The Wisconsin Oneida and the Episcopal Church

A Chain Linking Two Traditions

Reddit icon
e-mail icon
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Google icon
LinkedIn icon
L. Gordon McLester, III, Laurence M. Hauptman, Judy Cornelius-Hawk, Kenneth Hoyan House
  • Bloomington, IN: 
    Indiana University Press
    , May
     248 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


This unique collaboration by academic historians, Oneida elders, and Episcopal clergy tells the fascinating story of how the oldest Protestant mission and house of worship in the upper Midwest took root in the Oneida community. Personal bonds that developed between the Episcopal clergy and the Wisconsin Oneidas proved more important than theology in allowing the community to accept the Christian message brought by outsiders. Episcopal bishops and missionaries in Wisconsin were at times defenders of the Oneidas against outside whites attempting to get at their lands and resources. At other times, these clergy initiated projects that the Oneidas saw as beneficial—a school, a hospital, or a lace-making program for Oneida women that provided a source of income and national recognition for their artistry. The clergy incorporated the Episcopal faith into an Iroquoian cultural and religious framework—the Condolence Council ritual—that had a longstanding history among the Six Nations. In turn, the Oneidas modified the very form of the Episcopal faith by using their own language in the Gloria in Excelsis and the Te Deum as well as by employing Oneida in their singing of Christian hymns.

Christianity continues to have real meaning for many American Indians. The Wisconsin Oneidas and the Episcopal Church testifies to the power and legacy of that relationship.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

L. Gordon McLester III is former Secretary of the Oneida Nation of Indians of Wisconsin and Director of the Oneida Indian Historical Society.

Laurence M. Hauptman is SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History.

Judy Cornelius-Hawk is former Treasurer, Tribal Librarian, and member of the Land Claims Committee of the Oneida Nation of Indians of Wisconsin

Kenneth Hoyan House is Chaplain of the Wisconsin Oneida Veterans of Foreign Wars.


Reading Religion welcomes comments from AAR members, and you may leave a comment below by logging in with your AAR Member ID and password. Please read our policy on commenting.