American Indians and European Diseases

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There were an estimated 18 million Native Americans living north of Mexico at the beginning of the European invasion. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, American Indians were remarkably free of serious diseases. People did not often die from diseases. As the European explorers and colonists began to arrive, this changed and the consequences were disastrous for Native American people. The death tolls from the newly introduced European diseases often reached 80-90 percent. Entire groups of people vanished before the tidal wave of disease.  

Aboriginal Health:

If we were to compare the overall health of American Indians in North America with that of Europeans in 1500, we would find that Indians were generally healthier. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, Indians had better diets and they were less likely to face starvation and hunger. The first Europeans to reach North America often commented on the large size of the Indians. American Indians were larger than the Europeans simply due to better diets and less starvation. Unlike the Europeans, Indian political leaders did not store their wealth but accumulated prestige by giving food to those in need. No one in an Indian village or an Indian band starved unless all did so.  

Secondly, American Indian populations did not have many of the infectious diseases that were endemic in Europe.  A number of reasons have been suggested for this lack of disease. Some scientists have suggested that Indian people came to this continent through the cold, harsh climate of the north and that this acted as a germ filter which screened out infectious diseases. Others have suggested that Indians were disease-free because of the lack of domesticated animals. Measles, smallpox, and influenza are among the diseases which are closely associated with domesticated animals. Lacking the large domesticated animals, there were comparatively few opportunities in this hemisphere for the transfer of infections from animal reservoirs of disease to human beings.

European Diseases:

The diseases brought to this continent by the Europeans included bubonic plague, chicken pox, pneumonic plague, cholera, diphtheria, influenza, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough. The diseases introduced in the Americas by the Europeans were crowd diseases: that is, individuals who have once contracted the disease and survived become immune to the disease. In a small population, the disease will become extinct. Measles, for instance, requires a population of about 300,000 to survive. If the population size drops below this threshold, the virus can cause illness and death, but after one epidemic, the virus itself dies out.

Another important factor in the European diseases was the presence of domesticated animals. The source of many of the infections was the domesticated animals which lived in close proximity with the humans.

Overall, hundreds of thousands of Indians died of European diseases during the first two centuries following contact. In terms of death tolls, smallpox killed the greatest number of Indians, followed by measles, influenza, and bubonic plague.


The most deadly European disease was smallpox, a disease almost unknown in today’s world but common prior to the twentieth century. Smallpox is caused by a virus that may be airborne or spread by direct contact. There are three forms of smallpox: (1) Variola major which is quite virulent; (2) Variola minor which is comparatively mild; and (3) Variola vaccinae which is also known as cowpox. An attack of any one of these forms will provide immunity against the other two.

Children resist the smallpox virus better than teenagers or adults. In a larger population, smallpox is a constant. Since nearly all children contract some form of smallpox, this means that adults have had the disease and are immune. Smallpox thus becomes a childhood disease with relatively low mortality.

When smallpox strikes a virgin population, such as the Native Americans, the initial death toll is quite high, particularly among adults and elders. As a result a great deal of cultural knowledge, such as how to conduct certain ceremonies, is lost.

Smallpox is a crowd disease. Once it strikes a low density population it soon becomes extinct in that population as it does not have enough hosts. Thus, in American Indian populations, smallpox would strike, the population would plummet, and the disease would die out. The population would begin to recover and about a generation later, smallpox would strike again.

Smallpox first struck American Indians in what is now the United States after 1520. It was not uncommon for Native people to encounter the deadly European diseases long before they encountered European people. For thousands of years, Native American trade routes interconnected the many diverse cultures on this continent. The new European diseases simply followed these trade routes, carried by both the traders and their goods. The smallpox virus can live in cloth, particularly cotton cloth, for many years.

The European diseases devastated many nations and consequently European explorers, particularly in the southeast and northeast, frequently reported finding empty villages and fields. From these reports came the common misconception that North America was only sparsely populated by Indians.  In the Southeast, the Muskogee (Creek) population has been estimated at two hundred thousand before the Europeans arrived on the continent. It had declined to about twenty thousand by the time Europeans actually visited their villages.

Traditional Native American curing techniques were not effective against smallpox and many of the other European diseases. One of the primary ways of dealing with disease among most of the tribes was the sweat bath which actually increased Indian mortality from febrile diseases such as smallpox, measles, and chickenpox.

In most of the American Indian cultures, healing was a part of their religious ceremonies. When their ceremonies failed to cure the new European diseases the faith in the traditional Indian spiritual ways was also damaged. This in turn provided an opening for the Christian missionaries who were immune to the disease. Since Christians didn’t seem to die from smallpox, some Indians began to reason, then it must be the power of their religion that saved them.

Smallpox Vaccinations:

By the early 1700s, Europeans understood how smallpox was transmitted and had begun vaccination programs to prevent the disease. In North America, doctors in Boston and in Charlestown began vaccination programs about 1721. By 1800, the United States had begun smallpox vaccination programs for Indians. In 1802, for example, Indian chiefs visiting Washington were vaccinated against smallpox using a vaccine that President Jefferson had cultured. In 1804 the Corps of Discovery under the leadership of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark carried with them smallpox vaccine so that they could inoculate the tribes they encountered on their journey to the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, the vaccine was ruined soon after they left St. Louis.

In 1832, Congress appropriated $12,000 to vaccinate Indians against smallpox. The Secretary of War was to be in charge of the vaccinations. It was estimated that the appropriated funds were sufficient to vaccinate two-thirds of the country’s Indians. However, the Secretary of War notified the Indian agent for the upper Missouri that no tribes upstream from the Arikara were to be vaccinated. It was felt that the spread of smallpox to the tribes of the Northern Plains, such as the Blackfoot, would aid American military efforts against these groups.

Smallpox was not eradicated among American Indians until the twentieth century. The last major smallpox epidemic among an American Indian tribe was in 1921 when the disease struck the Indians living in the Pit River, California area. The impact of the epidemic was increased by starvation and lack of medical care. As usual, Congress quickly reacted to this healthcare concern: in 1928, prompted by complaints about the failure of Indian health care in dealing with the smallpox epidemic, Congress launched an investigation into charges of willful neglect. By ignoring the impact of poverty and starvation and its relation to general health conditions, the government shifted attention from its failings by stepping up attacks on shamans and blaming their influences for poor sanitary conditions.

European Views:

The early Europeans were aware that diseases were devastating the American Indian communities. In New England many of the English colonists saw the diseases as evidence of God’s plan for them to settle the area. Regarding the smallpox epidemic of 1633 which killed many Massachusett and Pawtucket, the English governor commented that the disease “cleared our title to this place.”

Many Europeans, both Spanish and English, see the devastating diseases as evidence of God’s wrath directed toward the Indians and evidence of the sinful life of the Indians. Many Protestants, particularly Calvinists, viewed disease as a divine punishment for sin. Since American Indians were heathens-the greatest sin of all-it was natural that God should destroy them with smallpox. Similarly, the Catholic priests in California attributed diseases such as smallpox to tribal sin, especially the cardinal sin of refusing to believe in Christ.

However, there were some Spanish priests who felt that the diseases which were devastating Indian populations were an indication of God’s wrath against the Spanish colonists. They see the depopulation of the Indian communities as depriving the Spanish of their labor force.

Syphilis carried from America to Europeans?:

At one time it was commonly assumed that syphilis originated in the Americas and was initially brought back to Europe by the first Spanish sailors. This assumption was based on the fact that the disease first began to be reported in Europe shortly after Columbus returned from his first voyage to the Americas. However, the archaeological record, in the form of burials in England, has disproved this assumption. At Hull, four skeletons of individuals who had died in the mid-fifteenth century show fully developed tertiary syphilis. This is evidence that the disease was already well established in Europe at least a half a century before Columbus set sail.

Desecrating Indian Graves

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When the Pilgrims arrived in North America in 1620 they found a land which had already been depopulated by European diseases and which contained many fresh graves. One of their first acts upon landing was to rob an Indian grave. In this act they were following the grave robbing traditions of the Spanish who had arrived in North America before them and they were setting the stage for the Americans who would follow them.  

In one instance the Pilgrims came upon the fresh grave of the mother of Massachusett leader Chickataubut. They opened the grave and stole from it two bearskins which had been interred with the corpse. This did not engender friendly relations with the Massachusett who viewed their actions as a form of sacrilege.

In another instance, the Pilgrims found a place that looked like a grave which was covered with wooden boards. The Pilgrims dug down into the grave and found several layers of household goods and personal possessions. They also found two bundles. In the smaller bundle they found the bones of a young child wrapped in beads and accompanied by a small bow. In the larger bundle they found the bones of a man. The man’s skull still had fine yellow hair and with the bones were a knife, a needle, and some metal items. The grave appeared to be that of a blond European sailor, shipwrecked or abandoned on the Massachusetts coast who had then lived as an Indian. He had perhaps fathered an Indian child, and had been buried in an Indian grave.

The Pilgrims also stumbled into a Nauset graveyard where they found baskets of corn which had been left as gifts for the deceased. As the hungry Pilgrims were gathering this bounty for themselves, they were interrupted by a group of angry Nauset warriors. The Pilgrims retreated back to the Mayflower empty-handed.

Indians were often offended by the grave robbing of the English colonists. While Europeans viewed grave robbing, or least grave robbing that involved European dead, as offensive, they seemed to have little concern regarding the robbing of Indian graves. In 1654, three English colonists robbed the grave of the sister of Narragansett sachem (chief) Pessicus. The Narragansett sachem, along with 80 warriors, tracked the robbers to Warwick where they met with Roger Williams. Williams convinced them to bring charges against the leader of the robbers in an English or Dutch court. However, the case was eventually dismissed when the Narragensett failed to show up in court. The Narragensett did not understand the workings of the European court system and their need to appear.

Like the English, the Americans did not feel that it should be a crime to rob an Indian grave. When nine Americans opened and robbed the grave of the daughter of Narragensett sachem Ninigret in 1859, three Narragensett men brought suit against them. A large number of grave goods were taken from the grave and distributed among Harvard’s Peabody Museum, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and private collectors. Even as these men were being arraigned and questioned, other graves at Indian Burial Hill were being opened and looted. While written accounts indicated that the men were acquitted, the judicial records show that the charges were never prosecuted.

The United States government actively promoted and encouraged the robbing of Indian graves. In 1865, the U.S. Surgeon General issued orders to all military medical officers to collect specimens for the Army Medical Museum. The assistant surgeon general explained the reason for collecting skulls: “The chief purpose in forming this collection is to aid the progress of anthropological science by obtaining measurements of a large number of skulls of aboriginal races of North America.” In response, army officers were soon systematically robbing graves on Indian reservations so that the bones, or at least the skulls, could be shipped to the newly founded Army Medical Museum. One medical officer reported: “I secured the head in the night of the day he was buried.”

Another order to obtain Indian skulls for the Army Medical Museum was issued by the Army Surgeon General in 1868. Under this order, over 4,000 Indian heads were taken from corpses at battle grounds, prisoner of war camps, hospitals, and Indian graves. Any grave goods found with the skulls were donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many private collectors sought to obtain the skulls of famous Indian chiefs. In 1886, the grave of Nez Perce Chief Joseph (the elder, the father of Chief Joseph who was involved in the 1877 Nez Perce War) was opened and his skull was taken. The skull was later exhibited in a dentist’s office in Baker, Oregon.

The grave robbers also sought the goods which were buried with the Indian dead. In 1903, the grave of Columbia chief Moses was robbed by non-Indians who took his gold watch, his medal from Washington, D.C., and his beadwork. As the grave robbers fled from the grave, they dropped his pipe. Some boys later found it, smoked it, and became ill.

In 1911, Americans were systematically looting Palouse graves in Washington state for curios which they then sold in Eastern markets. Chief Big Sunday led a delegation to Walla Walla where they appealed to a judge to stop the vandalism. The judge ruled against the chief and the grave robbing continued. For many Americans, Indian graves were simply one more resource, like gold and timber, which should be made available for them to harvest.

In 1918, members of the Skull and Bones Society of Yale University robbed the grave of Apache leader Geronimo. His skull and femur have been incorporated into their rituals ever since this time. In 2009, the descendents of Apache leader Geronimo filed suit against Yale University asking for the return of Geronimo’s remains. The suit was filed on the 100th anniversary of Geronimo’s death by his great-great grandson Harlyn Geronimo. As of this writing, the case has not been heard.

In many communities and families in the U.S., the looting of Indian graves has been, and continues to be, an honored avocation and profession. Indian artifacts are often seen as a type of natural resource. The looters often see nothing wrong with scattering Indian bones as they dig through the graves so that they can get artifacts for personal display or to sell to other collectors. Laws regarding Indian graves often apply only to those graves located on federal lands. As late as 1987, a Kentucky landowner was paid $10,000 for the right to loot 650 Indian graves located on the property.

The United States took action in 1906 to stop some of the grave robbing: the Antiquities Act made it a criminal offense to appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy historic or prehistoric ruins or objects of antiquity located on federal lands. The Act was crafted with no input from American Indians. While the actions of grave robbers have been illegal for more than a century, the courts and law enforcement agencies often fail to see any harm in their actions. Actions brought against grave robbers have often been dismissed by the courts, and the few that have been convicted have been given light sentences. One analysis of the convictions under the 1979 Archaeological Resources Protection Act shows that most people convicted of looting Indian graves are given probation, and, when sentenced to prison, the sentence is usually less than one year.

In New Mexico in 1992, an Anglo charged under the Archaeological Resources and Protection Act pled guilty to looting Navajo graves. He was given four years probation and a $5,000 fine. During his career as a grave robber, the man admitted to uncovering many graves and throwing the skeletons to the winds while searching for ancient artifacts to sell to “art” collectors.

