Ancient America: A Plateau Clovis Cache

As the ice age was ending in North America, a new hunting technology arose. This technology, commonly known as Clovis after a find in New Mexico, is characterized by a finely made stone projectile point with a characteristic flute which helps in attaching the point to an atlatl dart.

One of the principle weapons used by the Clovis hunters was the atlatl. The atlatl is a wooden shaft with a hook at one end and a handle at the other. The butt of the spear is engaged by the hook. Grasping the handle and steadying the spear shaft with the fingers, the spear can be hurled with great force. Archaeologist L.S. Cressman, in his book The Sandal and the Cave: The Indians of Oregon, notes:  “Thus the atlatl was in principle an extension of the arm and, by the added leverage, gave much greater power to the thrust of the spear.”

Archaeologist Sandra Morris, in her M.A. professional paper at the University of Montana, summarizes Clovis this way:  “Clovis represents a terminal ice-age human adaptation characterized by a hunting technology displaying distinctive, fluted spearpoints and carved bone and ivory shafts.”

The Plateau Culture Area is the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana. In 1987, a number of Clovis points were discovered below the surface in an apple orchard in East Wenatchee, Washington. As in the case of many major archaeological discoveries, these points were discovered accidently by workers installing a new irrigation system. Recognizing that this might be an important find, professional archaeologists were called in.

The land was owned by Mack Richey and the orchard was managed by his brother-in-law Rich Roberts, and thus the site became known as the Richey-Roberts Clovis Site. Excavation rights were sold to the State of Washington. The scientific excavation of the site was observed by members of the Colville Confederated Tribes as well as the news media.

The initial find at the Richey-Roberts site included 29 items, among which were five large stone points and three short bone rods. To discover more about the site and its overall size, the archaeologists brought in ground-penetrating radar. The radar located a cluster of seven large Clovis points. These points were about twice as large as those found in association with animal remains.

Unlike artifact “collectors” (better described as “looters”) who remove artifacts to display them or sell them, archaeologists pay close attention to the context in which the artifacts are found. At the East Wenatchee site, archaeologists noted that the undersides some of the points had sandy crusts. These crusts detracted from the fine flaking of the points, but provided an important dating clue. A geologist, Dr. Nick Foit, identified the silica in the crusts as originating from a Glacier Peak volcanic eruption. This eruption occurred about 13,000 years ago. The Clovis points had lain on top of the ash when it was still fresh enough to crusts on the points. This meant that the site was somewhat younger than 13,000 years.

The blade surfaces were checked for traces of blood or other animal protein and on one large biface researchers found evidence of both bison and deer. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty, in their book Archaeology in Washington, explain the findings:  “This does not necessarily prove hunting. Residual proteins have many sources. They can come from the leather of a storage pouch, the leather protecting the toolmaker’s hands, from sinew used for hafting, or from blood, hair, or hoof glue in the hafting mastic.”

One of the puzzles from the site was the large Clovis points. In terms of size, the only other Clovis points of this large size were found at the Anzick rockshelter site in Montana. The Anzik site was a burial site and the large Clovis points appear to have been grave offerings. At East Wenatchee, there was no burial, but there are traces of red ochre on one of the points. Red ochre was generally used ceremonially and thus one of the questions about these points is: Were these large Clovis points ceremonial offerings?

One of the ways archaeologists study stone tools is with the aid of a scanning electron microscope. This allows them to see the wear patterns on the blade which provides information about how they were used. The large Clovis points, however, show no wear patterns, an indication that they were never used. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty ask:  “Was this a cache intended for later retrieval or were the showy points placed as a ritual offering?”

Use of caches is common among nomadic hunting and gathering people. Since goods and weight are oppressive when you are moving regularly on foot, items which will not be needed at the next resource collection area can be cached and then retrieved when the group returns to the area. Writing in The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, David Meltzer reports:  “Befitting wide-ranging hunter-gatherers who lacked animal transport and were able to carry only limited provisions, they often cached stone for later use.”

With regard to the large size, experimental archaeology has shown that the Clovis points frequently break when they are used. They are then re-flaked into usable points which are smaller than the originals. Instead of ceremonial offerings, it could simply be that the large points are unused points which have not yet been broken and re-flaked.

One of the artifacts uncovered at a number of other Clovis sites are bone rods. At the Richey-Roberts site more than a dozen bone rods were found. There is some speculation that these rods, if fitted with antler tips, could have been used as flaking tools. No antler tips, however, were found with the rods.

Excavation at the Richey-Roberts site stopped in 1990. The location of artifacts was marked with copper cutouts, a sheet of protective geofabric was placed over the site, and it was covered with soil so that the apple trees could be replanted. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty write:  “Without knowing the exact location, no one now would recognize that particular section of the orchard as an important archaeological site.”

The items excavated at the Richey-Roberts site were donated to the Washington State Historical Society.

Shawnee Political Organization

The Shawnee were a confederacy of five autonomous political units: Chillicothe (Chalahgawtha), Hathawekela (also spelled as Thawekila or Thawegila), Kispoko (Kispokotha), Mequachake (Mekoche or Maykujay), and Piqua (Pekowi). Each of these divisions had its own chiefs. Within the Shawnee, however, each of the five had specific responsibilities. The Chillicothe and Thawekila provided tribal leaders and took care of political concerns relating to the whole tribe. The Pekowis were responsible for matters relating to religion and ritual. The Mekochea were concerned with health and medicine and therefore provided healers and counselors. The Kispokos provided war leadership.

With regard to the possible origins of the division among the Shawnee, Colin Calloway, in his book The Shawnees and the War for America, reports: “The Shawnees traditionally comprised five divisions, though it is not certain whether these divisions originally constituted different tribes, which came together to form the Shawnees, or if they developed during their migrations.”

As with many other American Indian nations, the Shawnee had two kinds of chiefs: peace chiefs and war chiefs. The peace chiefs were responsible for domestic order. This was an office which could be inherited. Colin Calloway writes:  “Civil chiefs tended to be mature men who had earned a reputation for good sense and whose counsel guided the people during times of peace and in everyday affairs.”

