California’s War On Indians, 1850 to 1851

In 1850 California was admitted to the United States as its 31st state. As with some other states, Native Americans were not seen as desirable inhabitants of the state. For the first decade of its existence, the State of California carried on a series of privatized wars of extermination against the Native American population. California’s first governor, Peter Burnett, openly called for the extermination of Indian tribes.

In 1850, California passed an Act for the Government and Protection of Indians. The Act stated that while both non-Indians and Indians may take complaints before a justice of the peace, that “in no case shall a white man be convicted on any offense upon the testimony of an Indian.”

In other words, if a non-Indian were to commit a crime, such as murder, rape, or theft, and the only witnesses were Indians, then no conviction would be possible. The act also curtailed Indian land rights.

The Act also allowed non-Indians to obtain Indian children by going before a justice of the peace and securing a certificate which allowed them to have the care, custody, control, and earnings of these children. The illegal sale of Indian children became common and during the next 13 years an estimated 20,000 California Indian children were placed in bondage.

James Parins, in his biography John Rollin Ridge: His Life and Works, explains another ramification of the law:  “if an Indian was arrested on charges of drunkenness and could not pay his fine, a white rancher could pay the amount levied by the court and then set the prisoner to work until the debt was paid. The Indian had no voice in setting the terms of this transaction, those details being left to the judge and the rancher.”

The law empowered non-Indians to arrest Indian adults for loitering and other offenses and then the captives were sold to the highest bidder. Indians had to work for four months without compensation. In other words, this Act opened up the door to involuntary servitude of Indians, a form of slavery in a non-slave state.

In the San Joaquin Valley and in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevadas, the Miwok and the Yokut, under the leadership of Tenaya, began a war against the miners and settlers who had entered their territory as the result of the Gold Rush. The warriors attacked prospectors and burned James Savage’s trading posts. The conflict was known as the Mariposa Indian War.

In 1850, the governor launched a war against Indians who were accused of stealing stock near the mines in the central part of the state. A state militia of 200 men was called up. The militia encountered about 150-200 Miwok in a steep canyon. While they killed three Indians, the militia was forced to retreat. In a second battle which lasted for five hours, the militia killed 15 Indians. Two of the militia were killed. The one-month campaign in El Dorado County cost more than $100,000. For the militia commanders, the war was very lucrative while it was expensive for the California taxpayers.

 In 1850, the American military began a campaign against the Pomo at Clear Lake in revenge for the killing of two non-Indians the previous year. The Pomo leader Ge-Wi-Lih met the Americans with his hands up to indicate peace, but was shot. The soldiers shot women and children. They also bayoneted babies and burned one man alive. An estimated 135 Indians were killed.

 In 1850, the first American gold miners reached Hupa territory. When the Hupa offered hospitality to the miners, the miners asked them to leave their camp. While some shots were exchanged, the Hupa offered peace. Byron Nelson, in his book Our Home Forever: A Hupa Tribal History, explains:  “Knowing that a pitched battle in their homeland would involve many innocent people, the Hupa hoped to prevent disastrous violence. Instead of taking revenge, they came to restore harmony and offer food to the miners.”

In 1850, the Anglos in the newly created Shasta County gave a friendship feast for the Wintu. The food, however, was poisoned and 100 Wintu died.

Under the Constitution of the United States, Indian tribes are sovereign nations and during the nineteenth century the federal government negotiated treaties with Indian tribes as a way of obtaining their land. In 1851, the United States negotiated 18 treaties with California Indian nations which were supposed to secure legal title to public land and guarantee reserved lands for Indians. The Indian commissioners explained to the non-Indian residents of the state that the government had two options: to exterminate the Indians or to “domesticate” them. They argued that “domesticating” them was more practical.

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

In the treaty council with the Karok, Yurok, and Hupa, the government promised to give the Indians a protected reservation and gifts if they would agree to wear clothes, live in houses, and become farmers. The government was apparently unaware that these groups had been living in plank houses for millennia.

Signing the treaty for the Hupa are what the Americans call the “head chief” and “under chiefs.” None of these men had formal authority over all of the villages. They were, however, men of great influence.

While these treaties were signed by both Indian and U.S. government leaders, they were not debated in the Senate, thus did not appear in the Congressional Record. For more than 50 years the California treaties were somehow lost or hidden. The ratification of the treaties was opposed by the California legislature and there were rumors that the state representatives managed to have the treaties hidden in the archives of the Government Room in the Capital.

Ensuing legislation deprived California Indians of the rights to their land. The impact on the Indians is immense. Historian Herman Viola, in his book After Columbus: The Smithsonian Chronology of the North American Indians, reports:  “Bereft of homes, unprotected by treaties, the Indians became wanderers, hounded and persecuted by whites.”

Anthropologist Omer Steward writes: “The failure to ratify the treaties left the federal government without explicit legal obligation toward the Indians of California.” During the next 50 years, California Indian population will decrease by 80%.”

In 1851, the Americans destroyed a natural bridge crossing Clear Creek in an effort to keep the Wintu on the western side of the creek. Miners then burned the Wintu council house in the town of Old Shasta and massacred about 300 people. Following the massacre, the Wintu consented to the “Cottonwood Treaty” which gave them about 35 square miles of land.

 In 1851, the Cahuilla, Quechan, and Cocopa under the leadership of Antonio Garra, Jr. in San Diego County revolted against the American federal, state, and local governments. The cause of the rebellion was a state tax imposed on Indian property. Garra attempted to put together a confederacy of several tribes, but was captured by a rival Cahuilla band and turned over to the Americans. He was tried in a paramilitary court, found guilty, and shot.

In 1851, the Modoc raided ranches in the Shasta Valley for horses and cattle. In response, the ranchers organized a party of volunteers to recover the livestock and kill the Modoc. The volunteers killed 20 Modoc men and captured 30 women and children.

In 1851, American settlers burned an Indian village on Mill Creek (possibly a Yahi village) in retaliation for the supposed theft of a cow.

In 1851, the United States paid out more than $1 million in bounties for Indian scalps.

The Gros Ventre

At the time the first European explorers and fur traders were entering the Northern Plains in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the Indian tribe known as the Gros Ventre (Atsina) were living in the Milk River drainage of Missouri River in what is now Montana. Like the other Northern Plains tribes of Montana and Alberta they had developed a lifeway which involved hunting buffalo.

The designation “Gros Ventre” is, of course, French and was given to them by the early French fur traders. Gros Ventre means “big belly” and comes from the Plains Indian sign language in which the sign for the group indicated that they were big eaters. The name they use for themselves would translate as White Clay People. Many of the early English-speaking explorers and fur traders called them Falls Indians or Waterfall Indians. The Blackfoot called them Atsina and this designation has often been used by ethnographers and others.

Prior to the early 1700s, the ancestors of the Gros Ventre were living in the woodlands near the Great Lakes. In the early 1700s they were pushed out onto the Great Plains by the expansion of the tribes involved in the fur trade. On the Plains, they split into two groups with the northern group becoming the Gros Ventre and the southern group becoming the Arapaho.

With regard to language, Gros Ventre is a part of the Plains Algonquian sub-family and is thus related to Blackfoot and Cheyenne. Among the Plains Algonquian languages, there is a great deal of difference between Cheyenne, Arapaho/Gros Ventre, and Blackfoot which suggests that these languages have had a separate existence for a very long time.

The Northern Plains tribes depended on hunting and gathering for their subsistence. The most important game animal on the Northern Plains was the buffalo and for most of the tribes this animal was considered the staff of life. Buffalo hunting was generally a communal effort and individuals were not permitted to hunt buffalo alone. A lone hunter could startle the herd and as a result little meat could be taken. Writing about the Gros Ventre, Minette Johnson, in her thesis Return of the Native: Buffalo Restoration at the Fort Belknap Reservation, reports:  “The bow and arrow remained the weapons of choice because they could be shot accurately at high speeds and be reloaded easily. The hunters aimed their arrows behind the last rib-bone of the buffalo, so it would penetrate the lungs, killing even the largest of the bulls.”

During the nineteenth century, the Gros Ventre had 10-12 bands. The names and composition of these bands changed frequently. The band leaders had a great deal of influence in decisions regarding the movements of the band, but they did not have any directive authority.

Among the Gros Ventre, bands were exogamous, meaning that people generally married someone from a different band. After marriage, the couple would generally live with the husband’s band unless the wife’s family was more prosperous.

One of the interesting features of Gros Ventre social organization in the nineteenth century was the age-graded societies. For the men, this meant that during the course of their lives they moved through a series of societies or lodges which were composed of men of the same age group. The age-graded societies were central to the organization of Gros Ventre society. A young man would join the first ceremonial lodge by making a vow to the Great Mystery and then taking a pipe to an older man. If the older man accepted the pipe, he was then the younger man’s ceremonial grandfather and was responsible for instructing and assisting the young man.

The Gros Ventre had six age-grades: Fly Lodge, Crazy Lodge, Kit-Fox Lodge, Dog Lodge, Drum Lodge, and Old Man’s Lodge. Each of the age-grades was composed of a group of peers who moved through the grades as they aged. According to anthropologist Loretta Fowler in her book Shared Symbols, Contested Meanings: Gros Ventre Culture and History, 1778-1984:  “Members of an age set had a moral obligation to help and encourage one another in battle, disputes, and participation in lodge ceremonies.”

Gros Ventre men would seek power through the vision quest. Loretta Fowler and Regina Flannery, writing in the Handbook of North American Indians, report:  “A man seeking power fasted alone, concentrating his thought and making offerings for one or more days on top of a promontory.”

While many attempted to obtain power in this way, relatively few were successful. According to Fowler and Flannery:  “Gros Ventres thought such power was inherently dangerous and necessitated too many restrictions; parents discouraged children from seeking it, urging other methods of prayer-sacrifice to attain fame and fortune.”

The Gros Ventre have two tribal medicine bundles which are symbols of creation and of their place in the universe. According to anthropologist Loretta Fowler:  “They represented the Gros Ventres’ special relationship with the Supreme Being or Great Mystery Above, a relationship that was the basis for health and happiness.”

The oldest of these bundles is the Flat Pipe which was given to them when the world was created. The ceremonies which were associated with this bundle – traditionally three seasonal ceremonies – provided the Gros Ventre with help for hunting and for obtaining horses. They also provided help in battle and in obtaining wealth.

The Gros Ventres’ Feathered Pipe bundle also represented their special relationship with the Great Mystery Above. The ceremonies associated with this bundle helped them to be successful in their life. The keeper of the Feathered Pipe had some power of weather control as well as the power to protect the people from illness.

Each of the Gros Ventre bundles had its own keeper – a man who was responsible for caring for the bundle and for carrying out the ceremonies associated with it. According to Loretta Fowler:  “The keepers prophesied, cured, and obtained supernatural aid for the Gros Ventres in making war, hunting, and obtaining horses.”

People would vow to cover the pipe – that is, to make a number of offerings to the bundle. When enough offerings had accumulated, the keeper would conduct a sweat lodge ceremony, smudge the offerings, and then take some of them to a sacred place on a mountain or butte. Some of the offerings would be given to those in need.

The importance of the two Gros Ventre pipe bundles is expressed by anthropologist Loretta Fowler (1986: 122):  “Their sacred responsibility for the pipes, in the Gros Ventres’ view, makes them unique among peoples.”  One Gros Ventre elder says:  “Only a Gros Ventre can do pipe ceremonies because they are Gros Ventre ceremonies.”

One of the ceremonies that is found among most of the Plains tribes is the Sun Dance. Speaking more than a century ago, Gros Ventre Chief Running Fisher said of the Sun Dance:   “The sun dance is a custom among the Indians which seeks to elevate a spirit of honor among men as well as women.”

Among the Gros Ventre men did not traditionally take part in the ceremony until they had received recognition as a warrior. According to Running Fisher:  “The men emulate the deeds of their fathers in order that they may take part in the sun dance. And thus this wonderful dance becomes a school for patriotism among the tribes and a stimulus to deeds of valour as well as an incentive to virtue.”

Another traditional Gros Ventre ceremony was the Grass Dance which served as an expression of cultural identity. The high point of the ceremony was the dog ritual. Eight men – two men who were authorized to wear crow belts, the spear (fork) keeper, the spoon keeper, two whip men, and the two assistants to the whip men – danced around a kettle containing cooked puppy. After the dog meat was eaten, there were a series of special dances and the warriors recounted their exploits. At times, the whistle keeper would call for a punishing song in which the dancers would dance to the point of exhaustion.

With regard to sacred areas, the Little Rockies is a mountain area on the southern border of the Fort Belknap Reservation. The Little Rockies are the spiritual center of the Gros Ventre. While this is an important area for vision quests and other ceremonies, the off-reservation portion of the mountains has been impacted by a gold mine.

Greed and the Administration of Indian Reservations in the 19th Century

With the formation of the United States in the late eighteenth century, policies toward American Indians generally followed the British colonial model in which Indians, like wolves, bears, and trees, were viewed as impediments to the taming of the wilderness. The British did not seek to incorporate American Indians into their colonial culture, but to isolate and segregate them and/or to exterminate them.

Following this philosophical model, the United States established Indian reservations as a way of removing Indians and freeing their lands and natural resources (i.e. mining and timber) to be developed by non-Indians. One of America’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, suggested that Indians should be removed from the United States and placed on lands west of the Mississippi River.

There were three basic ways in which reservations could be established: by treaty, Presidential executive order, and Congressional action.

The United States could negotiate a treaty with an Indian nation in which the Indian nation would reserve a portion of its traditional homeland for its exclusive use or agree to move to other lands which would be reserved for its exclusive use. Under the U.S. Constitution, Indian tribes were viewed as sovereign nations and thus dealings with them, just as with over sovereign nations, had to be on the federal level. In 1871, however, Congress–upset by the cost of the treaties and the need to pay the Indians for their lands– attached a rider to the appropriations bill for the Indian Department which stated that hereafter no Indian tribe shall be recognized as an independent nation with whom the United States may contract by treaty.

Reservations could also be established by Presidential executive order and by Congressional action.

The well-known Indian-fighter General William T. Sherman once defined a reservation as:  “a tract of land entirely occupied by Indians and entirely surrounded by white thieves”

Anthropologist Anthony Wallace, in his The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca, writes:  “The reservation system theoretically established small asylums where Indians who had lost their hunting grounds could remain peacefully apart from the surrounding white communities until they became civilized. It actually resulted, however, in the creation of slums in the wilderness, where no traditional Indian culture could long survive and where only the least useful aspects of white culture could easily penetrate.”

