Aztec Social Organization

When the Spanish invaded Mexico, they found that one of the dominant empires was that of the Aztecs. While many great civilizations and empires had developed and collapses in the region over the millennia, today we know more about the Aztec society than we do about the earlier societies thanks to the observations of the Spanish. In 1519, when the Spanish first encountered the Aztecs, the Aztec empire was a complex state ruled by an emperor from the city of Tenochtitlán which had a population of about 350,000.

The “big house” (calpolli; also  spelled calpulli) was the basic unit of Aztec social organization and of the Aztec empire. The “big house” was primarily a group of families who had been related by kinship or proximity over a fairly long period of time. This group was a land-holding corporation with ritual functions: in other words, the group owned its own land and worshipped its own gods. Like Aztec society, the “big house” was stratified with both elite members and commoners. The elite would provide the commoners with arable land or with non-agricultural occupations and the commoners pay tribute to the elite in various forms.

Within the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlán there were 80 “big houses” which were arranged into the four great quarters of the city.

Each of the “big houses” was presided over by a single individual who functions as a principal chief and has the title calpollec. The principal chief was elected by the members of the “big house” and confirmed by the Aztec emperor. The principal chief ruled for life.

Aztec society was stratified into a number of classes. At the very top of Aztec society were the rulers (teteuhctin) of the cities and towns. Living in palaces and wearing distinctive clothing, the rulers ensured that tribute payments were made at all of the appropriate levels of the imperial administration.

Just below the rulers were the nobles (pipiltin) which was a hereditary class (i.e. people had to be born into it). All of the Aztec imperial ministers belonged to this class. There was also a noble class known as the eagle nobles (cuauhpipiltin) who had been born as commoners but had distinguished themselves in battle and had been rewarded with a noble title.

Most of the people in Aztec society were commoners (macehualtin) who worked the lands of the “big houses” and paid tribute to the upper classes. The Aztec state maintained control over the commoners and tribute was in the form of service: labor on public works and/or as soldiers in the army.

At the bottom of Aztec society were the serfs (mayeque) who worked on the noble estates. Serfs were menial laborers and, according to some reports, were not allowed to leave the lands to which they were attached. Some scholars have estimated that perhaps as many as 30% of the Aztecs were serfs. About one-third of the produce of the serfs went to the nobles.

Aztec society, like other societies throughout the world, included slaves. Slavery was partially debt slavery which was made up of people who could not pay their debts, particularly gambling debts. When deeply in debt individuals could pawn themselves, their spouses, or their children for a certain period of time or perpetuity. Under Aztec law, slaves could not be sold without their consent. In general, slaves seem to have been treated well. Slaves could choose their marriage partners and their children were not slaves.

In addition to debt slavery, the Aztecs also captured people from other nations who were sold in slavery. By the time of the Spanish invasion, the buying and selling of slaves was a big business. Archaeologist Brian Fagan, in his book The Aztecs, writes:  “The ever-increasing nobility required en more laborers to serve in their households. Slave merchants operated from as far away as the Tabasco region of the Gulf Coast and frequented human markets in Azcapotzalco and Itzocan.”

There is also one small, but very powerful, Aztec group which must be mentioned: the long-distance merchants (pochteca). They were treated like royalty and reported directly to the royal palace. These merchants travelled hundreds of miles into foreign territories and were able to obtain luxury goods such as quetzal feathers and amber for the emperor. Membership in this merchant class was hereditary. While the long-distance merchants could become very wealthy, there were restrictions on them flaunting their wealth.

Being a long-distance merchant was a dangerous job and many died while travelling. Disease, accidents, and being killed by unfriendly people were among the job hazards. To ensure their safety and wellbeing, the pochteca had their own gods, including Yacatecuhtili (“Nose Lord”) who is generally portrayed as having a very long nose and carrying a traveler’s staff in one hand and a woven fan in the other. If one of these merchants died when travelling then, like the soul of a fallen warrior, the soul would go directly to the paradise of the Sun God.

Closely associated with the pochteca was another specialized group known as the oztomeca who dressed in local clothing and spoke the local language. Their job, in addition to obtaining exotic goods, was to gather military intelligence. Archaeologists Michael Coe and Rex Koontz, in their book Mexico, write:  “Like the businessmen-spies of modern days, the oztomeca were often a vanguard for the Aztec takeover of another nation, acting sometimes as agents-provocateurs.”

In 1521, the Spanish and their Native American allies captured the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, killing about 280,000 of its residents. Aztec society was then forced to be assimilated in the Spanish empire.

Tobacco and the Indian Nations of the Great Lakes

The western portion of the Northeastern Woodlands of the U.S., an area designated as the Great Lakes-Riverine area by some anthropologists, was inhabited by Algonquian-speaking tribes such as the Anishinabe (Ojibwa or Chippewa), Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Menominee, Shawnee, Ottawa, and Sauk and by Siouan-speaking groups such as the Winnebago, Iowa, Oto, and Missouria. The Siouan-speaking groups probably emerged from the Oneota cultural tradition that began to flourish about 1000 AD in the upper Mississippi Valley.

The economy of the Indian nations of this region was mixed with the gathering of wild plants, hunting, and fishing being of primary importance and farming being of secondary importance. Farming—corn, beans, and squash—contributed about half of their calories. The reduced importance of agriculture was due largely to climatic conditions. Throughout much of the region, the 140-growing-day season made agriculture a risky endeavor. A later spring or an early fall meant that crop failures were a constant possibility.

Among the non-food plants raised in this area was tobacco, an important ceremonial and trade plant. For Indian people throughout North America, tobacco smoking is a symbolic way of enhancing the communication between individuals, between groups, and between the people and the supernatural. One of the reasons for its ceremonial importance is explained in the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) creation story.

According to the Ho-Chunk creation story, after the Earthmaker had created all other things, human beings were created. Human beings were the least of the Earthmaker’s creations. They were put in charge of nothing. While even the smallest of the insects could see four days ahead, human beings could not even see one day ahead. Then the Earthmaker created a weed with a pleasant odor and all of the spirits wanted it. The weed was called tobacco. Earthmaker then showed the people how to use it, how to crush it, and smoke it in a pipe. To all of the spirits Earthmaker said:  “Now, whatever human beings ask from me and for which they offer tobacco I will not be able to refuse it. I myself will not be in control of this weed. If they give me a pipefull of this and make a request I will not be able to refuse it.”

Earthmaker also told the spirits:  “The human beings are the only ones of my creation who are poor. I did not give them anything, so therefore this will be their foremost possession and from them we will have to obtain it. If a human being gives a pipefull and makes a request we will always grant it.”

Among all of the tribes of this culture area, tobacco is used for all important activities. This includes sprinkling of tobacco on the water as an offering to the underwater spirits just before getting into a canoe; offering a pinch of tobacco to the earth where other ceremonial plants are gathered; providing tobacco to someone when a special request is made.

The oldest form of tobacco which was cultivated and used in this culture area was Nicotaina rustica. This tobacco, often described as “strong-tasting”, was cultivated in small patches and was used in religious ceremonies.

1764

Two hundred and fifty years ago, in 1764, many of the Indian nations of North America had not yet had direct contact with the European colonial powers who were claiming the “God-given” right to rule them. Indirectly, however, most of the Indian nations had already been impacted by European manufactured goods and by European diseases.

Colonial Indian Policies:

 The British reorganized and reformed the administration of Indian affairs. Private and colonial purchases of land from the Indians were no longer allowed, trading was to be confined to posts, and trading rum to the Indians was banned.

Pennsylvania offered a scalp bounty on Indians as well as a bounty on live captives. Since the difference between the bounty for a scalp and a live male captive was relatively small, few bounty hunters bothered taking males alive. However, the bounty for live women and children meant that many were taken alive so that they could be sold as slaves.

In the Southeast, John Stuart, the Indian Agent for the British Southern District, suggested a divide-and-conquer policy:  “It will undoubtedly be detrimental to His Majesties service, that too strict a friendship and union subsist between the different Indian nations within this department; it is therefore incumbent upon us by all means in our power to foment any jealousy or division that may subsist between them.”

In Florida, the British took over government of Florida from the Spanish and appointed agents to represent the government in Indian affairs at Mobile, Pensacola, and St. Augustine.  A meeting was held with Cowkeeper’s Creek Indian village. A second meeting was then held with Creek leaders from five other towns: Tallahassee (Tonaby’s Town), Mikasuki (Newtown), Chiskatalofa, Tamathli, and Ochlockonee. Gifts were given to the chiefs and Cowkeeper and Long Warrior expressed strong attachment to the British.

In Louisiana, a delegation of Choctaw who were in New Orleans to confirm their attachment to the French talked with the English superintendent of Indian Affairs who happened to be visiting the city. They complained to him that the English traders beat them, stole their horses, and had sex with their women.

Anti-Indian Violence:

In Pennsylvania, a mob of about 50 men attacked the Christian Susquehannock Indians in the village of Conestogoe. They killed everyone they found, scalped and mutilated the bodies, and then burned the houses. Governor John Penn condemned the action and proclaimed a reward for the murderers.

Many of the Indians who had escaped the mob violence at Conestogoe sought refuge in Lancaster where they were locked in the workhouse for their own safety. The mob, however, broke in the door and killed several Indians, both adults and children.

The mob, known as the Paxton Boys, grew to several hundred and began to march toward Philadelphia where 140 Indians had sought refuge. The mob was angered because Governor John Penn had condemned the murder of Indians at the village of Conestogoe.

The governor called upon Ben Franklin to stop the mob. Franklin confronted the Paxton Boys in Germantown. In speaking to the mob, he used the names of the Indians they had murdered in Conestogoe. By speaking the English names of the dead Indians, Franklin treated them as human beings rather than as wild animals in the woods. Franklin told the mob that killing children was inhuman, cowardly, and unmanly. Franklin told them that  “these Indians would have been safer among the ancient heathens, with whom the rites of hospitality were sacred, than they are among us Christians in Pennsylvania.”

Franklin was successful and the mob dispersed. Following this, Franklin wrote A Narrative of the Late Massacres … of a Number of Indians. It described the massacre of Indians by “Christian White Savages.”

Missionaries:

In Pennsylvania, Presbyterian missionaries Samuel Kirkland and Joseph Woolley traveled to the Iroquois village of Oquaga. Woolley, a Delaware Indian who had graduated from the Wheellock Academy, established a school in the village. Woolley found life in the village to be difficult and died the following year.

In Rhode Island, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel sent a teacher to the Narragansett.

Peace and War:

In Ohio, the Ottawa war leader Pontiac sent the British a wampum belt for peace. The British simply chopped up the belt. In terms of Indian diplomacy, the British action was highly disrespectful, somewhat like urinating on a peace treaty. The Indians were shocked and angered by the British actions and Pontiac was convinced that he had nothing to gain by negotiating with the British

The Shawnee, Seneca, and Lenni Lenape joined together to send war belts to the Miami and to Pontiac’s Ottawa asking them to fight the British. These three nations were joined by the Munsee and the Wyandot to form the Five Nations of Scioto.

In Michigan, the Ojibwa debated about traveling to Detroit to join Pontiac. To settle the debate a shaking tent ceremony was held. The spirits were asked if the English were really preparing to attack the Indians. The oracle replied that there were many English soldiers preparing to make war. As an alternative, the oracle suggested that they travel to New York to meet with Sir William Johnson, who  “will fill your canoes with presents; with blankets, kettles, guns, gunpowder and shot; and large barrels of rum, such as the stoutest of the Indians will not be able to lift; and every man will return in safety to his family.”

