Cherokee Government and the English

The primary unit of government among the Cherokee was the town. Each town—perhaps 50 at the time of first European contact—was autonomous. The government of each town was not tied to the government of other towns. These Cherokee towns were loosely affiliated into three groups: (1) the Lower Towns on the headwaters of the Savannah River (including the towns of Keowee and Estatoe), (2) the Middle Towns on the headwaters of the Little Tennessee River (including Etchoe, Stecoe), and (3) the Upper Towns (Overhill and Valley) on the Lower Little Tennessee River and the headwater of the Hiwassee River (including Settico and Tellico).

Each Cherokee village had two governments: a white government which governed when the village was at peace, and a red government which governed during times of war. The white government included the chief who was given the title Beloved Man; the chief’s advisor; counselors from each clan; a council of elders; a speaker; messengers; and ceremonial officers. The red government included the Great War Chief; the Great War Chief’s Second; seven war counselors; a War Woman; the Chief War Speaker; messengers; ceremonial officers; and scouts. The fate of captives and war prisoners was decided by the War Woman.

Among the Cherokee, all were able to participate in the councils. Cherokee society tended to be egalitarian rather than hierarchical. The chiefs had an advisory role and their power lay in their ability to persuade through oratory. According to historian John Finger in his book The Eastern Band of Cherokees 1819-1900:  “There were no leaders in the European sense, no king or prince who wielded coercive authority over others.”

After the chiefs spoke, each person had an opportunity to speak. Issues were discussed until consensus was reached. The council did not pass laws nor regulate conduct, but sought to resolve differences and difficulties.

During the first half of the eighteenth century, Cherokee government had to face the challenges of co-existing with intruding English colonists. According to the English worldview, there was only one legitimate form of government: a monarchy in which power was passed down through the paternal line from father to son. The English had a great deal of difficulty in trying to understand the matrilineal system of the Cherokees and other American Indian nations in which each person belonged to the mother’s clan.

The English viewed leadership as coercive—that is, the leader had the right to tell others what to do. The idea of consensus, the basis of Cherokee government, was an alien concept to them. In their dealings with the Cherokee and other Indian nations, the English preferred to impose their own concepts of an authoritative monarchy on Indian nations.

Another point of conflict between the English view of government and the Cherokees was over the role of women. While English women had few rights, Cherokee women were full participants in Cherokee government. Women were important in Cherokee government because of their leadership within the matrilineal clan system. In the war council, women were present and were consulted with regard to strategy. Grace Steele Woodward, in her book The Cherokees, reports:  “Custom dictated that an assemblage of war women or Pretty Women be present at every war council. And since the war women had themselves won previous honors in wars and were the mothers of warriors, they played an important role in Cherokee war councils.”

Initially, the English sought to establish a trading relationship with the Cherokees. In 1673, Virginia trader Abraham Wood sent James Needham and Gabriel Arthur out from Fort Henry to establish trade with the Cherokee at their capital of Chota. The English colony was in need of Cherokee furs, hides, beeswax, and bears’ oil for export to England.

In 1684, the formal government-to-government relationship between the Cherokees and the English was established with a formal treaty between the English and the Cherokee towns of Toxawa and Keowa.

At a meeting with the leaders from 37 Cherokee towns in 1721, the British governor, being more comfortable with a single leader, simply appointed Wrosetasatow (Mankiller or Outacite) as the supreme chief or “king” of the Cherokee. The English felt that it would be easier to deal with only one chief to fix the boundaries between the Cherokee nation and the European settlements.

With a common danger from the English settlers, the Cherokee villages came together to elect a principal chief to represent all of the villages in 1721. The concept of Cherokee nationality as opposed to village autonomy began to emerge. According to historian Marion Starkey in The Cherokee Nation:  “The Cherokees, a reasonable people, willing to learn from their enemies, found this innovation of practical value and did not discard it.”

At this time, it was estimated that the Cherokees were living in 53 towns which ranged in population from 62 to 622. The total Cherokee population was estimated at 10,434.

In traditional Cherokee government, when individuals did not agree with the line of reasoning that was gaining acceptance within the council, they would simply withdraw. Thus, in 1721, a group of Cherokee led by Yunwi-usgaseti (Dangerous Man) moved west across the Mississippi River to escape the colonists’ insatiable demands for land and the Cherokee government’s acquiescence to these demands. After Yunwi-usgaseti’s group crossed the Mississippi River there was no further communication with the Cherokee who remained behind in the Southeast. However, oral tradition records that many years later a runner came from the west to report that they were still living at the base of the Rocky Mountains.

In 1730, Sir Alexander Cuming traveled to the Cherokee town of Keowee. He brazenly entered the council house wearing pistols and a sword (a violation of Cherokee tradition) where 300 town elders were meeting. He demanded that they recognize the authority of the English King and threatened to burn down the council house if they did not. Journalist Stanley Hoig, in his book The Cherokees and Their Chiefs: In the Wake of Empire, reports:  “Cuming’s audacity, however, overwhelmed the Cherokee leaders, and they on bent knee pledged their loyalty to the Crown of England against the French in North America.”  Cuming appointed Moytoy of Tellico as the Cherokee “emperor.”

In reviewing the historical accounts of this event, Cherokee historian Robert Conley, in his book The Cherokee Nation: A History, concludes: “The story is absurd.” Conley acknowledges that Cuming visited the Cherokee and talked with people in the townhouses, but points out that “whatever he accomplished, he certainly embellished the tale for the benefit of King George.”  Conley writes:  “It is easy to believe that the egotistical King George II was taken in by Cuming’s fabrication. What is astonishing is that almost all historians ever since writing about the Cherokees have also been gullible enough to accept it at face value. In the first place, it has always been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get all Cherokees to agree on anything. In the second place, the Cherokees have always (at least since the time of the killing of the Ani-Kutani) been almost fanatical about democracy.”

With regard to Moytoy being selected as “emperor”, it was more likely that the Cherokee selected Moytoy to be their trade representative in dealing with the English traders.

In 1753 the Cherokee villages delegated to the town of Chota the power to negotiate trade and diplomatic relations for the entire Cherokee nation. In a trade agreement with the Carolinas, Old Hop was declared the Cherokee emperor by the British.

In 1753, a delegation of Cherokee leaders under the leadership of Attakullakulla met with the British governor in South Carolina. The Cherokee assured the British of their loyalty. The British governor informed the Cherokee that the purpose of the council was to establish peace between the Cherokee and the Creek. Attakullakulla argued with the governor, telling him that when he had spoken with the King, the King had asked the Cherokee to avenge the lives of his people taken by the Creek. While the governor insisted that he spoke for the King, Attakullakulla said that he should go to England to speak with the King in person. Attakullakulla reminded the governor of the treaty which the Cherokee signed in England which had promised them goods. He said:   “I remember the great King George’s talk, for the paper said the governor of Carolina was to supply us with all kinds of goods, but if he did not, we might have them in Virginia.”  In the end, the governor agreed to provide the goods.

In 1755, the British governor of South Carolina met with the Cherokee to ask them to sell their landholdings in areas in which there were no active Cherokee towns. Old Hop, unaccustomed to speaking with the British, asked the Cherokee council to select someone to represent the welfare of the Cherokee people. The council selected Attakullakulla. Attakullakulla presented a young boy to the British governor saying:  “I have brought this child that when he grows up he may remember our agreement this day and tell it to the next generation that it may be known forever.”

As a result of the council, the Cherokee agreed to provide the British with warriors and to give up their land in South Carolina. In return, the British agreed to provide the Cherokee with guns and ammunition and to build forts to protect the Cherokee.

While the Cherokee nation had changed its government during their interactions with the English colonial government and had begun to function with regard to its national interests rather than just the interests of the individual villages, there were even more challenges to their form of government ahead.

In 1776 a group of American colonists signed the Declaration of Independence which condemned King George III for preventing the colonists from appropriating western lands which belonged to Indian nations. The Revolutionary War divided the Indian nations as both the British and the newly formed United States tried to obtain Indian allies. As a result of the war, the Cherokee nation’s government had to change again to meet the incessant demands of the newly formed United States.

Natick, A Christian Indian Village in Massachusetts

The English colonists in Massachusetts were sometimes conflicted with regard to Indians. Many colonists, viewing the New World as a wilderness, felt that Indians impeded civilization and like other wild animals, such as wolves and coyotes, should be exterminated. There were also a few who viewed Indians as potential souls to be harvested in the name of their religion. With regard to religion, historians Robert Utley and Wilcomb Washburn, in their book Indian Wars, report:  “A few pious remarks were made about introducing the Indian to Christianity, but there was little real missionary zeal.” The royal charters always mentioned the obligation to bring Christianity to the “savages.”

For the English Protestants, conversion to Christianity required more than a simple baptism and a profession of faith. To be Christian required living in an English-style house, wearing English-style clothes, speaking English—in other words, becoming English. The English-speaking Christian missionaries felt that the Indian gender roles must be changed to fit the colonial norms. They were offended by the fact that Indian women did the farming, were in control of their own sexuality, and had freedoms which English women could only dream about.

English policies toward Indians were based on segregation. Initially, the rationale for this segregation was based on religion: the English were Christian and the Indians were heathens. As some Indians converted to Christianity, however, the rationale for segregation became less valid. Historian Frances Jennings, in his book The Creation of America: Through Revolution to Empire, reports:  “Race, identified by skin color, became a more satisfactory means of making essential distinctions.”

The English colonial policy of segregation and the Protestant concept of conversion requiring complete assimilation came together in a plan that called for Christian Indians to have their own separate, English-style towns. In 1651, Puritan missionary John Eliot received from the British Crown 2,000 acres of land so that Christian Indians could build an English-style town. The site straddled the Charles River 18 miles upriver from Boston.

John Elliot, who was sometimes called Apostle to the Indians, believed that Indians were descendents of the Jews who had been led to America by Satan. Indian salvation, according to Elliot, required them to embrace the moral philosophy and practices of the Puritans.

Waban, the leader of the Massachusett village of Nonantum, made the request for the new village. Waban’s reluctant embracing of Christianity was based on two primary factors: (1) he was afraid that the English would kill him if he didn’t pretend to embrace their religion, and (2) they provided him with good food.

The new town called Natick, whose name means “the place of seeking,” is a sacred place and well-suited for vision quests and dances. Unknown to the Christian missionaries, the new Christian town was strategically placed within traditional sacred geography.

The physical layout included an English-style meetinghouse, fort, and arched footbridge across the river. While lots for houses were laid out for nuclear families, most of the Indians erected traditional wigwams rather than English clapboard houses.

The Christian Indians, who came from several different tribes, adopted English-style clothing and English hairstyles as a way of demonstrating to the English that they were walking the Christian path of righteousness. The Indians adopted a legal code based on a biblical prototype which outlawed many traditional practices, including premarital sex, long hair, and cracking lice between the teeth. Penalties for breaking the rules included fines and flogging.

In 1660, Puritan missionary John Eliot claimed that 100 of his Natick converts were now literate. Elliot translated the Bible and other works into the Massachusett language and had these distributed among his converts.

In 1675, many English colonists felt that all Indians were involved in King Philip’s War even though many groups, particularly the praying villages such as Natick, had declared their neutrality. The English colony confined all “friendly” Indians to a few of the eastern praying towns and the colonists confiscated the crops and tools in the praying towns of Wamesit, Hassanamisset, Magunkaquag, and Chabanakongkomun. The Indians were confined to the village limits on penalty of death.

The colonists, however, continued to accuse the Christian Indians of supporting King Philip (whose Indian name was Metacom).The Natick were forced from their homes and interred on Deer Island in Boston Harbor. The Punkapoag were also sent to Deer Island.

