Oneida Indian Nation gives $10 million for Revolutionary War museum in Philly

The American Revolution Center museum, which will be part of Independence Mall in Philadelphia, is now $10 million closer to reality.

The windfall is coming from Native Americans.

The Oneida Indian Nation is based on sovereign territory in upstate New York. As such, it is largely not taxed. The tribe runs a large and successful casino, along with a chain of gas stations.

Historically, the Oneida sided with the American Colonies in the fight to gain independence from the British.

“The Oneida Nation actually call themselves America’s first ally, and it’s absolutely true,” said American Revolution Center CEO Michael Quinn. “They broke away from the other members of the Iroquois Confederacy to join the American cause.

“They were the first sovereign nation to do so. This was before France signed its treaty of alliance with the patriot cause,” he said.

Quinn says the future museum will have exhibits featuring lesser-known chapters of the Revolutionary War, including the contributions of Native Americans, women, and African-American slaves who made sacrifices — some with little or no reward — for America’s independence.

“We lost a third of our population during the Revolutionary War,” said Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter. “We knew George Washington very well, we brought corn to him in the winter from our meager stores to help feed the Colonial Army at Valley Forge. We are committed and honored to have served with distinction in the conflict.”

Philadelphia philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest has pledged $40 million to the museum on the condition that it be matched. This $10 million gift from the Oneida Nation is the first significant donation toward that match.

The museum is planned for a three-story building at Third and Chestnut streets that will be constructed in a modified Colonial style. The building is at least three years away from completion, and details are still being worked out.

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