Anonymous’ Attack on Drug Cartel Benefits Youth in my County

( – promoted by Meteor Blades)

The Houston Chronicle reports that the ubiquitous hacktivist (dis)organization Anonymous is celebrating Halloween by threatening to expose the members of Zetas, one of the most powerful drug cartels in Mexico.

My little county, Rio Arriba, in northern New Mexico, has long been overrun by drugs because of this cartel. The guys on the left are not drug kingpins. They are ranchers. And they are seriously put out with the cartels.

Rio Arriba County suffers the highest heroin and polydrug overdose death rates in the US. A few months ago, a beautiful local mountain lake was befouled when a plane flying low to avoid being detected by radar crashed into it, spewing cocaine, fuel, and bodyparts into the water. Nobody knows who was in the plane.

Our rural Hispanic and Native American youth are being systematically plied with drugs by Mexican and Californian gangs to entice them to become mules. We have watched our teen drinking rate creep upward. Children as young as 12 are now addicted to heroin.

I couldn’t be happier that Anonymous has taken on the cartel. However, I wonder if bloggers everywhere will suddenly find themselves targets in a new kind of war. I know how quickly those kinds of wars can sneak up on you.

Anonymous produced the video embedded below, which may contain language some viewers find offensive. I can’t provide a transcript and I can’t translate because I don’t speak fluent Spanish. But I enjoy almost anything Anonymous produces, especially when they are taking on one of the biggest, most ruthless armies in the world; even more so if that army has been plaguing my state and county more virulently than the Bubonic variety which kills a few people each year out here.

Back in the Clinton days, before the rest of the country had heard of a border fence, Senator Pete Domenici and the Department of Justice rolled into our community with helicopters, HIDTA designations and law enforcement personnel of every stripe and color to remove the local outlets of the Mexican cartels. It was like an occupation but not the hashtag kind.

Press swooped in from all over the nation. The Drug Czar came to town to inform us we needed to support his War On Drugs in South America which we were winning, because otherwise Spanish-speaking countries including Rio Arriba would fall to cartels like dominoes. The solution to Rio Arriba’s problems was the construction of a border fence.

My friends and I organized marches and hearings and interfaith services to alert the world to our need for better schools, doctors and substance abuse treatment. We had no idea why the Feds were babbling about a giant fence. “Addiction is an epidemic!” we shouted to anyone who would listen. In the midst of the ensuing maelstrom, I found myself debating Gary Johnson (then Governor) on public television. (He wanted to legalize drugs and close down treatment centers. My colleagues and I wanted to decriminalize drugs and build more treatment centers.) I was startled one day when producers from 60 Minutes showed up at my house to ask for an interview.

Hey! We were just a sleepy little town before we became the poster community for the War on Drugs!

I answered the door in my green Espanola Farmers’ Market apron, armed with a greasy spatula. I had been flipping latkes. “Are you taking a randomized poll?” I asked them, mystified by their presence. “Or did I win some sort of lottery?”

Actually, we were the canaries in the proverbial coal mine.

A few days ago, Huffpo cited a UN report stating that criminal proceeds amounted to over $2.6 trillion in 2009, 3.6% of the world’s gross domestic product. More than 2.5% of the world’s GDP was laundered through our esteemed financial institutions according to the report (all the more reason to #occupy the mierda out of those pinche cabrones!) Only 1% of that money is ever recovered. The rest contributes to bankers’ profits.

And the particular products marketed by the cartels (in collusion with our financial institutions) are domestically and internationally gross. Because it is traffic in drugs, guns, and sex slaves. It is fueled by and fuels our incessant parade of wars and terrorism. It is definitely not democratic. It has not been stopped by military action. It can’t be stopped by military action. The military simply ends up paying bribes.

ICE estimates that anywhere between $19 billion and $29 billion annually flows between Mexico and the US to fund cartels. Chellis Glendinning wrote about it in her book, Chiva: A Village Takes on the Global Heroin Trade. (Check it out! I’m in the last chapter where she talks about people who are doing something!)

David Luna, US Director for Anti-Crime Programs recently stated at a conference in Thailand:

“Increasingly sophisticated and organized webs of crime and corruption fuel greater insecurity, instability, and subversion across our economies, threaten our communities, and imperil the health and safety of our people.”


According to the Houston Chronicle, Anonymous produced this video after one of their members was kidnapped by Zetas during a protest in Veracruz Province. Anonymous is warning Zetas to release the hacker unharmed or face exposure of every corrupt government official, policeman, journalist and business associated with the cartel. Exposed individuals would risk almost certain execution by rival cartels.

“You made a huge mistake by taking one of us. Release him,” says a masked man in a video posted online on behalf of the group, Anonymous.

“We cannot defend ourselves with a weapon … but we can do this with their cars, homes, bars, brothels and everything else in their possession,” says the man, who is wearing a suit and tie.

“It won’t be difficult; we all know who they are and where they are located,” says the man, who underlines the group’s international ties by speaking Spanish with the accent of a Spaniard while using Mexican slang.

He also implies that the group will expose mainstream journalists who are somehow in cahoots with the Zetas by writing negative articles about the military, the country’s biggest fist in the drug war.

“We demand his release,” says the Anonymous spokesman, who is wearing a mask like the one worn by the shadowy revolutionary character in the movie V for Vendetta, which came out in 2006. “If anything happens to him, you sons of (expletive) will always remember this upcoming November 5.”

The United States Army has not been able to win its War on Drugs. Not in South America. Not in Mexico. Not in Afghanistan. Not in Rio Arriba County. But I think Anonymous can. I think it would be absolutely fantastic if Anonymous obliterated this abominable organization by shining a light on its collaborators. Because that’s what all these cockroaches need to fester. Darkness. They hide under rocks. Drug lords, corrupt judges, lobbyists, mob lawyers, corrupt government officials, banksters, and corrupt police run from the light of day.

The violence that may potentially ensue from Anonymous’ latest blow for democracy would be savage. And it would conceivably draw the entire blogging world into its maw.

Still, a world without Zetas’ kidnappings, beheadings, drugs and terror is a world worth imagining. Imagine a world in which students at our middle school were not afraid to ride the school bus! Imagine a world in which my friend’s 9-year-old daughter had never been murdered by a burglar trying to steal her medical syringes! Imagine a world in which my colleague’s 17 year-old son had not died suddenly of an overdose!

Can an unarmed bunch of geeks defeat one of the most powerful private armies in the world?

I hope so.


photo credit: Aaron Huey

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Self-destructive idiocy is boundless

This is a LTE to the Colville Confederated Tribal Tribune October 2011 issue.

Go to page 8(Editorials)of the paper….…

Dear Editor:

We have many tribes in our confederacy of tribes, right or wrong. That is what the feds did to us and we pay the price for it today. I remember my elders (and their elders too) objecting to U.S. prisoners of war from other states being sent to the Colville Reservation and made Colville Tribal Members.

Last winter I was really mad when I saw how our business council chairman was attacking his own Sinixt (me included!) who are holding the weight of our recognition work in British Columbia. Reading who they call “Mikey Wilson’s” articles attacking their out of pocket, no tribal funds, work up there.

It is hard to balance a job, keep up our household bills, and just get by let alone what it would mean to take anything left over and give it to our life’s effort to relocate to British Columbia, occupy our traditional territory at our own expense with no tribal funding support. Now that is a commitment that creates cultural wealth only a traditional person may know but for which, would sacrifice.

I asked how the council went about supporting the Lakes recognition work in B.C. I learned the Okanogan First Nations of Canada are trying to convince the Crown that the Lakes Territory is Okanogan territory.

In the 1980s some Colville Tribal Okanogan council joined in to fund the recognition of the Lakes (Sinixt) Tribe in B.C. One of the Colville Okanogans from Omak, of the 1980s, now has her son on the Colville council. Her son reportedly spends a lot of time traveling up to Okanogan Nation Alliance in B.C. for what I don’t know. But I am really mad about what he just said at the council table: “We are all Okanogan!” How dumb is that?

Working against the Sinixt recognition battles in cahoots with the Crown by making the stupid statements like that while his relatives at the Okanogan Nation Alliance in B.C. fight the Sinixt who are fighting for all Sinixt in claiming the Sinixt lands.

The biggest personal insult is my own cousin, the “Liaison” under contract with the council, is actively undermining our occupiers activism in B.C.

Self-destructive idiocy is boundless.



Seattle, WA

Cold, Hungry and Sick: Winter in Indian Country

( – promoted by navajo)


I hate the winter. I especially hate the darkness and the cold. Yes, I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. But I also have a warm apartment and a job, even if I am underemployed right now….

But I’m only SAD….add unemployment, terrible housing, hunger pangs and a chronic health condition or two to this cold and darkness, and you have winter misery on many an Indian Reservation in this the richest country in the world.

On the reservations in the Great Plains and many other places in this country, the unemployment rate hits 80 or 90 percent in the winter.  Saying that the housing is God awful is an understatement; homes leak like a sieve and the only thing people have only to try to keep out the cold are sheets of plastic. The unemployed and the elderly in particular don’t have enough money to heat their homes in the winter. That’s why navajo began the propane drive last year.

So, people are freezing cold in the winter, but they’re also hungry, and tend to have  health problems that aren’t helped any by the hunger and cold.

More below the orange squiggle…and action you can take if this travesty infuriates you as much as it does me.  At the end of the day, this is an action diary.

While I was writing this I started to think about the Occupy Wall Street movement, and whether it’s really aware of the plight of the people at the bottom 1% of the 99%. So then a post came through on my Facebook friend’s page written by Deborah White Plume about this very issue. She’s giving permission to use it, and someone is promising to read it the Occupy Cincinatti General Assembly meeting.

We have a long way to go to reclaim justice for everyone in this country:

I will believe the occupiers everywhere in their statements that they want their American Constitution upheld when they begin to speak the message that their Constitution, Article 6, includes Treaties are the Supreme Law and start to press their American Government and American People to honor the Ft Laramie Treaty with our Lakota Nation, Cheyenne Nation and other Nations that signed it.

The occupiers everywhere when they start to do this, then they are walking their talk. Until then, it is empty words as far as I am concerned and by their silence on this situation they are participating in the oppression of our people and their silence contributes to the genocide of my nation.

We are the poorest of the poor, our death rate is the highest, our suicide rate is the highest, our unemployment has been at 85% for the past five decades, we die young from curable illnesses, our water is contaminated, and American people send their $$ to other countries.

We are the Third World right here in the USA, created by the American Government and the continued Silence of the American People. We do not want your old used clothes. We want your ACTIVE, LOUD support for the enforcement of our Ft Laramie Treaty. -Debra White Plume


See navajo’s most recent diary with pictures of the people helped by the propane fundraiser last year, as well as info if you want to buy some more this year.

For more information on the “cold” issue, see her other diaries too:

Here we go again: Blizzard hits Dakotas

Band-Aid for the Lakotas

Pine Ridge: American Prisoner of War Camp #334

Revealing Pine Ridge Rez Demographic Information

You will be really well-informed just by reading those diaries…


Many people reading this will have experienced hunger in their lifetimes, which may surprise you considering the demographics of this site. I know this because it comes up in the comments….

Researchers talk about hunger in terms of food insecurity. So, what is food insecurity?

Basically, food insecurity is not having enough food to meet basic needs. As you can imagine, food insecurity in general has been increasing across the U.S.

In 2009 to 2010, nationwide 20% of families with children had food hardship issues.

The Native American population is more likely to have food insecurity issues than the rest of the population. And households without children within that population tend to be even more food insecure. And it’s worse for people living in non-metropolitan areas. In the 1990s the rates were around 25%. I haven’t found more recent data but if you think about how it’s grown in the general population during that period, you will dread thinking about how food insecurity has grown in among American Indians and Alaska Natives.

And yet…

According to the Office of Minority Heath in HHS:


American Indian/Alaska Native women are 40% more likely than White women to be obese.

American Indian/Alaskan Natives are 1.6 times as likely to be obese than Non-Hispanic whites.

American Indian or Alaska Native adults (30.4%) were as likely as Black adults (30.8%) and less likely than White adults (40.9%) and Asian adults (62.8%) to be a healthy weight.