The setting is generally described as a “windswept bit of rock” with little fuel and little shelter from the cold sea wind. Historian Daniel Mandell, in his book Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts, notes:  “Despite English hostility and abuse, Indian men on the island clamored to help in the war against Metacom, showing their deep loyalty to the Christian colony, an older dislike of the Wampanoags, or perhaps a strong desire to escape the conditions of the island.”  About 100 men enlisted in the colonial army as scouts.

In 1677, the General Court ordered that all Indians be settled in four praying towns: Natick, Punkapoag, Hassanamesit, and Wamesit. The Indians in these towns were prohibited from entertaining “stranger” Indians and the Court ordered that a list of all inhabitants of the praying towns be made annually. When leaving the towns, the Indians were required to have a magistrate’s certificate proving their loyalty. When approached by an English person, the Indians were to lay their guns on the ground until the English had examined their papers.

In 1680, an English farmer bought 50 acres from two Indians living in the Christian Indian village of Natick. The sale was without the consent of the town council and in violation of colonial law. The Englishman then altered the deed to 500 acres. The village then sued, won, and recovered 400 acres. In other words, the farmer who bought 50 acres fraudulently wound up with 100 acres.

In 1682, a group of Nipmuc under the leadership of Black James left Natick and traveled southwest where they resettled at Chabanakongkomun.

In 1690, the General Court ordered all Indians in the Bay Colony to go to Natick or Punkapoag. The order was in response to the war between the English and French and the French Indian allies, and the fear that it would be difficult to discern between friends and foes.

In 1690, Natick minister Daniel Takawampait replaced John Elliot as minister to his people. At this time Indian leaders, including ministers, had to be approved and supervised by colonial officials appointed by Massachusetts Bay Colony magistrates. All laws and ordinances enacted in Indian communities also had to be approved by colonial authorities.

In 1698, the English town of Dedham stole 1,400 acres from the bordering Christian Indian town of Natick. The stolen land included orchards and corn fields.

In 1707, the Christian Indian community of Natick began holding the annual election of town officers, following the pattern of its English neighbors.

In 1715, the New England Company asked the Natick to sell them the apparently abandoned praying town of Magunkaquog. The Company proposed to rent out the land to English settlers and share the rent money with the Natick families. The Natick, however, were still growing crops in the area and had deep emotional feelings about the area. Magunkaquog means the “place of the giant trees” in reference to the great trees – oak and chestnut – which were found in abundance in the area.

After initially rejecting the offer, the Natick agreed to the deal. After signing the deed, one of the signatories, Isaac Nehemiah, commited suicide by hanging himself with his belt.

In 1719, the Natick created a proprietorship – a corporate entity to govern land allotments. The 20 proprietors – 19 men and one woman – were the heads of long established families. The proprietorship provided secure land titles and boundaries under colonial law which was seen as useful in meeting outside pressures. According to historian Daniel Mandell:  “But the Natick proprietorship undermined the native community by severing landholding from the town polity and bringing the native community into a closer orbit to the province’s legal and economic systems.”

In 1738, the Natick complained that a mill dam on the Charles River was preventing them from taking fish. There was no response to their complaint.

In 1759, Natick warriors returned home from the French and Indian War bringing with them the contagious illness which had been killing the soldiers. In the space of three months, 20 people died.

By 1785, most of the Indians had drifted away from Natick, its lands having been sold off to non-Indians to cover debts.

The Hoko River Complex

The Hoko River originates in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains (Washington State) and flows for about 25 miles to the Pacific Ocean. It flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca about 16 miles east of the Makah town of Neah Bay. By 3,000 years ago, the Makah were using the area around the mouth of the river for a wide range of sea, river, and forest resources. The Hoko River Archaeological Complex is composed of three site areas: (1) a riverbank wet site, (2) dry campsites adjacent to the wet site, and (3) a rock shelter at the mouth of the river.

The Hoko River sites first came to the attention of archaeologists in 1967 when people reported to Washington State University that they were finding artifacts in the area. An archaeological survey found that a large site ran some 600 feet along the river and that much of the site had already slumped into the river. Full-scale investigation, however, did not begin until 1977. Initial financial support was provided by the Makah Tribal Council and the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Some additional support was provided by Jean Auel, the author of a series of archaeological-based novels.

Wet sites provide some interesting challenges for archaeologists. Writing in the Handbook of North American Indians, Gary Wessen from the Makah Cultural and Research Center describes the Hoko River wet site:“Most of the wet site is situated within the range of tidal fluctuations, and much of it can only be examined during low tides.”

Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty, in their book Archaeology in Washington, describe the problems in working with the wet site:  “Excavation entailed pumping water from the river and spraying it out through garden hoses to gently wash artifacts free from the riverbank mud that held them. Conventional troweling, no matter how careful, might damage a wooden or fiber artifact before it could be noticed.”

Wet sites, however, have an advantage as the artifacts have stayed wet for millennia and have been spared from decay. Once they are excavated from the site, they must remain wet. For preservation and analysis, the artifacts are bathed in polyethylene glycol which soaks into the waterlogged tissue, replacing the water with wax.

The excavation at the Hoko River Wet Site yielded many fiber artifacts, including baskets, hat, mats, nets, and cordage. Nearly 70% of the material from the site was cordage. Some of the baskets uncovered at the site had been coarsely woven which allowed water to drain out. According to the Makah elders from Neah Bay, these baskets would have been used for packing salmon from fishing weirs upriver to drying racks at the camp at the river mouth.

One of the other interesting finds was a fishnet with two-inch mesh. This artifact was uncovered in deposits which dated to 3,200 years ago. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty report:  “Scanning electron microscope examination of cell structure identified its fiber as split spruce root or bough, most likely bough, which is stronger than root and absorbs water less readily.”

Ethnographies of Northwest Coast Indian nations, such as the Makah, report that one of the symbols of nobility, of high-class status, was a woven hat with a knob on top. At the wet site, five of these hats were recovered, which suggests that social stratification in this area was much older than previously thought.

The wet site also yielded a number examples of tule mats which were used for many different things including mattresses, canoe cushions, partitions within the long houses, and so on. As a part of the archaeological efforts to understand the past, Makah tribal elders instructed the archaeological field school students in making tule mats. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty report:  “The goal of the early Hoko River people must have been to make high-quality, long-lasting mats, and therefore, even an experienced mat-maker must have needed three or four days to gather materials for a single mat, prepare them, make the string, and do the sewing.”

Tule mats were used to cover the sides of temporary shelters. The postholes found at the dry site were used to estimate the size of the temporary shelters and it was determined that six to eight mats would have been needed for these shelters. Each mat would have been about four feet by eight feet.

At many sites along the Northwest Coast archaeologists have found small stone blades known as microliths. It was assumed that these microliths had been hafted in some fashion. At the wet site, the archaeologists found hafted knives in which thumbnail-size stone flakes had been placed in between five-inch splints of red cedar and then bound with spruce root and wild cherry bark. Working with the Makah elders, experimental archaeology showed that these knives were used in butchering fish.

At the dry campsite, archaeologists uncovered the bones of rockfish, cod, dogfish, flounder, halibut, salmon, and other fish. The deep-sea species are evidence of off-shore fishing. This means that the people who used the Hoko River sites had watercraft. In addition to fish bones, the archaeologists also found several hundred wooden fishing hooks. These fishhooks date from 1,700 to 3,000 years old and show little change through time.

The dry campsites, located in the forested area back from the river, are composed of three sites dating to 3,400 years ago, 3,100 years ago, and 1,700 years ago. Stone debris shows that some toolmaking was done here. There are also stone-lined storage pits.

The rock shelter at the mouth of the river dates to about 1,000 years ago and shows evidence of seasonal use. The rock shelter had been originally formed through river and wave action and over time had been uplifted by 30 feet, which made it usable for human occupation. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty report:  “The placement of the hearths suggested that people lived in the northern part of the rock shelter, where prevailing winds would tend to clear out smoke or blow it to fish-drying racks set up in the southern part of the cave.”

Sea mammal bones found at this site include fur seal (69% of the sea mammal bones), elephant seal, porpoise, and whale.

Mormons and Indians

When Europeans began arriving in the Americas they brought with them the firm belief that all knowledge, including the history of the world, was contained in a special holy book which had been compiled from the oral traditions of southwest Asia. They were a bit surprised, therefore, when they encountered the aboriginal people of the Americas, who eventually became known as American Indians, who were not mentioned in that holy book. Some of these Europeans felt—and a few continue to feel—that this meant that American Indians were not to be considered human and, like other wild animals, were to be exterminated so that European “civilization” could prosper. Others worked around this failing of the book by making up creation stories which tied the Indians into the mythical histories of southwest Asia.

From the American Indian viewpoint, the European-book religion seemed strange, irrelevant, and unreal. The Europeans quickly found that conversion worked better if economic and military force were used.

Everything changed in 1823 when an angel led Joseph Smith to a hillside near Manchester, New York, and showed him golden plates engraved with strange characters. After months of concentrated work using a special instrument, he was able to translate the plates and published hundreds of pages of history, prophecy, and poetry that provided the foundation for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). This new religion, and its book, were different in that it included the supposed history of Indian peoples. The Book of Mormon teaches that Indians had descended from Israelite peoples who had migrated to the American continent prior to the Babylonian captivity. Thus, the Mormons viewed Indians as Children of Israel who could be incorporated into God’s Latter-day Kingdom.

According to the Book of Mormon, American Indians were descendants from Laman and were therefore called Lamanites. Laman was the rebellious son of Lehi who had left the Old World and sailed to the Americas in the seventh century BCE. In the Americas, the Lamanite had grown distant from the teachings of God, become fierce and warlike, and had acquired a darker skin color. Robert McPherson, in a chapter in A History of Utah’s American Indians, writes:  “From a purely ideological point of view, the Mormons believed that the Indians were a remnant of a people who fell out of grace with God, were given a dark skin as a sign of their spiritual standing, and who now lived in an unfortunate condition awaiting restoration to an enlightened state.”

Since American Indians, according to the Book of Mormon, were descended from the Israelites–God’s chosen people–there was to be a special emphasis on the conversion of Indians. Floyd O’Neil and Stanford Layton, writing in the Utah Historical Quarterly, say:  “To the Mormons, then, redemption of the Indians (Lamanites) was a prophecy to be fulfilled and a scripture to be vindicated.”

This special emphasis on converting Indians was put to the test when the Mormons were forced to flee from the United States and establish themselves in Utah where they would be surrounded by Indians.

The first Mormon settlers arrived in Utah in 1847 and they were soon followed by a stream of Latter-day Saints seeking the promised land. Following the European settlement pattern, they sought to support themselves through agriculture. The Gosiute tribe living in the area showed them some of the wild edible plants, such as the sego lily root, as a way of surviving until the Mormon’s crops could be harvested.

The Mormons, like other Europeans, disregarded Indian title to the land. From the Mormon perspective the land belonged to the Lord, which meant that only the priesthood could apportion it. The apportionment of the land was to be based on the principles of stewardship. Gary Tom and Ronald Holt, in their article in A History of Utah’s American Indians, write:  “Justification for taking the land was given by the Mormon church and its members, including the idea that the Indians were not making efficient use of the land and therefore the Mormons had the right to take it over because they could support more people by their methods of agriculture than the Indians could.”

The Mormon expansion was fairly rapid, driven by the need to acquire land for converts. The new Mormon settlements took the best farmlands and the best water sources. Indians were often employed to help prepare the fields and for various household chores.

Mormon men who were called or appointed as missionaries learned the Indian languages, worked with the tribes, and then attempted to lead them into the fold of Christ’s church. In order to be saved, the Indians first had to be “civilized,” which meant that they had to assimilate into a Euro-American way of life. Indian people often resisted the attempts to change their lifestyles.