On the other hand, the war chief was an earned office. In the first step in becoming a war chief, a young man would have to participate in at least twelve raids into enemy territory. Then he would have to organize and lead four raids. To do this, he would have to persuade other young men to follow him. Just leading a war party, however, was not enough: the raids had to bring back honor and all of the men. According to Ian Steele, in an article in Ethnohistory:  “A raid was considered successful only if the entire raiding party returned unhurt, and if it brought back at least one scalp or prisoner.”

Once a man had become a war chief, he would lead at least twelve successful raids. After leading 12 raids, a war chief was allowed to resign if he wished.

The Shawnee tribal council was composed of both peace chiefs and war chiefs. Charles Callender, in his entry on the Shawnee in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports:  “Elderly men also attended or gave advice and assistance, besides providing information about earlier events and the decisions reached by past councils.”

During times of war, the civil chiefs would temporarily hand over leadership to younger men who were considered war chiefs who would lead war parties. However, war could not be declared unless the peace chiefs agreed. When peace returned, the war chiefs would give leadership back to the civil or peace chiefs.

The Shawnee also had two female chiefs: a peace chief who supervised the planting and prepared feasts of vegetable foods and a war chief who was responsible for the preparation of meat. The female peace chief had the power to stop a war party from leaving. When a war party returned with prisoners, the prisoners would be spared if they were touched by the female peace chiefs. However, if a female war chief touched the prisoners first, they were burned and ritually eaten.

Greed, Corruption, and the Foundation for Oklahoma Statehood, 1893 to 1894

Thomas Jefferson was one of the Americans who envisioned removing all Indians from American soil and placing them in a confined territory west of the Mississippi River. In the early nineteenth century, many Indian nations were forcibly removed, often through the use of military force, and resettled in Indian Territory. Here they were to live and to govern themselves unhindered by federal or state forces.

Indian Territory was to be Indian land forever, but it was soon evident that the United States government had lied or lacked the political will to enforce its own laws as expressed in the removal treaties. Mary Jane Warde, in article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, writes:  “Intruders not only flouted Indian law and authority but also illegally exploited the resources of Indian Territory. They mined coal, collected salt, quarried stone, and dug snakeroot.”

Non-Indian cattle were allowed to graze on Indian lands, often over-grazing it and providing no compensation to the Indians. Many non-Indians also felt that they had a right to hunt, fish, and camp in the area. Mary Jane Warde writes:  “Indian officials complained and petitioned for stiffer laws against intrusion, but they received little satisfaction from the federal government.”

By the end of the nineteenth century, Manifest Destiny had been fulfilled as the United States expanded from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and historian Frederick Jackson Turner declared that the frontier was dead. American greed for land coupled with the capitalistic concern for transferring wealth for the poor to the rich now began to foster the view that Indian Territory was “unused” land which needed to be developed.

In 1893, Congress established the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, and President Grover Cleveland appointed Henry Dawes, Meredith Helm Kidd, and Archibald McKennon to the commission. Former Senator Henry Dawes was appointed as the commission’s chairman and consequently the commission became commonly known as the Dawes Commission. Dawes considered himself to be a friend to the Indian and was described by others as “the Indian’s truest friend.” He felt that Indians should be assimilated into American culture like other immigrants and that the best way to do this was to destroy tribal governments, tribally held land, and to put each Indian on a parcel of privately owned land as envisioned by Jefferson.

While there were many tribes in Oklahoma, the term “Five Civilized Tribes” referred to the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole. These had been southeastern agricultural Indian nations which had adopted a great deal of European culture prior to their forced removal to Indian Territory.

The purpose of the Commission was to persuade the leadership of the Indian nations in Oklahoma to give up title to their land so that it could be allocated to individuals. In his book The Dawes Commission and the Allotment of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1893-1914, Kent Carter writes:  “The hope was that the commission could persuade the governments of the Five Civilized Tribes to negotiate themselves out of existence—an essential first step in implementing a policy of allotting land to each individual Indian.”

The primary governmental concern at this time was for Indians to become assimilated into the dominant culture. In addition, dissolution of tribal governments would clear the way for what had been Indian Territory to become a part of Oklahoma and for Oklahoma to become a state. Powerful non-Indian groups pushed for this as an opportunity to make a profit.

The letter of instructions sent to the commission by Secretary of the Interior Hoke Smith states:  “success in your negotiations will mean the total abolition of tribal autonomy of the Five Civilized Tribes and the wiping out of the quasi-independent governments within our territorial limits. It means, also, ultimately, the organization of another territory in the United States and the admission of another state or states to the Union.”

In 1894, the Dawes Commission began its work by travelling to Indian Territory to hold meetings with tribal leaders. They quickly found that tribal leaders had little interest in negotiating allotment with the federal government.

The Cherokee told the Commission that something as momentous as allotment must be discussed by the people at length. Furthermore, they suggested that the United States first settle all outstanding claims from previous treaties. Historian Andrew Denson, in article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:  “This reluctance to embrace allotment left the American commissioners mystified and angry. Advocates of the policy at this time were convinced that common landholding and tribal government were doomed.”  Cherokee historian Robert Conley, in his book The Cherokee Nation: A History, summarizes the Dawes Commission attitude toward the Cherokee this way:  “U.S. authorities were getting tired of trying to play fair with the Cherokees.”

In meeting with the Creek, the Commission had to use an interpreter because none of the commissioners spoke an Indian language. Commissioner Archibald McKennon believed that most of the 3,000 Creeks who heard his presentation were favorable towards allotment and was somewhat shocked when everyone in the audience voted against the concept.

An intertribal council with representatives from the Creek (D.N. McIntosh, Roley McIntosh, Pleasant Porter, Hotulke Emarthla, Concharte Micco, Isparhecher, George Washington Grayson), Cherokee (E. C. Boudinot, L.B. Bell), Choctaw (Samuel Mayes, Green McCurtain), and others are assembled. The intertribal delegates wrote:“If you will not listen to our protests, if in our assertions, though so well founded in absolute truth as to be unanswerable, you simply reply that it costs too much money to allow our people to remain as we are, we as Indians possessing the common instincts of humanity, reply, then if the die is cast you must do these things yourselves and not ask and expect us to aid you in reducing ourselves to homeless, wandering paupers.”

