September 08, 2008

Oneida singers are national treasure

Keeping Native languages alive: Oneida Hymn Singers perform

Group is recipient of 2008 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage FellowshipThe Oneida Hymn Singers of Wisconsin will perform during the National Heritage Fellowship Awards Concert at the Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, Md.) on Friday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. The group is a recipient of a 2008 National Endowment of the Arts National Folk Fellowship, the highest honor that the nation bestows upon its folk and traditional artists.

Each year, 10 to 13 "national living treasures" from across the nation are chosen to receive this one-time-only Fellowship in recognition of lifetime achievement, artistic excellence and contributions to the nation's heritage. The Oneida Hymn Singers' members are all citizens of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.

The singing of Christian hymns in the Oneida language has a long history, beginning as early as 1795 when it was noted by both the Episcopal Church of England and Society of Friends visitors to the Oneida people's original homeland in New York State. In the 1820s, Oneida people began migrating west, settling at their present-day home in the area of Green Bay, Wisconsin. New churches were established and as early as 1835 a hymnal in the Mohawk language--a language related to the Oneida language and easily understood by Oneida people--was published.

"Our history of singing goes back long before white contact in this country; throughout time we have adapted our songs to the times in which we live," says Gordon McLester, storyteller and a member of the group since 1987.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to inform your readers that this particular group of "Oneida Hymn Singers," is the group that applied for the fellowship; that means they're not neccesarily the best reps in that category of singing.

Rob said...

I don't think you can apply for NEA National Heritage Fellowships. Maybe you could ask someone to nominate you, but that's about it.

The rules for this fellowship:

The NEA National Heritage fellowship category is not open to application. Fellowships are awarded to living individuals on the basis of nominations from the public.