In summarizing Mormon interactions with Indians, Thomas Alexander, in his book Utah, the Right Place: The Official Centennial History, writes:  “The attitude of the Latter-day Saints toward the Indians represented a convergence of theology, Euro-American imperialism, and racism.”

In an article in the Utah Historical Quarterly Catherine Fowler and Don Fowler write:  “Mormon ideology regarding the origin and identity of the Indians generally was responsible for some favorable attitudes and policies toward them, but it may also have been a contributing factor in maintaining a degree of social distance between groups.”

Today, Mormons continue their missionary efforts among American Indians. The missionary experience is probably more important to the young Mormons than it is to the Indians.

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. 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.

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.

About 400 English colonists were killed in the war, which was about 7% of the colonial population. In response, an army was put together 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.

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.”

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.

Visiting European Royalty

Beginning with Christopher Columbus in the late fifteenth century, it was a common practice for European explorers and colonists to bring Native peoples back to Europe to meet with European royalty. During the first half of the eighteenth century there were several groups of American Indians who visited with European royalty.

Mohawks and Mahican:

 In 1710, England was visited by a formal Indian delegation composed of three Mohawks and one Mahican. The delegation was called the “Four Kings” and had been assembled by New England colonists who wanted to persuade Queen Anne to support the colonial plans for an invasion of New France. In London, the Four Kings enjoyed all of the activities and festivities which would normally be bestowed on foreign dignitaries. The visit helped to cement a strong friendship between England and the Iroquois Confederacy, of which the Mohawk were a part.

In their meeting with the Queen, the Four Kings asked for her assistance. Historian Herman Viola, in his book Diplomats in Buckskins, reports:  “The chiefs, obviously well coached by their patrons, told Queen Anne that the capture of Canada would bring England important economic benefits, for the Mohawks would then be able to conduct ‘a great Trade with Our Great Queen’s children.”

They also asked for Christian missionaries and presented the Queen with several belts of wampum.

 Otoe, Osage, Missouri, Illinois, Chicagou, and Methegamias:

In 1725, a group of Indians, including one Otoe, one Osage, one Missouri chief, one Missouri young woman, one Illinois, one Chicagou, and one Metchegamias, were sent to Paris, France. There they met with the Director of the Company of the Indies, and the Duke and Duchess de Bourbon. The chiefs were given a complete French outfit which included a blue dress coat, silver ornaments, and a plumed hat trimmed in silver. They were presented to King Louis XV and they performed a dance at the opera. The French King gave each of the chiefs a royal medallion, a rifle, a sword, and a watch.


 In 1730, the English Crown sent seven Cherokee chiefs – Attakullakulla, Ookounaka, Ketagusta, Tathtiowie, Clogittah, Collanah, and Ounakannowie–   on an educational trip to England, which concluded with a treaty. According to Cherokee historian Robert Conley, in his book The Cherokee Nation: A History:  “They were wined and dined at fashionable spots in London, had their portraits painted, and were followed around town by curious crowds.”

Under the treaty, the Cherokee were to fight for the British; they were to keep the trading path clean; they were to return runaway slaves; and they were to give up any Indian who killed an Englishman.

According to popular reports on their visit with the King, Ookounaka was supposed to have said:  “We look upon the Great King George as the Sun, and as our father, and upon ourselves as his children. For though we are red, and you are white yet our hands and hearts are joined together”

However, as Robert Conley has pointed out, the Cherokee saw the Sun not as male, but as female and thus it would have been highly unlikely of any Cherokee to make this statement. Secondly, the idea of categorizing people according to perceived skin color was totally alien to the Cherokee, thus invalidating the accuracy of the second part of the quote.


 In 1734, several Yamacraw from Georgia, including Tomochichi and his wife Senauki, traveled to England. According to historian Nancy Shoemaker, in her book A Strange Likeness: Becoming Red and White in Eighteenth-Century North America:  “The highlight of their trip was a meeting with King George II, who held court from his throne, promised friendship between their peoples, and offered the Indian delegation use of one of his carriages so as not to be outdone by Queen Anne’s royal treatment of the ‘four Indian kings’ two decades earlier.”

Senouki, who was the only woman in the group, wore conventional English clothing instead of Native clothing. This included a tightly laced jacket and a long petticoat, both of solid pink. Her hair, however, was kept in Native fashion rather than English. In a similar fashion, Toonahowi, Tomochichi’s nephew and heir, dressed more like a young, wealthy squire than an Indian leader. According to historian Julie Anne Sweet, in an article published in The Georgia Historical Quarterly:  “Through their clothing choices, Senauki and Toonahowi demonstrated their knowledge of the customary English traditions and their willingness to adapt to the present circumstances to further their overall objectives.”

In his negotiations with the English, Tomochichi explained how the English traders had cheated the Indians through price gouging and asked for fairness in trade. It was clear that the Indians were aware that the English traders in South Carolina were cheating them.


In 1735, Mahomet traveled to England where he identified himself to the King as the chief sachem of the Mohegan in Connecticut. He asked the King for protection against the injuries and wrongs which the English colonists had committed against his people. Although Mahomet died in England, the king created a commission to look into the situation.

The Chickasaw Indians

Five of the Southeastern Indian nations – Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole – are sometimes called the “five Civilized Tribes”. The designation “civilized” is an indication that they had acquired many elements of European cultures and were the most acculturated Indian tribes during the nineteenth century. The Chickasaw, descendents of one of the Mississippian chiefdoms that dominated the region after 1000 CE, became a major power-player when the European invasion of the Southeast intensified in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The traditional Chickasaw homeland was in northern Mississippi.

There is an oral tradition which says that the people emerged from the underworld at Ninih Waiya. The first to emerge were the Creek, who dried themselves in the sun and then went east. Next to emerge were the Cherokee, who tried to follow the Creek but got lost and settled in the north. The third group to emerge was the Chickasaw, who followed the Cherokee. The last group to emerge was the Choctaw, who settled near the mound.

Linguistically, the Chickasaw language is a part of the larger Muskogean family and is most closely related to Choctaw.

Like the other Indian nations of the Southeast, the Chickasaw were an agricultural people who raised corn, beans, squash, melons, and sunflowers. They farmed the fertile floodplains and located their villages on high grounds away from the annual flooding. Chickasaw houses, like those of other Indian nations in the region, used a pole and frame construction which could then be covered with bark or thatch.

Corn was the most important Chickasaw crop, so it is not surprising that he Green Corn Ceremony was their most important religious ceremony. Held after the harvest, the Green Corn Ceremony was an expression of gratitude for a successful corn crop. This was a time for renewing life when the villages were cleaned and worn pottery was broken. The Green Corn Ceremony was also associated with the quest for spiritual purity. Fasting – one of the principle ways of attaining purity – was an important element in the ceremony. Among the Chickasaw, the fast started on the first afternoon of the ceremony and lasted until the second sunrise. Following the fast an emetic was used to purge the body of all impurities.

The emetic used was the Black Drink, a black beverage which was made from the leaves of the cassina shrub. Drinking the beverage — a strong purgative — gave special purification to the drinker. It was used to cleanse the minds of village leaders for debate and to cleanse and strengthen the bodies of warriors for battle. By removing bodily impurities, the drinkers were restored to a state of equilibrium which allowed them to successfully complete whatever task they faced. Anthropologist Charles Hudson, in his book The Southeastern Indians, notes: “The physiological effects of black drink are mainly those of massive doses of caffeine.”

Fishing and hunting supplemented the agricultural diet. Fish were often speared using green cane spears which could be 16 to 18 feet in length. Spearing was often done from canoes.

Like many of the other Indian nations in the Southeast, the Chickasaw had a dual system of government in which there was a civil chief who managed internal matters and peaceful diplomacy and another chief served as war chief. During times of conflict, the war chief would function as the primary leader.

One of the interesting cultural practices of some of the Southeastern tribes, such as the Natchez, Chickasaw, Catawba, and Choctaw, was cranial deformation in which the heads of infants were deliberately flattened.  Christina Snyder, in her book Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America, reports:  “When infants from these groups lay on their cradle boards, families placed wooden boards covered with deerskin on the foreheads, making the cranial vault rounded and long.”

Cranial deformation was usually an indication of high social rank.

Warfare was common among the Southeastern Indian nations. Even though there were women warriors, warfare tended to be dominated by men.  Warfare generally involved raiding to obtain booty or captives. Among the Chickasaw a typical raiding party consisted of about 20 men led by a war leader who carried a medicine bundle. Chickasaw women would often accompany the men, providing them with both critiques and encouragements through song. As with other Southeastern tribes, if anything happened which could be interpreted as a bad omen the warriors returned home.

Tula, the Toltec Capital

By the time the Spanish had conquered Mexico, the Toltec (also known Tolteca) were revered as mythical rulers of a golden age. They were regarded as the cultural heirs of the great city of Teotihuacán. In his book The Aztecs, archaeologist Brian Fagan writes of the mythical reputation the Toltec:  “They were expert herbalists, jewelers, the originators of calendars and year counts—righteous, wise people in every way, it was claimed. The oral histories depict the Tolteca as tall people who excelled in all the arts and sciences. Hunger and unhappiness were unknown. Tolteca farmers even grew colored cotton and huge ears of maize.”

Prudence Rice, writing in the Dictionary of Archaeology, notes:  “Much of what is known about the history of the Toltecs in Mesoamerica is filtered through later Aztec myths and histories, which they wrote and rewrote to glorify their own accomplishments, and many contradictions complicate the picture.”

While the various accounts of Toltec history are somewhat contradictory, Wigberto Jimenez Moreno pieced together a sequence that is accepted by most scholars. In the late eighth century C.E., the legendary ruler Mixcoatl (Cloud Serpent) had led his people through what is now northern Jalisco and southern Zacatecas to settle in the Valley of Mexico at Culhuacan. According to the stories, Mixcoatl was a Chichimeca (barbarian from the north) who married a noble woman at Culhuacan. After his death, Mixcoatl was deified as the patron of hunting.

While many scholars view Mixcoatl as a mythical or semi-mythical figure, Topilzin is generally felt to have been a real person who was born in the year 1 Reed (935 CE or 947 CE). He is often identified as Mixcoatl’s son and heir. One of the first things Topilzin did was to move the capital from Culhuacan to Tula. While Tula is sometimes translated to mean “place of the reeds,” its meaning implied “the city” (from the idea that people were crowded together as thick as reeds).

The accounts of Tula and the Toltec which were collected by the early Spanish chroniclers, such as Bernardino de Sahagún, seem almost mythical. Unlike the great ancient city of Teotihuacán, there were no immediately observable ruins of Tula. Was Tula myth or reality?  The answer came in 1941 when Wigberto Jimenez Moreno and Jorge Acosta identified the archaeological site of Tula in the state of Hidalgo about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Mexico City. Prior to being adopted by the Toltec as their capital, Tula had been a small farming community which had been first settled about 650 CE. As the Toltec capital, it became an urban center covering about 7 square miles (11 square kilometers) with a population of about 30-40,000 in the urban core and perhaps as many as 120,000 in the urban region.

The archaeological site of Tula is not as impressive as many other Mesoamerican sites. First, the city had been burned and sacked by an unknown group. Second, the Aztecs had looted the site for its sculptures, friezes, and other items which were then re-used in Tenochtitlan and other Aztec cities.

On a high promontory, the Toltec constructed a ceremonial precinct which was dominated on the north side by a pyramid (designated as Pyramid B by archaeologists) to Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent God, in his role as the God of the Morning Star.  Archaeologist Brian Fagan describes the pyramid this way:  “Its workmanship is crude compared with that of the pyramids of Teotihuacan. Great warrior figures with flat heads supported the roof of Quetzalcoatl’s temple. The shrine stood on a pyramid faced with panels of walking jaguars and eagles consuming human hearts.”

