The War Against the Yavapai

In 1865, some drunken American squatters murdered Pai headman Anasa. In retaliation, Pai raiders attacked several wagon trains, ran off livestock, and shut down the traffic on the road between Prescott and Fort Mohave. In response to these attacks, the U.S. Army created a line of demarcation which declared that all Indians living more than 70 miles east of the Colorado River were to be considered hostile and subject to extermination. Under this declaration, not only were the Pai considered hostile, but also the Yavapai and Western Apache.  

In 1866, a small party of Tolkepaya Yavapai encountered an American wagon train near Skull Valley. The Yavapai informed the teamsters that this was their land and that the water, grass, and corn belonged to them. The Yavapai told the teamsters that they would allow the Americans to leave unharmed if they surrendered their mules and the contents of their wagons. From the American perspective this was an act of extortion, and in response a group of 13 soldiers-members of the Arizona Volunteers-arrived with orders from Fort Whipple to “punish” the Yavapai. Then more Yavapai and Tonto Apache arrived, including some who had papers showing that they had permission to be in the area. On the third day of the standoff, about 80 Yavapai and Tonto Apache laid down their bows, and displaying their papers from the government, approached the wagon train peacefully. The soldiers opened fire, killing more than 40.

In 1866, the Arizona Volunteers waged a war of extermination against the Yavapai and killed at least 83.

In 1868, a new army commander arrived at Fort McDowell and immediately ordered a campaign against nearby “Apache”. The army informed the peaceful Yavapai under the leadership of Delshe and Ashcavotil that their soldiers were under orders to shoot any Yavapai who wandered away from the post. When 170 U.S. cavalry rode into the Yavapai camp the next morning, the Yavapai fled into the mountains and the cavalry followed. The army then began arresting as a “prisoner of war” any Yavapai who appeared at a military post, even when they came under a flag of truce. Those who tried to escape were shot. The Yavapai retaliated by killing U.S. mail carriers and running off livestock. In response the U.S. troops and their Pima allies began a campaign against the Yavapai.

In 1868, a party of about 30 Yavapai including the headman Quashackama visited the Indian agent at La Paz. They asked for food but were denied rations. They set up camp and waited for the arrival of the Indian Superintendent. At sunrise the next morning, a group of 13 teamsters rushed into the Yavapai camp with guns blazing. They murdered Quashackama and 14 others. The teamsters were seeking revenge for attacks on their wagon trains, but the residents of La Paz knew that these Yavapai could not have been responsible for the attacks. Quashackama had been a friend to the Americans and had helped them to recover strays and stolen livestock. Army officers and territorial officials arrested the teamsters, but a U.S. district judge who was sympathetic to Indian-killers set the murderers free. The remaining Yavapai fled back to the mountains and some took revenge on American travelers.  


In 1870, two Tolkepaya Yavapai men entered the Army’s Camp Date Creek and explained that their people were not hostile but they would like a peace agreement to protect them from military and civilian raiders. Two weeks later a meeting was held with 200 Yavapai under the leadership of Ohatchecama and the Camp Date Creek commanding officer. An informal peace was negotiated. The Yavapai promised to stay off the roads between Prescott and Wickenburg, and to report the presence of Yavapai raiders to U.S. officers. They also agreed to turn in any of their own people responsible for attacks on Americans.

In 1872, the army with 120 U.S. soldiers and 100 Pima scouts tracked a band of Kwevkepaya Yavapai into the Salt River Canyon. With the aid of Nantaje, a Tonto Apache scout who knew the area well, the army located the Yavapai camped in a cave. The army positioned itself below the cave and began firing into the cave. After chanting their death song, 20 Kwevkepaya men charged from the cave. They were quickly gunned down by the Americans. It is estimated that 76 Yavapai were killed in the cave. Eighteen women and children, all of whom were wounded, took cover under the bodies of the dead and survived. The army took the survivors, as prisoners, to Fort Grant.

General Oliver Otis Howard called a peace conference with more than 1,000 Kwevkepaya Yavapai and Apache to quell animosity in the region. The spokesmen for the Yavapai included Pawchine, Sygollah, Wehabesuwa, and Sekwalakawala. All agreed that hostilities should be ended. The Yavapai and the San Carlos Apache promised to help the Americans chase down those who resisted the American invasion.

In 1872, the army called in about 50 Yavapai under the leadership of Ohatchecama to discuss an incident involving a stage coach. The Yavapai left their weapons in camp and came to the meeting unarmed. The Yavapai were innocent of the stage coach incident, but the American general (George Crook) was intent on arresting ten Indians. When the soldiers moved in to make the arrests, the Yavapai resisted, and the soldiers opened fire. Several Yavapai were killed and Ohatchecama and several others were arrested. The remaining Yavapai fled.

Early the next morning, the Yavapai prisoners broke out of the guardhouse. Several were killed and Ohatchecama, with two gunshot wounds and a bayonet stab wound, escaped to the mountains where he died.

Shortly after this incident, Pakota and Takodawa returned from their visit with President Ulysses S. Grant. Upon hearing of the assault, they presented their medals and papers and relayed the President’s promises of peace. Pakota soon found that the pleasant words of accommodation and peace spoken in Washington did not represent reality in Arizona.  

The War Resumes:

In 1872, General George Crook embarked on a war of extermination against the Yavapai. The campaign was carried out by well-armed and well-organized soldiers against scattered bands of malnourished and poorly-armed Yavapai families. The “battles” tended to be one-sided, murderous onslaughts.

The army attacked four Yavapai camps on the Santa Maria River, killing about 40 Indians and taking a number of women and children as hostages. The soldiers burned all of the supplies and shelters in the camps. At Squaw Peak, the army attacked another Yavapai camp and killed 17. In the Santa Maria Mountains the soldiers killed nine more Yavapai.

The following year, as a part of General George Crook’s war against the Yavapai, soldiers attacked the camp of Yavapai headman Notokel. While Notokel and ten others escaped, eight Yavapai were killed and all of their belongings destroyed. Near Fort McDowell, the soldiers attacked a Kwevkepaya Yavapai camp, killing nine and wounding three. Shortly after this, Notokel, two children, and one woman were shot by the soldiers.

Wipukepa Yavapai headman Tecoomthaya moved his people to the extreme north of their territory in order to escape General George Crook’s campaign against them. However, a force of U.S. soldiers with the aid of Pai scouts tracked them down and attacked them without warming. The Yavapai were not given the option of surrender. While most of the Yavapai escaped, the soldiers burned all of their supplies and food.

Over a period of seven months in 1873, Crook’s soldiers killed more than 250 Indians.

In 1873, General George Crook, like most American officials, preferred to deal with a dictator rather than a democracy and therefore appointed Coquannathacka as head chief for all the Yavapai. Accustomed to a military and political hierarchy, Cook wanted to be able to deal with a single leader, preferably one chosen by him and loyal to the Americans rather than the Yavapai.

Unfortunately for the Americans, while Coquannathacka was a respected elder, he had little interest in cooperating with Crook. In addition, he was not much of a talker. When Coquannathacka declined the position, the Americans appointed Motha (later known as Mojave Charlie or Captain Charlie) as head chief. The Americans gave him an officer’s uniform, complete with a saber and black hat, as a symbol of his status as head chief. While Motha could parade about in his new uniform-which he did daily-he still did not and could not speak for or command the Yavapai people.

In 1874, as a part of his campaign to exterminate the Yavapai, General George Crook offered a reward for the murder of the Yavapai leader Delshe. He told his people to bring back Delshe’s head. Delshe responded to this by slipping into the Rio Verde Reservation and recruiting more followers.

In 1875, the Yavapai were force-marched nearly 200 miles to the San Carlos Apache reservation. This ended the primary military campaign against the Yavapai. However, army troops remained behind to hunt down any remaining Indian camps. A few miles east of Camp Verde, army scouts killed six Wipukepa Yavapai men and captured three women and seven children. Farther south, they killed four Tolkepaya Yavapai men and captured one woman and two children.

The Wounded Knee Massacre: 121st Anniversary

( – promoted by navajo)


The Sand Creek Massacre and the Washita Massacre both led to the Wounded Knee Massacre. The Sand Creek Massacre brought the realization that “the soldiers were destroying everything Cheyenne – the land, the buffalo, and the people themselves,” and the Washita Massacre added even more genocidal evidence to those facts. The Sand Creek Massacre caused the Cheyenne to put away their old grievances with the Sioux and join them in defending their lives against the U.S. extermination policy. The Washita Massacre did that even more so. After putting the Wounded Knee Massacre briefly into historical perspective, we’ll focus solely on the Wounded Knee Massacre itself for the 121st Anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Black Kettle, his wife, and more than 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho had just been exterminated, and Custer’s 7th was burning the lodges and all their contents, thus stripping them of all survival means. Sheridan would wait until all their dogs had been eaten before “allowing” them into subjugation, then Custer would rape the women hostages in captivity.