Other Events:

In Massachusetts, the Stockbridge realized that they had failed to exclude from a government transaction 2,500 acres of land which they had sold to a farmer. They refunded the money and petitioned the General Court to allow the farmer to keep the land. The Court did not allow the farmer to keep the land, but did give him 300 acres elsewhere.

In Florida, two Creek towns – Lachua under the leadership of Cowkeeper and Old Town under the leadership of White King – had a ball game which lasted for two weeks. During this time the participants consumed 18 kegs of rum.

In Virginia, amateur archaeologist Thomas Jefferson had his African slaves dig up hundreds of Monacan skeletons so that he could learn more about their mortuary customs.

In Massachusetts, the Nantucket were decimated by smallpox. Only 136 survived. At the time of first contact with the English in 1659 they had had a population of about 3,000.

The Cheyenne Migrations

In 1851, the United States government met in treaty council with 8,000 to 12,000 Indians from several Plains tribes at Fort Laramie in present-day Wyoming. One of the tribes attending this council was the Cheyenne. While many Americans assumed that the Cheyenne had always been a Plains tribe, in fact, when Europeans first encountered them in the early 1600s they were living in the woodlands at the mouth of the Wisconsin River in what is now Minnesota. Like the other tribes in this area at this time, the Cheyenne lived in permanent or semi-permanent villages making their living by farming.

Prior to living in Minnesota, Cheyenne oral tradition says that the people lived far to the northeast in what is now Canada. They were not farmers at this time, but lived by fishing, hunting and gathering wild plant foods. According to tradition, they were living by a large body of water. There was, however, a time of great sickness and the people left their homeland and moved south. The Cheyenne call this the “ancient time” when the people were happy but were decimated by a terrible disease leaving the people as orphans.

They next settled in the marshy areas between Ontario and Minnesota and it was here that they learned farming from the other tribes in the area. The Cheyenne call this the “time of the dogs” when dogs were used as beasts of burden.

About 1635, the Cheyenne began their slow migration westward toward the Great Plains. Their migration may have been motivated or initiated in part by the westward expansion of tribes to the east including the Sioux, Iroquois and the Anishinaabe. The many villages that made up the Cheyenne did not move all at one time, but rather they moved piecemeal. Archaeological data suggests that it may have taken two centuries for all of the different groups to migrate west of the Mississippi River and into the Great Plains. By 1700 many of the bands were living in the Sheyenne River Valley in eastern North Dakota. Here they adopted the life-style of the farming tribes in that region which included living in villages made up of semi-subterranean earthlodges. They continued to farm corn, beans, and squash.

In the mid-1700s, the Plains Cree, Plains Ojibwa, and the Assiniboine pushed the Cheyenne farther west. The Cheyenne re-established themselves in the Black Hills area where they acquired the horse and became nomadic buffalo hunters. In the Black Hills, the Cheyenne encountered the Arapaho who had probably moved out of the Minnesota area ahead of them. While the Arapaho had moved into the Black Hills first, they did not view the Cheyenne as intruders, but welcomed them as friends. The two tribes intermarried and became confederated.

Pressure from the Teton Sioux toward the end of the eighteenth century pushed the Cheyenne even farther west. Once again, this migration was carried out piecemeal. By 1800, the Cheyenne still had some villages which were planting corn along the Missouri River. After 1825, the Cheyenne began to divide into a Northern tribe and a Southern tribe. The Southern Cheyenne continued their close association with the Arapaho while the Northern Cheyenne developed a close association with the Sioux.

At Fort Laramie in 1851, the Americans failed to distinguish between the Northern Cheyenne and the Southern Cheyenne. The Americans in their infinite wisdom assumed that there was only one Cheyenne tribe and “awarded” them a reservation in what would become Oklahoma.  The Southern Arapaho were also assigned to this reservation.

The Northern Cheyenne had no intention of moving to a reservation on the Southern Plains so they stayed in the north where they affiliated themselves with the Sioux. However, following the Battle of the Little Bighorn where the Sioux and Cheyenne defeated a surprise attack led by Lt. Colonel George Custer, the Northern Cheyenne were scattered as the Americans attempted to force them to move to the reservation. Finally, in 1882, the government moved the Northern Cheyenne under the leaders Two Moon and White Bull to a small reserve on Rosebud Creek and the Tongue River in Montana. This marked the beginning of the formation of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

Some Apache Ceremonies

While the movies and popular books (including some textbooks) speak of the Apaches as if they were a single American Indian nation, there are many different, distinct, and autonomous Apache groups. There are six major divisions of the Apache: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Kiowa-Apache. East of these is also divided into discrete groups.

The Western Apache include five groups: Cibecue, San Carlos, White Mountain, Northern Tonto, and Southern Tonto. While there was intermarriage between these groups, they considered themselves to be distinct from one another and had clearly defined territorial boundaries. The traditional territory of the Western Apache is in Arizona and ranges from as far north as Sedona to as far south as the San Pedro River Valley.

The Chiricahua Apache are south of the Western Apache in the mountains of southeastern Arizona. The term “Chiricahua” was coined by an anthropologist to refer to the autonomous tribes living in or near the Chiricahua Mountains. The word “Chiricahua” is actually of Ópata origin.

The Jicarilla Apache are divided into two bands: the Llaneros (the plains people) and the Olleros (the mountain-valley people). The Jicarilla borrowed culturally from the Plains tribes (especially the war and raiding complexes) and from the Pueblos (agricultural and ceremonial rituals).

The Eastern Apache include five groups: Gila, Mimbres, Coppermine, Warm Springs, and Mescalero.

Ceremonies are a part of the social and cultural glue that brings people together, allows them to pass on their heritage, and reinforces their sense of purpose. There are many different kinds of ceremonies including rites of passage—ceremonies which designate a change in social status such as the transition from child to adult—and healing ceremonies. A few Apache ceremonies are described below. There are no photographs, as photographs of spiritual events are often considered offensive to Native peoples.

Girls’ Puberty Ceremony:

Among the Western Apache the Girls’ Puberty Ceremony invests in young girls the qualities which are felt to be important for adulthood. The ceremony is known as Na’íí’ees which means “preparing her” or “getting her ready.” This is an elaborate ceremony which has consequences for the entire community. In the ceremony, the power of Changing Woman enters the girl’s body and lives there for the four days of the ceremony. The gift of Changing Woman is longevity and physical health. During the ceremony the people come together to reaffirm kinship ties and to benefit from the healing powers of the ceremony.

Among the Jicarilla Apache the ceremony is performed in a large tipi that faces east. During the four-day ceremony, the girl and her partner (an adolescent male of the same age) listen to sacred songs about tribal origins. The ceremony stresses the positive traits that people should imitate in their own lives.

Among the Chircahua Apache the Girls’ Puberty Ceremony is composed of a series of rituals which reinforce the basic values of Apache culture. During the ceremony, the girl is united spiritually and personally with the most revered of the Chiricahua’s ancestors, White Painted Woman. Chiricahua elder Elbys Naiche Huger notes:  “Here we say White Painted Woman, other Apaches might say Changing Woman or call this a Sunrise Ceremony.”

Cradle Ceremony:

 Among the Chiricahua Apache, the Cradle Ceremony is conducted four days after birth. The ceremony involves marking the child with pollen, presenting the cradleboard to the four directions, and then placing the child in the cradleboard. The ceremony is intended to ward off evil influences.

First Moccasin Ceremony:

 The Apache hold this ceremony to celebrate a child’s first steps. The ceremony is held at the new moon with the children wearing newly made outfits and their first moccasins. The purpose of the ceremony is to keep the children healthy and strong. The ceremony includes a feast and a gift give-away as well as songs, prayers, dances, and blessings with pollen.

Holiness Rite:

The Holiness Rite is an Apache long-life ceremony which is based on the story of Bear and Snake stealing two girls during the emergence of the People from the underworld. The girls were rescued and returned by the White and Black Gods. As a curing ceremony which relieves Bear and Snake sickness—that is illness which originate from Bear and Snake. The complex, four-day ceremony may treat up to 12 patients. During the ceremony, the patients are subject to treatments which are intended to frighten away the bear and the snake.

Among the Jicarilla, the Holiness Rite is also known as the Bear Dance and is usually performed for three days before and during the appearance of the full moon (for a total of four days). The ceremony cures bear, snake, and other sicknesses. The ceremony takes place in a large enclosure (about 80 feet in diameter) which has an opening to the east. Within the enclosure on the west side is a tipi which faces east. The patients are confined to the tipi during the ceremony.

Hoop Dance:

The Hoop Dance is a White Mountain Apache healing ceremony. During the ceremony, the sick person is seated on a blanket facing east. The dancers – one boy and one girl at each of the four cardinal directions – dance in toward the patient. The boys place their hoops over the patient’s head and the girls place the crosses which they carry over the patient’s head. This is repeated four times. Next, there are ceremonies involving the four directions in which the hoops are placed over the patient.

Lightning Ceremony:

The Lightning Ceremony is a White Mountain Apache ceremony which is done to protect the people from the danger of lightning. In addition, the ceremony brings the rain and insures good crops.

The Choctaw Indians

The Choctaw, at the time of European contact, were a loosely organized confederacy composed of three distinctly different divisions: Okla Falaya (Long People), Okla Tannap (People of the Opposite Side), and Okla Hannalia (Sixtown People). The people were living in more than 100 autonomous villages. While there is a stereotype that portrays Indians as “living by the hunt,” the Choctaw, like the other Indian nations in the Southeast, were farmers who had been cultivating corn for about 3,000 years. In addition to corn, they also raised beans, squash, sunflowers, and melons.

Choctaw agriculture was supplemented with some hunting and gathering of wild plants for food and fiber. While men generally hunted and women generally worked in the fields, this was not a rigid division of labor. There were times when the men helped with both the farming and the gathering of wild plants. It was not uncommon for girls to go with the men and boys on hunting expeditions. Older women usually stayed at home to tend the fields.

Migrations:

Choctaw oral tradition speaks of a time when they had lived to the northwest. However, their population increased and the game grew scarce which forced them to seek a new home. Their migration was led by Chahta (also spelled Chah-tah) who carried a magical staff. Each night when they camped, he would place the staff upright into the ground. In the morning, he would inspect it and then he would lead the people in the direction in which the staff leaned. At the ancient mound of Ninih Waiya (“Leaning Mountain”) near present-day Philadelphia, Mississippi, the staff remained upright in the morning. Thus it was here that the Choctaw settled. It was in this country that the Choctaw established their government.

According to one version of the story, a group of people led by Chikasa, Chahta’s brother, had camped on the other side of the creek. There was a heavy rain and flooding, following which the staff was still upright indicating that this is where the people were to stay. However, Chikasa’s party had proceeded on, not knowing that the promised land had been found. This is how the Choctaw and the Chickasaw became separate, though related, nations.

The Choctaw migration story tells that the people traveled for 43 years and that during this migration they carried the bones of the ancestors. The task of carrying the bones was a sacred duty and some were so overloaded that they would carry one load forward, deposit it, and then return for the remainder.

Another oral tradition says that the Indian peoples of the Southeast emerged from the underworld at the sacred hill at Ninih Waiya. The first to emerge were the Creek, who dried themselves in the sun and then went east. Next to emerge were the Cherokee who tried to follow the Creek but got lost and settled in the north. The third group to emerge was the Chickasaw who followed the Cherokee. The last group to emerge was the Choctaw who settled near the mound.

Another variation of the story tells that the Choctaw were the first to settle near Ninih Waiya following their migration. After a while, however, there were some internal disputes and some of the younger warriors and hunters abandoned the people to settle in distant regions. In this version, the other Southeastern nations—the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, Shawnee, and Delaware—came from the main body of the Choctaw nation.

