Arresting Christian Missionaries

One of the central themes of United States policies with regard to American Indians is the need to convert them to Christianity and to repress traditional Indian practices. While many Indians have been jailed for practicing traditional religions, it is interesting to note that one of the landmark Supreme Court cases in Indian law stemmed from the arrest of Christian missionaries among the Cherokees. The missionaries were not arrested by tribal authorities, but by the state of Georgia.


The State of Georgia in 1831 passed a law forbidding non-Indians to live in Cherokee country without a license and notified the missionary boards serving the Cherokees that it was now illegal for a non-Indian missionary to be in Cherokee country unless he had taken an oath of allegiance to Georgia and had obtained a special permit from the governor.

The Georgia Guard, a paramilitary group created specifically to impose Georgia law on the Cherokee, invaded the Cherokee capital of New Echota and arrested several non-Indians, including missionaries. The missionaries were soon released because they served as postmasters at their missions, and were, therefore, federal agents and not subject to the laws of Georgia. One of the missionaries who was arrested and then released is Samuel A. Worcester, whose friendship with Elias Boudinot (also known as Buck Wati, or Galagina), the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, had earned him many enemies in Georgia.

Worcester was arrested again after he returned to New Echota to be with his sick wife. Along with ten other non-Indian missionaries, Worcester was tried for violating Georgia law, quickly found guilty, and sentenced to four years of hard labor.

The eleven missionaries were chained together and forced to march to prison. In spite of their religious principles which forbade travel on Sunday, they were forced to march on Sunday and were refused religious services. When they reached the prison at Milledgeville, the eleven were offered a pardon in exchange for taking an oath to sustain the efforts of Georgia against the Cherokee or to abandon their missionary efforts and leave the state. Nine of the men took the pardon. Samuel Worcester and Elizur Butler did not. In her book Althea Bass Cherokee Messenger,describes the attempt to have these two men agree to the pardon:

“For hours the two men were urged to accept the terms accepted, for the sake of expediency or necessity, by the others; and at intervals the gate of the prison was opened and closed again, grating on its iron hinges with a sound intended to produce terror in the hearts of the listeners.”

In spite of having a sick wife at home, Worcester maintained his support for the Cherokees and was assigned to prison labor. Prior to his arrest, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions had written to Worcester, telling him that if he were to be arrested and imprisoned this would rouse the whole country. According to the Board:

“You would not only benefit the Cherokees, but your case would be known through the civilized world. You would do good to the poor and oppressed everywhere.”

The missionaries appealed their conviction. This became the vehicle for bringing a test case to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court:

The case of the missionaries reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1832. In Worcester versus Georgia, the Supreme Court decision written by Chief Justice Marshall, maintained that the Cherokee were a nation separate from the jurisdiction of the state. In his book In the Courts of the Conqueror: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided, attorney Walter Echo-Hawk reports:

“Rejecting the South’s dark version of Indian law, the Marshall Court ruled that Georgia had no right to tread on the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation or to take its land.”

The Court described Indian nations in the same sense as all other nations of the earth. According to Chief Justice Marshall:

“The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with boun­daries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter, but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves, or in conformity with treaties, and with the acts of Congress.”

Marshall also stated that the Georgia was “repugnant to the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States.” Chief Justice Marshall wrote that

“the settled doctrine of the law of nations is, that a weaker power does not surrender its independence—its right to self-government, by associating with a stronger and taking its protection.”

He went on to say that the relationship between the United States and the Cherokee

“was that of a nation claiming and receiving the protection of one more powerful, not that of individuals abandoning their national character, and submitting as subjects to the laws of a master.”

In summarizing Marshall’s view of Indian relations within the United States, in his book American Indians and the Law, law professor Bruce Duthu writes:

“Marshall’s opinion makes clear that the Constitution contemplates two sets of bilateral relations, one bilateral relationship between the national government and the several states, and another between the national government and Indian tribes.”

In the same decision Justice McLean wrote:

“The exercise of the power of self-government by the Indians within a State, is undoubtedly contemplated to be temporary.”

The Cherokees were elated by the decision. Elias Boudinot wrote to Stand Watie:

“It is a great triumph on the part of the Cherokees so far as the question of their rights were concerned. The question is forever settled as to who is right & who is wrong.”

While the power of law seems to be in favor of Cherokee sovereignty, the political reality is quite different. In his book Native American Tribalism: Indian Survivals and Renewals, D’Arcy McNickle points out:

“Unfortunately for the Cherokees, the executive branch of the government was not obliged, or interpreted to oblige, to uphold the decision of the Court.”

Althea Bass puts it this way:

“The supremacy of the Supreme Court, it appeared, was not a matter for the President’s concern.”

Attorney Mark Scherer, in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, writes:

“With President Andrew Jackson’s implicit indulgence, the state of Georgia effectively annulled both the letter and the spirit of the Court’s decision.”

Ignoring the ruling of the Court, Georgia refused to release Worcester and the other missionaries from prison.

Manifest Destiny Begins

During the nineteenth century, the United States aggressively pursued a policy of Manifest Destiny to spread out between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. In the minds of many Americans, it was the God-given duty of the United States to spread across the continent. In 1804, the United States began trudging its way toward Manifest Destiny. The Corps of Discovery under the leadership of Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set off to explore the northern Missouri River area. Part of the purpose of this expedition was to inform the Indian nations on the Northern Plains that they were now under the jurisdiction of the United States. For this purpose, Lewis and Clark held a number of councils with Indian nations. In terms of diplomacy, the United States prefers to deal with dictatorships and so Lewis and Clark simply appointed chiefs themselves for many of the Indian nations which they encountered

.What Came Before:

 In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson obtained a copy of the book written by Sir Alexander MacKenzie who had crossed Canada to the Pacific Ocean on behalf of the North West Company. Jefferson and his secretary, Meriwether Lewis, were inspired by the book and felt that an American expedition should cross the continent to the Pacific Ocean. Anthropologist Raymond Wood, in his book Prologue to Lewis and Clark: The Mackay and Evans Expedition, writes:

“Perhaps no one read the book more intently than that nation’s recently elected president, Thomas Jefferson, for the volume contained nothing less than a blueprint for the British acquisition of western North America and its commerce, a coup that would deny its riches to the ever expanding Republic.”

Historian James Ronda, in his chapter in North American Exploration. Volume 3: A Continent Comprehended, reports:

“After reading the book, Thomas Jefferson took actions leading directly to the Lewis and Clark expedition.”

In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France. Under the Doctrine of Discovery, what the United States purchased was the right to govern the area because a “Christian” nation has the right to govern “non-Christian” nations. The United States did not purchase the land: under international law at the time, Indian nations were recognized as the land owners. Later treaties would be negotiated with Indian nations to obtain title to the land.

With regard to the inhabitants of the Louisiana Territory, Article III of the treaty between the United States and France says:

“they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and the religion which they profess.”

Many people assume that this refers only to the European inhabitants and that religion refers only to Christianity.

In 1804, official ceremonies were held at St. Louis transferring Louisiana to the jurisdiction of the United States. Historian Landon Jones, in his book William Clark and the Shaping of the West, notes:

“The most prominent absentees at the Three Flags Ceremony were the Indians who actually controlled the lands being transferred.”

Jones also observes:

“Four thousand people lived in the single agricultural complex at the Mandan-Hidatsa villages, more than in the American capital of Washington City.”


The Otoe (also spelled Oto) and Missouria were Siouan-speaking peoples who were closely related to the Winnebago and Iowa. The Otoe and Missouria had been a single nation until two chiefs quarreled and divided them into two distinct nations.

Near present-day Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, Meriwether Lewis held a council with the Otoe-Missouria. While six chiefs were present, the two principal chiefs – Little Thief and Big Horse – were not in attendance. The Indians were promised a dependable fur trade and Lewis stressed that the Indians would be destroyed if they did not acknowledge the power of the United States.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark scheduled another meeting with the Otoe-Missouria, this time with the Omaha invited so that they could mend a rift between the two groups. However, the party found the Omaha village deserted and in ruins.

After passing the deserted Omaha village, a party of Otoe-Missouria, including Little Thief and Big Horse, rode into Lewis and Clark’s camp. Lewis held council with them and explained that they were now a part of the United States. There is no report on the chiefs’ reactions to this news.


The designation Sioux has been applied to a number of related, but autonomous, Plains Indian groups. Since they had reputations as fierce warriors, many depravations against non-Indians were blamed on them. For example, when one of the Americans with the Corps of Discovery, John Colter, reported that his horse had been stolen, it was presumed that the nearby band of Sioux had been the culprits.

Near the present-day site of Pierre, South Dakota, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark encountered the Sioux and attempted to hold council with them. They had some language difficulties since none of their interpreters were fluent in the language. In some instances there was confusion and the threat of violence. According to James Ronda:

“The Partisan and his retinue proved the most aggressive, at one point causing the usually unflappable Clark to draw his sword.”

Lewis designated Black Buffalo as the leading chief. Black Buffalo was given a medal, a military coat, and a cocked hat. Two other chiefs, Partisan and Buffalo Medicine, were given medals. The Indian response to the gifts is described by historian Stephen Ambrose in his book Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West:

“‘That’s all?’ the Tetons demanded, unbelieving. Some worthless medals and a silly hat.”

The gift-giving was two-way as historian James Ronda reports:

“And the captains received a gift that did not translate well across the cultural divide—bedmates, a mark of respect accorded to distinguished guests.”


The Arikara (sometimes known as the Ree) were village people and farmers who lived along the Missouri River. They were a Caddo-speaking group closely related to the Pawnee. While they did hunt buffalo, they were not a nomadic hunting people.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark held council with the Arikara in South Dakota. Believing that every Indian nation had to have only one leader, they designated Crow at Rest as the principal chief, and Hawk Feather and Chief Hay as secondary chiefs. Hawk Feather and Chief Hay boycotted the second day of the council, insulted at not having been considered as primary chiefs. Both were village chiefs, as was Crow at Rest.


The Osage were a Siouan-speaking group who had been one people with the Kaw, Omaha, Ponca, and Quapaw. Their territory in 1804 was along the Osage River in what is now Missouri. They were semi-nomadic and maintained farming villages.

In Washington, D.C, an Osage delegation under the leadership of White Hair arrived for talks with the Americans. The delegation was the first in a series of Indian visits to the Capital arranged by Meriwether Lewis. White Hair urged President Thomas Jefferson to abandon his plans for expansion west of the Mississippi, saying that it would upset both his people and the Spanish.

Dogs Among Northwest Coast and Plateau Indian Nations

When the Europeans began their invasion of the Americas, they found that the Native Americans, like people throughout the world, had domesticated dogs. At the time of first contact, American Indians had at least 17 different types of dogs.

Northwest Coast:

The Northwest Coast culture area, which is generally described as the area along the Pacific Coast north of California and between the Cascade Mountains and the ocean, is the home to many Indian nations who traditionally based their economy on the use of sea coast and river ecological resources. This is an area which stretches from the Tlingit homelands in Alaska to the Tolowa homelands in northern California.

Among the Northwest Coast First Nations, dogs were often kept as pets and dogs were never eaten. Several of the tribes used dogs in hunting mountain goats and deer. The dogs were used to drive the animals to the hunters and/or into the water where they could easily be taken.

With regard to Salish dogs, Reg Ashwell and David Hancock, in their book Coast Salish: Their Art and Culture, report:

“They were highly trained by their masters, who called them by name, treated them like respected members of the family, and according to tales old Indians tell, even sang to them.”

Among the Tlingit, dogs were used for hunting bear, elk, goat, and river otters. The dogs also carried packs. In A History of Dogs in the Early Americas, Marion Schwartz reports:

“The typical Tlingit dog was shepherd sized with long hair, a bushy tail, and erect ears. The Tlingit also kept a separate breed of ‘Tahltan bear dogs,’ fox terrier-sized dogs that were quick and fearless in holding a bear at bay until the hunter arrived. The highly prized bear dog may have been kept only by the Tlingit and some of the nearby Athapaskan groups.”

Some of the tribes, such as the Quileute and the Central Coast Salish tribes, had wool-bearing dogs which were sheared and their wool used in blankets. Anthropologist Wayne Suttles, in his article on the Coast Salish in the Handbook of North American Indians, describes this dog as

“a small to medium-sized, Pomeranian-like, nonbarking animal, generally white, with a thick, compact coat that was shorn with a knife in the spring.”

Reg Ashwell and Rogere Hancock report:

“The wool of the dogs was much finer than that of the goats, and the yarns produced from it were very much like those of a fine grade, commercial wool.”

Professor Annie Ross, in article in American Indian Art, writes:

“Wooly dogs were raised by the Coast Salish peoples, and the dog wool was traded by and among the Coast Salish tribes, and perhaps beyond their territory.”

This dog apparently went extinct in the middle of the nineteenth century. Peter Simpson, in his chapter in Shadows of Our Ancestors: Readings in the History of Klallam-White Relations, reports:

“With the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company and their even-then-famous blankets, the tribes neglected their isolated breeding of ‘wool dogs’ which soon became mongrelized and their fur unworkable.”

Paula Gustafson, in her examination of Salish weaving, does not feel that dog hair was widely used in weaving. In her book Salish Weaving, Gustafson reports:

“Canine hair, no matter from what breed, is not a good spinning fibre, and it is particularly difficult to work with using the suspension-spindle method of spinning employed by the Salish.”

She feels that the “dog hair” blankets reported by the early European explorers were most likely woven from mountain goat hair mixed with some dog hair.

A protein analysis of nine Coast Salish blankets found that dog hair was used in five. Nikhil Swaminathan, in a report in Archaeology, reports:

“The dog hair seems to have been incorporated into common nonceremonial blankets and disappears from them not long after contact with European explorers, who arrived in the late-eighteenth century with cheaper textiles.”


The Plateau culture area is generally described as the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. Most of the Indian nations in this culture area have linguistic, cultural, and/or historic ties with the Northwest Coast.

Prior to the acquisition of the horse, dogs were important pack animals. Among the Kootenai, dogs carried packs made from baskets which were covered with rawhide. Kootenai dogs were used as pack animals and were not used to pull loads. Kootenai dogs were a large, hairy breed.

Among the Kootenai, dogs were considered to be family rather than personal property. In spite of being considered part of the family, H.H. Turney-High reports in his Ethnography of the Kutenai:

“Dogs were never tolerated inside the lodge, even in the coldest weather.”

With regard to the Salish-speaking Flathead, Samuel Lang, in his chapter in Lifeways of Intermontane and Plains Montana Indians: In Honor of Verne Dusenberry, reports:

“The dog, the only domesticated animal among the Flathead prior to their acquisition of the horse, was apparently not used as a pack animal.”

Among the Okanagan, dogs were not used for hauling. They were, however, used in hunting. In hunting mountain sheep, dogs were used to drive the animals to the waiting hunters.

Many of the tribes used dogs in hunting deer and elk. The Wenatchee, Entiat, and Chelan, for example, would use dogs to drive deer into the Columbia River where they would be killed.

Ancient America: Wyoming 6000 BCE to 2500 BCE

About 8,000 years ago (6000 BCE), the American Indian cultures of the Northern Plains began undergoing a series of major changes. There was a decrease in dependence on big game hunting as the people engaged in a wide range of hunting and gathering patterns. This is a period which archaeologists call the Archaic Period (also called the Middle Precontact Period by some archaeologists).

At about 5000 BCE, the Great Plains began to enter into a climate period known as the Altithermal. This was a hot, dry episode that lasts for about 2,500 years. During this time, the bison had to shift their ranges and subsequently Indian people either moved with them or changed to other game. In his Columbia University Ph.D. Dissertion on the MacHaffie Site, Richard Forbis reports:

“During the Altithermal period, climatic conditions appear to have forced bison from the Plains to the northerly regions. Man does not seem to have occupied the Plains in the Altithermal period. Man did, however, occupy other areas of North America then.”