The Five Civilized Tribes pointed out to the Dawes Commission that the lack of almshouses and potter’s fields in Indian Territory demonstrated the benefits of their communal landholding system. Historian Mary Jane Warde, in her biography George Washington Grayson and the Creek Nation, 1843-1920. writes:  “Unimpressed, the commissioners reminded the Indian representatives that with populous states now surrounding the territory, their way of life was bound to disappear and they would soon be crowded off the land by intruders.”

Concluding that the Indians would support allotment if they knew their best interests, the Commissioners tell the Indians:  “We believe we stand between you and a peril you do not see.”

Having failed to convince tribal leaders to negotiate allotment and dissolution of tribal governments, the commission began to travel the territory seeking testimony from both Indians and non-Indians which supported their view that tribal governments were corrupt and wanted to block allotment for personal gain. Based on this testimony, the commission then issued a report showing that it was the fault of tribal governments, not the United States, that the territory had been overrun with non-Indians. The report concluded:  “Their system of government can not continue. It is not only non-American, but it is radically wrong, a change is imperatively demanded in the interest of the Indian and whites alike, and such change can not be much longer delayed. The situation grows worse and will continue to grow worse.”

The Dawes Commission insisted that the federal government should act without the consent of the Indians and that the tribes had destroyed the force of the treaties by allowing non-Indians to become citizens under their laws. They also insisted that tribal governments were corrupt and irresponsible and therefore the promises of self-government made in the treaties were no longer binding.

Some American Indian Beliefs About an Afterlife

When the European invasion of North America began there were more than 600 autonomous Indian nations in the region, each with its own religion. While many of these aboriginal religions focused on the harmony of present-day life rather than obtaining a reward or punishment in an afterlife, many of them did have a concept of some kinds of existence after death. A few of these concepts are briefly described below.

Concerning beliefs regarding an afterlife among Plains Indians, Charles Eastman, in Light on the Indian World: The Essential Writings of Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa), writes:  “The idea of a ‘happy hunting-ground’ is modern and probably borrowed, or invented by the white man.”

One example of life after death is found among the Pueblo Indians of North America who see life after death as the same as before death: the deceased journey to a town where they join a group with which they were associated in life. In commenting about Pueblo Indian resistance to Christianity, anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons, in her book Pueblo Indian Religion, writes:  “The Pueblo idea of life after death as merely a continuation of this life is incompatible with dogmas of hell and heaven. In this life the Spirits do not reward or punish; why should they after death?”

In his book American Indians and Christian Missions: Studies in Cultural Conflict, religion professor Henry Bowden reports that “the Pueblo cosmology did not recognize a place of eternal punishment.”

Going from the American Southwest to the Cheyenne Indians of the Northern Plains, we find that the souls of the dead Cheyenne travel along the Milky Way (“The Road of the Departed”) to the place of the dead. Father Peter J. Powell, in his book Sweet Medicine: The Continuing Role of the Sacred Arrows, the Sun Dance, and the Sacred Buffalo Hat in Northern Cheyenne History, reports:  “For the Cheyennes, there is no hell or punishment after life on earth.”  In his book The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Lifeways, George Bird Grinnell writes: “The spirit of the dead man found the trail where the footprints all pointed the same way, followed that to the Milky Way, and finally arrived at the camp in the stars, where he met his friends and relatives and lived in the camp of the dead.”

In a similar vein, writing about the Omaha Indians of the Central Plains (The Omaha Tribe), ethnographers Alice Fletcher and Francis La Flesche report:  “There does not seem to have been any conception among the Omaha of supernatural rewards or punishments after death.”

Most of the Indian tribes of New England envisioned afterlife as a life similar to the one they were currently living. There was no concept of reward for virtue or punishment for bad deeds. Religion professor Henry Bowden writes:  “The Massachusetts [Indians] expected to triumph over death by finding new opportunities in another realm, beyond the grave, where individual accomplishments could flourish again with undiminished vigor.”

In his book Indian New England Before the Mayflower, Howard Russell writes:  “The soul of the departed was believed to journey to the southwest, there to share the delights of the wigwam and fields of the great god Kanta (or Tanto or Kautautowit), where abundance reigns and ancestors offer welcome and feasting.”

For the Narragansett Indians in the Northeast, death was seen 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. The world of the dead was felt to be in the southwest where the supernatural Cautantowwit and the ancestors lived. Here the souls of the deceased would spend an afterlife similar to life on earth. Passing through the gates guarded by a ferocious dog, the souls of the dead find a paradise without worry or pain. They find the storehouses filled with corn, beans, and squash; the strawberries are always in seasons; and the clams are succulent.

Not all cultures have a well-defined or well-described afterlife. With regard to life after death, this is an issue of little concern for most traditional Navajo Indians. They feel that they will 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. The Navajo cultural orientation is towards life, toward making this life happier, more harmonious, and more beautiful.

Tlingit Migrations

The Northwest Coast, one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse culture areas in North America, occupies the area between the Pacific Coast and the mountains from Alaska through northern California. The Tlingit are the northernmost tribe in the Northwest Coast Culture Area. At the time of European contact, the Tlingit homelands included the coast regions and islands of what is now southern Alaska and northern British Columbia.

The Northwest Coast is usually divided into three distinct cultural provinces with the Northern Province including the Tlingit, Tsimshian (Nisg’a), Haida, Haihai, and Haisla tribes. The social structure of these tribes was rigidly organized and hierarchical. Among these tribes, the primary units of social organization were the clan and the village.

In the traditional pre-European villages each of the houses within the village was associated with an extended clan and each clan had certain privileges, which included fishing, hunting, and gathering rights as well as ceremonial rights (such as ownership of songs and dances).

Concerning the location of Tlingit villages, German geographer Aurel Krause, in his 1885 book The Tlingit Indians: Results of a Trip to the Northwest Coast of America and the Bering Straits, reports:  “Since fishing supplies the principal subsistence of these people, the choice of a place for settlement depends largely on the proximity of good fishing grounds and safe landing places for canoes.”

Some Tlingit villages consisted of only a few houses which were placed in a single row while other villages might have as many as 60 houses which might be arranged in two rows. Among the Tlingit, each house had a fixed place in the village and could not be moved to another place. If the house became too small, then annexes were built, but these were considered to be part of the original house.

