Tribal Tribute

The Native American heritage of the Oneida Indian Nation is alive and well at Skaná: The Spa at Turning Stone (Verona, NY). Opened in November, the 33,000-square-foot spa, located at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino, takes its inspiration from time-honored remedies of the Oneida people. The name Skaná actually comes from the Oneida word for peace.

Embracing the principles of balance, peace, and harmony, the spa serves as an example of the Oneida's warm and hospitable spirit. For starters, each guest is welcomed with shekóli , which means greetings. With a friendly and generous staff, the spa is an ideal weekend getaway for New Yorkers. Just a quick 45-minute flight or a picturesque four-hour drive from New York City, Turning Stone Resort & Casino, an enterprise of the Oneida Indian Nation, features a host of entertainment options. "Skaná offers all the healthy living amenities and services of a destination spa with the added appeal of three championship golf courses, a casino, a showroom, and a 5,000-seat entertainment complex featuring top performing artists," says Michael Tompkins, vice president of hotel and spa operations. "There is something for everybody at Turning Stone, including spa enthusiasts."

A sauna (Left) and steam room (Right) can be found in both the men's and women's locker rooms.
A sauna (Left) and steam room (Right) can be found in both the men's and women's locker rooms.

There, spa-goers will find the menu an intriguing mix of time-honored traditions. "The foundation for our treatments is the use of nature's healing herbs, leaves, and flowers complemented by the finest skincare products available today," says spa manager Karen Watson. Kerstin Florian and Naturopathica are two of the product lines used to supplement ingredients long relied upon by the Oneidas. "The uniqueness that I think Skaná brings to the spa industry is that it really goes back to the true Native American roots using the Oneida healing traditions," says Tompkins.

According to him, quite a bit of research went into the menu. "We talked to people at the cultural center and were given articles from some of the Oneidas that talked about the healing poultices they used for sore muscles, some of the herbs they used for coughs and colds, as well as some of the teas they used for healing, like witch-hazel tea," says Tompkins. "Actually, I would say a good six months of the work we put in was gathering data on the uses of herbs in the Native American traditions."

Comphy Co. provided the sheets and blankets used throughout the spa.
Comphy Co. provided the sheets and blankets used throughout the spa.

As a result, many of the spa's treatments incorporate the use of pine, cedar, lavender, dandelion, and witch hazel, all of which were traditionally used by the Oneida people. Lavender Dreams ($160, 80 minutes) has quickly become one of the spa's most popular treatments. It includes a full-body scrub, a lavender oil massage using warm stones, a lavender wrap, and a pressure-point scalp, neck, and foot massage. Sage, too, plays an important role in the spa. Another one of Skaná's popular treatments is the Sage and White Pine Hot Towel Massage ($115, 50 minutes; $160, 80 minutes), which helps relax the body and relieves muscle tension. According to Tompkins, sage is also often offered as a gift when entering a sweat lodge because it helps to open the nasal passages and facilitate breathing.

In April, the spa will open its authentic American Indian sweat lodge. Draped in buffalo hides, the red willow foundation of the lodge was built by the Oneida Indian Nation along with the Oglala and Lakota Sioux tribes of South Dakota. "We're going to take the heat level down a notch, but we're going to make it different than the sweat lodges that you find now at spas," says Tompkins. "We are doing our own interpretation, but it will be an American Indian version so there will be drumming, chanting, and storytelling beforehand." The Sweat Lodge Experience ($300, approximately 3 hours), used to cleanse the body and purge the spirit, will be led by a representative from one of the American Indian tribes.

The co-ed mineral pool is accessible from both the men's and women's locker rooms.
The co-ed mineral pool is accessible from both the men's and women's locker rooms.

The spa itself is a spacious facility with 12 treatment rooms, one couples' suite, and one private VIP suite with two soaking tubs, a two-person shower, two treatment tables, and a relaxation area with a private herb garden. The men's and women's locker rooms each feature a steam room and sauna and share a co-ed mineral whirlpool that is adjacent to both. Reflecting the Oneida's philosophy of harmony with nature, the spa features natural woods, stone, trickling water, and authentic American Indian artwork. Finding additional space during the construction process, the design team was able to add a previously unplanned spa café, which serves fresh and healthy fare for both breakfast and lunch. The spa also has a break room for the staff that guests never see.

With more than 50 full-time employees on staff, the spa is currently able to accommodate 275 guests in a typical day. According to Tompkins, there are plans to expand the staff to between 70 and 100 employees. In the meantime, he remains focused on letting people know the spa is open and ready for business. "My biggest challenge has been getting the word out that we're here in central New York," says Tompkins. "People also have had concerns that the property is adjacent to our casino property, but they don't understand that it is a resort within a resort and that it's completely separate and fits really well with the PGA golf courses." Whether it's an entertainment-filled weekend, a relaxing spa getaway, or a bit of both, Skaná: The Spa at Turning Stone invites guests to become one with nature.

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