I am glad I am a member of this blog. I am glad that I have made the kind friendly acquaintences here, even though I cannot spell that word.

I am glad, still. I am glad because of the people I have gotten to know a little, here.

Navajo. You so rock. Words fail.

Ojibwa. Your histories are so excellent.

Winter Rabbit; you of such strong conviction.

You rock too.

Meteor Blades? By now I’m settling down and chuckling in my seat.

Because I know you are always here for these people.

Your beauty and glory can never be refuted.

It’s been a hard summer, peoples. I have felt broken a lot.

Neeta helped. She has always helped.

She is gorgeous. You are all gorgeous.



Posted in Uncategorized

Breaking Treaties

A treaty is an agreement between two or more sovereign nations. Under the U.S. Constitution, Indian tribes are considered sovereign nations-or as dependent domestic nations, in the words of the Supreme Court-and thus the United States negotiated treaties with the tribes in order to obtain title to Indian land and open Indian lands to non-Indian settlement.

Following the Civil War, Congress authorized the formation of a Peace Commission composed of three generals and four civilians to negotiate a series of treaties with the Indian nations. The Peace Commission sought to have the Indian nations settle on reservations away from the railroads and American settlements. These reservations were to be large enough to allow the Indians to continue to support themselves with hunting, but as they became more proficient as farmers, the size of the reservations was to be reduced. The government was also to provide the Indians with missionary instruction in Christianity. As a Christian nation, the United States felt that it had an obligation to convert Indians to Christianity and to prohibit aboriginal pagan religions.  

The Treaty:

In 1867, 4,000 Indians representing the Comanche, the Kiowa, the Kiowa-Apache, the Southern Cheyenne, and the Arapaho met with the United States Peace Commission at Medicine Lodge Creek, Kansas. Three treaties were negotiated with the tribes. The Americans wanted the tribes to agree to a reservation in Indian Territory and to surrender their own land claims.

Gifts for the Indians were stacked in dazzling piles. These included bushel baskets of glass beads, trinkets, knives, and surplus items from the Civil War. The surplus items included uniforms, blankets, and bugles. The Indians were allowed to look at the gifts but they could not touch them. The American strategy regarding gifts was simple: no treaty, no gifts.

Speaking for the Kiowa were Satank, Stumbling Bear, and Satanta. Ten Bears and Little Horn spoke for the Comanche, and Wolf’s Sleeve and Brave Man represented the Kiowa-Apache.  

Kiowa leader Satanta told the Commission that he did not want to give any land away. He told them:

“I love the land, the buffalo and will not part with it. I don’t want any of the medicine lodges (churches) within the country.”

Satanta also told them:

“A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers, but when I go up to the river, I see a camp of soldiers, and they are cutting my wood down or killing my buffalo. I don’t like that, and when I see that, my heart feels like bursting with sorrow.”

Newspaper reporter Henry Stanley, who was observing the council for the Daily Missouri Democrat, reported:

“Satanta’s speech produced a rather blank look upon the faces of the peace commissioners.”

Ten Bears told the Commission:

“There is one thing which is not good in your speeches; that is, building us medicine houses.”

Communication at the council was a bit of a problem as not all of the translators are fluent in the native languages and part of the communication had to be done through sign language. In some instances, the translation went from English to Comanche via a translator who mumbled and then from Comanche to Kiowa with the resulting loss of a great deal of meaning. The Indian leaders probably understood little with regard to the nuances and legal ramifications of the treaty, but there were gifts, food, and pageantry.

Following the treaty signing, gifts were distributed to the Indians. Included in the gifts were some pistols of unknown manufacture. Each of these pistols exploded the first time they were fired. The shoddy pistols were, perhaps, a warning of things to come.

According to the treaties, annuities were to be paid to the tribes for 30 years. Annuity payments were to consist of one suit of woolen clothing for every male person and flannel, cloth, or calico for every female. An additional $25,000 in goods was to be spent as the Indian Service deemed necessary.

Under Article 12, further cessions of land could be made only with the consent of three-fourths of the male adult Indians.

The Jerome Commission:

In 1892, a commission headed by David H. Jerome (thus known as the Jerome Commission) obtained signed agreements with several Oklahoma tribes to obtain 15 million acres of land in an area known as the Cherokee Outlet. While the majority of the Indians opposed the land cessions, the Americans simply ignored their concerns and used a combination of lies, bribes, threats, and forgeries to obtain the agreements.

In the meeting with the Kiowa, Jerome explained that the United States wanted nothing from the Indians except to give them something more valuable than land: money. With regard to the actual amount of money, the commissioners avoided giving any details. Under the Jerome Commission agreement, the Kiowa would actually receive about $25 per person to sell the land, as compared with $33 for leasing the land.

To obtain the correct number of Kiowa signatures for the agreement, the government ordered Kiowa Indian soldiers to put their mark to the paper. Other signatures were simply forged. When confronted about this, Jerome simply reminded the Kiowa:

“Congress has full control of you, it can do as it is a mind to with you.”

He then threatened the Kiowa leaders with jail and dismissed them.

The agreement with the Kiowa, Comanche, and Plains Apaches was certified to have sufficient signatures to make it valid under the Medicine Lodge Treaty. However, even with the forged signatures, the document is between 21 and 91 signatures short of the number needed.

As Congress discussed the ratification of the new agreements, Indian leaders travelled to Washington, D.C. to protest the agreements and to lobby against ratification. They continually pointed out that the agreement had been made by means of fraud and coercion. Congress, however, ignored the Indian pleas and ratified the agreements.

