The 1855 Hell Gate Treaty

When the United States divided Oregon Territory into Washington Territory and Oregon Territory in 1853, western Montana was included in Washington Territory. President Millard Fillmore appointed Isaac I. Stevens as the territorial governor of Washington. Stevens immediately began an aggressive plan to deprive the Indian nations within the territory of title to their lands. Western Montana was not high on his priority list and so he did not arrive there to “negotiate” treaties until 1855.

Governor Stevens considered the western Montana tribes-the Flathead (also called the Bitterroot Salish), the Pend d’Oreilles (also called the Upper Kalispel), and the Kootenai-to be unimportant. His goal was to consolidate them, together with other tribes in eastern Washington Territory, on a single reservation.  

At the treaty council, held near the present-day city of Missoula, the head chief for the Flathead was Victor, the head chief for the Pend d’Oreilles was Alexander, and the head chief of the Kootenai was Michelle. The Pend d’Oreilles chief Big Canoe also played an important role in the negotiations. Stevens insisted that all three tribes be treated as a single nation because he assumed that they were all Salish. He was unaware that the Kootenai are not a Salish-speaking people.

The Kootenai were included in the treaty council because they had one band living on the western shore of Flathead Lake. However, the Kootenai speak a language which is unrelated to the Salish languages of the Flathead, the Pend d’Oreille, and the other tribes in eastern Washington Territory. Not only are they culturally distinct from the other tribes, they did not have a peaceful relationship with the Flathead.

Following the standard practice of American treaty councils, the Americans simply appointed Victor as the head chief over the three tribes. The Americans preferred to deal with a single chief, preferably a puppet dictator whom they could control.

The American plan for a single reservation was not met with enthusiasm. Stevens proposed that the reservation for the three tribes be created in the Jocko Valley, the homeland of the Pend d’Oreilles. However, the Flathead did not want to leave their homeland in the Bitterroot Valley nearly a hundred miles to the south. When Chief Victor refused to sign the treaty until it included provisions for a separate reservation for this people in the Bitterroot Valley, Governor Stevens called him an old woman and a dog. Victor replies:

“I sit quiet and before me you give my land away.”

Chief Alexander, a Christian, favored the treaty as it would give his people an opportunity to learn more about Christianity. He did, however, accuse Governor Stevens of “talking like a Blackfoot.” This was not a compliment.

Red Wolf (Flathead) questioned the wisdom of combining the three tribes and attempted to explain to the Americans that each of the tribes is different. The Americans turned their deaf ears toward his words and continued to act upon their delusion that all Indian cultures were the same.

Big Canoe, a Pend d’Oreilles, pointed out that his people had offered the hand of friendship to the Americans since first contact. He questioned why there was a need for a treaty, saying that treaties were used to settle differences between enemies. While he still offered friendship, he felt that the Americans did not have the right to come into his territory and take away his lands.

While the 1855 Treaty of Hell Gate established what would become the Flathead Reservation in western Montana, it also acknowledged the rights of the Flathead to remain in their homeland in the Bitterroot Valley. According to the treaty, which was theoretically the supreme law under the Constitution, the Bitterroot Valley was to be closed to non-Indian settlement.

As with the other treaties negotiated by Stevens, the Hell Gate Treaty states:

“The exclusive right of taking fish in all the streams running through or bordering the reservation is further secured to said Indians; as also the right of taking fish at all usual and accustomed places … together with the privilege of hunting, gathering roots and berries…”

The assembled chiefs signed the treaty agreement believing that the United States would protect them from Blackfoot raids and that the government would provide them with generous monetary payments and annual appropriations. The chiefs were unfamiliar with American concepts of land ownership and both the treaty and the discussions regarding land ownership were poorly translated.

Pontiac’s War

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

Background: Prelude to War

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

The French and Indian War officially ended in 1760 with the defeat of France. As a result, English settlers began to pour across the Alleghenies into Indian territory. While the French had secured the loyalty of their Indian allies by providing them with ammunition and supplies, the English did not. Lord Jeffrey Amherst wrote:

“I do not see why the Crown should be put to that expense. Services must be rewarded; it has ever been a maxim with me. But as to purchasing the good behavior either of Indians or any others, [that] is what I do not understand. When men of whatsoever race behave ill, they must be punished but not bribed.”

Indians soon found that they were not welcome at the forts and that intermarriage was discouraged. The English simply assumed that they had no obligation to the original inhabitants of the country and acted accordingly. From an Indian viewpoint, this was not only a breach of protocol, but an open insult to the Indian nations and their leaders.

In 1762, the Delaware (Lenni Lenape) prophet Neolin had a vision in which he undertook a journey to meet the Master of Life. He was told:

“The land on which you are, I have made for you, not for others. Wherefore do you suffer the whites to dwell upon your lands?”

“Drive them away; wage war against them; I love them not; they know me not; they are my enemies; they are your brothers’ enemies. Send them back to the land I have made for them.”

He received a prayer which is carved in symbolic language on a stick.

After returning from the vision, the prophet drew a map on a deerskin which was used in explaining his vision. This “great book” was sold to followers so that they might refresh their memories from time to time. Neolin’s vision provided the foundation for a pan-Indian movement. One of Neolin’s followers was the Ottawa chief Pontiac. According to ethnologist James Mooney, writing in 1896:

“The religious ferment produced by the exhortations of the Delaware prophet spread rapidly from tribe to tribe, until, under the guidance of the master mind of the celebrated chief, Pontiac, it took shape in a grand confederacy of all the northwestern tribes to oppose the further progress of the English.”

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

The War:

In 1763, Neolin, in present-day Michigan, urged the Three Fires Confederacy-Ottawa, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi,-to expel the British. In response, Pontiac led an alliance of Shawnee, Delaware, and Ojibwa against the British. He told his people:

“It is important for us, my brothers, that we exterminate from our land this nation which only seeks to kills us.”

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

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

Pontiac’s rebellion was defeated in part because of a smallpox epidemic among the allied tribes. Sir Jeffrey Amherst, Commander of the British forces:

“You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.”

One officer-Captain Simeon Ecuyer, a Swiss mercenary-reported that during peace negotiations with the Delaware, the Indians were given two blankets and a handkerchief which had been deliberately infected with smallpox spores at the post hospital. Other officers handed out smallpox-infected clothing. Soon smallpox was sweeping through the allied tribes, weakening their ability to wage war.

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

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

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

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

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

Indians 101: 1961

Fifty years ago, in 1961, winds of political and social change were sweeping across the United States. There was not only a new President, John F. Kennedy, but there were new concerns and awareness of civil rights for American minorities, including American Indians. During the 1950s, government policies toward Indians had emphasized total assimilation and the termination of tribes. With the election of Kennedy, there was now a renewed optimism among Indians.  

Inaugural Parade  

In Washington, D.C., the inaugural parade for President John F. Kennedy included five American Indian entries. Kennedy had pledged to end the termination policies which had characterized the 1950s and had promised a more vigorous domestic Indian policy. This gave Native Americans across the country renewed hope.

The float by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was entitled “First New Frontier-1620” and symbolized the hospitality that Indians extended to the first Europeans. The Montana tribes organized an entry called “Sacajawea and Lewis and Clark Blaze Montana’s New Frontier” which evoked images of peace and cooperation in a new era. Members of the Rosebud Sioux tribe entered a group on horseback in traditional Indian regalia. The group, however, was behind the Marine band. When the band’s drums started, they startled the horses and Bob Burnette who was leading the group was thrown from his horse. The horse got away and Burnette finished the parade in the back of a Marine jeep.

Land Sales Policy

The Department of the Interior changed federal land sales policies to give Indian tribes the first opportunity to buy land offered for sale by individual Indians. This was a partial reversal of the Termination Policy.


A symposium on “Declaration of Indian Purpose” was held at the University of Chicago and was attended by nearly 500 Indians from 65 tribes. The Indian participant asked for Indian involve¬ment at all levels of government. According to the Declaration:

“What we ask of America is not charity, not paternalism, even when benevolent. We ask only that the nature of our situation be recognized and made the basis of policy and action.”

Indian participants in the symposium included representatives from groups without federal recognition. The gathering also included off-reservation Indians.

The Declaration of Indian Purpose declared:

“We, the Indian people must be governed by principles in a democratic manner with a right to choose our way of life. Since our Indian culture is threatened by the presumption of being absorbed by the American society we believe we have the responsibility of preserving our precious heritage.”

The document was written by D’Arcy McNickle, a Flathead novelist and employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

While the conference had broad participation, there was some opposition to it. The Montana Inter-Policy Board urged Montana tribes to boycott the event because of the involvement of the National Congress of American Indians. There were also some who opposed the participation of anthropologists such as Sol Tax in the event.

National Indian Youth Council  

In New Mexico, the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC) was founded by Vine Deloria and others.  NIYC was impatient with the slow pace of change and the methods of the National Congress of American Indians.

Melvin D. Thom (Paiute) was selected as president and Herb Blatchford (Navajo) was executive director. Leonard Crow Dog would later write:

“This was a forerunner of AIM and a big step for Native American rights”

NIYC was strongly influenced by the civil rights movement. They focused on self-determination and Indian sovereignty. Their goal was a world in which Indians would be able to make decisions for themselves.

Yellowstone National Park

In Wyoming and Montana, 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.”

Urban Indian Centers  

In Oakland, California, the Quakers established the Intertribal Friendship House. This inspired Adam Nordwall (Red Lake Chippewa) and others to organize the United Bay Area Council of American Indian Affairs (usually called the United Council). Most of the membership of the United Council was made up of existing social clubs, including the Navajo Club, the Haida Tlinget Club, the Haskell Alumni, and the Four Winds Club. These groups offered fellowship and traditional singing and dancing, and a chance to speak one’s tribal language.

In Chicago, Illinois, St. Augustine’s Center for American Indians was established by Father John Powell, a parish priest at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. Powell emphasized the parallels between Native religions and Christianity. While the Center was open to Indians from all tribes, it tended to appeal to those who had already encountered Episcopal missionaries and churches.

Land Claims

The Indian Claims Commission ruled that the Northern Cheyenne, Southern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho, and Southern Arapaho had not been paid full value for the lands in Colorado, southwestern Wyoming, western Kansas, and Nebraska which they had ceded to the United States under the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. All parties agreed that the value of these lands should be determined as of October 14, 1865.

The Cherokee were awarded $15 million by the Indian Claims Commission for the Cherokee Outlet lands in Oklahoma.

The Indian Claims Commission denied the Cherokee Freedmen’s Association claim to tribal citizenship. The commission felt that the claims were individual in nature and therefore the commission had no jurisdiction.


In Wisconsin, termination of the Menominee was finalized and the reservation became a county. The Menominee Enterprises Inc. (MEI) now administered all tribal assets, including land, forest, and the sawmill. Each of the 3,270 tribal members received a receipt for 100 shares of common stock in MEI. The actual shares were issued to the corporation’s Voting Trust, which was empowered to elect the MEI Board of Directors.

The First Wisconsin Trust Co. of Milwaukee was assigned guardian powers to act as a trustee for all tribal minors and incompetents. Tribal members could be determined to be incompetent by the Secretary of the Interior without any judicial hearings and legal process.

States and Indians

Connecticut defined “Indian” as a person with one-eighth Indian blood from a tribe whose reservation was set aside (that is, established by the European and/or American authorities). The state defined several reservations: Eastern Pequot, Golden Hill, Schaghticoke, and Western Pequot (Mashuntucket Pequot). The state welfare commissioner was responsible for caring for reservation residents and maintaining land and buildings. Connecticut defined “tribal funds” as those held in trust by the state for the Indians and benefit of a tribe.

California created the State Advisory Commission on Indian Affairs as the successor to the Senate Interim Committee on Indian Affairs. The Commission was to investigate and make recommendations concerning the termination of Indian reservations and federal Indian services.  All of the Commission members were non-Indians.  

In South Dakota, lobbyists for the non-Indian Taxpayers League drafted a bill which was introduced in the state House of Representatives which assumed state jurisdiction over all criminal and civil matters in Indian country under the provisions of Public Law 280. The primary concern of the Taxpayers League was “lawlessness”, especially drunken driving on the highway. Enforcing the proposed law, however, would entail increased costs to the state so the bill was amended to assume jurisdiction only over actions on the highways through Indian country. The bill passed and became law.

