Horse-Mounted Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains

The Northern Plains include what is now North and South Dakota, Eastern Montana, northeastern Wyoming, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. For the Indian nations who called this region home, the single most important animal was the buffalo (technically bison, but commonly called buffalo). The buffalo provided them with food, clothing, shelter, and tools. For many of the Indian peoples, buffalo was “real food” and the meat from other animals was considered inferior.

Writing about the Blackfoot in his book The Blackfeet: Raiders on the Northwestern Plains, anthropologist John Ewers says:

“So long as there was buffalo available, these Indians needed no other meat.”

The buffalo provided the Blackfoot with more than 100 specific items of material culture.

Nineteenth century Indian trader Edwin Thomson Denig writes in Five Indian Tribes of the Upper Missouri: Sioux, Arickaras, Assiniboines, Crees, Crows of the Sioux use of the buffalo:

“Every part of this animal is eaten by the Indians except the horns, hoofs, and hair.”

In addition to providing food, the buffalo skin was used for clothing and for lodges, the sinews were used for bow strings, and the bones were made into tools.

While the popular image of Indians is that of the horse-mounted buffalo hunter, the horse as we know it today came to this continent with the Europeans. When the horse reached the Plains in the early 1700s, it dramatically changed the Indian ways of life.

After the acquisition of the horse, the buffalo could be hunted from horseback. The Blackfoot would use the straightway chase in which each hunter singled out an animal in the herd, rode along side of it, and killed it at close range. The hunter would then continue on to another animal. The weapons used for buffalo hunting included the bow and arrow and the lance. In hunting buffalo from horseback, the preferred weapon was the bow and arrow, even after firearms became common. The bow was preferred for two reasons: (1) it was difficult to reload a muzzle-loading gun at full gallop, and (2) the hunter could easily reclaim the animals by looking at and identifying their own arrows.

Writing about the Crow in the Handbook of North American Indians, anthropologist Fred Voget reports:

“A man’s average kill was four or five buffalo, but successful hunters might kill 15 buffalo in one hunt, identifying their kill by the marks on their arrows.”

With regard to the bow and arrow, Minette Johnson, writing about the Gros Ventre in her master’s thesis Return of the Native: Buffalo Restoration at the Fort Belknap Reservation, reports:

“The bow and arrow remained the weapons of choice because they could be shot accurately at high speeds and be reloaded easily. The hunters aimed their arrows behind the last rib-bone of the buffalo, so it would penetrate the lungs, killing even the largest of the bulls.”

Blackfoot chief Mountain Chief describes hunting buffalo with a bow and arrow:

“Sometimes when a hunter rode side by side with a buffalo, and shot the animal, the arrow would go clear through. The Indians were very proud and careful of their arrows. They did not wish to break them. That is the reason why they shot them on the side, so that when the buffalo fell the arrow would not be broken.”

With regard to the use of the lance by Cheyenne buffalo hunters, George Bird Grinnell, in his book The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Lifeways, writes:

“The rider usually ran up on the right side of the animal, and held the lance across his body, the right hand the higher. The buffalo was a little ahead of the horse, and the man, using both hands, thrust with his lance downward and forward.”

While the lance was most commonly used before iron-tipped arrows were common, it continued to be used until the end of buffalo hunting.

Among the Assiniboine, horse-mounted hunters supervised by the Soldiers’ Society and using bows and arrows would surround the buffalo herd. In an hour’s time, 80-100 hunters could kill 100-500 buffalo. The hunter who killed the animal claimed the hide and the choicest pieces of meat. All who aided in the butchering were entitled to a portion of the meat.

Buffalo hunting was generally a communal undertaking. A lone hunter could startle the herd and as a result little meat could be taken. Therefore, most of the tribes had one of the warrior societies supervise the hunters to make sure that no one hunted early. Blackfoot chief Mountain Chief describes what happened when a lone hunter would disobey the warrior society:

“When they got him, they broke his gun, his arrows and bow, broke his knife, cut his horse’s tail off, tore off his clothes, broke his saddle in pieces, tore his robe in pieces, cut his rope into small bits, also his whip. Then they sent him off afoot.”

The Indians of the Northern Plains used fire as a means of modifying the environment to support more buffalo as well as an aid in buffalo hunting. James Philp, in his University of Montana master’s thesis reports:

“It is more likely that Indians, including the Blackfeet, developed seasonal patterns of burning the prairies in association with bison herd movements because the hunter-gatherer economy of the semi-nomadic tribes was centrally focused and largely dependent upon bison and bison ecology.”

From time to time, Indian hunters encountered a white buffalo. For most of the tribes, the white buffalo is considered a powerful spiritual symbol. Among the Mandan, for example, a white buffalo hide was not only good medicine, it was also quite valuable. Among the Mandan, a white buffalo robe would bring 10-15 horses if traded. Historian E. Douglas Branch, in his book The Hunting of the Buffalo, reports:

“Three or four years after the purchase, piety demanded that the skin be offered to the dessication of wind and rain.”

With regard to the Cheyenne vision of the white buffalo, George Bird Grinnell writes:

“Some of them say that the white buffalo belongs far to the north; that it comes from the place where, according to tradition, the buffalo originally came out of the ground.”

If a hunter killed a white buffalo, it would be left where it fell and the hunter would immediately seek out the old man who had the spiritual power to perform the correct ceremony. The hide would then be ceremonially removed and tanned. The hide of the white buffalo was not used, but was given as a sacrificial offering.

A Short Overview of the Ute Indians

The state of Utah is named for the Ute Indians whose traditional territory extended from the southern Rocky Mountains in present-day Colorado, west to the Sevier River in Utah. Their traditional territory extended as far south as the upper San Juan River in present-day New Mexico and as far north as southern Wyoming.

While anthropologists generally classify the Utes as a Great Basin tribe, they were traditionally more of a mountain-dwelling tribe. Carl Waldman, in his book Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, writes:

“The forested slopes of the Rockies offered much more wildlife than the Basin floor and the Basin uplands. And the rivers flowing westward from the Great Divide provided plentiful fish for food.”

With regard to language, the Ute language is a part of the larger Uto-Aztecan language family and within this large language family it belongs to the Southern Numic sub-family which also includes Mohave, Paiute, Kawaiisu, and Chemehuevi.

The Ute were never a single unified tribe. There are several bands of the Ute:

(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,

(7) the Capote of the San Luis Valley and the upper Rio Grande, (8) the Sheberetch in the area of present-day Moab,

(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, and

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

Each Ute band had a well-defined territory, but their territorial claims were not exclusive. Attorney Parker Nielson, in his book The Dispossessed: Cultural Genocide of the Mixed Blood Utes, points out:

“Land was viewed as a gift of creation, to be shared in common, and was not an object of private possession.”

Presently, under the administration of the United States the Utes occupy three reservations:

Southern Ute Reservation: located near Ignacio, Colorado, this reservation includes the Mouache and Capote bands.

Ute Mountain Ute Reservation: this reservation includes land in Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

Uintah and Ouray Reservation: located near Fort Duchesne, Utah, this reservation is the home of the White River descendants.

The Horse

The domestic horse was brought to North America by the Spanish colonists in New Mexico. Following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the horse was traded to other tribes and brought many changes to Native cultures.

For the Ute, the adoption of the horse brought about many changes in their lifestyle. While their food preferences and their migrational patterns remained somewhat the same, with the horse they were able to cover more territory and to be more efficient in the use of the resources of their territory. Historian Richard Young, in his book The Ute Indians of Colorado in the Twentieth Century, reports:

“With increased mobility and the ability to transport food over greater distances, previously disperse family groups now concentrated in large band camps. Hunters ventured far out onto the plains and hunted buffalo much more frequently than in the past; food became more plentiful and hunger less of a concern.”

With the horse came an increase in intertribal conflicts. Richard Young writes of the Ute:

“During the seventeenth century, the previously peaceful Utes often waged war on their neighbors.”

One of the prime objectives of Ute warfare was to obtain horses as well as other loot. In addition, the Ute warriors would often capture Indian women and children who they could trade with the Spanish and other settlers for horses.

Trade

As with Indian nations in other culture areas, trade among the peoples of the Great Basin was well-developed long before the coming of the Europeans. In addition, there was also trade with Indian groups from other culture areas. Regarding the Ute, attorney Parker Nielson writes:

“They bartered with the desert tribes to the west, with the Navajo and Pueblo Indians to the south, and with the Plains Indians as far distant as the panhandle of present-day Texas and Oklahoma.”

The Ute would often trade deer and buffalo hides and meat with the Pueblos for corn and other agricultural products. They would also trade hides with the Spanish and other Europeans for horses, knives, and manufactured articles.

It was not uncommon for trade to revolve around human captives. The Ute, for example, would obtain Indian women and children from other tribes either through raids or through trade with other tribes. They would then trade them to the Spanish settlers for horses. Historian Richard Young writes:

“Hispanic settlers who purchased the captives in this illegal but popular form of trade would then either resell the captives or raise them in their own households.”

Political Organization

Among the Ute, as was typical of many gathering and hunting tribes, the primary political unit was the band. Loosely organized, the band leadership had only a limited, non-coercive authority. In other words, leaders led through their ability to persuade. Membership in Ute bands was easily changed. Historian Richard Young writes:

“Families were free to leave bands, and an individual’s band membership was easily changed.”

As with other Great Basin groups, band membership among the Ute was very fluid. Parker Nielson reports:

“Change of Ute band affiliation was a casual affair in which Utes freely intermarried with or adopted members of other bands and tribes.”

With regard to Ute social organization on a larger scale, anthropologist Bertha Dutton, in her book The Ranchería, Ute, and Southern Paiute Peoples: Indians of the American Southwest, reports:

“Defensive war and the social bear dance were the only activities requiring the cooperation of a tribal unit larger than the family.”

Ute villages generally had two chiefs: a chief spokesman and a civil chief. During times of war there might also be a war chief. As with the other Indian nations of the Great Basin, there were no ruling families and no hereditary titles. Status and prestige were based on individual accomplishments, not on family lineage. With regard to the process of selecting a new chief among the Ute of Colorado, historian Richard Young reports:

“The Weeminuche did not have a hereditary chieftaincy; rather, the chief was chosen for his personal character and abilities, often by his predecessor.”

While nineteenth-century non-Indian politicians seemed to believe that Indian nations were somehow lawless since they didn’t have formal police departments, jails, and courts, all Indian nations did have laws which were based on oral traditions.  Among the Southern Ute, for example, crimes such as stealing and murder were not seen as a concern of the band, but of the family. The primary methods of social control were gossip and ostracism.

Many Indians tribes, particularly the Great Plains tribes, had voluntary associations or warrior societies. These tended to be absent among the Great Basin tribes. The only association among the Southern Ute was the Dog Company that functioned as both a warfare training mechanism and as a young men’s elite. Not all young men joined the Dog Company, as often their families could not spare them. When the camp moved, the Dog Company acted as lookouts and lagged behind as a rear guard.

Frank White, Pawnee Prophet

In 1889, a Paiute prophet known as Wovoka in Nevada died during an eclipse and then returned to life with a message and dance for his people. The word of Wovoka’s vision quickly spread to other tribes and the religious movement known as the Ghost Dance began.

In 1890, Sitting Bull, a Northern Arapaho spiritual leader from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, brought the Ghost Dance to the tribes in Oklahoma, including the Comanche.

One of the visitors at an 1891 Comanche Ghost Dance in Oklahoma was Frank White. He sat on the north side of the dance area and ate a lot of peyote. When the Comanche asked him who he was, he said that he was Pawnee. Following the Comanche Ghost Dance, he attended a Ghost Dance among the Wichita. There he once again ate peyote, he watched the dance, and then he joined it.

While dancing, Frank White went into a trance where he saw the stream, the tree, the Messiah, and the village of the people. He saw the people dance, and in his trance he joined them and from them he learned Ghost Dance songs in Pawnee. The English words to the first song he learned are:

The place whence you come,

Now I am longing for.

The place whence you come,

Now I am ever mindful of.

When he woke from the trance he told the people what he had seen. In this way, Frank White became a prophet and the people felt that he had the same power as Sitting Bull, the Arapaho Ghost Dance leader.

When he returned home to the Pawnee he began to teach the doctrine and the songs of the Ghost Dance to the southern bands. He told the people:

“The kingdom is coming soon now, so the people must prepare. This that I have is called ghost dancing. You must stop working because when the kingdom comes you won’t take plows or things like that along. That’s not ours.”

The version of the Ghost Dance that Frank White gave to the Pawnees was not the same one Sitting Bull had given to the Caddos. In addition, the dance had a different focus than Ghost Dance advocated by the Paiute prophet Wovoka.

While White saw himself as a prophet as a new religious movement, he was also respectful of Pawnee culture. He met with the elders and discussed his vision. The elders accepted his vision and were satisfied with him in the role of Ghost Dance prophet.

