American Indians in 1890

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

An Iroquois in Oregon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The York Factory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunting Mastodons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Great Basin Tribes

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

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

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

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

The Ute:

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

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

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

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

(3) the Grand River band.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) the Timanogots near Utah Lake.

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

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

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

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

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

Shoshone:

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

The Shoshone are often divided into four general groups:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bannock:

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

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

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

Goshute (Gosiute):

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

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

Paiute:

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

 

The Meadowcroft Rockshelter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kalispel Indians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Benjamin Harrison and Indian Reservations

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

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

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

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

 Northern Cheyenne:

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

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

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

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

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

 Indian Territory:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aztec Agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

Crops:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Theft of the Cherokee Outlet

In 1836, under the terms of the Treaty of New Echota, the Cherokee were given a narrow strip of land some 225 miles long and 60 miles wide in what would later become Oklahoma. This strip of land, known as the Cherokee Outlet, was in addition to their reservation and was intended to provide them with a perpetual outlet from their reservation to lands in the west for hunting. The area within the Outlet contained more than 8 million acres of land.

When the Civil War broke out, the United States withdrew its troops from Forts Cobb, Arbuckle, and Washita, leaving the Indians open to attacks from the Plains tribes and from non-Indians. In addition, the federal government, afraid that annuity payments might fall into the wrong hands, withheld the annuities which were owed to the tribes. These actions not only violated the removal treaties of the Indian nations in Indian Territory, they also undermined the credibility of the United States. The Confederacy moved into the vacuum left by the federal government and held treaty councils with the tribes.

The Civil War divided the Cherokee into two groups: the Ridge or Treaty Party led by Stand Watie and E. C. Boudinot, and the Ross or Non-Treaty Party led by John Ross. Ross issued a Proclamation of Neutrality with regard to the war.

Following the Civil War the United States, ignoring the fact that many Cherokees had supported the Union, imposed a new treaty on the Cherokee Nation. The new treaty allowed the United States to settle other Indian nations in the Cherokee Outlet and to dispose of the land. A number of tribes—Kaw, Osage, Pawnee, Ponca, and Tonkawa—settled in the area.

The Cherokee Outlet was invaded by Texas cattlemen who grazed their herds on Cherokee land while en route from Texas to the northern markets. The Cherokee government solved this problem by charging a per head fee for grazing privileges. In 1883, the Texas cattlemen formed the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association under the laws of Kansas. The Cherokee under the leadership of Dennis Bushyhead then leased the grassy meadows of the Cherokee Outlet to the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association for $100,000 for five years. The agreement was felt to beneficial for both the Cherokee and for the cattlemen. Soon after the lease was signed, dissident Cherokee, angry at being denied free use of the Outlet, claimed that the Association had gained exclusive use of the area through illegal means. Complaints concerning bribery and corruption were lodged with the Department of the Interior.

When the lease with the cattlemen expired in 1888, the Cherokee agreed to renew the lease of the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association for the exclusive use of the Cherokee Outlet for $200,000 per year. The federal government, however, warned the Cherokee that they would consider the lease to be invalid.

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

In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison closed Cherokee Outlet to the cattle growers who were legally leasing the lands from the Cherokee. Federal troops then occupied the area and forcibly removed the cattle growers and their herds from the land. Having lost the major source of revenue for their schools and government, the Cherokee were forced to cede the Outlet lands. The government forced the Cherokee to sell their Outlet lands for $1.25 per acre (a total of $10.2 million).

In 1893, the Cherokee Outlet was opened to non-Indian settlement, resulting in Oklahoma’s largest land run. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people attempted to stake out claims for the land.

In 1948, the Cherokee filed suit before the Indian Claims Commission to recover the real value of the Cherokee Outlet lands. One expert from Oklahoma State University testified that the land had been worth $10.01 per acre at the time it was taken by the government. Experts testifying on behalf of the government claimed it was worth $1.70 per acre. The courts awarded the Cherokee an additional $14.7 million for the lands. The Indian Claims Commission noted that the conduct in the original transaction had been unconscionable.

President Benamin Harrison and Indian Education

When Benjamin Harrison became President in 1889, he appointed Thomas Jefferson Morgan as his Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Like most of his predecessors, Morgan had no experience in Indian affairs, little contact with actual Indians, and no understanding of Indian cultures. He was, however, a Baptist minister and an educator with a fervent belief that Christianity held the solution to the “Indian problem.” With regard to his philosophy of Indian education, Morgan wrote:  “When we speak of the education of the Indians we mean the comprehensive training and instruction which will convert them into American citizens, put within their reach the blessings which the rest of us enjoy, and enable them to compete successfully with the white man on his own ground and with his own methods. Education is to be the medium through which the rising generation of Indians are to be brought into the fraternal and harmonious relationship with their white fellow-citizens and with them enjoy the sweets of refined homes, the delight of social intercourse, the emoluments of commerce and trade, the advantages of travel, together with the pleasures that come from literature, science, and philosophy, and the solace and stimulus afforded by a true religion.”

 Congress passed legislation in 1889 which allowed the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to enforce the school attendance of Indian children by withholding rations and annuities from Indian families whose children were not attending school.

 With regard to education, Morgan felt that Indian history should not be taught and that it was important that Indian children acquire a fervent patriotism for the United States. In stressing patriotism, he ordered that all Indian schools celebrate national holidays: Washington’s birthday, Decoration Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Furthermore, he ordered that the American flag be displayed and that the students be taught reverence for the flag as a symbol of American protection and power.

Morgan also felt that for Indians the “school itself should be an illustration of the superiority of the Christian civilization.”

While the United States often turned over the running of Indian schools to missionary societies, Morgan strongly opposed the funding of Catholic schools for Indians. Morgan’s anti-Catholic sentiments were well known and for his term of office he battled with the Bureau of Catholic Missions.

