Native Spirit: Houses preserve history on the Oneida Reservation

ONEIDA, Wis. - NBC26 is launching its new monthly series, Native Spirit, with a trip back in time to the 1800s on the Oneida Reservation.

A small group of houses, built about 200 years ago, have been preserved to maintain history.

"These are the kind of houses that we built, with our bare hands when we lived here," said Ernie Stevens III, Councilman. 

They originally lined one of the most historic parts of the reservation before members moved them.

The Oneida Tribe called them home for years, many building them from nothing. 

"A lot of these houses had several people in them, you know, some of these families, were 15, number 15 of two parents and several kids, sometimes they would take in other community members and family members," explained Ernie Stevens III.

Each home tells a story. Some sheltered prominent members of the tribe while others filled with peoply simply trying to survive.

"They knew what wood to use, they knew what materials to use, how concentrated they need to be," Stevens III explained.

Family names are still posted outside, but inside is where you really see what life was like.

Tribe members did whatever it took to survive a harsh Wisconsin winter.

"They were very sustainable, and they understood how to live off the land, in a time when they had to go down to the creek to get their water, boil it, use it to cook, they did things that they just knew how to as human beings," said Stevens III.

Today, these houses sit empty and are used mostly for history classes. But if these walls and the pictures hanging from them could talk, they'd tell a story filled with pride that still continues on the reservation today. 

"It's just, I guess it's just in our blood, it's in our DNA and every generation, it's just passed down, you know through our family, and it will maintain forever," Stevens III said.

The houses on the reservation are open for tours.

Native Spirit is our new series that will air the first Thursday of each month. If you have a story idea, let us know on social media or by emailing news@nbc26.com

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