Some reservations were run like concentration camps where the Indian inmates were seen as prisoners. Reservation Indians were viewed as being incompetent in managing their own affairs. Boarding school superintendent Edwin Chalcraft, in his biography Assimilation’s Agent: My Life as a Superintendent in the Indian Boarding School System, reports that  “…Government Regulations provided that Indians shall not leave their reservations without a written pass from the officer in charge.”

In describing his experience with the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1890s, Sioux physician Charles Eastman, in Light on the Indian World: The Essential Writings of Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa), reports:  “An Indian agent has almost autocratic power, and the conditions of life on an agency are such as to make every resident largely dependent upon his good will.”

Corruption in the administration of Indian reservations was wide-spread. Indian reservations provided ample opportunity for fraud. First, there were the Indian agents on the reservation. Poorly paid and untrained for the job, many Indian agents saw this as an opportunity to get rich. It was not uncommon for the Indian agent to have a store in an off-reservation town which sold the goods that had been intended as annuities for the reservation and instead were unlawfully re-directed to his own store.

Getting the goods to the reservation required shipping and shipping agents generally overstated the millage involved. Suppliers who provided beef generally provided ill, underweight cows and charged for good, healthy animals. Suppliers saw the reservations as good places to send spoiled or unsalable goods. Money was made by all, and the Indians received very little of what they had been promised by the government. Historians Robert Utley and Wilcomb Washburn write:  “From factory to agency warehouse, corrupt alliances enriched government officials and suppliers and penalized the Indians in both quantity and quality of issue.”

One of the primary goals of the United States government with regard to Indians was to convert them to Christianity, primarily Protestant Christianity. As it became obvious to all that the Indian Service was corrupt and failing to assimilate Indians, it seemed natural to turn to missionaries and churches for the solution. In his 1870 message to Congress, President Ulysses Grant proposed turning the administration of reservations over to Christian groups. With no regard for aboriginal religious practices, it was assumed that all Indians should be forced to become Christian as a part of their assimilation into American culture.

In accordance with President Ulysses Grant’s Peace Policy, the Secretary of the Interior allocated 80 reservations among 13 Christian denominations. Catholic historian James White, writing in Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:  “By the terms stated in Grant’s policy, namely that missions should be allocated among the missionaries already at work there, Catholic officials expected to receive thirty-eight missions; instead they were accorded only eight, all of them in either the Rio Grande valley or the Pacific Northwest.”  Subsequently, Catholic missionaries began to be ordered off certain reservations.

Another often-stated goal of the reservations was to turn Indians into farmers, ignoring the fact that most Indian nations had been farming prior to the European invasion and the early colonists managed to survive because of Indian agriculture. On the other hand, non-Indians were given the best farming lands and Indian reservations were generally located in areas that were not suitable for agriculture. In other words, reservations tended to be located in areas which could not be farmed.

Indians were not allowed to engage in mining. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs wrote in 1872:  “It is the policy of the government to segregate such [mineral] lands from Indian reservations as far as may be consistent with the faith of the United States and throw them open to entry and settlement in order that the Indians may not be annoyed and distressed by the cupidity of the miners and settlers who in large numbers, in spite of the efforts of the government to the contrary, flock to such regions of the country on the first report of the gold discovery.”

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the United States began to break up Indian reservations and open them up for non-Indian settlement. This was formalized with 1887 General Allotment Act (also known as the Dawes Act). The idea of holding land in common was seen as uncivilized, un-Christian, and a barrier to civilization. Indians were first encouraged and then required to obtain individual ownership of land. The idea of owning land in severalty became almost an obsession of the late nineteenth century Christian reformers. They were convinced that such a policy would force the Indians to become more American. Historian Clifford Trafzer, in his introduction to American Indians/American Presidents: A History, reports:  “By dividing tribal reservation lands into small parcels for individual Indians, reformers believed that allotment would imbue Native people with respect for private—rather the tribal—property, and help Indians assimilate into mainstream American culture.”

The result of this policy was to force American Indians into poverty and to create wealth for non-Indians. American capitalists and large corporations acquired Indian resources.

Honoring and Celebrating Genocide

Cultural genocide is a concept expressed by many Native Americans to describe the deliberate destruction of American Indian languages, religions, ways of dress and housing, and interpersonal relations by the invading European powers and by the United States. Cultural genocide has led to the deaths of many American Indians either through deliberate murder or as the intended or unintended consequences of the deliberate destruction of Indian cultures. One of the classic cases of cultural genocide can be seen in California.

In 1758 Father Junípero Serra led a group of Franciscan friars north from Baja California into present-day California to establish a series of 21 missions, starting with San Diego de Alcalá in the south. The group was accompanied by a column of Spanish soldiers under the leadership of Captain Gaspar de Portolá. Robert Jackson and Edward Castillo, in their book Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians, report:  “The Franciscans attempted to restructure the native societies they encountered to further Spanish colonial-policy objectives.”  They also write:  “One of the primary objectives of the Franciscan-directed mission program in Alta California was the transformation of the culture and world view of the Indian converts congregated in the missions.”

Christianity, for these missionaries, meant not just accepting a new religion, but it also required a totally new way of living. The sites for the missions were selected on the basis of their suitability for agriculture and ranching as well as the availability of building materials. Indian people were expected to give up their traditional economic systems and to work as slaves in European-style agriculture and ranching.

Indian people did not come joyously or freely to live and work at the new missions. In his book Where the Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places, Peter Nabokov writes:  “Soldiers snatched Indian families from outlying hamlets to convert them, change their social habits and turn them into an American peasantry.”  In other words, recruitment was very similar to a slave raid. The Indian response to the missions was to flee, either in small groups or in large groups.

In his book From the Heart: Voices of the American Indian, Lee Miller notes:  “Spain continued to operate under the European assumption that non-Christian nations were base and immoral, and the church was obligated to effect conversion.”  Furthermore, the Spanish, according to anthropologist Edward Castillo (1978a: 99):  “were steeped in a legacy of religious intolerance and conformity featuring a messianic fanaticism accentuating both Spanish culture in general and Catholicism in particular.”

The Franciscans sought to set up a utopian Christian community among the Indians. Malcolm Margolin, in his book The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, writes that the Indians:  “would be weaned away from their life of nakedness, lewdness, and idolatry. They would, under the gentle guidance of the Franciscan fathers, learn to pray properly, eat with spoons, wear clothes, and they would master farming, weaving, blacksmithing, cattle raising, masonry, and other civilized arts.”

For this utopian Christian community, the Indians were to live at the mission. Unmarried males and females were confined to separate quarters to prevent any sexual relationships. The Indians were told who they could marry and what kind of clothing they were to wear. For most Indians the mission communities were death camps. Writing in the Handbook of North American Indians Sherburne F. Cook and Cesare Marino note:  “the physical confinement and the restriction of social as well as sexual intercourse was completely contrary to native custom and acted as a powerful source of irritation.”

Father Junípero Serra, who is revered by many of today’s Catholics, is described by Malcolm Margolin as being “driven by inner torments and a quest for personal martyrdom.” He lashed and burned his flesh before his congregations. Anthropologist Eve Darian-Smith, in her book New Capitalists: Law, Politics, and Identity Surrounding Casino Gaming on Native American Land, describes him this way:  “He was a man of extreme conviction in his commitment to convert California Indians to Catholicism and make them productive citizens of the Spanish colonial state.”

The Franciscans asked the Indians who came to see them to be baptized, even if they did not understand the meaning of this European ceremony. Once baptized, they could be held at the missions against their will. Soldiers were stationed at the missions to capture those who tried to escape. Escape attempts were severely punished by the Franciscans.

The Franciscan missions were slave plantations, requiring the Indian people to work for the Spanish under cruel conditions. Most of the Indians died in the new mission environment because of brutality, malnutrition, and illness. One early visitor to the missions remarked about the Indians that “I have never seen one laugh.”

In 1948, the United Nations formally defined genocide and classified it as a crime against humanity. Many of the actions of the Franciscans under Serra can be considered acts of genocide under the U.N. definition.

Today, many Native Americans, particularly those who have a California Indian heritage, consider Serra to have been a brutal oppressor whose actions killed many thousands and helped to destroy ancient cultural heritages. While we don’t know for sure if Serra personally killed anyone, his actions led to death, destruction, pain, suffering, slavery, and poverty.

The Catholic Church appears to honor and celebrate the brutality and cultural genocide promoted by the Franciscan priest: he will be declared a Saint by Pope Francis in September of 2015. Some Catholics, such as Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, applaud the creation of this new saint.

Ancient America: The Columbia Plateau, 2000 BCE to 500 BCE

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. This is an area which is drained by the Columbia River.

While much of the Plateau Culture Area constitutes a dry region characterized by a sagebrush-Juniper steppe area with pine forests at the higher levels, there are portions of the area which do not fit this description. In the northern portion of the Plateau Culture Area, there is a temperate rainforest with higher precipitation. At the headwaters to the Columbia River in British Columbia, the terrain is cut by steep mountain ranges with long, narrow lakes in the valleys.

Writing in the Handbook of North American Indians, James Chatters and David Pokotylo report:  “For the past 4,000 years, most Plateau cultural adaptations have emphasized the mass harvest and long-term storage of three key resource groups: fish (usually anadromous salmonids), edible roots, and large ungulates.”

Archaeologists generally divide the prehistory of the Plateau into three broad periods: (1) Early (before 6000 BCE); (2) Middle (6000 to 2000 BCE); and  (3) Late (2000 BCE to 1720 CE). In the section below, we will look at the Plateau during the Late-Early Subperiod (2000 BCE to 500 BCE).

Just prior to this subperiod, in 2500 BCE, regional temperatures began to decrease. With this there were glacial advances and a decline in the temperature of the Columbia River. By 2000 BCE, the Indian people in the Plateau area were adapting to this climate change with storage-dependent collector activities. In some areas, small villages began to appear.

In 2000 BCE, Indian people began using Dagger Falls on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in present-day Idaho as a salmon spearing station.

In 2000 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Alpowa site in present-day Chief Timothy State Park.

At Kettle Falls, Washington, there was an increase in population about 1600 BCE. This marks the beginning of what the archaeologists call the Skitak period.

Around 1500 BCE, the period which archaeologists call the Early Riverine phase began. In his book Indian Rock Art of the Columbia Plateau, archaeologist James Keyser reports:  “During this time, pit house villages become commonplace, roots, salmon, and shellfish were the primary good sources for Columbia Plateau groups.”  Long-distance trade also increased. Wood- and bone- working became more important.

At this time, refugees from the retreating boreal forests in the north begin to enter into the Plateau area, bringing with them some new cultural items. These new items include the stone pipe, copper objects, stone carvings, effigy figurines, and the use of burial mounds.

In southeastern British Columbia and northwestern Montana, the period which archaeologists call the Inissimi Complex began about 1500 BCE. The Inissimi stone points have an expanding stem, a convex base, pronounced shoulders and excurvate blade edges.

In the Calispell Valley of Washington, Indian people began a more intensive use of camas (a bulbed plant used for food). In addition, fishing became more important.

In Idaho, Indian people began year-round occupation of the Middle Salmon River canyon area. There was also an increase in the hunting of buffalo and mountain sheep.

In the Plateau area of British Columbia, the archaeological period known as the Shuswap Horizon begins. This is a period of cold, wet weather. Mike Rousseau, in his chapter in Complex Hunter-Gatherers: Evolution and Organization of Prehistoric Communities on the Plateau of Northwestern North America, reports:  “small, moderately mobile bands established winter residential base camps on valley bottoms where food and material resources were abundant and varied.”

In his University of Montana M.A. Thesis A Timeline in Stone: Lithic Indications of Social and Economic Change at Housepit 7 of the Keatley Creek Site, Terrence Godin reports:  “It signifies the first regular, widespread use of semi-subterranean winter pithouses on the Canadian Plateau.”

The houses are relatively large with an average of nearly 11 meters in diameter up to a maximum of 16 meters. They are circular to oval with flat-bottomed, rectangular shaped floors.

According to Terrence Godin:  “Shuswap people utilized elk, deer, mountain sheep, black bear, numerous species of small mammals, fresh water mussels, salmon, trout, and various species of birds, but did not rely on plant resources to any great extent.”  Their projectile points were generally lanceolate and/or triangular in shape. They were probably used on thrusting spears or atlatl darts.

Along the Middle Snake River in Idaho, hunting began to be more important about 1000 BCE.

In 1000 BCE, Indian people were burning large areas to encourage the growth of good deer forage and to improve oak groves for acorns. In the mountain areas of northern Oregon and southern Washington, Indian people were burning areas to maintain the huckleberry patches.

In 1000 BCE, the Kootenai were hunting mountain sheep high in the mountains of what is now Glacier National Park. At this time, the Kootenai were quarrying chert for making stone tools about 3 miles upstream on Bowman Creek from its confluence with the North Fork of the Flathead River.

At Kettle Falls, Washington, the period which archaeologists call the Takumakst period began about 800 BCE. This is associated with Salish people. The material culture at this time included steatite tubular pipes with thin, flaring bowls. People were living in pit houses which were dug one to two meters deep. They were cooking with earth ovens and used pits for storing food.

People in southeastern Oregon were using pole-and-thatch huts or windscreens about 625 BCE. These structures are described by archaeologist Luther Cressman in the Handbook of North American Indians:  “Paired vertical willow branches were placed at intervals around a shallow, dish-shaped depression about 5 m in maximum diameter, forming a circular framework. Bundles of grass, laid horizontally, were then attached by U-shaped willow pins to these uprights.”  The structure was then shingled with bundles of grass placed vertically. Rock slabs anchored the structure.

In the Plateau area of Washington and Idaho, villages became larger about 500 BCE with some of them having as many as 100 pit houses. However, the pit houses tended to be somewhat smaller than they were previously. These larger villages were on rivers such as at Kettle Falls in Washington and in the Hells Canyon area of Idaho.

Along the lower Snake River in eastern Washington, the Harder phase began to replace the Tucannon phase about 500 BCE. The people were using fairly large—20 to 40 feet diameter—pit houses. As in the Tucannon phase, the subsistence pattern was based on hunting and fishing. They were now hunting mountain sheep and had domesticated dogs.

In the southeastern Plateau area, the Nez Perce occupied a number of villages by 500 BCE. Historian Alvin Josephy, in his book Nez Perce Country, reports:  “Most of the settlements were small, containing from one to three structures.”

At this time, the people had intensified their hunting of buffalo, which were found in great numbers in the area.