Jerome A. Green. “Washita.” p. 126.

Far across the Washita Valley, warriors observed the killing of the animals, enraged by what they saw.


What did they see, feel, and think?…

And so, when the Chiefs gathered to decide what the people should do, Black Kettle took his usual place among them. Everyone agreed Sand Creek must be avenged. But there were questions. Why had the soldiers attacked with such viciousness? Why had they killed and mutilated women and children?

It seemed that the conflict with the whites had somehow changed. No longer was it just a war over land and buffalo. Now, the soldiers were destroying everything Cheyenne – the land, the buffalo, and the people themselves.

See it? Feel it?

They witnessed and felt the Sand Creek Massacre happen, again.

Consequently, a number of Cheyenne who were present at Washita helped defeat Custer at Little Bighorn.

So, let us proceed from the Sand Creek Massacre,

Why does this say Battle Ground after there was a Congressional investigation?


and from the genocide at the Washita “Battlefield” –

No, it was a massacre.


Petition to Re-name

The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site toThe Washita National Historic

Site of Genocide


According to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life

calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

WE, the undersigned members of the Native American community and the public at large, request that this site of the attack by the United States military against 8,500 Plains Indians camped as prisoners of war along the Washita River in 1868 be designated as the Washita National Historic Site of Genocide.

– to the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890.


Harjo: Burying the history of Wounded Knee

But Wounded Knee was 14 years after Little Bighorn. Would the soldiers have held a grudge that long and why would they take it out on Big Foot? They blamed Custer’s defeat on Sitting Bull, who was killed two weeks before Wounded Knee. The Survivors Association members had the answer: ”Because Big Foot was Sitting Bull’s half-brother. That’s why Sitting Bull’s Hunkpapa people sought sanctuary in Big Foot’s Minneconjou camp.”

The Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890

The first intention of the U.S. Army in part was to detain Chief Big Foot under the pretext that he was a “fomenter of disturbance,” remembering that Native Americans did not have equal rights at that time in the Constitution.

In addition, the real intention was doing a “roundup” to a military prison camp, which would have become an internment and concentration camp in Omaha after they were prisoners. Colonel James W. Forsyth had orders to force them into going there.

Speculating, I bet at least part of the rationalization for the massacre was so the soldiers wouldn’t have to transport them to the military prison in Omaha. Murdering them would have been easier. Then, they could’ve had another whiskey keg, like they did the evening right before this massacre, when they celebrated the detainment of Chief Big Foot. The soldiers may have even been hung over, depending on amount consumed and tolerance levels; moreover, if the soldiers were alcoholics, tolerance levels would have been high.


n : the wanton killing of many people [syn: mass murder] v : kill a large number of people indiscriminately;

“The Hutus massacred the Tutsis in Rwanda” [syn: slaughter, mow down]


White officials became alarmed at the religious fervor and activism and in December 1890 banned the Ghost Dance on Lakota reservations. When the rites continued, officials called in troops to Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota. The military, led by veteran General Nelson Miles, geared itself for another campaign.


Big Foot and the Lakota were among the most enthusiastic believers in the Ghost Dance ceremony when it arrived among them in the spring of 1890.

Chief Big Foot’s arrest was ordered by the U.S. War Department for being a “fomenter of disturbance.” Chief Big Foot was already on his way to Pine Ridge with his people, when the 7th U.S. Cavalry with Major Samuel Whitside leading them approached him on horses. Big Foot’s lungs were bleeding from pneumonia.

Blood froze on his nose while he could barely speak. He had a white flag of surrender put up as soon as he caught glimpse of the U.S. Calvary coming towards them. At the urging of John Shangreau, Whitside’s half-breed scout, Whitside “allowed” Big Foot to proceed to the camp at Wounded Knee. Whitside wanted to arrest Big Foot and disarm them all immediately. Ironically, the justification for letting Big Foot go to Wounded Knee was that it would prevent a gun fight, save the lives of the women and children, but let the men escape. The Warriors wouldn’t have left their women and children to perish, but since the following was reported to Red Cloud:

Red Cloud

“…A white man said the soldiers meant to kill us. We did not believe it, but some were frightened and ran away to the Badlands.(1)

I believe Whitside didn’t want the Warriors to have such an opportunity, under direct orders by General Nelson Miles.

(1): “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown, pp. 441-442. (December, 1890).

“Later in the darkness of that December night (Dec. 28) the remainder of the Seventh Regiment marched in from the east and quietly bivouacked north of Major Whitside’s troops. Colonel James W. Forsyth, commanding Custer’s former regiment, now took charge of operations. He informed Whitside that he had received orders to take Big Foot’s band to the Union Pacific Railroad for shipment to the military prison in Omaha.

Then, came the disarming.

..Colonel Forsyth informed the Indians that they were now to be disarmed. “They called for guns and arms,” White Lance said, “so all of us gave the guns and they were stacked up in the center.” The soldier chiefs were not satisfied with the number of weapons surrendered, so they sent details of troops to search the tepees. “They would go right into the tents and come out with bundles (sacred objects) and tear them open,” Dog Chief said. “They brought our axes, knives, and tent stakes and piled them near the guns.” Still not satisfied, the soldier chiefs ordered the warriors to remove their blankets and submit to searches for weapons…

Yellow Bird, the only medicine man there at the time danced some steps of the Ghost Dance, while singing one of it’s songs as an act of dissent. Simultaneously, the people were furious at the “searches” when Yellow Bird reminded everyone of their bullet-proof shirts. To me, this was the void in time when the Ghost Dancers chose peace over war, and made it possible for the resurgence of their culture to occur in the future. A psychological justification for my saying so, is the Ghost Dancers would also have been Sundancers. Part of the well-known intent behind the Sundance is “that the people might live.”

Continuing on; next, was false blame.

…Some years later Dewey Beard (Wasumaza) recalled that Black Coyote was deaf. “If they had left him alone he was going to put his gun down where he should. They grabbed him and spinned him in the east direction. He was still unconcerned even then. He hadn’t pointed his gun at anyone. His intention was to put that gun down. They came and grabbed the gun that he was going to put down…(1) in proceeding paragraph, p.445.


…The massacre allegedly began after an Indian, who was being disarmed, shot a U.S. officer.


Hotchkiss guns shredded the camp on Wounded Knee Creek, killing, according to one estimate, 300 of 350 men, women, and children.

My Journey to Wounded Knee

More people survived if they tried to escape through this tree row, because there was more tree cover.

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More were massacred if they tried to escape through this tree row, because there was much less tree cover.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


The truth has still been tried to be slanted and concealed, even after over one century ago, because the old sign said that there were 150 warriors. The truth is, there were only 40 warriors.

It was nothing less than false blame, deceptive actions, and blatant lies by the blood-thirsty troopers that started the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. In recognition of the governmental policy of using smallpox infected blankets as germ warfare against Native Americans since the first presidency, the Sioux Wars, and all the “successful” extermination by the U.S. government prior to this last “battle;” would they have had the atom bomb, they would have used it too.

For that would have been more convenient, than loading their remaining victims (4 men and 47 women and children) into open wagons and transporting them to Pine Ridge during the approaching blizzard for alleged shelter at the army barracks, then to the Episcopal mission “unplanned.” They left the survivors out in that blizzard in open wagons for who knows how long, while “An (singular) inept Army officer searched for shelter.”(1)

What that tells me is: they didn’t plan on having any survivors. They planned on exterminating them. Of course, there wasn’t any room at all in the army barracks for 51 people, so they had to take them to the mission. Well…if they’d been white, they would’ve found room for a measly 51 white people.


“…A recurring dream in the mid-1980s directed a Lakota elder to begin the ride as a way to heal the wounds of the 1890 massacre. It continues today to honor the courage of the ancestors and to teach the young to become leaders…The Big Foot Ride began in 1987 at the urging of Birgil Kills Straight, a descendant of a Wounded Knee Massacre survivor. Each year, the riders have come together to sacrifice and pray for the 13-day trip from the Standing Rock Reservation beginning on the anniversary of the death of Sitting Bull and ending at Wounded Knee on Dec. 28, the day before the anniversary of the massacre…”


“…The two-week Ride started in 1986 after a dream told one of its founders that it would “mend the sacred hoop” and heal the wounds of the famous massacre. For the first four years, the ride was led in intense cold by Arvol Looking Horse, keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Woman pipe bundle in Green Grass, S.D. It is now carried on by youths from the Lakota nation, starting in Grand River near Mobridge, S.D. on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and continuing south 200 miles to Pine Ridge…”

The Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians

In the United States the concept of insanity has often been associated with notions of racial purity and the racial superiority of Europeans. In 1898, Congress was considering establishing a facility for insane Indians. One senator testified:

“It has been well established that the percentage of insanity is greater among half-breeds than among full-blooded Indians. That is explained by the theory of crossbreeding, that has a tendency to weaken the race. For this reason it is confidently expected by those who have made a study of these conditions, that the rate of insanity will greatly increase as our civilization grows.”