The lack of moisture during this period meant that the production of grasses needed to sustain bison herds was restricted. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald, in his book Montana Before History: 11,000 Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains, writes:

“Humans adapted to the changing climate and decreasing bison by increasing the breadth of their diets, changing their technology, exploiting new resources, and living in different places.”

In his book Prehistory of the Americas, archaeologist Stuart Fiedel writes:

“It seems that the bison deserted much of the Plains; some of them may have taken refuge in stream valleys or peripheral foothill areas where the water shortage was less severe.”

In his book Indians in Yellowstone National Park, anthropologist Joel Janetski writes:

“It is characterized by a greater reliance on plant foods, especially small seeds, and the increased hunting of smaller animals, although the modern large animals—deer, mountain sheep, and bison—continued to be important.”

Briefly described below are some of the Wyoming sites between 6000 BCE and 2500 BCE.

Buffalo Kill: about 6000 BCE, near Casper, Wyoming, hunters used a parabolic sand dune with steep sides to capture a herd of about 100 bison during a hunt in late autumn. The bisons’ hooves sank into the loose sand and immobilized them, which allowed the hunters to move in and kill them at close range.

James Allen: by 5900 BCE, Indian people are occupying the James Allen site (48AB4). The stone used to make the tools found at the site are from a site a hundred mile or so to the north-northeast.

48JO303: by 5850 BCE, Indian people are now occupying sit 48JO303 in the southern Big Horn Mountains. The site is located at an elevation of 7000 feet and consists of a small group of rockshelters. One of these rockshelters, designated as Shelter Three, faces west onto a steep drainage. Don Grey, in a report in the Wyoming Archaeologist, writes:

“Shelter Three had about 300 square feet of floor space under an overhanging ledge, and opened onto a large flat area thirty to forty feet wide and a hundred feet long.”

The stone projectile points in the site include McKean-like materials.

Southsider Cave: by 5700 BCE, people were occupying the Southsider Cave (48BH364). The occupants dug two cache pits about 58 centimeters in diameter and about 45 centimeters deep. The cache pits, when uncovered by archaeologists, were filled with trash. According to George Frison, in an entry in the Handbook of North American Indians:

“However, in order to preserve a cache pit of this nature for reuse once it is emptied, it must be filled with something or the sides will collapse within a short period. The easiest way to preserve them was to fill them with trash, which was removed when the pit was reused.”

Mummy Cave: by 5680, Indian people were occupying Mummy Cave (48PA201) in northwestern Wyoming.

Trappers Point: by 5580 BCE, Indian hunters camping at Trappers Point were killing pronghorn antelope and other animals. The pronghorn were corralled, killed, and then butchered. All parts of the animals are used

Chittendon Bridge: by 5000 BCE, Indian people were using the Chittendon Bridge site east of Mammoth Hot Springs on the Gardner River in present-day Yellowstone National Park.

Deadman Wash: by about 4890 BCE, Indians were occupying the Deadman Wash Site (48SW1455) in southwest Wyoming.

Helen Lookingbill: by 4800 BCE, Indian people were using the Helen Lookingbill site (48FR308) which is located at an elevation of more than 10,000 feet the Absoroka Mountains. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald writes:

“Several bighorn sheep are represented at the site, but no bison. Local cherts were quarried at the site, suggesting a tethered settlement pattern around known resources in this rugged setting.”

Hawken: by 4340 BCE, the Hawken site (48CK303) in northeast Wyoming was used as a communal buffalo kill site. This was an arroyo trap. The bison were killed in the winter. The bison bones at the site are intermediate in size, between the extinct Bison antiquus and the modern Bison bison.

Fishing Bridge Point: By 3870 BCE, Indian people were using the Fishing Bridge Point site in present-day Yellowstone National Park. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald writes:

“The presence of Early Archaic sites on the Yellowstone Plateau shows that Early Archaic hunter-gatherers moved into the uplands, at least during the warmer months, to hunt animals and collect the plethora of plant resources available around the shores of Yellowstone Lake.”

Twin Creek Valley: about 3260 BCE, Indian people began using a camp site in the Twin Creek Valley. Among the tools they were using were obsidian projectile points from Malad, Idaho (about 135 km to the northwest).

Hogsback: by 3330 BCE, Indian people are now occupying a pithouse at the Hogsback site (48UT2516). The pithouse is of moderate size: slightly more than 4 meters by slightly less than 4 meters. The structure was repeatedly occupied as a seasonal camp for several years. Roasting pits at the site appear to be used for cooking meat. Archaeologist Summer Moore, reporting in the Wyoming Archaeologist, writes:

“Analysis of faunal remains from the site indicates animal use was primarily focused on the procurement and processing of large game animals such as pronghorn, although the significant proportion of rabbit-sized faunal remains also suggests small animals were captured, as well. Pronghorn antelope appear to have been transported to the site as whole carcasses, possibly suggesting a trapping location or otherwise advantageous hunting site was situated nearby.”

The site was occupied during the period which archaeologists call the Opal Phase in the Wyoming Basin. This phase is characterized by a decrease in mobility due to the availability of large game animals.

House Structure: by 3250 BCE, Indian people at site 48CO1712 in the Powder River Basin constructed a house. The people at this site were gathering wild plants, such as goosefoot, and hunting mule deer and pronghorns.

McKean: by 2590 BCE, Indian people were occupying the McKean site (48CK7) near the Belle Fouche River in northeastern Wyoming. They were hunting bison as well as deer, rabbit, and pronghorn.

Scoggin: about 2540 BCE, a small band of Indian hunters used the Scoggin site (48CR304) as a bison impoundment area. The impounded buffalo were killed by using a thrusting spear. This site is located in south central Wyoming near the North Platte River.

Dead Indian Creek: by 2500 BCE, Indian people were hunting deer between October and March near the Dead Indian Creek site (48PA551) in northwestern Wyoming. This suggests that this high elevation site was occupied during the winter. Features at the site suggest that the Indian people here had constructed a housepit. Anthropologists Peter Nabokov and Lawrence Loendorf, in their book Restoring a Presence: American Indians and Yellowstone National Park, report:

“They ate mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep, processed collected seeds, possibly making flour to thicken soup or to bake a mealy, unleavened bread, and survived at elevations where winter temperatures can drop to life-threatening lows.”

Mule deer skull caps at the Dead Indian site were arranged with their antlers attached which suggests ceremonial treatment. While sheep were an important source of food, there is no evidence of ceremonial treatment for these animals.

Medithermal Period: about 2500 BCE, the Medithermal period began with temperatures declining to modern levels. With regard to the Plains area, Richard Forbis reports:

“The Medithermal marked a return of cooler temperatures. Probably its effect on the Plains was a reduction in the number, intensity, and duration of drought periods and a gradual westward and southward return of the grasslands. And with the grasslands, capable of supporting year-round grazing, bison reappeared in great numbers; man followed the buffalo. All bison of the Medithermal period appear to be modern species.”

Note: the information in parenthesis following the name of the site is the Smithsonian Designation System. In this system of recording archaeological sites, the first number refers to the state; this is followed by letters which refer to the county; and then a number indicating its order in being recorded. Thus 5LP 10, means that the site is in Colorado (5th state when the states are listed alphabetically), La Plata County (LP), and was the 10th site recorded in La Plata county in the State Archaeologist’s office.

Christianity Comes to the Flathead Indians

During the 1830s, a major stir occurred among the missionary groups in North America when there were reports of the “savage” tribes from the interior who had come to St. Louis seeking Christianity. One of these tribes was the Flathead or Bitterroot Salish, a Salish-speaking tribe whose traditional territory included much of Western Montana. After they acquired the horse during the early 1700s, they began going east of the Rocky Mountains to hunt buffalo.

During the 1800s, the buffalo hunting area east of the Rocky Mountains on the Great Plains was claimed by a number of different tribes and there were often battles between them. The animosity between the Flathead and the Blackfoot was particularly intense and Blackfoot warriors were often successful in their raids on Flathead hunting parties.

In 1810, the North West Company established a trading post called Saleesh House in Flathead country on the Clark Fork River near present-day Thompson Falls in Montana. Fur trader David Thompson employed six Iroquois at Saleesh House to help him find bark for making canoes.

Following the establishment of Saleesh House, Nor’wester fur traders accompanied a hunting party of 150 Flathead across the Rocky Mountains through Marias Pass to hunt buffalo on the Plains. The hunting party was attacked by a party of 170 Piegan Blackfoot. The Flatheads won the battle, in part through the aid of the three traders who were traveling with them. The Flathead were armed with 20 guns obtained from the Nor’westers. They killed 7 of the Blackfoot and wounded 13 others. Among the Flathead, 5 were killed and 9 wounded. This was the first time in many years that the Flathead had won a battle against the Blackfoot.

The following year, the North West Company trading post Saleesh House was abandoned because of Blackfoot raids against the Flathead and fear of reprisals for the Nor’westers’ role in the battle against the Blackfoot.

In 1820, a group of about two dozen Christian Iroquois (Catholic Mohawk from Quebec) under the leadership of Old Ignace La Mousse came to live among the Flathead. The Iroquois worked for the Canadian fur traders and were to help establish fur trade and to show the Flathead how to trap.

The Iroquois preached their version of Christianity to the Flathead and taught them a number of Christian prayers and hymns. They told the Flathead about the great power of the Black Robes – the Jesuit Priests of the Catholic Church.

In 1831, some of the Flathead decided that the power of the Black Robes (Jesuits) could help them prevail over their enemies. The American Fur Company transported four Indians, including Silver Eagle and Running Bear, to St. Louis where they met with William Clark. Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame, had first made contact with the tribe when the Corps of Discovery had passed through their territory. While Clark was sympathetic to their request for missionaries, he was unable to find any Black Robes who were free to go to western Montana.

Two of the Flathead men died in St. Louis. The other two traveled part of the way home with the well-known American artist George Catlin who later reported that the Flathead had told him that the Jesuits had a superior religion and that they would be lost if they did not embrace it. The two remaining Flathead men died before returning home.

In 1834, Jason Lee, sent by the Methodist Missionary Board to establish a mission among the Flathead, met with the Flathead and Nez Perce at the Green River Rendezvous in Wyoming. He found the Indians deeply unsettling and concluded that the Indians were slaves to Satan and to alcohol. Instead of establishing an Indian mission, he continued his journey west to Fort Vancouver in Washington.

 In 1835, the Flathead still felt it would be good if they were to have a Black Robe live among them and share with them the great power of the Black Robes. Consequently, a second delegation of Flathead left Western Montana to travel to St. Louis, Missouri. The journey from Western Montana to Missouri was not an easy one for it meant that they had to pass through territories claimed by other tribes, such as the Crow and Lakota. Even though they were on a peaceful mission, it was easy to be mistaken for a war party and to invite attack by other tribes.

In St. Louis they asked for a Black Robe to be assigned to them. The delegation included Old Ignace, the Iroquois who first introduced the Flatheads to Catholicism. Historian Larry Cebula, in his book Plateau Indians and the Quest for Spiritual Power, 1700-1850, reports of Ignace:

“He was familiar with Catholicism and went straight to the cathedral to have his sons baptized. There he told the blackrobes that the Flatheads had sent him to St. Louis to request missionaries and that other Plateau groups, including the Spokans, Nez Perces, Cayuses, and Kutenais, wanted missionaries as well.”

In spite of the request, all available Jesuit manpower was committed to establishing a mission among the Kickapoos on the southern Plains and therefore there was no one available to be assigned to the Flathead.

In 1836, a party of four Flatheads left their Western Montana home for St. Louis to ask for the Blackrobes (Jesuits) to come to their people. This delegation was also lead by the Iroquois Old Ignace. The group was not heard from again. Indian agent Peter Ronan, in his 1890 book History of the Flathead Indians, reports:

“Whether killed while passing through the roaming places of their enemies or died of sickness or fatigue on their wearisome journey has never been known.”

In 1839, a fourth delegation of Flathead, including Peter Gaucher and Young Ignace, left Western Montana to journey to St. Louis. Upon reaching St. Louis, they met with Bishop Rosati. In their meeting with Bishop Rosati they extracted the promise that a priest would be sent to live with them.

In 1840 the Jesuits sent Father Pierre-Jean De Smet to live among the tribes of Western Montana. His first contact with them was at the Three Forks of the Missouri River where he was welcomed into a camp of Flathead and Pend d’Oreille. In his M.A. Thesis Religious Acculturation of the Flathead Indians, Richard Forbis reports:

“Like the Catholics of medieval Europe, De Smet wanted to make all aspects of life subservient to the Church and to Christianity.”

As a part of this assimilation, he wanted the Indians to become farmers.

Upon his arrival in Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley in 1841, Father De Smet set about constructing St. Mary’s mission, baptizing children, and instructing the people in the ways of Catholic Christianity. He placed a large hand-hewn cross in the center of a circle. According to J. F. McAlear, in the book The Fabulous Flathead: The Story of the Development of Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation:

 “Following a short service by Father DeSmet, all the Indians, young and old, came forward and solemnly kissed the cross and declared an oath that they would never forsake the religion of the Black Gown.”

At least this was DeSmet’s interpretation of what happened. According to Indian agent Peter Ronan:

“On the 3d day of December, 1841, about one-third of the Flathead tribe were baptized into the Catholic faith, and the others who were under religious instructions were received into the fold on Christmas day of that same year.”

In his book Charlo’s People: The Flathead Tribe, Adolf Hungry Wolf reports:

“But after all their efforts to learn about the Catholic religion, the Flatheads were soon discouraged by the attitudes of the priests. The People wanted to add Catholicism to their own Ways of Life—not to exchange their Ways for the ways that the priests demanded.”

In 1846, the Small Robes band of Blackfoot were living among the Flathead and observed their great victory over the Crow. The Blackfoot felt that the reason for the victory was the great War Medicine of the Blackrobes (Jesuits). Consequently, they had Father De Smet baptize 80 of their children. Encouraged by this baptism, Father De Smet set out to find the main band of the Blackfoot so that he might: (1) establish peace between the Flathead and the Blackfoot, and (2) establish a permanent mission among the Blackfoot.

In a letter to a London supporter, Father De Smet described the Blackfoot:

“They are the most treacherous and wily set of savages among all the nations of the American desert, in whose words no reliance can be placed.”

By seeking to bring Christianity to the Blackfoot De Smet angered the Flatheads. According to Richard Forbis:

“Although De Smet had lived with the Flatheads for five years, he apparently did not appreciate the fact that the Indians were not particularly interested in the moral and non-material aspects of Christianity; they were primarily concerned with its protective powers.”

When the Flathead had become Christian they had become successful in repelling Blackfoot attacks. This success, according to the Flathead, was due to the superior power of the Black Robes and if this power were to be given to their enemies, they reasoned, they might be exterminated. De Smet’s promiscuous proselytizing – giving the power to their enemies – caused Flathead resentment and hostility toward the priests and toward Christianity.

When DeSmet returned to the Flathead he found that their attitude toward the Black Robes had changed. Now they openly challenged the Black Robes by publically gambling, an activity which the priests discouraged. According to historian Larry Cebula:

“One Flathead disrupted religious services and others practiced shamanism within the mission itself.”

In 1847, smallpox struck the Flathead shortly after the hunters left for the buffalo hunt. Eighty-six people died, leaving only fifteen children alive. In her M.A. Thesis Bighorn Sheep and the Salish World View: A Cultural Approach to the Landscape, Marcia Pablo Cross reports:

“The priests regard this as a sign of God’s displeasure with the Flatheads for so many of them turning away from the mission. The Salish could have viewed this incident as the priests withholding their good medicine.”

