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About this commemoration
Born in 1834, Cornelius Hill was the ﬁrst great Oneida chief to be born in Wisconsin, after the United States government had forced the Oneida peoples west from New York State.
As a young man, Hill spent several years at Nashotah House, where the Episcopal priests educated him and formed him in the faith, worship, and tradition of the Church. Hill was greatly respected among his people for his intelligence, courage, and ability to lead, and by his teenage years, he had already been made an Oneida chief, named Onan-gwat-go, or “Big Medicine.”
Hill’s great mentor was the Reverend Edward A. Goodnough, a missionary and teacher who had worked among the Oneidas from 1853-1890. Hill defended Goodnough when the latter resisted land allotment among the chief families as the solution to their poverty and conﬂicts. Like Goodnough, Hill was a staunch opponent of allotment, and he opposed Chief Daniel Bread, his elder chief who saw allotment as an inevitable reality. Upon Bread’s death Hill took on a great role in the tribal politics of his people. In 1874 he drafted a petition to the legislature of the State of New York calling on them to respect Oneida claims under state treaties, particularly ﬁshing rights which had been revoked and which led to economic hardship for Oneidas remaining in the area.
When land allotment became a legal reality under the Dawes General Act of 1893, Hill turned to the Church, and in 1895 he was ordained an Episcopal deacon. In 1903 he became the ﬁrst Oneida to be ordained a priest. At the ordination, he repeated his vows in the Oneida language.
Hill saw Christian faith as a way to help his people grapple with the profound and rapid changes which faced them, and the authority of his ordination enhanced his ability to be a bridge between Oneida and white culture. He is to this day revered by his people, and many shrines to him exist in the state of Wisconsin.
I Everliving Lord of the universe, our loving God, who raised up thy priest Cornelius Hill, last hereditary chief of the Oneida nation, to shepherd and defend his people against attempts to scatter them in the wilderness: Help us, like him, to be dedicated to truth and honor, that we may come to that blessed state thou hast prepared for us; through Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
II Everliving Lord of the universe, our loving God, you raised up your priest Cornelius Hill, last hereditary chief of the Oneida nation, to shepherd and defend his people against attempts to scatter them in the wilderness: Help us, like him, to be dedicated to truth and honor, that we may come to that blessed state you have prepared for us; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Preface of God the Father
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.