The following year, Congress passed a bill which established the Canton (later renamed Hiawatha) Asylum for Insane Indians in South Dakota. The bill was primarily promoted by entrepreneurs and real estate developers in Canton who felt that a federal facility located in their town would bring prosperity and employment. Passage of the bill was opposed by the Department of the Interior and the St. Elizabeth Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C. Both argued that the needs of the Indians would be better served by expanding the existing Washington facility. Those supporting the measure argued that the needs of insane Indians were being ignored. They also stressed that insanity was greater among half-breeds than among full-bloods. They pointed to this as evidence that racial interbreeding weakens the race.

In 1901, construction began on the Hiawatha Asylum in the town of Canton, South Dakota. The asylum consisted of a three-story main building with four wings. Several barns were built behind the main building. A seven-foot-high fence surrounded the asylum to keep the patients in and the public out. The entry was through two steel gates with the words “Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians” set in wrought iron in an arch above them.

Hiawatha 2

A surgery/hospital building was later added to the east of the main building. This housed TB patients as well as accommodating infirmary needs.

The first patients were admitted to the asylum on December 31, 1902. By the end of 1903 there were 16 patients in the asylum.

Administration of the new asylum was turned over to Oscar Gifford, the former mayor of Canton and the man responsible for bringing the asylum to the town. He had drafted the land deal for the asylum and thus the Indian Office deemed him worthy of running an insane asylum even though he had neither medical knowledge nor any knowledge of mental illness.

The staff was poorly trained and, in fact, many were not trained at all. Controlling the patients involved kicking, striking, shaking, and/or choking. Treatment involved housekeeping and yard work. Patients were generally kept highly drugged. There were generally one or two employees for an entire ward which might have 20 to 30 patients. Up until the last few years of its operation, the asylum did not hire any actual nurses, but relied on local labor to work as attendants.

Working in conjunction with the local Chamber of Commerce, the Asylum was opened to the public on certain days so that medical professionals and the general public could come and view the “ill” Indians. Advertising to attract tourists to come and see “the crazy Indians” was run as far away as Minneapolis. Showcasing the Indians in a cleaned up area was a popular money-maker for local merchants and for hospital staff.

The patients lived without plumbing or electricity as the hospital administrator would not allow it. In other words, the building actually had plumbing and electricity, but these were not available in the patient wings. Rooms which were supposed to have been bathrooms were often used as storage rooms. With no plumbing, patients had to use chamberpots for urination and defecation. These chamberpots were often full and were emptied only irregularly.

Windows at the asylum were sealed shut to prevent the patients from escaping. Therefore, there was little fresh air in the rooms and the smell from the full chamberpots was difficult to tolerate.

In 1926 an investigation of the asylum found that the staff was grossly uneducated and not equipped to work with mentally ill patients. There was little or no documentation of patient intake, their ongoing treatment, or their progress. The findings of this investigation were incorporated into the 1928 Meriam Report.

Patients were poorly clothed and the 1926 investigation found some would lay in their own feces much of the time. At times patients would be gagged and then locked in a room. Some were handcuffed to their beds or to radiators.

The first patient death was in 1903 and as a result a cemetery was established far to the east of the hospital. It was situated on top of a hill, out of sight of the hospital buildings.

Several babies were born at the asylum-the records are not clear as to how many, nor is there any indication of how many pregnancies were caused by rape. Most of those born in the asylum died there.

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs authorized all admissions to the asylum. In most cases, the Indian agent on the reservation would make a recommendation to the Commissioner and if a bed was available, the Indian would be admitted. At times, some Indians, including children, were admitted simply because they were troublemakers and therefore deemed to be insane.

In 1933, the New York Times ran a story with the banner headline: “Sane Indians Held in Dakota Asylum: Patients Kept Shackled.” As a result there were some changes. Patients who had been shackled were taken out of handcuffs, but in some instances they had been shackled for so long that the keys had been lost. As a result of the bad publicity, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs hired new nurses, but the Asylum administrator refused to work with them and had them fired.

When John Collier was appointed as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, he was asked to investigate the case of a man kept at the asylum because of schizophrenia. Collier personally went to the asylum and found that the patient was not mentally ill. According to Collier:

“the institution was so outrageously cruel and injurious that we would deserve to be blown out of the water if we continued it.”

Collier fired the administrator and sent a doctor-someone who actually had medical credentials and experience in the mental health field-out to the asylum to determine who was actually mentally ill and who was not.

Unwilling to give up their asylum, the people of Canton fought hard to keep the institution open. The city managed to get a restraining order to prevent doctors from getting into the asylum.

In December 1933, 70 patients were transferred to St. Elizabeth’s in Washington, D.C. and 27 were deemed not insane and were returned to their reservations.  

The asylum closed in 1934, having housed several hundred American Indians, many of whom never saw their homes again.

Hiawatha 1

The Hopi Reservation

The Hopi had lived in their mesa-top villages in what is now northern Arizona for many centuries before the United States acquired the right to govern the area. They did not, however, sign a treaty with the United States and therefore did not reserve a portion of their homelands for themselves.  

The designation “Hopi” is a contraction of Hopi-tuh which means “peaceful ones.” While the United States has insisted on dealing with the Hopi as if they were a single tribe they are actually about a dozen independent pueblos.


The Hopi village of Walpi is shown above.

The Hopi reservation in Arizona was created in 1882 by executive order of President Chester A. Arthur. The Executive Order which created the reservation allowed the Hopi only the use of the lands and did not recognize their ownership of the lands.   The reservation was totally surrounded by the Navajo reservation and excluded the major Hopi village of Moenkopi. The Hopi were not consulted in the creation of their reservation and its boundaries ignored a larger area that was settled and claimed by the Hopi. The rather arbitrary boundary lines created by the American government did not please the Hopi. Their ancestral homeland had encompassed hundreds of miles of land and had ranged from near what is now the New Mexico-Arizona borderlands, west to the Grand Canyon, and south to the Mogollon Rim. The Hopi clan petroglyphs and religious shrines had demarcated this area for many centuries.

J. H. Fleming was appointed as the Indian agent for the Hopi. Regarding the Hopi ceremonial dances, he felt that-

“The great evils in the way of their ultimate civilization lie in these dances. The dark superstitions and unhallowed rites of a heathenism as gross as that of India or Central Africa still infects them with its insidious poison.”

There were at least 300 Navajo living in the area which was designated as the Hopi Reservation. They were not asked to leave.

During the 19th century, the United States government policies with regard to American Indians called for them to be totally assimilated into American culture and for any remnants of tribal culture to be eradicated. As a part of this assimilation policy, the United States built a boarding school for the Hopi at Keams Canyon in 1887. The federal government set quotas for attendance from each of the Hopi villages. However, the people in the village of Oraibi refused to send their children to the school.

Three years later, the Hopi in the village of Oraibi were still refusing to send their children to school. The Tenth Cavalry was sent in to “insure peace”. The military troops invaded the village and “captured” 104 children for the school.

At this time, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs arranged for Oraibi leader Loololma and other Hopi leaders to visit Washington, D.C. where they were encouraged to accept allotment, Christian missionaries, and American schools. Loololma returned to the Hopi supporting the American programs.

In 1890, representatives from the Indian Office met with the military at the boarding school at Keam’s Canyon, Arizona to discuss a quota system to force Hopi children to attend the school. The Army was to implement and enforce the program. In the Hopi village of Oraibi, Loololma supported the government program and was imprisoned in a kiva by those who opposed it. Federal troops invaded and released Loololma.

In 1891, the United States sent surveyors to the Hopi reservation to divide the land into individual parcels under the Dawes Act. However, under Hopi tradition land is owned by the clan rather than the individual and the Hopi rejected the attempt to implement the Dawes Act. At this time, the Hopi village of Oraibi was divided into two factions labeled the “hostiles” and the “friendlies” by the Americans. The Hopi “hostiles” pulled up the survey stakes as soon as the surveyors left and the federal government ordered the arrest of the outspoken chiefs at the village of Oraibi who had opposed allotment. The troops were met by armed “hostiles” and the Hopi made a formal, ceremonial declaration of war against the United States.

The soldiers called for reinforcements, including Hotchkiss machine guns. The soldiers took eleven prisoners (the war chief and ten other leaders). Five of the prisoners were taken to Fort Wingate where they were forced to tend the gardens of the American officers. The Hopi prisoners did not stand trial nor were they provided with any legal protections.

In 1893, the Mennonite Church sent Reverend H.R. Voth to establish a mission in the Hopi village of Oraibi. Voth proselytized in the streets and forced his way into the kivas.

In 1894, conservative Hopi in the village of Oraibi continued to voice opposition to the requirement to send their children to school. Federal troops were called in and 19 Hopi men were arrested and imprisoned at Alcatraz Island. Among those arrested and imprisoned was Lomohongyoma.  