Frank White, who was of the Kitkahaxki band, began holding regular Ghost Dances and members of the Skiri band were attending. At first, the songs included Arapaho and Wichita songs as well as the Pawnee songs he had learned in his trance. During the dances, people would have visions which explained other ceremonies which they should be doing. In this way, the Ghost Dance began to grow among the Pawnee.

The Ghost Dance doctrine among the Pawnee held that the dead could communicate with the living through the visions brought about during the dance. Hundreds of Pawnee gathered to dance the new dance so that they could see their deceased loved ones. Anthropologist Alice Beck Kehoe, in her book The Ghost Dance: Ethnohistory and Revitalization, reports:

“Then a truly marvelous thing happened: In the visions, people saw not only relatives but also the dead doctors and priests. These leaders instructed the visionaries in the performances of the rituals and healing arts and advised them to carry out the practices as best they could under the reservation circumstances.”

In addition to face painting, the Pawnee Ghost Dance included the use of feathers as hair ornaments. In the trance visions, people usually found themselves associated with either the eagle or the crow and thereafter they wore feathers to symbolize this vision.

At the beginning of each dance a woman would be chosen to bless the dance grounds. She would be seated at the door of White’s tipi with her face painted. For this one day she was holy. At the end of each day of dancing, the dancers moved to the center of the circle and then back out slowly shaking their blankets and shawls. In this way they cast off the burdens of the day.

The United States government became concerned about the growing popularity of the Ghost Dance movement and in 1891 the Indian agent wrote to Frank White and ordered him to cease holding Ghost Dances. In addition, White was ordered to return to the Kiowa or Wichita agency. In an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, Todd Leahy reports:

“White, however, chose not to leave his people or abandon the Ghost Dance. Moreover, he moved to widen the ceremony’s body of adherents, and in late December 1891 Delawares, Otoes, and Osages attended dances on the Pawnee reservation.”

In 1892 the government realized that the Pawnee were still doing the Ghost Dance and set out to stop it. The Indian agency clerk met with Frank White and told him that he was an impostor and that he was to leave the reservation and never return.  The following morning, over 200 Pawnee, painted with Ghost Dance colors, surrounded the agency and demanded a council. The agent told them that they were following a false Messiah and that the Ghost Dance would not be tolerated. In the words of the agent:

“I plainly told them that the dance could not be tolerated and would not be; that this government would last and assert her power, and that they should be obedient to the law and be good Indians, return to their homes and cultivate their farms and raise something to eat.”

Following the meeting, the Pawnee continued to gather in secret in order to Ghost Dance.

Fearing that the Ghost Dance would interfere with the government’s plan to break up the reservations into allotments, Frank White was arrested remanded to jail. The Pawnee decided to fight to get their prophet back and a party of armed warriors gathered at the railroad station to take him from the marshal. However, the agent sent a telegram and when the train arrived it was filled with soldiers. The Pawnee decide that there were too many soldiers and so the marshal left with White.

While Frank White was away, many Pawnee were persuaded to choose allotments. According to anthropologist Alexander Lesser, in his book The Pawnee Ghost Dance Hand Game: Ghost Dance Revival and Ethnic Identity:

“It must be remembered that in dividing up their land, and selling a good part of it, the Pawnee were doing something which was opposed to the faith and doctrine of the Ghost Dance.”

After several days in jail a writ of habeas corpus was issued. The judge gave White a lecture on the dangers of indulging in the Ghost Dance. He was then released and returned to the reservation.

While Frank White was in jail, William Hunt emerged as a new Ghost Dance leader. Hunt drastically altered the Ghost Dance.  Rather than dancing, Hunt offered a doctrine that included the laying on of hands. White was angered by the new development and demanded that Hunt be arrested and deported for practicing the Ghost Dance. The agent ignored the demand feeling that it was to his advantage to let the Ghost Dance leaders quarrel among themselves.

Among the Pawnee, Frank White was considered to be the sole authentic prophet of the Ghost Dance and its doctrine. Those who had visions reported them to him. White granted permission to use the vision, to wear feathers, to paint the face, and to put on a dance. For conferring these rights, White was usually given gifts.

Frank White did not live up to the ideals of conduct for a spiritual leader among the Pawnee.  He used peyote – which the Pawnee felt made him wise – but he drank whiskey at the same time. According to one of his contemporaries:

“Whiskey and peyote do not mix, they cannot go together. That’s what killed him.”

He died in 1893, but the Ghost Dance that he brought to the Pawnee continued to live.

Dr Susan LaFlesche, Omaha Physician

Susan LaFlesche was the first American Indian woman to become a doctor and to practice Western-style medicine among her own people. She became a doctor at a time when there were only a handful of other Indian doctors trained in western medicine—Charles Eastman and Carlos Montezuma. In addition, it was highly unusual at this time for a woman to become a doctor.

Susan LaFlesche was born on the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska in 1865. Her father was Joseph LaFlesche who had become the principal chief of the Omaha in 1854. Her father was what the Americans called “progressive” as he favored adopting American ways. He refused to allow his four daughters to be tattooed in the Omaha fashion as he wanted them to be able to freely mingle in Euro-American society. He also encouraged the Omaha to build houses in the American style and consequently she grew up in a frame house on a plot of land which was in her father’s name. In his biography of her in Notable Native Americans, Charles Cannon writes:

“Her family was Christian, influential, and respected, and emphasized the importance of education.”

One aspect of American society which Joseph LaFlesche opposed was alcohol. In 1856 he established an Indian police force for the purpose of eliminating alcohol on the reservation.

Joseph LaFlesche was the son of a French fur trader and a Ponca woman. When he married an Omaha woman he was formally adopted into the Omaha Elk clan and was thus considered to be Omaha.

Susan grew up speaking both Omaha and English. One of her brothers, Francis, became an ethnologist with the Bureau of American Ethnography; one sister, Susette, became an outspoken and well-known Indian rights activist; and another sister, Marguerite, became an educator.

Susan’s formal education began in the Presbyterian Mission School on the Omaha Reservation. In 1879, Susan and her sister Marguerite entered the Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

She returned to the Omaha Reservation in 1882 and worked at the mission school. Among her duties was some of the younger students.

In 1884, Susan and Marguerite enrolled in the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Hampton, Virginia. Hampton had been established for the education of free slaves and welcomed Indian students. Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the founder of the Hampton Institute, wrote about educating Indian children:

“Savages have good memories; they acquire but do not comprehend; they devour but do not digest knowledge. They have no conception of mental discipline.”

She graduated from Hampton in 1886 and was the salutatorian at the graduation ceremony. She advocated the assimilation of Indians into Euro-American culture:

“We have to prepare our people to live in the white man’s way, to use the white man’s books, and to use his laws if you will only give them to us.”

Susan had always wanted to become a doctor and her teachers encouraged her to go on to medical school. However, the cost of medical school was a significant barrier. The Connecticut Indian Association agreed to pay for most of her education and they persuaded the Indian Office (as the Bureau of Indian Affairs was then called) to continue to provide some support.

The Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia admitted Susan as a beneficiary student. It was unusual for women at this time, let alone Indian women, to enroll in medical school. Medical education was strictly segregated by gender. Charles Cannon reports:

“When not busy studying, she exhibited her community-oriented nature by speaking to church groups and visiting the Lincoln School for Indian children near Philadelphia.”

Susan graduated in 1889 at the head of a class of 36 women. She returned to Nebraska as the physician at the government boarding school. She was soon seeing adults as well as children as she spoke their language. When the government physician left, she was placed in charge of the health care for the 1,244 tribal members. In his book Who Was Who in Native American History: Indians and Non-Indians From Early Contacts Through 1900, Carl Waldman reports

“…La Flesche served as the reservation doctor for the Omahas, seeing hundreds of patients and helping stem influenza, dysentery, cholera, conjunctivitis, typhoid, and tuberculosis, all chronic to the reservation.”

In 1891, influenza struck the reservation. Traveling throughout the rural area of the reservation, she treated 114 patients in a single month. Travel from house to house was generally by horse and buggy and often over rough terrain. If the patient was only a mile or two away, she would often walk.

In 1893, she resigned from her position as the government physician to the reservation. Her health had declined to the point where she felt she could no longer do the work required. The following year she became engaged to Henry Picotte (Sioux), the brother of her sister Maguerite’s late husband.

Like her father, she was concerned about the impact of alcohol on the Omaha people. Like many women of this time—both Indian and non-Indian—she became involved with the temperance movement. She wrote:

“Men and women died from alcoholism, and little children were seen reeling on the streets of the town. Drunken brawls in which men were killed occurred and no person’s life was considered safe.”

Her concern for alcohol became much more personal as her husband’s drinking increased. In 1905 her husband died from complications from drinking. She was left as the sole support of an invalid mother and two small children.

The following year, she purchased a house lot in the newly formed town of Walthill, an alcohol-free area, and built a modern home. She moved into this home with her two children and her mother.

Even though she was no longer the government physician for the reservation, she continued to help the people with her medical skills. She was one of the organizers of the Thurston County Medical Association and advocated for a hospital in Walthill. The hospital became a reality in 1913 and was opened for the treatment of both Indian and non-Indian patients.

Susan LaFlesche Picotte died in 1915 at the age of 50. The hospital which she helped to create was renamed in her honor. Charles Cannon writes:

“She was a symbol for many marginalized groups who sought empowerment in the nineteenth century. She was a shining light not only for the Indian rights movement, but for the women’s movement as well. She was ahead of her time as a Native American activist because she was among the earliest Indian leaders to look beyond the interests of her own tribe and address the broad issues facing Native Americans in general.”

Indian Tribes of the Great Basin Culture Area

The Great Basin Culture Area 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 southern Oregon and Idaho, a small portion of southwestern Montana, western Wyoming, eastern California, all of Nevada and Utah, a portion of northern Arizona, and most of western Colorado. This is an area which is characterized by low rainfall and extremes of temperature. The valleys in the area are 3,000 to 6,000 feet in altitude and are separated by mountain ranges running north and south that are 8,000 to 12,000 feet in elevation. The rivers in this region do not flow into the ocean, but simply disappear into the sand.

With regard to Great Basin ecology, Christopher Chase-Dunn and Helly Mann, in their book The Wintu and Their Neighbors: A Very Small World-System in Northern California, report:

“It is an ecologically sparse environment punctuated by small areas where water, game, and plant life are abundant.”

In her book Indians of the Plateau and Great Basin, Victoria Sherrow reports:

“Summers in a Basin desert can be fiercely hot, the winters bitterly cold. The land is unfavorable for farming and contains little game for food.”

This is an area which seems inhospitable to human habitation, yet Indian people have lived here for thousands of years. This was the last part of the United States to be explored and settled by the European-Americans. In writing about the early Indian settlement of the Great Basin, archaeologist Jesse Jennings, in his book Prehistory of Utah and the Eastern Great Basin, notes:

“Effective human exploitation of the American Desert West requires rather intimate knowledge of a fairly large territory of several hundred square miles, a territory probably encompassing the full range of desert biomes or ecologic communities.”

Language

Linguistically all of the Indian people of the Great Basin, with the exception of the Washo, spoke languages which belong to the Numic division of the Uto-Aztecan language family. 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.

Tribes

The basic tribes of the Great Basin Culture Area include Bannock, Gosiute, Mono, Northern Paiute, Panamint, Shoshone, Southern Paiute, Washo, and Ute.

The Ute were never a single unified tribe. There are several bands of the Ute:

(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,

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

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

(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, and

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

The Shoshone are often divided into four general groups: (1) the Western Shoshone who lived in central Nevada, northeastern Nevada, and Utah, (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, and (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).

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. Some Plains groups also referred to them as the “Snakes” or “Snake People”. This term comes from the sign which the people used for themselves in hand sign languages. Drusilla Gould and Christopher Loether, in their book An Introduction to the Shoshoni Language: Dammen Daigwape, write:

“The hand motion made for the sign represents a snake to most signers, but among the Shoshoni it referred to the salmon, an unknown fish on the Great Plains.”

The Shoshone often refer to themselves as newe.

The Bannock, who call themselves Bana’kwut (“Water People”), were called Buffalo Eaters and Honey Eaters by other tribes.

At one time, the Bannock lived in the desert areas of southeastern Oregon. They later migrated into the Snake and Lemhi River valleys where they came in contact with the Shoshone. The two groups shared many cultural elements and their languages are related. In his book The Shoshone-Bannocks: Culture and Commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940, Historian John Heaton writes:

“Shoshones spoke Central Numic, whereas Bannocks, who began to intermarry with Shoshones in Idaho in the early eighteenth century, spoke Western Numic.”

With intermarriage, many became bilingual. Today the term Sho-Ban is used to refer to the two tribes.

Bannock culture tended to emphasize war more than Shoshone culture. With regard to the merger of the Shoshone and Bannock, historian John Heaton writes:

“Bannock warriors generally emerged as the most influential leaders of the equestrian Shoshone-Bannock bands.”

The traditional homeland of the Gosiute was south and west of Great Salt Lake. They lived in the Tooele, Rush, and Skull valleys. In his book Basin-Plateau Aboriginal Sociopolitical Groups, Julian Steward feels that the Gosiute are linguistically and culturally Shoshone.

