Sioux Opposition to Railroads in Montana in 1872

The westward expansion of the United States during the nineteenth century was guided by a quasi-religious philosophy of Manifest Destiny: America had been ordained by God to spread its territory across the continent. Americans generally felt that Indians, who supposedly owned the land, were, as an inferior race, destined to be pushed out of the way of progress and become extinct.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, it was clearly evident railroads would have to play a key role in carrying out Manifest Destiny. It was the railroads which would transport raw materials (minerals, timber, cattle, grain) from the west to the east and manufactured goods from the east to the west. It was envisioned that at least three rail lines—one across the northern portion of the Great Plains, one across the central portion, and one across the southern portion—would be required.

It was not unfettered capitalism that drove the railroads across the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean, but capitalism nurtured and supported by the federal government. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation which granted “funds to aid the construction of a railroad and telegraph line from Lake Superior to Puget Sound.” Jay Cooke and Company, a Philadelphia banking house, became the financial agents for the railroad in 1869. They broke ground for the new railroad near present-day Carlton, Minnesota in 1870 and soon began grading and track-laying. In 1871, they started construction in the west at Kalama, Washington.

With regard to Indians through whose territories the northern rail line would run, in 1872 William Welsh, the former chairman of the Board of Indian Commissioners, supported the creation of the Northern Pacific Railroad as it would  “bring the lawless Indians of the North into subjection, and thus aid effectively the religious bodies charged with bringing Christian civilization.”

In 1872, surveyors were sent out from Fort Rice and from Fort Ellis under military escort to survey the placement of the railroad through the Yellowstone country. This was a direct affront to the Sioux and their allies

In Montana, about 2,000 Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho gathered at the big bend of the Powder River for a traditional Sun Dance. Following the Sun Dance they launched a major raid against the Crow. More than 1,000 warriors began their invasion of Crow territory when they discovered an American railroad survey party. The survey party of 20 men was protected by about 500 soldiers under the command of Major Baker. The Americans were camped at Arrow Creek (now called Pryor Creek) near present-day Billings.

A group of young warriors attacked the sleeping American camp, scattering the army livestock. The following day, a larger force under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse took a position on the bluffs above the American’s well-fortified site. Some of the warriors fired down at the soldiers and engineers. Sitting Bull walked down from the promontory and sat down within firing distance of the soldiers. There he opened his pipe bag, loaded the pipe with tobacco, and smoked it with the four warriors who had accompanied him. With bullets kicking up dust around them, Sitting Bull calmly and serenely smoked the pipe and passed it to the others. Historian Robert Larson, in his biography Gall: Lakota War Chief, writes:  “After each man had taken his puff, Sitting Bull, wearing only two simple feathers and carrying his bow, quiver of arrows, and gun, carefully cleaned out the bowl of the pipe. He then got up and slowly led his anxious comrades back to the main Indian lines.”

The Battle of Arrow Creek (also called the Baker Battle) was more of a skirmish than a battle and there were few casualties.  The leader of the surveyors, however, insisted on returning to Fort Ellis and refused to work in the Yellowstone area. This caused the survey efforts to move north to the Musselshell River.

In Montana, a small party of 20 to 30 Sioux warriors under the leadership of Gall encountered a railroad survey party from Fort Buford near the confluence of the Powder and Yellowstone Rivers. Gall’s warriors surprised the sleeping American camp before dawn, but failed to stampede their livestock. The Americans managed to retreat to the west bank of the Powder River.

Gall walked down to the riverbed opposite from the Americans. He placed his rifle on the ground and asked to speak to the leader of the trespassers. Colonel Stanley laid down his pistol and walked to the opposite bank. He asked Gall to meet him on a sandbar in the middle of the river, but Gall refused. Stanley then broke off the talks and there was an immediate exchange of gunfire.

At this point, Sitting Bull arrived with a large war party. However, the Americans were equipped with Gatling guns and easily drove the Sioux warriors back.

In spite of Indian opposition to the intrusion of the railroad, work continued. By 1873, the track from the east had reached Bismarck, North Dakota. However, Jay Cooke and Company went bankrupt with a 1,500 mile gap between the two ends of the track. In 1875, the Northern Pacific Railroad was organized under the leadership of Frederick Billings and by 1878 construction had begun again.

In 1881, the Northern Pacific reached the Yellowstone River at Miles City, Montana. This allowed for the direct shipment of buffalo hides to the east and increased commercial buffalo hunting. In 1883, the last spike of the Northern Pacific Railroad was driven at Independence (now Gold) Creek in Montana, marking the completion of the first of the northern transcontinental railroads.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

While Mexico declared its independence from Spain on September 16, 1810, it did not actually obtain its independence until September 27, 1821. In the Plan de Iguala, Mexico did away with all legal distinctions regarding Indians and reaffirmed that Indians were citizens of Mexico on an equal basis with non-Indians. In other words, Mexico, unlike the United States, gave Indians full citizenship and recognized that Indians had rights to their land.

In the newly established country of Mexico, Spanish policies were blamed for Indian poverty and many felt that by erasing racial, caste, and class distinctions that Spain’s legacy of paternalism could be rectified. According to Daniel Tyler, in an article in the New Mexico Historical Review:  “Even the word ‘Indian’ was supposed to be abolished on public and private documents.”  The Catholic Church, however, opposed equality and advocated a return to the colonial mission system. In reality, each state determined for itself how to incorporate Indians into the new nation.

In 1848, the United States ended its war with Mexico with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In this treaty, Mexico gave the United States what is now the Southwest. One newspaper reported: “we take nothing by conquest…Thank God.”

In the treaty, the United States agreed to recognize Indian land holdings, and to allow Indian people to continue their customs and languages. The Mexican negotiators won from the United States multiple promises that Indian land rights would continue as they had been under Mexican law. Van Hastings Garner, in an article in The Indian Historian, writes:  “A major concern of the Mexicans was that if the United States were allowed to follow her normal pattern of dispossessing Indians, northern Mexico would be inundated by a flood of refugees.”  Garner also writes:  “In essence, the United States had agreed by international treaty to continue the Mexican system of white-Indian relations throughout the Southwest, a system that was incompatible with the expansion of the United States, for it protected the property rights of the indigenous inhabitants.”

Navajo historian Jennifer Denetdale, in an article in the New Mexico Historical Review, writes:  “Ironically, the American rationale for claiming these lands was to bring peace and stability to the region, but the United State only escalated the cycles of violence among Navajos, other Native peoples, and New Mexicans.”

As with many of its treaties, the United States tended to ignore any provisions which might be inconvenient. American Indian policy at this time was focused on removing Indians from their lands and confining them to reservations on lands considered to be unsuitable for agricultural and mineral development.

 With the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States acquired what would become New Mexico and Arizona. Included in this territory were the Pueblo Indians who were agricultural peoples who lived in permanent villages. The Pueblos did not fit the established American stereotypes about Indians. In Santa Ana: The People, the Pueblo, and the History of Tamaya Laura Bayer writes:  “They had preserved their own ancient governments, traditions, and religions after three hundred years of contact with European civilization, and they clearly indicated their intention to continue to do so.”

The Pueblos were clearly sovereign entities who had developed the land. American Indian policies did not seem to fit the Pueblo situations. Under Mexican law, Pueblo Indians had been citizens, but under American law their lost their citizenship rights. Some people argued that the Pueblos should be given citizenship, while others felt that they should be considered to be corporate entities under territorial law. It was not clear legally if they should be considered to be “Indians” or not.

In 1850, James S. Calhoun, the first Indian agent in New Mexico, negotiated a treaty between the United States and the Pueblos of Santa Clara, Tesuque, Nambe, Santo Domingo, Jemez, San Felipe, Cochiti, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, and Zia. The treaty states that the boundaries of each Pueblo  “shall never be diminished, but may be enlarged whenever the Government of the United States shall deem it advisable.”  In addition, the treaty states that the Pueblos shall be governed by their own laws and customs. On the surface, the treaty seem to be in accord with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but the treaty was never ratified by the United States Senate.

Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States also acquired California, an area which had been densely populated prior to the arrival of the Spanish. Under the Spanish mission system Indian population had declined.

In 1850, Congress authorized the President to appoint negotiators to make treaties with the California Indians. Van Hastings Garner reports:  “These treaties were to set up reservations for Indians into which they could retreat from the encroachment of white settlers.  The price for this security, however, was the surrender of all claims to land not included in the reservations.”  In other words, the Indians were to give up all of the rights which had been reserved to them in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with Mexico.

In 1851, the United States formally negotiated 18 treaties with Indian nations which secured legal title to public land and which guaranteed reserved lands for Indians. The treaties were signed by about 400 Indian chiefs and leaders representing 150 tribes (about half the tribes in California). The Indian commissioners explained to the non-Indian residents of the state that the government had two options: to exterminate the Indians or to “domesticate” them. They argued that “domesticating” them was more practical.

None of the commissioners who arranged the California treaties knew anything about California Indians. According to anthropologist Robert Heizer, in the Handbook of North American Indians:  “Their procedure was to travel about until they could collect enough natives, meet with them, and effect the treaty explanation and signing. One wonders how clearly many Indians understood what the whole matter was about.”

Non-Indians in California fiercely opposed the ratification of the treaties. While these treaties were signed by both Indian and U.S. government leaders, they were not debated in Congress, thus did not appear in the Congressional Record, and stayed hidden for more than 50 years. The ratification of the treaties was opposed by the California legislature and Annette Jaimes, in a chapter in Critical Issues in Native North America, reports  “it is rumored that state representatives even succeeded in having the treaties hidden in the archives of the Government Room in Washington, D.C.”

In spite of the assurances given to Mexico by the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ensuing legislation deprived California Indians of the rights to their land. The impact on the Indians was immense: many lost their homes, and were persecuted and hunted by non-Indians. During the next 50 years, California Indian population decreased by 80%. In the Handbook of North American Indians, anthropologist Omer Stewart writes:  “The failure to ratify the treaties left the federal government without explicit legal obligation toward the Indians of California.”

In 1851, a number of California Indians were living on land grants issued to them by Spain and Mexico. As non-Indian greed turned to dispossessing these Indians of their lands, Congress passed a law to establish a commission to determine the validity of these land grants. While on the surface it looked like the commission should confirm Indian land rights under these grants, it actually served to do the opposite. Van Hastings Garner explains it this way:  “The law stipulated that no matter how secure the title to the land was, if the grant holder failed to appear before the commission, the grant would revert to public domain. This provision took away the rights of most Indian grant holders, few of whom were told of the commission’s existence, let alone that they had to appear before it.”  In addition, the Indians had to travel to San Francisco to appear before the commission. Only six Indian claims were confirmed.

The American Indian experiences in New Mexico and California with American government promises made to Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo suggest that treaty promises are not held in high regard by the United States.

Kootenai Political Organization

The Kootenai (also spelled Kutenai), whose homeland was in the area west of the Rocky Mountains in what is today western Montana, northern Idaho, and southeastern British Columbia, are generally divided into two groups: Upper Kootenai and Lower Kootenai, referring to their position on the drainage of the Kootenay River. The Upper Kootenai lived near the western face of the Rocky Mountains. The Kootenai had several politically independent bands. There was no political unity which tied all of the Kootenai bands together. Kootenai unity was linguistic, cultural, and emotional rather than political.

Among the Upper Kootenai, the War Chief represented the people in “foreign” affairs. For this reason, the Americans considered the War Chief to be the Head Chief. According to ethnographer H.H. Turney-High in his Ethnography of the Kutenai:  “he had nothing to do with the real administration of the band. He did carry with him the love and respect of his people, and he was without doubt the most prestigeful personality in camp, but in everyday life everyone appreciated that the head chief’s contribution was slight.”

This chief was not formally chosen and there was no special regalia associated with the position. The War Chief was simply the warrior who had the strongest military medicine and all members of the band recognized this.

The Guide Chief among the Upper Kootenai was the person who knew most of the trails, the topography, and the geography of the band’s range.  This chief was not selected on the basis of war honors, but rather on intelligence and experience. The Guide Chief selected the camp sites and laid them out. Since the Guide Chief knew the resources of the area well, it was his responsibility to direct subsistence activities.

