Native American Heritage Month: Rev. Cornelius Hill
Rev. Cornelius Hill (1834-1907) is one of the most prominent figures in the Oneida Nation’s history. He is known not only for the titles he held (Chief and Reverend), but for the work he did in his community. Cornelius became Chief of the Bear Clan when he was only 13 years old but did not join the council until he was 18. Chief Hill was the last bloodline Chief of the Oneida.
In the early 1800s, the Oneida were moved to this part of the country from New York. After the Civil War, talks of movement began again with the U.S. government wanting the Oneida to move farther west past the Mississippi River. Cornelius, as a leader and council member, spoke out against this in 1864. “Progress is our motto, you who labor to deprive us of the small spot of God’s footstool will labor in vain. We will not sign your treaty; no amount of money can tempt us to sell our people…” – Rev. Cornelius Hill
In 1895, he became the first Oneida Deacon in the Episcopal Church. He also studied to become ordained and finally met that goal in 1903 at the age of 69. Cornelius is most often remembered as a strong-willed and reserved leader who was not afraid to fight for what he felt was best for the Oneida people.
Keen Bloomfield, Julia. The Oneidas, 1909.
Herbert S. Lewis, ed. Oneida Lives: Long-Lost Voices of the Wisconsin Oneidas, 2005.
Loew, Patty. Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal, 2001.