The Supreme Court:

In Lone Wolf versus Hitchcock the Supreme Court ruled in 1903 that Congress has the authority to break Indian treaties. While the 1867 Treaty of Medicine Lodge provided that no part of the Kiowa-Comanche Reservation could be ceded without the approval of three-fourths of the adult males, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has the power to abrogate the provisions of the treaty. According to the Court:

“The power exists to abrogate the provisions of an Indian treaty, though presumably such power will be exercised only when circumstances arise which will not only justify the government in disregarding the stipulations of the treaty, but may demand, in the interest of the country and the Indians themselves, that it should do so.”

In this ruling, the Court removed tribal consent as a factor in the efforts of the United States to acquire more Indian lands.

In the case, the Indians argued that the agreement to sell their land had been obtained by fraud and that it did not have the requisite number of signatures as required by their treaty with the United States. The Court rejected these arguments in favor of near absolute federal power with regard to Indian affairs. Federal power, according to the Court, should be tempered by

“considerations of justice as would control a Christian people in their treatment of an ignorant and dependent race.”

For politicians in the western states, the Court’s ruling sent a clear message that they could use whatever means they wanted to dispossess the Indians of their land.

Teddy Roosevelt and the Indians

In 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated and Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States. He entered the White House better acquainted with both the Indian Service (later known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs) and Indians than any President since William Henry Harrison. While Roosevelt had a background with regard to Indian affairs, this was not one of his major interests. In their annual report, the Indian Rights Association lauded the new President:

“No man in the country has a fuller or more practical sympathy with the Indians than President Roosevelt, nor a better understanding of their conditions and needs.”

Teddy Roosevelt

At the time Roosevelt became President, the Indian Service had a staff of nearly 6,000 to administer 160 reservations with more than 300 tribes. The Indian Service included 250 schools which accounted for half of its work force and had an enrollment of nearly 20,000.

Prior to Being President:

In 1891, four groups of Indian Service employees – physicians, school superintendents and assistant superintendents, school-teachers, and matrons – were placed under Civil Service Classifi¬cations. As a member of the Civil Service Commission, Theodore Roosevelt advocated that Civil Service rules be modified so that Indians could be given preference for these positions.

The following year, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a Lowell Institute Lecture in Boston, Massachusetts, in which he defends the government’s treatment of Indians:

“This continent had to be won. We need not waste our time in dealing with any sentimentalist who believes that, on account of any abstract principle, it would have been right to leave this continent to the domain, the hunting ground of squalid savages. It had to be taken by the white race.”

As President. 1901:

With regard to Indians, in 1901 President Theodore Roosevelt stated:

“In my judgment the time has arrived when we should definitely make up our minds to recognize the Indian as an individual and not as a member of a tribe. The General Allotment Act is a mighty pulverizing engine to break up the tribal mass.”

In 1901 Camp McDowell, Arizona, an abandoned military reservation, was set aside for Indian use by Executive Order by President Theodore Roosevelt. Congress, however, rejected a bill that would have created a Yavapai reservation because American squatters in the area objected.

As President. 1902:

President Theodore Roosevelt appointed a Catholic to the Board of Indian Commissioners in an attempt to reverse the pattern of discrimination against Catholics by the federal government. He was criticized for this.  

In South Dakota, the Indian Rights Association (IRA) authorized an investigation into the situation of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The IRA sent a letter to the Department of the Interior asking that action on cattle leases on the reservation be held off until the rights of the Sioux had been assured. The IRA also contacted President Theodore Roosevelt and asked him to intervene. The Women’s National Indian Association and the Boston Indian Citizenship Committee joined the IRA in protesting the leases.

In response to the IRA request, President Roosevelt asked writer George Bird Grinnell to investigate the situation on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Grinnell’s report blasted the government’s unscrupulous leasing practices. He also criticized the order by the Commission of Indian Affairs that all Indians cut off their long hair. According to Grinnell:

“Such an order was never before heard of in a free country, and the enforcement of it tends to make the Indians feel themselves to be slaves.”

As President. 1903:

In his book The Winning of the West, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote:

“The truth is, the Indians never had any real title to the soil.”

He compared Indian rights to the land with those of cattle ranchers trying to keep immigrants off their vast unfenced ranges.

President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona. He rode down into the canyon and found Havasupai families headed by Yavñmi’ Gswedva (Dangling Beard) and Burro living at Indian Garden. Then President Roosevelt spoke to Gswedva (also called Big Jim) and informed him, through an interpreter, of the federal government’s intent to locate a park for the American people on Gswedva’s and Burro’s garden lands below the rim. Roosevelt urged the Indians to vacate the area so that American tourists could enjoy it.

In Arizona, President Theodore Roosevelt sent his personal agent to investigate the situation of the Yavapai in the Verde Valley. The agent reported that there were more than 500 Yavapai living in the area. The agent recommended buying the squatters’ claims to Fort McDowell lands and making this land available to the Yavapai. While the agent expressed concern that the Yavapai might be corrupted by the nearby American communities, those Americans who wanted the Yavapai removed from the area argued that their children’s morals would be corrupted by Yavapai resettlement in the area.

As a result of the agent’s report, the Fort McDowell Reservation was created for the Yavapai by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt. Under the order, all lands which were not legally claimed by Americans were to be turned over to the Yavapai who were living in the area. This action represented the culmination of four decades of efforts by the Yavapai to obtain a reservation in their homelands.

In Washington, D. C., Nez Perce Chief Joseph met with President Theodore Roosevelt. At a buffalo dinner, Chief Joseph explained the situation of his people. He was promised by the President that someone would come to investigate the matter.