The Lower Kootenai elected their chiefs. Chiefs needed to be strong in mind, body, skill, and spiritual power. Each band generally elected five chiefs: Band Chief, War Chief, Fish Chief, Deer Chief, and Duck Chief. The Band Chief had the greatest prestige. The War Chief, who was considered to be subordinate to the Band Chief, was a distinguished warrior. One of the responsibilities of the Fish Chief was to supervise the construction of the fishing weirs. The Deer Chief was responsible for leading the communal deer hunts.

The primary functions of the Lower Kootenai Band Chief were spiritual. Among other things, the Band Chief served as the Sun Dance Chief. To be elected as Band Chief, a person would first have a dream or vision in which the spirits would tell him that he was to become chief. The individual would inform council of this vision and would then have to be elected to the position by the council.

The Federal Government and Indians Affairs in 1965

By 1965, the administration of federal Indian relationships and Indian reservations had been firmly entrenched in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which is a part of the Department of the Interior. The BIA had traditionally administered Indian affairs for the benefit of large corporations and non-Indian interests. Many Indians felt that the BIA was oppressive. However, a new program associated with the War on Poverty emerged in 1965 and this program was different in that it was not administered by the BIA, but by Indian people within their communities.

Bureau of Indian Affairs:

In Nevada, the Chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute criticized the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and was told by the superintendent of the Nevada Indian Agency to recant or resign. The Chairman resigned. The tribe then lobbied in Washington, D.C. to have the superintendent replaced. In response, the BIA promoted the superintendent for his outstanding work with the Nevada tribes and he was given administrative control over the tribes in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

The Pit River Indians fired their attorney of record and hired Melvin Belli to represent them. When Belli brought suit to force severance of the Pit River Indian claim from the general California Indian settlement, he was forced from the bar by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) which claimed that he could not represent the Indians because the BIA had not approved him as counsel for the Pit River Indians. Belli appealed all the way to the Supreme Court which simply reaffirmed that the BIA has an inherent trust responsibility for the Indians.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs realized that the Indian Peaks Paiute and the Cedar Paiute (both located in southern Utah) were really two different bands.

In Arizona, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) seized the files of the counsel for the Navajo Tribe and the executive secretary of the tribe’s Department of Administration. A special BIA task force, without warrants, simply loaded the contents of the offices – including locked desks, file cabinets, and safes – into a truck. The counsel was not Indian, but simply an attorney for the tribe and the seizure included his personal papers. According to legal scholars Vine Deloria and David Wilkins, in their book Tribes, Treaties, and Constitutional Tribulations:  “the perceived lack of constitutional rights was applied to him because of his contract with the tribe.”

In Washington, the Colville Business Council voted in favor of termination. Many tribal members favored termination as they saw this as a way of preventing the Bureau of Indian Affairs and outside business interests from continuing to exploit reservation assets. The Secretary of the Interior testified to Congress that termination was unlikely to relieve the conditions of poverty (52% unemployment on the reservation) and that it would likely result in a situation similar to that of the Menominee. (The Menominee had been terminated and the result was massive poverty.)

War on Poverty:

 The Economic Opportunity Act authorized funds for programs adapted to Indian needs. Flathead writer D’Arcy McNickle, in his book Native American Tribalism: Indian Survivals and Renewals, reports that the administration of this law has  “no paternalistic tradition to inhibit its procedures, and it invited tribal officials to prepare and submit plans for local projects.”  This transfer of responsibility to the local community was new to Indian communities which were accustomed to having decisions made outside of the community.

In the Four Corners region of the Southwest, the Navajo established the Office of Navajo Economic Opportunity (ONEO). Peter MacDonald became the ONEO director. According to MacDonald’s biographer, Peter Iverson in American Indian Leaders: Studies in Diversity:  “ONEO programs expanded into many fields and had an impact on almost literally everyone living in the Navajo Nation.”

In Oklahoma, the Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity (OIO) was formed as a part of the federal government’s War on Poverty program. Under the initial leadership of LaDonna Harris (Comanche), representatives from 19 Oklahoma tribes met. Daniel Cobb, in an article in Western Historical Quarterly, writes:  “Unlike other Community Action agencies, OIO not only amplified Indian voices, but projected them into the realm of state and national politics.”

Ancient America: Stone Quarries

Like human beings everywhere, Indians used stone as their primary material for toolmaking for thousands of years. At the time of the European arrival on this continent, Indians, unlike Europeans, were still using a wide variety of stone tools.

Stone tools are neither crude nor inefficient. A blade knapped from obsidian, for example, is sharper than a surgical scalpel and some surgeons use obsidian blades in doing surgery. However, stone blades tend to dull quickly. On the other hand, the sharpness of the blade can be quickly renewed.

One important thing to understand about stone tools is that not all stone can be used in tool-making. In flintknapping, Indian people needed stones that would break in a predictable fashion and would provide a sharp edge. Albert Goodyear, in his monograph A Hypothesis for the Use of Cryptochrystalline Raw Materials Among Paleo-Indian Groups of North America, reports:  “It is a general geological fact in most places of North America and probably throughout the world that lithic raw materials of even minimal suitability for flaking do not occur evenly over the earth’s surface. In fact, some environments such as coastal plains and alluvial valleys have no lithic raw materials whatsoever.”

Writing in 1897, archaeologist Thomas Wilson, in his book Arrowpoints, Spearheads, and Knives of Prehistoric Times, puts it this way:  “As all arrowpoints, spearpoints, and knives, except a few of siate, were chipped or flaked into shape and used in that condition, the prehistoric man would naturally seek a material which had the requisites for such working.”

Such material includes obsidian, flint, jasper, quartz, and quartzite. Thus, for thousands of years Native Americans operated quarries to obtain the stone needed for toolmaking. In her article “Tools from the Earth,” in American Indian Places: A Historical Guidebook, Catherine Cameron writes:  “Their quarries were most often simply gravel terraces or rocky streambeds, where they could easily collect pebbles or cobbles, test them for quality, and then fashion them into tools. But they also constructed complex mines with holes, pits, shafts, and tunnels; the debris included tons of broken rock and large stone hammers and hammerstones for rough shaping.”

Some of the larger quarry areas are described below.

Yellowstone National Park was the source for obsidian which was widely traded. Obsidian from Yellowstone can be found in sites such as Cahokia in Illinois.

Flint Ridge, located in Licking County, Ohio, has a flint bed some 10 to 20 feet beneath the surface. Indian miners would dig pits to get at the flint. Thomas Wilson reports:  “This is probably the most extensive and best known of all prehistoric flint quarries in the United States.”

Michael Durham, in his book Guide to Ancient Native American Sites, writes:  “The translucent flint of various colors is of a quality unmatched in the east. In prehistoric times it was a valuable trade item and samples have been found as far away as Louisiana, the Atlantic Coast, and Kansas City.”

Big Obsidian Flow in the present-day Newberry Volcanic National Monument in Oregon was an important source of obsidian, a volcanic glass from which very sharp tools could be made. Large chunks of obsidian could be easily broken off from this ancient volcanic flow. Trade routes carried the obsidian from this site into the Northwest Coast and into California.

In central-eastern Wyoming there were numerous small quarries. One of the larger ones was located about 50 miles east of present-day Badger and was worked to a depth of about 20 feet. Indians working at this quarry did some tunneling.

Glass Mountain in northern California supplied obsidian to many different tribes. In Ancient Tribes of the Klamath Country Carrol Howe reports:  “Evidence indicates that the arrow makers and traders sat around the base of the cliff to chip large flakes or spalls from the glassy stone. These they shaped into large, crude blades called ‘blanks.’”  The blanks were easier to transport and could be then fashioned into the stylized points of the different tribes.

The Coso volcanic field in eastern California was a major site for stone, particularly obsidian, for tool making. In Prehistoric Use of the Coso Volcanic Field Amy Gilreath and William Hildebrandt report:  “The sheer quantity of chipping debris and discarded items found at the major obsidian quarries in eastern California has led many to conclude that production far exceeded the needs of resident populations.”

Tools made from Coso obsidian are found throughout the southern half of California, from Monterey Bay in the north, to the Colorado River in the east, to the Pacific Ocean in the west.

In Florida, Indian people quarried blue flint from the Trouble Creek area which they used in making arrow points and spear points.

Wyandotte Cave served as a flint mine and  tool-making workshop in Indiana.

Alibates Flint is found in layers on a ridge above the Canadian River north of present-day Amarillo, Texas. This flint holds a sharp edge and was widely traded on the Great Plains. Today the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument includes more than 730 large quarry pits. Mining began here more than 10,000 years ago. In Ancient Ruins of the Southwest: An Archaeological Guide, David Noble writes:  “Besides its fine flaking qualities and hardness, Alibates flint had another characteristic that made it a popular tool-making material: its rainbow colors.” Alibates flint was used by both Clovis and Folsom hunters.

Trade networks distributed both stones and stone artifacts over long distances. Writing about the Northwest Coast in Stone, Bone, Antler and Shell: Artifacts of the Northwest Coast , Hilary Stewart reports:  “Craftsmen might go far afield to obtain a particular type of stone or trade with another village or nation for the raw material or even the finished implement.”

Stone quarries and the trading networks for distributing the stones remained important features of American Indian cultures and economic systems until the fur and hide trade made metal goods from Europe more plentiful.

 

Blackfoot Political Organization

When the European nations began their invasion of the Americas, they assumed that there was only one natural way for a people to be governed: a monarchy. Since most American Indian nations didn’t have monarchies, the Europeans simply invented the idea that a “chief” ruled over a “tribe” in a manner similar to that of a European monarch. While the United States rejected the concept of monarchy for its own government, it continued to insist that Indian “tribes” were somehow ruled by “chiefs” who acted like monarchs. As a result, there are many people today, including American Indian people, who are not aware that “tribes” and “chiefs” are not aboriginal concepts.

On the Northern Plains, along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in what is now the U.S. state of Montana and the Canadian province of Alberta, the Blackfoot Nation (sometimes called the Blackfoot Confederacy) was composed of three or four large groups who shared the same language, and many of the same ceremonies, but maintained their political independence. These groups included the Siksika (also called Northern Blackfoot), Kainah (also called Blood), and the Pikuni (also called Piegan or Peigan). The Pikuni are currently divided into South Piegan (located in Montana on the Blackfeet Reservation) and North Peigan (located in Alberta). Each of these four groups—Siksika, Kainah, North Peigan, and South Piegan—was composed of many small groups commonly called bands.

Like other Northern Plains Indian nations, the Blackfoot had an economy that was organized around bison hunting. Blackfoot political organization was, therefore, formed around communal buffalo hunting. The band was the primary hunting unit and each band was politically autonomous.

Prior to the horse, bands among the buffalo-hunting tribes tended to be small – perhaps 20-30 related families with a total population of 100-200 people. According to anthropologist John Ewers in his book The Blackfeet: Raiders on the Northwestern Plains:  “These bands were large enough to enable their members to encircle a small herd of buffalo on the prairies and large enough to offer a stiff defense against human enemies; yet they were small enough to permit survival during periods of game scarcity and limited rations.”

Each band had its own chief, usually a man. The position of chief was not hereditary, but a son could succeed his father if he distinguished himself with leadership qualities, including bravery and generosity. Chiefs were not autocratic, that is, they could not tell people what to do, but led through the power of persuasion.

Among the Blackfoot, the band chief was responsible for preserving peace in the group. This meant that the band chief would arbitrate conflicts and disputes which arose in daily life. One of the important aspects of social control in the band was ridicule: in cases of mild misconduct, ridicule was very effective in shaming the offender into changing behavior.

During the summer many of the bands would gather together for a joint encampment which might last as long as two weeks. During this time there would usually be a Sun Dance and the chiefs might gather in council. At this time, the most influential band chief would be recognized as the head chief of the tribe. However, the only time when this rank had any significance was during the summer encampment. At this time, the role of tribal chief was really as chairman of the council of chiefs rather than as a ruler.

One of the important characteristic of Blackfoot leadership was generosity which was often expressed in the give-away– an activity condemned by Christian missionaries and the United States government. The give-aways were – and still are — formal events at which one is expected to give away property to other people. Chiefs were expected to give away most of their property.

