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Oneida Bahais

Eli Whitney “Lowenlindahut” (Shot at) Powless - Oneida Nation - declared as a Baha’i

1953-54

The following is part of a story published in the 4Directions.org newsletter summer 2000 - titled “Dad’s Story”

“Dad said the Eli Powless could really dance. He would whoop it up at the powwows. Eli could talk to thousands of people. even though he only had a second grade education. Eli liked history and told Dad (Ken Harris) about the Oneida history. Dad said the Oneidas came from the Sky and that it meant that they originated in outer space, just like Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon. Even Uncle Pete said the the Oneidas came from a huge air ship from outer space.

Eli’s Naming Story

“Eli was born in 1907. In the 1830’s the First Nations People were more traditional. The reservation was near Fort Howard in Wisconsin. In 1832, the Christian Oneidas,moved from New York to Kansas. This was when the Traditional vs Christian Oneidas came about.

Each group looked down on each other. Each culture became different just over a few generations. The language became different and difficult to understand. The traditional ONeida would speak the old way. Christian Oneidas had to know both languages, which were Oneida and English. This is what the church brought to the Oneidas, a division amongst the people.

Eli Whitney Powless was a descendent of Silas Powless. Eli remembered Grandpa Duke Doxtator (an elder who was traditional) told him that in 1812, the Christians got a referendum vote on Oneida reservation allotment. This later led to the 1887 Dawes Act, in which the Indians were to become assimilated.

Grandpa Duke said that the old Oneidas did not want it. Accroding to Grandpa Duke, the ONeidas should be a sovereign and independent nation, and they did not have to sign it. The government tried to woo the Oneidas with alcohol. At that time, alcohol was prohibited on the reservation. Whether or not the Oneidas wanted it, the US Government still voted the resolution referendum anyway and took away their land.

Eli told my dad, that many of the Oneidas went to Carlisle, (in Pennsylvania), Haskell (in Kansas) and to Pipestone, (in the Dakotas). Eli told my dad (Ken Powless) that when he was around five years old the Oneidas still lived in a Longhouse, like they did more than five generations ago. Eli said this was when the US Military Troops came out to the longhouses with their guns. The people around the Great Lakes really questioned this!

The Traditional Oneida People, the old timers, like Grandpa Duke, asked what was going on. The Military said that the oNeidas had not paid their taxes and that they had to move out. Grandpa Duke said the the Oneidas relied on the treaties, and that they did no vote or sign any papers on this. He told them that what they were doing was illegal. Grandpa Duke said, “As long as the sun rises and sets, as long as grass grows, we are First Nations Peoples and we don’t have to move. This is our land, and we are happy the way we are.”

The US soldiers said that they (the Oneidas) had to get our or they would shoot them. Eli told Grandpa Duke that he was tight and that they had a right to the land. Grandpa Duke shut the door on the soldiers and the bullets came flying all over the place. Elli got hit with one of the spray of bullets. Eli said that he didn’t feel it, but it was bleeding a lot. Dad said that was why Eli had a scar on hid head.

Grandpa Duke yelled out, “Kill us all, but we won’t come out voluntarily.” More bullets came flying into the house. There were around twenty people in the Longhouse (including the kids). That’s when the Oneida people began to smell smoke. The soldiers thought if they could not get the Oneidas out with gun fire, then they would set fire to the house and burn it down. The Oneidas still refused to come out; they thought that at least they wold die the way they wanted.

The smoke became thicker, and then the US troops began to take their axes to the house, chopping and hacking it away. Grandpa Duke got hit with an ax by one of the soldiers.

The Oneidas had been burned out of the Longhouse and all they had left was the clothes on their backs. The Oneidas felt lucky to be alive! Later the people moved into other traditional peoples’ Longhouses. When Eli’s naming ceremony came, they name him, “Lowenlinda hut” (I am not sure how to spell it, but this is how it sounds phonetically) which means “shot at”.

My dad, Ken Powlas, said that ELi was an activist from the word go. They could be peaceful, just drumming and singing, even praying, but Eli said that many non-Indians were afraid of a large group of Native Peoples. I think that this is because the First Nations Peoples have had to endure a lot, just to survive!

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