The Western Navajo Reservation and Agency was established in 1900 by Executive Order. The new reservation includes Tuba City, Moenkopi, and Willow Springs. In addition to the Navajo, the new reservation includes both Hopi and Paiute whose presence in the area predates that of the Navajo.

To encourage tourism into the southwest, the Santa Fe Railway promoted the Hopi Snake Dance as a tourist attraction and in 1900 published a pamphlet on the dance written by a Smithsonian anthropologist, Walter Hough. In the pamphlet, Hough reassured the tourists that while the Hopi continued to perform their Snake dance, they were not dangerous. According to Hough, Indians were living examples of the childhood of man. While the Religious Crimes Code had made ceremonials such as the Snake Dance illegal, it was not enforced against the Snake Dance because the railroad promoted it and the tourists demanded to see it.

Hopi Women's Dance

A Hopi women’s dance is shown above.

In 1900, Charles E. Burton became the Indian Agent for the Hopi. He ordered that all Hopi boys and men have their hair cut. Those who did not cut their hair voluntarily were to have it cut by force.

In 1901 Tawaqwaptiwa replaced Loololma as the leader of the “friendlies” in the Hopi village of Oraibi. Tawaqwaptiwa was the son of one of Loololma’s sisters.

In 1903, the Indian Agent for the Hopi with a number of heavily armed Navajo police raided the village of Oraibi during the pre-dawn hours searching for children who were not attending school. Men, women, and children were dragged from bed, some naked, some wearing little clothing, and forced to walk, many barefoot, through the snow and ice to the school. They were held in the school all day. The Indian agent told the Hopi that they were to have their children in school, every day, regardless of the weather conditions.

As a result of this raid and other abuses against Hopi children-lack of food, clothing, and medical care-Belle Axtell Kolp resigned as teacher and took the story to the media and to the Sequoia League.

In 1904, the Indian agent for the Hopi forced a number of men to have their hair cut. This was an act which disregards the ceremonial purpose of long hair. Long hair among the Hopi men was a symbol of the falling rain for which they prayed. For the Hopi, for a man to have his hair cut during the growing season was tantamount to asking that the corn stop growing.

In 1910, the federal government once again attempted to allot Hopi lands into small parcels of individually owned land. Once again the program fails. The Hopi do not share the American obsession with private property and farm land is clan owned.

In 1911, Leo Crane, the new superintendent for the Hopi reservation, requested a cavalry escort for a tour of the reservation. He found that four-fifths of the reservation had been taken over by Navajo and their sheep.  

In 1911, a detachment of Black troops under the leadership of Colonel Hugh Scott arrived at the Hopi reservation to help superintendent Leo Crane force the children of the village of Hotevilla to attend school. Colonel Scott went to Hotevilla to interview Youkeoma, the village chief. The troops stood by while Crane and his staff searched the village for children. Sixty-nine children were placed under guard to be taken to the boarding school at Keams Canyon.

Crane and the Black troops next stopped at Shongopovi where village leader Sackaletztewa opposed sending children to school. Using the troops as a way to intimidate the people, Crane searched the village and found three children.

In 1915, the Hopi boarding school at Keams Canyon was judged to be in dangerous condition and was closed. The children were enrolled in reservation day schools.

In 1917, a news service cameraman defied the Hopi rule against taking motion pictures of the Hopi Snake Dance. He was chased through the desert and his camera is confiscated. After reporting the incident to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, superintendent Leo Crane received the order that no photographs should be permitted. The ban on photography continues today.

When the Hopi reservation was created it was named the Moqui Agency, a term which was offensive to the Hopi. In 1917, the reservation superintendent recommended that the name be changed from Moqui to Hopi. In 1923, the name was officially changed.

In 1920, the non-Indian principal of the Oraibi School interrupted a Hopi ceremony when he saw a clown dancer with a huge artificial penis. In the words of the principal, he stopped the ceremony and told the dancer

“that if he ever did a thing like that again, I would put him in jail. He told me that he did not know it was wrong, that it was a Hopi custom.”

In 1921, Robert E. L. Daniel, the superintendent of the Hopi reservation, together with eight employees and seven policemen, all armed with pistols and buggy whips, went to the village of Hotevilla. The people were then forcibly stripped and dipped in sheep dip (black leaf 40). The superintendent wrote:

“We prepared their baths at the proper temperature, bathed them, and boiled and dried their clothes for them while they were being bathed. Yet they had to be driven or dragged to the tub, and forced into it like some wild beast, unblessed with human intelligence. Pure unadulterated fanatical perversity is the only explanation.”

Reports by others differ from that of the superintendent. In the words of Violet Pooleyama:

“They started putting our men and boys in it just as if they were sheep. They took the women and girls and put them in it, too. When the women fought with them they often threw them into the sheep-dip clothes and all. Sometimes they tore the clothes off the women and girls.”

According to the superintendent, the Hopi were dipped because they were “dirty” and they had lice. On the other hand, the Hopi feel that they were forced through this humiliating process as a form of punishment for refusing to send their children to school.

The government officials used baseball bats to club men who resisted and ten of the Hotevilla men were taken to jail in Keams Canyon for resisting. In one instance, they knocked a man out for two hours. When he came to, they handcuffed him, hung him from the saddle of a horse, and dragged him to Keams Canyon.

In 1922, word of the efforts of the Indian Office to prohibit Pueblo religions in New Mexico reached the Hopi. Several Hopi leaders decided to meet in Winslow, a non-Indian town which is located off of the reservation. They feared that if they were to meet on the reservation that the Indian Office officials would arrest them. Meeting with the Hopi was the distinguished writer James Willard Schulz.

Schulz heard the Hopi complain about threats from government if they continued their religion. One elder stated that he would rather be shot down by the government while doing his religion than try to live without it. The Hopi were determined to stand firm and to continue to observe their traditional ceremonial calendar.

Five Hopi visited Washington, D.C. in 1926 and presented four tribal religious dances before an audience of 5,000. The Hopi wanted to show people, including Vice President Charles Dawes and two Supreme Court justices, that their ceremonies were not cruel rites.

The Indian Office in 1930 decided that it was time for the Hopi and the Navajo to settle their differences by having delegates from both tribes meet in Flagstaff, Arizona. The Navajo had 11 delegates: 5 were Navajo from Hopi lands and 6 were Navajo from the western portion of the Navajo reservation. The Hopi had 13 delegates: 10 were from the 1882 reservation area and 3 were from Moencopi (a Hopi pueblo located outside of the reservation area). The arbitrator from the federal government told the delegates that this was an opportunity for the two tribes to resolve their land, grazing, and water problems. The conference, however, settled nothing.

In 1936, only 20% of the Hopi voted on tribal reorganization under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. Less than 15% of the total population supported reorganization, but the act passed and the entire Hopi Reservation was reorganized. The Hopi who opposed the establishment of a single, overall tribal council simply abstained from voting on the issue, a traditional way of showing opposition. As a result, many traditional village leaders refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new tribal council.

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs appointed anthropologist Oliver La Farge to write the constitution and bylaws for the Hopi Tribe. The constitution called for a one-house legislature with a tribal chairman and a vice-chairman. LaFarge proposed the Hopi constitution because he was concerned about what he perceived as the fragmentation of Hopi culture. He apparently did not realize that a centralized government is foreign to Hopi tradition. Despite resistance to a unified Hopi government, a tribal council was established and all of the villages, with the exception of Oraibi and Hotevilla, sent representatives.


The Indian Journal

The media has never been fair and balanced when it comes to serving Indian people and reporting on events which impact Indian lives. Many Indian leaders have felt that it is critical for Indians to have media which they control. One example of Indian media can be seen in The Indian Journal, a newspaper born in Indian Territory (later known as Oklahoma).  

In 1876, Cherokee leader William Potter Ross began publication of the Indian Journal at Muskogee, Indian Territory. However, a fire broke out and the new business was soon on the brink of going under.

The following year, a group of businessmen, including several prominent Creek (David Benson, James McHenry, Joseph M. Perryman, N.B. Moore, John R. Moore, David M. Hodge, Ward Coachman, G.W. Stidham, James McDermott Coody, W.F. Crabtree, D.B. Whitlow, William Fish, David Carr, and Pleasant Porter), purchased the newspaper Indian Journal from William Potter Ross and moved it to Eufaula, Indian Territory.

Under the new owners, the Indian Journal became the public voice in the Creek Nation. The newspaper spoke for the Creek nationalists who believed that some adaptation of Anglo-American ways was necessary to protect Creek sovereignty. From the beginning, the Indian Journal was viewed as an Indian institution which was more concerned with protecting Indian rights than in making a profit.

While the Indian Journal was chartered by the Creek Nation and served as its official organ, the investors hoped that the paper would reflect the actual interests of all Indian people in the territory. Creek Principal Chief Ward Coachman wrote:

“It is absolutely necessary for the Indian race in order to protect their interests, and make known their rights, to have some medium through which to express themselves to the thinking and reading portion of the citizens of the United States.”