In Utah in 1997, a judge reduced the sentence of a man convicted of plundering an Anasazi burial ground and leaving an infant’s bones strewn about the site. The sentence, given to a man described as a “third generation pothunter”, was originally considered the most severe sentence ever given a pothunter. The judge reduced the sentence from 78 months to 63 months by disallowing the use of the “vulnerable victim” sentencing provision. Originally, the disinterred bones of the infant had been considered a “vulnerable victim.”

The looting of graves, however, continues. In 1999, 80% of the graves in a traditional Snoqualmie burial ground in Washington were looted by professional grave robbers using a backhoe. In 2001, the water levels of the Missouri River fell and exposed many Indian burials. With the low water, the number of people looting the graves for Indian artifacts increased dramatically. Many of the exposed graves were supposed to have been removed by the Army Corps of Engineers prior to the damming of the river. Indian people have often complained about the lax attitude of the Corps regarding Indian graves.

As a result of a federal undercover investigation in 2009, 26 people were arrested in Utah for the theft of American Indian antiquities. The U.S. Attorney for Utah, Brett Tolman said:

“The public needs to understand that looting artifacts, many considered sacred by Native Americans, from public and tribal lands is simply not going to be tolerated. It is clear that there is a continued need for education on the serious nature of these crimes.”

Under the law, the defendants could face up to 10 years in prison. The judge, however, ignored sentencing guidelines, and simply gave the first two defendants probation. This sends a message that this is not considered a serious crime.  

Carlisle Indian School

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In 1871, the United States governmental policies toward American Indians changed from dealing with tribes as nations to focusing on the assimilation of individual Indians. Assimilation was, and still is, based on a viewpoint that sees immigrants coming to the United States and then become “good” Americans by learning English and adopting American customs. If others could do this, the assimilationists argued, and still argue, then American Indians should be required to do the same.

In the language of nineteenth century assimilation, Indians were viewed as “barbaric” and thus the goal of assimilation was to “civilize” them. The ideal model of “civilization” was, of course, mainstream American society. One important “civilizing” force in assimilation was education. Schools, according to this viewpoint, could mold American Indian youth into Americans in which the values of thrift, discipline, individuality, and Christianity would more closely reflect those of mainstream America.  

Writing in 1893 about the goals of Indian education, Father Palladino states: “A plain, common English education, embracing spelling, reading and writing, with the rudiments of arithmetic, is book-learning sufficient for our Indians. Anything beyond that for the present at least, in our candid opinion, would prove detrimental, rather than beneficial; since it might serve to encourage their natural indolence at the expense of what they need most, industrial education.” In explaining the need for boarding schools, Father Palladino writes: “How can you civilize these savage beings, except you withdraw them from the blighting influences that encompass them on every side?”

The model for American Indian boarding schools was the Carlisle Indian School. Founded in 1879 in an abandoned army post in Pennsylvania, the goal of Carlisle was to strip all vestiges of Indian culture from the Indian students: they were to speak only English, they were to dress in the American style, they were to eat American foods, they were to worship the Christian gods, and they were to live in American-style houses.

By locating the school far away from any reservation, it was felt that the children could be removed from the evil pagan influences of Indian life and Indian families.

The school was headed by Captain Richard H. Pratt, the former commandant of the Fort Marion Prison in Florida, which served as an Indian prison. While Pratt liked individual Indians, he had no use for Indian cultures and felt that these cultures would have to be destroyed if Indian people were to survive. Like many other Americans, Pratt felt that Indian ways were inferior in all respects to those of non-Indians. Thus the slogan for Carlisle was “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”

When the students first arrived at the school, they would be given Anglo-Saxon Christian names (names such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson soon became common among the Indian students), their hair would be cut, and their clothes replaced with European-style dress (their old clothes were usually burned).  To reinforce the superiority of English, they would also be forbidden to speak any Indian language.  A military model was used to instill discipline and conformity. The students wore military-style uniforms and marched to their classes.

Since men were supposed to do the farming, boys were given an agricultural education while the girls were trained in housekeeping skills. Girls were taught all of the skills-cooking, sewing, cleaning, laundry-that a housewife or a servant would need to know. The emphasis was on the skills necessary for a mythological family farm, not the reality of commercial agriculture as it existed in the late nineteenth century.

Students would spend half of the day in classes where the curriculum emphasized the English language, practical skills, and Christianity. The boys would then spend half a day working on the school farm where they raised most of the food for the school. The girls would work in the laundry where they would not only wash all of the clothes for the school, they would also do all of the mending and other “household” chores. The goal of their education was to train the boys to be farm workers and the girls to become servants.

Speaking English was an important part of not only the school curriculum, but also school life. Students who were caught speaking any Indian were severely punished. This punishment included beatings, incarcerations (the school had its own jail), and applying lye to the tongue.

Another important part of the curriculum at Carlisle was sports. The school had sports programs that included track, baseball, football, and the newly created basketball. Carlisle sports teams often competed against college and university teams and its football team had a national reputation. Among the Carlisle Indian athletes was Jim Thorpe (Sauk and Fox) who won the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world,” Sweden’s King Gustav V told him. President William H. Taft said “Your victory will serve as an incentive to all to improve those qualities which characterize the best type of American citizenship.”

When students had completed their education, they were indentured to an Anglo family for three years. The government paid the family $50 per year for the stu¬dent’s medical care and clothing.

While the Carlisle Indian School was considered to be the premier boarding school in the United States, its success in actually educating Indian students and assimilating them into mainstream American culture may have been less successful. By 1899, Carlisle Indian School had graduated only 209 of the 3,800 students which had attended it.

Back on the reservations, many of the Indian agents were not enamored with the off-reservation boarding schools. In 1897, the Indian agent for the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana reported that boys returning from off-reservation boarding schools such as Carlisle Indian School can play baseball pretty well, but don’t seem to be interested in work. With regard to the women who returned from the boarding schools, he wrote: “Their whole life is made abortive and the money spent on their education wasted, by allowing them to return…In many instances the practical results of returning them to the reservation is to furnish a better class of prostitutes for the same; yes, and made prostitutes by the so-called educated young Indian men, not camp Indians, though they naturally drift to becoming their wives.”

Captain Richard Pratt, the founder of the Carlisle Indian School, told a New York Ministers Conference in 1904: “I believe that nothing better could happen to the Indians than the complete destruction of the Bureau”  and “Better for the Indians had there never been a Bureau.” A few weeks later, Pratt was told that his services were no longer required. However, he continued to be an outspoken critic of the Indian Bureau and federal Indian policies.

The success of Carlisle’s ability to assimilate Indian students into American culture can be seen in the 1912 address to the graduating class by one of its students who will later be known as Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, a Lumbee from North Carolina:  

“When we have gone through, for the last time as students, the brick portals of this institution, into the great world of competition, we do not wish to be designated as Cherokees, Sioux, or Pawnees, but we wish to be known as Carlisle Indians, belonging to that great universal tribe of North American Indians, speaking the same language and having the same chief — the great White Father at Washington.”

In 1918, the Carlisle Indian School was closed. Officially, the school was closed because the Secretary of War requested the property for a hospital for soldiers returning from Europe. Unofficially, it was felt that the school’s administration had angered too many people in the Bureau of Indian Affairs with his criticisms of federal Indian policies.

Ultimately, boarding schools such as the Carlisle Indian School were intended to destroy American Indian tribal identity. In its place, the students were to gain racial awareness. American society is racist and Indians are viewed as a single racial group rather than several hundred distinct tribal or cultural entities. Boarding school students began to view themselves as Indians, a racial group, rather than as tribal members.  

American Indians and European Royalty

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On a number of occasions during the 18th century, English colonists took Indian leaders-termed as “chiefs” or as “kings”-to England where they would tour the country and meet with English royalty. The purpose of the visits was generally to impress the Indians with the great military, economic, and religious power of the British empire, and to use the Indians as a way of gaining more royal support for the fledgling colonies.  

In 1710, a formal Indian delegation of three Mohawk leaders and one Mahican leader visited England. The Mohawk Nation was a part of the Iroquois Confederacy. The delegation, which was called the “Four Kings” by both the English and the colonists, had been assembled by New England colonists who wished to persuade Queen Anne to support the colonial plans for an invasion of New France. In London, the Four Kings enjoyed a round of social and diplomatic festivities normally bestowed on foreign potentates. The visit cemented a strong friendship between England and the Iroquois Confederacy.

In their meeting with the Queen, the Four Kings asked for assistance. The four chiefs had been well coached by their patrons and told Queen Anne that the capture of Canada would bring England important economic benefits. If Canada were British, then the Mohawk nation would then be able to conduct trade on behalf of the empire. They also asked for Church of England missionaries and presented the Queen with several belts of wampum.

After the Four Kings return to New York, the English were able to construct Fort Hunter in Mohawk territory. A wooden chapel was built within the fort and Queen Anne gave it a set of communion plates. The building of the chapel marked an intensification of Protestant missionary activity in the region.

In 1730, seven Cherokee chiefs- Attakullakulla, Ookounaka, Ketagusta, Tathtiowie, Clogittah, Collanah, and Ounakannowie–were sent by the English Crown on an educational trip to England. They were wined and dined at fashionable spots in London, had their portraits painted, and were followed around town by curious crowds.

According to popular reports on their visit with the King, Ookounaka was supposed to have said: “We look upon the Great King George as the Sun, and as our father, and upon ourselves as his children. For though we are red, and you are white yet our hands and hearts are joined together.” However, the Cherokee see the Sun not as male, but as female and thus it would have been highly unlikely of any Cherokee to have made this statement. Secondly, the idea of categorizing people according to perceived skin color was totally alien to the Cherokee thus invalidating the accuracy of the second part of the quote.

The trip concluded with the signing of a treaty between the Cherokee Nation and the English. Under the treaty the Cherokee were to fight for the British; they were to keep the trading path clean; they were  to return runaway slaves; and they were to give up any Indian who kills an Englishman.

Four years later, several Yamacraw from Georgia travelled to England. The group included Yamacraw leader Tomochichi and his wife Senauki. In London, they met King George II, who held court from his throne and promised friendship between their peoples. Not to be outdone by Queen Anne’s royal treatment of the ‘four Indian kings’ two decades earlier, King George II offers the delegation the use of one of his carriages.

Senauki, the only woman in the group, wore conventional English clothing of a tightly laced jacket and a long petticoat, both of solid pink. However, she wore her hair in traditional native fashion. Toonahowi, Tomochichi’s nephew and heir, dressed more like a young, wealthy squire than an Indian leader. In wearing English-style clothing, Senauki and Toonahowi demonstrated their knowledge of the customary English traditions and their willingness to adapt to the present circumstances to further their overall objectives.

In his negotiations with the English, Tomochichi explained how traders had cheated the Indians through price gouging and asked for fairness in trade. The Indians knew that the English traders took advantage of them, and they wanted something better.

In 1735, without official sponsorship, Mahomet traveled to England where he identified himself to the king as the chief sachem of the Mohegan. He asked the king for protection against the injuries and wrongs which the English colonists had committed against his people. While Mahomet died in England, the king granted a commission to look into the situation.

Not all of the trips to England to meet with royalty were successful. In 1762, three Cherokee chiefs-Ostenaco, Stalking Turkey, and Pouting Pigeon-expressed a desire to meet King George III of England. They were taken to England where it took several weeks for the Cherokee to get an audience with the king. During the wait, the bored chiefs spent much of their time drinking. This resulted in some disagreeable incidents. They were also taken on sightseeing tours and exhibited to the public. Overall, the trip was unsatisfactory for everyone involved.

Not all of the trips involved meetings with the British monarch and not all of the trips were undertaken by acknowledged Indian leaders. In 1764, two young Mohawk men-Sychnecta (called Hermanus by the English) and Trosoghroga (called Joseph by the English)-were taken to England by a New York City merchant. The motivation for the trip was not clear to either the Mohawk or the colonial authorities. Once in England, the merchant put on a public exhibition of the Mohawks at the Sun Tavern and charged an admission to see them. In response, the British House of Lords passed two resolutions: “Resolved, 1. That the bringing from America of any of the Indians who are under his Majesty’s protection, without proper authority for so doing may tend to give great dissatisfaction to the Indian nations, and be of dangerous consequence to his Majesty’s subjects residing in the colonies. 2. That the making a public shew (sic) of Indians, ignorant of such proceedings is unbecoming and inhuman.”

Not all trips by Indian leaders resulted in an audience with the monarch. In 1765 a group of Cherokee under the leadership of Cheulah were taken to England. The trip, however, was not authorized by British authorities and the Cherokee were not given an audience by the King and they were ignored by the English press. The Cherokee were abandoned on the streets on London and were later rescued by the Earl of Hillsborough. The chiefs then did one of the most risky things they could have done in the cause of Cherokee sovereignty. They displayed samples of gold and silver that had been discovered in the country. They were returned home in the company of English mineral experts who wanted to investigate their mines.

In some instances, unauthorized travel did result in an audience with the King. Several Stockbridge chiefs and their wives journeyed to England in 1765 at their own expense to discuss Wappinger land claims. The Stockbridge were a composite Christian Indian community which included the remnants of the Wappinger Nation. They had an audience with King George III who was concerned that they had traveled to England without his consent or a recommending letter from the colonial governor.

During the 18th century, Indians also journeyed to other European countries. In 1725, a group of Indians, including one Otoe, one Osage, one Missouri chief, one Missouri young woman, one Illinois, one Chicagou, and one Metchegamias, were sent to Paris, France where they met with the Director of the Company of the Indies, and the Duke and Duchess de Bourbon. The chiefs were given a complete French outfit which included a blue dress coat, silver ornaments, and a plumed hat trimmed in silver.

They were presented to King Louis XV and they performed a dance at the opera. The French King gave each of the chiefs a royal medallion, a rifle, a sword, and a watch.