Clans are named, extended family units which often are corporate in nature (that is, they will have a formal leader and possess property) and are usually exogamous (requiring marriage outside of the clan.) The clan not only lived under the same roof, but the house served as a clan symbol. The front of the house was often painted with a family crest design.

Among the Tlingit, descent is matrilineal. This means that people belong to the same clan as their mother. Thus, a village leader’s position would be inherited by his nephew (his sister’s son) rather than by his own son.

Tlingit clans are linked together in a phratry system. This means that each clan is linked to another with a set of social and ceremonial obligations.

The Tlingit were 18 distinct and autonomous groups. Each group felt that it was distinct from the others and had its own unique origins and ancestry. Ethnographer Kalervo Oberg, in The Social Economy of the Tlingit Indians, reports:  “The clan has a name denoting its place of origin, a story of its genesis, and a history of its migration.”

Tlingit oral tradition speaks of a gradual migration northward from the mouths of the Nass and the Stikine rivers. According to the stories, the clans would remain near a certain river for a long time. Then there would be a quarrel—usually over women or wealth—and the village would break apart with one portion going off in search of new territories.

The Tlingit acquired new territory by settling on lands that were unclaimed by any other group, by negotiating agreements to share certain lands, and by conquest. In their migrations northward, the Tlingit often came into contact with Athabascans who had come down the rivers to the coast. In some instances, the Tlingit simply drove the Athabascans away and in other instances the two groups intermingled.

When they acquired unclaimed land, the Tlingit would give the place a name and settle there. If only one clan settled a new area, they would invite members of a clan from the opposite phratry to join them.

By the time the first Europeans began to explore the Pacific coast of Alaska in the eighteenth century, the Tlingit had a long history of living in the area. The Tlingit had their first contact with Europeans in 1786 when a Spanish expedition landed at Lituja Bay. In trading with the Tlingit, the Spanish noticed that they were very aware of iron and many carried an iron dagger in a leather sheath around the neck. This suggested that they had traded with people from Asia.

Shawnee Spirituality

The Shawnee, whose name means “Southerners”, once occupied a vast region west of the Cumberland mountains of the Appalachian chain in what is now part of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. Like the other Algonquian-speaking tribes of the western part of the Northeast Woodlands Culture Area, the Shawnee had a traditional economy based on farming (corn, beans, and squash), hunting, and gathering wild plants.

As was common among hunting tribes, spirituality was an important part of hunting. In his book The Shawnees and the War for America, Colin Calloway writes:  “In the Shawnee world, humans and animals communicated, hunters dreamed the whereabouts of their prey and offered prayers to the spirits of the animals that gave their bodies so that the people might live.”

In order to maintain the harmony between humans and the animal people, and between humans and the plant people, it was necessary to conduct certain rituals to keep the world in balance.

Among many of the woodlands tribes sacred medicine bundles were important. The Shawnee at one time had a sacred bundle – mishaami – for each of the five divisions of the tribe. The Shawnee were a confederacy of five political units: Chillicothe (Chalahgawtha), Hathawekela (also spelled as Thawekila or Thawegila), Kispoko (Kispokotha), Mequachake (Mekoche or Maykujay), and Piqua (Pekowi). The bundles contained not only items which were sacred, but also included ritual concepts and songs.

The Shawnee were originally given their bundles by Our Grandmother at the time of creation. Since that time, items have been added to the bundles. According to James Howard, in his book Shawnee! The Ceremonialism of a Native American Tribe and its Cultural Background:  “Each of the sacred bundles is assigned to the care of a designated custodian, who is always a man, and a person of high moral character.”

The bundle was traditionally kept in a structure which was separate from the keeper’s home. James Howard also writes:  “The bundles are treated much as human beings, and it is believed that they may become cramped from resting too much in one position.”  Therefore, the position of the bundles is regularly shifted.

The Dakwanekawe or Bread Dance was an important Shawnee ceremony which was traditionally held in the spring and in the fall. The ceremony was given to the Shawnee by Our Grandmother who sometimes appeared on earth to observe the ceremony and to participate in the singing. In the spring, the role of women in the ceremony was predominant and this ceremony asked for fertility and good crops. In the fall, the men led the dancing and their role as hunters was emphasized. The spring dance asked for an abundant harvest while the fall dance expressed thanksgiving and asked for abundant game.

The Green Corn Dance was held in August and marked the first corn harvest. Charles Callender, in his chapter on the Shawnee in the Handbook of North American Indians reports:  “On this occasion persons were absolved of misconduct, and all injuries except murder were forgiven.”  The Green Corn Dance lasted from 4 to 12 days.

The Buffalo Dance was generally held in late August or early September. The dance was originally given to Tecumseh by the Buffalo, his guardian spirit. Two kettles of corn mush were prepared for the dance as this dish was favored by the buffalo. The ceremony included body painting and eight sets of dances which were performed by men and women. The final element of the dance was a mock battle for the corn mush, which was then eaten. Social dances often followed the ceremony.

The Buffalo Dance was conducted outside of the ceremonial grounds used for other ceremonies because it did not come from Our Grandmother.

Among the Shawnee, funeral rites usually lasted four days. The body was buried on its back in an extended position with the head toward the west. Prior to burial, friends and relatives would dress and paint the body. Before the grave was filled, friends and relatives would sprinkle small amounts of tobacco over the body and ask the soul not to look back or to think about those remaining behind.

Ancient America: The Northeast Prior to 8000 BCE

The Northeastern Woodlands of North America is a land of heavily forested rolling hills and rounded mountains, salt marshes of waving grass, calm lakes, tumbling brooks, surf-beaten beaches, and rocky coves. This culture area stretches west from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River, and from Virginia in the south to New Brunswick in the north. The era from earliest habitation to about 8000 BCE is called the Early Paleo-Indian Period by some archaeologists. A few of the archaeological findings for this period from the Northeast are briefly described below.

The ice sheets that once covered the northern part of the continent began their withdrawal from the Northeast about 15,000 BCE. Human habitation in the area began when the ice sheet still covered much of the area. David Anderson, writing in The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, reports:  “Paleo-Indian groups near the ice sheets targeted large game, particularly caribou, while groups in the Woodlands to the south were more generalized foragers, exploiting a wide range of animals and plant species.”