Ideals, however, often require money and the Indian Journal, while it was an Indian voice, did not generate enough money to keep it going. In 1878,  the struggling Indian Journal was purchased by its non-Indian editor, Myron P. Roberts.

In 1887, Creek businessman George Washington Grayson led a company of stockholders to purchase the Indian Journal Printing Company which published the Indian Journal. Many Creek were literate in Muskogee and so the Indian Journal now published articles in both Muskogee and English.

In 1902, Creek writer Alex Posey bought the Indian Journal, a weekly newspaper in Eufalia.  At this time, the paper consisted of four pages of local and regional news and four pages of fillers. Through the vehicle of the Indian Journal Posey promoted his ideas of social, political, and economic progress in the Indian Territory, particularly the Creek Nation.

Alex Posey was first of all a writer and a poet rather than a journalist. As a result, he brought a freshness to his news reporting that soon won the respect of other journalists. His literary skills often made seemingly insignificant events and local news both interesting and exciting, even to those outside of Indian Territory.  

Posey also bought the Eufalia Gazette and merged it with the Indian Journal.  

In 1903, Alex Posey attempt to expand his reach by launching the Daily Indian Journal which came out each afternoon. He also continued to publish the Indian Journal as a weekly newspaper on Fridays. Shortly after starting this new venture, Posey sold the Indian Journal and entered into a joint venture to publish the Muskogee Times, a daily newspaper. Posey assumed the post of city editor of the new paper.

In 1908, Creek journalist and poet Alex Posey was killed in a flood at the age of 34. At this time he was the best-known Creek in Oklahoma. For more than a decade his essays, news reports, political humor, and poetry had been read not only in native Creek nation, but also in the Indian Territory at large, in the surrounding states, and in other parts of the United States.

“The Christmas Coat: Memories of Sioux Childhood”

“The frigid gale blew sideways across the South Dakota prairie, and cold rain lashed the children’s bare faces. They leaned into it to stay upright on the reservation road to school.”

Thus begins a children’s book by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. Having spent her childhood on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, she has written about her Native American heritage in books for adults as well as children.

Christmas Coat

In the book, Virginia has outgrown her winter coat and hopes for one that would be long enough to come to the top of her boots and one with a warm hood. While this is a children’s book, the description of poor children, poorly clothed, trudging through a South Dakota winter is a stark picture of reality. It is a reality that is repeated outside of South Dakota and is common on the reservations in Montana and North Dakota as well.

At school, the children ask about Theast boxes. Theast is reservation slang for the big boxes of used clothing shipped by Christian congregations in “the east” to the reservation. If you want to know what happens next, you’re going to have to read the book, or have your kids read it to you. I don’t want to spoil it.

I’m not really a judge of children’s books, in part because I’m rarely around children. On the other hand, I do know something about reservation life and this is a book which provides some interesting insights into the lives of Indian people living in poverty on the reservation. While the story focuses on Christian Indians, poverty and the cold wind of winter don’t really distinguish between Christian and the traditional pagans.

The Christmas Coat: Memories of Sioux Childhood is illustrated by Ellen Beier and her illustrations add depth to the story.…

Wild West Shows

The nineteenth-century wild west shows did a great deal to firmly entrench the stereotype of the American Indian in American culture. This stereotype, loosely based on generic Plains Indian cultures, portrays Indians as savages, as a vanishing people destined to go extinct in the face of American superiority, and hindrances to the inevitability of Manifest Destiny.  

The most famous of the wild west shows was organized by William F. (“Buffalo Bill”) Cody. He began to put together his Wild West show in 1882. The show included Indian dances and ceremonies, but portrayed the cowboy as the true hero of the West and the Indians as warring savages. Buffalo Bill viewed his show as being highly educational. The dances and ceremonies were almost exclusively from the Plains tribes and thus Plains Indians came to represent all Indians. In the show, good and evil were visually represented as simplified moral categories. Non-Indians are considered good and Indians evil. The shows glorified the recent past of the American west and justified the subjugation of the Indian tribes in the name of progress and Manifest Destiny.

In 1883, Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West, Rocky Mountain, and Prairie Exhibition shows thrilled crowds at the Omaha, Nebraska fairground arena. The show used Pawnee warriors and cowboys to recreate the events of the recent past. The show employed dozens of Indians who rode, shot, and whooped their way around the arena. The show was part circus, part ethnographic display, and a self-promoting stage play for Buffalo Bill. While the show was described as “awkwardly staged and poorly performed”, it moved on to Council Bluffs, then to Springfield, Illinois and then east to New York and Boston.

In 1884, an Indian troupe featuring Lakota chief Sitting Bull toured 25 cities from Minneapolis and St. Paul to New York. The troupe was made up of eight Indians and two interpreters. In the performances and publicity, Sitting Bull was portrayed as the “Slayer of Custer.” In general, the press reports from the tour tended to focus on Sitting Bull: his dress, his speech, his table manners, and so on. The tour, arranged by Colonel Alvaren Allen, was not financially successful.

The following year, Sitting Bull toured with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West. In the show, he played a villain and audiences hissed at him when he appeared. Sitting Bull was paid $50 per week and was given the concession to sell photographs and autographs of himself. Advertising for the shows emblazoned Sitting Bull’s name almost as prominently  as Buffalo Bill’s, showing that Sitting Bull was a major attraction.

Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill are shown above.

At the end of the tour, Cody presented Sitting Bull with a sombrero and a trained circus horse. In response to queries from the press, Sitting Bull explained that he was sick of the houses, the noise, and the multitudes of people. In the cities, Sitting Bull saw poor people begging on the streets and he was shocked to realize that the Americans did not take care of people in need. He gave away much of the money he earned to street beggars.

In 1886, the Indian Office (now known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs) began to regulate Indian employment in wild west shows. Among other things, it required the shows to provide chaplains and interpreters for the Indians.

For the 1886 season of the Wild West, Buffalo Bill Cody wanted to use Sitting Bull again as a headliner. However, his request for Sitting Bull was denied by the Indian agent who felt that Sitting Bull was

“too vain and obstinate to be benefitted by what he sees, and makes no good use of the money he thus earns.”

The Indian agent, and the Indian Office, did not feel that the Indians should have any say in their employment. At this time basic freedoms, such as the ability to find employment or to leave the reservation, were denied to Indians.

For the 1886 season, American Horse (the younger) joined the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West as the Indian headliner to replace Sitting Bull. American Horse’s feelings about the eastern cities:

“I see so much that is wonderful and strange that I feel a wish sometimes to go out in the forest and cover my head with a blanket, so that I can see no more and have a chance to think over what I have seen.”

At this time, Black Elk also began dancing in the show. One of his reasons for joining the show was to be able to learn some of the non-Indian secrets. Black Elk would later become well-known among non-Indians as a holy man.

Not everyone liked the wild west shows. From the floor of the House of Representatives, New York Congressman Darwin Rush James criticized Buffalo Bill’s Wild West for its savagery and for allowing Indians to frequent saloons and whorehouses. James, who did not see the New York City production in question, called for a ban on the government licensing of such shows.

The following year, Congressman Darwin Rush James asked the Secretary of the Interior to explain to Congress why some “Wild Indians” had been absent from their reservations and had been

“presenting before the public scenes representing their lowest savage characteristics.”

The request was in response to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.

In direct violation of the 1879 Standing Bear decision which declared that Indians were people and had a right to habeas corpus and due process of law, Indian Commissioner Atkins, in 1887, prohibited Indians from leaving the reservations to perform in “Wild West” shows without the formal consent of the government. He told them:

“When the Great Father thinks it best for Indians to leave their reservations, he will grant them permission and notify their Agent.”

In 1889, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show toured Europe with a group of Lakota, including Rocky Bear, Red Shirt, and Featherman. Parisian artist Rose Bonheur, famous for her animal and nature paintings, spent many hours at the Indian encampment painting portraits of the show’s Indians. After witnessing a French political meeting, Rocky Bear commented:

“you smoke at the same time, you speak all at the same time, and you understand anyhow.”

Wild West 1890

The 1890 Wild West Indians are shown above.

In 1891, Buffalo Bill Cody convinced the army to release 25 Sioux Ghost Dancers who were being held at Fort Sheridan. The Ghost Dancers were to be incorporated into his Wild West for its upcoming European tour. This action removed the Ghost Dancers from the political realm of the reservation. They were now a part of a spectacle which moved across Europe.

When Buffalo Bill’s Wild West performed at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, the Indian Office ordered John Shangreau, a Lakota of mixed heritage who acted as an interpreter, to cut his hair because he would be representing “advanced Indians.”

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was not unique and there were a number of others that also toured the country. In 1895, Montana’s Wildest Wild Show featured Cree who had taken part in the Canadian Riel Rebellion and advertised them as

“the only people in the United States without a country.”

The show played in Chicago, New York, and New Orleans. It disbanded in Cincinnati, Ohio leaving the Cree stranded.

