The Iroquois Longhouse

When the Dutch first travelled up New York’s Hudson River to establish trading posts with the Indians they encountered one of the largest and most powerful Indian confederations in North America: the League of Five Nations, also known as the Iroquois Confederacy. The Iroquois were an agricultural people who lived in permanent villages. They used the symbol of their house-the hodensote or longhouse-as the symbol of their confederacy.  

The Iroquois Nations:

While the designation “Iroquois” is often used to refer to the Five or Six Nations, it should be remembered that not all Iroquois-speaking nations in the Northeast were members of the League. The Huron, an Iroquois-speaking confederacy located north of the Great Lakes, was the most prominent Iroquois group which did not belong to the Confederacy.


The territory of the original Iroquois Five Nations is called Iroquoia and that of the Huron is called Huronia. The confederated villages of Iroquoia ranged from the Schoharie river in the east to  the Genesee River in the west; the Adirondacks and Lake Ontario marked its northern flank, the headwaters of the Delaware, Susquehanna, and Allegheny marked the south. Huronia lay just north of Lake Ontario and was centered at Georgian Bay.

Iroquois Map

Pictured above is a map showing the location of the Iroquois-speaking nations and their neighbors.

Five Nations Map

The above map shows the location of each of the five nations about 1650.

The Huron were a confederacy of four major tribes: Bear, Rock, Barking Dogs, and White Thorns (also known as Canoes). The people called their confederacy Wendat or People of the Peninsula. They were given the name Huron by the French.

The French applied the name Neutral to a number of allied Iroquoian-speaking groups who lived between Huronia and Iroquoia. These groups remained neutral in the hostilities between the Huron and the Iroquois. The Neutral groups include Attiragenrega, Niagagarega, Antouaronons, Kakouagoga, and Ahondihronon.  

There were also a number of Iroquoian-speaking tribes located along the Saint Lawrence River at the time of first European contact in 1535. However, by 1603 these tribes had disappeared and a number of Algonquian-speaking groups were living  in the area. There are many anthropologists and archaeologists who feel that the Saint Lawrence Iroquois were Oneida-Onondaga who had expanded into the area after 1100 and then retreated back to New York after 1535. Others, however, feel that the Oneida, Onondaga, and Saint Lawrence Iroquois were different groups.

The Longhouse:

The center of Iroquois life and the symbol of the League of Five Nations was the hodensote or longhouse. This was a large structure – up to 300 feet in length – framed with bent saplings and covered with bark. The average longhouse was 60 feet long, 16 feet wide, and 15 feet high.

Iroquois Longhouse


Shown above is a reconstruction of an Iroquois longhouse.

The longhouse was occupied by a group of matrilineally related families. Each family had its own compartment within the longhouse. For each two families there would be a hearth, usually spaced at about 20 foot intervals. To let the smoke out, there was a smoke hole-a large rectangular opening in the arched roof-covered by a piece of bark which could be moved by a pole from below.

The two families sharing the hearth would live in compartments across the aisle from each other. Each family’s room was considered its private domestic space and contained sleeping platforms and shelving for storage. Bunks along the inside wall served as beds at night and as benches during the day. A curtain was hung from a pole above the benches. At night, this curtain, which was sometimes painted, would be dropped down providing the bed with some privacy.

Overhead shelves provided storage space for clothing and baggage. Sometimes, children would also be stowed away in this area. Corn, dried fish, and other dried foods were hung on the overhead poles.

Construction of the longhouse began with two rows of forked poles at about four or five foot intervals. The frame for the arching roof was then formed with bent poles attached to the base poles. The structure was strengthened with rafters and additional transverse poles. The structure was then covered with large sheets of bark, usually from cedar, elm, ash, basswood, fir, and spruce. The bark was stripped from the trees in the spring when the sap was flowing.

The longhouse had a door of animal hide or of hinged bark at either end. Over the front door there would be a panel carved or painted with the clan symbols of the families who lived there. Since the clan was matrilineal – traced through the mother – the women owned the houses.

The inside of the longhouse tended to be noisy, crowded, and smoky. The first Jesuits to describe the longhouses reported an abundance of fleas and lice, which they believed were the result of children urinating on the floor.


Onondaga Village

A drawing of an Onondaga village is shown above.

Iroquois villages were usually near streams or rivers. A small Iroquois village might have only four or five longhouses, while a large village would have more than 100. The larger villages were sometimes called “castles” by the European immigrants and had populations of about 3,000 people.

The population of an Iroquois village varied greatly according to the season. During the summer, villages would be nearly abandoned. Men would often leave the village during the summer for extended hunting, fishing, and warring expeditions. Women and children would move to small cabins closer to the fields so that they could tend the crops.

While the Iroquois lived in permanent villages, meaning that these villages were occupied year-round, villages tended to move on a regular basis. After about ten years the farmlands adjacent to the village would begin to become exhausted and crop yields would fall. In addition, it was difficult to keep bark-covered homes up for long periods of time. After about a decade, it was harder to clean and repair the house.

Among the Huron, village size rarely exceeded 1,500 to 2,000 inhabitants. One of the limiting factors was the rapidity with which local resources-firewood being a major concern-were used up. Disputes within a village would sometimes result in a fissioning of the village.

Between the longhouses and around the perimeters of the Iroquois villages were refuse dumps which contained large amounts of organic waste. These conditions would attract blood-feeding insects, like ticks and mosquitoes. It addition, the waste was attractive to scavenging dogs and rodents.

When the villages were moved, not everyone moved at the same time nor to the same location. People were free to move when they wanted and where they wanted. Some people would move to different communities and some to a new location. It would take several years for a village to be completely abandoned.

Iroquois villages were often stockaded and located in easily defensible high places near water. The stockade was made from logs and was often 15 to 20 feet in height. Often the stockades were made in double, triple, and even quadruple lines which were interlaced and reinforced with heavy bark. Some villages had a deep ditch surrounding the village as an additional defense line. On the top of the stockade would be piles of stones which could be thrown down at attackers, and jars of water which could be used to put out fires caused by burning arrows.

A typical village might enclose from five to ten acres within the palisade and would use several hundred acres outside of the palisade for farming.  

Help Defeat Cannon AFB’s War on Northern NM

Fifty years after Eisenhower’s famous warning to beware the growing power of the military-industrial complex, speaker after speaker at a public hearing in Santa Fe, NM, suggested that Cannon Air Force Base has committed acts of war against rural tribes and counties in New Mexico and should be shut down.

PhotobucketAt issue was Cannon’s plan to expand its Low Altitude Tactical Navigation (LATN) site to include 21 southern and eastern Colorado counties and 17 eastern and northern New Mexico counties. Affected tribes include the Jicarilla Apache, the Southern Ute and the Navajo. Several Pueblos are near the training zone as well including Ohkay Owinge, Taos, Santa Clara and San Idefonso.

And of course, my own county, Rio Arriba, which is home to several tribes and many Hispanic ranching families that predate the United States of America.

In order to train pilots for low-altitude night flight in Afghanistan, Cannon AFB will begin to conduct three five-hour missions per night (688 a year) in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.

Planes to be flown include the MC-130J and CV-22 (the infamous Osprey). After receiving a great deal of public criticism, Cannon altered its original plan, excluding populated areas and commercial airspace in this draft. The wealthy and politically connected communities of Los Alamos and Santa Fe were exempted as was the town of Espanola, and the minimum flight requirement was raised from 200 feet above ground level to 300 feet. According to Cannon’s dubious Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI):

Approximately 10 percent of the training missions would be flown between 300 and 500 feet (ft) Above Ground Level (AGL), 40 percent between 500 and 999 ft AGL, and 50 percent between 1,000 and 3,000 ft AGL.

Amazingly, without offering any evidence, the FONSI states that wildlife, the local economy, structures, ranching, hunting/camping and culture will not be effected.

Look for the Draft FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) and alleged Environmental Assessment from which these quotes are taken at this site.

Most of the County of Rio Arriba, home to Hispanic ranching families pre-dating the United States, as well as the Jicarilla Apache reservation and the pueblos of Ohkay Owinge, Santa Clara and San Ildefonso, will be subjected to low level fights.

Many serious flaws have been pointed out in the Environmental Assessment at poorly publicized “community forums” (which should, in fact, be called “public hearings”). For example, the FONSI finds that wildlife will be unaffected by the flyovers even though the EA does not identify which wildlife inhabit the area or where they can be located in the fly-over zone.

The FONSI determines that the requirement to uphold environmental justice has been met:

Scoping comments expressed concerns about disproportionate effects on environmental justice populations. Twenty-one counties in Colorado are entirely or partially under the

proposed training area. Four of those counties have a higher percentage of minorities than the state as a whole and 17 of those counties have a lower percentage of minorities than the state. In New Mexico, 17 counties are entirely or partially under the proposed training area. Five of those counties have a higher percentage of minorities than the state as a whole and 12 counties have a lower percentage of minorities than the state. Similar conditions exist for low-income and youth populations. The Proposed Action would not have disproportionate effects to minorities, low income, or youth populations under the proposed training area.

Since the purpose of the exercises is to train pilots to fly extremely close to the ground over mountainous terrain, it is unlikely that all areas of the proposed training ground will be equally affected by very low flights. More low flights are likely to occur over mountain passes and in rugged terrain than in flat areas. Native American Tribes such as the Ute, the Jicarilla Apache, Navajos and the Pueblos live in these areas as do many indigenous Hispanic ranchers. Rugged remote counties are also poorer and more heavily Hispanic, especially in New Mexico and southern Colorado. Moreover, elk, deer and other wildlife are also concentrated in these areas. It is unlikely that a large airplane flying 300 feet above a herd of any kind will not affect it. And the centuries-old adobe dwellings ubiquitous in northern New Mexico are unlikely to withstand damage from noise and vibrations in the same manner as the modern steel, brick and cement architecture tested for overflight in the “Environmental Assessment.”

I made remarks at the hearing in Santa Fe because the one in Espanola (in Rio Arriba County), which is closest to Hispanic ranchers and Native American tribes, was so poorly advertised that few people knew about it. I heard about it at the last minute thanks to a NAN blogger, Los Anjales. Carol Miller of the Peaceful Skies Coalition had alerted almost all of the people in attendance in Espanola. The only Air Force notification was a teeny advertisement buried deep within the B section of the local paper in four point font.

PhotobucketOne of the changes proposed in this draft as a result of public criticism is that Native American Tribes will now be able to prevent flyovers of important ceremonies by calling up the Air Force to tell them where and when the ceremony will be held. This proposal strikes me as preposterously insulting. Most of the tribes in our area do not tell one another where their ceremonies will be held, and would certainly not have an interest in informing the military that confined them to reservations in the first place.

Ranchers will also be allowed to call the Air Force to report where and when important activities such as branding, calving and shearing will occur. This fanciful suggestion is equally preposterous. It assumes that ranchers can predict without disruption caused by weather and other exigencies, where and when the event will occur. It also assumes they will have phone service and time to place the call.