As President. 1904:

President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Francis Leupp as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Leupp had been employed by the Indian Rights Association as their Washington, D.C. representative. Unlike most of the earlier appointments to this position, Leupp was actually well-versed in Indian affairs.

In Oklahoma, the proposed relocation of the Delaware by the Dawes Commission was cancelled by President Theodore Roosevelt. There had been a major oil strike on Delaware lands and it was rumored that Dawes Commission members were trying to shunt the Delawares aside to promote lucrative deals with the Cherokees.

As President. 1905:

Roosevelt won the 1904 Presidential election by a landslide. For his 1905 inauguration, President Theodore Roosevelt asked the Indian Service to provide “a touch of color” for his inaugural parade by providing some Indians. The Indian Service provided Geronimo (Apache), Quanah Parker (Comanche), American Horse (Sioux), Hollow Horn Bear (Sioux), Little Plume (Blackfoot), and Buckskin Charley (Ute). These Indian leaders, called “chiefs” by the press, rode painted ponies and led a troop of marching Carlisle Indian students up Pennsylvania Avenue. Along the parade route, the Indians were met with war whoops and similar derisive shouts from the crowd.

President Theodore Roosevelt visited Frederick, Oklahoma Territory where he was met by an honor guard that included Comanche leader Quanah Parker. Roosevelt asked Parker to join him on the speakers’ stand as he told the people:

“Give the red man the same chance as the white. This country is founded on a doctrine of giving each man a fair show to see what there is in him.”

As President. 1906:

President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill which created Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Mesa Verde is the site of ancient Anasazi ruins, a culture which is ancestral to the Pueblos. This was the first national park which sought to preserve ancient ruins. The initial Act included 42,000 acres of Ute land. However, because of a faulty survey almost none of the ruins were in the Park. To correct this, the bill was amended to place all unpatented prehistoric ruins on Indian or federal land within five miles of the park boundary under the custodianship of the park.

Apache leader Geronimo, who was a prisoner-of-war, told his life story to S. M. Barrett who published it as Geronimo: His Own Story. The military objected to this biography and sought to stop its publication. President Roosevelt personally intervened to see that Geronimo’s story was published.

In Wyoming, Devils Tower – a sacred place known to the Lakota, Shoshone, Arapaho, and Cheyenne as Bears’ Lodge – was proclaimed a national monument by presidential proclamation. This geological feature was mentioned in the oral traditions of at least 20 tribes and is also known as Tree Rock, Home of the Bear, and Great Grey Horn.

As President. 1908:

In New York, President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated a monument to Captain John Underhill, the first professional Indian fighter in the northeast. In 1637, Underhill had been one of the leaders of the genocidal Pequot War. According to Roosevelt, Underhill was one of the men in Colonial times who

“helped to lay the foundation of the nation that was to be.”

Later historians would characterize Underhill as a sociopath or as a person who suffered from antisocial personality disorder.

President Roosevelt established the National Bison Range near Moise, Montana on the Flathead Reservation. The mission of the Nation Bison Range is to provide a representative herd of buffalo, in natural conditions, to help ensure the preservation of the species for the public benefit and enjoyment.

As President. 1909:

President Theodore Roosevelt issued eight proclamations which transferred 15 million acres of Indian timber on reservations created by Executive Order to adjacent national forests. The reservations included Fort Apache, Mescalero, Jicallilla, San Carlos, Zuni, Hoopa Valley, Tule River, and Navajo. The proclamation regarding the enlargement of the Trinity National Forest to include most of the Hoopa Reservation stated that after 25 years any un-allotted land on the reservation was to become a part of the national forest and the Hoopa were to lose their rights to this land.

Indian Languages

We don’t know for sure how many distinct Indian languages were spoken in North America at the beginning of the European invasion. The estimates range from as few as 350 to as many as 750. American Indian language extinction over the past five centuries has been fairly rapid. While it is common to speak of language loss, it is really more a matter of language genocide: the deliberate destruction of Native languages.  

In 1751, a missionary in Massachusetts claimed that the problem in converting the Indians to Christianity was that the children were not learning English. He said of Indian language:

“their own barbarous languages being exceeding barren, and unfit to express moral and divine things”

By learning English language hymns, the children would:

“renounce the courseness and filth and degradation of savage life, for cleanliness, refinement and good morals.”

For much of its history, the governmental policies of the United States have discouraged the speaking of Indian languages and, in some contexts such as that of the schools, have prohibited their use. As a result, there have been fewer places where the indigenous languages could be freely spoken. For many Indian languages, the primary place where they are used can be considered as ceremonial.

In 1881, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs wrote:

“The Indian must be made to understand that if he expects to live and prosper in this country he must learn the English language, and learn to work.”

In 1887, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs ordered all schools on reservations to give all instruction in English. He wrote:

“The intention is to prevent the waste of valuable time by Indian children in schools, in learning a barbarous tongue which is not comprehensive enough to embrace civilization or to comprehend it, and to utilize that time in school in learning the language of the country of which they are about to become citizens-a language in which not only the scriptures can be read, but all the extensive literature of the world.”

In clarifying this order, he added:

“The first step to be taken toward civilization toward teaching the Indians the mischief and folly of continuing in their barbarous practices, is to teach them the English language.”

While Native American languages helped the United States win World War II, following the war, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs once again reinforced the prohibitions against the use of Native languages in government schools and offices.

There are two phases to language change: language shift and language loss. Language shift for American Indian languages occurred during the reservation era as the people became bilingual in English as well as their tribal language. The tribal language continued to be the language of enculturation and socialization. Language loss begins when the children acquire English as their first language and the process of enculturation and socialization is accomplished primarily through English. During this phase, people will indicate that they can understand the Native language, but they do not speak it well or are unable to express themselves fluently in it.

