous pressure the Oneidas found themselves under during this time, the heavy price they paid for following their convictions, and the contributions they made to the founding of an American nation, I couldn't resist attempting to tell their story, at least in part.

At least in part. And that's the bit that's heart wrenching. There were so many Oneidas whose names and deeds have come down to us through the history books that I found compelling, that brought me to tears, and that I wished I might have added to these stories. But even a series of books can only support so many characters, so I was forced to pick and choose.

I'm very happy with the historical characters I was able to work into the telling of The Pathfinders tale, and with the history of the Oneidas I've been able to portray, spanning the era of the French & Indian war through the Revolutionary War. I've introduced warriors, sachems, missionaries, men and women who managed to straddle two cultural worlds, some who drew their heritage from both. I'll let you discover them in the pages of the books.

But when you are through, it's my hope that a curiosity will be kindled, a curiosity to know more about these Oneida men and women to whom we as a nation are indebted.

If I've managed that, there's no better place for you to continue your discovery than with a book called Forgotten Allies, The Oneida Indians and the American Revolution, by Joseph T. Glatthaar and James Kirby Martin.

A few years ago a movie was slated to be made based on this book. The movie's title is First Allies. The latest news I can find on this is that the movie is "on hold." It's yet to be green-lit. I very much hope it becomes a reality one day, as I would be first in line to see it.

If you should come across news of this movie going into production at last, I'd appreciate it if you'd share that with me here or on my Facebook Page.

You would make this author very happy. :)


  1. Lori,

    I connect with your writing on so many levels.

    Brandan "Raven" Murray passes through Oneida territory in Raven's Path, 1750, explaining the village to a young woman from Britain:

    “Aye. They are the people of the standing stone. The Oneida elders say their people were chased by a rival tribe but managed to disappear before harm was done. All they found were large stones where the Oneida should be. Their enemy believed they had turned into rock. It is said that a large stone appears wherever the Onyota'a:ka make their home. There is one at their village near here. I have seen it.”

    Your stories are so distinctively different from mine, yet they are comfortingly connected.

    1. 1750 on the New York frontier? Yes please! Sounds like a time and setting I'd have no trouble connecting to either. :)

  2. Travelling from Albany into the Ohio Valley, the area of huge contention in that time frame. Raven is Ouendat (Wendat). So few write about this time, or seem to care about it. You, and your readers, give me hope that my interest is not mine alone.