Two county representatives (a commissioner from Santa Fe County and I) pointed out that Ospreys are prone to crashes, and that remote rural counties do not have HAZMAT capacity to respond to a crash. Moreover, some of you may remember my blog posts this summer about the Las Conchas fire, which spread to over 400,000 acres in a few days. That fire was caused by a downed power line, and required three Type 1 Emergency Response teams to contain its spread.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the process, in my opinion, is that all comments on the sham Environmental Assessment and FONSI are to be sent to Cannon Air Force Base which will make the final decision. Since the Environmental Assessment is a joke, the FONSI is completely unsubstantiated and the public notification process has been non-existent, I don’t see why we should believe administrators at Cannon Air Force Base will listen to comments by politically unconnected minorities.

Unless of course, those minorities dream up a great strategy for making themselves heard. Here is my suggestion for just such a strategy.

How You Can Help

Soon, the twelve members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction will be meeting to identify deep cuts to the military. In May of 2005, Canon AFB was recommended for closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The decision was reversed after people in Northern New Mexico circulated petitions on behalf of the base. Many individuals now regret their activism.

I am recommending that NAN members (and their relatives and friends) submit letters to members of the Super Committee requesting the closure of Cannon Air Force Base. Each training flight costs $11,000 which could be used to fund schools, fire departments, police, health care and other services. The letter should be copied and submitted as a comment to Cannon Air Force Base. I will provide you with all the relevant contact info and a letter template below.

Senator Patty Murray D-WA, Committee Co-Chair Phone: (202) 224-2621 Fax: (202) 224-0238

Senator Max Baucus D-MT Phone: (202) 224-2651 Fax: (202) 224-9412  

Senator John Kerry, D-MA Phone: (202) 224-2742 Fax: (202) 224-8525

Senator Jon Kyl, R-AZ Phone: (202) 224-4521 Fax: (202) 224-2207

Senator Rob Portman, R-OH Phone: 202-224-3353 Fax: 202-224-9075

Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA Phone:(202) 224-4254 Fax: (202) 228-0284

Representative Jeb Hensarling R-TX, Committee Co-Chair (You must include a zip code in his district. Here are a few you can use: 75030, 75032, 75041, 75043, 75047, 75049, 75088, 75103, 75114) Phone: Phone: (202) 225-3484 Fax: (202) 226-4888

Representative Xavier Becerra, D-CA Phone: (202) 225-6235 Fax: 202-225-2202

Representative Fred Upton, R-MI Phone: (202) 225-3761 Fax: (202) 225-4986

Representative Dave Camp, R-MI (You will need a zipcode in his district to email him. Try this one: 49654.) Phone: (202) 225-3561 Fax: (202) 225-9679

Representative James Clyburn, D-NC (You will need a zipcode in his district to email him. Try one of these: 29403, 29590, 29052.) Phone: (202)225-3315 Fax: (202)225-2313

Representative Chris Van Hollen, D-MD (You will need a zipcode in his district to email him. Try one of these: 20837, 20841.) Phone: (202) 225-5341 Fax: (202) 225-0375

Here is some sample text you can use:

In 2005, the people of New Mexico including many Native Americans and rural Hispanics petitioned to keep Cannon Air Force Base open. In return, Cannon AFB has singled out poor and minority communities for ongoing night low altitude training flights, threatening homes, wildlife, and the local economy.

The Founding Fathers fought the revolution because they believed Britain’s standing army was a form of tyranny. Requiring Native Americans to report their ceremonies to the USAF to avoid flyovers is an act of war against Native Americans. Low level flyovers of peoples’ communities is also an act of war. Only our Congressional Representatives may declare war.

Many of the people in the flight path have already experienced high intensity wildfires that have rapidly burned hundreds of thousands of acres. County governments in the impacted area do not have HAZMAT capability to respond to a plane crash or in-flight fueling disaster; and the dryness of the forest poses a severe fire hazard. Cannon AFB’s proposed activity presents a serious threat to the lives and livelihood of its neighbors.

Moreover, the alleged environmental assessment conducted by Cannon AFB was incompetent, with huge gaps in data and unscientific “findings;” nor were communities in the flight path adequately informed public hearings.

Each flyover costs the federal government $11,000 per hour, almost the amount of a full-time annual salary in rural Rio Arriba County. This is money that could be used to improve the schools, emergency response, roads and fire fighting capabilities of the threatened communities. I strongly urge you to close Cannon AFB and redirect this funding to basic human services.

Thank you for your attention.

Submit copies of all your letters as public comment before November 5 to the Cannon AFB Public Comment site.

For more information, contact The Peaceful Skies Coalition.

The Red Nation Society (TRNS)

The Red Nation Society (TRNS)is an online NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITY. We are a diverse group of people from diverse Races and Cultures, united and committed to preserving, sharing, building, practicing and respecting the Spirit of Friendship and mutual respect. We promote voice, vision and values of Friendship and mutual respect, to ensure a better World Community.

The Red Nation Society was created by Calvin Tatsey who is a member of the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana.  So TRNS is owned by a Native American.

Join us today on our site.  It’s FREE to join and participate in. Click on the link below and fill out an application.  Please give up to five days for approval as Mr. Tatsey is busy at times doing things for his people.


NOTE: We are not a profit site/organization and we do NOT ask for money.  We are a social online Community where Natives and those that are interested in Native ways come together to care about each other.  

George Washington and the Indians

George Washington is often revered as the first President of the United States. As the first president, he established many of the protocols for the office. From an Indian perspective, his presidency also established much of the basis for the federal Indian policies. Like other non-Indians of this era, he viewed Indians as a vanishing people, or at least a people who at some time in the near future would cease to exist in the United States. Indians were to either die out, migrate, or become totally assimilated.

George Washington

Before the Revolutionary War:

George Washington’s first combat experience came in 1754 as the leader of a combined Virginia and Seneca force which had marched against the French forces in Ohio. The French had constructed Fort Duquesne in an attempt to gain influence over the tribes in the region. Seneca leader Tanacharison (Half King) reported to the British Virginia forces under George Washington what the French were attempting to do. He also provided Washington with a delegation of warriors. The combined Virginian and Seneca forces surrounded a French camp, killing 10 and taking 21 prisoners. When the wounded French leader attempted to explain that he was on a diplomatic peace mission, Tanacharison, who was more fluent in French than Washington, killed him before Washington understood the nature of his message.

Seneca leader Tanacharison (Half King) arranged a council between tribal leaders and George Washington. Washington, realizing that he needed the support of the tribes, explained that the purpose of the British military efforts were to maintain Indian rights to the region and to prevent the French from taking their lands. The chiefs, however, were not persuaded and viewed any alliance with Washington’s troops as a bad gamble.

Following the English victory over the French in 1763, the English King issued a Royal Proclamation which set a boundary line from Nova Scotia to Florida following the Appalachians. This boundary was supposed to separate the Indians from the colonists. The Royal Proclamation temporarily reserved a vast territory as exclusive Indian hunting grounds and curtailed colonial charters at the boundary. The European colonists were forbidden to settle west of the boundary line.

The Proclamation also assumed imperial authority over the Indians, thus claiming the continent while allowing Indians to live upon it at their grace and favor. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 prohibited the purchase of Indian lands by private individuals.Many of the European colonists, such as George Washington, simply viewed the proclamation as a temporary expedient to calm the Indians. George Washington regarded the Indian tribes of the region as temporary: he felt that they were destined to be displaced by the growing wave of European settlers that would soon cross over the Alleghenies seeking to establish themselves on Indian land. The European settlers simply ignored the new line and continued to settle on Indian land, to build blockhouses, and to dare the Indians to force them out.

The Revolutionary War:

When the Revolutionary War broke out, both sides looked to recruit Indian allies. The Continental Congress passed a resolution to call on Indians for support in case of real necessity. Several Indian nations in Maine-particularly the Penobscot and the Maliseet-quickly allied themselves with the colonists feeling that the colonists would recognize their aboriginal rights. In 1776, General George Washington asked the Passamaquoddy of Maine to send him warriors.

In 1778, 30 Stockbridge (a Christian Indian community) soldiers  died fighting for the American revolutionaries against the British at White Plains, New York. Among those killed were chief Daniel Nimham. As a result of bravery in this battle, General George Washington promoted Hendrick Aupaumut to the rank of captain.

While many Indians aided the Americans in their struggle for independence, in 1779  George Washington sent 5,000 American troops under the command of General John Sullivan to destroy the villages of the Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca as punishment for aid which they had supposedly given to the British. Washington’s orders are for

“the total destruction and devastation of [the Indian] settlements and capture as many prisoners as possible.”

The American forces made no distinction between those who had been American allies and those who had aided the British. The Americans destroyed 40 villages and 160,000 bushels of corn.

The Constitution and Congressional Action:

The Constitution of the United States was adopted in 1787. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 delegated to Congress the power

“to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes”

Thus dealings with the tribes are to be federal. Congressional action, according to those who wrote the Constitution, was to be superior to state law and Congress was to have the exclusive authority to deal with Indian tribes.

Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 which provided for the administration of the northwestern portion of the former colonies (now the Midwest east of the Mississippi River). Congress viewed the Indian presence in this area as temporary and made it clear that the United States intended to settle the area. However, the Act indicates that the federal government is not to invade or disturb Indian nations unless there is a “just” war. Section 14, Article III of the Ordinance also states:

“laws bounded in justice and humanity shall, from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them.”

At this time, George Washington called for the purchase of land from the Indians rather than driving them by force out of the country. He described Indians as being like the “Wild Beast of the Forest” and the “Wolf” as he viewed them as beasts of prey.

President George Washington:

George Washington became the first President of the new United States in 1789. Like other Americans at this time, he believed that Euro-American culture was more advanced than Indian culture. He believed that Indians would eventually assimilate into the dominant American culture

Under the new U.S. Constitution, the American leadership-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.

Secretary of War Henry Knox, recognizing that war with the Indians would be prohibitively expensive, and that war without prior negotiation would be unjust, began a policy of negotiation. This reversed the “conquest theory” (that the United States has title to Indian land because of its victory over England) and recognized Indian rights to the land. He felt that it was important for Indians to be introduced to the idea of a love for exclusive property and suggested the appointment of Christian missionaries to live among the Indians as one way of introducing this idea.

Henry Knox lobbied President George Washington to make the reform of American Indian policy a priority of his presidency. Consequently, the two men developed a new Indian policy for the United States. As foreign nations, Indian policy should be part of foreign policy under the Secretary of State, but since Knox had been doing the job and had the information about Indians at his fingertips, they decided it should be under the Department of War. Subsequently, Congress gave authority over Indian affairs to the Department of War.

Knox and Washington viewed treaties with Indian nations as being binding on both parties in perpetuity. The power and the honor of the federal government would be pledged to their enforcement. In addition, all treaties were to contain a provision which would provide the Indians with agricultural implements so that they could make the transition from savagery (meaning hunting) to civilization (meaning farming).