Pyramid B was built in six successive stages. It is a stepped pyramid platform with a colonnaded hall in front. Archaeologists Michael Coe and Rex Koontz, in their book Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, write:  “An ancient visitor would have walked through the colonnade, climbed the stairway and passed through the entrance of the temple, flanked by two stone columns in the form of Feathered Serpents, with the rattles in the air and heads on the ground.”

The major construction of this civic/ceremonial center, known today as Tula Grande, is traditionally dated to 950-1150 CE, with most of the absolute dates at the clustering in the 900 to 1000 range.

Also included in the ceremonial complex are a coatepantli (“serpent wall”), two ballcourts for the ceremonial ballgame, and a Chacmool sculpture. The coatepantli is located to the north of the pyramid and serves to demark the edge of the ceremonial district. The friezes on the wall show a snake devouring a human except for the head.

Chacmool is a type of stone sculpture of a reclining human figure with a bowl or plate held on the stomach. These sculptures are found at the entrances to temples throughout Mesoamerica. The bowls or plates served as receptacles for human hearts.

Adjacent to Pyramid B is the Palacio Quemado (Burnt Palace). This feature has colonnaded halls with sunken courts in their centers which probably served as spaces for ceremonies and meetings.

In spite of the Aztec stories, archaeology has not uncovered any evidence showing that the Toltec actually controlled a large empire. They did, however, participate in the large trading networks that spread throughout Mesoamerica and into the American Southwest. They also appear to have controlled the obsidian mines which had once been controlled by Teotihuacán.

According to the Aztec stories, Topiltzin had been a priest-king dedicated to a peaceful Feathered Serpent cult. He opposed human sacrifice. On the other hand, there were those in Tula who worshipped Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror), the giver and taker of life, the patron of the warriors. As a result of the struggle between the pacifistic Topiltzin and the warriors, Topiltzin and his followers fled the city about 987 CE. As a result, there developed many legends about the migrations of Topiltzin and his people.

The archaeological reality of the Toltec and their capital at Tula is somewhat different than that reported by the later Aztecs to the Spanish chroniclers. Brian Fagan reports:  “The Tula excavations reveal a battle-scarred, militaristic Toltec civilization, one in which oppression was a way of life and human sacrifice second nature, a far cry from the Golden Age of Aztec legend.”

With regard to the Toltec legacy, Prudence Rice writes:  “For the Aztecs, the Toltecs played a critical role as a great ancestral civilization. In order to legitimize their kinds and establish their own noble lineages, the Mexica—likewise of Chichimeca ancestry—contrived to marry into the descendents of Toltec nobility in the basin of Mexico.”

After 1100, prolonged droughts and attacks from new invaders from the north brought an end to the Tolteca.

The Michif Language

The French, unlike the English and the Spanish, saw Indians as trading partners. The French saw that their best opportunity for economic gain was to be found in the fur trade in which their Native American trading partners would retain their autonomy and provide them with furs. The French explorers quickly established trading relations with the Native nations.

The best way for the French traders to establish trading relations was for the traders to marry into the Indian societies, as traditional trade relied heavily upon kinship relations. Having married an Indian woman, the trader would have a kinship network which could be utilized for trade.

One of the consequences of marriage is often children. The offspring of the French-Indian marriages grew up in multilingual households with a French-speaking father and an Indian-language-speaking mother. These children also grew up with two cultures: one European and one Aboriginal. The two cultures blended and created a new group of people known in Canada as Métis.

Out of the Métis culture also came a new language: Michif (also spelled Mitchif).  Catherine Callaghan and Geoffrey Gamble, in a chapter in the Handbook of North American Indians, write:  “Mitchif arose around 1800 in the central Canadian provinces as the result of intermarriage between French fur traders and Cree-speaking women who were often the daughters of their Indian trading partners.”

Michif is sometimes described as a mixture of Cree and French.  While there are some who confuse Michif with pidgin trade languages, such as the Chinook trade language spoken along the Columbia River, it is not a pidgin (a language with a reduced vocabulary and grammar), but a true language. Linguist John McWhorter, in his book The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, writes:  “Michif is not a fallback strategy for people who could not really manage their ancestors’ languages, nor is it a jolly sort of pig Latin—it is a new language altogether.”

Michif utilizes French-origin noun phrases which retain lexical gender (something unusual in the Algonquian Indian languages) and adjective agreement. At the same time, Michif uses Cree-origin verbs with a polysynthetic structure. Polysynthetic structure simply means that instead of using a bunch of words to give additional nuance and meaning to a verb, this is done through a series of prefixes and suffixes. The result is some very long words: verbs can incorporate up to twenty morphemes (sounds which have specific meanings). Thus, Michif grammar tends to be Cree-based.

In general, most of the Michif nouns (an estimated 83-94%) are of French-origin, while most verbs (an estimated 88-99%) are Cree-origin. The language also uses Cree personal pronouns, question words, and demonstratives. In addition to French nouns, Michif uses French numerals, adjectives, and articles.

The study of language origins, particularly the study of creole languages, has strongly suggested that new languages tend to be formed by children. In the case of Michif, linguists generally feel that the children were fairly fluent in both French and Cree when they developed Michif. Until fairly recently, most Michif speakers were trilingual, speaking French, Cree, and Michif.

Linguists generally see a pidgin-creole continuum in which creoles evolve out of pidgins (second languages which often function as trade languages and are learned by adults). Michif, however, does not fit this model. Pidgins, such as they are learned by adults, have a reduced morphological complexity. Catherine Callaghan and Geoffrey Gamble write:  “Mitchif represents the opposite of a jargon or a pidgin-based creole, since the language underwent an increase rather than a reduction in morphological complexity during its formation.”

At the present time, Michif is classified as a moribund language, meaning that relatively few children are learning it. In the United States, there are probably fewer than 1,000 Michif speakers, most of whom are associated with the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. In Canada, where the Métis are legally and socially recognized as a distinct people, there are many more Michif speakers.


The area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana is known as the Plateau Culture area. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. Much of the area is classified as semi-arid. Part of it is mountainous with pine forests in the higher elevations.

For the Indian people of the Plateau, camas (Camassia quamash) was an important food. Camas is a lily-like plant whose bulb can be fire-baked to make a sweet and nutritious staple. In some places in the Northwest, camas was so common that non-Indian travelers would mistake fields of the plant’s blue flowers for distant lakes. As a food source, camas is very high in protein: 5.4 ounces of protein per pound of roots. In comparison, steelhead trout (Salmo gairdneri) has 3.4 ounces of protein per pound.

Ethnographic Background:

There are a number of different stories about the origin of camas. According to one story, Moose, in order to feed his guests Coyote and Kingfisher, slapped his backside and out came Camas. He then put it in a kettle and gave it to his guests as food.

The proper time to gather camas is when the lower half of the flowers begin to fade. Indian people generally gathered camas in June, but this varied according to altitude and seasonal weather conditions. The camas was dug up by women using digging sticks made from elk antlers or fire-hardened sticks. A woman could dig up about a bushel of roots in a day from a site that was about half an acre in size. It was possible for a woman to gather enough camas in three or four days to feed her family for a year.

Among all of the food plants gathered by the Native peoples of the Plateau region, the camas bulbs required the most elaborate preparation. The sugar in the camas bulbs is indigestible until it is roasted and converted to fructose. By slow roasting the bulbs in an earth oven, camas becomes a useful food source.

The oven (a roasting pit dug into the ground) was preheated by building a fire in it and placing small rocks (about 5” in diameter) in with the wood. In addition to the small rocks, some pits had large flat stones on the bottom which were also heated by the fire. When the rocks were hot, they were covered with about 3 inches of wet vegetation such as slough grass, alder branches, willow, and/or skunk cabbage leaves. Then the camas bulbs were placed on top of the vegetation. Sometimes Douglas onions (Allium douglasii) were placed in with the camas. The camas was then covered with bark and earth and a fire was built on top of the oven. Cooking usually took between 12 and 70 hours, depending on the number of camas bulbs in the oven.

Although the men gathered the wood for the ovens, men were not allowed near the roasting pits for fear that the camas would not be roasted properly. In some of the tribes, the men were not supposed to even look in the direction of the camas ovens.

For the women, gathering and roasting the camas was a highly regarded skill. Writing about the Kalispel, Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty, in their book Archaeology in Washington, report:  “Young women seeking guardian spirits hoped to gain ability to find roots, dig them, or roast and prepare them for storage. Skill in roasting roots was more valued than skill in digging them.”

The camas which was intended for storage was then dried for about a week. Dried camas can be preserved for many years. Some American explorers report eating camas that had been prepared 36 years earlier.  The early Europeans in the area, such as Lewis and Clark, occasionally consumed camas after they were shown how to harvest it and prepare it. One Jesuit missionary fermented camas to make alcohol. Another Jesuit missionary observed that the consumption of camas by those unaccustomed to it is “followed by strong odors accompanied by loud sounds”.

In order to increase the camas yield, the camas areas, as well as other root gathering areas, were occasionally burned over.


Since camas was a staple crop, the people would visit the gathering areas each year, often re-using the pit ovens at the camas camps. For archaeologists, the presence of the pit ovens provides good evidence that the people were harvesting camas.

The earliest evidence of the use of camas dates to about 6000 BCE, a time when the Old Cordilleran culture was beginning to replace the Windust culture. According to archaeologist James Keyser in his book Indian Rock Art of the Columbia Plateau:  “Old Cordillaran people hunted deer, antelope, mountain sheep, and birds; took salmon and fresh-water mollusks from the rivers; and collected and processed berries and tuberous plants such as camas.”

Ethnographic accounts tell of rich camas fields in the Calispell Valley near Usk, Washington and the present-day Kalispel Reservation. In the 1980s, archaeologists began documenting the earth ovens in the area. The site dates to about 4800 BCE. The earth ovens range from two feet to 11 feet in diameter. With regard to depth, they range from about 5 inches to more than 2 feet. The camas season appears to have lasted for about two months. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty report:  “For the Kalispel people the pattern seems to have changed little in thousands of years. Recent ovens closely match the ancient ones.”

Archaeologists have, however, noted some changes in the use of camas. About 1500 BCE, camas became more intensely used in the Calispell Valley. At this same time, fishing also became more important.

A thousand years later, about 500 BCE, there is a major drought which damages the moist meadows. The use of camas decreased because of lack of availability. At this same time, there is an increase in the use of fire to increase food production at the higher elevations.

By 500 CE, the harvesting of camas in the Calispell Valley had once again intensified.

The Ozette Reservation

In 1855 the United States met with the Makah Nation in Washington to negotiate a treaty. At this time, the Makah were composed of five semiautonomous villages that shared language, kinship, and cultural traditions. As in other treaty councils, Governor Isaac Stevens told the Makah to select a single man to serve as their supreme chief. When they declined to do so, he simply appointed Tse-kow-wootl, from the village of Ozette, as supreme chief.

Under the terms of the treaty, dictated by Governor Isaac Stevens, the Makah reservation was to be centered at Neah Bay. Only one of the five main Makah villages was included within the new reservation. While the Makah had been successful fishing people for thousands of years, the United States wanted them to become farmers on land which was not suited for agriculture. All of the Makah land which was suitable for agriculture was outside of the new reservation.

With the formation of the Makah Reservation, the village of Ozette is six miles south of the reservation. While the United States government wanted all of the Makah to move to the Neah Bay area, the people of Ozette preferred to remain in their traditional village.

The United States Indian policy was based on the idea of civilizing Indian people through farming. Since the treaty excluded nearly all of the land which could be farmed, a Presidential Executive Order in 1873 expanded the Makah reservation to include some farmable land. However, the village of Ozette, which was still occupied by a number of Makah families, remained outside of the reservation. At this time there were about 200 families living in Ozette.

In the 1880s, the Indian agents on the Makah Reservation were encouraging the Makah families in Ozette to relocate to Neah Bay so that they could be near the schools for their children. With this, the population of Ozette began to decrease. By 1888 only 91 families remained in the village.