American Indian or Alaska Native women (29.4%) were less likely than Black women (36.6%) and more likely than White women (20.3%) and Asian women (5.8%) to be obese.

Actually, researchers have found a relationship between obesity/overweight and food insecurity.

It’s two sides of the same coin. You can imagine some of the reasons: poor people have access to less healthy food, whose concentrated fat and sugar are satiating but high in calories and low in nutritional value, there is often no or little fresh food available (this phenomenon is called a food desert, and it exists in many parts of the country), and where it is available, it’s more expensive.

I don’t know if you saw the 20/20 special Children of the Plains, but I notice the kid’s splotchy skin right away. That’s from poor nutrition.

Additionally, people who have to subsist eating lots of government commodities aren’t helped any in this regard, especially if they’re diabetic. Here’s the list of things provided under the government food program.

Sick: Health Disparities

Health disparities are serious differences in health access and outcomes experienced by racial, ethnic and sexual minorities.

For a good discussion and case studies on this issue and the relationship between  structural violence and poor health outcomes, see Dr. Paul Farmer’s book Pathologies of Power.

This is the health situation of the American Indian and Alaska Native population (IHS data)

American Indians and Alaska Natives die at higher rates than other Americans from tuberculosis (500% higher), alcoholism (514% higher), diabetes (177% higher), unintentional injuries (140% higher), homicide (92% higher) and suicide (82% higher). (Rates adjusted for misreporting of Indian race on state death certificates; 2004-2006 rates.)

The leading causes of death:  

Diseases of the heart, malignant neoplasm, unintentional injuries, diabetes mellitus, and cerebrovascular disease are the five leading causes of American Indian and Alaska Native deaths (2004-2006).

Dr David Jones cautions people to remember this when thinking about the reasons for health disparities among Native Americans:

The existence of disparities regardless of the underlying disease environment is actually a powerful argument against the belief that disparities reflect inherent susceptibilities of American Indian populations. Instead, the disparities in health status could arise from the disparities in wealth and power that have endured since colonization.  Such awareness must guide ongoing research and interventions if the disparities in health status between American Indians and the general population are ever to be eradicated.

Indirectly, he’s talking about structural violence.

Youth Suicide

One of the things that hunger, cold, and poverty can breed is hopelessness among the youth, especially those from families dealing with alcoholism, domestic violence and other problems. This has lead to astronomical suicide rates among the youth on many reservations.

1999-2007, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) adolescents and young adults had the highest unadjusted death rate per 100,000 population among other age groups and races/ethnicities.

American Indian/Alaska Native youths had substantially greater rates of suicide than young persons of other races.


If you go to minute 39 in this hour long documentary, The Canary Effect you will find a good description of the causes of this. It’s a very well done film and worth the hour to see it (this is the full video). It also mentions a suicide pact among 10 youths on the Cheyenne River Reservation (minute 44)


OK, there’s more than enough despair to go around. But there IS hope too, and it’s coming from people on the reservations.

You might now be either numb, outraged, a combination of the two, and wondering what you can do to help.  

We’ve been doing a few things around here…first, under navajo’s  incredible leadership, making these issues visible. You can support Native American Netroots by visiting the site, and commenting on the diaries.

You may be also familiar with the project that Kossacks made possible, Pretty Bird Woman House, which is the only women’s shelter on the Standing Rock Reservation. It’s still functioning, but without the shelter director, Georgia Little Shield, whose determination was so instrumental in getting us motivated to raise enough money for a house. If Georgia puts her mind to something, it happens.

Georgia resigned for health reasons, but now she’s doing better, and has become the Board president of a new grassroots organization called Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community, which just received its tax status as a 501 (c) 3 organization. They have started a food pantry  and want to  (start youth development programs, including a GED program and counseling. You see, Isabel is 30 miles from Eagle Butte and often the youth can’t get there for schooling or other needs.

I would like to make this and the propane drive our seasonal action this year.

Right now they are working out of a trailer lent them by a board member, but a 30×60 building has been donated but they have to bring it back to Isabel. Here’s the breakout of what that’s going to cost:

Moving the Building      

Transport 30 miles                            $7000.00

Building forms to set building down       $2500.00

Skirting of building and new ramp         $2500.00

Total                                             $12,000.00  

This will be done by a contractor that knows how to transport the building and is a professional and will set and put the building together when it gets to Isabel. The Build of the forms will be done by a cement contractor Jackson’s cement out of Timer Lake SD. The skirting and Ramps will be done by volunteers with the SD specification of disability Ramps.

One year Electricity                           $3000.00

One year water and sewer                   $780.00

One year Propane and Tank set up        $1800.00

Hook up to the to Town sewer and

Water pipes                               $2000.00

Total                                               $7580.00

We are requesting a one year utility for the building and when this year is up we should be able to have fund raised and applied for grants to run the building.  We will need to get hooked into the city sewer and water so we will have this done by the city.

Total amount requested      $19,580.00

Notice how they left out a computer and internet service? I rounded the figure to $20,000

While we raise this money don’t think they’re just sitting around. This is a serious grassroots organization:


I have started a website Okiciyap, where you can go to get more information.

Here are their goals:


To provide educational, recreational, cultural, health and lifelong learning opportunities for youth and adults.

To offer educational advancement opportunities for adults and seniors.

To ensure that no one in Isabel or in surrounding areas goes hungry

If you would prefer to send a check:

Georgia Little Chair, Board Chair


PO Box 172

225 W. Utah St

Isabel SD57633

They’re starting from scratch from the grassroots. Lets give them a hand.

No dough, but willingness to help? Write some diaries on this with us!

A Matter of Perspective – The Overton Window, Reservation Life and a Chain of Sorrow

( – promoted by navajo)

I’m not a Native American. I did not grow up on a Reservation. For the longest time, I had only been dimly aware of the extent and level to which Native Americans have been exploited, abused, repressed & discriminated against.

Even now, my awareness likely only begins to scratch the surface, and yet what I’ve learned over the past few years has brought anger, grief & frustration as my awareness of both past and present bureaucratic b.s. and institutionalized standards of cultural genocide has grown.

Recently, NPR put out a 3 part series called Native Survivors of Foster Care Return Home. (You can watch all three which are linked in the title.) Not too long ago, Metro Times posted a story called Chain of Sorrow that also speaks of the impact and legacy of Indian Boarding Schools.It’s a legacy of pain and sorrow that our nation should be ashamed of.

While reading the latter piece, a paragraph jumped out at me which can be read more than one way. The first way it occurred to me is likely due to my less-informed perspective – but, because of that, it may also be a reflection of a more wide-spread misunderstanding.

Here’s the paragraph, with the emphasis on the phrase that stuck out for me:

“It wasn’t just the boarding schools that brought this about. From the time Columbus landed in the New World, the assault on Indians, their culture and their religious ways has been relentless. Their sacred lands taken, the people murdered, the women raped and, at times, subjected to forced sterilizations, the deprivation of reservation life, the scourge of alcohol – all these had combined to cause his people to lose so much.”

[More below]

When I first read the paragraph, it didn’t sit right – I couldn’t understand what was meant by “the deprivation of reservation life” – it first processed in my mind as “children removed from the rez would be deprived of the quality of life on the rez”…which, in the article, was cited as being the reason ~why~ some parents let their children be taken in first place. So, my initial reaction/interpretation was – I hope – incorrect. It wasn’t that a child was being deprived of life among their people on the reservation – it was the fact that conditions on the reservation itself were usually harsh and oppressive, becoming yet another aspect of the type of harm done to Native Americans as part of an ongoing (if not always externally recognized) way to continue the same cultural genocide that had begun so many years before.

In either interpretation, however, the paragraph itself was both damning and dismal.

What dismayed me and prompted me to write this article was the thought that immediately followed: what if my first reading of the phrase was the intended interpretation?

That would be pretty sad – for it would present an unchallenged view of the reservation as false equivalent of a way to preserve cultures and traditions.

Sure, there is some of that in reservation life – but, for peoples who were forcibly relocated to unwanted expanses of real estate and who previously harbored little concept of “personal property” the way the settlers conceived of it – how much of their cultural heritage was already compromised? And how much was destroyed in the process of “re-settling” them, or in the subsequent efforts to get them to conform & integrate?

It may be the only current place where the traditions are able to be upheld, but if the belief that it’s “good” (versus a way to avoid total cultural extinction) is prevalent, then efforts to improve any relations or conditions are doomed…if not to failure, then to any sort of substantial reform without an awful lot of effort.

Efforts to undo (and prevent further) the whitewashing of our national history with regard to the treatment of Native Americans already have a tough row to hoe. If perspectives – and the associated Overton Window that helps frame them – are still predominantly akin to what my first reading of that paragraph came away with, then there’s a very long way to go before beneficial change (for Native Americans, in their perspective) can occur.

A parting thought, also from the Metro Times piece:

“The realization of just how much was stolen from these people begins to set in. It wasn’t just their land, or even their way of life. What was taken was their sense of self, leaving them spiritually wounded.

And it was done, in no small part, by taking their children.”

Help spread the word & increase awareness: share the links to the Metro Times & NPR pieces. And share a link to Native American Netroots, too: there, people can find a great deal of information – both historical and current – about cultures, customs and ongoing issues.

Thank you.

How did you interpret that line in the selected paragraph?

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Neolin: the Delaware Prophet

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

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

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

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

After returning from the vision, the prophet drew a map on a deerskin which was used in explaining his vision. This “great book” was sold to followers so that they might refresh their memories from time to time. The book showed the path of the soul from life to the afterlife.

Neolin’s vision provided the foundation for a pan-Indian movement. The influence of his religious movement spread throughout the Indian tribes in the Mississippi valley. Hundreds of Indians from different tribes were soon following his teachings. The pan-Indian nature of the movement overcame traditional animosities and created a new sense of cultural identity among the tribes. One of Neolin’s followers was the Ottawa chief, Pontiac.

Neolin’s followers went back to the old, traditional ways of Indian life. This meant that they gave up the use of firearms and hunted only with the bow and arrow. They ate dried meat and they drank a bitter drink recommended by Neolin. The drink had a purgative quality which was supposed to get rid of the poisons which their bodies had consumed as a result of European influence. They also dressed in animal skin clothing instead of the imported European cloth.

Neolin’s teaching opposed alcohol, materialism, and polygyny. He emphasized that if the Indians gave up the evil ways brought to them by the Europeans that the Master of Life would bless them with plentiful game.

According to ethnologist James Mooney, writing in 1896:

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

While Neolin’s message was anti-European, under Pontiac it became anti-British.

Many of Neolin’s followers felt that he was the reincarnation of Winabojo, the great teacher of the mythic past.

In 1763, Neolin urged the Three Fires Confederacy in Michigan-Ottawa, Ojibwa, and Potawamani-to expel the British and to join in Pontiac’s uprising.

Following the collapse of Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1765, Neolin’s influence as a pan-Indian spiritual leader waned.

Written history has recorded neither when Neolin was born nor when he died. In the historic record-the one maintained by non-Indians-he appears only as a brief note relating to Pontiac.  

Art Museums Discover Indian Art

During the nineteenth and the first part of the twentieth century, American Indian objects that would today be considered works of art were relegated to display in cabinets of curiosity with dinosaur fossils, stuffed penguins, and unusual geological specimens. By the 1930s, however, some museums were beginning to recognize American Indian art as a distinct art style.  

In 1930, the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff held the first Annual Hopi Craftsman Exhibition. Items displayed were required to pass a jury and participants were encouraged to put their individual marks on pieces so that they could build a personal reputation. Initially the Exhibition concentrated on pottery, basketry, and weaving.

In 1931, the Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts was presented at the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City. The exposition was sponsored by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the Secretary of the Interior, and the College Art Association. The organizers of the exposition wanted to show Indian art as a traditional art form. The show included more than 600 pieces of pottery, jewelry, textiles, sculpture, paintings, beadwork, and basketry. According to the show’s catalog, the purpose of the exposition was to give the

“Indian a chance to prove himself to be not a maker of cheap curios and souvenirs, but a serious artist worthy of our appreciation and capable of making a cultural contribution that will enrich our modern life.”