In 1890, Morgan announced that the 8th of February was to be celebrated as Franchise Day. It was on this day that the Dawes Act was signed into law, and the Commissioner felt that this  “is worthy of being observed in all Indian schools as the possible turning point in Indian history, the point at which the Indians may strike out from tribal and reservation life and enter American citizenship and nationality.”

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

Schools were to give Indian students surnames so that as they became property owners it would be easier to fix lines of inheritance. Since most teachers could not pronounce or memorize names in native languages, and they did not understand these names when translated into English, it was not uncommon to give English surnames as well as English first names to the students. There were a number of Indians who were given names such as William Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

In 1892, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Thomas Morgan published a pamphlet to centralize Indian education and to unify the curriculum of the Indian Office schools. With regard to the role of art in Indian schools, Morgan felt that art would help improve manual skills. Morgan’s approach to teaching art had been discarded by most public schools in the 1880s. The model for teaching art ignored individual development, skill proficiency, and intellectual progress. American Indian children were taught to draw from a European perspective which did not take into account their indigenous knowledge or environment.

Indian Schools were ordered to celebrate Columbus Day on October 21,1892. Indian students were to pay homage to the so-called “discoverer” of the “New” World. Education professor David Wallace Adams, in his book Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, notes:  “Indian students must be made to see that Columbus’s accomplishment was not only a red-letter day in history but also a beneficent development in their own race’s fortunes. Only after Columbus, the myth went, did Indians enter into the stream of history; only after Columbus did Indians begin the slow and painful climb out of the darkness of savagery.”

Imposing Law on Sovereign Nations

While the Constitution of the United States and the Supreme Court recognize Indian tribes as sovereign nations, this has been frequently ignored by Indian agents. Ignoring the fact that Indian nations had their own laws which had been developed over centuries of experience, Indian agents frequently imposed their own laws, based on their concepts of Christianity and European feudalism.

In 1842, Oregon Country—an area that included all of present-day Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and western Montana—was jointly administered by the United States and the United Kingdom. At this time, the United States had negotiated no treaties with the Indian nations in this territory.

Elijah White, described by historians as “a scheming man” and “a flimflammer”, was appointed as sub-agent for Indian affairs. White was a physician and a Methodist missionary who had helped to establish the Methodist mission in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

One of White’s first actions was to hold a council with the Nez Perce in Lapwai, Idaho. Unconcerned with the fact the Nez Perce were a sovereign nation and that the United States had not established any jurisdiction over them, he imposed on them a set of “laws” under which they were to live:

1. Whoever willfully takes life shall be hung.

2. Whoever burns a dwelling house shall be hung.

3. Whoever burns an outbuilding shall be imprisoned six months, receive fifty lashes, and pay all damages.

4. Whoever carelessly burns a house or any property, shall pay damages.

5. If anyone enter a dwelling, without permission of the occupant, the chiefs shall punish him as they think proper.

6. If any one steal he shall pay back two fold; and if it be the value of a beaver skin or less, he shall receive twenty-five lashes; and if the value is over a beaver skin he shall pay back two-fold, and receive fifty lashes.

7. If any one take a horse, and ride it, without permission, or take any article, and use it, without liberty, he shall pay for the use of it, and receive from twenty to fifty lashes, as the chief shall direct.

8. If any one enter a field, and injure the crops, or throw down the fence, so that cattle or horses go in and do damage, he shall pay all damages, and receive twenty-five lashes for every offence.

9. Those only may keep dogs who travel or live among the game; if a dog kill a lamb, calf, or any domestic animal, the owner shall pay the damage, and kill the dog.

10. If an Indian raise a gun or other weapon against a white man, it shall be reported to the chiefs, and they shall punish him. If a white person do the same to an Indian, it shall be reported to Dr. White, and he shall redress it.

11. If an Indian break these laws, he shall be punished by his chiefs; if a white man break them, he shall be reported to the agent, and be punished at his instance .

In traditional Native American jurisprudence, the adjudication of a crime focused on healing and the restoration of social harmony, not on punishment. In addition, the idea of death by hanging was abhorrent. The Nez Perce Tribe summarizes the laws this way:  “To put it mildly, this system of government was not one the tribe adopted easily or even willingly.”

In addition to the “laws”, White also ordered the Nez Perce to choose a single chief as high chief and to have all of the other chiefs subordinate to him. White ignored the fact that the Nez Perce were really more than 40 culturally affiliated but autonomous bands. Each of these bands had its own leadership and the idea of having a supreme chief was alien to them.

Ellis, a Christian who was both fluent and literate in English, was designated as the high chief. However, most of the Nez Perce did not regard him as having any more power than any other Nez Perce leader.

The following year, White called a council of the Nez Perce, Cayuse, and Walla Walla. The Indians were read the “laws” which had been earlier imposed on the Nez Perce. Walla Walla chief Peopeo Moxmox asked White:  “Where are these laws from? Are they from God or from the earth? I would that you might say they were from God. But I think that they are from the earth, because, from what I know of white men, they did not honor these laws.”

After two days of discussion, the Cayuse accepted the laws and elected Tauitau as high chief. However, Tauitau was a Catholic and therefore unacceptable to the Methodist missionary. White then simply appointed Hezekiah as high chief.

President Benjamin Harrison and Indian Policy

In 1889 Benjamin Harrison, an attorney, Presbyterian church leader, and Civil War Brigadier General, was elected President of the United States. Harrison, a Republican, defeated incumbent President Grover Cleveland. In his brief inaugural address, Harrison credited the nation’s growth to the influences of education and religion (meaning Christianity). For his cabinet appointments, Harrison considered three important criteria: (1) Civil War service, (2) membership in the Presbyterian Church, and (3) Indiana citizenship.