The overall data seems to suggest that there was initial settlement along major rivers at sites where there was high quality stone for making tools. According to David Anderson:  “These localities are thought to reflect areas of initial extended settlement, staging areas from which the colonization of the larger region proceeded.”

At present, the earliest evidence of human occupation in the Northeast comes from the Cactus Hill site on the east bank of the Nottoway River in southeastern Virginia. The site is about 13 miles east of the Fall Zone. Archaeologists Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley, in their somewhat controversial book Across Atlantic Ice: The Origins of America’s Clovis Culture,  write:  “Sometime between 20,100 and 22,600 years ago, people began to use the sand ridge as a temporary campsite.”

In southwestern Pennsylvania, people were using the Meadowcroft Rockshelter by 17,600 BCE, a time when the Laurentide ice sheet was only 50 miles away.

The earliest people in the Northeast appear to have been hunting and gathering people who were living in small, highly mobile bands. They often used fluted bifacial projectile points (most likely spear points) which had a rough resemblance to the famous Clovis points. Some archaeologists characterize the earliest inhabitants of the region as using “Clovis-like” points and associated stone tools. Writing in the Handbook of North American Indians, Robert Funk reports:  “The fluted-point hunters probably entered the Northeast from the south and west following the glacial retreat.”

In Virginia, Indian people began to occupy the Cactus Hill site south of Richmond by 15,000 BCE. They were making blades from quartzite cores that had been collected elsewhere. The blades were made by striking the core with a soft stone hammer. They were making lanceolate, unfluted bifacial points that could be used as projectile points or as hafted knives. With regard to the implications of this tool kit, archaeologist J.M. Adovasio, in his book The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology’s Greatest Mystery, writes:  “these appear to have been the work of people who were foraging for a variety of faunal and floral food resources.”

In the western portion of the Northeastern region, Indian people were butchering mammoths at the Chesrow site in Wisconsin by 11,500 BCE. The stone tools used at this site were made from a poor quality stone which is not suited for fine flintknapping. At this time, the good stone in central Wisconsin was still buried under the ice sheets. With regard to the people at this site, archaeologist Alice Beck Kehoe writes in her book America Before the European Invasions:  “They were intrepid pioneers indeed, cutting up wooly mammoths within a few days’ walk of ice fields stretching north beyond the horizon.”  At about this same time, Indian people hunted and butchered a Jefferson’s Ground Sloth in Ohio.

By about 11,000 BCE, Indian people occupied a cave in what is now Ohio. They were using stone tools, including scrapers and gravers. The animals hunted by these people included the short-faced bear (Arctodus simus), a giant, long-legged omnivore; stagmoose (Cervalces scotti), an animal that resembled modern moose except for its forked antlers; giant beaver, (Castoroides ohioensis), an animal that reached up to nine feet in length; flat-headed peccary, (Platygonus compressus), the wide-ranging American pig of the Pleistocene; and caribou (Rangifer tarandus).

By 10,500 BCE Indian people called Early Hunters by archaeologists were settling in the tundra adjoining the southern edge of the Wisconsin ice sheet. As the ice withdrew, spruce woodlands appeared which were utilized by these people.

At about this same time, the Dutchess Quarry Cave in what is now New York was being used for  making fluted points. The people at this site were hunting caribou.

About 10,000 BCE Indian people began to move into New England. Archaeologist Dena Dincauze, in her chapter in The Pequots in Southern New England: The Fall and Rise of an American Indian Nation, calls these people “Pioneers” and writes:  “Clad in their caribou-skin clothing, carrying infants and household goods and thrusting spears with elegantly shaped points of colorful stone, these are the people who first gave names to the landscape, who explained its special areas and vistas in terms of their own cosmology, and who first explored and exploited its riches for human purposes.”

At about this same time, Indian people were now living in New Jersey. In his book Looking Beneath the Surface: The Story of Archaeology in New Jersey, archaeologist R. Alan Mounier writes:  “Their signature artifact—the fluted point—is among the most recognizable of relics, owing to its graceful shape, its exquisite workmanship, and its celebrity, arising from its relative antiquity.”

About 9500 BCE Indian people established a hunting camp at the Conover Site in Virginia. They were using a variety of chert tools, including fluted projectile points, bifaces, and unifacial tools.

By 9300 BCE, Indian people began moving up the Champlain and Connecticut Valleys into the state of Vermont. Part of their economy was based on hunting caribou. They may have also exploited the marine resources of the Champlain Sea.

At about this same time in New Hampshire, Indian people occupied the Colebrook site. They were using a type of spear point which archaeologists call Michaud/Neponset.

By 9000 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Thunderbird site on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in present-day Virginia. The occupants were making and using Clovis-type points. Thunderbird was a base camp and was associated with a nearby quarry. According to Ian Shaw and Robert Jameson  in A Dictionary of Archaeology:  “An important activity was the refurbishing of toolkits with new flaked stone tools manufactured from jasper collected from a nearby quarry.”

By 8900 BCE, Indian people occupied Sheriden Cave in present-day Ohio. In addition to stone tools (identified as Clovis-like), they were also using bone tools.

By 8800 BCE, Indian hunters using Clovis technology were hunting mastodons at the Hiscock site in present-day New York.

By 8600 BCE, the period which archaeologists call the Bull Brook phase in present-day Massachusetts, begins. With regard to material culture, the Indian people at this time were using fluted points.

About 8500 BCE, Indian people established a seasonal site at Vail in present-day Maine for killing caribou. The caribou were killed along a sandy patch of ground near the river and then the animals were processed for hide, meat, and marrow. The hunters maintained their camp across the river from the kill site.

With regard to their tool kit, hunters were using fluted points with deep, concave bases which are similar to those used by the people at the Debert site in Nova Scotia. While the nearest suitable source for stone for making tools is about 25 kilometers away, the hunters and food processors were using stone tools which come from more distant quarries in Vermont, New York, and Pennsylvania. The people living at the Vail site were using tents which measured about 4.5 by 6 meters (approximately 15 by 20 feet).

About 8300 BCE, a large group of Indian people established a seasonal camp near present-day Traverse City, Michigan. They were using stone tools which were made from stone from the Saginaw Bay area, 100 miles away.