President Washington’s first experience with Indian treaties came in 1789 when Henry Knox persuaded him to make diplomatic overtures to the Creek. Since this would be the first treaty with an Indian nation since the ratification of the Constitution, Washington had to interpret the constitutional requirement to obtain “the advice and consent” of the Senate. He interpreted this to mean that he must appear before the Senate in person prior to the treaty negotiations. The result was uncomfortable for both Washington, who was not an orator, and the Senate. This was the first and last time that a president would appear in person to seek the advice and consent of the Senate on a treaty. Hereafter, treaties would simply be sent to the Senate for ratification after they had been ratified.

In 1790, Seneca leaders Cornplanter, Big Tree, and Halftown traveled to Philadelphia to complain to President George Washington about non-Indian encroachment on tribal lands. Referring to their 1784 treaty, they asked Washington:

“Does this promise bind you?”

Washington guaranteed their boundaries and control of their lands by telling them that

“…all the lands secured to you, by the treaty of fort [sic] Stanwix, excepting such parts as you may since have fairly sold, are yours, and that only your own acts can convey them away.”

The federal government agreed to provide Cornplanter with an annual pension of $250.

Federal and State Conflicts over Indian Affairs:

Secretary of War Henry Knox reported to President Washington that:

“The independent nations and tribes of Indians ought to be considered as foreign nations, not as the subjects of any particular state.”

This set the stage for ongoing conflicts between the states and the federal government regarding the jurisdiction for Indian affairs. These conflicts not only plagued Washington’s Presidency, but have continued until the present time.  

Congress passed the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act in 1790 which forbade the private purchase of Indian land; provided for the punishment of non-Indians who committed crimes in Indian country; and licensed those who traded with Indians. Purchase of Indian land was to be done at a treaty council held under federal auspices. Congress clearly viewed Indian affairs as being under federal jurisdiction, not state jurisdiction. It was soon, clear, however, that the states did not agree.

In 1790, the Georgia state legislature announced the sale of 24 million acres of land which they had acquired from the Creek to three private companies, collectively called the Yazoo Companies. President George Washington and Secretary of War Henry Knox viewed Georgia’s actions as a blow to federal sovereignty and to the assumption that Indian policy is a branch of American foreign policy. Creek leader Alexander McGillivray saw this action as a potential invasion of Creek territory.

Alexander McGillivray and 26 other Creek chiefs signed a treaty with President George Washington in New York. While Washington did not love Indians, he treated the Creek delegation to dinners, parades, and diplomatic ceremonies that equaled, and some say exceeded, those accorded to any European diplomatic mission.

Georgia denounced the treaty as a violation of state’s rights since the treaty stipulated that the Creek Nation would not hold any treaty with an individual state. To reinforce the Creek treaty, President George Washington issued an executive order forbidding private or state encroachments on all Indian lands under treaties with the United States. The Georgia legislature simply defied the proclamation and sold more than 15 million acres of Creek land. In 1794, the Georgia Assembly appropriated Creek lands for the payment of state troops in spite of the fact that these lands had been guaranteed to the Creek by the federal government.

In 1791, the New York state legislature pursued its own Indian policy by authorizing emissaries to visit the Seneca and open up land negotiations. President George Washington raged about this action:

“the interferences of States and the speculations of Individuals will be the bane of all our public measures.”

In 1796, the Penobscot signed a treaty with Massachusetts in which they retained title to the islands for thirty miles above Oldtown, Maine. Maine at this time was still a part of Massachusetts. The treaty was negotiated and signed in violation of both the Constitution and the 1790 Trade and Intercourse Act.

In 1796, President George Washington published an open letter to the Cherokee Nation. Washington promised the Cherokee that the federal government would enforce treaties honorably and ensure Cherokee survival as a people and a nation. Washington describes his commitment to this as both a matter of law and a personal promise. It was clear that Washington meant every word and the Cherokee accepted it as a sacred vow of the federal government. Despite Washington’s sincerity and personal commitment, the promises to the Cherokee were not kept.

Hidatsa Pumpkin (Food Diary)

Five centuries ago, at the beginning of the European invasion of this continent, a majority of Indian people in what is now the lower 48 states of the United States got a majority of the calories which they consumed from plants which they raised. While the popular stereotype of Indians sees them as big game hunters, meat was actually more of a supplement to their agricultural diet.  

The most common Indian crops were what the Iroquois called the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. In addition, they raised many other plants for food, fiber, and medicinal uses.

The Hidatsa lived in permanent villages along the Missouri River in North Dakota. The village tribes of the upper Missouri River Valley, such as the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, were farming people who raised corn, beans, sunflowers, tobacco, pumpkins, and squash. These tribes produced not only enough agricultural products for their own use, but also a substantial surplus which was traded to other tribes, and later to the Europeans and Americans.

Sensitive to the ecological demands of the Northern Plains, they established fields in the fertile bottomlands where the tillable soil was renewed annually by flooding. The brush which was cleared for the planting was spread over the fields and burned. This practice softened the soil and added nutrients. Hidatsa elder Buffalo Bird Woman, in a converstation in about 1910, said:

“It was well known in my tribe that burning over new ground left the soil soft and easy to work, and for this reason we thought it a wise thing to do.”

In addition, fields were taken out of production and allowed to lay fallow for two years in order to let the land rejuvenate.

Among the Hidatsa, as with other American Indian agriculturalists, the women did the farming. In preparing the fields for planting, rakes and digging sticks were used. Some of the rakes were made from deer antler and some were made from long willow shoots. In cultivating the fields they used a hoe that was often made from the shoulder-blade of the buffalo or elk, which was attached to a long wooden handle.

Sunflowers – black, white, red, sand striped – were the first crop planted in the spring and they were the last crop harvested in the fall. The sunflowers were planted around the edges of the field. The Hidatsa name for April is Mapi’-o’ce-mi’di which means Sunflower Planting Moon.

Sunflower seeds were parched in a clay pot and then made into meal. Some of this meal was used to make sunflower balls which were an important item in the diet. Warriors would carry a sunflower-seed ball wrapped in a piece of buffalo-heart skin. When tired, the warrior would then nibble at the ball. Hidatsa elder Buffalo Bird Woman describes the effects of nibbling on a sunflower-seed ball:

“If the warrior was weary, he began to feel fresh again; if sleepy, he grew wakeful.”

Corn planting began after the sunflower seeds were planted. When the gooseberry bush began to leaf it was time to plant. Corn was planted in hilled rows with the hills about four feet apart. This spacing was tuned to the local rainfall. Closer spacing would bring higher yields only if the growing season were unusually wet. A second planting of corn was done when the June berries were ripe.

Most families kept enough seed corn for two years. After two years the corn would not come up well and after four years the corn seed was dead and worthless.

One of the main varieties of corn was flint corn which was well-adapted to the semi-arid Northern Plains climate. This corn took about 60 days to mature and, because of its short stalk, was able to withstand winds fairly well. Flint corn is high in protein and the grain is very hard and heavy.

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

The village tribes of the northeastern Plains planted between nine and eleven different varieties of corn. The Indians also observed some basic plant genetics. According to Hidatsa elder Buffalo Bird Woman:

“We Indians knew that corn can travel, as we say; thus, if the seed planted in one field is of white corn, and that in an adjoining field is of some variety corn, the white will travel to the yellow corn field, and the yellow to the white corn field.”

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

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

Hidatsa Pumpkin:

(additional comments and clarification have been added throughout by Ojibwa’s wife, who has used this recipe–)

1   4- to 5-pound sugar pumpkin

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard

1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or rendered fat

1 pound ground venison, buffalo, or lean beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup wild rice, cooked (or brown and wild rice)

3 eggs, beaten (or egg beaters or egg whites)

1 teaspoon crushed dried sage (the cooking kind)

¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut the top from pumpkin (like you would for a jack o’lantern) and remove seeds and strings from cavity. Prick cavity with a fork all over and rub with 1 teaspoon of salt and the dry mustard. Heat oil in large skillet. Add meat and onion and sauté over medium-high heat until browned. Off the heat, stir in wild rice, eggs, remaining salt, sage, and pepper. Stuff pumpkin with this mixture. Place ½ inch of water in the bottom of a shallow baking pan.

Put pumpkin (and the lid) in the pan and bake for 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Add more water to the pan as necessary to avoid sticking. When done, bring to table with lid askew on top of pumpkin at a jaunty angle-it looks really nice. Cut pumpkin into wedges, giving each person both pumpkin and stuffing. ( The skin is tough and bitter and should not be eaten, but the flesh of the pumpkin will scrape away easily.)

This would also make a good vegetarian recipe by leaving out the meat. It can be rather bland, however, and you may wish to add additional seasoning and cook your rice in a vegetable broth or stock instead of water.

The pumpkin seeds you pulled out can be toasted for a snack.

The Earthlodge

A common stereotype is that American Indians lived in tipis. In fact, relatively few Indian nations utilized this type of housing: it was a type of housing found primarily in the Great Plains. Among the Indian nations who live along the Missouri River in the Dakotas, the primary form of housing was the earthlodge.

Mandan Lodge Curtis

Shown above is a Mandan lodge photographed in 1909 by Edward S. Curtis.  

Along the eastern portion of the Northern Plains, tribes such as the Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa had permanent villages in which they constructed large earthlodges. The earthlodges were circular structures built partially underground. They had a log framework which was covered with willow mats and then overlaid with a thin coating of earth and sod. At the top of the dome-shaped lodge there was an opening-often two or three feet across-which allowed smoke to escape. Next to this opening would be an old bull-boat or a covered wicker frame which could be placed over the hole during bad weather.

The floor of the lodge was often excavated a foot or more below ground level. Beneath the smoke hole, there would be a shallow depression, five or six feet across, curbed with stone for the fire.

The size of the earthlodges ranged from 20 to 50 feet in diameter. A typical earthlodge would have 15-25 people living in it.

It would take a group of women about a week to construct an earthlodge. The lodge would then last about 7-10 years at which time the buried portions of the framework posts would be rotting out. A new earthlodge would then be built at the same location.

Knife River Mandan Lodge

Shown above is a  reconstructed Mandan lodge of the Knife River village.

Inside the earthlodge, beds were generally placed around the wall. Each bed was a separate, box-like structure which was entirely closed in except for one small opening. The bed was raised somewhat above the floor and was covered with robes.

The roofs of the earthlodges were often used as balconies for relaxing or for seeing what was going on in the area. Village life took place on the roofs of the lodges as well as on the ground.

To provide shaded outdoor working and lounging areas, ramadas were constructed using upright posts and horizontal joists to support a brush roof. There were no walls.

In addition to the earthlodges and the ramadas, there were also numerous scaffolds on which buffalo meat was hung to dry.

Each house also had a wood mortar which was set firmly into the floor. Using a heavy wooden pestle, the women would use this mortar for grinding corn.

To provide for food storage, storage pits were dug both inside the houses and between the houses. Typically, these storage pits were wider at the bottom than at the top giving them a rough bell shape. Some of the pits were more than two meters (more than six feet) deep. The pits were lined with grass and willow shoots. If the pits became damp or infested with mice, then they were used for trash disposal. In some earthlodges there were as many as nine pits.