With regard to Indian affairs, Harrison believed that Indians, like the other immigrants to the United States, should be fully assimilated into American society. Assimilation, of course, required Indians to speak English, to be Christian, to dress in non-Indian clothing, to acquire a notion of greed so that they would acquire private property, and to get rid of reservations and tribal governments. He believed that the Allotment Act (also known as the Dawes) act would help Indians into civilization by divesting them of their reservations and communally held land.

Like other Presidents, Harrison met with delegations of Indians. In 1892, Washo leader Captain Jim and his interpreter Dick Bender traveled to Washington where they met with Nevada and California senators and congressional representatives and President Benjamin Harrison. They were promised $1,000 for the immediate relief of the old and the infirm, but the money was never received.

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs was the person in American government who had direct responsibility for Indian affairs. The position, which was under the Secretary of the Interior, was a political appointment. For his Commissioner of Indian Affairs, President Harrison appointed Thomas Jefferson Morgan. Like most of his predecessors, Morgan had no experience in Indian affairs, little contact with actual Indians, and no understanding of Indian cultures. He was, however, a Baptist minister and an educator with a fervent belief that Christianity held the solution to the “Indian problem.”

Morgan, who had served as an officer under Harrison in the Civil War, had contacted his old commander after Harrison won the Presidency asking to be appointed as Commissioner of Education. Instead, Harrison offered him the position of Commissioner of Indian Affairs, which Morgan accepted.

Shortly after becoming Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Morgan announced:  “When President Harrison tendered me the Indian Bureau, he said I wish you to administer it in such a way as will satisfy the Christian philanthropic sentiment of the country. That is the only charge I received from him.”

In his 1889 annual report, Indian Commissioner Thomas J. Morgan indicated that tribal relations should be broken up; that Indian social­ism be destroyed; and English be universally adopted. He writes:  “The Indians must conform to ‘the white man’s ways,’ peaceably if they will, forcibly if they must.”

In 1890, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs ordered traders to stop carrying playing cards. This was an effort to discourage gambling on the reservations.

Civil Service:

Four groups of Indian Service employees – physicians, school superintendents and assistant superintendents, school-teachers, and matrons – were placed under Civil Service Classifi­cations in 1891. One of the members of the Civil Service Commission, Theodore Roosevelt, advocated that Civil Service rules be modified so that Indians could be given preference for these positions.

The following year, Civil Service Rules were extended to cover superintendents and teachers in the Indian Service. School Superintendent Edwin Chalcraft explained:  “Prior to this time, Indian Agents made all those appointments, but from this date they were made by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs from names submitted to him by the Civil Service Committee in Washington, D.C. These rules prohibited the dismissal of employees for political or religious beliefs, but the Appointing Officer in Washington, D.C., could remove an employee for any other cause without giving him reason for doing so.”

Census:

The 1890 Census formally enumerated all of the Indians in the country. According to the Census, there were a total of 248,253 Indians in the United States: 58,806 were “Indians taxed” and 189,447 were “Indians not taxed.”

With regard to the difficulties in counting Indians, the Census Bureau reported: “Enumeration would be likely to pass by many who had been identified all their lives with the localities where found, and who lived like the adjacent whites without any inquiry as to their race, entering them as native born white.”

 Wovoka’s Ghost Dance:

 As a Christian nation, the policy of the United States was to require Indians to convert to Christianity and to actively suppress all Native religions. During the Harrison administration, religious intolerance climaxed with the teachings of a Paiute prophet named Wovoka in Nevada. In 1889, Wovoka died during an eclipse. He then returned to life with a message and a dance for his people. This was the birth of a Native American religious movement called the Ghost Dance by non-Indians.

Wovoka’s new religion spread from Nevada to Indian reservations in Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Indian Territory. Christian missionaries, Indian agents, the military, and politicians opposed the new religion without understanding anything about it. Inspired by newspaper reports written by reporters who never talked to any of the followers of the new religion, there were calls to suppress it. On several reservations Indians who participated in or advocated Wovoka’s religion were imprisoned and/or beaten. In some instances, Indians who were suspected of being involved with the Ghost Dance were murdered by ad hoc militia groups.

In December, 1890, Army troops were sent to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to suppress the religion. The War Department issued a list of Indians who were to be arrested on sight. Their “crime” was simple: they had embraced a new religion, one which had not been approved by the United States government.  At Wounded Knee, the Army surrounded a group of starving, freezing, and unarmed Indians who were flying white flags from their staffs. Using Hotchkiss machine guns the soldiers managed to kill 40 men and 200 women and children. Chasing fleeing women and shooting them was sport to the soldiers and the bodies of some of the women were found four to five miles from the slaughter site. Twenty-three of the soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their heroic action against unarmed Indians.

In testimony before Congress, General E. D. Scott strongly stressed that there was nothing to apologize for and suggested that the Indians were under a strange religious hallucination.

In his evaluation of the events surrounding the “battle” at Wounded Knee, Sioux physician Charles Eastman wrote:  “I have tried to make it clear that there was no ‘Indian outbreak’ in 1890-1891, and that such trouble as we had may justly be charged to the dishonest politicians, who through unfit appointees first robbed the Indians, then bullied them, and finally in a panic called for troops to suppress them.”

 

Christian Missionaries in Oregon Country

The European invasion of the Oregon Country began in the late eighteenth century and intensified in the early nineteenth century. In 1818, the United States and the United Kingdom, ignoring any possibility of the sovereignty of Indian nations and relying on the legal concept of the Discovery Doctrine (stating that Christian nations have a right, if not an obligation, to rule over non-Christian nations), signed a treaty declaring Oregon Country to be a joint occupation area. Under this treaty, both the United States and the United Kingdom could claim land and both were guaranteed free navigation throughout.