Hopi Political Organization

In 1934, the United States enacted the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) which envisioned Indian tribes adopting constitutions and governmental forms which imitated those of the United States. The United States assumed that an Indian “tribe” was a governmental unit and that “reservation” and “tribe” were one and the same. There was little concern for or recognition of traditional forms of government.

Under the IRA each “tribe” (“reservation”) was to vote on whether or not they wanted to reorganize. In 1936, the Hopi in Arizona voted on reorganization under the IRA. Only 20% of the Hopi turned out to vote and less than 15% of the total population actually supported reorganization. Harry James, in his book Pages from Hopi History, writes:  “When the final vote was taken, the Hopi who opposed the establishment of a tribal council were true to their traditional procedure in such matters and simply abstained from voting either for or against it.”

In other words, the Hopi “voted with their feet” by not participating in their election and in this way they demonstrated their opposition. While those familiar with traditional Hopi government recognized that only a small minority of the Hopi favored reorganization, the federal government, using only the numbers from those who actually voted, declared that the Hopi would be reorganized. Despite resistance to a unified Hopi government, a tribal council was established and all of the villages, with the exception of Oraibi and Hotevilla, sent representatives. The new government was the first time the Hopi had a central government and the new tribal council represented an alien way of life and government.

Traditional Hopi Government:

 Hopi are a Pueblo people who have lived in permanent agricultural villages in present-day Arizona for more than a thousand years. The name “Hopi” is a contraction of Hopi-tuh which means “peaceful ones.” While the United States has insisted on dealing with the Hopi as if they were a single tribe, they have been, and continue to be, a collection of independent, autonomous, and self-governing villages. Each of the Hopi villages has traditionally been self-governing, though the form of village government is similar in all villages. In an article in North American Indian Anthropology: Essays on Society and Culture, anthropologist Triloki Nath Pandey writes:   “There is no central authority for the Hopis as a whole. Within each major village there is a hereditary group of priests or chiefs.”

While the Hopi villages were tied together by a common language and religious beliefs, people identified themselves by their village. The concept of “Hopi” indicated a culture, but not a governmental entity.

The traditional Hopi villages were ruled by clan theocracies in which the kikmongwi (high priest) served as the father of the village as well as the priest for the most important village ceremony. In the Hopi village of Oraibi, for example, the kikmongwi was the head of the Bear Clan and the chief priest of the Soyal ceremony. The kikmongwi would usually appoint at least one spokesman who would speak for him.

Hopi clans, by the way, are matrilineal, which means that each person belongs to the mother’s clan. Each of the clans has its own ceremonies and its own history.

The primary role of the kikmongwi was to ensure the success of the crops and thus the well-being of the villages by carrying out ceremonial obligations. Political authority focused primarily on resolving disputes regarding land use. The kikmongwi leads by examples of humility, hard work and good thoughts. If a chief fails to follow the proper path, the Hopi are quick to criticize him, reminding him of the ancient principles.

Each Hopi village also had a qaletaqmongwi or war chief who was responsible for enforcing internal social order and for dealing with external affairs.

The town crier in each Hopi village would inform the people about village events. In The Hopi Indians of Old Oraibi: Change and Continuity , anthropologist Mischa Titiev, writing about Oraibi, notes:  “Some of the ordinary announcements they make suggest that they occasionally act as agents to maintain discipline.”

The village government was formed by the leaders – Crier Chiefs, Kiva Chiefs, and others – with clan relationships indicating governmental positions. According to writer Catherine Feher-Elston, in her book Children of Sacred Ground: America’s Last Indian War:  “It is true that the priests, religious leaders, warriors, and kikmongwis would listen to various opinions before making decisions, but government was not necessarily by consensus.”

After tribal reorganization in 1936, with a tribal government formed according to a constitution and bylaws written for them by anthropologist Oliver LaFarge, everything was supposed to change. However, the villages have continued to be self-governing, often ignoring the existence of a tribal council.

An Experiment in Self-Government

In its dealings with Indian Nations, the United States often imposed an alien form of government on them. This government was not a democracy, but usually a dictatorship in which the leaders were chosen by the United States based on their willingness to follow the dictates and changing whims of the U.S. government. For a short period of time in the late nineteenth century, one “tribe” was allowed an experiment in self-government. That “tribe” was the Chiricahua Apache.

Some Background:

 In the late 1300’s and early 1400’s groups of hunting and gathering Athabascans began arriving in the Southwest from the far north in Canada. These were the ancestors of the Navajo and Apache peoples.

When the Spanish entered New Mexico, they recorded that the Tewa (a pueblo group) referred to one of the neighboring tribes as Navahú in reference to large areas of cultivated lands. This is in reference to the Navajo practice of dry-farming in arroyos and cañadas. The Tewa also referred to these newcomers as Apachü, which means strangers and enemies. The Spanish would later refer to these people as Apache de Navajó meaning the Apaches with the great planted fields.

There are six major divisions of the Apache: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Kiowa-Apache.

The Chiricahua Apache were 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. Tribal historian Michael Darrow reports that there were four independent political units in this area: Chíhéne, Chokonene, Bidánku, and Ndé’ndaí.

Like many other Indian tribes, there was no single overall Chiricahua leader: each of the local groups had its own political structure. Historian Robert Utley writes of the Chiricahua in his book A Clash of Cultures: Fort Bowie and the Chiricahua Apaches:  “They felt little tribal consciousness and never came together as a tribe.”

According to anthropologist Norman Bancroft-Hunt in his book North American Indians:  “People were free to follow the leader they chose, with the consequence that Apache bands were small and mobile, composed of people with a strong sense of independence and individual freedom.”

The lack of a centralized government or single leader created confusion for the United States government. Writing about the Chiricahua Apache, anthropologist Morris Opler, in an article in Anthropology of North American Tribes, reports:  “the Chiricahua found, to their great discomfort, that the white officials assumed what no Apache would admit – that an agreement with the leader was binding upon the whole group.”  Chiricahua leaders led through advice, persuasion, and example. They served as leaders only as long as their leadership proved successful.