In the Calispell Valley of Washington, the use of camas decreased in 500 BCE because of drought damage to the moist meadows. The Indian people of this area began to use fire as a tool to increase food production in the higher elevations.

Ancient America: Corn, Beans, Squash

The domestication of plants is something that happened independently in many different regions of the world. The domestication of plants marks a fundamental change in the way people interact with and perceive their environment. Domestication is basically evolution which has been directed through human intervention. By the time of the European invasions in the sixteenth century, the Indigenous peoples of Mexico had already domesticated more than 50 different plants, ranging from avocados to yucca. Three of these plants—maize (corn), beans, and squash—became the focus of American Indian agriculture in North and Central America. Among the Iroquois these three plants were known as the Three Sisters.

Maize (Corn):

 Maize (Zea mays), commonly called corn in the United States, is undoubtedly the most important plant domesticated in Mexico. In their book Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, Michael Coe and Rex Koontz write:  “Maize was and is the very basis of settled life in Mexico, and, in fact, throughout the regions of the New World civilized in Pre-Columbian times.”

Archaeologists debate several questions with regard to the domestication of maize: (1) What was the wild ancestor or ancestors of maize? (2) When did the fully domesticated maize first appear? And (3) how did maize cultivation spread both north and south into other regions of the Americas?

Maize is a grass and there are no known wild forms of this grass. In the highlands of the Mexican state of Chiapas and Guatemala, there is, however, a grass called teosinte (Zea Mexicana) which grows as an unwanted weed in and around Indian cornfields. Long before archaeologists had the tools of modern genetics and DNA, they hypothesized that teosinte was the probable ancestor of maize. Maize may have evolved through the human selection of teosinte plants. Some researchers assuming that teosinte was the progenitor of maize have suggested that maize originated in the Balsas River Drainage in western Mexico by about 7000 BCE.

Gary Crawford, writing in the Oxford Companion to Archaeology, reports:  “How corn was domesticated is problematic. As a grass, its fruit in the form of a cob is a monstrosity.”

Teosinte does not have a cob and this has led some researchers to suggest that the ancestor of maize may have been a wild plant, now extinct, which had a cob. Margaret Bunson and Stephen Bunson, in their Encyclopedia of Ancient Mesoamerica, write:  “The wild maize plants altered by mutation were collected by early inhabitants of Mesoamerica and slowly domesticated. The wild form appears to have become extinct, possibly through backcrossing with domesticated forms.”

However, this hypothesized plant, has not yet been found in the archaeological record. Nor is there any evidence that ancient humans harvested teosinte.

It was once thought that the people who oversaw the evolution of teosinte into maize were the Maya, but there is no direct evidence that the Maya were the overseers of this evolutionary transformation.

Dating the appearance of maize in the archaeological record has presented a few problems. At the present time some of the earliest findings come from phytoliths (fossil evidence of plant cells) found at San Andrés on the Gulf Coast of Tabasco near the Olmec site of La Venta. These date to about 4800 BCE and since there are no known wild species of Zea in the region, it suggests that they were introduced by humans. There is also some evidence of large-scale forest clearing at this time, an activity usually associated with the cultivation of maize. According to Michael Coe and Rex Koontz:  “If this Tabasco material is true maize cultivation, then it would be the earliest record of such activity that we have.”

Maize cobs found in caves in Tehuacan, Pueblo, were originally thought to date to 5000 BCE, but newer dating methods have revised this to 3500 BCE. At the present time, the earliest date maize cob comes from the Guilá Naquitz cave in Oaxaca which is dated to 4300 BCE.


While maize was the most important food staple in ancient Mexico, beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) were second in importance. Beans seem to have been originally domesticated in Mexico and Guatemala and then diffused, along with maize, to other parts of the Americas. With regard to beans, Michael Coe and Rex Koontz write:  “Its nutritional importance stems from the fact that its proteins complement those of maize.”

Beans supply the amino acids lysine and tryptophan to complement the amino acid zein from maize.

Beans seem to have been originally domesticated in Mexico’s Lerma-Santiago basin about 6,000 years ago. Beans were not grown in any significant quantities until they became a part of the diet that included maize and squash. Beans were also domesticated independently in the Andes.


While maize was the most important plant in ancient Mexico, squash appears to have been domesticated earlier than maize. The earliest evidence of domesticated squash (Cucurbit pepo) dates to about 8000 BCE. This evidence comes for Guilá Naquitz cave in Oaxaca. This early squash is a distant relative of today’s pumpkin. There are three major species of squash in Mexico: pumpkin, warty or crookneck squash, and walnut squash. Michael Coe and Rex Koontz write: “The origins of all of thee from wild ancestors or through hybridization are very little understood, although a very early domesticate has been identified, and the sequence of their appearance in Mexico is now established.”

Between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago, domesticated squash diffused north into Northern Mexico and the Southwest.

Pontiac’s War

In 1763, the Ottawa leader Pontiac led an alliance of Indian nations in the Ohio Valley in a war of resistance against the British. In defeating this Indian alliance, the British turned to biological warfare in the form of smallpox.

Pontiac was probably born about 1720 along the Maumee River in what is now Ohio. His father was Ottawa and his mother was Chippewa (Ojibwa). By 1755 he was recognized by the Ottawa as one of their leaders (i.e. “chiefs”).

Background: Prelude to War

 In 1759, a party of Ottawa, Huron, and Potawatomi encountered an English Ranger group in present-day Michigan. The Ottawa leader Pontiac demanded to know why these strangers were trespassing on Indian land. The English told him that they were there only to remove the French. After they gave Pontiac wampum, he smoked with them. While Pontiac agreed to be a subordinate of the English Crown, he told the English that if the King should neglect him, he would shut down all routes to the interior.

The French and Indian War officially ended in 1760 with the defeat of France. As a result, English settlers began to pour across the Alleghenies into Indian territory. While the French had secured the loyalty of their Indian allies by providing them with ammunition and supplies, the English did not. Lord Jeffrey Amherst wrote:  “I do not see why the Crown should be put to that expense. Services must be rewarded; it has ever been a maxim with me. But as to purchasing the good behavior either of Indians or any others, [that] is what I do not understand. When men of whatsoever race behave ill, they must be punished but not bribed.”

Indians soon found that they were not welcome at the forts and that intermarriage was discouraged. The English simply assumed that they had no obligation to the original inhabitants of the country and acted accordingly. From an Indian viewpoint, this was not only a breach of protocol, but an open insult to the Indian nations and their leaders. Historians Robert Utley and Wilcomb Washburn, in their book Indian Wars, write:  “In sum, the English acted as though they had no obligation toward the inhabitants of the country—with predictable consequences.”

 In 1761, the English placed Jeffrey Amherst in charge of Indian relations in the Old Northwest Territory. Amherst felt that presents to the Indians encouraged laziness and that the Indians should support themselves by hunting so that they could obtain the trade goods which they desired. Historian Richard White, in his book The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, describes Amherst as having “the moral vision of a shopkeeper and the arrogance of a victorious soldier.”

Lord Jeffrey Amherst, the commander-in-chief of the British forces, suggested to Henry Bouquet, the commander of Fort Pitt:  “Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those dissatisfied tribes?”  In response Bouquet suggested using infected blankets to distribute the smallpox. He also suggested hunting the Indians with dogs.

In 1762, the Delaware (Lenni Lenape) prophet Neolin had a vision in which he undertook a journey to meet the Master of Life. He was told:  “The land on which you are, I have made for you, not for others. Wherefore do you suffer the whites to dwell upon your lands?”  “Drive them away; wage war against them; I love them not; they know me not; they are my enemies; they are your brothers’ enemies. Send them back to the land I have made for them.”  He received a prayer which is carved in symbolic language on a stick.

After returning from the vision, the prophet drew a map on a deerskin which was used in explaining his vision. This “great book” was sold to followers so that they might refresh their memories from time to time. Neolin’s vision provided the foundation for a pan-Indian movement. One of Neolin’s followers was the Ottawa chief Pontiac. According to ethnologist James Mooney, writing in 1896:  “The religious ferment produced by the exhortations of the Delaware prophet spread rapidly from tribe to tribe, until, under the guidance of the master mind of the celebrated chief, Pontiac, it took shape in a grand confederacy of all the northwestern tribes to oppose the further progress of the English.”

Historian Randolph Downes, in his book Council Fires on the Upper Ohio: A Narrative of Indian Affairs in the Upper Ohio Valley until 1795, writes of Neolin’s followers:  “They gave up the use of firearms and hunted exclusively with the bow and arrow. They lived entirely on dried meat and a bitter drink whose purgative quality was supposed to rid them of poisons absorbed by years of white contamination.”

While Neolin’s message was anti-European, under Pontiac it became anti-British. Many of Neolin’s followers felt that he was the reincarnation of Winabojo, the great teacher of the mythic past.

The War:

In 1763, Neolin, in present-day Michigan, urged the Three Fires Confederacy—Ottawa, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi,—to expel the British. In response, Pontiac led an alliance of Shawnee, Delaware, and Ojibwa against the British. He told his people:  “It is important for us, my brothers, that we exterminate from our land this nation which only seeks to kills us.”

Pontiac and his allies soon seized nine of the eleven British forts in the Ohio Valley. While Pontiac is generally credited with leading the resistance movement, he was actually just one of many Indian leaders who had decided that war with the British was necessary to defend their territory and their way of life.

In response to the Pontiac war and in an attempt to stabilize the volatile situation between settlers and Indians, the British issued the Proclamation of 1763 which forbade European settlement west of the Appalachians. This was, in George Washington’s words, “a temporary expedient to quiet the minds of the Indians.” The Proclamation also removed jurisdiction over Indians from the colonies. Each Indian tribe was regarded as an independent nation and, as such, had to be dealt with by the Crown.

Pontiac’s rebellion was defeated in part because of a smallpox epidemic among the allied tribes. Once again Sir Jeffrey Amherst, Commander of the British forces suggests the use of smallpox as a weapon of war:  “You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.”

One officer—Captain Simeon Ecuyer, a Swiss mercenary—reported that during peace negotiations with the Delaware, the Indians were given two blankets and a handkerchief which had been deliberately infected with smallpox spores at the post hospital. Other officers handed out smallpox-infected clothing. The English recorded this transaction in an invoice which stated:  “To sundries go to replace in kind those which were taken from the people in the hospital to convey the smallpox to the indians. Viz: 2 Blankets; 1 silk hankerchef and 1 linnen”

Soon smallpox was sweeping through the allied tribes, weakening their ability to wage war. R. G. Robertson in his book, Rotting Face: Smallpox and the American Indian, reports:  “By mid July, the Delawares were dying as though they had been raked by a grape cannonade.”

In 1764, Pontiac sent the British a wampum belt for peace. The British simply chopped up the belt. This would be like a European ambassador urinating on a proposed treaty. It was an act which shocked and angered the Indians. The act convinced Pontiac that he had nothing to gain by negotiating with the British.

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

At the end of the conflict, the British demanded that all European “captives” be returned. About 200 men, women, and children were turned over to the soldiers amid a torrent of tears. According to one military observer: “Every captive left the Indians with regret.” While there were no reports of Indian captives who did not want to return to their own people, it was common for European captives to refuse repatriation.

With regard to the defeat of Pontiac and his allies, Lee Miller, in his book From the Heart: Voices of the American Indian, notes that the  “British can congratulate themselves, for they will go down in infamy as the first ‘civilized’ nation to use germ warfare.”

By 1765, the war was over and the British asked Pontiac to carry the message of peace to the other tribes of the Ohio Valley and to serve as an intertribal chief in negotiating peace. As a result the Ottawa, Wyandot, Ojibwa, Miami, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Mascouten attended peace conferences.

The Indians felt that the French had simply been tenants on their land and had provided tribute—powder, rum, and other goods—as a type of rent. The British, on the other hand, felt that they themselves were governed by international law and that Indians were not members of the “family of nations”. Therefore, from the British viewpoint, the Indians should have no more rights than the animals they hunted.

In 1767, Pontiac formally signed a peace agreement with the British. Two years later he was killed by Black Dog, a Peoria Indian, following a drunken argument in the establishment of a British trader. Many felt that the British arranged for Pontiac’s assassination because Black Dog was known to be in the pay of the British.

The Horse and the Plateau Indians

The stereotype of the American Indian adopted by the entertainment industry and by some educational textbooks is based on the horse-mounted, buffalo hunting Plains Indians of the nineteenth century. However, the Plains Indians were not the only ones to adopt the horse and the lifestyle changes that came with it. The Indian nations in the eastern Plateau region also adopted the horse.

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.

The horse diffused into the Plateau Culture Area from the Southwest following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The Shoshone, a Great Basin tribe, introduced the horse to the Nez Perce, Cayuse, Umatilla, Sanpoil, and Flathead. It is difficult to understand the impact of the horse on many of the plateau tribes. Jeremy Fivecrows, in his introduction to Alvin Josephy’s Nez Perce Country, writes:  “Horses did more than modify Nez Perce culture—they transformed it, becoming our symbol of freedom and wealth.”

After learning that the Cayuse had acquired the horse from the Shoshone, the Nez Perce sent a group to trade with the Shoshone in order to acquire their own horses. According to historian Alvin Josephy in his book Nez Perce Country:  “It is estimated that it took a generation for a people to become fully adjusted to the use of the horse, but in time all Nez Perce became mounted and found the horse a valuable addition to their lives.”

After the acquisition of the horse in the early 1700’s, many of the eastern Plateau tribes began seasonal buffalo hunts east of the Rocky Mountains on the Great Plains. Horses became an important economic asset as well as a symbol of prestige. The horse brought many of the Plateau tribes into close contact, and conflict, with the tribes of the Northern Plains. As a result of this increased contact, many cultural elements diffused into the Plateau. Theordore Stern, Martin Schmitt, and Alphonse Halfmoon, in an article in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, write:  “With the new life, they avidly took on the fashions and accoutrements of the Northern Plains, while retaining an underlying Plateau descriptiveness.”

The diffusion of the horse into the Plateau Culture Area involved more than the animal itself: it included the Spanish patterns of riding and caring for the horse. It also included knowledge of breeding. Several of these tribes, such as the Nez Perce, the Coeur d’Alene, and the Cayuse, acquired reputations as outstanding horse breeders. Sandra Broncheau-McFarland, in her University of Idaho Master of Science Thesis, writes:  “The Nez Perce were practicing selective breeding by contact time and may have been the only tribe to do so on the continent.”