In 1850, the Jesuits closed their mission to the Flathead and sold the mission to a local trader. The trader turned it into Fort Owen which served as a trading post for the Bitterroot Valley. The Jesuits abandoned the mission because they had little protection from Blackfoot attacks. Indian agent Peter Ronan blamed the lack of Flathead protection for the mission on the traders:

“Those men—licentious, immoral and impure generally, who accept from the great fur companies of the west, situations as trappers, hunters, etc., lead wild and desolate lives, and in their career of debauchery among the simple natives, brooked no opposition, and looked with jealous eyes upon the missionaries’ teachings of Christianity and virtue, and in the councils of the Indians began to sow the seed of discontent against the missionaries for the new order of things, which deprived the Christianized Indian from as many wives as he chose to take and in prohibiting debauchery of the Indian women by those lewd camp followers.”

It should be pointed out that Ronan had been appointed Indian Agent for the Flathead Reservation by the Catholic Church under the U.S. government policy of requiring Indians to convert to Christianity.

In 1854, the Jesuits established St. Ignatius as a mission among the Pend d’Oreille, a Salish-speaking group north of the Flathead. The Jesuits hoped that this mission would encourage the Flathead to abandon their traditional home in the Bitterroot Valley and move north to resettle among the Salish-speaking Pend d’Oreille. The Jesuits were led to the site of the new mission by Chief Alexander.

Today many, if not most, of the Flathead are Catholic and participate in Catholic ceremonies. At the same time, many also practice some of the “old ways” and see no conflict between the two. Christianity provides them with additional power.


Grizzly Bears

While Grizzly bears were once found throughout much of the American West, today there are two primary locations where Grizzly bears are abundant: Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Although at one time there were an estimated 50,000 Grizzly bears in North America, the current population is estimated at about 1,800. At the present time, federal wildlife officials are considering lifting protections for the Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park area. This would allow trophy hunting of Grizzly bears outside of the Park. A number of American Indian tribes are protesting this possible decision, citing the spiritual importance of Grizzly bears to traditional Native religions. For many American Indians, the Grizzly bear is a sacred animal.

Indians and Bears:

In general, American Indian people have seen themselves as being in harmony with nature and animals, such as the bears, are spoken of not only as people, but as relatives. Some examples of the importance of bears to Native American spirituality are described below.

Among the Ute, the veneration of the bear is expressed ceremonially. Anthropologist Bertha Dutton, in her book The Ranchería, Ute, and Southern Paiute Peoples: Indians of the American Southwest, reports:

“The bear is regarded as the wisest of animals and the bravest of all except the mountain lion; he is thought to possess wonderful magic power. Feeling that the bears are fully aware of the relationship existing between themselves and the Ute, their ceremony of the bear dance assists in strengthening this friendship.”

The Bear Dance is a traditional Ute ceremony which is performed in the Spring. During the 10-day ceremony, a group of men play musical rasps (notched and un-notched sticks) to charm the dancers and propitiate bears. According to oral tradition, this dance was given to the Ute by a bear. The circular dance area represents a bear cave with an opening to the south or southeast. Traditionally, the dance area was enclosed with timbers and pine boughs to a height of about seven feet.

In the Ute Bear Dance, women choose male partners and the women lead in the dancing. Spiritual leader Eddie Box, quoted in Nancy Wood’s book When Buffalo Free the Mountains: The Survival of America’s Ute Indians. says:

“Bear Dance is a rebirth, an awakening of the spirit. It’s a time of awareness. You come to learn from the past in order to arrive at the present with an understanding of the harmony of things.”

Historian Richard Young, in his book The Ute Indians of Colorado in the Twentieth Century, describes the Bear Dance this way:

“Probably the oldest of the Ute Dances, the Bear Dance was a festive, social dance that had always been held in the spring before winter camps disbanded and family groups went their separate ways in search of food.”

The Utes are not the only tribe with a bear dance: the Shoshone, who are linguistically related to the Ute, also have a bear dance. This was originally a hunting dance, which had nothing to do with hunting bears. Men and women would face each other in two long lines and dance in a back-and-forth manner. In one form of the dance, a drum is used while in another form an upside-down basket is scraped by a rasp stick.

In the Dakotas, the Arikara, an agricultural nation with villages along the Missouri River, also had a bear ceremony. Among the Arikara, the bear-medicine men would put on a ceremony to gain the bear’s help in hunting. The ceremony was conducted in an earth lodge where seven elders would sing a number of songs. A young man would then be instructed to go out and get a certain kind of clay. From this clay, the bear-medicine men would make little figures of men, horses, and buffalo. They would then have the little men hunt and finally have them jump into the fire.

The bear also has important spiritual significance for many other Indians.

 Non-Indians and Bears:

When the English began their invasion of North America, they tended to view the Americas as a wilderness, a frightening concept with strong religious overtones. Edwin Churchill, the chief curator at the Maine Museum, writes in his chapter in American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, and Cartography in the Land of Norumbega:

“They viewed the wilderness as a place where a person might lapse into disordered, confused, or ‘wild conditions’ and then succumb to the animal appetites latent in all men and restrained only by society.”

The English world-view tended to reflect the ethnocentric notion that they were divinely commanded to subdue the earth. According to Frank Waters, in his book Brave are My People: Indian Heroes Not Forgotten:

“They leveled whole forests under the axe, plowed under the grasslands, dammed and drained the rivers, gutted the mountains for gold and silver, and divided and sold the land itself. Accompanying all this destruction was the extermination of birds and beasts, not alone for profit or sport, but to indulge in a wanton lust for killing.”

For the English, taming the wilderness and claiming their dominion over the land involved the eradication of many predators, such as wolves, bears, and (in their minds) Indians. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Americans continued the policy of extermination. Even within national parks, government hunters sought to kill as many wolves and bears as possible.

With regard to Grizzly bears, the extermination policy was nearly successful. One display sign in the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana indicates:

“Although the Grizzly inspires fear and can pose real danger to people, human beings are powerful natural enemies of this bear. Through killing this animal and competing for the use of its habitat, humans have eliminated the Grizzly from most of its original range.”

The Current Situation:

Protections for Grizzly bears were imposed in 1975 and since that time the bear population has rebounded. According to one newspaper report:

U.S. wildlife officials and their state counterparts in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming contend the region’s 700 to 1,000 bears are biologically recovered. They’ve been pushing for almost a decade to revoke the animal’s threatened status, a step that was taken in 2007 only to be reversed by a federal judge two years later.

Removing federal protections for Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region would mean that the animals would be under state management. This would allow the states—Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming—to allow hunting of them. Wildlife officials in these states have been advocating bear hunts as a way to deal with problem bears.

Grizzlies have killed six people in and around Yellowstone National Park since 2010. In addition, they have regularly mauled both domestic livestock and hunters outside of the Park. The ranching industry has lobbied for eliminating protections for the Grizzly bears.

Under the Endangered Species Act, decisions regarding the Grizzly bear should be guided by “best available science,” but federal officials have indicated that they will take tribal views into consideration. Consultation with the tribes is required by Presidential Executive Orders and, according to tribal officials, by treaty obligation. Federal officials report that they have consulted with five tribes and have discussions scheduled with two more. In addition, letters have been sent to more than 50 tribes inviting them to participate in the discussions.

Tribal leaders from several tribes have opposed the removal of Grizzly hunting restrictions. The Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho is the home of the Shoshone and Bannock Tribes. Tribal Vice-Chairman Lee Juan Tyler has stated:

“These are our treaty lands, our ancestral homelands. Too many times in our relationship with the federal government we have surprises. … We want the grizzly bear protected with those lands, and the grizzly bear returned to areas where we can co-manage them.”

Federal officials are expected to rule on lifting protections for the Grizzly bear sometime in the next several months. This decision would impact only the bears in the area around Yellowstone National Park. The area around Glacier National Park would not be impacted by this decision.

Dissolving Cherokee Government

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, that great American visionary Thomas Jefferson proposed that Indian nations be moved to territories west of the Mississippi River so that they would not hinder American economic development. Government policies during the first half of the nineteenth century forced the removal of many Indian nations and thousand of Indian people to new “reservations” in the west. During the second half of the nineteenth century, Manifest Destiny and American greed caught up with the removed Indian nations. The governmental mantra became assimilation and the idea that reservation lands and resources should be developed by non-Indians.

In 1893, Congress established the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes (commonly known as the Dawes Commission) to persuade the leadership of the Indian nations in Oklahoma to give up title to their land so that it could be allocated to individuals. The primary governmental concern at this time was for Indians to become assimilated into the dominant culture. In addition, dissolution of tribal governments would clear the way for what had been Indian Territory to become a part of Oklahoma and for Oklahoma to become a state. Powerful non-Indian groups pushed for this as an opportunity to make a profit. With regard to the Cherokee, an Indian nation which had been removed from their aboriginal homelands and had created an American-style democratic government in the west, this meant that the United States sought to dissolve the Cherokee government.

In 1894, the Cherokee told the Dawes Commission that something as momentous as allotment must be discussed by the people at length. Furthermore, they suggested that the United States first settle all outstanding claims from previous treaties. Historian Andrew Denson, in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:

“This reluctance to embrace allotment left the American commissioners mystified and angry. Advocates of the policy at this time were convinced that common landholding and tribal government were doomed.”

There were at this time 41,824 Cherokees in the west and of these 8,703 (21%) were classified as full-bloods.

In 1895, Cherokee leader Bird Harris proposed that the Cherokee move to Mexico in order to preserve their culture and heritage. A large meeting was held at which Harris proposed a large reservation—100 miles by 300 miles—in Mexico. As an alternative to Mexico, he suggested Colombia. E.C. Boudinot traveled to Washington, D.C. to discuss the possibility of Cherokee emigration with the foreign ministers of Mexico and Venezuela.

In 1896, the Dawes Commission was empowered by Congress to determine tribal citizenship. Ken Carter, in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, writes:

“The loss of control over citizenship was a serious blow to the power of the tribal governments that made it almost impossible to defend themselves against the government’s determined efforts to abolish them.”

The government’s rationale for giving the Dawes Commission power to determine citizenship was based on allegations that the tribal rolls were loosely kept. With regard to the Cherokee roll, Kent Carter, in another article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:

“Throughout its existence, the Dawes Commission held firmly to the philosophy that it did not matter if a person had Cherokee blood because if he or she did not meet all the requirements of the various laws passed by Congress and the numerous opinions issued by government attorneys, they were not eligible for enrollment. It is a philosophy that drove contemporary lawyers to distraction and drives present day researchers to tears.”

The Curtis Act in 1898 extended the provisions of the Dawes Act over Indian Territory. This act allowed the federal government to break up the Indian reservations into individual allotments. At this time there were almost no Indians in the Territory who favored allotment. Theda Perdue and Michael Green, in their book The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Southeast, write:

“Frustrated at the unwillingness of the tribes to negotiate allotment agreements, Congress simply mandated allotment and the termination of tribal governments.”

The Act stipulates that tribal governments would continue to exist only to issue allotment deeds to tribal members and to terminate any other tribal business.

The Cherokee objected to the bill and sent a delegation to Washington to testify but they were not allowed access to the rooms where committees were debating the bill. Corporate representatives, on the other hand, had free access to the committees. Business historian H. Craig Miner, in his book The Corporation and the Indian: Tribal Sovereignty and Industrial Civilization in Indian Territory, 1865-1907, describes the vote:

“There was no quorum; a roll call would have revealed that there were only a dozen men in the Senate.”

While the Cherokee opposed the Curtis Act, in the 1899 case of Stephens versus Cherokee Nation, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Curtis Act.

In 1900, a delegation of Cherokee traveled to Mexico with the intent of finding out if a reservation could be established for them in the Mexican states of Sonora or Sinaloa.

The Board of Indian Commissioners in 1901 declared that the purpose of the Indian Office (now known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs) was “to make all Indians self-supporting, self-respecting, and useful citizens of the United States.”

In 1901, all members of the Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma were granted citizenship by an act of Congress. This meant that every Indian adult male was a registered voter. This was an attempt to increase the number of voters in Oklahoma territory so that it could gain statehood.

In 1902, the Dawes Commission attempted to force enrollment on the Cherokee. Many of the full bloods, members of the Kootoowah Society, refused to submit to the process. In her book The Cherokees, Grace Steele Woodward reports:

“Hiding from the agents in inaccessible and out-of-the-way places known only to Keetoowahs, they eluded capture as long as possible. And many of these full bloods when captured purportedly preferred imprisonment to enrollment.”

In 1903, the Five Civilized Tribes Executive Committee passed a resolution asking each tribal council to petition Congress for statehood for Indian Territory.

In 1903, the Cherokee elected William C. Rogers as principal chief. The Indian Chieftain reported:

“So far as the chief’s election is concerned, the last political battle that the Cherokee will ever engage in has been fought out.”

The article concludes:

“As the nominal head of a defunct nation the chief will have little authority.”

In 1905, Cherokee chief William C. Rogers refused to call for tribal elections as the U.S. Congress had declared that the Cherokee government would not continue past 1906. Nevertheless, the elections were held and many opponents to Rogers were elected. Rogers notified the tribal council that he did not consider it to be legally elected. While Rogers was in Washington, D.C, the tribal council voted to impeach him and named Frank Boudinot as principal chief. However, the secretary of the Interior simply re-appointed Rogers to the position.

In 1905, the Cherokee Keetoowah Society, composed primarily of full-bloods, became incorporated. However, the Keetoowah were soon factionalized, and Redbird Smith and his followers who were opposed to allotment formed the Nighthawk Keetoowahs.

In 1905, representatives from the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw nations held a convention at which they drew up a constitution for the state of Sequoyah, which would be separate and distinct from Oklahoma Territory which was seeking statehood. The call for the convention was issued by W.C. Rogers, the Cherokee Principal Chief, and by Green McCurtain, the Choctaw chief. The issue of whether Oklahoma should be one state or two was summed up by the Muskogee Phoenix:

“There are in Indian Territory some few persons who desire two states made of the two territories and who honestly believe this can be done. There are some persons who desire conditions to remain as they now are and who know that to fight for two states is to fight for no statehood legislation, and this makes them especially active.”

In her book And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes, Historian Angie Debo reports:

“The constitutional convention was characterized even by a hostile newspaper as the most representative body of Indians ever assembled in the United States.”

The constitution for the state of Sequoyah was submitted to the voters: the turnout was light, but the vote was strongly in favor of it. The measure was presented to Congress which simply ignored it. According to Angie Debo:

“There was never the slightest chance that Congress would consent to the admission of two Western, radical, and probably Democratic, states in the place on the map that could be occupied by one.”

Congress, in 1906, passed an Act to Provide for the Final Disposition of the Affairs of the Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma. The Department of the Interior took over the Indian schools, school funds, and tribal government buildings and furniture. The law provided that the President may appoint a principal chief for any of the tribes. If a chief failed to sign a document presented to him by U.S. authorities, he was either to be replaced or the document could be simply approved by the Secretary of the Interior.

Congress passed the Oklahoma Enabling Act in 1906 as one step in the creation of the state of Oklahoma. The Act combined Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory. With regard to Indians, the Act imposed a condition on the state constitution: Oklahoma cannot limit federal authority over Indians within its boundaries.

In 1906, the Cherokee Nighthawk Keetoowah Society changed Redbird Smith’s title from Chairman to Chief as a political statement which pointed out that the Cherokee now have no principal chief.

The state of Oklahoma was created in 1907. With statehood, tribal governments in the area were dissolved. Indians constituted only 5% of the population of the new state.

The Pawnee Morning Star Ceremony

Human sacrifice is generally defined as the ritual killing of a human being as a part of a religious ritual. While human sacrifice was an important part of the ceremonial practices of the Indian nations of Mesoamerica (such as the Aztec and Maya), it was uncommon among the American Indian people of North America. One of the few groups who incorporated human sacrifice into their ceremonies was the Pawnee.

At the time of the European invasion of the Great Plains, the Pawnee were an agricultural people raising corn along the rivers of the Central Plains in what would later become Nebraska. They also engaged in seasonal buffalo hunts, particularly after they obtained the horse. They had a sophisticated understanding of the movement of the stars and celestial observation was important in determining the cultivation cycle of their corn. The Pawnee lifestyle was centered on the astronomical observation. The movements of the stars formed the basis for their seasonal rituals.