Following the formation of the United States, the focus changed from London to the American cities, including New York. Instead of meeting with monarchs, the Indians met with Presidents, ranging from George Washington to Barack Obama. The rhetoric seems to have stayed somewhat the same: the American Presidents, like the European monarchs who preceded them, generally tried to impress the Indians with their great economic, military, and religious power. The Indians generally asked for justice.  

Pretty Bird Woman House – first and last call

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This the annual fundraising diary for the Pretty Bird Woman House, a women’s shelter on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which the Daily Kos community has supported since 2007, when we came together and not only prevented the shelter from going under, but bought it an entire house. It was an incredible thing to see this community do. This is a good time to remember that, to remind ourselves of what we can accomplish when we unite instead of fight.

Christmas TiPi Pictures, Images and Photos

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the history of our involvement with the shelter, I will direct you to a post that Andy T wrote on the Pretty Bird Woman House blog, which pretty much summed up our efforts then.

the shelter, which includes a general (tax deductible) fund for the shelter, and a separate one for gift cards for the staff (not deductible).

This year, for reasons I will tell you about in the update below, I’m just doing a ChipIn for the staff. General donations (the tax deductible kind) can still be made by check, but not on-line.

I apologize for the lateness of this appeal, but like a lot of folks I’ve had a hard time this year. But there is still time to donate. It takes only a few minutes to donate via ChipIn or write a check. This year you might also want to add a couple of kids to your Christmas list. More on that below.

Shelter News

This has been a big year for the shelter, in good and bad ways.

First the good. The tribe has given the shelter a $250,000 grant to start a sexual assault response team and develop education programs. The shelter then hired 2 new staff for this purpose. They work in the Tribal Council building in Ft. Yates. Can’t get much better cooperation from the top than that! The grant signaled the tribe’s recognition of the shelter as a permanent fixture on the reservation. If you contributed to the fund drive, you can therefore be confident that your one-time donation did some permanent good.

Second, the not-so-good. Georgia Little Shield, the shelter’s director, resigned her position as of December 11 due to health issues that were becoming more and more difficult for her to manage with the kind of stress a women’s shelter director endures. She is probably going to be on Social Security disability and Medicaid.  

Right now, Jackie Brown Otter, whose sister is the shelter’s namesake, is working as the interim director until they get a new one.

A few months before Georgia resigned, a key advocate resigned, and the staff member who did the bookkeeping is also leaving. In this case, the old bookkeeper, who also did advocacy and intake work, will return.

As a result of all of this turnover, as well as my new full-time job as an office supervisor at the Census, which came after a very tumultuous year for me personally, I haven’t been in as much contact with the shelter as I had been in the past, and I haven’t been aggressive about holiday fundraising either. I apologize folks. It has just been a tough year.

So, this year I have posted a ChipIn for the staff gift cards only. I took the other ChipIn down after I realized that not only did the new staff not know what a ChipIn was, but it was not properly set up for a new director.

BUT IT’S NOT TOO LATE! If you want to donate to the shelter’s general fund, you can still send a check.

The address is:

Pretty Bird Woman House

P.O. Box 596

McLaughlin, SD 57642

You can also send clothing and other donations to that address using the USPS. To use other delivery services use this address:

211 First Ave W. McLaughlin, SD 57642.

There are four shelter staff aside from Jackie, and two volunteers. That is six people. Plus Jackie that’s seven. Plus Georgia, eight. I did a poll in this diary the first 2 days I posted it, and opinion was nearly unanimous that we should just divide what’s collected among them all. So that’s what will happen with your donation.

Georgia’s not-so-merry Christmas

Even with her terrible back pain, Georgia is now regretting not waiting a couple of more weeks to resign because with her husband being unemployed, there is now no money for Christmas presents for the children she is fostering – two grandchildren and two step nieces, all girls except for the two year old, ranging in age from 2 to 17.

So, if you are so inclined, you could do some last minute Christmas shopping for the kids. I will send her a gift card in any case. I asked Georgia what kinds of things the kids like. She sent me the following email:

Oh The 6 year old any thing tinker bell, the 9 year old any thing Hanna Montana, the 2 year old boy Cars or riding toys he has none. The 17 year old any make up such eye make up eye shadows (brown and Plum) and mascara black eye liner black. Really poor on make up she is.

The Tribe where i live lost there low energy money so those of us who did get that last year will not be getting help with propane, Man if its not one thing its another. I want to just scream.

As you can see, Christmas is not Georgia’s only problem. If you’d like to do some last minute shopping for her kids you can send the gifts to:

Georgia Little Shield P.O. Box 292 Isabel SD 57633.

(the post box number means you have to use the USPS, so I would recommend the flat rate Priority Mail boxes given the late date).

I will have the gift card ChipIn up until COB Tuesday to give anyone who still wants to donate one more chance, and then I’ll get the gift cards after work and send them off Express Mail.

Remember, if you want a tax-deductible donation, you can also send a check to the shelter.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Hosteen Klah: Navajo Healer, Artist

( – promoted by navajo)

Many Indian cultures accepted – and in fact, celebrated – the fact the some people could fill both male and female roles in their society. One such individual was Hosteen Klah (also spelled Hastiin Klah) who became well-known as a Navajo weaver and as a Navajo singer (medicine man). Among the Navajo, weavers are usually female and hataalii (singers, chanters, or medicine men) are usually male. Hosteen Klah filled both of these roles.

Among the Navajo, Klah was known as a nádleeh which can be translated as “one who is changed” or “one who is transformed.” There are some who feel that Klah was born as a hermaphrodite while others report that he was emasculated in a childhood accident. There are still others who simply say that he sometimes identified himself as a man and at other times as a woman.  

In the 1880s, Klah began to learn weaving from his mother and from his sister. He first began to learn the Navajo medicine ways – chanting and sandpainting – from his uncle. In learning the Nightway ceremony, Klah worked under the guidance of Laughing Singer and Tall Chanter. While most Navajo singers can master only one or two complete chants, Klah mastered at least eight. Among the ceremonies which he mastered were the Hailway, the Mountainway, the Nightway, the Windway, and the Chiricahua.

Among the Navajo, the purpose of the chant is to cure the sick. For the chant to work, it must be repeated exactly by the singer. Learning a chant takes a considerable amount of intellectual work: each one is like memorizing hundreds of lines of song or poetry. When a singer contracts to perform a ceremony, he undertakes a great deal of responsibility for not only the patient, but also others who are present at the ceremony.  

In 1917, after 24 years of study, Hosteen Klah performed his first Nighway Ceremony (Yeibichai). The nine-day ceremony was perfect in chant, symbol, and ceremony and established him as a great singer.

As a part of the Navajo ceremonies, the singer produces a dry painting (known as a sand painting) which calls in the power of the Holy People. The sand paintings are made on the floor of the ceremonial hogan and blessed with pollen and corn meal. The sand painting serves as a temporary altar on which the patient sits while the ceremony is performed. Following the ceremony, the singer destroys the painting. If there is no ceremonial need for the painting, the power of the Holy People can be dangerous and even fatal. Therefore, Navajo culture does not allow for the images used in the sand paintings to be produced outside of their ceremonial context.

In 1911 Hosteen Klah wove a blanket of yeibichai dancers which portrayed sacred masks. Local singers felt that this was sacrilegious and demanded that Klah have a ceremony to expel the evil and that he destroy the weaving. Instead, Klah sent the weaving to Washington and experienced no negative effects.

In 1917 Klah took Franc Newcomb, a trader’s wife, to a Nightway ceremony. After the ceremony, she attempted to draw from memory the designs from the sandpaintings which were used in the ceremony. She was unsuccessful and Klah sketched them for her in pencil. Newcomb then made these into watercolor reproductions and hung them in her bedroom so that the other Navajo would not be offended. After seeing that no punishment occurred, Klah then did an additional 27 paintings for her.

In 1919 Klah began to weave sandpainting rugs which were based on the chants he was qualified to sing. His first sandpainting weaving was a whirling log design from the Nightway ceremony.

Klah’s last sandpainting weaving, The Skies from the Shootingway ceremony, was done in 1937 and was not complete at the time of his death. The work was finished by his nieces, Gladys and Irene Manuelito.

Over the years, Klah worked with a number of non-Indian scholars and allowed them to record his songs, ceremonies, stories, and sandpaintings. His only Navajo student – Beaal Begay – died suddenly in 1931 and so much of his knowledge was not passed on in the traditional Navajo way.  

One of the Anglos who worked with Klah was Mary Cabot Wheelwright who founded the Museum of Navajo Ceremonial Art in 1937. She had been permitted to record many of Klah’s songs and erected the museum to preserve his medicine knowledge and his sacred objects. The museum is now known as the Wheelwright Museum. Until recently, the Museum displayed many of his drawings and paintings of sandpaintings as well as his sandpainting weavings. However, the Museum has restricted the display and reproduction of these items based on the recommendations of the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department’s Traditional Cultural Program Committee.  

The Wounded Knee Massacre: 119th Anniversary

( – promoted by navajo)


The Sand Creek Massacre and the Washita Massacre both led to the Wounded Knee Massacre. The Sand Creek Massacre brought the realization that “the soldiers were destroying everything Cheyenne – the land, the buffalo, and the people themselves,” and the Washita Massacre added even more genocidal evidence to those facts. The Sand Creek Massacre caused the Cheyenne to put away their old grievances with the Sioux and join them in defending their lives against the U.S. extermination policy. The Washita Massacre did that even more so. After putting the Wounded Knee Massacre briefly into historical perspective, we’ll focus solely on the Wounded Knee Massacre itself for the 119th Anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Black Kettle, his wife, and more than 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho had just been exterminated, and Custer’s 7th was burning the lodges and all their contents, thus stripping them of all survival means. Sheridan would wait until all their dogs had been eaten before “allowing” them into subjugation, then Custer would rape the women hostages in captivity.

Jerome A. Green. “Washita.” p. 126.

Far across the Washita Valley, warriors observed the killing of the animals, enraged by what they saw.


What did they see, feel, and think?…

And so, when the Chiefs gathered to decide what the people should do, Black Kettle took his usual place among them. Everyone agreed Sand Creek must be avenged. But there were questions. Why had the soldiers attacked with such viciousness? Why had they killed and mutilated women and children?

It seemed that the conflict with the whites had somehow changed. No longer was it just a war over land and buffalo. Now, the soldiers were destroying everything Cheyenne – the land, the buffalo, and the people themselves.

See it? Feel it?

They witnessed and felt the Sand Creek Massacre happen, again.

Consequently, a number of Cheyenne who were present at Washita helped defeat Custer at Little Bighorn.

So, let us proceed from the Sand Creek Massacre,

Why does this say Battle Ground after there was a Congressional investigation?


and from the genocide at the Washita “Battlefield” –

No, it was a massacre.


Petition to Re-name

The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site toThe Washita National Historic

Site of Genocide


According to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life

calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

WE, the undersigned members of the Native American community and the public at large, request that this site of the attack by the United States military against 8,500 Plains Indians camped as prisoners of war along the Washita River in 1868 be designated as the Washita National Historic Site of Genocide.

– to the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890.


Harjo: Burying the history of Wounded Knee

But Wounded Knee was 14 years after Little Bighorn. Would the soldiers have held a grudge that long and why would they take it out on Big Foot? They blamed Custer’s defeat on Sitting Bull, who was killed two weeks before Wounded Knee. The Survivors Association members had the answer: ”Because Big Foot was Sitting Bull’s half-brother. That’s why Sitting Bull’s Hunkpapa people sought sanctuary in Big Foot’s Minneconjou camp.”

The Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890

The first intention of the U.S. Army in part was to detain Chief Big Foot under the pretext that he was a “fomenter of disturbance,” remembering that Native Americans did not have equal rights at that time in the Constitution.

In addition, the real intention was doing a “roundup” to a military prison camp, which would have become an internment and concentration camp in Omaha after they were prisoners. Colonel James W. Forsyth had orders to force them into going there.

Speculating, I bet at least part of the rationalization for the massacre was so the soldiers wouldn’t have to transport them to the military prison in Omaha. Murdering them would have been easier. Then, they could’ve had another whiskey keg, like they did the evening right before this massacre, when they celebrated the detainment of Chief Big Foot. The soldiers may have even been hung over, depending on amount consumed and tolerance levels; moreover, if the soldiers were alcoholics, tolerance levels would have been high.


n : the wanton killing of many people [syn: mass murder] v : kill a large number of people indiscriminately;

“The Hutus massacred the Tutsis in Rwanda” [syn: slaughter, mow down]


White officials became alarmed at the religious fervor and activism and in December 1890 banned the Ghost Dance on Lakota reservations. When the rites continued, officials called in troops to Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota. The military, led by veteran General Nelson Miles, geared itself for another campaign.


Big Foot and the Lakota were among the most enthusiastic believers in the Ghost Dance ceremony when it arrived among them in the spring of 1890.

Chief Big Foot’s arrest was ordered by the U.S. War Department for being a “fomenter of disturbance.” Chief Big Foot was already on his way to Pine Ridge with his people, when the 7th U.S. Cavalry with Major Samuel Whitside leading them approached him on horses. Big Foot’s lungs were bleeding from pneumonia.

Blood froze on his nose while he could barely speak. He had a white flag of surrender put up as soon as he caught glimpse of the U.S. Calvary coming towards them. At the urging of John Shangreau, Whitside’s half-breed scout, Whitside “allowed” Big Foot to proceed to the camp at Wounded Knee. Whitside wanted to arrest Big Foot and disarm them all immediately. Ironically, the justification for letting Big Foot go to Wounded Knee was that it would prevent a gun fight, save the lives of the women and children, but let the men escape. The Warriors wouldn’t have left their women and children to perish, but since the following was reported to Red Cloud:

Red Cloud

“…A white man said the soldiers meant to kill us. We did not believe it, but some were frightened and ran away to the Badlands.(1)

I believe Whitside didn’t want the Warriors to have such an opportunity, under direct orders by General Nelson Miles.