A language is said to be moribund when there are fewer speakers under the age of twenty-five. When children speak a language it cannot disappear. In order to make Indian children stop speaking Indian languages, the American government removed them from their families and taught them that their language was evil, dirty, and inferior to English.

At least 70 Indian languages ceased to be spoken before any documentation could be made of them. By the 1960s, it was estimated that there were 175 Indian languages still being spoken north of Mexico. Of these languages, 136 had fewer than 2,000 speakers and 34 had fewer than 10 speakers. By 2007, it was estimated that only 154 Indians languages were still being spoken and that half of these were spoken only by elders. At the present time, it estimated that there are 46 Indian languages which are still being spoken by significant numbers of children.

Retention of the native language is an important issue for many tribes. There many Native American communities today which have language programs to try to teach their languages to children. As a consequence there are on many reservations programs which are intended to maintain the language. In communities in which the children no longer speak the native language, the goal is language revival in which the Indian language is taught as a second language. By 1986 there were 98 language projects involving 55 different Indian languages. There was an enrollment of more than 14,000 students in these programs. By 2006, there were 62 native languages being taught in 101 programs in 24 states and provinces.

In Oklahoma today, Indian languages can be used to satisfy state school credit requirements: they qualify as “world” languages. This means that Indian language classes can be used to satisfy requirements rather than just counting as electives. Five Oklahoma tribes have language revival programs: Delaware, Kaw, Miami, Seneca, and Wyandotte. In Oklahoma, there are an estimated 9,000 Cherokee speakers and 6,000 Muscogee Creek speakers. Among the 14,000 Comanche, it is estimated that there are only 50 to 75 fluent speakers.

Navajo is often cited as one of the strongest Indian languages in North America. While many Navajo still speak their language, a recent survey shows that only 5% of the school-aged children on the reservation speak the language fluently. In an attempt to counter this language loss, many elementary school classes on the reservation are now offering immersion classes in Navajo. In Window Rock, Arizona, it was found that Indian children who began school in Dine (Navajo) and learned English as a second language performed almost two grade levels above their peers who started school in English.

There are about 20,355 speakers of Dakota in the United States and Canada. On the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota, there are only 120 fluent speakers out of a tribal population of 4,435. All of the Spirit Lake fluent speakers are elderly. In order to retain the language, people meet in the school gym every other Tuesday for soup and conversation in Dakota.

In 1990, Congress passed the Native American Languages Act which declared “a national policy of respect for Native American languages and encouragement of their continued vitality.” According to the Act:

“the right of Native Americans to express themselves through the use of Native American languages shall not be restricted in any public proceeding, including publicly supported education programs.”

In 1997, the Indigenous Language Institute began to put an emphasis on the revitalization of Indian languages, not just their preservation. With new technologies, such as computers, and working with Native communities, languages can be revitalized as a part of daily life.

A survey of tribal leaders by Indian Country Today in 2000 found that only 7% could speak their Indian language fluently and 16% reported that they could understand it when it is spoken.

In 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 381,000 Indians spoke a Native language at home, with 178,000 of these speaking Navajo.


The Migrations of the Yuman-Speaking Tribes

The Yuma-speaking tribes live in the desert and semi-desert area along the Colorado and Gila Rivers in what is now Arizona, California, Sonora, and Baja California Norte. This is an area that is nearly all desert or semi-desert, but the annual flooding along the Colorado River and along the Gila River made agriculture possible. Thus, there are agricultural oases with a fairly dense population.  

The Yuman-speaking tribes include:

Cocopa: this is from the Mohave name for the tribe, Kwi-ka-pa whose meaning is unknown.  

Mohave: this is a corruption of their native name Aha-makave which means “beside the water.”

Maricopa: this is the Spanish version of the O’odham name for the tribe. Their own name is Pipa’ or Pipatsje which means “men” or “people.” They originally lived along the Colorado River near present-day Parker, Arizona, but later moved up the Gila River away from the Colorado River.

Maricopa Curtis

Shown above is a Maricopa portrait by Edward S. Curtis.

Yuma: this is from the O’odham name, lum, for the tribe. Their own name is Quechan which is in reference to the trail they followed in leaving the sacred mountain.

Hualapai: this is a corruption of their native name Hah-wah-lah-pai-yah which means “pine tree people.” In English the name is also spelled Walapai. The Walapai were divided politically into three subtribes: Middle Mountain People in the northwest, Yavapai Fighters in the south, and Plateau People in the east.

Hualapai Curtis

Shown above is a Hualapai portrait by Edward S. Curtis.

Hualapai Winter Camp

Shown above is a Curtis photo of a Hualapai winter camp.

Yavapai: this may be derived from En-ya-va-pai-aa which means “people of the sun,” or from Yawepe which means “crooked mouth people.” The Yavapai were not a single political or linguistic entity, but rather they were a collection of locally organized groups speaking mutually intelligible but distinct sub-dialects.

Yavapai Shelters

Shown is a Curtis photo of some Yavapai shelters.

Yavapai Basket

Shown above is a Yavapai basket.

Havasupai: this is from their native name Havasuwaipaa which means “Blue Water People.”


The Yuman-speaking people, according to their oral history, were created at Avikwame (now designated as Mount Newberry). It was here that Mastamho (also known as Mustamxo and Kumastamxo) brought forth the different people and sent them to live in the different regions along the Colorado River.  