In 1893, the 719-acre Ozette Reservation was established by Presidential Executive Order. This action, however, would result in some confusion later on. While Ozette was one of the five traditional Makah villages, the creation of a distinct Ozette Reservation created for non-Indians the illusion that the Makah people on that reservation were somehow a distinct tribe (the Ozette).

The government continued to strongly encourage people to leave Ozette. The population dropped to 44 in 1901, to 35 by 1906, to 17 by 1914, and to only 8 by 1923. In 1911, Congress passed an act directing the Secretary of the Interior to allow members of the Ozette Tribe to receive allotments of land on the Quinault Reservation.

In 1937, only one person was officially living in the village. While the village was officially viewed by the U.S. government as “vacant” it continued to be an important Makah cultural and spiritual center. The people continued to visit the village regularly.

In 1952, with the passage of House Joint Resolution 698, the United States formally began the termination era in which the policy of the United States focused primarily on the termination of all federal responsibilities for Indian tribes and for the dissolution of Indian reservations.

In 1956, the Area Office of Indian Affairs notified the Makah that the Ozette Reservation was going to be terminated. Ozette was to be turned over to the National Park Service (it is adjacent to Olympic National Park), turned over to the General Services Administration, or declared open and unclaimed. The Makah Tribe was given 60 days to respond.

Noting that the Superintendent was opposed to Makah cultural expression and that he had discouraged people from returning to Ozette, and frustrated with the lack of help from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the tribe submitted a petition directly to the solicitor general in Washington, D.C. and made a personal plea to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Concluding that the Makah had no beneficial interest in Ozette, the Interior Deputy Solicitor recommended that Ozette be returned to public domain.

In 1970, PL-91-489 declared that the Ozette Reservation would be held in trust by the federal government for the Makah Tribe. At this time, Ozette was beginning to enter the national and international spotlight because it had become an important archaeological site.

The Marmes Rockshelter

Much of what we know about the people of the ancient world has come from archaeological findings in caves and rockshelters. A rockshelter, by the way, is wider than it is deep, while a cave is deeper than it is wide. Rockshelters and caves provided people with shelter, usually temporary, where they could camp while hunting game, gathering wild plants, fishing, or gathering materials for making tools.

More than 13,000 years ago, Indian people began using a rockshelter, 40 feet wide and 25 feet deep beneath a basalt ledge, in southeastern Washington which later became known as the Marmes Rockshelter Site. The site is located near the confluence of the Snake and Palouse Rivers. This was a time, just two millennia after the maximum advance of the glaciers, when the ice age glaciers were retreating into British Columbia. The climate at this time was cold. The ecosystem at this time was a mixed forest of pine and spruce, not the sagebrush prairie ecosystem found in the area today.

Cremation was a common way of dealing with dead bodies, and by 9700 BCE, the Marmes Rockshelter was being used for cremations. One corner was used repeatedly and had a hearth that was ten feet across. The cremations may have been spaced decades apart. With regard to the mortuary practices at Marmes Rockshelter, anthropologist James Chatters in his book Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans writes:  “Marmes Rockshelter, it seems, had been an ancient crematorium.”

Prior to cremation, the bones of the dead were cleaned of their flesh. Within the hearth are the bones of at least six people: three adults (a young woman, a young man, and an adult of undetermined age and gender) and three children between the ages of 8 and 14. Ochre and large implements were used as offerings.

At this time—9700 BCE—the Indian people using the rockshelter were hunting rabbit, elk, deer, and antelope, as well as fishing. As with ancient Indians in other parts of North America, the people who were using the Marmes Rockshelter were using atlatls (a type of spear thrower) as a hunting weapon.

In a layer of the site dated to about 7,000 years ago, archaeologists found a fairly large quantity of Olivella shells which would have had to come from the Pacific coast some 200 miles away. The presence of the shells this far inland suggests that a trade network with the coastal tribes existed at this time. Most of the shells had holes drilled through so that they could be strung together as necklaces.

The archaeology at the Marmes Rockshelter site, ranked among the important North American archaeological sites by archaeologists, can be considered incomplete at best. Archaeologists—or rather archaeologist Richard Daugherty and a few of his students from Washington State University—began in 1952 to survey the area which would be flooded by the Lower Monumental Dam. It wasn’t until the 1960s, however, that any attention was paid to the Marmes Rockshelter. By 1968, it was apparent the Marmes Rockshelter was a significant site and the Army Corps of Engineers, the builders of the dam, funded a salvage archaeology effort. The Corps of Engineers also reluctantly agreed to postpone the closing of the dam’s gates for a year. Work on the site continued in 18-hour shifts through February 1969. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty, in their book Archaeology in Washington, write:  “By February 1969 only about a quarter of the floodplain deposits had been excavated and work in the rockshelter was incomplete, but time ran out.”

With time running out, the archaeologists decided to sacrifice precision for speed and used bulldozers to get to the deeper layers, an action which probably destroyed some of the archaeological evidence.

With an emergency appropriation from President Lyndon Johnson, the Army Corps of Engineers attempted to build a cofferdam to hold the rising waters away from the archaeological site, but the dam failed. The rising waters inundated the rockshelter and 83 other known archaeological sites in the area.

The archaeologists, racing against the rising waters of the reservoir, attempted to protect the site as much as possible with plastic sheeting and dump truck loads of sand. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty wrote:  “Someday the reservoir will silt in and archaeological excavation may resume. For the time being nothing more could be done. The site, with all its remaining evidence, lay drowned.”

Marmes Rockshelter today lies under 40 feet of water.

The Tututni Indians

The area along the Pacific Coast north of California and between the Cascade Mountains and the ocean, is the home to many Indian nations who traditionally based their economy on the use of sea coast and river ecological resources. This is an area which stretches from the Tlingit homelands in Alaska to the Tolowa homelands in northern California. Southwestern Oregon, a mountainous region with a straight coastline which is broken up with the mouths of many streams and rivers, is in the transition zone between the Northwest Coast cultures to the north and the California cultures to the south.

The languages spoken by the aboriginal inhabitants of the region belong to the larger Athabascan (also spelled Athabaskan, Athapascan and Athapaskan) language family. The Tututni language is most closely related to Upper Coquille and Chasta Costa. The linguistic evidence suggests that the coastal Athabascan-speakers—Umpqua, Tututni, Chetco, Tolowa—did not enter the area until about 700 to 1,000 years ago. The last fluent speaker of the Tututni language died in 1983.

The group which Europeans call Tututni takes its name from the large village of Tututin (“People of the Water Place”) which was located inland on the Rogue River. The northern edge of traditional Tututni county was the Sixes River and the southern edge was the Pistol River. Their territory went inland on the Rogue River for about 15 miles.


The two favorite foods of the Tututni were the salmon and the acorn. Chinook salmon, which could weigh up to 100 pounds, would begin their annual spawning run up the Rogue River in late March or early April. To help guide the salmon back to the Rogue River, the Tututni would paddle down the river to the Pacific Ocean. Here they would meet villagers from other Athapaskan-speaking villages and would build large driftwood bonfires. They would dance and sing late into the night, calling the salmon home.

In harvesting the salmon, the Tututni would build fixed V-shaped weirs with alder frames and a net made of hazel or spruce roots. They would also use dipnets and spears. The salmon would be butchered and slow-smoked on alder racks over low fires in smokehouses.

As with other non-agricultural people, the Tututni followed an annual cycle of food resource collection. In June, the women would gather root plants such as camas and wild carrots. To prepare the camas for eating and for storage, it would be cooked in large earth ovens. Once cooked, the camas would be eaten warm or stored for later consumption.

During June, the women would also gather berries, primarily strawberries, raspberries (black caps), huckleberries, and salmonberries. The strawberries and raspberries would be dried for storage, while the salmonberries were usually eaten fresh.

In July, the men would fish for trout and lamprey.

In the fall, the people would harvest the acorns from the California black oak and the Oregon white oak trees. These would be shelled, dried, and stored in baskets. In using the acorns, the women would grind them with a mortar and pestle and then leach the tannic acid out of them. The fine meal would then be boiled.

Deer and elk were also hunted and hunting areas were burned over about every five years to encourage fresh growth which would draw in more game.

Like the Galice and Upper Coquille, the older Tututni men would burn an area and then plant tobacco in it.


 As with other Indian nations along the Northwest Coast, the Tututni built plank winter houses. The houses were partially subterranean: they were dug down 3 to 4 feet. The sides were made by placing planks vertically and then larger planks were laid across to form the roof. The planks were made from western red cedar which had been split with wedges.

House size reflected the wealth and status of the family. A wealthy family might have a house with three inside fire hearths; the house itself could be 20 feet wide and 30 feet long. Smaller homes would be 10 feet wide and 15 feet long.

Each village would also have at least one sweathouse. The sweathouse, also made from cedar planks, would be excavated to a depth of about three feet. Entrance to the sweathouse was through a circular hole about three feet in diameter in one end of the structure. Within this structure there would be a central fire.

The men would sleep together in the sweathouse. In the morning, they would sweat and then swim in a nearby stream. Following this they would go to their own houses for breakfast.


 The Tututni made and used both river canoes and ocean-going canoes. It could take as long as a year to make an ocean-going canoe as the process involved selecting and cutting down a large red cedar tree, allowing it to dry, then hollowing it out and fixing seats within it. The ocean-going canoes could be up to 40 feet long and use 12 paddlers as well as a captain. They could haul tons of cargo and made trips as far north as British Columbia.


 Unlike most of the Indian nations in North America, individual wealth was seen as important to the Tututni and the other Northwest Coast Indians. Individual wealth included canoes, fishing spots, dance regalia, currency, and wives. Wealth also carried responsibility as the wealthy were expected to provide food for the needy and to share their canoes and fishing spots. The wealthy sponsored dances and supplied the dancers with proper regalia.


 Among the Tututni, marriage was exogamous with regard to the village. Men would marry women from a different village and the women would then move to the men’s village. The groom’s family would make a payment to the bride’s family as a way of compensating them for the loss of a significant worker.

Divorce was fairly easy and the reasons for divorce included jealousy, meanness, and barrenness. After a divorce, the older children would generally stay with the father and the younger children would go with the mother.


 Salmon were important to the Tututni and therefore a First Salmon Ceremony would be held in which the first salmon caught would be cooked over an alder fire. Thanks would be given to the salmon for returning home and all people would receive a small piece of this salmon. Seeing themselves as a part of nature, it was important to show appreciation to the salmon so that it would come back again.

The Ten Night Dance was held in the home of the chief to forget the dead. Men and women would dance alternately, with the women wearing all of their wealth. The dances imitated animals such as deer, woodpecker, and buzzard.

Sixteenth Century European Laws About Indians

The European invasion of the Americas really began in the sixteenth century with several European nations competing to divide up the new lands among themselves. In justifying their ability to take lands from Indians, to rule Indians, to make slaves of Indians, and to kill Indians, the European formulated a number of laws.

In 1512, the Spanish King Ferdinand promulgated the Laws of Burgos which spelled out how Indians were to be treated. The laws regulated Indian work and conversion.

The following year, King Ferdinand of Spain told Native Americans that God had declared that the Pope rules all people, regardless of their law, sect, or belief. This included Christians, Moors, Jews, Gentiles, or any other sect. He asked that the Native Americans come forward of their own free will to convert to Catholicism or  “with the help of God we shall use force against you, declaring war upon you from all sides and with all possible means, and we shall bind you to the yoke of the Church and Their Highnesses; we shall enslave your persons, wives, and sons, sell you or dispose of you as the King sees fit; we shall seize your possessions and harm you as much as we can as disobedient and resisting vassals.”