Oregon Country was the American name for the region; the British called it the Columbia District. The area stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide; it was bounded in the north at Fort Simpson in what is now British Columbia; and in the south at what would now be the Oregon-California border. It encompassed the present-day states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; western Montana; and the Canadian province of British Columbia.

While the initial invasion of the Oregon Country was led by fur traders, the English Hudson’s Bay Company, the Canadian Nor’Westers, and the American Astorians, by the 1830s the missionaries began to arrive.

The first of the missionaries was Jason Lee who had been originally sent by the Methodist Missionary Board to establish a mission among the Flathead in western Montana. The Flathead had astonished the Christian world by sending expeditions to St. Louis asking for missionaries. The Flathead had learned about Christianity, and more importantly, about the power of the Black Robes (Jesuit priests) from Iroquois employed by the fur trade. They had come to St. Louis specifically seeking a Black Robe, but the Methodists had decided to reach the Flathead first and bring them the true Christian religion.

Jason Lee met with the Flathead and the Nez Perce at the Green River Rendezvous in Wyoming. He found the Indians deeply unsettling. He concluded that the Indians were slaves to Satan and to alcohol. Instead of establishing an Indian mission, he continued his journey west to Fort Vancouver, a Hudson’s Bay trading post. From here, he went to the Willamette Valley just north of present-day Salem, Oregon where he established a mission and a school in an area with relatively few Indians. There were, however, about a dozen Canadian settlers, former employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company, with Native American wives living in the area.

The Flathead’s request for a missionary was answered in 1840 with the Jesuit Pierre-Jean De Smet. In 1840, he was welcomed into a camp of Flathead and Pend d’Oreilles. De Smet envisioned a new Indian society similar to medieval Europe in which the Indians would become Catholic farmers subservient to the Church.

In Oregon, Methodist missionaries set up a mission and farm on the Clatsop Plains west of Fort Clatsop in 1840. The wife of an American settler in the area, Celiast Smith, was the daughter of Clatsop chief Coboway and was able to translate for the missionaries. Ideally, the missionaries wanted to be able to preach to the Indians in their own language, but they soon found learning the Chinookan languages such as Clatsop was beyond their abilities. The Chinookan languages include sounds which are difficult, if not impossible, for English-speaking adults to master. The missionaries, therefore, turned to Chinook Jargon, a pidgin language with a reduced vocabulary and no complexities of verb conjugation or noun declension. As a pidgin language, Chinook Jargon was designed to be learned by adults and to facilitate trade. It lacked vocabulary to translate spiritual concepts.

In 1840, Methodist missionaries Gustavus Hines and Jason Lee decided to visit the Umpqua in an attempt to bring Christianity to them. The Hudson’s Bay Company trader at Fort Umpqua, however, informed them of recent Indian attacks. He warned them not to visit the Umpqua villages. When the missionaries insisted, the trader and his Indian wife accompanied them. The trader later insisted that only the presence of his Indian wife kept them from being killed.

Like the Flathead in western Montana, the Coeur d’Alene in Idaho had heard about the powers of the Blackrobes from fur traders. In 1841, three Coeur d’Alene men traveled to western Montana to see the Jesuit missionary Father DeSmet. They asked him to send the Black Robes (Jesuits) to their people. The following year, the Jesuits sent Father Nicholas Point to establish a mission among the Coeur d’Alene. Jerry Camarillo Dunn, in his The Smithonian Guide to Historic America: The Rocky Mountain States, writes:  “The mission had some success, although Father Point himself was dismayed by what he saw as his flock’s dirtiness, idolatry, and ‘moral abandonment.’”

In the nineteenth century there were several competing kinds of Christianity. The Protestant missionaries in Oregon Country resented the presence of Catholic missionaries whom they regarded as atheistic papists. In 1841, the wife of a Protestant missionary among the Nez Perce complained:  “Romanism stalks abroad on our right hand and on our left and with daring effrontery boasts that she is to prevail and possess the land.”

Two years later, a Protestant missionary to the Nez Perce blamed his failure to convert Indians on the opposition of the Catholics.

In 1843, the Canadian missionary Father Bolduc established a mission among the Cowlitz in Washington. Bolduc wrote in his journal:  “One must develop a strong spirit here. It is important to be kind to the savages, to make them laugh now and then so as not to frighten them, and give them a favorable impression of religion. It is not necessary to show them the severe side at first, but in time and successively to introduce everything, or the end will not be accomplished.”  Bolduc also reported:  “Since being with the Cowlitz tribe, I have converted only a few. They are unwilling to submit.”

According to Balduc, polygyny, slavery, and gambling were obstacles to conversion to Christianity.

In 1843, Father Nicholas Point and the Jesuit brother Charles Huet established a mission on the St. Joe River in Idaho to serve the Coeur d’Alene. Father Point noted that the Coeur d’Alene were living in 27 villages around Lake Coeur d’Alene.

In 1845, the Jesuits under Father De Smet established a mission at Chewelah, Washington. The mission was called Saint Francis Regis and was intended to serve the Kalispel as well mixed blood trappers who were living in the area.

While the Flathead had asked for a Blackrobe (Jesuit priest), what they were actually seeking was the spiritual power to enable them to defeat their traditional enemies, the Blackfoot who controlled much of the buffalo hunting grounds on the Northern Plains. After five years of living with them, Father De Smet had gained little real understanding of Flathead culture. Feeling that he had been successful in converting the Flathead, he crossed the Rocky Mountains and attempted to convert the Blackfoot. When he returned to the mission among the Flathead he found them angry with him and openly challenging his Christianity. Many of his converts left the church.

In 1846, the United States and the United Kingdom negotiated the Oregon Treaty which divided the territory between the two countries. Oregon Country thus became Oregon Territory.

