Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 27, 2001 - Issue 28



She's Got the Book on Oneidas


by Michelle Breidenbach Syracuse Online

Just inside the boundaries of the ancient Oneida Indian territory is a treasure-trove of books on Indian art, history and law.

The shelves of the semiprivate Oneida Indian library are stacked with at least 200 American Indian art books, many of which are catalogs from exhibits on jewelry, photography, pottery and painting. Some are out of print.

A rolling cart carries newly printed books on Iroquois culture, Indian sovereignty, the Treaty of Canandaigua, even a book that attempts to expose the leadership of the Pequot Indian Nation as fraudulent.

A display table presents fiction by Indian authors, including Sherman Alexie's new collection of stories, "The Toughest Indian in the World." Revolving kiosks and rows of shelves offer current paperback fiction by non-Indian authors such as Amy Tan and nonfiction best sellers such as "Who Moved My Cheese," a new management book. A computer links visitors to the World Wide Web.

Behind the loan counter sits Maija Jones, head librarian and trash remover for the one-person Oneida Indian Nation library.

Jones, 36, of Nedrow, was recently honored by the New York Library Association with the Multicultural Award of the Ethnic Services Round Table. The award, which comes with a $250 check, is given each year to one member of the association who serves an ethnic community.

Last year, the association recognized Jones with the Dewey Fellowship, a scholarship to attend a library conference.

Jones used this year's prize money to buy books for the library: a thick encyclopedia of American Indian folklore, an archaeology book and a book on Indian sovereignty.

Jones, a member of the Oneidas' Turtle Clan, is a 1982 graduate of LaFayette High School. She studied education as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts.

In Boston, she worked at a tutoring center, teaching word processing to Native American adults. In her spare time, she studied library science through a Syracuse University distance-learning program.

Her master's degree studies at SU brought her home in 1998. She is one of the first Oneida Indian Nation members to receive a master's degree.

Jones said she feels comfortable working in the Native American community.

"I feel very at home working in Native communities, but I don't feel like I have to," she said.

Jones also works part time at the Fayetteville Public Library, where her colleagues offer support and tips to the young woman on staff.

"There, I'm young, people help me learn," she said. "Here, I have to know about everything."

At the Oneida Indian library, Jones orders new books, stacks them and lends them. She answers the phone, helps visiting genealogists find their relatives and, at the end of the day, takes out the trash and flips off the lights.

Also during the week, Jones runs a book group for elders and carts books to children's groups at the Children and Elders Center.

The library, open since 1996, has about 700 card-carrying members. It is open to the nation's 2,800 employees and 1,000 Oneidas.

Oneida Indian Nation members and employees can visit the library from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Others can visit by appointment by calling 361-6461. The library is inside the old bingo hall, a blue building at Territory Route and Route 46.

Oneida Nation


Ohwejagehka Ha`degaenage:
is a nonprofit organization based on Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario Canada that was established to help preserve and nurture the Iroquoian languages and songs.




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