In each Pawnee village there was an elite group composed of a hereditary chief, sub-chiefs, religious leaders, and leading warriors which discussed tribal matters such as the timing of ceremonies, assignments of farming plots to families, warfare, and foreign relations.

The Pawnee lived in permanent earth lodges which were constructed so that the four central posts represented the four cardinal directions. The east-facing doorway would have an unobstructed view of the eastern sky and at the vernal equinox the first rays of the sun would strike the altar within the lodge.

One of the important Pawnee ceremonies, the Morning Star Ceremony, involved the sacrifice of a young woman. As a part of the ceremony, a captive woman would be tied spread-eagled to a wooden frame and every man and boy in the camp would shoot an arrow into her body. The young woman represented Evening Star and with her death, her soul went to her husband Morning Star who then clothed her with the colors of the dawn. The reunion of Morning Star and Evening Star meant the renewal of growing things on earth. The Morning Star Ceremony was a fertility rite, and from the Pawnee perspective, the young woman was not a victim, but a messenger.

The Morning Star Ceremony was not conducted on a regular schedule. Rather, it was conducted in response to a vision by a warrior. In this vision Morning Star would appear as a man anointed with red paint with leggings decorated with scalps and eagle feathers. In the dream, Morning Star would tell the warrior:

“I am the man who has power in the east. I am the Great Star (Upirikutsu). You people have forgotten about me. I am watching over your people. Go to the man who knows the ceremony and let him know. He will tell you what to do.”

Following the vision, the warrior would consult with the Morning Star shaman (priest, in some accounts). The warrior and the elder would then determine if Morning Star in the vision was asked for the regular symbolic ceremony or the full ceremony which included the human sacrifice. The elders would consult with the stars: the full ceremony was performed only in years when Mars was the morning star.

If it was decided that the full ceremony was needed, then the warrior would be instructed to obtain a suitable captive from another tribe. From the keeper of the Morning Star bundle, the warrior would receive a special warrior’s outfit. The warrior would then recruit some volunteers and set out to capture a girl. At the time of her capture, the girl would be dedicated to Morning Start and then turned over to the keeper of the Morning Star bundle upon their return to the village.

In the village, the captive would be treated with respect, but kept isolated from the rest of the camp. As the time for the five-day ritual approached, the captive would be ritually cleansed. The keeper of the Morning Star bundle would then sing a series of songs during which the captive would be symbolically transformed from a human form to a celestial form. With this, the girl now became the ritual representative of Morning Star: she was not viewed as impersonating Morning Start, but rather she was viewed as the earthly embodiment of Morning Star.

On the last day of the ceremony, the men and boys from the village would take the captive outside of the village to a place where they had erected a scaffold. This scaffold represented Evening Star’s garden in the west, the source of all animal and plant life.

The captive would be placed on the scaffold and her clothing removed. When the morning star appeared, two men would approach her from the east and touch her lightly with torches. Four other men would then touch her with war clubs. The warrior who had captured her with then come forward with a sacred bow and shoot her through the heart with a sacred arrow. At the same time, another warrior would strike on the head with the war club from the Morning Star bundle.

The elder supervising the ceremony would then cut open her breast with a stone knife. He would smear his face with her blood. The warrior who had captured her would catch some of her blood on dried meat.

All of the men and boys would then shoot arrows into her body, circle the scaffold four times, and return to the camp.

In 1816, Pawnee leader Petalesharo rescued a Comanche girl from the Morning Star Ceremony, stating that the ritual should be abolished. He offered himself in her place and when the other Pawnee hesitated in killing him, he untied the girl, placed her on a horse, and led her to safety.

Petalsharo, the son of Chief Lachelesharo (Old Knife), was a respected warrior of about 30 years of age at this time. Carl Waldman, in his book Who Was Who in Native American History, writes:

“He won the respect of his people for confronting the powerful class of priests, and, on succeeding his father, he proved influential among many of the Pawnee bands.”

In 1833, the Pawnee prepared to sacrifice a Cheyenne woman captive in their Morning Star Ceremony. Chief Big Ax called a council of chiefs and leading men and asked them to abandon the plan. While the people in the village were hostile to the idea of letting the captive go, they brought the woman to Big Ax’s lodge. The American Indian agent and five others attempted to take the captive from the village. They were blocked by Soldier Chief and the woman was shot with an arrow. The Pawnee warriors then took the dying woman out onto the prairie and carried out the sacrifice.

With increasing opposition to the Morning Star Ceremony from both the American government and some of the Pawnee leaders, the Pawnee held their last known Morning Star Ceremony in 1838. At this time, they ritually sacrificed Haxti, a young Oglala woman.

Ancient America: Wyoming Before 6000 BCE

Although the region of North America known today as Wyoming first entered into the written Euro-American histories in the early nineteenth century with the exploits of fur traders, trappers, and non-Indian adventurers, Indian people had been living in the area for many millennia. Archaeologists often refer to the era prior to 6000 BCE as Paleo-Indian. This appears to have been a time when the people specialized in the hunting of big game.

Yellowstone National Park:

While Indian people had utilized the resources and unique geological features of what is now Yellowstone National Park for thousands of years, when the fur traders first began describing the region to non-Indians, they were met with disbelief.

By 9600 BCE, Indian people were camping at Osprey Beach on Yellowstone Lake in present-day Yellowstone National Park.

By 8000 BCE, Indian people were living along the shores of Yellowstone Lake in present-day Yellowstone National Park. The stone tools which they were using resemble those of the complex which archaeologists call Cody (see below).

By 7400 BCE, Indian people using Cody Complex tools at the Osprey Beach site in present-day Yellowstone National Park were hunting a variety of game, including bear, deer, bighorn sheep, bison, and rabbit. They may have been exploiting the resources of Yellowstone Lake using boats.

Hell Gap:

By 9450 BCE, Indian people were beginning to occupy the Hell Gap site (48GO305) in southeastern Wyoming. They were making large, wide, un-stemmed, and lanceolate points with a long, slender tip and a wide, concave base.   In his entry on Hell Gape in A Dictionary of Archaeology, William Billeck writes:

“The Hell Gap site consists of a stratified series of short-term campsites where bison was the predominant animal represented.”

By 7600 BCE, the cultural tradition which archaeologists call the Hell Gap Complex moved into the Northern Plains. Hell Gap people were big game hunters with a primary emphasis on bison. In some areas, Hell Gap is associated with bison procurement using a parabolic dune entrapment method.


 Clovis culture, which is actually a stone tool technology complex, is one of the earliest well-documented archaeological cultures in North America. The signature artifact of the Clovis people is an atlatl point. The Clovis point is a finely made stone projective point with a characteristic flute which helps in attaching the point to an atlatl dart. Clovis points have lateral indentations (or flutes) which allow them to be efficiently tied to a shaft. The shafts were thrown with the aid of a throwing stick or atlatl. Archaeologists Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley, in their book Across Atlantic Ice: The Origins of America’s Clovis Culture, report:

“Fluted projectile points are the most readily identifiable Clovis artifacts, but there are many other items that make up the Clovis inventory. Among these are tools made from blades and flakes struck from specialized cores, plus bi-facially flaked knives and adzes.”

With regard to Clovis in Wyoming, in 9330 BCE, Clovis hunters drove a mammoth into the muck of a bog where it became trapped. They killed it and butchered it, taking the meat to their hunting camp on higher ground.

By 9280 BCE, Clovis people were occupying the Union Pacific site.

By 9250 BCE, Clovis people were occupying the Colby site. The people stacked mammoth bones in what may have been a meat cache. The stone chopper which was used at the site had been made from granite which was not from the area.

By 9200 BCE, Clovis people were camping at the Sheaman site.


About 11,000 years ago, the climate changed: it became warmer (by about 13 degrees Fahrenheit) and drier. There was also an increase in the seasonal extremes: summers were warmer and winters were colder. For Indian people, this difference meant that their cultures had to change so that they could adapt to the new environment.

Folsom people are known for their fluted spear points which were smaller and more delicate than the Clovis points. Their flutes are also longer than Clovis. In his book Bones, Boats, and Bison: Archeology and the First Colonization of Western North America, Archaeologist James Dixon writes:

“The hallmark of Folsom culture is the Folsom projectile point, which is recognized throughout the Americas for its unique design, exceptional workmanship, and the high-quality raw materials from which they are manufactured.”

Geographically, Folsom culture spread eastward from the Rocky Mountains across the Great Plains. It extended from North Dakota to Mexico. It seems to have been centered, however, along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

With regard to Wyoming, by 8830 BCE, Folsom hunters were camping on the floodplain of an arroyo in Agate Basin. They trapped, killed and butchered eight buffalo. They lived in hide-covered structures which used bison ribs as tent pegs.

By 8750 BCE, Folsom people were occupying the Hanson site in the northern Bighorn Basin. The people were living in circular structures. The floors of the lodges were covered with a layer of sand. In his book Prehistoric Hunters of the High Plains, George Frison reports:

“The site was apparently a campsite and suggests that many of the usual campsite activities were going on. The most obvious activity was flint knapping and the site provides evidence—from core reduction to tools and finished projectile points—of all the basic processes.”

Frison also reports:

“Projectile point manufacture involved bi-face reduction to a final stage characterized by a blunt, ground distal end and a concave base with a carefully prepared striking platform for channel flake removal.”

Careful striking would then remove the long flake and provide the point with the characteristic Folsom groove. Archaeologists have found evidence of many failures in the final production of Folsom points at this site.

In 7950 BCE, Indian people who were using Folsom tools are occupying the Rattlesnake Pass site (48CR4520).

Cody Complex:

The Cody complex is found in the Northern Great Plains area. In his entry on the Cody Complex in A Dictionary of Archaeology, William Billeck writes:

“The tool assemblage consists of projectile points, flake tools, scrapers, gravers, wedges, choppers, bi-faces, hammer stones, and bone tools that are often found in bison kill and processing sites.”

By 8500 BCE, Indian people from the Cody Complex were spending the warmer months in the Rocky Mountains. Here they repaired and manufactured tools which were used for hunting and for cleaning hides. In the winter, they moved to lower elevations. They were hunting bear, bighorn sheep, deer, and rabbit. According to anthropologist Carroll Riley, in Rio del Norte: People of the Upper Rio Grande From Earliest Times to the Pueblo Revolt:

“Cody stone technology suggests more diverse hunting of a variety of small game.”

By 7076 BCE, Indian people using Cody complex tools were using the Horner site. This was a buffalo kill site or a butchering area. The bison were killed in the fall using a corral at the river’s edge.

Agate Basin:

 By 8480 BCE, Indian people were using the Agate Basin site for buffalo hunting. Bison in groups of 10 to 20 animals were apparently driven into the arroyo bottom. The hunters would be stationed at strategic points above the animals in order to harvest them.

By 8000 BCE, the cultural complex which archaeologists call Agate Basin extended into the Northern Plains region. These Agate Basin people were big game hunters whose subsistence strategies included bison trapping. The Agate Basin points were long, narrow, unfluted lanceolate forms. The quality of the lithic work was very good. Archaeologist Sandra Morris, in her University of Montana M.A. Professional Paper Prehistoric Cultural Resources of the Whitetail Pipestone Area, Jefferson County, Montana: An Overview and Implications for Cultural Resource Managers, reports:

“The Agate Basin projectile point morphology is distinct: the form is a long and narrow leaf shape, with no notches.”

Agate Basin appears to be a continuation of Goshen and Folsom in which bison is the economic mainstay.

By 8000 BCE, Indian people at the Agate Basin site had a dog-wolf hybrid.

Two Moon Shelter:

By 8060 BCE, Indian people were using the Two Moon Shelter (48BH1827) in the Bighorn Mountains. In an article in Mammoth Trumpet, Floyd Largent explains:

“A rockshelter is basically a rocky overhang that lacks an extensive interior cave system.”

The Two Moon rockshelter has a protected interior of about 45 square meters with another 30 square meters of flat area just outside of the dripline.

Medicine Creek Lodge Site:

By 7500 BCE, Indian people are now occupying the Medicine Lodge Creek site (48BH499) on the western flanks of the Bighorn Mountains. The site is located at an elevation of 4,800 feet. Indian people at the Medicine Creek Lodge site were hunting small mammals -–mostly bushy-tail wood rats commonly known as packrats (Neotoma cineria). They were also hunting some deer, mountain sheep, and buffalo. They were also using grinding stones to process gathered plant foods.

By 7360 BCE, the people at the Medicine Creek Lodge site were using a Cody Complex tool tradition (see above).

Mummy Cave:

By 7280 BCE, Indian people had begun to live in Mummy Cave (48PA201), a west-facing natural room. This site is located in northwest Wyoming. They were using a side-notched projectile point. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald, in his book Montana Before History: 11,000 Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains, writes:

“Hunters of bighorn sheep utilized the cave during the entire span of its use.”

Nets may have been used to trap the sheep.

Sheep Mountain:

By 7000 BCE, at Sheep Mountain in the Absaroka range Indian people were using nets to harvest game, including mountain goats, deer, and rabbit. They were using a net that was 200 feet long and 6 feet high made from two-ply cord twisted from juniper bark fibers. In his book The Smithsonian Book of North American Indians: Before the Coming of the Europeans, Philip Kopper reports:

“The hunters who made the Sheep Mountain net probably used it by stringing it across a game trail in the rugged mountains and waiting for animals to pass, or by hanging it across a natural bottleneck and driving game into it.”

Granite Creek Rockshelter:

By 6000 BCE, Indian people were using the Granite Creek rockshelter (48BH330) in the Bighorn Mountains. The rockshelter is 85 feet long and 18 feet deep at its deepest point. This was an animal processing area which was used repeatedly by hunting groups for several thousand years. Most of the stone tools at this site were made from local materials.

Note: the information in parenthesis following the name of the site is the Smithsonian Designation System. In this system of recording archaeological sites, the first number refers to the state; this is followed by letters which refer to the county; and then a number indicating its order in being recorded. Thus 5LP 10, means that the site is in Colorado (5th state when the states are listed alphabetically), La Plata County (LP), and was the 10th site recorded in La Plata county in the State Archaeologist’s office.


California Indians Lose Their Home

The United States acquired what would become the state of California under the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the war with Mexico. In the treaty, the United States agreed to recognize Indian land holdings, and to allow Indian people to continue their customs and languages.

In 1901, the Supreme Court in the case Barker versus Harvey decided that the Cupeño did not have the right to retain their homes at Warner’s Hot Springs in California. The Indians had argued that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with Mexico recognized the Indian right to villages on Mexican land grants. The Supreme Court, however, decided that the Indians had failed to bring their case to the Land Commission in the allotted time and that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had failed to bring about legislation to reaffirm the land rights for these Indians.

In 1851, Congress had established a Board of Land Commissioners to investigate all land claims in California. While the Commissioners were to have submitted a report to the Secretary of the Interior, no one has been able to find the report. In an article in the Journal of the West, Joel Hyer reports:

“Without confirming evidence, the Supreme Court believed that the Board of Land Commissioners informed all Indians—including those living in the isolated mountain communities at Warner’s Ranch—of the necessity of presenting land claims within two years.”

Hyer also reports:

“The Court based its decision on a supposition that someone visited these peoples, informed of their duty to file a land claim, and then made a report.”

The land in question actually belonged to the Mission San Diego which had reported them to be abandoned.

The Supreme Court decision affected 250 Cupeño families. Anthropologist Edward Castillo, in one of his entries in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports:

“At several villages native families locked themselves in their homes as sheriff’s deputies broke down their doors with axes to evict them.”

Many influential California Anglos were sympathetic to the cause of the Cupeño and other Mission Indians. In 1902, the Sequoyah League was organized by writer Charles Fletcher Lummis. The goal of the new organization was “To Make Better Indians” and one of the primary concerns was the Mission Indians. Historian William Hagan, in his book Theodore Roosevelt and Six Friends of the Indian, reports:

“The fifty-odd people who attended the organization meeting including Episcopal and Catholic bishops from the area.”