Material Culture:

The Choctaw lived in one-room houses built of either log or adobe and then covered with mud and bark. The houses, built by the men, were windowless and had dirt floors. The house had a central fireplace which provided heat and served as a cooking hearth.  Along the outer walls were raised beds.

The Choctaw made two basic kinds of pottery: a black polished ware and a less well-finished gray cooking ware. The black polished ware was sometimes decorated while the cooking ware was not polished or decorated. Decoration was done primarily by incising with a comb-like tool which produced three to six parallel lines.

Family:  

 Like the other Indian nations of the Southeast, the Choctaw had matrilineal clans. That is, each person belonged to the clan—the named extended family unit—of the mother. While Europeans tend to be somewhat obsessed about paternity, seeing the father as the most important person in the family, most Indian nations did not have this obsession. This does not mean that paternity was not recognized, but that it was less important.

Government and towns

The local Choctaw towns—estimated at 40 to 50—were grouped into three districts: Upper Towns, Lower Towns, and Sixtowns. At the district level, chiefs were selected from the senior matrilineal clan in the district. While there was a mingo (leader) for each district, there was no single overall mingo. The position of mingo was not inherited.

The Choctaw national council meetings would be held in the village of a host mingo. All would assemble in the village square where the delegates would take their seats on two rows of wooden benches. After lighting a fire on top of the burial mound of the village, the host mingo would hold up the appropriate number of fingers to indicate the number of issues that the council was to consider. He would then take his seat.

During the discussions, unlimited speaking time was allowed each delegate. At the conclusion of the discussions, the host mingo would summarize the decisions. Speaking slowly and deliberately, he would pause at the end of each sentence. If what he said met with approval, the delegates would exclaim ma! (yes).

Choctaw women participated in the political system indirectly through their power in the matrilineal clans. It was generally recognized that if the women wanted a certain man to become chief, then that man was generally elected to the position.

Prophecy:

Prophecy played an important role in the community of many Southeastern cultures. Prophets were recognized by the community and they served in a fashion similar to that of other spiritual leaders. Among the Choctaw, the prophets provided practical, political, social, moral, and spiritual guidance. Prophecy provided a symbolic link between today’s world and the future; between the people and the spirit world.

Death:

 Among the Choctaw, the dead body would be placed on a platform and covered with a bear skin. The poles would be painted red if the deceased were a person of some prominence. The platform would then be fenced and left for some time. Later, the body would be taken down and defleshed.

 

The Iroquois Peace, 1700 to 1713

Around the year 1451 five Iroquois nations—the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk—met to form the confederacy envisioned by the Huron prophet Deganawida. The five nations buried the instruments of war and planted a pine tree of peace. By 1700, the Iroquois Confederacy, commonly known as the League of Five Nations, was in between two rival European nations: the French and the English.

To the north of the Iroquois, the French sought to establish trading relations with the Indian nations, including the Iroquois. The French, who often spoke Indian languages, married Indian women, and dressed in Indian style, did not require their Indian business partners to change their cultures.

On the other hand the English, who occupied lands to the south and to the east of the Iroquois, felt that the extermination of the Indians, or at least of Indian cultures, was necessary to “tame the wilderness.” The English rarely spoke Indian languages, generally prohibited intermarriage with Indians, and viewed Indian religions as a form of “devil worship.”

The French and the English were traditional enemies, often fighting a religious war. The English, who were Protestants, strongly opposed French Catholicism which they viewed as an atheistic, evil religion.

In 1700, three French ambassadors traveled to Onondaga to speak to the Council of the League of Five Nations. They told the Iroquois that it was time for peace and that they wished to exchange prisoners and to place a Jesuit mission in Iroquoia. The sachems (a sachem is a chief in the Northeastern Indian nations) agreed to send a delegation to Canada to arrange for the peace and for the exchange of prisoners, but they would not agree to accept a Jesuit mission.

When the Iroquois attempted to release their French prisoners, however, many refused repatriation. They had been adopted into Iroquois families and refused to abandon their new lives. Only 13 French captives agreed to return.

Upon hearing about the French delegation to the Five Nations, the English governor of New York sent a representative to the Council to tell the Iroquois not to be deceived by the French. The Indians perceived the English message as one that challenged their sovereignty and implied that the English looked upon them as subjects.

The Iroquois felt that they could work the animosity between the French and English to their own advantage. In 1701, the Iroquois made two treaties: one with the British in Albany and one with the French in Montreal. These treaties began a policy of armed neutrality between the two contending European powers. In the treaty with the British, the sovereignty of the Five Nations over a vast tract of land along the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Huron was recognized. The King of England guaranteed Iroquois hunting in that area for their heirs and descendants forever. The Great Peace treaty with the French included 31 other Indian nations who were allied with the French. The two treaties marked the beginning of a period of material prosperity for the Iroquois. The Iroquois allowed trading posts only at the borders of their territories.

In 1702, war broke out between the French and the English in the form of Queen Anne’s War (War of Spanish Succession). Both the French and the English sought to keep the Iroquois neutral in this conflict so that the fur trade would not be interrupted. By remaining neutral, the Iroquois continued to trade with both and to maintain their dominant position in the fur trade.

In 1709, the British Governor met with four of the Five Nations (all except for the Seneca) to renew the Covenant Chain. The British told the Iroquois that they wanted them to take part in a military expedition against Canada. The Iroquois agreed to provide the British with 150 Mohawk, 105 Oneida, 100 Cayuga, and 88 Onondaga. However, the English war ships never arrived to supply the invasion and the war fizzled out before it began.

In 1710, Fort Hunter was built by the English in Mohawk territory. A wooden chapel was built within the fort and Queen Anne gave it a set of communion plates. The building of the chapel marked an intensification of Protestant missionary activity in the region. The following year, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts sent a missionary to Fort Hunter to convert the Mohawk.

 In 1712, the Iroquois Five Nations received wampum belts from the Tuscarora in the Carolinas. The Tuscarora asked for help in fighting the Catawba and the Virginia and Carolina colonists. When the governor of New York heard of the request, he warned the Iroquois not to get involved. The Iroquois promised to ask the Tuscarora to stop fighting if the governor asked the colonists to put down their arms. The French, however, convinced the Iroquois to send some warriors to aid the Tuscarora.

Queen Anne’s War between the French and English ended with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Under this treaty, the Iroquois were considered British subjects and trade was permitted with the western Indians by both the British and the French.

Traditional Native Concepts of Death

Many religious traditions, but not all, put forth an explanation about what happens after death. There are many religious traditions which claim there is an afterlife of some type, that death is not the end but is a transition. In some cultures the afterlife is seen as being similar to life, while in others there are several afterlife possibilities based on a person’s actions in this life.

It should be pointed out that in the several hundred distinct American Indian languages, there was no single world which could be translated as “religion.” This does not mean, as many Christian missionaries have assumed, that Indians did not have religion. Rather, it shows that religion was not a separate category of life but was closely integrated with the culture.

At the beginning of the European invasion, there was not a single Native American religion, but rather there were 500 religions. What this means is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to make broad generalizations about traditional American Indian beliefs about death.

One of the other problems or concerns in writing about Indian religions in general, and about traditional Indian concepts of death in particular, is that many of those who recorded these concepts did so through a Christian frame of reference. Many of the books written about Indian religions by non-Indians are really not about traditional religions, but are filtered through Christianity and Christian concepts. Concerning beliefs regarding an afterlife among Plains Indians, Sioux physician Charles Eastman writes:  “The idea of a ‘happy hunting-ground’ is modern and probably borrowed, or invented by the white man.”

For many American Indian cultures, the focus of religion, particularly the ceremonies, was on maintaining harmony with the world. The focus was on living in harmony today, not on death. For many Indians there was an awareness of death and a vague concept of something happening after death, but this was not dogmatic. They felt that they would find out when they die and in the meantime this is something they have no way of knowing anything about and therefore they should not waste time thinking about it.

While the Christian missionaries were fully convinced that all religions must have some concept of heaven and hell, some form of judgment after death, these were alien concepts to most American Indian cultures. The missionaries took this as additional evidence that Indians did not have religion. In their classic 1911 ethnography, The Omaha Tribe, Alice Fletcher and Francis LaFlesche report:  “There does not seem to have been any conception among the Omaha of supernatural rewards or punishments after death.”

Among many of the Indian nations in Massachusetts there was the idea that after death, the soul would go on a journey to the southwest. Eventually, the soul would arrive at a village where it would be welcomed by the ancestors. In a similar fashion, the Narragansett in Rhode Island viewed death as a transition between two worlds: at the time of death, the soul would leave the body and join the souls of relatives and friends in the world of the dead which lay somewhere to the southwest.

Among some of the tribes, such as the Beothuk and the Narragansett, it was felt that communication between the living and the dead was possible. Among the Narragansett, the souls of the dead were able to pass back and forth between the world of the dead and that of the living. The dead could carry messages and warnings to the living. Among the Caddo on the Southern Plains, the living could send messages to their deceased relatives by passing their hands over the body of someone recently deceased, from feet to head, and then over their own body. In this way messages could be sent via the deceased to other dead relatives.

One common theme found in many of the Indian cultures in North America is the idea of reincarnation. The idea that life and death are part of an ongoing cycle is found among many tribes. Sioux writer Charles Eastman reports:  “Many of the Indians believed that one may be born more than once, and there were some who claimed to have full knowledge of a former incarnation.”

In the Northwest Coast area, Gitxsan writer Shirley Muldon reports:  “We believe in reincarnation of people and animals. We believe that the dead can visit this world and that the living can enter the past. We believe that memory survives from generation to generation. Our elders remember the past because they have lived it.”

Among the Lenni Lenape, female elders would carefully examine babies, looking for signs of who the child had been in an earlier life. These signs included keeping the body relaxed and the hands unclenched and reacting favorably to places and things associated with the dead relative. Writing in 1817 about one Lenni Lenape man, Christian missionary John Heckewelder reported:  “He asserted very strange things, of his own supernatural knowledge, which he had obtained not only at the time of his initiation, but at other times, even before he was born. He said he knew that he had lived through two generations; that he had died twice and was born a third time, to live out the then present race, after which he was to die and never more to come to this country again.”

Reincarnation was often viewed as something that happened not just to humans, but to animals as well. Thus, a hunter would thank the animal that had just been harvested so that the soul of the animal would be reborn as an animal with good feelings toward the hunter and would therefore allow its physical form to be harvested again.

In many Indian cultures throughout North America, the names of the deceased were not, and in many cases are not, spoken. The deceased may be spoken about, but in an indirect way that does not use their name. Among the Navajo, the name of the deceased was traditionally not mentioned for one year following death. After this year, the name of the deceased was rarely mentioned.

The possibility of naming a place after a dead person was unthinkable and would have negative consequences for the soul of the deceased (see: Indians 101: Chief Sealth [Seattle]).

1964

Very often in history classes and in the popular media Indians are segregated into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with particular attention on the conflicts with Plains Indians following the Civil War. There is sometimes the implication that there were no Indians in the twentieth century, that they had somehow gone extinct or simply assimilated, like other immigrants, into mainstream American culture. Yet twentieth century American history is filled with incidents of violent conflicts (wars?) and political policies regarding Indians. Discussed below are some of the events and issues of just one year: 1964, a mere two generations in the past.