With regard to the Indian artists who participated in the exposition, the news media tended to dwell on the quirks of the “quaint” Indians visiting the big city: according to some reports the Indians were said to be bothered by elevators. On the other hand, there were a number of news reports which respected the artists and their works. From the larger perspective of art history, Indian cultures were in the process of being discovered by American modernists. European surrealists were exhibiting their works next to the works of Native peoples and seeing in this indigenous art an expression of a primordial order that was often lost in traditional Western art.

In 1932, the Whitney Museum in New York bought Pueblo (San Ildefonso) artist Tonita Peña’s painting Basket Dance for $225. This was the highest price paid up to this time for a Pueblo painting. Most Native American paintings at this time were selling for $2 to $25. Her works had been exhibited the year before in the Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts.

Tonita Pena

Tonita Peña (1893-1949) is shown above. She was later know as the Grand Old Lady of Pueblo Art and was one of the most influential Native American women artists of this period. Many of her early works were done in pen-and-ink as professional materials were not readily available to her.

In 1932, the Brooklyn Museum hosted four Navajo and three Pueblo artisans who demonstrated their skills in the museum’s sculpture court. According to the museum, the Pueblos represented “innovators” and the Navajos represented “borrowers.” According to the museum literature:

“With the cultivation of crops as their most important occupation, the Pueblos had built up a rich mythology and symbolic art and a complicated ceremonial life for the purpose of securing rain for their crops. The invading Navajos took over the external features of Pueblo rain ceremonies but attached a quite different significance to them-the curing of the sick.”

With regard to popularizing Native American art, the The New York Times Sunday Magazine in 1932 featured Native American arts and crafts for home interiors. Readers were told how Indian arts and crafts were finding a growing appreciation among home decorators and furniture designers.

The 1933-1934 Century of Progress Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair) featured several Native American artists. San Ildefonso potters Maria and Julian Martinez received the Best in Show award and three noted Navajo artists gave demonstrations: Hosteen Klah, a medicine man who did sandpaintings; Fred Peshlaikai, one of the foremost Navajo silversmiths; and Ah-Kena-Bah, a weaver.

Hosteen Klah

Hosteen Klah (1867-1937) is shown above.

The 1930s are well-known as the era of the First Great Depression and both the federal government and the museums recognized the potential for Indian art as a form of economic development. In 1934, the Seneca Arts and Crafts Project was organized by Arthur Caswell Parker (who was himself Seneca) and the Rochester Museum. According to its original proposal:

“The Rochester Municipal Museum proposes a project by which the almost extinct arts and crafts of New York Indians may be preserved and put on a production basis in order that such activity and products may contribute to the relief and self-support of the said Indian population.”

The Project was set up in an abandoned school and the artists set about reproducing traditional items. Illustrations and photographs from museum collections and archaeological sites were used as guidelines. Parker was intent on maintaining consistency with the ethnographic record. Overall, the artists produced more than 5,000 separate works of art. For the museum, the Project raised the museum’s profile during a time of economic cutbacks and uncertain visitor numbers.

Not all Indian art was appreciated during the 1930s by non-Indian authorities. In 1936, a government restoration project at the Mission San Fernando uncovered at least two murals painted by Tongva Indians which depicted a hunting scene and other non-Christian themes. Church officials ordered the murals obliterated.

In 1937, Mary Cabot Wheelwright founded the Museum of Navajo Ceremonial Art in New Mexico. She had been permitted to record many of the songs of Navajo singer Hosteen Klah and erected the museum to preserve his medicine knowledge and his sacred objects. The museum is now known as the Wheelwright Museum.

In 1938, Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton, one of the founders of the Museum of Northern Arizona, stressed the importance of making Hopi silver different from that of other tribes. She wrote:

“In order to help the Hopi silversmiths to visualize our idea of Hopi design and to show them how to make use of and adopt pottery, basketry, and textile design to various silver techniques already practiced, we have created a number of plates done in opaque water color on gray paper.”

The 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco included an exhibition of Indian art in the United States and Alaska which brought national and international exposure to contemporary Native American art. The exhibit’s aim was–

“to present to the public a representative picture of the various areas of Indian culture in the United States and Alaska, and at the same time to give the living Indian a chance to find a new market for his products.”

Once again the emphasis was on Indian art as a form of economic development. Sales rooms at the Exposition exhibited Native American fine arts in contemporary settings, thus demonstrating their suitability for modern home decorations. Sixty-two Native Americans participated in the exhibition and the material exhibited ranged from sandpaintings to totem poles. Hopi artist Charles Loloma painted one of the wall murals which showed Pueblo dancers.

Pueblo wall murals also proved popular in other locations and venues. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a series of mural panels were painted on Maisel’s Indian Gift Shop by Tewa artist Pablita Velarde.

The potential boom in Native American art promoted by the museums and the media during the 1930s was, however, interrupted by World War II. While the stage was set for increasing popularity, and profitability, for Native American art at this time, it would be another two decades before it would come to fruition.

They Say Jesus Says

I’ve been through a lot of changes. I moved to WNY a couple years ago, got divorced, moved back home to Oklahoma and started over. I’ve done some good ground helping a couple Native American causes, but my muse hasn’t felt much like talking – until I was visiting my grandparents for the first time in over 2 years with my new girlfriend and saw this.

Dr. Robert Jeffress: “Romans Chapter 13 gives government the power of the sword…”

Bill Mahr: “Why is his word (Paul) equal to the man himself (Jesus)?”

Dr. Robert Jeffress: “Because it’s in the same book”.

(7:30 and after)

Dr. Robert Jeffress a Featured Guest on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” (10/14/11)

(video won’t embed)

 Same thing different century.

The next weekend, I drove my girlfriend to Minnesota. I drove us all night and remembered “the Largest Mass Execution in U.S. History” as we neared Mankato, Minnesota.


In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the execution, by hanging, of 38 Dakota Sioux prisoners in Mankato, Minnesota. Most of those executed were holy men or political leaders of their camps. None of them were responsible for committing the crimes they were accused of. Coined as the Largest Mass Execution in U.S. History. (Brown, Dee. BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1970. pp. 59-61)

I also remembered what a good Christian man President Abraham Lincoln was.


“…I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.” The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House by Francis B. Carpenter (Lincoln, Nebraska, University of Nebraska Press, 1995), p. 282. Also, Recollections of Abraham Lincoln by Ward Hill Lamon (Lincoln, Nebraska, University of Nebraska Press, 1994), p. 91.

The last thing I saw before my muse woke up again was a sign on the side of the road that said this.

John 14:6

New International Version (NIV)

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I caught myself thinking “They say, that Jesus says,  ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’ But what they mean is, ‘I am the only way, the only truth and the only  life.’ Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if you accept it, because we will steal from you or kill you as the converted or the damned.”    


Red Jacket Defends Native American Religion, 1805

 Brother, continue to listen. You say you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his mind, and if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right, and we are lost; how do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book; if it was intended for us as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given it to us, and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of understanding it rightly? We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?

To conclude, I’ve thought and thought for years about how to halt the Religious Right. I can only say to tell others who will listen and the ones in power. I think it’s difficult to get people to listen for the same reason it’s hard to get people to listen about land theft and genocide against the First Nations – it may involve coming to grips with uncomfortable family beliefs and history. Nonetheless, the Christian fundamentalists are in a spiritual war with the devil, and like “Romans Chapter 13 gives government the power of the sword” despite the words of “The man” himself, this is also “In the same book.”

Exodus 15:3-7

The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.

South Dakota Kidnaps Indian Children and Sticks Them in White Foster Homes

Invisible Indians

If you find typos here, it’s because my hands are trembling in fury over the keyboard as I write this. That comes from reading Part 1 of National Public Radio’s three-part report on yet another round of cultural genocide against the Indians of South Dakota. What it amounts to is state-sanctioned kidnapping. You can read or listen to Part 1 here and, starting at 4 p.m. Pacific Time, Part 2. I hope that, after you do, you’ll take action to help bring an end to the continuing effort to separate Indian children from their families. Here are the bullet points from the kick-ass investigation Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters put together over 12 months:

• A 2005 study found that 32 states are, in various ways, failing to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act. Congress passed that law in 1978 after a century of federal policy had forcibly removed tens of thousands of American Indian children from their families and sent them off to abusive boarding schools.

• Under the law, social services agencies are supposed to place Indian children they remove from troubled homes into Indian foster-care homes. But that requirement is being ignored. And in South Dakota, more than 700 Indian children are removed from their families each year, often under questionable circumstances. Over the years, state records show, only 13 percent of these children have gone to Indian foster parents.

• Anecdotal evidence indicates that foster-care homes  licensed to Indians are ignored by the state’s social services agency when placing children removed from their families.

• Some children are taken for legitimate reasons, but most are removed because of “neglect,” a fuzzy definition that often is arrived at because of a failure of the mostly non-Indian social-service workers to understand Indian culture. “[E]ven Native American children who grow up to become foster care success stories, living happy, productive lives, say the loss of their culture and identities leaves a deep hole they spend years trying hopelessly to fill,” NPR reports.

• While Indian children make up less than 15 percent of the state’s population, they are more than half the children in foster care. South Dakota receives thousands of dollars from the feds for every child it takes from a family, and typically gets more money if a child is Indian.

• South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugard once headed a group that was a major recipient of federal money provided for foster children. As lieutenant governor, he was on the group’s payroll when it received tens of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts, a “highly unusual relationship.”

Photo Credit: Boys at the Pine Ridge (S.D.) Reservation/Aaron Huey

“It enrages me,” says Crow Creek tribal council member Peter Lengkeek. “We’re very tight-knit families and cousins are disappearing. Family members are disappearing.”

The Crow Creek tribe has lost more than 33 children in recent years. The reservation only has 1,400 people. Last year Lengkeek asked social service officials to tell him where the children were and who they were placed with.

Seven months later, he received a list. Lengkeek says every single child was placed in a white foster home.

He says if the state had its way, “we’d still be playing cowboys and Indians. I couldn’t imagine what they tell these kids about where they come from and who they are.”

“It’s kidnapping,” he says. “That’s how we see it.”

Except for the obvious reasons, many people may wonder why this matters so much to Indians, why it arouses our fury more intensely than just about any other conflict between Indians and non-Indians in today’s world. That’s because the foster-care program contains a powerful echo. Our rage arises out of a history that is, for many of us, devastatingly personal.

For instance, among Indians who participate in the Daily Kos group Native American Netroots, at least four of us have relatives who were yanked away from their families and sent to boarding schools (aji: great-grandmother; me, grandmother and great-aunt; navajo: mother; cacamp: grandparents, parents and himself).

Some went to government-run schools; others were taken in by church operations, Catholics and Mormons being among the prominent proponents of this approach to “civilizing” us.

In addition to being physically abused and treated as sexual prey in many cases, children in the boarding schools had their language, culture and religion yanked away. That wasn’t collateral damage. It was the whole point. The concept behind the boarding schools, more than 150 of them by 1900, was “Kill the Indian…save the man,” as noted in an 1892 Denver speech by Col. Richard H Pratt, founder of the U.S. Training and Industrial School at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. In short, demolish Indians by literally stealing their children.

Apache children on arrival at the Carlisle Indian School wearing traditional clothing.
The same children at the Carlisle School four months later. Note the haircuts.
NAN line separater

Here’s cacamp – Carter Camp – giving the short version of his boarding school story:

I was a repeat run-away same as my Mom, so I didn’t graduate until I was 19. Mom never did because her Dad hid her from the agent after the first time. In my parents’ day the schools were run like military academies where the kids marched in formation and drilled like soldiers. They had disciplinarians and jails and ran farms, which the students worked on to feed themselves. Those were the bad old days. By the time I got there, they were more benevolent but still strict about erasing our cultures. We still had to work on the farm two hours a day and more if we got in trouble.

The Navajo had it especially rough since they were forcefully rounded up like my parents were and taken up [to] Kansas, far from home, while the rest of us were sent by our parents because of poverty. We were high school age; so were the Navajo but they hadn’t gone to any school before and most spoke no English so they had “special ed” and were segregated in different dorms. Funny thing though, we met and became friends with students from all over and later on became tribal leaders and American Indian Movement leaders who knew each other and could work together for things like tribal sovereignty.