According to anthropologist Colin Taylor, in his chapter in The Native Americans: The Indigenous People of North America:  “Eliminating the poorer stallions by castration, the Nez Perce became justly famous for the superior speed and endurance of their horses, amongst the most distinctive of which was the traditional war-horse, which came to be known as the Appaloosa.”

On the other hand, anthropologist Deward Walker, in his chapter on the Nez Perce in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports:  “They did not breed for particular colors such as the so-called Apppaloosa, which Nez Perce say was acquired from the Mormons in trade.”  Henry Miller, writing for the Weekly Oregonian in 1861, reports:  “The generality of the Nez Perces horses are much finer than any Indian horses I have seen.”  He goes on to say:  “A great many are large, fine-bred American stock, with fine limbs, rising withers, sloping well back, and are uncommonly sinewy and sure-footed.”  Historian Alvin Josephy reports:  “The Nez Perce favored and bred any color or kind of horse so long as it was swift and intelligent and pleased them.”

With the acquisition of the horse, the Plateau Indians began to manufacture elaborate and well-decorated horse trappings. These included saddles for men, for women, and for packing. Among the Klickitat, the men used a stuffed pad with wooden stirrups as a saddle. The women’s saddle was made with a high pommel and cantle. For a bridle they used a hair rope which was knotted around the horse’s lower jaw.

One of the first Plateau tribes to obtain the horse was the Cayuse. Historian Larry Cebula, in his Plateau Indians and the Quest for Spiritual Power, 1700-1850, reports:  “The Cayuses in particular benefited by getting horses early and by owning some of the best grazing land in the Northwest.”

The Cayuse were well-known for their horses, not just for breeding them, but also for the care and decoration which they lavished upon them. Historian Terence O’Donnell reports in Idaho Yesterdays:  “In particular they valued white horses; to them they would attach feathered headpieces, streak their withers with dyes of different hues, and braid their tails with colored ribbons.”

The horse also became important for trade. Anthropologist Deward Walker writes:  “From the beginning of the nineteenth century, Nez Perce, Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Flathead possessed more horses than most tribes of the northern Plains, helping create an extensive trade in horses with Plains groups like the Crow who routinely met to trade horses and other items with Plateau groups.”

Not only did the horse become an item of trade itself, but as a new means of transportation it changed the trade routes. For thousands of years prior to the horse people had followed the rivers as their highway to trading areas. With the acquisition of the horse, this began to change and overland travel was now easier. This meant that areas which had once been peripheral to trade became more important and some areas, particularly those which were well-forested and more suited to canoe travel than to horse travel, became peripheral.

The horse also brought a change in the settlement patterns. After the acquisition of the horse, village sizes tended to increase and villages were more likely to be located in areas which could provide both protection and feed for the large horse herds.

In some instances, the horse enabled tribes to extend their territories. Anthropologist Peter Carstens, in The Queen’s People: A Study of Hegemony, Coercion, and Accommodation Among the Okanagan of Canada, writes:  “The horse made travel easier and quicker than by foot or by canoe, and facilitated Okanagan expansion not merely to the north, but to the east and west as well.”

Using the horse and hunting buffalo on the Plains, a number of Plains cultural elements were acquired in the Plateau. These Plains cultural elements included the use of the tipi and the travois, the custom of war honors dances, beaded dresses, feather warbonnets, and the idea of electing chiefs because of their skill as warriors rather than selecting chiefs because of inheritance. Sylvester Lahren writing about the Kalispel in the Handbook of North American Indians, notes that:  “Warfare was almost nonexistent prior to the arrival of the horse.”

A travois is two long poles which are tied together and pulled by horses. Cross-poles lashed to the long poles form a bed on which a family’s belongings can be carried. The Kootenai, living in mountainous country, never used the travois.

Early Oregon Sites

The earliest period of human occupation in the Northern Great Basin region of Oregon is called the Paisley Period by archaeologists. The period, which is tentatively dated from about 15,700 years ago to 12,900 years ago, is named after the Paisley 5 Mile Point Caves site (35LK3400) near Summer Lake.

During the Paisley Period, Native peoples in Oregon adapted to the Northern Great Basin environment at a time when the ice ages were ending and the region was undergoing dramatic climatic and environmental changes. Jeff LaLande, writing for The Oregon History Project, describes the environment: “By the time of these earliest arrivals, the region’s glaciers had melted into small remnants, and many of the great Ice Age lakes had begun to shrink into shallow but plant- and animal-rich lakes, marshes, and wetlands.”

The people at this time were hunting and eating bison, camelids, horse, deer, mountain sheep, pronghorn antelope, and sage grouse. They were gathering a wide variety of different plants, including goosefoot (Chenopodiacea sp.), sunflower, cactus, rose hips, and desert parsley. They were making and using a variety of stone and bone tools.

While the Paisley Caves site is the best-known of the most ancient Oregon sites, there are a number of other sites which also date to this era.

Dietz Site:

Located in Central Oregon’s Alkalai Basin to the east of the Fort Rock area near Wagontire, the Dietz Site (35LK1529) dates to the end of the Paisley Period. This is an interesting site as it represents a Clovis intrusion into the region. At one time the Clovis tradition with its characteristic fluted points was thought to represent the earliest people in North America. In their book Oregon Archaeology, Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins write:  “The Dietz site is currently one of only three recorded Clovis-era sites in Oregon where multiple artifacts have been recovered, though Clovis fluted points are reported widely as isolated surface finds.”

The Clovis materials at the site have been dated to about 13,200 years ago. The Clovis artifacts recovered at the site include fluted points, flute flakes, and biface projectile point blanks. Horse Mountain, located about a mile from the site, is the source of much of the obsidian used for the stone tools.

In addition to the Clovis materials, the archaeologists also found large stemmed and shouldered points associated with the Western Stemmed tradition. Also associated with these artifacts were some grinding stones. Some archaeologists feel that the Clovis and Western Stemmed artifacts represent two different groups of people. The Clovis materials generally represent a narrowly focused hunting adaptation, while the Western Stemmed is a more generalized gathering and hunting adaptation. Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins write:  “Based on what we know of broader associations, the Western Stemmed people attested at the Dietz site may have been more broad-spectrum and opportunistic in their subsistence strategies, and the Clovis folk relatively more focused on following and hunting large game.”

The Western Stemmed tradition is older than Clovis in the region.

Sage Hen Gap:

Another  Clovis site is located north of the Dietz site. Artifacts found at the Sage Hen Gap site (35HA3548) include fluted points, a single Western Stemmed point, fluting flakes, gravers, and lots of obsidian flakes. Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins write:  “The site appears to have been a good ambush location for hunting large game as they funneled down from higher terrain through narrow, steep wash bottoms cut into a high ridge.”

Catlow Cave:

Some ninety miles south of Burns, in the southern end of the Catlow Valley, Luther Cressman found some extinct Pleistocene horse bones at Catlow Cave in the late 1930s. Cressman, lacking any precise scientific dating methods at this time, suggested that this site had been occupied at the same time as the Paisley Caves. Human bones were also found at this site, but they were found in gravel so there was no way to prove their age. In the late 1970s, plans were made for a reinvestigation of the site, but the site was destroyed by mining and artifact collectors before any scientific excavations could be carried out. Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins write:  “This sorry event took place in defiance of signs and barriers erected at the mouth of the cave by the Bureau of Land Management to safeguard its archaeological evidence. The human bones themselves, never directly radiocarbon dated, were repatriated and reburied under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.”

 Fossil Lake Camelid Kill Site:

Located at the northern end of the Fort Rock basin, the Fossil Lake Camelid Kill Site (35LK525) contained camelid bones (probably Camelops hesterenus) and fragments of a projectile point. The collagen from the bones was radiocarbon dated to about 12,000 years ago.

The Lake Mohonk Conference

Wealthy people often feel that they know what is best for poor people. From 1883 through 1916, a small group of wealthy philanthropists, who referred to themselves as Friends of the Indian, met annually to discuss American Indian policies. As wealthy men, they had access to Congress, to the President, and to high ranking members of the government. This meant that their recommendations carried more weight than that of the Indian leaders.

The idea of having an annual meeting to discuss Indian affairs and then make recommendations to the government was initially the idea of Albert K. Smiley, a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners and a part owner of the Lake Mohonk Lodge. The annual meeting took the name of its meeting place and was called the Lake Mohonk Conference.

In general, the conferences envisioned the transformation of Indians from savages to citizens by three means: (1) breaking up the reservations, (2) making Indians citizens and subject to the laws of the states, and (3) education of the young to make them self-reliant.

The men who gathered each year tended to be well educated, financially secure (most were considered wealthy) and had been born into the upper classes of eastern U.S. society. They often viewed their participation in the conference as a part of their larger Christian obligation to bestow the blessings of Christianity upon all of the under-developed people of the world. While these reformers were genuinely concerned about justice for Native Americans, they were unremittingly ethnocentric. To them, the Indian cultures—the tribal languages, values, religion, social models, tribal governments, the freedom and power allowed to women, communal ownership of the land, the aboriginal lifestyle—were an anathema to modern civilization. They also viewed treaty rights as barriers to civilizing the Indians.

With regard to the Eastern philanthropic friends of the Indians who met at Lake Mohonk, historian Angie Debo, in her book And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes, writes:  “For some time these theorists had professed an almost mystical faith in the value of private ownership and its power to transform the nature of any Indian who could be persuaded or forced to accept it.”

Believing in the sanctity of the private ownership of land, they had little understanding of Indian culture and little concern for the actual living conditions of the Indians.

In their 1884 meeting, the Lake Mohonk Conference recom­mended that Indian education must teach the English language; that it must provide practical industrial training; and that it must be a Christian education.

The following year, Lyman Abbot, a well-known Congregational clergyman, called for the end to the reservation system. He told the Lake Mohonk Conference:  “It is sometimes said that the Indians occupied this country and that we took it away from them; that the country belonged to them. This is not true. The Indians did not occupy this land. A people do not occupy a country simply because they roam over it.”

Like most Americans at this time, he was apparently unaware that Indians had been farmers and had developed their land long before the arrival of the Europeans. He seemed unaware that many Indian nations lived in permanent villages and did not roam randomly across the land.

Speaking at the Lake Mohonk Conference in 1886, Philip C. Garret, a member of the executive committee of the Indian Rights Association, called for the destruction of the distinctions between Indians and non-Indians. This destruction is stopped by treaties and he asked that the treaties be set aside:  “If an act of emancipation will buy them life, manhood, civilization, and Christianity, at the sacrifice of a few chieftain’s feathers, a few worthless bits of parchment, the cohesion of the tribal relation, and the traditions of their races; then, in the name of all that is really worth having, let us shed the few tears necessary to embalm these relics of the past, and have done with them; and, with fraternal cordiality, let us welcome to the bosom of the nation this brother whom we have wronged long enough.”

In 1887, in an effort to destroy Indian cultures, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs J.D.C. Atkins issued new orders mandating the speaking of English on Indian reservations. Concerned that these new orders might be used to require missionaries to preach in English, the Lake Mohonk conference responded to the order by emphasizing the importance of instruction in English, but warning:  “No policy can be endured which forbids Christian men and women to teach Christian truth, or to prepare instruction in it in any way they deem right.”  In response, Atkins was careful to point out that preaching the Gospel to Indians in the vernacular was not prohibi­ted.

In 1890, a group of Indian policemen had gone to arrest the Sioux Sitting Bull because of rumors that he had intended to attend the Ghost Dance at the Pine Ridge Reservation. After a short skirmish, Sitting Bull was killed by Little Eagle. At the next Lake Mohonk Conference it was reported that all of the policemen were Christian and Sitting Bull was pagan. According to the Conference:

It was the supreme struggle of Paganism against Christianity, and Paganism went down.  That is the second reason why there is this wonderful progress in this religious movement.

The 1896 Lake Mohonk Conference called for the abolition of the tribal system and for Indians to become citizens. At this time, many Indians were not citizens and the only way that they could become citizens was to accept an allotment of land and to be eventually deemed “competent” by the Indian agent.

Occasionally, the Friends of the Indians did more than just talk about Indian issues. In 1902, the Mohonk Lodge was opened in Oklahoma to stimulate the art of the women in the surrounding tribes – primarily Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache. The store, first proposed by Christian missionaries at the Lake Mohonk Conference, provided the women with hides, beads, paints, and other materials at cost. When the items were completed, they were sold back to the store to provide the women with cash. In addition to new art items, some family heirlooms, such as cradles, were also sold to the Mohonk Lodge.

At their 1903 conference at Lake Mohonk in New York, they discussed: (1) the abolition of the Indian Bureau and all Indian agencies; (2) the extinction of all Indian tribal governments; and (3) the division of communal tribal land holdings among individual Indians.

In 1904, the scope of the Lake Mohonk Conference was broadened to reflect America’s new empire and it became The Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian and Other Dependent Peoples.

The influence of the Lake Mohonk Conference was seen in 1905 when Commissioner of Indian Affairs Francis Leupp published “Outlines of an Indian Policy” in Outlook. In his book Theodore Roosevelt and Six Friends of the Indian, Historian William Hagan reports:  “Much of it was familiar to anyone who attended the conferences at Lake Mohonk. Like those people, he believed that the effort should be concentrated on the youth and that they should be prepared to survive on a ranch or a farm.”

Leupp felt that individual Indians should sever their tribal ties as soon as they became self-sufficient.

In 1905, the Lake Mohonk Conference came out against tribal funds being used for financing sectarian school. The move was basically anti-Catholic and was intended to prevent the financing of Catholic schools.

While the philanthropists who met at Lake Mohonk strongly believed in the breaking up of the reservations through the allotment of the tribal lands to individual Indians, most Indians actively opposed allotment. In 1906, for example, the White River Ute expressed their displeasure with allotment by attempting to leave the reservation. The army made a strong show of force and “persuaded” them to return to the reservation under military escort. Speaking about the Ute situation at the Lake Mohonk Conference, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs recommended not feeding them:  “It was not the government’s fault that they took the course they did in order to get into a place where they could live in idleness and eat the bread of charity. If they persist in that course they will be made to understand what the word ‘must’ means.”  His words were met with a round of applause

Toward the end of its existence, the Lake Mohonk Conference began to turn its attention to the Indian situation in Oklahoma. With allotment and statehood, the tribal governments were now powerless and the utopia envisioned as coming about through privatization had not materialized. Instead, the non-Indians’ greed had no limits. In 1914, Indian reformer Kate Barnard spoke to the group. Angie Debo reports:  “A perfect storm of emotion swept her audience as, with considerable inaccuracy of detail but deep sincerity of feeling, she told of the destruction of her work and her personal struggle with disillusionment and a sense of futility.”