 Federal Policy:

 Indian leaders come to Washington, D.C. to lobby for a change in the War on Poverty legislation that would allow grants to be made directly to Indian tribes. When the legislation creating the Office of Economic Opportunity finally passes it includes their proposal. This marks a milestone in federal and tribal relations, in that, for the first time, Indian people had conceived of a provision to be inserted in national legislation and then lobbied it through Congress into law.

 The War on Poverty programs, unlike many federal programs, had a positive impact on Indian reservations. Not only did these programs realistically address economic, educational, and health issues, they also provided a training ground for future Indian leaders. Programs dealing with mental health and alcoholism gave Indian people the expertise to deal with these issues.

Fishing and Gathering Rights:

 Treaties between the United States and Indians nations often stated very clearly that the Indian nations had retained their traditional rights to fish, hunt, and gather in all usual and accustomed places. State governments, however, have not felt any obligation to conform to these treaties and have openly violated Indian rights.

Northwest Indians initiate a series of “fish-ins” in Western Washington. State response is brutal: Indian men, women, and children are arrested using tear gas, blackjacks, and violence. After state officers in riot gear in a high speed aluminum boat capsize his cedar canoe, Nisqually tribal member Billy Frank, Jr. comments:  “These guys had a budget. This was war.”

In Washington, the Makah erect a smokehouse on Olympic National Park land near the mouth of the Ozette River. The Park Service acknowledges their treaty rights and drafts regulations that allow seasonal structures.

In Wisconsin, game wardens arrest a number of Bad River Chippewa for illegally harvesting wild rice in the Kakagon Slough. The tribe’s regulations for harvesting wild rice differ from those of the state. The tribal council insists that the state has no jurisdiction over Indian wild rice.

 Recognition:

 In North Carolina, the Haliwa-Saponi win a lawsuit which forces the state to change the birth certificates of tribal members to identify them as Indians.

 American Indian Art:

 In Washington, D.C., an exhibition of student work from the Institute of Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico is exhibited in the offices of the Department of the Interior.

Cochiti Pueblo artist Helen Cordera makes her first Storyteller figure – a grandfather seated with five children hanging from him. The figurative pottery is inspired by memories of her grandfather telling stories to the children of Cochiti. This innovation will inspire many other potters and will become one of the most popular Native art forms in the southwest.

In New Mexico, Tewa artist Helen Hardin has her first “formal” one-woman show at Enchanted Mesa. She recalls of the event:  “I was treated like a cute little Indian girl—so sweet, so beautiful.”

Mission Indian artist Fritz Scholder vows that he will never paint another Indian and resolves to invent a new style of Indian painting summarized as: “I have painted the Indian real, not red.”  Scholder declares:  “The non-Indian had painted the subject as a noble savage and the Indian painter had been caught in a tourist-pleasing cliché.”

 Land Issues:

 A group of about 40 Indians travel to Alcatraz Island in California by boat. Allen Cottier, a Sioux descendent of Crazy Horse, reads a statement offering 47 cents per acre for the purchase of the island.

 In Arizona, the Havasupai ask the National Park Service to relinquish administrative control over the Grand Canyon National Park campground located adjacent to the Havasupai Reservation.

 In Arizona, the Chemehuevi and Mojave of the Colorado Indian Reservation win their fight against having tribes from outside their reservation establish colonies on the reservation. Congress passes legislation to change the policy.

 In Washington, D.C., once again a bill is introduced in Congress which would provide the Yaqui with land in Arizona. To make the bill more palatable for some termination-minded Senators, the bill states:  “Nothing in this Act shall make such Yaqui Indians eligible for any services performed by the United States for Indians because of their status as Indians, and none of the statutes of the United States which affect Indians because of their status as Indians shall be applicable to the Yaqui Indians.”

The bill manages to pass and on Halloween, the Yaqui hold a ceremony commemorating the transfer of the 200 acres of land to the Pascua Yaqui Association. Anselmo Valencia makes speeches in both Yaqui and Spanish.

 In Wisconsin, Aztalan State Park, the site of an ancient Mississippian settlement, becomes a National Landmark.

In Maine, non-Indians attempt to develop Passamaquoddy land. The Passamaquoddy attempt to enlist the aid of the Governor, but are told that this is a local affair. The Passamaquoddy stage a protest and several are arrested. The attorney hired by the Passamaquoddy is given a bunch of old papers from an old Indian who had died. In these papers is the original handwritten treaty between the Passamaquoddy and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which was signed in 1794. The treaty is then used as evidence to get the charges against the protesters dismissed. (Note: Maine was a part of Massachusetts when the treaty was signed.)

In Utah, a handful of terminated mixed-blood Ute hire attorney Parker Nielson to investigate possible securities fraud in conjunction with the Ute Distribution Corporation.

The Peabody Coal Company signs a lease with the Navajo allowing for the strip mining of 40,000 acres on the Navajo Reservation.

In Wyoming, the Northern Arapaho distribute their land claim payment to each enrolled member in the form of 12 monthly payments of $124.

Urban Indians:

 In California, Friendship House opens as a drop-in facility for treating drug and alcohol abuse in San Francisco’s Indian population.

In Chicago, Illinois, St. Augustine’s Center for American Indians begins an annual buffalo dinner as a fund-raiser. More than 100 people pay $50 per plate for the event.

Media, Education, Sports:

 The newsletter Powwow Trails begins publication. It provides a monthly calendar of Indian and hobbyist events as well as articles about powwows, music, dance, and Indian material culture.

 The movie Cheyenne Autumn attempts to portray Indians in a positive light. While the title suggests that the movie comes from a book by Mari Sandoz, English professor Raymond William Stedman, in his book Shadows of the Indian: Stereotypes in American Culture, feels that  “Virtually any source, however, the Omaha telephone book included, would have served as well for this unfortunate and interminable strip of celluloid.”

The American Indian Historical Society is founded by Rupert Costo (Cahuila). The new organization hopes to correct the common stereotypes about American Indians and provide a more accurate presentation of Indians in American history.

In Mississippi, a high school for the Choctaw is opened.

Billy Mills (Oglala Sioux) wins the 10,000 meter run in the Olympic Games. He is the first American to win this event.

Early Spanish Invasions of the Plains

The Great Plains is the huge area in the central portion of the North American continent which stretches from the Canadian provinces in the north, almost to the Gulf of Mexico in the south, from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Mississippi River in the east. This is an area which contains many different kinds of habitat: flatland, dunes, hills, tablelands, stream valleys, and mountains. It is a dry region and lacks trees except along rivers and streams.  This was not a vacant land when the European invasion began, but a region inhabited by and utilized by many different Native American groups. Along the rivers, there were many American Indian villages whose people raised many different crops, including maize (corn), beans, squash, and sunflowers. There were also nomadic and semi-nomadic hunting and gathering groups whose primary beast of burden was the dog.

The first Europeans to enter the Great Plains were the Spanish who began their initial explorations of the Great Plains of North America in the 1500s. A group of Spaniards under the leadership of Hernando de Soto crossed the Mississippi River and entered what is now Arkansas in 1541. Here they encountered the highly fortified Indian village of Casqui. These Indians were not the horse-mounted buffalo hunters which would be later stereotypes used by movies and textbooks as “Indians,” but rather they were farmers who lived in permanent villages.

The Spanish then turned south, and somewhere on the Great Plains de Soto died. His expedition left a legacy of the torture, mutilation, and killing of thousands of native peoples.

While de Soto’s expedition entered the Great Plains from the east, at the same time Francisco Vásquez de Coronado began his journey north from Mexico seeking the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola. In what is now New Mexico, Coronado was told of the great wealth that was supposedly to the east, on the Great Plains. One Indian slave known as the Turk described the country of Quivira which lay to the northeast and was said to be so filled with gold that even common table service was made of gold and silver.

The Turk was probably a Pawnee who had been captured in war and was a slave in Pecos Pueblo when the Spanish arrived. The Spanish gave him the name El Turco (The Turk) because they thought his headdress looked Turkish. The Turk’s goal was obvious: he wanted to return to his people and by telling the Spanish what they were eager to hear, he felt that they would take him back to his homeland.

Somewhere in the Staked Plains of West Texas, Coronado began to distrust The Turk and had him placed in irons. The Spanish, with another Indian (Ysopete) as their guide, crossed into what is now Kansas. At the Kansas River, the Spanish stopped and sent messengers ahead to summon Tatarrax, the Harrahey chief. When Tatarrax arrived with 200 warriors, The Turk tried to convince him to attack the Spanish. The Spanish responded by strangling The Turk to death.

Most anthropologists feel that the Spanish designation “Harrahey” actually referred to one of the Pawnee tribes. The Pawnee, a Caddoan-speaking people, had migrated north from Texas into northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas at a fairly early date.

The Spanish expedition into the Plains was a dismal failure and the Spanish returned without finding any of the rumored gold. The stories told by The Turk, however, continued to inspire Spanish greed.

In 1601, Juan de Oñate led an expedition of 70 men with ox-drawn carts from New Mexico in search of the fabled land of Quivira in present-day Kansas. While the expedition was not successful, it did encounter Apache and buffalo. The Spanish estimated the population of one Apache hunting camp at 5,000 people. The Apaches were Lipan Apaches who the Spanish called Vaqueros (“Cowboys”). The expedition did not encounter any of the Teyas (Caddo) groups found by Coronado sixty years earlier.  The empty spaces encountered by Oñate seem to suggest that European diseases, such as smallpox, had resulted in massive depopulation.

Using Apache guides, the Spanish arrived at a Wichita village. The Wichita, another Caddoan-speaking group, were an agricultural people who raised corn, beans, and squash. They lived in permanent villages with houses made of grass that looked like large conical haystacks.

While the Wichita greeted the Spanish in a friendly fashion, the Apache and the Wichita were enemies. The Apache told the Spanish that the Wichita had killed earlier Spanish explorers and that they were still holding one captive. When a Wichita delegation visited the Spanish, they were taken captive to exchange for the reported Spanish captive. The Wichita, concerned that the Spanish were working with their enemies, withdrew from their village. The Apache then burned the village and took a number of women and children captive. The Spanish ordered the women released, but kept the children so that they could become Christian.

One of the prisoners was a young boy that the Spanish called Miguel. He was actually Tonkawa and had been taken captive by the Wichita in north central Oklahoma. The Tonkawa homeland was in Texas and southern Oklahoma.

Somewhere in Kansas, the Spanish had a conflict with an Indian group they called the Escanxaques. The Spanish would later report that they engaged in a 4-5 hour battle with 1,500 Escanxaque warriors. The Spanish, unlike the Indians, had horses and their horses were fully armored, including face masks. As the Spanish soldiers rode into battle they were met by a cloud of arrows. Most of the men and the horses were quickly wounded and the Spanish withdrew from the battle.

While the Spanish were successful in establishing colonies in the Southwest and California, they failed to establish a lasting presence on the Plains. The Plains Indians actively resisted Spanish attempts to convert them to Catholicism and they preferred to trade with the French who came in later and seemed to understand the Indians better.

The Caddo

A number of different Indian nations, usually grouped together as Caddo, lived in the territory that stretched from the Red River Valley in present-day Louisiana, to the Brazos River Valley in present-day Texas and Arkansas. For many centuries prior to the European invasion, the Caddoan peoples had made a living by farming. Like many other aboriginal farmers in North America, they raised corn (maize), beans, and squash.

The term “Caddo” originates from one particular tribe, the Kadohadacho who occupied the area around the Great Bend of the Red River in Texas. The term is also applied to a number of other tribes in the region who have a similar language and culture. Long before the European invasion, the Caddo were a group of about 25 related, but politically independent, theocratic chiefdoms.