Museums and Archaeology

In Arizona, the Navajo established a tribal museum and a research program. The research program was used for researching Navajo pre-conquest land claims before the Indian Claims Commission.

In Wyoming, the Bradford Brinton Memorial & Museum was established near Big Horn. One room in the museum was dedicated to American Indian objects. The museum’s Indian collection included about 250 pieces from throughout North America.

In Idaho, a leveling operation uncovers a group of 29 stone artifacts, including 5 large Clovis points. Archaeologists usually date the Clovis culture to about 12,000 years ago. The find appears to have been a cache that had been intentionally buried by people who planned to later recover it.

In-Lieu Fishing Sites

In Oregon, the Umatilla Tribes’ Fish Committee report reflected frustration at the federal government’s avoidance of carrying out its promises to provide in-lieu fishing sites to replace those lost through Bonneville Dam. In-lieu fishing sites were very important to the tribe.

Recognition Request  

In Texas, the mayor of El Paso wrote to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) voicing the opinion that the Tigua should have the same rights, privileges, and protections as other American Indian tribes. In response to this letter, the BIA points out that with one exception (the Alabama-Coushatta) the federal government had never assumed responsibility for any Indian tribe in Texas. According to the BIA, Texas entered the Union as a fully self-governing state and thus there were no public domain lands nor any trust responsibility for any tribes living upon them.  Alan Minter, the Assistant Attorney General of Texas, wrote:

“When Texas became a state in 1845, it was the beginning of the end for the Indian.”


Ancient America: The Mammoth Hunters

As the ice fields that had covered the northern portion of North America began to retreat, new environments were created. North America looked very different 16,000 years ago: there were now lakes, bogs, and marshes in areas that had been covered with ice. Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin were covered with park-like spruce and poplar forests. The grasslands of the northern Great Plains supported herds of pronghorns, bison (not the bison of today, but a much larger species with horns more like those of longhorn cattle), moose (about 10 feet in height), elk, and other large animals. With regard to carnivores, there were American lions, saber-toothed cats, giant short-faced bears, and wolves (both gray and dire).

Mammoth S

Among the largest of the mega-fauna that inhabited North America during the end of the ice ages was the Columbian Mammoth: a kind of elephant that stood more than 11 feet high and whose weight was measured in tons. It is estimated that it could run 25-35 miles per hour. By 12,000 years ago, archaeological evidence shows that American Indians were hunting these mammoths. Archaeologists call these ancient Indian people Clovis because the first evidence of these early big game hunters was found at an archaeological site near Clovis, New Mexico. Here archaeologists found an atlatl point embedded in a mammoth bone, clear evidence that Indian people were hunting these giant creatures thousands of years ago. Archaeologists generally feel the Clovis first emerged about 11,200 years ago.

Mammoth 2

The signature artifact of the Clovis people is a spear point. The Clovis point is a finely made stone projective point with a characteristic flute which helps in attaching the point to an atlatl dart. Clovis points have lateral indentations (or flutes) which allow them to be efficiently tied to a shaft. The shafts were thrown with the aid of a throwing stick or atlatl.

clovis point

The atlatl is a wooden shaft with a hook at one end and a handle at the other. The butt of the spear is engaged by the hook. Grasping the handle and steadying the spear shaft with the fingers, the spear can be hurled with great force. With this arrangement, the spear can be thrown with greater force and for longer distances than if done by arm and hand alone. It is estimated that the atlatl dart has an impact over 150 times as intense as that of a hand-thrown spear.

The atlatl is effective and accurate at ranges up to 150 meters. One of the secrets to the distance and accuracy of the atlatl is found in the use of a light, flexible spear shaft. During the throw, the spear shaft acts like a spring in that it bends and stores energy. The shaft then straightens out as it pushes away from the atlatl, getting more energy in a spring-like effect.

Another important advantage of the atlatl is that it is a one-handed weapon. Many people have noted that it can be effectively used from a canoe or kayak and thus have suggested that its origins may be associated with sea-coast hunters who were hunting sea mammals, such as whales.

Atlatl darts may have had a foreshaft. At a number of Clovis sites archaeologists have found rods which are beveled on both ends at different angles, and the flat bevels are deeply incised with cross-hatching. The rods may have been attached to another object with a glue of pine pitch, as the archaeologists have found the residue of the pine pitch on the rods. Some archaeologists feel that these rods may have been foreshafts with a Clovis point attached at one end and the other end attached to a spear.

The projectile points and stone tools which the archaeologists find at Clovis kill sites are often made from materials quarried several hundred miles away. For example, Clovis hunters in Colorado used Alibates dolomite from the panhandle of Texas, 350 miles away. It was not uncommon for the Clovis people to travel hundreds of miles to get the best stone. Then they would carry it for hundreds of miles before they finished flaking it into usable tools.  

Not all of the stone points made by Clovis people were intended to be used. The Clovis toolmakers were some of the finest flintknappers in the world. Some of the bifacial blades they produced were so thin that they would shatter on impact, indicating to archaeologists that they were not intended for utilitarian activities. These may have been ceremonial and/or simply aesthetic.

Geographically, Clovis points are found in the west from British Columbia to northern Mexico. In the east they are found from Nova Scotia to Florida. The densest concentration of Clovis artifacts is found in the Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland River valleys. This suggests that the Clovis point and associated artifacts may have originated in the southeastern United States and then spread out.

The broad geographic dispersion of Clovis does not mean Clovis was a single tribe or culture. Rather, it is an indication that Indian people borrowed artifacts and ideas from each other. Clovis is best viewed as a tool tradition, not a culture.

Clovis hunting was both systematic and opportunistic. Systematic hunting involved a careful strategy for hunting a specific species. In other words, systematic hunting means that the hunters have to have a good understanding of the animals they are hunting and therefore they are able to predict where the animals will be and when they will be there. Clovis hunters, in order to bring down mammoths with any regularity, had to be knowledgeable about mammoth behavior.

On the other hand, opportunistic hunting involves taking animals which are encountered. Thus, a hunting party which is systematically hunting for mammoth may also take camel or bison if they are encountered.

Clovis hunters understood that large mammals, such as the mammoth, had to have water: thus, they could be found at watering holes and ponds. Furthermore, they understood that the soft ground near the watering holes could slow the animals down and would sometimes entrap the large mammals. At a Clovis mammoth kill site in Wyoming, archaeologists feel that the evidence shows that the hunters ambushed the animals and then drove the panic-stricken animals into the muck. At Murray Springs, near present day Tombstone, Arizona, Clovis hunters ambushed bison around a small pond. Then the hunters set up a camp on a nearby high spot where the animals were butchered.

At the Colby site, near Worland, Wyoming, Clovis hunters 12,000 years ago killed several mammoths in a shallow arroyo. The hunt probably took place in the late fall or early winter. The hunters partly butchered the animals, then stacked the carcasses into piles to be frozen. The hunters then moved on, returning to open the cache when they needed meat.  In other words, Clovis hunters understood the basic principles of freezing and used frozen meat caches.

Like other hunting and gathering people, Clovis people were nomadic and regularly moved their camps in search of new food sources. The nomadic patterns of Clovis people were not random. One of the common misconceptions that many people have about hunting people such as Clovis is that they simply wander the land looking for game. But they had to be able to predict what resources-animal, plant, stone-would be available at which locations and at what time of year.

Clovis people knew the ecology of their areas. The migration patterns were often seasonal. As the herd animals – mammoths, horses, bison – depleted the plant sources in one area, they would migrate to another area. After the plants had recovered, the herds would return. Understanding both the needs of the herds and the nature of plants, Clovis people were able to anticipate the seasonal movements of the herds and to re-use kill sites.

Moving a camp site meant walking and this in turn meant carrying important tools. The tools were made from stone (which can be quite heavy), bone, wood, and leather. Since Clovis people knew that they would be returning to the area again, they made caches where they would store stone tools and other items. By doing this, they did not have to carry as much from camp to camp.

Most of the time, Clovis hunting camps were not close to the quarries which were the source of the stone for the Clovis tools. As tools became dull or were broken, they were carefully re-sharpened. As the tools became too small to be used as atlatl points or as knives, they were recycled into other tools, such as scrapers and wedges.

The distance from the quarries could create problems when stone supplies were exhausted. As with the tools themselves, the Clovis people also cached the stone for making the tools. By doing this, they did not have to return to the quarry every time they needed new stone. They could simply return to a closer cache and have the materials they needed for making more tools.

Clovis people also ate many smaller animals. In some areas, one of the other animals eaten by Clovis people was the turtle. Pleistocene turtles contained a lot of meat – they measured 37 inches in length, 30 inches in width, and had a shell height of 23 inches. The turtles were roasted in the shell and Clovis people often constructed special roasting pits to accommodate several turtles stacked on top of each other.

While Clovis people were skilled hunters with a great deal of knowledge about animal behavior, like other Indian people, they were also skilled botanists who knew a great deal about plants which could be used for both food and for tools. They gathered a wide variety of different food plants, including berries (such as hackberry and blackberry), seeds, and tubers. To process some of these plant foods, they manufactured grinding tools.

With regard to social organization, since the people using the Clovis technology had a subsistence pattern based on hunting and gathering, they would have lived in small, family-oriented bands, perhaps 20 to 50 people. These types of groups are generally egalitarian. While there would have been some differences based on age, gender, and personal qualities, all band members were essentially equal.

At different times of the year, two or more of these bands might come together for a communal hunt and socialization. It was at these times that the people would share stories, histories, and new ideas. The coming together of the bands also gave the younger people an opportunity to select spouses from other bands.

We know nothing about Clovis spirituality. Many of the Clovis points and other stone tools were carefully buried in tool caches and often the stone tools were painted with red ochre. Since ochre has been commonly used in a ceremonial context by Indian people in North America over the past several centuries, many assume that Clovis people also used red ochre in this fashion.    

First Nation’s Man Who Named Queen of England in Abduction Dies

This man was to testify as a main witness to the abductions of children at the Kamloops and Mission Indian residential schools in October, 1964.  He says that Queen Elizabeth and her husband showed up at the school without fanfare and that there was a picnic to which some of the children including himself went to, with the Queen and her husband Philip.  He says that the Queen and her husband left with some of the children and that he never saw those children again.

The schools were run by the Roman Catholic Church at which Combes alleged that many of the children were tortured and abused and described his own abuse of being put on a rack and having several bones broken.  He witnessed a little girl being thrown off a roof to fall to her death and he saw two of the priests burying a child in an orchard on one occasion.  Here is his testimony:

"I am an Interior Salish spirit dancer and am 58 years old. I live in Vancouver, Canada. I am a survivor of the Kamloops and Mission Indian residential schools, both run by the Roman Catholic church. I suffered terrible tortures there at the hands especially of Brother Murphy, who killed at least two children. I witnessed him throw a child off a three story balcony to her death. He put me on a rack and broke some of my bones, in the Kamloop school basement, after I tried running away. I also saw him and another priest burying a child in the school orchard one night.

In October, 1964 when I was 12 years old, I was an inmate at the Kamloops school and we were visited by the Queen of England and Prince Phillip. I remember it was strange because they came by themselves, no big fanfare or nothing. But I recognized them and the school principal told us it was the Queen and we all got given new clothes and good food for the first time in months the day before she arrived.

The day the Queen got to the school, I was part of a group of kids that went on a picnic with her and her husband and some of the priests, down to a meadow near Dead Man’s Creek. I remember it was weird because we all had to bend down and kiss her foot, a white laced boot. After awhile, I saw the Queen leave the picnic with ten children from the school, and those kids never returned. We never heard anything more about them and never met them again even when we were older. They were all from around there but they all vanished.

The group that disappeared was seven boys and three girls, in age from six to fourteen years old. They were all from the smart group in class. Two of the boys were brothers and they were Metis from Quesnel. Their last name was Arnuse or Arnold. I don’t remember the others, just an occasional first name like Cecilia and there was an Edward. What happened was also witnessed by my friend George Adolph, who was 11 years old at the time and a student there too. But he's dead now."

William Combes was the sole survivor of a group of three aboriginal witnesses to the royal abductions.  The Rev. Kevin Annett, Human Rights activist and writer, had seen William about 10 days before he died and said he looked very healthy, in fact better than ever, he said.  Combes mate, Mae, said he'd just been assigned a new doctor who wanted him to check-in and stay at the hospital for some tests.  There at the hospital, his health began to immediately deteriorate. He died suddenly of a still-undisclosed cause.  The coroner will not disclose what William Combes died of.