As a result both the Lake Mohonk Conference and the Board of Indian Commissioners began to work for increased federal protection for the Oklahoma tribes.

At the same time, the Lake Mohonk Conference embarked upon an anti-peyote campaign.  They suggested that the federal prohibition of intoxicating liquors be expanded to include peyote. In this way more sanctions could be brought against the new Indian religious movement without the appearance of suppressing religion.

In 1914, Winnebago educator Henry Roe Cloud addressed the annual Lake Mohonk Conference:   “Education unrelated to life is of no use. Education is the leading-out process of the young until they themselves know what they are best fitted for in life.”

The last annual meeting of the Lake Mohonk Conference of the Friends of the Indian was held in 1916. The conference organizer and resort owner, Albert Smiley, had died in 1912.

Newfoundland Natives and Early European Invaders

Newfoundland is the world’s sixteenth-largest island and Canada’s fourth-largest. During the more than six centuries of European exploration prior to the establishment of the English colony at Cuper’s Cove in 1610, who lived on the island and utilized its resources included the Beothuk, Mi’kmaq, and Dorset Inuit. The Europeans—Norse, Basque, French, Portuguese, and English—came to the island as explorers, fishermen, and whalers.

The Norse:

 The first recorded contact between the Newfoundland Natives and Europeans came in 986 when the Norse (Viking) voyager Leif Eiriksson, sometimes called “the lucky,” visited and settled an area called Vinland on the northern tip of Newfoundland. Archaeologists have excavated a Norse settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows which dates to this time. The Vikings had some encounters with Native Americans who they called Skraelings (probably Beothuk.) The colonies were eventually abandoned, due in part to opposition from the Native Americans. According to archaeologist David Hurst Thomas in his book, Exploring Ancient Native America: An Archaeological Guide:  “Native Americans had temporarily won out because of superior numbers and an unsurpassed knowledge of the American northland and how to survive in it.”

In the Handbook of North American Indians T.J. Brasser writes:  “The effects of Norse contacts on the natives of Newfoundland during the early part of the eleventh century must have rapidly faded away as a bad dream.”

According to one story, Leif and the other Viking warriors fled their village and cowered behind some rocks when the Skraelings attacked. Freydis Eriksdottir, then nearly nine-months pregnant, tore open her blouse to expose her breasts, then picked up a shield and sword dropped by the fleeing Vikings, and counter-attacked. She succeeded in repelling the attack and defending the brave Viking warriors.


By 1450, Basque whalers were establishing temporary camps on Newfoundland (there are some reports that the Basque were there much earlier). These camps provided the Inuit with more access to European goods.

Writing about the Basque whalers in 1543, William Fitzhugh, writing in Cultures in Contact: The European Impact on Native Cultural Institutions in Eastern North America, A.D. 1000-1800, reports:  “Each summer this operation brought large numbers of ships and larger numbers of whaleboats (shallops) into harbors where whales were hunted, blubber was rendered, and—at the end of the whaling season, in late fall or early winter—casks were prepared for shipment to Europe.”

Twenty to thirty ships would operate in the waters around the island. This operation would involve about 2,000 men who would hunt the whales in small boats, and then tow the dead animal to the shore station where it would be butchered. Native groups were attracted to the whaling camps because of the possibilities for trade. When the crews left in the fall, the natives would plunder the whaling stations for iron, shallops, and other items.


By 1481, English fishing ships from Bristol were working off the coast of Newfoundland. According to some accounts, fish drying camps were established at the shore and there may have been some contacts with the Beothuk.

Italian sea captain John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) sailing for the English king Henry VII explored the coast of Newfoundland, Labrador, and Nova Scotia in 1497 and claimed these lands for the English. Like Columbus, Cabot may have been confused and thought that he was in Asia. His commission from Henry VII was to conquer, occupy, and possess the lands of heathens and infidels.

Cabot made no contact with native people, but did find their fishing nets and some other tools. John Day, an English merchant in Bristol, wrote to Christopher Columbus after Cabot’s return and reported:  “…they found a trail that went inland, they saw a site where a fire had been made, they saw manure of animals which they thought to be farm animals, and they saw a stick half a yard long pierced at both ends, carved and painted with brazil, and by such signs they believe the land to be inhabited.”

In his report, Cabot noted that this area—called Brazil and assumed to be an island—had been discovered earlier by English ships sailing from Bristol.

The English would later use Cabot’s landing in their claim of ownership of North America. Russell Shorto, in his book The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America, writes:  “By the logic of the concept of ‘discovery,’ when the foot of an explorer made contact with soil that had not previously been settled by humans whom Europeans regarded as having a proper civilization, that soil, and all soil stretching out from it for as far as the metaphysical aura of discovery could be made to stretch, came under the flag of the explorer’s sponsoring nation.”

Over 400 European fishing boats gathered off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1578. About 50 houses were built along the shore as a part of their fish-drying stations. The Europeans returned home in the fall with their dried catch. The Beothuk, having had bad experiences with the Europeans, minimized contact, but did manage to steal from the Europeans. Ethnologist T.J. Brasser reports:  “The extremely unfavorable stereotype that Europeans developed of the Beothuk reflects the fact that these Indians were considered a nuisance and of no economic value whatsoever.”


In 1472, the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador were explored by a Dano-Portuguese expedition with two Danish sea captains—Diderik Pining and Hans Pothorst—along with João Vaz Corte-Real. They followed the old Viking route to the area. In a chapter in North American Exploration, Robert Fuson writes:  “In fact, the Portuguese name ‘Labrador’ may have been a result of this voyage, and Newfoundland was afterward called Terra do Bacalhau (Land of the Codfish) for many years.”

While there are some scholars who are skeptical about the claims of this voyage, Fuson also writes:  “These events are well documented and are fully accepted by scholars in Portugal and Scandinavia.”

In 1501, the Portuguese began capturing Beothuks to export to Europe as slaves. Gaspar Corte-Real described these people as having “manners and gestures most gentle.” The Portuguese found that the Beothuk had a broken Italian sword and a pair of Venetian silver earrings, probably acquired from the early expeditions of John Cabot.


In 1507, Norman fishing vessels captured seven Beothuks in Newfoundland and brought them back to France.

The Mandans, Farmers on the Northern Plains

While the most common stereotype of Plains Indians brings forth an image of horse-mounted buffalo-hunting nomads living in tipis, many of the Plains Indian nations were farmers who lived in permanent villages and raised crops of corn (maize), beans, and squash. The Mandans were among the earliest farming nations on the Northern Plains. Their villages were along the Missouri River in the Dakotas. Mandan migrations, farming, hunting, and fishing are described below.

Archaeologists feel that the Mandan first moved to the banks of the Missouri River in what is now South Dakota from northwestern Iowa or southwestern Minnesota. After five centuries in this area, there was a climatic change (the Pacific I climate episode) which drove them north into present-day North Dakota. The photographer and ethnographer Edward Curtis reports:  “Mandan tradition tells of a gradual migration up the Missouri ‘from the place where the river flows into the great water’.”  Curtis, in reviewing Mandan oral tradition, concludes:  “One can hardly doubt, therefore, that the Mandan dwelt originally in the warm Gulf region near the mouth of the Mississippi.”

For two centuries their villages lay north of the Grand River. In their 1917 book Corn Among the Indians of the Upper Missouri, George Will and George Hyde write: “The Mandans were evidently the first Siouan tribe to reach the Upper Missouri.”

When the climate changed again, they found themselves in competition with other groups, such as the Arikara.

Oral Tradition Regarding Creation:

One oral tradition says the Mandan came out from the underground on the west bank of the Mississippi near its delta on the Gulf of Mexico. They left this point of origin and began a long, slow migration to the north. They continued their migration along the Mississippi until they reached Minnesota. Here they found that the land was not good for farming and so they turned to the south and west. They settled for a time near Pipestone, Minnesota, but they didn’t like pipestone as its red color signified blood and was thus unsuitable for ceremonial smoking. They preferred to make their ceremonial pipes from clay.

From Pipestone, about 40 lodges separated from the main tribe and moved north to the Red River and its tributary, the Sheyenne. After a flood forced them to move, they found the Missouri and settled in the Heart River area.

Those who remained at Pipestone were visited by Lone Man and the First Creator. From these two great culture heroes they learned many ceremonies. The tribe then moved west and settled along the Missouri River. Lone Man and First Creator convinced the people to more north and to join the other Mandan in the Heart River area.


The Mandans, like the other village tribes of the upper Missouri River Valley such as the Hidatsa, and Arikara, raised corn, beans, sunflowers, tobacco, pumpkins, and squash. These tribes produced not only enough agricultural products for their own use, but also a substantial surplus which was traded to other tribes, and later to the Europeans and Americans. In her book Women of the Earth Lodges: Tribal Life on the Plains, anthropologist Virginia Bergman Peters writes:  “The combination of a satisfactory agricultural base and a surplus of corn vital to their extensive trade brought wealth and political power to the upper Missouri River villages.”

In preparing the fields for planting, the Mandan used rakes and digging sticks. Some of the rakes were made from deer antler and some were made from long willow shoots. In cultivating the fields, the Mandan used a hoe that was often made from the shoulder-blade of the buffalo or elk which was attached to a long wooden handle.

The Mandan and the other village tribes of the Northern Plains planted between nine and eleven different varieties of corn. The Indian farmers also observed some basic plant genetics and separated the fields with the different varieties of corn.

With regard to the corn grown by the Missouri River tribes, George Will and George Hyde report:  “It is extremely hardy, not only adapting itself to varying amounts of moisture, and producing some crop under drought conditions, but resistant also to the unseasonable frosts which are apt to occur in the home region.”

One of the main varieties of corn was flint corn which was well-adapted to the semi-arid Northern Plains climate. This corn took about 60 days to mature and, because of its short stalk, was able to withstand winds fairly well. George Will and George Hyde report:  “Flint corn is usually eight rowed, occasionally ten or twelve rowed; this species is high in protein and the grain is very hard and heavy.”

The Mandan also grew flour corn which is softer and lighter. It is largely composed of starch and is deficient in protein. The advance of this species of corn, however, was that it could be easily crushed or ground and it was much softer than the flint corn when eaten parched.

Squash was planted in late May or early June. To prepare the seeds for planting, they were first wetted, then placed on matted red-grass leaves and mixed with broad leaved sage. Buffalo skin was then folded over the squash bundle and it was then hung in the lodge to dry for two days. During this time the seeds would begin to sprout. The sprouted seeds were then planted in hills about four feet apart.

Immediately after planting the squash, the beans were planted in hills about two feet apart. The beans were often planted between the rows of corn. Five different varieties of beans were planted.

The village tribes stored their crops for winter in cache pits. These pits were shaped like a jug with a narrow neck at the top.  Among the Mandan, the storage pits would be from 6 to 8 feet deep. The cache would hold 20 to 30 bushels. They were lined with grass or woven plants to prevent spoilage from moisture.

In preparing the corn for storage the ears would be braided into strands. According to George Will and George Hyde:  “There was a standard size for these braids, the length being from knee down around the foot and up to the knee again.”  Once braided, the corn would be hung on the frame of the drying scaffold.

One of the popular ways of preparing the corn for eating was making corn balls. In one version of the corn balls, pounded sugar corn was mixed with grease. Another kind of corn ball was made using pounded corn, pounded sunflower seed, and boiled beans. It is reported that this tasted like peanut butter.

Hunting and Fishing:

 While the Mandan were a farming people, they supplemented their agricultural diet with buffalo meat. Along the Missouri River in North Dakota, tribes such as the Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa would “fish” for buffalo. In the fall, buffalo attempting to cross the thin ice on the river would fall through and drown. Their bodies were carried downstream and collected by the village tribes along the river. The meat from these animals was often well-aged—some Europeans would call it “high”—but the Indians enjoyed dining on buffalo that had been dead for months. Some nineteenth-century traders reported that the Indians were eating “fished” buffalo that were so rotten the flesh had to be scooped with a spoon.

The Mandan would also build corrals next to precipitous stream banks which were used to trap pronghorn antelope. The animals would be driven into the corral with men, women, and children jumping up and preventing the pronghorns from turning back. Once captured in the corral, the animals could be easily clubbed to death.

Fish were another source of protein. The Mandan used pens made out of willows as fish traps. These traps would be placed in the shallow waters near the edge of the stream and baited with rotten meat. During the summer months they would catch large quantities of catfish. Several species of catfish were taken: blue (Ictalurus furcatus) which weighed up to 100 pounds; flathead (Pylodictus olivaris) which was up to five feet long and could weigh up to 100 pounds; channel (Ictalurus punctatus) which seldom weighed more than 25 pounds; and the black bullhead (Ictalurus melas) which weighed two pounds or less.

American Indians in 1915

One hundred years ago, in 1915, most Indians were not citizens even though U.S. policies called for the full assimilation of Indians and the total destruction of the tribal lifestyles. At the same time, there were a number of prominent Indian voices—Indian people who were writing books, directing museums, and organizing Indian groups. Outlined below are some of the Indian events of 1915.

Federal Government:

 In the federal bureaucracy, the person most directly involved with Americans Indians was the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, a political appointment whose office was in the Department of the Interior. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs writes:  “I repudiate the suggestion that the Indian is a vanishing race. He should march side by side with the white man during all the years that are to come.”

 The Board of Indian Commissioners released a report showing that many Indian irrigation projects were actually operated to benefit non-Indians rather than Indians. With regard to irrigation projects on Montana reservations, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs reported:  “Careful consideration of the rights of the Flathead, Blackfeet, and Fort Peck Indians has convinced me that the conditions under which the cooperative irrigation work on these reservations has been done in the past is not for their best interest, and that its continuance would be a great injustice to the Indians.”

Blackfoot leaders Curly Bear, Wolf Plume, and Tail Feathers Coming Over The Hill visited Washington, D.C. to complain about the renaming of mountains, lakes, rivers, and glaciers in Glacier National Park in Montana. The Indians wanted Blackfoot names used and they were promised that in the future only Indian names or their translations would be used.

Hunting and Fishing Rights:

While many of the nineteenth century treaties with Indian nations contained sections in which the Indian nations explicitly retained their traditional fishing, hunting, and gathering rights, the states ignored these rights.

In Washington state, the government passed new fishing regulations which narrowly interpreted Indian treaty rights. Indians could fish off reservation without a license, but only if they were within five miles of the reservation boundary. Since the state of Washington did not recognize Indians as citizens, they are unable to get fishing licenses. It was not uncommon for Indians to be arrested for fishing at their traditional fishing sites.