Back then the Bureau of Indian Affairs agent stole the kids and ran roughshod over the parents and tribe. Today it’s the State and the welfare system that is doing the same thing. We call our lost children “Lost Birds” after the baby girl who survived [the] Wounded Knee [massacre of 1890] and was adopted out to a white family but finally (recently) came home to her people to be buried again at Wounded Knee.

Each year we have “lost birds” coming home who have turned 18 and come seeking their families and yearning to learn their culture. Many times they don’t even know who to ask for and sometimes they’re quite old, grown up and with their own children looking for a connection to their past. Winter Rabbit reminded me of such a lost one. The majority of the stolen kids know their families and come home ASAP, so we have a large population of Indian kids who were brought up outside the tribe and have now come home. They almost all have stories of abuse. Only a few were lucky enough to find love and stability. Most are passed around in the system and bounce from foster home to foster home. This has been going on so long that thousands of lost ones are out there from every nation in America. It needs to stop.

Aji tells the story of her great-grandmother:

[My mom’s grandmother] died without ever knowing who or what she was; it’s taken a lot of work, years later, to piece her “self” together. Initially, the family thought she was of Scots descent, not realizing that the Scottish surname was that of her by-then-widowed mother’s second husband.  Her adoptive name was English. There is no record of what her traditional name (or any surname) might have been; they were more interested in covering up the very fact of adoption than anything else.

In the 1870s, the Catholic Church in Michigan was very invested in saving Indian children from an alleged “epidemic” of illness.  What they were really doing was stealing kids and farming them out as fast as they could to reliably Catholic families who would … “save the [wo]man by killing the Indian.” No one knows how many were lost to white families via church theft. Hundreds, at a minimum. Probably thousands over the course of one generation alone. But one day in the late 1870s, a good white Catholic couple of English extraction left their home and traveled to the rez for two months, and came back bearing their new little Indian “papoose,” promptly given a white name and identity, with never a reference to be made to the adoption, much less from where.  

Ironically, when she married, her husband ran his father’s logging business, and during the summer months, he traveled around the state; in his absence, she ran the business for him. She hired and fired – you guessed it – Indian laborers, some of whom were undoubtedly relatives, but neither side ever knew it. She died thinking that 1) she was English, and 2) she was the lineal descendant of those English “parents.” To this day, I’m not sure how they explained the differences in coloring – probably via the “Gasp! That’s not discussed in polite company” method.

Also ironically, after her adoption, her new parents went on to have nine biological children of their own. You’d’ve thought they could’ve been a little less greedy about acquiring someone else’s child as a possession.

NAN line separater

Nobody is suggesting that the foster-case system in South Dakota is treating Indian children the way the boarding schools did back, in Carter’s words, in the “bad old days.” Or that children are being snatched in quite the same way that the churches did decades ago. But many of today’s Indian foster-kids are still losing their culture and the connection to their heritage.

Take the case of Janice Howe, one of the grandmothers that the NPR team focused on. Her four grandchildren, the children of her daughter Erin Yellow Robe, wound up in foster care despite the 1978 law.

Except rarely, that law requires that Indian children be placed with relatives, a tribal member or at the very least, another American Indian. And it requires states to do all they can to first keep a family together through services and programs. Surely, a grandmother qualifies.

But nothing Howe did over 18 months brought her grandchildren back until she told the Crow Creek tribal council that they were about to be put up for adoption. The council passed a resolution warning the state that if the Yellow Robe children were not returned, it would be charged with kidnapping and prosecuted. Nobody thought this would work, but it did.

“Antoinette came in and said ‘Grandma, Grandma. We get to stay! We get to stay!'” …

Howe thinks the babies were treated well. But Rashauna and Antoinette left a size 10 and came back a size smaller. Howe says they hoard food under their pillows and hide under the bed when a car pulls up.

“I feel like they were traumatized so much,” Howe says.

The children don’t remember their native dance, something Howe says is especially important for Antoinette, the oldest.

“We go to sweats,” Howe says. “We have ceremonies at certain times a year. She’s got to be getting ready to learn these things that she has to do in order to become a young lady. They took a year and a half away from us. How are we going to get that back?”

Among other tasks, Danny Sheehan works for the Lakota People’s law office. He has about 150 case files on removals.

“These are all the different people who had their kids taken away from their entire families. … Not one of them has had their children left with a relative of any kind.”

He hopes one day he can sue. …

“Maybe if we devoted all our resources to a particular case and said, look, we’re going to land on you like a ton of bricks [social services] and make you give this one kid back and sue you and do everything else, they would probably just turn the kid loose,” he says. “But it wouldn’t change anything. It wouldn’t stop them from doing it a hundred times again.”

But why should lawsuits be necessary? There is a law against what’s being done. It’s just not being enforced. A good deal of the reason for that is because the centuries-long efforts to make Indians disappear, to make us invisible, has succeeded. Our political clout in such matters, even in places where we can still be found in substantial numbers, is next to zero. The 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act appears to us to be just another ignored bit of paper, like hundreds of treaties, and nobody official is doing squat about it. When it comes to invisible Indians who enforces the enforcers?



( – promoted by navajo)

This was originally posted on Daily Kos in 2006, and crossposted to multiple other venues. I have added the Native American banner for republication to NAN and to the dKos NAN group. Thank you for the opportunity to further honor my friend. – GH

He was nicknamed “Crow” in high school for the famous footballer John David Crow[1], yet the name fit and lingered on for other reasons. He was Comanche; born and raised in Oklahoma as the second oldest of four children, he was also the son of a white woman and red man.  There was no mistaking the fact that he was, however, one hundred percent unique.

At 61 years old, he died, surrounded by family and friends in a place he loathed — the hospital.  Throughout his life, he made it obvious to everyone that he loved teachers (he married one) and nurses (he married two), but hated doctors.  When he passed from this life, he left a single child — a daughter — and many friends.

I met him about twenty years ago, not long after his daughter and I became friends at the college we attended together.  He became a good friend — at times a mentor, at times a student, sometimes a fatherly figure and sometimes filling the role of a (younger) brother.  He was quick with a smile, an anecdote or a silly story; he could also become deadly serious in a heartbeat, especially if he thought a friend was in trouble.

In short, he was a good man who cared about those around him, and he is sorely missed.

For a brief period, during what would turn out to be the last years of his life, we were roommates.  We split the rent on a small two-bedroom house in Oklahoma, and often took trips to Texas to visit his daughter — my best friend.  In that time, I finally began to write again.  I am grateful for that.

In Native American lore, the Crow is an omen of change.  It is often be paired with the wolf, another powerful symbol — represented in both my life and the life of his daughter by our Alaskan Malamutes. (Malamutes are one of the breeds of dog most closely tied to the original wolf ancestor of the canine species.)  Crow’s lifelong friends — those who he grew up with, who’d originally given him his nickname — cringed whenever his daughter or I referred to the Native American symbolism associated with it.  They would point out — sometimes pointedly — that he was “Crow” and that it had nothing to do with “that Native American crap.”  Their use of the word “crap” wasn’t meant to be derogatory toward Native Americans — it was meant to be derisive of the “fluffy sparkle spirituality” attitude that they perceived in the attachment of symbolism of any sort.  They were “real world” folks, and Crow’s name had to do with their favorite past time — football — as well as their young adulthood together.  But, like it or not, Crow’s daughter and I still see some interesting ties back to that symbol, and make reference to it anyway.  (In my case, sometimes just to tweak ’em.)  

Crow knew this, and while he sided with his friends, he tried to keep an open mind whenever he’d hear his daughter or I talk about symbols, happenings or circumstances.  We all had a love for strange coincidences, and the apparent capacity to attract them.

When I moved out of state, feeling like I’d abandoned my friend and knowing he’d be forced to move shortly due to the increased rent (I paid out two extra months to ensure him time to find a spot), I commented how I always knew he would be calling because of the very large, loud crow that would alight in the tallest tree right across from my desk.  He thought that was odd, but he seemed to be inwardly pleased (most of the time) by the thought of it.  He knew — and had witnessed — that I often encounter a Hawk whenever I’m making a journey of any significance or have to make a major decision.  He’s seen the Hawk show up, watched it follow me around, and marked the departure when I had done whatever it was that had apparently summoned it.  It was something that I didn’t question, and something that I’ve still not figured out how to explain when people ask me if it’s “my Hawk” or a trained pet.

I think Crow would have appreciated a picture of his totem-made-manifest; I should’ve thought of it while he was still alive.  Given some of the interesting manifestations of crows that have occurred since his passing, I am fairly confident that his spirit has no need of such things, and that he has played a role in stirring up several of the more memorable encounters.

Why, at this time, do I think of Crow?

Truth be told, he’s a friend who I think of often, regardless of the circumstance.  He was one of those people who makes such a strong, gentle impact upon one’s soul that it is virtually impossible not to sense some aspect of his effect and presence while going through the normal daily tasks of living.  However, there’s a reason for thinking of him even more, now.

Shortly before I’d made the decision to leave the state and move back closer to my family, I’d been working in the computer department of a manufacturer.  I walked out into the machine shop one day to an eerie quiet — there was a lunchtime company-wide meeting for all the manufacturing folks, and nary a soul was left in that portion of the building.  In the stillness, I heard the soft strains of the opening whistle for the song “Winds of Change” by the Scorpions.  The acoustics of the machine shop lent a spooky quality to the sonorous tones, otherworldly and appearing to come from all over.  I wondered for a moment — before dismissing it with a shake of my head — if that was one of those “coincidental happenings” that people often leaped at as signs of major change or upheaval coming.  After shaking it off, I went back about my business.

On the way home, my Hawk was sitting atop a lamppost, silently watching me approach and drive by.

When I got home, I headed off to see Crow, unable to shake the feeling that change was in the air.

Change happened.

I moved a few short months later, and Crow died a couple years after that.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been encountering crows everywhere — if not through physical presence, then in word written or spoken, “Crow” jumps out at me.  And I’ve been hearing the song “Winds of Change” quite a bit, too, in addition to hearing the phrase or simply seeing it in print.

Does this mean it should signify something for everyone else? No, of course not.  I’m not sure whether it signifies anything.  But I do feel that, as our world rapidly approaches escalating hostilities with a nation divided and a leadership of liars, that something big is in the offing.

Really big.

Major change is afoot on several levels, evidenced by what we see in the blogosphere and some of the less unreliable traditional media — political winds are blowing, mixing it up with winds generated by global warfare and warming.  I wonder if we’re ready for it, or spending too much time looking for where the wind is originating to watch where it’s going and perhaps attempt to gauge it.

These are the times where I’d normally arise in the early morning hours, finding Crow — likely as not — either rising from his room to share morning coffee or already in the kitchen with a fresh pot.  We would start our day just chatting, and sometimes exchanging news items or discussing current events.  I regret losing that when I left Oklahoma.  I regret more the fact that it is one aspect of life I won’t get back; an ideal time of peace before the start of a day, just talking with a good friend over coffee.

The events of the past few years are ones that I would like to discuss with my departed friend.

I’ve a lot more reflections to share on and about Crow, which I’ll likely weave into future diaries.  For now, let me close by simply saying that I think we all need to find quiet moments to have a cup of coffee, tea or water with a friend, to ease the soul and gently prepare the mind for each of the coming days ahead.  It gives a sense of peace and a solid start to the day, which I hope and pray everyone reading this can secure for his or her self.

Namaste. Peace.


Footnote 1:


    Crow was a consensus All-American selection as a senior in 1957 and was awarded the Heisman Trophy as college football’s top player after rushing for 562 yards and grabbing five interceptions on defense. Crow helped the 1957 Aggies to an 8-0 start and a No. 1 national ranking before losing the last three games. Crow was a first-round draft pick by the Chicago Cardinals in 1958 and was selected for the Pro Bowl four times. He was named to the all-pro team of the 1960s.

Crossposted at ePluribus Media and StreetProphets.