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The Bureau of Indian Affairs

In discussions about American Indians, one of the terms which often comes up is the BIA or Bureau of Indian Affairs. Officially the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ mission is to enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes and Alaska Natives. The Bureau of Indian Affairs describes itself this way:

The United States has a unique legal and political relationship with Indian tribes and Alaska Native entities as provided by the Constitution of the United States, treaties, court decisions and Federal statutes. Within the government-to-government relationship, Indian Affairs provides services directly or through contracts, grants, or compacts to 565 Federally recognized tribes with a service population of about 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. While the role of Indian Affairs has changed significantly in the last three decades in response to a greater emphasis on Indian self-governance and self-determination, Tribes still look to Indian Affairs for a broad spectrum of services.


Our current form of government was established in 1787 when the United States adopted a constitution. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of this constitution delegates to Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.” In other words, the founders of the United States viewed Indian tribes as nations and intended for the federal government to deal with them as sovereign nations.

American leadership at this time-President George Washington, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and Secretary of War Henry Knox-assumed that Indian policies were now vested in the federal government rather than in the state governments. Furthermore, they saw Indian affairs being directed by the executive branch. They saw Indian policy as a branch of foreign policy and viewed Indian tribes as foreign nations. Since the Secretary of State is involved with dealing with other nations, it would have seemed logical to place Indian affairs under the Department of State. However, since Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson was spending much of his time in France and there were critical Indian issues that had to be dealt with, Henry Knox, the Secretary of War, stepped in and assumed responsibility for Indian affairs. Thus, Indian affairs came under the War Department and in 1789 Congress formally gave the War Department authority over Indian Affairs.  

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

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

Commissioners of Indian Affairs:

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

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

As political appointees, it was not uncommon for the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and the Secretary of the Interior to be more concerned about non-Indian corporate interests than in their fiduciary responsibility towards Indians. The BIA during the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century was active in suppressing American Indian religions and attempting to destroy American Indian cultures, particularly their languages.

Twentieth Century:

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

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

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

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

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

The Kiowa

( – promoted by navajo)

The Southern Plains is an area of rolling prairie grasslands with timbered areas along stream valleys. It lies south of the Arkansas River valley. It includes Oklahoma, Arkansas, portions of Texas, the eastern foothills of New Mexico, and portions of Louisiana. The Southern Plains were occupied by hunting and gathering tribes such as the Comanche, Kiowa, and Lipan Apache, and by agricultural tribes such as the Caddo.  

Kiowa Migrations:

Kiowa oral tradition tells of a time when they lived far to the north, beyond the territory of the Crow and the Lakota in the Northern Plains. It was a country that was very cold most of the year. This was a time when they used dogs to carry their burdens as they did not know of the horse. In was in the north that the Kiowa made close and lasting friendships with the Sarsi, the Crow, and the Arikara. It was here that they first encountered the Plains Apache (also known as the Kiowa-Apache).

In the 1600s, the Kiowa were living in the Yellowstone River area of the Northern Plains with the Crow. Their oral tradition describes the geysers in Yellowstone National Park as being a part of their original land. From the Crow they borrowed the taime or Sun Dance medicine.

The Kiowa then migrated to the Black Hills area of South Dakota where they were later expelled by the Lakota and Cheyenne. Finally, they migrated into the Southern Plains area. The presence of shield-bearing warriors in the rock art of central Montana and the Black Hills provides some evidence of this migration.

According to the oral tradition, one of the Kiowa warriors went far to the south where he was captured by the Comanche. The Comanche treated him well and gave him a horse so that he might return home with honor. Upon returning home, he told of the tribe of a land stocked with game where the summer lasted nearly all of the year. The council decided to follow the man back to the country he had seen and the following spring they began their migration south. They traveled south until they were attacked by the Comanche.

Kiowa oral tradition also tells of two rival chiefs who got into an argument and thus the tribe split up: one group moved east to settle with the Crow while the second group remained in the mountains. A long time later, the “Cold People” reunited with the Kiowa.

The Kiowa Gourd Dance (Tdiepeigah) honors the battles of the Kiowa warriors during their migration from the Northern Plains to the Southern Plains. This Kiowa ceremony began as a spiritual gift from the red wolf to a Kiowa warrior who was separated from his war party.

With regard to language, Kiowa is a part of the Tanoan family whose other branches are spoken in the Pueblos of Taos, Jemez, Isleta, and San Ildefonso in New Mexico. This suggests the possibility that the Kiowa may once have been sedentary horticulturalists who entered the Plains from the southwest.  Small bands of Tewa-speakers may have migrated to the Northern Plains long before European contact. It was here that they made the transition from elk and deer hunting to buffalo hunting. In the Northern Plains these bands underwent social and political reorganization which ultimately resulted in the formation of Kiowa nation.

Traditional Kiowa Culture:

Like other Southern Plains tribes, the Kiowa had an annual round which centered in part on buffalo hunting. The Kiowa would form fairly large winter camps which were located along streams where there was firewood and shelter from the winter storms. In early spring, when food supplies were low, the camp would break up into several smaller bands which would scatter in search of game. Later in the summer, the bands would come back together for the buffalo hunt.

After the acquisition of the horse, the tribes of the southern plains began using the tipi. Since the horse is considerably larger than the dog, this meant that longer tipi poles could be carried. Among the Osage the tipi was constructed on a framework of 13 poles which were about 18 feet long. This allowed for a lodge about 15 feet in diameter. The frame was covered with buffalo hides which had been sewn to fit the frame. Two women could set up a tipi in about 15 minutes.

Among the Kiowa, there were three kinds of horses: (1) those which were used as pack animals, (2) those which were ridden by the family, and (3) those which were used for hunting, war, and racing. A typical household composed of five adults needed approximately ten pack animals, five riding animals and two to five buffalo horses.

Kiowa men would wear buffalo robes to cover the upper part of the body. The tanned side of these robes was often painted in a sunburst design. Women’s dresses would be decorated with a simple beaded band across the shoulders.

As with other Southern Plains tribes, it was considered normal to be married and ideally all adults were married. If a man’s wife died, her family would provide him with one of her sisters as a wife. The “sister” could be a “cousin” according to the European way of describing relatives. Similarly, when a man died, his brother would be obliged to marry the widow and provide for her children.

Children were named shortly after birth by a grandparent or some other relative. Names usually referred to some incident or to a great deed by an ancestor. Later in life, new names could be adopted as the result of a vision or because of warfare or hunting.

Among the Kiowa, the basic social unit was composed of a group of brothers, their wives and children. These kinship groups were then loosely organized into a variable number of bands under the leadership of a chief or headman who was spoken of as “father”. Bands ranged in size from about 20 individuals to over 60, with the typical band having about 35 people.

People were attracted to a Kiowa band because of the generosity of the chief. Wealthy leaders attracted sons-in-law, poor relatives, and individuals who had no kin. Chiefs who were not generous and who failed to maintain internal peace soon found themselves without a band. The primary functions of the chief involved the directing of the band’s hunting activities and the maintenance of internal peace. The chief usually decided when and where to move.

The Kiowa tribe existed as a sense of common identity and in reality the tribe came together only once a year (sometimes less) for the Sun Dance. In Kiowa tradition there were seven autonomous tribal divisions, each composed of several bands: Biters, Elks, Kiowa proper, Big Shields, Thieves, Pulling Up, and Black Boys. During the annual encampment these divisions occupied set places in the camp circle. Each of these divisions had a head chief who was selected on the basis of ability (the position was not inherited) and there was a nominal chief for the entire tribe.

Warfare was an important part of Kiowa culture, particularly during the nineteenth century. Among the Kiowa, there were two kinds of raids: (1) horse raids, and (2) revenge raids. The typical size of a horse raiding party was 6-10 warriors while the revenge raiding parties were much larger. The smaller horse raiding parties might stay out for a long time – some were gone for a year or two – while the revenge parties soon returned to the band to help with hunting and other activities.

The Kiowa recognized about twelve different deeds of valor during war. When a man had performed four of these deeds he was acknowledged as a warrior.


Kiowa religion is based on a sacred power (dwdw), a force that permeated the universe and could be found in spirits, objects, places, or natural phenomena. This spiritual power is neither good nor bad, but it can help or harm depending on the user. Among the Kiowa, however, there was a hierarchy of spiritual power or dwdw: predators are more powerful than their prey; spiritual powers from above, such as the sun, are stronger than the earthly animals.

Only a handful of men who had successfully supplicated the spiritual forces during vision quests acquire dwdw. It was, however, possible to purchase dwdw by becoming an apprentice to men of power, but power obtained through the vision quest was always stronger. In purchasing dwdw, the individual had to undergo the vision quest under the tutelage of a man of power.

Among the Kiowa, the ten sacred medicine bundles – the Ten Grandmothers – were very important. One of the functions of the medicine bundle priests was to adjudicate disputes. Sacrifices, vows, and petitions were traditionally made before these ten bundles during crucial periods of a man’s life. A man might ask the bundles for success in war. The bundles also had the power to cure the sick. Anyone in the tribe could make gifts to a bundle and to pray for it.

The eleventh tribal bundle among the Kiowa is the Taime or Sun Dance bundle which became the focal point of the Sun Dance. This bundle would be placed at the western side of the Sun Dance lodge where it symbolized the sun, and mediated between the people and sun power.

The keeper of the Taime would select the location for the Sun Dance and was the nominal head of the tribe during this ceremony. The Kiowa Sun Dance centered on the sun as the creator and the regenerator of life through the Taime.  

Indians 101: A Century Ago

( – promoted by navajo)

During the nineteenth century it was commonly believed by non-Indians that American Indians and their cultures were destined for extinction. Government policies were often based upon this assumption and were intended to extinguish Indian cultures. While American Indians-their cultures, their nations, and even their reservations-endured into the twentieth century, they are often absent from twentieth century histories. Some of the events which were transpiring in Indian country in 1911 are described below.

Speculation on Indian Origins  

General Nelson Miles, writing for a popular magazine, said of American Indians:

“Whence they came and when we know not, but if we are to judge from their stature, features, color, language, art, music, and many of their characteristics, we would be convinced that their ancestors were of Asiatic origin. There is evidence that they acquired control of this continent by conquest, rather than by peaceful means.”

International Congress  

The First Universal Races Congress was held in London, England. Sioux physician Charles Eastman attended as the representative of North American Indians. He wrote:

“It was a great privilege to attend that gathering of distinguished representatives of 53 different nationalities, come together to mutually acquaint themselves with one another’s progress and racial ideals.”

Society of American Indians  

The Society of American Indians (SAI) was founded by six Indian intellectuals: Arthur Caswell Parker (Seneca), Dr. Charles A. Eastman (Sioux), Sherman Coolidge (Arapaho), Thomas L. Sloan (Omaha), Charles Daganett (Peoria), Dr. Carlos Montezuma (Yavapai-Apache), and Zitkala-sa (Sioux). At their national conference in Columbus, Ohio, one of the founders, Thomas L. Sloan, told the group:

“The evil seems to be that the Indian Bureau administers as if the Indian was selected for their benefit, to exploit them, and not they that were created for the benefit of the Indian.”

The Society of American Indians was a pan-Indian group that was created as a part of the progressive feeling that swept through American politics during the first few decades of the twentieth century. They lobbied for the creation of a national Indian day and they fought against the use of terms like “buck” and “squaw”. The SAI pushed for national Indian reform that the members felt would result in the full integration of American Indians into American society. They were dedicated to the idea of participation in American society as well as the maintenance of their own cultural and/or racial identity.

For non-Indians, the existence of an organization composed of Indian doctors, engineers, teachers, and other professional people helped generate more respect for Indian people.

Indian Movies Protested  

In Washington, DC, Indians gathered on the steps of the Capital building to protest the way motion pictures were portraying their people.

Vanishing Indians

In Oroville, California a man appeared who was speaking a language foreign to all who heard it. Anthropologists from the University of California at Berkeley were called in and determined that the man was speaking Yahi (also called Southern Yana), a language which was believed to be extinct. The man was called “Ishi” (which means “man” in Yana as he could not reveal his real name) and for the next five years he would live at a museum in California as a living encyclopedia of Native Californian information.

