National Parks & American Indians: Mesa Verde

( – promoted by navajo)

Nearly a thousand years ago, Ancestral Puebloans (sometimes called Anasazi) began to construct pueblos in caves and under the rock hangings of the canyon cliffs in southern Colorado. Three hundred years later, these pueblos were abandoned because of a prolonged drought. Then in 1888, rancher Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charlie Mason came across the ruins of an enormous village in the cliffs of Cliff Canyon. They named the village Cliff Palace. In exploring the area, they discovered two more large ruins which they named Spruce Tree House and Square Tower House.

Cliff Palace

Spruce Tree House

Wetherill and Mason returned to the ruins and dug up a large number of artifacts which they later displayed at the Fair Building in Durango, Colorado.

While Wetherhill and Mason are commonly credited with “discovering” the Mesa Verde ruins, it is important to note that the Utes already knew about the Mesa Verde ruins. Most of ruins lay on Ute lands. The Utes avoided the ruins, which were considered to harbor spirits of the dead that would harm living people.

Cliff Palace 2

In addition, several non-Indians had also explored the area prior to Wetherhill and Mason. In 1765 Don Juan María de Rivera led an expedition into the area and reported seeing ancient ruins. These may have been the ruins of Mesa Verde, but the report provided no identifiable features.

In 1874, pioneer photographer William Henry Jackson was guided into Two Story House by a local miner. He took the first photographs of a cliff dwelling in the Mesa Verde region. In 1884, another prospector, S. E. Osborn, spent the winter in the area and explored Balcony House.

In 1890, Benjamin Wetherhill wrote to the Smithsonian Institution suggesting that the ruins be made into a national park so that the tourists would not destroy them.

In 1899, a group of women determined to halt the vandalism at the Mesa Verde ruins and to attract tourists to the area held a meeting on the Southern Ute reservation with Ute leaders Ignacio and Acowitz. They suggested that the Ute police the park and proposed a lease of $300 per year. Chief Ignacio demanded $9,000 at one time and the negotiations failed.

President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill which created Mesa Verde National Park in 1906. This was the first national park created to preserve ancient ruins. Today the park includes 4,000 known archaeological sites which include 600 cliff dwellings.

The initial Act passed by Congress included 42,000 acres of Ute land. However, because of a faulty survey almost none of the ruins were actually located in the new national park. To correct this, the bill was amended to place all unpatented prehistoric ruins on Indian or federal land within five miles of the park boundary under the custodianship of the park.

In 1911, the Indian Service sent its top negotiator, James McLaughlin, to talk with the Ute about the expansion of Mesa Verde National Park. Meeting with 48 members of the Wiminuche Band, McLaughlin explained that a number of cliff dwellings were left out of the park. The park needed just a five mile parcel and the government would give the Ute a larger piece in exchange for it.

One of the interpreters, Nathan King, pointed out to government negotiators that the Ute already owned the land that the government was trying to give them. In addition, the lands which they would be giving up contained valuable springs. The negotiators then told the Ute that the government was strong enough to take the land away from them for the park. Having no choice, the Ute agreed to the transfer. As a result, the Ute gave up an additional 10,800 acres of their land for Mesa Verde National Park and they received 20,160 acres of their own land in exchange.

In 1913, a survey found that the boundary for Mesa Verde National Park excluded Balcony House. Without bothering to notify the Ute, Congress amended legislation to transfer an additional 1,320 acres from the reservation to the park.

Balcony House

In 1978, Mesa Verde National Park was designated as a World Heritage Site.

In 1986, the Ute took advantage of a surveying error which put part of a well-traveled road in Mesa Verde National Park on tribal lands. They established a facility that offers souvenir and refreshment sales as well as helicopter tours. The National Park Service was not happy with this unregulated facility.

In 2006, 100 years after the National Park was created, 1,500 human remains and nearly 5,000 associated funerary items-pottery, beads, basketry, and other artifacts-that had been excavated from Mesa Verde National Park during the past 100 years were repatriated and reburied at an undisclosed location within the park. The 24 tribes culturally affiliated with the park appointed the Hopi to perform the reburial ceremonies. The repatriation was carried out under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). According to the Mesa Verde National Park website:

http://www.nps.gov/meve/histor…

The reburial ceremony was a result of 12 years of consultation with the park’s 24 associated tribes, and was performed by both park staff and the Hopi tribe. Due to the sensitive nature of the event, and out of respect for the tribes, the reburial was closed to the general public and took place in an undisclosed park location.

Balcony House 2

American Indians Candidates: Oklahoma

( – promoted by navajo)

When many Indian nations were forcibly removed to what was has become Oklahoma, they were told that no political communities would be established except for those established by the Indians themselves. The state of Oklahoma, however, was not established by the Indians, but by the American settlers. Unlike other western states which have often ignored their Indian heritage, Oklahoma has strongly embraced its heritage and has acknowledged its Indian population.

Oklahoma has elected Indians to public office since it obtained statehood: Robert L. Owen (Cherokee) was elected to the United States Senate and Cherokee tribal attorney and former speaker of the Cherokee House of Representatives James S. Davenport was elected to Congress.

At the present time, Oklahoma is the only state where there are more Republican Indians serving in the legislature than Democrats.  There are twelve Republicans in the House and seven Democrats.  There are three Democrats in the Senate. This year there are a number of Democratic Indian candidates supported by INDN’s List running for office in Oklahoma.  

State Auditor and Inspector:

Steve Burrage (Choctaw) was appointed State Auditor and Inspector in July 2008 and is now running for election. In accepting the appointment, he said, “I want the State Auditor’s Office to be the best auditing firm in Oklahoma.” He immediately set work to accomplish this benchmark. Steve has conducted audits that have prosecuted felons and saved the state of Oklahoma hundreds of thousands of dollars.

State Representative:

Cory Williams (Cherokee) was elected to the state legislature (District 34) by 63 votes in 2008. He is currently running for reelection in one of the toughest State House races in Oklahoma. Republicans  used smear tactics and dirty tricks to try to beat him two years ago in one of the nastiest races in Oklahoma and they are will stop at nothing to try to defeat this progressive champion in November.

Ken Luttrell (Cherokee) represents one of the most Republican districts in Oklahoma currently held by a Democrat. Republicans are committed to defeating him. Luttrell is a former member of the Communications Workers of America Union and serves on the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators.

Maya Torralba (Kiowa) is challenging an incumbent Republican in District 56. A champion of progressive causes, she completed the 2007 INDN Campaign Camp. According to her website:

It is Maya’s personal belief that Native American and Oklahoma values are Progressive values. These include lifting our human brothers and sisters to a higher standard of living; making sure our elders and children live in a safe community; paving a smooth road to educate our future generations; and keeping technology and the environment in a sustainable balance.

http://www.rebuildwithmaya.com/

District Attorney:

Jeff Jones (Osage) is running for District Attorney against a right wing State House member. None of Oklahoma’s 27 District Attorneys at the present time are tribal members. Jones was a member of the Teamsters Union. He got his law degree by going to law school at night.

A Final Note:

Indians have long memories. The forced removed of Indians to Oklahoma was promoted and celebrated by Andrew Jackson, a Democrat. There are some Indians who have never forgiven the Democrats for this. We must continue to show Indian people that Democrats, not Republicans, have their best interests at heart.

PLEASE MAKE A CONTRIBUTION AT INDN’S LIST TO HELP JOHN IN THIS RACE!

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Native American Netroots Web BadgeCross Posted at Native American Netroots

 An ongoing series sponsored by the Native American Netroots team focusing on the current issues faced by American Indian Tribes and current solutions to those issues.

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What the Pledge means to Indian Country

We hate health care reform. The bill was too many pages, too complicated and didn’t fix all the problems right now, this minute. (One of America’s core democratic values is our impatience.)

But the why is fascinating. Many of us hate the reform bill because it went too far; but most of us are unhappy because health care reform didn’t go far enough. We wanted more action, a smarter health care system, even, more government to make our health care system work smarter.

Yet that voter angst – both for and against – set the stage for this November election and the Republicans’ Pledge to America. “In a self-governing society, the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed, and regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent,” the pledge says.  (Except that some of us do give our consent.)

Elections are policy choices. And this GOP Pledge is a clear guide about what Republicans would do if given power. There are significant implications for Indian Country in this document (even though American Indians and Alaska Natives aren’t mentioned at all).

The Pledge says: “Because the new health care law kills jobs, raises taxes, and increases the cost of health care, we will immediately take action to repeal this law.”

But if that were to happen it would mean the repeal of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. That law was just made permanent after nearly a decade of congressional inaction to reauthorize the 1976 act. This act was both symbolic and practical, setting the course for many improvements in the Indian health system ranging from improved funding to better training and recruitment.

Of course it won’t be easy to repeal the health care bill. The bar is set high: Republicans would have to round up enough votes to beat a presidential veto, a two-thirds majority. So the Pledge outlines a back up plan: ” We will fight efforts to fund the costly new health care law.”

The Pledge promises to return federal spending to 2008 levels. The Indian Health Service budget was $3.35 billion that year; in fiscal year 2011 the president is requesting $4.4 billion. That’s nearly a 24 percent cut in existing services at IHS. (That does not include the additional money spent from the stimulus funds that would also be eliminated.)

The problem is these look like big numbers: Four point four billion dollars! But it’s not news to Indian Country to report that the Indian Health Service is already underfunded. We’re talking about an agency that spends less per patient than any other health care system in America, including federal prisons.

The Pledge to America would roll back all government spending to 2008 levels in education, at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and that would impact tribal contracts for those same programs. As National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel said in March: “In every area of the federal budget, Indian programs receive less per capita than for the rest of the nation.” That will be even more so if these cuts come to pass.

This is what the Pledge to America looks like in Indian Country: Deep spending cuts; layoffs for federal and tribal employees working through federal contracts; and, if there’s no consensus from the Democrats in Congress, the potential of another government shut down.

Perhaps Indian Country is considered a necessary sacrifice because tax cuts are the all important measure of good government. Yet federal taxes are less than 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the lowest share since 1950. But that tax cut pledge is paramount, right?

Then again the word “pledge” out to be of particular interest to Indian Country. Like it or not the United States made pledges to Indian Country, such as the one to provide health care. But it’s a pledge that is easily dismissed by Republicans so eager to curb the power of the state. Some promises matter more than others.

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s new book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

Posted in Uncategorized

What the Pledge to America means to Indian Country

( – promoted by navajo)

Trahant Reports

By Mark Trahant

We hate health care reform. The bill was too many pages, too complicated and didn’t fix all the problems right now, this minute. (One of America’s core democratic values is our impatience.)

But the why is fascinating. Many of us hate the reform bill because it went too far; but most of us are unhappy because health care reform didn’t go far enough. We wanted more action, a smarter health care system, even, more government to make our health care system work smarter.

Yet that voter angst – both for and against – set the stage for this November election and the Republicans’ Pledge to America. “In a self-governing society, the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed, and regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent,” the pledge says.  (Except that some of us do give our consent.)

Elections are policy choices. And this GOP Pledge is a clear guide about what Republicans would do if given power. There are significant implications for Indian Country in this document (even though American Indians and Alaska Natives aren’t mentioned at all).

The Pledge says: “Because the new health care law kills jobs, raises taxes, and increases the cost of health care, we will immediately take action to repeal this law.”

But if that were to happen it would mean the repeal of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. That law was just made permanent after nearly a decade of congressional inaction to reauthorize the 1976 act. This act was both symbolic and practical, setting the course for many improvements in the Indian health system ranging from improved funding to better training and recruitment.