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.

Migrations

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. Linguistic data seems to suggest that these groups began their migrations from this area into other parts of the Great Basin about 1,000 to 1,500 years ago. In an article in the Utah Historical Quarterly, Catherine and Don Fowler report:

“Archaeological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Numic-speaking peoples spread across the Great Basin sometime after A.D. 1000, displacing or replacing the earlier carriers of the Fremont and Virgin Branch Anasazi cultures in Utah, eastern Nevada, and Northern Arizona.”

In an article in American Antiquity, Angus Quinlan and Alanah Woody report:

“Indications of a late Numic spread into the western Basin can be found in some Numic oral traditions, though other oral histories insist that Numic groups have occupied the Great Basin from the beginning of time.”

One Northern Paiute oral history tells of driving off an earlier group in western Nevada. A Southern Paiute oral tradition tells of an earlier group identified as the “Mukwic” who were responsible for the pictographs in the area.

Buffalo Hunting Among Northern Plains Indians Prior to the Horse

For thousands of years, the Indian nations of the Northern Plains relied upon the buffalo—technically bison, but commonly called buffalo—for food, for clothing, for shelter, and for tools. Before the coming of the horse, buffalo were hunted using either a buffalo jump or a corral.

The corral or impound method involved building a timber corral and enticing the buffalo into it so that they could be killed. Archaeologist Arrow Coyote, in his master’s thesis of the University of Montana reports:

“The corral structure can be made of fences of logs, brush, or piled snow. The idea is to construct the pound carefully to look solid so that bison cannot see ‘daylight’ and try to burst through the fences.”

Enticing the buffalo into the corral was not an easy task, nor was it always successful. It was not uncommon to bring the buffalo into the corral from several miles away.

The Plains Cree were among the most proficient users of the impound method. The Plains Cree used the impound for their winter buffalo hunt. According to anthropologist David Mandelbaum, in his book The Plains Cree: An Ethnographic, Historical, and Comparative Study:

“A pound had to be built under the supervision of a shaman who had been given the power to do so by a spirit helper. Each pound could only be used through one winter; the following year a new one had to be built.”

To make the impound, a thicket was first selected and an area 30-40 feet in diameter was cleared. A wall about 10-15 feet high was then constructed around the clearing. The entrance to the impound was placed to the east and two sturdy trees located about 20 feet apart were used as the entrance gates. A log was then lashed between the two trees at the height of the wall and a ramp constructed from the ground to this log.

At an oblique angle to the entrance of the impound, a chute was built to guide the buffalo. The chute was about 100 yards out and made a sharp turn right before the entrance. With the sharp turn, the buffalo herd would not see the corral until it was too late to stop.

To bring the buffalo into the chute leading to the impound, the hunters would locate a herd and then begin driving it toward the chute by slapping their folded robes against the ground or the snow. The herd would move away from the noise and then settle down to graze again. The men would repeat the action, moving the herd toward the chute. When the herd got close to the entrance of the chute, a single horseman, using a fast horse, would ride out and guide the herd into the chute.

Once inside the impound, the buffalo would mill about in a clockwise fashion and would be shot with arrows. Before butchering the dead animals, the medicine man would sing a song to the spirits. The camp crier would apportion the buffalo, usually giving the fattest carcasses to the men who had helped build the corral. Anthropologist David Mandelbaum writes:

“All who were encamped in the vicinity of a pound were privileged to share in its yield, regardless of whether they had helped build it or whether they belonged to the band that had constructed it.”

The buffalo jump involved luring the buffalo over high precipices along river valleys. To lure the herd to the jump site, a young man, disguised with buffalo horns and robe, would decoy the herd. Grace Flandreau, in her book The Lewis and Clark Expedition, writes:

“The job of decoy, given to the bravest and fleetest of the young men, seems to have been a questionable privilege, his escape from destruction depending entirely on whether he could run faster than the buffalo, and find a foothold under the cliff.”

The animals were usually killed or disabled in the fall. Crow warrior White-Man-Runs-Him describes the buffalo jump this way:

“When we got the buffalo up near the edge of the precipice we would all wave our blankets and buffalo robes and frighten the buffalo and they would run off the steep place, falling into the valley below, one on top of another.”

Buffalo were often hunted in the winter as the large animals could not run fast in the snow. The hunters, wearing snowshoes, could easily approach them at this time. To carry the meat back to camp, sleds were often made from buffalo ribs and hickory saplings.

 

A Brief Overview of the Illinois Indians

Today, the Illinois Indians are known primarily as the Indian nation whose name is used for both a state and a river. Their aboriginal territory was extensive and was situated south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi River. The southern border of their territory was on the Ohio River and the northern border in southern Wisconsin. Anthropologists today sometimes refer to the Illinois as Woodland Algonquians or as Prairie Algonquians.

The Illinois (or Illini) were a confederacy of Algonquian-speaking groups which included the Kaskaskia, Maroa, Tamaroa, Tapouaro, Coiracoentanon, Moingwena, Espeminkia, Chinkoa, Chepoussa, Kahoki (Cahokia), Michigami (Michigamae), Wea, Piankashaw, Peoria, Mascouten, and Miami. According to sociologist Russell Thornton in his book American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492:

“In aggregate, they were one of the largest American Indian groups in the Central United States area at the time of the first European contacts.”

Thornton estimates their population in 1670 at 10,500. These tribes, however, were not politically organized like the Iroquois Confederacy.

With regard to language, the Illinois dialects belong to the large Algonquian language family and more specifically to the Central Algonquian sub-family which includes Shawnee, Sauk, Fox, Kickapoo, Menominee, Potawatomi, Ojibwa, Cree, Montegnais, and Naskapi.

With regard to settlements, Carl Waldman, in his Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, reports:

“They had villages in the wooded river valleys where there was a good supply of drinking water and shelter from the wind and sun. And, in the forests, there abound abundant materials for making things: plenty of wood and bark for shaping houses, boats, tools, and weapons; and for fuel to keep warm in the bitter winters.”

John White, in his entry on the Illinois in the Encyclopedia of North American Indians, reports:

“Their villages were quite large and were located along major rivers, where the people could utilize their large dugout canoes (misuri is the Illinois word for ‘canoe’).”

Among the Algonquian-speaking people of this area, farming was of secondary economic importance (hunting and gathering were of greater importance) and contributed less than half of their food. As with the other Indian farmers of the Northeast, they raised corn, beans, tobacco, and squash. The reduced importance of agriculture was due largely to climatic conditions. Throughout much of the region, the 140 growing-day season made agriculture a risky endeavor. A later spring or an early fall meant that crop failures were a constant possibility. There are, however, microclimates along the Great Lakes which offer more suitable conditions for agriculture and offer a slightly longer growing period.

The Illinois women would plant corn about the first of May and then harvest their first crop at the end of July. There was usually a second harvest in August. In addition to corn, the Illinois also planted beans, squash, and watermelons.

Hunting was an important economic activity and hunting territories were allocated to specific families. While these families did not own the land in the European sense of land ownership, they did have the exclusive hunting rights for a specific area. Game taken by a hunter was generally shared freely among all in the camp or village, including strangers. The purpose of hunting was to feed the people, not just the hunter and the hunter’s immediate family.

Deer and moose were important food sources. Deer was sometimes hunted by a group of hunters using dogs to drive the deer into a V formed by chopped down trees. Sometimes deer were hunted at night when they came to the stream or lake for water. In hunting at night a jacklight was used: this was a torch on a platform in the front of a canoe. The light would cause the deer to pause, momentarily attracted to the light.

In June, after the corn had been hilled, the Illinois would leave their villages for a communal buffalo hunt that would last for six weeks. Young men would surround the buffalo herd on foot and then drive the animals into an ambush. Carl Waldman reports:

“A proven method was to surround a herd with a ring of fire, then, while the animals were trapped, pick them off with bows and arrows.”

Among the Illinois, a man could not marry until he had proven his hunting ability. In addition, he had to accompany several war parties before marriage.

Among the Illinois, boys who showed a preference for implements used by women would be dressed as girls. As adults, these berdaches or Two-Spirits would imitate women in every respect. The berdaches were also respected at major rituals where their advice was highly valued. In war, the berdache would use a club rather than a bow and arrow.

Among the Algonquian people, warfare consisted of raids carried out by relatively small raiding parties. There were two primary reasons for these raids: (1) to avenge a slain member of the tribe, and (2) to gain personal war honors. Warfare tended to be seasonal (war parties did not usually go out during the late fall, winter, and early spring as these were prime hunting times) and carried out at a leisurely pace. The battles were usually very short.

Among the Illinois, warfare was generally against tribes living west of the Mississippi and war parties tended to be small. Charles Callender, in his entry on the Illinois in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports:

“Each raid was led by a recognized war leader, who invited his followers to a good feast before leaving the village at night. A successful raid was carried out without loses.”

If a member of the war party was killed, the leader would have to compensate the family for the death and then lead another raid to avenge the death. A war leader’s career would usually be ended if there were two unsuccessful war parties.

Among the Illinois, as among other Algonquian-speaking tribes, visions were of great importance as visions provide individuals with the guardian spirit or tutelary spirit who will guide them for the rest of their lives. One of the important roles of the guardian or tutelary spirit was to provide cooperation in hunting. Hunting dreams came to both men and women. This spirit can also provide the individual with the ability to make prophesies and/or the power to cure.

As with many other tribes, children would undertake a vision quest in the transition into adulthood. For boys, this would be in the early teen years. An Illinois girl would undertake her vision quest at the onset of menstruation and she would fast to receive a vision which would give her well-being.

Women Warriors Among Northern Plains Indians

The popular media and sometimes history book view of the Northern Plains Indians of the nineteenth century envisions a male warrior, mounted on a horse, wearing a long war bonnet. There are many things wrong with this stereotype, but what is usually missing from the non-Indian descriptions of Northern Plains Indian warfare is the fact that women were often warriors.

During the nineteenth century, most of the non-Indians who observed Indian war parties were blind to the women warriors who rode with them. They simply assumed that any women in the group were there simply to cook and provide sex. The idea that a woman could be a warrior was totally alien to them. They failed to understand that women sometimes rode into battle with their husbands.

The American attitude regarding women, including Indian women, can be seen in 1877 when an American delegation went to Saskatchewan, Canada, to meet with Sioux refugees under the leadership of Sitting Bull. When The One that Speaks Once, the wife of Bear that Scatters, addressed the council, the Americans were insulted and offended by allowing a woman to speak to them in council. As had happened in other councils where women spoke, the Americans left the council and refused to participate with them.

Listed below are a few examples of well-known nineteenth century women warriors on the Northern Plains.

Fallen Leaf

While Fallen Leaf (often called Woman Chief by the Americans) was a Crow warrior, she was actually born to the Gros Ventre nation and was captured by the Crow when she was 12. As a girl, her Crow foster parents allowed her to use the bow and arrow and to guard the horses. Later she learned to shoot a rifle and went on hunts with the men. With regard to her buffalo hunting prowess, Edwin Thompson Denig, writing in 1856 in his Of the Crow Nation, says Fallen Leaf

“could kill four or five buffalo at a race, cut up the animals without assistance, and bring the meat and hides home.”

She counted coup the first time when the Blackfoot attacked her camp. She mounted her horse and rode out to meet them. She shot down one Blackfoot warrior with her gun and shot arrows into two more. Denig writes:

“This daring act stamped her character as a brave. It was sung by the rest of the camp, and in time was made known to the rest of the nation.”

A year later, she led her first war party against the Blackfoot, capturing 70 horses, killing two men including a chief, and taking the gun from a Blackfoot warrior.

After she had counted coup four times in the prescribed Crow tradition, she was considered a chief and sat in the council of chiefs. In addition to being a war leader, she was also a good hunter and had four wives.

Running Eagle

Running Eagle became a Blackfoot (Piegan) warrior after her husband was killed by the Crow. To avenge her husband’s death, she sought help from the Sun and was told

“I will give you great power in war, but if you have intercourse with another man, you will be killed.”

After this she became a very respected war leader and led many successful raids on the large Flathead horse herds west of the Rocky Mountains. It was on a raid in Flathead country when she was killed. She had had sexual relations with one of the men in her war party and for this reason lost her war power.

Tashenamani 

Tashenamani (also calledMoving Robe; She Walks With Her Shawl) was a Hunkpapa Lakota woman who, along with thousands of other Sioux and Lakota, was camped at the Greasy Grass (also known as the Little Big Horn) in July of 1876. When Lt. Col. Custer’s Seventh Cavalry attacked the camp, Tashenamani seized her brother’s war staff and led the counterattack against the attacking cavalry. The warrior Rain-in-the-Face, recalling this attack, said:

“Always when there is a woman in the charge, it causes the warriors to vie with one another in displaying their valor.”

She rode into battle with her face painted crimson as a woman in mourning to avenge the death of her brother One Hawk who had been killed at the beginning of the attack. During the battle she killed at least one soldier: a black interpreter. When he asked her not to kill him, she replied:

“If you did not want to be killed, why did you not stay home where you belong and not come to attack us?”