Suppressing Indian Religion

In South Dakota, a federal Indian agent rounded up Indians who were involved with peyote ceremonies and jailed them with no legal authority.

On the Pine Ridge Reservation (Oglala Sioux) in South Dakota, Harry Black Bear asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs for permission to use peyote in a Native American Church ceremony. The request was denied.

In Montana, the Bureau of Indian Affairs informed the Northern Cheyenne that they could not continue holding their Willow Dance or any other dance of a ceremonial nature. The BIA told them:

“you cannot continue your Willow dance and animal dance without doing great injury to your health and various industries.”

Colorado Springs, Colorado invited a group of Ute to be a part of an exhibition at an 8-day carnival. The Indians, who were now off-reservation, performed dances and other ceremonies that were not only discouraged, but considered illegal at their reservation. The events, while not favored by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, were popular with those attending the event.

In Washington, Americans were looting Palouse graves for curios which they then sold in Eastern markets. Chief Big Sunday led a delegation to Walla Walla where they appealed to a judge to stop the vandalism. The judge ruled against the chief.

The Past

In Ohio, the Moundbuilders Country Club was established on the site of the Octagon Earthworks, an important archaeological site. The course zig-zags through the Hopewell earthworks which were built around 250 AD. The 6th hole, called “Minnie-ha-ha” incorporated one of the small burial mounds.

Indian Art

An oriental style, based on oriental rugs, was introduced to Navajo weavers in Arizona and New Mexico. Since oriental rugs were popular among urban Anglos, it was felt that the “oriental” Navajo rugs would also sell well.

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

J. Capps and Sons, calling itself “Blanket Maker to the Indian Tribes”, marketed its blankets to non-Indians by telling them that

“To acquire a Capps blanket and display it in your home was to own a piece of the vanishing romance of the American west and to achieve the blissful harmony of the Noble Red Man.”

Boy Scouts  

The Boy Scouts of America gave formal recognition to achievement in Indian lore activities with its Indian Lore Merit Badge.

Voting Rights

In Montana, the state legislature declared that anyone who was living on an Indian reservation who had not previously acquired Montana residency in a Montana county prior to moving to the reservation would not be regarded as a Montana resident. Thus, most Indian citizens were not eligible to vote.

Indian “War”

North of Golconda, Nevada, a sheriff’s posse killed eight of the twelve members of a Western Shoshone band under the leadership of Shoshone Mike (also known as Salmon River Mike). The incident began when the Shoshone were accused of killing four stock men. They were pursued by a posse over 200 miles in the winter.

The Shoshone were camped in Little High Rock Canyon. One of the posse members, Frank Perry, would later recall:

“Their camp was situated about three hundred feet above the floor of the Canyon, under an overhanging jet of rim rock which offered them protection against storm, and any kind of attack that might ensue.”

They had killed some cows for food and when a party of Basque sheepherders investigated the dead cow, the sheepherders were attacked and killed.

The sheriff’s posse tracked the Shoshone for ten days before they caught up to them. The posse was spotted by a Shoshone woman and shooting started. The Shoshone soon ran out of ammunition, and then, armed only with bows and arrows, they made a final charge against the posse. Among those killed were a toddler and a baby. The posse reported fighting against Shoshone women who were using bows and arrows and throwing stones at them.

The members of the posse stole $26 and a pocketknife from the dying Shoshone Mike who had been shot at least six times. Shoshone Mike’s skeleton was later obtained by the Smithsonian Institution for its collection.

Prisoners of War  

In Oklahoma, the Chiricahua Apache were still being held as prisoners of war. Reverend Walter C. Roe of the Reformed Church in America described their situation:

“The men are subject to orders; their affairs are under the direction of others; they cannot leave the reservation for more than 24 hours without permission; they cannot marry outside of their band, because no one wants to enter their condition of captivity; in fact, for the most far-sighted and intelligent among them there is no light ahead.”

Apache leader Naiche told the army:

“All we want is to be freed and be released as prisoners, given land and homes that we can call our own.”

The army used the area as an artillery range and notified the prisoners that shelling would not stop for livestock. While the Apache had been told that this would be their permanent home, the army had no intention of abandoning the post and thus the Apache must remain prisoners. While the United States government had promised the Apache that they would have permanent residence at Fort Sill, the War Department determined it was in the nation’s best interest to retain Fort Sill as an army field artillery school. Thus the army did not feel it was bound by any promise made to the Apache prisoners by the federal government.


In Minnesota, investigators looking into allegations of fraud and corruption in the allocation of timber lands on the Chippewa White Earth Reservation found that many entries showed evidence of tampering. Some entries had been penciled in early and then traced over in ink on allotment day. The investigators found that a conspiracy had existed in which the Indian agent cooperated with lumber corporations so that certain approved individuals acquired valued timber lands.

In Oklahoma, the McCurtain County probate court judge and other court officials were implicated in land fraud regarding Indian lands. The fraud included: charging exorbitant fees to administer the estates of allottees, as much as ten times what whites paid for the same services and in some instances nearly what the entire estate was worth; children being allowed to die by guardians seeking to obtain their estates; and phony wills ‘signed’ by already deceased individuals but fully notarized and accepted as evidence in probate court.

Indian Book:

The Soul of the Indian by Sioux writer Charles Eastman was published. He wrote:

“I have attempted to paint the religious life of the typical American Indian as it was before he knew the white man. I have long wished to do this, because I cannot find that it has ever been seriously, adequately, and sincerely done. The religion of the Indian is the last thing about him that the man of another race will ever understand.”

Eastman, who was a Christian, wrote of the missionaries:

“The first missionaries, good men imbued with the narrowness of their age, branded us as pagans and devil-worshippers, and demanded of us that we abjure our false gods before bowing the knee at their sacred altar.”

Ancient America: The Classic Maya

( – promoted by navajo)

At the height of the Classic Period (200 CE to 900 CE), the Maya population numbered several million people living in 60 kingdoms in the greater Yucatan area of Mexico. The Maya built large cities which were supported by the agricultural surpluses from the villages and towns in the surrounding countryside.

Maya Map


The Maya site of Palenque is shown above.


The Maya site of Tikal is shown above.

Maya kings were divine shamans who kept the world in balance through the power of their ritual performances. In this way they brought prosperity to their domains. Kings inherited their position through the male line and were thus able to trace their lineage back to a founding ancestor.

Maya kings were the conduit of the sacred, the path of communication to the Otherworld, and the means of contacting the dead. The king had the knowledge of when to plant and when to harvest as well as the knowledge of illness and health. The king would read in the heavens when to go to war and when to maintain the peace. Through his knowledge, the king would negotiate trade agreements which were advantageous for his people.  

Typical of kingdoms in other parts of the world, Maya kings faced the challenges of internal intrigues and wars with other kingdoms. It was not uncommon for a Maya king to end his life by being taken captive in a war that he was too old to fight.

Maya country was linked together by a series of roads which facilitated foot travel, and by rivers which acted as highways for canoes. Unlike the European civilizations, the Maya did not have domestic animals which could be used as beasts of burden. Therefore the canoe was the most important form of travel. Maya trade networks linked together the communities within each kingdom as well as linking the kingdoms with the outside world. The Maya traded as far north as the southern part of the United States and as far south as South America.

The Maya used several precious commodities for money: carved and polished greenstone beads, red spiny oyster shell beads, cacao beans, lengths of cotton cloth, and measures of sea salt. The values of these various commodities were probably set by the king.  

The Maya lived, and continue to live, in a tropical area which can receive as much as 150 inches of rain per year. The problem, however, is that there is often too much water during the rainy season and not enough during the dry season. More than 2,000 years ago Maya engineers began to tackle two problems: (1) how to store water for the dry times, and (2) how to make wet, fertile swampland suitable for farming. As a result, the Maya built reservoirs and massive, complicated canal systems. Maya buildings often contained great cisterns for holding the rain water.  

For their fields, the Maya excavated the muck from the swamp to create a system of raised fields and canals. This bottom mud was loaded with nutrients from fish excretions and provided fertilizer for the fields which resulted in two or three crops per year. In addition, the fields were adjacent to steady supplies of waters. To reduce the evaporation of the water in the canals, the Maya planted waterlilies and other plants. These plants, in turn, helped feed the fish in the canals. Overall, it was a delicate system which provided enormous productivity.

Many of the fields surrounding the Maya cities were owned by patrilineal family groups. Some of the fields were maintained as royal farms which used tribute labor.

The Maya were a literate people: their writing was capable of capturing all of the nuances of sound, meaning, and grammatical structure of the Maya languages. The Maya wrote by carving on stone, engraving jade, inscribing shell, and incising bone. In addition, they had accordion-folded books which were made from beaten bark paper surfaced with a thin layer of plaster. In their writings the Maya recorded their history, their genealogies, their views of the world, their mythology, and records of trading and tribute.

At one time, the Maya libraries held thousands of volumes of their books. These included literature and poetry as well as histories and the details of their rituals Feeling that the Maya books were the works of Satan, the Catholic priests who accompanied the Spanish invasion of the continent ordered them to be destroyed. Today, only four books are left and all of these are calendar almanacs for the timing of rituals.

In addition to books, the Maya also carved their writings in stone, known as stellae. Numerous examples of this type of writing, which often commemorate kings and royalty, are found in the ancient Maya cities such as Tikal, Copan, Palenque, Bonampak, and Chichén Itzá.  

Maya counting (including mathematics and the Maya calendar) is based on units of twenty. From the Maya perspective, their counting is based on the full person, both fingers and toes. This is called a vigesimal counting system. In written Maya, a dot represents 1 and a bar represents 5. Numbers from 1 to 19 are represented by combinations of dots and bars. The largest number represented in this way is      19, consisting of three bars and four dots. For numbers great than 19, the Maya use a place value number system similar to that used by Europeans.

Maya Counting

While Europeans mark the passage of time on ten-based intervals – decades, centuries, millenium – the Maya calendar uses 20-year cycles: katuns which mark 20 years and baktuns which mark 400 years (20 times 20).

The Maya viewed the world as being made up of three domains: the starry arch of heaven, the stony middleworld of the earth, and the dark waters of the underworld below.

The four cardinal directions provided the fundamental grid for both the Maya communities and the surface of the earth. The most important direction was east which was associated with the color red. If today’s maps were drawn by Maya cartographers, east would be shown at the top of the page. North, associated with the cool rains, is represented by the color white. West, the dying place of the sun, was represented by the color black. South was associated with the color yellow and was considered the right-hand of the sun.

The four cardinal directions were seen in relationship to the center which was represented by the color blue-green. Running through this center, the Maya envisioned an axis called Wacah Chan which was symbolized as a tree with its roots in the underworld and its branches soaring into the heavenly area above. The world of the human beings was connected to the Otherworld through the Wacah Chan. The Wacah Chan did not exist at a specific geographic place, but could be materialized through ritual at any point in the natural or human-made landscape.

There were two representations of the Wacah Chan: the king who brought it into existence and the World Tree. Through bloodletting rituals the king would bring the World Tree into existence and in this way open the doorway to the Otherworld.

Bloodletting was an act of piety which was used in all rituals from the birth of a child to the burying of the dead. Bloodletting could range from the shedding of a few drops of blood to mutilation which generated a copious flow of blood. While blood could be drawn from any part of the body, the most sacred sources of blood were the tongue for both males and females and the penis for males. Among men, the penis would be pierced several times with an obsidian razor and then long strands of bark paper pulled through the wounds. After piercing the penis, men would whirl in a dance to draw the blood out onto the long streamers tied to their members.

An important part of the bloodletting rite was the obsidian knife. Obsidian is a form of volcanic glass which could be made into long, thin, razor-sharp blades which were unsurpassed in their ability to make clean, quick wounds. As obsidian was invaluable in the bloodletting rituals, the supply of obsidian was controlled by the king.  

Royal women would pierce their tongues using a sting-ray spine. Then a cord would be threaded through the wound. The blood would then saturate the paper lining a bowl which was held at the chest.

Some of the blood-soaked papers from both the tongue-piercings and penis-piercings would be burned in a censor along with offerings of corn, rubber, and tree resin.

The vision quest was also a central act of the Maya world. Through the vision quest, ancestors and gods could be enticed to communicate with human beings.  