Charles Lummis, who had worked with the Indian Rights Association, hoped that the new organization would not be adversarial, but would work with the government. Historian Sherry Smith, in her book Reimagining Indians: Native Americans Through Ango Eyes, 1880-1940, reports:

“Beyond addressing the needs of California’s Indians, the League intended to cooperate with the Indian Bureau while maintaining ‘a friendly watchfulness over’ reservations.”

While the League favored assimilation, it rejected allotment as the primary vehicle to accomplish this. Only one Indian was on the League’s board of directors: Francis LaFlesche (Omaha) who lived in Washington, D.C. According to Sherry Smith:

“In assuming Anglos were best qualified to direct Indian affairs, the Sequoyah League marched in step with other Indian reform groups of its time.”

In 1902, in an issue of Out West, Charles Lummis launched a campaign to help the Cupeño families who were being evicted from Warner Ranch. Lummis also denounced the directive from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs which specifies the proper length of an adult male Indian’s hair.

The Indian interest groups, such as the Sequoyah League, had an impact. They forced Congress to bow to public opinion and purchase a ranch in California’s Pala Valley for the Cupeño who had been evicted from the Mission San Diego land grant.

In 1903, government officials met with the Cupeño on Warner’s Ranch to inform them that they were to be moved to the Pala Reservation. In trying to explain why they don’t want to move, Cecilio Blacktooth told the officials:

“You see that graveyard out there? There are our fathers and our grandfathers. You see that Eagle-nest mountain and that Rabbit-hole mountain? When God made them, He gave us this place. We have always been here. We do not care for any other place.”

In spite of this plea, the Cupeños were removed.



Ancient America: How Old is It?

Archaeology in the United States is often said to have started in 1764 when amateur archaeologist Thomas Jefferson had his African slaves dig up hundreds of Monacan skeletons so that he could learn more about their mortuary customs. During the next century and a half, many ancient American Indian sites would be dug up by archaeologists, both amateur and professional, who were unable to determine the actual age of these sites. There was lots of speculation about the age of these sites, but very little hard data regarding their antiquity. During the twentieth century, however, this changed with the development of a number of scientific methods for determining the age of an archaeological site.


 In 1901, University of Arizona astronomer A. E. Douglass began doing research on tree rings which developed into an archaeological dating method known as dendrochronology. Douglass was studying the effects of sunspots on climate. Since he did not have weather records long enough to be tested for correlation with the 22 year sunspot cycle, Douglass turned to the rings of coniferous trees as potential proxy climate indicators.

From the perspective of archaeological data, there are two basic categories of trees: complacent and sensitive. Complacent trees have rings of uniform width and therefore have no use for dating. In sensitive trees environmental conditions influence the width of the annual rings. Within broad limits, sensitive trees in any geographic region exhibit the same growth patterns. Since the width of the rings varies from year to year, an overall chronological sequence can be established. Material from an archaeological site can be compared to this sequence and it can be determined when the tree died.

In his entry on dendrochronology in The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, Jeffrey Dean writes:

“Thus, dendrochronology became the first of many independent dating techniques used in archaeology.”

Over the past century, some 50,000 tree-ring dates from about 5,000 sites in the American Southwest have produced the finest prehistoric chronology in the world. Use of dendrochronology in dating archaeological sites has spread from the American Southwest to other areas of North America and to Europe.

Tree-ring dating is a straight-forward procedure, at least in principle. In practice, it can be astonishingly difficult. It is not simply a matter of counting tree-rings. Jeffrey Dean explains:

“The fundamental principle of dendrochronology is crossdating, the matching of identical patterns of variation in ring morphology among trees in a particular area.”

Crossdating is generally done via covariation of ring widths. According to Dean:

“A tree-ring date is determined by finding the unique point at which the ring-width sequence of a sample matches the pattern of a dated chronology.”

In other words, dendrochronology is used to create a master chronology of the tree ring patterns for a specific region. The find from a particular site can then be compared to patterns from the chronology and in this way the age of the wood is determined.

In some sites, such as the ancient pueblos in the American Southwest, dendrochronology may yield a number of different dates. For example, in building a structure, the builders will use poles that they have just cut (dendrochronology will show this date); they may also re-used poles from an earlier structure (dendocrhonology will thus show a different date); they may use a tree that died naturally (again a different date will result). The most recent dendeochronology date thus shows that the structure was completed about this time.

Summarizing the importance of dendrochronology to archaeology, Brian Fagan writes in his book Quest for the Past: Great Discoveries in Archaeology:

“Tree-ring chronologies are extremely accurate, but they are limited to relatively recent times, and to areas with well-defined rainfall patterns.”

In The Atlas of World Archaeology, Paul Bahn puts it this way:

“Although dendrochronology can provide a reliable method of dating, its use is limited to areas where timber was much used and/or where it has been preserved by dry or damp conditions. It has had its most impressive results in the American Southwest and Scandinavia.”

Another area where dendrochronology has been very useful has been in Ireland. Irish archaeologist Laurence Flanagan writes in his book Ancient Ireland: Life Before the Celts:

“Ireland proved to be an ideal subject for dendrochronology, because timbers of oak were available from all time periods. An overlapping chronology was eventually established that stretched back from the present day to nearly 6000 BC, so that substantial pieces of wood from any point in this period could be accurately dated.”

Dendrochronology in Ireland, and in other areas, has also been useful in fine-tuning other chronometric dating methods. In Ireland, for example, Laurence Flanagan reports:

“It was also used to calibrate Irish radiocarbon dates, which made possible a high-precision radiocarbon dating.”

Radiocarbon Dating:

 Another major advance in chronometric dating came with the development of radiocarbon dating. This dating method was developed in 1949 by Chicago chemist Willard Libby as a result of the Manhattan Project (i.e. the development of the atomic bomb during World War II). It is based on the principle that radioactive carbon in the atmosphere is absorbed by all living things. At death this absorption stops and a steady decay of carbon begins. Since the half-life of the radioactive carbon is known (5,568 years), measuring the amount of carbon remaining can determine the age of the material.

There are a couple of limitations regarding radiocarbon dating. First, only materials which were once alive—wood, plant matter, bones, etc.—can be used. Metal and stone cannot be dated with radiocarbon.

Second, it is generally used to date materials less than 40,000 years old. Beyond this time, the amount of remaining radioactive carbon is so small that it is difficult to measure. However, the use of an accelerator mass spectrometer allows dating of older and smaller samples. With this, materials up to 100,000 years old can be dated.

Radiocarbon dates are not as precise as those obtained through dendrochronology and are given in archaeological reports as estimates. Radiocarbon dates are often accompanied with a + or – estimate showing the accuracy of the dated material. It is common for radiocarbon results to be published as “years BP” where 0 BP (“before present”) is 1950 CE.

With regard to the importance of radiocarbon dating, Stuart Fiedel writes in his book Prehistory of the Americas:

“It allowed archaeologists to transcend their former obsession with chronology. Given a framework of absolute dates, they could move on to compare the cultural sequences in different areas, to investigate the cause of variation in the rates of cultural development.”

Radiocarbon dating today is the most widely used dating technique in archaeology. With regard to the impact of radiometric dating in archaeology, Andrew Moore, writing in Archaeology, says:

“Advances in the precision of radiometric dating are radically changing our views of the timing of key events in the human timeline.”

Moore goes on to write:

“In ways that past generations of archaeologists could never have imagined, we are able to refine our knowledge not just of what happened, but when it happened. These new insights, some subtle, and some dramatic, will continue to clarify our human past.”

Daniel Weiss, also writing in Archaeology, reports on a potential problem for radiocarbon dating:

“The use of radiocarbon dating, which allows archaeologists to estimate the age of human, plant, and animal remains, may soon be complicated by fossil fuel emissions.”

Fossil fuels which are millions of years old are putting carbon into the atmosphere which contains no radioactive carbon and this carbon is absorbed into organic materials. By 2050 it is estimated that the radiocarbon date for a brand new garment made from organic materials such as cotton will produce the same radiocarbon date as a garment worn in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Obsidian Hydration:

 Another dating method which has been used to date many American sites is obsidian hydration which can be used for dating sites from 200 to 100,000 years old. When a piece of obsidian is chipped to make a tool, the freshly exposed surface begins to absorb water at a rate that depends on the source of the obsidian, the temperature, and the humidity. In their report Prehistoric Use of the Coso Volcanic Field, archaeologists Amy Gilreath and William Hildebrandt write:

“That moisture penetrates volcanic glass at a predictable and, hence, quantifiable rate is at the foundation of obsidian hydration dating.”

By examining a thin section of the tool under a microscope and measuring the thickness of the hydration layer, the date of manufacture can be calculated.

Obsidian hydration dating has been used primarily in California and the Great Basin. In Mesoamerica, it has generally been used to supplement other dating methods.

A Short Overview of the Subarctic Culture Area

The Subarctic Culture Area lies south of the Arctic Circle and covers some 12 million square miles. It spreads from the interior of Alaska to the Atlantic Ocean. This is an area where the winters are cold – often colder than in the Arctic – and the summers are short. During the summer, the blackflies and other insects make life difficult. A frost-free period of only 40-60 days is common in much of the region.

Linguistically, the Subarctic can be broken into two areas: (1) the area west of Hudson’s Bay in which Athapascan languages predominate, and (2) the area east of Hudson’s Bay in which the people spoke Algonquian languages. Culturally, however, it may be more convenient to look at these culture areas as being composed of three sub-areas: (1) the northeastern area (the area east of Hudson’s Bay) which was traditionally occupied by the Algonquian-speaking Montagnais and Naskapi, (2) the central zone which was occupied by the Algonquian-speaking Cree, and (3) the northwest which was occupied by the Athapaskan-speaking tribes.

With regard to the native people of the Subarctic, John J. Collins, in his book Native American Religions: A Geographical Survey, writes:

“These people had been in North America for a long time and had been pushed into the Subarctic by related groups to the south.”

The tribal names used today do not reflect the significant territorial entities of earlier times. June Helm and Eleanor Leacock, in North American Indians in Historical Perspective, write:

“Large areas were inhabited by small autonomous regional groups that commonly number a few score members each. They were usually loosely related to surrounding groups through intermarriage, economic dependence in times of local scarcities, linguistic affinity, and some feeling of ethnic identity.”

The primary form of subsistence among the Subarctic tribes was hunting. It is estimated that during the winter people needed to consume 4,500 to 5,000 calories per day. Each person might consume four pounds of meat per day.

Large game animals, such as the moose, elk, musk ox, caribou, and deer, were of primary importance. In his book Native Arts of North America, Christian Feest writes:

“The tribes of the Subarctic had always been nomadic hunters of the moose, caribou, and other animals of the northern forests.”

In some areas, the people hunted wood buffalo (bison bison athabascae) and plains buffalo (bison bison bison). Large game animals were generally hunted with a bow and arrow or were trapped using deadfalls. Hunters would use calls for bringing in moose during mating season. In some areas, caribou were driven toward long brush fences where they were forced into single file and could be more easily killed.

The caribou was particularly important to many of the tribes. Colin Taylor, in his book Native American Hunting and Fighting Skills, reports:

“The caribou was essential to the sustainment of life amongst such tribes as the Athapascan speaking Chipewyan.”

Among the Chipewyan, the communal caribou hunt used a pound technique in which the herd would be driven into a chute made of poles and brush. Within the enclosure—which could be over a quarter of a mile in diameter—were looped snares which entangled the animals so that they could be easily dispatched. Philip Kopper, in his book The Smithsonian Book of North American Indians: Before the Coming of the Europeans, reports:

“From the caribou, the people obtained food, hides and material for many implements from bones for netting needles to rawhide for fishlines and thongs. They ate the meat fresh or they preserved it by sun-drying or smoking, then pounding it into powder and mixing it with fat to make pemmican.”

Some of the other animals which were hunted in this area include bear, beaver, porcupine, and rabbit. With regard to hunting bears in the Shield and Mackenzie Border lands, Edward Rogers and James Smith report in the Handbook of North American Indians:

“Although bears were found throughout the forests, they were not taken frequently enough to bulk large in the diet; however, they were eagerly sought especially for the large quantities of fat they possessed.”

Rabbits were often snared by the women. The smaller animals – beaver, rabbits – were often taken with traps and snares. While the snowshoe rabbit is widely exploited in the Subarctic Area, Beryl Gillespie, in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports:

“While not a preferred source of food for many natives, it has been a very important source of midwinter food when large game is difficult to find or kill.”

Among the Natives, it was felt that one could starve to death on rabbits as they provided very little fat during most of the year.

In the eastern portion of the region, beaver were taken as a food source, particularly in winter. To capture the beaver, nets would be placed across the entrances to the beaver lodges.

In the Hudson Bay Area, migratory waterfowl was an important food resource. Various species of grouse were also taken throughout the Subarctic area.

In some areas, fishing was also an important subsistence activity. Fish were caught using lines and hooks or they were netted in gill nets woven from raw hide or the inner bark of the willow. In some areas, fish traps and weirs were also used.

In some areas, the Native people relied heavily on the seasonal salmon runs. In the lake areas of the western Labrador interior, whitefish and lake trout were the most desirable fish. In addition, the general availability of fish in most lakes and streams made fishing a seasonally important activity.

Among the Montagnais off the Saint Lawrence region, fresh eels were taken in September and October. Edward Rogers and Eleanor Leacock report in the Handbook of North American Indians:

“Chains of stones were laid in the sand at the river edge to guide eels, when waves lashed the shore, into weirs large enough to hold 500-600. Eels were also attracted to canoes at night with torches and speared with iron-pointed leisters.”

With regard to the gathering of wild plants, June Helm and Eleanor Leacock write:

“Plant foods were inconsequential in the diet, though blueberries, cranberries, and edible shoots and bulbs were collected in the summer.”

Canoes were important to many of the tribes of this culture area. During the summer, travel was possible via lakes and rivers using canoes. Writing about the Cree, archaeologist Dale Russell, in his book Eighteenth-Century Western Cree and Their Neighbours, says:

“Women were often more skilled in steering canoes than men since the latter typically rode in the bow where they had an unimpeded aim at any game that was met.”

In the western portion of the Subarctic Culture Area, people used canoes which resembled the Inuit kayak. However, instead of covering the frame with skin in the Inuit style, the frame was covered with birchbark. This made the craft very light and enabled the people to carry it over long distances.

The Chipewyan made a birch bark kayak-style canoe which was used in hunting caribou or moose as they crossed rivers or lakes. According to John Jennings in his book Bark Canoes: The Art and Obsession of Tappan Adney:

“The canoe was extremely responsive and could be steered with one hand as the other was busy with spear or knife.”

The Gwich’in also made birch bark canoes. John Jennings reports:

“The Gwich’in canoes are unique among Northwestern canoes in having a rigid frame, with the stringers held in place by crosspieces.”

With regard to the Gwich’in canoes in the Tanana River area, Jennings writes:

“These canoes were subtly asymmetrical, being slightly wider and deeper at the stern, thus making them both very fast and easy to maneuver. The lightness of the bow allows it to hydroplane when driven fast.”

During the winter, snow shoes were used. Again, the travel routes often utilized the frozen lakes and rivers. Among the Montagnais-Naskapi, long, narrow toboggans would be pulled with a cord across the chest. Edward Rogers and Eleanor Leacock report:

“They were ideal when everything was covered with deep snow, for their relatively extensive weight bearing surface prevented them from sinking too deeply into the powdery snow.”