Marriage Among the Southern Plains Tribes

Marriage is an almost universal human institution. However, the concept of marriage varies greatly among different cultures. In some cultures, marriage is seen as a primarily economic institution; in some it is celebrated with a religious ceremony; some marriages are arranged by elders who take into account the needs of the society and the extended family.

The Southern Plains lie south of the Arkansas River valley. It includes Oklahoma, Arkansas, portions of Texas, the eastern foothills of New Mexico, and portions of Louisiana. This area included hunting and gathering tribes, such as the Comanche, the Kiowa, the Osage, and the Lipan Apache, and more agricultural tribes such as the Caddo.

As with tribes in other North American culture areas, there was no formal marriage ceremony among many of the Southern Plains tribes. In general marriage was seen as a social and economic institution rather than a religious institution. In some cases, the couple would simply live together and be recognized by others as a married couple. Among many of the tribes, such as the Plains Apache, marriage could be legitimized by the exchange of gifts between the two families.

While the Europeans tended to emphasize the sexual aspect of marriage, for the Indian nations of the Southern Plains there was no special concern regarding sex and marriage. There were no premarital restrictions on sexual intercourse.

Polygyny (the marriage of one man to several women) was common among many of the Southern Plains tribes. As a normal pattern, the second wife would be the sister of the first wife (a practice known as sororal polygyny). In general, there were two advantages to this form of polygyny. First, it was generally acknowledged that sisters don’t often fight and thus marriage to sisters helped reduce tension in the household. Second, marriage was an economic relationship and this meant that the husband would have economic obligations to only one other family.

The ideal Osage marriage was arranged by the families and it was considered preferable if the couple did not know each other prior to marriage. Individuals were not allowed to marry someone who belonged to one of their four grandparents’ clans. The marriage ceremony included an exchange of gifts between the two families. Polygyny tended to be sororal as the husband of the oldest daughter had marriage claims on the younger sisters.

Among most American Indian cultures, all adults were married. This meant that there needed to be mechanisms in place for re-marriage when a spouse died. Some of the tribes, such as the Lipan Apache, the Plains Apache, the Comanche, and the Kiowa, practiced the sororate. That is, if a man’s wife died, her family would provide him with one of her sisters as a wife. The “sister” could be a “cousin” as recognized by the European way of describing relatives.

Many of the tribes also practiced the levirate. When a man died, his widow would be married to his brother. Keep in mind, that in the kinship terminology of many of the tribes, some cousins would be considered the same as brothers. With this arrangement, the brother would assume the economic responsibilities of the widow and her children.

For non-Indians perhaps the most baffling form of Native American marriage was polyandry: the marriage of one woman to more than one man at the same time. This most often took the form of a man lending his wife to his brother. Among some groups, such as the Comanche, this was an anticipatory levirate. When a man died his wife would become the wife of his brother. Anticipating this practice, a man would allow his brother(s) to have sexual access to his wife. This was seen as symbolic of the brotherhood bond.

Renegade Indians

It has been common to describe American Indians as renegades, particularly when they wished to continue their traditional lifeways and refused to conform to Euro-American behavioral expectations. So where did the word “renegade” come from and how did it come to be used to describe American Indians?

“Renegade” came into English at the end of the sixteenth century from the Spanish “renegade” which entered Spanish from the Medieval Latin “renegātus,” the past participle of “renegāre” meaning “to deny.”

Like other European nations, the Spanish justified their legal right to invade and subdue Native American nations with the Discovery Doctrine which claimed that Christian nations have the right, and possibly the obligation, to rule all non-Christian nations. By 1513, Palacios Rubios, Spain’s master jurist, had drafted the “requirement” (“requerimento”) which recited the Christian version of the history of the world. Once this document had been read to Native Americans, they were required to accept the Christian fable as true and to submit themselves to the Catholic Church and the Spanish Crown. The document was, of course, read to them in either Spanish or Latin, and from a Spanish perspective it didn’t make any difference if they understood it or not: once the words had been read, conversion to Christianity was required.

There were some Indians, perhaps most, who did not convert and thus they were “renegades,” meaning that they denied the Christian history of the world. From the legal perspective of the time, a “just war” could then be waged against those who denied the Spanish Catholic view of the “truth.”

English-speaking people in the Americas, who also felt that the Discovery Doctrine gave them superior rights to rule, quickly adopted the Spanish concept and Anglicized the word to “renegade.”

The word “renegade” today is used to denote someone who has abandoned their own nation or belief system; one who has left a group or religion and has joined another which opposes it; someone who chooses to live outside of laws or conventions. The term “renegade” is often seen as being synonymous with “apostate” and “traitor.” With these definitions, use of the term “renegade” in referring to American Indians who refused to submit to Christianity or to foreign rule is not appropriate.

During the nineteenth century, the term “renegade” was applied to those Indians who refused to be imprisoned on the reservations and to those who continued to practice their “pagan” religions. Thus, the Apache chief Victorio and the Apache spiritual leader Geronimo were classified as “renegades” in the popular press of the time and later in western movies and academic histories. Neither of these men denied their own culture.

Hanging Indians in 1865

Since the creation of the United States there have been conflicts with American Indian nations. The United States has generally viewed the actions of Indian in defending their traditional homelands not only as acts of war, but also as crimes. Unlike other crimes, however, in which the focus is on justice which requires a due process of law (sometimes called a trial) and punishment of the guilty, American dealings with Indian “crimes” focused on retribution with no concern for due process of law or punishing the guilty. In the racist view of the United States all Indians were the same: therefore when hanging an Indian for an alleged crime, there was no concern about which Indian was actually hung. Often there was little concern regarding tribal affiliation: all Indians in the eyes of many Americans were the same and, as Indians, they had to be guilty of some crime.