(1): “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown, pp. 441-442. (December, 1890).

“Later in the darkness of that December night (Dec. 28) the remainder of the Seventh Regiment marched in from the east and quietly bivouacked north of Major Whitside’s troops. Colonel James W. Forsyth, commanding Custer’s former regiment, now took charge of operations. He informed Whitside that he had received orders to take Big Foot’s band to the Union Pacific Railroad for shipment to the military prison in Omaha.

Then, came the disarming.

..Colonel Forsyth informed the Indians that they were now to be disarmed. “They called for guns and arms,” White Lance said, “so all of us gave the guns and they were stacked up in the center.” The soldier chiefs were not satisfied with the number of weapons surrendered, so they sent details of troops to search the tepees. “They would go right into the tents and come out with bundles (sacred objects) and tear them open,” Dog Chief said. “They brought our axes, knives, and tent stakes and piled them near the guns.” Still not satisfied, the soldier chiefs ordered the warriors to remove their blankets and submit to searches for weapons…

Yellow Bird, the only medicine man there at the time danced some steps of the Ghost Dance, while singing one of it’s songs as an act of dissent. Simultaneously, the people were furious at the “searches” when Yellow Bird reminded everyone of their bullet-proof shirts. To me, this was the void in time when the Ghost Dancers chose peace over war, and made it possible for the resurgence of their culture to occur in the future. A psychological justification for my saying so, is the Ghost Dancers would also have been Sundancers. Part of the well-known intent behind the Sundance is “that the people might live.”

Continuing on; next, was false blame.

…Some years later Dewey Beard (Wasumaza) recalled that Black Coyote was deaf. “If they had left him alone he was going to put his gun down where he should. They grabbed him and spinned him in the east direction. He was still unconcerned even then. He hadn’t pointed his gun at anyone. His intention was to put that gun down. They came and grabbed the gun that he was going to put down…(1) in proceeding paragraph, p.445.


…The massacre allegedly began after an Indian, who was being disarmed, shot a U.S. officer.


Hotchkiss guns shredded the camp on Wounded Knee Creek, killing, according to one estimate, 300 of 350 men, women, and children.

My Journey to Wounded Knee

More people survived if they tried to escape through this tree row, because there was more tree cover.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

More were massacred if they tried to escape through this tree row, because there was much less tree cover.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


The truth has still been tried to be slanted and concealed, even after over one century ago, because the old sign said that there were 150 warriors. The truth is, there were only 40 warriors.

It was nothing less than false blame, deceptive actions, and blatant lies by the blood-thirsty troopers that started the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. In recognition of the governmental policy of using smallpox infected blankets as germ warfare against Native Americans since the first presidency, the Sioux Wars, and all the “successful” extermination by the U.S. government prior to this last “battle;” would they have had the atom bomb, they would have used it too.

For that would have been more convenient, than loading their remaining victims (4 men and 47 women and children) into open wagons and transporting them to Pine Ridge during the approaching blizzard for alleged shelter at the army barracks, then to the Episcopal mission “unplanned.” They left the survivors out in that blizzard in open wagons for who knows how long, while “An (singular) inept Army officer searched for shelter.”(1)

What that tells me is: they didn’t plan on having any survivors. They planned on exterminating them. Of course, there wasn’t any room at all in the army barracks for 51 people, so they had to take them to the mission. Well…if they’d been white, they would’ve found room for a measly 51 white people.


“…A recurring dream in the mid-1980s directed a Lakota elder to begin the ride as a way to heal the wounds of the 1890 massacre. It continues today to honor the courage of the ancestors and to teach the young to become leaders…The Big Foot Ride began in 1987 at the urging of Birgil Kills Straight, a descendant of a Wounded Knee Massacre survivor. Each year, the riders have come together to sacrifice and pray for the 13-day trip from the Standing Rock Reservation beginning on the anniversary of the death of Sitting Bull and ending at Wounded Knee on Dec. 28, the day before the anniversary of the massacre…”


“…The two-week Ride started in 1986 after a dream told one of its founders that it would “mend the sacred hoop” and heal the wounds of the famous massacre. For the first four years, the ride was led in intense cold by Arvol Looking Horse, keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Woman pipe bundle in Green Grass, S.D. It is now carried on by youths from the Lakota nation, starting in Grand River near Mobridge, S.D. on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and continuing south 200 miles to Pine Ridge…”

Sitting Bull Was Right (HBO’s Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee)

( – promoted by navajo)


Historical revisionists of American Indian history portray indigenous people being as violent as white Europeans were before they arrived on this continent and after settlement. Consequently, HBO’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” was no exception in the scene with Sitting Bull and Col Nelson Miles on the Buffalo Robe, as Miles justified the genocide he was committing as “You were as violent as we are, we’re doing the same thing to you that you did to them (paraphrasing).”


Miles challenges Sitting Bull’s account of the Lakota people as champions of the plains. “The proposition that you were a peaceable people before the appearance of the white man is the most fanciful legend of all. You conquered those tribes, lusting for their game and their lands, just as we have now conquered you for no less noble a cause.” Sitting Bull exclaims, “This is your story of my people!” Miles responds, “This is the truth, not legend.”

(Reposted due to “General Miles Blows Off Indian Myths” – “The best scene of ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ (2007). General Nelson Miles gives a history lesson to Sioux Chief Sitting Bull.”)

This is the truth, not historical revisionism. There are general and specific reasons why Sitting Bull was right. To get the answers as to why, we turn to the scholarship of James Demeo. First, we’ll look at his conclusions to get the general overview.

Unlearning the Language of Conquest Scholars Expose Anti-Indianism in America. “Peaceful verses Warlike Societies” essay by James Demeo. p. 150 – 151


This evidence, drawn from history, archeology, and anthropology, speaks clearly: The New World prior to Columbus was a far less violent place than the Old World. And it can be argued that, in spite of many terrible events which followed after Columbus, the New World remained a less violent place all the way down through the centuries because of its geographical isolation from the more violent Saharasian empires…This summary suggests the general vindication of the vast majority of Native American values and peoples as standing on the peace – making side of history. Certainly, not all Indigenous American cultures fit the peaceful images given in Dances with Wolves, but it is not an exaggeration to say that the majority did.

To go to the specifics, we’ll go to page 148 of his essay under the heading “Archeological Evaluations.” This is number 3 of a list of 9 in which other listings are of Michigan, Illinois, and Southern California to list three of them.

Unlearning the Language of Conquest Scholars Expose Anti-Indianism in America. “Peaceful verses Warlike Societies” essay by James Demeo. p. 148

3. South Dakota, Crow Creek, c. 1300 C.E. Site of a tribal massacre of around 500 men, women, and children, but with a deficit of reproductive – age females.15


At least fifty Middle Plains Woodland skeletons and the Crow Creek massacre mass burial bones have been examined. A few Siouan skeletons from various places have been evaluated. A significant number of bones came from skeletons for which there was little or no provenience. The oldest human remnants we have seen from South Dakota (carbon dated 3,800 BP +/- 110 years) were 16 incomplete skeletons from the Hilde Gravel Pit near Lake Madison (161,162). The Middle Plains Woodland skeletons, the Crow Creek villagers (probably proto-Arikara) (361) and the Hilde Gravel Pit skeletons are pre-Columbian; those in museums, private collections, and salvage archaeology skeletons are primarily post-Columbian.


Who Carried Out the Massacre and Why?:
We cannot know for certain. Several explanations are possible. One is that it was some outside group, perhaps displaced Middle Missouri villagers from the north. Another suggests that some distant group from the east or west came through the area and massacred the villagers. Though neither can be ruled out, some problems suggest that it would have been difficult to do due to villages size, protection, and the fact that relatives lived in villages nearby.

Another explanation suggests that overpopulation combined with climatic instability caused competition for arable land. The massacre may have been carried out by one or several allied villages of the same culture. Evidence of malnutrition in the paleopathology suggests part of the hypothesis could be true. Computer simulation suggests that the hypothesis is feasible.

So, the only possible evidence, simply because of its location, does not at all justify “You conquered those tribes, lusting for their game and their lands, just as we have now conquered you for no less noble a cause.”

In addition, just above the “Archeological Evaluations” is stated:

Unlearning the Language of Conquest Scholars Expose Anti-Indianism in America. “Peaceful verses Warlike Societies” essay by James Demeo. p. 148

Even the most aggressive and warlike of the Native American empire – building  cultures (i. e., the Aztecs) never came close to the systematic murder and destruction seen at the hands of various Saharasian butcher – kings (e. g., Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Ivan the Terrible, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Tse – Dung, Pol Pot, ect.). In fact, the overwhelming percentage of New World Peoples, even after all the trauma and destruction which followed Columbus,  maintained significant elements of their peace – oriented matristic cultures, all the way into the 1800’s.

Dick Wolf states in the 2007 edition of Cowboys and Indians about the movie, “The reason Law & Order has been on for 17 years is that it tries to point out on a weekly basis that the world is in shades of gray.” Perhaps this is why a friend of mine thought Col Miles was right: Wolf’s innovative use of “gray.” Never does Wolf use his “shades of gray” to distort the moral line when it pertains to rape, murder, or theft. A rapist, a murderer, and a thief are always clearly on the wrong side of the law. Never have I heard an officer say, “She deserved it, they had it coming, or they shouldn’t leave their stuff lying around where someone can steal it.” To the contrary,  his “shades of gray” that I have seen in Law & Order  pertain to trying the case, where after the trial the one clearly on the wrong side of the law may go free as a result of politics or loopholes in legislation. Why Wolf didn’t do the same with Sitting Bull and Col Miles in the movie I don’t know, but I do know this – Sitting Bull was right. And, there are no “shades of gray” when it’s about genocide.

Sitting Bull

“The white man knows how to make everything, but he does not know how to distribute it.”

California Valley Miwok Tribe, “WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!” (Petition)

( – promoted by navajo)

Justice for the California Valley Miwok Tribe (Petition)

The entire tribe, elders and children included, is going to be removed by force from their land with no place to go. They are forced to barricade themselves in the tribal office. Using filing cabinets and anything else they can use to secure the building in hopes to protect their culture, their people, and basically everything they have.

We ask that Miwok tribe be allowed to stay in the land they have lived on for 7 years and be given the chance to dialogue with the appropriate legislatures and/or officials about the matter.

There is a reason the dominant culture, a mindset, clings to its revisionist history, racism, sports mascots, and genocide denial.

It makes stealing easier if that stealing is done from a “Savage,” some”thing” that’s intellectually inferior, a “Red—n,” or from “those that lost the Indian Wars.”

—————- Bulletin Message —————–


To: (440006160)

Date: 12/18/2009 1:54:47 AM

Subject: One West Bank Demands Tribe Vacate Tribal Property by Jan 15

One West Bank Demands Tribe Vacate Tribal Property by Jan 15 2010


Once again, we are being threatened with a forced eviction due to the Department of the Interior/..Bureau of Indian Affairs ineptness of actions to do anything to assist or protect our Tribe. The governments’ failure or intentional lagging to correct the abuses and inflictions caused to our Tribe by the corruption within the local BIA’s Central California Agency and Superintendent Troy Burdick who is personally working with and allowing outside influences to viciously attack and interfere into our Tribal Affairs is now on the brink of causing more serious concerns.

We have continued to forward documented factual information (including the criminal histories of the individuals plotting against us) to the BIA/Dept. of the Interior and our local elected officials, and they still have not stepped in to stop the continued criminal actions (fraud and identity theft) being perpetrated by Chadd Everone and his phony group. Mr. Everone continues to mislead government, court, and other agency officials to believe that he and his attorneys represent our Tribe.

We need your support. We need our story to be put out all across America and abroad. All those who can help us get justice, please come forward. Call your friends, Tribes (recognized or not), Universities, Veterans, Students, Elected Officials, and anyone who can step up and stand with us to get the government to take notice of the hardships and emotional suffering that is being cast upon our Tribe and its members. Due to our local Governor, Congressman, Senators, Assemblymembers.., etc… turning a blind-eye to our cries for justice, we are now asking you (the Public) to contact your Congressional representatives.., Senators, and Assemblymembers.., etc… to help us.

We are requesting that all people who know what its like to have an injustice done to you and who can remember how it felt for people to walk away without helping, or for those who had been wrongly accused and had to stand alone and fight through the tears and frustration to be ridiculed and finally justified in the end when the truth came out in the open, you are the ones that we are asking to step up and help us.

Please send letters, faxes, and or emails to your elected officials, and also leave voice messages regarding how appalled you are about the Bureau of Indian Affairs allowing such abuses to happen to a federally recognized Tribe, for this has gone on (years) too long!!! Do not allow the lies of Chadd Everone and his Gaming Developers (financial backers) to continue to cover up the truth of what they have been doing to destroy us. Demand that an investigation be set forth.

Appointed and elected officials get paid by our tax dollars to protect their citizens. Why is it that they have deaf ears to our situation? Is it because we are Native American Indians? Is it because they just don’t care? The last I remember, identity theft and fraud was illegal in this country, so then, why isn’t Chadd Everone not in jail? Is the Government waiting for one of us, or all of us (in the Tribe) to be seriously or fatally injured? What is going to happen on January 15th 2010 when the Sheriff’s department comes in to force the Tribe and its members out into the street? Will the American Indian Movement come to stand with us? Will the college and university students come to stand with us? Will our local community stand with us? The system of law and righteousness has failed us. Please help us !!


“Chadd Everone” (who is a non- Indian and is not in any way associated with our Tribe, other than trying his best to steal it) has an agenda to cinch his Gaming Agreement with Albert D. Seeno, to build “the Biggest Casino in Northern California” but to do that, he must replace us with his phony group.