Of course it won’t be easy to repeal the health care bill. The bar is set high: Republicans would have to round up enough votes to beat a presidential veto, a two-thirds majority. So the Pledge outlines a back up plan: ” We will fight efforts to fund the costly new health care law.”

The Pledge promises to return federal spending to 2008 levels. The Indian Health Service budget was $3.35 billion that year; in fiscal year 2011 the president is requesting $4.4 billion. That’s nearly a 24 percent cut in existing services at IHS. (That does not include the additional money spent from the stimulus funds that would also be eliminated.)

The problem is these look like big numbers: Four point four billion dollars! But it’s not news to Indian Country to report that the Indian Health Service is already underfunded. We’re talking about an agency that spends less per patient than any other health care system in America, including federal prisons.

The Pledge to America would roll back all government spending to 2008 levels in education, at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and that would impact tribal contracts for those same programs. As National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel said in March: “In every area of the federal budget, Indian programs receive less per capita than for the rest of the nation.” That will be even more so if these cuts come to pass.

This is what the Pledge to America looks like in Indian Country: Deep spending cuts; layoffs for federal and tribal employees working through federal contracts; and, if there’s no consensus from the Democrats in Congress, the potential of another government shut down.

Perhaps Indian Country is considered a necessary sacrifice because tax cuts are the all important measure of good government. Yet federal taxes are less than 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the lowest share since 1950. But that tax cut pledge is paramount, right?

Then again the word “pledge” out to be of particular interest to Indian Country. Like it or not the United States made pledges to Indian Country, such as the one to provide health care. But it’s a pledge that is easily dismissed by Republicans so eager to curb the power of the state. Some promises matter more than others.

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s new book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

Posted in Uncategorized

Starving in the Land of Plenty: Hunger in Native America. Feeding America Blogathon

My father knew what it was like to go hungry.  

Even before the onset of the Great Depression, his family was intimately familiar with hunger.  Mixed-blood Indians living off the rez, in an area where cowards on horseback stalked the countryside in sheets and white hoods, were not the most “employable.”  Gramps traveled miles every day, on foot, looking for work.  Sometimes he’d find something; just as often, he’d come trudging home, late at night, with nothing to show for it but sore feet and an empty stomach.  If he was lucky, someone might hire him for 16 hours of backbreaking labor in exchange for a sack of beans, or a little rice – or on a really good day, a whole chicken (that Grandma had to pluck and dress).  Most often, the beans or rice were served without salt, pepper, butter, or anything else.

To his dying day, my father hated rice.

But to hear him tell it, they were still lucky compared to some kids at his one-room schoolhouse.  There were a pair of brothers who we invariably described as “dirt poor.”  He used to tell the story of how, one day as the kids were dropped off by the school bus, one of the wealthier white kids tossed an unwanted hard-boiled egg out of his lunch sack onto the ground (presumably so that his mother wouldn’t know he’d wasted food).  It landed in the dirt; already peeled, it was instantly covered.  One of the “dirt poor” brothers pounced on it, blew a bit of the dirt off, and stuffed it in his mouth.  It was the only food he’d had all day – indeed, probably for several days.

And, predictably, just like Dad, those two ragged little boys were ostracized and tormented by the other kids and the teachers.  For the crime of being poor.

I don’t intend to go into the casual racism here that allowed Dad’s first-grade teacher to fail him twice without cause; or his third-grade teacher to refuse to call on him when he knew the answer to question, telling the other kids, “We won’t ask him; he’s too dumb to know anyway); or the systemic privation and malnutrition that destroyed his health and his ability to learn, and caused him to drop out of school at the end of eighth grade.  Nor will I go into detail about the pre-diabetic hypoglycemia that plagued him his entire life, nor the fact that all three of my siblings were diabetic.  

But I do know what it’s like to wonder where your next meal is coming from.

I know my father’s humiliation when we had to use food stamps and he drove 35 miles to another town so no one we knew would see.

I know what it’s like to be hungry during the school day, and to watch my grades plummet because I couldn’t concentrate.

HUNGER – the real, true, gnawing, tearing, murderous kind of constant hunger that destroys lives – only one generation removed from me, remains a part of my ancestral memory.

I’m not talking about the sanitized popular term “food insecurity.”  I’m not talking about not being able to afford steak instead of ground beef.  I’m talking about the physical, psychological, and spiritual starvation caused by real poverty and real malnutrition.  And it’s something our peoples battle every single day, all over this country – mostly unnoticed by a comparatively wealthy population that wouldn’t care anyway.

HUNGER IN INDIAN COUNTRY

One of the most pernicious myths surrounding hunger in this country is the one that says that if you’re overweight, you can’t be going hungry.  to the contrary, one of the most obvious manifestations of malnutrition is obesity, and it’s rampant among our peoples.  It’s also killing us at a rate that rivals anything tried in previous centuries.

In 2003, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights published A Quiet Crisis:  Federal Funding and Unmet Needs in Indian Country.  Pages 99-112 deal with issues of food and nutrition.  The numbers – or, rather, the lack thereof in terms of funding allocations to help Native communities feed themselves – are staggering.  

But it’s part and parcel of a larger dynamic of poverty, racism, and marginalization.  As I wrote a few months ago in an edition of Sage and Sweetgrass in SheKos:


As many of you know, I’m part of the Native American Netroots team, founded and led by Kossack navajo. Many of you participated in our diaries on the long-term winter weather emergency that hit several South Dakota reservations, and donated generously of your money, supplies, time, and support. We need your help again. Some background information follows; at the end, what you can do to help.

Pine Ridge – Some Numbers

During the winter, we focused on three South Dakota reservations where the weather and its effects were most severe: Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, and Rosebud. For purposes of today’s edition, I’m going to focus on Pine Ridge, but all three reservations – and many more throughout the nation – are in similar straits.

At Pine Ridge (like many other reservations), it is not unusual to find women as heads of household. Moreover, they’re often housing and caring for multiple generations: children, grandchildren, sometimes great-grandchildren, as well as elderly parents or grandparents. Frequently, they take in uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and distant cousins who are in need. Large numbers of women are de facto guardians of and primary caregivers for their grandchildren. None of this is particularly surprising, given that the average household income is less than $3,800 a year.

Yes, you read that right: The average household income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is less than three thousand, eight hundred dollars annually.

Further complicating the situation are the inhumane living conditions on many reservations. I’ve seen statistics estimating the life expectancy of the average man at Pine Ridge between age 43 and age 48 – equivalent to that of the average Somali male. At a life expectancy of 52, Pine Ridge women don’t fare much better. The reservation’s unemployment rate exceeds 80%; its poverty rate is one of the worst in the nation; both chronic illness, such as diabetes, and acute illnesses, such as certain forms of cancer, appear at rates between 100% and 800% higher than in the nation as a whole; and the adolescent suicide rate is 150% higher than in the general U.S. population. Alcoholism and methamphetamine addiction long ago reached epidemic proportions.

The USDA operates the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).  It is via this program that most reservations receive what we call “commodities” – a word that the government no longer considers “politically correct” because of the bad reputation associated with it.  Think “government cheese”:  generic Velveeta.  Generic canned foods.  Processed, refined, bleached flour, sugar, rice, pasta, bread.  Ground beef and other cheap meats from huge factory farms, riddled with growth hormone, antibiotics, and Spirit knows what else.  Dietary crap, in other words.  You can find a list of the foods available for 2010 here.  Someday, I’m going to devote a diary to the damage these programs have done – and yet, for many of our communities, they’re all that stands between our people and literally starving to death.

Today, I’m also going to crib shamelessly from an earlier diary of mine, In Our Blood:  The Diabetes Epidemic in Native America.  Because another major manifestation of hunger and malnutrition in our communities is diabetes – and it is an epidemic.

ETHNIC INDICATORS

Only in recent years has the federal government become interested in funding research into ethnic disparities in the incidence of diabetes.  Data are further limited by many of the same factors that skew research into any issue that affects underserved communities:  poverty, lack of access to medical, lack of access to studies and clinical trials, language and cultural barriers, distrust of governmental and/or dominant-culture endeavors, and lack of effective outreach to such communities.  However, the issue is now on the radar of the national Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services, which publishes the following 2006 statistics:


   * American Indian/Alaska Native adults were 2.7 times as likely as white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes.

   * American Indians/Alaska Natives were almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes in 2006.

   * American Indian/Alaska Native adults were 1.6 times as likely as White adults to be obese.

   * American Indian/Alaska Native adults were 1.3 times as likely as White adults to have high blood pressure.

And an analysis of the 2005 patient population of the Indian Health Service produced the following statistics:


   *  Data from the 2005 IHS user population database indicate that 14.2 percent of the American Indians and Alaska Natives ages 20 years or older who received care from IHS had diagnosed diabetes. After adjusting for population age differences, 16.5 percent of the total adult population served by IHS had diagnosed diabetes, with rates varying by region from 6 percent among Alaska Native adults to 29.3 percent among American Indian adults in southern Arizona.

   * After adjusting for population age differences, 2004 to 2006 national survey data for people ages 20 years or older indicate that 6.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 7.5 percent of Asian Americans, 10.4 percent of Hispanics, and 11.8 percent of non-Hispanic blacks had diagnosed diabetes. Among Hispanics, rates were 8.2 percent for Cubans, 11.9 percent for Mexican Americans, and 12.6 percent for Puerto Ricans.

Got that?  American Indian/Alaska Native adults had a diabetes diagnosis rate of 16.5%. compared to 6.6% for non-Hispanic whites.  The Pima in southern Arizona led the rate of diagnosis, at a staggering 29.3%.  In practical terms, what these numbers mean is that Native Americans have the highest age-adjusted incidence of diabetes of any ethnic group.  And these are just those who have been diagnosed.  Thousands more go undiagnosed for years – often until they die from complications resulting from undiagnosed diabetes.  

In 2006, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.  However, Native Americans constitute a disproportionately high percentage of members of that particular demographic:  Diabetes-related mortality rates are substantially higher in Native populations:  39.6 per 100,000, compared to 1.9 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic whites.  Keep in mind, however, that these number are almost certainly much lower than the reality:  A study of 1986 data found that, on death certificates, Native American ancestry was underreported at a rate of 65%.  The same analysis concluded that diabetes was 4.3 times more likely to be the underlying cause of death for those listed on their death certificates as Native American than for whites.

And the rates are getting worse, not better.  Part of this may be attributable to higher rates of diagnosis, but the largest part is undoubtedly higher actual incidence.  

CHILD AND TEEN GROWTH RATES

The American Diabetes Association reports that the decade between 1994 and 2004 saw a 68% increase in Type II diabetes among self-identified American Indians and Alaska Natives between the ages of 15 and 19.

Read that again for a moment:  nearly a 70% jump in diabetes among older teenagers – in one decade.

According to the Indian Health Service:


American Indian and Alaska Native children have obesity rates of 40%, four times the rate for the general population.

Obesity is one of the greatest risk factors for developing Type II diabetes – and obesity among children and teenagers is rampant among American society generally, as well as in Native communities particularly.

WHY NATIVE POPULATIONS ARE AT GREATER RISK

We are a mere 100 years removed from living as hunter/gatherers, our ancestral methods of sustaining our peoples.  Indeed, experts often describe us as coming from “hunter-gatherer societies”, and as having a “thrifty” genetic type, biologically engineered to store food as fat during times of plenty, to provide fuel and sustenance during extended periods when food was scarce, such as winter, drought, or migration.  In other words, our bodies had adapted perfectly to our physical environment.

But with contact came the reservation.