Havasupai oral tradition tells of a migration from Moon Mountain, near present-day Blythe, California, on the Colorado River. The people settled for a while near present-day Peach Springs, Arizona. However, a dispute broke out and the groups who were settled there scattered to new homes. One group, the ancestors of the present-day Havasupai, came to Havasu Creek where they remained for many generations. When the population became too great for the canyon, a large group under the leadership of Mud Head left and continued their migration east.

There is another Havasupai oral tradition which tells that the people once lived near the Little Colorado River. However, conflicts with the Whaje (Apache) drove them from their home and they crossed the desert to the San Francisco Mountains. They did not find peace here, so they continued their journey westward. They came to a canyon that cut across their path and they worked their way down to the floor where they found an oasis of green cut by a stream of blue water.

Yavapai oral tradition tells that the people first emerged from the underground through a large hole called Ahagaskiaywa. Today this hole is identified as Montezuma’s Well. After some time, water flooded from the hole and destroyed all of the people except for a single woman who found refuge in a hollow log.

Traditional Yavapai territory stretched from the San Francisco Peaks in the north, to the Pinal Mountains in the east, and to the confluence of the Gila and Colorado Rivers in the southwest.

Some archaeologists feel that the Patayan culture which developed along the Colorado River about 1,300 years ago was ancestral to the Yavapai. These scholars suggest that about 700 years ago, some Patayan groups began leaving the Colorado River area and moving east into the highlands of Arizona. These groups then evolved into the Yavapai.

The Yavapai have a number of oral traditions describing how they separated from the other people who emerged from the Ahagaskiaywa. Some stories tell of a children’s game that turned into a quarrel which then escalated into hostilities among the adults. As a result, the Yavapai drove the Pai people out of their homeland and the two became enemies.  

A Generation Ago

The concept of a generation is often seen as a period of twenty years. With this in mind, let’s look back at some of the events which were impacting American Indians in 1991.  


In 1990, the United States government, in its infinite wisdom, passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAPGRA) which gave Indian nations more control over their history. In 1991, the impact of this act was beginning to be seen.

In Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History established a repatriation office to review its holdings for possible repatriation to appropriate tribes.

In Tucson, Arizona, a Native American Advisory Group was established at the Arizona State Museum. While this is in response to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Museum staff felt that this afforded opportunities for expanded dialogue.

In Idaho, the ancient remains of the woman known as the Buhl Woman were reburied by the Shoshone-Bannock tribe.

In South Dakota, the remains of Lost Bird, the woman who was orphaned at the massacre of Wounded Knee and raised by non-Indians, was reburied at the Wounded Knee cemetery.

In Alaska, the Alutiiq reburied several hundred human skeletons which had been housed in the Smithsonian Institution.

In Washington and Oregon, the Columbia River tribes began discussion with the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the management of cultural resources at proposed in-lieu fishing sites. The tribes were concerned about the sensitive handling of human remains, funerary objects, and other cultural artifacts. Among many Indians there was a feeling that government agencies, such as the Army Corps of Engineers, had a long history of insensitivity with regard to Indian graves.

Archaeological and Historic Sites:

In Alabama, Mound State Monument was renamed Moundville Archaeological Park. The 317-acre park on the Black Warrior River contains 20 ceremonial mounds. The largest mound is 60 feet tall and covers about two acres.

In Arizona, Homol’ovi Ruins State Park was opened as a state park with an interpretive center, visitor center, museum, and campground. The archaeological site of Homol’ovi is ancestral to the Hopi.

In Montana, the Custer Battlefield National Monument was renamed Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument by Congressional legislation. The name change was opposed by many non-Indians. The legislation also called for the erection of a monument to the Native Americans who died defending their homes and families in the battle.

In Washington state, archaeological study of the Chinook village site of Cathlapotle (45CL1) began. The study of the site, located on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, was carried out by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Chinook Tribe, and Portland State University. The largest of the old longhouses at the site is 200 feet by 45 feet and the smallest is 60 feet by 30 feet.

In South Dakota, the Catholic Church opposed the creation of a national park at Wounded Knee as they did not want non-Catholics buried in a Catholic cemetery. The people who were buried in the mass grave at Wounded Knee following the 1890 massacre, however, were not Christians: many of them were recent converts to the Ghost Dance religion.

In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority began construction of a new sewage treatment plant on Deer Island. In response, some Penobscot tribal members form the Muhheconneuk Intertribal Committee on Deer Island (MICDI) to protect the Indian burial sites on the island and to publicize the history of the island as an internment camp for Indians. During King Philip’s war in 1676, the English colonists rounded up about 500 Indians, mostly English allies and Christian, and interned them on Deer Island.

In California, a cultural resource survey for a subdivision development discovered an archaeological site. The developer put the project on hold and contacted the Calaveras Band of Miwok Indians to consult about the site.

Treaty Rights:

After a long and complicated series of legal maneuvers, Judge Barbara Crabb issued a Final Judgment with regard to Chippewa fishing rights in Wisconsin. The Indians were denied the right to harvest commercial timber on ceded lands, but they were allowed to harvest miscellaneous forest products and to sell or trade these products to non-Indians. The Indians were granted the right to regulate their own off-reservation fishing of walleyes and muskellunges.

The Sand Creek Massacre Descendants Trust was formed by the Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado. A law firm was hired to force the government to honor the 1865 Sand Creek Treaty which promised securities, land, animals, and provisions to compensate them for the injustices which were done.

In Idaho, the Coeur d’Alene filed suit claiming ownership of Coeur d’Alene Lake according to an 1873 treaty.