We the California Valley Miwok Tribe are asking all of you out there, to please make the calls, write the letters, emails, blogs, twitter messages, radio and tv announcements. Contract your friends, if anyone knows of any actors who are willing to help us get justice, any one who has influence in the media whether it be youtube, rez radio, newsletters, newspapers, banners, flyers, one-liners…. Anything helps!!

While (as another year is set to pass), once again, Government Officials (Bureau Officials included), etc… are readying themselves for the holidays!! Again, they have NO TIME for our concerns, our fears, our cries or our suffering, or our REALITY!!!. SCROOGE IS ALIVE AND WELL . . . WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!

For more information on how to help the Tribe, please contact us at the Tribal office at 209.931.4567 or by fax 209.931.4333 or you may contact the Tribal attorneys at Rosette & Associates, PC at 480-889-8990.


Put yourself in our place and think about how you’d feel if you were the one that was quiet and shy and had a bully constantly abusing you. Please make a difference, make the contacts, get President Obama’s attention… let him know that you want change, and that the American public supports the rights of the Native American Indians. Let him know that the California Valley Miwok Tribe needs him to step in and save it from being destroyed due to the lack of action(s) by appointed and/or elected officials who are either unwilling or unable to step up and do their job to protect this Tribe from those individuals who are causing the “Tribe” GREAT harm by using illegal tactics such as identity theft and fraud to discredit it, destroy it financially, and leave us homeless and without any recourse to defend ourselves.

Silvia Burley, Chairperson


Physical Address:

California Valley Miwok Tribe

10601 Escondido Pl

Stockton, California 95212

Tribal Office: 209.931.4567 Fax: 209.931.4333

Mailing Address

California Valley Miwok Tribe

1163 E. March Lane, Suite D-PMB#812

Stockton, California 95210-4512

http:../../..www… http:../../

It says to “get President Obama’s attention” and “make a difference.”

So, how about it?

Justice for the California Valley Miwok Tribe (Petition)

The entire tribe, elders and children included, is going to be removed by force from their land with no place to go. They are forced to barricade themselves in the tribal office. Using filing cabinets and anything else they can use to secure the building in hopes to protect their culture, their people, and basically everything they have.

We ask that Miwok tribe be allowed to stay in the land they have lived on for 7 years and be given the chance to dialogue with the appropriate legislatures and/or officials about the matter.

Gone-to-the-Spirits, a Kootenai Berdache

( – promoted by navajo)

The Columbia Plateau is the geographic region that lies between the Cascade Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east. It covers parts of present-day Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and British Columbia. It is a country that includes large rivers, such as the Columbia, semiarid plains, and forested mountains. Indian people have lived in this area for many thousands of years.

With regard to language, there are several major language families represented in the area.  To the north there are many Salish-speaking tribes, such as the Pend d’Oreilles, Coeur d’Alene, Kalispel, Spokane, and Flathead. To the south of these groups there are Sahaptian-speaking tribes, such as the Nez Perce, Walla Walla, and Umatilla. Linguistically, the Salish and Sahaptian tribes are related to tribes on the Pacific coasts which suggests that there was an ancient migration from the coast inland, probably following the rivers.

The Kootenai, whose aboriginal homeland included parts of British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, and Alberta, are an unusual Plateau tribe. Linguistically, Kootenai is classified as a language isolate: it is not related to any other language. In addition, it appears that the Kootenai migrated into the Plateau area from the Great Plains to the east of the Rocky Mountains.  

While each of the tribes of the Plateau area is unique, they do share a number of cultural characteristics. One of these is a long tradition of prophets. Some people would undergo a great personal and spiritual transformation. One common theme is for a person to die and then return to life. It was not uncommon for people, both men and women, who had had such transformations to be able to predict the future. In other words, they became prophets.

Some prophets, such as Smohalla and Jake Hunt, became known to non-Indians, but most were known only to the Indian people.

Another feature of Plateau culture, and one that is shared with Indian cultures in other areas, is the view that the dividing line between men and women is not rigid. It was not uncommon for an individual to be born with male genitalia and a female spirit, or vice versa. In living with their internal harmony and balance, it was common for these people to change their gender identities. During the nineteenth century, the fur traders would refer to these individuals as berdache.

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, a child was born in a Kootenai band in western Montana and southeastern British Columbia. She was given the name One-Standing-Lodge-Pole-Woman and she grew into a large, heavy-boned woman. It is said that there were some who doubted the she would ever marry, but then she surprised them by marrying a Norwester (a fur trader with the North West Company) about 1807. Marriage between fur traders and Indian women was a common practice at this time and was encouraged by the trading companies as a way of establishing kinship ties with the Indians. Among the Europeans, this type of marriage was called an “in-country marriage” as it was done without a Christian ceremony and it was not expected to be of a long duration. While the Europeans viewed this as a special kind of marriage, and one that differed from the European norm, from an Indian perspective this was a marriage like any other. Among the Plateau people at this time, there was neither a religious ceremony for marriage nor an expectation that such a union was last forever.

Like other Indian wives, One-Standing-Lodge-Pole-Woman went with her husband, Augustin Boisverd, when he left Kootenai country.

Later she returned to the Kootenai without her fur trader husband. When she returned to her own people she told them that she had been transformed into a man and that her name was now Gone-to-the-Spirits (Kauxuma-nupika). As was traditional among people who had undergone a spiritual transformation, including receiving a strong vision, Gone-to-the-Spirits began to dance out the story of her sexual transformation. As evidence of this transformation, Gone-to-the-Spirits now wore a man’s shirt with leggings and breechclout, and like other Kootenai men, carried a gun as well as bow and arrow.

Just like those prophets who had died and returned to life, Gone-to-the-Spirits claimed to have gained a great deal of spiritual power through the transformation from woman to man. As with others who had gone through transformations, Gone-to-the-Spirits had gained the power of prophesy. Soon the prophesies of Kauxuma-nupika spread through the Columbia and Fraser River Plateaus and contributed to rise of other religious movements in these areas.

Since Gone-to-the-Spirits was now living as a man among the Kootenai, like a Kootenai man he/she sought out a wife. After a while, he/she found a woman who had been abandoned by her husband. The two moved in together and, in Kootenai custom, were considered to be married. While many Kootenai apparently tried to find out the intimate details of this relationship, neither Gone-to-the-Spirits or his/her wife would talk about them.

As with other relationships-both European and Indian, and heterosexual and homosexual-the relationship deteriorated after a while. Before long, Gone-to-the-Spirits was openly beating his/her wife, a behavior that was not viewed with favor.

About this time, Gone-to-the-Spirits also began having problems with gambling. After he lost his bow, quiver, and canoe because of gambling, his wife then left Gone-to-the-Spirits for good. While Gone-to-the-Spirits had gained great spiritual power in her transformation into a man, she apparently acquired a number of short-comings that were often associated with men.

As a woman who had become a man, Gone-to-the-Spirits went on horse raids. While crossing a river on one raid, her brother noticed that she still had female genitalia even though she had claimed to have become a man physically. After this incident, she again changed her name to Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly (Qánqon Kámek Klaúla).

Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly then married another woman, but this relationship also soured. Once again his wife left and demonstrated the human shortcomings of this prophet.  

By 1811 Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly had gained a reputation among the tribes of the Plateau area as a prophet who foretold of both disease and the coming of a time of plenty. According to oral tradition, the spiritual power of Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly was intensified when he died and then returned to life to tell of the things he had seen.

In 1811, Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly and his wife traveled down the Columbia River to Astoria, Oregon. On this journey, they acted as couriers for the North West Company, carrying letters from Kettle Falls to Astoria, Oregon.

Along the way down the Columbia River Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly would inform the tribes they encountered that he/she had the power to introduce smallpox. While this was probably intended to increase his power, both the Chinook and the Clatsop made plans to kill him or to capture him and sell him into slavery. In this way they hoped to remove the danger of smallpox.

While in Astoria, Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly made a number of maps of the interior for the fur traders.

On the way back up the Columbia River, Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly claimed that he had been sent by the Great White Chief with a message for the people: gifts of goods and implements would be sent to them. Furthermore, the traders had cheated them by selling them goods instead of giving them to them as directed by the Great White Chief. This tended to create some bad will for the traders.

In 1837, Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly went on a raiding party with a war party of young Kootenai warriors. The war party failed to locate any enemy and so were returning home when they were ambushed by the Blackfoot. One Kootenai warrior hid in the dense brush and later told the tale of the massacre.

According to oral tradition, Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly was wounded several times before the Blackfoot warriors could subdue him. They held Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly in a sitting position and slashed at his midsection with their knives. Each time, the wound would close and heal as soon as the knife blade was withdrawn. Finally, one Blackfoot warrior slashed open his chest and quickly reached inside to remove a piece of his heart. This was a coup de grace that was reserved for only the most respected of enemies. Following this, Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly was unable to heal the wound and died after being tortured for more than half a day.

Sometime later, when the Kootenai reached the bodies of their slain warriors, they found that the body of Sitting-in-the-Water-Grizzly was undisturbed by wild animals or birds.  

American Indian Sacred Places

( – promoted by navajo)

Indian people have a great variety of different places which are considered to be sacred. Some of these are structures which Indian people have constructed; some of them are places associated with origin stories and oral traditions; some of them are places which have been used for ceremonies and other spiritual activities.

Non-Indians sometimes have difficulty in understanding and “seeing” the sacredness that Indian people attach to certain places. Often this is due to a difference in the spiritual experiences of Indians and non-Indians.  

Europeans came to the Americas as immigrants bringing with them their religions. As newcomers their religions did not have historic ties to the land and sacred space was the area which they enclosed in their churches. When these churches were abandoned – no longer used for worship by their congregations – the space they enclosed was no longer sacred and churches, therefore, could be converted to secular uses. As a result, today there are former churches which are now stores, houses, medical offices, bars, and so on.

Indian people have often enclosed their sacred spaces in a different manner: natural features, such as rivers, islands, cliffs, and mountains, are used to enclose these places. Unlike the European churches, these Native American sacred places are still sacred even when the people themselves have been moved to another location and are unable to regularly perform ceremonies at these places.  

Among Indian people, with their long association with the land, there are locations – such as geographical features – which have a prominent place in their oral tradition and in their origin stories. Some of these are places where acts of creation occurred prior to the existence of human beings and others are places where the activities of ancient ancestors took place. Once a place has become a part of the sacred landscape, it is always sacred. Unlike the European churches, which can lose their holiness when their congregations abandon them, Native American sacred places continue to be sacred even after the people no longer live in the area.  

The oral tradition of the Shoshone tells of a time when a young hunter chased a white buffalo into a lake. Since that time the spirit of the white buffalo has lived in the bottom of Bull Lake. For this reason, Bull Lake is a sacred place and Shoshone people who seek to make a spiritual connection with the spirit world will spend the night on the banks of the lake.

Bear Butte in South Dakota is sacred to the Cheyenne because of its association with the great prophet Sweet Medicine. The Cheyenne call this place Noahavose. On their historic migration to the Plains under the leadership of Sweet Medicine, a great door opened in Noahavose. Sweet Medicine was called inside by Maheo (the All Being, the Creator). For four years Sweet Medicine remained in this lodge within the mountain and was instructed in the codes of law and behavior. Before returning to his people, Sweet Medicine was then given four sacred arrows. These four sacred arrows form the core of the sacred Cheyenne medicine bundle. Thus, Bear Butte is the holiest site in the Cheyenne world.

In Nebraska there are five sacred hills which are called pahuk by the Pawnee. It is in these hills that the nahu-rac or animal spirits live. It was the nahu-rac who taught the Pawnee to build their earthlodges. The nahu-rac have continued to help the Pawnee and provide medicine people with knowledge and power. The fifth, and most holy of the pahuk lies just north of Cedar Bluffs.

It was at this fifth pahuk that a Pawnee father once sacrificed the life of his son. The animal spirits, however, brought the boy back to life so that he could deliver messages from Tirawa (the Creator) to the Pawnee elders.

Among the Hidatsa in North Dakota, the spirits destined to become human beings inhabit certain hills which are known as sacred hills. Each of these hills is an earthlodge in which babies live and are cared for by an old man. One of these hills is near the mouth of the Knife River, one is on the Heart River, and one is east of the Little Missouri River. As with other sacred sites, Indian people often leave small offerings at the sacred hills.  Women who want to bear children put toys at the foot of these hills.

Some Hidatsa remember things from the time when they were living in the baby hill before they were born. Sometimes they remember the other babies who were there with them.

In Arizona, the San Francisco Peaks rise high above the western edge of the Colorado Plateau. It is within these peaks that the katsinas – spiritual beings important to the Hopi and the Zuni – live. In the Hopi villages, some 80 miles away, the peaks stand out as a symbol of Hopi spirituality. For many centuries, the Hopi have made pilgrimages to the San Francisco Peaks, leaving offerings for the katsinas who live there. For the Hopi, San Francisco Peaks are a shrine. For many non-Indians, the San Francisco peaks are a place for skiing and mining, activities which the Hopi do not view as compatible with the sacred nature of the place.

The Sweetgrass Hills in Montana rise more than 3,000 feet above the surrounding plains. For many tribes, this area is important in their origin stories and for more than 10,000 years, Indian people have been conducting ceremonies in this area. The Sweetgrass Hills – the name comes from a mistranslation of the Blackfoot name for the area: Sweetpine Mountains – are sacred to many tribes including the Blackfoot, Kootenai, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Salish, and Cree. This is an area which is used for many different ceremonies, including the vision quest and the sun dance. In addition, many of the plants which are important in tribal spirituality grow in the area. There is no single place in the Sweetgrass Hills which is sacred: the whole area is sacred.

Indian people, like the Europeans, also build structures to enclose sacred places. Perhaps the most common of these is the sweat lodge. The sweat lodge is not a structure which soars into the heavens nor is it a structure which is intended to impress people with its size. Instead, it is a simple structure, usually small, which allows the participants to make contact with Mother Earth. The area enclosed by the sweat lodge and the area between the sweat lodge and the fire pit is sacred space. It has been made sacred by its use. Like the sacred area enclosed by a Christian church, this is an area which remains sacred even when no ceremonies are being conducted.