In their 1865 “war” against the Plains Indians, most notably the Cheyenne and Sioux, the United States began a policy of publicly hanging Indians and leaving the bodies hanging until they rotted. It was felt that this would send a message about the great power and peaceful intentions of the United States.

In Colorado, the Cheyenne and Sioux attacked the small settlement of Julesburg hoping to lure the troops from Fort Rankin into a trap. The decoys were led by Big Crow, a chief of the Crooked Lance Society. The warriors smashed windows and doors. They raided the warehouse and the blacksmith shop where they liberated supplies, provisions, clothing, and harnesses.

The small force of mounted Indians—five Cheyenne and two Sioux—managed to lure the cavalry (37 men) into a trap. However, some of the younger warriors rode into the fight prematurely, allowing most of the cavalry to escape.

In the Julesburg area, the warriors also attacked a wagon load of Americans from the American Ranch. In another incident, Little Bear and Touching Cloud led a group of warriors against two discharged soldiers riding in a wagon. Afterwards, they found two scalps in a valise. The scalps belonged to White Leaf and Little Wolf/Coyote and had been taken at Sand Creek.

Following the Julesburg raid, most of the Cheyenne leaders favored further raids on the American settlements. However, Black Kettle opposed this plan and so his band, which numbered about 80 lodges, separated from the main tribe and returned to the Arkansas River.  He planned on joining with the Kiowa, Comanche, and Little Raven’s Southern Arapaho.

Following the Julesburg raid, the army captured Cheyenne chief Big Crow. The orders from the commanding general read:  “Take Big Crow to the place where soldier was killed yesterday, erect a high gallows, hang him in chains and leave the body suspended.”

Historian John McDermott, in his book Circle of Fire: the Indian War of 1865 reports:  “Big Crow was hanged with the ball and chain that had manacled him still attached to his leg, and it was not long before the body decayed sufficiently so that the weight of the ball pulled off the limb, and there the grisly remains stayed as a warning to others.”

There was no trial, no concern for the actual guilt of Big Crow. He was an Indian leader and was therefore hung as an example to other Indians.

In Wyoming, the army discovered a group of Sioux camped about 10 miles from Fort Laramie. With the Sioux was Lucinda Eubank and her small daughter. She and her daughter had been captured by the Cheyenne and then sold to Sioux Chief Two Face. She had been forced to work and to have sexual relations. In retaliation, the army ordered the hanging of two Sioux chiefs—Two Face and Black Foot—as an example to other Indians. According to Special Order No. 11:  “The execution will be conducted in a sober soldierly manner and the bodies will be left hanging as a warning to them. No citizens or soldiers will be permitted to visit or touch the dead bodies without permission from this headquarters or that of this post.”

Once again, there was no trial to determine guilt. While the executions of the two chiefs were intended to show the Indians that it would be fruitless to oppose the power of the United States, John McDermott reports:  “The death of the chiefs, however, did not seem to affect the depredations of the Sioux and Cheyennes. If anything, it may have inspired them to greater efforts.”

In summary, the United States did not hang Indians in the pursuit of justice, but instead did so as a show of raw power. It was an early form of shock and awe.  The crime of Indians was often that of being Indian.

Indian Rebellions at the California Missions

While it is not uncommon for some textbooks to give the impression that the California Native Americans passively accepted the missions, Spanish domination, and conversion to Christianity, this was not the case. In fact, the initial reception of the Franciscans by the California Indians was anything but hospitable. Resistance to the Spanish Franciscans was organized by village chiefs and influential shamans and this resistance was expressed through attacks on both the Spanish soldiers and the Franciscan missionaries. During the first years of the Franciscan mission program the overt hostility of the Indians slowed the rate of the establishment of the new missions and created a reliance on soldiers to protect the Franciscans.

By Spanish law the process of converting Indians into Christians was to take ten years and was to involve four stages: (1) misión (mission) which was to include initial contact and the explanation of the importance of God and the King, (2) reducción (reduction) which was to reduce the Indians’ territory by bringing them into a segregated community centered around a church, (3) doctrina (doctrine) in which the Indians would receive instructions on the finer points of Christianity, and (4) curato (curacy) in which the Indians would become tax-paying citizens.

In 1771, Spanish Franciscans founded the San Gabriel Mission in the Los Angeles basin. The new mission was given the name La Misión del Santo Príncipe El Arcángel, San Gabriel de Los Temblores. Shortly after the mission was established, it was attacked by Indians. The two attacks were triggered by the rape of a Kumi.vit woman by the soldiers who were assigned to protect the Franciscans. One chief was killed and the Spanish soldiers placed his head on a pole as an example to other Indians who might wish to rebel against Spanish authority.

In 1769, the Spanish Franciscans established La Misión San Diego de Alcalá in the homeland of the Kumeyaay Indians. In 1775, the Kumeyaay revolted, burned the mission and killed one of the priests.

Fearing reprisals from the nearby Spanish presidio, the attackers quickly fled into the interior, taking with them some booty in the form of clothing, trinkets, and religious icons. Spanish troops were called out to capture the ringleaders.

The Spanish priests blamed Satan for the uprising against the San Diego Mission. Father Francisco Palóu wrote:  “The enemy, [Satan] envious and resentful, no doubt because the heathen in that territory were being taken away from him, and because the missionaries, with their fervent zeal and apostolic labors, were steadily lessening his following, and little by little banishing heathenism from the neighborhood of the port of San Diego, found a means to put a stop to these spiritual conquests.”

From an Indian perspective, the rebellion against the oppression of the Spanish mission was the result of forced labor and the rape of several Kumeyaay women. The Indians viewed the Spanish priests as shamans and held them responsible for the disease and misfortune which was befalling them. Thus, the killing of the priest—an evil shaman in the eyes of the Indians—and the removal of sacred objects from the mission was a way of cleansing the land of the spiritual evil that was growing on it.