Another important part of Maya life was the ballgame which was played in a large courtyard. Ballgames were played for many reasons. Often the game was played between friends or professionals for sport and/or wagering. At other times, the game was a ritual in which captives were forced to play. In these games, the losing team was usually executed, sometimes by beheading and sometimes by binding each player into a ball-like form and hurling them down the temple steps.


Ballcourt El Tajin

The Maya often used crystals in curing and in divining. The power of the crystals came from the earth and crystals which were found in caves were considered to be especially powerful.

Tikal Temple

The temple at Tikal is shown above.  

The Steptoe Defeat

( – promoted by navajo)

In 1853 the United States divided Oregon Territory into two territories: Washington and Oregon. President Millard Fillmore appointed Isaac I. Stevens as the territorial governor of Washington. Stevens immediately began an aggressive plan to deprive the Indian nations within the territory of title to their lands. He was a Jacksonian Democrat and a veteran of the Mexican War. Like many others in the American government, he viewed Indians as racially inferior and as impediments to the expansion of civilization. During 1854-1855, Stevens held treaty councils throughout the new territory and set the stage for a series of Indian wars.


The Spark:

In 1858, two French Canadian miners were murdered near present-day Colfax, Washington. The miners in the area blamed Yakama leader Kamiakin and Palouse leader Tilcoax for the murders, but Mahkeetahkat and Slowiarchy the Younger were the actual culprits. The incident spread fear among the miners who believed that the Indians were going to kill them all. In response, the miners in Colville requested military aid from the army.

The Army:

In response to the request for aid from the miners in Colville, a military expedition was organized to march from Fort Walla Walla through Palouse country to Colville in order to awe the Indians into submission. The expedition crossed the Snake River at the confluence of Alpowa Creek and the Snake. Here Nez Perce chief Timothy (Tammutsa) operated a ferry which was used by the troops to transport men, equipment, and horses across the river. Timothy, Levi (Timothy’s brother) and 13 other Nez Perce joined the force as scouts.

Unknown to the military leaders, Timothy and Palouse chief Tilcoax had a personal feud. Upon joining forces with the army, Timothy sent envoys to tell Tilcoax that the Palouse would soon lose their women and horses. He sent a similar message to the Coeur d’Alene and the Spokan.

The Battle:

While the Nez Perce scouts knew that the Palouse, Coeur d’Alene, and Spokan had gathered in large numbers, this information was not relayed to the American military leaders. Timothy was spoiling for a fight with Tilcoax and so he told the other Nez Perce warriors to remain silent.

While the American commander Major Edward Steptoe had hoped to engage a few Palouse in battle, he was taken by surprise when he encountered more than 1,000 Indian warriors from several different tribes: Palouse, Coeur d’Alene, Spokan, Yakama, Pend d’Oreille, Flathead, and Columbia. While the Indians taunted the soldiers, no shots were fired.

Tilcoax had hated the Americans since he had been driven from his traditional home and forced to establish a new village on the Snake River. On the other hand, Coeur d’Alene chief Vincent and Spokan chief Sgalgalt urged their people to return home without attacking the American troops.

The first attack came from a handful of young Coeur d’Alene warriors. Three important Coeur d’Alene leaders-James Nehlukteltshiye, Zachary Natatkem, and Victor Smena-were killed in the first volley and with this the other Indians joined in the fight. As was typical of Indian warfare, the attack consisted of individual isolated attacks, motivated by the idea of obtaining war honors.

The Indians fought individually without any specific plan except to drive the American forces out of their territory. By nightfall, the Americans knew they were defeated. They buried their howitzers, strapped their wounded on horses, discarded all of their baggage, and slipped quietly away. Historians would later marvel at the fact that 150 American soldiers slipped apparently unnoticed and unpursued through more than a thousand Indian warriors. However, Indian warfare does not seek the annihilation of enemies, and loot-the baggage which the Americans left behind-is of greater interest than killing the soldiers.

Steptoe Battlefield

The Aftermath:

In response to Steptoe’s defeat, the army mobilized a major campaign to punish the Indians. The result was a ruthless and bloody war with little quarter given to the Indians. The goal was to either put the Indians on remote reservations or to exterminate them.  

Radioactive Colonialsm

( – promoted by navajo)

Even with the vast improvements to environmental protection over the past few decades, there are still more than 1.3 billion people worldwide that live in hazardous and unhealthy physical environments. The generation and transportation of unsafe waste has been known to cause significant health, environmental, legal, political, and ethical dilemmas.

The systematic destruction of indigenous people’s land and the poisoning of Native Americans on reservations both have their roots in economic exploitation, racial oppression, devaluation of human life and the natural environment, and corporate greed. Due to unequal power arrangements, the rich have been able to get rid of their toxic waste by exploiting the poor. Developing nations sometimes have no choice but to allow the shipping of hazardous waste into their borders. Most people of color communities in the U.S. and poor nations around the world are forced to sacrifice their public health in order to create jobs and promote economic development. Such waste often results in an increased number of children diagnosed with asthma, brain cancer, mesothelioma, and other serious health problems.

This unfair treatment can be described as “environmental racism” and “radioactive colonialism.” There has been a direct correlation between the exploitation of land and the exploitation of people. Native American’s have had to deal with some of the worst pollution in the entire country. Native American communities are prime targets for waste trading.

Winona LaDuke, author of “All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land Rights and Life,” sums up the idea of “radioactive colonialism,” stating:

While Native peoples have been massacred and fought, cheated, and robbed of their historical lands, today their lands are subject to some of most invasive industrial interventions imaginable. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 317 reservations in the United States are threatened by environmental hazards, ranging from toxic wastes to clearcuts.

Reservations have been targeted as sites for 16 proposed nuclear waste dumps. Over 100 proposals have been floated in recent years to dump toxic waste in Indian communities. Seventy-seven sacred sites have been disturbed or desecrated through resource extraction and development activities. The federal government is proposing to use Yucca Mountain, sacred to the Shone, a dumpsite for the nation’s high-level nuclear waste.

Today, millions of Americans have an increased awareness of the threat of chemical, biological, and environmental toxins. The tragic events of 9/11, the Anthrax scare, and even more recently; the catastrophic events in Japan, have heightened concern and fear of potential exposure. What most people don’t know, however, is that toxic waste exposure is not new for many people of color. So many communities are forced to live next to chemical industries that spew poisons into their air, water, and land. For these people, asthma, mesothelioma, disease, and cancer are just side effects that come with the territory. And with the mesothelioma life expectancy lasting only 14 months, the results can be devastating. These communities endure a form of “toxic” terror twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week.

Posted in Uncategorized

Ancient America: A Century Before Columbus

( – promoted by navajo)

A century before the beginning of the European invasion of North America, there were a wide variety of different Native cultures on the continent. Just as the Europeans would discover a century later, there was no single American Indian culture in 1400, but many hundreds of distinct cultures. The archaeological record and Native American oral traditions provide some information about a few of these groups.  


In Arizona, the Hohokam began to abandon many of their towns. Towns which had once been prosperous were stripped and burned. Archaeologists debate the possible reasons for this sudden change. Some have suggested environmental problems, including the build-up of salt in the soil from irrigation. Others see the cause as civil war. According to some O’odham oral traditions, the elite Hohokam leaders had become oppressive and the people rose against them as a part of a liberation movement to drive them back to the south. At the beginning of this decline, the population of the Phoenix basin was estimated at 40-50,000. During the next 200 years, it would drop to 5,000.

North of the Hohokam, the Sinagua people abandoned the Verde Valley at this time. They migrated north and east to Anderson Mesa, Chavez Pass, and the Hopi mesas.

In Arizona, the cultural sequence called Mogollon by archaeologists ended as the people abandoned their homes in the mountains.

In Arizona, the Anasazi  pueblo at what is now Fourmile Ruin was abandoned.

In Arizona, the Patayan culture was flourishing along the Colorado River area. This cultural tradition included permanent villages with subsistence based on flood-water agriculture. While the Patayan seem to have developed out of Hohokam, they did not have the technological nor architectural complexity of other southwestern sedentary traditions. The present Yuman-speaking groups along the lower Colorado River-Havasupai, Yavapi, Walapai, and Yuma-may represent a continuation of Patayan culture characteristics.

While the Hohokam were abandoning their villages and towns in Arizona, Indian people in New Mexico were engaged in building new pueblos. The Tewa constructed Poshuouinge Pueblo. The pueblo would grow to about 700 ground floor rooms with two large plazas. The pueblo was mostly one- and two-stories, but there was one three-story section. The walls were built from adobe mixed with river cobbles.

With regard to farming, the people of Poshuouinge were using grid gardens: plots which are delineated by river cobbles and covered with gravel. This stone mulch helped to conserve moisture, as well as moderate soil temperatures, and keep down weeds. It was an adaptation to farming in high, arid conditions.

At this time, the people of Pecos Pueblo built a multi-story building around their central plaza.

Oregon and Washington:

Near what is now Portland, Oregon, the Chinook built a rectangular long house which was more than 400 feet long. Building the house required 50,000 to 75,000 board feet of cedar lumber. The house would be occupied for the next 400 years, during which time it would be rebuilt at least 18 times and would use nearly a million board feet of lumber.

Across the Columbia River from present-day Portland, the Indian people at the Cathlapotle village were now using an iron adz blade.


In Tennessee, a village was established at the Chucalissa site near the present-day city of Memphis. The site included a three-meter-high mound, a plaza surrounded by a ridge of house mounds, and a number of houses. The village covered about six hectares.

In Alabama, two achondropolastic dwarfs-a male who was 50 inches tall and a female who was nearly 47 inches tall-were buried at Moundville. Both had been relatively healthy individuals and were 40-45 years of age at the time of their burial. The backs of their heads had been flattened as a result of being strapped to a cradleboard as infants. Both had been functional members of the society and were probably related.

In Alabama, many of the mounds at the necropolis of Moundville were being abandoned and only a handful of people remained.

In Mississippi, Indian people established the Parchman Place Mound Site. The 30-acre village site had three mounds, one of which would reach a height of 50 feet.

In North Carolina, the Pleasant Garden phase begins at the McDowell site. This archaeological phase is characterized by two different types of pottery and the blending of these two types with regard to surface treatment, temper, and form. One of the ceramic types was Burke ceramics, which were made using a soapstone temper. Burke pottery was decorated with complicated curvilinear stamping. At this time, the site was a palisaded village.

In North Carolina, the Burke phase begins at the Berry site. The site included a platform mound. This phase was characterized by ground stone and pottery disks, small triangular projectile points, and small ceramic elbow pipes.

In North Carolina, the Catawba were living at the Low site.


In New York, the phase of Iroquois history called “Chance phase Iroquois” by archaeologists begins. In the Onondaga area there was a village resettlement which resulted in a larger village being fairly close to a smaller village. It is apparent that some mutual non-aggression agreement was reached between the two communities. Some archaeologists see this as the founding of the Onondaga Nation.

Throughout much of the Northeast, a new type of pottery vessel appeared. This new style featured more spheroidal bodies which were often surmounted by a cylindrical collar decorated by fields of complex geometric-incised decoration.

Great Plains:

One band of Crow broke away from the horticultural Hidatsa in North Dakota and moved into the Bighorn Mountains of northeastern Wyoming.

In North Dakota, the Arikara moved to the Big Bend region of the Middle Missouri.

In Kansas, the Pratt Complex begins. During this time, Indian people were living in small villages of 5 to 10 earthlodges which were located along oxbows and terraces. The earthlodges usually had four center posts, a central hearth, and storage pits. A variety of pottery was being made.

In Arkansas the Upper Nodena site, a fortified, tightly nucleated village, was established near the Mississippi River. Nodena was a ceremonial center with three major mounds. The Nodena people were making red and white pottery using shell-tempered clay. They were also making small, teardrop-shaped points.

Great Lakes Region:

As the climate in North America became colder, the Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi moved south to Lake Huron. The Ottawa stayed at the mouth of the French River and Lake Huron Islands while the Ojibwa and Potawatomi occupied the shoreline to the Mackinac Strait.

In Michigan, people from outside of the area began to enter the southwestern portion of the state. This was characterized by the appearance of shell-tempered, plain Heber ceramics.

In Michigan, Indian people abandoned their village at the Fosters site. Some archaeologists feel that the  people who had been living at Fosters may have been the ancestors of the Fox and Sauk.