Also in Washington, Alec Towessnute, a Yakama, was arrested for fishing at Prosser Falls, a usual and accustomed Yakama fishing place. It was, however, more than five miles from the reservation and Towessnute did not have a state license. A county judge ruled that he had a treaty right to fish without a license. The state appealed the case to the state supreme court.

In Washington, John Alexis, a Lummi elder, was arrested for fishing without a license and during a state closure. At his trial, testimony was provided regarding the treaty rights of the Point Elliot Treaty. The judge concluded that Alexis was subject to state law in spite of the treaty.

In Michigan, state and local officials began arresting and fining Ottawas for hunting and fishing without a license.


In New York, the Tepee Order of America was established by urban Indians to stress a common Indian experience. It was a secret, fraternal organization which was modeled after Freemasonry. Officers held titles such as Head Chief and Medicine Man.

In Kansas, the Society of American Indians (SAI) held their fifth annual conference with the theme “Responsibility for the Red Man.” Dr. Carlos Montezuma (Yavapai), in an address entitled “Let My People Go,” condemned the Bureau of Indian Affairs and called for the abolition of reservations. Over 25 tribes were represented at the conference.

The Boy Scouts of America incorporated more Indian lore into its program with the founding of the Order of the Arrow, a camping fraternity. Initiation into this fraternity involved Lenni Lenape legends.

In Washington, the Duwamish, a tribe not recognized by the federal government, are organized and select a board of directors. They were assisted by the Northwest Federation of American Indians.

Museums and Expositions:

In New York, the State Museum exhibited a series of six dioramas on Iroquois life created by Arthur Caswell Parker (Seneca). The dioramas provided illustrations of the various stages of cultural evolution as proposed by anthropologist Lewis Morgan. The dioramas were intended to educate the general public about American Indians.

In California, the Panama California Exposition was held in San Diego. The director of the American Institute of Archaeology in Santa Fe, New Mexico was hired to develop exhibits on the evolutionary progress of humans. Anthropologists from the Smithsonian Institution were consulted in preparing exhibits on physical evolution, cultural evolution, and the native races of the Americas. The Painted Desert exhibit, financed by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, included a Pueblo Indian village showing Indians living a simple hand-to-mouth existence. San Ildefonso potter Maria Martinez and her husband Julian conducted pottery demonstrations at the Exposition.


In Kansas, Winnebago educator Henry Roe Cloud opened the Roe Indian Institute as a college preparatory school for Indians. Henry Roe Cloud attended the Auburn Theological Seminary and had been ordained as a Presbyterian minister. He was inspired by a missionary couple, Walter and Mary Roe, and incorporated their name into his and initially used it for the name of his school. The school was later renamed the American Indian Institute.

In Arizona, the Hopi boarding school at Keams Canyon was judged to be in dangerous condition and was closed. The children were enrolled in reservation day schools.

President Wilson appointed Long Lance (Lumbee) to the military academy at West Point. The press picked up the fascinating story of the “full-blooded Cherokee” who was the first Indian appointed to the academy. Long Lance had not fully revealed his mixed blood heritage in his application. Long Lance later failed to pass his entrance exams (perhaps deliberately) and did not actually enter West Point.

Books and Art:

Dr. Charles Eastman (Sioux) published The Indian Today. Dr. Eastman wrote:  “It is the aim of this book to set forth the present status and outlook of the North American Indians.”

In a chapter entitled “The Indian in College and the Professions,” he wrote about Carlos Montezuma, a Yavapai physician whose practice was in Chicago:  “He stands uncompromisingly for the total abolition of the reservation systems and the Indian Bureau, holding that the red man must be allowed to work out his own salvation.”

Kiowa writer Joseph K. Griffis published Tahan: Out of Savagery, Into Civilization in which he wrote:  “The trouble is that so many of us go out in the world and pass as white men. At schools and college they are passing as white men until they try to forget they are a part of the Indian people.”

George Bird Grinnell’s The Fighting Cheyennes was published. Sherry Smith writes in The View from Officers’ Row: Army Perceptions of Western Indians:  “At a time when the vast majority of Anglo-Americans showed interest only in the army’s stories, Grinnell collected those from the other side of the battleline.”

James E. Fraser’s equestrian statue, “The End of the Trail,” was shown at the San Francisco Exposition. Flathead author D’Arcy McNickle, in his book Native American Tribalism: Indian Survivals and Renewals, wrote: “Reproductions in miniature of this doleful composition had wide distribution as parlor ornaments and carried into middle-class homes the idea that Indian destiny had run its course.”

In California, linguist Edward Sapir phonetically recorded six traditional Yahi tales told by Ishi.

In Washington, Thomas Bishop began recording Indian elders’ memories of U.S. treaty promises and comparing them to the text of the treaties. Historian Alexandra Harmon writes in her book Indians in the Making: Ethnic Relations and Indian Identities Around Puget Sound:  “Bishop’s stated aim was to educate officials who had either forgotten the treaty promises or ignored the troubles plaguing Indians sixty years later.”

Tourism and Sports:

In order to promote tourism in Montana’s Glacier National Park, the Great Northern Railway produced a movie entitled A Day in the Life of a Glacier Park Indian. The film is based on a successful Broadway play called The Redskin. The Great Northern Railway took six Blackfoot to the San Francisco Exhibition where they presented lectures, movies, and transparencies about Glacier National Park.

 In Wyoming, the residents of Lovell sought National Landmark status for the Big Horn Medicine Wheel (48BH302). They saw it as a means to attract tourists into the area and thus help develop the local economy.

The Cleveland professional baseball team changed its name to the Cleveland Indians to honor the memory of Louis Sockalexis.


In Oregon, Susan Waters, the daughter of a non-Indian named Martin Davis and an Indian woman named Jane, filed suit challenging the settlement of the Buford Davis estate. She claimed to be the legitimate offspring of a valid marriage and therefore entitled to a half portion of the Davis estates. While 15 witnesses testified that the marriage between a non-Indian man and an Indian woman was common in Oregon and that Davis was married to Jane, the court ruled against her.

Sacred Sites:

In Arizona, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Walnut Canyon as a national monument. The site contains many archaeological ruins, some pertaining to the Sinagua people.

States and Territories:

In Montana, a memorial to the Shoshone woman Sacajawea was erected at Armstead by the Montana State Organization of Daughters of the American Revolution.

The Alaska Territorial Legislature passed an act which allowed Indians to become citizens if they had: (1) severed tribal relationships; (2) adopted the habits of “civilization”; (3) passed an examination; (4) obtained endorsement from five non-Indian citizens; and (5) satisfied a district judge.

In Oklahoma, William W. Hastings (Cherokee) was elected to Congress.

Ancient Newfoundland and Labrador

The eastern Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador was not only the first area of North America encountered by Europeans, but it also had a long history of aboriginal occupation. The province includes one of Canada’s largest islands—Newfoundland—and the mainland area of Labrador. Described below are some of the archaeological sites which document the aboriginal settlement of the province.

By 6,000 BCE, native people had begun to occupy the rugged mountainous coastline area in Labrador.

In 5,580 BCE, the body of a twelve year old child was buried in a low artificial mound in Labrador. The body, covered in red ochre, was laid in a prone position with the head turned to the west. The grave was about three feet deep and was covered with earth and stones. Grave goods included stone and bone spear points, ochre and graphite stones with a pestle to grind them for making paint, a walrus tusk, a bone pendant, and a flute made from a bird bone.

In 5,300 BCE, on the present-day border between Quebec and Labrador, the body of an adolescent was laid face down between two fires. Around the body’s neck was a bone pendant and a whistle with three stops. A number of objects were placed next to the body: a walrus tusk, a harpoon, some stone and bone weapon points, three stone knives. In addition, red ochre, graphite pebbles, and an antler tine—materials needed to make the ochre into paint—were also buried with the adolescent. The grave was covered with a stone slab and two short rows of upright slabs were set up above the grave. These were then covered with sand and boulders to form a burial mound.

By 5,000 BCE, a way of life that archaeologists call the Maritime Archaic Tradition had developed in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, and Maine. Subsistence activities focused on sea mammals such as seals (harp, ringed, harbor, gray, and bearded seals), walrus, porpoises, and whales. They were also taking fish and sea birds. In the southern Maritimes and New England they were harpooning swordfish.

The Maritime Archaic people were equally at home on the sea coast and the interior. During the early spring, the Maritime Archaic people were on or near the coast where they could easily take the sea mammals on the pack and landfast ice. In the summer, the sea mammals were less available, but the people stayed on the coast to fish—particularly for Atlantic salmon—and to take birds. At the first snow, they withdrew from the coast to inland hunting locations where they hunted caribou, moose, and elk.

With regard to the stone tools used by the Maritime Archaic people, archaeologist James Tuck, in his chapter in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports:  “Stone was manufactured into spears and lances as well as into axes, adzes, and gouges, which in turn bespeak a heavy woodworking industry, the products of which probably included frames for shelters, weapon and tool handles, boats, dugout canoes, and wooden bowls.”

Spirituality at this time included hunting magic (evidenced in the wearing of charms and amulets) and a well-developed burial ceremonialism. Burials involved the use of red ochre as well as many grave offerings. Graves tended to be oriented toward the east.

In 5,000 BCE, gravediggers in Labrador made a circular pit more than 30 feet in diameter at the L’Anse-Amour site near the Strait of Belle Isle. They placed the body of a child about 12-13 years old in the pit. In The Smithsonian Book of North American Indians: Before the Coming of the Europeans, Philip Kopper reports:  “They lit fires on either side of the body, which was covered with a flat rock and provided with knives or spear points of stone and polished bone; a cosmetic kit of red ochre, graphite paint stones and antler pestle to grind the paint; a walrus tusk; a bone pendant; a bird-bone whistle and a harpoon point. The grave was heaped with sand and then covered with three layers of boulders.”

In 3,350 BCE, Indian people established a coastal village at what is now called the Gould Site in Newfoundland. Their tool kit included gouges for woodworking, projectile points, and fish spears.

In 2,450 BCE, people living along the coast of Newfoundland began a practice of elaborate burials which included offerings of tools, animal bones, carved animal effigies, and small, white quartz pebbles. The offerings were covered in red ochre which would lead archaeologists to call them the Red Paint People. The offerings show that their economy and lifestyle was oriented toward the deep sea. Their tool kit included woodworking tools for making houses and boats, finely made bone and ivory fishhooks, harpoons, lances for hunting whales and walrus, and fish spears.

In 2,400 BCE, more than 100 people were buried at Port au Choix in Labrador. The burials included an equal ratio of men and women. In his book Prehistory of the Americas, Stuart Fiedel reports:  “The bodies had been coated with red ochre, and were provided with tools and ornaments.”

Among the grave offerings were ground slate bayonet points which may have been used for whale hunting. Other tools included harpoons, barbed bone fishing spears, and slate woodworking tools.  Stuart Fiedel also reports:  “The dead were also provided with daggers made of walrus ivory, caribou bone and antler, and with bone awls, needles, tubes, combs, hairpins, whistles, and pendants.”  Shell beads were sewn onto skin garments.

By 800 CE, the Point Revenge culture began to develop in Labrador. According to William Fitzhugh, in his chapter in Cultures in Contact: The European Impact on Native Cultural Institutions in Eastern North America, A.D. 1000-1800, these people “probably spoke a variety of Algonquian languages, used canoes rather than kayaks, painted their bodies and tools with red ocher, and hunted caribou in the interior during the winter and caught fish, birds, and seals on the coast during the summer.”

In making their stone tools, the Point Revenge people used Ramah chert which is found in Ramah Bay in northern Labrador. This chert was also traded to peoples to the south and is found in sites in Novia Scotia, New Brunswick, and New England.

In Labrador, the Late Dorset Eskimo began to establish themselves north of the Port Revenge cultures by 900 CE. According to William Fitzhugh:  “Late Dorset peoples inhabited coastal locations throughout the year and made use of the entire northern coast, including the region around Ramah Bay.”

Like the Point Revenge people, they were using Ramah chert for making their stone tools. Unlike the Point Revenge people, however, they used kayaks rather than canoes. They also had richly developed shamanistic and secular art traditions.

By 1,000 CE, Thule culture groups began to migrate into Labrador from Alaska. They were practicing a maritime adaptation which focused on hunting large marine mammals, particularly the bowhead whale. According to Susan Kaplan, in her chapter in Cultures in Contact: The European Impact on Native Cultural Institutions in Eastern North America, A.D. 1000-1800:  “The newcomers arrived with dog-drawn sleds, large skin boats (umiaks), and single-man boats (kayaks). With this equipment people and heavy gear could be transported long distances with speed.”

In the fall and winter, the people lived in small, subterranean houses built out of stone, sod, wood, and whale bone. During the whaling season, several settlements would pool their resources in a cooperative endeavor. In the fall, the people would hunt caribou using fences and drives. In the spring they would fish using stone weirs to entrap the fish.


Nakaidoklini, Apache Spiritual Leader

President Ulysses Grant established the San Carlos Indian Reservation in Arizona by Presidential Executive Order in 1872. The newly created reservation was a division of the White Mountain Apache Reservation and was intended for the Chiricahua Apache as well as other tribes. Under Grant’s Peace Policy, the Dutch Reformed Church was given charge of the reservation.

Americans generally have difficulty in distinguishing one Indian tribe from another.  With regard to the Apaches, the U.S. government had difficulty understanding that there were many distinct Apache tribes. There are six major divisions of the Apache: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Kiowa-Apache. The Western Apache include five groups: Cibecue, San Carlos, White Mountain, Northern Tonto, and Southern Tonto. The traditional homelands of the Chiricahua Apache are south of the Western Apache in the mountains of southeastern Arizona.

In Arizona a new religious movement arose in 1881 when a White Mountain Apache medicine man called Nakaidoklini talked to the Apaches about a new religion in which dead warriors would return to help the people drive the Americans from their territory. He taught his followers a new dance in which the dancers were arranged like the spokes on a wheel, facing inward.

Nakaidoklini announced that he would bring back two chiefs from the dead if the people gave him enough horses and blankets. When the dead chiefs failed to materialize, Nakaidoklini announced that they had refused to return because of the Americans and that they would return when the Americans were gone.

The United States sent soldiers with orders to arrest Nakaidoklini or to kill him, or both, for his teachings. Nakaidoklini quietly submitted to arrest. On the return journey, the troops were followed by many Apache. As the Apache moved closer, their faces painted, the frightened officer in charge of the soldiers ordered the Apaches to move back and shooting broke out. The Apache scouts who had been with the army also began firing on the soldiers. The officer ordered Nakaidoklini killed and a soldier shot Nakaidoklini at point blank range.