Since the primary power of a Blackfoot chief lay in the ability to persuade people, one of the important chiefly qualities was oratory. Chiefs had a reputation of speaking well and telling only the truth. Historian John C. Jackson, in his book The Piikani Blackfeet: A Culture Under Siege, describes the leadership qualities esteemed by the Blackfoot:  “Standing tall, speaking straight, exuding dignity and unshakable self-confidence were the attributes that won respect.”

In addition to generosity, Blackfoot leaders were expected to be experienced warriors with a reputation for bravery in battle. War honors were recorded as counting coup—doing things like taking a weapon from a live enemy, capturing a horse from within an enemy camp, and so on. Killing was not necessarily a form of counting coup. Anthropologist Hugh Dempsey, in one of his articles in the Handbook of North American Indians, writes:  “Generally, a band leader had an outstanding record of success in warfare and was regarded as generous to the poor in his distribution of war booty or inherited wealth.”  Howard Harrod, in his book Mission Among the Blackfeet, puts it this way:  “Without an impressive war record, as well as a history of philanthropy, no man could hope to become a band chief.”

Many bands had both a civil chief and a war chief. The civil chief was generally known for eloquence while the war chief was known for leading successful war parties.

Indian Events in 1715

Three hundred years ago, in 1715, the European colonies in North America were well-established and conflicts with the Indian nations were escalating. Competition between the European powers often meant that Indian nations were caught in the middle of these conflicts with two or more European nations seeking their help.

In the north, in what is today Canada, the French were focused on fostering trade relations. The French were also seeking to find out if there was an inland sea which led to the Pacific Ocean.

While the French viewed Indians are trading partners, the English tended to view them as a hindrance to development. In general English colonial policies focused on: (1) strict segregation so that Indians and colonists did not intermingle, (2) genocide, and (3) the use of a “divide and conquer” strategy to get Indian nations to wage war on one another.

In the southwest, the Spanish missionary program was designed to bring about the total conversion of the Indians: to change them from pagans into Christians and from Indians into tax-paying Spanish citizens.

Briefly described below are some of the Indian events of 1715. It is not meant to be comprehensive.

The Yamasee War, which broke out in 1715, has been described elsewhere and is, therefore, not included in these events.

Census and Population Information:

In the Carolinas, the English colonists now held about 1,850 Indian slaves. Since 1680, British slavers had taken between 24,000 and 51,000 war captives, most of whom were shipped as slaves to New England or to the Caribbean.

In South Carolina, the English colonial governor had a census prepared which described the Indian nations which were considered to be subject to the South Carolina government. The census was based on the observations of traders and travelers and the figures in the census did not represent casual or unconcerned estimates.

In the Southeast, the Cherokee had 19 Upper Towns with a total population of 2,760; 30 Middle Towns with a total population of 6,350; and 11 Lower Towns with a total population of 2,100.

 New England:

 In Massachusetts, the New England Company asked the Natick to sell them the apparently abandoned praying town of Magunkaquog. The Company proposed to rent out the land to English settlers and share the rent money with the Natick families. The Natick, however, were still growing crops in the area and had deep emotional feelings about the area. Magunkaquog means the “place of the giant trees” in reference to the great trees – oak and chestnut – which were found in abundance in the area.

After initially rejecting the offer, the Natick agreed to the deal. After signing the deed, one of the signatories, Isaac Nehemiah, commited suicide by hanging himself with his belt. According to historian Daniel Mandell, in his book Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts:  “Nehemiah’s suicide highlighted how some Indians ‘passively’ resisted the sale of their lands to colonists, as well as the emotional attachment that many Natick Indians still held to Magunkaquog.”

 In Connecticut, Mohegan sachem Owaneco died drunk and poor. His son Caesar assumed the position of sachem.

 New York:

In New York, the colonial governor asked the Iroquois to join the English in their war against the Catawba. The Iroquois offered to destroy the Catawba if the English provided them with considerable amounts of guns and ammunition. The English accepted the Iroquois proposal and Iroquois warriors were soon raiding the Catawba.

 Southeast:

 In South Carolina, the Cherokee united with the Chickasaw to drive the Shawnee out of the Cumberland River valley to an area beyond the Ohio River. This opened up the Cumberland area for Cherokee and Chickasaw fishing and hunting.

In Alabama, the Creek began to trade some of their deerskins with the French.

In Alabama, a French diplomat described the Creek leader Brims:  “No one has ever been able to make him take sides with one of the three European nations who know him, he alleging that he wishes to see every one, to be neutral, and not to espouse any of the quarrels which the French, English, and Spaniards have with one another.”  All of the European nations gave him presents hoping to win him to their side.

In Mississippi, a French party going down the Mississippi River refused to stop and smoke the pipe with the Natchez. Interpreting this insult as a sign of hostility, the Natchez killed four French traders and plundered the local French warehouse.

Texas:

In Texas, the Spanish decided to re-occupy east Texas and established four missions among the Indians.

In Texas, the Comanche absorbed and/or annihilated the Jumano and the tribe vanishes from the historical record.

Canada:

The French legalized the Coureurs de Bois. Coureurs de bois is sometimes translated into English as “wood rangers”. Writing in 1851 and with a strong anti-French, anti-Indian bias in his book The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War After the Conquest of Canada, Francis Parkman describes the coureurs de bois as–“half-civilized vagrants, whose chief vocation was conducting the canoes of the traders along the lakes and rivers of the interior; many of them, however, shaking loose every tie of blood and kindred, identified themselves with the Indians, and sank into utter barbarism.”

These traders frequently married with Indian women (primarily Ojibwa and Cree) and the result was the creation of a new group known as the Métis.

In the Northwest Territories, Governor James Knight sent a group out from the York Factory to establish peace with the Chipewyan and bring them back to trade. The group, under the leadership of William Stuart, was guided by Thanadelthur, a Chipewyan woman who had been captured by the Cree.  Richard Ruggles, in his chapter in North American Exploration. Volume 2: A Continent Defined, reports:  “Her task was to guide the group to her home region and to act as interpreter and intermediary with her people.”

The group started out with about a dozen Cree, but this soon increased to about 150. Their first contact with the Chipewyan was a camp which had been attacked by Cree warriors. Stuart’s Cree wanted to return east as they feared an attack by the Chipewyan, but Thanadelthur persuaded them to wait for ten days while she contacted her people.

Thanadelthur returned with a party of about 160 Chipewyan and a council was held with the Cree. The two groups agreed to maintain the peace. The Chipewyan also agreed to trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company and to allow ten young men to accompany Stuart back to the York factory. The young men were to learn Cree so that they could act as interpreters and guides.

Cree leader Captain Swan (Waupisoo) left the York Factory to establish contact with the Athabascans for the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The Utes, the Spanish, and Silver

The Ute Indians, for whom the state of Utah is named, had an aboriginal homeland which included much of the present-day states of Colorado and Utah as well as portions of New Mexico and Arizona. The Utes were never a single, politically unified tribe, but were made up of about a dozen politically autonomous bands. The Utes first became aware of the European invasion in the seventeenth century when they began to acquire trade items from the Spanish in New Mexico.

The Spanish moved into New Mexico after their conquest of Mexico and Peru, where they had discovered great wealth in the form of gold and silver. As they moved north, they continued to look for gold and silver and to pursue any rumors about these precious metals.

In 1765, Don Juan María Antonio de Rivera was commissioned to lead an exploring expedition to search for silver deposits in the mountains north of Santa Fe and to verify the existence of the Colorado River and its canyons. The Spanish had heard stories from the Ute about silver deposits and in one instance a Ute man had brought a lump of virgin silver ore to the blacksmith at Abiquiú.

Since the Ute were sensitive to the appearance of Spanish military, the expedition had no armed escort and disguised themselves as traders.

On his first entrada, Rivera followed a trail known as the Navajo War Trail, or the Ute Slave Trail, which runs into present-day Colorado and Utah. Near the present-day town of Bayfield, Colorado they found ruins of an ancient town and what appeared to have been a smelter where gold was separated from ore.

Near present-day Durango, Colorado, they encountered a Ute camp under the leadership of a man they called El Capitán Grande. Here they talked with the daughter of the man who had taken the lump of silver to Abiquiú. She gave them directions to the location of the silver. However, the Spanish explorers were unable to locate the silver source.

With the guidance of a Ute whom they called Capitán Asigare, the Spanish traveled to the Dolores River near the present-day town of Dolores, Colorado. From here, Asigare had them send out a small party to contact the Payuchi Ute under the leadership of Chino. Chino told them that he would show them the river crossing if they returned in the fall.

The Spanish returned to Santa Fe and reported to the governor. In the fall they began the second entrada. They traveled back to Colorado and made contact with Chino. With their Ute guides, the Spanish started out to find the river crossing. Clell Jacobs, in an article in the Utah Historical Quarterly, reports:  “It is apparent the Utes wanted to make the trip so difficult and dangerous that Rivera would become discouraged and disheartened, give up his quest, and return to Santa Fe without finding the crossing and without making contact with the people on the other side of the river.”

The Ute guides led the Spanish on a circuitous and difficult route to the camp of the Tabejuache Ute under the leadership of Tonampechi near present-day Moab, Utah. Tonampechi attempted to discourage further exploration, but was unsuccessful. The expedition continued to the Colorado River. Two of the Ute guides were then sent across the river to contact the people on the other side and to invite them to trade. The guides returned with five Sabuagana Ute warriors who told them that some of the people were hiding from the Spanish because they feared Spanish reprisals for having killed some Spanish years earlier.

While the Spanish went back to New Mexico unsuccessful in their attempt to find mineral wealth in Ute territory, for the next two centuries the Utes would continually have to deal with European and American greed for gold and silver.

Huron Government and Law

Long before the European invasion of North America, five Iroquoian-speaking tribes formed a powerful confederation known as the League of Five Nations. The idea for this confederacy came from the prophet Deganawida who had been born to the Huron. The Huron, an Iroquoian-speaking nation, however, never joined the League of Five Nations.

The name Huron was given to them by the French and means “rough, boorish.” They call themselves Wendat, Guyandot, or Wyandot which means “islanders.” Their traditional territory was north of the Lake Simcoe region of Ontario. Their homeland is often referred to as Huronia in many of the historical accounts.

Like the other Iroquian-speaking Indian nations, the Huron were farmers with a slash-and-burn agriculture which was supplemented by some hunting and fishing and by the gathering of certain wild plants for both food and fiber. Corn, beans, and squash provided about two-thirds of the Iroquois caloric intake. By 1630 it is estimated that the Huron, with a population of about 21,000, were harvesting 189,000 bushels of corn from 7,000 acres.

The basic foundation of Huron society, like that of other Iroquois nations, was the clan system. Iroquois society is divided into matrilineal clans which are named after certain animals. Among the Huron there were eight matrilineal clans: Turtle, Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Deer, Hawk, Porcupine, and Snake. The clans were exogamous, meaning the people had to marry outside of their own clan. Children belonged to their mother’s clans.

The Huron were a confederacy of four major tribes: Bear, Rock, Barking Dogs, and White Thorns (also known as Canoes). The people called their confederacy Wendat or People of the Peninsula. The major reason for the formation of the Huron confederacy was protection against common enemies. They were given the name Huron by the French.

There were three levels of government among the Huron: village, tribe, and confederacy. At the village level, clan chiefs organized councils in which older men and women expressed their opinions on matters concerning the village.

Each Huron village council met frequently, often daily, to discuss village affairs. According to anthropologist Bruce Trigger in his book The Huron: Farmers of the North:  “Often there was little business to transact, and the meeting took on the characteristics of an old boys’ club.”

Religion professor Henry Bowden, in his book American Indians and Christian Missions: Studies in Cultural Conflict, reports:  “The council was not so much a governing body as a sounding board for canvassing attitudes and pointing out the popular choice on specific matters.”  Discussions would be continued until consensus was evident.

Among the Huron there were two kinds of chiefs: (1) civil chiefs who were concerned with everyday life and peace, and (2) war chiefs who were concerned exclusively with military matters. Being a Huron chief required both time and an expenditure of wealth. Anthropologist Elisabeth Tooker, in her book An Ethnography of the Huron Indians, 1615-1649, writes:  “Chieftainships, then, were partly elected and partly inherited: a chief was elected from among the relatives of the deceased chief.”

The person who was elected was usually not the child of the deceased chief, but was more often a nephew or a grandson.