In South Dakota, Rosebud Sioux Tribe v Walsh was argued in tribal court. The case stemmed from the requirement that all businesses on the reservation obtain a tribal business license. A number of businesses owned by non-Indians had failed to obtain tribal licenses arguing that the tribe had no jurisdiction over them. The court found that the businesses did need to obtain licenses.

Indian Prisoners:

In Nebraska, Indian inmates at the Omaha Correctional Center were told that a sweat lodge ceremony cannot be held unless there are nine inmates who were able to participate. The inmates petitioned the court claiming discrimination against Indian inmates as there were no other religious groups which were required to meet a certain population quota in order to attend a ceremony. The petition also asked that the inmates have access to medicine men. The judge denied the inmates’ petition on the grounds that the Omaha Correctional Center was not a party to the 1974 Consent Decree and therefore it could not be applied. In other words, the protections given to Indian religious freedom in the Nebraska prisons applied only to the inmates of the Nebraska State Penitentiary and Lincoln Correctional Center.

In Nebraska, Indian inmates in the state prison requested an eight-hour time period for their annual pow wow. Prison officials, however, restricted the event to three hours. The inmates asked the court for a restraining order to stop officials from restricting it to three hours. The magistrate agreed that the three hour limitation would strip the event of its cultural and spiritual significance and allowed the eight-hour pow wow. The magistrate’s order came just two days before the event and the inmates did not have the resources or support to get the word out to the dancers and drummers.

In Montana, women prisoners were allowed to burn sweetgrass during their prayer time. The Indian women were allowed only one hour of prayer time each week even though Christian groups were allowed more time.

Federal Recognition:

In North Carolina, the Lumbee sought federal recognition through legislation and bills were introduced in Congress to provide federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe of Cheraw Indians of North Carolina. The legislation was supported by the Menominee, the Oneida of Wisconsin, and the Tunica-Biloxi. On the other hand, it was opposed by Vermon Locklear, the chairman of the Hatteras Tuscarora and by the Eastern Band of Cherokee. It was also opposed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  

The Oregon Klamath had federal recognition restored.


In Montana, local school boards rejected the petition of the Northern Cheyenne to create a new high school district which would allow them to build a high school on the reservation.

In Alaska, the governor signed an administrative order saying that the state was opposed to the existence of Indian tribes in Alaska.

Books and Movies:

Crow medicine man and Sun Dance Chief Thomas Yellowtail has his life story, as told to his adopted son Michael Oren Fitzgerald, published as Yellowtail: Crow Medicine Man and Sun Dance Chief.

The movie Black Robe showed the cultural clashes between the French Jesuits and the Algonquin and Iroquois people in Ontario in 1634. The film had Indians speaking Indian languages (Cree and Mohawk) and has an evenhanded depiction of the baffling otherness of both native and French cultures.  

Has anyone heard of her?

I’ve been searching a very long time for the identity of a remarkable female that lived during the “years of relocation” (your pardon, I’m trying for unoffensive terminology).

The only description or clue I have for her identity is “…the nude girl with the laughing yellow hair.”

-She wasn’t nude exactly, she was wearing a suede or buffed leather type of outfit with a fur bag (rabbit maybe) hanging around her waist, but her arms and legs below the knee were exposed.  Prudish people during that age would have considered her nude though, I suppose. And probably further scandalized by the fact that she was astride a horse.

Is there any legends or lore to explain her?

Thank you all for the time and help.  It’s much appreciated.

Ancient America: Shiloh

Mississippian is a cultural complex whose hearth appears to be in the American Bottom area near the Mississippi River in Illinois. 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. Setting the stage for the emergence of this complex culture were the use of the bow and arrow and the development of maize agriculture at about 650 CE. With the development of Mississippian culture, communities became larger and more complex. Mississippian culture spread out into the American southeast and about 1050 Mississippian people established a village at Shiloh, Tennessee. The site was enclosed by a palisade and had a population of 300-400.

shiloh 1

Fifty years later, Shiloh had about 100 houses and eight mounds. The houses were basically round, with wattle and daub walls. The walls were supported by a series of heavy posts, usually 2 to 3 inches in diameter. These poles were placed at four foot intervals around the perimeter of the house and the spaces between the poles were then filled with panels of cane strips. The canes were then covered with a thick coating of mud plaster. Doorways generally faced to the east or southeast. The typical house was about 16 feet in diameter and stood about 8 feet in height.

Among the artifacts used at the site were drills. These were made from flakes or blades of chert and were used for drilling shell. These were found at only a few houses in the site, indicating that not all households where involved with working on shell ornaments.

Also used in making shell ornaments were saws to make the square blanks for making disc beads from mussel shells. The saws were similar to those used at Cahokia.

Shiloh appears to have been a White town, that is, a town associated with peace. Mound C, for example, was initially capped with a deposit of white clay and what appears to be an important pipe was placed in its central tomb. Unlike the burials at other Mississippian sites, Shiloh’s most important burials do not have any warfare-related symbolism. The Shiloh burials seem to be associated with the color white and with a pipe, the quintessential eastern U.S. Indian symbol of peace.

In 1400, the town of Shiloh was abandoned. There is no archaeological evidence that the residents were driven away from the site by violence: their departure seems to have been peaceful. One possible reason for the abandonment of the site could have been that some other location offered greater advantages. After more than three centuries of farming, it was possible that declining soil nitrogen, essential for maize agriculture, had resulted in decreasing agricultural yields.

Another reason for the abandonment might be seen in the collapse of the Mississippian city of Cahokia in Illinois. Since Shiloh appears to have had strong ties to Cahokia, the collapse or decentralization of the Mississippian peoples may have lead to population migrations.