With the reservation came deprivation:  of our traditional hunting grounds, including the wanton destruction of the buffalo herds; of the environments where we harvested food, herbs, and medicine; of our ancestral lands when many of our tribes engaged in sophisticated farming and crop rotation practices; of access to many of our cultural and spiritual traditions and methods of healing.

And with the reservation came new dangers:  of previously-unknown infectious agents and disease; of tobacco (not the old asemaa of our medicine persons, consisting of herbs such as red willow bark, bearberry, and mullein, but the modern asemaa of tar and nicotine); of alcohol (not the fermented medicine and ceremonial drinks of our ancestors, but whiskey, rum, and moonshine); of a diet restricted to non-indigenous foods, that would eventually become a diet consisting almost entirely of refined, processed foods low in protein and complex carbohydrates but high in simple carbs and trans fats.

And residents of modern reservations, with median household incomes well below the federal poverty line (often well below $10,000 per year) and with staggering rates of unemployment (as much as 85%), often must rely almost wholly on government welfare programs, including refined and processed commodity foods.  Whole grains, fresh produce, and other healthy foods are far too expensive, and on many reservations, there are no grocery stores or markets that carry such items anyway.  And over the years, refined ingredients have infiltrated the recipes for our traditional foods, so that here in the Southwest, for example, people have for decades used bleached, refined white flour in their tortillas – because it is both available and affordable.  And thus is a staple of the traditional diet converted into an instrument of disease.

ACTION:  WHAT YOU CAN DO

On the personal level:


* If you’re of Native ancestry, get tested.  It only takes a pinprick on the end of a finger.

* If you have loved ones of Native ancestry, encourage them to do the same.

* If you or a loved one gets a diagnosis of diabetes, enroll in a diabetes management program.

* Eat right.  Exercise.  Don’t smoke; don’t drink.  Monitor your glucose levels, and take charge of your own health.

On the local level:  

* If you live on or near a reservation, encourage the development of tribal diabetes education and management programs.

* Support related culturally-appropriate non-profit efforts and local businesses that serve such populations.

* Encourage cultural education and sensitivity.

On the national level:  

* Contact your members of Congress; demand that they fulfill the nation’s statutory obligation to fund the Indian Health Service (IHS) fully.

* Lobby for additional funding for culturally-appropriate diabetes research and prevention programs through IHS.

* Lobby for federal funding for tribal initiatives to maintain diabetes management and traditional treatment programs, including tobacco and alcohol cessation programs.

* Lobby for federal funding for investment and development dollars to bring healthy food initiatives and businesses to reservations.

* Demand that federal assistance programs distribute healthy foods, such as whole grains, and provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

* Lobby for funding for research and development, through the National Institutes of Health, the Indian Health Service, and the Association of American Indian Physicians, dedicated to prevention, treatment, and education programs in Native populations.

And give to Feeding America (FA).  I don’t know yet whether FA explicitly provides funding to food banks and other groups that serve reservations and Native communities, but in the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t matter:  It serves Americans who are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, children and elders, whatever their ethnicity.  And that’s worth supporting.

Chi miigwech.

If you want to donate money, here is the Feeding America donation page.

If you have time to volunteer, here are some handy tools to find out what assistance is needed:

–Plug your zip code into this search engine to find opportunities in your area to assist hunger organizations.

–Typing in your zip code and state in this search engine will locate food banks in your area.

–Clicking onto to your state on this map will return results for homeless shelters and soup kitchens in your area.


Feeding America Blogathon Diary Schedule (all EDT):

Saturday, Sept 25:

10:00a — rb137

 1:00p — teacherken

 4:00p — Patriot Daily

 7:00p — srkp23

10:00p — boatsie

Owls — Jay in Portland

KuangSi2

Sunday, Sept 26

10:00a — JanF

 1:00p — Aji

 4:00p — Timroff

 7:00p — Chacounne

10:00p — blue jersey mom

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Ancient America: 1,000 years ago

( – promoted by navajo)

It is not uncommon for accounts of American history to begin in the fifteenth century with the Spanish voyages of exploration. What the Europeans found was not a wilderness, but a land which had been settled by and developed for American Indians. By a thousand years ago there were a number of highly developed agricultural American Indian civilizations in North America, including Mississippian centered in Illinois, Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloan) and Mimbres in New Mexico, and Hohokam in Arizona. In this diary, I’d like to describe a few of the events which happened about a thousand years ago in the area which would later become the United States.  

Arizona:

In the Arizona desert area around present-day Phoenix, the Hohokam people were flourishing. Hohokam artists were producing etched artifacts. The artists would first create a design of pitch on a sea shell. It would then soak in an acid made of fermented cactus juice. The artifact was then removed from the acid, the pitch was scraped off, and the result was an etched design.

At the site of Snaketown, the Hohokam were building platform mounds: small oval-shaped mounds less than 15 meters in diameter and about 1 meter high. These low mounds, built in non-residential areas, were then surrounded by palisades. While archaeologists are not sure how the mounds were used, they appear to be performance areas rather than house or temple mounds.  In other words, certain ceremonies may have been performed on the mounds and the mounds would have served as a kind of stage.

North of the Hohokam, the Sinagua people constructed a small town which archaeologists will later call Tuzigoot. The people were growing cotton and weaving textile motifs. The motifs closely resemble those made by indigenous groups in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

The Sinagua people are also engaged in mining to extract argillite and copper from their mines.

Grand Canyon:

Long before the Grand Canyon became a national park, Indian people were living in it. A thousand years ago there was an increase in precipitation which resulted in an increase in the number of people living in the Grand Canyon. On the deltas where side canyons met the Colorado River, Indian people constructed terraced fields where they raised corn, beans, squash, and cotton.

About this same time, the Havasupai moved from the Coconino Plateau into Cataract Creek Canyon, a side canyon of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. Their living site on the canyon floor can be reached only by a narrow trail which snakes down from the plateau. Here they began to call themselves “the people of the blue water.”

The American South:

In an area ranging from Florida and Louisiana in the South, through Oklahoma and as far north as Illinois, Indian people a thousand years ago were making and displaying small masks depicting a long-nosed god. The masks were often made of copper, but in some areas, shell or stone was also used. The face on the masks was shield-shaped with a slit mouth and large circular eyes. The prominent feature was the long nose which protrudes from the center of the mask. The smaller masks were probably worn in pairs as ear ornaments.

The long-nosed god seems to have diffused into the Southeast from Mexico and seems to have been derived from the god Yacatechutli, the protector of travelers. It probably spread via Mayan-speaking traders called pochtecas. Some modern historians and archaeologists feel that these traders may have played a missionary role, spreading religious interest along with impressive new ceremonies while introducing new merchandise.

Great Lakes Region:

About a thousand years ago, the Ho Chunk painted a mural on the back of the Gottschall Rock Shelter. The scene shows the hero Red Horn and his comrades Turtle and the thunderbird Storms-as-He-Walks. Red Horn is more than mortal. In this mural, he wears a disc with radiating lines on top of his forehead, likely indicating his status as the morning star manifesting in human form. The painting shows Red Horn with tattoos on his chest, the traditional marks of honor among the Ho Chunk and other Siouan-speaking tribes.

Also shown in the scene are two giants who also wear sun-like disks on their foreheads. The giants are not tattooed and are naked.

According to oral tradition, the giants challenged Red Horn and his comrades to a game of lacrosse. The giants were led by a female with red hair. The giants lost the game and were killed by Storms-as-He-Walks. However, the red-haired woman is spared and later marries Red Horn.

Aztalan:

In Wisconsin, Mississippian people from Illinois built a village at Aztalan which was surrounded by a fortified palisade with walls 12-19 feet high. The wall surrounded the village, the ceremonial center, and the agricultural fields. There were also interior defensive palisades. This site was the northernmost extension of the Mississippian people.

Labrador:

A thousand years ago, Thule culture groups began to migrate into the Labrador area from Alaska. They were practicing a maritime adaptation which focused on hunting large marine mammals, particularly the bowhead whale. The Thule arrived with dog-drawn sleds, large skin boats (umiaks), and single-man boats (kayaks). With this equipment people and heavy gear could be transported long distances with speed.

In the fall and winter, the people lived in small, subterranean houses built out of stone, sod, wood, and whale bone. During the whaling season, several settlements would pool their resources in a cooperative endeavor.

In the fall, the people would hunt caribou using fences and drives. In the spring they would fish using stone weirs to entrap the fish.  

Trade:

A thousand years ago, Indian people throughout North America had established extensive trade routes which criss-crossed the continent. In North Dakota, for example, Indian people living along the Missouri River were obtaining trade goods from great distances: copper from the Great Lakes region; whelks, marginellas, and olivella from the Gulf Coast or Atlantic Coast areas; freshwater snails from the rivers in the Southeast; steatite from Wyoming and Montana; obsidian from the Yellowstone Park area in Wyoming; dentalium from the Pacific Coast; and catlinite from Minnesota and South Dakota.  

In Maine, Indian people were obtaining arrowheads and scrapers made from chert from Ramah Bay on the north Labrador coast, from northern Quebec, and from western New York. They were obtaining jasper from Pennsylvania and chalcedony from Nova Scotia. They were also getting copper from western Nova Scotia.

European Contacts:

American Indians a thousand years ago were not isolated from the rest of the world. There were some contacts with people from other continents. Viking voyager Leif Eiriksson, sometimes called “the lucky” visited and settled an area called Vinland which is the northern tip of Newfoundland about 986 CE. Archaeologists have excavated a Norse settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows which dates to this time. The Vikings had some encounters with Native Americans whom they call Skraelings (probably Beothuk.) The colonies were eventually abandoned, due in part to opposition from the Native Americans.

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

In Massachusetts, a Viking group under the leadership of Thorvald, the brother of Leif Eriksson, named  present-day Cape Cod Kiarlanes (Keel-Cape) because it looked like the keel of a ship. The group then arrived at a heavily wooded promontory. Here they found three Indian canoes camouflaged with brush. There was a conflict in which eight Indians were killed and Thorvald was wounded. His wound proved to be fatal and he was buried at a place which the Vikings call Krossanes (Cape of the Cross).

About three years after Thorvald’s voyage, another group of Vikings under the leadership of Thorfinn and Gudrid Karlsefni settled in the northeast. They brought with them livestock and other supplies. The settlement lasted for two years, during which time Gudrid gave birth to a son. The settlement was abandoned because of conflicts with Native Americans.

Anishinabe Dreams

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Dreams and visions are an important part of Native American spiritual life. Traditionally dreams were an essential conduit for communication with the supernatural world. Dreams served as a validation of one’s spiritual condition. Therefore, from an early age, American Indian children learned to remember their dreams. These dreams could then be interpreted by the tribal elders. The manitous revealed in the dreams would guide the dreamer to wisdom. While these manitous are often called Guardian Spirits, they are more accurately described as Tutelary Spirits.

According to Anishinabe or Ojibwa spiritual teachings, human beings have two souls, one of which travels at night and lives the dreams. With two souls, human beings can communicate with both the spirits and the souls of non-human persons. From an Anishinabe perspective, it is the soul that dreams the dreams, not the body or the mind. During the dream, the soul may travel all over the world.  

Throughout North America, people from various tribes would engage in vision quests to obtain spiritual power. The vision quest would often entail going to a remote spiritual location and remaining there while fasting. Among the Ojibwa, children would start fasting for visions at age four or five. At first they would go into the woods and spend a day without food or water while waiting for their visions. Later, they would spend four or more days at a time fasting and waiting for their visions to come to them. Both boys and girls would seek visions.