In her book Chain Her by One Foot: The Subjugation of Native Women in Seventeenth-Century New France, Karen Anderson reports:  “It would appear that Huron clan leaders had little ability to control the behavior of either women or men who chose to disobey or to not follow the decisions that had been taken in council.”

The Huron recognized four main classes of crime: (1) murder and wounding and injury, (2) theft, (3) witchcraft, and (4) treason. Murder placed an obligation on the relatives to avenge the killing. Reparation payments helped alleviate the possibility of blood feuds. Anthropologist Bruce Trigger notes:  “Huron law did not permit society as a whole to punish individuals.”

Among the Huron, material gifts were often used as a way of restoring peace and mending the social fabric following a crime, such as murder or physical injury. The guilty party (including both the individual and the clan) would pay the victim’s family. According to Henry Bowden:  “Thirty presents was the usual indemnity for killing a man, but the murder of a tribeswoman called for forty gifts.”

In 1649, the Iroquois, well-armed with guns supplied by Dutch traders, attacked and destroyed the Huron. Historian Ian Steele, in his book Warpaths: Invasions of North America, writes:  “Archeologically and anthropologically, the Huron can be regarded as exterminated in 1649 because their sites were abandoned and their culture structures destroyed. Historically, however, many of these people survived the calamity.”

 

Indian Issues in 1965

In 1965, Indian concerns centered around a number of issues, including the hunting and fishing rights which had been guaranteed in treaties; land claims often related to fraudulent treaties; Indian education; dams whose reservoirs destroyed traditional Indian lands; religious freedom; and the relationships with the states. Some of the events related to these issues are briefly described below.

Fishing and Hunting Rights:

In Oklahoma, a loose-knit confederation calling themselves Five County Northeastern Oklahoma Cherokee Organization came together to discuss their treaty-guaranteed hunting and fishing rights. A number of additional issues—disputes over taxation, discrimination in health and social services, and fraudulent land sales—soon emerged from the discussions.

At Frank’s Landing on Washington’s Nisqually River, a group of Indians called attention to their battle for Indian fishing rights by holding a “fish-in”. The event lasts for only a half-hour and ends with 6 Indians in jail. Yakama/Cherokee writer Sidney Mills described the event this way in Red Power: The American Indians’ Fight for Freedom:  “19 women and children were brutalized by more than 45 armed agents of the State of Washington.”

The Yakama, as well as several other tribes, had declined to support the “fish-in” movement. However, when Washington state fish and game officials arrested a dozen Yakama elders for fishing in their usual and accustomed places along the Columbia River, the situation changed. Young Yakama put on their Marine and Army uniforms, shouldered M-1 rifles, and patrolled the river banks.

In Wisconsin, a member of the Bad River Chippewa was arrested for illegally netting fish in Lake Superior. The treaty rights defense was rejected by the court. Concerned about fishing, hunting, and gathering rights, the tribal council passed a resolution in response to the conviction which stated:  “that the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians do hereby oppose any and all bills introduced in Congress or any acts of Congress to create within the original boundaries of the Bad River Reservation any part or parcel of the so-called Apostle Islands National Lake Shore.”

In Michigan, Keweenaw Bay Band of Chippewa tribal chairman Bill Jondreau was arrested for illegal possession of four lake trout. State law required that he throw the dead lake trout back into the water and Jondreau found it difficult to waste fish. Jondreau stood on his tribe’s treaty rights—article 2 of the 1854 treaty—but was convicted.

Education:

The Haskell Institute became the Haskell Indian Junior College. The curriculum was expanded to include courses in business and training courses in secretarial, the building trades, electronics, and service occupations.

In Washington, the Head Start program for preschoolers was established in Neah Bay on the Makah Reservation. It was initially a summer program.

In Arizona, the Lukachukai Demonstration School was founded on the Navajo Reservation with funding from the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Land Claims:

 In New Mexico, the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) ruled that Taos Pueblo held aboriginal title to Blue Lake, a sacred area taken from them by Presidential proclamation in 1906. The ICC found that not only had the government illegally extinguished the Taos’ aboriginal title to the land, but in addition the government had cheated the Indians out of more than $300,000 in compensation. Historian Andrew Graybill, in article in the New Mexico Historical Review, reports:  “Although pleased with the findings, the Indians declined to accept a financial settlement, planning as before to use the ruling as leverage to win title to the land.”

In Seneca Nation of Indians versus U.S., the Court of Claims ruled that the Indian Claims Commission Act did not cover pre-1790 claims.

In Washington, the Palouse on the Yakama and Colville Reservations were awarded $593,000 by the Indian Claims Commission. Clifford Trafzer and Richard Scheuerman, in their book Renegade Tribe: The Palouse Indians and the Invasion of the Inland Pacific Northwest, report:  “But most of the Palouse Indians did not celebrate a victory when they learned the outcome of the Indian claims case, for the Indians had won money, not the return of their lands.”

The Indian Claims Commission awarded 27 cents per acre to the Southern Paiute for lands taken in Utah.

 The Shoshone on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming were awarded $120,000 to compensate them for gold taken from their land by miners.

 In Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes versus the United States the court held that the government surveys in 1892 for the Flathead Reservation in Montana were in error and that 10,586 additional acres should be included in the reservation.

Dams:

In Tennessee, the Cherokee opposed plans to build the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River. The new reservoir would flood many historic Cherokee sites, including Chota which had been the Cherokee capital. A delegation of Eastern Cherokee as well as other citizens’ action groups presented a petition opposing the dam to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.

 Kinzua Dam was completed and 10,000 acres of the Seneca’s Allegany Reservation was flooded. The Seneca were left with only 2,300 acres which were flat enough to use. The newly created reservoir required 3,000 Seneca graves to be relocated. According to political scientist Sharon O’Brien, in her book American Indian Tribal Governments: “The Army Corps of Engineers had unceremoniously unearthed the remains of Cornplanter and three hundred of his descendants, moved them to a newly constructed Indian-white cemetery, and flooded the old burial ground.”

Religion:

In South Dakota, Jesuit priests said mass in the dance arbor of the Sioux Sun Dance put on by Frank Fools Crow on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The mass was done at the request of elder Jake Herman.

In South Dakota, piercing was once again allowed at the Sun Dance on the Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation.

In the Drug Abuse Control Acts, Congress listed peyote as forbidden along with other psychedelic drugs.

The Nevada state legislature reconsidered its prohibition on peyote. Testimony by members of the Native American Church convinced the legislature that the Native American Church should be allowed to use peyote under the provisions of religious freedom guaranteed by Nevada’s constitution.

The States:

 North Carolina granted the Haliwa recognition as an Indian community.

The State of Maine created a Department of Indian Affairs.

In Texas, the state legislature created the Commission for Indian Affairs and transferred control and management of Indians to it.

 In Montana, the Appeals Court in Colliflower v. Garland found that:  “it is pure fiction to say that the Indian courts functioning in the Fort Belknap Indian community are not in part, at least, arms of the federal government. Originally, they were created by the federal executive and imposed upon the Indian community, and to this day the federal government still maintains a partial control over them.”

The Tribes:

In California, the Karuk Tribe of California was incorporated to preserve the traditional knowledge of the people. Any person who was one-eighth Karuk or more was able to join.

In Oklahoma, Clifton Hill and other Creek leaders for the Creek Centralization Committee began to advocate for the formation of a real Creek government. The office of principal chief since 1906 had been filled by puppet leaders appointed by the U.S. President. The committee drafted a new constitution and by-laws. Clifton Hill explained:  “We have been fifty-eight years without representation and we do not want a drugstore Indian for a chief. We want a free election, a free voice, just like any other tribe.”

In Oklahoma, the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes—Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole—recommended that a new Indian hospital be constructed at Tolihina as soon as possible. The Council also recommended that Indian hospitals provide dental care for all Indians regardless of age.

In Texas, attorney Tom Diamond began an inquiry on the status of the Tigua. He was told by anthropologists that the Tigua were extinct. The Tigua, however, maintained that their culture still exists. Historian Jeffrey Schulze, writing in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, reports:  “The problem was that while Tigua culture had not died out, it had changed and, most significantly, been kept hidden from and perhaps ignored by the surrounding community.”

In Texas, Andy Abierta, the governor of Isleta Pueblo met with the Tigua in El Paso. The Tigua are Tiwa-speaking people who split off from Isleta following the 1680 Pueblo Revolt.

In California, Mary Yee, the last native speaker of Barbareño, a Chumash language, died. With her death, the Chumash languages no longer had any native speakers.

In North Carolina, Eastern Cherokee leader Osley Saunooke died from diabetic complications. He had served two terms as the Principal Chief of the Eastern Cherokee and had been the world super heavyweight wrestling champion.

Art:

In Washington, D.C., the first American Indian Performing Arts Festival was held. The festival had two component parts: (1) a performing arts program, and (2) an Indian arts and crafts exhibition. The exhibit of Indian art, held at the Department of the Interior’s art gallery, included both older objects on loan from museums and collections throughout the United States and recent works by students at the Institute of American Indian Arts. The performing arts program was written and directed by Cherokee artist Lloyd Kiva New.

Ancient America: Great Basin Oregon, 12,900 to 9,000 Years Ago

About 12,900 years ago there was an abrupt change in climatic conditions known as the Younger Dryas which marked the beginning of cooler conditions in the Great Basin area of present-day Oregon. This climatic change marks the beginning of what archaeologists call the Fort Rock Period which dates from 12,900 years ago to 9,000 years ago. During this time, the American Indians in this region focused their economic activities on the natural resources (plants and animals) found in and around shallow wetland settings.

In their book Oregon Archaeology, Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins report:  “The period from about 12,900 to 9,000 years ago was one of continued slow drying during which localized shallow-water lakes and marshes with fringing grasslands replaced the previously vast and deep pluvial lakes of the Pleistocene era.”

During this period, human population increased, but remained thinly distributed across the landscape for most of the year. The large game that was utilized by the people included deer, mountain sheep, antelope, and bison. According to Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins:  “People followed seasonal rounds that took them to many varied locations, sometimes covering long distances, as shown by the common occurrence at archaeological sites of obsidian artifacts made of stone from distant sources.”

During the winter, the people tended to live in caves and rockshelters near lakes and marshes. In the summer, the people would migrate to higher elevations where they would hunt large game and collect nuts, roots, and berries.

Fort Rock Cave:

Fort Rock Cave (35LK1) is located on a low volcanic ridge about 1.5 miles west of Fort Rock State Park. The cave, which faces southwest, is about 20 meters deep and 10 meters wide. This site was first excavated by Luther Cressman and a University of Oregon crew in 1938. Below a layer of volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama, they found sagebrush bark sandals. The sandals were later radiocarbon dated to 10,500 to 9,300 years ago. Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins report:  “After his excavations artifact collectors relentlessly mined the cave, removing an undetermined number of additional sandals and no doubt other materials.”

Later excavations also found a mano which was associated with the preparation of pine and grass seeds for food.

Connley Caves:

The Connley Caves site (35LK50) is located about 10 miles south of Fort Rock. The site is composed of eight rockshelters. The site is located near Paulina Marsh and archaeologists working at this site uncovered large quantities of waterfowl bones which were dated to 13,000 to 9,000 years ago. The pine trees which were in this area during this time were Pinus edulis or Pinus monophylla.

During the Fort Rock Period, the Connley Caves were occupied primarily during the winter. The site provided good access to both marsh resources (waterfowl, fish, cattail, bulrush) and to the resources in the wooded hills surrounding the caves (bison, elk, deer, grouse).

Cougar Mountain Cave:

 Cougar Mountain Cave site (35LK55) was totally excavated in 1958 by John Cowles, an avid artifact collector. While a great many artifacts were uncovered, there is a lack of precisely recorded information on artifact associations and a lack of radiocarbon dates. However, the artifacts are similar to those found at Fort Rock Cave and Connley Caves. The artifacts include stone tools (knives, scrapers, abraders, drills, pipes), bone tools (needles, awls, beads), wooden artifacts, basketry, and sandals. One of the tule sandals was radiocarbon dated to 9530 years ago. Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins report:  “Sagebrush bark sandals were fairly common and frequently muddy, which may indicate wintertime occupation.”