While many non-Apache scholars and popular writers have labeled the Apache as a fierce, war-like people, in actuality warfare was not glorified as it was in some other culture areas. Chiricahua Apache tribal historian Michael Darrow, in a chapter in We, The People: Of Earth and Elders—Volume II, writes:  “In our tribe we don’t have any military societies or Dog Soldiers like the Plains Indians. We didn’t have anything vaguely resembling that. In our tribe you didn’t attain special status by participating in something like that.”  Darrow also writes:  “In our tribe, you didn’t get an eagle feather for each enemy smacked with a coup stick or killed. You didn’t get awards for battle accomplishments because they generally avoided fighting as much as possible.”

The Experiment:

In 1872, General Oliver Otis Howard agreed to attempt to contact Chiricahua Apache leader Cochise without a military escort. Howard and four others ignited a ring of five fires to show that five men had come in peace. Eventually two boys appeared at the Americans’ camp and led them to a secluded mountain valley containing an Apache camp. That evening, Cochise appeared in the camp.

Howard and Cochise bargained for ten days. Howard wanted the Apache to settle on a reservation on the Rio Grande, but Cochise asked to keep the Chiricahua homeland at Apache Pass. Historian Robert Utley reports:  “Eventually Howard bowed to Cochise’s wish to remain in his home country and proposed a reservation embracing a large part of the Chiricahua Mountains and the adjoining Sulphur Springs and San Simon Valleys.”  Under the agreement, the Chiricahua were to police themselves without army supervision.

Many high-ranking members of the U.S. Army, including Generals Crook and Schofield, were not happy with the agreement. In The Indian Historian D.C. Cole writes:  “The military was particularly incensed by the exemption of the reservation from military supervision.”

However, the Department of the Interior confirmed the site and the reservation was established by Presidential Executive Order. Without any major interference from the federal government, the Chiricahua peacefully governed themselves on their reservation.

In 1874, Chiricahua Apache leader Cochise died. His body was prepared in a traditional way and then taken to a deep fissure where it was lowered into the depths. His favorite horse and dog were killed and were also buried in the fissure. Taza, the son of Cochise, was selected by the Chiricahua to become their new chief. Historian Robert Utley reports:  “But Taza lacked his father’s force and vision, and increasingly the Chiricahuas drifted without the strong leadership on which the outcome of the reservation experiment depended.”

In 1875, the Chiricahua Apache were accused of a number of raids. D.C. Cole writes:  “The military accused the reservation Apache of raids against travelers, which were in reality the work of Cochise County white outlaws. The Mexican authorities protested Chiricahua raids in Sonora, which were in all probability the work of Mexican-based Apache of the Sierra Madres.”

In response, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs suspended services to the reservation. Investigations later cleared the Chiricahua of all charges, but the investigators recommended the removal of the Chiricahua to the San Carlos reservation in Arizona or to New Mexico in order to prevent any future incidents.

In 1876, two non-Indian whiskey sellers were illegally selling whiskey on the Chiricahua Apache reservation when they were killed by the Chiricahua. In response, and ignoring the fact that the incident was caused by non-Indians engaging in illegal activities, the Americans used this as an excuse to seize the reservation and move the Chiricahua to the San Carlos reservation. The Chiricahua reservation was abolished by Presidential Executive Order. D.C. Cole writes:  “Ended, perhaps forever, was Apache faith in the honor and good intentions of the United States government. Also gone was a United States sanctioned experiment in Apache self-government by means and upon lands of their own choosing.”

The experiment in Chiricahua self-government ended as the Chiricahua bands were removed to the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The people had planted a great deal of corn which they were forced to abandon. After they moved, their houses were burned and their corn fields destroyed.

Not all of the Chiricahua followed Taza to San Carlos. A number of them joined the Nednhi Chiricahua under the leadership of Juh in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. Among those who went to Mexico is Geronimo.  From here the Apache began a series of raids on American settlements in Arizona and New Mexico.

After moving to the San Carlos Reservation, Taza and several others joined an entourage organized by the Indian agent for the reservation which toured in several Eastern cities and put on a scripted “wild west show.” The show, however, was not successful and stopped performing after Cincinnati.

Ancient America: Coastal Oregon, 13,000 to 7,500 Years Ago

The Oregon coast is a part of the larger Northwest Coast culture area which stretches from the Tlingit homelands in Alaska to the Tolowa homelands in northern California. The cultures along this coastal ecotone (an area between two biomes) share a number of common features, including a subsistence pattern which is centered on sea and littoral (shore, estuary, and headlands) environments. In the northern portion of this culture area (the Alaska Panhandle and British Columbia), the coastline is highly convoluted with many offshore islands and is bordered with steep, high mountains. The coasts of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, on the other hand are relatively straight which means they are unprotected and pummeled by unimpeded ocean waves.

One of the current hypotheses for the peopling of the Americas, known as the Coastal Migration Hypothesis, envisions early migrations to the Americas by coastal travelers using boats. It is well known that ancient people have been using boats of some kind for a long time. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty, in their book Archaeology in Washington, write:  “Sea voyages date far back into antiquity. People reached Australia from Indonesia more than 40,000 years ago, and Japanese archaeologists have found obsidian brought to Honshu nearly 35,000 years ago from a small island 20 miles distant.”

The Coastal Migration Hypothesis suggests that archaeologists should expect to find the earliest evidence of the settlement of what is now Oregon along the Pacific coast. Unfortunately, there is little archaeological data along the Oregon coast to substantiate this hypothesis.

Archaeological surveys of early sites along the Oregon coast have yielded very little data regarding human habitation in this area prior to 4,000 years ago. Coastal sites tend to be rare because of two factors of physical geography. First, and perhaps most important, is the fact that sea levels have been rising, particularly over the past 18,000 years. During the last ice age when humans would have been first entering the area, the sea levels were 100 meters (330 feet) lower than they are today. Along the Oregon coast, this means that vast stretches of the continental shelf would have been exposed and the actual coast line would have been several kilometers to the west of its current positions. The camp sites and villages used by the early people are thus underwater today.

A second factor is the nature of the Oregon coast line. It is constantly changing due to the impact of tides and high-energy waves, tectonic uplift, erosion, and landslides. In other words, even more recent evidence of human use is being destroyed by natural forces.