Spanish investigation revealed that at least fifteen villages took part in the rebellion, including several so-called Christian villages. Leaders of the insurrection were identified as Oroche of Macate, Francisco of Cullamac, Rafael of Janat, and Ysquitil of Abusquel.

In 1776, the Spanish Franciscans selected a number of Ohlone and Costanoan Indians to be flogged and threatened with execution. The action was intended to stop any resistance to their missionary activities.

In that same year, Indians attacked the San Luis Obispo Mission and set fire to the roofs of the buildings.

In 1785, Toypurina (Gabrielino) convinced Indians from six villages to participate in a revolt against the San Gabriel Mission. Toypurina was a medicine woman who was considered to have supernatural powers. At the attack on the Mission, she killed people with her magic, but the priests and soldiers had been warned and the insurgents were arrested. At her trial, Toypurina denounced the Spanish for trespassing on and destroying Indian lands. Another Indian leader, Nicolas Jose, spoke out against the Spanish prohibition of traditional Indian ceremonies. Most of the Indians were sentenced to 20 lashes and Toypurina was deported to the San Carlos Mission. The public flogging of the Indians involved in this revolt was a ritual designed to restore Spanish domination, a common practice throughout Spanish America.

The Mission Indians often rebelled against the Franciscan missionaries with their feet: they ran away from captivity. In 1795, over 200 Costanoan staged a mass escape from Mission Dolores and 280 Indian “converts” fled from the San Francisco Mission.  The following year, another 200 Indians fled from the San Francisco mission. In 1798, 138 Indian “converts” fled from the Santa Cruz Mission. In 1805, 200 Indian “converts” fled from the San Juan Bautista Mission.

In 1811, Nazario, a Mission Indian cook at the San Diego Mission, was subject to 124 lashes. He then poisoned one of the priests. Since the Indians often viewed the Franciscan missionaries as powerful shamans or witches, it was appropriate in Indian culture to poison them as this was the traditional Indian way of dealing with such people.

In 1812, a group of Indian converts at the Santa Cruz mission murdered a Franciscan missionary because of his plans to punish Indians with a cat-o’-nine-tails with barbed metal on the ends of the leather straps.

In 1824 the Chumash at the La Purísima Mission revolted against the ill treatment and forced labor imposed by the priests and soldiers. The revolt was sparked by the routine beating of an Indian at the Santa Ynez mission.

A force of 2,000 Indians captured La Purísima and were soon bolstered by Indians from Santa Ynez and San Fernando. For more than a month, the Indians who occupied the La Purísima and Santa Ynez missions were able to resist Spanish military attempts to restore order.

The news of the revolt soon reached Santa Barbara and the Indians attacked the soldiers, sacked the mission, and then retreated to the back country.

The Spanish recaptured the missions after four months. The four leaders of the revolt – Mariano, Pacomio, Benito, and Bernarde – were sentenced to 10 years of chain-gang labor.

Another factor in the revolt was the appearance of a twin-tailed comet in the night sky. According to traditional Chumash beliefs, such a sign foretells of great changes which are about to happen.

In 1828, Mission Indians, under the leadership of Yokuts chiefs Estanislao (Stanislaus) and Cipriano, revolted against the Mexicans in the San Joaquin Valley. Among those joining the revolt were refugees from the Santa Cruz, San José, and San Juan Bautista Missions. Estanislao established a fortified village which was ringed with deep trenches. The Indians were successful in repelling three counterattacks by the Mexican army.

In 1829, Mexican troops attacked Estanislao’s stronghold. After several hours of intense fighting, the Mexicans breached the stockade using canon fire. They then retreated for the night. In the morning, the Mexicans found the Indian camp deserted. Thinking that Estanislao and his rebels had fled to another stockaded village about 10 miles away, the Mexicans attacked the village. They set fire to the stockade and shot all who tried to escape. They found that Estanislao was not among the dead.

Estanislao secretly returned to the Mission San José and asked the priest for a pardon. The priest agreed that he could return to the mission if he promised never to raid again.

In 1830, Christian Indians under the leadership of Francisco Jímenez, the Indian alcalde of the Mission San José, attempted to capture some Indians who had run away from the mission and were living with the Ochejamne Miwok. The Miwok repelled the invaders. Jímenez then recruited the aid of some American trappers, including Kit Carson, who fought the Miwok for an entire day, killing many Indians, and burning the village. They took some captives back to the mission.

Later the Sierra Miwok captured about 60 horses from the American trappers. Kit Carson and others chased the Miwok for over 100 miles into the Sierras. They attacked the Miwok camp, killing eight and taking three children captive. They recaptured most of their horses.

In 1833, American fur trappers found a village of Spanish-speaking Chumash living near Walker Pass. This group of Indians were renegades who fled from the Spanish missions during the 1824 revolt. They were raising corn and had horses.

In 1834, the Mexican government secularized the California missions. Mission properties were sold or were given to soldiers who had fought against Spain in the revolution.

 

Hohokam Platform Mounts

About 2,000 years ago, in what has seemed to some people the inhospitable desert of Central Arizona, Indian people developed a farming culture which utilized extensive irrigation systems. As farmers they raised corn (maize), tepary beans, grain amaranth, agave, and little barley. This ancient culture, called Hohokam by archaeologists, is considered ancestral to the O’odham peoples.

Hohokam history is generally divided into two major periods: Preclassic (from about 200 to 1150 CE) and Classic (from about 1150 to 1450 CE). The Preclassic Period is characterized by clusters of small villages along the canal systems and the construction of ball courts.