Paulina Lake:

The Paulina Lake site (35DS34) is located about 25 miles northwest of Fort Rock in the Newberry Volcano National Monument. The site is on the boundary between the Great Basin and Plateau culture areas. One of the interesting features of this site is a storage pit which was about one meter in diameter and about 45 centimeters deep. Grass pollen suggests that this pit was probably grass-lined. Pollen also showed the presence of mock oranges (Philadelphus) and willow weed (Onagraceae).

Kenneth Ames, Don Dumond, Jerry Galm, and Rick Minor, writing on the prehistory of the Southern Plateau in the Handbook of North American Indians, report:  “The site also produced a well-defined structure, either a wickiup or windbreak, with a series of radiocarbon dates averaging to 9500 B.C. This is the earliest structure anywhere in the Plateau culture area.”

During the period from about 10,500 to 8,500 years ago, the site appears to have been used as a summer base camp. Here Indian people processed a broad range of plants and animals. The archaeological data suggests that the people stayed at this site for a good portion of the summer. The data suggests that the population was fairly stable, using the Paulina Lake site during the summer and then using the Fort Rock and Connely Cave sites during the winter.

Buffalo Flats Bunny Pits:

Near the east end of the Fort Rock Basin, on Buffalo Flat are four sites (35LK1180, 35LK1881, 35LK2076, 35LK2095) collectively known as the Buffalo Flats Bunny Pits. The pits are hearths or earth ovens which range from as small as two feet in diameter to as large as 8 to 10 feet across. Most of the identifiable animal bones (98%) found at the sites are jackrabbit. The rabbits were probably collected in large drives, such as those described in the ethnographic literature, then processed and cooked. The sites date to 11,500 to 8,900 years ago.

Dirty Shame Rockshelter:

The Dirty Shame Rockshelter site (35ML65) is in southeastern Oregon on Antelope Creek. Occupation of this site began during the Fort Rock period and was a summer-fall based camp. Among the items uncovered by archaeologists were 10 sandals and sandal fragments, matting, cordage, net fragments, small pressure flakes, a lanceolate projectile point, and a flat rock that served as an anvil. The site has been dated to 10,710 years ago.

Kootenai Origins and Spirituality

The Kootenai (also spelled Kutenai), whose aboriginal homelands straddled the Rocky Mountains and included parts of Western Montana, Idaho, British Columbia, and Alberta, have a unique language and culture. Kootenai is one of a handful of languages in the world which is considered a language isolate: it is not related to any other language. With regard to phonology, Kootenai, unlike most other North American Indian languages, uses pitch. Thus, a rising or falling pitch can change the meaning of a word.

The Kootenai appear to have once lived on the Great Plains east of the Rocky Mountains and then migrated into the Plateau Culture Area. In his Ethnography of the Kutenai, H.H. Turney-High writes:  “There is a strong tradition even at Bonner’s Ferry that the whole body of the Kutenai originated on the Great Plains and at some, to them, very ancient time gradually moved westward.”

Within the Plateau Culture area, the Tobacco Plains area of Montana is the original Kootenai homeland. Once they had a great village in this area and their oral tradition speaks of the Tobacco Plains area as where they “woke up.” One group eventually split off from the Tobacco Plains village and established a village in Fernie, British Columbia. Another band later broke up and settled in the area of Libby, Montana. From the Libby band came the people who settled around Flathead Lake in the Somers, Elmo, Dayton area. According to H.H. Turney-High:  “As soon as peace was made between the Kutenai, Flathead, and Kalispel, the bulk of the Jennings-Libby people moved to Flathead Lake and are the People-of-the-Bay today.”

According to oral tradition, there was a time when one of the Kootenai bands continued to live east of the Rocky Mountains, perhaps in the area of McLeod, Alberta, and were a Plains tribe. However, they suffered an epidemic which reduced their numbers. Knowing that they could not continue to survive on the Plains with their reduced numbers, they migrated across the mountains to join their western cousins. They settled in the southern portion of the Kootenai hunting range where they mingled with Salish-speaking people. According to H.H. Turney-High:  “They are today entirely extinct save for those mixed bloods who claim tunáxa ancestry.”

Healing:

Among the Kootenai, the healers were primarily women who knew the healing powers of the plants and who had had dreams or visions about healing. A long time ago, the spirits told the Kootenai women that they were to form the Crazy Owl Society in order to fight off epidemics. Ethnographer H.H. Turney-High points out:  “Epidemics were considered the result of disobeying the spirits, and the Crazy Owls were supposed to prevent such consequences.”

The spirits would visit one of the powerful women and she would then begin to sing as directed by the spirit. The other women of the Crazy Owl Society would then join her and follow her as she encircled the lodges. When all of the lodges in the camp had been treated, the leader would lead the group to a tree and strike it. When the proper number of trees had been struck, they would run to the west. Ethnographer H.H. Turney-High reports:  “Soon they would leave the ground and run in the air, with the exception of the file-closer, who ran after them on the ground. Eventually they all came to ground, held a council, and adjourned.”

The Kootenai Shamans’ Society was formed by all of the shamans or medicine people who banded together for mutual assistance and joint public service. The oldest and most respected shaman acted as the formal leader of the group.

Blanket Dance:

This is a Kootenai dance which is similar to the Shaking Tent ceremonies found among the Plains Algonquians. According to anthropologist Bill Brunton, in his chapter on the Kootenai in the Handbook of North American Indians:  “It was essentially a ceremonial meeting with various spirits in order to seek assistance from them.”

The spirits often speak in an archaic form of Kootenai and therefore someone must translate for them. The ceremony deals with finding lost articles, healing, and seeing the future. One of the important spirits in this ceremony is the Owl.

Sun Dance:

The Kootenai and the Coeur d’Alene were the only Plateau tribes to adopt this Plains Indian ceremony. Among the Kootenai, the Sun Dance was conducted in the spring. According to oral tradition, the Kootenai obtained the Sun Dance from across the eastern ocean where the Sun Dance spirit lives.

The Kootenai Sun Dance focused on success in hunting. On the last day of the dance, the Sun Dance Chief was given lavish gifts, including horses and food. These were then redistributed to those in need.

Among the Kootenai, the Sun Dance was held in response to a vision. The vision would indicate the location of the ceremony as well as its timing.

In the Kootenai Sun Dance, members of the Crazy Dog Society are instructed to cut 30 lodge poles, twice as long as regular lodge poles, for the ceremony. In cutting down the Sun Dance center pole, both men and women are involved. When this tree falls, it must not touch the ground, but has to fall upon the shoulders of those who have pledged to dance.

Archaeologist Roger Tro, in his University of Montana M.A. Thesis writes:  “Another effect of the Sun Dance, and perhaps the most significant, was that it helped in maintaining a tribal bond between the Upper and Lower Kutenai. This was the only occasion during which these two divisions were consistently together and may easily have been a primary factor in maintaining tribal identity.”

Grizzly Bear Dance:

This was a Kootenai ceremony which was an early spring prayer to insure plenty for the coming year. The spirit of the grizzly bear was honored at the beginning of the berry season as berries are the food of the grizzly bear and through this dance the grizzly bear will show the people how to find other food.

Fir Tree Dance

 This was a Kootenai ceremony which was held only at times of great stress and crises. Musicologist Loran Olsen, in an article in Idaho’s Yesterdays, writes:  “Whenever the people faced famine a Fir Tree Dance was held to bring game back to the region.”

When game was scarce and the people were facing famine, the shamans would set up a long house for this dance. A tree would be set up in the middle of the long house and decorated with gifts. The shamans would then dance and talk to the tree. The fir tree was chosen for this dance since Deer lives in the fir forest.

Death:

Among the Kootenai, the corpse was wrapped in a robe and quickly taken to be buried by two people. Burial was usually in a talus slope. There was no ceremony or feast associated with burial. As a sign of mourning, spouses would cut their hair. If the deceased were a man who had died at home, the lodge poles, fir bough flooring, and tent pegs would be destroyed. If the deceased were a woman who had died at home, then the lodge covering would be destroyed.

Spiritual and Medicinal Plants Used by the Chumash Indians

In 1542, the Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez de Cabrillo sailed along the coast of California. While he really didn’t discover anything, he did encounter the Chumash Indians who occupied the three northern large islands of the Santa Barbara archipelago and the shoreline from Malibu Canyon to Estero Bay. The Chumash were a coastal people with a maritime lifestyle.

Cabrillo described the Chumash this way:  “They were dressed in skins and wore their hair very long and tied up with long strings interwoven with the hair, there being attached to the strings many gewgaws of flint, bone, and wood.”  Regarding Chumash on Santa Cruz Island he reported:  “They are fisherman; they eat nothing but fish; they sleep on the ground; their sole business and employment is to fish.”

The Spanish noted that there were 10 rancherias (small Indian settlements) on Santa Cruz Island.  In addition, the Spanish mention the names of more than 20 villages on the mainland coast. It is generally estimated that at the time of contact with the Spanish, there were 75-100 Chumash communities with a total population of  20-30,000.

The villages usually contained between 15 and 50 houses roughly aligned along a street. Chumash houses were bowl shaped structures made of poles and covered with thatched tules. Anthropologist A. L. Kroeber, in his 1925 Handbook of the Indians of California describes the structure this way:  “The structure was hemispherical, made by planting willows or other poles in a circle and bending and tying them together at the top.”

The house diameters ranged from four to seven meters. Next to many of the houses were temascal, smaller dome-shaped structures covered with mud which were used as sweat houses.

One of the substances gathered and used by the Chumash was bitumen, a naturally occurring type of tar from the Channel Islands. The Chumash used this as a kind of all purpose glue. Paula Neely, writing in American Archaeology, reports:  “The Chumash gathered naturally occurring bitumen from numerous seeps throughout the islands. They used the gooey substance to waterproof canoes, line baskets used as water bottles, and to plug holes in shells that they used as food containers. They even chewed it.”

On the negative side, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon toxins in the bitumen may have led to major health problems, such as cancer, damage to internal organs, and reproductive impairment. This may have also lead to an overall decrease in Chumash stature of about four inches.

According to the oral history of the Chumash, all of the people originally lived on Santa Cruz Island. One day Xoy split the people into two groups. One group, the ka’ikiku, went over a rainbow bridge to Mount Pinos. The other group, the molmolokiku stayed with Xoy and learned how to make plants and animals for the ka’ikiku to use. Thus the ka’ikiku ask the molmolokiku for guidance in using plants and animals. Many of the plants were used medicinally and spiritually.

For the Chumash, as for many of the Indian peoples of California, one of the most important spiritual plants was jimsonweed (Datura) which was used to help produce visions. In many of the tribes, it was felt that jimsonweed was so powerful that it should be used only once. However, among the Chumash, John Baker, writing in Sacred Realms: Essays in Religion, Beliefs, and Society, reports:  “Individuals were allowed to use the plant as often as they saw fit, and they could take it right in their own village.”

Use of jimsonweed was seen as important to a person’s life, and higher status Chumash individuals tended to use it more than once in order to gain spiritual power.

Among the Chumash, both men and women used jimsonweed. The first infusion of Datura was usually administered by a paid specialist who was skilled at preparing the plant. In some villages, the initial experience was supervised by five elders. Boys were always initiated alone, but girls were sometimes initiated as a group. After ingesting an infusion of the root of the plant, the initiate would become dizzy and start to tremble. The specialist would then tell the initiate to sleep and to dream. The initiate would generally sleep for 18-24 hours. As the initiate began to revive, the specialist would sing and the elders would ask about the dream and then interpret it.

There were a number of reasons why the Chumash would use jimsonweed after initiation. This would include the strengthening of the bond with the spirit helper, acquiring additional spirit helpers, and acquiring spiritual power in general. Women would use the plant to become immune to danger and to attain courage.

John Baker notes that among the Chumash:  “A person who ingested Datura for visionary purposes might do so in order to communicate with the spirit of a beloved person who had died, or to obtain a glimpse of his or her own future. Datura could also be used to locate lost objects.”

In addition to spiritual uses, jimsonweed was also used medically. Jimsonweed (Datura) was used as an anesthesia when setting bones. In addition, it might be ingested when treating bruises and wounds. John Baker reports:  “Datura was taken internally to ‘freshen the blood’ and to treat alcohol-induced hangovers (a post-contact innovation) and applied externally to treat hemorrhoids.”  Baker also reports: “It is clear that the Chumash use of Datura was based upon a thorough empirical knowledge of the effects of the plant.”