The Earthlodge Villages:

Catlin Mandan Village

Shown above is a Mandan village painted by George Catlin.

Mandan villages usually had an open plaza near the center. The plaza was roughly 160 feet long and 90 feet wide. In the center of the plaza was a shrine-Mni-mih-douxx (“Water Middle Mark”)-which commemorated Lone Man’s act of saving his people during the great flood. Also on the plaza was the Medicine Lodge or Tixopinic.  This was not only the largest building in the village, but it was also the only non-round building in the village. This big lodge was the center of the city’s religious, political, and social life.

In Arikara villages there was usually one large lodge which served as a ceremonial structure. This ceremonial lodge was usually located in the center of the village. This lodge would have a low earthen altar against the wall opposite the entrance. Unlike other earthlodges, the ceremonial lodges contain few storage pits.

The Hidatsa villages had neither a central plaza nor a ceremonial structure. The Hidatsa usually conducted ceremonies at temporary locations outside of the village.

The agricultural people of the northeastern area often fortified their villages with pallisades and ditches. Some villages were protected by more elaborate defensive works which included bastions constructed at carefully calculated intervals. These defensive works were constructed by the women.


Native American Movie entitled “Our History”

Hey my Name is Nicholas and I’m currently looking for funding for my new independent film entitle “Our History”. Feel free to check out our Facebook page and feel free to “Like” it Smile. Production will begin in early 2012. I’m looking for donations for the completion of the film. Here’s a plot synopsis:

Set in the early 1900’s, many states payed out “rewards” to citizens for the killing Native Americans. Scalps were presented for compensation. This en-fueled many militias of citizens to conduct this practice. This film will unravel and expose the world to the brutality and inhuman actions taken by these private citizens with the support of their government.

If you are interested please E-Mail me at

Thank you for your Interest Can donate Securely through a PayPal Donation Button!! Will be posting on other forums but feel free to spread the word Smile Thanks again. I will also be hiring a whole new film cast and crew, so after donating feel free to let me know that you are interested. Experience may apply.

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American Deception in California

United States military forces occupied California during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). In 1850 California was admitted to the Union as a free state, that is, a state in which slavery was supposedly prohibited. However, the concept of free did not apply to the Indians who lived in the state and they soon encountered American deception at both the federal and state levels.  

Enslaving Indians:

One of the first acts of the newly created state was to pass an Act for the Government and Protection of Indians. The Act stated that while both non-Indians and Indians might take complaints before a justice of the peace, that “in no case shall a white man be convicted on any offense upon the testimony of an Indian.” In others words, Indians became invisible to the justice system. In effect, a non-Indian could commit a crime against an Indian-murder, rape, robbery-and could not be tried for that crime unless another non-Indian had witnessed it.

The Act also allowed non-Indians to obtain Indian children by going before a justice of the peace and securing a certificate which allowed them to have the care, custody, control, and earnings of these children. The illegal sale of Indian children became common and during the next 13 years an estimated 20,000 California Indian children were placed in bondage. While California was a free state, these Indian children were slaves in all but name. They worked as servants, laborers, and concubines until they were considered adults.

The Act also provided a mechanism by which Indians could be legally taken and forced to become unpaid servants or laborers. The law empowered non-Indians to arrest Indian adults for a number of offenses, including loitering. Once arrested the captives were sold to the highest bidder. The Indians were then required to work for four months without compensation. Since the Indians were not allowed to testify in court, the 1850 Act opened the door to abduction and involuntary servitude.

The Act also stipulated that if an Indian were arrested for a crime such as public intoxication, the fine could be paid by a non-Indian and the prisoner would then be required to work for the person who paid the fine until the debt was paid. The Indian had no voice in this matter. The terms of the transaction-the amount of the fine and the length of “service”-were to be set by the judge and the person who paid the fine. For many ranchers in California, this was an inexpensive way of obtaining ranch hands.

In 1850 there are an estimated 100,000 Indians in California. In 1500 there were an estimated 300,000 Indians living in what would become California. It is estimated that under this Act, about 10,000 California Indians were enslaved.

The act also curtailed Indian land rights and set the stage for non-Indians settling on and obtaining title to Indian lands.

Federal Government:

In 1851, the United States federal government negotiated 18 treaties with California Indian nations which were intended to secure legal title to public land and which were meant to guarantee reserved lands for Indians. The Indian commissioners explained to the non-Indian residents of the state that the government had two options: to exterminate the Indians or to “domesticate” them. They argued that “domesticating” them was more practical.

None of the American commissioners who arranged the California treaties knew anything about California Indians. What they did was to travel around until they could collect some Indians for a council, meet with them, and effect the treaty explanation and signing. There is a great deal of doubt as to whether or not the Indians really understood what the whole treaty process was about.

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

Signing the treaty for the Hupa were what the Americans call the “head chief” and “under chiefs.” In actuality the men who signed the treaty were probably the tribe’s spiritual leaders. While none of these men had formal authority over all of the villages, they were men of great influence in the tribe.

While these treaties were signed by both Indian and U.S. government leaders, they were not debated in Congress, thus did not appear in the Congressional Record. For more than 50 years they were hidden from public and legal view. The ratification of the treaties had been strongly opposed by the California legislature and it was rumored that state representatives had the treaties hidden in the archives of the Government Room in Washington, D.C. Ensuing legislation at the state level then deprived California Indians of the rights to their land. The Indians, with no rights under the state and unprotected by treaties, became wanderers, hounded and persecuted by non-Indians. The failure of the federal government to ratify the treaties left the federal government without explicit legal obligation toward the Indians of California.

In another action, Congress created the State Lands Commission in 1851 to examine Mexican land titles in California. While the commission had explicit instructions to seek out and determine Indian land rights, it ignored the papers concerning Indian land title which were submitted to the commission.

The Genocide Begins:

A year after statehood, California governor John McDougall told the California legislature:

“That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected… the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power or wisdom of man to avert.”

During the next year more than a million dollars would be paid out in bounties for Indian scalps and numerous small battles and massacres were encouraged by state and local officials.

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

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

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

In another instance, the Yahi were accused of stealing a cow, and in response the Americans burned the village on Mill Creek.

During the next 50 years, California Indian population decreased by 80%.

American Lies and the Treaty of Fort Laramie

By the mid-nineteenth century, the American obsession with private property was guiding policies regarding American Indians. The idea that Indian people held property-that is, land-in common rather than having individuals own it, was repulsive to Americans. In 1850, the policy of “civilizing” Indians was described this way by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

“When civilization and barbarism are brought into such relation that they cannot coexist together, it is right that the superiority of the former should be asserted and the latter compelled to give away. It is, therefore, no matter of regret or reproach that so large a portion of our territory has been wrested from its aboriginal inhabitants and made the happy abode of an enlightened and Christian people.”

The following year, the Secretary of the Interior (that is, the top U.S. official in charge of Indian Affairs) stated:

“You must tie him down to the soil. You must make him understand the value of property and the benefits of its separate ownership. You must appeal to those selfish principles implanted by Divine Providence in the nature of man for the wisest purposes and make them minister to civilization and refinement.”


From an American viewpoint, civilization means that some individuals must be allowed, actually encouraged, to accumulate more wealth and power than others. The egalitarian nature of most Indian societies and common land ownership, therefore, stood in the way of progress, and in the ability of non-Indians to “legally” obtain Indian land.

In 1851, the United States called a treaty council with the Indian nations of the Northern Plains at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Attending this council were the Sioux (though records fail to note which Sioux tribes participated and the Americans seem unaware or unconcerned that there is no single Sioux nation), Cheyenne, Arapaho, Shoshone, Crow, Assiniboine, Arikara, Gros Ventre, Mandan, and Hidatsa nations. An estimated 8,000 – 12,000 Indians gathered for this council.

One of the events of the council was the spectacular entry of the Crow into the council grounds. Riding on painted horses, singing their war songs, with chiefs Big Robber and Mountain Tail holding their ceremonial pipes like royal scepters, they rode into the crowd of Indians who had already gathered.

The purpose of the council and of the resulting treaty was to establish peace between the United States and the tribes, including a promise to protect Indians from European-Americans, and to stop the tribes from making war with one another. One of the major reasons, from the perspective of the United States, for obtaining peace agreements was that there was a growing stream of American emigrants travelling west on the Oregon trail to settle on Indian lands farther west.

After passing the pipe, D.D. Mitchell told the chiefs:

“We do not want your lands, horses, robes, nor anything you have; but we come to advise with you, and make a treaty with you for your own good.”

This was simply one of many lies the Americans told during the council. The Americans also arrogantly assumed that they had the right, as a Christian nation, to govern Indian nations.

Americans have traditionally been reluctant to deal with democracies, preferring instead to deal with dictatorships. At the Fort Laramie Treaty Council, each tribe was asked to provide a single chief of the whole nation. After council with his people, chief Terra Blue of the Brulé (one of the Sioux tribes), said:

“we have decided differently from you, Father, about this Chief for the nation. We want a Chief for each band.”

The use of the word “band” is, perhaps, a poor translation into English of the Sioux political organization as it actually referred to a sovereign, independent, political entity. Mitchell responded to this request by selecting a single chief-Frightening Bear–to represent the entire Sioux nation. Thus the United States attempted to create not only a dictator, but also a fictitious “nation” to go with it.  What the Americans considered to be the Sioux nation was actually several distinct nations.

The Arapaho selected Little Owl and Cut Nose to sign the treaty and Little Owl was designated as head chief. The Cheyenne had difficulty in selecting a head chief, but finally selected the keeper of the sacred arrows, He Who Walks with Toes Turned Out. He Who Walks with Toes Turned Out was not particularly well-known for his leadership ability, nor was he skilled in dealings with the Americans.

The Americans designated Crazy Bear to the position of Assiniboine tribal chief. As with the Sioux, there were actually several independent Assiniboine groups, a fact ignored by the Americans. Negotiating the treaty with Crazy Bear is First Fly (also known as The First Who Flies).

The Americans provided each of the head chiefs with a full major-general’s uniform. In addition, the chiefs were delegated to distribute the goods issued by the federal government. The goods given to the chiefs to distribute to their people at the council included tobacco, serge, vermillion, blankets, knives, beads, sugar, and coffee. By having the chiefs, most of whom were chosen by the United States, in charge of the distribution of goods, the Americans hoped to build the power of dictators who would be loyal to American causes rather than tribal causes.

At the Fort Laramie Treaty Council, each tribal area was defined, including an area for the Blackfoot Nation which was not represented at the Council. Defining tribal lands was seen as the first step in being able to acquire title to these lands and thus disposes the Indians.

The Council ignored the participation of the Shoshone and assigned their northeastern hunting range to the Crow.  As there were no River Crow at the Council, the Mountain Crow version of their geographic rights and hunting areas was used and was assumed by the Americans to be binding to all of the Crow tribes.

The Americans also failed to distinguish between the Northern Cheyenne and the Southern Cheyenne and simply grouped both tribes together in the south. The Sioux received the rights to the Black Hills and other lands claimed by the Northern Cheyenne.

