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First Allies noted at Eagle

Did you know the Oneida Nation played a significant role in the American Revolution?

Behind the 18th green at the Oneida Nation's Atunyote (uh-DUNE-yote -- the Oneida word for "eagle") golf course, a replica Revolutionary War era nine-pounder cannon is manned by a gun crew in the military clothing of that time.

While it is unusual to find a cannon trained down the fairway of a course that is hosting a PGA tour event, it might seem more unusual that several of the gun crew are Native American.

The cannon and its crew (historians/teachers affiliated with the Oneida Indian Nation First Allies Program) are symbolic of the relationship between the Oneida and the American colonists 230 years ago. The Oneidas were, as the name of their program reflects, Americans first allies in the struggle for freedom, a sovereign nation coming to the aid of colonists struggling to establish their own sovereignty.

The cannoneers are part of a "living history" department committed to making the public aware of this sometimes little known piece of history. It does this through work at such historically important National Park Service sites as Rome's Fort Stanwix, the battlefield at Saratoga and the continental army's winter encampment at Valley Forge.

These are all sites where the Oneida's efforts helped turn the tide of the Revolution.

Like similar living history educators, the First Allies instructors are passionate about history and the importance of bringing it alive for students. In an era when far too much emphasis is placed on testing and standards based curriculum, First Allies devotes itself to the excitement and energy of connecting past and present.

First Allies' director Dan Umstead, has been with the Oneida Nation for 15 years, the past six with First Allies. Trained as a preservation librarian, Umstead said that he originally preserved history and now he teaches it.

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