Specialists understood both the dosages needed to achieve different ends as well as the preparation and environmental factors which can influence outcomes.

Among the Chumash, a tea made from the root and rhizomes of Anemopsis californica (commonly called yerba mansa, swamp root or lizard tail) was used as a drink for colds, asthma, and urinary tract disorders. It was also used to wash cuts and sores and for bathing arthritic joints. According to pharmacology professor James Adams and the former director of the Chumash Interpretive Center Frank Lemos in an article in News from Native California:  “This plant has been used for a long time in California and should be investigated by scientists interested in new drugs for the treatment of venereal diseases and asthma.”

For headaches, stomach problems, and arthritis, the Chumash ate the root of hog fennel (Lomatium californicum). In addition, hog fennel seeds were eaten to treat colds and sore throats. Hog fennel root was worn on a necklace or on a belt as a means of repelling rattlesnakes.

Red shank (Adenostoma sparsifolium, also called greasewood or ribbonwood) had a number of medicinal uses among the Chumash. Sore throats, stomach problems, respiratory problems, and colds were treated with a tea made from red shank bark. A tea made from small branches was used for treating toothaches and for washing wounds.

Ephedra californica (commonly called joint fir, Indian tea, and desert tea) was used by the Chumash for purifying the blood and for treating urinary tract infections and venereal diseases. Other California tribes used this plant for stomach problems and backaches. Since one of the active ingredients found in the plant is psuedoephedrine, it was also used as a nasal decongestant and as a stimulant.

The Chumash and the Kumeyaay used an elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) flower tea for treating colds, flu, and fevers. This tea was also used to relieve premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea. The inner bark of the elderberry was used as an emetic and its berries were used as a laxative.

Tlatilco, an Ancient Site in the Valley of Mexico

For most people the mention of ancient Mexico brings up images of the Aztecs, the Mayas, and perhaps the ancient city of Teotihucán. Ancient Mexico, however, also includes some sites which are much older than these and which are not tourist attractions. One of these is Tlatilco in the Valley of Mexico.

For today’s archaeologically-oriented tourist, accustomed to the great ruins of places like Chichén Itzá, Tlatilco is more than a disappointment. In their book Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, archaeologists Michael Coe and Rex Koontz write:  “The visitor to the site today will find nothing but a series of huge holes in the ground, surrounded by factories. In actuality, only a tiny fraction of Tlatilco was ever cleared under scientific conditions.”

Like most archaeological sites around the world, the initial excavations weren’t done by archaeologists. The original excavations at the site, started in 1936, were done by workers who were digging for clay to be used in the making of bricks. In 1942, Miguel Covarrubias led the first scientific excavation at the site.

The archaeological record shows that Tlatilco was settled by about 1300 BCE. It might be described as a large village or a small town that spread over an area of about 160 acres. Its location on a small stream near Lake Teycoc provided its residents with easy access to fishing as well as to the waterfowl attracted to the lake. In addition, the refuse at the site show that the residents hunted and consumed deer.

With regard to time period, the era from 1300 to 400 BCE (2000 BCE to 200 CE according to some sources) is generally classified as the Formative or Pre-classic period in Mesoamerica.

One of the features of the site is the presence of underground, bell-shaped pits. While the archaeologists found these filled with rubbish—ashes, fragments of pottery and figurines, animal bones—they originally served for the storage of grain.

Clay, in addition to being used to make bricks, can also be used for making pottery. In their Encyclopedia of Ancient Mesoamerica, Margaret Bunson and Stephen Bunson report:  “The ceramics of Tlatilco are advanced, and zone rocker stamps (tools for making indented designs) were used.”

At Tlatilco, the ancient potters’ art shows many animals: armadillo, wild turkey, frogs, bears, rabbits, opossum, fish, turtles, and ducks. The Tlatilco potters made two kinds of figurines. One of these was large, hollow, and painted red. The smaller figurines were usually solid. Both male and female figurines were made. Michael Coe and Rex Koontz report:  “What an extraordinary glimpse of the Pre-classic aristocrats is provided in their figurines! We see women affectionately carrying children or dogs; dancers, some with rattles around the legs; acrobats and contortionists; and matrimonial couples on couches.”

One of the features of ancient Mexican cultures is the ball game. While archaeologists have not found a ball court at Tlatilco, the figurines show players wearing the traditional protections for the game which suggests that they may have had the ballgame.

Some of the figurines show masked individuals who may have been shamans as well as deformed people. Some of the figurines show two-headed people; heads with three eyes, two noses, and two mouths; and hunchbacks.

Burials provide archaeologists with a great deal of important information about ancient societies. At Tlatilco archaeologists uncovered about 340 burials which were accompanied by offerings, especially the clay figurines. Some of the burial goods, such as marine shells, iron-ore mirrors, and pearl oyster pendants show that long-distance trade was being carried out. The burial of luxury items with children suggests that Tlatilco had a hereditary class system and inherited social inequality.

Margaret Bunson and Stephen Bunson summarize Tlatilco this way:  “Tlatilco is an important archaeological site because its finds demonstrate advances in ceramics during the Early Formative Period.”

 

Blackfoot Sacred Places

By the time fur traders from the Hudson’s Bay Company first made contact with the Blackfoot tribes in 1735, their territory included much of the Northern Plains of present-day Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Montana. There are three Blackfoot tribes: Pikuni (also called Piegan), Kainah (also called Blood), Siksika (also called Northern Blackfoot). The Piegan are currently divided into South Piegan (located in Montana) and North Peigan (located in Alberta). These tribes, while politically independent, shared the same language and many of the same ceremonies.

One of the common accounts of Blackfoot origins often given by non-Indians is that they had been woodland dwellers who entered the Plains and adopted a Plains buffalo-hunting lifestyle just prior to European contact in the eighteenth century. On the other hand, anthropologist Hugh Dempsey, in his chapter on the Blackfoot in the Handbook of North American Indians, writes:  “The belief that they were woodland dwellers who drifted onto the plains from the region of the Eagle Hills in Saskatchewan in the immediate precontact period has been rejected by Indians and some anthropologists.”

Since Blackfoot culture shows almost no influence from the woodland cultures to the northeast, it is generally felt today that the Blackfoot had lived on the Northern Plains for a very long time prior to their contact with the fur traders.

For the Blackfoot, as well as other Plains Indian tribes, there were places which were regarded as particularly sacred. These sacred places were not marked with structures or shrines, but were usually places on the landscape which served as portals to the spiritual world. Some of these sacred places were used for ceremonies, such as the Medicine Lodge (Sun Dance), vision quest, and sweat lodge. Others were places where sacred plants could be gathered. Many of the sites are mentioned in the tribal oral traditions and therefore tend to be invisible for those unfamiliar with these traditions.

A few of the places which are sacred to the Blackfoot are described below.

Chief Mountain:

Chief Mountain is located to the east of Glacier National Park, Montana. It is used as a vision quest and prayer site. The Blackfoot name for the mountain is Niinastoko which means “Father Mountain.” According to Blackfoot elder Long Standing Bear Chief, writing in Spirit Talk News:   “On Chief Mountain, or rather Father Mountain, the Great Holy Being called upon the spirits of the universe to meet and decide what they were to offer in order to make life meaningful to the newest form of life: mankind.”  He goes on to say:  “When you go to the base of Chief Mountain today, you will find cloth of many different colors tied to the trees as offerings to the Source of Life and to the Spirits who continue to contribute to the wellness of mankind.”

Badger-Two Medicine:

 Another area sacred to the Blackfoot is Badger-Two Medicine, an area near the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. It is an area which contains hundreds of features which are associated with Blackfoot oral tradition and creation. According to Arlene Hirschfelder and Paulette Molin, in The Encyclopedia of Native American Religions:  “For centuries, the Blackfeet have carried out practices in this sacred region that are vital to the Blackfeet culture and people.”

In an article in The Journal of Law and Religion, Jay Vest writes:  “Spiritually, the Badger-Two Medicine is a source for the gathering of traditional Blackfeet ‘medicine power’ and this quality has a significant role in restoring the moral fabric of the Blackfeet Nation.”

The area is endangered by oil and gas exploration which the elders feel will destroy the region’s spirituality.

Sweetgrass Hills:

 The Sweetgrass Hills is an area in Montana which is sacred to the Blackfoot, Gros Ventre, Chippewa-Cree, Kootenai, and Assiniboine. The area is used as a fasting area and ceremonial area. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed the Sweetgrass Hills on its list of ten most endangered places. The area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and there have been attempts to explore the area for gold, oil, and gas.

Writing-on-Stone:

Writing-on-Stone is now a provincial park in Alberta, Canada which is well-known for its large collection of traditional rock art. Along a seven kilometer stretch of the Milk River, sandstone outcrops have been used for petroglyphs (rock carvings). Among the Blackfoot, this place is known as the “place of mystery” and the place “where the ghosts live”. According to Blackfoot elders Bird Rattle and Split Ears, the writings are messages from the spirit world which can be read by medicine men. According to these elders, the messages “which frequently changed overnight, warned of enemies in the area, told them the location of the buffalo herds or strayed horses, and foretold future events.”

Kootenai Fishing and Hunting

The Kootenai (also spelled Kutenai), whose homeland was in the area west of the Rocky Mountains in what is today western Montana, northern Idaho, and southeastern British Columbia, are generally divided into two groups: Upper Kootenai and Lower Kootenai, referring to their position on the drainage of the Kootenay River. The Upper Kootenai lived near the western face of the Rocky Mountains. By the  beginning of the nineteenth century, the Upper Kootenai were more dependent on the annual buffalo hunts while the Lower Kootenai depended more on fish for their subsistence and the buffalo played only a minor role in their economy.

Fishing:

Among the Lower Kootenai, weir fishing was considered a communal affair which was supervised and controlled by the Fishing Chief. According to H.H. Turney-High, in his Ethnography of the Kutenai:  “When the Fishing Chief, or some principal man deputized by him, returned from emptying the traps, he filled his own basket as a measure and gave this to the first lodge in the camp circle, the same to the next, and so on until the fish had been evenly distributed.”

Strangers in the camp received the same share as residents.

The Kootenai used a bone device for fishing. This consisted of two fine pieces of bone which were ground to a sharp point at one end. These two pieces were lashed together and then tied to a line. Bait would then be attached and the line cast out (or lowered through a hole in the ice when ice fishing). When the fish swallowed the bait, the line would be jerked to snare the bone device in the mouth.

Deer Hunting:

 The Kootenai usually conducted the communal deer hunts during the fall and winter, a time when the animals were fat and had heavy fur. The deer would be driven by beaters toward archers who would shoot them. It was possible to obtain the whole season’s supply of venison in a single day.

In level areas where the deer were known to be abundant, the Kootenai would use a fire surround. Some of the hunters would take pine-wood torches and move out in two directions to form a circle, setting fire to the brush and trees along the way. As the deer fled from the fire, they would arrive at the unfired opening where hunters with bows awaited them.

With regard to leadership during the Kootenai deer drives, Claude Schaeffer, in his University of Pennsylvania Ph.D. dissertation on The Subsistence Quest of the Kutenai: A Study of the Interaction of Culture and Environment, reports:  “During the season for holding deer drives, emphasis was placed upon the need for group cooperation rather than individual enterprise. The hunting leader assumed charge of the various activities connected with the drive.”

During this time, no one was allowed to leave camp to hunt alone: to do so would result in a reprimand and possibly banishment.

Among the Upper Kootenai, the meat taken in a hunt, including a communal hunt, belonged to the man who killed it. However, when the hunter turned the meat over to his wife for processing, it then became her exclusive property.

Among the Lower Kootenai, all of the game taken in the communal hunt was turned over to the Deer Chief who then distributed it equally among all of the lodges in the camp, irrespective of whether or not the men in the lodge had been a part of the hunt.

The Lower Kootenai would use a disguise in hunting deer only during periods in which the deer were scarce. The hunter would wear a decoy headdress and conceal his body behind a deerskin robe. Claude Schaeffer reports:  “Aided by his supernatural power, a hunter thus disguised was able to ‘see’ game, even though it was rendered invisible by unfriendly shamans of the adjacent Salish.”