Note: I’ll likely update the age at which Crow died as well as validating that I picked the right person that he was nicknamed after — it was the closest “Crow” I found, but I’m not 100% certain I got the right one.

UPDATE: I adjusted his age, which I’d ballparked a little high, and I completely forgot that he’d had an older sister; the John David Crow reference is the correct Crow reference.

William Apess, Pequot Writer

In 1829, Andrew Jackson became President of the United States. Jackson felt that since the Constitution prohibited the establishment of a new state within the boundaries of another without the agreement of the later and since the states had not agreed to the establishment of a Cherokee nation, the establishment of a Cherokee nation was unconstitutional. Thus, Indians had only two choices: to submit to the states or to remove themselves. Jackson pretended that the Indian nations in the Southeast were hunters and gatherers and therefore had made no improvements to the land which would entitle them to claim the land. Partially in response to Jackson and to the false view of Indians that many non-Indians held, a Pequot Christian minister, William Apess, published his Son of the Forest. The autobiography tells of a life of abuse and oppression. Using the Christian-based style of the time, he tells his story as a spiritual confession and in so doing is able to comment on the anti-Indian prejudices held by non-Indians. This book was one of the earliest books written by an American Indian.

Apess Book

William Apess was born in 1798 to William and Candace Apes. He would later add the additional “s” to his name for undisclosed reasons. In his autobiography, he claimed to be the grandson of a granddaughter of King Philip.

During his youth Apess was indentured to a number of Euro-American families during which time he acquired some basic education. He eventually ran away and joined a militia in New York. He saw service in the War of 1812 and by the age of 16 he had become an alcoholic.

In the 1820s, William Apess became convinced that he was being called to preach the Gospel and in 1829 he was ordained as a Methodist minister. As a Methodist minister, Apess became an iterant preacher, traveling throughout New England. His congregations included Native Americans, African Americans, and Euroamericans. In 1831, he wrote and published The Increase of the Kingdom of Christ, a Sermon. This enhanced his reputation as a minister and public speaker.

In 1833, William Appes wrote The Experiences of Five Christian Indians of the Pequot Tribe in which he described the conversion experiences of a number of Pequot. While the stories of the conversion experience were something which interested non-Indians, the stories actually emphasize the theme of learned self-hatred. The stories illustrate how the mythology of colonial history had actually prevented Indians from developing positive individual and group identities.

Among those described in the book is Sally George, one of the principal leaders of the Mashantuck Pequot. Another Pequot woman described in the book is Hannah Caleb who had developed a rather cynical attitude toward Christianity. She observed:

“They openly professed to love one another, as Christians, and every people of all nations whom God hath made-and yet they would backbite each other, and quarrel with one another, and would not so much as eat and drink together, nor worship God together.”

His work as itinerate minister brought him into contact with the Mashpee, a Christian Indian community in Massachusetts. In 1833, the Mashpee unsuccessfully attempted to evict the English minister who was appointed to them, to regain their meeting house, and to prevent outsiders from exploiting their wood and hay. In their petition, signed by 102 people, to the governor and council of Massachusetts, the Mashpee stated:

“That we as a tribe will rule our selves, and have the right so to do for all men are born free and Equal says the Constitution of the Country.”

When the government did not respond favorably to their petition, the relations between Indians and non-Indians in the area grew tense. Many of the Indians were openly armed. The Indians stopped some non-Indians from taking wood from tribal land and consequently the authorities arrested William Apess who had been counseling them.

William Apess convinced the governor that full-fledged armed revolt was possible and the Mashpee won most of their demands. Mashpee was to be incorporated as an Indian district. As an Indian district, the Indians would be able to elect their own selectmen, who, in turn, would be responsible for the management of all tribal property. The selectmen would also be empowered to make any laws necessary to carry out their duties.

While William Apess had been formally adopted into the Mashpee community, he was still considered an outsider and therefore had no authority to speak for the tribe.

In his  1833 essay An Indian’s Looking Glass for the White Man, Apess asked:

“Can you charge the Indians with robbing a nation almost of their whole continent, and murdering their women and children, and then depriving them the remainder of their lawful rights, that nature and God require them to have?”

In 1835, Apess wrote about the Mashpee “uprising” in his book Indian Nullification of the Unconstitutional Laws of Massachusetts Relative to the Mashpee Tribe, or the Unpretended Riot Explained. In this book criticized the proposals for Indian removal which were being advocated by Andrew Jackson and others. He accused Christians of committing the crime of slavery against Indian people:

“How they could go to work to enslave a free people, and call it religion, is beyond the power of my imagination, and outstrips the revelation of God’s word.”

In 1836, William Apess delivered a public lecture entitled Eulogy on King Philip at the Odeon in Boston. The presentation was prepared in honor of the 160th anniversary of the death of Philip who led the Pequot in what is known as King Philip’s War.  While non-Indians in New England often demonized Philip, Apess described him in positive terms. In his lecture, Apess quoted a speech given by Philip to the other Indian leaders about the English colonists:

“Brothers, these people from the unknown world will cut down our groves, spoil our hunting and planting grounds, and drive us and our children from the graves of our fathers and our council fires, and enslave our women and children.”

In his eulogy, the war against the Pequot was presented as an unwarranted attack on peaceful Indians-an account that contradicted Puritan histories. He contrasted the Native American restraint and their goal of self-preservation with the Puritans’ savagery and brutality, specifically quartering and refusing to bury murdered Indians and selling captive Indians into slavery in Bermuda.

In 1839, William Apess died as a result of alcoholism at the age of 41.

The Natchez and the French

On the Mississippi River in the eighteenth century the French encountered the Natchez Nation. Like the Mississippian peoples at places like Cahokia, the Natchez built pyramids, lived in towns, supported themselves with agriculture, and had a chief that reigned like a king. During a period of about three decades, the French destroyed the Natchez.

Natchez Map

Natchez Culture:


Shown above is a portion of a reconstructed Natchez village.

Among most American Indian nations, leadership involved persuasion rather than power. However, this was not the case among the Natchez where the Great Sun-the term used by the Natchez for their leader- served as both religious and civil chief. The Great Sun had subsantial power and unlike the political leaders of other Indian tribes, the Great Sun reigned as a kind of king. His power over his individual subjects, their lives, labor, and property was absolute and despotic. In political decisions involving the nation as a whole the Great Sun was advised by a council of respected men.

The Great Sun lived in a large house which was situated on top of a low pyramid (8 to 10 feet high). Near this pyramid was a second pyramid whose structure served as the temple.

As a religious leader, the Great Sun was responsible for keeping the sacred fire burning. The position of the Great Sun was inherited through the Sun family. As a matrilineal family, this meant that a Great Sun was succeeded by the son of his sister rather than by his own son.

According to Natchez oral tradition, the first Suns were a man and a woman who came from the Upper World to teach people how to live better and to govern them. It was the first Sun who commanded the people to build a temple and it was the first Sun who brought down pure fire from the sun for the sacred fire.

The Natchez gave the Great Sun large presents of food as an expression of their devotion. The Great Sun, in turn, redistributed this food among the people.

While most American Indian nations were egalitarian, meaning that they had no social classes, this was not the case among the Natchez. They had the most elaborate and well-developed social stratification found among Indian nations. At the top of this stratified society was the Great Sun and his select group of wives and immediate relatives. Next came the tier of high nobles, followed by less nobles, or ‘honored men,’ under whom stood commoners, who were known as Stinkards, and finally slaves, who were usually prisoners of war.

Social stratification among the Natchez was symbolized by behavior of the lower classes regarding the upper classes. Thus, when the people encountered the Great Sun or even came in sight of his temple, they performed a ceremonial greeting. Nobles would not eat with commoners or allow their food to be touched by them.

Natchez Great Sun

Shown above is an early drawing of the Great Sun being carried on a litter so that his feet would not need to touch the ground.

Highly stratified societies tend to be unstable and the differences between the social classes is a disintegrating social force. The Natchez, however, integrated their social classes in an interesting way: upper class males were required to marry down. Since the Natchez were matrilineal, this meant that the children of an upper class man would not belong to the upper class. In this way, families cross-cut the social class strata and helped to tie the society together.

The French and the Natchez:

The French first contacted the Natchez in 1682 when an expedition led by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle travelled down the Mississippi River. French visits in the 1690s found the Natchez to be friendly and welcoming. French Catholic missionaries began to settle among the Natchez in 1698 and these were soon followed by colonists who settled in Natchez territory. At this time, the Natchez had six to nine villages with a population estimated at 4,000-6,000 people.

In 1713, the French opened a trading post at the Great Village of the Natchez. The following year, the French traders established a warehouse at Natchez in order to acquire deerskins from upcountry villages.

In 1715, a French party going down the Mississippi River refused to stop and smoke the pipe with the Natchez. Interpreting this insult as a sign of hostility, the Natchez killed four French traders and plundered the local French warehouse. The following year the French, in retaliation for the killing of four traders, sent a force against the Natchez. The French demanded that the Natchez give them the heads of those responsible for the deaths of the traders. Natchez leader Petit Soleil returned with only three heads. The French then killed four Natchez hostages.

Tattooed Serpent, a Natchez noble and war chief, befriended Antoine Le Page du Pratz, a French architect-engineer in 1718. Du Pratz later described the Natchez village, its mounds, and its dwellings. Tattooed Serpent lived in a 30 by 20 foot house built on top of a 10 foot high mound which was in the center of the village. To the south was a ceremonial plaza and the Sun Temple which was on top of another mound.  

In 1722, a French sergeant killed several Natchez in a dispute over corn. Since the French commandant did not punish the sergeant, Natchez warriors began a series of raids against the French. In one instance a group of warriors from the White Apple village (who were reportedly drunk) attacked a French plantation. The French responded by dispatching troops from New Orleans. Tattooed Serpent managed to make peace with the French and forced the Natchez villages of White Apple, the Hickories, and the Griga to pay an indemnity to the French.

In spite of the peace negotiated by Tattooed Serpent, the following year a French army with more than 600 soldiers marched against the Natchez. The Natchez sued for peace and the war chief Stung Serpent managed to negotiate a peace settlement. However, many of the Natchez people remained unhappy about the abuses and influences of French colonization.

As a part of the peace agreement, the French governor asked Tattooed Serpent to bring him the head of the chief of the village of White Apple, Old Hair, a Sun of great distinction who was highly respected by the Natchez. Ironically, Old Hair was pro-French. As a Sun, Old Hair was supposed to be exempt from capital punishment for any reason. The French request was somewhat like asking the Pope to serve up the head of a cardinal. Tattooed Serpent submitted to the request and brought Old Hair’s head to the French governor.

In 1724, the Natchez rebelled against the French and killed many French colonists.

In 1725, Tattooed Serpent, the brother of the Great Sun and Natchez War Chief, died. At his funeral, two of his wives, his sister, his doctor, his head servant and the servant’s wife, his nurse, and the man who made his war clubs, chose to die with him. Such a ritual suicide, carried out so that they could accompany him into the afterworld, was considered to be a great honor.

Natchez war chief Stung Serpent commented in 1725 on life before the coming of the French:

“Did we not live better than we do, seeing we deprive ourselves of a part of our corn, our game, and fish, to give a part to them?”

In 1728, the Natchez joined with the Choctaw in an attempt to oust the French from their lands, but were defeated after some initial victories. In the first few hours of the uprising, the Natchez killed 145 men, 36 women, and 56 children. They captured 300 African slaves and 50 French women and children.

During this war against the French, the Great Sun of the Natchez died. The Great Sun who replaced him was young and less effective as a leader.

In 1729, French Commandant de Chopart told the Natchez Sun of the town of White Apple:

“Between thy race and mine are no kindred ties; nor do I parley with any of your race. Let it suffice you, that when I command, you must obey.”

The Natchez were then ordered to abandon their town so that it could be taken over for a plantation. When the Natchez refused, nearly 1,000 Natchez were seized and sold as slaves.

In 1730, a combined force of French and Choctaw attacked the Natchez, killing nearly 100 Natchez warriors.

By 1731, many Natchez groups were seeking refuge from the French. One band of Natchez refugees settled near the Tunica. The Natchez then attacked the Tunica, killing 20 men and capturing 8 women. Another group of Natchez refugees with 75 warriors joined a group of Chickasaw to form a new village. The combined Chickasaw and Natchez warriors then carried out a guerrilla war against the French.