For the first vision quest among Ojibwa children, the face and arms are blackened with ash and then the child is taken to the Place of Visions. This is usually a location which is felt to be unnatural, a place formed by neither humans nor nature. On the occasion of the vision quest the spirits would welcome human visitors to this place. After making an offering of tobacco and asking the spirits to bring a vision to the child, the parent leaves. For a number of days the child waits alone, waiting for a vision.

The vision often comes in the form of a particular animal who gives special instructions on how to live, teaches special songs, and shows how to use special medicines. This animal or guardian spirit becomes the person’s personal Manitou. Often the person then carries a representation of this spirit which represents the essences of the spiritual power. Using this representation, an individual can call on the guardian spirit for assistance, guidance and protection.  

At the time of creation, all animals were given the gift of knowing the future. Thus, individuals could call upon their guardian spirits to help them understand the future. In traditional Anishinabe cultures, prior to European contact, this would most frequently involve knowing the location of game so that the hunt would be successful.

At the time of creation, each animal was given a special gift. Thus when an animal spirit comes to a human during a dream or vision quest, the animal may share this gift with the human. While there are a number of non-Indians today who have written about the nature of the special gifts to the animal spirits, from a traditional perspective, knowledge of the animal’s gift comes only from the animal spirit, never from a human being.

At the time of creation, the plant people were given the gift of healing. In some instances, humans may be visited by one or more of the plant people in their dreams. These people often become healers.  

News Collection Diary starting on 9.24.10

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An Aztec Creation Story

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By the time the Aztec civilization began to flourish in the Valley of Mexico, the ancient city of Teotihuacan had already been long abandoned and was simply a place with gigantic monuments. The Aztec gave this place the name Teotihuacan, which means “birthplace of the gods.”

Teatihuacan Moon

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According to Aztec mythology, Teotihuacan was the place of the most recent creation. The Aztec creation story tells of five successive Suns. The first Sun was ruled by Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror) and was inhabited by giants. This Sun ended when Quetzalcóatl (Plumed Serpent) caused the giants to be devoured by jaguars. This second Sun, ruled by Quetzalcóatl was destroyed by winds and its people turned into monkeys. The third Sun was ruled by the rain god Tláloc. It was destroyed by a rain of fire and its inhabitants turned into birds. The fourth sun was ruled by Chalchiútlicue, Tláloc’s sister. It was destroyed by floods and its inhabitants turned into fish.

Teotihuacan was where all of the gods gathered in council to determine which god would be willing to sacrifice himself to restart the world’s cycle. At this time the entire world was in darkness. Two of the gods came forward: a warrior god (Tecuciztécatle, who was headstrong and haughty) and a humble god (Nanahuatzin, who was weak and cowardly).

The gods then built a great fire. According to Aztec tradition, the fire was so great that no one could get near it without burning and almost suffocating. The warrior god found that he could not bring himself to throw himself into the flames of this great fire. Three times he tried to throw himself into the fire; three times he ran at the fire, and three times he stopped before he got to the fire. The humble god, on the other hand, ran directly into the fire. He was turned to ashes and then he rose as the sun, a great shining disk to light the new world and the new cycle of the world.

The warrior god, shamed by the actions of the humble god, then leapt into the flames and rose into the heavens as the moon. At first, both the sun and the moon were equally bright, but then one of the gods obscured the brightness of the moon by throwing a rabbit into its face.

The sun and the moon, however, simply sat in the heavens. The rest of the gods then realized that all of their deaths would be needed to restart the cycle. It was only by this action that they could be resurrected and renewed. Thus the gods immolated themselves in the primal fire. One of the gods went through the fire and emerged as the wind. The god of the wind blew through the heavens and set the sun and the moon in motion. In this way the sun began to pass through the heavens during the day and the moon by night.

Note: this is only one version of the story. There are a number of other variations of it.

National Parks & American Indians: Yellowstone

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In 1872 President Ulysses S. Grant signed the legislation making Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Wyoming the world’s first national park. The official website for the park notes:

The human history of the Yellowstone region goes back more than 11,000 years. From about 11,000 years ago to the very recent past, many groups of Native Americans used the park as their homes, hunting grounds, and transportation routes.

http://www.nps.gov/yell/histor…

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For thousands of years Obsidian Cliff in the Park had been a quarry from which Indian people obtained obsidian for making stone tools. These stone tools were traded to tribes as far away as the site of the ancient city of Chahokia in Illinois.

Indians, in spite of their long association with the Park, were not consulted with regard to the creation of the Park.

Traditional Indian Use of the Park:

After obtaining the horse in the early eighteenth century, the Indian nations of southern Idaho and western Montana began using the Bannock Trail through what is now the park as a route to the buffalo on the Montana Plains. After the buffalo went extinct in southern Idaho in the 1830s, the use of the Bannock Trail increased. While used most frequently by the Shoshone and Bannock, it was also used by the Nez Perce and the Flathead (Bitterroot Salish).

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Indian people camped and hunted in the park, and used the hot springs for both cooking and for preparing hides. In addition to the tribes from the Plateau area (Shoshone, Bannock, Nez Perce, and Flathead), the area was also used by the Crow and the Cheyenne. It was not uncommon for Blackfoot war parties to come into the area to raid Crow and Shoshone hunting parties, and later the American trappers.

While Yellowstone was an area traditionally used by Indians, it was first encountered by a non-Indian a little more than 200 years. John Colter had set out to make trade alliances with the Crow. The Crow took him into what would become Yellowstone National Park and showed him the geysers and other marvels which were there. Upon returning home, many did not believe his tales and dubbed the area Colter’s Hell.

In 1865, a Blackfoot hunting party under the leadership of Big Lake described the wonders of present-day Yellowstone National Park to the Jesuit priest Father Xavier Kuppens. They then took the priest into the area, showing him the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Firehole Basin.

The Nez Perce  and Bannock Wars:

While the creation of Yellowstone as a National Park in 1872 ignored the Indian presence in the Park, Indians continued to use the area. This came to the attention of the press and the general public in 1877 when the Nez Perce, attempting to avoid a fight with the American army, entered the Park through Targhee Pass. Nez Perce warrior Yellow Wolf reported:

“We did not follow the usual Nez Perce trail. We traveled over a hunting trail instead.”

Yellowstone was a National Park at this time, and consequently there were tourists in the Park. The Nez Perce encountered a group of 9 tourists from Montana. Afraid that the tourists might tell the army where they were, the Nez Perce took the tourists captive. Upon the advice of Poker Joe, the Nez Perce leader during this part of their journey, the tourists escaped.

Unfortunately for the infant park system, the capture of tourists in Yellowstone National Park by “wild, renegade” Indians was a public relations nightmare. To counteract this bad press, the government began a campaign in which Indians were portrayed as “superstitious” and afraid of all of the evil spirits in the Park. Indians, according to Park literature, rarely entered or used the Park. It took more than a century for the Park to correct this misinformation.

During the 1878 Bannock Indian War, a small group of Bannock warriors decided to run to Canada to join Sitting Bull’s Sioux. They followed the Bannock trail through Yellowstone National Park where they encountered a survey team. The Bannock managed to capture the survey crew’s animals and supplies. The army, under the command of Col. Nelson Miles who was actually in Yellowstone National Park at the time as a tourist, surprised a Bannock camp near Heart Mountain, killing 11 and capturing 31.

Southwest of Yellowstone Lake, the army met some of the escapees from the Heart Mountain battle. After a brief fight, the Indians surrendered. While the army reported only one Indian killed, the captives reported that 28 were killed. One observer of the battle wrote:

“The Bannock decided to surrender to the troops, and they moved in a peaceful manner to do so. Nevertheless, volleys of gun-fire were poured into them and several of them were killed.”

The observer concluded:

“It seemed to me that killing these Indians when it was plainly evident they were trying to surrender was a violation of the humanities. They did not respond to the fire.”

Complaints about Indians:

In 1887, Yellowstone National Park officials complained that the Shoshone band under the leadership of Major Jim had been burning grass near the park and that the tourists were nervous about having “wild Indians” in the area. The Shoshone felt that they were unable live on the rations issued at the reservation and thus needed to hunt in order to live. Burning the grass was a standard Indian way of managing the land and increasing the yield of deer, elk, and other mammals. Regular burning allows for a larger carrying capacity. Many non-Indians, however, felt that burning was bad for the land.

In 1888, the military superintendent of Yellowstone National Park complained to the Indian agents of the Lemhi and Fort Hall agencies in Idaho about Indian hunting in and near the park. He complained that not only were the Indians poaching, but they were causing some alarm among the tourists.

During the first half of the twentieth century, American Indians were no longer visibly present in Yellowstone National Park, either in its official history or in contemporary presence. From time to time, however, the Park Service did use Indians in a ceremonial fashion to help entertain the tourists.   In 1925, a group of Shoshone from the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho under the leadership of Chief Tyhee took part in ceremonies opening the new West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. In addition, Park officials invited a group of Crow from Montana to assist in a roundup of the Yellowstone buffalo herd. The Indians wore traditional dress and attracted tourists who watched the riders chase the buffalo through the Lamar Valley.

The Park’s dislike for the Indian history of Yellowstone National Park emerged in 1927. The pageant Masque of the Absaroka, was presented in Bozeman, Montana. The pageant was a dramatization of Crow origin mythology and used Crow actors. While the pageant’s organizers wanted to present the pageant in Yellowstone National Park, Park officials did not feel that it had any connection with the Park and were concerned about the fact that the presentation used “real” Indians.

The official Park Service story was that the geysers and other features within Yellowstone National Park frightened the “superstitious” Indians. The passage of the Nez Perce through the Park in 1877 was, according to the officials, an anomaly. In 1935, however, two veterans of the 1877 Nez Perce War, Many Wounds and White Hawk, revisited Yellowstone National Park. When asked about their reaction to the geysers, they stated:

“We knew that country well before passing through there in 1877. The hot smoking springs and the high-shooting water were nothing new to us.”

Recognition of Indians:

In 1961, Yellowstone National Park issued the following statement:

“The National Park Service now believes that the Yellowstone Park Area may not have been taboo to the nomadic Indian tribes which frequented the Northwest in prehistoric times. Evidence collected over the past several years seems to indicate that many tribes have been more or less permanent residents of this geologically mysterious area.”

In 1996, the Obsidian Cliff in Yellowstone National Park was designated a National Historic Landmark and was recognized as one of the first industrial areas in North America. The Obsidian Cliff was the source of material for making stone tools for thousands of years and tools from this area spread across thousands of miles.

In 2001, Yellowstone National Park changed its entrance fee policy to allow members of “affiliated” tribes to enter the park for traditional purposes without paying the recreation fee.

About the Buffalo:

Buffalo Herd

In 1889, there were an estimated 200 buffalo left in Yellowstone National Park. In 1902, Yellowstone National Park purchased 21 buffalo from the Pablo-Allard herd from the Flathead Reservation in Montana and from the Goodnight herd in Texas. The new herd was kept quarantined and monitored to prevent cross-breeding with the wild mountain buffalo which were still in the Park.

Pressure from Montana’s livestock industry in 1945 resulted in a ban on shipping live buffalo from Yellowstone National Park. Ranchers feared that the buffalo may have brucellosis and may pass it on to cattle.

In 1997, a hard winter caused buffalo in Yellowstone National Park to migrate outside of the Park’s boundaries. In spite of protests by Native Americans and others, the government killed 1,100 buffalo. While the official reason for killing the buffalo was the fear that brucella abortus would be passed from the buffalo to domestic cattle, one leading authority on brucellosis reports:

“a bison would practically have to abort in a cow’s face to pass it on.”

Indians tend to see the battle over the buffalo as a traditional “cowboys versus Indians” thing in which the buffalo represent the Indians.

