February 19, 2008

Oneida journals tell all

“The Oneida Speak” on PBS this WeekendIn 1935, while the country was deep in the depression, a group of Oneidas in Wisconsin took advantage of a federal writing program designed to employ Americans and offer economic relief. Many, who wrote in their own language, recorded their daily life on the farm to a federal infiltrator sent to drive people off the land to a devastating small pox epidemic.

Their stories, which were discovered in storage at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1990s, are now being told in a documentary, The Oneida Speak, produced by Michelle Danforth (Oneida).

The hour-long film being distributed by the National Educational Television Association (NETA) starting Sunday, Feb. 17 explores the discovery of more than 800 steno books and ledgers handwritten in Oneida, the result of participation in the Works Progress Administration. The FDR program, which included jobs in the arts in addition to public works projects, allowed Oneidas to record their history in a time of great change not only in America but reservation life.

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