Some of Nakaidoklini’s followers later attacked Fort Apache, but were driven back. Others sought refuge with the Chiricahua Apache on the San Carlos Reservation. Chiricahua leaders, including Geronimo, became alarmed with the arrival of additional troops. There were rumors that the soldiers intended to arrest the chiefs and place them in leg irons. Three Chiricahua bands left the San Carlos Reservation and headed to Mexico.

The “rebel” bands, with 74 men and 300 women, included the Nednhi led by Chief Juh and Geronimo; the Chokonen led by Naiche (the son of Cochise), Chato, and Chihuahua; and the Bedonkohe led by Bonito. The Apaches who remained on the reservation, including 250 Chiricahuas, generally opposed the breakout.

Three of the scouts who turned on the troops – Sergeant Dandy Jim, Sergeant Dead Shot, and Corporal Skippy – were court-martialed, found guilty of mutiny, and hanged. Several others were sent to Alcatraz.

The “rebel” Chiricahua bands then began a series of raids which resulted in a prolonged campaign by General George Crook to “pacify” the Apaches.

Occupation of Paisley Caves in Oregon

The earliest period of human occupation in what is now Oregon is called the Paisley Period by archaeologists. The period, which is tentatively dated from about 15,700 years ago to 12,900 years ago, is named after the Paisley 5 Mile Point Caves site (35LK3400) near Summer Lake.

The Paisley Caves are located in the Summer Lake basin in south-central Oregon on the highest shoreline of pluvial Lake Chewaucan. The initial archaeology at the site was carried out during 1938 and 1940 by Luther Cressman and his students. In Cave 3, Cressman and his students found a U-shaped living area which had been cleared of stones and outlined with boulders which lay well below a layer of volcanic ash from Mount Mazama (the eruption which created Crater Lake). The Mount Mazama eruption would later be dated to 7,600 years ago.

At the time Cressman was working at Paisley Caves there were no precise chronometric methods for dating archaeological sites. One of the major advances in chronometric dating came with the development of radiocarbon dating. This dating method was developed in 1949 by Chicago chemist Willard Libby as a result of the Manhattan Project (i.e. the development of the atomic bomb during World War II). It is based on the principle that radioactive carbon in the atmosphere is absorbed by all living things. At death this absorption stops and a steady decay of carbon begins. Since the half-life of the radioactive carbon is known (5,568 years), measuring the amount of carbon remaining can determine the age of the material.

In Cave 3, Cressman and his students found the bones of Pleistocene camel, horse, bison, and waterfowl. While Cressman felt that these remains were associated with the human occupation of the site—that is, they had been killed and eaten by these early Indians—many archaeologists at the time were more than a little skeptical, feeling that human occupation of the Americas could not be this ancient.

From 2002 through 2010, new archaeological excavations were conducted at the Paisley Caves by the University of Oregon’s Northern Great Basin archaeological field school. As in the earlier study, the archaeologists found the bones of now-extinct Pleistocene camel and horse and were able to establish a direct link between these remains and the human occupation of the site. The cut marks on the bones of these ancient animals showed that they had been butchered by the Indian occupants of the site.

One of the features found in Cave 5 was a small pit containing camel, horse, mountain sheep, waterfowl, and fish bones. Called the “Bone Pit” by the archaeologists, the pit was covered by a stone slab. A second stone slab stood on end at the southern rim of the pit. Bones can be radiocarbon dated and the bones from inside the pit and near the pit returned dates ranging from 16,190 years ago to 13,030 years ago.

Also present in the cave were coprolites (dried feces). The coprolites were identified as human by DNA analysis and radiocarbon dated to 14,500 years ago. In the news report on this discovery, Tamara Stewart wrote in American Archaeology:   “Rather than the traditional view that first Americans entered the New World via the Bering Strait, these new findings suggest it is more likely that people came down the coast by boat or that they were south of the corridor before the Last Glacial Maximum closed the route.”

DNA from the coprolites shows that the occupants of the cave were Native Americans with close genetic ties to Siberian and Asian populations. Coprolites also provide direct evidence of prehistoric diets. One of the coprolites also gave chemical evidence that meat from bison, fox, and sage grouse had been consumed.

The stone tools at the site belong to the Western Stemmed Tradition. Obsidian hydration dating on some of the tools shows that they were made between 13,500 and 16,500 years ago. A protein residue analysis on a polished hand stone found near the “Bone Pit” showed that it had been used to process horse meat. In other words, this stone tool had been used for pounding or grinding dried horsemeat or had been used to crack open horse bones to extract the marrow.

In addition to stone tools, the site also contained bone tools, including a bear bone with saw-like teeth which was dated to 14,230 years ago.

In their book Oregon Archaeology, Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins sum up the archaeological finds at the Paisley Caves:  “While one could wish there were more artifacts from the deepest and oldest deposits, it is abundantly clear that occupations at the Paisley Caves were always very brief, leaving behind only thin scatters of stone, bone, and fecal matter, of which little survived the depredations of illegal artifact mining to be recovered by archaeologists.”

With regard to the importance of the Paisley Caves site, Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins write:  “In sum, the Paisley Caves site is extremely important because it is the first place in the New World that incontrovertible human traces—including human DNA in dried feces on the one hand, and obvious stone and bone artifacts on the other—have been directly dated in excess of 14,000 years ago.”

Indians 1815

Two hundred years ago, in 1815, the United States Senate ratified the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812. The treaty restored to all Indian nations all of the possessions, rights, and privileges which they had prior to the war. Robert Venables, in a chapter in American Indians/American Presidents: A History, reports:  “Under the Treaty of Ghent, for example, Andrew Jackson’s 1814 treaty with the Creeks should have been nullified and their ceded lands returned to them. But the Treaty of Ghent was ignored—and continued to be ignored in subsequent treaties with Indian people.”

 In Florida, the British withdrew their troops in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Ghent. However, when it became obvious that the Americans had no intention of honoring article 9 of the Treaty, which specified that the Indians would not lose any land, the British left a large supply of arms and ammunition behind for the Indians to use.

In Missouri, territorial governor and Indian superintendent William Clark announced that the intrusion of non-Indians onto Indian lands would no longer be permitted. He says:  “Our government, founded in justice will effectually extend its protection to the Native inhabitants within its limits.”

Clark also announced that the militia would evict trespassing non-Indians. Echoing Clark, President James Madison denounced intrusions and asserted that  “premature occupancy of the public lands can be viewed only as an invasion of the sovereign rights of the United States.”


Two hundred years ago, the United States, following the Constitution, dealt with Indian tribes as sovereign nations and negotiated treaties with them.

In Nebraska, Hard Heart (Wy-in-wah-hu) and 17 other Iowa chiefs signed a peace treaty with the United States. The treaty: (1) granted mutual forgiveness for acts of hostility and injury, (2) established peace between the Iowa and the United States, (3) returned all prisoners, and (4) stated that all previous treaties and agreements should be recognized.

 In Nebraska, the Omaha, who had become dependent on the British for trade, signed a new treaty with the United States which reestablished peace between the two nations. Under the terms of the treaty, the Omaha put themselves under the protection of the United States. Big Elk and six other Omaha chiefs signed the treaty. Big Elk was the grandson of the Omaha chief Black Bird.

In St. Louis, Missouri, the Potawatomi and the Piankashaw signed a treaty in which they agreed to give up two tracts of land in Illinois.

In Missouri, the Fox, Kickapoo, and Iowa signed peace treaties with the United States.


 In Missouri, William Clark convened the first great Indian council held west of the Mississippi. At Portage des Sioux some 2,000 representatives met for several weeks of treaty-making. With the end of the War of 1812, the purpose of the council was to put an end to hostilities with all Indians with whom the United States might be at war. Landon Jones describes the scene:  “The U.S. regulars had lined up their one hundred tents in precise rows on the prairie. Surrounding them was a hodgepodge of dwellings and canoes of the Native Americans, each reflecting their distinct tribal traditions.”

Clark began by addressing each of the tribes separately. He stressed that the United States wished to bury the tomahawk and forget past transgressions. The Shawnee, Delaware, Sioux, and Omaha, applauded his words.

None of the major Sauk chiefs, such as Keokuk and Black Hawk, attended the council.

The Sioux chief Black Buffalo suddenly died at the council. The American soldiers gave him a full military funeral and thus eased the apprehensions that his death might be a bad omen.  Omaha chief Big Elk delivered the eulogy:  “Death will come, and always comes out of season. It is the command of the Great Spirit, and all nations and people must obey.”

In Missouri, Western Cherokee leader Tahlonteskee met with Governor William Clark. The Cherokee asked for help in stopping the conflict with the Osage. They asked for U.S. troops to provide protection from both the Osage and from non-Indian settlers. Of particular concern to the Cherokee were the Osage under the leadership of Clermont.

In Michigan, the Americans held a council with the Shawnee, Wyandot, Seneca, and Delaware. The Shawnee prophet Tenskwatawa, who was living in exile in Canada, attended and promised that his people wished to be at peace with the Americans. The Americans, however, were determined to destroy any influence which Tenskwatawa might have. They insisted that if he were to come back to the United States, he would not be allowed to establish a separate village, but would be required to live in the village of his old rival, Black Hoof. Angry, Tenskwatawa left the conference and returned to Canada.


In Illinois, Kickapoo warrior Kennekuk had a vision in which the Great Spirit spoke to him. He began to preach a message of pacifism and accommodation with the Americans. He was ostracized by the Kickapoo and went into exile, establishing a village on the Vermillion River. About 250 Kickapoo joined him at his new village.

In California, the Franciscans at the Santa Cruz mission began recruiting Yokut from the San Joaquín Valley.

In California, the Catholic priest at La Purísima Concepción ordered Timiyaquat, a Chumash tomol (canoe) captain, to take 30 tomols to San Miguel Island and remove all of the Indians from the Island. The tomols, however, were met by a raging storm and all but three were lost.

Emissaries from the Onondaga Nation, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, asked the Seneca prophet Handsome Lake to bring his message to their people. Shortly after this, Handsome Lake had a vision in which he was advised by three messengers that it was his duty to go to the Onondaga, but that he would meet four messengers who would lead him on the Sky Trail. The Seneca begged him not to go, but he set out for the Onondaga Nation anyway. Near Syracuse, New York, he became very ill and weak. Following his vision, he died.


In Oregon, the North West Company decided to send trapping parties south to California and east toward the Rockies. They established Fort Nez Perce where the Walla Walla River joins the Columbia River as the hub of this operation.

 In Oklahoma, a group of American traders made a settlement on Pecan Point on the Red River. The Caddo complained to their Indian agent about this unauthorized intrusion on their lands. The location of the settlement interfered with buffalo attempting to cross the river.


Several hundred Shawnee and Delaware left the United States and moved to Texas where they were welcomed by the Spanish as a barrier against the Americans. This group became known as the Absentee Shawnee.


In Missouri, the Shawnee who were living in the Cape Girardeau area complained to Governor William Clark that the American settlers were stealing their horses.


In Lincoln County, Missouri, fifty Sauk warriors under the leadership of Black Hawk killed four American rangers. The Americans counterattacked and the warriors barricaded themselves in a sinkhole. Here they successfully defended themselves.

Alaska Before 6000 BCE

Archaeologists usually classify the period between 25,000 BCE and 6,000 BCE in Alaska as Stage 1, an era in which the first evidence of human habitation occurs. During much of this time, much of North America was under glacial ice and the sea levels were much lower. In the lower forty-eight states of the U.S., the time period known as the Archaic begins about 6,000 BCE. By 5,000 BCE, the ice had retreated and the sea levels had risen to approximately their current levels.

In general, the archaeological data for human occupation during this time tends to be scarce. Don Dumond, in a chapter in the Handbook of North American Indians, summarizes the data:  “Excepting some few bone artifacts that can be placed only inferentially within a wider cultural context, debris that is of clearly attested antiquity and of absolutely indisputable human origin is almost totally confined to stone assemblages that are largely composed of products of the plentiful production of microblades and blades from cores of a certain variety in size and shape, but with some significant portion of the blades pressed or struck from well-formed cores of carefully constructed wedge shape.”

Microblades are fairly small stone blades which are usually placed in a wooden or bone handle to form a spearpoint, knife, or other cutting tool. Overall, the stone tools from this time are similar to those found in Siberia from the same time period.

Listed below are a few of the archaeological sites in Alaska from this time period.

By 13,000 BCE, people were occupying the Trail Creek Caves on the Seward Peninsula. They were hunting bison and horses. In order to prevent their dogs from damaging the animal hides while hunting, they broke the canine teeth. At this time, Alaska was still connected to Asia by the Bering Land Bridge.

By 12,000 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Swan Point site in the Tanana Valley. With regard to artifacts, they were using microblades.

In 11,600 BCE, Indian people were using the Mesa site.

By 9,800 BCE people were occupying sites in the Nenana and Tanana River Valleys. They were making fluted projectile points, bifaces, and unifacial end and side scrapers. They were hunting mammoths as well as other now-extinct Ice Age mammals.  They were also eating cranes, ducks, swans, wild geese, beaver, squirrel, and caribou. At the Broken Mammoth site, Indian people had a microblade industry.

With regard to the now discredited idea that Clovis people were the first Americans, anthropologist James Dixon, in his Bones, Boats, and Bison: Archeology and the First Colonization of Western North America, writes:  “The differences between the type of artifacts from these sites and Clovis sites to the south suggest to some archeologists that these early sites are not directly related.”

Some anthropologists consider the Nenana industry in Alaska to be similar to the Upper Paleolithic industries which are found in Siberia.

In 9,710 BCE, Indian people at the Swan Point site in the Tanana Valley were making a variety of stone tools, including microblades, dihedral burins, pebble hammers, and split quartz pebble tools. They were also shaping mammoth ivory.

In 9,710 BCE, Indian people at the Spein Mountain site were using lanceolate points which resembled the points at the Mesa site.

By 9,660 BCE, Indian people had re-occupied the Mesa site on the north side of Brooks Range. Among the tools being used at this time were lanceolate projectile points, thin bifaces used as knives, and hammer and anvil stones. Most of the projectile points—80%—were bifaces. The projectile points have a concave base with some thinning, although this is not true fluting, and they have heavily ground proximal edges and bases.

