June 27: [Cornelius Hill], Priest and Chief among the Oneida, 1907

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Hill's grave at Holy Apostles, Oneida

About this commemoration

Born in 1834, Cornelius Hill was the first great Oneida chief to be born in Wisconsin, after the United States government had forced the Oneida peoples west from New York State.

As a young man, Hill spent several years at Nashotah House, where the Episcopal priests educated him and formed him in the faith, worship, and tradition of the Church. Hill was greatly respected among his people for his intelligence, courage, and ability to lead, and by his teenage years, he had already been made an Oneida chief, named Onan-gwat-go, or “Big Medicine.”

Hill’s great mentor was the Reverend Edward A. Goodnough, a missionary and teacher who had worked among the Oneidas from 1853-1890. Hill defended Goodnough when the latter resisted land allotment among the chief families as the solution to their poverty and conflicts. Like Goodnough, Hill was a staunch opponent of allotment, and he opposed Chief Daniel Bread, his elder chief who saw allotment as an inevitable reality. Upon Bread’s death Hill took on a great role in the tribal politics of his people. In 1874 he drafted a petition to the legislature of the State of New York calling on them to respect Oneida claims under state treaties, particularly fishing rights which had been revoked and which led to economic hardship for Oneidas remaining in the area.

When land allotment became a legal reality under the Dawes General Act of 1893, Hill turned to the Church, and in 1895 he was ordained an Episcopal deacon. In 1903 he became the first Oneida to be ordained a priest. At the ordination, he repeated his vows in the Oneida language.

Hill saw Christian faith as a way to help his people grapple with the profound and rapid changes which faced them, and the authority of his ordination enhanced his ability to be a bridge between Oneida and white culture. He is to this day revered by his people, and many shrines to him exist in the state of Wisconsin.

Collects

I  Everliving Lord of the universe, our loving God, who raised up thy priest Cornelius Hill, last hereditary chief of the Oneida nation, to shepherd and defend his people against attempts to scatter them in the wilderness: Help us, like him, to be dedicated to truth and honor, that we may come to that blessed state thou hast prepared for us; through Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

II  Everliving Lord of the universe, our loving God, you raised up your priest Cornelius Hill, last hereditary chief of the Oneida nation, to shepherd and defend his people against attempts to scatter them in the wilderness: Help us, like him, to be dedicated to truth and honor, that we may come to that blessed state you have prepared for us; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Psalm  90:1–2,14–17

Lessons

Amos 5:14–15

Romans 14:12–19

John 10:7–18

Preface of God the Father

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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7 Responses to June 27: [Cornelius Hill], Priest and Chief among the Oneida, 1907

  1. This commemoration is for Trial Use. All elements (Title, Collect, Lections, and Proper Preface) are new.

  2. Bio: 1st paragraph – first and only sentence. What follows after the second comma is awkwardly joined to the first clause. The way it reads now … he was born in Wisconsin seemingly because the USA forced the Oneida from New York. The sentence’s second clause should precede the first clause. The paragraph needs a rewrite.

    He needs a ‘Why he is important’ statement. And, he needs a ‘He died in 1907’ statement.

    This commemoration avoids use of the title ‘Native American’ entirely. It is all about the Oneida – and that is wonderful. Other HWHM commemorations of North America’s First Nation should follow that example.

  3. Cynthia Gilliatt says:

    I was confused by the discussion of land allotment, which needs ot be deined/explained. I was also confused about how many Oneida were forced out of New York – the first two paragraphs led me to think all Oneida had been relocated to the middle west,, but the land allotment plan was in New York. Next to last paragraph sounds like Hill turned to the church as a reaction to failure to make the case against allotment – oh well, that’s lost, so I’ll get ordained. I’m sure that’s not what happened, but that’s what this sounds like. This needs a serious rewrite.

  4. Leonel L. Mitchell says:

    He seems to be an appropriate Amerian to commemorate. He can add him to the list.