An Indian sacred place may be enclosed very differently than that of a Christian church. One example of this is the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming. The medicine wheel was originally constructed about 1500 years ago. The wheel is constructed of limestone rocks and is about 80 feet in diameter. It has 28 spokes radiating out from a central cairn. In addition to the wheel, there are a number of vision quest sites incorporated into it. Unlike a church, it has no roof, but still the stones enclose a sacred place.

The Medicine Wheel is a sacred site to many tribes, including the Cheyenne, the Crow, and the Shoshone. According to Crow oral tradition, the early 19th century leader Red Crow did his vision quest at the Medicine Wheel. He was visited by the little people who took him into the earth and gave him his medicine. Later in life, as he lay dying, he told his people that his soul would return to the Medicine Wheel after his death and that the people could talk to him there.  

For many Indian people there are places which are sacred because they are resource areas. It is in these areas that people come to gather the medicine plants which are important to their ceremonies and to their daily ceremonial lives. In some resource areas, people mine the minerals from Mother Earth which are used in making spiritual face paint.

One of the important resource areas for many Indian people is the area in Minnesota in which catlinite for pipes is mined. This red stone – considered by many to be formed from the blood of an ancient people – has been mined for thousands of years by many different tribes. This area has long been considered a sacred area, and as such, it was not uncommon for people who were at war with one another to be peacefully mining the stone side-by-side. As a sacred area, tribal differences were put aside. Today a part of this area is enclosed in Pipestone National Monument.

Throughout North America there are places which are felt to be sacred because of rock art or rock writing. These are areas which have pictographs (images painted on the rock) or petroglyphs (images which are carved into the rock).

In order to understand rock art, it is important to realize that from an Indian perspective the rock is a living thing. It has a soul and therefore it has the ability to talk to those who are willing to hear it. Rock art is not graffiti left by Indian explorers: it is a spiritual union with the rock. While many non-Indian “art” collectors have removed rock slabs containing petroglyphs and pictographs so that they can be displayed in galleries, museums, and homes, in so doing they have destroyed the sacred nature of this work. Pictographs and petroglyphs are more than markings on the rock: they are spiritual symbols which are associated with the rock and with the place where the rock is located.

One well-known petroglygh is Writing-on-Stone, a provincial park in Alberta, Canada. Along a seven kilometer stretch of the Milk River, sandstone outcrops have been used for petroglyphs. Among the Blackfoot, this place is known as the “place of mystery” and the place “where the ghosts live”. According to Blackfoot elders Bird Rattle and Split Ears, the writings are messages from the spirit world which can be read by medicine men. According to these elders, the messages frequently changed overnight to warn them of enemies in the area, to tell them the location of the buffalo herds or strayed horses, and to foretell future events.

Among the Anishinabe people (also called Ojibwa or Chippewa), elders would take young people to the pictograph and petroglyph sites. There the elders would read the meaning of the symbols to the young people just prior to their vision quest.

In the Southwest, Hopi oral tradition tells of wandering clans who left a record of their journeys carved in stone. As a consequence, there are many rock art sites in the Southwest which are sacred to the Hopi.

Another kind of sacred place is the trail or pilgrimage route. America was never a wilderness: it was a land which was crisscrossed by many different kinds of Indian trails. Many of these trails were – and some continue to be – important in Indian spirituality.

The Lolo Trail in Montana and Idaho was marked with rock cairns. Nez Perce travelers following the trail would pause to speak to the spirits and to add stones. On their return from the Pacific Ocean in 1806, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery was led through the Bitterroot Mountains via the Lolo Trail by three Nez Perce guides. At one point, the guides stopped the group at a large cairn of rocks on a ridgetop. In spite of the pleas of Lewis and Clark to continue the journey, the Nez Perce insisted that they must stop here for a pipe ceremony to offer their gratitude to the spirit world and to give thanks for their safe passage. Captain Clark noted that the conical mound of stones was six to eight feet in height. The Nez Perce refer to this area as the Smoking Place.

Indian people have always been keen observers of the heavens and have used the progression of the sun, the moon, and the stars to mark their ceremonial calendars. In observing the heavens, Indian astronomers build observatories which are another form of sacred place. In the Southwest, the Puebloan ancestors (often called Anasazi by the archaeologists) built an observatory with massive stones on top of Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon. In Illinois, the Indian people of Cahokia constructed their observatory with wooden poles. In Tennessee, Indian people built an earthen enclosure with its entrance marking the summer solstice.  

We’Wha, Zuni Berdache

( – promoted by navajo)

In 1882 a Washington, D.C. newspaper reported: “Society has had recently a notable addition in the shape of an Indian princess of the Zuni tribe.” While in Washington, We’Wha had an interview with President Grover Cleveland and led a charity ball organized by society women. What the newspaper and Washington social circles failed to notice was that the “princess” We’Wha was a man who wore women’s clothes and took on many of the traditional Zuni women’s roles. While this was something that would have seemed strange to the non-Indians of the time, the berdache (one term for describing this type of individual) was common not only to the Zuni, but to many other tribes.

We’Wha was born in 1849 and like all Zuni became a member of his mother’s clan (donashi:kwe,  the Badger People), and had ceremonial ties to his father’s clan (bichi:kwe, the Dogwood People). As a boy he was initiated into the South Kiva (chuba:kew kiwitsine), the kiva of the husband of the midwife who had assisted at his birth. Following this, his spiritual education included the memorization of numerous songs, prayers, myths, and lore of the kachinas. As a teenager, he joined the masked kachina dancers. Initially, he had to borrow a mask, but he later acquired his own.

While We’Wha was receiving male religious education, he was also acquiring women’s vocational skills under the guidance of his female relatives. This included grinding and preparing corn, cooking, housekeeping, gathering firewood, and carrying water (water was carried in large jugs which were balanced on the head). He also acquired skills in pottery and weaving.  

We’Wha’s skills as a potter and as a weaver reached non-Indians. He was commissioned to make pots that were destined for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. With regard to weaving, one American expert on Indian weaving at the time described We’Wha as an expert and her weaving as highly collectible. We’Wha was among the first Zuni to produce pottery and weaving for sale to non-Indians and in this way helped to start a process that would lead to traditional Indian arts being considered fine arts.  

In 1879, We’Wha went to work for the Presbyterian mission school at Zuni. The missionaries, assuming We’Wha was female paid him with goods, primarily dresses. Among the Zuni, some people may get jealous of another’s good fortune. If this person who is jealous is a witch, then the person with the good fortune may be attacked spiritually. This happened to We’Wha and as a result he became quite ill. He was treated and cured by a traditional healer and as a result made a vow to join the healer’s medicine society. As a result, We’Wha joined the Bedbug People (Beshatsilo:kwe), a society which treated burns, ulcers, cancers, and parasites. In their public rites, the Bedbug people performed with fire: dowsing themselves with coals and walking barefoot across fire beds.

In 1892, another important event in We’Wha’s life occurred. A few days before the Shalako ceremonies were to begin, Dick Tsanahe, the Pueblo’s governor, received some whiskey. In turn, he gave or sold the whiskey to some young men who had gathered at his house (or rather at his wife’s house as Zuni houses are owned by the women). One of the men, Nick Dumaka, became drunk, obnoxious, and argumentative. The other young men took him outside of the pueblo, beat him with stones and left him for dead. Dumaka, however, did not die and later defiantly taunted his attackers with words that branded him as a witch.

Among the Zuni, witchcraft – the use of spiritual powers to obtain goods, to get revenge, or to obtain sexual favors – was a serious offense. Witches were to be executed, but if they confessed, they were allowed to live in exile. The bow priests, responsible for the prosecution of witches, seized Dumaka and took him to their ceremonial chamber for trial. Dumaka’s father went to the American authorities and asked for help to save his son’s life.

The American authorities arrived and went to the house of Dick Tsanahe with the intention of arresting him for giving whiskey to Dumaka. The officials were met at the door by We’Wha  who would not let them come in. According to American accounts, We’Wha physically threw one official out and then closed the door. The door, however, closed on the man’s coattails and he had to use his saber to cut himself free.

The American authorities deployed their troops around the Pueblo, but they were met by angry Zuni who made it clear that they would fight. The Americans retreated and called for reinforcements. Outnumbered, the Zuni asked for peace and the Americans arrested the bow priest Nayuchi and We’Wha. The two were jailed without a trial and without any indication of the authority for their arrests. We’Wha spent more than a month in jail and then was released. It was the middle of winter and he walked more than 40 miles across the continental divide to return home.

When We’Wha lay dying of heart disease in 1896, Nayuchi was summoned to treat him. Nayuchi’s diagnosis was that a witch had shot bits of mutton into We’Wha’s heart. Three times Nayuchi attempted to draw out the foreign mutton, but he failed and We’Wha died.

We’Wha’s body was prepared for burial with bathing and being rubbed with corn meal. A pair of white cotton trousers was then drawn up over the legs. This was the first men’s clothing that he had worn in many years. The body was then dressed in the finest women’s clothing. The body was taken to the grave and then We’Wha’s personal possessions were destroyed.

Since We’Wha was only 49 years old when he died, his death was considered premature. The bow priests later arrested a woman accused of witchcraft and extracted a confession from her. In this way, the matter of We’Wha’s death was laid to rest.

Among the Zuni, We’Wha was ilhamana, what some anthropologists today call a berdache. We’Wha was a man who wore women’s clothing and who filled both male and female roles. As with many tribes, the berdache was recognized as a third gender.  

The Berdache

( – promoted by navajo)

In American society today there is some debate over gender and sexual identities. While there are some who are that there are only genders-male and female-and this should define the natural order of things, there are others who point out the wide variety of sexual orientation. To add to this discussion, I would like to add some information about Native American gender identities.  

Indian cultures in general did not view gender/sexuality as being restricted to just two categories. While some modern writers speak of the Indian berdache as a third gender, it’s not quite that simple. The berdache was not a third category, but a way of referring to a continuum of human behavior that doesn’t fit neatly into the European notions of male and female.

As usual, I would like to point out that there were more than 500 distinct Indian cultures in North American prior to the European invasion, so making broad generalizations about the role of the berdache in traditional Indian society is risky. In what follows below I will make some generalizations about the berdache among the Northern Plains tribes-groups such as the Blackfoot, Crow, Cheyenne, Gros Ventre, Sioux, and others.

Like most cultures, the Indian nations of the Northern Plains defined specific roles for men and for women. In general, women gathered wild plant foods while the men were hunters and warriors. However, the roles were not rigid: there were many women who hunted and went on war parties and were still considered women. Just doing things normally done by the opposite gender did not make one into a berdache.

Among most of the Northern Plains cultures, there were some boys who preferred the company of girls and who eventually dressed as girls. The ethnographic literature about these individuals generally refers to them as berdaches.  Among the Crow, at about the age of 10-12 a young boy might take on the female clothing and female work. As a male berdache he was accepted in Crow society and might marry a man. In describing the male berdache, Edwin Thompson Denig, writing in 1856, says: “He is not to be distinguished in any way from the women.” However, in Crow society the berdache was neither male nor female, but an individual who had characteristics of both.

Since the berdache was neither male nor female, it many of the Northern Plains tribes the berdache had an important role in the ceremonial life of the tribe. In the Sun Dance, for example, there were certain rituals which could be performed only by a berdache.

Among many of the Plains tribes, the berdache was felt to have strong curing powers. Among the Cheyenne, for example, war parties often included a berdache whose job was to care for the wounded. In addition, the spiritual powers of the berdache were felt to bring good luck. The presence of a berdache in a war party was also desired because of their special spiritual powers. Large war parties were seldom without a berdache.

While much of the literature about the role of the berdache in Northern Plains cultures focuses on men, there were also many instances of women who wore men’s clothing and took men’s roles. Some of these women married other women, some were warriors, and some were chiefs. Among the Blackfoot, women who took on the aggressive roles of men were referred as “manly hearted women.” They would usually begin to take on these roles as teenagers when they would join war parties. They would wear male dress, marry women, and often obtain leadership positions as warriors and/or spiritual leaders.

What was/is the American Indian berdache? Too often there is an attempt to use European categories to understand the berdache and thus to assume that they were homosexual. Undoubtedly, some were, but the role of the berdache was not a sexual one. Sometimes the berdache has been described as a transvestite or as a transgender people. Again, this is not a totally true image of who they were. Gender and sexuality in Indian cultures allowed a wide range of variation and the concept of the berdache simply shows that cultures exist which allow a great deal of freedom with regard to gender identity.  

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The Native American Church

( – promoted by navajo)

One of the largest pan-Indian spiritual movements during the past two centuries has been the Native American Church. This is a religious movement which began to emerge among the Indian nations in Oklahoma during the late nineteenth century. In its ceremonies the Native American Church incorporates elements of Christianity with some traditional Native American beliefs. In looking at the history of the Native American Church, the common myth of religious freedom in the United States is challenged, if not shattered. It is a history of struggle against repression. The reason for this oppression ostensibly centers on the use of peyote as a sacrament.  

Peyote is a small cactus which grows in Texas and Mexico. Peyote contains numerous alkaloids, including mescaline. While peyote has often been confused with the mescal bean and with mescaline, it is not the same. It is the combination of alkaloids which contribute to the effects of eating peyote.

The reaction to ingesting peyote begins with wakefulness, mild analgesia, and a sensation of fullness in the stomach or loss of appetite. Sometimes there may be active nausea, a feeling of tightness in the chest, and heightened sensitivity to nuances of sound, color, form, and texture. For some people, the use of peyote may include visions. Visions, of course, are an important part of traditional Native American spirituality.