Signing the treaty for the Yankton Sioux was Smutty Bear who complained about the destruction of grass and trees by travelers on the Overland Trail and about the subsequent scarcity of game. While this was a major concern for the Indians, it was dismissed as being a minor issue by the Americans. Their focus was on land ownership with no concern about environmental degradation.

The treaties which the Indian chiefs signed called for annuities to be paid to the Indian nations for 50 years. However, while the treaties were viewed as binding upon the Indian nations immediately upon signing, they were not binding on the United States until they had been ratified by the Senate. The Senate, annoyed by the idea of paying Indians so much money for their land, simply changed the terms of the treaty from 50 years to 10 years with the right to continue the annuities for an additional 5 years at the discretion of the President. The tribes, of course, were not consulted nor even notified of this change. Writing in 1881, Helen Hunt Jackson opined:

“To comment on the bad faith of this action on the part of Congress would be a waste of words; but its impolicy is too glaring that one’s astonishment cannot keep silent-its impolicy and also its incredible niggardliness.”

The act of unilaterally changing an agreement which had been understood to have been final was a clear signal to the Indians that the word of those representing the United States was not to be trusted. Some Indian leaders would later indicate that all words spoken on behalf of the United States should be considered to be lies.

The Ojibwa, Copper, and Millard Fillmore

It is a long held maxim that American Indians should not be allowed to acquire wealth. Since one of the ways of acquiring wealth is through minerals-such as copper, iron, silver, and gold-when then minerals were discovered on Indian lands, these lands, and the mineral rights, had to be taken from the Indians so that they could be developed by non-Indian interests. One example of this can be seen in the Great Lakes region and the fight to remove that Ojibwa from Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  

By 1850 it had become evident to non-Indians that there might be a great deal of wealth on Ojibwa lands in the form of copper and timber. In order for non-Indians to exploit these resources, it was first necessary to get rid of the Ojibwa who were seen as barriers to civilization and development. In response to pressure by non-Indian mining and timber interests, President Zachary Taylor ordered the removal of the Ojibwa (also called Chippewa) from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. He offered four reasons for the removal and requested prompt action in carrying it out:

The Ojibwa must be removed to prevent “injurious contact” with American settlers

The Indians need to be removed from areas where they can obtain alcohol

The Americans need to be relieved of the “annoyance” and “evils” of having Indians as neighbors

Removal would provide the Indians with opportunities for promoting their civilization and prosperity.

The Ojibwa were shocked by the removal order and messengers were sent to all of the villages by the chiefs to determine if there had been any depredations committed against American settlers. When they failed to find any incident which would have triggered the President’s action, the chiefs convened councils throughout the territory to discuss the situation.

The Ojibwa did gain some allies in their fight against removal. In 1851, an editorial in the Lake Superior News and Mining Journal opposed the proposed removal:

“We believe we express the conviction of the entire population of the Lake Superior county in regarding this removal as uncalled for by the best interests of the Government, the whites, or the Indians.”

The editorial goes on to say:

“From time immemorial this people have occupied the northern region, and have become acclimated to its cold and rigorous climate; and by hunting and fishing, and the cultivation of their small patches of soil, they have lived comfortably and contentedly, causing little or no trouble to the United States and their neighbors.”

In 1852, Chippewa chief Buffalo, who was in his early nineties, together with several other chiefs and an interpreter traveled to Washington, D.C. without government authorization. They brought with them a petition supporting the Chippewa cause against removal. When the delegation reached Washington, D.C., the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and the Secretary of the Interior ordered them to return home immediately as they did not have permission to make the trip. However, a chance encounter with a Congressman from New York resulted in a meeting with President Millard Fillmore. Prior to his meeting with the President, Buffalo dictated a document that reviewed all of the outstanding grievances against the United States.

After meeting with the Chippewa delegation, President Fillmore rescinded the removal order and agreed to cease all efforts to remove them. A grand council of all Chippewa bands was held when Buffalo and the other chiefs returned. A message from the President was read to the people. While the people retained the right to remain in their homelands, the wealth of these homelands was developed by others.

Stealing Chief Comcomly’s Skull

From the very  beginning of the European invasion of North America, the newcomers have had an obsession with looting American Indian graves, taking from them not only grave goods, but also parts of human bodies, particularly the skulls. Sometimes these stolen skulls were simply seen as objects of morbid curiosity to be displayed in store windows and back bars, as in the case of Chief Joseph’s skull; at other times they were used as playthings for the college-age children of wealthy families, as in the case of Geronimo’s skull and the Skull and Bones Society; and sometimes collecting human skulls was justified in the name of science and scientific racism.  One of the skulls which was stolen in the name of scientific arrogance during the nineteenth century was that of Chinook chief Comcomly.  

About Skulls:

The nineteenth century scientific study of skulls, which utilized numerous kinds of measurements, was based in part on the assumption that much of human behavior was innate. That is, people behaved the way they did because different body types and different “races” were biologically predisposed to this type of behavior.

With regard to individual behavior, there were some scientists who felt that sociopathic and psychopathic behaviors, insanity, dementia, and personality traits were all correlated with the size, shape, and configuration of the skull. They felt that given enough data they could be able to accurately predict things like criminal behavior by measuring the skull and recording the locations of different bumps and irregularities.

With regard to populations, European scientists assumed that Europeans were superior in all ways to other peoples. Part of that superiority, they reasoned, must lie in the larger brain of Europeans and in the shape of European skulls. They thus measured lots of skulls to provide data to prove this hypothesis. When the data didn’t fit their model of supposed European superiority, some of them simply modified their numbers to make it fit.

For those who were studying human skulls and attempting to make correlations between behavior and skull shape, the Indian people along the Columbia River and the Northwest Coast area posed an interesting problem: they practiced cranial deformation. They would bind the head of infants which would create an elongated skull. Within the context of these Indian cultures, the elongated skulls-sometimes call flatheads-were the mark of nobility. People with roundheads were usually slaves.

For those who had postulated that the shape of the human skull dictates personality and intelligence, modifying the shape of the skull through cranial deformation should have resulted in low intelligence. Yet, the Indians with deformed skulls, including Chinook chief Comcomly, seemed to be intelligent. Thus there was a great deal of interest in obtaining deformed skulls for further study.

Kane's Chinook Woman

Shown above is a painting by Paul Kane showing a Chinook woman with a flattened skull and an infant with a bound head which will produce the deformation. In 1846, Kane went to Memaloose Island in the Columbia River where he robbed a traditional Chinook funerary canoe of its skull.

About Comcomly:

When the Corps of Discovery, led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, reached the mouth of the Columbia River in November of 1805, Chinook Chief Comcomly was one of those who greeted the party. Lewis and Clark gave Comcomly a medal and a flag.

In 1811, Comcomly provided help to John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company when they established their new trading post at Fort Astoria. Two years later, Pacific Fur Company trader Duncan McDougall married the daughter of Chinook chief Comcomly. This marriage increased Comcomly’s access to goods and it also brought him prestige. For the Americans, the marriage provided them with valuable trading connections with Indian families as well as some security.

At the marriage between Comcomly’s youngest daughter Raven and the trader Archibald McDonald, Raven walked the 300 yards from her house to a waiting canoe on a carpet of furs. These furs were then bundled up and given to McDonald as a gift. In return, McDonald and the other traders showered Comcomly with European manufactured trade goods, thus increasing his wealth and standing with the native society.

On one of his trading trips to the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post at Fort Vancouver, he was accompanied by many warriors and by about 300 slaves. Some of the slaves placed beaver and otter skins on the path for him to walk on.

Comcomly died in a smallpox epidemic in 1830 at the age of 65. He was given a traditional Chinook canoe burial on Memaloose Island in the Columbia River. The Chinook custom was to place the dead body along with a number of prized possessions in a canoe which was then elevated in the trees out of the reach of animals.

Comcomly's Tomb

The Theft of Comcomly’s Skull:

In 1834, Dr. Meredith Gairdner, a physician with the Hudson’s Bay Company post at Fort Vancouver, decided that he wanted to send back to England the skull of Chinook chief Comcomly.  

Gairdner went to the Memaloose Island burial grounds at night in order to obtain Comcomly’s skull. He found, however, that the chief’s body was buried in a forest grave to deter theft by Europeans. It thus took considerable work to excavate the box which held the chief’s body. He then had to pry off the lid. What he found was a skeleton with the hair still on the chief’s flattened skull. He then decapitated the corpse and took it with him to Honolulu. From here he shipped it to John Richardson, a physician and naturalist in England. In his note to Richardson, Gairdner wrote of Comcomly:

“By his ability? Cunning? Or what you please to call it, he raised himself and family to a power and influence which no Indian has since possessed in the districts of the Columbia below the first rapids one hundred and fifty miles from the sea. When the phrenologists look at this frontal development, what will they say to this?”

Comcomly’s skull remained in the Royal Naval Museum in London for 117 years. Then, in 1952, it was sent to the Clatsop County Historical Society in Astoria, Oregon. Four years later, the Society loaned the skull to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. In 1972, Comcomly’s relatives insisted that the Smithsonian return the skull to them. It was then buried near Comcomly’s native village site at Ilwaco, Washington.

Street Prophets Coffee Hour: Words and Bigotry

Note: I usually don’t cross-post my Coffee Hour pieces here, but since this one is based on my Anishinabe worldview, I thought it would be appropriate here.

Welcome to the Street Prophets Coffee Hour. This is an open thread where we can share our thoughts and comments about the day. There seems to have been a lot of concern recently about bigotry, name calling, and other negative activities over on the Great Orange Satan (AKA Daily Kos). So let’s talk about how to deal with bigotry.  

Let’s start by talking about words. As some of you may know, I’m Anishinabe (in Canada we are generally known as Ojibwa and here in the United States we are often called Chippewa). In the traditional Anishinabe world-view we consider words to be living things. The fact that words live long after they are spoken is readily apparent: it is easy for all of us to recall with complete emotional clarity words which hurt us many years ago. The words live even though the original speaker may be dead.

The Anishinabe focus is on harmony, and thus we talk about speaking words which will promote harmony, words which bring us together. We prefer to avoid those words which divide us: usually words which reflect racism, sexism, homophobia, agism, and so on. Words which are spoken in anger also serve as barriers to communication, barriers to the harmony needed for community.

And now about bigotry. When we respond to bigotry we must choose our words carefully as they will live long and prosper. Name-calling, labeling, use of profanity-none of these, in my experience, are of any good use in combating bigotry. These words live and continue to cause pain long after they are spoken. Yet silence only encourages bigotry. So what is the solution?

This is an open thread. I look forward to your answers.  

The United States and the Pueblos

When the United States acquired what is now New Mexico and Arizona in 1846, a number of Pueblos were brought under American rule according to the Discovery Doctrine. The Pueblos created a few problems for the Americans, however, as they did not conform to the stereotype of nomadic Indians whose lives centered around hunting. There were, in fact, debates about whether or not the Pueblos should actually be considered as Indian tribes. It would take thirty years until the Supreme Court would issue a ruling on this question.  