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The National Museum of the American Indian

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Today is the anniversary of the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in 2004. I attended the opening and walked with over 25,000 other indigenous people in the Native Nations Procession that started the festivities.  My photo collection is here. I don’t live on or near a reservation so it was rewarding to be with so many other people who look like me. Complete strangers would smile at me as I walked around D.C. because we could see that we shared blood, the same cheekbones and dark eyes.

Below I’m going to excerpt some important comments about the opening of the museum and then end with an essay written by my friend, former original AIM organizer and Kossack Carter Camp aka cacamp.

100_0266 It was an extremely hot day to sit in the burning sun but I enjoyed being one of thousands in the huge crowd and listening to all the speakers. Senator Inouye had an important statement:

Speakers included Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), who with [Sen. Ben Nighthorse] Campbell (R-Colo.), sponsored the 1989 legislation passed by Congress that mandated the museum’s construction. It is the Smithsonian’s 18th museum and the first on the Mall since 1987.

Inouye told the crowd that nearly two decades ago he made a discovery about the nation’s capital that inspired him to propose the creation of a museum.

“I couldn’t believe that out of 400 statues and monuments, there was not one for the Native American,” he said. “This monument to the first American is long overdue.”

Most of the comments and reviews about the opening were positive and along the lines of let’s put the history in the past and look forward, American Indians are still here and this museum celebrates that.

But then there was this from the L.A. Times:


The museum was approved by Congress in 1989, the same year the Smithsonian took over George Gustav Heye’s collection in New York. An investment banker who amassed one of the world’s largest collections of Indian artifacts – including Sitting Bull’s war bonnet and a collection of scalps – Heye left objects that date back more than 10,000 years and form the heart of the new collection. The Smithsonian umbrella covers not only the new museum and the George Gustav Heye Center, a permanent museum in Lower Manhattan, but also the Cultural Resources Center, a research and collections facility in Suitland, Md.

Almost 90% of the new museum’s holdings comes from Heye, who collected from native communities in the first half of the 20th century. Because some of his acquisitions were less than scrupulous, the museum has placed “our highest priority” on repatriation of human remains, such as war-trophy scalps and bones, said Pepper Henry.

A full-time staff of four is charged with researching the collections to see if human remains, sacred and ceremonial objects or other important cultural artifacts should be returned. Pepper Henry said that since the museum staff first began working in 1990, more than 2,000 objects have been returned to 100 native communities throughout the hemisphere.

The essay below was written by Carter Camp aka cacamp. In 1973, Carter was one of the original organizers of AIM, he was in charge of Military Operations in the take over of Wounded Knee. They held Wounded Knee for more than 70 days and brought important national and international media attention to the current American Indian issues. (An aside; Meteor Blades was at the take over for 51 days.)

I have Carter’s permission to post in full.


HIDING GENOCIDE: The National Museum of the American Indian

By Carter Camp

There is an enormous cultural rip-off being foisted upon our Nations by Washington D.C. I’ve warned of it before, but a small voice is easily drowned out when millions of dollars are being spent and the voice of the Great White Father anoints Indian leaders.

IMG_2793For a decade or more the Smithsonian fundraising machine has gone merrily along, draining much needed funds away from the Indian community and diverting America’s attention away from the economic, cultural and legal devastation going on across our homelands. Many interest groups coveted the final two vacant spaces on the National Mall. Congress in its wisdom awarded one site to a very politically powerful (and deserving) Jewish applicant and another to the very politically powerful Smithsonian Institution, their ‘keeper of the loot’.

Contrast the two new museums and you can see how they are used to support a conqueror’s cleansed view of history: For the Jewish museum no thought at all was given to using it to show the world ancient Jewish culture and artifacts. They could have displayed scenes of ancient Jewish life: hunting, tanning hides and pastoral living. Like an Indian museum, it would have been beautiful and easy for people to enjoy.

IMG_2796It wasn’t done that way for one reason…The Jewish people were in charge and they decided for themselves what aspect of their history to show the world. They decided with one voice to use the rare space as a shield to protect their people against a repeat of the Nazi holocaust. Jewish politicians funded and protected Jewish intellectuals, artists, historians, Rabbis, and survivors as they crafted a way to commemorate their dead and to use their past to protect their future. They refused to allow the dreams of others to distort the truth of their horror, and now their museum is a powerful testament to a Jewish dream, not a gentile revision of reality. Our space, and the world’s window to our Nations, was turned over to the Smithsonian Institution to enshrine the lie of ‘manifest destiny’ and the historical inevitability of the American Holocaust.

America’s museums have always been a prime purveyor of the big lies of American history, now the largest and worst is given an army of non-Indian historians, anthros, romance writers and a couple of Indian scouts, to define us to the world.

IMG_2792THEY decided with one voice NOT to use our rare and precious space as a shield of truth against the American Holocaust or to prevent the conclusion of its evil purpose against my people. We still die, our sacred sites are paved over, our dead dug up, our children stolen and mis-educated. Missionaries search the jungle for the last of us.

American’s sensibilities are being spared at the cost of continuing depredations against Indian people. Americans will go to the Holocaust Museum and be told the horrible truths of what Hitler and the Nazi’s did to the Jews. They will cry for the victims and mourn with the survivors, in the end they too will be determined to protect the Jewish people from a repeat of the Holocaust. All thinking people support this. They will also be comforted (and exempted) to know that America defeated the Nazi, stopped the killing, and helped Jews return to their homeland. Next, Americans can walk over to the museum of ‘Indian’ history.

They will be amazed and pleased at the beauty of our past. Scenes of tipis, tanning hides and pastoral living will hide the blood covering every-square-inch of America. Our blood. They will go home marveling at our ancient art and beauty and a little sad we had to pass into history.

IMG_2804They may even feel a twinge of guilt at the part their ancestors played in our demise. But they will go away without seeing or knowing the “time of horror” each and every Tribe went through upon contact with the European. They will go home without realizing how much of the slaughter was an officially inspired, government planned, and racist policy of genocide. They will not realize the depth of the crime committed so they will not understand the crimes being committed today or the need for reparations to heal the devastation. They will not understand that there were entire Societies for whom the “final solution” worked.

Entire Tribes, as whole and complete as the Jewish Tribes, were completely erased from Mother Earth. Their language will never be heard, their poetry, music, science and art is lost to the world because they met a people who believed in their own, god given, superiority and the inferiority of all else. (The base cause of all genocide.) They will go home without feeling the need to help Indian Nations secure their own homelands or becoming determined there never is another American Holocaust.

IMG_2811Worst of all, they will go home and not know that our people still suffer ongoing policies of genocide and attacks on our existence. Missionaries and Governments still work and plan to erase us from the face of our Mother Earth. Indian Country, from the Artic to Antarctica, is still awash in the blood of our People.

Should American Indians be suspicious about the placement and content of these two Museums? Jew and “Indian?” Did it take some C.I.A. psy-war expert to figure out how best to cover-up the murder of over 200 million people? Will this museum, with a mere nod to the 500-year holocaust, stand as the permanent enshrinement of the American lie and the final resting place of Indian history? I believe there should be a holocaust museum on America’s National Mall, in America’s Capitol city. But not one of the European disasters. It must be a Bright Red Museum of the American Holocaust! It must call the roll of entire Nations of beautiful people who succumbed to the genocidal onslaught.

“IT MUST BEGIN OUR TIME OF MOURNING BY ENDING OUR TIME OF FEAR”

…for all my relations.

I remember the international news coverage of Australia apologizing in Parliament to the Aboriginal people for “laws and policies that inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss” in 2008?

(For further reading see The Stolen Generation.)

A few months later Canada follows suit and in the House of Commons the Prime Minister says:

“Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country,” he said to applause.

“The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language,” Harper said.

On Dec. 19, 2010 President Obama signed off on the Native American Apology Resolution but the White House drew no attention to it.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., originally introduced the measure intending “to officially apologize for the past ill-conceived policies by the U.S. government toward the Native peoples of this land and re-affirm our commitment toward healing our nation’s wounds and working toward establishing better relationships rooted in reconciliation.” His bill passed the Senate in 2008 and 2009.

The version signed by Obama became watered down, not making a direct apology from the government, but rather apologizing “on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native peoples by citizens of the United States.”

The resolution also includes a disclaimer: Nothing in it authorizes or supports any legal claims against the United States, and the resolution does not settle any claims.

An official apology to the first inhabitants of these United States is important but apologies are not enough.

The museum cost $219 million.  The museum does a lot of good but I’m conflicted when I see and read about the suffering and despair on our reservations today. It’s obvious that millions of dollars are needed on our reservations for proper housing, schools, power and water systems to build our people back up. These were promises made to our tribes in exchange for land and other things decades ago. It is common knowledge that these treaties have not been honored.

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 An ongoing series sponsored by the Native American Netroots team focusing on the current issues faced by American Indian Tribes and current solutions to those issues.

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Utah’s Black Hawk War

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During 1865 to 1867, American and Mormon settlers in Utah were engaged in a war with a small group of Ute, Paiute, and Navajo warriors under the leadership of Ute chief Black Hawk. As a result of the conflict, the American and Mormon settlers abandoned much of southern and central Utah. At least nine communities were abandoned. The main object of most of the Indian raids was to take cattle for food. The Black Hawk War caused an estimated $1.5 million in losses.

While the Black Hawk War involved only a small group of warriors, Black Hawk’s raiders were so effective that it was a common perception among the Mormon settlers that all of the Indians in the territory were at war.

Setting the Stage:

The Black Hawk war grew out of a complex set of circumstances which included the loss of Indian farms in Utah and the failure of the United States government to fulfill its treaty obligations. The Utes and the Paiutes had been displaced from their ancestral lands and they had been deprived of their economic base. As a result, they were left with only three options: they could starve, they could beg, or they could fight.

In 1863, Autenquer (Black Hawk), a San Pitch Ute war leader, began to form alliances with other Ute bands, as well as with Paiute and Navajo bands to raid Mormon communities. The Indians blamed the Mormons for stealing their country and fencing it in. One of the causes of the raids is hunger and the Indians raid the communities to get cattle to eat.

Two years later, the Treaty of Spanish Fork with the Paiute called for them to give up all lands claimed in Utah and to move to the Uintah Reservation. None of the signers of the treaty represented the Meadow Valley and Virgin River Paiute bands who were contesting Mormon encroachment on their territory.

Like the Paiute, the Ute also signed the Treaty of Spanish Fork in which they gave up all of their land in Utah except for the Uintah Valley. In exchange, the Ute were to receive $900,000 to be paid to them over 60 years and they were to be allowed to fish in all accustomed places and to gather roots and berries. All of the Ute chiefs, except for San Pitch, signed the treaty. San Pitch said:

“If the talk is for us to trade the land in order to get the presents, I do not want any blankets or any clothing, if threat is the way they are to be got. I would rather do without them than to give up my title to the land I occupy. We want to live here as formerly.”

Kanosh opposed the treaty saying:

“In past times, the Washington chiefs that came here from the United States would think and talk two ways and deceive us.”

Mormon leader Brigham Young, speaking for the United States, told the Ute:

“If you do not sell your land to the Government, they will take it, whether you are willing to sell it or not.”

Young also told them:

“The land does not belong to you, nor to me, nor to the Government. It belongs to the Lord.”

Brigham Young assured them that they would receive houses, farms, cows, oxen, clothing, and other things. Because of his words, the chiefs signed the treaty.

The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty because of their disagreements with the Mormons. These disagreements with the Mormons had nothing to do with the Indians. The United States Senate wanted to punish the Mormons for their religious beliefs and refusing the treaty would increase the tensions between the Indians and the Mormon settlers.