In 1734, the French attacked and destroyed much of the Natchez nation. They burned the written history which the Natchez had been recording for 50 successive chiefs.

In 1737, a group of Chickasaw and Natchez sought the protection of their Creek allies and formed the Breed town or Naucee town, which was incorporated into the Creek confederacy.

By 1763, the once great Natchez Nation, the inheritors of the ancient Mississippian tradition, had been broken and its people scattered among the other nations of the Southeast. Forgetting, or perhaps ignoring that they had destroyed the written history kept by the Natchez, the French noted that the Natchez were an oral society and they used constant repetition to remember transactions. One Frenchman wrote:

“Consequently many of the youths are often employed in hearing the old men narrate the history of their ancestors, which is thus transmitted from generation to generation. In order to preserve their traditions pure and uncorrupt, they are careful not to deliver them indifferently to all their young people, but teach them only to those young men of whom they have the best opinion.”

After this time, the Natchez faded into semi-oblivion in the minds and writings of the European invaders. While it has often been reported that the Natchez were exterminated by the French, they actually joined other tribes, keeping portions of their culture and language alive.  

What Part Of Give These People Warm, Don’t You Understand?

I send money to Saint Francis, for the propane for those who are getting very cold and scared and who are running into a lot of trouble there.

I buy great Zuni fetishes, from brokers for these great art. Modern. I have little cards.

I act in some small ways.

I work constantly on trying.



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Ancient America: Angel Mounds

About 650 CE some trends were beginning to emerge in the American Bottom area near the Mississippi River in Illinois which would culminate in the development of a complex culture known today as Mississippian. Setting the stage for the emergence of this complex culture were the use of the bow and arrow and the development of maize agriculture. The largest of the Mississippian settlements was Cahokia, located in southwestern Illinois. From here, Mississippian culture seemed to spread out for a considerable distance.

Mississippian Map

The most spectacular characteristic of Mississippian material culture was the construction of earthen pyramids. The pyramids, usually called mounds, have a flat top which provided a space for a ceremonial building or a chiefly residence. Access to the top of the pyramid was made possible by a ramp or stairs up one side.  

In 900, a Mississippian village was established at Angel Mounds in Indiana. This village grew to cover 103 acres and became a regional trade center. The village, which had 200 dwellings, was protected on three sides by a wooden stockade and on the fourth side by the Ohio River. By 1300, Angel Mounds had a population of 2,000-3,000 people.

The Mississippian town at Angel Mounds was protected by a stockade made of wattle and daub. There was a gateway in the stockade on the east. Just outside of the stockade, about 14 feet (4.3 meters) away, was a type of picket fence. This fence was intended to slow down any enemy group which might attack the town.

The stockade was about 12 feet high and was constructed by setting wooden posts about four feet deep into a narrow trench. A loose weaving of sticks helped tie the posts together and then the structure was covered with a mud-and-grass plaster. About every 11 feet (3.4 meters) a defensive bastion was constructed which projected about 12 feet (3.7 meters) out from the wall. From these bastions the warriors, armed with bows and arrows and lances could protect the walls from attack. The construction of this stockade is similar to the one at Cahokia.

Angel Palisade

The reconstructed palisade with the bastions is shown above.

As a Mississippian town, it had platform mounds for the residences of chiefs and other high ranking officials. In some instances, members of the high status families were also buried on top of the mounds. In addition, there were ceremonies which were carried out on the mounds. The central mound (designated as Mound A) at Angel Mounds is 644 feet (196 meters) long, 415 feet (126 meters) wide, and 44 feet high. It covers four acres and required 67,785 cubic yards of dirt carried to the construction site in baskets.  There was a log stairway to the top.

Angel Mounds A

Angel Mounds A 2

Mound A is shown above.

The people who lived at Angel Mounds made their living by farming and by hunting. The location adjacent to the Ohio River was ideal for agriculture: the annual spring floods replenished the nutrients in the soil. The fertile soil, in turn, allowed for the production of surplus crops which allowed the town to support people who were engaged in artisan and craft specialties.

The site includes a pottery-making workshop. Here large quantities of pottery-bowls, jars, figurines-were made for both local use and for trade to other communities. The potters appear to have engaged in a kind of assembly-line production in which they would prepare the basic forms and then they would be finished and fired.

Angel Mounds Pottery

Shown above is a diorama

At Angel Mounds there was a quiet backwater which provided a good beaching place for canoes. It should be kept in mind that rivers were highways at this time and canoes were vital for trade with other communities.

People began leaving Angel Mounds about 1400 CE. Within 50 years, the town was vacant. There are many possible reasons for the abandonment of Angel Mounds. It may have been that the basic resources needed by the people had become depleted. These resources, such as firewood and materials for building and maintaining their homes, may have become scarce after more than a century of high population density.

Another possibility may be that the soil had become depleted. Over the centuries in which the people had farmed the area, the soil may have lost much of its fertility and thus the harvests had decreased.

Other reasons for the abandonment might include social factors, including revolution and/or invasion by other peoples. In addition, natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, might have motivated people to move. However, there is no archaeological evidence of violence, in spite of the fact that the town was fortified. Similarly, there is no evidence of any natural disaster.

Some people have speculated that an extended regional drought might have reduced the maize surpluses that had enabled the concentration of population. This reduction in agricultural products, coupled with overhunting which would have reduced the availability of game and the reduction of wood for building and fuels, may have made the Angel Mounds location less than ideal for habitation.

One other possibility is that Angel Mounds was abandoned because of peace. If peaceful alliances among the various communities in the area had been created, this might have meant that a large, fortified town like Angel Mounds was no longer necessary. Once again, there is no archaeological evidence of this.

By 1650, Native American tribes such as the Shawnee and Miami were living in the area and farming the bottomlands. In 1852 an American settler named Mathias Angel settled on the site. The land remained in the hands of the Angel family until 1938. At this time, the Indiana Historical Society purchased 480 acres of the Angel family property to protect the historically valuable site. The site was named after the Angel family. Eli Lilly donated the money for the purchase.

In 1946, the Historical Society gave the property to the State of Indiana. In 1962 it was declared a National Historic landmark. Indiana University obtained the rights to conduct archaeological excavation on the site in 1965. The Interpretive Center was constructed in 1972.

Angel Mounds State Historic Site is today recognized as one of the best preserved prehistoric Native American sites in the United States.

This Year, It’s About Saving Lives

On this day last year, I asked for one thing:  GOTV funds for Democratic Indian candidates.

This year, I want something more fundamental.

I want you to help me save some lives.

That is no exaggeration.  Every year, we lose a few more people – mostly elders – because they freeze to death.  The last few winters in South Dakota have been lethal, and this year’s – perhaps as little as a couple of weeks away now – promises to be no exception.  

Last week, navajo kicked off our now-annual fundraiser to provide propane and heaters for people on South Dakota’s Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations.  I’ve learned of another heater option that’s both safe and less expensive, and is – for the moment – on sale.  Let’s take advantage of it.

First, a disclaimer:  We have no stock in Northern Tool.  I know nothing about the company’s politics.  I only know that we’ve bought household, outdoor, and farm and ranch items from them for years, and their prices have always been more reasonable than most other places.  They were certainly the least expensive place I could find last year as a source for the propane heater we’ve been recommending since that time (that heater and order info are near the end of the diary).  We also just bought the heater I’m about to recommend, so I can attest that it’s sturdy and works well.  Here’s a photo:

Little Buddy Heater

It’s much smaller than the other heater; it has an O2 sensor with automatic shutoff auto-shutoff if it gets knocked over, no tubes, auto-ignition with simple “on” and “off” buttons, and various other safety features.  It’s also advertised as able to heat a 100-square-foot space, which is about five times the size of Wings’s studio.  And the little propane canisters are much cheaper, obviously than filling a tank.  Yes, I realize that it’s undoubtedly more expensive over the long term, but when you’re in a bind and have only a few bucks, being able to buy a canister when you can’t afford to fill a tank could mean the difference between surviving and freezing to death.

This particular model normally sells for $59.99 from this source.  Most other places we looked – even Cabela’s – it was $79.99.  At least through next Tuesday, apparently, there’s an additional $5 off; we got ours for $54.99 plus shipping, which came to $63 and change.  The canisters we already had, but I’m guessing no more than $10 a pop, and St. Francis Energy probably sells them, too.

Order this heater here.  

Additional info needed for shipping is below.

Now, on to your regularly scheduled programming, courtesy of navajo:


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

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

Here we go again: Blizzard hits Dakotas

Band-Aid for the Lakotas

Pine Ridge: American Prisoner of War Camp #334

Revealing Pine Ridge Rez Demographic Information

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

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

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

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

Help buy propane for Lakota families in South Dakota:

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


Sherry Cornelius of St. Francis Energy Co.

at  6 0 5 – 7 4 7 – 2 5 4 2


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

If you’d like to mail a check:

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

Attn: Sherry or Patsy

St. Francis Energy Co. / Valandra’s II

P.O. Box 140

St. Francis, South Dakota 57572

NOT tax deductible

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


Good idea from  Aji in the comments :

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

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

Sherry Cornelius

St. Francis Energy Co.

102 N Main Street


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

You also need to include these accessories:

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

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

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

Order Total   $225.85 (includes shipping)


The Lakota Plains Propane Company

at  6 0 5 – 8 6 7 – 5 1 9 9

Monday- Friday only 8-4:30pm MST

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

NOT tax deductible

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

Native American Netroots Web Badge

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


Elouise Cobell, RIP

( – promoted by navajo)

Elouise Cobell, one of the most important Native American leaders in recent decades, has died.

There’s lots of people who have offered up eulogies and tributes, including President Obama.  Several of those are excerpted to close this diary.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

Elouise Cobell was a force, including working to launch the first-ever Indian-owned bank.

Mrs. Cobell, an accountant who grew up on a reservation in Montana without electricity, a telephone or running water, was all too familiar with stories of the government’s mistreatment of tribes. She said the federal mismanagement of the land trusts dated back to the 19th century and had contributed to a pattern that had left her tribe with high poverty and unemployment rates.   (WaPo)

But this is what she’ll be remembered for: She was the lead plaintiff in a class action suit to compel the federal government to account for monies they’d taken in on behalf on Native Americans for lease of their lands (for farming, grazing, mining, drilling, logging and other mostly extractive activities.)  

Cobell approached the Boulder, Colo.-based Native American Rights Fund about filing a class-action lawsuit against the Interior and Treasury departments, and she was named as lead plaintiff when the suit was filed in 1996. The suit contended that the Dawes Act arrangement allowed U.S. officials to systematically steal and squander royalties intended for Native Americans.

“It’s just such a wrong that if I didn’t do something about it I’m as criminal as the government,” Cobell told the Associated Press in 1999.  (LA Times)

The failure of fiduciary responsibility as trustee dated back to the passage of the Indian Allotment Act in 1887.  She filed the suit in 1996, which was supported in part by a genuis grant she received from the MacArthur Foundation.  The Cobell case, as it came to be known, was the largest class action suit against the U.S. government in history.

Investigations showed that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, which managed the allotments and the revenue accounts, paid the Indian landowners erratically, if at all. For decades, some Indians were sent checks for as little as 8 cents.

Cobell estimated the unaccounted monies at over $150 billion.  That’s right, billion – with a B.  Payments were made, so it wasn’t 100% ripoff.  During the Bush years, John McCain chaired the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and suggested that maybe $25 million might be a suitable settlement figure.  It took the Obama Administration coming into office to settle the thing, because the Republicans flat-out weren’t going to do it.  The plaintiffs were right to scoff at McCain’s paltry offer.  In the end, the suit was settled in early in 2010 for $3.4 billion.