Some anthropologists feel that the Mesa Complex tools are similar in technology to the Agate Basin and Hell Gap points which are found on the High Plains of the Lower Forty-Eight and Canada. However, the Mesa Complex points have concave bases which are like the Goshen and Plainview points, which are also found primarily in the Lower Forty-Eight.

In 9,500 BCE, Indian people at the Upper Sun River site had a subsistence pattern which included fish, birds, and small game. They occupied a seasonal semisubterranean house at the site in the summer. A three-year-old child—dubbed Xaasaa Cheege Ts’eniin (Upward Sun River Mouth Child, in Athabascan) was buried at the site.

In 9,470 BCE, Indian people began to occupy the Putu site on the north flank of the Brooks Range. They were using both fluted and non-fluted points. The fluted points were made from obsidian and chert. They were also using burins and flakes similar to the Denali complex.

In 9,470 BCE, Indian people began to occupy the Healy Lake Village site in the Tanana Valley.

In 9,000 BCE, people using a microblade tradition reached the western portion of the state from Asia. Archaeologist Stuart Fiedel, in his Prehistory of the Americas, reports:  “The Paleo-arctic tradition was clearly derived from northeastern Asia, where similar microblades, struck from small wedge-shaped cores, were present in the Dyuktai culture of Siberia by 14,000 B.C., and were used in northern Japan by 8,000 B.C.”

In 9,000 BCE, people using the Chindadn tool complex were using the Dry Creek site in the Nenana River Valley.

In 8,740 BCE, people using microblades occupied the Dry Lake site. Their tool kit included burinated flakes, lake biface blades and smaller bifaces that were used as knives.

In 8,343 BCE, Indian people were now occupying the Hidden Falls site on Baranoff Island. The people were using a microblade technology.

In 8,300 BCE, Indian people occupied the Broken Mammoth site. They were hunting bison, elk, river otter, Dall sheep, porcupine, ground squirrel, marmot, red squirrel, goose, duck, and ptarmigan. They were also involved in fishing.

By 8,320 BCE Indian people were living at Ground Hog Bay in southeastern Alaska.

In the interior of Alaska, Indian people occupied the Panguingue Creek site by 8,200 BCE. They were using lanceolate projectile points.

In 8,050 BCE, Indian people began to occupy the Spein Mountain site east of the present-day town of Bethel. At this time there were no trees in the region.

In 7,907 BCE, the Akmak site was occupied. The stone tools included end scrapers, gouges, knives, and shaft straighteners. Douglas Anderson, in the Handbook of North American Indians, writes:  “Narrow grooved shaft straighteners of basalt suggest that bows and arrows were used.”

The microblades at the site were of a type found in sites in Siberia, Mongolia, Japan, and central Alaska. Douglas Anderson writes:   “During the last centuries of the Bering land bridge and for several millennia afterward, Arctic groups throughout eastern Siberia and Alaska must have remained part of a broad interaction network.”

Akmak was a dwelling site. Douglas Anderson writes:  “The Akmak people who used the site carried out a wide range of activities including hide preparation, butchering, carving on hard and soft materials (perhaps on ivory), planing, chopping, and the manufacture of weapons. Stone tools apparently were finished and resharpened at the site but were blocked out or made elsewhere.”

In 7,700 BCE, Indian people at the Onion Portage site were using the Akmak assemblage which includes microblades.

In southeastern Alaska by 7,500 BCE, Indian people were engaged in a coastal marine subsistence pattern which includes fishing and the gathering of shellfish. Almost all of the diet was based on marine foods. With regard to On-Your-Knees Cave (49-PET-408), anthropologist James Dixon writes:  “Discoveries at this site inferentially demonstrate that humans living along the coast of Southeast Alaska were using watercraft, were primarily dependent on marine foods, had established trade networks, and were capable of intercoastal navigation by 9,200 B.P.”  (note: B.P. means “before present,” which means before 1950—when radiocarbon dating began. B.C.E. means “before current era.”)

The DNA from the remains of one individual in the cave carries markers which were found in people living on Siberia’s Chukotka peninsula.

Indian people with a maritime economy were living on Prince of Wales Island off the coast of Alaska by 7,200 BCE. The obsidian for the microblade tools which they were using comes from Mount Edziza, which is on the mainland about 120 miles away.

By this time, the trading of obsidian and quartz crystals by watercraft routes was widespread along the northwestern Pacific Coast from the Queen Charlotte Islands to southeast Alaska.

In 7,120 BCE, the Indian people using the Trail Creek caves had a microblade technology. The caves at this time were serving as shelter and a lookout for caribou hunters.

Indian people using microblades were living on Baranoff Island in southern Alaska by 7,110 BCEE.

The tiny southern Aleutian island of Anangula was occupied by 6,750 BCE. Philip Kopper, in The Smithsonian Book of North American Indians: Before the Coming of the Europeans, reports:  “The place was virtually barren of vegetation—no trees and only a few berries and greens in summer, together with indigestible grasses. Fish, shellfish, birds, and sea mammals sustained the people.”   Kopper also reports:  “In Anangula the houses were small, oval, semi-subterranean structures with frames of driftwood covered with matting and live sod rooted in an insulating layer of earth.”

About 75 people lived on the island. The village was not a seasonal camp, but was permanently occupied.

The stone technology is a core and blade tradition which looks like it was strongly influenced by the stone technology of northeastern Asia. Allen McCartney, in the Handbook of North American Indians, writes:  “The Anangula core and blade assemblage is the oldest known evidence of human occupation in the Aleutian chain.”  McCartney also reports:  “The Anangula assemblage is dominated by small to large blades struck from polyhedral cores of wedge and other shapes, and flakes and platform tablets from this manufacturing technique.”

At the time of first occupation, Anangula appears to have been an island which means that the first inhabitants would have had to have boats. Allen McCartney writes:  “The location on the Bering Sea coast, of course, suggests that Anangula people were marine-oriented, but there is no direct evidence that they possessed boats or the degree of maritime expertise expressed by later Aleuts.”

In the interior of Alaska, Indian people were using the Carlo Creek site in the Nenana River Valley as a fall and winter hunting camp by 6500 BCE. They were hunting caribou, sheep, and ground squirrel.

In 6,500 BCE, Indian people at the Goldstream Creek site near the present-day town of Fox were using bone projectile points. According to anthropologist James Dixon:  “Similar large bone projectile points, possibly atlatl dart points, may have been an important component of Northern Paleoindian tradition weapon systems.”

In 6,500 BCE, Kobuk complex hunters were using campsites along the edges of the Kobuk River. Douglas Anderson writes:  “The ancient hunters made camp fires of willow branches and, in some cases, of caribou bone. Their fires were relatively small and frequently did not get hot enough to oxidize the moist sand upon which the fires were built.”

The tiny southern Aleutian island of Anangula was abandoned when volcanic ash blanketed the island in 6,250 BCE.

 Indian people in southeastern Alaska were using a variety of stone tools, including microblades, anvil stones, hammerstones, and whetstones by 6,230 BCE. They were gathering shellfish, including horse clam and sea urchin. They were hunting seals, sea lions, and beaver.


Eschiti, Comanche Medicineman

The Comanche held a Sun Dance in Oklahoma in 1874. This was not a traditional ceremony, but was one they had borrowed from the Cheyenne. The Sun Dance coincided with the emergence of a new medicine man, Eschiti (Coyote Droppings; also spelled Esa-tai). Bill Neeley, in his book The Last Comanche Chief: The Life and Times of Quanah Parker, describes him this way:  “He wore no buffalo skull cap or ceremonial mask, as did most of the older medicine men, but was attired only in breechclout and moccasins and a wide sash of red cloth around his waist. From his hair protruded a red-tipped hawk’s feather, and from each ear hung a snake rattle.”

Eschiti had been given strong powers in a vision quest. Eschiti had ascended to the home of the Great Spirit, a place which is far above the Christian Heaven. It was reported that he was capable of vomiting up all the cartridges which might be needed for any gun; that he could raise the dead; that he was bulletproof and could make others bulletproof; that he could control the weather. His messianic message to the people was that he was sent by the Great Spirit to deliver them from oppression.

Later that year, in the panhandle of Texas, buffalo hunters armed with high powered telescopic rifles capable of killing buffalo at 600 yards, set up camp at the abandoned trading post of Adobe Walls. The camp was attacked by a war party of about 300 warriors made up of Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapaho. War party leaders include Tabananaka, Wild Horse, Mowaway, Black Beard, and a rising new leader, Quanah. The Indians were confident that Eschiti’s power would render the hunters’ guns useless. Eschiti warned the warriors not to kill a skunk on their way to Adobe Walls. According to Eschiti’s vision, the hunters would be asleep and would not be able to use their big guns.

Just as the war party prepared to attack the sleeping buffalo hunters, there was a loud crack which woke them up. The hunters, fearing that the ridge pole had snapped, were suddenly awake and scrambling around. The hunters settled down for the siege, and with plenty of ammunition and good marksmanship, they repelled the war party.

Eschiti attributed the failure of his medicine to a member of the war party violating a taboo by killing a skunk. Apparently some of the Cheyenne warriors had killed a skunk, which was not unusual since skunk meat was often a favorite of the Southern Plains Indians.

This second battle of Adobe Walls began an Indian war known as the Red River War or the Buffalo War. Army troops were called in to capture the war party, but movement was hampered by drought and by temperatures well over 100 degrees. Eschiti took credit for arranging the weather. The troops, however, were relentless and managed to destroy lodges and capture horses.

In the battle of Palo Duro Canyon, the Cavalry scattered the warriors under the command of Iron Shirt (Cheyenne), Poor Buffalo (Comanche), and Lone Wolf (Kiowa). There were few casualties, but the Americans killed more than 1,000 horses and destroyed the Indians’ winter food supply.

The Red River War was the last major conflict between the Southern Plains Indians and the U.S. Army. Historian Herman Viola, in his book Warrior Artists: Historic Cheyenne and Kiowa Indian Ledger Art, writes:  “The Red River War marked a last desperate and hopeless resistance to the new order.”

With the end of the war and the failure of his medicine, Eschiti faded into obscurity.


Indian Events of 1615

Four hundred years ago, in 1615, the European invasion of North America was in its infancy. Contact between the Indian nations and the Europeans was largely in the form of explorers, missionaries, and fur traders. The Europeans found that the Indian nations were diverse in their languages, cultures, and religions. Similarly, there were significant differences among the European nations with regard to their perception of the Indians and their land. In general, the French tended to view Indians as potential trading partners; the Spanish viewed Indians as a potential labor force; and the English often saw them as wild animals to be exterminated. While the Spanish debated about the moral and legal rights of the Indians, the English had no interest in Indian rights; Indian people were simply inconvenient occupants of land desired by the English.

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. From the beginning, the French were willing to learn from their Indian trading partners. Conrad Heidenreich, in his chapter on early French exploration in North American Exploration, writes:  “The French obtained geographical information from natives, hired them as guides, traveled with natives, lived among them, and learned from them.”

The early French explorers sought to stake out French territorial claims in North America and to determine the nature of exploitable natural resources, such as furs and minerals.


 In Ontario, French explorer Samuel de Champlain ignored Huron stories of Nipissing sorcery and visited one of the Nipissing villages. The Hurons discouraged contact with the Nipissing as they wanted to monopolize trade with the French.

Champlain then traveled to the Huron village near present-day La Fontaine. The village had triple palisades which are 35 feet high. The Huron warriors who were to accompany him were not there, so he journeyed on to the village of Cahiagué which had more than 200 longhouses.

The French party then visited Indians which they called Cheveux Relevées (High Hairs) because their hair was combed to stand very high. These were the Ottawa.

Champlain noted that the Iroquois-speaking people who lived near the western end of Lake Ontario were not involved with the conflicts between the Iroquois and the Huron. For this reason, the Europeans called this group Neutral. The Huron called them Atiouandaronk.

In Quebec, the French under Samuel de Champlain aided a joint Huron and Algonquin raiding party against the Iroquois. The joint war party attacked an Onondaga village. Conrad Heidenreich, in a chapter in the book North American Exploration, reports:  “After attacking the village and laying siege to it for six days, the army withdrew to the Huron country the way they had come.”

While Champlain viewed the war as a total failure, it did result in a French-Huron alliance.

The French explorer Champlain crossed into New York with a party of Huron warriors. They captured three Iroquois men, four women, three boys, and a girl. Champlain complained when the Huron cut off one of the women’s fingers as a demonstration of the torture that lay ahead. Because of the French concerns, the Huron agreed not to torture the women.

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

In New York, the Susquehannock sent 500 warriors to aid Samuel de Champlain in his war against the Iroquois. The warriors arrived two days after Champlain and his Huron allies had retreated. The Susquehannock warriors returned home without engaging in battle.

In Maryland, English explorers were welcomed with the sacred pipe. One of the Englishmen, Father Andrew D. White would later write of the ceremony:  “each one smoking it breathes over the several members of his body and consecrates them.”

In Maryland, the colonial policy was to enter into formal treaties with the Indians. If the tribes placed themselves under the protection of the colonial government, they would receive guarantees for reserved lands as well as hunting and fishing rights. The tribes, however, also had to pay the colony an annual tribute, return any fugitive slaves and servants, and have their chiefs confirmed by the governor.

Etienne Brulé met a group of Erie near Niagara Falls, New York. This would be the only known encounter between this group and the Europeans. At this time, the Erie were in an alliance with the Neutrals and the Wenro against the Iroquois.


In Quebec, four Récollet missionaries arrived to work among tribes operating trade networks with the Huron. For the most part, the missionaries stayed in Quebec and ministered the Montagnais. The Récollets are a reform branch of the Franciscans. With regard to their impact on the Indians, historian Matthew Dennis, in his book Cultivating a Landscape of Peace: Iroquois-European Encounters in Seventeenth-Century America, writes:  “But the mendicant Recollets lacked the necessary resources, seemed ill-suited to this missionary work, and were too few to make a large impact.”


In Spain, Fray Juan de Torquemada wrote Monarchia Indiana in which he mentions the Pueblo fetishes as well as the Spanish names of the Pueblos. Archaeologist Adolph Bandelier, in his 1910 monograph Documentary History of the Rio Grande Pueblos of New Mexico, notes:  “Torquemada himself was never in New Mexico, but he stood high in the Franciscan Order and had full access to the correspondence and to all other papers submitted from outside missions during his time.”

Indian Events:

 In Maine, the Micmac captured and killed the Penobscot Sachem Bashaba, thus putting an end to the war which started in 1610. Following this victory, Micmac warriors raided down the coast of Maine and into Massachusetts.

In North Dakota, the Mandan established a village at the Larson site north of present-day Bismarck.