The War:

In 1865, the conflicts between the Utes under the leadership of San Pitch subchief Black Hawk and the Mormon settlers intensified. The Indians, driven by hunger, stole some cattle and in the process some Mormons were killed. Mormon leader John Taylor stated:

“Some want to kill the Indians promiscuously, because some of them have killed some of our people. This is not right. Let the guilty be punished and innocent go free.”

Black Hawk’s warriors were soon joined by Ute warriors from other bands as well as by Paiute and Navajo warriors. At most the Black Hawk’s forces numbered only 60 to 100 warriors during the conflict. About half of the warriors were Navajos or Paiutes.

In 1866, Ute chief San Pitch and several of his men were arrested near Nephi because of rumors that he had been involved in violence against the American settlers. San Pitch was told to bring in Black Hawk and his band or be shot. Since San Pitch did not have the power to influence Black Hawk and his warriors,  he and his fellow prisoners broke jail rather than await execution. The escapees were hunted down and  killed.

In another incident, 16 unarmed Paiutes, including women and children, were killed near Circleville. The Paiute had been captured by the Mormons and were killed one at a time. Most had their throats slit. Three or four small children were spared and were adopted by Mormon families.  While there were pleas for an investigation, federal and territorial officials took no action. This reluctance or inability of territorial and federal officials to follow proper legal procedures with the Indians helped to create a climate that allowed for continued misconduct.

At Panguitch Lake, the Paiute bands would not let the Mormons fish in the lake, but they would sell fish to them. In response, the Mormons declared the Paiutes to be involved with Black Hawk’s warriors and attacked a Paiute camp. They then declared a Paiute Mormon convert to be the chief and restored the peace. Following this, the lake became a fishing resort for non-Indians.

In 1866, Mormon leader Brigham Young wrote:

“The Lamanites are hostile, let us exercise faith about them and learn what the will of the Lord is. Let us send our Interpreters to them and make presents and tell [them] they must stop fighting. It is better to give them $5000 than have to fight and kill them for they are of the House of Israel”

In 1867, the body of Simeon, a Paiute, was found near Paragonah with a bullet wound in the back of his head. William H. Dame, president of the Prowan Stake of the Latter Day Saints church and colonel in the militia was instructed by Mormon leaders Brigham Young and George A. Smith that the murder of a peaceful Indian must be dealt with by civil authorities. Subsequently an investigation into the murder was undertaken. When some people questioned whether or not Simeon had actually been murdered, his body was exhumed and the bullet removed from his skull. As a result of the investigation, murder charges are brought against Thomas Jose. Jose was convicted of second degree murder and was sentenced to ten years in the territorial penitentiary. He served one year and was then pardoned by the territorial governor.

After the War:

In 1867, Black Hawk surrendered at the Uinitah Reservation. He came without his men but gave information on those still at large. It was estimated that he had 58-64 warriors under him.  

During the Black Hawk War, about 46 Mormon settlers were killed, including 11 women and children. Both sides killed noncombatants.

The primary purpose of most of the Indian raids was to obtain cattle. Black Hawk’s warriors captured about 5,000 cattle. This focus on cattle shows that the warriors were often desperate for food.

In 1869, the San Pitch Ute, once led by Autenquer (Black Hawk), followed the civil leader Tabby-to-kwana to the Uintah Valley Reservation. The Ute had been assured that they would be able to continue to hunt and gather on all public lands.

Following the war, Black Hawk toured many of the settlements in central and southern Utah, speaking to Mormon congregations and asking for their understanding and forgiveness. In speaking to these communities, Black Hawk emphasized that his people had been destitute and starving. Some of the Mormon settlers greeted him with understanding, while others, remembering the deaths of family and friends, rejected his offer of reconciliation.

Do Indian Country Voters have the president’s back?

By any objective measure Barack Obama has been the most engaged and effective president on American Indian issues since at least since Richard Nixon. You could even make the case that Obama is better than Nixon because there has been so much successful legislation and Executive Branch action in less than two years.

A quick review of the Obama record:

• A summit with elected tribal leaders where the president and cabinet members held a town hall. Immediately after the meeting the Office of Management and Budget was charged with the task of improving the government-to-government consultation process;

• Enactment of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act as a permanent statue;

• A significant number of key appointments of Native Americans at the White House, cabinet agencies, even the Interior Department’s chief legal counsel;

• Increased budgets at the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs plus a sizeable slice – some $3 billion – of stimulus fund money that were directed at Indian Country.

I could go on and on with the real results from this administration.  (If you need a contrast, remember the frozen glare of President Bush when I asked him about tribal sovereignty or what it was like when the entire budget for urban Indian health programs was to be “zeroed out.”)

As Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk said at Taos Pueblo this past weekend: The president has been communicating to Indian Country with his heart and soul. He quoted Candidate Obama saying: “I promise you, as long as I serve as President of the United States, you will not be forgotten.”

That promise has exceeded expectations. So with this kind of record you would think the election ahead would be exciting. Indian Country has a stake – a huge stake – in the success of President Obama and that means supporting and electing candidates that will back his agenda.

Indian Country ought to have the president’s back.

Two years ago there was a massive effort to educate, register, and get American Indian and Alaska Native voters to the poll. In states like Montana there were speakers, special dances at powwows and a sustained effort to win. That same sort of effort is needed more than ever if the candidates who support the president are to have any chance of at all.

Kalyn Free, president and founder of the Indigenous Democratic Network – or INDN’s List – says tribes and individuals are not coming up with enough money. She sees great opportunities during this election cycle, with 29 Native American candidates in 11 states representing, 18 tribes. “Put a $100,000 into INDN’s List and we could change the world,” Free says.

Consider the statewide candidates: Navajo Chris Deschene, the Democratic Party nominee for Secretary of State for Arizona. This is the state’s stepping-stone to governor. In Alaska, Diane Benson is the party’s nominee for Lt. Gov. And, in Oklahoma, Steve Burrage, a Choctaw, is running for election as state auditor.

Then this election is not just about gains, but it’s also about mitigating losses. It would be all too easy to watch so much recent progress evaporate. One race that captures the essence of that concern is in Washington state. Sen. Claudia Kauffman, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, is the number one target of the state Republican Party.  She has demonstrated (also in a short period of time) what it means to have Native Americans in elective office with such successes as an education reform bill that was signed into law by the governor or significant work on behalf of American Indian foster children.

The national story about this off-year election has already been about the Tea Party and the voter anger that’s demanding a different kind of government. But there is another story; the one about how the Obama administration has done what it said it would do for the nation’s American Indian and Alaska Native communities. It would be a shame for that story to drift off without an ending because not enough people organized, invested money in candidates or voted.

Indian Country needs to step up and protect the president’s back.

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s new book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

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Do Indian Country Voters have the president’s back?

( – promoted by navajo)

Trahant Reports

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By Mark Trahant

By any objective measure Barack Obama has been the most engaged and effective president on American Indian issues since at least since Richard Nixon. You could even make the case that Obama is better than Nixon because there has been so much successful legislation and Executive Branch action in less than two years.

A quick review of the Obama record:

[bullet points continued below]

  • A significant number of key appointments of Native Americans at the White House, cabinet agencies, even the Interior Department’s chief legal counsel;
  • Increased budgets at the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs plus a sizeable slice – some $3 billion – of stimulus fund money that were directed at Indian Country.

I could go on and on with the real results from this administration.  (If you need a contrast, remember the frozen glare of President Bush when I asked him about tribal sovereignty or what it was like when the entire budget for urban Indian health programs was to be “zeroed out.”)

As Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk said at Taos Pueblo this past weekend: The president has been communicating to Indian Country with his heart and soul. He quoted Candidate Obama saying: “I promise you, as long as I serve as President of the United States, you will not be forgotten.”

That promise has exceeded expectations. So with this kind of record you would think the election ahead would be exciting. Indian Country has a stake – a huge stake – in the success of President Obama and that means supporting and electing candidates that will back his agenda.

Indian Country ought to have the president’s back.

Two years ago there was a massive effort to educate, register, and get American Indian and Alaska Native voters to the poll. In states like Montana there were speakers, special dances at powwows and a sustained effort to win. That same sort of effort is needed more than ever if the candidates who support the president are to have any chance of at all.

Kalyn Free, president and founder of the Indigenous Democratic Network – or INDN’s List – says tribes and individuals are not coming up with enough money. She sees great opportunities during this election cycle, with 29 Native American candidates in 11 states representing, 18 tribes. “Put a $100,000 into INDN’s List and we could change the world,” Free says.

Consider the statewide candidates: Navajo Chris Deschene, the Democratic Party nominee for Secretary of State for Arizona. This is the state’s stepping-stone to governor. In Alaska, Diane Benson is the party’s nominee for Lt. Gov. And, in Oklahoma, Steve Burrage, a Choctaw, is running for election as state auditor.

Then this election is not just about gains, but it’s also about mitigating losses. It would be all too easy to watch so much recent progress evaporate. One race that captures the essence of that concern is in Washington state. Sen. Claudia Kauffman, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, is the number one target of the state Republican Party.  She has demonstrated (also in a short period of time) what it means to have Native Americans in elective office with such successes as an education reform bill that was signed into law by the governor or significant work on behalf of American Indian foster children.

The national story about this off-year election has already been about the Tea Party and the voter anger that’s demanding a different kind of government. But there is another story; the one about how the Obama administration has done what it said it would do for the nation’s American Indian and Alaska Native communities. It would be a shame for that story to drift off without an ending because not enough people organized, invested money in candidates or voted.

Indian Country needs to step up and protect the president’s back.

================================================

================================================

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s new book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

A note to editors & bloggers that repurpose or repackage this copy: I file regular Monday commentary on a variety of topics under “Trahant Reports.” The material is free for you to use in any form that is helpful. It is not copyrighted.

Native American Netroots Web BadgeCross Posted at Native American Netroots

 An ongoing series sponsored by the Native American Netroots team focusing on the current issues faced by American Indian Tribes and current solutions to those issues.

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Ancient America: Two Thousand Years Ago

( – promoted by navajo)

It is not uncommon for accounts of American history to begin in the fifteenth century with the Spanish voyages of exploration. What the Europeans found was not a wilderness, but a land which had been settled by and developed for American Indians. By two thousand years ago there were a number of highly developed agricultural American Indian civilizations in North America. In this diary, I’d like to briefly describe a few of the events which happened about two thousand years ago in the area which would later become the United States.  

California:

Indian people in Kern, Fresno, and Tulare counties had started a pictographic style of rock art which the archaeologists call Southern Sierra Painted Style. The paintings are complex patterns which include humans and animals.

Florida:

The Calusa built a 2.5 mile canal across Pine Island. The canal was 18-23 feet wide and 3.5 feet deep so that it was large enough to handle most Calusa canoes. To control the water flow in the canal, the Calusa used a series of eight stepped impoundments which functioned like locks and a series of auxiliary channels which diverted excess flow.  

Indian people along the Crystal River had begun construction of a series of shell mounds which have astronomical alignments. The mounds and stone pillars were used to observe the solstices and equinoxes.

Louisiana:

Indian people at the Marksville site have begun construction of earthworks on a bluff overlooking Old River Lake. They constructed a semicircular earthwork that is about 3-7 feet high and about 3,300 feet long. The earthwork marked off a ceremonial area. There were five conical mounds within the earthworks, the tallest of which was 20 feet in height and is 100 feet across at its base.

Maine:

Indian people on Deer Island were making pottery. The pottery tended to be thin, hard, and generally well made. This suggests that ceramic techniques or even the pots themselves were introduced as a developed complex from the people of the drainages to the southwest.