The legal fight proved all-consuming, and Ms. Cobell eventually moved to Washington to work on it full-time. A 1997 MacArthur Foundation grant helped defray costs, which the lead attorney, Dennis Gingold, estimated involved 3,800 court filings, 250 days of trial, 80 published court decisions and 10 interlocutory appeals.  (Wall Street Journal)

Judge Royce C. Lambert, who was appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan, got so disgusted with the Interior Department’s obfuscation and obstruction, he awarded the plaintiffs $7 million for legal costs back in 2006.  The Bush Interior Dept. under Gale Norton (more recently general counsel for Shell Oil) found the money by taking it away from other tribes’ regular appropriations.  From an Interior Dept. letter (pdf) on January 26, 2006:

Dear Tribal Leader;

As this interim fee award was not a planned expense, the Department considered a range of options to comply with the Court’s Order for prompt payment which was sent to plaintiff’s counsel on January 18, 2006.  We utilized several sources of funds to pay the fee award [of $7,066,471.05.] … [T]hese funds are no longer available thus associated program activities will not be undertaken.  Please ensure that care is taken to understand whether these financial changes affect your planned program activities.

In other words, divide and conquer.  We’re going to maybe shut down your Senior Center or make you fire a tribal police officer or two to pay for this thing.  (Subtext: You should blame Cobell.)

Despite growing evidence of wrongdoing, three American administrations fought the case all the way, at first dismissing her challenge as unworthy of consideration. When it became clear that their adversary would not give up, bureaucrats destroyed evidence and took retaliatory measures against Indians. Eventually, after 14 years; 3,600 court filings; 220 days of trial; 80 published court decisions and 10 appeals, Elouise Cobell’s campaign ended in victory in 2009.   (Telegraph, UK)

Rather than responding to Lamberth’s increasing frustration, and complying with his orders from the bench, Bush’s DoI successfully moved to have him removed from the case.  He didn’t start out biased against Interior, but time and experience changed his mind.

[Lamberth] described the Interior Department in a 2005 court decision as a “dinosaur – the morally and culturally oblivious hand-me-down of a disgracefully racist and imperialist government that should have been buried a century ago, the last pathetic outpost of the indifference and anglocentrism we thought we had left behind.”

The thing dragged on, for well over a decade.  Elouise Cobell died of cancer, lived long enough to see success in the cause she devoted herself to.  Well, mostly so.  The House and the Senate passed the settlement in 2009, which President Obama signed.  But it was still tied up in court for another 2 years.

in June this year a federal judge approved the settlement, which became the largest payment the U.S. government ever made to Native Americans.

I could go on about her, but I think readers will be better served if I quote what others have said about her instead.

Jodi Rave, Native American columnist

Indian Country just lost one its greatest female warriors. … Like many great leaders in history, she has earned fame for a basic reason. She put herself last as she pursued justice first on behalf of other people.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Montana

The Blackfeet Nation and all of Montana have lost a true inspiration and hero.

National Congress of American Indians

Elouise Cobell represented the indelible will and strength of Indian Country and her influence and energy will be greatly missed. Her passing on from this world must be honored by reaffirming our resolute commitment as Indigenous peoples to protect the rights of our citizens and our sovereign nations.

Great Falls Tribune

Asked by the New York Times what she wanted her legacy to be, she said she hoped she would inspire a new generation of Native Americans to fight for the rights of others and lift their community out of poverty.

“Maybe one of these days, they won’t even think about me. They’ll just keep going and say, ‘This is because I did it,”‘ Cobell said. “I never started this case with any intentions of being a hero. I just wanted this case to give justice to people that didn’t have it.”

New York Times

Elouise Cobell was soft-spoken, but her politeness and sense of propriety took nothing away from her tenacity. Ms. Cobell, who died on Sunday at the age of 65, was a cattle rancher, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe and a determined advocate for nearly forgotten rights of American Indians.

Elouise Cobell was able to see in a past that Washington forgot a way to begin to rebalance relations between American Indians and the federal government. She restored the past to memory, spoke eloquently on its behalf and so made a different future possible.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)

Elouise Cobell was a star — truly a guiding light that will always lead the way for all Americans who fight for justice and fairness.

Interior Secy. Ken Salazar

I am deeply saddened by the loss of Elouise Cobell, who dedicated her life to the betterment of Indian people. She sought justice to address historical wrongs that had weighed on our nation’s conscience and was a significant force for change. let us be inspired to do better by the first Americans, and to uphold our nation’s promise of justice and opportunity for all.

Sen. Tim Johnson (SD)

Elouise Cobell never stopped fighting for the rights of Native Americans, no matter the roadblocks or red tape that was put in her path. When I met with her last year, she showed the kind of persistence and determination that allowed her to keep fighting for the rights of Indian Country for more than a decade. Our nation has lost a true fighter, and my condolences are with her friends and family during this difficult time.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed for a Congressional Gold Medal

Elouise was an extraordinary American who made countless contributions to our country, which is why I believe she deserves the highest honor Congress can bestow upon a civilian. Indian Country – and the entire country – has lost an inspiring leader.

Sen. Max Baucus (MT)

Eloise Cobell was a warrior for justice, a voice for the voiceless, and a dear friend. Our state and our country are better for having known her.

Even Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg (who will make us look back on Jon Tester with misty-eyed nostalgia, should his bid for the Senate succeed) felt the need to weigh in:

Like anyone who had the honor to work side by side with Elouise in the pursuit of justice, I will never forget her determination to do the right thing.  Her efforts are an inspiration for generations of Montanans to come.

Larry Echohawk, Asst. Secy. Indian Affairs

Indian Country, as well as the entire nation, has lost a champion of human rights.  Elouise Cobell battled to make our country acknowledge historical wrongdoing, and she spoke truth to power so that justice could prevail.

Native Action Network

She will be remembered for her joyous laughter, her hard fought settlement and her determination to improve the lives of her community.

Helena (MT) Independent Record

There’s plenty to admire about and to learn from Cobell’s life and work – which, it’s important to note, was full of accomplishments beyond the high-profile lawsuit. Aside from being the classic underdog story of an individual standing up for what she believed in against the government, and persevering for years in the face of foot-dragging and innumerable court actions, Cobell was a shining example of trying to improve the lives of those around her.

Rep. Edward Markey, Resources Committee

Through persistent, consistent pressure, Ms. Cobell righted century-old wrongs, and forever changed the landscape of the U.S. government’s trust responsibilities to Native Americans.

Those who know and love Elouise Cobell can console themselves knowing that she left the world a better place than what she found.  That’s a life well-lived, and well worth remembering for a long, long time.

White “Civilization” Not Better Than Native Way Of Life


White “Civilization” Not Better Than Indian Life


1. White civilization built environment polluting factories.

2. White civilization created processed food which destroys health.

3. White civilization built prisons and there are more people in prison in America per capita than any other nation on earth.

4. White civilization created synthetic soles on shoes which prevents the natural energy of the earth from arising through the bottom of the

feet. (See book titled EARTHING which calls for leather soles on shoes – Do I hear moccasins?)

5. White civilization created the pharmaceutical industry which has caused more destruction in the human body and deaths than they have done good.

6. White civilization has created fiat money and the Federal Reserve system which is gradually destroying the ability of people to get a fair

exchange to buy goods and services.


The Indian Way Of Life Before White Man Ruined It


1. Indians did not pollute the environment and kept the environment clean for hundreds of years.

2. Indians ate organic food and thus were healthy because of it.

3. There were no prisons in North America before the White man came.

4. Indians were in tune with the earth and the healthy energy of the earth could benefit the Indians since they wore natural clothing and not the synthetic kind.

5. Indians had natural medicine and in fact the Ojibwa tribe developed a cure for Cancer using four herbs. This later was given to the whites through a nurse named Rene Caisse. But many whites do not know about it because of the

greedy medical powers controlled by whites.

6. The Indians did not need money and did not need gold. They made fair exchanges of goods and services among themselves and between other tribes.

Sovereign Son (white blood brother to the Indians)


Ancient America: The Maya City of Coba

Cobá was a Maya city located in the northern portion of the Maya region on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Most of the city was constructed between 500 and 900-a period corresponding to the Classic Maya Period. Most of the dated inscriptions found in the city date from the seventh century.

Maya Map

Cobá had a population of at least 50,000 and spread out to cover an area of more than 80 square kilometers. The city was situated around two lagoons. There are a series of elevated roads constructed out of stone and plaster which lead out from the center of the site to small sites. Some of these roads run east to the Caribbean coast. The longest identified road runs over 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the site of Yaxuna.

Coba Site Map

Cobá engaged in trade with a number of other Mayan communities, particularly the ones along the Caribbean coast in present-day Belize and Honduras. This trade utilized the ports of Xcaret, Xel-Há, Tancah, Muyil, and Tulum.

As with other Mayan sites, Cobá has a number of temple pyramids. The tallest of these, known today as Nohoch Mul,  is about 42 meters (140 feet) high. This means that it is higher than the pyramids at Chichén Itzá (El Castillo is 33 meters tall) and Uxmal (Pyramid of the Divine is 35 meters tall).

Coba Nunoch

Nohoch Mul is shown above.

Coba La Iglesia

Shown above is the pyramid known as La Iglesia, the second highest pyramid in Cobá.

Coba Crossroads Tempe

Shown above is the Crossroads Temple.

In Maya cities, ball courts were important features as the ball game was an important part of Mayan ceremonial and social life. In Cobá there are two ball courts which is an indication of its importance as a Maya center.

Coba Ballcourt 1

Coba Ballcourt 2

Shown above is one of the ballcourts at Cobá.

In the Yucatán Peninsula water is a critical element. There is actually very little surface water in the area. The cenotes-holes with fresh water-are important. The two lagoons at Cobá were important factors in the development of this city. The Maya built dikes around the lagoons in order raise the water level and make the water supply more reliable.

Coba Stela

One of the characteristics of the Mayan sites are the stele: carved slabs of stone bearing inscriptions-often dates and the names of kings-and depictions. These were often erected in the plaza, usually in front of a pyramid. The photograph above shows stele from Cobá.

During the Postclassic Maya Period, Cobá remained an important site. New temples were built and old ones were maintained until at least the 14th century and possibly until the arrival of the Spanish.  

Tonight! “Hidden America: Children of the Plains,” ABC 20/20 Special

TONIGHT, at 10 PM Eastern, ABC is airing a 20/20 special called “Hidden America: Children of the Plains” featuring Tashina Iron Horse, a 5 year old from Pine Ridge Reservation.

Tashina Iron Horse

       Young Tashina Iron Horse is a competitive pow wow dancer. (credit: Elissa Stohler/ABC News)

Pine Ridge residents live amid poverty that rivals that of the third world. Forty-seven percent of the Pine Ridge population lives below the federal poverty level, 65 percent to 80 percent of the adults are unemployed, and rampant alcoholism and an obesity epidemic combine with underfunded schools to make it a rough place to grow up. Tashina lives in government housing in Manderson, 30 minutes north of downtown Pine Ridge. She lives with her grandmother, parents, siblings and uncles – sometimes up to 19 people live in the three-bedroom house, which has seen better days.

In the decades following President John F. Kennedy’s pledge to fund public housing projects on American Indian reservations, a construction boom began in Pine Ridge. Today, most of these units built in the 1970s and 1980s are in varying degrees of disrepair – a result, critics say, of steep cuts to the Housing and Urban Development budget made by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Public housing dollars today are largely spent battling black mold in reservation housing rather than constructing new homes.

Amid the despair, there are youth across the reservation – like Tashina – who are breaking through the hopelessness with huge dreams and powerful stories.

Check out a sneak peek – Tashina teaches Diane Sawyer some of her moves – below.

[Video will not post here. Click at ABC link at top to view video.]

Video Transcript provided by the lovely Cedwyn:

ABC:  At one of the dance competitions, we saw little Tashina Iron Horse, so joyful.  We were intrigued by her life.

(cut to house)

Tashina:  See, mom!  I got that book.

ABC:  Her house has so many people living in it, even her grandmother and uncle find it hard to keep track.

Grandma:  Five in Bobby’s room, two in mine, and the two boys downstairs.  And then Amy and her family, there’s five of them.  Then Amber, her and Baby will be coming back, too, so there’s two, three of them.

ABC:  So in total, it’s about, what, 15?

Aunt:  Yeah.  Gee, 19, I guess.

ABC:  Tashina sleeps in one bed with her mother, her father and two other children.