Other Big Game Hunting:

 Among the Kootenai, elk hunting was an individual undertaking. Elk hunting was usually done after they had returned from the buffalo hunt. As the Kootenai did not care for the taste of elk meat, elk were taken primarily for their hides as it made good robes and tipi covers.

Another big game animal hunted by the Kootenai was the woodland caribou. The caribou were the first of the large game animals to reach prime condition in the spring and so were often hunted in April. According to ethnographer H.H. Turney-High:  “They were easy to kill, being so gentle and stupid that the hunter could go right up to them and discharge his arrows without their taking flight.”

The moose was the least important food resource among the Kootenai. Moose were sometimes taken in conjunction with elk and deer hunting, but little attempt was made to specifically hunt moose.

With regard to the Kootenai hunting mountain goats, H.H. Turney-High reports:  “The mountain goat is considered very fine food but, as it is a very wise animal and hard to kill, it remained of minor importance.”

With regard to the hunting of bighorn sheep among the Kootanai, Claude Schaeffer writes:  “Bighorn were hunted in winter by hunters climbing above them and driving them into drifts at lower levels. There the animals were easily stabbed.”

Among the Kootenai, bears, because of their supernatural importance, were taken only as a result of an accidental meeting.

Buffalo:

After the acquisition of the horse in the eighteenth century, some of the Kootenai bands would cross the Rocky Mountains to hunt buffalo on the Great Plains. The buffalo hunt was often an inter-tribal affair as alliances provided some protection against the war parties of the Blackfoot and other tribes. The Kootenai, for example, often joined with the Coeur d’Alene and Spokan for the buffalo hunt. The Flathead would hunt with the Coeur d’Alene, Nez Perce, and Spokane.  The hunt would usually last about four weeks and Kootenai hunters would usually bring back 2-3 horse pack loads of buffalo meat.

For the Kootenai, hunting buffalo meant that they would be traveling in enemy territory. Ethnographer H.H. Turney-High reports:  “Since the bison hunt was undertaken under military conditions, the band moved onto the Plains in warlike formation.”

The Kootenai would travel east of the mountains in the summer with 80 lodges. As a large group they felt that they could repel any attack against them. The hunting party included women and children. During the four-week hunt, many hunters would obtain four or five pack-horse loads of meat.

The Kootenai would usually have two tribal buffalo hunts each year. Each of the hunters limited themselves to killing no more than two buffalo per day as this was as much as could be butchered in a day. According to H.H. Turney-High:  “To kill more would have been a waste of natural resources.”

The buffalo hunt provided the Kootenai with a store of dried meat. The meat would be dried by hanging strips of meat on a fence-like structure around a fire. Some of the meat would be preserved by making it into pemmican. Unlike other tribes who made pemmican by mixing the meat with berries, the Kootenai used wild peppermint. Ethnographer H.H. Turney-High reports:  “It gives the pemmican a strong flavor which they enjoyed as a condiment, but its principal function was to serve as a preservative.”

Unlike some of the Plains tribes, the Kootenai did not use the buffalo’s entrails. According to H.H. Turney-High:  “They say they were never so poor that they had to eat such things, and it is probably true that they had enough vegetable and fruit foods to provide enough vitamins.” He also points out:  “They express great contempt for the Blackfoot for eating raw liver.”

Bird Hunting:

Among the Kootenai, cranes and geese were the preferred birds. Geese were hunted in the summer using the bow and arrow. Ducks were another staple which were taken using a square, moveable net. Fool hens (a grouse) were hunted by knocking them from the branches with a stick or by using a pole which had a noose attached which was then slipped over the bird’s neck.

The Kootenai did not hunt loons, but they watched loon behavior very closely as this would tell them about approaching storms.

Many Plateau tribes also hunted eagles for their feathers. This was done by digging a pit, covering it with brush, and laying a bait of meat on the roofing. Concealed in the pit, the hunter would wait for the eagle to come down for the bait and then seize it by the legs as it landed on the brush covering. Ethnographer H.H. Turney-High, reporting on the Kootenai, writes:  “Only persons with Eagle powers could hope to take the adult bird in this manner, as its powers of resistance are very real.”

Wodziwob’s Ghost Dance

During the nineteenth century there were a number of religious movements that developed among diverse Indian tribes. One of these, called the Ghost Dance by non-Indians, arose among the Paiute in Nevada.

In 1868, Paiute healer Fish Lake Joe, also known as Wodziwob, had a dream which empowered him to lead the souls of those who had died in previous months back to their mourning families. Wodziwob already had the power to lay next to a patient, send his soul out, and bring the patient’s soul back to the body, thus restoring life.

Wodziwob experienced a series of visions in which the destiny of the Indian people was revealed to him. In his first vision, which occurred during a fast in the mountains, he saw the earth swallowing up the Americans. In a second vision, he saw the Americans being killed by an earthquake. In a third vision, he was told that only the believers would be resurrected.

He also saw in his visions a new dance. It called for men, women, and children to join in alternating circles of males and females dancing to the left with fingers interlocked with the dancers on each side. The dance was to be performed for at least five nights in succession. During the dance, some of the dancers would receive visions giving them new songs and ultimately would restore Indian resources. The new dance quickly spread to the northern California tribes.

The new spiritual movement was called the Ghost Dance (not be to confused with the Ghost Dance of Wovoka which spread to the Great Plains and resulted in the massacre at Wounded Knee).

The following year, Wodziwob announced his expanded powers to bring back the souls of the dead. Since he already had a reputation for being able to bring back the souls of those who had recently died, his message was favorably received.

He exhorted the people to paint themselves and to dance the traditional round dance. In this dance men, women, and children joined in alternating circles of males and females dancing to the left with fingers interlocked with the dancers on each side. As the dancers stopped to rest, Wodziwob fell into a trance. When he returned he reported that he had journeyed to the land of the dead, he had seen the souls of the dead happy in their new land, and that he had extracted promises from them to return to their loved ones in perhaps three or four years.

The dance was to be performed for at least five nights in succession. The dancers decorated themselves with red, black, and white paint. During the dance, some of the dancers received visions which gave them new songs and which they felt would ultimately restore Indian resources. The new dance quickly spread to the northern California tribes.

Wodziwob’s Ghost Dance religion represented a radical departure from the religious traditions of the Great Basin. It represented a synthesis of the traditional Paiute belief in visions, and the traditional practice of circle dancing associated with antelope charming and other subsistence pursuits. It also seems to borrow from Sahaptian or Salishan Indians of the Plateau and Northwest Coast in the belief in prophets, prophecies, and return of the dead.

In 1870, Wodziwob (also known as Tavibo) was visited by Indians from Oregon and Idaho. The Shoshone and Bannock from Idaho’s Fort Hall Reservation and the Shoshone from Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation became active proselytizers for the new religion and sponsored a number of Ghost Dances. Among those attending these dances were people from the Ute, Gosiute, and Navajo tribes.

At this time, the Ghost Dance also began to move into California. The Modoc brought word of the Ghost Dance to the Shasta.

In 1871, Wodziwob’s Ghost Dance  spread from the Paiute in Nevada to a number of California tribes, including the Washo, Mono, Modoc, Klamath, Shasta, Karok, Achumawi, Northern Yana, Wintun, Hill Patwin, and Pomo. Mono chief Joijoi learned of the Ghost Dance from Moman, a Paiute Ghost Dance leader. Joijoi then sponsored the first Mono Ghost Dance at Saganiu and invited many other tribes to attend. Joijoi then spread the word of the dance throughout California.

The new religious movement revitalized the tribal traditions and molded itself to the local customs. While the shared core of the ceremony was a dance in which the participants held hands and side-stepped in a sunwise (clockwise) fashion, each of the tribes adopting the ceremony modified it to fit their own cultural traditions.  The Ghost Dance was instrumental in reshaping native shamanism and it helped native Californians withstand pressures to adopt Christianity.

In 1871, the Ghost Dance was introduced to the Siletz and Grand Rhonde Reservations in Oregon by the California Shasta.

In 1872, the Ghost Dance diffused from the Paiute in Nevada to the Pomo in California. The new religious movement was brought to the Pomo by Lame Bull, a Patwin prophet and a Southwestern Pomo called Wokox. Among the Pomo, the Ghost Dance became a revivalistic movement that promised its followers that the American invaders would be killed by a natural disaster. Following this, the traditional Indian ways would return again.

In 1872, the Paiute had now been dancing under the direction of Wodziwob for four years. At this time, he had another dream in which he realized that the souls of the dead which he had seen were only shadows. With horror, Wodziwob realized that his prophecy was no more than a cruel trick of the evil witch owl. He confessed his sad disillusion to the Paiutes, and they ceased dancing to attract back their loved ones. Wodziwob died shortly after this.

While the Ghost Dance inspired by Wodziwob’s vision failed to bring back the dead, it did result in a new determination to maintain Indian culture and to establish new ways compatible with the contemporary world. The tribes that incorporated the Ghost Dance worked out new ceremonies, amalgamations of old, borrowed, and newly invented rituals, and made these the center of community life.

Central Plains Indian Migrations

The Central Plains lie south of the South Dakota-Nebraska border and north of the Arkansas River. It includes Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, southeastern Wyoming, and western Colorado. At the time when the Europeans began their invasion of this area it was the home to a number of agricultural Indian nations such as the Ponca, Omaha, Osage, Otoe, Quapaw, Iowa, Missouria, Kansa (also known as Kaw), Pawnee, and Wichita. Some of the migrations of the tribes of the Central Plains are briefly described below.

Omaha and Ponca:

At one time the Omaha and Ponca lived in the Ohio River valley. They moved onto the eastern portion of the Central Plains in the late 1600s. George Will and George Hyde, in their 1917 book Corn Among the Indians of the Upper Missouri, place the date of their arrival on the Plains at prior to 1700 but not earlier than 1675. According to Will and Hyde:  “The traditions of these tribes tell of their migration northward through the State of Iowa to the vicinity of the pipestone quarry; then west to the Big Sioux River, where they were attacked by enemies and forced to remove to the Missouri River, in South Dakota.”

After moving into the Central Plains, they divided into two groups: Omaha and Ponca. This occurred about 1715. According to archaeologists John O’Shea and John Ludwickson in their book Archaeology and Ethnohistory of the Omaha Indians: The Big Village Site:  “the Ponca tribe may have originated as an Omaha clan that split from the rest of the tribe, a suggestion supported by the fact that the other Dhegiha tribes have a Ponca clan, but the Omahas do not.”

The Omaha settled for a while in South Dakota where they were in close contact with the Arikara, and from the Arikara they adopted many elements of Plains material culture as well as a number of social and ceremonial features. Oral history tells that the Omaha and the Ponca learned to make earth lodges from the Arikara.  However, because of poor corn harvests and conflicts with the Arikara, they moved south into present-day Nebraska. At this time, the Ponca numbered about 3,000 people and set up their camp in three concentric circles. The Omaha set up their camp in two circles.

When the Ponca separated from the Omaha, they left with the Omaha all of the tribe’s sacred objects and ceremonies. For this reason the Omaha refer to the Ponca as “orphans.”

Writing about the Omaha migration, sociologist Russell Thornton, in his book American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492, reports:  “Tribal ancestors were originally from the Appalachian Mountains and possibly from as far east as the Atlantic Coast.”

Ethnographers Alice Fletcher and Francis La Flesche, writing in their 1911 book The Omaha Tribe, put it this way:  “The primordial habitat of this stock lies hidden in the mystery that still enshrouds the beginning of the ancient American race; it seems to have been situated, however, among the Appalachian mountains, and all their legends indicate that the people had knowledge of a large body of water in the vicinity of their early home. This water may have been the Atlantic ocean.”

Quapaw, Osage, Kansa:

The Quapaw, Osage, and Kansa lived in the Ohio River area with the Omaha and Ponca. It is estimated that 400 years ago these five tribes were united in language and culture. Linguists refer to the five tribes as the Degiha Siouans. They migrated west to the Mississippi River where the Quapaw went to the south and the Osage and the Kansa went to the north. The name Quapaw comes from uga’xpa which means “with the current” or “downstream”.