The Shiloh Mounds are within the boundaries of the Shiloh National Military Park. From an archaeological perspective this means that the site has not been disturbed by modern farming. The remains of the original structures of wattle and daub are still visible as low rings or mounds. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Shiloh Temple Mound

The Shiloh Temple Mound is shown above.

shiloh house mounds

Shiloh house mounds are shown above.  

Documentary “The Voice of the Mapuche” is on-line

The independent documentary “The Voice of the Mapuche”, about the vision of the world and the struggle of the Mapuche people on both sides of the Andes Mountains, is participating in the Green Unplugged Festival and can be watched on-line at the following link:


Please continue participating and resending to your friends and contacts. The more people watch it, the stronger it becomes.


    The Mapuche defeated the Spanish Crown invaders, and do not recognize the border that Chile and Argentina have tried to impose.

    Presently, the struggle is focused on maintaining the identity as a people, and stopping the encroachment of multinational corporations in Mapuche ancestral territory. In an effort to increase profits, logging, hydroelectric, oil, mining, and tourist companies among others cause destruction and pollution on both sides of the Andes Mountains.

    The legal, political and military structures of Chile and Argentina favor the interests of big business. The rights of a people whose spirituality is directly linked to Nature are constantly violated. The search for living in harmony with the environment, a horizontal way of organizing, and a resilience that has never been broken, have allowed the Mapuche to resist for over five centuries and assert: We still exist.

    In a journey through different communities of Puelmapu (the land where the Sun rises) and Gulumapu (the land where the Sun sets), the documentary “The Voice of the Mapuche” takes the viewer across rivers, lakes, forests, and mountains. It registers the words and wisdom of Mapuche women, men, children, youth, and elders. The film breaks through the official news blackout, when it enters the prisons where the defenders of Mapuche rights are serving their sentences. Additionally, it covers a hunger strike that went on for over 100 days and gave rise to a wave of demonstrations.

    The music, the paintings, the poetry, the language, the rituals, the traditions, and the strength of Nature and the ancestors are present in “The Voice of the Mapuche”. In this independent documentary, the Mapuche vision of the world is the basis to understand the struggle.

Native American Marriage

The debate over marriage in American society and the fears expressed by some conservatives that allowing diversity will somehow destroy the institution of marriage has been interesting (at some times amusing) to watch. While there appear to be some who feel that there is only one kind of marriage, in reality there are many options regarding marriage. In order to provide some additional depth to an understanding of the complexity of human marriage, I would like to discuss traditional Native American marriage.

First, however, a caution: at the beginning of the European invasion there were several hundred separate and distinct Indian cultures, each with their own view of marriage. I am about to talk about Indian marriage in very broad terms and realize that there are many exceptions to some of the generalizations which I’m about to make.

In American society, part of the discussion about marriage is really about sex. While sex was a part of traditional Native American marriage, marriage was not about sex. Prior to marriage, young people were expected to engage in sexual activities. Sex was not confined to marriage.

The Europeans, and particularly the missionaries, had a great deal of difficulty in understanding that women had power in Indian society and that they had the right to sexual freedom. Indian societies were not organized on the patriarchal, monogamous norms of European society. Christian missionaries were deeply shocked and offended by the fact that Indian women were allowed to express their sexuality. At the same time, many of the European men were delighted by this.

Among some contemporary American commentators, there is a view that there are only two genders: male and female. Yet, in American Indian cultures people did not make this an either/or situation. They viewed gender (and sexuality) as a continuum. Many modern Indians talk about a third sex/gender often called a berdache or two-spirit. Yet in traditional cultures, it wasn’t quite that simple. There was a recognition of the feminine and masculine in all people. There was not an either/or concept of being heterosexual or homosexual. There were in traditional societies male and female homosexuals and transvestites who played important spiritual and ceremonial roles. These individuals were seen as being an important part of the community.

Traditional Native American cultures tended to be egalitarian: all people were equal. This is one of the things that bothered many of the early Christian Missionaries, particularly the Jesuits in New France, as they viewed marriage as a relationship in which the woman subjugated herself to the man. In Indian marriages, men and women were equals.

Polygyny-the marriage of one man to more than one woman at the same time-was fairly common throughout North America. In some cases a man would marry sisters – a practice that anthropologists call sororal polygyny. In general, sisters tended to get along better than unrelated co-wives as sisters usually did not fight.

Former Navajo tribal chairman Peter MacDonald explains Navajo polygyny this way:

“A man would marry a woman, then work hard for his family. If she had a sister who was not married, and if the man proved to be caring, a good provider, and a good husband, he would be gifted with his wife’s sister, marrying her as well.”

Among many of the tribes a widow often married her deceased husband’s brother – a practice which anthropologists call the levirate. When a man’s wife died, he would often marry one of her sisters – a practice which anthropologists call the sororate.

Among many of the tribes, wife exchange was practiced. One man might become infatuated with the wife of another and propose an exchange. If this was agreeable, the two men would exchange wives from time to time. Among the Lakota Sioux, for example, two men who have pledged devotion to each other may express this relationship by marrying sisters and by exchanging wives on certain occasions.

Among the Pawnee, brothers sometimes shared wives. It was not uncommon for two or more brothers to set up a joint household, sharing their wives and their property.

Polyandry – the marriage of one woman to more than one man at the same time – was found among many of the tribes. This practice was often not recognized by Europeans, including many ethnographers, as it seemed so alien to them. The Pawnee, for example, practiced a form of temporary polyandry. When a boy reached puberty, his mother’s brother’s wife would take charge of him and initiate him into sex. He would continue having sex with her until he married. For a period of four or five years the young man, and perhaps his brothers as well, would be a junior husband for this woman, creating a temporary state of polyandry.