Arizona:

Indian people in what is now the downtown area of present-day Phoenix constructed a village with 38 pithouses and three surface features. They built both circular and rectangular pithouses. Some of the pithouses were small, circular structures about six feet in diameter. The rectangular houses were as large as 18 by 13 feet.

Kentucky:

A man was killed two miles inside Mammoth Cave when a six-and-a-half ton boulder fell on him. The man-later nicknamed Lost John-was about 45 years old; 5 feet 3 inches tall; and weighed about 145 pounds. Since Indian people had been mining in the cave, it has been speculated that Lost John was mining gypsum or other minerals such as epsomite or selenite when the boulder crushed him.

Tennessee:

Near Pinson, Tennessee Indian people built an array of earthen mounds which were linked in a design scheme that extended for many miles. The largest mound-Sauls Mound-was 87 feet high and had a 50 square foot flat top, all built with no machinery. The site appears to have been used only occasionally for ceremonial purposes by local groups. The site appears to have been built with a master plan which places Sauls Mound in the middle.

Gaul (actually in Europe):

The king of the Suevians presented the Roman proconsul, Quintus Metellus Celer, with a gift of Indians who had been cast up on the shores of Germany during a storm.

Hopewell:

Hopewell was a mound-building culture whose hearth appears to have been in present-day Ohio. By 2,000 years ago, the culture had expanded outside of this area.

In Kansas and Missouri, the Hopewell people developed an efficient adaptation to the riverine environment near the junction of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers. The Hopewell settlements included large villages – 5 to 10 acres in size – which were frequently situated at the bluff line where tributary streams flow into the river. In addition, they occupied smaller camps – .5 to 2 acres in size – on terraces within stream valleys. These smaller camps were seasonally occupied hunting and gathering camps.

With regard to economics, the Hopewell people in Kansas and Missouri were doing some farming to supplement hunting and gathering. The primary protein source was deer with some fish and turkey. Gathering included wild nut crops as well as some wild seed crops, such as amaranth.

Near the village, the Hopewell people built mounds which covered stone-vault tombs. Within the mounds were both primary and secondary burials as well as cremations.  

In Georgia, the Mandeville site was established by Indian people who were participating in what archaeologists call the Hopewell Interaction Sphere. Artifacts at the site which were identified as Hopewell include copper panpipes, copper ear spools, mica, platform pipes, ceramic figurines, galena, and “Flint Ridge” blades.  

Utah’s Walker War

( – promoted by navajo)

The Walker War was a conflict between the Mormon settlers in Utah and Utah’s aboriginal peoples, the Ute. The leader of the Utes was Wakara, called Walker by the Mormons, and the conflict became known as the Walker War.  

Some Background:

In 1850, Ute leader Wakara invited Brigham Young to attend the annual Indian trade gathering in Utah Valley. Young and a delegation of Mormons met with the chiefs in council. When a Shoshone group raided a Ute camp, Wakara asked Brigham Young for Mormon militia support in the retaliation raid. The support was refused.

While angry with the Mormons for refusing aid, Wakara led his Ute warriors against the Shoshone. Upon his return after effecting bloody retaliation on the Shoshone raiders, Wakara and his band demonstrated in front of the settlement fort at Manti, showing off their war trophies. Walker then decided to move north and attack the Mormon settlement at Provo. However, Ute chief Sowiette persuaded him to call off the attack.

The War:

In 1853, the Mormons killed a Ute man and wounded two others near Springville. The fight originated over a trade of flour for fish. The slain man was one of Wakara’s relatives. Wakara demanded that the killers be turned over to him. When Indians had killed Mormons, the Mormons had always demanded that the chiefs turn the killers over to Mormon authorities for punishment. The Mormons, however, refused to turn the killers over to the Utes for punishment.

Tensions between Mormons and Utes culminated in the Walker War. Wakara, the chief of the Tumpanuwac band of Utes, led a series of effective raids against Mormon communities to obtain food and livestock.

In response to the raids, the Utah Territorial Militia was mobilized. Behind this organization stood the full power of the Mormon church. Many of the highest ranking militia and civil leaders were also ranking church officials.

At Clover Creek a Mormon group driving cattle was attacked by a Ute party, but their militia escort drove them off. The militia reported killing as many as five Ute warriors.

Acting in direct violation of general orders a Mormon militia unit attacked a Ute camp near Goshen, killing four or five people. The Ute survivors escaped death by hiding in the marshes until the attacking militia left.

When a group of Ute came to the fort at Nephi seeking protection, the townspeople killed them “like dogs.” One eyewitness wrote:

“Nine Indians coming into our camp looking for protection and bread with us … were shot down without one minute’s notice”

Another eyewitness writes:

“They were shot down like so many dogs, picked up with pitchforks [put] on a sleigh and hauled away”

In 1854, the Walker War ended when Ute chiefs Ammon and Migo indicated that they were ready for peace.  The Ute warriors recognized that they were hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. When Wakara returned from the Navajo country he also agreed to peace. He asked for food, guns, and ammunition.

The peace negotiations were carried out at Chicken Creek. Initially, Wakara refused to leave his tent, but Brigham Young entered the lodge. Young laid his hands upon Wakara’s sick daughter and gave her a blessing. After a long and patient negotiation, Walkara was able to accept defeat without humiliation.  

Native American Leadership Program needs your online vote NOW!

( – promoted by navajo)

Many of you are familiar with Wellstone Action, an incredibly effective organization that was founded following the deaths of Senator Paul and Sheila Wellstone.  One of it’s primary missions is to train activists, candidates, and campaign operatives across the country, and to strengthen progressive infrastructure and organizations in the process.  It is a highly successful organization and you can read more about it here.

One of their most promising programs is the Native American Leadership Program (NALP), which was established in 2008 and which trains current and future leaders in Indian Country.

Wellstone Action says the following about this innovative program:

“Continuing Paul and Sheila’s commitment to Indian Country, the Native American Leadership Program (NALP) exists to strengthen Native American leadership and civic engagement.There is increased demand in tribal communities for training on organizing to address such issues as increasing jobs and opportunities, lack of political representation, inadequate access to education and health care, environmental challenges, and high rates of domestic and sexual assault. In partnership with tribes in Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and throughout the country, this program will provide leadership and civic engagement skills training, culturally-specific training curricula, highly-skilled Native American trainers, and technical support for the creation of community action plans, to create a pipeline of Native leaders who are ready to step into key leadership positions in their communities.”

It is an exceptional program, led by one of the most dynamic administrators and trainers that I have ever met. (If you’re looking for bona fides, Al Franken is a huge fan of hers. ‘Nuf said.)

Here’s a little more about her:

Peggy Flanagan is the Director of the Native American Leadership Program at Wellstone Action. A member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota, Peggy was elected to the Minneapolis School Board in 2004 and is the first Native American to serve on that body. She has worked as Director of Community Outreach for the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), as coordinator of Urban Immersion Service Retreats for the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches, and as Project Manager for Parents Plus, a school readiness program at the Division of Indian Work in Minneapolis.

Peggy is a state director for INDN’s List, the only grassroots political organization devoted to recruiting and electing Native American candidates, and was the First Americans GOTV Coordinator for the Minnesota DFL on behalf of the Barack Obama Campaign for Change and Al Franken for Senate campaigns in 2008. In 2004, she worked as the Native American Community Coordinator for the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Minnesota. Peggy has served on the boards of several community organizations, including the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, Native Vote Alliance of Minnesota, and Young Elected Officials Network (a program of People for the American Way). She received her B.A. in American Indian Studies and child psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2002.

The Native American Leadership Program (NALP) is in the running for a $50,000, grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project, the grantmaking program in which decisions are made entirely by the public.  

Let me say that again:  the grant recipients are determined entirely by popular vote.

As an alumna of Camp Wellstone and a serious supporter of Wellstone Action, and as a politcal volunteer who has done substantial work in Indian Country (mainly in New Mexico), I received an e-mail from them this week asking me to vote and to spread the word about this very easy way to support the Native American Leadership Program (NALP).  

Dear Mindoca,

We are excited to let you know that our Native American Leadership Program has the opportunity to compete for a $50,000 grant!  But we need your help to ensure our victory.

We’re calling on all of our friends and supporters to become a daily voter, and encourage your networks to Get Out the Vote for Wellstone Action and the Native American Leadership Program!

What:  Pepsi Refresh Everything Challenge

How:  Sign up to be a daily voter.  You will receive an e-mail reminder each day, but only through the month of September.  Simply click and vote for Wellstone Action each day.

Why:  If we are in the lead at the end of the month, NALP will receive a generous grant to help continue the important work in Indian Country.

Thanks for your support, and don’t forget to vote for NALP this month!

We are the perfect community to rock this vote.  You can vote online or by text and you can –and should! — vote every day until the end of this cycle, which is September 30.  You have to sign up to vote, which probably means some spam from the sponsor, but wouldn’t it be worth it to know that we helped make this huge contribution to one of the foremost organizations in the nation supporting progressive leadership training in Indian Country?

Vote today— and every day through September 30.  And please spread the word to family and friends, and post to Facebook and Twitter, if you are so inclined.

Thanks and please leave a note below after you vote.  It’s always motivating to see the impact that we can have as a community!

P.S. Some recs over at DK wouldn’t hurt either :-)

American Indian Women: A Trader’s Wife

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American Indians were involved in trade for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the European and American fur traders. Traditional Indian trade was about relationships as much as it was about the material which was traded. In order to trade, a person needed to have trading partners, primarily relatives. An individual gained these trading partners through marriage and/or by being adopted into a family. The first fur traders quickly understood this and subsequently they usually married women from the tribes with whom they carried on trade.

In 1829, Fort Union, located on the boundary between Montana and North Dakota, was established as a trading post for the American Fur Company at the request of Iron Arrow Point, an Assiniboine chief. It soon became a trading center for many of the Northern Plains tribes, including the Blackfoot, Crow, Cree, Ojibwa, and Hidatsa. In order to strengthen their trade relations with these tribes, all of the traders took Indian wives, thus creating a web of alliances. This type of alliance was generally called a country marriage (le marriage á la façon du pays).  

Alexander Culbertson, the American Fur Company trader, insisted that Fort Union was a stable outpost of civilization and therefore there had to be white linen on the table as well as milk and butter. Culbertson would sit at the head of the table and the visitors and clerks would be seated according to rank.

Natawista (also spelled Natoapxíxina, Na-ta-wis-ta-cha and Natoyist-Siksina), the daughter of Kaina (Blood) chief Man’stokos (Two Suns) and sister of the chief Seen Afar, was Culbertson’s second wife. Her name translates into English as Sacred Serpent or Medicine Snake. She was fifteen years old when she was brought to him in 1840 to be married. She arrived at Fort Union in a procession of Blood and Blackfoot warriors. It is unlikely that she had selected Culbertson as her husband: it was more likely that the chiefs and Culbertson saw this as an economic opportunity. Natawista helped her husband by cultivating friendly relationships between Indians and Americans and thus enhancing her husband’s profitable trade.

The Blood, whose homelands are in Alberta, Canada, are closely related to the Blackfoot and were often close allies.

In 1846, Culbertson established Fort Lewis (later renamed Fort Benton) at the confluence of the Marias and Missouri Rivers in Montana to accommodate the large number of buffalo robes offered by the Blackfoot. Natawista became invaluable to this trade by advising her husband.

While she did not speak English, she adopted American dress and manners. At the many balls held at the trading posts, Natawista was well-gowned in European fashion and performed as a model hostess. While there were times when her taste for raw liver and calf brains was disturbing to some guests, her beauty and social skills charmed nearly everyone. Among the notable visitors who met her were John J. Audubon, Swiss artist Rudolf Friedrich Kurz, Father Pierre DeSmet, Lewis Henry Morgan, and others.