Furthermore, the Natives who resisted were to be held guilty of all resulting deaths and injuries. In other words, the victims were to be blamed for their own deaths. Killing Indians who refused to convert to Christianity was seen as a part of a “just war.”

The idea of a “just war” was based upon the word of Saint Augustine. Under this concept, a just war was one that was waged to right an injustice or wrong by another nation. One of these wrongs, according to the Christian view, was not being Christian. Thus, if an Indian nation were to fail to let missionaries live and preach among them, then they were committing a “wrong” which would have to be set right through a “just war.”

In 1519, Catholic Bishop Juan de Quevedo declared that Indians were slaves by nature because some people were by nature inferior.

In 1525, Dominican official Tomas Ortiz reported that Indians eat human flesh, engage in sodomy, go naked, and have no respect for love, virginity, or the truth. He said:  “It may therefore affirm that God has never created a race more full of vice and composed without the least mixture of kindness or culture.”

In 1526, Spanish King Charles V issued orders concerning the fair treatment of Indians. He ordered that Indians be treated so that  “it may be accomplished with no offence to God, without death nor robbery of said Indians and without enslaving them, so that the desire to spread our faith among them be achieved without grieving our consciences.”  However, there was also a royal levy of one-half of all looted grave-goods.

In 1529, Pope Clement VI wrote to King Charles of Spain:  “We trust that, as long as you are on earth, you will compel and with all zeal cause the barbarian nations to come to the knowledge of God, the maker and founder of all things, not only by edicts of admonitions, but also by force and arms, if needful, in order that their souls may partake of the heavenly kingdom.”

In 1532, Spanish judge Francisco de Vitoria declared that non-Christians can own property and therefore Indians may have title to their land. He also wrote:  “The Spaniards have the right to go to the lands of the Indians, dwell there and carry on trade, so long as they do no harm, and they cannot be prevented by the Indians from doing so.”

In 1537, in a papal bull Sublimis Deus, Pope Paul III declared that Indians were not to be enslaved nor were they  “to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside of the faith of Jesus Christ.”  The Spanish King, however, disagreed with the bull and confiscated all copies of the bull before it could reach the Americas. He then prevailed upon the Pope to revoke the bull.

In 1573, the Spanish King issued “Laws Concerning Discoveries, Pacifications and Settlements Among the Indians” which was an extensive series of laws about exploration, settlement and the treatment of Indians. The new laws did not speak of “conquest,” but rather of the “pacification” of the Indians.

In 1578, Sir Humphrey Gilbert was granted a patent by England to discover and occupy North American lands not occupied by Spain. Under the legal fiction of the Discovery Doctrine, Christian nations could occupy any lands which were not under the rule of a Christian monarch. American Indians, of course, were not consulted and were not seen as having any legal rights.

In 1579, England formally declared that she would not acknowledge the 1493 papal demarcation which gave the Americas to Catholic Spain and Portugal. England, under the law of nations, saw itself free to have colonies in the Americas which were not already inhabited by Christians.

The English Queen Elizabeth I in 1580 claimed a right of discovery for North America based on the voyages of the Irish Saint Brendan in the sixth century and the mythical voyages of Prince Madoc of Wales in 1170.


The Makah, whose traditional homeland is on the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington, are the western-most Indian nation in the lower forty-eight states of the United States. The name “Makah,” given to this tribe by the neighboring S’Klallam, refers to the generosity of their feasts. The Makah name for themselves means “People Who Live by the Rocks and Seagulls.” Linguistically and culturally, the Makah are related to the Native peoples on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

The Makah village of Ozette is located at the westernmost point of the Olympic Peninsula. The village was established about 50 CE at a prime location for intercepting migrating gray whales as well as fur seals and Steller sea lions. The Makah were a whaling people and the archaeological findings from Ozette show that 75% of the meat and oil came from whales. Northern fur seals were also important.

In 1700, an earthquake along the Pacific coast triggered a mudslide which covered Ozette. Five houses, one of which was unoccupied, were buried. Journalist Ruth Kirk and archaeologist Richard Daugherty, in their book Archaeology in Washington, write:  “The Ozette houses were large—60-70 feet long and about 35 feet wide, dimensions typical of Northwest Coast houses and like them built of plants split from cedar logs and lashed to a framework of upright cedar posts.”

The cedar planks used in the walls were up to 2 1/2 feet wide. The wall planks were smoothed with an adze and some were incised with whale, thunderbird, and wolf motifs. Each house was occupied by six to ten individual families and visiting relatives. James Swan spent time with the Makah in 1859 and remarks of their houses:  “They are very comfortable dwellings, and contain several families each. Every family has its separate fire, the smoke of which serves not only to dry the fish and blubber suspended over it, but causes an intense smarting to the eyes of the visitors who are unaccustomed to its acrid fumes.”

Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty describe the Ozette houses this way:  “Each family had its own living area, readily detectable because of separate cooking hearths. Raised platforms ringed the living space, serving as beds and for storage.”

In 1970, a storm and tidal erosion began to uncover the remains of Ozette. As hikers from the nearby Olympic National Park were walking away with valuable artifacts, The Makah Tribe decided that the site had be to scientifically excavated and tribal chairman Ed Claplanhoo called archaeologist Richard Daugherty at Washington State University and asked him to reopen the archaeological investigation at the site.  For the next 11 years, archaeologists from Washington State University working with the Makah recovered more than 55,000 artifacts. Many people feel that this was one of the most important archaeological digs in North America, not only because of the artifacts uncovered, but also because of the involvement of the Makah people in the process. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty report:  “Makah students took part in the fieldwork and the preservation of artifacts; Makah elders visited the site and shared memories and information regarding various objects.”

With regard to the agreement between the Makah and the archaeologists, Patricia Erickson, in her book Voices of a Thousand People: The Makah Cultural & Research Center, reports:  “No artifacts would leave the physical jurisdiction of the tribe to be displayed, nor would any prehistoric loss of life associated with the Ozette mudslide be mentioned publicly, if any were discovered.”

The Makah site is what archaeologists call a “wet site” in which the mud which covered the village also served to protect organic material from decay by sealing out the air. As a result, the archaeologists were able to recover things like a piece of a dog-wool blanket and a braid of human hair.

Most prehistoric archaeological sites in North America are places which were abandoned by the Indian people who had lived there. As a result, archaeologists have to interpret daily life by the trash that people left behind. Ozette, however, is more like Pompeii in Italy in that the mudslide covered up a living village giving the archaeologists a glimpse of the daily lives of the people.

Once archaeologists have dug a site, the next task includes preserving the artifacts, interpreting what they mean, and then displaying them to the public. For most archaeological sites in the United States, this means transporting the artifacts to a distant museum or university where non-Indian people take over the tasks of interpreting meaning and displaying the artifacts to the public. In the nineteenth century the emphasis was on displaying artifacts, but this has changed: most museums over the past fifty years or so want to explain the artifacts to the public, to use them in telling a story. The story, however, is often a non-Indian view of the American Indian past. Patricia Erickson, in her book Voices of a Thousand People: The Makah Cultural & Research Center, writes:  “In the history of the United States, and of many European societies, the museum has been one of the places where particular versions of knowledge have been legitimated and others have been categorized as primitive folklore or myth.”

The Makah did not want their heritage sent to a distant facility: they wanted to retain it on their own reservation so that their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren would be able to understand their own past and the teachings of the elders. In 1979 the tribe opened the Makah Cultural and Research Center to house the artifacts from the archaeological excavation at Ozette. The museum is more than a display of artifacts for tourists: it is intended to inform and educate the community about the ancestral Makah. It is about remembering ancestors, traditions, language, and values.

With regard to language, museum collections have been traditionally arranged and indexed with regard to material culture which would include categories such as containers, hunting gear, and so on. However, in the development of the Makah museum it was soon realized that these categories were English language cognitive categories. Thus the collection was organized on the basis of Makah cognitive categories instead of English categories. Patricia Erickson reports:  “Makah conceptual categories became used not only for organizing the collection but also for stimulating reflection on Makah worldviews codified in their language.”  Bilingual labels are used in the Museum’s displays.

Today, the Makah Cultural and Research Center is one of more than 100 tribal museums in the United States (there are also about 50 in Canada). About 20,000 non-Makah visitors per year get to see and experience the Makah heritage and the materials from Ozette.


Boulder Dam and the Navajo Reservation

In general the history of hydroelectric dams in the United States has involved the transfer of wealth from the nation’s poorest people, American Indians, to the nation’s wealthiest people, industrial capitalists. In the name of progress, industrialization, and manifest destiny American Indian nations have had their lands, water rights, fishing rights, and sacred sites taken from them. The case of Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover Dam) on the Colorado River is different in that it did not directly impact the Navajo Reservation, but it indirectly led to the destruction of the traditional Navajo economy, and the creation of poverty and economic inequality among the Navajo.

In 1922, the seven Colorado River Basin states negotiated a compact which divided the water of the Colorado River water among themselves. Archaeologist Brian Fagan, in his book Elixer: A History of Water and Humankind, writes:  “The era of industrial water management was truly under way, for the benefit not of small farmers but of large agribusinesses.”

While the Indian tribes in the region had a legal right to this water, the tribes were not invited to the negotiations and any possible water rights which Indians might have were purposefully ignored. The negotiations were chaired by Herbert Hoover.  In 1928, Hoover, who was then Secretary of Commerce, secured from Congress the authorization for the Colorado River Project which included the construction of Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover Dam). The dam was to protect and promote agribusiness ventures in California’s Imperial Valley and to provide water to Los Angeles.

A glance at the map suggests little connection between Boulder Dam and the Navajo, as the dam is located far to the west of the reservation. However, in 1929 the United States Geological Survey reported that the major contributors to Colorado River silt were located on the Navajo Reservation. The Navajo Reservation was therefore seen as a major threat to the Boulder Dam as silt from the reservation would pile up behind the dam and destroy its usefulness. American government officials at this time were firmly convinced that overgrazing caused gullying which resulted in silt. The solution in their minds was obvious: stop overgrazing by the Navajos on their reservation and save Boulder dam.

In the 1930s, the United States, in the midst of the Great Depression, elected a new President who then appointed John Collier as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Unlike most of his predecessors, Collier had worked on Indian reservations, understood Indian cultures, and felt that Indian people should have a say in their own destinies. He felt that forced assimilation was wrong and that previous Indian policies had resulted in the creation of Indian poverty. He told the Indians:  “We believe that your Indian heritage is just as practicable and good, and just as much needed by America as is the Anglo-Saxon heritage or the German heritage or the Scotch or Irish or Norwegian heritage.”

The situation with Boulder Dam and the Navajo would, however, provide Collier with his greatest challenge and his actions in dealing with this challenge would make a mockery of the many fine words he spoke about American Indians.

Part of the problem stemmed from an economic misunderstanding. Long before the European invasion of North America, the Navajo had been farmers and they acquired sheep, goats, and horses from the early Spanish settlements in New Mexico. By the twentieth century they had a basic subsistence economy in which their farming and livestock provided them with the basic necessities of life. Their primary participation in the larger cash economy was through traders where they could trade wool blankets and other items for cash or goods.

The American government, however, viewed agriculturalists, including the Navajo, as a part of a larger industrial agricultural system in which people raised products, such as sheep, which were then sold to provide them with the money with which they could buy basic food and supplies. From this viewpoint, only Navajo sheep had economic value and goats and horses were economically worthless as there was no market for them. What the Americans failed to understand was that the Navajo ate goats and horses and that these animals provided them with the food they need to survive to tough times.

In 1931, for example, a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held hearings on the Navajo Reservation. The Senators used the hearings as a forum to lecture the Navajo on market economics. While agency personal testified that the Navajo had few surplus horses and the Navajo testified about the fact that goats are essential to their subsistence, Senator Burton K. Wheeler admonished the Navajo to get rid of their horses and goats.