Tasheamani was the daughter of Crawler and her fight at the Greasy Grass was not her first battle. Several years earlier, when she was 17 years old, she had been a part of a war party against the Crow.

Buffalo Calf Robe:

At the battle of the Rosebud in 1876, American soldiers and their Crow and Shoshone allies attacked a Sioux and Cheyenne camp. The Shoshone and Crow shot the horse of Cheyenne Chief Comes in Sight out from under him. As they were closing in to finish him off, Buffalo Calf Robe (aka Calf Trail Woman), the sister of Comes in Sight, rode into the middle of the warriors and saved the life of her brother. Buffalo Calf Robe had ridden into battle that day next to her husband Black Coyote. The Cheyenne remember this as the most important war honor of the day.

Ehyophsta 

As a Cheyenne warrior, Ehyophsta (Yellow-head Woman) played a prominent part in an 1868 battle with the Shoshone in which she counted coup on one Shoshone warrior and killed another.

A Brief Overview of the Assiniboine Indians

Like most of the Indian nations that are currently associated with the Northern Great Plains, the Assiniboine migrated out on the Plains after the European invasion and its fur trade began pushing Native peoples to the west. The Assiniboine spoke a Siouan language and at one time they had been a part of the Yanktonai Sioux living in the Lake Superior region of present-day northern Minnesota and southwestern Ontario. The Assiniboine split over from the Yanktonai in the 1600s and began their migration west. During the eighteenth century, their migrations brought them into the Northern Plains of Alberta and Montana.

The Northern Plains tribes depended on hunting and gathering for their subsistence. Their annual round was not random nomadism. The bands had to understand the location of the food resources and to time their travels so that they would arrive in specific locations at a time when these resources were available.

The most important game animal on the Northern Plains was the buffalo. In his book Land of the Nakoda: The Story of the Assiniboine Indians, James Long writes:

“To the Assiniboine, the buffalo was more than an animal. It was the staff of life. No other animal gave so much to the people as that great shaggy creature.”

Among the Assiniboine, horse-mounted hunters supervised by the Soldiers’ Society and using bows and arrows would surround the buffalo herd. In an hour’s time, 80-100 hunters could kill 100-500 buffalo. The hunter who killed the animal claimed the hide and the choicest pieces of meat. All who aided in the butchering were entitled to a portion of the meat.

For housing, the Assiniboine used a three-pole tipi (lodge) which averaged about 31 feet in circumference and required 12 hides for a cover. Assiniboine lodges always faced south. The lodges were owned by the women and were set up by them. The tipi was occupied by a nuclear family along with some other relatives, such as a widowed grandmother. Sometimes the Assiniboine lodges were painted with pictures of the war honors of the man who lived there.

The Assiniboine used chokecherry, ash, and scrub oak for their bows. The length of the bow varied and was designed to suit its user. James Long reports:

“On some bows a sharpened prong, made from the horn of an elk, was attached to one end. These were used in battle as bayonets after a warrior had shot away all his arrows.”

Prior to the horse, each Assiniboine family had to have six to twelve dogs, each capable of carrying up to fifty pounds. The dogs were named by the women. James Long reports:

“They spoke to them like persons, either scolded them or praised them whenever the dogs deserved it.”

Among the Assiniboine, a young man would not seek marriage until he had participated in a war party, and ideally not until he had counted coup. A marriage proposal was accompanied by gifts to the bride’s family. If the proposal was accepted, then the woman would simply go to live with the man at his village.

With regard to polygyny, Dennis Smith, in his history of the Fort Peck Assiniboines in The History of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, 1800-2000,reports:

“A husband wishing other wives often asked permission from his wife’s family to marry one of her younger sisters.”

Among the Assiniboine, families tended to be small: usually only one to three children. Children were generally spaced five to seven years apart. Children would generally continue to breastfeed until about their fourth year. Like other Plains tribes, the Assiniboine did not whip or handle their children roughly.

In general, children were instructed by example, usually by adults of their own gender. Grandparents were often important teachers. Dennis Smith writes:

“Like most Native tribes, Assiniboines instructed primarily in a nurturing and positive environment, in which children were praised for successful accomplishments.”

Assiniboine babies received a name about 3-4 weeks after birth. The name would usually be given by a successful warrior or a holy man. Raymond DeMallie and David Reed Miller, in their entry on the Assiniboine in the Handbook of North American Indians, report:

“Girls’ names were generally kept throughout life, but young men frequently received new names in recognition of their first brave deed.”

The name of a deceased grandfather or other male relative might be given to a warrior who had counted coup many times.

Assiniboine girls were tattooed when they were about 12 years of age. Women’s tattoos were considered to be decorative and included a round spot on the forehead, transverse lines on the cheeks, lines from the mouth to the chin, and rings around the wrists and upper arms. Assiniboine men were tattooed only after having counted coup in battle. Men’s tattoos tended to be elaborate, covering the chest and arms.

In most of the Plains tribes, divorce was easy. A man might simply pick up his things and leave, or his wife might tell him to leave. For the Assiniboine, James Long reports:

“Marriages were dissolved merely by living apart.”

Concerning Assiniboine divorce, Dennis Smith writes:

“Divorce was an accepted practice, and usually older children remained with the husband, and the younger ones returned with the mother to her family.”

The primary political unit among the Assiniboine was the band and there was no political structure which tied the bands together into a tribe. Among the Assiniboine, the chief (huká) was selected by merit rather than heredity. James Long writes:

“A chief’s son was not always the next chief. A person who had made a name for himself in warfare, hunting, and kindness to the poor, was often made next chief.”

James Long summarizes the qualifications for being a chief:

“The requirements were that a chief-to-be must have a good war record, be a successful hunter, possessor of many horses for domestic use, and horses for use as buffalo runners.”

Raymond DeMallie and David Reed Miller report:

“Because generosity was an important qualification for leaders, wealth was a prerequisite for chieftainship.”

As with other Plains groups, the Assiniboine chief acted as the leading member of the band council and had no authority to compel anyone to do anything. The council was composed of men who had achieved success in war or in hunting.

The Assiniboine Soldiers’ Society was composed of warriors appointed by the band council. According to Raymond DeMallie and David Reed Miller:

“The function of the soldiers was to serve as police, maintaining order within the camp and supervising hunts and camp moves.”

In addition to the Soldiers’ Society, the Assiniboine also had a number of men’s societies which were closely associated with war and which also had spiritual or sacred significance. The No Flight Society had two lances which they carried into battle. These would be thrust into the ground and the society’s members would not retreat until the enemy had been vanquished. The Buffalo Bull Society was composed of middle-aged men and leaders.

The Assiniboines also had a number of women’s societies, including the Dance Without Robes Society and the Female Elk Society.

Among the Assiniboine, war parties intent on raiding for horses were fairly small (12 warriors or less) and the warriors would leave on foot. Leaders of horse raiding parties usually fasted to obtain a vision of a successful raid. According to James Long:

“When a war leader had a suitable vision, he called a number of able warriors to his lodge and told them of his intentions.”

They would then pick the warriors they wanted to accompany them. The actual raid was usually carried out under the cover of darkness. The war party would travel in single file with the war leader taking the lead and young men on their first raid traveling in the rear.

Regarding an Assiniboine raid, James Long writes:

“When a war party raided a camp to take horses, everyone had to look out for himself. The group agreed to meet at a certain place and, if all went well, they gathered there to plan the return home. But if the enemy found out about the raid, then each one pursued the best course he knew.”

Assiniboine war parties organized for revenge were usually larger and might have 100-300 warriors.

The Assiniboine warriors would make offerings to the wolf before a war party and they would sing wolf songs. Assiniboine warriors would often wear wolf skins for camouflage. However, the wolf hat was generally worn only by the scouts. Archaeologist James Keyser, in article in American Indian Art, reports:

‘Among all of these groups, serving as a scout was a position with well-defined responsibilities worthy of a war honor when successfully performed.”

 

A Brief Overview of the Creek Indians

The designation “Creek” is a European concept which emerged during the eighteenth century to designate the Indian people who were living along the creeks and rivers in Alabama, Georgia, and northern Florida. While these people have a cultural continuity which reaches back to the mound building cultures of this area, the concept of a Creek “Nation” or “Confederacy” is something which did not emerge until after the European invasion. In reality, the Creek were several autonomous groups.

Archaeologist Cameron Wesson, in his chapter in Between Contacts and Colonies: Archaeological Perspectives on the Protohistoric Southeast, reports that during the time period of the first European contact, the Creek

“were a confederacy that encompassed several distinct ethnic groups, including elements of the Alabama, Apalachee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Hitchiti, Koasati, Natchez, Shawnee, Tunic, Yamasee, and Yuchi.”

According to historian Colin Calloway, in his book The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities:

“The Creek confederacy was a voluntary association of towns or, in Muskogee, italwa, bound together by custom and mutual interest and not by centralized coercion.”

Creek towns did not have physical boundaries in the manner of European towns: the towns were a group of people who were associated with a particular political or ceremonial center. The concept of town when applied to the Creek was perhaps closer to the European concept of tribe. Each town was autonomous and had its own ceremonial fire.

In addition, the Creek villages were characterized by two distinct and mutually unintelligible languages: Muskogee and Hitchiti. In addition, there were Creek towns in which the dominant language was Shawnee, Koasati, Alabama, or Yuchi.

The Yuchi joined the Creek confederacy in the early eighteenth century. In his biography The World’s Richest Indian: The Scandal Over Jackson Barnett’s Oil Fortune, historian Tanis Thorne reports:

“Within the Creek confederacy, the Yuchi maintained their distinct language, customs of patrilineal descent, and other cultural traditions in their own politically autonomous communities.”

The Creek confederacy is generally divided into two large geopolitical divisions: the Lower Creek towns along the Flint and Chatahoochee rivers and the Upper Creek towns along the Coosa and Tallapoosa branches of the Alabama River.

The “foreign” tribes which were incorporated into the Creek Confederacy included: Okchai, Osochee, Pakana, Tomahitan, Tukabahchee, and Wetumpka.

Migrations

The Creek (Musgokee) oral tradition speaks of their origin as being far to the west.  According to the oral tradition, there was a long migration which brought them across the Mississippi River and into the areas which are today known as Georgia and Alabama. While settled here, they also ranged into Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida. After the American government forced removal on them, they re-established themselves outside of the Southeast in what is now Oklahoma.

Archaeologist Charles Jones, writing in his 1873 book Antiquities of the Southern Indians, Particularly of the Georgia Tribes. reports:

“When questioned as to their origin, the Muscogees responded that the prevailing tradition among them was, that their progenitors had issued out of a cave near the Alabama River.”

Maine Indians and Early European Explorers and Fishermen

While the Indian nations in what is now Maine may have had some limited contact with Europeans as early as 1480, regular contact began in the sixteenth century and intensified during the first half of the seventeenth century. During this time, the Indians began to incorporate aspects of European culture, such as trade goods, into their own lifestyles. These early contacts were with four broad categories of Europeans: fishermen, explorers, missionaries, and colonists.

Fishermen

By 1519, European fishing boats were trading with the Micmac in Maine and the Maritime Provinces. By 1524, ships were crossing over from Europe in increasing numbers, first to fish offshore for the great schools of cod, and eventually to trade with natives for furs.

During the early part of the seventeenth century, English ships scouted the coast from Maine to Cape Cod, trading with Indians and gathering sassafras roots which were prized in Europe as a treatment for syphilis. In 1602, off the coast of Maine, the crew of an English ship saw people in a European boat – described as a Biscay shallop – sailing toward them. They assumed that the eight men in it must be Europeans. However, all were Indians. The Indians, using a piece of chalk, drew a map of the Maine coast for the newly arrived English sailors.

Sailing shallops could be fairly large: up to 12 tons and forty feet in length. Many had more than one mast. Regarding the adaptation of this craft by Indian people, the Jesuit missionaries noted that the Souriquois handled them “as skillfully as our most courageous and active sailors in France.” Some writers feel that the Indians had acquired the shallops from the Basque fishermen who had a history of fishing in the area.

There are a number of other reports of Indians using the European shallops. In 1606, for example, the Souriquois under the leadership of Membertou raided other Indian villages using sailing shallops. The following year, the English on their way to establish their colony on the Kennebec River encountered two sailing shallops being used by Souriquois under the leadership of Membertou. The Souriquois offered skins for trade and the English noted that the Indians seemed to be using a lot of French words.

Explorers:

Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian working for the French, explored the North America coast from the Carolinas northward to Maine in 1524.  In Maine, Verrazano found that the Indians were not particularly friendly. They appeared to have already had some contact of an unpleasant sort Europeans, perhaps Europeans who were fishing off the coast. While Verrazano did not speak any Indian languages, he concluded:

“We think they have neither religion nor laws.”

According to Barbara Mann, in her essay in Debating Democracy: Native American Legacy of Freedom:

“What Verrazano, and all European observers after him, meant by lack of ‘any law’ in Native America was the absence of any controlling church-state hierarchy.”

