Doug Kiel—Katrin H. Lamon Resident Scholar

“The Oneida Resurgence: Modern Indian Renewal in the Heart of America”

Doug KielDoug Kiel2010–2011 Katrin H. Lamon Resident ScholarDoug Kiel2010–2011 Katrin H. Lamon Resident Scholar

“I’m writing a dissertation on the revitalization of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin from the 1920s until the 1970s. Oneida Nation’s transformation began long before the contemporary success of casino gaming but rather is rooted in early-twentieth century activism and a decades-long process of accommodation, resistance, renewal, and change,” said Kiel. He weaves together three approaches to American Indian history. First, he traces the eras of federal-Indian relations (including the Indian New Deal, Termination and Relocation, Red Power, and Self-Determination) through one tribe’s engagements with these political developments. Second, he uses extensive oral histories and first-person narratives to place the Oneida people at the center of the story and to show how federal policies shaped people’s daily lives. And third, Kiel analyzes Oneida Nation government records, offering a unique opportunity to see how a tribe governs itself internally. “The result of melding these three approaches is a social and political interplay between individuals, the tribal government, and the federal government.”

From the Prologue...

“The narrative of American Indian history—whether in popular film, literature, or historical scholarship—has been predominantly tragic. American Indians, represented as noble savages in these stories, are all doomed to extinction by the irreversible advance of modern industrial civilization. The vanishing Indian is so central to American national identity that for those unfamiliar with Indian Country, it is often difficult to imagine American Indians as being otherwise, or to connect the Indian people of the past to those of the present.... If the Oneidas’ resurgence tells us anything, it is that American Indians are both modern and highly adaptive and, in fact, have used their familiarity with American institutions not to abandon their own identity, but to pursue community empowerment. To be sure, American Indian history is full of moments of catastrophic decline, but to dwell exclusively on such stories is to ignore the equally important stories of social justice—remarkable stories that deserve their place in the record of modern American history.”

From the Conversation with Kiel, Nelson & Bessire...

“In the span of a single lifetime, Oneida, Wisconsin, shifted from a ‘former reservation’ doomed to extinction to an Indian nation undergoing a renaissance and staking its claim to survival.”—Doug Kiel“Doug Kiel is an Oneida historian, and his work has influenced me greatly in the way he has used biographical narrative to explore the different tensions in the history of Oneida peoples. Looking at their work politically, culturally, socially—it’s incredible how he’s able to unsettle some of these common stereotypes and notions about ‘traditional’ and ‘assimilated,’ and really deconstruct them so you learn about the history in a very fresh way. I think he’s doing extraordinary work to create a new type of Native American history, where you’re not only looking at Native history but geographical history, the whole concept of the ‘frontier’ and how it’s been used in mainstream history but, again, to problematize it with a deeper look at Native scholarship. So Doug’s work has been incredibly influential in that way.”
—Melissa K. Nelson speaking on Doug Kiel’s work

Find out more about Doug Kiel by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

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