beadwork, Oneida

Revitalizing Native American Culture Through Oneida Beadwork Classes

Native Americans have a long history of traditionally using beadwork as part of their regalia. Regalia is a Native American term to describe the ceremonial clothes and accessories that Native Americans wear for ceremonies and for dancing at Pow Wows. In the beginning, Native Americans used natural materials like seeds and seashells to adorn their regalia. When trade began with the colonists, Native Americans incorporated mass produced seed beads of vibrant rainbow colors. The tradition of beadwork has grown over time and even evolved into Fine Arts where Native American Artists have taken beadwork to a whole new level. There is a movement for Native Americans returning to traditional art forms like beadwork to bring healing, restore Native American identity, and overcome negative social issues such as alcoholism, depression, and suicide.

Oneida Dancers (Photo: White Turtle Rainbow/Wenona Gardner)

The Oneida Tribe is traditionally known as the Onyota’a:ka Nation meaning People of the Standing Stone. The Oneida Nation is part of the famous Iroquois Confederacy whose democratic form of government is what the United States government is based on. The entire Oneida Nation originally was located on the eastern coast in New York and were neighbors to the Mohican Tribe. When the colonists washed along the shore, the Oneidas were the first tribes to greet them. However, the Oneidas reached a breaking point when the high influx of even more colonists arrived forcing many Oneidas off their traditional lands. There was a torn split among the Oneida Nation with one part of the tribe staying in New York and the other half of the Oneida traveling to west of Green Bay in Wisconsin. As it grew harder and harder to locate jobs on the Wisconsin Oneida reservation, the majority of the Oneidas there left their reservations and sought out major cities looking for employment. There are so many Native Americans in Milwaukee that it is the largest population of Native Americans east of the Mississippi River. Of the Milwaukee Native Americans a large percentage are Oneidas. So the South East OneidaTribal Office was formed to connect the large Milwaukee Oneida community to the Oneida Tribe on the reservation to better meet the needs of its Oneida citizens in the city.

Through Oneida Director Mark Powless the Oneida South East Tribal Services 5233 W. Morgan Avenue Milwaukee WI 53220 offers Oneida language, cultural, spiritual classes and classes like the Oneida beadwork. Through the entire month of March on Wednesdays at 5:30 PM-8PM for $35 covers all the supplies you need to make a beaded Native American Cuff in the Oneida style including beads, needles, threads, velvet, patterns, and expert beading instructors. One Elder named Judith Tromel who came to the beading class to share bonding time with her daughter said “I just started beading. I normally do all sorts of crafts like crocheting.” There is still time to learn Oneida Beadwork so come join Judith and the other beaders please stop by.