Great Basin Area:

In Utah, Indian people were now occupying the Heron Springs and Sandy Beach sites on the shore of Utah Lake. The material culture at these sites included crudely made, coarsely tempered pottery in the form of large-mouth jars. Both of the sites were used repeatedly for substantial periods of time.

Rosebud Rezident Receives a New Propane Heater from Kossack

In my last diary Sherry Cornelius aka lpggirl of St. Francis Energy told us about Lillian Walking Eagle who desperately needed a new propane heater:

Lillian Walking Eagle and grand daughter : Lillian’s son Cornell said to put the caption “These two old ladies nearly froze.”  they have an old faulty ummm lpg space heater? not sure what they’re called.  housing is constantly being called by them and housing merely replaces the thermocouple.  i thought i heard liep had funds for furnaces so i told lillian about it.  i told my mom about lillian’s situation, and she called the VP willie kindle.  he said he would do something for this gramma.  wks later nothing is done for them.

Kossack kurt, a lurker, my new favorite lurker ordered a heater plus all the necessary accessories and had it shipped to Sherry. Sherry installed it right away.

Here is Lillian with her brand new heater:

Lorikeet, lineatus, RunawayRose and jessica (?) also donated money specifically for heaters. I waited to hear from Sherry to make sure the heaters were safe and the proper accessories were included.  An update on cost, thanks to kurt, is that plus the accessories and shipping the total cost for each heater is $230. I was able to buy 2 more heaters.  Sherry promised to take photos of the new heaters with their new owners.

lpggirl has sent us more photos of our Rosebud rezidents saying THANK YOU to you all for helping them get through another harsh winter in South Dakota.

Below you’ll find more THANK YOU photos and details on how you can help. Please share these donation details with family and friends.

Again, we are helping people who are falling through the cracks with government and tribal assistance.

Everyone here has consented to having their photo taken with the caption

THANK YOU DAILY KOS and Native American Netroots!

More from Sherry’s email:

thanks a bunch to the quilt making lady.  the question was asked, who are those for? i said anybody that needs them. then they were gone. they asked who made these. i read them the note that came with, then gave them the note.  i’m sure there will be a thank you note to follow…





PLEASE Share with family and friends and ask them to share.


My earlier diaries explain in more detail why and how we are helping:

Here we go again: Blizzard hits Dakotas

Band-Aid for the Lakotas

Pine Ridge: American Prisoner of War Camp #334

Revealing Pine Ridge Rez Demographic Information

Employment Information
  • Recent reports vary but many point out that the median income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately $2,600 to $3,500 per year.
  • The unemployment rate on Pine Ridge is said to be approximately 83-85% and can be higher during the winter months when travel is difficult or often impossible.

    Note that South Dakota boasts of a 4.5% unemployment rate and ranks #2 in the Nation.
  • According to 2006 resources, about 97% of the population lives below Federal poverty levels.
  • There is little industry, technology, or commercial infrastructure on the Reservation to provide employment.
  • Rapid City, South Dakota is the nearest town of size (population approximately 57,700) for those who can travel to find work.  It is located 120 miles from the Reservation.  The nearest large city to Pine Ridge is Denver, Colorado located some 350 miles away.

We have bypassed the middlemen; the 501c3s, the red-taped strangled Tribal Councils and the pathetic Federal LIHEAP program which runs out three weeks into winter.

We’ve set up relationships with the propane companies that service Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservation. The kind operators/owners know who needs help and can’t get it from their Tribal, State or Federal government.

Help buy propane for Lakota families in South Dakota:

The *fastest* way to help is to pick up the phone and call with your credit card information. A family will get propane delivered either the same day or the next day.


Sherry Cornelius of St. Francis Energy Co.

at  6 0 5 – 7 4 7 – 2 5 4 2


Ask for Sherry or her mom Patsy. Normally a minimum order is $150, but they have an account to accumulate small donations to a minimum order. Credit Cards welcome and they are the only Native owned fuel company on Rosebud.  Rosebud is next to Pine Ridge Reservation and in the same economically depressed condition.

If you’d like to mail a check:

[make check payable to: St. Francis Energy Co.]

Attn: Sherry or Patsy

St. Francis Energy Co. / Valandra’s II

P.O. Box 140

St. Francis, South Dakota 57572

NOT tax deductible


You can also call Sherry’s cell phone: 605.208.8888 if the above line is busy.



Good idea from  Aji in the comments :

…for $230 plus shipping, Kossacks can get them an LPG safety space heater.  We’ve used this model; very effective; stable and low for safety and energy efficiency; multiple heat settings so you don’t waste gas; and a built-in O2 sensor auto-shutoff.

You can order a heater  here  and have it shipped to:

Sherry Cornelius

St. Francis Energy Co.

102 N Main Street


Mr. Heater Big Buddy™ Indoor/Outdoor Propane Heater – 18,000 BTU, Model# MH18B

You also need to include these accessories:

Mr. Heater AC Power Adapter for Big Buddy Heaters – 6 Volt, Model# F276127

Mr. Heater 12-Ft. Hose with Regulator for Item# 173635

Mr. Heater Fuel Filter for Buddy™ Heaters, Model# F273699

Order Total   $222.84 (includes shipping)


The Lakota Plains Propane Company

at  6 0 5 – 8 6 7 – 5 1 9 9

Monday- Friday only 8-4:30pm MST

Ask for Crystal to contribute to someone from Autumn’s list. $120 minimum delivery. This company serves Pine Ridge Reservation.

NOT tax deductible

If you live out of the country please use our PayPal link at Native American Netroots, the donate button is in the upper right of the page. This process takes about two weeks for the funds to hit the reservations so telephoning the propane companies directly is the fastest way to help.

Personal Names Among the Indian Nations East of the Mississippi

( – promoted by navajo)

Personal names among the Indian nations east of the Mississippi River were quite different from European names. There was little concern for maintaining family wealth through inheritance and thus there were no surnames. The process of naming an individual varied greatly among the tribes, but the names tended to be personal, reflecting the attributes of the individual.  

Southeastern Woodlands:

The Southeastern Woodlands is an area bounded by the Ozark-Ouachita Highlands of Arkansas and Missouri and the dry plains of eastern Texas on the west and the low plateaus of Kentucky and Tennessee and the interior plains of Illinois on the north. The eastern boundary is the Atlantic Ocean and southern boundary is the Gulf of Mexico. The Southeastern Culture Area includes the present states of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, western North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, southern and eastern Arkansas, Tennessee, and the portions of Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky that border the Mississippi River. Prior to European contact nearly two million Indian people lived in this area. The Southeastern Culture Area was the home of skilled farmers who lived in permanent villages.

Five of the Southeastern Indian nations – Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole – are sometimes called the “five Civilized Tribes”. The designation “civilized” is an indication that they had acquired many elements of European cultures and were the most acculturated Indian tribes during the nineteenth century.

The designation “Creek” is a European concept which emerged during the eighteenth century to designate the Indian people who were living along the creeks and rivers in Alabama, Georgia, and northern Florida. While these people have a cultural continuity which reaches back to the mound building cultures of this area, the concept of a Creek “Nation” or “Confederacy” is something which did not emerge until after the European invasion. In reality, the Creek were several autonomous groups. They can be viewed as a confederacy made up of several ethnic and linguistic groups, including the Alabama, Apalachee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Hitchiti, Koasati, Natchez, Shawnee, Tunic, Yamasee, and Yuchi.

Among the Creek, a man would pass through four stages of life which are analogous with the seasons of the year. First, a male child, in the springtime of his life, would receive an infant’s name and was educated by his elders. This first name might be something like “little rabbit” or “smells of urine.” Then, in the summer of his life, the young man was to provide for the people and to defend them against enemies. During this time he would receive a war name. This name marks the transition from boy to man. Creek chief George Washington Grayson wrote:

“This name the young men are very proud of, since by it they are boys no longer, but men, ever hereafter to be so recognized and respected by their acquaintances.”

During the autumn of his life, he was to serve as a leader, advisor, or spokesman of the people. Finally, in the winter of his life, he would return to his village and clan, closing the cycle by passing on to a new generation all of his wisdom, knowledge, and history.

Unlike the boys, a Creek girl would usually retain her name throughout her life.

Northeastern Woodlands

The Northeastern Woodlands is a land of heavily forested rolling hills and rounded mountains, salt marshes of waving grass, calm lakes, tumbling brooks, surf-beaten beaches, and rocky coves. Archaeologists report that Indian people have inhabited this area for more than 10,000 years. About 4,000 years ago the people living in this area began to adopt agriculture. By the time of the European invasion, most of the Indian people of the Northeast got most of their calories from the crops which they raised. The three most important crops in the Northeast – corn, beans, squash – were known as the Three Sisters among the Iroquois. The Northeastern Indians raised about 15 different varieties of corn, 60 varieties of beans, and 8 forms of squash.

In the Algonquian tribes names are seen as having power and outsiders – including the Europeans – were kept from knowing a person’s name. When asked directly by Europeans for their names, many Narragansett would simply reply: “I have forget my name.” Instead of personal names, titles were often used by outsiders.

Individuals’ names, among the Algonquians, changed during the course of their lives to symbolize the changes in their personal status. Children were not named at birth, but were named during a public feast some time after birth.  

After a period of isolation marking the transition from child to adult, the Narragansett were given new names. These new names would often reflect the individual’s appearance and/or personality.  These names could be carried for the rest of their lives or until the names no longer suited them.

Among the Virginia Algonquians, children received their first name shortly after birth. Among the Powhatan, a baby boy would receive his first name from his mother. Additional names were later acquired and reflected special merits or abilities. The father of a Powhatan boy would give him a name that would reflect his growing skills as a hunter. When the Powhatan man would do some remarkable act, he would receive a name reflecting that act.

Among most of the tribes, children were not named at birth. Among the Ojibwa, for example, a child was not named for a year or two and, occasionally, a child might be ten or twelve years old before being given a name.  Among the Ojibwa, an elder would be asked to give the child a name. This was not an easy task: the name was expected to be an identity which would later become a reputation. Naming often had strong spiritual significance and could be connected with a dream or vision.

Among the Siouan-speaking Ho-Chunk, the newborn child was immediately given a birth name in accordance with the order of birth. That is, the first male child would be named K’u´nu and the first female child Hi´nu; the second male child He´nu and the second female child Wi´ha; and so on. There were six male birth names and six female birth names. Sometime after birth, the child would be given a clan name at a special feast held for this purpose. In most instances, this name was bestowed upon the child by an elder selected by the father.  

Among the Eastern Sioux in Minnesota during the 17th century, boys were usually named after an elder in the father’s family and girls were named after the mother’s family.

Among the Shawnee, a child was first named by an elder from a different clan. This name was publicly announced at a feast given by the parents for their friends and relatives. Later in life, individuals could change their names to obtain better luck. Again, the name would be announced at a special feast.

Among the Fox, a child was named shortly after birth by an elderly relative. The name was taken from those belonging to the father’s clan but not held by any living person. After going to war, a man might take a new name. A woman might take a new name according to a dream which she received.

The Kickapoo child was traditionally named several months after birth. For the first child born to a couple, the father would select the person who gave the name, while the mother would select the person who gave the name to the second child. While the namer generally chose a name belonging to his or her clan, the name must first be validated through a vision. The name would be announced at a public ceremony which would identify the child as member of the Kickapoo Nation.

The mother of a Miami child would summon an old woman to give the child a name. The name would usually come from a dream which revealed the adult traits of the child. Often the name would signify an animal or natural phenomenon which had a relationship to the child’s clan. Later in life, an adult could change a name to avoid illness or misfortune by asking a friend to give a new name in exchange for a gift.

A Potawatomi child would be given a name about a year after birth. This name would be selected from available clan names and would thus connect the child to the clan.

Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains

( – promoted by navajo)

The Great Plains stretches from the Canadian provinces in the north, almost to the Gulf of Mexico in the south, from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Mississippi River in the east. Plains Indians are those which are most often stereotyped by movies and other media as representing all Indians. The buffalo, the horse, and the tipi are all important items in Plains cultures.

By 1800, it was estimated that at least 30 million buffalo roamed the Great Plains. For the Plains Indians, the buffalo provided them with food, shelter, tools, and spiritual guidance. For some of the Plains tribes, such as the Blackfoot, the buffalo was considered to be “real food” and all other flesh was considered to be inferior. Buffalo hunting was not something done for sport, but the buffalo were harvested so that the people could live.