In 1897, Nez Perce Chief Joseph, who was in New York City to participate in a parade for the dedication of Grant’s Tomb, was invited to Madison Square Garden to watch Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. When Buffalo Bill realized that he was in the audience, he rode over and paid his respect.

In 1902, Luther Standing Bear, a Lakota who graduated from Carlisle Indian School, joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West as an interpreter. Luther Stand Bear would later write a number of books about Indians.

Buffalo Bill 1903

Buffalo Bill in 1903 is shown above.

Among those who learned about Indian cultures and histories from the wild west shows were teachers. In 1905, the Miller Brothers staged a roundup for the National Editorial Association at their 101 Ranch Real Wild West in Texas. The roundup included a buffalo hunt in which Apache chief Geronimo shot a buffalo. Geronimo, who was still a prisoner of war, was brought up from Fort Sill with a soldier escort for the event.

The increasing popularity of motion pictures, many of  which were westerns with Indian themes, led to decreasing attendance at the wild west shows. By 1913, Buffalo Bill Cody realized that the end of the live shows had arrived and that the future lay in motion pictures. He tried to make the transition by producing The Indian Wars, a movie about the massacre of Lakota ghost dancers at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The movie was filmed on location and used many Lakota actors. He chose Pine Ridge as the location for his first film because the reservation was home to many professional Indian actors with Wild West show experience that he hoped would translate easily to film.

To portray the American military, Cody arranged for the cooperation of the U.S. Army and General Nelson Miles. Miles insisted that the film show the army story of the battle. Unlike some of the Lakota actors, none of the soldiers actually took part in the battle. According to oral tradition, many of the young Sioux men who acted in the film considered the possibility of the replacement of real lead for the filmmaker’s blanks.

Lakota educator Chauncey Yellow Robe, speaking to the Society of American Indians in 1914, said of the film:

“The whole production of the field was misrepresented and yet approved by the government. This is a disgrace and injustice to the Indian race.”

While Cody had hoped for a blockbuster hit, the film flopped badly. Cody had been concerned, perhaps obsessed, with a precision reenactment. While focusing on accuracy, he failed to pay attention to things like story lines and dramatic narrative structures which are critical in motion pictures.

One of the last wild west shows was organized in 1916. The show featured Buffalo Bill and the 101 Ranch Shows. According to the program:

“Col. Wm. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) actively participates in the military maneuvers as well as in the battle between United States cavalrymen and a band of Indians led by the famous Sioux, Chief Iron Tail, which is a stirring feature of the exhibition…He is accompanied by over a hundred Sioux and other Indians, with their squaws and papooses…”

While the era of the wild west show is over, the Indian stereotypes which they had nourished would live on and be reinforced in the motion pictures which replaced them.  

The Creation of the Fort McDowell Reservation

When the Yavapai came under the jurisdiction of the United States following the acquisition of what was to become Arizona, they were a loose association of locally organized groups speaking mutually intelligible but nevertheless distinct sub-dialects. 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. Following the discovery of gold in Yavapai territory in 1863, the American government and the Americans who settled in Yavapai territory began plotting the removal of the Yavapai from their traditional territory.  

The Colorado River Indian Reservation was established in 1865 by an act of Congress. While the reservation was initially settled by the Chemehuevi and Mohave, many Americans viewed this as a potential home for the Yavapai as well. Soon after the creation of the reservation about 800 Yavapai under the leadership of Quashackama settled on the Colorado River Indian Reservation. Quashackama was given papers attesting to the peaceful intentions of the Yavapai and an American farmer was appointed to help them with their planting. However, the land on which they were settled was land that none of the Americans wanted because the soil was sandy and alkaline and thus difficult, if not impossible, to farm.

Two years later, the number of Yavapai attempting to live on the Colorado Indian Reservation had dwindled to about 300. Under the leadership of Quashackama, Ohatchecama, Chawmasecha, Hochachiwaca, and Quacanthewya they were living on some beef, flour, and corn which they received from the federal government. They supplemented this by gathering mesquite beans in the late summer and harvesting whatever crops they were able to grow. Some did occasional wage work, including prostitution.

In 1867, a group of about 50 Kwevkepaya Yavapai under the leadership of Delshe visited Camp Miller. The army commander of Camp Miller was building a road deep into the Tonto Basin region of Yavapai territory. In discussions with the commander, the Yavapai agreed to take up farming along Tonto Creek once the road was completed.

In 1871, Yavapai leaders Delshe and Eschetlepan met with an army officer to discuss peace. Delshe requested a reservation in the Yavapai homeland, close to the mountain resources which his people exploited, and far from their traditional enemies, the Pima and Maricopa.

At this time, Vincent Coyler, a member of the U.S. Board of Indian Commissioners, visited with the Yavapai and Tonto Apache for the purpose of establishing a reservation for them. Unfortunately, Coyler did not understand that the Yavapai and the Tonto Apache were distinct peoples. In addition, he failed to realize that there were four distinct bands of Yavapai. He envisioned the creation of a single reservation for all of these groups and selected the Verde Valley as the best site for the reservation. While the leaders from the Yavapé and Wipukepa Yavapai bands convinced him that this would be a good location, he never actually talked with the leaders of the Kwevkepaya Yavapai and Tonto Apache bands.

Following Coyler’s recommendations, Fort McDowell and Camp Date Creek were established as temporary asylums for the Yavapai where they would be fed, protected, and cared for by the army. Nearly 600 Yavapai received food and handouts and the army reported that American travelers in the area were now safe. Conditions on the new reservation, however, were less than desirable for the Yavapai: food rations provided too few calories, and U.S. officers treated some Yavapai men to leg irons or confinement in the guardhouse.

In 1871, the Rio Verde Reservation was established for the Yavapai. The army ordered that all “roving Apache” (the army thought that the Yavapai were an Apache group) be on this reservation or be considered hostile. The following year, reservation life for the Yavapai on the Rio Verde Reservation became stricter with the arrival of a new Indian agent. The Indians were now required to attend muster once a day and none of the Indians were allowed to leave the reservation without his written permission. Men on the reservation were required to wear metal tags identifying them by assigned numbers. Men who violated reservation rules were sent to the guard house: some were sentenced to a month of hard labor and some were forced to wear a ball and chain.

A delegation of Indians from Arizona-Yavapai, Pima, Apache, and Tohono O’odham-travelled in 1872 to Washington, D.C. and met with President Ulysses S. Grant. At the White House, each of the delegates received $50, a document which proclaimed him to be a “chief”, and a medal with Grant’s likeness. The Yavapai members of the delegation-Pakota (later called José Coffee) and Takodawa (later called Washington Charley)-were neither leaders nor headmen: they were simply two men who volunteered to go to Washington.

Grant expressed a desire for peace throughout the land. He told the delegates that if their people remained on their reservations and became full-time farmers, they would receive rations and education and they would have no further troubles with the army. While the Indian leaders who were listening to Grant desired peace, the greed and rabid ethnocentrism of Indian-hating citizens of Arizona would make this almost impossible.


In 1873, the Yavapai who were living in the Date Creek area were informed that they were to be moved to the Rio Verde Reservation. The move was being made without their consent. Chawmasecha, who had been an advocate of reservation life, refused to leave the familiar region. He led 240 Tolkepaya Yavapai west to the Colorado River Indian Reservation. While General O.O. Howard had said that the Yavapai could settle on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, General George Crook ordered them to be removed. U.S. Troops along with Pai scouts marched them back to the Rio Verde Reservation.

In 1873, an army surgeon on the Rio Verde Reservation doled out his entire supply of quinine to the sick Yavapai. When a new supply arrived, the Yavapai besieged the doctor for more as it had proved to be effective. This new medicine did not compete with older Yavapai healing practices. The medicine men (basemachas) would chant and dance over their ailing patients and then administer quinine and other drugs which they had obtained from the doctor (who was often in attendance). The army surgeon, Dr. Corbusier, was accepted by the basemachas as a fellow healer and was often presented with gifts of gratitude and invited to sit among them at ceremonials.

In 1874, the Office of Indian Affairs decided to close the Rio Verde Reservation and to move the Yavapai and Tonto Apache about 200 miles southeast to the San Carlos Apache Reservation. By eliminating this reservation, the Office of Indian Affairs would be able to open up the land to non-Indian settlement. Not only would the Americans be able to have the land, but they would also benefit from the irrigation system which had been put in for the Indians. At this time, the Indians on the reservation were well on their way to agricultural self-sufficiency and to being able to produce a surplus to sell.

The decision to move the Yavapai and Tonto Apache came about through the lobbying of government contractors. A self-sufficient, honestly administered reservation would mean a significant loss of business for them. On the San Carlos Reservation, a hotter and drier area with unfavorable farming conditions, the Indians would have to continue to receive government rations supplied, of course, by the government contractors.