A second problem faced by the new American rulers was religion. As a Christian nation, United States policies regarding Indians required their conversion to Christianity, preferably Protestant Christianity. The Pueblos, when under Spanish rule, had nominally become Catholics. While American policies actively discouraged Indian pagan practices, the Americans at this time did not care much for Catholicism either. The American government, therefore, found itself supporting Protestant missionaries to the Catholic Pueblos. Under Spanish and Mexico rule, the Pueblos had adopted Catholicism and had combined this with their own religious practices without any loss of the basic fabric of their life. With the Americans, however, they were faced with proselytizing Christians who sought to destroy Pueblo culture.

In 1847, the New Mexico territorial legislature passed an act entitled “Indians” which recognized the Pueblos as political and corporate bodies. According to the act, the Pueblos were living in towns and villages on lands granted to them by the Spanish and Mexican governments. In effect, the territorial legislature enacted a fantasy which did not recognize the Pueblos as the original owners of the land, but claimed that their occupancy rested on grants of land by foreign governments.

In 1850, James S. Calhoun, the first Indian agent in New Mexico, negotiated a treaty between the United States and the Pueblos of Santa Clara, Tesuque, Nambe, Santo Domingo, Jemez, San Felipe, Cochiti, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, and Zia. The treaty stated that the boundaries of each Pueblo

“shall never be diminished, but may be enlarged whenever the Government of the United States shall deem it advisable.”

In addition, the treaty stated that the Pueblos shall be governed by their own laws and customs. The treaty was never ratified by the United States Senate. However, the treaty was understood by the Pueblos as the standard for governing their relations with the federal government.

In 1850, a delegation of Hopi from Arizona visited Agent James S. Calhoun to determine what the policies of the United States were toward them and to complain about Navajo raids. From the Hopi, Calhoun learned that the Hopi pueblos were autonomous. He reported:

“From what I could learn from the Cacique, I came to the conclusion, that each of the seven Pueblos, was an independent Republic, having confederated for mutual protection.”

In 1851, 12 New Mexico Pueblo tribes met with the American Indian agent and expressed their desire to maintain their traditional customs and usages. There is no indication of the response by the American government to this desire.

In 1852, five leading men from Tesuque-José María Vigil, Carlos Vigil, Juan Antonio Vigil, José Domingo Herrera, and José Abeyta-traveled by horseback, steamboat, and train to Washington, D.C. where they met with President Millard Fillmore. The purpose of the delegation was to argue for the rights promised in a Pueblo treaty signed in 1850. The delegation spent six weeks in Washington and was taken to all of the standard destinations, including the Smithsonian Institution. In their meeting with the President, Fillmore indicated that he personally would look into the matter of their treaty.

In 1852, a delegation from Santa Ana Pueblo traveled to Santa Fe to meet with the American superintendent to raise the issue of infringements on their land. The superintendent, however, was not present and the Americans simply dismissed their complaints as “trifling” and “no business of any consequence.”

The New Mexico territorial legislature passed a law in 1853 prohibiting the sale of liquor to Indians and declared that “Indian” did not include the Pueblo Indians.  

In 1855, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs asked Congress to repeal the law which defined the Pueblos in New Mexico as corporate entities which could sue and be sued in local courts. He explained that the Pueblos had suffered greatly from this law because most suits were filed by non-Indians with an interest in obtaining Pueblo land. However, Congress did not act on this recommendation.

An 1858 Congressional act confirmed the Spanish land grants to several New Mexico Pueblos: Acoma, Jemez, Chochiti, Picuris, San Felipe, San Juan, Santo Domingo, Zia, Isleta, Nambe, Pojuaque, Sandia, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Taos, and Tesuque.  The Spanish land grants to Indians had been superimposed upon Indian aboriginal rights dating from time immemorial. It would now seem that the Pueblo Indians should be claiming rights both under the land claims and under their original rights as first owners of the land.

In 1864, the Pueblo governors were given “Lincoln canes” as symbols of their office and authority. Engraved on the silver head of each cane is the name of the Pueblo, the year, and “A. Lincoln.” The canes originally cost $5.50 each.

The United States issued land patents in 1864 for Nambe, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Picuris, Zia, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Pojuaque, San Juan, Santa Clara, Taos, Tesuque, and Santo Domingo Pueblos in New Mexico.

In 1867, the territorial chief justice in United States v Ortiz  ruled that the Pueblos were not Indians under the definition of the Trade and Intercourse Act of 1834. The Pueblos protested the decision. The Indian agent for the Pueblos, noting that the federal government had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, asked the government to protect the Pueblos.

The United States officially established an Indian Agency for the Hopi in 1869. However, the agency was located in Fort Wingate rather than near the Hopi pueblos in Arizona. In addition, the agency was officially named the “Moqui Pueblo Agency,” a name which the Hopi felt was insulting. Two years later, the agency was moved from Fort Wingate to Fort Defiance. In 1873, the agency was moved from Fort Defiance to Keams Canyon which is about 13 miles away from the Hopi pueblo of Walpi.

In 1869, in the case of United States versus Lucero, Chief Justice Watts characterized Indians as “wild, wandering savages”, but noted that this description did not hold for the Pueblos who, he claimed, have been cultivating the soil for three centuries. The judge’s comments seem to imply that the Pueblos learned agriculture from the Spanish and appear to reflect ignorance regarding many centuries of Indian agriculture prior to the Spanish arrival in the Americas.

In 1869, a special inspector for the Indian Office recommended that the Pueblos be declared citizens and required to pay taxes on their crops, herds, and orchards.

Congress in 1869 passed legislation which formally recognized the Santa Ana Pueblo land grant in New Mexico.

In 1871, the Indian agent for the Pueblos reported that holdings by non-Indian squatters on Pueblo lands were of such great value that the United States government could not afford to compensate them if they were forced to move. Instead, he recommended that the Pueblos sell their lands to these squatters.

Congress authorized the extension of federal services to New Mexico’s Pueblo Indians in 1872.

In 1873 the Bureau of Indian Affairs considered relocating the Hopi from their Arizona pueblos to land along the Little Colorado River or to Oklahoma. The Hopi vowed to resist any relocation as their ancient contract with the Great Spirit Massauw makes removal from the land impossible. After discussions with the Hopi, the Indian Agent recommended that a separate Hopi reservation be established.

The United States Supreme Court, in the 1876 United States versus Joseph, declared that the Intercourse Act of 1834 was not applicable to the Pueblos of New Mexico. The Court viewed the Pueblos as having a settled, domestic existence and therefore were not subject to laws which were passed for the protection and civilization of “wild Indians.” Furthermore, the Court asserted that Pueblo land titles were given to them by the Spanish government. As a result, 3,000 non-Indians settle on Pueblo lands.

The Supreme Court ruling denied the Pueblos the protection of the federal government and placed them within the jurisdiction of the local courts and officials. The Court did not define the Pueblos as citizens, and thus they did not have the right to vote, nor did they have the right to hold public office. While the Court excluded the Pueblos from participation in political life, it opened up the way for their lands to be appropriated for private enterprise by non-Indians.

Ancient America: Tulum, a Maya Port

Tulum, located on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya. The earliest date found on a stele at Tulum is 564 CE and the city flourished from about 1200 to 1521. It was a major link in the rather extensive trade route of the Maya. Its seaside location made it a transportation hub: both maritime and land trade routes converged here. Its fortifications show that it was an important site, one which had to be defended from raiders and enemies.  

The site’s current name, Tulum, is from the Yucatec Mayan word for fence or wall and refers to the site’s fortifications. There is some indication that the old name for the site may have been Zama, meaning “city of the dawn” in reference to its eastern location.

Tulum 1

On one side Tulum was protected by steep sea cliffs. On the landward side, the city was protected by a wall that averaged three to five meters (16 feet) in height. The wall was about eight meters (26 feet) thick and ran for some 400 meters (1,300 feet) on the side parallel to the sea. The walls which ran from the parallel wall to the seaside were about 170 meters (560 feet) long. On the southwest and northwest corners there are small structures which probably served as watchtowers. There are five narrow gateways in the walls: two on the north wall, two on the south, and one on the west.


Fresh water for the city was provided by a small cenote near the northern side of the wall.

With regard to trade, the artifacts which archaeologists have found at the site come from central Mexico and Central America. The trade goods included copper rattles and rings from the Mexican highlands; flint and ceramics from all over the Yucatán, jade and obsidian from Guatemala. The obsidian came from quarries in Ixtepeque in northern Guatemala which is 700 kilometers (430 miles) from Tulum. From the amount of obsidian found at Tulum, archaeologists feel that Tulum was a major center for the obsidian trade.

With regard to trade routes, the Río Motagua and the Río Usumacincta/Pasión would have allowed seafaring canoes access to both the highlands and the lowlands. The Río Motagua starts from the Guatemalan highlands and flows to the Caribbean. The Río Usumacincta/Pasión system also originates in the Guatemalan highlands, but empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Tulum Seaside

There is a cove and landing beach in a break in the sea cliffs that would have been perfect for trading canoes coming in. This characteristic of the site is probably one of the reasons the Maya founded the city of Tulum here in the first place. The structure presently known as the Castillo has a small shrine which was used as a beacon for incoming canoes. It marks a break in the barrier reef that is opposite from the site. The Casillo is 7.5 meters (25 feet) tall and the lintels in the upper rooms have serpent motifs carved in them.

One of the most important gods of Tulum appears to have been the Diving or Descending God. There are many depictions of this god in the murals and other works around the site.

Temple of the Frescos

The Temple of the Frescos is shown above. Many people feel that this is one of the most spectacular buildings at Tulum. It has both a lower gallery and a smaller second story gallery. Niched figurines of the Maya Diving God and Descending God decorate the façade of the temple.  

Temple of Descending God

The Temple of the Descending God is shown above. This is located in the site’s central precinct.

dios del viento

The Temple of the Wind Gods is shown above.

Tulum 2

Tulum continued to be occupied for at least 70 years after the Spanish invaded Mexico. The Spanish first discovered the city in 1518 and by the end of the century it was deserted.  

The Pueblos

When the United States acquired what is now New Mexico and Arizona in 1846, a number of Pueblos were brought under American rule according to the Discovery Doctrine. The Pueblos created a few problems for the Americans, however, as they did not conform to the stereotype of nomadic Indians whose lives centered around hunting. Actually, very few Indian nations in the United States resembled this stereotype, but the American government has never let the realities of Indian cultures interfere with imaginary descriptions.  

Like many other Indian nations, the Pueblos were settled agriculturalists who had been raising corn, beans, squash, cotton and other plants for many centuries. Unlike the other Indian nations, however, the Pueblos lived in rather substantial villages with a central plaza. Their houses were multi-story structures constructed from stone. When the Spanish first encountered these villages, they called them Pueblos (Spanish for town) and unfortunately this term was, and still is, used to group a number of distinct peoples together.

The Indian people grouped together as Pueblos speak six mutually unintelligible languages and occupy more than 30 villages in a rough crescent more than 400 miles in length.