At the time of the first contact with the French and Spanish explorers, the Caddo were associated in three or four loose confederations. The largest of these was the Hasinai, which the Spanish called Texas, who occupied a territory which includes the present-day Texas counties of Nacogdoches, Rusk, Cherokee, and Houston. The Kadohadacho, also called the Caddo proper, were located at the bend of the Red River in southwestern Arkansas and northeastern Texas. The Natchitoches occupied an area near the present-day Louisiana city which bears their name. The least known of these early confederacies is the Yatasi which soon after initial European contact divided into two groups which affiliated with other Caddoan confederacies.

The Cahinnio had a town on the upper Ouchita River. They are also called the Tula Indians in some sources. They eventually became a part of the Kadohadacho.

The Adai lived near present-day Robeline, Louisiana. Their Caddoan dialect is different from the other tribes.

The Eyeish lived near present-day San Augustine, Texas. Early writers often referred to these Indians as “barbarous”.

The Caddo first encountered Europeans in 1541 when the Spanish expedition led by Hernando de Soto crossed the Mississippi River. De Soto died in 1542 and his body was wrapped in a blanket weighted with sand and thrown into the Mississippi River. His expedition left a legacy of the torture, mutilation, and killing of hundreds of native peoples. Following de Soto’s death, Luis de Moscoso de Alvarado led the Spanish west into Caddo country.

In 1682, the French under Rene Cavalier de la Salle established a trading relationship with the Caddo. By this time, the Caddo had acquired horses by trade with friendly tribes who had been in contact with the Spanish settlements in New Mexico. According to Caddo oral tradition, a Caddo hunter and his family were the first to sight the bedraggled group. The hunter provided the French with some meat and invited them to his village. The French party stayed with the Caddo for three or four days, bartering for horses and supplies.

Father Anastasius, who was with La Salle, described the Caddo town as “one of the largest and most populous that I have seen in America. It is at least twenty leagues long, not that this is evenly inhabited, but in hamlets of ten or twelve cabins, forming cantons, each with a different name.”

He also described their “cabins” as being 40-50 feet high, in the shape of beehives.

Upon leaving the Caddo, four of La Salle’s men decided that Indian life more appealing than exploring and returned to the village. Over the next couple of centuries, it would be fairly common for Europeans to desert their own cultures and live among Indian nations.

In 1690, the French explorer Henri de Tonti set out to recover the Frenchmen from La Salle’s party who remained with the Caddo. He made contact with the Quapaw on the Upper Arkansas River and was given two Kadohadacho women to take along with him to Caddo country.

In what is now Texas, he made contact with three Caddo villages: Nachitoches, Ouasita, and Capiché. Here he was provided with guides to take him farther into Caddo country. He then went to the villages of Yatachés, Nadas, and Choye. He asked the chiefs for guides, but they were reluctant to provide him with any. Finally, he made it to Cadadoquis where he met with the woman who governed the Caddo nation. There is no indication that the “missing” Frenchmen were “recovered.”

In 1690, both French and Spanish accounts of the Caddo describe them as having numerous villages with large populations. Like their Mississippian cultural ancestors, they constructed large earthen pyramids (usually called mounds) and placed temples on top of them. By 1691, however, smallpox inadvertently introduced by the Europeans struck the Caddo killing about half of their population.

Many Caddo worked as trading partners with the French, often acting as intermediaries between the French and other tribes. In 1763, however, the French domination of Caddo territory was lost to the Spanish and the Caddo lost their trading partners. The Spanish restricted trade.

In 1801, the Caddo found that their right to govern had been sold to the United States and the United States was not friendly with Indians. The Caddo ceded their land to the United States and moved to Texas where they established the village of Sha’chadinnih. In 1822, the newly formed Mexican government offered a treaty to the Caddo in Texas. Chief Dehahuit indicated that he had no trouble swearing allegiance to the Mexicans, but he could not accept the treaty provisions which required the acceptance of the Catholic faith. According to Dehahuit, he cannot sign this treaty:  “to accept the Catholic Religion and exclude all others, because one cannot speak their opinions for a people, especially concerning their Religions.”

When Texas joined the United States in 1845, the Caddo were no longer welcome in Texas. Texas did not recognize any Indian claims to land ownership and Texans were free to claim Indian land. Caddo chief José María said:  “That now there was a line below which the Indians were not allowed to go; but the white people came above it, marked trees, surveyed lands in their hunting grounds, and near their villages, and soon they would claim the lands; if the Indians went below they were threatened with death; that this was not just.”

With the annexation of Texas, the United States assumed responsibility for Indians and the state of Texas reserves all rights to public lands. According to Caddo cultural representative Cecile Elkins Carter, in her book Caddo Indians: Where We Come From:  “Texas would be for Texans, and the United States would have to remove Indians as quickly as Texans were ready to move onto Indian lands.”

In 1859, the United States resettled them on a reservation in Indian Territory which would later become a part of Oklahoma. The new reservation included the Caddo, Anadarko, Ioni, Waco, Tonkawa, and Tawakoni.

American Indians in 1890

The 1890 United States Census formally enumerated all of the Indians of the country. According to the Census, there were a total of 248,253 Indians in the United States: 58,806 are “Indians taxed” (that is living off their reservations) and 189,447 are “Indians not taxed” (Indians on reservations). With regard to the difficulties in counting Indians, the Census Bureau reports:  “Enumeration would be likely to pass by many who had been identified all their lives with the localities where found, and who lived like the adjacent whites without any inquiry as to their race, entering them as native born white.”

In California the Indian population was estimated at 15,238, down from an estimated 300,000 in 1848.

In 1890, most Indians were not citizens of the United States because Indian tribes, as indicated in the U.S. Constitution, were sovereign nations and Indians, therefore, were considered to be citizens of these Indian nations. In an effort to make more Indians citizens, Congress passed the Indian Territory Naturalization Act which allowed any member of an Indian tribe in Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma) to become a United States citizen by applying for such status in federal courts. The act allowed these Indians to maintain dual citizenship by maintaining tribal citizenship. Few Indians, however, actually applied for U.S. citizenship under this legislation.

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs announced that the 8th of February was to be celebrated by American Indians as Franchise Day. It was on this day that the General Allotment Act (also known as the Dawes Act) was signed into law. The purpose of this legislation was to break up the reservations into small family farms and to open up “surplus” lands to non-Indian settlement. The Commissioner felt that this legislation–  “is worthy of being observed in all Indian schools as the possible turning point in Indian history, the point at which the Indians may strike out from tribal and reservation life and enter American citizenship and nationality.”

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs published a detailed set of rules for Indian schools which stipulated a uniform course of study and the textbooks which were to be used in the schools. The Commissioner prescribed the celebration of United States national holidays as a way of replacing Indian heroes and assimilating Indians. According to the Commissioner:  “Education should seek the disintegration of the tribes, and not their segregation. They should be educated, not as Indians, but as Americans.”

Schools were to give Indian students surnames so that as they become property owners it would be easier to fix lines of inheritance. Since most teachers could not pronounce or memorize names in native languages, and they did not understand these names when translated into English, it was not uncommon to give English surnames as well as English first names to the students. Many Indian students were given names such as “George Washington,” “William Shakespeare,” and “Thomas Jefferson.” On the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, the Indian agent reported that:  “Now every family has a name. Every father, mother; every husband and wife and children bears the last names of these people; now property goes to his descendant.”

In noting that Indians often change names in response to events in their lives, Frank Terry, the Superintendent of the Crow Boarding School in Montana, wrote:  “Hence it will be seen that the Indian names are nothing, a delusion, and a snare, and the practice of converting them into English appears eminently unwise.”

While it was government policy to force American-style education and indoctrination upon Indian children, Indian parents on many reservations resisted. To force compliance, rations were withheld from Cheyenne and Arapaho parents who refused to place their children in school. In California, Indians burned the Indian day school at Tule River.

In Arizona, conservatives in the Hopi village of Oraibi refused to send their children to school. The Tenth Cavalry was sent in to ensure peace. The military troops invaded the village and “captured” 104 children for the school.

In Idaho, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall reservation managed to enroll 100 Shoshone and Bannock children in the agency boarding school. With the use of Indian police and a policy of withholding rations from reluctant parents, nearly half of all of the school-aged children on the reservation were enrolled in the school. When enrollment at the school dropped, a council was held with the Shoshone and Bannock and they were informed that the school was to be kept filled or the soldiers would come.

Taking a moralist approach to the “civilizing” of American Indians, many non-Indians felt that Indians needed to understand the meaning of hard work and sacrifice. Things that might bring some semblance of enjoyment, such as gambling, drinking, and singing traditional songs, was felt to be immoral. Thus the Commissioner of Indian Affairs ordered traders to stop carrying playing cards. This was one of the government’s efforts to discourage gambling on the reservations. In a related action, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs ordered Indian agents to seize and destroy peyote and to classify it as an intoxicating liquor.

Many non-Indians felt that it would take time for Indians to be lifted out of savagery and barbarism so that they could benefit from Christian civilization.  Reverend Daniel Dorchester, a Protestant minister, wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:  “As a race the red men lack self-reliance and self-directing power—the natural effect of the centuries of ignorance, idleness, and hap-hazard lying behind them—and will long need to hold the relation of wards, that they may have the benefit of paternal counsel and advice. We must not expect that a few Indians right out of savagery can acquire such development in civilization as to leaven at once the mass of barbarism.”

 

An Iroquois in Oregon

In 1857, Enos Thomas, whose tribal identity is simply listed as Iroquois, was transported from Fort Vancouver to Port Orford, Oregon to be tried for war crimes committed during the recent Rogue River War. When the primary witness against him failed to appear, the Justice of the Peace William Copeland ordered the sheriff William Riley to free Enos. As soon as the blacksmith had freed him from his chains, a mob seized him, gave him some whiskey to drink, took him to the historic Battle Rock, and hung him. His body was buried at Battle Rock.

This type of incident—a mob hanging an Indian for “crimes” committed during a “war” with the United States—was common in the nineteenth century West. The interesting question is, however, how did an Iroquois, whose homelands are in the Northeast, come to be a war leader among tribes in southern Oregon?

The answer to this question lies in the early nineteenth century fur trade. The fur trade in the Pacific Northwest (in what would become Washington, Idaho, and Oregon) was dominated by two major fur companies: the London-based Hudson Bay Company (HBC) and the Montreal-based North West Company (the Nor’westers). As the Nor’westers moved into the area, they brought with them a number of Iroquois who were employed as trappers. These Iroquois had been educated by the Jesuits at the Caughnawaga Mission near Montreal in Canada. It was relatively common for these Iroquois to leave their employer and to settle among the tribes in the region.

The designation “Iroquois” does not refer to a single tribe, but is most frequently used to refer to the six Indian nations of the Iroquois Confederacy: Seneca, Cayuga, Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, and Tuscarora. The Iroquois homeland had originally included most of what is now New York and Ontario. Following the American Revolutionary War, many of the Iroquois settled in Canada.

Since many of the Iroquois who came to the Pacific Northwest spoke French as their primary European language, it was common for American settlers in the region to view them as French-Canadian. In most cases, the historic record does not indicate which of the Iroquois nations these trappers came from.

While there are no records regarding the early life of Enos (whose name is also indicated as Enas and Eneas and who is often described as a Canadian Indian), it is likely that he came into the region in the employ of HBC after the merger with the Nor’westers. He may also have grown up in a community of former HBC employees who had settled in Oregon. If this was the case, then his mother was most likely from an Oregon tribe or a Métis whose family was associated with the fur trade.