In 1843, John J. Audubon described Natawista, whom he called Mrs. Culbertson, this way:

…the Ladies had their hair loose and flying in the breeze and then all mounted on horses with Indian saddles and trappings. Mrs. Culbertson and her maid rode astride like men, and all rode a furious race, under whip the whole way, for more than one mile on the prairie; and how amazed would have been any European lady, or some of our modern belles who boast their equestrian skill at seeing the magnificent riding of this Indian princess-for that is Mrs. Culbertson’s rank-and her servant.

Rudolf Friedrich Kurz described her as

One of the most beautiful Indian women…would be an excellent model for a Venus.

Natawista and Culbertson played important roles in the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty Conference, in the 1853 Fort Benton Council, and in the 1855 Judith River Treaty Conference with the Blackfoot. While the Blackfoot were not present at the 1851 conference, Natawitsa and Culbertson helped the treaty council understand the extent of Blackfoot tribal territory. In 1854 she told the American treaty commissioners:

My people are a good people but they are jealous and vindictive. I am afraid that they and the whites will not understand each other, but if I go, I may be able to explain things to them and sooth them if they should be irritated. I know there is great danger.

Her daughters were taken from her by Culbertson and sent east so that they could be raised in American culture. We don’t know how Natawista felt about this, but there are some who feel that this created some tensions in the marriage.

When Culbertson retired from the fur trade, she went with him to live on a large estate near Peoria, Illinois. Here Natawista was baptized as Nelly and the couple was married by a Catholic priest in an ornate ceremony that hit the social column in the local newspaper. She enjoyed the fast horses and the private paddock of buffalo on the large estate. At one point she pitched a tipi on the front lawn of her magnificent mansion, much to the dismay of the neighbors.

The Civil War ruined Culbertson’s fortune and so they moved back to Fort Benton, Montana where they struggled to make ends meet. In 1870, the army attacked a peaceful Blackfoot camp in what came to be known as the Baker Massacre. Many Blackfoot fled to Canada for sanctuary. Natawista also fled north to her Blood people in Alberta. In 1877 she accepted treaty status as a Blood Indian in Canada. There she died in 1893 and was buried at the Catholic Church in Stand Off. Natawista Lake, also known as Janet Lake, in Glacier National Park is named for her.

Natawista’s story leaves us with many unanswered questions about Indian wives, country marriages, and the frontier. We don’t know to what extent she was a slave-wife or a concubine. We do know that she was an important part of her husband’s fur trading business, but she does not appear to be a true business partner, nor does the marriage appear to have been based on romance. Her story was a common one during the nineteenth century and most of the women involved have been forgotten by history, and in some cases, by their families.  

Ancient America: The Bighorn Medicine Wheel

( – promoted by navajo)

The Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming is the best known of the many medicine wheels, and many people refer to it as “the” medicine wheel. The Bighorn Medicine Wheel, located on a mountain top at an elevation of 9,642 feet, 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. Beneath the central cairn is a conical hole in the bedrock about 1 meter deep, which could have held a vertical pole. The central cairn appears to have been built first and then the spokes added later.

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. No one knows for sure what ceremonies, if any, were originally carried out in conjunction with this site. The physical evidence does, however, seem to suggest that one of the uses of the site was for vision quests.

Big Horn Medicine Wheel

The Bighorn 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.  

Like many ancient sacred Native American sites, the Medicine Wheel in Wyoming is on “public” land-land which is administered by the Forest Service. The culture of the Forest Service is often in disagreement with native cultures over the administration of public lands, particularly when it comes to sacred sites. Many modern Indian nations, including the Crow, Shoshone, Sioux, Cheyenne, and others, feel that this is a sacred site.

As early as 1915, the residents of Lovell, Wyoming were seeking National Landmark status for the Big Horn Medicine Wheel. They saw it as a means to attract tourists into the area and thus help develop the local economy. There was little concern for the spiritual or religious significance of the site.

In 1969 the Bighorn Medicine Wheel was declared a National Historic Monument to be administered by the Forest Service. Nearly two decades later-in 1988–the Forest Service decided to develop the Medicine Wheel for interpretation and to promote tourism. The plans included increased access and an observation tower adjacent to the Medicine Wheel. Although the local business community supported the idea, such facilities were considered extremely intrusive and offensive to Indian people. In spite of being informed about Indian feelings concerning development, the Forest Service proceeded with planning.

For many Native Americans, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel is not a monument to their spiritual past, but it is a living part of their contemporary spiritual traditions. Many do not view it as a tourist attraction and some feel that the tourists actually disrupt the harmony of this place.

When the Forest Service finally closed vehicle access to the Medicine Wheel site in 1993, non-Indians complained loudly that there had to be full access to the site for everyone at all times.

With a growing awareness of Native American concerns, in 1993 the Forest Service held three months of meetings regarding the management of the Bighorn Medicine Wheel. These meetings resulted in a memorandum of agreement which recognized Indian groups and committed the Forest Service to initiate consultation with these groups regarding development of the site. One observer noted:

“What the Forest Service spent six years resisting took 90 days to accomplish. It might have taken less than 90 days if the Forest Service had not spent six years building a legacy of mistrust.”

In 1996, the Forest Service created an 18,000 acre “area of consultation” around the Medicine Wheel. In this area, activities which detract from the spiritual values of the landmark may be banned. Two years later, the Wyoming Sawmills filed suit against the Forest Service over the area of consultation around the Bighorn Medicine Wheel. The suit argued that the Forest Service policy restricting logging in the area violated the separation of church and state. Finally, in 2001, a federal judge ruled that the Forest Service could continue developing a historic preservation plan for the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark. The judge rejected arguments that the Forest Service plan violated the First Amendment of the Constitution by favoring a religious site over other forest activities, such as logging.

Vision Quest 2

A Crossing Over Ceremony

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My Mother:

My mother was born on the Ocean Man Reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada and came to the United States as a child. According to her brother she was smuggled into the country in the back of a hay wagon and lived here for most of her life as an illegal immigrant. She grew up on a ranch, riding a horse to school until she left for high school. She grew up without things such as running water and electricity.

The Plan:

The sweat lodge, interesting enough, was scheduled to happen four days after she died: a ceremonially significant time period. My initial plan was to ask another pipe carrier (ceremonial leader) to conduct the sweat and run a crossing over ceremony as a part of the sweat. I wanted to simply sit in the ceremony with no ceremonial responsibilities. In following a traditional Native path, however, we pay attention to the flow of spiritual forces around us.

Shortly after my mother died, I got an email note from people that I did not know. They simply introduced themselves as a group of Europeans who had been doing sweat lodge in Europe under the guidance of a Susquehannock leader. They had heard about our regularly scheduled sweat and asked if they could attend. With this request, I realized that the best way I could honor my mother was to conduct the sweat lodge ceremony.

Fire:

In the traditional Anishinabe way, the preparation of the fire and the lodge is a ceremony in itself. The wood is laid out on the fire pit in a specific fashion, paying attention to both the number of logs used and the directions in which they face. Then the rocks-48 plus one for this ceremony-are placed on top. The rocks are not covered as we want them to be in contact with other spiritual forces.

For this sweat, the fire was then ignited on the west side, the direction of death. For the next two hours, we let the fire and the stones talk to us. This period of time usually tells a lot about what we should be doing in the sweat itself. Ceremony, in this traditional fashion, is not mindless repetition, but is an ongoing conversation with the spiritual. As such, no two ceremonies are ever the same, just like no two conversations are ever identical. We pay attention to what is happening and then respond to that.

Blessing the Lodge:

With the fire under way, I entered the lodge carrying a medicine flute. Alone in the lodge, I then played the flute to the seven directions, to the animal spirits, and to my mother’s soul.

Pipe Ceremony:

When the rocks tell us that it is time, we then gather outside of the lodge for a pipe ceremony. I conducted this ceremony using the older of my pipes. The pipe ceremony that I did was a shortened Midewiwin ceremony in which smoke was first offered upward to Gitche Manitou and then down to Mother Earth. These two offerings open up the portal to the spirit world. Then smoke is offered to the manitous (spirits) of the four cardinal directions: North (direction of dreams), South (direction of words), West (direction of death), and East (direction of birth). Following this, the other pipe carriers (there were five present) passed their pipes so that all who participated in the ceremony would be spiritually connected.

Sweat Lodge:

I do many different kinds of sweat lodge ceremonies. For this occasion, an Anishinabe (Ojibwa) creation ceremony seemed most appropriate. In this ceremony, each “round” of the sweat focused on a single cycle of creation.

Sixteen stones, each glowing red so that you can look into the soul of the stone, were then brought into the lodge one at a time. As each stone was in the pit, a sprinkling of herbs was placed on it to create a smudge.

A quick aside about the herbs used for the smudge. Earlier that afternoon, I had attempted to put together a smudge blend to be used for this ceremony. I wanted to start with lavender, but my supply of lavender had somehow disappeared. In my hand I suddenly realized that I was holding sweet pine, and the next to appear was cedar. Thus I realized that the smudge was to be sweet pine and cedar. When one of the other pipe carriers had arrived at the lodge, one of the first things he did was to hand me a container of lavender. I told him about finding the sweet pine and cedar. Smiling, he handed me the container in his other hand-sweet pine and cedar which he mixed that afternoon.

Each one of the first sixteen stones has special spiritual significance. The first four represent the four cardinal directions: North, South, West, East. The next four are the guardian spirits of the Midewiwin: Bear, Otter, Moose, Whitefish. Then come the four celestial bodies: Mother Earth, the Sun, the Moon, and the Star People. And finally, Thunderbird, Underwater Panther, the Giants, and the Little People.

When Underwater Panther is called in, many people offer a coin-usually a penny-as an offering. I offered my AA sobriety coin (41 years).

At the beginning of the first round, I sang one of the songs given to me at my vision quest, then an Anishinabe spiritual song, and a drum blessing song. Following this song, the drums could be used. Another pipe carrier than sang an Assiniboine four directions song.

In the first round, we tell of the dream which led to the creation of the world. Following this dream, the stones, the air, the fire, and the water were created and each was given spirit, soul, life, Manitou. Then these four elements were used to create the earth, the sun, the moon, and the star people. In telling the creation story, we usually talk about the meaning of each of these things.

A number of songs then followed, sung by various participants.

The second round is about the plant people. According to the creation story, each of the plant people was given two gifts: the power of beauty and the power of healing. These are interrelated gifts as beauty is a part of healing. Thus, the second round is traditionally a healing round and as such tends to be rather hot. This time, however, I was unable to persuade the stones to give us much heat. This was probably the coldest second round I have ever done. During the second round I sang a number of songs to the plant people.

Following the second round, another pipe carrier conducted the crossing over ceremony. I simply laid on the floor and let one of my souls wander the earth as he sang the song.

The third round tells of the creation of the animal people. Each one of the animal people was given the power to see the future. Then each was given a unique gift. As humans, we often utilize these animal people as our elder siblings, our teachers. It is often these animal people who come to us at vision quest, and at other times, and teach us what it means to be human. In this round, people are asked to sing to an animal spirit who has come to them-not one they want, but one who has already come to them.

The fourth round is about the creation of human beings. At creation humans were given only one gift: the power of the dream. Thus creation comes full circle: it began with a dream and it ends with a dream. During this round people were asked to sing their dream songs, their personal medicine songs.

Finally, there was a closure round. A woman pipe carrier conducted this round and the people contributed many songs.

The ceremony started with the fire about 5:00 PM and it concluded some time after midnight.  

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