ONEIDA NATION - Onayotekaono
People of the Standing Stone
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Rita Chrisjohn Benson, Oneida

Rita Chrisjohn Benson is a craftswoman who
describes herself as a jack-of-all-trades. She does traditional elmbark work, making elmbark trays, rattles and quivers. She works with cornhusk, making masks, dolls, and salt bottles. She does featherwork, such as gustowehs, earrings, hair ties, and shields. She works with leather, making moccasins and dreamcatchers. She also makes dance sticks. Rita's work can be found in a number of Museums including the New York State Museum, The Smithsonian Institution, and the Iroquois Indian Museum where Rita is a member of the Board.

Rita has given lectures and taught students of all ages at schools and museums such as The Museum of Natural History in New York City, The New York State Museum, The Peabody Museum at Yale University, and The Boston Children’s Museum.

Rita has her Master's degree in Anthropology.

The Oneida (Onyota'a:ka or Onayotekaono), meaning the People of the Upright Stone, or the People of the Standing Stone, are one of the five founding nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy.  The Oneida inhabited the areas around what  later became known as Oneida Lake and Oneida County in Central New York.

The Haudenosaunee decided to remain neutral during the American Revolutionary War.  However, the Oneidas lived in close proximity to rebel colonial communities and so most Oneidas favored the colonists. Eventually, the Oneidas officially joined the colonists and contributed to their war effort.

In 1794 the Oneida, along with other Haudenosaunee nations, signed the Treaty of Canandaigua with the United States. The Oneida were granted 6 million acres of lands, primarily in New York State.  This land grant was one of the first Indian reservations in the United States.  Subsequent treaties and actions drastically reduced the Oneida Reservation to 32 acres. In the 1830s, many Oneida relocated to Canada and Wisconsin.


Oneida Gustoweh (two feathers pointing up and one feather pointing dawn) There can be variations in the height of the feathers depending on the maker. In this particular Gustoweh, the feather hanging from the brim is decorative. 

There are 4 Oneida communities in the United States and Canada shown in blue on the map below:

Ø Oneida, Ontario: southwest of London, Ontario

Ø Oneida, NY: near Oneida, NY in Madison Co.
on Rt. 46

Ø Oneida, Wisconsin: near Green Bay

Ø sIX NATIONS: west of Buffalo, NY near Brantford, Ontario