  5. Steve Lusk says:

    The Oneida refer to themselves as the “Oneida Indian Nation” (googling that will get you their website), which suggests that at least some Native Americans don’t object to being called Indians. As noted back on May 21 (John Eliot), the Natick of Massachusetts also seem to be perfectly happy to identify themselves as “Indians” (and “Praying Indians,” at that). The Natick (Wampanoag) were the first to encounter the Pilgrims, and the Oneida were our first allies against the British, so perhaps these particular Indians have just given up trying to civilize us.
    Using the English tribal name is fine in this instance. “Oneida” seems to be a European mangling of the people’s own name for themselves, “the people of the standing stone.” But not every Indian nation is happy with its commonly used English name, as those names sometimes mean something like “speakers of foreign tongues,” “the traders,” “little snakes,” or “the cannibals” in the languages of their neighbors or enemies.
    And you’ve got to make sure that the name you use is actually the name of the particular tribe, not of some overarching federation (like the Iroquois League to which the Oneida belonged) or language group. The write-up on John Eliot used “Algonquin” (the name of a Canadian tribe) when it meant “Algonquian” (the language into which Eliot translated the Bible). The Algonquian-speaking people for whose souls he labored were the Wampanoag, who are also identified as the Massachusett (from which the Commonwealth takes its name), the Pokanoket, or the Natick (the name their survivors seem to prefer).
    And speaking of “people of the standing stone,” could the Oneida really be one of the Lost Tribes of Israel? See Genesis 28, Exodus 24, and Joshua 4 and 24.

  6. John LaVoe says:

    This is a little picky, but “chief” is bothersome here.
    1. It starts off saying he “was the first great Oneida chief to be born in Wisconsin.” I doubt he was a chief at the time of his birth.

    2. It goes on to say, “by his teenage years, he had already been made an Oneida chief,” suggesting that he was not a chief at the time of his birth and needed electing to become one.

    3. I don’t understand why either one of them needed defending (or from from whom, or in what regard, or in what capacity Hill did the defending) but it uses the word “chief” in a totally novel and slightly disorienting sense (unnecessarily) when it says, “Hill defended Goodnough when the latter resisted land allotment among the chief families….”

    Now, for a second picky subject, namely, WHERE the Oneida Nation is (in this narrative):
    1. The first paragraph puts them in Wisconsin, “after the United States government had forced the Oneida peoples west from New York State.”

    2. Later, Hill “drafted a petition to the legislature of the State of New York calling on them to respect Oneida claims under state treaties, particularly fishing rights which had been revoked and which led to economic hardship for Oneidas remaining in the area.” This seems to imply there are Oneida people living in NY State. Besides implying that Oneidas were in New York State, I also have no sense of why Hill is involved in drafting a petition to NY legislators for matters to which he himself (assuming being born in Wisconsin puts him in Wisconsin) is not a party.

    Third matter: the collect includes the information that Hill was “last hereditary chief of the Oneida nation.” (Suggesting that perhaps he WAS a chief when he was born, BUT making me wonder why he had to be elected, even as a young man.) Beyond that, however, is the surprise at the mention of “LAST hereditary chief.” The narrative only mentioned his being “the FIRSTgreat Oneida chief to be born in Wisconsin.” First, last; hereditary, elected; forced out, still in — am I just getting pickier and pickier in my old age, or is there something less than a straight story line here?

    Fourth matter — the “religious” overlay sets somewhat vaguely over the confused biographical picture as presented. I really don’t have a sense of Hill’s picture as a Christian, a chief, an advocate for his community. I hope that will be sharpened up when the narrative as a whole is reworked — and along with the other comments left about various aspects of the write-up I do hope there will be a major reworking of this narrative.

    Not so serious, but when the collect prays, “that we may come to that blessed state you have prepared for us” — would that be Wisconsin or New York?

  7. Nigel Renton says:

    I have not been able to find the date and place of his birth, nor the date and place of his death.

    I suggest deleting the words “Priest and” in the subtitle, since his ordination is covered in the text of the bio.

    Line 2, third paragraph: I suggest deleting the “s” in “Oneidas”, to match the form used in the subtitle.

    Line 7, third paragraph: I suggest substituting “major” for “great”.

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