Iowa, Otoe, Missouria:

The Iowa, Otoe, and Missouria were at one time a part of the Winnebago. According to Iowa oral tradition, the Iowa once lived with the Winnebago near present-day Green Bay, Wisconsin. They then migrated west toward the Mississippi River. Their migrations took them into Minnesota and Iowa, then south along the Missouri River and eventually into the present-day state of Missouri.

Osage:

With regard to the Osage, Douglas Hurt, writing in Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:  “Osage oral history tells of their migration from the Appalachian Piedmont or Cheasapeake Bay through the Ohio Valley to present-day Missouri.”

Pawnee and Wichita:

The Pawnee are a Caddoan-speaking group who separated from the other Caddoan groups long before the European invasion and began a migration north from their homelands in present-day Texas. They migrated first into the Red River region of present-day Oklahoma and then into the Arkansas River region of northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas.  By the early 1700s, the Pawnee had begun to divide into four politically autonomous tribes: Skiri, Chawi (Grand), Kitkahahki (Republican), and Pitwhawirata (Tappage). The Skiri (also known as the Skidi, Loup, or Panimaha) migrated north to the Loup River.

The Wichita are also a Caddoan-speaking group who migrated north from their homelands in Texas to the Canadian River in present-day Oklahoma.

Ancient America: Florida, 1 CE to 940 CE

American Indians occupied, utilized, and developed the peninsula known as Florida for thousands of years. Our knowledge of the ancient past—of Florida, from 2,000 years ago until about 1,000 years ago—comes primarily from archaeology. Unfortunately, archaeology tells the story of the past based on material remains, which means that these remains must have endured for more than a thousand of years, then be found, and finally interpreted. As a result our picture of ancient Florida is not complete, but rather a series of seemingly disjointed snapshots. Briefly described below are some of the archaeological findings from Florida from 1 CE through 940 CE.

In 1 CE, the Calusa built a 2.5 mile canal across Pine Island. The canal was 18-23 feet wide and 3.5 feet deep so that it was large enough to handle most Calusa canoes. To control the water flow in the canal, the Calusa used a series of 8 stepped impoundments which functioned like locks and a series of auxiliary channels which diverted excess flow.

By 100, Indian people were occupying Mound Key. The shell mound which they constructed reached a height of 30 feet. Fish and shellfish provided them with a plentiful supply of food.

In 200, Indian people began construction on two canals around the rapids on the Caloosahatchee River. The canals, which were about seven miles long, facilitated fishing and transportation.

In 200, Weeden Island ceramics began to appear at the McKeithen site. The site has three mounds. Philip Kopper. in The Smithsonian Book of North American Indians: Before the Coming of the Europeans, reports:  “The horseshoe-shaped, forty-seven-acre village was located on a low sandy ridge in forest-and-brush country that provided an excellent habitat for the animals and plants upon which the hunting-gathering people depended.”

The population was a little more than 100. Weeden Island ceramics also began to appear at sites in southern Alabama and southwestern Georgia.

In 300, the ancestors of the Calusa and Mayami built a seven-mile system of canals and a large pond in the shape of a baton. The canals were dug using wooden tools and shells. They were an average of 20 feet wide and 4 feet deep and provided easy canoe access to the Ortona village. In addition, the canals bypassed a series of rapids on the Caloosahatchee River.

Along the Gulf Coast area of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, villages which were exploiting marine fish and shellfish were creating embankments in the shape of rings, horseshoes, and rectangles by the year 300. These embankments seemed to be a way for disposing refuse in an orderly manner outside of the residential area. Within the rings, the villages had a plaza and both platform and burial mounds. On the east side of the burial mounds, the people deposited groups of finely painted ceramics, many of which were effigies of humans, animals, or plants.

In 300, the Weedon Island people began occupying the Crystal River ceremonial site. The ceremonies became more complex.

In 350, Indian people at the McKeithen site began construction of two residential mounds. The mounds were planned to allow the rising sun at the summer solstice to be observed and calculated from Mound B. The two residential mounds are rectangular and fairly low—1 meter and a half meter in height. A residence was built on top of one of the mounds and a pine post screen was erected across the other. In the area behind the screen, exhumed human bones were cleaned, treated with red ochre, and prepared for storage in the charnel house. A third mound, which was circular and less than a meter in height, had a charnel house for the storage of cleaned human remains.

By 400, the Indian people of Weeden Island had developed a new level of cultural complexity and diversity. They showed social stratification in their burials, some of which now included outstanding works of pottery and carving. There was also an expansion of the population.

In 475, the structures on the platform mounds at the McKeithen site were burned and removed. The mounds were capped. While this marked the end of mound use at the village, the village itself continued to be occupied.

In the Upper Apalachicola area of Florida Indian people were raising corn and squash by 500, but were still relying on gathering wild plants and hunting for most of their subsistence.

In 600, Mound A was constructed at the Crystal River site. It was about 30 feet high and served as a temple platform.

In north-central Florida, the culture which archaeologists call Alachua began about 600. There was a migration of people from south-central Georgia who replaced the indigenous Cades Pond people. Alachua appears to be associated with the Ocmulgee culture in Georgia. Archaeologist Jerald Milanich, in his book The Timucua, writes:  “the people of Ocmulgee culture may have been the ancestors of the Timucuan groups in at least a portion of south-central Georgia, but that remains very uncertain.”

In 690, Indian people began construction of Turtle Mound. The mound consisted of two connected cones which were about 35 feet high. The mound covered more than an acre and measured 180 feet by 360 feet. It was constructed from oyster shells. According to Michael Durham, in his book Guide to Ancient Native American Sites:  “The mound towers over the flat terrain and possibly was used as a lookout tower by the peoples of the late St. Johns culture and their successors, the Timucuan Indians of historic times.”

By 940, a Mississippian society began to emerge in the Fort Walton area in northern Florida. According to archaeologist John Scarry, in his chapter in The Mississippian Emergence:  “They were simple chiefdoms, with clear social distinctions between high status and low status individuals—distinctions revealed in residential segregation and the extraction and allocation of community surplus labor.” He goes on to point out:  “The people relied on cleared-field agriculture for a significant portion of their diet.”

Ancient America: Florida, BCE

With exciting new finds coming from the OldVero Ice Age Site in Florida which are providing evidence of human occupation 14,000 years ago, this is a good time to review some of the ancient (before 2,000 years ago) archaeological sites in Florida.

By 11,000 BCE, Indian people were living by hunting and gathering in northern Florida and southern Georgia. The sea levels at this time were 350 feet lower than present. This means that the land mass of present-day Florida was much larger. Water sources, particularly those in deep springs, were important for both human habitation and for the animals which they hunt. At this time, the Indians were hunting mastodon, mammoth, horse, camel, and giant land tortoise.

In 10,030 BCE, Indian people at the Little Salt Spring were hunting turtles and the giant land tortoise, Geochelone Crassicutata. The turtles were killed with a stake and then cooked in the shell. These people were also using an oak throwing stick or boomerang. They also had a deer-antler which had its roots and points cut off and 28 parallel notches cut into it. This is one of the earliest examples of counting time in North America.

In 9000 BCE, Indian people near the Wacissa River killed a Bison antiquus.

In 8500 BCE, people living near Mineral Springs buried their dead near the edge of the springs. One was a man, 30-40 years of age, who was 5’4” tall and weighed about 110 pounds. He had worn and abscessed teeth. Another was the body of a middle-aged female. As the sea level rose at the end of the ice age, so did the water within the spring. By the time the skeletons were discovered by archaeologists, they were under water.

In 7500 BCE, the Archaic Period began with an increase in population and new settlements around freshwater sources. The way of life shifted from nomadic to a more settled form. Artist Theodore Morris, in his book Florida’s Lost Tribes, writes:  “With a settled lifestyle and new animals to hunt, different types of stone tools were made. Trade networks, some encompassing much of the Southeast, sprang up.” During this time, Florida’s climate is growing warmer and wetter.

In 7300 BCE, Indian people left a spear at the Little Salt Spring site.

In 6120, Indian people began burying their dead in the Windover Bog Site. While anthropologists managed to obtain DNA samples from some of the bodies at the site, the mtDNA lineages which were found are not present in any contemporary American Indian populations.

In south Florida, Indian people were living on the dune ridges of Horr’s Island by 5000 BCE.

In south Florida, Indian people began building a large mound with layers of white sand, charcoal-stained sand, and oyster shell on Horr’s Island about 2900 BCE. By 2800 BCE Indian people were living in a year-round settlement on Horr’s Island. Their small houses were made from poles and thatch. The conical sand mound reaches about 6 meters high and was used for burials.

By 2500 BCE, Indians in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida began making fired pottery. According to archaeologist David Hurst Thomas in his book Exploring Ancient Native America: An Archaeological Guide:  “The earliest ceramic vessels look like flowerpots, remarkably similar to the earlier steatite (stone) bowls from the same area.”

Indian people by 2400 BCE were making sea voyages between South America and the coasts of Georgia and Florida.

In 2400 BCE, Indian people at the Summer Haven site (8SJ46) constructed four circular structures. The people who occupied this site were practicing cranial deformation (a deliberate modification of head shape which begins by binding the head of an infant shortly after birth).

In south Florida, Indian people were living on Useppa Island in the Pine Island Sound by 2000 BCE. They were making fiber-tempered pottery.

Indian people in Florida began making decorated pottery known as Tick Island decorated pottery by about 1600 BCE. The Tick Island decorated pottery resembles the pottery found at Barlovento on Colombia’s northern coast and this pottery, in turn, appears to be derived from the Valdivia pottery of Ecuador.

In 1580 BCE, the Rollings Shell Ring was constructed. It is 7 meters in height (about 23 feet) and 250 meters (825 feet) in diameter. The ring was built up quickly and there are few artifacts within it.

In 1500 BCE, Indian people at the Joseph Reed Shell Ring site (8MT13) were making sand-tempered pottery. This represents one of the earliest intensive uses of pottery in south Florida. According to archaeologists Michael Russo and Gregory Heide, in their chapter in Early Pottery: Technology, Function, Style, and Interaction in the Lower Southeast:  “The pottery at Joseph Reed consists of both sand-tempered and chalky wares at a time when most archaeologists believed these wares were unknown in Florida.”  They go on to report:  “In terms of migration/diffusion, the pottery from Joseph Reed has nowhere to migrate from. It is not tempered with fiber as is the pottery of the site’s nearest contemporaneous pottery-producing neighbors to the north. Thus, a direct connection cannot be made with those neighbors in terms of paste and temper (design and form, however, cannot be ruled out until more data are obtained).”

In 1300 BCE, a type of decorated pottery known as Orange Incised began to appear. Archaeologists note that Orange Incised is similar to the Machalilla pottery found in Ecuador and suggest that this style of pottery diffused northward from South America.

In 1000 BCE, Indian people living along Fisheating Creek were building linear earthworks which were designed to raise living quarters above the floodwaters.

In 1000 BCE, Indian people in the St. Johns River area were making pottery . They were using freshwater sponge spicules in the pottery paste which resulted in a chalky feel. These sponge spicules were an intentional temper which was added during the manufacturing process. The pottery was made with a coiled technique.

People began to occupy a site near the Crystal River in Florida in 537 BCE. The site includes two large temple mounds with ramps, a smaller residential mound, a plaza, and two burial mounds. There appears to have been contact with the Hopewell people in Ohio as evidenced by flint knives and other artifacts.

In 500 BCE, Indian people from the Deptford culture began to occupy the Crystal River site.

In northern Florida, the period which archaeologists call St. Johns I began about 500 BCE. The people were establishing both freshwater and coastal villages. They were also occupying smaller, seasonal camps for fishing and shellfish gathering.

The Timucua began to occupy the sub-tropical areas of Florida about 500 BCE.

In south Florida, Indian people began making a thick, sand-tempered plain pottery by 500 BCE.

The Tequesta were living in the area near present-day Miami, Florida by 500 BCE. They constructed a number of round houses, including a chief’s house or council house, using a post framework.

In 300 BCE, the Crystal River site was established as a ceremonial center. Construction began on Mound F which served as a burial mound. It would eventually rise to a height of 20 feet. About 1,000 people would eventually be buried here.

In 50 BCE, Indian people occupied the Fort Walton site.

In 30 BCE, Indian people along the Crystal River began construction of a series of shell mounds which have astronomical alignments. The mounds and stone pillars can be used to observe the solstices and equinoxes.