Polyandry also occurred as a form of an anticipatory levirate. Among the Comanche, for example, when a man died his wife would become the wife of his brother. Anticipating this practice, a man would allow his brother(s) to have sexual access to his wife. This was seen as symbolic of the brotherhood bond.

In Indian cultures marriage was neither religious nor civil. There was usually no religious ceremony involved, only a public recognition of the fact of marriage. In most cases there was no formal ceremony: the couple simply started living together.

In most Native American cultures, nearly all adults were married, yet marriage was not seen as permanent. It was recognized that people would be together in a married state for a while and then separate. Divorce was accomplished easily since the couple did not own property in common. Each partner simply picked up his or her personal property and left.

Divorce was neither a civil nor a religious concern-this was a private matter among the people involved. Again, the Christian missionaries were shocked by the ease with which Indian couples divorced. They were also offended by the idea that divorce could be easily initiated by the woman.

While some American commentators bemoan the negative impact of divorce upon children, in Native cultures each child had many fathers, many mothers, and many siblings. A child was not property but a member of a large family and thus had rights. Since divorce was accepted and the raising of the child was the responsibility of many relatives, not just the biological mother and father, divorce does not appear to have had negative impact on the children.

Censorship and Indians

Once again an American Indian writer’s work is among the top ten most “challenged” (i.e. banned) books in the United States. Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is ranked as number 2. According to the news report:

Published in 2007, the book remained relatively under the censorship radar until 2010, debuting at the number two spot of most challenged books. The book is challenged for ” offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, violence , and being unsuited to age group (grades 7 through 10).

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/top-10-c…

In his collection of short stories entitled The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, Sherman Alexie mentions censorship in the Third Grade:

My traditional Native American art career began and ended with my very first portrait: Stick Indian Taking a Piss in My Backyard.

As I circulated the original print around the classroom, Mrs. Schluter intercepted and confiscated my art.

Censorship, I might cry now. Freedom of expression, I would write in editorials to the tribal newspaper.

In third grade, however, I stood alone in the corner, faced the wall, and waited for the punishment to end.

I’m still waiting.


And while we are waiting, the stereotypes of American Indians continue to be promoted by non-Indians while the Indians themselves must stand in the corner, invisible to those who are offended by their presence.

Prior to the European invasion, there were no tabooed words or themes among Native Americans. Children grew up in a world in which they were spoken to as human beings and were exposed to all of the things human beings were exposed to, including sex, defecation, urination, homosexuality, and all of the things that today’s censors wish to conceal.

In the 1930’s, Salish novelist Mourning Dove attempted to write down some of the traditional Colville stories. By the time her editor finished sanitizing them for the censors, they were no longer recognizable as Indian stories. In general, censorship of traditional Indian stories, often done to “protect” children, simply constructs and reinforces a racist barrier against any real understanding of these cultures and perpetuates the stereotypes about Indians that abound in sports mascots, political rhetoric (from both the right and the left), novels, popular media, and so on.

Early twentieth century ethnographers who recorded Indian stories and who wanted to record them accurately got around the censors by simply using Latin instead of English. Thus George Dorsey and Alfred Kroeber, in their 1903 report on Traditions of the Arapaho, write:

Stipiti similis est; seed hic stipes timam habere videtur, et anumum quoque video.

While they recorded the story, the use of Latin made it invisible to the general public. Thus any understanding of the Arapaho and other Indians was to be kept in the hallowed halls of academia so that it would not corrupt the general public.

Concern for censorship and its promotion of negative and false images of Indians is not new.  In 1909, a delegation of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal leaders traveled from their reservation in Oklahoma to Washington, D.C. to meet with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and with President William H. Taft. They discussed some land concerns, and then introduced a second issue that is important to them: movies. They felt that movie producers were making movies which showed American Indians as uncivilized savages. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs sympathized with their concerns. Two members of the delegation, Big Buck and Big Bear, went with a reporter to a movie about Indians. Big Buck noted that

“If the white people would only take the pains to study Indian characteristics…he could possibly produce something worthy of presentation to the public.”

One movie producer responded:

“All the shows in which Indians are portrayed are good clean productions passed on by the National Board of Censorship.”

One aspect of censorship can be seen in the relegation of Indians to the mythical past. For example, in 1921, the Museum of New Mexico developed a policy that denied museum access to displaying Indian artists working in oils or in what the museum director believed was a non-traditional style. In other fields, Indian writers are expected to write about the mythical past and are often criticized for writing about things like modern Indian lawyers or detectives. Indians must be Indians, not modern people.

A more recent example of censorship was seen in 1982. A play called Night of the First Americans was performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as a benefit performance to provide scholarships for Indian college students. However, the script segments on treaty violations in the Black Hills and the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee had to be eliminated because the Reagan administration objected to them.

In 1998, schools in Fairbanks, Alaska pulled the book American Indian Myths and Legends by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz from school libraries. The school administration felt that the stories in the book – origin stories which include sexual themes and rapes – were not appropriate for children.

In 2011, the Richland, Washington school district banned The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Spokan writer Sherman Alexie. While none of the members of the committee making this decision had actually read the book, they felt it had sex and profanity in it.

Thus more than a decade into the twenty-first century, Indians remain invisible to most Americans. The stereotypes, shadow images of an imagined past with no basis in reality, continue to persist. Invisibility and stereotypes are created and enhanced by censorship.