The following year, a Spanish expedition led by the Portuguese pilot Estévan Gomes landed near the River of Deer in Maine and took 58 Indians captive.

In 1580, the English adventurer John Walker landed in Penobscot Bay. He took about 300 moose hides from an unattended building. In their chapter in American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, and Cartography in the Land of Norumbega,  Bruce Bourque and Ruth Whitehead report:

“It may be inferred that such a large concentration in a single structure meant that the hides were intended not for the local population but for export, ultimately to Europeans; but Walker provided no further clue as to their intended destination.”

In 1602, the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold landed at “Savage Rock” (Cape Elizabeth) where he encountered some Micmac. Geographer G. Malcolm Lewis, in his chapter in North American Exploration. Volume 1: A New World Disclosed, reports:

“From aspects of their dress and a few of the words they spoke, they appeared to have had some previous contact with Europeans.”

The European explorers found that the Indians were wearing large copper breastplates and European costumes including shoes, waistcoats, breeches, and hose. The following year, English explorers under the leadership of Martin Pring encountered a group of Indians near present-day Saco. They reported that some of the Indians had brass breastplates which were a foot long and about half a foot wide.

In 1604, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed up the Penobscot River. Near the site of present-day Bangor, he made contact with the Wabanaki under the leadership of Bashabes. From Bashabes the French learned a great deal about the interior of Maine. Bashabes, wanting French partnership in the fur trade, provided Champlain with guides. While the French were looking for the fabled Indian city of Norumbega, they found that the city was a myth. The French did, however, gain a great deal of information about the interior between Kennebec Basin and the St. Lawrence. Getting around the language barrier, the Indians drew maps on sand and bark for the French.

The French next explored Saco Bay where they saw and recorded on their chart an Indian corn-growing settlement. On the Saco River they were met by Indians who painted their faces black and red. The Indians were a farming people who raised corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, grapes, and tobacco. Champlain’s Etchemin guides called the people at this village Archmouchiquois and they called the village Chouacoit. The area surrounding the village contained many small hamlets.

In 1609, Henry Hudson met with Indians in Penobscot Bay. The Indians told him that they traded with the French. A few days later, two French shallops filled with Indians sailed into the harbor bringing many beaver skins and other furs for trade. Hudson was not equipped for trade, so he simply resorted to force to obtain the furs. His men captured one of the shallops and took the Indian furs.

In 1614, John Smith, the former commander at Jamestown, led two ships in search of gold and whales along the coast of Maine. They did some trading with the natives and engaged in a few skirmishes. Like other European explorers, they captured some Indians to sell into slavery.

Disease

One of the unintended consequences of contact between Europeans and Indians was epidemic disease which often decimated the Indian populations. In 1610, an epidemic struck the Souriquois at La Have taking at least 60 lives.

The first of three epidemics struck the Indians of New England in 1616. It is estimated that 75% of the population died between 1616 and 1619.  The epidemics swept from Cape Cod to the Kennebec River in Maine. The epidemics started after an English party wintered at the mouth of the Saco River. While it is not known what the actual diseases were, various historians have suggested bubonic plague, smallpox, and hepatitis A as possibilities.

A new disease which produced bloody vomiting broke out among the Abenaki in 1646. This outbreak may have contributed to Jean-Baptiste’s missionary success.

Southeastern Indian Hunting

While the Indian nations of the American Southeast were an agricultural people, they used hunting to supplement their diet. Just as these nations held their agricultural lands in common, so too were hunting territories held in common. While agricultural lands were assigned to clans or family lineages, there was no assignment of use rights for hunting lands.

In general, the most important animal in the Southeast was the deer whose flesh was used as food; its skin was used for clothing; its horns were made into arrow points; its hooves were made into rattles; its sinews used for sewing and binding; and its bones were fashioned into a variety of articles. A typical Creek family, for example, needed about 25-30 deerskins per year. The white-tailed deer provided 50 to 90 percent of the protein eaten.

Hunters would range as far as 300 miles from their towns while hunting for deer. While these extended hunts were conducted by men, they were accompanied by women and by some children. These hunts were usually conducted in the winter – beginning in November or December and ending in February or March.

During the rutting season – September through November – deer would be hunted using a technique in which a deer-head decoy was used to attract bucks into range. There were, however, two drawbacks to this technique: (1) rutting bucks are very aggressive and sometimes would attack the hunters, and (2) the decoys were so realistic that hunters were sometimes accidentally shot by other hunters.

Communal hunts, which could involve as many as 300 hunters, would use a fire surround to force the deer into a small area where they could be easily shot. In using this technique, an area up to five miles in circumference would be set on fire.

Before the coming of the Europeans, the primary big game hunting weapon was the bow and arrow, which was very accurate up to 40 yards. Some hunters could hit targets at 100 yards. The bows resembled the English longbow and were five to six feet in length. The arrows were tipped with bone points or with garfish scales. To provide greater accuracy, the arrows were fletched (feathered), often using turkey feathers. Hunters usually protected their wrists with bowguards made from leather or bark.

Another important game animal was the black bear. The bear provided both food and skins. In addition, Indians extracted an oil from the fat of the bear which was used in both cooking and curing. Bears were usually hunted in the winter while they were hibernating. The hunters would set fire to the bear’s den—usually a hollowed out tree—and then shoot it as it emerged to escape the fire.

The Seminole prized both bear meat and the oil extracted from the fat. Whenever a bear was seen, a hunting party would be organized and the animal would be tracked to its hiding place and killed.

While the bison was not as important to the Southeastern Indians as it was to the Plains Indians, it was still an important animal. Prior to the coming of the Europeans, there were moderately large bison herds in Tennessee.

The meat from deer and bison was dried over a fire. Meat dried in this fashion could be kept for several months without spoiling. Often a smoky fire, fueled by green hickory wood, was used. This gave the meat a smoked flavor.

Other important game animals included beaver, otter, raccoon, muskrat, opossum, squirrel, and rabbit. Small game and birds were often hunted with a blowgun. A hollowed piece of cane, 7 to 9 feet in length, would be used to make the blowgun. The darts were made of hardwood and would be 10 to 22 inches in length. The blowguns were accurate up to about 60 feet. No poison was used on the darts and larger animals were usually shot in the eye.

Turkeys provided an important source of both food and feathers. Both the Timucua and the Apalachee used circular fire drives in taking turkeys.

Another important and abundant bird was the passenger pigeon (now extinct) which was hunted at night during the winter. The hunters would use torches to blind the passenger pigeons which were roosting in the trees. The birds would then be knocked down with long poles.

The Indian people along the Mississippi flyway and the coastal plain also took advantage of the immense number of waterfowl. Waterfowl were usually hunted from the middle of October until the middle of April.

Along the coastal plain, the Indian people also used turtles, terrapins, alligators, crawfish, crabs, clams, mussels, and oysters for food. Among the Yamasee, turtles were considered a prize food, not only for its flesh and eggs, but also for the fact that its seasonal appearance was unfailing. Among the Timucua, alligators were hunted by thrusting a long pole (about ten feet long) down their throats. The reptile would then be flipped over on its back and arrows shot into its soft belly.

The Seminole would “fire-hunt” alligators: they would use a burning torch which would dazzle the animal. The bewildered alligator would then be speared by a hunter in a canoe. Alligator hides were placed on scaffolds to dry.

Some Florida groups, such as the Tekesta and the Seminole, also hunted manatee, a large herbivorous aquatic mammal. In the winter, the Tekesta would hunt manatee from canoes. Hunters would harpoon the manatee as they rose to the surface for air.

Among the Creek, hunting included a number of rituals which enabled the hunters to show respect for the animals. According to historian Joel Martin, in his book Sacred Revolt: The Muskogees’ Struggle for a New World:

“Native hunters did not kill game animals, consume the meat, or take the skin without carefully considering their actions.”

Prior to the hunt, the hunters would ask for the support of the spirits of the hunt and they would sing songs to draw the animals closer.

Hunters often burned the undergrowth in small patches of forest. Regularly burning the vegetation resulted in a managed environment that supported a fairly large number of deer. According to historian Daniel Usner, in his book Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley Before 1783:

“These controlled fires both enhanced the nutritional quality of the plants that deer browsed on and eased the passage for the animals through the woods.”

This artificially stimulated the number of deer in the area.

In South Florida, historian James Covington, in his book The Seminoles of Florida, reports:

“Every spring the Seminoles set the dry grass and trees on fire so that new growth would attract the deer and turkeys.”

Colonists and Missionaries in Maine

By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the French and English were turning from the exploration of what is now Maine to establishing colonies and converting the Indians to Christianity. The Europeans assumed that Christianity gave them superior rights to both land and resources. The idea that the Native peoples of Maine might any rights seldom occurred to the European.

Colonists

The first European attempt to establish a colony in Maine came in 1604 with the arrival of French colonists who attempted to settle on the Sainte Croix River. The settlement soon moved to the present-day Annapolis-Royal in Nova Scotia.

The English established a trading camp on the Kennebec River in 1605. The expedition was funded by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, captain of the Port of Plymouth. At the end of the trading season, the English kidnapped five Abenaki and took them to England to turn them into guides and interpreters. The Abenaki captives were not to be sold into slavery, but they were exhibited as curiosities. They were also studied by Gorges, who wished to learn more about the new land to the westward and its inhabitants. Among those taken by the English was Tisquantum, also known as Squanto, who later becomes an important figure in Massachusetts history.

In 1607, the Virginia Company established the colony of Sagadohoc on the Kennebec River. The party included 120 men and Skidwarres, one of the Abenaki who had been kidnapped in 1602. Skidwarres was supposed to serve as the trusted interpreter-liaison between the English and the Abenaki. However, as soon as he made contact with the Abenaki, he simply slipped into the crowd and returned to his people.

The purpose of the new colony was to find precious metals and spices, establish a fur trade with the Native Americans, and show that New World forests were a limitless resource for English shipbuilders. Concerned about the possibility of a French attack, the colonists built an earthenwork fort, which they called Fort St. George. The fort was fortified with eight cannons.

In one instance, five Abenaki, including Skidwarres and the leader Nahaneda, showed up at the fort. They joined the colonists for both food and church services. They had to endure public prayers both morning and evening. They told the English that King James was a good king and that his God was a good God, but that Tanto (their own deity) had commanded them to avoid contact with the English.

The English soon managed to anger their Abenaki neighbors so that trade between the two groups had to be suspended. There were a number of minor skirmishes in which 11 colonists were killed. According to historian Ian Steele, in his book Warpaths: Invasions of North America:

“The English bungled their opportunity to establish influence with the Abenaki.”

In 1608, the English abandoned their colony on the Kennebec River. The re-supply ships from England found that the colonists had successfully traded with the Indians for furs, gathered the herbal cure-all sarsaparilla, and built and launched a 50-foot ship. However, the colony’s leader upon discovering that he was the heir to an immense fortune decided to return to a lavish castle in England.

Missionaries

Part of the motivation for the European invasion of North America was to acquire converts to their religion. The Jesuits arrived in New France in 1611 and began to learn the native languages as a way of carrying their message to the people. Unlike other Europeans, the Jesuits did not want land or furs: they asked only to live in an Indian household that they might study the language. While the Jesuits were well-liked because of their quiet manners, the Indians felt that these men were poorly educated because they had not learned that God made all religions, and they came here to tell the people who already believed in a Creator that such a One exists.

In 1611, Jesuit missionaries attempted to establish a mission on Mt. Desert Island. However, an English ship arrived and captured the entire settlement. James Moore, in his book Indian and Jesuit: A Seventeenth-Century Encounter, writes:

“English paranoid attitudes toward Catholics, especially Jesuits, and their current fears generated by alleged plots to undermine the English government, placed the missionaries in special jeopardy.”

Two years later, the French priests built a mission for the Penobscot at Bar Harbor, Maine.

In 1635, the Capuchin Catholics established a small church at Pentagoet to proselytize among the Penobscot. The priests learned the local language.

In 1642, Charles Meiaskwat, a Montegnais lay preacher, visited the Abenaki at Norridgewock. The following year, an Abenaki from Norridgewock went to Quebec with Charles Meiaskwat so that he could be converted to Christianity. As a convert he was given the name Jean-Baptiste and he returned to his people to proselytize. Three years later, Jean-Baptiste returned to Quebec claiming that he had 40 potential converts at Norridgewock and asking that a black robe (Jesuit priest) be sent to instruct them.

In 1646, the French Jesuit Gabriel Druillettes began working with the Abenaki. He emphasized steady prayer and quiet nurturing of the sick which contrasted to the traditional religion which was quite animated. On one occasion he offered Mass with a fervent beseeching of God to relieve the hunger of his traveling party. Right after Mass, the Abenaki killed three moose. This impressed the Indians with his apparent ability to deliver results.

In a typical Jesuit approach to the Indians, Druillettes learned the Abenaki language. He impressed many Indians, and his visit established a link between the Abenakis and Quebec that would continue for many years.

