Hotel Online  Special Report



Oneida Indian Nation Woos Weekend Warriors
with America's Largest Indian-owned Spa
By Bernard Burt, , Special to Hotel Online
December 2006

Michael Tompkins was between a rock and a hard place.

While moving from Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires to a new position at their Tucson, AZ, health resort, he was invited to head up plans for a spa at the Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone Resort & Casino in central New York State. After turning down the job, Tompkins says the Indians won his heart and imagination.

Creating an authentic Native American experience in a contemporary spa was the challenge posed by Nation Representative/CEO Ray Halbritter.

Tompkins, former director of health and healing at Canyon Ranch’s northern outpost, envisioned a destination spa unlike anything in the Northeast.

Two years later, members of the Oneida and Mohawk Valley community joined spa industry leaders on Dec. 1 to celebrate the opening of Skaná , the Spa at Turning Stone. Blending Native American traditions with upscale treatments and services, the 33,000-square-foot facility blazes a new path amid historic health resorts of Central New York State. 

Tompkins’ quest took him to Ogala and Lakota Sioux tribes in South Dakota to experience his first sweat lodge. Sprigs of sage helped him endure extreme heat for several hours, he recalls. This spring, the Oneida unveil a sweat lodge made of red willow branches and draped with buffalo hides amid the resort’s golf greens, offering a cleansing, spiritual experience led by tribe members with drumming and chanting.

During his five years at the award-winning Canyon Ranch, Tompkins became known nationwide as an expert on wellness, fitness, and the spa industry. A registered nurse, he spent several years in the health care field before making the jump to the hospitality industry. He also is a licensed massage therapist.

New Visions, Ancient Traditions

Rising amid farms in central New York State, the Turning Stone Resort & Casino now features the largest Indian-owned and operated spa in America. Named “Peace” in the Oneida language, the 33,000-squre-foot Skaná Spa is a luxurious retreat within The Lodge at Turning Stone. 

With lifestyle programs to be introduced by a team of former Canyon Ranch staffers, Skaná  aims to become a destination spa, says Michael Tompkins, Turning Stone’s Vice President of Hotel and Spa Operations. “This is a modern sanctuary where soothing treatments combine with ancient American Indian healing traditions to create a unique spa experience.”

The Lodge adjoins Shenandoah Golf Club’s public greens and Kaluhyat, the Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed golf course, that are part of the 17,000-acre resort, gaming, and entertainment and golf complex developed by the Oneida Indian Nation. The clubhouse echoes some of the lines of The Lodge, provides access to the greens for spa guests whose balconies enjoy breathtaking views of Shenandoah’s first and tenth holes. Golf/Spa packages can include a round at the nearby PGA Championship course, Atunyote, as well as a domed Golf Training Center that features all-weather driving range and simulator. 
The Lodge at Turning Stone Casino Resort , Verona, New York 

Echoing the architectural style of the great camps of the Adirondack Mountains north of the resort, the Lodge blends contemporary elegance with world-class amenities. Set apart from the 20-story casino hotel, the Lodge is intimate, with just 94 suites on four floors. Careful attention was paid to  furnishings and recessed lighting that harmonize natural materials to convey a sense of  Oneida tradition. Museum-quality art enhances interiors, hand-crafted glass next to Native American crafts in wall niches, photography by American naturalists.
Blending elements of Native American healing traditions with sophisticated skin care and bodywork, the spa menu features Kerstin Florian and Naturopathica aromatherapy. Warmed by an indoor firepit, the salon offers men’s and women’s hair and nail care by Kerastase, natural nail treatments by Plantogen. Downstairs, bubbling pools of mineral water designed in traditional leaf shape bring nature indoors. Stone accents a birch-lined sauna, steam billows from stone as purifying oils soak into my body. Dreamcatchers glow in 12 treatment rooms; feathered creations that portray Oneida legends of the Northeast. My reverie ends with a gift stone inscribed “Peace. 


 Bernard Burt

Also See: Andrew Lee Named Vice President of Hospitality at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Upstate New York / February 2005


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