There were three main methods used by the Plains tribes in harvesting the buffalo: the buffalo jump, the impound, and the horse-mounted hunt.  

The Buffalo Jump:

The buffalo jump involved luring the buffalo over high precipices along river valleys. Since the cliff was not movable and the buffalo were rarely close to the jump site, this meant that the people had to bring the buffo in. To lure the herd to the jump site, a young man, disguised with buffalo horns and robe, would decoy the herd. The job of decoy was given only to the fastest runners as they had to run faster than the buffalo in order to escape death. The runners also had to be able to run for many miles, luring the herd to the jump. While the runner lured the herd, the people would fan out in a long V-shaped formation from the jump site. Waving blankets and robes, they would help guide the animals in and panic them into a stampede. Crow warrior White-Man-Runs-Him describes the buffalo jump:

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

The American explorer Meriwether Lewis described the buffalo jump this way:

“one of the most active and fleet young men is selected and disguised in a robe of buffalo skin… he places himself at a distance between a herd of buffalo and a precipice proper for the purpose; the other Indians now surround the herd on the back and flanks and at a signal agreed on all show themselves at the same time moving forward towards the buffalo; the disguised Indian or decoy has taken care to place himself sufficiently near the buffalo to be noticed by them when they take to flight and running before them they follow him in full speed to the precipice; the Indian (decoy) in the mean time has taken care to secure himself in some cranny in the cliff… the part of the decoy I am informed is extremely dangerous.”

At the bottom of the cliff, the people would set to work processing the dead buffalo into meat, hide, and tools. All parts of the animal were used. Some parts of the buffalo, such as the tongue, brains, and liver were often consumed raw. Other parts were broiled or boiled.

Pemmican was made from the pounded, dried meat mixed with melted fat, marrow, and a paste from chokecherries which not only added flavor but also helped as a preservative. Sometimes this mixture was placed in skin casings and sometimes it was dried into cakes.

The buffalo provided the Plains Indians with far more than food. Buffalo hair was used for making ropes and pads; the horns and hoofs were made into implements and utensils; the sinew was used for sewing and for making bow strings; and the hides were used for clothing, blankets, and tipi covers.  A typical northern Plains lodge required 12-20 buffalo hides for covering. Generally, the hides for lodges were obtained from hunts conducted in the late spring or early summer as the buffalo shed their winter coats at this time. The hides from buffalo killed during the fall and winter hunts were ideal for making robes.

In organizing the hunt, several bands might come together and the rewards of the hunt would be divided equally among all who were present. A single hunt might harvest a few dozen buffalo up to a couple of hundred.

Shown below is the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta, Canada.

Head Smashed In

The Buffalo Impound:

When a suitable cliff was not available, some of the Indian nations would harvest the buffalo using an impound method. This involved building a timber corral and enticing the buffalo into it so that they could be killed. The idea was to construct the impound carefully so that it looked solid. If the buffalo could not see ‘daylight’ they would not try to burst through the fences. As with the use of the buffalo jump, enticing the buffalo into the impound was not an easy task, nor was it always successful. It was not uncommon to bring the buffalo into the corral from several miles away.  

The Plains Cree were among the most proficient users of the impound method. The Plains Cree often used the impound for their winter buffalo hunt. Each impound could only be used through one winter; the following year a new one had to be built. In making the corral, the Cree would first select a thicket and then clear an area about 30-40 feet in diameter.  A wall about 10-15 feet high was then constructed around the clearing. The entrance to the impound was placed to the east and two sturdy trees located about 20 feet apart were used as the entrance gates. A log was then lashed between the two trees at the height of the wall and a ramp constructed from the ground to this log.

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

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

Once inside the impound, the buffalo would mill about in a clockwise fashion and would be shot with arrows. Before butchering the dead animals, the medicine man would sing a song to the spirits. Everyone who was camping in the area got a share of the buffalo, regardless of whether they had helped build the corral or whether they belonged to the band that had constructed it.

Horse-Mounted Buffalo Hunting:

After the acquisition of the horse, the buffalo was also hunted from horseback. The animals would be brought down using a bow and arrow or a lance. In hunting buffalo from horseback, the preferred weapon was the bow and arrow, even after firearms became common. The bow was preferred for two reasons: (1) it was difficult to reload a muzzle-loading gun at full gallop, and (2) the hunter could easily reclaim the animals by looking at and identifying their own arrows. Blackfoot chief Mountain Chief describes hunting buffalo with a bow and arrow:

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

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

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

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

Pine Ridge Billboard Project by Aaron Huey

I would like to announce a new project to raise NATIONAL awareness of the poverty on our reservations. My friend Aaron Huey is launching an ambitious billboard campaign using his images of Pine Ridge reservation. Aaron is donating his time and talent to organize this project.

I have been documenting the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for the past six years. Recently I have realized how inappropriate it is for this project to end with another book or a gallery show.

More than any project I have done in my career, the ever-evolving Pine Ridge project gives voice to social injustice and a forgotten history. I want my work to empower the Lakota and other tribes who fight for recognition of the past in order to help give them a chance to move forward.

Your involvement will help raise the visibility of these images by taking them straight to the public to the sides of busses, subway tunnels, and billboards. I want people to think about prisoner of war camps in America on their commute to work. I want the message to be so loud that it cannot be ignored.

Honor the Treaties

Illustration by Ernesto Yerena using images by Aaron Huey

Lakota Girl Reaching

Image used to create the illustration above


[American Indian voice:]

You know, history, when you break it down it means “his story,” which is really the story of the dominant culture.  And we all know historically that the — I guess the conquerors are the ones that write the history, you know, and it’s really never based on the people that were supposedly conquered.

[Text block]

The last chapter in any successful genocide is the one in which the oppressor can remove their hands and say, “My god, what are these people doing to themselves, they are killing each other, they are killing themselves!”

[Aaron Huey:]

When I first got to Pine Ridge, I didn’t really get it.  All my first assignments were about poverty and violence and gangs and all those stories skimmed the surface.  And now, six years later, now that I know the real story, I realize that mainstream American magazines won’t print it.

The real story is the history — a history of broken treaties, of prisoner of war camps, and massacres.  It’s too hard to look at.  It’s too dark.  It’s too layered and too painful to fit in between shampoo ads and car commercials.  This project has reached the limits of print media.

I don’t want you to give me money today for a book or a gallery show, where everybody drinks wine and looks at beautiful pictures of suffering.  I want to take the images I’ve made over the past six years on Pine Ridge and put them on billboards.  I want to put them in subways.  I want to put them on the sides of busses.  I want to put them in places where people can’t ignore them.

I’m here today asking for your participation in a project that will illuminate a hidden history and empower a community.  This is a grassroots information campaign.  Your involvement, not just your money, is crucial.  We will need help distributing these images in your communities.

Several partners have already joined me in this cause, including Ernesto Yerena, an activist and artist from Los Angeles who created visuals for the Alto Arizona campaign.  Ernesto is collaborating with me to create a poster series based on my photographs that transcends these depressing statistics.

This collaborative image is the first of many that we will make in February.  Also joining us will be Shephard Fairey, the most prolific street artist working in America, widely known for his ongoing Obey propaganda and Obama’s Hope campaign.  If anybody can raise an issue to icon status, it’s him.

My collaborations with Ernesto and Shephard will go up on walls in cities all America.  We will be working hand in hand with Lakota and other indigenous rights organizations to produce this work, sharing resources through a website I have created at

Remember, this project is not a charity.  It’s about turning awareness into action.


In 1890 the Supreme Court ruled upon the longest running court case in US History, the Sioux Nation vs. the United States. The court determined that the terms of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty had been violated when the Sioux were resettled onto P.O.W. camps, and 7 million acres of their land were opened up to prospectors and homesteaders. These camps are now called “reservations”.

The grim statistics on Native Reservations today are the equivalent to that of a 3rd world country, revealing the legacy of colonization and treaty violations. Unemployment on the Reservation fluctuates between 80-90%. Many are homeless, and those with homes are packed into rotting buildings with up to 5 families. More than 90% of the population lives below the federal poverty line. The life expectancy for men is 47 years old – roughly the same as Afghanistan and Somalia.

ACTION: For as little as $10 you can help launch this project.

Your involvement will help raise the visibility of these images by taking them straight to the public-to the sides of busses, subway tunnels, and billboards. I want people to think about prisoner of war camps in America on their commute to work. I want the message to be so loud that it cannot be ignored.

Mock-up of a highway billboard installation:

Mock-up of a wall installation using 24x 26″ posters:

Mock-up of a subway platform installation:

CREATIVE PARTNERS: Helping me to turn my photos into powerful illustrations are Ernesto Yerena, an artist and activist who created visuals for the Alto Arizona campaign, and Shepard Fairey, the most prolific street artist in America, known for his street art (OBEY) and the Obama HOPE campaign image. These collaborations with Ernesto and Shepard will go up on buildings and bus stops all over the country. I hope to also involve some of you with distribution of imagery and possibly even in the role of “wheat pasting” in your towns. Shepard’s image will be uploaded in late Feb.

FINANCIAL GOALS + BUDGET: $17,250 will provide funding for a nationwide guerilla poster campaign. $30k, will allow for substantially more visibility, taking the photo essay to subway platforms in NYC and to billboards around South Dakota and Washington DC, where policy makers have the power to make real change on Reservations. Expenses: 35-40% to printing posters and billboards, 40-50% for ad space, 5-10% Shipping and Travel, and 1% for website setup.

OUTLETS FOR ACTION: Through this campaign a website is forming at I hope to build this site up to become a point of reference for those who want to know more about the history and the (broken) treaties of the Sioux and other tribes. There will be direct links to assist grassroots Native non-profits in places like Pine Ridge.

Our first partner is Owe Aku.

PLEASE TAKE A FEW MINUTES to watch my TED talk on this subject, the video is posted below.


Honor The Treaties

Raising the NATIONAL awareness in metropolitan areas like New York City and Washington DC will help us influence policy makers to help our American Indian tribes and reservations.

This is an excellent campaign.



to honor the treaties:

Senator Dorgan

Senator Barrasso

Senator Akaka

Senator Cantwell

Senator Coburn

Senator Crapo

Senator Franken

Senator Inouye

Senator Johanns

Senator Johnson

Senator McCain

Senator Murkowski

Senator Tester

Senator Udall


Cedwyn for providing the video transcript this morning

TiaRachel for video embed assistance

rfall for helping with new coding issues with DK4 stylesheets

Cheyenne Medicine Bundles

( – promoted by navajo)

Among the Cheyenne there are two sacred medicine bundles: The Sacred Arrows (Maahotse) and the Sacred Buffalo Hat (Esevone). The spiritual power of these bundles could be tapped ceremonially to help the tribe prosper. As long as the ceremonies were performed as taught by the culture heroes, the tribe would be protected and would prosper. Failure to respect the bundles would be followed by misfortune to the tribe.  

The Sacred Arrows:

The Sacred Arrows are living things and are the holiest of the Cheyenne tribal possessions. They were originally given to the prophet Sweet Medicine by Maheo (the Creator) in a holy cave within the sacred mountain (Novavose or Bear Butte). Sweet Medicine’s gift to the Cheyenne was the Sacred Arrows by which the Cheyenne were able to grow in wisdom. It is through the Sacred Arrows that Maheo pours his life into the lives of the Cheyenne people. Through the Sacred Arrows, the Cheyenne people maintain their unity with Maheo. It is only through the Sacred Arrows that the Cheyenne are a tribe in a spiritual sense.

The Massaum Ceremony is an ancient Cheyenne ceremony which was given to the people by Sweet Medicine who first performed it at Bear Butte. The five-day ceremony re-enacts the creation of the world. During this ceremony, the Sacred Arrows are cleansed and all creation is renewed.

The Sacred Arrows are symbols of male power. Women do not look at them when they are exposed to veneration. Even today, women will excuse themselves from the presence of men who are speaking about the Sacred Arrows.

In 1830, White Thunder led the Cheyenne in a raid against the Pawnee in Nebraska. Riding next to him was his wife who carried the Sacred Arrow bundle on her back. Four Cheyenne scouts encountered the Pawnee and were killed. The Cheyenne warriors were now impatient for revenge and pushed for a day and a night toward the Pawnee village. When some Pawnee rode near the Cheyenne, the Cheyenne warriors hastily charged. The charge occurred so swiftly that White Thunder had no opportunity to hold the blinding ceremonies with the Sacred Arrows. The Cheyenne thus rode into battle without the spiritual protection of the Sacred Arrows.