Huron History, 1535 to 1648

The Huron, an Iroquoian-speaking people whose traditional homeland was north of the Great Lakes, were a confederacy of four major tribes: Bear, Rock, Barking Dogs, and White Thorns (also known as Canoes). The people called their confederacy Wendat or People of the Peninsula. They were given the name Huron by the French.

The first contact between the Huron and the Europeans was with the French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1535. At the palisaded Huron town of Hochelaga, the French were greeted by about a thousand Huron men and women. The French did not care for the Huron food – cornbread, beans, peas, and cucumbers – because it was not salted.

In 1609, some Huron warriors joined French explorer Samuel de Champlain and a mixed group of Montagnais and Algonquin warriors. While Champlain wanted the warriors to keep watch at night, they refused. Instead, they conducted a shaking tent ceremony and consulted the spirits about the nearness of any enemies. The spirits indicated that no enemy were near and so the warriors slept.

At the northern shore of what is today called Lake Champlain, the combined French, Montagnais, Algonquin, and Huron forces encountered a Mohawk war party massed in battle formation and wearing wooden body armor. The French firearms killed several Mohawk leaders and the Mohawk retreated. In an article on the French and Indians in Attitudes of Colonial Powers Toward the American Indian, Mason Wade reports:

“This exploit sealed the alliance of the French with the Algonkians and the Hurons and fixed their deadly enmity with the Iroquois.”

In 1611, the Huron confederacy sent presents to the French along with word that they wished to establish an alliance with them independent of the French alliance with the Algonquin. The Algonquin, however, opposed this and managed to delay the French response to the request.

In 1611, Samuel de Champlain arranged for a young Frenchman to live among the Huron and learn their language and culture.

A formal trading alliance between the French and the Huron Confederacy was negotiated in 1614. With this agreement, the Huron allied themselves with the French.

The following year, Huron warriors accompanied Samuel de Champlain into Iroquois territory in what is now New York. They captured three Iroquois men, four women, three boys, and a girl. Champlain complained when the Huron cut off one of the women’s fingers as a demonstration of the torture that lay ahead. The Hurons agreed not to torture the women.

Near present-day Fenner, New York, the French-Huron party attacked an Iroquois fort. After the initial attack, the Huron warriors withdrew. Champlain then convinced the warriors to build large wooden shields for protection and a large moveable platform which overlooked the Iroquois palisades. While the plan had initial success, the Huron warriors, unused to the discipline expected by European military leaders, broke ranks and attempted to set fire to the palisades. The Iroquois, however, simply poured water into the troughs which formed their fire defense system and the fires were quickly extinguished. Champlain was hit twice by arrows and was severely wounded. The Huron retreated carrying their wounded, including Champlain, in improvised baskets.

The Iroquois, who had been trading with Dutch traders in New York, sent emissaries north to propose peace and trade with the French. This would allow them to play the two European powers against each other with regard to trade. While the French were concerned that the Iroquois would convince the Huron to start trading with the Dutch, they agreed to the peace in 1622.

In 1623, the French sent a party of French traders to winter with the Huron to make sure that they continued to trade with the French rather than with the Dutch.

As the European demand for furs increased during the seventeenth century, both the Iroquois and the Huron began to expand westward in search of new furs and new Indian trading partners. This expansion brought about some violent conflicts between the Huron and the western Indian nations such as the Winnebago (Ho Chunk) and Ottawa. In addition, conflict between the Huron and the Iroquois also increased.

In 1642, a party of 36 Huron and 4 French under the leadership of Father Isaac Joques was attacked by an Iroquois war party. The priest and 21 others were captured. The Mohawk, one of the nations of the Iroquois League of Five Nations, later killed Father Joques in the manner reserved for sorcerers because he was suspected of started an epidemic.

In 1648, the Seneca and the Mohawk, both members of the Iroquois League of Five Nations, set out to destroy the Huron trading network. The Seneca, armed with firearms obtained from the Dutch, attacked the Huron town of Teanaostaiaé. Three hundred of the 2,000 inhabitants of the town were killed and 700 were taken captive. The following year, the Iroquois, supplied with 400 guns and unlimited ammunition on credit by the Dutch, attacked and destroyed the Huron. This marked the end of the Huron confederacy. Many of the Huron people took refuge with other Indian nations in the Great Lakes area. A new nation, however, the Wyandot, composed of Huron refugees as well as other Indian refugees, soon emerged, but did not challenge the Iroquois supremacy.

Indian Affairs in 1966

Just fifty years ago—1966—American Indian affairs in the United States was still being guided in part by a philosophy of termination: that is, dissolving American Indian governments and making Indians assimilate into the larger non-Indian culture. American Indians for the most part weren’t cooperating with this termination philosophy and still insisted that they had a right to exist, as Indians, within the United States. Briefly described below are some of the Indian issues and events of 1966.

Museums, Arts

Movie actor Nipo Strongheart (Yakama) died and willed his extensive collection of Indian books and artifacts to the Yakama Nation. The artifacts were incorporated in the Yakama Nation Museum in Toppenish, Washington and his personal library became a special collection of the Yakama Nation Library.

The Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma opened a small museum in Muskogee for the cultural and historical items of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muskogee, Creek, and Seminole people who were driven into Oklahoma from the Southeast.

The ballet Kochare based on the Hopi creation myth and written by Quapaw-Cherokee composer Louis Wayne Ballard was performed by the Harkness Ballet Company.

Economics

In Arizona, the Peabody Coal Company signed leases with the Hopi and the Navajo allowing them to strip mine 25,000 acres of the Joint Use Area in Arizona. With regard to the Navajo, journalist Marjane Ambler, in her book Breaking the Iron Bonds: Indian Control of Energy Development, reports:

“The Interior Department, under the direction of Stewart Udall, worked with industry and the tribal attorney to convince the council to act immediately, without deliberation.”

Law professor Charles Wilkinson, in his book Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations, calls the leases “financial travesties” and writes:

“Among other provisions, the Hopi received inadequate payments for the coal and sold their water for the slurry pipeline at the egregiously low rate of $1.67 per acre foot.”

Black Mesa, the area which was to be mined, is considered sacred by traditional Navajo and Hopi people. In pressuring the Navajo tribal council, council members were not informed about the value of their coal or about the potential impacts of the mining.

In Montana, the Salish and Kootenai of the Flathead Reservation requested more money for the lease that Montana Power Company had for Kerr Dam. The tribe wanted more money because the company had added an additional generation plant, but the company disagreed arguing that its power license did not designate the energy produced. The Federal Power Commission (FPC) suggested that the lease be increased from $240,000 per year to $850,000 per year, but Montana Power Company refused to acknowledge FPC jurisdiction in the matter. The tribes took Montana Power Company to court and the court required the company to pay the increased lease amount.

In Mississippi, the Choctaw constructed the Choctaw Industrial Park in an effort to improve the economic conditions of the tribe.

Education

In New Mexico, the Rough Rock Demonstration School was an experiment in which a group of Navajo parents operated a combined day and boarding school. In her book Language Shift Among the Navajos: Identity Politics and Cultural Continuity, Deborah House describes the Rough Rock community this way:

“a small community where most people still followed the traditional Navajo pastoral lifestyle, shopped at the local trading post, spoke Navajo almost exclusively, and had little formal education and no previous contact with a school in their community.”

While funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the school was the first Indian-controlled school in the United States. According to Smithsonian historian Wilcomb Washburn, in his book Red Man’s Land/White Man’s Law:

“Control of school policy, including the handling of a budget of nearly a million dollars, was placed firmly in the hands of Indians, most of whom were without formal education and some of whom were illiterate.”

The school taught English as a second language rather than requiring students to know English in order to learn. Non-Indian staff members received in-service training to familiarize them with Navajo culture. Deborah House writes:

“The role of Rough Rock Demonstration School as a model for other tribal education programs cannot be overemphasized. It was the school that established the legal precedent for the right of the federal government to give funds directly to local Indian communities to run their own schools.”

War on Poverty

In Arizona, the Havasupai began a community action program under the Office of Economic Opportunity. They also started a Head Start pre-school program.

In Arizona, the Pascua Yaqui Association under the leadership of Anselmo Valencia obtained a grant to start a Community Action Program under the Office of Economic Opportunity. With this grant the Pascua Yaqui organized a project to train tribal members to build their own homes and then to purchase them with sweat equity. The new homes were built on a 200-acre parcel and became known as New Pascua.

Religion

In Idaho, an Indian branch of the Mormon Church was opened on the Fort Hall Reservation. In his book The Northern Shoshoni, Brigham Madsen notes:

“Apparently religion at the reservation had come full circle from a century ago, when the Latter-day Saints were under attack for proselytizing among the Shoshoni and Bannock.”

In Utah, the Shoshone members of the old Washakie Ward were transferred to the Mormon ward in Portage. Brigham Madsen reports:

“This action ended the formal Mormon Church support of a religion organization at Washakie, as nearly all the Indians had left the old settlement.”

In Florida, the Independent Big Cypress Mission was founded as a mission to the Seminole.

In South Carolina, the grave of Seminole war leader Osceola was vandalized. The vandals tunneled beneath the grave’s enclosure with the intention of taking his bones back to Florida.

Lawsuits

In California, the Cahuilla won a judgment against the city of Palm Springs with regard to zoning matters. The city had passed a zoning ordinance and a master plan which had included control over Indian land in the city.

In Oregon, the U.S. District Court, in Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation v. Maison, upheld treaty rights to hunt on unclaimed land in the Matilla and Wallowa-Whitman nations’ forests without restriction by the Oregon Game Commission.

In Oklahoma, the Cherokee filed a suit which asserted that riverbeds belong to the Cherokee. The suit was against the state of Oklahoma, 16 oil companies, and 2 sand and gravel companies.

Government

In Texas, Tom Diamond, the attorney for the Tigua, notified the city of El Paso that tribal members would no longer be responsible for taxes to any local division of government. The notification was based on the fact that the Texas Legislature in 1854 recognized that the Tigua held title to the Ysleta Land Grant. Local authorities were cooperative and receptive to the Tigua claim.

In Texas, a study by University of Arizona anthropologist Nick Houser showed that the Tigua were still a culturally distinct Indian tribe. The Texas State Historical Survey Committee acknowledged the accuracy of the report and passed a resolution stating that the tribe was entitled to federal recognition.

In Oklahoma, the Five County Northeastern Oklahoma Cherokee Organization selected Andrew Dreadfulwater, a respected ceremonial leader and dedicated Baptist layman, as president. The organization was renamed the Original Cherokee Community Organization.

In Oklahoma, the Bureau of Indian Affairs recognized the Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma as the political representative of the Comanche people.

In New Mexico, Wilbert C. Begay (Navajo) was elected to the state legislature. Tom Lee (Navajo) was elected to the state senate.

In Montana, Percy DeWolf (Blackfoot)  and Jean A. Turnage (Flathead) were elected to the state senate.

A Short Overview of the Huron Indians

The Huron, whose traditional homeland was north of the Great Lakes, were a confederacy of four major tribes: Bear, Rock, Barking Dogs, and White Thorns (also known as Canoes). The people called their confederacy Wendat or People of the Peninsula. They were given the name Huron by the French: the name came from hure, meaning “boar’s head” in reference to the head gear of the warriors.

With regard to language, Huron is a part of the Iroquois language family. Culturally, the Huron were similar to other Iroquoian-speaking Indian nations in the Northeast.

In the seventeenth century, the estimated 20,000 to 40,000 Hurons lived in 18-25 villages. With regard to the Huron origins, Olive Dickason, in her entry on the Huron/Wyandot in the Encyclopedia of North American Indians, reports:

“Archaeologists favor the theory that they began inhabiting their lands soon after the retreat of the glaciers, slowly evolving from hunter-gatherers into farmer-hunters.”

Their oral traditions tell of a migration from the southeast. The archaeological data shows that they were raising corn (maize) by 500 CE.

Agriculture

Among the Huron, agriculture produced about four-fifths of the food which they consumed. Farming centered around the Three Sisters: corn, beans, squash. They cultivated about 15 different varieties of corn, 60 different varieties of beans, and 8 different kinds of squash. As with other Iroquoian groups, the farming was done by the women in fields which had been cleared by the men. All uncleared land was considered common property.

The land was cleared by first girding the trees and then burning the underbrush and trees, a process known as slash-and-burn agriculture. In addition to providing a clear space for their fields, the ash from the fire also provided additional nutrients.  Generally, the cleared land would wear out in about a decade, forcing the Iroquois to clear new land, usually farther from the village. For the smaller villages – those with about 200 inhabitants – by the time the walking distance to the farthest field reached about 1 kilometer, the oldest abandoned fields could be re-opened. For the larger villages, however, it took about 50 years for the productive fields to become too distant and requiring the village itself to move.

Planting would usually begin when the white oak leaves were the size of a red squirrel’s foot. While men would assist in the initial clearing of the fields, planting was done by a party of women under the supervision of the clan mothers. Women did the planting, weeding, and harvesting.