American Indian Voting Rights

During the first part of the twentieth century, American Indians were granted citizenship by Congressional action on several different occasions. While citizenship is often felt to be associated with the right to vote, this has not always been the case with regard to Indians. The right to vote is a right which has been traditionally controlled by the states. The states had tended to view Indian voting and Indian citizenship as two separate items. While the struggle by African Americans to obtain the right to vote is fairly well known, the struggle by American Indians to obtain this right is less well known.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century a series of legal opinions and court rulings had determined that American Indians were not citizens and furthermore they could not attain citizenship unless Congress enacted specific legislation granting citizenship. In 1887 Congress passed the General Allotment Act (also known as the Dawes Act). While the primary focus of the Dawes Act was on breaking up Indian reservations, destroying tribal governments, and transferring land from Indian ownership to non-Indian ownership, it did provide the legal mechanism for Indians to become citizens. Part of the act called for citizenship to be conferred on those who abandoned their tribes and adopted the habits of civilized life. Ideally, Indians who became Christian, English-speaking farmers could become citizens. Citizenship in the minds of non-Indians was directly associated with private land ownership.

In Matter of Heff the Supreme Court held in 1905 that Indians became American citizens as soon as they accepted their land allotment. The decision infuriated Congress and the Bureau of Indian Affairs who had insisted that Indians who accepted allotments could not become citizens until the end of their trust period of twenty years.

In 1907, Ethan Anderson (Pomo) won a court case (Anderson versus Mathews) which gave non-reservation Indians the right to vote. Anderson had attempted to register to vote in Mendocino County and was refused. The court case, which was decided by the California Supreme Court, was funded by the Indian Board of Cooperation.

The drive for Indian citizenship came up again during World War I. Indians were required to register for the draft but were ineligible to be drafted since they were not citizens. Yavapai physician Dr. Carlos Montezuma protested the draft policy and urged the United States to make Indians citizens and then draft them. He wrote: “They are not citizens. They have fewer privileges than have foreigners. They are wards of the United States of America without their consent or the chance of protest on their part.”

While Indians were not liable to be drafted, they enlisted in large numbers. An estimated 10,000 Indians served in the military during the war. In 1919, Congress passed an act which provided citizenship for all Indians who served in the military or in naval establishments during World War I.

There were many Indians who saw citizenship as something which was being imposed on them by non-Indians. In 1919, the Society of American Indians held its conference in Minneapolis on the theme of citizenship. While many supported citizenship, Cahuilla spiritual leader Francisco Patencio told them: “I and my people we do not want citizenship. … What my people in California want is to know their reservation boundary lines.”

In 1924 Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act which gave all Indians citizenship and, theoretically, the right to vote. It is estimated that about two-thirds of the Indians had acquired citizenship before the passage of this act. Passage of the act was promoted by progressives who were concerned about the constitutional rights of Indians and who wished to free Indians from federal control. It was generally felt that citizenship would help assimilate Indians.

Two days after passing the Indian Citizenship Act, Congress passed a bill to allot the Eastern Cherokee in North Carolina. Having not upgraded the language in the bill to account for the Indian Citizenship Act, the bill provided that the Eastern Cherokee would become citizens only after receiving and registering their allotments. The State Attorney General took the position that the Eastern Cherokee were not citizens because this bill superseded the Indian Citizenship Act. The Bureau of Indian Affairs took the position that they were citizens. Local registrars assumed that the Cherokee were not citizens and did not allow them to register to vote.

In response, Congress passed another act in 1928 which specifically granted citizenship to the North Carolina Cherokee. However, Eastern Cherokee leader Henry M. Owl was denied the right to register to vote in 1930. The registrar refused to register Indians because they were not citizens. In his book Cherokee Americans: The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the Twentieth Century, historian John Finger points out: “Despite Congress’ explicit and repeated directives, county registrars continued to deny Cherokees the vote until after World War II.”

In response, Congress passed another act once again reaffirming citizenship for the Eastern Cherokee. Local newspapers protested Congressional interference with local affairs and county registrars continued to deny Cherokees the vote until after World War II. North Carolina denied Indians the right to vote claiming that Indians were illiterate. The superintendent of the Cherokee Agency reported: “We have had Indian graduates of Carlisle, Haskell, and other schools in stances much better educated than the registrar himself, turned down because they did not read or write to his satisfaction.

In 1946, North Carolina county registrars refused to register Eastern Cherokee war veterans to vote. The Cherokee appealed the decision to the governor and attorney general, but nothing was done.

In Arizona two Pima Indians attempted to vote in 1928. The Arizona Supreme Court in Porter v. Hall concluded that Indians were not entitled to vote because they were “wards of the government” and persons “under guardianship” were prohibited from voting by the state constitution. The Arizona Attorney General’s office ruled in 1944 that Indians who were living outside the reservation and who were subject to state laws and state taxation were not eligible to vote.

Some states passed legislation to disenfranchise Indians. In an effort to deny Indians the right to vote, the Montana state constitution was amended in 1932 to permit only taxpayers to vote. Since Indians on reservations did not pay some local taxes, they could not become voters. The Montana state legislature in 1937 passed a law requiring all deputy voter registrars to be qualified, taxpaying residents of their precincts. Since Indians living on reservations were exempt from some local taxes, this requirement excluded almost all Indians from serving as deputy registrars. It thus denied Montana’s Indians access to voter registration in their own precincts.

A 1937 report by the Solicitor General found that several states denied Indians the right to vote. In response to the inquiry by the Solicitor General, Colorado’s attorney general replied: “It is our opinion that until Congress enfranchises the Indian, he will not have the right to vote.” Word of the 1924 citizenship act had apparently not yet reached Colorado. Indians were not allowed to serve on juries in Colorado until 1956 and tribal members on reservations were not allowed to vote until 1970.

The Solicitor General also found that four states—Idaho, New Mexico, Maine, and Washington—denied Indians the right to vote because of the phrase “Indians not taxed” in Article 1 of the Constitution.

In 1940 Congress once again conferred citizenship on Indians in the form of the Nationality Act which again conferred citizenship on American Indians and required that Indian men register for the draft. In spite of the reconfirmation of citizenship, some states, such as New Mexico and Arizona, refused to allow Indians to vote. The Act was opposed by the Indian Defense League of America. Tuscarora leader Clinton Rickard urged those who wish to volunteer for the armed services do so as alien non-residents

Utah denied Indians the vote because Indians on reservations were not actually residents of Utah but were residents of their own nations. Indians were thus considered non-residents and hence not eligible to vote. In 1957, the Utah state legislature finally repealed the legislation that prevented Indians living on reservations from voting.

Many historians cite 1948 as the year in which Indians finally won the right to vote. Court rulings in Arizona and New Mexico affirmed that Indians have the right to vote. The Court ruling in New Mexico was started when Miguel Trujillo, Sr. (Laguna), a teacher, attempted to register to vote and was refused by the recorder of Valencia County. In the ruling, the Court found that New Mexico had discriminated against Indians by denying them the vote, especially since they paid all state and federal taxes except for private property taxes on the reservations. The federal judge remarked: “We all know that these New Mexico Indians have responded to the needs of the country in time of war. Why should they be deprived of their rights to vote now because they are favored by the federal government in exempting their lands from taxation.”

In Arizona, Frank Harrison and Harry Austin, both Mohave-Apache at the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation, attempted to register to vote and were not allowed to register. In Harrison v. Laveen the Arizona Supreme Court overturned the earlier Porter v. Hall decision and agreed with the plaintiffs that their Arizona and United States constitutional rights had been violated. All Indians in Arizona are given the right to vote.

Even though the Indian people of Arizona and New Mexico were given the right to vote, very few actually voted in the next national elections. Among the Navajo, for example, only 3,000 out of an estimated 60,000 register to vote and only about 1,000 actually voted. According to Frank Waters, in his book Masked Gods: Navaho and Pueblo Ceremonialism: “They were all possessed of the same ever-present fear—that by exercising their voting privilege and paying taxes, they would lose their land.”

In Maine, Indians were finally given the right to vote in 1953 when the state accepted the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act.

In 1957, the Utah state legislature repealed legislation that prevented Indians living on reservations from voting. Under the law, Indians had been considered non-residents and hence not eligible to vote.

In New Mexico in 1962 an unsuccessful non-Indian candidate for elective office challenged the validity of Indian voting rights by claiming that Indians were not state residents. The state supreme court reaffirmed the rights of Indians to vote in the state.

In 1968, the Havasupai finally obtained the right to vote in Arizona and federal elections. The Havasupai Reservation is located in Coconino County and the county had never designated the reservation as a voting district. Thus, Havasupai voters could only vote by registering in some distant precinct and then travelling to that distant community to vote.

During the past fifty years, the focus has shifted from obtaining the right to vote, to getting Indians elected to local, state, and federal offices. States and local governments in the western states have responded by diluting the Indian vote through redistricting plans and/or by requiring photo ID (and not allowing tribal ID) and/or requiring voters to have a street address (many rural reservation homes do not have street addresses).

Utah’s Black Hawk War

During 1865 to 1867, American and Mormon settlers in Utah were engaged in a war with a small group of Ute, Paiute, and Navajo warriors under the leadership of Ute chief Black Hawk. As a result of the conflict, the American and Mormon settlers abandoned much of southern and central Utah. At least nine communities were abandoned. The main object of most of the Indian raids was to take cattle for food. The Black Hawk War caused an estimated $1.5 million in losses.

While the Black Hawk War involved only a small group of warriors, Black Hawk’s raiders were so effective that it was a common perception among the Mormon settlers that all of the Indians in the territory were at war.

Setting the Stage:

 The Black Hawk war grew out of a complex set of circumstances which included the loss of Indian farms in Utah and the failure of the United States government to fulfill its treaty obligations. The Utes and the Paiutes had been displaced from their ancestral lands and they had been deprived of their economic base. As a result, they were left with only three options: they could starve, they could beg, or they could fight.

In 1863, Autenquer (Black Hawk), a San Pitch Ute war leader, began to form alliances with other Ute bands, as well as with Paiute and Navajo bands to raid Mormon communities. The Indians blamed the Mormons for stealing their country and fencing it in. One of the causes of the raids is hunger and the Indians raid the communities to get cattle to eat.

Two years later, the Treaty of Spanish Fork with the Paiute called for them to give up all lands claimed in Utah and to move to the Uintah Reservation. None of the signers of the treaty represented the Meadow Valley and Virgin River Paiute bands who were contesting Mormon encroachment on their territory.

Like the Paiute, the Ute also signed the Treaty of Spanish Fork in which they gave up all of their land in Utah except for the Uintah Valley. In exchange, the Ute were to receive $900,000 to be paid to them over 60 years and they were to be allowed to fish in all accustomed places and to gather roots and berries. All of the Ute chiefs, except for San Pitch, signed the treaty. San Pitch said: “If the talk is for us to trade the land in order to get the presents, I do not want any blankets or any clothing, if threat is the way they are to be got. I would rather do without them than to give up my title to the land I occupy. We want to live here as formerly.”

Kanosh opposed the treaty saying: “In past times, the Washington chiefs that came here from the United States would think and talk two ways and deceive us.”

Mormon leader Brigham Young, speaking for the United States, told the Ute: “If you do not sell your land to the Government, they will take it, whether you are willing to sell it or not.” Young also told them: “The land does not belong to you, nor to me, nor to the Government. It belongs to the Lord.”

Brigham Young assured them that they would receive houses, farms, cows, oxen, clothing, and other things. Because of his words, the chiefs signed the treaty.

The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty because .of their disagreements with the Mormons. These disagreements with the Mormons had nothing to do with the Indians. The United States Senate wanted to punish the Mormons for their religious beliefs and refusing the treaty would increase the tensions between the Indians and the Mormon settlers.

The War:

 In 1865, the conflicts between the Utes under the leadership of San Pitch subchief Black Hawk and the Mormon settlers intensified. The Indians, driven by hunger, stole some cattle and in the process some Mormons were killed. Mormon leader John Taylor stated: “Some want to kill the Indians promiscuously, because some of them have killed some of our people. This is not right. Let the guilty be punished and innocent go free.”

Black Hawk visited the Elk Mountain Ute to gain allies in his war against the Mormons. Black Hawk’s warriors were soon joined by Ute warriors from other bands as well as by Paiute and Navajo warriors. At most the Black Hawk’s forces numbered only 60 to 100 warriors during the conflict. About half of the warriors were Navajos or Paiutes.

In 1865, a Ute war party under the leadership of Black Hawk ambushed the Sanpete militia near Red Lake. While the warriors produced a heavy rate of fire, they overshot the militia and the bullets struck the lake behind them.

A Mormon militia force of 84 pursued a Ute war party up Salina Canyon. At a narrow point in the canyon, the militia unit was ambushed by Ute warriors who were hidden behind rocks, trees, and bushes. The militia managed to escape with only two men killed and two wounded.

A Mormon militia group fired blindly into a large cedar grove near Burrville, killing more than a dozen Indians, including women and children. The incident was not officially investigated.

Several Indian woman and children were held captive by a Mormon militia unit. One of the women struck one of the guards and in retaliation he shot the woman and the rest of the prisoners. The incident was not officially investigated.

In 1866, Ute chief San Pitch and several of his men were arrested near Nephi because of rumors that he had been involved in violence against the American settlers. San Pitch was told to bring in Black Hawk and his band or be shot. Since San Pitch did not have the power to influence Black Hawk and his warriors, he and his fellow prisoners broke jail rather than await execution. The escapees were hunted down and killed.

In another incident, 16 unarmed Paiutes, including women and children, were killed near Circleville. The Paiutes had been captured by the Mormons and were killed one at a time. Most had their throats slit. Three or four small children were spared and were adopted by Mormon families. While there were pleas for an investigation, federal and territorial officials took no action. This reluctance or inability of territorial and federal officials to follow proper legal procedures with the Indians helped to create a climate that allowed for continued misconduct.

At Panguitch Lake, the Paiute bands would not let the Mormons fish in the lake, but they would sell fish to them. In response, the Mormons declared the Paiutes to be involved with Black Hawk’s warriors and attacked a Paiute camp. They then declared a Paiute Mormon convert to be the chief and restored the peace. Following this, the lake became a fishing resort for non-Indians.

In 1866, Mormon leader Brigham Young wrote: “The Lamanites are hostile, let us exercise faith about them and learn what the will of the Lord is. Let us send our Interpreters to them and make presents and tell [them] they must stop fighting. It is better to give them $5000 than have to fight and kill them for they are of the House of Israel.”

In 1867, the body of Simeon, a Paiute, was found near Paragonah with a bullet wound in the back of his head. William H. Dame, president of the Prowan Stake of the Latter Day Saints church and colonel in the militia was instructed by Mormon leaders Brigham Young and George A. Smith that the murder of a peaceful Indian must be dealt with by civil authorities. Subsequently an investigation into the murder was undertaken. When some people questioned whether or not Simeon had actually been murdered, his body was exhumed and the bullet removed from his skull. As a result of the investigation, murder charges are brought against Thomas Jose. Jose was convicted of second degree murder and was sentenced to ten years in the territorial penitentiary. He served one year and was then pardoned by the territorial governor.

After the War:

 In 1867, Black Hawk surrendered at the Uintah Reservation. He came without his men but gave information on those still at large. It was estimated that he had 58-64 warriors under him.

During the Black Hawk War, about 46 Mormon settlers were killed, including 11 women and children. Both sides killed noncombatants.

The primary purpose of most of the Indian raids was to obtain cattle. Black Hawk’s warriors captured about 5,000 cattle. This focus on cattle shows that the warriors were often desperate for food.

In 1869, the San Pitch Ute, once led by Autenquer (Black Hawk), followed the civil leader Tabby-to-kwana to the Uintah Valley Reservation. The Ute had been assured that they would be able to continue to hunt and gather on all public lands.

 Following the war, Black Hawk toured many of the settlements in central and southern Utah, speaking to Mormon congregations and asking for their understanding and forgiveness. In speaking to these communities, Black Hawk emphasized that his people had been destitute and starving. Some of the Mormon settlers greeted him with understanding, while others, remembering the deaths of family and friends, rejected his offer of reconciliation.