White Thunder quickly tied the Sacred Arrow bundle to the lance of Bull, a warrior-priest. This was done in haste, without separating the four arrows into two pairs.

A sick Pawnee warrior had decided that this was a good day to die and was carried by friends out in the field of battle to die a noble death. He was struck with numerous Cheyenne lances and coup sticks. As Bull rode by the wounded Pawnee warrior, the Pawnee managed to grab the lance with the Sacred Arrows and wrench it free. While the Cheyenne managed to kill the Pawnee warrior, the Sacred Arrows were captured. The Pawnee chief Big Eagle, holding the lance with the Sacred Arrows still attached, charged the Cheyenne and the Cheyenne warriors fled.

In 1835, Cheyenne spiritual leader White Thunder and his wife Old Bark travelled to the Pawnee village of Big Eagle. They begged Big Eagle to return the Sacred Arrows bundle to the Cheyenne. Big Eagle returned one of the four arrows-the Buffalo Arrow. Big Eagle and other Pawnee warriors returned with White Thunder to the Cheyenne camp near Bent’s Fort where the Cheyenne gave them more than 100 horses. Big Eagle, however, did not return any more arrows.

In 1843, Lakota warriors returned home to South Dakota with one of the Cheyenne Sacred Arrows which had been captured by the Pawnee. The Sacred Arrow was then returned to the Cheyenne in exchange for 100 horses.

Two new arrows were eventually made and the bundle continues to be an important part of Cheyenne spiritual life.

Sacred Buffalo Hat:

In historic times the Cheyenne were composed of two tribes: the Cheyenne (Tsistista) and the Sutai. The Sacred Buffalo Hat is generally associated with the Sutai who became incorporated into the Cheyenne in the late 18th century. The second Cheyenne bundle is the Sacred Buffalo Hat (Esevone) which was a gift from Maheo to the Sutai prophet Erect Horns (Tomsivi). The power of the Sacred Buffalo Hat is female. The Sacred Buffalo Hat and the Sacred Arrows together form the two great covenants of the Cheyenne people. Through these two bundles Maheo assures continual life and blessings for the people. The people, however, must venerate and care for the bundles.

When the Sacred Buffalo Hat is renewed, those seeking a blessing stand at the edge of the old lodge cover facing the Sacred Mountain to the east. The keeper of the Hat then prays and offers the pipe to Maheo, the Earth, and the four directions. In single file, those wishing a blessing walk across the old cover to the east.    

Action Alert Update- Lakota Elders Organize Takeover of Elderly Meals Center

( – promoted by navajo)

To live on the Pine Ridge reservation and make it past fifty is beating the odds for life expectancy there. But to be snubbed by your tribal council when you ask for a safe and clean place to eat and then to be targeted for retaliation by the council is beyond comprehension. That’s what is happening at the Porcupine Elderly Meals Center, Pine Ridge, South Dakota. The elders have have taken over occupation of the center and are not leaving until their voices have been heard and action has been taken.

After four years of abuses and calls for remedy from the Bureau of Indian

Affairs(BIA) Oglala Tribal Government, Lakota elders with support from

the Strong Heart Warrior Society, United Urban Warrior Society, and

Rapid City AIM- Grassroots have peacefully taken over, and now occupy,

the Elderly Meals Building in the Porcupine Community of Pine Ridge


This news release best describes the atrocities that have driven the elders to convene this occupation of the Porcupine Elderly Meals Building.

In virtually any other U.S. community, physical abuse of elders, the false arrest and persecution of the elderly by police, the forced evictions of elders in the middle of the winter, and the illegal selling of drugs and alcohol by staff of an elderly meals center would be headline news. But not if the community is the Oglala Pine Ridge Reservation, and the people are the poor and traditional Lakota oyate.

“The former president and the cook have discriminated against the elders at the Porcupine Elderly Meals Center. Elders are demanding them to be removed immediately.

   “The Elders will be leading this occupation with the support and protection of three warrior societies – the Strong Heart Warrior Society, United Urban Warrior Society, and Grassroots AIM.

   “I, Enoch Brings Plenty, as president of the Meals for the Elderly Program at Porcupine, will try my best to please the Elders in my district as best as I can -to bring back honesty, trust and integrity. This is why these three warrior societies are here with us. They are going to teach our children how to protect and remain free with the elders of our oyate. Hoka hey!”

Audio interviews with various organizers of the takeover, and the elders, are here.

Cante Tenza Okolakiciye (Strongheart Warrior Society) can be followed on Twitter @CanteTenza

The hash tags used recently have been #Lakota #Elders #PineRidge

It may be the weekend but messages, emails, letters, faxes can still be effective.

South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson sits on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Contact Info:


Phone: (202) 224-5842

Fax: (202) 228-5765

U.S. Department of Justice Office of Tribal Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001




Despite the promises of President Steele and Vice President Poor Bear – we need you to keep calling them and letting them know people are watching and expecting them to keep their word. Tell them you support all the occupation demands including the construction of a new sanitary, elderly building and a full investigation into corruption no matter where it leads.    President  John Yellow Bird Steele    (605) 441-6350     Vice-President Thomas Poor Bear    (605) 441-6365     You can also try to reach them at (605) 867-5821 extension 268 via tribal council secretary Rhonda      Two Eagle. Send council emails through Rhonda at:

emphasis mine

The 17th Century Wampanoag

( – promoted by navajo)

In 1600, shortly before the beginning of the European invasion, the population of the Wampanoag people in Massachusetts was estimated at 12,000 living in 40 villages. Two years later, Bartholomew Gosnold landed at Cape Cod and traded with the Wampanoag. He reported that the Indians were in good health. When he returned to England he promoted the establishment of colonies in the area.

In 1603, the English under the leadership of Martin Pring, built a palisaded trading camp at Cape Cod in Wampanoag territory. While the English entertained the Wampanoag with small gifts and guitar music, they also stole a large birchbark canoe. Consequently, the relations between the English and the Indians deteriorated and the English fired their muskets and loosed mastiffs at Wampanoag warriors before abandoning the fort.

Three years later French explorers attempted to impress the Wampanoag in the village of Monomoy with their guns and swords. The French erected a large cross as a symbol of Christian domination and claim to the land. The Wampanoag response was to kill four of the landing party, tear down the cross, and jeer at the retreating French.

In 1614, English Captain Thomas Hunt captured 26 Wampanoag, including a young man known as Squanto. The Indians were taken to Spain and sold as slaves. However, Squanto escaped and found his way to England where he learned to speak English.

John Smith, the former commander at Jamestown, led two ships in search of gold and whales along the coast of Maine in 1614. After some fishing, trading, and skirmishes with the natives, the English captured 27 Wampanoag and Nauset to sell into slavery.

While mapping the New England coast, Smith noted at least nine coastal towns between Cape Ann and Cape Code, each of which was ruled by a sachem. In addition, he reported that that there were more than 20 towns inland from the coast.

About 1614, a series of three epidemics, inadvertently introduced through contact with Europeans, began to sweep through the Indian villages in Massachusetts. At least ten Wampanoag villages were abandoned because there were no survivors. The Wampanoag population decreased from 12,000 to 5,000.

Note: It is not known what the actual disease was that caused this epidemic. Various writers have suggested bubonic plague, smallpox, and hepatitis A. There is strong evidence supporting all of these theories. It is estimated that by 1619, 75% of the Native population of New England had died as a result of this epidemic.

When Squanto returned from England with captain Thomas Dermer in 1619, he searched for the Wampanoag of his village, but found that they had all died in the epidemic.

In 1621, Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag, established formal diplomatic relations with the newly arrived Pilgrims and both sides pledged mutual support and protection. With this treaty, Massasoit bolstered his economic, political, and military control over the region. He assumed that the treaty made the Pilgrims members of his confederation. As a sign of good faith, Massasoit assigned Squanto to live with the colonists and to serve as a liaison between the two groups.  

The Wampanoag leader Massasoit died in 1660. The peace which he had helped forge with the Europeans began to crumble. Massasoit had insisted “The Puritans are our friends.” His son, Wamsutta, assumed leadership and proved to be less yielding to English demands.

Two years later, Wamsutta (also known as Alexander) was ordered to Plymouth to meet with the English governor and to discuss the rumors that he was planning war. The meeting was cut short as Wamsutta became ill. He died before he could return home. The Indians claimed that Wamsutta was poisoned by the English. His brother Metacom would later say:

“My brother came miserably to die, by being forced to Court and poisoned.”

With the death of Wamsutta, his younger brother Metacom (known to the English as Philip or King Philip) assumed the duties of principal sachem. Metacom managed to calm the warriors who were calling for war to avenge Wamsutta’s death. One of his first official acts as Wampanoag leader was to tell the English that he wanted to stop selling land for seven years.

The English colonists were not pleased with Metacom’s decision not to sell land. Five years later, they simply ignored Wampanoag land ownership and established the town of Swansea, just four miles from Metacom’s village.

In 1671, the English colonial government, having been informed by Christian Indians that Metacom was enlisting other tribes to resist further English expansion, invited him to a council. Metacom listened to the English accusations, signed an agreement to give up all Wampanoag firearms, promised to pay a tribute of 100 pounds per year, and left before dinner. It is not known if the English understood that not sharing a meal was an insult. The Wampanoag guns were not surrendered.

In 1675, pushed by the Puritans who demanded that the Indians obey Puritan law and who severely punished the Indians who did not, Metacom asserted the sovereignty of his people by going to war. As a result of this war – commonly called King Philip’s War – many of the smaller Indian nations were destroyed or scattered. Metacom attempted to create a pan-Indian alliance to halt English expansion.

The prelude to the war was a murder trial. A converted Christian Indian named John Sassamon had told the English governor that Metacom was plotting against the English and that he feared for his life. A short while later, Sassamon was found dead beneath the ice of Assawompsett Pond. The Puritans felt that Sassamon was murdered because he was a spy for the Puritans. Sassamon had served as Philip’s secretary. Three Wampanoag men-Tobias (one of Philip’s counselors), Wampapaquan (Tobias’ son), and Mattashunnamo (a warrior)-were tried by the Puritans, found guilty, and hanged. The execution of these three men stirred many Wampanoag to violence against the Europeans.

Metacom evaded capture by basing his raids in the Pocasset territory of the female sachem Weetamoo. From here he carried out successful raids against five English towns. Humiliated by these defeats, the English Christian ministers concluded that God was unhappy with them because of the wearing of wigs and the tolerance shown to the Quakers.

Metacom’s strategy was to fight the English rather than submit to their ways. However, the Indians fought the war with little planning: Indian war was traditionally based on small, fast raids. While the English envisioned Metacom as the commander of a large intertribal force, there were probably no more than 300 warriors involved, most of whom were Wampanoag. By 1675, the Wampanoag population had decreased to about 1,000.

The following year, English forces attacked the camp of Watamoo, Metacom’s sister-in-law, in present-day Connecticut. She drowned while trying to escape and the English cut off her head and displayed it in their towns.

The English also captured King Philip’s wife, Wootonekanuske, and his nine year old son. They were held in a prison in Plymouth. The Puritan clergy debated the fate of Philip’s son: many felt that he should be executed, but others felt that the Bible says that no one should be executed for the sins of their fathers. After much debate, the boy was sold into slavery instead of being executed. The Puritan ministers felt that slavery was a compassionate compromise. They felt that notorious Indians, like Metacom himself, were to be executed; harmless enemies, mainly women and young children, were to be forced into servitude for a period of years; and those who were neither notorious enough to be hanged nor harmless enough to remain in New England were routinely sold into foreign slavery.

Metacom, on the run since the defeat of his people by the English, returned to his father’s old capital at Montaup and stumbled into an ambush in which he was shot and killed. The English drew and quartered his body and took his head to Plymouth where it was displayed to the public for 20 years. The Christian preacher Cotton Mather recalls that his

“Head was carried in triumph to Plymouth, where it arrived on the very Day that the Church there was keeping a Solemn Thanksgiving to God. God sent ’em in the Head of a Leviathan for a Thanksgiving-Feast.”

By the end of the war, the Wampanoag were nearly exterminated: only 400 survived.