According to some historians, Enos may have worked as a guide for the 1843-1844 exploring expedition of John Charles Frémont: in 1843 Frémont hired two Indians—neither their names nor their tribal affiliations are recorded—to guide him from The Dalles to Klamath Lakes. According to Frémont’s records, one of these Indians had been to Klamath Lake and bore the battle scars of encounters with the Native people of that area. The physical description of this Indian appears to match that of Enos.

By 1855, Enos was living among the Tututni and had a Tututni wife. He was also friends with Benjamin Wright. In 1852, Wright had organized a party of volunteers in northern California for the purpose of killing Modocs. The Americans wanted to punish the Modoc for supposedly attacking wagon trains as they passed through Modoc territory. Wright then invited 46 Modocs to a peace conference. They first attempted to poison them with strychnine, but the Modoc declined the feast which was offered to them. The volunteers then opened fire with rifles on them. The Modoc had no guns. Only five of the Modoc, including Schonchin John and Curly Headed Doctor, escaped. The bodies of the dead Modoc were scalped and mutilated. The volunteers were proclaimed heroes and the state of California paid them for their services.

The following year, a group of Indians were invited into Wright’s camp under a white flag in order to negotiate peace. In a well-planned attack, Wright’s volunteers killed 38 Indians and scalped them.

In 1854, Benjamin Wright was appointed as special sub-Indian agent to handle affairs in the Port Orford, Oregon district. Enos and his wife gained Wright’s trust and he brought them into his confidence and sought their counsel.

In 1855, the so-called Rogue River War broke out between the Americans (particularly gold miners) and the various Indian nations along Oregon’s Rogue River. In 1856, Enos asked Benjamin Wright to meet with him at the Tututni village to discuss a possible peace. Wright, together with John Poland who represented the mining communities in the area, went upstream to meet with Enos and the Tututni. Both men were then killed and their bodies mutilated. Their bodies were never found by the Americans. These murders were the first step in a well-planned Indian uprising. The following day, the Indians attacked a volunteer regiment on the north side of the Rogue River and then went downstream to attack the community of Gold Beach. Under the leadership of Enos, the Indians burned about 60 non-Indian cabins and killed 31 people. The Americans branded Enos as a war criminal.

The siege of Gold Beach lasted for about a month and the Americans easily recognized Enos riding a white horse and encouraging the Indians in their fight. When U.S. Army troops reached the area, the Indians retreated upstream. According to one account, Enos was wounded in the thigh at a skirmish at Pistol River.

In late July, 1856 (perhaps the 26th or 27th), Enos was at the camp of Tututni Chief Taminestse at Port Orford where the Indians were awaiting transportation to the Siletz Indian Reservation. Indian agent William Chance describes his arrest:  “He made no resistance, said he could not keep away. He did not know why but it appeared to him that he had to come to the reservation.”

Among the Indian leaders of the Rogue River War, only Enos was arrested and singled out for trial. While Indian Superintendent Joel Palmer advocated the execution of all Indians who were known to have killed non-Indians during the war, only Enos was chosen for punishment. Enos was transferred from the coast reservation to Fort Vancouver where he was to be held awaiting a civil tribunal. The charges against him were murder and inciting to massacre.

In the spring of 1857, Enos was transported from Fort Vancouver to Port Orford by steamer. Due to bad weather, the ship had to dock to Crescent City to the south, when Enos was held in the local jail. When the weather cleared, he was taken north to Port Orford where he would be hung without a trial.

While it seemed to be important to the Americans to have a legal ritual (trial) before executing an Indian, in reality most Indians accused of crimes at this time were simply killed without this formality.

The York Factory

In 1670 the English Crown granted a royal charter to a group of investors incorporating the Hudson’s Bay Company (Company of Adventurers of England Trading Into Hudson’s Bay). The newly formed company proposed to circumvent the French trading monopoly into what was become Canada by locating in Hudson’s Bay. The charter required the company to furnish the King (or his heirs) two elk skins and two black beaver pelts as rent or payment for the charter.

 The English Crown, relying on a European legal doctrine known as the Discovery Doctrine, which in their minds gives Christian monarchs the right to rule over pagans, ignored possible First Nations’ claims to the land and granted the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) all lands which drain into Hudson’s Bay.  HBC was given all the powers of a sovereign state: absolute proprietorship, supreme jurisdiction in all civil and military affairs, the power to make and interpret laws, the power to maintain ships of war, the power to erect forts, and the power to declare war against ‘pagan’ peoples.

   The HBC strategy was relatively simple: to locate trading posts, known as factories, along the shores of Hudson’s Bay where ships from England would unload European manufactured goods and load North American furs. The furs would be obtained in trade from First Nations peoples. The HBC would use a standard advertising technique—word of mouth—to spread the news of the factories and the many wonders that they contained to the inland First Nations. The company envisioned its factories on the coast rather than inland.

 The land along the southern portion of Hudson’s Bay was occupied by the Cree. The Cree quickly became trading partners with HBC, bringing their furs directly to the HBC factories rather than trading them to the Ottawa who then would trade to the French. Just as the Ottawa had served as middlemen for the French fur trade, so the Cree now became the middlemen for the HBC.

 Cree became a major trading language and many HBC employees learned it. In addition, many Cree learned English. While HBC policies, unlike those of the early French traders and the later traders from the North West Company, discouraged intermarriage with Natives, such marriages were, in fact, fairly common. As the HBC traders and explorers moved inland from Hudson’s Bay, they did so with Cree guides and thus learned the Cree names for the people they encountered: the Dene were called Chipewyn (meaning “Pointy Coats”) and the Inuit were called Eskimo (“Eaters of Raw Meat”).

 It should be pointed out that the designation “Cree” comes not from the Cree, but from a closely related people, the Ojibwa, who called them “Kiristinon.” The Cree called themselves “Nehiawa” (“The People”). The Cree were allies with the culturally and linguistically related Ojibwa. Later, as they moved west with the fur trade, the Cree and Ojibwa became allied with the Assiniboine, an unrelated Siouan-speaking people.

 In 1684, the HBC built York Fort (also known as the York Factory) at Port Nelson, near the mouth of the Nelson and Hayes Rivers. For more than two centuries the York Factory would be the most important HBC fur trading post. It became the capital of the fur trade.

 When the original York Fort was established it was on disputed ground: disputed between two European powers, England and France. With the Treaty of Utrech in 1714 the French withdrew. By 1782, it became the most profitable HBC trading post, trading more than 30,000 Made Beaver per year.

  By the 1760s, the fur trade at York Factory began to decline and soon HBC found itself locked into battle against a major rival, the North West Company. To meet the new challenge, HBC began to locate trading posts in the interior. One of the major highways into the interior was the Hayes River. Since the York Factory was situated at the mouth of this river, it gained new importance as the entrepôt for the interior trading posts. For here, European goods would be transported into the interior, and the furs obtained in the interior could be loaded on ships bound for the lucrative English and European markets.

 In 1782, a French naval expedition captured the York Factory and destroyed the fort. The following year HBC returned and re-established the post. Disaster struck again in 1787 in the form of a major flood. As a result of the flood, the trading post was relocated to a site on higher ground about two kilometers upstream. Work was started on a complex which combined a warehouse, residence, and workshop. The employees called the new complex the Old Octagon in reference to the shape of the courtyard.

 By the 1820s, the York Factory was a small town which included not only the HBC employees, but also a group of Homeguard Cree who lived around the factory. Between 1830 and 1838, HBC constructed a huge warehouse—30 meters square and two stories high—which would be the largest building constructed by HBC until the advent of its retail stores in the twentieth century.

 From 1821 until 1846 two brigades each year, known as the York Express, would travel from York Factory to Fort Vancouver in present-day Washington state. Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia River, was the headquarters for the HBC Columbia Department.

 By the 1860s, the York Factory was in decline as HBC was able to ship goods to the Red River from St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1957, after 275 years of operation, HBC closed the factory. It was declared a national historic site in 1960 and has been operated by Parks Canada since 1968.

Hunting Mastodons

The Cordilleran Ice Sheet began to spread across present-day Washington state more than 17,000 years ago. The ice blocked the Strait of Juan de Fuca and moved down the eastern side of the Olympics the full length of Puget Sound. During this time, sea levels dropped by about 400 feet. Then the climate warmed and the ice began its slow retreat to the north. The area south of the continental ice sheets was inhabited by megafauna—really big mammals including two kinds of elephants (mammoths and mastodons), camels, giant sloths, big bears, and others—and by humans who sometimes hunted these big animals.

While the mastodon seems to resemble both the extinct wooly mammoth and the modern elephant, it is only distantly related to them. The mastodon diverged from the lineage leading to the mammoth and the elephant about 27 million years ago. It went extinct in North America about 10,500 years ago.

Current evidence suggests that mastodons were forest dwelling animals, feeding on sylvan vegetation, such as coniferous twigs. Their range in the Americas during the Pleistocene era was from Alaska in the north to Honduras in the south. There is no evidence of them in South America.

Mastodons were large animals, standing about 7 feet 7 inches at the shoulder and weighing about 5 tons. Females were usually smaller than males.

About 11,800 BCE, an elderly mastodon which had survived an encounter with an Indian hunter earlier in its life, waded into a small pond near present-day Sequim, Washington where it fell over and died of old age. Indian scavengers quickly butchered the portion of the body which remained above the water, undoubtedly feasting upon mastodon roasts and steaks for several days.

At that time, the main mass of the ice field has drawn back to today’s San Juan Islands. People at the pond where the mastodon had died could still see remnants of the continental glacier.

By 1977, the glacial ice sheets which had once covered western Washington were known primarily by geologists, archaeologists, museum curators, tribal elders, and a few others. There were illustrations in textbooks and museum displays with a focus primarily on the megafauna which lived to the south of the ice sheets. Little was known about the human people, the American Indians, who lived in the area. This all began to change when Claire and Emanuel Manis decided to turn a cattail quagmire near their home into a pond for migrating ducks and geese. Using a backhoe, Emanuel Manis began to dig and at a depth of about six feet he encountered something strange: it appeared to be two tusks, one about four feet long and the other about six feet long. He stopped digging and called Washington State University archaeologist Dr. Richard Daugherty who was conducting archaeological research at the Makah village site of Ozette.

Daugherty, along with zoologist Dr. Carl Gustafson and graduate student Delbert Gilbow began the process of recovering more of the animal’s remains. In a seven-inch piece of rib they noticed an embedded piece of bone about the size of a human thumb. Closer examination under a microscope followed by X-ray examination showed them that it was a bone spear point: it had been pierced by a hunter and had survived. The wound inflicted by the hunter had not been fatal.

The archaeologists find that few artifacts had been left at the site. Among those found by archaeologists was a piece of bone about three inches long and bluntly pointed at each end. It is similar in shape to the spearpoint embedded in the mastodon’s rib. This spearpoint, by the way, had been made from mastodon bone.

The Manis Mastodon Site is important for a number of reasons. First, if there are any academics left who feel that North America was not inhabited until after the great continental ice sheets had melted, this provides one more piece of evidence showing the great time depth of American Indians. Secondly, it shows that Indian people were skillful hunters who hunted a wide variety of both big game and small game.

In 2001, Clare Manis donated the mastodon site on her property near Sequim, Washington to the National Archaeological Conservancy.

 

The Great Basin Tribes

The Great Basin includes the high desert regions between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. It is bounded on the north by the Columbia Plateau and on the south by the Colorado Plateau. It includes all of the present-day states of Nevada and Utah, and portions of Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. This is an area which is characterized by low rainfall and extremes of temperature. The summers in this desert area can be hot, while the winters can be bitterly cold. While it is a physical region that does not seem hospitable to human habitation, Indian people have lived in the Great Basin for thousands of years.