Ancient America: The Dakotas, BCE

The Dakotas—the modern states of North and South Dakota—are a part of the Northern Plains, an area which was buffalo country from the time of de-glaciation until modern agriculture in the nineteenth century. A few of the archaeological findings regarding the Dakotas BCE are described below.

Early Pre-contact Period:

The time from first settlement by Indian people following de-glaciation until the climate changes about 9,000 years ago is called the Early Pre-contact Period by some archaeologists and the Paleo-Indian Period by others. Indian people during this era were hunting now extinct mega-fauna, including the mammoth and pre-historic bison. Some of the archaeological sites from this period include:

Lange-Ferguson: About 9100 BCE, Indian people using Clovis technology killed and butchered at least two mammoths at the Lange-Ferguson site in South Dakota.

Ray Long: About 9000 BCE, Indian people occupied the Ray Long site (39FA65) in South Dakota. They were using spear points which are lanceolate with narrow, straight to concave bases. These points had ground edges near the bases.

Jim Pitts: About 8200 BCE, Indian people were using the Jim Pitts site near the Black Hills area known as the Racetrack. The people were hunting bison and mule deer. They were using Goshen, Folsom, Agate Basin, Cody, and Fishtail points.

Middle Pre-contact Period:

The era which archaeologists call the Middle Pre-contact Period begins about 6800 BCE with a hot, dry Altithermal. Much of the area is abandoned by Indian people because of the lack of game. The Altithermal began to moderate about 3000 BCE and both the animal and human populations increased. During the last portion of the Middle Pre-contact (about 1000 BCE), the use of the tipi as a primary domicile increased. In addition, there is increased evidence of domesticated dog.

Benz: About 6000 BCE, Indian people with Cody Complex tools began to occupy the Benz site on the Knife River in North Dakota. The Cody Complex, which included an assemblage of projectile points, scrapers, gravers, wedges, choppers, hammer stones, and bone tools, was associated with bison kill and processing sites.

Liking Bison: By about 4730 BCE, Indian people were using the Liking Bison site in South Dakota. This was a bison kill site in which the hunters drove the animals into a gully which is about 3-5 feet wide and 2-3 feet deep.

Beaver Creek Rock Shelter: About 4700 BCE, Indian people were using the Beaver Creek Rock Shelter (39CU779) in present-day Wind Cave National Park. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald, in his book Montana Before History: 11,000 Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains, writes: “Among the animal remains from the site are a variety of frogs and reptiles, suggesting that the arid conditions of the Altithermal had not dried out this north-facing rock shelter. In addition, remains of deer, bison, and pronghorn indicate a diverse diet for Early Archaic hunter-gatherers at the site.”

By 4570 BCE, the Indian people at this site were using side-notched projectile points. By 2700 BCE, they were hunting bison, deer, and pronghorn. At this time, they were using McKean projectile points.

Besant Phase: By 90 BCE, in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Alberta, the time period which archaeologists call the Besant Phase begins. Indian people at this time were sophisticated buffalo hunters and were engaging in other big game hunting. Archaeologist George Frison, writing in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports: “Besant hunters were apparently still using the atlatl and dart, and their projectile points are distinctive in morphology and manufacture technology, utilizing the best available raw materials. They may have been the most sophisticated bison-hunting group on the Northwestern Plains in pre-horse times judging from evidence recovered in eastern Wyoming.”

They were using ground stone tools as well as side-notched projectile points. At some sites on the Upper Missouri River and at some sites in Alberta, the people appear to have used ceramics which suggests that they were in contact with Woodland Indian groups to the east.

James River Area: About 25 BCE, an epidemic struck the people living along the James River area and killed at least 28 people, mostly infants, children, and elders. The partially cremated remains of the dead were buried in a deep pit lined with hides.

Native American Ceremonial Stone Landscape Sites in the Northeast

Twelve tribal representatives have been trained to identify and document ceremonial stone features as a part of an emergency avoidance plan for proposed gas pipeline projects in the Northeast. Reprinted below is the news release regarding this project.

Charlestown, RI, September 24, 2015: Under the auspices of the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) of the Narragansett, Mohegan, Mashantucket Pequot and Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), individuals from the four sponsoring Tribes as well as members of the Mohawk, Shinnecock, and Passamaquoddy Tribes completed a week-long training in ceremonial stone landscape (CSL) identification at the Narragansett Indian Longhouse in Charlestown, RI, and were certified by the THPOs as CSL Field Specialists. The training was conducted on an emergency basis in response to proposed gas line development projects in the Northeast.

In October of 2002, the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) declared in Resolution #2003:022: “[F]or thousands of years before the immigration of Europeans, the medicine people of the United South and Eastern Tribal [USET] ancestors used [ceremonial stone] landscapes to sustain the people’s reliance on Mother Earth and the spirit energies of balance and harmony”.


In December of 2008, the National Register of Historic Places acknowledged ceremonial stone landscapes as culturally significant to federally recognized Tribes in the Northeast, pursuant to the tenants of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which states: “The agency official shall ensure that consultation in the section 106 process provides the Indian Tribe . . . a reasonable opportunity to identify its concerns about historic properties, advise on the identification and evaluation of historic properties, including those of traditional religious and cultural importance, articulate its views on the undertaking’s effects on such properties, and participate in the resolution of adverse effects.” – National Historic Preservation Act, 36 CFR 800.2(c)(2)(ii)(A)

By law, Section 106 of the NHPA mandates that before construction, religious and cultural properties of traditional religious and cultural importance to federally recognized Tribes that attach cultural and historical significance to the project areas should be identified and documented in consultation with the affected Tribes. The Tribes, the federal agency, and the project proponents, then work together to devise a plan to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the impacts to the resources. This work must begin as soon as feasible in order for project proponents to receive the necessary permitting for construction from the lead federal agency (in this case, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – FERC). The work cannot proceed without additional trained Tribal representation, thus training Tribal representatives was urgent.

The training at the Narragansett Longhouse was authorized by Narragansett Medicine Man/THPO John Brown, and occurred under the guidance of the THPOs and their landscape mapping partner Ceremonial Landscapes Research LLC (CLR), an entity created in collaboration with the Tribes to assist in mapping and documenting CSLs using traditional Tribal knowledge. The Tribal representatives will work with a mapping team from CLR.

According to Doug Harris, Deputy THPO of the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO): “Through this training, the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) hope to increase private landowner, federal agency, and project proponent awareness and stewardship of ceremonial stone landscapes that are sacred to our people, and to protect these places from unknowing destruction by development.”

Federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, the FCC, the FAA, the National Forest Service and the Army at Fort Drum, NY have acknowledged the significance of ceremonial stone landscapes, and have encouraged their protection. One hoped-for outcome of this project is to extend that acknowledgement and spirit of stewardship to all regulatory agencies and commissions. These ceremonial places have been identified in territories of past Tribal use from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and with the cooperation of local towns and landholders they should be protected wherever they are.

The training was initially funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, with additional donations requested from Kinder Morgan, and Spectra Energy. Ceremonial Landscapes Research, LLC, provided curriculum development and training personnel.

 Media Inquiries:

Doug Harris, Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer

Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO).

(401) 474-5907 or (508) 922-7673

Tribal Contacts for this Release:

 Mashantucket Pequot Tribe

Marissa Turnbull

(860) 396-6887

Mohegan Tribe

James Quinn

(860) 862-6893

Narragansett Indian Tribe

John Brown

(401) 491-9459

Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)

Bettina Washington

(508) 645-9265

Nez Perce Political Organization

The Nez Perce, whose traditional homelands included parts of what is now Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, entered into the American history books in 1805 when the Corps of Discovery under the leadership of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark crossed over the Lolo Trail into Nez Perce country. The Lolo Trail was a traditional route used by the Nez Perce in going to the buffalo country east of the Rocky Mountains. However, the season was late and the Americans floundered in snowstorms and almost starved. The Nez Perce found William Clark and six hunters from the Corps of Discovery sick with dysentery from gorging themselves on roots and fish.

The Nez Perce warriors considered killing the sick men for their rifles, but they were stopped by a Nez Perce woman, Watkuweis, who had been captured by the Blackfoot and sold to an American trader before returning home. She had been treated well by the trader, so she asked the warriors not to hurt the Americans. Historian Stephen Ambrose, in his popular book Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, notes: “The expedition owed more to Indian women than either captain ever acknowledged. And the United States owed more to the Nez Perce for their restraint than it ever acknowledged.”

The Americans were taken to the village of the war chief Tunnachemootoolt (Broken Arm). The village consisted of a single long building about 150 feet in length with 24 fires down the center and housing about 48 families. The Nez Perce not only fed the Americans and nursed them back to health, they also made maps for the Americans on whitened elk skins which showed them the river route to the Pacific.

The fantasy of the Nez Perce as a single, politically unified tribe would be later forced on them by the Americans during treaty negotiations which would lead, in part, to the 1877 Nez Perce War. Politically, the Nez Perce were a number of politically independent bands and villages unified by a common language and culture. With regard to language, the Nez Perce language belongs to the Shaptin language family which means that they are distantly related to other Plateau area tribes such as the Umatilla, Wanapam, and Yakama.

Prior to the coming of the horse the village was the primary political unit, and decision-making involved all of those in the village. There was no political organization or government which united the autonomous villages and/or bands. The Nez Perce Tribe, in their book Treaties: Nez Perce Perspectives, puts it this way: “We had (and needed) very little political organization beyond the band headmen and peace leaders who insured the safety and provisioning of the women, elderly, and children.”

Village membership tended to be fluid and there was a constant movement of people between villages. Archaeologist James Keyser, in his book Indian Rock Art of the Columbia Plateau, reports: “People were free to change village membership within their tribe, and even to neighboring tribes, and did so frequently either through marriage or simply from the desire to change situation.”

The extended bilateral family meant that people had relatives in many different villages and when resources in one area became scarce, they could easily move to another village.

The Nez Perce band was composed of several villages or camps which were located along a stream. Band names were usually taken from the most prominent village within the band’s territory. Each village had a council which selected and advised a village leader. Anthropologist Deward Walker, in his book Conflict and Schism in Nez Perce Acculturation: A Study of Religion and Politics, reports: “Village leadership was in the hands of the eldest, able male in most instances, this position being semi-hereditary but also based on individual ability.”

Walker prefers to call this leader a “headman” rather than a chief (“chief” tends to be a European concept). He goes on to report: “In the larger villages comprised of several interrelated extended families, there was often more than one such headman. Typically, they were advised by a council of the elderly and prominent males, with women not having a formal voice in such matters.”

With regard to the role of the Nez Perce headman, historian Alvin Josephy, in his book Nez Perce Country, reports: “His duties were to arbitrate disputes, act as spokesman, oversee the well-being of the villagers, and provide an example of outstanding and generous conduct, sharing his wealth with the needy. In return, the people often gave him food, clothing, and other goods, especially for settling arguments.”

At the band level, the Nez Perce had a council made up of the headmen from the various villages as well as other prominent men.

There were two ways of obtaining leadership status at the band level. The first was to gain a reputation as being a generous man by sponsoring feasts and tutelary spirit dances and by distributing goods. The second way was through war exploits. To become a war chief, a warrior had to obtain ten war honors (coups). According to Deward Walker: “The leader of the most powerful village may have had a greater voice than the others, but not as a rule. Instead, at this level, individual war prowess seems to have been more important in determining a leader’s authority, and well-known warriors might come from any of the villages of the band.”

The Nez Perce also had some governmental organization above the band level. Neighboring bands would sometimes be unified into confederacies or composite bands. The largest of these composite bands was found on the upper Clearwater River, centered in the Kamiah Valley. There were also composite bands in the Lapwai area, at the mouth of the Grand Rone River, at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, in the Wallowa Valley, and in the Whitebird area along the Salmon River. The composite bands had no single head chief or permanent council.

The Nez Perce shaman also exerted a great deal of political influence and Deward Walker writes: “In fact, a good argument probably could be made for this being the single most powerful leadership status.”

He goes on to report: “Because of the charismatic character of Nez Perce ability, whether political, economic, or religious, the shaman frequently was thought to be an all-around leader. When compared with the temporary and situationally specific authority exerted by other specialists such as war leaders, hunting, root-digging, and fishing specialists, of the specialists in the care of horses, the authority of the Nez Perce shaman was extensive.”

Overall, political organization among the Nez Perce, as well as other tribes in the Plateau area, is summed up by Kent Nerburn, in his book Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce: The Untold Story of an American Tragedy:“No one would presume to tell another how to believe or live, and none could speak for another unless appointed to do so.”

The American government, however, was more comfortable dealing with absolute dictators and therefore attempted to appoint and support this type of leadership in American Indian nations.

American Indians and European Diseases

There were an estimated 18 million Native Americans living north of Mexico at the beginning of the European invasion. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, American Indians were remarkably free of serious diseases. People did not often die from diseases. As the European explorers and colonists began to arrive, this changed and the consequences were disastrous for Native American people. The death tolls from the newly introduced European diseases often reached 80-90 percent. Entire groups of people vanished on the tidal wave of disease.

In his book The Origins of Native Americans: Evidence from Anthropological Genetics, Michael Crawford writes: “Disease imports were thus the Europeans’ best weapons against the indigenous populations of the New World and probably served as lethal ‘advance men’ time and time again in the Conquest of the Americas.”

Aboriginal Health:

When we compare the overall health of American Indians in North America with that of Europeans in 1500, we find that Indians were generally healthier. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, Indians had better diets and they were less likely to face starvation and hunger. The first Europeans to reach North America often commented on the large stature of the Indians. American Indians were larger than the Europeans simply due to better diets. Unlike the Europeans, Indian political leaders did not store their wealth but accumulated prestige by giving food to those in need. No one in an Indian village or an Indian band starved unless all did so.

Secondly, American Indian populations did not have many of the infectious diseases that were endemic in Europe. A number of reasons have been suggested for this lack of disease. Some scientists have suggested that Indian people came to this continent through the cold, harsh climate of the north and that this acted as a germ filter which screened out infectious diseases. Others have suggested that Indians were disease-free because of the lack of domesticated animals. Measles, smallpox, and influenza are among the diseases which are closely associated with domesticated animals. Lacking large domesticated animals, there were comparatively few opportunities in this hemisphere for the transfer of infections from animal reservoirs of disease to human beings.

European Diseases:

 The three most frightful European diseases were smallpox, typhus, and measles. Other European diseases included malaria, yellow fever, chickenpox, whooping cough, scarlet fever, diphtheria, plague, typhoid fever, poliomyelitis, cholera, and trachoma. All of the diseases introduced in the Americas by the Europeans were crowd diseases. Ann Ramenofsky, in an entry in The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, explains: “Because individuals develop permanent immunity, the organisms survive indefinitely in cities where people are concentrated. Measles, for instance, requires a population of about 300,000 to survive. If the population size drops below this threshold, the virus can cause illness and death, but after one epidemic, the virus itself dies out.”

Ann Ramenofsky goes on to write: “In the end, understanding and explaining the demographic collapse of Native Americans involves two facts: the absence of herd animals to serve as sources for the evolution of human diseases and the number of diseases introduced. Each new introduction created new waves of illness and death: the combination of all disease made the scale of Native American depopulation unique in human history.”

 Overall, hundreds of thousands of Indians died of European diseases during the first two centuries following contact. In terms of death tolls, smallpox killed the greatest number of Indians, followed by measles, influenza, and bubonic plague.


 The most deadly European disease was smallpox, a disease almost unknown in today’s world but common prior to the twentieth century. Smallpox is caused by a virus that may be airborne or spread by direct contact. There are three forms of smallpox: (1) Variola major which is quite virulent; (2) Variola minor which is comparatively mild; and (3) Variola vaccinae which is also known as cowpox. An attack of any one of these forms will provide immunity against the other two.

Children resist the smallpox virus better than teenagers or adults. In a larger population, smallpox is a constant. Since nearly all children contract some form of smallpox, this means that adults have had the disease and are immune. Smallpox thus becomes a childhood disease with relatively low mortality.