Prior to their removal, the Yavapai and Tonto Apache headmen met with the special commissioner sent by the Indian Office to supervise the move. They explained the reasons why they did not want to go to San Carlos, but the special commissioner was drunk and often incoherent. U.S. officers, including the army surgeon, strongly suggested that the Indians be taken around the mountains by road so that wagons could be used to carry the elderly, the young, and the supplies. The special commissioner responded:

“They are Indians, let the beggars walk.”

In 1875, the Yavapai and the Tonto Apache were removed from the Rio Verde Reservation and forced to march some 200 miles through the mountains to the San Carlos Apache Reservation. In February, 1,476 Yavapai and Tonto Apache began their walk to San Carlos under military escort. They walked, climbed, crawled, and waded through the snow, mud, and streams of 180 miles of very cold and extremely rugged mountain ranges. They carried all their possessions on their backs and one man carried his wife in a large basket the entire way.

Twenty-five babies were born on the March of Tears and 1,361 Yavapai and Tonto Apache arrived at the San Carlos Reservation. This suggests that 140 did not complete the trip (taking into account the 25 babies born enroute). Some died along the way while others turned back, unwilling to face life in an unknown land.

Some Yavapai and Tonto Apache families stayed in the mountains to escape the March of Tears.  However, army troops remained behind to hunt down the remaining Indian camps. A few miles east of Camp Verde, army scouts killed six Wipukepa Yavapai men and captured three women and seven children. Farther south, they killed four Tolkepaya Yavapai men and captured one woman and two children.

At the San Carlos Apache Reservation the Indian agent met with the newly arrived Yavapai and Tonto Apache and told them that they must surrender all of their arms. All of the Indians leapt to their feet and dashed back to their camps. However, the Indian agent refused to issue rations until the weapons were surrendered.

Shortly after arriving, a group of about 25 Tolkepaya Yavapai left the San Carlos Apache Reservation without permission and visited the Pima and Maricopa settlements. When they returned, they told the Indian agent that they had friends among the Pima and wanted to settle there. A little while later, a group of 27 Tolkepaya Yavapai left the reservation heading for the Pima settlements. This time the agent sent the Indian police after them. The Yavapai, even though they outnumbered the police, offered no resistance and were escorted back to the reservation.

In 1876, a small band of Yavapai under the leadership of Miraha left the San Carlos Apache Reservation without permission. They walked back across the Tonto Basin, passing north of the upper Verde Valley, and set up their camp just west of the Bill Williams Mountain. This high plateau area had traditionally been an unoccupied buffer between the Yavapai territory and Pai territory. The Yavapai set up their uwas (wickiups) and began to reestablish something of a pre-conquest lifestyle. From the American viewpoint, the Yavapai who left the reservation were considered hostile and in rebellion against the United States. Even though they may have had non-violent intentions, they were to be shot on sight. If possible, women and children were to be taken alive.

In 1877, the army’s Tonto Apache scouts captured a Yavapai woman and child. Her husband soon surrendered at Camp Verde. Using this prisoner as a guide, the army was able to locate Miraha’s Yavapai camp near the Bill Williams Mountain. Without offering the option of surrender, the army attacked the camp, killing seven men and taking three women and four children as prisoners. Five uwas (wickiups) were destroyed. The prisoners were marched back to the San Carlos Reservation.

In 1877, an Indian Office inspector reported that the tensions between the Tolkepaya Yavapai and the Apache on the San Carlos Reservation were disturbing the general harmony of the reservation. Yavapai spokesmen told the inspector that they would like to leave the reservation and were willing to live among the Pima or on the Colorado River Reservation. The inspector recommended that the Yavapai be allowed to leave.

By 1878, a number of Yavapai who had left the San Carlos Apache Reservation without permission had returned to their traditional territory and were living near Wickenburg where American residents employed them for farm work and domestic tasks. Takodawa (also known as Washington Charley as a result of his 1872 trip to visit President Ulysses S. Grant in Washington, D.C.) confronted a Tolkepaya Yavapai woman in the Wickenburg house where she was working. When she refused to leave with him, he then declared that “his heart has gone bad” and left, supposedly to incite other Yavapai in nearby camps. The residents of Wickenberg, fearing the worst, then detained the seven local Yavapai and requested troops be sent from Camp Verde. As a result, 17 more Yavapai were rounded up and taken back to San Carlos.

In 1885, U.S. Army officers took over the management of the San Carlos Reservation and used their powers to interfere with traditional Apache and Yavapai healing practices. The officers felt that the traditional beliefs and practices regarding healing were ignorant and dangerous.

Two years later, the Yavapai leaders on the San Carlos Reservation were able to meet with General Nelson Miles who had been called to the reservation to investigate a recent religious uprising. The Yavapai told Miles that they wanted a reservation in their old homelands. Miles instructed the Yavapai leaders to tour their old homelands and then to meet with him in Los Angeles. While General Miles did not have the authority to relocate the Yavapai on the traditional lands, his recommendations for this action brought sympathetic attention from federal officials.

When the American settlers living near Camp Verde heard that General Nelson Miles was recommending that the Yavapai be returned to a reservation on their old homelands, they sent a flurry of letters and petitions to the Secretary of the Interior, President Grover Cleveland, and other government officials. In their petition to the President, they asked for protection against the Indians and stated:

“Their only ambition is to murder, steal, and plunder.”

The President replied that he was sympathetic to their cause and would not allow the Yavapai to return home.  

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

In 1903, 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 this land be made available to the Yavapai. One concern expressed by the agent was that the Yavapai who lived close to the American communities would be demoralized by the gambling and drinking saloons. On the other hand, many of the Americans in the area argued that their children’s morals would be corrupted by having the Yavapai in the area.

In 1903, 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.

Indian Art in the Late 19th Century

While the mainstream art world did not begin to recognize American Indian art as a distinctive art form until the twentieth century, during the late nineteenth century the market for American Indian arts-or more accurately, arts and crafts-began to develop. This market included pottery, weavings, drawings, paintings, and other items. The new market was driven by tourism, trading posts, museums, and wealthy collectors. During this time, American Indian art began to shift from tribal art in which artifacts were produced primarily for tribal members to ethnic art in which artifacts were purchased by non-Indians.  


Tourists began to arrive in the Indian Southwest with the railroad in 1881. On the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico the arrival of the railroad opened up new markets for native crafts, including blankets and silver jewelry. This market, however, was to be largely controlled by non-Indian traders who held federally issued licenses. From the viewpoint of the American government, allowing a free market in Indian arts and crafts would have run counter to the official “civilization” program which was based on the assumption that American Indians were a “dependent” people who were not competent to manage their own affairs.

In 1895, the Santa Fe Railway began a marketing plan to bring tourists into the southwest. One of the primary attractions promoted by the railway was the area’s Indians, particularly the Pueblos.

On the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico in 1899, the Fred Harvey Company asked traders to have local Navajo silversmiths make souvenirs for railroad tourists. This marked the beginning of commercial Navajo silver jewelry production.

Trading Posts:

In 1881, William Caton, a trader operating at the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota offered Sans Arc Lakota chief Black Hawk fifty cents in credit at his store for each drawing that he made. Caton promised that he would provide Black Hawk with pencils, ink, and foolscap paper for the drawings. Black Hawk agreed and ultimately provided Caton with 76 drawings.

In 1889, Indian agent C. E. Vandever reported that there were only nine licensed traders on the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. He also reported that there were thirty trading posts located just off the reservation. He noted that the

“proximity of trading posts has radically changed their native costumes and modified many of the earlier barbaric traits, and also affords them good markets for their wool, peltry, woven fabrics, and other products.”

At this time, Navajo silversmiths were converting surplus cash (silver coins) into silver jewelry for personal adornment. According to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

“When he becomes hard up between harvests, which is by no means uncommon, these ornament are pawned with the traders, but are invariably redeemed.”

By 1890, Navajo weavers were selling about two thirds of the blankets and rugs which they made. They were producing about $25,000 worth of trade goods each year.


The Hubbell Trading Post is shown above.

While blankets and rugs had become economically important to the Navajo, the Indian agent for the Navajo reported that the older women were still making pottery cooking vessels, but the younger women were not. Since pottery and basketry did not have the commercial potential of other Navajo crafts, their manufacture declined and they were replaced by manufactured items.  

In 1895, the Rug Period of Navajo Weaving began with the weavers making thicker weavings for sales outside of the reservation. The shift from weaving blankets to weaving rugs comes from the encouragement of the traders who realize that there is a growing market for rugs. Noting the popularity of oriental rugs, the traders display examples of border designs which they encourage the weavers to utilize. At this time, regional styles began to develop. These regional styles were sometimes associated with traders or trading posts in collaboration with the weavers.

Hubell Inside

The inside of the Hubbell Trading Post is shown above. Notice the designs for rug borders on the wall.

Two Grey Hills

A Two Grey Hills rug is shown above.