Sometime after 1100 CE, the Hohokam ball courts seemed to be less important and the people began constructing platform mounds. These platform mounds took on greater importance and between 1250 and 1350 they grew dramatically in size. During this time, the platform mounds would be composed of thousands of cubic feet of fill. The construction of these mounds required community labor on a massive scale. Some archaeologists have calculated that construction of the larger mounds may have required 50,000 person-hours.

Most of the platform mounds—more than 120 have been identified—were constructed in the Phoenix Basin. The mounds were often built within an adobe compound and some of them are over 3.5 meters (12 feet) high. On top of the mounds there were as many as 30 rooms.

While the ball courts of the early period were open and seemed to encourage spectators, the platform mounds have limited access. This seems to suggest a major change in Hohokam social organization. Archaeologist Brian Fagan, in his book Elixer: A History of Water and Humankind, writes:  “It is as if Hohokam society became more hierarchical, with only a few individuals having access to the precincts within the enclosures.”

The construction of the platform mounds seems to suggest a change from a relatively egalitarian society to a more stratified society, a society in which an elite group was setting itself apart from other people. The platform mounds seem to be associated with elite activities.

The shift from ball courts to platform mounds suggests that there was a change in religion, in the nature of the Hohokam’s relationships with the supernatural. While the ball courts were built into the ground, the platform mounds seem to reach for the sky. Brian Fagan writes:  “It was as if a few members of society elevated themselves in both material and spiritual terms above everyone else, whereas in earlier times the relationship between the living and the ancestors, with the underworld where humans originated, had been more important. Now, perhaps, the close spiritual relationships were between a few individuals with unusual powers and the water deities of the supernatural realm.”

After 1400, many of the Hohokam towns were abandoned. This may be due to a combination of environmental factors (including the build-up of salt in the soil from irrigation) and civil warfare. According to Gregory Schaaf, the director of the Center for Indigenous Arts and Culture, in his book Ancient Ancestors of the Southwest:  “Pima oral history tradition describes how elite Hohokam leaders became oppressive and locals drove them back to the south, as part of a liberation movement.”

At the beginning of this decline, the population of the Phoenix basin is estimated at 40-50,000. During the next 200 years, it will drop to 5,000.

 

The Lame Cow War

In the 1840s a massive migration of non-Indians began in which long wagon trains would cross the Great Plains bringing new settlers into Utah, Oregon, and California. The people in the wagon trains were generally oblivious to the fact that they were trespassing on Indian land and using Indian resources. As they crossed the Plains, their oxen, cattle, and horses grazed on the grass, depleting the resources needed for Indian horses and for the bison on which Plains Indian lives depended. Many of the non-Indians viewed Indians as a part of the wildlife, like coyotes and wolves, destined to be exterminated before the relentless push of Manifest Destiny. The Indians, on the other hand, viewed the intruders as thieves stealing grass and game.

In 1845, Joel Palmer, who was leading a wagon train to Oregon, met with a group of about 100 Oglala Sioux at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. One Sioux leader, whose name was not recorded, told Palmer:  “This country belongs to the red man, but his white brethren travels through, shooting the game and scaring it away. Thus the Indian loses all that he depends upon to support his wife and children. The children of the red man cry out for food, but there is no food.”

Ignoring the fact that the Indians had just pointed out that wagons trains like his were stealing from the Indians, Palmer informed them that they were compelled to pass through Indian territory on their way to the coast.

In 1850, the U.S. Army at Fort Laramie tallied the wagon trains that passed through. They counted: 7,472 mules, 30,616 oxen, 22,742 horses, 8,998 wagons, and 5,270 cows. All of these animals were, of course, eating Indian grass for which the tribes were never reimbursed. With regard to the buffalo, generally regarded as a primary food source for Plains Indians, the hunters from the wagon trains would shot buffalo regularly, taking only the choice cuts of meat and leaving the rest for the wolves, coyotes, and buzzards. Unlike the Indians, they had no interest in preserving any meat for future use.

In 1854, a Mormon wagon-train was crossing Wyoming on its way to Utah when it abandoned a lame cow. When a hunting party of Sioux came across the cow on what they felt was their land, they killed it for food. Chief Pretty Voice Eagle explained it this way:  “They had with them a cow which was lame, and they left it. The Indians thought they had thrown it away, and killed it. We killed this cow not for subsistence but because it was lame and we felt sorry for it.”

When the Mormons complained about the killing of the cow, the Indians offered them a horse worth double the cow as a trade, but the Mormons refused and later filed a formal complaint with the army. A young army officer and 20 troops, described by Father De Smet as “armed to the teeth and with a cannon loaded with grapeshot,” were sent out to bring back the Indian responsible for killing the cow. According to Lakota Sioux writer Charles Eastman, in his book Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains: “It would seem that either the officer was under the influence of liquor, or else had a mind to bully the Indians, for he would accept neither explanation or payment, but demanded point-blank that the young men who had killed the cow be delivered up to summary punishment.”

The officer then fired his cannon into the Indians, killing chief Conquering Bear and a number of men. The Indians defended themselves and the army unit was annihilated. The non-Indian press declared that a state of war existed with the Sioux and called for reinforcements. The focus was not on justice, but on retaliation and punishment. Father DeSmet, the Belgian-born Jesuit who spent 32 years among the Indians and often aided the Americans in holding Indian councils, wrote that a lame cow was   “the origin of a fresh war of extermination upon the Indians which is to be carried out in the course of the present year.”

George W. Manypenny, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, felt that the whole incident could have been avoided if Indian funds had been used to pay for the cow. In his annual report, Manypenny noted:  “No officer of the military department was in my opinion authorized to arrest or try the Indian for the offense charged against him.”

Mannypenny, while the government official responsible for Indian Affairs, expressed no concern over the depletion of Indian resources nor did he suggest that Indians be compensated for these losses.