The Great Basin was the last part of the United States to be explored and settled by the European-Americans. When the European-American invasion began in the nineteenth century, the invaders found that it was occupied by several different tribes, including the Bannock, Goshute, Mono, Northern Paiute, Panamint, Shoshone, Southern Paiute, Washo, and Ute.

Linguistically all of the Indian people of the Great Basin, with the exception of the Hokan-speaking Washo, spoke languages which belong to the Numic division of the Uto-Aztecan language family. The linguistic and archaeological data seem to suggest that the Numic-speaking people spread into the Great Basin from southeastern California. The homeland of the Numic-speaking groups in the Great Basin is generally seen as the Death Valley area.

The Numic languages appear to have divided into three sub-branches—Western, Central, and Southern—about 2,000 years ago. About a thousand years ago, the Numic-speaking people expanded northward and eastward.

The Ute:

 The Ute tribal territory included much of present-day Colorado and Utah. Much of this territory lies within the Colorado Plateau, a geological anomaly characterized by sedimentary rocks that have been lifted to an elevation of more than 6,000 feet. This is a semi-arid region.

 While the groups which are considered Ute shared a common language as well as other cultural features, they were never a single politically unified tribe. There was never a single tribal council or anything close to a supreme chief. Each of the groups, generally called “bands,” was politically autonomous. Membership in the bands was fluid and there was high mobility between the bands. The Ute bands include:

(1) the Weminuche (Weeminuche) or Ute Mountain Ute whose homeland is the San Juan drainage of the Colorado River.

(2) the Tabeguache (also known as Uncompahgre).

(3) the Grand River band.

(4) the Yampa whose homeland is in northwestern Colorado.

(5) the Uintah whose homeland ran from Utah Lake east through the Uinta Basin.

(6) the Muache (Moache) whose homeland ranged south along the Sangre de Cristos as far south as Taos, New Mexico.

(7) the Capote of the San Luis Valley and the upper Rio Grande.

(8) the Sheberetch in the area of present-day Moab, Utah.

(9) the Sanpits (San Pitch) in the Sanpete Valley in central Utah.

(10) the Timanogots near Utah Lake.

(11) Pahvant who lived in the deserts surrounding Sevier Lake, Utah.

(12) the White River (Parusanuch and Yamparika) in the White and Yampa River systems of Colorado.

After marriage, the couple would usually live with the wife’s band (matrilocal residence in anthropological terminology). This means that the bands were usually composed of several nuclear families which were related to each other through the female line.

The area occupied by the Ute was buffalo country and so buffalo, as well as mountain sheep, mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, antelope, moose, and rabbits, were utilized for their subsistence. The people also gathered a wide variety of different wild plants.

In hunting herd animals, the Ute often used drives in which the animals were driven into narrow areas where they could be more easily harvested. The Weminuche band hunted deer with poison arrows.

Shoshone:

The Shoshone (also spelled Shoshoni) take their name from the Shoshone word sosoni’ which refers to a type of high-growing grass. Some of the Plains tribes referred to the Shoshone as “Grass House People” which referred to the conically-shaped houses made from the native grasses. They were also referred to as the “Snakes” or “Snake People” by some Plains groups. This term comes from the sign which the people used for themselves in hand sign languages. The sign actually represents the salmon to the Shoshone, but among the Great Plains tribes, who were unfamiliar with the salmon, it was misinterpreted as meaning “snake.”

The Shoshone are often divided into four general groups:

(1) the Western Shoshone who lived in central Nevada, northeastern Nevada, and Utah. Some anthropologists have listed 43 different Western Shoshone groups.

(2) Northern Shoshone who lived in southern Idaho and adopted the horse culture after 1800.

(3) Eastern Shoshone of Wyoming who adopted many of the traits of Plains Indian culture.

(4) Southern Shoshone who live in the Death Valley area on the extreme southern edge of the Great Basin.

The Northern Shoshone groups include the Fort Hall Shoshone, the Lemhi Shoshone, the Mountain Shoshone, the Bruneau Shoshone, and the Boise Shoshone. The Lemhi Shoshone hunted buffalo in western Montana, but depended primarily upon salmon for their subsistence. The Bruneau Shoshone were not a horse people and depended largely on salmon and camas. The Boise Shoshone also used salmon and camas as primary foods and also hunted buffalo in Wyoming and Montana.

Shoshone bands, like other groups in the Great Basin and Plateau Culture Areas, were often named after their dominant food source. Thus mountain-dwelling Shoshone were known as Tukudika (“eaters of bighorn sheep” or sheep eaters). Other Shoshone groups include the Agaidika (salmon eaters), Padehiyadeka (elk eaters), Yahandeka (groundhog eaters), Pengwideka (fish eaters), Kamuduka (rabbit eaters), Tubaduka (pine-nut eaters), and Hukandeka (seed eaters), and the Kukundika (also spelled Kutsundeka; buffalo eaters).

Among the Western Shoshone, the most important game animals were antelope and bighorn. In hunting antelope, the animals would be driven along a V-shaped runway into a corral which had been constructed of brush, stones, and poles. A medicine person who had the power to capture antelopes’ souls through dreams, songs, and rituals, would aid the hunt by drawing the animals’ souls, and thus the animals themselves, into the corral.

Bannock:

The Bannock, who call themselves Bana’kwut (“Water People”), were called Buffalo Eaters and Honey Eaters by other tribes. The Shoshone referred to them with the term “pannaitti.” Brigham Madsen, in his book The Bannock of Idaho, reports that the Bannock

“migrated from the desert areas of southeastern Oregon to the more propitious and well-watered region found at the confluence of the Portneuf and Blackfoot streams with the Snake River.”

In the Snake and Lemhi River valleys and in the Bridger Basin, the Bannock came into close contact with the Shoshone and the two groups often intermarried. Today, the term “Sho-Ban” is often used to refer to the two tribes. Culturally, the two groups shared a common heritage and a similar worldview. They also spoke closely related languages. With intermarriage, many became bilingual.

Goshute (Gosiute):

The traditional homeland of the Goshute was south and west of Great Salt Lake. They lived in the Toole, Rush, and Skull valleys. There are many who feel that the Goshute are linguistically and culturally Shoshone. The Goshute bands include Cedar Valley, Deep Creek, Rush Valley, Skull Valley, Toole Valley, and Trout Creek.

Historically these people have been designated as Go-Sha-Utes, Goshee Utes, Goshoots, Go-shutes, Gosh Yuta, Go-ship Utes, and Goships. The term “Goshute” seems to come from the Shoshone term “kusippih” which has a meaning of “dry earth,” probably in reference to the marginal land which they inhabited.

Paiute:

There are fifteen Southern Paiute bands: Chemehuevi, Las Vegas, Moapa, Paranigat, Panaca, Shivwits, St. George, Gunlock, Cedar, Beaver, Panguitch, Uinkaret, Kaibab, Kaiparowits, and San Juan. In the northern part of the Great Basin, the bands tended to call themselves after a particular food source: “salmon eaters,” “mountain sheep eaters,” and so on. In the south, the band names tended to be geographical.

 

The Meadowcroft Rockshelter

The Meadowcroft Rockshelter is an ancient American Indian site located on the north bank of Cross Creek about 30 miles southwest of present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Cross Creek is a tributary of the Ohio River. Archaeologists generally agree that American Indians were using this site by 14,500 years ago and continued to use it until the late 18th century. When it was first occupied by American Indians, the Laurentide Glacier was just 223 kilometers (134 miles) to the north. Meadowcroft was a temporary site used for hunting, food gathering, and food-processing activities.

Meadowcroft is a stratified, multicomponent site. Stratigraphy is an archaeological concept based on the Law of Superposition:  “in a series of layers and interfacial features, as originally created, the upper units of stratification are younger and the lower are older, for each must have been deposited on, or created by the removal of, a pre-existing mass of archaeological stratification.”  In other words, digging down into a stratified site means that the youngest material will be toward the surface; greater physical depth means greater temporal depth. Stratigraphy provides archaeologists with relative dating: an artifact can be said to be older than another artifact if it is found at a deeper stratigraphic layer.

At Meadowcroft there are eleven strata. Within these strata archaeologists uncovered a variety of different kinds of organic materials which were dated through radiocarbon assay.

The earliest occupants of the Meadowcroft Rockshelter were generalized hunter-gatherers who utilized a technology which archaeologists call the Miller Complex. The complex includes the production of blade tools produced from polyhedral blade cores and bifacial, unfluted, projectile points.

Later occupations at the site include representatives of all of the major cultural periods for eastern North America.

Stone tools provide some insights into ancient cultures as evidence of subsistence activities, such as hunting, fishing, and wild plant gathering. In addition, stone tools can provide some information about connections with other peoples and geographic regions.  With regard to the geography of the stone tools found at Meadowcroft, archaeologists Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley, in their book Across Atlantic Ice: The Origins of America’s Clovis Culture, write:  “Although most of the raw material used by the Meadowcroft flintknappers were of local origin, exceptions include Flint Ridge chert from eastern Ohio, Kanawha chert from West Virginia, and Onondaga chert from New York.”

With regard to dating, archaeologists Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley write:  “We agree that Meadowcroft may have been occupied as early as 19,200 years ago, and was clearly occupied by around 14,600 years ago by people whose biface and blade technology could be ancestral to Clovis.”

While a number of archaeologists disagree—some strongly—with the 19,200 year date and have claimed that the sample must have been contaminated, repeated laboratory analysis has consistently failed to detect any contamination.

Meadowcroft was last occupied by American Indians in the late 1700s. Archaeological excavation of the site started in 1973 and the site is generally considered one of the most carefully excavated sites in North America. Meadowcroft also changed the way many archaeologists envisioned the early habitation of North America: the site is much earlier than many would like. It means that people were living in North America prior to the end of the last ice age.

The Meadowcroft Rockshelter was named a National Historic Landmark in 2005. Today the site includes a museum and the re-creation of a 1570s Monongahela Culture Indian Village.

The Kalispel Indians

The aboriginal homeland of the Kalispel (“Camas People”) was in the camas-rich area around Calispell Lake and the Pend Oreille River in what is now eastern Washington. Their homeland was heavily forested and mountainous with interspersed meadows. Their lifestyle prior to the coming of the horse was centered on the river. Their traditional territory followed the rivers into what is now northern Idaho and western Montana.

Prior to the coming of the horse, the people would spend the winter in camps along the Pend Oreille River. When the snow disappeared in the Spring, the families would separate and move to areas where they had the rights to fish and hunt. In June, the camas would be ripe and the families would come back together at the camas fields. Following the camas harvest in July, the people would once again focus their attention on hunting, fishing, and the gathering of other wild plant foods. When the snows began, the bands would reassemble at their winter camps along the river where the snowfall was lighter and the temperatures somewhat milder.

Fishing was an important economic activity and the fish were harvested with fish traps, weirs, and spearing platforms. While most of these were individually owned, there were also large weir sites which were tribally owned. The fish harvested from the tribal weirs would be communally distributed. It has been estimated that about two-thirds of the fish harvested by the Kalispel came from weirs.

As a river people, water transport was important. The Kalispel made and used several different kinds of canoes, including both dugouts (that is, made from a single log that had been hollowed out) and bark canoes (a frame covered with bark).

With regard to hunting, mule deer and whitetail deer were the most important game animals. While deer were hunted throughout the year, most were harvested in the winter. During the winter, hunters using snowshoes would hunt deer with bows and arrows. In the deep snow, the hunters would often have more mobility than the deer.