While early archaeological sites are rare on the Oregon coast, data from the north and from the south strongly suggests that this area must have been inhabited. To the north, people were using On-Your-Knees Cave (49PET408) on the northern tip of Prince of Wales Island by about 12,000 years ago. The people were engaged in a coastal marine subsistence pattern which includes fishing and the gathering of shellfish. It is also clear that they were using watercraft and were engaged in long-distance trade.

The human remains in On-Your-Knees Cave have DNA which belongs to the D4h3 haplogroup. Members this haplogroup are found exclusively on the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Chile.

About the same time people were occupying the coastal areas of Alaska and British Columbia, they were also using Daisy Cave in California’s Channel Islands. One again, the archaeological data shows a pattern of using marine resources and knowledge of watercraft.

With people using watercraft living to both the north and the south of the Oregon coast during the period of the Terminal Pleitocene/Early Holocene (13,000 to 7,500 years ago), we would expect human occupation of the Oregon coast during this time. The actual physical data from the archaeological record for this period is, however, a bit scanty.

At the Indian Sands site (35CU67), there was a scatter of chipped stone artifacts and some burned and broken mussel shells which dated to 12,300 to 8,600 years ago.

At the Neptune State Park site (35LA3) there are a few lithic flakes which were dated to about 9,330 years ago.

The Tahkenitch Landing site (35DO130) has a few stone stools that date to 8,900 to 7,600 years ago. At this time Tahkenitch Lake was an estuary open to the ocean.

Archaeologists Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins, in their book Oregon Archaeology, summarize the early occupation of the Oregon coast this way:  “The early Holocene culture record to the Oregon coast remains impoverished, and while we can anticipate occasional new evidence of great age, the reality is that the early record will never be robust, given the geological history of Oregon’s Pacific coast.”

The Cheyenne Medicine Bundles

Medicine bundles are important to many of the Northern Plains tribes. The concept of “medicine” refers to spiritual power, which is not limited to healing. For the Plains Indians, spirit power—medicine—was needed for success in hunting, gambling, war, love, and other activities. The medicine bundle contains sacred objects which are symbols of spiritual power: they are not the spiritual power itself. Thus, if a personal medicine bundle is lost or stolen, the power is not lost as the individual has the power to remake the bundle.

There are basically three kinds of medicine bundles: (1) personal bundles made in accordance with instructions received from spiritual helpers during the vision quest, (2) society bundles maintained by the warrior societies, and (3) tribal bundles which are important to the entire tribe.

Among the Cheyenne, there are two sacred tribal medicine bundles: the Sacred Arrows and the Sacred Buffalo Hat.

The Sacred Arrows (Maahotse) were originally given to the prophet Sweet Medicine by Maheo (the Creator) in a holy cave within the sacred mountain (Novavose or Bear Butte). In his book Sweet Medicine: The Continuing Role of the Sacred Arrows, the Sun Dance, and the Sacred Buffalo Hat in Northern Cheyenne History, Father Peter J. Powell writes:  “Sweet Medicine’s teaching is the spiritual milk by which the Cheyenne have grown in wisdom. His greatest gift to the People was Mahuts, the Sacred Arrows.”

The Sacred Arrows are living things and are the holiest of the Cheyenne tribal possessions. Father Peter J. Powell, in an article in American Indian Art, writes:  “Ma’heo’o pours his life into Cheyenne lives through the Sacred Arrows. The Cheyenne people, in turn, are made one with him and with each other in him through those Sacred Arrows who bless their life and identity as a holy nation.”   He goes on to say:  “So perfect is that unity of the Cheyenne people with Ma’heo’o and each other through Maahotse that when a murder occurs within the Cheyenne nation, flecks of blood appears on the shafts of the Sacred Arrows.”

In his book, Father Powell summarizes the importance of the Sacred Arrows by saying:  “Without the Arrows, there can be no Cheyenne tribe, no People in any supernatural sense.”

The Sacred Arrows are symbols of male power. Father Peter J. Powell reports:  “No female dares look at them when they are exposed to veneration.”

Even today, women will excuse themselves from the presence of men who are speaking about the Sacred Arrows.

The Massaum Ceremony is an ancient Cheyenne ceremony which was given to the people by Sweet Medicine who first performed it at Bear Butte. The five-day ceremony re-enacts the creation of the world. During this ceremony, the Sacred Arrows are cleansed and all creation is renewed.

The second Cheyenne bundle is the Sacred Buffalo Hat (Esevone) which was a gift from Maheo to the Sutai prophet Erect Horns (Tomsivi). In historic times the Cheyenne were composed of two tribes: the Cheyenne (Tsistista) and the Sutai. The Sacred Buffalo Hat is generally associated with the Sutai who became incorporated into the Cheyenne in the late 18th century. The power of the Sacred Buffalo Hat is female. In an article in American Indian Art, Father Peter J. Powell writes:  “Together, the Sacred Arrows and the Sacred Buffalo Hat form the two great covenants of the Cheyenne people.”

Through these two bundles Maheo assures continual life and blessings for the people. The people, however, must venerate and care for the bundles.

When the Sacred Buffalo Hat is renewed, those seeking a blessing stand at the edge of the old lodge cover facing the Sacred Mountain to the east. The keeper of the Hat then prays and offers the pipe to Maheo, the Earth, and the four directions. In single file, those wishing a blessing walk across the old cover to the east.

Regarding the two Cheyenne medicine bundles, George Bird Grinnell writes in his book The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Lifeways:  “So long as due reverence was paid to these relics, and the ceremonies were performed which the culture heroes had been taught and had told them must be practiced, the influence of these protective gifts was beneficial and helpful, but failure properly to respect them was certain to be followed by misfortune to the tribe.”

Sioux Opposition to Railroads in Montana in 1872

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kootenai Political Organization

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Federal Government and Indians Affairs in 1965

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

Bureau of Indian Affairs:

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

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

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

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

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

War on Poverty:

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

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

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

Ancient America: Stone Quarries

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the larger quarry areas are described below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Blackfoot Political Organization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian Events in 1715

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

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

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

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

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

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

Census and Population Information:

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

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

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

 New England:

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

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

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

 New York:

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

 Southeast:

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

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

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

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

Texas:

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

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

Canada:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Utes, the Spanish, and Silver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huron Government and Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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