Throughout the colonial period, Oneida speakers promoted themselves as representatives not only for their own people but for all members of the Iroquois Six Nations Confederacy. With the arrival of Europeans, this self-appointed diplomatic role became increasingly complex. Because Oneida villages lay at the juncture of trade routes and water highways, Oneida leaders regularlydealt with traders and missionaries as well as refugee Indian peoples. When European imperial rivalries flared into war in the second half of the 18th century, Oneida diplomats faced the dual challenges of preserving the Confederacy and securing trade and territory agreements with the colonial power that appeared to offer Native Americans the best deal. Oneida diplomacy failed on both fronts. While the Six Nations splintered, the British openly violated treaties. Consequently, when Britain's colonies rebelled, Oneida leaders generally advocated joining the revolutionaries. When the fighting ended, however, those among the Oneida who had supported the patriots fared no better than other Native Americans.
The government of the newly created United States conveniently forgot the Oneida contribution to the War for Independence. In "Rebellious Younger Brother", Norton focuses on the men who provided leadership for the Oneida during the turbulent decades between 1750 and 1800. In addition to charting the Oneida's changing position within the Six Nations, he documents the ways in which authority to conduct diplomatic affairs passed between sachems and warriors and ultimately spread to a broad range of individuals. Readers interested in early American history and Native American Studies will appreciate this study. This study follows the diplomatic endeavors of Oneida leaders during turbulent years in early America.