Village Names:

Most of the pueblos have been given European names: some of these are Spanish corruptions of their own names while others are purely Spanish names which are unrelated to their native names. The common names of some of the pueblos are listed below.

Acoma: from Akome which means “people of the white rock.”


An Ansel Adams photo of Acoma is shown above.

Cochiti: the Spanish version of Katyete whose meaning is unknown.

Isleta: the native name for this Tiwa-speaking pueblo is Teui which means “town.”

Jemez: this is the Spanish spelling of hemis which means “Hemis people.” The native name for this Towo-speaking pueblo is Walatowa which means “the people in the canyon.”

Laguna: this pueblo carries the Spanish name for lake. The native name for this Keresan-speaking pueblo is Kawaik whose meaning is unknown.

Nambe: this is the native name for the Tewa-speaking pueblo and means “pueblo of the mound of earth.”

Picuris: this is the Spanish version of Pikuria. The native name for the Tiwi-speaking pueblo is Piwwetha which means “pass in the mountains.”

Pojoaque: this is a Spanish corruption of the native name Posunwage which means “drink water place.”

San Juan: the native name for this Tewa-speaking pueblo is Oke whose meaning is unknown.

Sandia: the pueblo carries the Spanish name for watermelon. The native name for this Tiwa-speaking pueblo is Nafiat which means “a dusty or sandy place.”

San Felipe: the native name for this Keresan-speaking pueblo is Katishtya whose meaning is unknown.

San Ildefonso: the native name for this Tewa-speaking pueblo is Pokwoge which means “where the water cuts down through.”

Santa Ana: the native name for this Keresan-speaking pueblo is Tamaya whose meaning is unknown.

Santa Clara: the native name for this Tewa-speaking pueblo is Ka’po whose meaning is unknown.

Santo Domingo: the native name for this Keresan-speaking pueblo is Kiuwa whose meaning is unknown.

Taos: this is the Spanish version of Tua which means “houses” or “village.”

Taos 2


Taos Pueblo is shown above.

Tesuque: this is a Spanish corruption of the native Tewa name Tatunge which means “dry spotted place.”

Zia: this is from the native Keresan name Tseja whose meaning is unknown.

Zuni: this is the Spanish corruption of the Keresan word Sunyi. The native name for the pueblo is A’shiwi which means “the flesh.”


Zuni 1850

Zuni Pueblo is shown above.

Zuni Exhibit

A Zuni Exhibit is shown above.

The Hopi villages are in Arizona and the name “Hopi” is a contraction of Hopi-tuh which means “peaceful ones.” While the United States has insisted on dealing with the Hopi as if they were a single tribe rather than independent pueblos, not all of the Hopi villages recognize the authority of the Hopi Tribal Council. The Hopi villages (pueblos) are listed below:

Walpi which means “place of the gap.”

Walpi 2

Walpi 1

Walpi Pueblo is shown above.

Sichomovi which means “place of the mound where wild currents grow.”

Hano is actually a Tewa village whose name is derived from anopi which means eastern people.

Shungopovi which means “place by the spring where the tall reeds grow.”

Michongovi which means “place of the black man.” The name comes from Mishong, the leader of the Crow Clan who brought his people from the San Francisco peaks to Hopi in 1200 AD.

Shipaulovi which means “the mosquitos.”

Oraibi which means “place of the rock called Orai.”

Kiakochomovi which means “place of the hills of ruins.”

Hotevilla which means “skinned back.”

Bakabi (Bacobi) which means “place of the jointed reeds.”

Moenkopi which means “place of running water.”  


The pueblos tend to be multi-storied with the second story set back from the first which provides a terraced effect. Originally, the first floor was reached through a hatchway and ladder from the second floor. Small openings high in the walls were covered with selenite which allowed sunlight to filter through and provide some lighting to the residence.

In some pueblos, such as Cochití, the first story of the houses are built using stone blocks and the upper stories are made with adobe.

Among the Hopi, town sites were determined by two factors: (1) the proximity to water, and (2) the desire for security. To provide security, the Hopi villages tend to be located on the tops of mesas. With regard to water, drinking water for the Hopi villages was provided by springs. The Hopi clan histories talk about the abundance and reliability of the water supply in the springs at the mesas where they located their villages.  

I Am Miep

I have been thinking about navajo’s blog here a lot.

I have a book rec: “The Time Of Our Singing.”

This is a really great novel written by Richard Powers, about a mixed race family who tried to beat the bigotry.

The people in the novel are mixed race African (read, raped into “white”, and also a Jewish father.

Just great. Write to me if any of you are looking for book swaps, anything like that. I’m good with being open.

The Kickapoo and the War Against Texas

As American settlers began moving into Texas-a Spanish colony-in the early nineteenth century, they brought with them an anti-Indian arrogance and attitude than came to define both the Republic of Texas and the State of Texas. They tended to recognize no Indian rights in Texas, and during the Civil War period this anti-Indian attitude was enfolded into racism. Incidents at the end of the Civil War ignited a war with the Kickapoo Indians that would last for decades and would include illegal military expeditions into Mexico.  

Civil War:

As soon as the Civil War broke out, the Confederacy sent treaty delegations among the Indian nations in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) to negotiate treaties of friendship and alliance. Many of the Indian nations had ties to the South, including the ownership of African slaves, and were friendly to the Confederate cause. In addition, many of the tribes held some animosity against the United States as a result of their removal to Indian Territory.

The Kickapoo were not a southern tribe, but one whose homeland was in the Great Lakes area. In their dealings with the United States government they had found the Americans to be less than honorable and therefore had little loyalty to the United States. On the other hand, signing a treaty with the Confederates would require them to declare their friendship for Texas and to stop their raids on Texas ranches and settlements. Their dislike of Texans was greater than their dislike of Americans and so they hoped that a path of neutrality would keep them out of the war. They left Indian Territory and fled north to Union-held Kansas with other pro-Union Indians. In Kansas they did not find peace, but instead there were conflicts with the Osage and the seemingly constant solicitations from Union agents to join their cause.

In 1862, about 600 Kickapoo under the leadership of Machemanet left Kansas with the goal of settling in west Texas or northern Mexico. They wished to escape from conflicts with the Osage and to avoid the Civil War. At this time, there were already Kickapoo villages in Coahuila, Mexico.

They traveled without incident to southwest Texas. While camped on the Little Concho River, the Kickapoo were spotted by a mounted Confederate battalion. Noting the large Kickapoo horse herd, the Confederates attacked. Kickapoo warriors quickly recovered the horses and drove off the Confederates. They hurriedly packed up their camp and crossed into Mexico where they were welcomed by Mexican officials. In return for a pledge from them to drive out the Comanche and Apache raiders and to protect the northern frontiers of Mexico, the Mexican government made a grant of land to Machemanet’s people.

The following year, couriers from Machemanet’s Mexican Kickapoo brought an invitation from the Mexican government to the Southern Kickapoo to move to Mexico. Pecan (the younger) and Papequah held a number of councils to discuss the matter.

The Spark:

In 1865, the Southern Kickapoo bands under the leadership of Pecan (the younger), Nokowat, and Papequah were migrating to their new home in northern Mexico. They had been following a carefully selected course to stay away from any settlements. Upon reaching the South Concho River, they decided to camp for several days to give the horses an opportunity to rest. It was cold and windy, so no scouts were posted.

A scouting party of 20 Confederate cavalry, however, had picked up the Kickapoo trail. At one point they opened a fresh Kickapoo grave and stole the grave goods. They were reinforced with regular Confederate troops bringing their strength up to about 400. With this force they struck the unsuspecting camp.

While the attack took the Kickapoo warriors by surprise, they quickly recovered. Their deadly fire killed 30 of the attacking Confederates, including four of their officers. After a half-hour of intense fighting, the Texans panicked and scattered in retreat. The Kickapoo, who had lost 16 warriors in the fight, quickly packed up camp, leaving large quantities of supplies behind, and fled to Mexico.

Historians would later call this the Battle of Dove Creek, and in the annals of Texas history it was recorded as the most disastrous defeat ever suffered by the Texans in their long history of Indian wars. Their shame was such that an official investigation was held to inquire into the conduct of the military leaders. The inquiry found that there were no indications that the Kickapoo were anything but friendly. In one incident before the attack, an unarmed Indian had come into the camp with two children. He told Captain Fossett that they were friendly Indians. Fossett replied that there were no friendly Indians in Texas and ordered the man and the children to be shot. The men, however, opposed the order to kill the children and they subsequently escaped during the army’s retreat.

From the Kickapoo perspective, the Battle of Dove Creek was a declaration of war by the Texans. Since Texas had declared war against them, the Kickapoo were able to rationalize their raids along the Rio Grande until the 1880s.

The War:

In 1865, while the Americans in the Martin Settlement of Indan Territory were celebrating the Fourth of July with a dance, Mexican Kickapoo warriors raided their horse corral. A twelve-man posse under the leadership of the well-known Indian fighter Levi English set out in pursuit. The Americans had estimated that there were only 18 Kickapoo warriors. It was soon apparent, however, that the posse had been led into a trap in which three were killed and another six wounded.

In 1870, Mexican Kickapoo raiders from Coahuila captured about 40 horses from a ranch near Fort Clark. Two ranchers trailed the raiders back into Mexico, and, while the warriors were sleeping, they recaptured the horses. However, the ranchers were caught by the Mexican army and arrested on suspicion of stealing horses. When the Kickapoo warriors came to Santa Rosa to claim the horses, the Texans filed a suit against the Indians in the local court. Jesus Galan, acting as the attorney for the Kickapoo, argued that since the Kickapoo were at war with the Texans, they had a right to steal north of the border. In the end, 17 horses were awarded to the Texans.

In response to raids by the Mexican Kickapoo, the Texas state legislature in 1870 authorized the formation of 20 companies of Texas Rangers. However, authorizing the companies and paying for them are two different issues. Inadequate funding nullified the force of this measure: only about half of the companies were ever formed, and these were disbanded the following year.

In an attempt to capture Mexican Kickapoo and force them onto a reservation in Oklahoma, the United States Army, in violation of federal laws and in violation of international treaties, invaded Mexico in 1870. The invasion was in response to complaints about Kickapoo raids into Texas. The army succeeded in capturing some Kickapoo and locating them on an Oklahoma reservation.

In 1871, General William Tecumseh Sherman, frustrated at the army’s inability to cross into Mexico to fight against the Kickapoo, asked the State Department to apply to the Mexican government for permission for American troops to invade Mexican soil when they were in hot pursuit of Kickapoo war parties. The Mexican government quickly denied the request.

While the army sought a military solution to the Kickapoo-Texas war, the Quakers were seeking a peaceful solution. In 1871 Quaker Indian agent Jonathan B. Miles was assigned the task of making contact with the Mexican Kickapoo in Coahuila and inviting them to return to the United States. He left Kansas for Mexico with several Kickapoo leaders, including Nokowhat, Parthe, and Keoquark, and an interpreter.

In Mexico, he made contact with Cheeno and his band. He quickly found that they had little interest in the promises of presents, annuities, and land if they would return to the United States. He found that the Mexican government had promised them $10,000 to be used for agricultural development in exchange for their continued border defense against other Indians.