There were also political misunderstandings. The Navajo had never had a tribal council: each of the many small bands and outfits were felt to be autonomous. Historically, the American government has always preferred dealing with dictatorships rather than democracies and has therefore established governments which it could easily manipulate. The Navajo Tribal Council was not a Navajo institution, but had been established by the American government to agree with all American actions and to give these actions, primarily the transfer of wealth and  resources from the Navajo tribe to American businesses, the superficial appearance of having been done with Navajo approval. Many of those appointed to the Council by the American government were highly acculturated Navajo who tended to be wealthy, bilingual, and Christian.

In 1933, John Collier, in his role as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, met with the Navajo Tribal Council to discuss stock reduction. He told the Navajo that overgrazing was resulting in erosion and that there would have to be a reduction in stock. He told the Council:  “This reservation, along with the other Indian reservations along the Colorado River, is supplying much more than half of all the silt which goes down the Colorado River, which will in the course of a comparatively few years render the Boulder Dam useless and thereby injure the population of all Southern California and a good deal of Arizona also.”

He proposed a reduction of 200,000 sheep and 200,000 goats. While there was some opposition to the stock reduction proposal, the Council did what it was told and voted 8-4 to endorse Collier’s proposal. Many Navajo, however, particularly the women, did not support the Council’s action. In Navajo culture, women owned their own sheep and felt that no one had the right to tell them what to do with their own property.

The impact of stock reduction was first felt in 1934: 148,000 goats and 50,000 sheep were sold. The prices set by the government were exceptionally low.  Not all of the goats could be delivered to the railhead, therefore some were slaughtered and the dried meat given back to the Navajo. Other goats were simply shot and left to rot; some were shot and partially cremated by soaking them with gasoline and lighting it. From a Navajo viewpoint this was an appalling waste of valuable resources. It is generally estimated that the reduction in the number of goats increased the cost of living on the reservation by about 20%.

Government officials failed to understand Navajo concepts of ownership. They simply assumed that the flocks were family owned, that is, they were owned by the male head of household. Since Navajo women owned large herds this meant that women soon found that their flocks were being credited to their husbands.

The non-Navajo conservationists advocated the reduction in goats because the animals had little market value. They did not understand that in a subsistence economy, such as that of the Navajo, goats are important as a dependable source of food: by drinking goat milk, eating goat cheese, and eating goat meat, the sheep could be bred or traded.

In 1936, Navajo women rebelled against federal government pressure to reduce the size of their sheep herds. At Kayenta, 250 Navajo gathered. While most of those present were men, Denehotso Hattie, a woman almost blind from trachoma, was the leader. She pointed her finger at the new Indian superintendent for the reservation and denounced the government plan for range management. The government had disparaged Navajo knowledge of the lands they had traditionally occupied and disregarded the women.

The United States government wanted to create the illusion that a Navajo democracy supported the herd reduction program. In 1937, seventy-odd selected Navajo headmen met and, at the prodding of the Agency Superintendent, voted themselves as the new Navajo Tribal Council. The strategy of federal government was to create a new governing body which would enact and enforce legislation to require the Navajo people to conform to grazing regulations. The new council had 70 members with each member representing a new voting district. In opposition to the Council, J.C. Morgan organized the Navajo Progressive League which vowed to form a representative council.

John Collier met with the hand-picked Council and told them they had two choices: they could approve the new regulations for stock reduction or they would be placed under the General Grazing Regulations for Indian Lands. In other words, stock reduction was going to take place in spite of any Navajo opposition.

The following year, at the request of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and without the consent of the Navajo, a set of bylaws were issued creating a new tribal council. The positions of chairman, vice-chairman, and 74 delegates were to be filled by popular vote. Jacob C. Morgan, who was opposed to Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier and to stock reduction, was elected chairman.

Rumors spread through the reservation that the federal government intended to round up all Navajo horses and shoot them, just as they had done with the goats. Many people hid their horses from government officials and refused to have them branded and counted. In some areas, federal marshals were called in to enforce compliance and suits were filed against some of the Navajo for non-compliance with horse reduction. Twelve cases involving 30 defendants were filed in the United States District Court as a way of proving to the Navajo that the federal government had the power to reduce their horse herds. Collier insisted that these actions were not a policy of coercion. In 1939, the United States District Court in Phoenix ruled in favor of the government and ordered U.S. marshals to seize the horses if they were not removed in 30 days. By the end of the year, one-fourth of the Navajo horses had been sold for $2 to $4 per head.

By the 1940s, it was clear to most Navajo that the federal government intended for them to starve and to give up their reservation. While the federal government had ordered many scientific studies of the reservation—its peoples, its ecology—the government ignored the findings of these studies. While John Collier had promised a New Deal for the Indians and an end to the old paternalism, with regard to the Navajo, the old paternalism—the government knows what is best for you—continued with more vigor than in previous administrations.

Looking back at the Navajo stock reduction program in 1949, at a time when he was no longer the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Collier noted that one of the options was:  “Go with the facts to the hundreds of local communities of the Navajo people. Educate these communities through slow, patient conference and demonstration. Vest the responsibility for launching and guiding these huge, necessary adjustments, in the local headmen, in the healer-singers, the diviners, and ultimately the heads of families.”

Collier notes that in rejecting this option they may have erred profoundly. It is interesting to note that Collier does not talk about listening to the Navajo, and particularly Navajo women, and asking for their opinions about what should be done to their land.

In the end, stock reduction did not restore the lands on the Navajo Reservation. By the 1950s, scientists recognized that gullying and siltation were not necessarily caused by over grazing and that stock reduction had little impact. Boulder Dam provided no economic benefits to the Navajo Reservation, but it destroyed a traditional economy and greatly increased poverty.

Early French Encounters With Indians

The 16th century marked the beginning of the European invasion of North America. The Spanish had already firmly established themselves in the Caribbean islands and were attempting to move north into Florida. The Portuguese had explored the coast of what would become Canada. European interests in the Americas were fueled by stories of great wealth and by new maps showing the region: Juan de la Cosa’s 1500 map commissioned by the Spanish King and Martin Waldseemuller’s 1507 map using the term “America” to designate the new territories.

In 1508, Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian working for the French, sailed as a navigator on a fishing vessel which explored the area of Newfoundland and the St. Lawrence River in Canada.

In 1523, King Francis I of France asked Verrazano to explore the American coast from Florida to Terranova (Newfoundland) with the goal of finding a possible sea route to the Pacific Ocean. His exploration of the American coast began in 1524. Making landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina, the French ships then sailed northward to Maine making contact with Native American groups at several locations. In New York Bay, Verrazzano noted that the country was well inhabited.

The Verrazano party made contact with the Narragansett, Mahican, Wampanoag, Abnaki, Pokanoket, and Penobscot. Verrazano reported that he and his crew were treated well by the Natives they encountered. The Europeans and the Indians shared meals and the Indians often organized sporting games for their mutual entertainment.

In Narragansett Bay Indians came on board the ship. According to Verrazano:  “They exceed us in size, and they are of a very fair complexion, some incline more to a white and others to a tawny color; their faces are sharp, and their hair long and black, upon the adorning of which they bestow great pains; their eyes are black and sharp, their expressions mild and pleasant, greatly resembling the antique.”  In a letter to the King of France Verrazano wrote that the Narragansett  “are the most beautiful and have the most civil customs that we found on this voyage.”

Verrazano also observed that the Indians set their planting times according to their observations of the moon and the rising of the Pleiades. In other words, they understood some of the basics of astronomy.  While Verrazano did not speak any Indian languages, he concluded:  “We think they have neither religion nor laws.”

All European explorers, such as Verrazano, were guided by the Discovery Doctrine, a legal fiction which declared that Christian nations have a right, if not an obligation, to govern all non-Christian nations. If there were no evidence of Christianity, then most Europeans felt that the Indians did not have religion. Furthermore, if there was no controlling church-state hierarchy, then there were no laws.

As with other European explorers, Verrazano attempted to kidnap some natives to take back to Europe. At Cape Fear, North Carolina, he encountered an old woman, two infants, a child and a young woman. He later wrote:  “We took a child from the old woman to bring into France, and were about to take the young woman, who was very beautiful and of tall stature, but we could not for the great outcries that she made.”

In Maine, Verrazano found that the Indians were not friendly. It is likely that the Native people of this area had already had some unpleasant encounters with Europeans as the English from Bristol, the Portuguese, and the Basques had been fishing in this area for several years. Some of the fishing vessels had also been trading with the natives. In 1507, for example, Norman fishing vessels captured seven Beothuk in Newfoundland and brought them back to France and by 1519 European fishing boats were trading with the Micmac in Maine and the Maritime Provinces.

6,000 Years Ago

Six thousand years ago, American Indians had been living throughout North America for thousands of years. They followed a lifestyle based hunting, fishing, and gathering that was determined in part by the environment. In the coastal regions, for example, Indian people subsisted on a marine diet, while in other areas plant food were more important. In some areas, the people followed a seasonal nomadic round travelling to different areas to gather specific resources. In other areas, where resources were abundant, such as the coastal areas, there was relatively little nomadism.

At this time six thousand years ago there were probably several hundred distinct Indians groups with their own languages, religions, and cultural patterns. Archaeologists often refer to this time period as the Archaic. In an article in the Utah Historical Quarterly  Alan Schroedl writes: “The name Archaic is not meant to imply a backward or outmoded style of life; on the contrary, the Archaic lifeway was the most dynamic and flexible mode of adaptation that ever developed in the New World.”

During the Archaic, there was a great deal of regional specialization. However, the archaeological record for this time is a bit spotty with many geographic areas blank in terms of archaeological knowledge.

California and Oregon:

 In California, Indian people fashioned the Running Man geoglyph on the shore of Searles Lake. Geoglyphs are earthen images which were made by scraping away the stable dark desert pavement to reveal the lighter soil underneath (these are also called intaglios or engravings) or by placing boulders and/or large cobbles to form figures. The rock alignment which forms the figure is about 9 feet long.

In California, the culture which archaeologists call Martis expanded eastward across the Sierra Nevada where it became the cultural ancestor of the Washo Indians.

In California, Indian people were living near the present-day Hoopa Reservation. They were using wide-stemmed projectile points, scraping tools, and milling implements.

Indian people established a fowling and fishing station on Nightfire Island on Lower Klamath Lake in Oregon.

 Washington and Idaho:

In Washington, immigrants from the Great Basin moved into the Five Mile Rapids area bringing with them new kinds of projectile points and other objects.

In Idaho, Indian people began to live in the Island Park Reservoir area.

At an Indian graveyard near the Little Salmon River in Idaho, 22 people were buried.

The Southwest:

 The period which archaeologists call Black Rock began in Utah. According to archaeologists C. Melvin Aikens and David B. Madsen in an article in the Handbook of North American Indians:  “In conjunction with a dramatic increase in occupation sites during the early portion of this period, there was an apparent broadening of settlement patterns with a growing emphasis on the exploitation of upland zones.”

In Utah, Indian people were using Spotten Cave at the south end of Utah Valley. In an article in Utah Historical Quarterly, archaeologist Joel Janetski writes:  “Spotten Cave was likely used by Archaic peoples as a temporary stopover as they moved from the Goshen Valley bottoms to the uplands of Long Ridge or the Wasatch Front.”

In the Colorado River Plateau area of Utah and Arizona, Indian people were making representational petroglyphs which archaeologists refer to as the Glen Canyon Linear Style. The figures include shamanistic humans as well as animals and some abstract elements.

In Colorado, the period which archaeologists call the Castle Valley Phase began. This phase was characterized by a decrease in population as a result of people moving into Utah.