AJ:  Comb your hair and look into the camera.

ABC:  Tashina’s dad, AJ, is getting ready to apply to be a firefighter.  He gets little Tashina and her sister Shante ready for school.

AJ:  If there was enough housings for us, I think we would get our own house just so me and my little family could have our time.

ABC:  And it’s her uncle Matthew who makes those intricate little costumes Tashina loves to wear for the dances.  This is beautiful.

Tashina, five years old, with a giggling invitation to join her in the dance.

Please watch the special tonight and let us know what you think in the comments.

We at Native American Netroots thought this would be a good time to kick off our winter fuel fundraising efforts.

Here are a few photos of the grateful recipients of the fuel you bought last winter that I haven’t posted before:

These photos were all taken by Sherry Cornelius aka lpggirl of St. Francis Energy who personally delivers the propane. Everyone pictured is saying THANKS to Daily Kos for helping them with heat.




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


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

Here we go again: Blizzard hits Dakotas

Band-Aid for the Lakotas

Pine Ridge: American Prisoner of War Camp #334

Revealing Pine Ridge Rez Demographic Information

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

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

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

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

Help buy propane for Lakota families in South Dakota:

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


Sherry Cornelius of St. Francis Energy Co.

at  6 0 5 – 7 4 7 – 2 5 4 2


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

If you’d like to mail a check:

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

Attn: Sherry or Patsy

St. Francis Energy Co. / Valandra’s II

P.O. Box 140

St. Francis, South Dakota 57572

NOT tax deductible


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



Good idea from  Aji in the comments :

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

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

Sherry Cornelius

St. Francis Energy Co.

102 N Main Street


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

You also need to include these accessories:

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

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

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

Order Total   $222.84 (includes shipping)


The Lakota Plains Propane Company

at  6 0 5 – 8 6 7 – 5 1 9 9

Monday- Friday only 8-4:30pm MST

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

NOT tax deductible

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

A special thanks to Miep who recently donated $500 to this season’s effort.

Indian Art Education in the 1930s

During the 1930s, with the United States in the midst of the First Great Depression, American Indian art began to emerge as a form of economic development as well as cultural expression. During this time there were a number of programs to educate Indian artists in both art techniques and in art marketing.  

The Bureau of Indian Affairs lifted the ban on teaching traditional arts and music at its boarding schools in 1930. Lifting the ban was not based on any feeling that Indian cultures were to be encouraged, but upon the recognition that traditional Indian arts and crafts were a way for Indian people to make money.

In 1932, Mable Morrow established a program devoted strictly to Indian arts and crafts at the Santa Fe (New Mexico) Indian School. She brought in nine young Indian women from the Haskell Indian School to form the core of a two-year program that admitted only female high-school graduates. The new program intended to prepare Indian women for careers both as independent professional artists and as art teachers in federal Indian schools. A new building was constructed to house the arts and crafts program. Morrow developed a program which included silversmithing, pottery, weaving, beadwork, embroidery, basketry, carding, tanning, wool dying, and woodworking.

Dorothy Dunn, an art teacher who had recently graduated from the School of Art Institute of Chicago, opened an art studio at the Santa Fe Indian School in 1932. Dunn was not a stranger to either Indian students or Indian art. She had been the second grade teacher at the Santo Domingo Pueblo day school and she had taught at the San Juan Boarding School on the Navajo Reservation.

Dorothy Dunn

Dorothy Dunn is shown above.

Under her tutelage, Indian students were encouraged to depict traditional ceremonial and tribal scenes, and plants and animals, using a flat, decorative, linear style. Her goals were to foster an appreciation of Indian painting and to produce new paintings with high standards. She felt that it was important to maintain tribal and individual distinctions in the paintings.

In class, the students sketched pictographic figures and had free-line brush practice. She discouraged borrowing motifs or styles from other tribal groups or from non-Indians. In order to provide her students with a broad art education, she borrowed books and historic objects from museums, took students on trips to the Laboratory of Anthropology and the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe. Dunn also brought in non-Indian lecturers to teach her students about their own heritage. She encouraged her students to exploit what she defined as Native tradition. In style and content the works produced by her students affirmed romanticized conceptions of the Indian. As a result, the Studio-style paintings found an eager market among non-Native patrons.

While Dorothy Dunn exposed her students to many different examples of art, her curriculum did not include any discussion of art theory or history, or of modern art movements. This experimental art program, later referred as The Studio, was instrumental in the education of many Indian artists, including Tewa artist Pablita Velarde and Chiricauha Apache artist Allan Houser.

Pablita Velarde


Pablita Velarde and her work are shown above.


A sculpture by Alan Houser is shown above.

In 1933, Dorothy Dunn began to teach her students to make earth color paintings to reproduce the colors traditionally used in painting pottery and ceremonial objects. This technique used pulverized dry organic pigments glued to a backing or wall in a fresco technique.

In 1932, Bacone College, a college for Indian students in Muskogee, Oklahoma opened its Art Lodge where students are exposed to Native American artistic traditions. Two years later, the college opened an art department under the direction of Creek artist Acee Blue Eagle.


Ataloa Lodge, the art museum at Bacone College is shown above.

At the urging of Indian Commissioner John Collier, Congress passed the Indian Arts and Crafts Act  of 1935 which established a special board to promote the development of Indian arts and crafts. The purpose of the board was: (1) to enlarge the market for Indian art, (2) improve production, and (3) establish certification of Indian artists. With regard to the certification of Indian artists, Indian identity was seen as essential and following the racist conventions of the time, “Indian” was defined as someone who was of at least one-quarter Indian blood.

The act was intended to generate more income on reservations. The five member board worked to promote the development of Indian arts and crafts by teaching artists how to market their work and by educating the public about Indian-made products. The concept of Indian art, however, was not defined by the Indian artists, but by the collectors and tourists who wanted to possess objects that conformed to their own preconceptions about what constituted Native subject matter, style, or technique.

In 1937, anthropologist Alice Marriot started a program in Oklahoma to train Choctaw women in spinning. The project was an experiment by the Indian Arts and Crafts Board to increase Indian incomes through traditional native craft. Spinning was a deceptively simple craft. While learning the technical aspects of spinning required a short amount of time, its mastery takes years of practice. The Choctaw spinners were soon depressed to find that their work generated very little money.

In 1939, in an effort to promote Hopi silver as a unique art form, Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton from the Museum of Northern Arizona sent a letter to 18 Hopi silversmiths in which she wrote:

“The tourist does not know the difference between the genuine hand made and the machine made and so they are often misled, but they would like to have some guarantee, that the silver which they buy is really hand made.”

She included paperwork from the Indians Arts and Crafts Board with instructions on how to get their mark. She also wrote:

“Hopi silver should be entirely different from all other Indian silver, it should be Hopi silver, using only Hopi designs.”

In 1939, the Papago Tribal Council in Arizona encouraged basketmaking by establishing a revolving fund to buy baskets and then to sell them through the Papago Arts and Crafts Board.

Before Wounded Knee

In 1890 American fear, xenophobia, and religious intolerance led to the massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in South Dakota. While there have been many books written about this massacre, there were a number of related incidents prior to this.  

Setting the Stage for Violence in 1890:

In South Dakota, the Great Sioux Reservation was broken up into five smaller reservations occupying about half the land as previously. The other half of the reservation was opened up for non-Indian settlement at bargain prices. The proceeds from the sale of the former reservation lands were supposed to go to the Indians as compensation for their lost territory. The railroads were given permission to survey and build lines with no regard for any Sioux concerns.

At that same time, in Nebraska, the Christian Indian newspaper The Word Carrier reported about the Paiute prophet Wovoka:

“The Indians are generally excited over a so-called super-human visitor who is making frequent visits to the Indians in the Rocky Mountains. He performs some sleight of hand work and has made them believe that he is the Christ the Son of God. He is nothing but a petty representation of the Mormons of Utah.”


Paiute prophet Wovoka is shown above.

Missionary Mary Collins reported that Sitting Bull was a Ghost Dance leader. She recommended that he be banished:

“A few years in a prison learning English and a good trade would have a quieting influence upon the old man and his followers.”

While Sitting Bull, like other Indian leaders, was aware of Wovoka as a Paiute prophet in Nevada, he had no contact with him and was not involved with the new religion.

An editorial in the Black Hills Daily Times in response to rumors about the Ghost Dance:

“The Indians must be killed as fast as they make an appearance and before they can do any damage. It is better to kill an innocent Indian occasionally than to take chances on goodness.”

In Nebraska, the Christian Dakota language newspaper Iapi Oaye reported on the Ghost Dance movement with preaching and teaching. Calling Wovoka a false prophet, it quoted Bible verses showing that the religion was wrong.

In South Dakota, Kicking Bear introduced to the Lakota a special shirt. The shirts were decorated with a star and crescent moon and feathers at the shoulders. According to non-Indian sources, he claimed that bullets would not go through these shirts. The new shirts became a part of the Ghost Dance movement among the Sioux.

Kicking Bear’s Ghost Dance shirts seem to have been inspired by the shirts worn by the Arapaho Ghost Dancers. These shirts are made out of white muslin with a painted line of blue and one of yellow on the back. The Arapaho shirts, in turn, seem to have been inspired by the Mormon endowment robes of white muslin ornamented with symbols of their faith.

Anti-Indian Violence in 1890:

In Nebraska, the non-Indian residents of Chadron, concerned about rumors regarding an Indian upr55ising stemming from the Ghost Dance religion, passed a resolution asking for government troops. The resolution states in part:

“Resolved, that the leaders and instigators of criminality in savages should receive at the hands of the Government the punishment the law provides for traitors, anarchists and assassins.”

In South Dakota, Anglo settlers fearing an uprising from the Lakota Ghost Dancers asked the government for rifles and ammunition. Two militia units were organized to kill Indians. South Dakota’s governor told them “Be discreet in killing the Indians.”

At the Cole Ranch, Dead Arm was shot and killed as he rode into the trading post. His body was scalped and allowed to lay in the dirt for three days while cowboys poked sticks at it and photographers took pictures of it.

Near the Lakota Stronghold, the militia ambushed and killed about 75 Ghost Dancers, including women and children. One of the militiamen took seven pack loads of items from the dead — guns, war bonnets, ghost shirts — and used them to start a museum in Chicago.

The United States 8th Cavalry sent out a unit on a reconnaissance mission near the Lakota Stronghold. The unit came across a small band of Lakota and killed them all. The Indians’ guns were removed and the bodies buried. The troops were sworn to secrecy.  

In South Dakota, James McLaughlin, the Indian agent for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, angrily confronted Sioux leader Sitting Bull, telling him that Wovoka’s messiah doctrine was absurd and that Sitting Bull should stop his people from dancing. Sitting Bull replied that he and McLaughlin should go to Nevada and meet with Wovoka to find out first hand about the new religious movement. Sitting Bull promised McLaughlin that he would not hesitate to enlighten his people if Wovoka’s words were false and he would urge them to give up the ritual. McLaughlin refused the challenge. McLaughlin claimed that Sitting Bull was uncooperative, and he threatened the dignified leader with jail.

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull is shown above.

Indian police were sent to arrest Lakota leader Sitting Bull because of rumors that he intended to attend the Ghost Dance at Pine Ridge. In a short fight, Sitting Bull and several of his followers were killed by the Indian Police. The Indian agent’s reasons for arresting Sitting Bull:

“Sitting Bull is a polygamist, libertine, habitual liar, active obstructionist, a great obstacle in the civilization of those people, and he is so totally devoid of any of the nobler traits of character, and so wedded to the old Indian ways and superstitions that it is very doubtful if any change for the better will ever come to him.”

The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, in its report on the death of Sitting Bull:

“The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.”

The newspaper was published by L. Frank Baum who later gained fame for his book The Wizard of Oz.


Commenting on the spread of the Ghost Dance on the Sioux reservations which led to the massacre at Wounded Know, Lakota writer and physician Charles Eastman would write in 1918:

“The teachings of the Christian missionaries had prepared them to believe in a Messiah, and the prescribed ceremonial was much more in accord with their traditions than the conventional worship of the churches.”