Great Lakes Native Culture & Language The Ways

Story Location Oneida, WI

Tribe Oneida Nation

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  1. Research Native American high schools in Wisconsin. Which Nations run their own high schools? Which are run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)? What sports are offered at these schools?

  2. If you had to learn your cultural heritage to be able to participate in extra-curriculars, what would that be like? What heritages or cultures would you learn? How would it affect your life?

  3. Research the popularity of basketball in many Native communities. Why is it so popular? What other sports are popular in Native communities?


  1. For Lady Thunderhawk updates, check the Kalihwisaks Facebook Page.

  2. Information on Oneida Language Revitalization programs.

Jessica House began her basketball career at the age of eight. Her mother and other parents of home-school students began a physical education class that quickly turned into a full-blown basketball program. Jessica was too young to play, but loved to practice with the team. When she witnessed her older cousin Maria score the 1000th point of her high school basketball career at Oneida Nation High School in 2004, Jessica vowed that she too would become a Lady Thunderhawk and score 1000 career points.

Jessica’s Oneida name is Yotsiklakewas, meaning She Parts the Clouds. She is Wolf Clan from the Oneida Nation. Raised in traditional Longhouse ways, Jessica was taught to be respectful and thankful. These basic core values are a foundation for her role as captain of the Lady Thunderhawks.

The Lady Thunderhawks varsity basketball team has become a pillar of hope for an entire community. As the first team to win a regional championship in the Oneida Nation High School's history, the team serves as a source of pride. Team members are role models for younger students. The team's reliance on traditional cultural practices as part of their training and identity illustrates the philosophy of the Oneida Nation Schools.

The Oneida Nation School System offers a curriculum that combines standard academic school programs with traditional Oneida culture. Classes on Oneida language, music, and traditional cultural practices are woven into the course of study, as are the Oneida concepts of reason, peace, righteousness and power. The schools' cultural mission is to empower students by giving them the opportunity to explore and develop pride in their unique cultural identity.

Today the Lady Thunderhawks demonstrate the youth leadership that had been missing in the Oneida community.  Longtime coach Jamie Betters taught the team that "Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard." New head coach Margaret Ellis continues to engage parents and encourage community involvement and service work. Lady Thunderhawks are held to a high standard in terms of respect, behavior, academics and gratitude. Future teams may not be measured in wins and losses, but in the character they build and the impact they make in the community.

Jessica also accomplished her goal. She scored her 1000th point on February 23, 2013 against Milwaukee Bradley Tech, ending the season with 1003 points. She and her cousin both achieved this feat in 3 years, a rare accomplishment in high school basketball. Jessica now studies early childhood education at Concordia University of Wisconsin, where she also continues to play basketball.

The Oneida people are originally from what is now the state of New York; they were part of the historic League of the Iroquois, now known as the Six Nations League of the Iroquois. In the 1800s, the Oneida were forced to sell much of their land on the east coast and move west. There are now three separate Oneida communities, in Wisconsin, New York, and Ontario, Canada. Between 1820 and 1880, many Oneida settled in Wisconsin on Menominee land they acquired through a complicated series of treaties between tribes and the U.S. government. But after the Dawes Act of 1887, which allowed non-Indians to purchase Native land from individuals, much of this land was lost. The Oneida reorganized their tribal government in 1936 and began to buy back the land. Today the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin is a federally recognized independent nation located within the boundaries of Brown and Outagamie Counties near Green Bay, Wisconsin.

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