 The Northeast:

In Massachusetts, Indian people were using the Middleborough site as a ceremonial site. Among the artifacts which they left at the site were thousands of paint stones: soft rocks, primarily of hematite and graphite, that can be scratched or ground into powder and then mixed with fats to make paints. These paints were then applied to the skin and to clothing as decoration. In an article in American Archaeology Jennifer Weeks reports:  “Other ceremonial items included pebbles polished by wear, quartz crystals, and slabs of arkose, a type of local sandstone.”

While there were no burials at this site, burials in nearby Wapanucket have graves which are lined with the slabs of arkose.

In Maine, Indian people were using a weir to harvest fish from Sebasticook Lake.


 In the Southeast populations began to increase at about this time.

In Tennessee, Indian people created a pictograph deep in a cave where there is no light. The art depicts a human and a quadruped. In an article in American Archaeology, Melissa Montoya writes: “This pictograph is the oldest of hundreds of pieces of cave art and open-air rock art that make up a large scale composition in which prehistoric people altered their physical landscape in accordance with their spiritual beliefs.”

In Louisiana, Indian people constructed two mounds at Monte Sano Bayou. Mound A is a conical structure 6 meters high. It was built in a single construction episode. Both mounds were built to mark places where the cremation of select individuals had taken place.

Arctic and Alaska:

In the arctic region, Inuit prehistory began with the Arctic Small Tool Tradition. This was a technology which was characterized by hafted small chisel-like blades which were used for working wood, bone, and ivory. Steve Langdon, in his book The Native People of Alaska, writes:  “Because of its distribution, this tool tradition is considered characteristic of the earliest Eskimo population.”

In Alaska, the Ocean Bay Tradition began at the Larsen Bay site.

Illinois and Missouri:

In Illinois, the people who were living at Helton village the Koster site were harvesting fish in large numbers. They were smoking part of the fish harvest to preserve it for use in the winter months. Their village covered about six acres and had a population of 100 to 150 people. In addition to harvesting fish, the Helton village people also hunted mammals, such as deer, take waterfowl, and gathered plants and nuts. They wove grasses into mats and cloth and they tanned hides to make leather items.

In Missouri, Indian people built a village of 10 log homes. Each of the homes was about 15 by 17 feet in size. The population of the village was about 100. They were cooking food in an underground oven and they had underground storage pits for food.

 Yellowstone National Park:

In Wyoming, Indian people were using the Fishing Bridge Point site in present-day Yellowstone National Park. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald, in his book Montana Before History: 11,000 Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains, writes:  “The presence of Early Archaic sites on the Yellowstone Plateau shows that Early Archaic hunter-gatherers moved into the uplands, at least during the warmer months, to hunt animals and collect the plethora of plant resources available around the shores of Yellowstone Lake.”


During the 17th century, four European countries—France, England, Netherlands, and Spain–established permanent colonies in the Americas. As these colonies expanded, the conflicts with the Native Americans over land increased in frequency and intensity. While the American Indian nations had superior numbers, the Europeans had a technological advantage.

The Europeans were driven to conquer the “wilderness” of the Americas by the power of greed. They sought wealth in the form of gold and silver, fertile lands which could be used to grow crops which could then be exported to Europe, furs and hides for the European market, and finally slaves.

As contact with the Europeans intensified, so did the diseases which they brought with them. Along the Atlantic coast, disease killed up to 90% of the Indian inhabitants during this century.

Listed below are some of the events of 1614.


In 1613, the English had kidnapped Pocahontas, the favorite daughter of Powhattan, a powerful Indian leader. They had hoped to hold her for ransom, but the Indians refused to pay a ransom. In 1614, as a condition of her release from her English captors, Pocahontas agreed to marry John Rolfe and became known as Rebecca Rolfe. At the marriage ceremony, Pocahontas was given away by her uncle Opechancanough.

At the time of her marriage, Pocahontas was about 18 and had been married to a warrior named Kocoum. She was fairly slender and could pass for a boy, a feature which would later allow her to have an audience with King James.

The English colonists in Virginia concluded a formal, written treaty with the Chickahominy in which the Indians agreed to send an annual tribute payment of corn to Jamestown. The treaty between the English and the Chickahominy appears to have been masterminded by Opechancanough. Opechancanough wanted the English to think that the Chickahominy were their allies while drawing the Chickahominy closer to membership in the Powhattan empire.

 In Massachusetts, the English returned with Capawake sachem Epinow, who was to act as their guide and interpreter. Epinow, however, escaped from the ship by jumping into the water and swimming toward some Indian canoes. The Indians in the canoes fired a volley of arrows at the ship to aid his escape.

In Massachusetts, English Captain Thomas Hunt captured 26 Wampanoag, including a young man known as Squanto. The Indians were taken to Spain and sold as slaves. However, Squanto escaped and found his way to England where he learned to speak English.

John Smith, the former commander at Jamestown, led two ships in search of gold and whales along the coast of Maine. After some fishing, trading, and skirmishes with the natives, the English captured 27 Wampanoag and Nauset to sell into slavery. While mapping the New England coast, Smith noted at least nine coastal towns between Cape Ann and Cape Code, each of which was ruled by a sachem. In addition, he reported that he had heard that there were more than 20 towns inland from the coast.


The Compagnie de Canada won a monopoly on trade in the St. Lawrence for eleven years. The new company was to transport six families to begin a settlement in New France.

A formal trading alliance was formed between the French and the Huron Confederacy. As a result of this agreement, Huron society would undergo great changes.


The Dutch granted exclusive trading rights to the Hudson River area of New York to the New Netherlands Company which built a trading fort on Castle Island. The trader Jacob Elkens learned both the Mahican and Mohawk languages.


A series of three epidemics began to sweep through the Indian villages in Massachusetts. At least ten Wampanoag villages were abandoned because there were no survivors. Wampanoag population decreased from 12,000 to 5,000.


In New York, the Mohawk who were living at the Kilts site (NYSM 6297—this is the archaeological designation for the site) moved their town to the Wagner’s Hollow (NYSM 1202 and NYSM 1214) area on Caroga Creek.

The Channel Islands in the Terminal Pleistocene

There was a time in archaeology some fifty to sixty years ago, when the basic hypothesis regarding the peopling of the Americas suggested that towards the ends of the last major ice age, as the two major ice sheets covering North America separated to create a passage from the Yukon to the Northern Plains, that people began migrating across Beringia (the land bridge connecting Asia and North America) and then spread out through the Americas. It was a hypothesis that was simple, neat, appealing, and wrong. One of the alternative hypotheses that have been developed over the past half-century or so suggests that some of the early (and perhaps earliest) migrations into the Americas may have been by boat. Part of the data supporting the water craft hypothesis has come from archaeological findings from the Channel Islands which date to the Terminal Pleistocene (an era that dates from about 19,000 years ago until 10,500 years ago).

Channel Islands National Park in California is composed of five of the Channel Islands: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara. The first four are the northern islands and Santa Barbara is a part of the southern Channel Islands. This national park may be one of the most important archaeological areas in the Americas, particularly with regard to understanding the early human habitation of the continent. According to the Channel Islands National Park Archaeological Overview and Assessment: “Both prehistoric and historic archaeological resources within the Park have an unusually high level of significance in terms of criteria for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. In fact, they may be considered among the most valuable in North America, if not the world.”

During the Terminal Pleistocene, much of North America was covered with ice fields and the ocean levels were much lower. At this time, there was only one northern channel super-island, Santarosae. As the great ice sheets melted and sea levels rose, Santarosae became four islands.

During the Terminal Pleistocene, the fauna on the islands included a number of animals which would go extinct: a giant mouse (Peromyscus nesodytes), a flightless goose or scoter (Chendytes lawi), and a pygmy mammoth (Mammuth exiliis). All of these overlapped with human occupation. Human occupation on the Channel Islands has been dated to more than 13,000 years ago. According to Channel Islands National Park Archaeological Overview and Assessment:  “Significantly, there is more evidence of occupation on the northern Channel Islands during this period than in most other areas of comparable size elsewhere in California or North America as a whole.”

There are more than 50 archaeological sites on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz islands that have been dated to between 13,000 years ago and 7,000 years ago. This is the largest cluster of early coastal sites currently known in the Americas. The earliest people on the Channel Islands are often called the Paleocoastal Peoples and their presence on the island at this time lends support to the hypothesis that the ancient people arrived in the Americas by boat. According to Channel Islands National Park Archaeological Overview and Assessment:  “The archaeological evidence for early maritime settlement of the Channel Islands also has had a significant effect on the growing recognition that a maritime migration may have contributed to the initial human colonization of the Americas.”

While one of the first archaeologists to work on Santa Rosa Island has proposed that mammoth-hunting humans first came to the islands over 40,000 years ago, very few archaeologists today accept this early date. The earliest verified evidence for human occupation in the Channel Islands comes from more than 13,000 years ago when a woman died at Arlington Springs on Santa Rosa Island. At the time she died, the sea level was 150 feet lower than it is today and the Northern Channel Islands were still connected as a single island.

In 1959, archaeological excavations under the direction of Phil Orr uncovered two femurs buried about 30 feet deep in the side wall of Arlington Canyon. The remains were initially identified as male and called the Arlington Springs Man. Orr estimated that the remains were about 10,000 years old. Thirty years later, Orr’s successor at the museum, Dr. John Johnson, re-analyzed the Arlington Springs remains using modern techniques of radiocarbon dating. At this same time, the original site was relocated and re-studied. The new studies determined that the remains were female rather than male and that they were about 13,000 years old. According to Dr. John Johnson, Curator of Anthropology, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: “This woman’s presence on an island at this early date is significant, because it demonstrates that the earliest Paleo-Indians had watercraft necessary to cross the Santa Barbara Channel.”

Immediately above the layer of soil in which the remains of Arlington Woman (originally called Arlington Man) were found is a distinctive layer dated to about 12,900 years ago that is linked to the extraterrestrial event that caused an abrupt climate change resulting in the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna and the end of Clovis culture.

By about 12,000 years ago, people were occupying the Cardwell Bluffs sites near the east end of San Miguel Island. These sites appear to have been multipurpose quarry, workshop, and habitation sites. Among the stone artifacts are chipped stone crescents and small, stemmed Channel Island Barbed points. While shellfish remains show that the people had a marine diet, the crescents and stemmed points suggest that they were also hunting. Both the crescents and stemmed points have been linked to other coastal sites and support the idea of a coastal migration following the North Pacific Rim from Northeast Asia into the Americas.

Daisy Cave along a remote and rocky stretch of San Miguel Island shows evidence of human occupation dating back to 11,500 years ago. The site has a shell midden dominated by rocky shore shellfish including red abalone, black turban (Tegula funebralis), California mussel (Mytilus californianus), giant chiton (Cryptochiton stelleri), and crab. While this is one of the oldest shell middens in North America, it leaves a number of questions unanswered. According to Channel Islands National Park Archaeological Overview and Assessment: “…who were these early maritime people, where did they come from, what technologies did they employ, and what was the nature of their broader economies and lives?”

Humans and Pygmy Mammoths:

The first report of mammoth remains on Santa Rosa Island came in 1853 and by the 1920s these were classified as a new species. In the 1940s, Phil Orr, Curator of Anthropology at the Museum of Natural History in Santa Barbara, conducted archaeological field studies in which mammoth bones were found in conjunction with features which were interpreted as hearths. Orr concluded that humans had been hunting and consuming pygmy mammoths. However, recent studies have not substantiated this claim.

Humans and the pygmy mammoths co-existed on the island for at least 200 years. This raises a number of interesting questions regarding the extinction of the pygmy mammoths. Was this simply a coincidence or did human hunting contribute to the extinction? Archaeological data shows that humans on the mainland were hunting mammoths. Did the people on Santa Rosa Island have mammoth hunting skills and knowledge, or was their subsistence lifestyle marine oriented?

Some researchers feel that the extinction of the pygmy mammoths was caused by a cosmic impact which is supported by data from sediments at this time.