Wapakah, a band leader who was favorable to returning to the United States, told Miles that the American proposal was lost. According to Wapakah, those favorable to returning to the United States were at that very moment being won over by Mexican presents and promises. He advised Miles to abandon his mission.

In 1872, under orders from General Phil Sheridan, the U.S. Cavalry followed Kickapoo and Lipan Apache raiders into Mexico. More than 160 miles south of the border, the Americans killed 19 warriors, captured 40 women and children, and burned three villages. Mexican denial of the hot pursuit request and the concept of sovereignty were simply ignored.

The Congressional commission investing the Kickapoo war on Texas concluded in 1873 that the war could be settled by the removal of the Kickapoo from Mexico and their resettlement on a reservation in the United States.

In 1873, General Philip Henry Sheridan, the commander of the Department of Missouri, and Secretary of War William Belknap met at Fort Clark for a secret meeting with Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie. General Sheridan told Mackenzie:

“I want you to be bold, enterprising, and … when you begin, to let it be a campaign of annihilation, obliteration and complete destruction.”

When Mackenzie asked about authority, he was  simply told that he had the backing of President Grant.

Consequently, U.S. troops from Texas invaded Mexico. The troops found the Kickapoo villages undefended: the warriors had left the day before. The Kickapoo were caught completely by surprise. Those who had remained in the villages-women, children, and old men-were panic-stricken, but they fought like demons when the terror of the surprise assault passed. Methodically, the troops hunted out the hiding Indians, killed those who resisted, and took as prisoners the few who surrendered.

Some 40 Kickapoo women and children were taken prisoner, tied to horses (sometimes as many as three per horse), and rushed back to Texas. The Americans feared that the Kickapoo men would soon return, and desired a fast retreat. The prisoners were then sent to Fort Gibson in Indian Territory where they were held as prisoners of war.

The Mexican government issued a strong protest. The attack was not a spontaneous excursion into Mexican territory, but one which had been planned over the course of several months and had involved special training for the troops. As usual, the United States ignored the protest.

In Oklahoma, the army refused to turn over the Kickapoo women and children to the care of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The army insisted on holding them as prisoners of war until the Kickapoo returned to a reservation.

In Coahuila, Mexico, American negotiators persuaded the Kickapoo to remove to Oklahoma. The army raid on their village had completely devastated them and they had to be fully outfitted for removal. In their journey north, the 317 warriors, women, and children were taken on a long route to avoid contact with communities in Texas.

When they arrived in Oklahoma they were initially assigned to a reservation next to the Osage and the Kaw, traditional enemies of the Kickapoo. The chiefs protested because they had been told that they would be able to select their own reservation.

In 1874, the Kickapoo in Oklahoma were placed under the jurisdiction of the Sac and Fox Agency. The establishment of the new Kickapoo reservation had an impact on the surrounding tribes. Indian agents soon found that Sac, Fox, and Shawnee families joined the Kickapoo religious rites; they became disdainful of the missionaries laboring among them; they rejected Christian teachings; and they neglected their fields and livestock herds to participate in the Kickapoo dances, festivals, and games. The Indian agents became distressed at the carefree Kickapoo attitude toward life. The agents resented what they considered the ‘time wasted” by the warriors and their families in native religious observances, tribal festivals, dances, and games.

In 1874, the Kickapoo Removal Commission traveled to Coahuila, Mexico to meet with the scattered bands of Mexican Kickapoo and persuade them to return to the United States. While Cheeno was seen as the principal chief, the Commission met with Mosquito in Cheeno’s absence. The Commission fed the assembled Kickapoo, gave them blankets, and told them about the pleasant life on the Oklahoma reservation.

The following year, a band of 115 Kickapoo from Mexico under the leadership of Mosquito removed to the new reservation in Oklahoma. The U.S. government provided each family with supplies and food for their journey.

While the major military campaigns against the Kickapoo ended at this time, the war still continued for another decade, though with less intensity. Kickapoo warriors living in Mexico still considered Texas to be at war with them, thus providing them with an excuse to raid north of the border. From the American and Texan viewpoint, however, there was no longer a war, but simply criminal bands to be dealt with by local law enforcement.  

Canadian Indian Opposition to Copper Mining

One of the strongly held policies among the Euro-American colonial powers was that aboriginal peoples should not be allowed to develop any mineral resources on their land. This policy is clearly seen in a nineteenth century case involving copper in Ontario, Canada.  

In 1846, a number of Native people from Manitoulin Island approached the Indian Superintendent with specimens of copper and asked that all future mining operations in Native territory be subject to government regulation. The Superintendent reported to his superiors:

“The Indians have a very high idea of the value of these things, and have requested me to beg of His Excellency that any mines which may be discovered shall not be subject to the enterprise of private individuals, but that the matter be taken into the hands of the Government and that they, the Indians, may receive whatever portion His Excellency may be pleased to award them.”

At this same time, the Quebec and Lake Superior Mining Association was organized to begin operations on the shore of Lake Superior.

In 1848, Lord Elgin’s (the British official in charge of Indian affairs) agent held an assembly of Indian leaders, local entrepreneurial interests, and mining interests to discuss mining on the north shore of Lake Superior. Ojibwa leader Shingwaukonse (Little Pine) once again explained how the miners destroyed the Ojibwa hunting territories. The chief was then asked by what authority he claimed these lands. He replied that the British had always negotiated treaties with Native peoples and that no treaty had ceded the lands.

Chief Peau de Chat also testified at the assembly. He concluded his testimony by saying that he wanted a fair evaluation of his land’s worth, that he wanted an offer to be made by the government for his mining locations, and arrears payments for the loss of minerals.

The Indian agent reported that the Natives had never been deprived of their proprietorship of the land:

“there does not appear a doubt but that the present race are the proprietors of the vast mineral beds and unceded forests, from Grande Bateure (Grand Batture) near Missisangeeny River on Lake Huron, to the Boundary Line at Pigeon River on Lake Superior.”

The agent recommended canceling all non-Indian  mining locations at Garden River.

In 1849, the Indian commissioner drew on American precedents to view aboriginal peoples as mere occupiers of the land. This concept was quickly exploited by non-Indian developers to suit their own purposes: on the basis of the Indian commissioner’s proposals, the government denied the Native population rights to resources other than fur.

Based on the view that Native Americans were only the occupiers of the land, rather than owners of the land, the Quebec and Lake Superior Mining Association renounced all obligations to recognize Native rights to minerals or water. They argued that the cost of exploration to find valuable minerals made it impossible to view Native people as anything more than convenient labour.

Native people disagreed with the view of the mining associations. In Ontario, Ojibwa and Métis leaders decided to take over the operations of the Quebec and Lake Superior Mining Association at Mica Bay if Native claims were not met. Under the leadership of Shingwaukonse (Little Pine) and Nebenagoching about 30 Ojibwa and Métis warriors knocked on the door of the mine’s manager. Two days later, 160 non-Native men, women, and children left the mining camp. The government responded by sending a detachment of the Rifle Brigade to repossess the Mica Bay mine, but inclement weather stopped the party. The government, with its threats of armed response, eventually recaptured the mine for the association.

In 1850, an editorial in the Toronto Globe stated:

“The principle of depriving the Indians of lands which they could not use, in order that white men should teach them to bring forth the fruits God has provided for the sustenance of man, may be an unjust one; but like many unjust principles, it has been ratified and sanctioned by time and common practice. It is now too late to discover and blame it.”

According to the Globe, the Ojibwa were wanderers who had no claim to any land, mineral, timber, or fishing rights.  

One of the leading proponents of Native rights to minerals, timber, and fishing rights was Ojibwa chief Shingwaukonse who died in 1855. As chief he had attempted to restore the Ojibwa people some measure of their independence with the nation state. The government recognized Ogista, Shingwaukonse’s son, as the new head chief of the Garden River band. However, the Anglican Church, at Shingwaukonse’s request, recognized Buhkwujjenene as chief.

According to oral traditions, Ogista initially lacked experience and he had also failed to attain the vision necessary to assume the heavy burden inherited from his father. He needed spiritual power to become chief, yet when he fasted as a youth he had grown ill. Instead of obtaining the needed vision,he had attempted to gain respect by adopting an air of bravado.

Shortly after Shingwaukonse’s death Ogista and Nebenagoching led an Ojibwa expedition against the Quebec and Lake Superior Mining Association’s operations at Michipicoten Island. Several shots were fired past the working miners. The incident was then used as justification for establishing a police force at Sault Ste. Marie to arrest “rowdies” and anyone who opposed government resource policies.

Thus ended most of the open opposition and confrontation regarding the mining operations. Indian rights were ignored so that the wealth of the companies and their owners could be increased.


The 19th Century Royal Tour and Canadian Indians

The Prince of Wales toured Canada in 1860 and during this tour he met with a number of First Nations groups. The Prince arrived in Halifax where he was met by a group of Mi’kmaq men who escorted him ashore in specially decorated birchbark canoes. In other words, the first people to welcome the Prince to Canada were First Peoples.  

One of the contributions made by the First Nations to the world of sport is lacrosse. The first Europeanized rules for lacrosse were written in 1860.

In Montreal Indian games were held on the cricket ground for the Prince. There was a lacrosse game between an Iroquois team and an Algonquin team; and a lacrosse game between a Native and non-Native team. Following the lacrosse games there were Indian “war dances.” In these “war dances,” Iroquois warriors dressed in buckskin, paint, and feathers danced to the beat of drums. They also brandished tomahawks and knives, mimicking bloody battle-complete with the scalping of enemy captives. An editorial in the Christian Guardian, a Methodist newspaper, deplored the fact that the prince had been taken to see such a pagan festival instead of hearing Christian Indians sing.

At Sarnia a large group, which included 80 chiefs primarily from the Anishinabe bands, gathered for an intertribal grand council. Prince Albert Edward presented each of the chiefs with a commemorative medal showing Queen Victoria’s image. The Prince, in turn, was presented by the chiefs with tomahawks, wampum, pipes, bows and arrows, and decorative work done on birchbark.

While the Indian Department policies at this time were aimed as assimilating the Indians, the instructions for the royal visit called for the Indians to wear traditional dress. Most of the chiefs and warriors went along with the Indian Department’s plan that they appear in traditional dress. To them, dressing up this way for such a ceremonial occasion was a means of keeping their traditions alive and honoring them.  

At Sarnia, many of the First Nations leaders took the opportunity of the gathering in honor of the Prince to petition the government for an investigation of the Indian Department. The petitions referred to land loss and fishing rights.

Overall, the 1860 Royal visit had little impact on Canadian Indians. They were seen as marginal people, people who were destined to disappear in the wake of inevitable European civilization. They were used primarily as a quaint backdrop for the Prince’s visit, serving perhaps as reminders of the British colonial past and a time when Britain needed them as military allies. In the mid-Victorian period, however, their military support was no longer important to the colonizing powers. Their pledges of loyalty to the Crown symbolized the past rather than the future.