The three crops complemented each other. In her article on the Three Sisters in Science and Native American Communities: Legacies of Pain, Visions of Promise, Jane Mt. Pleasant reports:

“Beans, because they are legumes, add nitrogen to the soil that the other two plants need.”

The corn stalks also provide support for the bean vines. Mt. Pleasant points out:

“Now the squash, because it grows low to the ground and has very big leaves, reduces the ability of weeds to grow and interfere with the food crops.”

When the three foods are eaten together, they provide a balanced diet of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and the full complement of amino acids for protein.

By 1630 it is estimated that the Huron, with a population of about 21,000, were harvesting 189,000 bushels of corn from 7,000 acres.

Marriage and Family

In general, the most important feature of social organization among Iroquoian-speaking people was the matrilineal: this was a named group in membership was through the female line. Each person belonged to the mother’s clan. Among the Huron, there were eight matrilineal clans: Turtle, Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Deer, Hawk, Porcupine, and Snake. The clans were exogamous, meaning the people had to marry outside of their own clan. In addition, marriage to a close relative on the paternal side was also taboo.

Among the Huron, there was little public affection displayed between men and women. Sexual intercourse for both married and unmarried people tended to take place outside of the village. Premarital sexual intercourse was considered to be normal.

Among the Huron, families tended to be small – 3 children – because the women abstained from sexual intercourse during breastfeeding (usually about 3 years).

With regard to the gender of children among the Huron, anthropologist Elisabeth Tooker, in her monograph An Ethnography of the Huron Indians, 1615-1649, notes:

“Girls were preferred: the Huron rejoiced more in the birth of a daughter than a son, in order that the country’s inhabitants increase.”

With regard to sexuality, heterosexual relations were considered to be normal, but homosexuality was acceptable. Having no sexual contact at all was considered to be abnormal.

Tribal Government

There were three levels of government among the Huron: village, tribe, and confederacy. At the village level, clan chiefs organized councils in which older men and women expressed their opinions on matters concerning the village. Each Huron village council met frequently, often daily, to discuss village affairs. Discussions would continue until consensus was evident.

There were two kinds of Huron chiefs: (1) civil chiefs who were concerned with everyday life and peace, and (2) war chiefs who were concerned exclusively with military matters. Being a Huron chief required both time and an expenditure of wealth. Upon the death of a chief, the new chief would often be selected from among the relatives of the deceased chiefs. The person who was elected was usually not the child of the deceased chief, but was more often a nephew or a grandson.

Law

The Huron recognized four main classes of crime: (1) murder and wounding and injury, (2) theft, (3) witchcraft, and (4) treason. Murder placed an obligation on the relatives to avenge the killing. Reparation payments helped alleviate the possibility of blood feuds. Anthropologist Bruce Trigger, in his book The Huron: Farmers of the North, notes:

“Huron law did not permit society as a whole to punish individuals.”

Among the Huron, material gifts were often used as a way of restoring peace and mending the social fabric following a crime, such as murder or physical injury. The guilty party (including both the individual and the clan) would pay the victim’s family. According to Henry Bowden, in his book American Indians and Christian Missions: Studies in Cultural Conflict:

“Thirty presents was the usual indemnity for killing a man, but the murder of a tribeswoman called for forty gifts.”

War and Trade

For Huron men there were two ways to obtain wealth and prestige: war and trade. Traditionally, war was not waged to impose religious views on other people, or to capture new territory. Most frequently the reasons for war were honor and avenging some injury. Revenge raids were usually launched at the request of a clan mother.

While brave warriors were admired, so were clever traders. Trading had prestige because individual initiative and shrewd judgment came into play. It took courage and diplomacy to open new trade routes or to organize a wide network of business alliances. The purpose of acquiring wealth through trade was not to possess or display material goods, but to be able to give them away. Giving wealth away was a way of improving social status and respect.

The Yamasee War and the Indian Slave Trade

The Yamasee were a Muskogean-speaking Indian nation living in what would become southern Georgia and northern Florida when first encountered by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. In 1687, the Yamasees, unhappy with the Spanish occupation and rule of their territories, moved north in South Carolina, was then under British rule. In South Carolina, the Yamasees became allies and trading partners with the British colonists.

For the British in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, one of the important commodities was Indian slaves who could either be sold in the Caribbean slave markets or used on the colonists own plantations. Donald Grinde, in an article in The Indian Historian, reports:

“They developed an Indian slave trade based on predatory raids. This practice became a lucrative business for Charleston merchants.”

As with the African slave trade, the English used indigenous allies to obtain slaves. They would arm the coastal tribes and then encourage them to raid the tribes in the interior to obtain slaves. Donald Grinde writes:

“Within a few years after the settlement of Charleston, Indian slaves were being brought from the interior to Charleston just as Africans were being funneled through the trading forts of the West African coast.”

Carl Waldman, in his book The Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, describes the process of obtaining Yamasee slaves:

“First, they gave the Indians all the rum they wanted plus trade goods. Then they demanded immediate payment from the Indians. The Indians could not pay off their huge debts and asked for more time. To settle the debts, the slavers seized Yamasee wives and children for the slave market.”

The Indian slaves were then sold in the West Indies slave markets or they were taken to New York and the New England colonies.

By 1708, the English colonists in the Carolinas owned 1,400 Indian slaves and by 1715 this had increased to 1,850. Since 1680, British slavers had taken between 24,000 and 51,000 war captives, most of whom had been shipped as slaves to New England or to the Caribbean.

The Yamasees were allies in the British slave trade and carried out slave raids against Indian nations in the Spanish territories of Florida. In 1708, the Spanish governor at Saint Augustine reported that there were only 300 natives left in the area. He estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 Florida Indians had been enslaved by the Carolinians and their Indian allies. By 1710, it was estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 Indian slaves had been shipped from the Southeast to New England and the Caribbean.

The Yamasees soon found that the British were neither good allies nor good trading partners. Not only did the traders consistently cheat their Yamasee trading partners, they were not above beating them and even enslaving their women and children. Christina Snyder, in her book Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America, writes:

“From the Yamasee perspective, their Carolina allies had become greedy, irresponsible, and violent, thereby destroying the chains of obligation that once bound them as allies.”

The Carolinians were aware that the Yamasee had some complaints about the way they were being treated. On April 14, 1715, South Carolina’s Indian agent Thomas Naine, along with former Indian agent John Wright and others, met with the Yamasee chiefs at the village of Pocataligo. They spent the evening drinking rum, feasting, and discussing their trade issues. The following morning, which happened to be Good Friday, the Yamasees bound Naine to a post in the center of the village square. They pierced his body with lighted splinters and slowly burned him to death. This was the start of the Yamasee war.

It was not just the Yamasee who went to war against the British colonists: in a coordinated action, the Creeks under the leadership of Brim of Coweta and the Choctaws killed some of the traders in their towns and attacked several plantations.  Christina Snyder reports:

“Similarly discontented neighboring nations, including the Lower Creeks, Savannahs, and the captive Apalachees of Savannah Town, applauded the Yamasees’ declaration of war and followed suit.”

Most of the Indian traders—an estimated 90%–are killed in the first few months of the war.

About 400 English colonists were killed in the war, which was about 7% of the colonial population. In response, Governor Charles Craven quickly put together an army from the South Carolina militia, enslaved African Americans, volunteers from Virginia and North Carolina, and some friendly Indian nations. A force of 70 Tuscacoras aided South Carolina in their war against the Yamasee. The campaign against the Indians has generally been described as “brutal.”  In his book Catawba Valley Mississippian: Ceramics, Chronology, and Catawba Indians, archaeologist David Moore reports:

“… South Carolina forces were particularly ruthless with those Indians located closest to Charles Town: the Congarees, Santees, Sewees, Peedees, and Waxhaws suffered devastating losses.”

Over the next two years, the British and their allies continued to attack the Yamasee, driving them out of the region. Many of the survivors fled south to Florida and north to join the Catawba Confederacy. Those who fled to Florida once again became allied with the Spanish. Jerry Keenan, in his book Encyclopedia of American Indian Wars, 1492-1890, reports:

“So thorough was Craven’s pursuit that the Yamasee almost ceased to exist as a tribal entity thereafter. What had been Yamasee territory now became part of James Oglethorpe’s new colony of Georgia.”

The Yamasee War officially ended in 1718 with a peace accord between the British colonists and the Indian nations. As a result of this war, many colonists began to question the wisdom of capturing and using Indian slaves. Christina Snyder writes:

“After the Yamasee War, they increasingly turned to African labor, despite the fact that Africans cost more and were taxed at higher rates than Indian slaves.”

Donald Grinde, in an article in The Indian Historian, summarizes the Yamasee War this way:

“The Yamasee War demonstrated the fullest extent of white economic exploitation of aboriginal people in colonial America. With little criticism from church or government, the South Carolinians had persuaded larger tribes to enslave lesser coastal tribes for the sake of English trade goods.”

With regard to the lessons from the Yamasee War, Grinde writes:

“Slave-catching almost inevitably led to Indian uprisings, and the more populous inland tribes were formidable adversaries. Due to this fact, it seemed easier to turn to Black slavery.”

The last distinctively Yamasee village, located near St. Augustine, was destroyed by the British in 1827. The Yamasee who settled with other Indian nations—Apalachee, Creek, Seminole—lost their tribal identity.

The Federal Government and Indians in 1966

In 1966, the American federal government was beginning to wind down its policies intended to end federal involvement with Indian tribes, due to resistance from the tribes. Briefly described below are some events involving federal government policies and American Indians.

Commissioner of Indian Affairs

        In the federal bureaucracy, Indian Affairs are administered by the Department of the Interior. In 1966 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, a political appointee, was the person directly in charge of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Following the dismissal of Philleo Nash from this position, Robert LaFollette Bennett, a member of Wisconsin’s Oneida tribe, became Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He was the second Native American to hold this position. His basic philosophy regarding Indian affairs was that the tribes should set their own priorities. The job of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was to help the tribes accomplish the goals which they had set. He felt that the Commissioner of Indian Affairs should be an advocate for the Indians rather than a promoter of government policies to Indians.

Unrecognized Indians

In the United States, there are many Indian tribes which are not recognized by the United States. A presidential task force reported that there were over 90,000 Indians in the eastern United States, 41 terminated bands in California, and over 200,000 urban Indians who struggled without the benefit of any Indian assistance programs. According to historian Mark Miller in his book Forgotten Tribes: Unrecognized Indians and the Federal Acknowledgment Process:

“The task force noted that these Indian peoples often went unnoticed and unidentified as Indians and were worse off than other Native Americans, both economically and psychologically.”

Indian Land

Congress responded to public concern regarding the loss of Indian land by ordering a federal investigation into land and trespass issues since the turn of the century on some 40 reservations.

Historic Preservation

Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) which provides legal and administrative ways of identifying, evaluating, and protecting historic cultural resources. It established the foundation for historic preservation in the United States. In an article in the Plains Anthropologist, Kimball Banks, Signe Snortland, and Jon Czaplicki write:

“It explicitly recognizes that the federal government has a legal and fiduciary responsibility to ensure the preservation of the nation’s historic and archaeological heritage.”

Construction on federal lands now requires an assessment of cultural resources which might be affected. Action is required to preserve or record these cultural resources if they are deemed to be significant.

Termination

Following World War II and continuing through the 1960s, the federal government followed a policy known as Termination which sought to end the reservation system and any recognition of tribal sovereignty. In his chapter on Indian policy in The History of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, 1800-2000, David Miller writes:

“Reservations were considered the product of separate and unequal treatment, with little understanding of what treaties or negotiated executive agreements meant to Indian people.”

Historian Katrine Barber, in her book Death of Celilo Falls, summarizes termination this way:

“Termination required that the federal government relinquish its responsibility to Indian nations and shift those to state and county governments. Terminationists hoped to dismantle the reservation system and get the federal government ‘out of the Indian business.’”

Senator Henry Jackson of Washington wanted to revive termination long enough to terminate the Colville reservation in his state. Indian Commissioner Philleo Nash blocked this move. Jackson let the Secretary of the Interior know that either Nash was to be removed from office or the Department of the Interior would face a hostile Senate Interior Committee (chaired by Jackson). Nash was removed.

In Nebraska, 834 acres of the Northern Ponca Reservation were removed from federal trust status and the 442 tribal members were no longer legally considered Indians (that is, they could not participate in any federal Indian programs).

In California, the El Dorado Rancheria was terminated to make way for Highway 50. As a result, the El Dorado Rancheria Miwok Tribe became an unrecognized tribe.

In California, the Coast Miwok were terminated.

Sacred Site

Legislation was introduced in Congress which would have returned Blue Lake in New Mexico to Taos Pueblo. The area is sacred to the Pueblo. The bill did not pass.

Land Claims

Following World War II, the United States wanted to get out of the Indian business: that is, to severe all relationships with Indian tribes. In the spirit of assimilation and with the intent of reducing government’s role in Indian affairs, Congress passed the Indian Claims Commission Act in 1946 as a vehicle to extinguish all pending Indian claims and thus end the federal government’s obligation to provide support for the tribes. In other words, it would act as a kind of severance package which would help Indians to abandon their collective traditions and enter into American society as individuals.