In addition to deer, caribou were hunted in some areas. Mountain sheep and goats were also found in some areas and mountain sheep robes were highly valued.

While camas was the most important plant food, the Kalispel also gathered Indian potato, cattail roots, wild garlic, wild celery, wild carrot, Easter lily, and bitterroot. A wide variety of berries were also harvested. Berry harvesting was generally regarded as the exclusive domain of the women.

During the summer, the people would live in conical mat lodges: similar in shape to the Plains tipi, but covered with tule mats rather than buffalo hide. In the winter, the people would use an elongated house which ranged from 20 to 60 feet in length. The floor of the winter house would be excavated about a foot which would provide some additional warmth. The winter house would be covered with woven tule mats. The winter house would usually be home to 3 to 12 families.

As with other Plateau Indian tribes, the Kalispel were not a single political or social unit. The tribe was composed of independent villages or bands which were united by a common culture, including a common language (Salish). There was no overall “chief” or group of “chiefs.” Each village had its own leaders and leadership was not hereditary, but was based on leadership skills. Leaders exerted power through their ability to persuade. The council of adults who made decisions included women.

With regard to language, the Kalispel language is a part of the larger Salish language family and is most closely related to Cheweleh, Spokan, Pend d’Oreille, and Flathead.

The horse was brought to the Americans by the Spanish colonists in New Mexico. Following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the horse began to spread northward and was introduced to the Plateau tribes by the Shoshone between 1710 and 1740. The arrival of the horse brought dramatic changes to Kalispel culture.

First of all, the horse enabled the Kalispel to leave their homelands in eastern Washington and travel across the Rocky Mountains to hunt buffalo on the Great Plains. With the horse, some families would leave for the Plains in mid-July, hunt for three or four weeks, and then return home. This brought them into contact with the Blackfoot who resented their intrusion into Blackfoot hunting grounds.

Using the horse and hunting buffalo on the Plains, a number of Plains cultural elements were acquired in the Plateau. These Plains cultural elements included the use of the tipi and the travois, the custom of war honors dances, beaded dresses, feather warbonnets, and the idea of electing chiefs because of their skill as warriors. Warfare became more common: prior to the acquisition of the horse warfare had been almost nonexistent among the Plateau tribes.

President Benjamin Harrison and Indian Reservations

In 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) which had the intent of assimilating Indians by making them land-owning farmers. The idea of the Dawes Act was to break up the reservations by giving each Indian family an allotment of land, similar to the homesteads given to non-Indian settlers. This act guided much of the Indian policy during the Benjamin Harrison administration (1889-1892).

In 1889, a government commission headed by General George Crook met with the Sioux in South Dakota. Crook provided them lavish feasts, and obtained the needed signatures for the Sioux to cede much of their land.

Over the next two years, the Great Sioux Reservation was broken into six reservations – Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, Lower Brulé, Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Standing Rock – thus reducing Sioux land holdings. Eleven million acres of land not included in these reservations was returned to the federal government. “Surplus” lands were opened to American settlers. In addition, the railroads were given permission to survey and build lines with no regard for any Sioux concerns.

Congress passed the Nelson Act in 1889 which brought the Dawes Act to bear on the special situation with the Chippewa in Minnesota. At this time, the Chippewa occupied 12 reservations in the state. Under the Nelson Act, the Chippewa were to cede all lands except for the White Earth and Red Lake Reservations. The Chippewa of Red Lake were to take allotments on their own reservations. All other Chippewa in the state were to relocate on the White Earth Reservation and to take their allotments there. All agricultural lands remaining after allotment were to be sold for $1.25 per acre. Timber lands were to be appraised and sold in 40-acre parcels in auction. Money from the sale of lands and timber were to be deposited into a special Chippewa in Minnesota Fund.

 Northern Cheyenne:

 At the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty Council, the United States government failed to distinguish between the Northern Cheyenne and the Southern Cheyenne and grouped both tribes together in the south, even though the Northern Cheyenne saw themselves as a distinct people and resisted attempts to relocate them on the Southern Cheyenne reservation in Indian Territory. Following the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, some of the Cheyenne had surrendered to the Army and had worked for them as scouts.

In 1890, Congress created the Northern Cheyenne Commission to find a permanent home for the Northern Cheyenne at the Tongue River in Montana, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, or some other reservation. The Commission traveled first to Pine Ridge where they interviewed the 429 Northern Cheyenne who were living there. They then travelled to Lame Deer, Montana where they talked with Northern Cheyenne leaders Two Moon, White Bull, American Horse, Brave Wolf, and Little Wolf. They then continued west to the Crow reservation to discuss with the Crow the possibility of buying land on that reservation for the Northern Cheyenne. The Commission found that the Northern Cheyenne on the Pine Ridge Reservation wanted to unite with their friends and relatives on the Tongue River.

With regard to the Tongue River Agency, the Commission reported that there was hunger and poverty and that the Cheyenne had already eaten their own cattle and were killing some American cattle.

With regard to the Crow, the Commission found them living in a peaceful and prosperous condition. However, they adamantly refused to sell a portion of their reservation to the Cheyenne.

The report submitted by the commission was one of the first times that the government actually possessed extensive, firsthand evidence regarding the situation and possible alternatives for the Northern Cheyenne situation.

 Indian Territory:

Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the policy of the United States government had been to remove Indians west of the Mississippi to Indian Territory. Here the Indians had been told that they would be able to live in peace, without interference from the U.S. government. Soon, however, American greed was demanding these lands as well.

In 1889, Congress authorized the transfer of unassigned lands in Oklahoma to the public domain. As Congress debated the bill, Cherokee principal chief Joel B. Mayes led a delegation to Washington, D.C. to remind lawmakers that the United States had given its solemn word in treaties that territorial jurisdiction was not to be extended over them without their consent. Congress ignored the Indian testimony and passed the Springer Amendment to the Indian Appropriation Bill giving the President the power to open Indian Territory by proclamation.

As one of his first acts as President, Benjamin Harrison announced that part of the Indian Territory in what would later become Oklahoma would be opened to settlement. A three-man commission, known as the Cherokee Commission, was established to negotiate allotment with the Cherokees and other Indian tribes in Oklahoma. A month later, tens of thousands of settlers rushed in to claim land which had formerly belonged to the Creek and Seminole. Over the next few years, 15 million acres of Indian land would be opened to non-Indian settlement.

In meeting with the Cherokee, the Cherokee Commission (also known as the Fairchild Commission) offered the Cherokee $1.25 per acre for their land in the Cherokee Outlet. The total for this offer was nearly the same which the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association would pay for a 15-year lease on the same land.

In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison announced that no livestock would be grazed in the area known as the Cherokee Outlet in Indian Territory. This move deprived the Cherokee Nation of a substantial part of its operating budget and brought an end to their lease with the Cherokee Livestock Association. The move was part of a government effort to get the Cherokee to sell this land.

In 1890, a Harrison issued an executive order which required the Ponca to take allotments even though most tribal members were opposed to it. Ponca traditionalists formed a strong anti-allotment faction.

In 1890, Congress passed the Oklahoma Organic Act which established a territorial government for the western half of Indian Territory and renamed it Oklahoma Territory. Under the Organic Act, the United States annexed all Indian reservations to the new territory.

In 1891 President Harrison opened up 900,000 acres of Oklahoma land for settlement. The land had been owned by the Sauk, Fox, Iowa, and Potawatomi.

Aztec Agriculture

For more than 3,500 years, Native Americans have been practicing agriculture in the Valley of Mexico and growing a variety of different crops. It has been estimated that prior to the Spanish invasion more than a million people lived in the Valley, with half of these living in cities. In general, all of the Aztec people, from nobility to serfs, were very well fed. Archaeologist Brain Fagan, in his book The Aztecs, writes:  “The only way to feed everyone was by efficient, government-controlled agriculture. Moctezuma Ilhuicamina and his successors maintained a small army of inspectors who oversaw the land, making sure that it was planted and that surplus foodstuffs were sent to the capital.”

Unlike the European agricultural societies, the Aztecs did not have any domesticated draft animals, so much of the farming was done using a wooden, shovel-like device known as a uictli. Brian Fagan reports:  “The actual technology of tillage was simple in the extreme, but the measures taken to protect, enrich, and irrigate were comparatively sophisticated.”

Like other American Indian farmers, Aztec farmers understood the basic concepts of soil fertility. They knew that inter-planting maize and beans maintained the fertility of the soil. When they harvested the crops, they removed only the maize ears and the bean pods and then dug the rest of the plant back into the soil.

In the cities, such as the great Tenochtitlan, there were special huts along the streets and in the alleys which were used as toilets. From this urban sanitation system the farmers obtained human fertilizer for the fields.

In the shallow lake beds of the Valley of Mexico, the Aztec, like the great civilizations that had come before them, created chinampas. While sometimes described as floating islands, chinampas are actually artificial islands. A fairly narrow (8 to 15 feet) and long (90 to 200 feet) section of the shallow lake bed would be staked out using poles and a wattle fence. This area would then be filled with mud, decaying vegetation, and other materials to bring it above the surface of the water. Canals between the chinampa plots allowed easy transport of both people and food crops by canoe.

Crops:

The basic subsistence crop was maize (known as “corn” in American English). Maize was used for making tortillas which were eaten at every meal. It also formed the basis for atolli, a kind of gruel which was served in many different varieties, including atolli with honey, with chili and honey, with yellow chili, and with fish, amaranth seeds, and honey. Another basic staple made using maize was tamales.

The Aztec grew two basic kinds of maize. One of these was a fast maturing variety which would produce ears in three to four months. This variety was generally planted in fields where irrigation was not practical. The Aztec also planted a slower maturing variety in the irrigated fields. This variety took about six months to mature and provided a greater yield.

Maize was highly honored in Aztec society and had its own goddess: Chicomecoatl (Seven Serpent). As the seeds were dedicated to the new growing season, the people would chant: “She is truly our flesh, our livelihood.”

The second most important crop for the Aztecs, and for most of the agricultural Native American nations, was beans. Beans provided a vital source of protein and were often inter-cropped with the maize.

Another important source of protein was amaranth. Amaranth seeds were used in making pinole and the seeds could also be mixed with ground maize in making tamales. Amaranth was often used for ceremonial meals: mixed with ground maize and honey it would be formed into the great god Huitzilopochtli and consumed on his feast days.

The Aztecs also raised a variety of other crops, including several varieties of squash, tomatoes, and chili peppers. Chili peppers were a universal accompaniment to meals and, in fact, full meals without chili were considered a fast.

With regard to the Aztec diet, Michael Coe and Rex Koontz, in their book Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, report:  “Much of the diet of ordinary citizens consisted of tortillas dipped in a molli or sauces made of chiles ground with water; maize could also be taken in the form of steamed tamales, to which could be added ground or whole beans, but unlike their modern counterparts, these contained no fat or grease.”

They had several different kinds of fruit trees and they cultivated cacti such as nopal or maguey (agave). Maguey was used to make a fermented and intoxicating beverage which the Spanish called pulque, a milky-white beverage. The Aztec called it iztac octli.

While alcohol was widely consumed, in theory only people over the age of 50 (some sources say 70) were supposedly allowed to consume it. During a feast or ceremony, people were not supposed to drink more than four cups of pulque. While drunkenness was prohibited and severely punished, old people were allowed to get drunk whenever they wanted. Alcohol was also a common ingredient in medicines.

In the outlying parts of the Aztec empire, the people also raised cotton and cacao. Cacao beans served as a kind of currency throughout the Aztec world. As with the Mesoamerican cultures which preceded the Aztecs, chocolate was the favorite drink of the nobility.