The all-night Native American Church ceremony takes place in a tipi, a hogan, or a lodge. It includes a sacred fire, a mound of earth which serves as an altar, and a grandfather peyote button. During the ceremony peyote songs are sung, prayers are offered, cedar is burned, tobacco is smoked, and peyote is ingested.

Native Americans contrast the difference between Christianity and the peyote ceremony by saying that the Christians go into their churches and talk about God, while in the Native American Church meeting the people talk to God.

The Native American Church has incorporated many Christian elements into its ceremonies, including the idea of six days of creation followed by one day of rest. With regard to this “one day of rest”, one peyote roadman has said: “But this is an overlay, superimposed on our original awareness that every day is a holy day.”

In spite of the fact that the Native American Church has also incorporated many aspects of Christianity into its services, the ceremony has been condemned by many Christian missionaries as a “hindrance” to civilization. Both federal and state governments have responded to the missionaries’ concerns by aggressively persecuting the Church and its members.

Peyote meetings are held most often for the sake of curing. Traditional Indians see illness as a product of spiritual forces and therefore the cure for illness needs to involve spiritual forces. Some people feel that four curing meetings are needed for a complete recovery and some hold meetings to give thanks for being cured. Meetings may also be held to insure good health, for weddings, for blessing a new home, and for good luck and good fortune to the family.

Those who follow the peyote road feel that the use of alcohol is not compatible with this way of life. In fact, there are many who feel that peyote can be used to cure alcoholism. Sobriety is often stressed as an important part of peyote spiritualism. The eminent research psychiatrist Karl T. Menninger has concluded that peyote “is a better antidote to alcohol than anything the missionaries, white man, the American Medical Association, and the public health services have come up with.”

One of the concerns expressed by the uninformed is that peyote is addictive and therefore is a dangerous drug. Researchers who have studied peyote, however, have found that there is no evidence for physiological dependence, and therefore there can be no evidence for addiction. In one study of addiction which used an addictive liability index, researchers found that alcohol is most addictive (an index of 21), followed by opium (an index of 16), cocaine (an index of 14), and marijuana (an index of 8). Peyote has an index of 1. The researchers concluded that peyote should not be classified as a narcotic.

Many Native Americans point out that many Christians use a highly addictive drug – alcohol – as the sacrament in their ceremonies and that this use of alcohol has been tolerated in places and in times when alcohol use has been illegal. Many Native Americans feel that their use of peyote as a sacrament in ceremonies should be given the same tolerance.

The European opposition to peyote began relatively early. In 1620 the Catholic Inquisition in New Spain declared that the use of peyote “is an act of superstition condemned as opposed to the purity and integrity of our Holy Catholic Faith.”

Another concern about the religious freedom of the Native American Church is that the government often requires evidence of church membership and seeks to determine who is a bona fide church member and who is not. The maintenance of membership lists, the issuing of membership cards, and having membership requirements runs counter to traditional Indian culture. In order to combat the active legal suppression of the religion, the Native American Church began to legally incorporate in the early twentieth century. This has given it more legal standing.

In many states, those opposed to peyote have taken a different approach to limit the activities of the Native American Church. In many instances, the law requires that participation in Church ceremonies be limited to people who can prove that they have sufficient Indian blood, usually designated as one-fourth. In addition, this “blood” quantum must be from federally recognized tribes. In this way, the Native American Church is racially segregated by law. There are no other religions in the United States which are racially segregated by law.

At the present time, people in the United States have the freedom to believe in whatever religion they choose. However, the practice of religion – the ceremonies, the sacraments – are not freely allowed under the law. To paraphrase one Supreme Court Justice, the freedom to practice different religions, particularly that of the Native American Church, is a luxury which we cannot afford. The Court sees freedom of religion in belief, but feels the translation of beliefs into ceremonies should be restricted.

The struggle for religious freedom for the Native American Church has been fought on four basic fronts: (1) in the Courts, including state courts, federal courts, and the Supreme Court, (2) in Congress, (3) in state legislatures, and (4) in tribal councils. The fifth area has been in educating the public, both Indian and non-Indian, about the Native American Church.  

The Bureau of Indian Affairs

( – promoted by navajo)

In discussions about American Indians, one of the terms which often comes up is the BIA or Bureau of Indian Affairs. Officially the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ mission is to enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes and Alaska Natives. In this short diary, I would like to talk about the BIA, its history and its structure.  

Our current form of government was established in 1787 when the United States adopted a constitution. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of this constitution delegates to Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.” Indian tribes were seen as nations. American leadership at this time-President George Washington, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and Secretary of War Henry Knox-assumed that Indian policies were now vested in the federal government rather than in the state governments. Furthermore, they saw Indian affairs being directed by the executive branch. They saw Indian policy as a branch of foreign policy and viewed Indian tribes as foreign nations. Since the Secretary of State is involved with dealing with other nations, it would have seemed logical to place Indian affairs under the Department of State. However, since Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson was spending much of his time in France and there were critical Indian issues that had to be dealt with, Henry Knox, the Secretary of War, stepped in and assumed responsibility for Indian affairs. Thus, Indian affairs came under the War Department and in 1789 Congress formally gave the War Department authority over Indian Affairs.  

Relationships with Indian nations became more formalized in 1806 when the United States established the Office of the Superintendent of Indian Trade (the forerunner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs) within the War Department. In 1824, the Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, established the Office of Indian Affairs without Congressional authorization. He did this by appointing Thomas L. McKenney to a vacant clerkship in the War Department and then directing that all matters relating to Indians be directed through this office.

In 1849 The Office of Indian Affairs (now the Bureau of Indian Affairs) was transferred from the Department of War to the Depart¬ment of the Interior. This transfer did not change the administrative structure of the Office, since the office was predominantly civilian in orientation. Today, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is still a part of the Department of the Interior.

For much of the BIA’s existence, the person who has headed the agency has been designated as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. For the most part, these individuals have been political appointees who have had little background or understanding of Indian affairs prior to their appointment.

The first American Indian to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs was Ely Parker. He was appointed as Commissioner of Indian Affairs by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869 and was also the last Indian for a century to hold this position. Ely Parker was born with the Seneca name Hasanoanda (Coming to the Front) on the Tonawanda Reservation. The name “Parker” was the family name which his ancestors had adopted from an English captive and the name “Ely” was given to him by an Anglo teacher. Parker wanted to become a lawyer, read law for three years, but could not be admitted to the bar because he was Seneca and therefore could not become an American citizen. He then became an engineer and while working on a federal building in Galena, Illinois he met Ulysses S. Grant. During the Civil War, he served with Grant, rose to the rank of General, and was selected to write the articles of surrender at the end of the war. He was not only the best educated Union officer at the surrender of the Confederacy, he also had the best handwriting.

In 1947 the Indian Office was formally renamed the Bureau of Indian Affairs. At the same time, Congress was looking at the possibility of dismantling the agency and terminating federal relations with Indian tribes. In anticipation of ending the BIA, the responsibilities for Indian health treatment was transferred from the BIA to the Public Health Service (PHS). Many people felt that this transfer would provide better care for Indians because the PHS has more resources and political clout. Today the Indian Health Service remains a part of PHS rather than the BIA.

In 1977, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was upgraded within the Department of the Interior and the head of the agency was designated as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. Within the governmental bureaucracy, assistant secretaries have more influence over budget decisions and they have greater access to members of Congress. The position of Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs is a political appointee who serves at the pleasure of the President. As political appointees, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs carries out the mandates and policies of the President with little input or consultation by or with tribal leadership.  

Larry Echo Hawk is currently serving as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. Mr. Echo Hawk, a member of the Pawnee tribe, is the 11th Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to be sworn in since the position was established by Congress. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Echo Hawk served for 14 years as a Professor of Law at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School where he taught Federal Indian law, criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, criminal trial practice, and published several scholarly papers.

The BIA does not deal with all American Indian tribes, but only with those tribes which have federal recognition. Traditionally, the government has sought to limit the number of tribes and the number of Indian people which it has to recognize. In the recent meeting with President Obama and tribal leaders, only federally recognized tribes were asked to attend. Leaders and members of other tribes often feel that they are left out of the process.

There are also some who feel that the BIA, as an instrument of colonialization, has outlived its purpose and should therefore be dissolved. The question for the twenty-first century is what should the role of the BIA be in tribal life, and, conversely, what should the role of Indian nations be in American government?  

There Was No Centennial for Indian Territory

( – promoted by navajo)

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“Brand new state, Brand new state, gonna treat you great!

Gonna give you barley, carrots and pertaters,

Pasture fer the cattle, Spinach and Termayters!

Flowers on the prairie where the June bugs zoom,

Plen’y of air and plen’y of room,

Plen’y of room to swing a rope!

Plen’y of heart and plen’y of hope!


“The whole management of Indians has been abnormal . . . Everything is controlled by arbitrary laws and regulations, and not by moral, social, or economic principles.”

All of the tribes experienced a Trail of Tears due to the forced relocations; some were more or less severe. However, regardless of their differing severity, the forced relocations were all part of the U.S. extermination policy, or genocide, to solve their “Indian Problem.” The “problem” in Indian Territory was that the tribes who were forced to relocate under conditions that significantly reduced their population through extermination or starvation, some in harsh winter conditions, was that they survived the forced relocations at all. Hence, a “solution” was needed to insure white domination in Indian Territory. Henry Dawes and his Dawes Act fueled by racism, denial of joint statehood, and a cruel “wedding” fusing Indian Territory with the State of Oklahoma all contributed to Oklahoma’s Statehood through the elimination of many tribal lands and the great diminishment or total elimination of tribal political influence.

The white supremist attitudes of Henry Dawes, author of the Dawes Act and which led to the Allotment Era, was paramount in shifting land ownership from whole tribes to the sole individual.

Kill the Indian, Save the Man

Massachusetts Senator Henry Dawes, convinced that the white man’s ways were superior, pooh-poohed the idea of communal property, although he did express sympathy for the Natives. “The common field is the seat of barbarism, while the separate farm is the door to civilization,” he said. Dawes explained that selfishness was the root of advanced civilization, and he could not understand why the Indians were not motivated to possess and achieve more than their neighbors.

The white supremist attitudes of Dawes was reflected in whites prior to the Allotment Era that Dawes formally initiated.

The Indians Are

Getting Uppity

Berthrong describes the attitudes of the whites who overwhelmed the Cheyenne and Arapahoe reservation subsequent to allotment:

White-Indian relations after the opening of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation were tragic. Deep prejudice often bordering on racism marked whites’ attitudes toward their Indian neighbors…If the Indians had possessed more economic potential, skills, and incentives to acquire additional or replacement property, the losses they suffered through fraud and theft would not have been so severe or irremediable. As it was, the discrimination, the loss of property, and the contempt in which the Indian was held by farmers and ranchers made it impossible for many of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes to follow the ‘white man’s road.’ (Berthrong, p.207)

Guy Dull Knife Jr. recalls his boyhood impression of whites outside the reservation borders: “He remembered the dirty looks, the waiting for whites to enter first, the standing in line, others cutting in front of them, the occasional cursing, clerks tailing him up and down the aisles and the signs that said ‘No Dogs or Indians Allowed’.” (Starita, p.326)

Dawes’s anti Indian sentiment bled over into the legislation he created, the notorious Dawes Act. The facts that it authorized the president, Roosevelt at the time, to twist tribal land ownership into individual land ownership if the land was deemed “advantageous for agricultural and grazing purposes” when Oklahoma’s primary assets were farming and agriculture prior to its statehood, were by no means innocent and coincidental. To the contrary, it was divide and conquer in retrospect. 

Divide –

(Underline mine)


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in all cases where any tribe or band of Indians has been, or shall hereafter be, located upon any reservation created for their use, either by treaty stipulation or by virtue of an act of Congress or executive order setting apart the same for their use, the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, authorized, whenever in his opinion any reservation or any part thereof of such Indians is advantageous for agricultural and grazing purposes, to cause said reservation, or any part thereof, to be surveyed, or resurveyed if necessary, and to allot the lands in said reservation in severalty to any Indian located thereon in quantities as follows:


In addition, the law severely reduced Indian holdings; after all individual allocations had been made, the extensive lands remaining were declared surplus and opened for sale to non-Indians. In 1887, the tribes had owned about 138 million acres; by 1900 the total acreage in Indian hands had fallen to 78 million.

– and conquer.

As Oklahoma sought statehood the U.S. government again divided reservation lands to sell to white settlers, leaving just a small parcel for reservation land.

The Merriam Report: A Look At “Real” Life

The report found many contributing factors, one of the major ones being the Allotment Policy.  In the Merriam Report, it was also said that

Not accompanied by adequate instruction in the use of property, it has largely failed in the accomplishment of what was expected of it.  It has resulted in much loss of land and an enormous increase in the details of administration without a compensating advance in the economic ability of the Indians…it almost seeded as if the government assumed that some magic in individual ownership of property would in itself prove an educational civilizing factor, but unfortunately this policy had for the most part operated in the opposite direction.  Individual ownership in many instances permitted Indians to sell their allotment and to live for a time on the unearned income resulting from the sale.(2)

100 Years in the Land of the Red Man

“When the Allotment Era came into being, it changed every perspective we had on land–it went from the control of the tribe to the control of the individual,” he explained.

Those individuals, Jones recounted, were illegally taxed and many lost their land by their failure to pay those taxes, largely because their grasp of the new and foreign concept of individual private land ownership didn’t quite match the speed of the government’s enforcement of its imposed tax policy.

Continuing, as the Iroquois Confederacy helped to shape American Democracy on a national level, the Sequoyah Constitution helped to shape the Oklahoma Constitution on a state level.


No historian can properly review the provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution without considering the Sequoyah Convention which convened at Muskogee in 1905; for some of the most important provisions of the Constitution derived their inspiration from the Sequoyah Constitution, notably: Article nine on Corporations, the method of Legislative apportionment, the Great Seal, less than a unanimous verdict of Jurors in trials of civil causes, compulsory teaching of Agriculture and Domestic Arts in the public schools, the names of many Counties in old Indian Territory, et cetera.