Under the act, a tribunal would be created which would have a specialized knowledge of Indian claims and would therefore be able to work efficiently in adjudicating these claims.  Initially, Congress had envisioned the commission completing its work in a period of five years. However, two decades later cases were still being heard. In 1966, one of these cases involved the Western Shoshone. In the nineteenth century, the federal government had expanded the provisions of the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty to include all of the Shoshone in Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho even though most the tribes had not signed the treaty nor had they ever received any payment for the ceded land.

In 1966, most of the Western Shoshone did not want a cash settlement for the lands which had been taken from them, but simply wanted the lands returned to them. Against the wishes of the tribe, an attorney for the tribe and U.S. attorneys arbitrarily agreed that the extinguishment of Western Shoshone title to land in Nevada occurred on July 1, 1872 and therefore the value of this land was the value of the land in 1872.

Ancient America: Vikings and Indians

More than a thousand years ago, the Norse—commonly called Vikings—had expanded their settlements west from Scandinavia into Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, and North America. Both Ireland and Britain were, of course, occupied by farming peoples and the establishment of Norse settlements required the force of arms. Iceland was uninhabited (though some sources indicate that there may have been a handful of hermit Irish monks) and Greenland was sparsely populated by nomadic hunter-gatherers. In North America, the Norse encountered natives whom they called Skraelings who were not always friendly.

The Norse sagas describe a number of conflicts with Skraelings. The Norse word saga means both “what is said” and “story, tale, or history.” While the sagas have been written down, they were originally oral histories and their accuracy in describing historic events are hotly debated by scholars.

There was a time when many historians doubted that the Norse had explored North America, but archaeology has verified the existence of one permanent Norse settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland and there is some evidence of other settlements and camps.

While the Norse are often stereotyped as fierce warriors who raided monasteries and towns, this was not how they saw themselves. The designation Viking refers to only one Norse activity: raiding. The Norse were also traders, farmers, shipbuilders, explorers, merchants, manufacturers, and statesmen. In his article in Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga, William Fitzhugh writes:

“Despite their reputation as shipbuilders, sailors, and warriors, the Norse identified themselves as farmers rather than as fishermen, hunters, trappers, or traders, even though individual Vikings might spend considerable periods of the year engaged in these tasks.”

Cattle were an important food source which provided the Norse with dairy products including cheese, butter, and skyr. The cattle, which were relatively small—standing less than 48” at the shoulder—could be transported in their longships.

Archaeology

L’Anse aux Meadows, an archaeological site located in Newfoundland, was settled about 1000 CE and was occupied for only about a decade. At L’Anse aux Meadows, archaeologists have uncovered eight buildings which are grouped into three complexes. The structures indicate that this was not a temporary campsite, but a settlement which was occupied year-round. It is estimated that the settlement had a population of 70-90 people. While the sagas indicate that the Norse carried cattle with them, there are no indications that the Norse at L’Anse aux Meadows had cattle: there do not appear to have been any outbuildings, corrals, or animal pens. If the Norse had cattle with them, they must have been left in the open.

The Norse at L’Anse aux Meadows did some iron smelting at the site, probably to produce boat nails to be used in repairing their longships.

One of the intriguing clues from L’Anse aux Meadows is the presence of butternuts, a butternut burl that was cut with iron tools, and grapes at the site. Butternut trees, also called white walnut, have never grown in Newfoundland and the butternuts must have come from someplace farther south. The closest area for butternuts is the Saint Lawrence River Valley, just east of present-day Quebec City. Archaeologist Birgitta Wallace, in an article in Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga, reports:

“The significance of the nuts is that they indicate that the people who lived at L’Anse aux Meadows made excursions to regions farther south. Butternuts grow in the same areas as wild grapes, so whoever picked the nuts must have come across grapevines as well. This was the first archaeological proof that the saga stories of the Norse encountering wild grapes are not myth but based on reality.”

Birgitta Wallace summarizes the archaeological data from L’Anse aux Meadows this way:

“Putting all the evidence together, we find that L’Anse aux Meadows was not a colonizing venture but a base at which a large group of people, perhaps three ship crews, stayed for a short time.”

The Sagas

At L’Anse aux Meadows there is little evidence of contract between the Norse and Native Americans. Turning from archaeology to the sagas, however, we see that the Norse did have some contact.

The Icelandic sagas are based on oral traditions. They are stories of events which took place in the period between 930 and 1030, an era known as söguöld (Age of the Sagas) in Icelandic history. The stories describe voyages, migrations, and feuds. The sagas focus on history, particularly genealogical and family history. Sometime after 1190, these stories were written down in Old Norse.

According to the sages, the Norse under Karlsefni, Snorri, and Bjarni, sailed south to the land they called Hop at the mouth of a river. Here they found wild wheat as well as grapes. They had been here a couple of weeks, allowing their cattle to graze freely, when nine canoes made of hides came into view. The Norse made peaceful contact with the Skraelings, who are described in the sagas as:

“They were short men, ill-looking, with their hair in disorderly fashion on their heads; they were large-eyed, and had broad cheeks.”

According to the sagas, the Norse constructed dwellings and remained at Hop through the winter. They let their cattle graze freely without keepers. In the spring, a large number of canoes appeared and a market was held in which the Norse traded cloth for furs. While the Skraelings wanted to trade for iron swords and lances, Karlsefni and Snorri did not allow it. At one point in the market, a bull belonging to Karlesefni ran out of the woods and bellowed loudly. The Skraelings viewed this as a threat and hurriedly left.

Three weeks later, a large group of Skraelings appeared and there was a battle with the Norse. In the initial attack, the Skraelings drove the Norse back, but Freydis, who was pregnant, picked up a sword from a dead Norse warrior, banged in on her naked breast, and counter-attacked, driving the Skraelings off. Following the battle, the Norse decided that this was not a good place to settle, so they moved on.

Karlsefni journeyed south with forty men for about two months. They reported seeing nothing but wilderness and returned home.

Summary

       What we know at the present time is that the Norse were in North America more than a thousand years ago. Their contacts with the Native Americans appear to have involved some limited trade and probably some violence. The sagas and the archaeological evidence at L’Anse aux Meadows show that they journeyed south of Newfoundland. What we don’t know is how far south they traveled—some writers feel that they sailed as far south as Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Archaeological data confirming their southern journeys is difficult to find as it would be in the form of temporary campsites with no permanent structures.

While the sagas provide us with some possible clues about what might be locations of Norse sites in North America, there is also some puzzling information. The archaeological data from L’Anse aux Meadows and the saga’s description of Hop, sound as though there should be a Norse site along the Saint Lawrence River. However, the saga indicates that the Skraelings used hide-covered canoes, which may indicate Inuit craft from farther north. At the time of later European contact in the Saint Lawrence area, Native Americans were using dugout canoes and bark-covered canoes, but not hide-covered canoes. This may indicate: (1) that Native watercraft in that part of North America changed during the six centuries between initial Norse contact and later European contact; or (2) the Norse saga was mistaken about the covering used on the canoes.

 

Some Indian Conflicts in 1866

The American Indian histories of 1866 carry numerous accounts of wars, battles, massacres, and other conflicts. Some of these are briefly described below.

Conflicts with Non-Indians

Following the Civil War, non-Indian settlement in the West increased and with this came more conflicts with the Indians who lived in the area. It was not uncommon for the American intruders to advocate genocide as the “solution” to what they saw as the “Indian problem.” For example, in California, the Chico Courant reported:

“It is a mercy to the red devils to exterminate them, and a saving of many white lives. Treaties are played out—there is only one kind of treaty that is effective—cold lead.”

In California, when the Luiseño left their village of Pejamo for their summer rounds, local Anglos entered the village, set fire to the houses, and then simply took possession of the fields and water supply. While both the Indians and their federal Indian agent complained, the Anglos retained control of the land.

In Nevada, Mormon settlers in Muddy Valley discovered a group of Indians drying the meat from a stolen cow. They took the Indians prisoner and then severely whipped them. The Mormons then met with the Indians and told them that the stealing of cattle must end.

In Nevada, the 2nd California Cavalry, a group of volunteers, attacked a Paiute band near Rock Creek. They killed 115 Indians and captured 19.

In Kansas, American settlers formed militia groups to defend their illegal claims to Osage land. James Thomas, in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:

“Village stores were looted, and Indian houses were dismantled for building materials. Nothing the Indians owned was sacred; settlers even plundered Indian graves in the hope of finding the treasure that the Osages often buried with their dead.”   

In Arizona, American prospectors murdered Walapai leader Wauba Yuma. The Pai bands responded in a traditional way to exact vengeance on the Americans. The result came to be called the Walapai War. Stephen Hirst, in his book I Am The Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People, reports:

“The war went on for three years, mostly in the form of skirmishes but with a few actions that we would now call massacres.”

In northern Arizona, two Mormon settlers were tracking stolen sheep in fresh snow when they encountered Navajo raiders. Both Mormons were killed. In response to the killings, the Mormons formed a militia which discovered stolen goods in a Paiute camp. The militia attacked the camp, killing two Paiute. Five other Paiute were captured, interrogated, and then executed.

The Paiute responded to the attack by later killing two Mormon men and a woman as a form of retaliation. As the Mormons in the area began planning their retaliation, Brigham Young invoked the church’s traditional policy of peace with the Indians and ordered Mormon withdrawal from the Paiute lands at Long Valley and Kanab.

In Arizona, a small party of Tolkepaya Yavapai encountered an American wagon train near Skull Valley. The Yavapai informed the teamsters that this was their land and that the water, grass, and corn belonged to them. The Yavapai would allow the Americans to leave unharmed if they surrendered their mules and the contents of their wagons.

A group of 13 soldiers—members of the Arizona Volunteers—arrived with orders from Fort Whipple to “punish” the Yavapai. Then more Yavapai and Tonto Apache arrived, including some who had papers showing that they have permission to be in the area.

On the third day of the standoff, about 80 Yavapai and Tonto Apache laid down their bows, and displaying their papers from the government, approached the wagon train peacefully. The soldiers opened fire, killing more than 40.

The Arizona Volunteers waged a war against the Yavapai and killed at least 83. The Volunteers were waging a war to exterminate Yavapai families.

In Montana, a Blackfoot war party attacked a government farm on the Sun River and burned the buildings. They also raided against a nearby cattle ranch. The raids were motivated by Blackfoot anger against Americans trespassing and settling on their lands.

Intertribal Conflicts

Following the Civil War, as American settlers began to flood into the West, more Indian tribes were pushed into smaller hunting grounds and intertribal warfare increased. Briefly described below are some of the intertribal conflicts of 1866.

In Montana, a Pend d’Oreille buffalo hunting party was attacked by the Blackfoot. Twenty men and one woman were killed.

In Montana, the alliance between the Gros Ventre and the Blackfoot broke down. This solidified the Gros Ventre relationships with the Assiniboine and with the River Crow.

In Montana, a war party of Crow and Gros Ventre attacked the Piegan Blackfoot camp of Chief Many Horses. Many Horses was killed, and the Blackfoot, angered over the death of a popular chief, attacked the Crow and Gros Ventre with ferocity. The Blackfoot warriors chased their retreating attackers for many miles. Anthropologist John Ewers, in his book The Blackfeet: Raiders on the Northwestern Plains, reports:

“In this most disastrous defeat with the memory of both the Gros Ventre and Crow tribesmen, more than three hundred of them were killed.”

The Blackfoot lost only 20 warriors.

In Montana, a party of Spokan were hunting buffalo. During the hunt, they captured several horses from the Blackfoot. In retaliation, the Blackfoot killed a Spokan chief and captured 160 Spokan horses. The horse-poor Spokan captured some non-Indian horses on their way home. In Missoula, Spokan Garry was arrested, but the Indian agent arranged for his release.

In Wyoming, the Shoshone and Bannock fought a battle against the Crow at Crowheart Butte. After five days, it was apparent that neither side would be able to win. Thus it was agreed that Shoshone chief Washakie and Crow chief Big Robber should fight a duel to settle the matter. Washakie won the duel, but he was so impressed by Big Robber’s bravery that he did not scalp him, but instead cut out his heart. One of the Crow women who was captured at the battle later became one of Washakie’s wives.

In Wyoming, a party of Shoshone returning from a successful buffalo hunt were attacked by the Sioux. Under the leadership of Washakie, the Shoshone counterattacked and drove the Sioux back. Angry because his son Nan-nag-gai did not take part in the battle, Washakie rebuked the young man. Nan-nag-gai then attacked the Sioux alone and was killed. Historian Grace Raymond Hebard , in her biography Washakie: Chief of the Shoshones, writes:

“Washakie realized that he was himself responsible for his bereavement. The story runs that overnight his hair turned white.”

In New Mexico, a Comanche war party captured a number of horses from the Navajo at the Bosque Redondo, and from the army and some Americans at Fort Sumner. The army sent out a force in pursuit. The Comanche halted and raised a white flag, but they were fired upon by the army.