When smallpox strikes a virgin population, such as the Native Americans, the initial death toll is quite high, particularly among adults and elders. As a result a great deal of cultural knowledge, such as how to conduct certain ceremonies, is lost.

Smallpox is a crowd disease. Once it strikes a low density population it soon becomes extinct in that population as it does not have enough hosts. Thus, in American Indian populations, smallpox would strike, the population would plummet, and the disease would die out. The population would begin to recover and about a generation later, smallpox would strike again.

Smallpox first struck American Indians in what is now the United States after 1520. It was not uncommon for Native people to encounter the deadly European diseases long before they encountered European people. For thousands of years, Native American trade routes interconnected the many diverse cultures on this continent. The new European diseases simply followed these trade routes, carried by both the traders and their goods. The smallpox virus can live in cloth, particularly cotton cloth, for many years.

The European diseases devastated many nations and consequently European explorers, particularly in the southeast and northeast, frequently reported finding empty villages and fields. From these reports came the common misconception that North America was only sparsely populated by Indians. In the Southeast, the Muskogee (Creek) population has been estimated at two hundred thousand before the Europeans arrived on the continent. It had declined to about twenty thousand by the time Europeans actually visited their villages.

Traditional Native American curing techniques were not effective against smallpox and many of the other European diseases. One of the primary ways of dealing with disease among most of the tribes was the sweat bath which actually increased Indian mortality from febrile diseases such as smallpox, measles, and chickenpox.

In most of the American Indian cultures, healing was a part of their religious ceremonies. When their ceremonies failed to cure the new European diseases the faith in the traditional Indian spiritual ways was also damaged. This in turn provided an opening for the Christian missionaries who were immune to the disease. Since Christians didn’t seem to die from smallpox, some Indians began to reason, then it must be the power of their religion that saved them.

Smallpox Inoculations/Vaccinations:

 The practice of inoculating people against smallpox was present in India in the eight century and in China by the tenth century. By the seventeenth century the idea had spread to Turkey. By the early 1700s, Europeans understood how smallpox was transmitted and had begun inoculation programs to prevent the disease. In North America, doctors in Boston and in Charlestown began such programs about 1721.

By 1800, the United States had begun smallpox vaccination programs for Indians. In 1802, for example, Indian chiefs visiting Washington D.C. were vaccinated against smallpox using a vaccine that President Jefferson had cultured. In 1804 the Corps of Discovery under the leadership of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark carried with them smallpox vaccine so that they could inoculate the tribes they encountered on their journey to the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, the vaccine was ruined soon after they left St. Louis.

In 1832, Congress appropriated $12,000 to vaccinate Indians against smallpox. The Secretary of War was to be in charge of the vaccinations. It was estimated that the appropriated funds were sufficient to vaccinate two-thirds of the country’s Indians. However, the Secretary of War notified the Indian agent for the upper Missouri that no tribes upstream from the Arikara were to be vaccinated. It was felt that the spread of smallpox to the tribes of the Northern Plains, such as the Blackfoot, would aid American military efforts against these groups.

Four years later, the United States Army provided the Mandan with smallpox infected blankets. As a result, the Mandan were almost exterminated. The Mandan, an agricultural people who lived in permanent villages, were key trading partners with the buffalo-hunting nomadic tribes of the Northern Plains. Smallpox soon moved into the Assiniboine in Montana and Saskatchewan. It is estimated that it killed 4,000 of the estimated 10,000 Assiniboine.

The following year, in 1837, the American Fur Company steamboat St. Peters spread smallpox among the tribes of the Upper Missouri. While smallpox infected many of the people on the St. Peters, the captain refused to quarantine the crew and passengers because he did not want to create any delays in the schedule. The epidemic killed at least 17,000 Indian people.

In North Dakota, one of the traders at Fort Union came down with smallpox. The clerk, Charles Larpenteur, understood that the disease posed a great peril to the Assiniboine when they returned to trade in the fall. Therefore, all of the personnel at the post who had not had smallpox were inoculated. Using a medical book as a guide, they scraped pus from a ripened smallpox blister. They then made tiny cuts on the inoculees’ arms, dipped the tip of the lancet in the vial of pus, and rubbed a small amount of pus on the wound. Smallpox, however, still struck the Assiniboine and two-thirds died. Of the 250 lodges at Fort Union, only 30 survived.

The epidemic quickly spread west to the Blackfoot in Montana where it killed 50 percent of the southern bands of the tribe. While most historians claim that the St. Peters spread smallpox unintentionally, many Blackfoot feel that the disease was deliberately spread by the United States.

Smallpox was not eradicated among American Indians until the twentieth century. The last major smallpox epidemic among an American Indian tribe was in 1921 when the disease struck the Indians living in the Pit River, California area. The impact of the epidemic was increased by starvation and lack of medical care. Congress was slow in reacting to this healthcare concern: in 1928, prompted by complaints about the failure of Indian health care in dealing with the smallpox epidemic, Congress launched an investigation into charges of willful neglect. By ignoring the impact of poverty and starvation and its relation to general health conditions, the government shifted attention from its failings by stepping up attacks on shamans and blaming their influences for poor sanitary conditions.

European Views:

The early Europeans were aware that diseases were devastating the American Indian communities. In New England many of the English colonists saw the diseases as evidence of God’s plan for them to settle the area. Regarding the smallpox epidemic of 1633 which killed many Massachusett and Pawtucket, the English governor commented that the disease “cleared our title to this place.”

Many Europeans, both Spanish and English, see the devastating diseases as evidence of God’s wrath directed toward the Indians and evidence of the sinful life of the Indians. Many Protestants, particularly Calvinists, viewed disease as a divine punishment for sin. Since American Indians were heathens—the greatest sin of all—it was natural that God should destroy them with smallpox. Similarly, the Catholic priests in California attributed diseases such as smallpox to tribal sin, especially the cardinal sin of refusing to believe in Christ.

However, there were some Spanish priests who felt that the diseases which were devastating Indian populations were an indication of God’s wrath against the Spanish colonists. They see the depopulation of the Indian communities as depriving the Spanish of their labor force.

Syphilis carried from America to Europeans?:

At one time it was commonly assumed that syphilis originated in the Americas and was initially brought back to Europe by the first Spanish sailors. This assumption was based on the fact that the disease first began to be reported in Europe shortly after Columbus returned from his first voyage to the Americas. However, the archaeological record, in the form of burials in England, has disproved this assumption. Archaeologist Dale Evans, an article Written in Bones: How Human Remains Unlock the Secrets of the Dead, reports: “However, at Hull, four skeletons with fully developed tertiary syphilis were present in min-fifteenth century levels, showing that the disease was already well established in Europe at least a half a century before Columbus set sail.”

Dam Indians: A Tribal Victory!

The flag of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana was raised over a hydroelectric facility on the Flathead River on September 4, 2015. The facility, formerly known as the Kerr Dam, was promptly renamed the Salish Kootenai Dam in honor of the new owners. For the past 30 years, the tribes have been battling to reclaim the dam which has a generating capacity of 188 megawatts of electricity.

At the celebration of the transfer, former tribal council member Steve Lozar said: “This day blesses all our tribal hearts collectively. It’s a combination of people of water that once again to rejoice and feel a true tribal baptism of water as it washes over us – and for that I am very thankful for. I am thankful for the people that has brought us this opportunity; for the tribal members that gave their lives to build this facility. And I’m mostly proud for the children that are once again going to be regenerated and rejuvenated by the water that washes over them.”



The history of the relationship of the federal government with Indian nations has generally focused on the transfer of wealth—land, mineral rights, etc.—from Indian people to non-Indians. For the Pend d’Oreille, Flathead, and Kootenai people this began in 1855 with the Hell Gate Treaty that transferred to the United States millions of acres of tribal land and established what would become the Flathead Indian Reservation.

In 1904 Montana Congressman Joseph Dixon secured the passage of the Flathead Allotment Act which called for the survey and allotment of the Montana reservation without the consent of the Indians. Under allotment, each Indian family was to be given a parcel of land and then the reservation was open to non-Indian settlement. Following allotment, the Indian agent, who favored allotment, needed an armed guard when traveling on the reservation.

To improve farming on the allotted Reservation, the government created the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project. As with most Indian irrigation projects, this project was soon delivering water to non-Indian farms. A national report on Indian irrigation projects released in 1929 showed that the number of acres of Indian land irrigated and used had declined, and that while the cost of constructing irrigation projects had been charged to the Indians, non-Indian farmers had been the primary beneficiaries of these projects.

In 1934, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act which allowed tribal governments to reorganize and to create federally chartered corporations which can borrow money, enter into contracts, and sue. Under this Act, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes came into existence.

The Dam:

 In 1927 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs met with representatives of the Montana Power Company to discuss the development of a hydroelectric site on the Flathead River south of Polson, Montana. An agreement was reached which gave Montana Power the right to generate power. The driving force behind the dam proposal was the need for electricity for copper mining activities in Butte and smelter activities in Anaconda. While the dam site is on the Flathead Reservation, no Indians were invited to the meeting.

The agreement was criticized by John Collier who maintained that it violated the 1855 treaty with the Flatheads. Collier also pointed out that the Federal Water Power Act of 1920 promised Indians all royalties from reservation lands and that the agreement with Montana Power only gave the Indians one-third of the royalties. Collier also questioned why the agreement gives non-Indian settlers on the reservation electricity at cost.

The proposed site for the dam was an important cultural resource for the tribes, but since all Indian religions were illegal at this time, the spiritual concerns of tribal elders were not considered. Many tribal members opposed the construction of the dam.

Construction of the dam began in 1930 and by 1939 the facility was producing power. The new dam was named for Frank Kerr, the president of Montana Power. Kerr dam is a concrete arch dam which controls the elevation of the top ten feet of Flathead Lake. Fourteen tribal members were killed in construction-related accidents during the building of the dam.

In 1985 the dam’s license came up for renewal and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) bid for the license. As a result, CSKT became a co-licensee with Montana Power Company. During the negotiations, the tribes agreed to take a reduced payment for the use and occupancy of the dam site in exchange for an exclusive option to acquire the dam in 2015.

To take over the operation of the dam, the tribes created a tribally owned corporation, Energy Keepers, Inc., under the Indian Reorganization Act.

Republican Response:

Montana Republicans are not happy about having a tribally-run hydroelectric facility. In an attempt to stop the takeover, state Senator. Bob Keenan and Flathead Conservation District Supervisor Verdell Jackson filed a complaint seeking a temporary injunction. The Missoula Independent reports: “In the kind of sleuthing worthy of a Tom Clancy novel, Keenan and Jackson drew a direct connection between Turkey’s work to help foster economic development in Indian Country and Turkey’s harboring of terrorist groups.”

According to the complaint, the Turkish government is seeking to promote Islam on Indian reservation as well as other dangerous activities, such as seeking access to uranium deposits. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have expertise in uranium mill tailing cleanups and the lawsuit claims that the tribes are too gullible or naïve to realize that the Turks may have terrorist ties. Turkey, by the way, is a U.S. ally and a member of NATO.

According to the Missoula Independent: “While the case was quickly thrown out, one might begin to suspect Keenan and Jackson have something against the Salish and Kootenai people, or against the federal government that approved CSKT’s intent to purchase Kerr Dam three decades ago. But then again, such theories seem a little too grounded and devoid of conspiratorial intrigue for their ilk.”


Ancient America: Montana 6000 BCE to 3000 BCE

About 8,000 years ago (6,000 BCE), the American Indian cultures of the Northern Plains and the Columbia Plateau began undergoing a series of major changes. There was a decrease in dependence on big game hunting as the people engaged in a wide range of hunting and gathering patterns.

One of the events of regional importance was the eruption of Mount Mazama in Oregon in 4750 BCE. The volcano crater would later fill with water and become known as Crater Lake. The volcanic ash from this eruption covered much of the region, including parts of Montana. For today’s archaeologists, this ash layer provides a way of dating some archaeological sites.

Briefly described below are some of the Montana sites between 6000 BCE and 3000 BCE.


Pretty Creek: By about 5735 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Pretty Creek (24CB4) site near the Bighorn River at the present-day Wyoming border. They were using basin-shaped fire pits into which they added stones to help hold the heat.

Hogback Homestead: In 5400 BCE, Indian people using Cascade points were now occupying the Hogback Homestead site (24GN13).

Black Bear Coulee: In 5000 BCE, Indian people were now occupying the Black Bear Coulee site which is located at an elevation of 4,000 feet just north of present-day Drummond.

In 4750 BCE, Indian people living at the Black Bear Coulee site witnessed ash falling over the hills and streams of western Montana from the eruption of Mount Mazama. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald writes: “The layer of ash seems to have had little long-term effect on the people of western Montana: Early Archaic peoples lived there before and after the eruption with equal success.”

Middle Kootenai River: On a high terrace along the Middle Kootenai River valley near present-day Libby, Indian people were using site 24LN1054 by 5000 BCE. This was a winter residential base. The primary food resources included deer and elk. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald, in his book Montana Before History: 11,000 Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains, writes: “Artifacts at the site include net weights used for trout fishing and pestles used to process root crops, which are abundant in the Kootenai valley.”

Graybeal: By 4890 BCE, Indian people were now using the Graybeal site (24GN61). This was a semi-permanent site used for wintering. The people at this site were using a type of point which the archaeologists call Salmon River Side-Notched.

Buckeye: In 4300 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Buckeye Site. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald writes: “Plant remains at the Buckeye Site indicate use of prickly pear cactus and biscuitroot for food, and sagebrush and pine for firewood. The pine probably came from the nearby Pryor Mountains.”

 Kobold: In 3700 BCE, Indian people were using a buffalo jump at the Kobold site (24BH406) along Rosebud Creek. The jump is a 25-foot-high sandstone escarpment. At a buffalo jump, Indian people would harvest bison by running the herd over the cliff and then butchering the carcasses in the area below the cliff.

Bear Paw Mountains: In 3500 BCE, Indian people were now using site 24HL1215 which is at an elevation of 4,680 feet in the Bear Paw Mountains. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald writes: “The small occupation, perhaps a group of hunters, used the uplands of the Bear Paw Mountains for hunting and gathering.”

While they used local stone for making tools, they also had some exotic stone, including Knife River flint from western North Dakota and obsidian from present-day Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Myers-Hindman: In 3500 BCE, Indian people were using the Myers-Hindman site (24PA504) near present-day Livingston for hunting bighorn sheep.

Pit House: In 3365 BCE, Indian people constructed a pit house in the south central portion of the state (site 24CB1332). They were exploiting many non-bison sources of food, including rabbit, deer, and pronghorn. They were also gathering a variety of plants.

Sun River: In 3200 BCE, Indian people occupied the Sun River site (24CA74) near present-day Great Falls during the fall. A group of about 25 people occupied the site for a few days. They were using a wide array of local fauna, including pronghorns.

Rigler Bluffs: By 3040 BCE, Indian people were using the Rigler Bluffs site (24PA401) on the southern bank of the Yellowstone River.


 A complex is simply a group of tools and artifacts which are associated together at a number of different sites. Archaeologists use complexes for showing the relationships between different sites. A complex is also a chronological unit and thus can be used for the initial dating of a site.

 Bristow Complex: In southeastern British Columbia and northwestern Montana, the period which archaeologists call the Bristow Complex began about 5500 BCE. This complex is characterized by the use of local glacial outwash and river gravels as the primary source for lithic raw materials. Bristow Complex projectile points are shallow or deep side to broad side/corner notched dart points.


Note: the information in parenthesis following the name of the site is the Smithsonian Designation System. In this system of recording archaeological sites, the first number refers to the state; this is followed by letters which refer to the county; and then a number indicating its order in being recorded. Thus 5LP 10, means that the site is in Colorado (5th state when the states are listed alphabetically), La Plata County (LP), and was the 10th site recorded in La Plata county in the State Archaeologist’s office.