As Vice-President of the Sequoyah Convention of 1905 and as President of the Guthrie Constitutional Convention of 1906, I witnessed some facts of historical value, hitherto not given publication.

-huge snip –

“You know many people in Oklahoma Territory and I wish you would remember this, ‘The politicians of Oklahoma City and Guthrie will try to dominate the convention and shut out the Indian Territory along with western Oklahoma. When statehood comes, remember to keep “tab” on the delegates elected and for some good man over there, not allied with the machine, for president of the Convention’.” To which I agreed.

But that wasn’t part of the “solution,” Roosevelt squelched Indian Territory’s attempts at having joint statehood with Oklahoma. As the result, there was no Centennial for Indian Territory.


After the introduction of a bill for admitting Indian Territory as the State of Sequoyah sank in Congress in December 1905-January 1906, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt recommended joint statehood.

What was part of the “solution” was a cruel “wedding” between Indian Territory and the State of Oklahoma simultaneously with Oklahoma’s admittance into statehood.


Rev. Dodson:

Representing the Indian Territory is Mrs. Anna Bennett of Muskogee. 

(Durant presents Mrs. Bennett to Jones, bows, and steps back.)

Mrs. Bennett:

I will.  And to you I present my hand and my fortunes, convinced that  your love is genuine and sincere.


Do you, Mr. Oklahoma Territory, take this woman to be your lawfully  wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forth, in union as the  State of Oklahoma?

To bring this to a close, all of the tribes experienced a Trail of Tears due to the forced relocations; some were more or less severe. However, the tears did not end with the forced relocations. The cruel mock wedding ceremony caused tears; being shut out of the democratic process caused more tears after the denial of duel joint statehood, as did the Dawes Act and all the racism that accompanied it. Simultaneously, the Indian Boarding Schools were working their “solution,” which would continue until approximately 1970, while the forced sterilizations would work their “solution” and end in the mid 1970’s. No Indian, no “problem” for the whites who cut the Indians out of life, democracy, or both.  

Smudging, Paint, & Dreamcatchers

( – promoted by navajo)

While there are more than 500 distinct American Indian cultural traditions in North America, those of the Northern Plains-Montana, the Dakotas, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Wyoming, Nebraska-have most frequently captured the imaginations of the popular media. As a consequence, when many non-Indians think about Indians, the images of the Northern Plains nations most frequently come to mind. There are many non-Indians who seek to follow a mystical path which incorporates elements of American Indian spirituality, and this spirituality tends to be inspired by the popular conceptions of the Northern Plains nations.

In this diary I would like to explain some of the common Northern Plains Indian spiritual practices which are often incorporated into contemporary non-Indian spiritual paths. These practices include smudging, the use of paint (mineral coloration), and the dreamcatcher.  

One of the most common spiritual practices is smudging-the making of smoke. Smudging is a part of almost all traditional Northern Plains spiritual activities. The smoke of sage, sweetgrass, and other plants is often used for purification. In some instances, the smoke from the burning plants, or mixture of plants, is pulled across the body in a cleansing action. The smoke is a purifying agent, a means of dispelling the everyday atmosphere and substituting a pleasant odor for the spirits.

Smudging makes it possible to see and communicate directly with the spirits. Smudging opens up the portal which allows humans to penetrate the barrier that separates us from the spiritual. Thus, smudging is frequently the first ritual in a ceremony. Smudging may also be repeated during a ceremony.

It is not just human people who are smudged. Houses, cars, guns, computers, and other items often smudged to bring them into harmony. This is because it is believed that every object-even those sometimes considered inanimate-have a spirit.

One of the difficulties with the use of smudge during Indian ceremonies is found in prisons. In those prisons in which Indians are allowed to have traditional ceremonies, prison officials have often mistaken the smell of the smudge for illegal drugs and this has resulted in having the ceremonies interrupted.

The painting of the body, face, and hands is an important part of many ceremonies. While it is common for non-Indians to call this “war paint,” this is a practice which is not necessarily related to war. Blackfoot elder Long Standing Bear Chief explains: “We believe that the Creator gave paint as one of four gifts to the human child of this Great Holy Being. Paint was given to use as a means of painting a person in difficulty because they were being marked for special recognition as being a person of the Source of Life’s making.”

Traditionally, the paint was made from ochre, a type of mineral, which pounded into a powder and then mixed with fat (bear fat was often preferred). It would be applied using the fingers.

Some individuals paint themselves with special designs which have been given to them by their guardian spirits. The designs and colors they use may symbolize their special relationship with the spirits. In some situations, the pattern of the painting may be dictated by the ceremony itself. In the traditional Cheyenne Sun Dance during the nineteenth century, for example, the dancers were painted with designs relating to the day of the ceremony.

The dreamcatcher is often sold in bookstores, trading posts, and new age spirituality shops. It is common that a short explanation of the dreamcatcher will come with it. Sometimes this explanation stems from the vivid imagination of non-Indian artists. Each of the tribes in which dreamcatchers are used has its own story regarding its origin and spiritual use.

Basically, the dreamcatcher is simply a circle which contains a web. Other symbolic items may be attached to the web or to the circle. In many of the tribes of the Northeastern Woodlands, the dreamcatcher was constructed from pliable branches, such as those of willow. It was traditionally intended to be hung over a child’s cradle and it was not intended to be a lasting artifact.

Today, the dreamcatcher is often used by adults. The symbolism in it may reflect a personal path. When I make dreamcatchers for other people I usually try to personalize them for that individual. The purpose of the dreamcatcher is, of course, to aid in remembering and interpreting dreams. For some, it is a way to enhance helpful dreams while reducing those dreams that create terror.

Keeping in mind that dreams often come to us when we are sleeping, there are many who feel that having a dreamcatcher hanging from the rearview mirror in the car is not really appropriate. Driving is not really an appropriate place to be attempting to contact the dream world.  

Recognizing Genocide Denial Against American Indians

The extent to which a Nation denies the genocide it has committed is a measure of that Nation’s social conscience. The social conscience of the United States is infected with numerous rationalizations that keep the dark light from shining. Federal and state institutions are named after mass murderers, and the land tells a story of massacres and atrocities that occurred. But the truth is not forgotten, it is denied.


8. DENIAL is the eighth stage that always follows a genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims. They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile.

Genocide is not just denied in the United States, it is celebrated.


The term “redskins” actually refers to the Indian skins and body parts that bounty hunters had to show in order to receive payment for killing Indians, the National Congress of American Indians argued in a brief filed before the high court.

What we shall see, is that denying the genocide of the American Indian is for ideological or economic reasons. What we need to know, is how specifically people deny the genocide of the American Indian.

Leonard Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes. “Crow Dog.” pp. 6-7.

Only when we saw them building roads through our land, wagons at first, and then the railroad, when we watched them building forts, killing off all the game, committing buffalo genocide, and we saw them ripping up our Black Hills for gold, our sacred Paha Sapa, the home of the wakinyan, the thunderbirds, only then did we realize what they wanted was our land. Then we began to fight. For our earth. For our children. That started what the whites call the Great Indian Wars of the West. I call it the Great Indian Holocaust.

Ideological reasons are a motive for denying genocide. For example, “A nation ashamed of its past will fear its future;” and, “Such attitudes, which dominate the councils of the elite, are the single greatest threat to our survival.” Does the dominant culture’s survival really depend on denying that “battles” were massacres and Hitler was inspired by “actual U.S. examples?”


And…quoting from Chapter 5 – The Earth Is Our Mother from the book The State of Native America, Genocide, Colonization and Resistance, edited by Annette Jaimes, ISBN 0-89608-424-9:

– snip –

..Even the the nazi tactic of concentrating ‘undesireables’ prior to their forced ‘relocation or reduction’ was drawn from actual U.S. examples, including internment of the Cherokees and other ‘Civilized Tribes’ during the 1830’s before the devastatingly lethal Trail of Tears was forced upon them, and the comparable experience of the Navajo people at the Bosque Redondo during the period 1864-68.

Of course the dominant culture’s survival does not really depend on denying that “battles” were massacres and Hitler was inspired by “actual U.S. examples.” Remembering the dominant culture is a mindset, at least one author and possibly his readers do feel some sort of survival instinct in connection with their genocide denial. We’ll see those specific examples shortly. But we also know there are economic considerations, namely being held accountable, that motivate some to deny genocide.…

Newspapers of the day publicized bounty notices on current “uprisings.” A 1922 article in the Rocky Mountain News reported a $25 reward for those who defeated “efforts to sign the roads into the Navajo reservation … The redskins are said to tear out or carry away all sign-boards.”

The Rocky Mountain News had political and proprietary interests in the Colorado gold and in clearing the territory of Indians to get at it. The newspaper started a drumbeat against Cheyenne Dog Soldiers and other “hostiles” that culminated in the Sand Creek Massacre of a peace camp of Cheyenne elders, pregnant women and children on Nov. 29, 1864.

The News celebrated the “Battle” of Sand Creek, lauding the Colorado Volunteers’ “Bloody Thirdsters” as having “covered themselves with glory.” By contrast, the U.S. Army officers on site reported it as the Sand Creek “Massacre” and described the soldiers as “barbaric” and “covered with gore.”  

Until now, we have discussed some “whys,” which can be simplified into ideological or economic reasons.

Denials Of The Genocide Of Native Americans

There are many other examples of denial by perpetrators who wish to escape negative reactions to their deeds. More troubling are the later denials by people not directly involved in the genocidal events but who appear to have ideological reasons for their denials.

But Michael Medved and Don Feder and give us some clear examples of genocide denial, in addition to labeling massacres as battles. Medved “Claim(s) that the deaths were inadvertent,”  while expressing ideological reasons.…

By Michael Medved

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Moreover, the real decimation of Indian populations had nothing to do with massacres or military actions, but rather stemmed from infectious diseases that white settlers brought with them at the time they first arrived in the New World.

– snip –

A nation ashamed of its past will fear its future.

Twelve Ways To Deny A Genocide

3. Claim that the deaths were inadvertent.

As a result of famine, migration, or disease, not because of willful murder.

Yes, 90% to 95% of villages were already depopulated because of disease, but that does not excuse the killers who exterminated the indigenous survivors.

In a different tone but still denying genocide, Feder ” Rationalize(s) the deaths as the result of tribal conflict, coming to the victims out of the inevitability of their history of relationships.” But Feder substitutes white encroachment for another tribe. He minimizes the Great Indian Holocaust, as Crow Dog calls it, as merely “every nation includes its share of invasions, dispossessions and injustices.” Next, he supplies his own ideological reasons for denying the genocide as previously mentioned.

(My insertion)

Pilgrims Pilloried in streets of Plymouth

Twelve Ways To Deny A Genocide

5. Rationalize the deaths as the result of tribal conflict, coming to the victims out of the inevitability of their history of relationships.

This was a witty rejoinder to my observation that the history of every nation includes its share of invasions, dispossessions and injustices.

– snip –

Plymouth protesters insist that America was a tragic mistake, our history is ignoble and the only valid reason for our continued existence is to provide racial reparations. Such attitudes, which dominate the councils of the elite, are the single greatest threat to our survival.

The extent to which a Nation denies the genocide it has committed is a measure of that Nation’s social conscience. The social conscience of the dominant culture does not want to lose its power, so it restrains its own humanity with ideologies and anything that points the finger the other way.…

Denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide. It is what Elie Wiesel has called a “double killing.” Denial murders the dignity of the survivors and seeks to destroy remembrance of the crime. In a century plagued by genocide, we affirm the moral necessity of remembering.

But the real power the dominant culture loses is the power to be caring human beings. Much more needs to be researched and written about this topic.

Breaking News: Cobell v Salazar Settled

( – promoted by navajo)

A negotiated settlement has ended the Cobell v Salazar suit involving trust management. As reported in an earlier diary, the case stems from government management of individual Indian lands. At the end of the nineteenth century, Indians were viewed as incompetent and therefore the government managed their lands for them. This meant that the government negotiated the leases, collected the rents, and supposedly deposited the money into an account for the Indians.  Under the law, the government was acting as a trustee for the Indians. As oil, gas, minerals, and timber became important resources, the government also leased these resources to non-Indians on behalf of the Indians.

In 1996 Blackfoot banker Elouise Cobell filed a class-action suit against the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Treasury charging that Indian individual trust accounts had been mismanaged. The suit was originally designated Cobell v. Babbitt. With a change in administrations, the case later became Cobell v. Norton, then Cobell v Kempthorne and finally, Cobell v. Salazar.

Under the negotiated agreement a fund of $1.4 billion will distributed to member of the class action suit to compensate them for their historical accounting claims.

In addition, the settlement establishes a $2 billion fund for the voluntary buy-back and consolidation of fractionated land interests. The land consolidation program will provide cash payments to individual Indians and free up the land for the benefit of tribal communities. Fractionated lands resulted when individual Indians who had been allotted lands under the Dawes Act died and their intestate heirs received an equal, undivided interest in the lands as tenants in common. Over time, it became common to have hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of owners of a single parcel of land. This made use and development of the land difficult.

According to news reports:

“This is an historic, positive development for Indian country and a major step on the road to reconciliation following years of acrimonious litigation between trust beneficiaries and the United States,” Secretary Salazar said. “Resolving this issue has been a top priority of President Obama, and this administration has worked in good faith to reach a settlement that is both honorable and responsible. This historic step will allow Interior to move forward and address the educational, law enforcement, and economic development challenges we face in Indian Country.”

“Over the past thirteen years, the parties have tried to settle this case many, many times, each time unsuccessfully,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “But today we turn the page. This settlement is fair to the plaintiffs, responsible for the United States, and provides a path forward for the future.”