In 1895, Washo basketmaker Dat-so-la-lee brought four willow-covered flasks to Abe Cohen’s Emporium Store in Carson City, Nevada. This began a marketing arrangement that leads to Dat-so-la-lee’s fame as an internationally known basketmaker. Dat-so-la-lee was about 60 years old at this time, and was known for her non-traditional baskets with a spherical shape and a small mouth.  She arranged to weave consistently and solely for Abe Cohen in exchange for goods, fuel, clothing, medical care, and a small home. This arrangement was honored by both parties until her death in 1924.

In 1898, Navajo weavers responded to the patriotic fever of the Spanish-American War by making American flag blankets. It is not known if this idea originated with the weavers or the traders.

As the market for Southwestern silver grew, silversmithing diffused to a number of tribes. In 1898, Hopi artist Sikyatala learned silver work from the Zuni artist Lanyade. Sikyatala then taught this to other Hopi. There were regular trading relations between the Hopi and Zuni and so the sharing of silversmithing techniques would not have been strange.


The Bureau of Ethnology, a part of the Smithsonian Institution, sent an expedition to the Hopi pueblos in 1882 to survey the villages and to make a collection of material goods. They were instructed to “clean out” the Hopi pueblo of Oraibi, but were threatened by the elders when the purpose of the trip became known. Still, they managed to obtain more than 200 specimens at Oraibi and 1,200 from the three villages of Second Mesa.

When the materials from Hopi arrived at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., they were often left outside until space could be found to store them. As a result, many items were damaged and these were simply discarded because the museum staff was overwhelmed by the rapid pace of the collecting carried out by the Bureau of Ethnography.

The following year, Dutch anthropologist Herman Ten Kate visited Indian tribes in the Southwest. He accumulated about 500 artifacts which were sent to The Netherlands. King William I had established the Royal Cabinet of Rarities in 1816 and by the end of the nineteenth century, the Dutch, like the Americans, saw their collecting as a salvage operation undertaken to document disappearing cultures.

In 1884, among the Hopi artifacts sent from Thomas V. Keam’s trading post in Arizona to Washington, D.C. were a mummy, a number of sacred masks (described as having been obtained secretly), and a large box of pottery. Keam hoped that the government would purchase the items for the Smithsonian’s National Museum. However, the government declines to purchase the collection and it is eventually obtained by the Peabody Museum at Harvard University.

The archaeological excavations at the site of Sikyatki on the Hopi reservation help to inspire a revitalization of Hopi pottery. Nampeyo, a Tewa woman from the village of Hano, is inspired by the graceful geometry of the ancient designs unearthed at the site and by the dusty mustard and earth terra-cotta colors of the designs. While anthropologist Jesse W. Fewkes claimed to have introduced these ancient designs to Nampeyo, there are many who feel that the revival of Hopi pottery was already underway at this time.


Nampeyo is shown above.

Wealthy Collectors:

In New York City, George G. Heye began collecting Indian art and artifacts in 1897. Like other wealthy collectors at this time, Heye viewed collecting as a way of salvaging or saving what he could from American Indian peoples before their cultures disappeared. He believed that acquiring objects from Indians or from private collections was necessary to reconstruct indigenous cultures and educate future generations. Heye’s collection began with a few articles of Navajo men’s clothing which he acquired while supervising the building of railroad beds along the Arizona-California border. He would later say:

“Naturally when I had the shirt, I wanted a rattle and moccasins.”

Heye’s collection eventually grew to about a million items. In 1989 the collection was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution.

George Heye

George Gustav Heye is shown above.

Indians on Exhibit

During the nineteenth century, expositions and world fairs were seen as a profitable way for communities to promote themselves while educating the masses. Since Indians were seen as a vanishing people at this time, Indians were often an important attraction at these events. The 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition held at Omaha, Nebraska, was no exception. The goal of the Exposition was to showcase the development of the West, from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Coast. Indians were, of course, a part of this story, though usually seen as hindrances to development.  

Aerial View

An aerial view of the exposition is shown above.

One of the participants in the Exposition was the Apache leader Geronimo. Following this exhibition, he became a frequent visitor to fairs, exhibitions, and other public functions. Since he was a well-known Indian leader and warrior, Geronimo was a great drawing card. At the Exposition and the many events which followed, he made money by selling pictures of himself, bows and arrows, buttons off his shirt, and even his hat.

Geronimo 1

Geronimo 2

Portraits of Geronimo taken at the Exposition are shown above.

An important part of the 1898 Exposition was the Indian Congress. According to the promoters, the Indian Congress allowed a social and cultural exchange among the participating tribes. The Congress was actually a large encampment in which numerous tribes had set up their lodges. Visitors were encouraged to wander through the encampment and see how Indians lived. A total of 545 Indians were selected from 35 tribes for the encampment: preference was given to “full-bloods” and those who had traditional outfits.


The Omaha camp is shown above.


The Ponca camp is shown above.

Government officials realized that the general public had little interest in educated Indians: the public wanted to see “wild” Indians with elements from traditional life including tipis, foot races, games, and so on. The participants in the Indian Congress, therefore, put on ceremonials, war dances, and sham battles for the general public. The sham battles were put on at the urging of a non-Indian fraternal group known as the Improved Order of Red Men. The sham battles were, of course, always won by the dominant non-Indians (or, presumably, the more civilized Indian tribe). This underscored the message that Indians were a race in decline whose only choices were to submit to American rule or to become extinct.

Young Sioux Boy

A young Sioux boy at the Exposition is shown above.

While most of the Indians were from Plains tribes which utilized the tipi, the Indian Congress did include Indians from other areas and other forms of Indian architecture were exhibited. The Wichita, for example, constructed a grass house.

From the Southwest, a delegation of 20 men from Santa Clara pueblo attended. The tourists had an interest in Pueblo pottery, but since there were only men in the delegation, they could not demonstrate traditional Pueblo crafts such as pottery-making. In the Pueblo tradition, the women are potters.

Among the notable Indian leaders at the Indian Congress was the seventy-year-old White-Man, a Kiowa Apache hereditary chief.

Many of the Indians who attended were photographed in a studio setting. Some of these are shown below.


Apaches are shown above.

Hattie Tom

Hattie Tom, Chiricahua Apache, is shown above.

Freckle Face

Freckle Face, Arapaho, is shown above.

Kicking Horse

Kicking Horse, Flathead Salish, is shown above.

Little Snake

Little Snake, Omaha, is shown above.

Moni Chaki

Moni Chaki, Ponca, is shown above.

Sarah Whistler

Sarah Whistler, Sauk and Fox, is shown above.  

Touch the Clouds

Touch the Clouds, Sioux, is shown above.

White Buffalo

White Buffalo, Cheyenne, is shown above.  

Suppressing Indian Journalism

While reservations were lands which were initially reserved for exclusive Indian use, the United States has often administered these lands with the intention of assimilating the Indians into American culture. In dealing with the Indian nations, which the Constitution and the Supreme Court had declared to be sovereign entities known as “domestic dependent nations,” the United States government preferred to establish totalitarian dictatorships and to destroy any remnant of aboriginal democracy. The Bill of Rights, and the Constitution to which they were attached, were not seen as applicable on the reservations.  

Freedom of the press is one of those ideals to which Americans often pay homage, but it has been a freedom which was often denied by the United States government to Indian nations. One example of this can be seen on the Chippewa’s White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

In 1886, The Progress became the first newspaper published on the reservation. The first issue proclaimed:

“We shall aim to advocate constantly and without reserve, what in our view, and in the view of the leading minds upon this reservation, is the best for the interests of its residents.”

The paper also said that while it might be called upon to criticize individuals and laws, that freedom of the press will be “guarded as sacredly by the Government on this reservation as elsewhere.”

After the first issue of The Progress was published, federal agents confiscated the press and ordered editor Theodore Hudon Beaulieu and publisher Augustus Hudon Beaulieu, both tribal members, to be removed from the reservation. The Indian agent forbade the publication of the newspaper and charged that the newspaper had been distributed without the authority of the Secretary of the Interior, the Indian Commissioner, or the Indian Agent. Federal district court, however, ruled that The Progress could be published without interference and the second issue appeared six months after the first.

The second issue of The Progress stated:

“We did not believe that any earthly power had the right to interfere with us as members of the Chippewa tribe, and at the White Earth Reservation, while peacefully pursuing the occupation we had chosen. We did not believe there existed a law which should prescribe for us the occupation we should follow.”

The newspaper, however, continued to annoy the United States government by insisting that Indians had the right to management of their own affairs. Subsequently government agents seized and destroyed the paper’s printing press, effectively putting it out of business.

The National Congress of American Indians

The oldest, largest, and most representative group of American Indians and Alaska Natives is the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Many people also feel that it is today the most politically influential Indian organization in the United States. The NCAI started in the 1940s.  

In 1944 a group of 22 prominent Indians-20 of whom worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs-met at the Chicago YMCA to begin organizing a national Indian organization. Those attending this organizational meeting include:

Arthur O. Allen (Sioux), Ruth Bronson (Cherokee), Mark L. Burns (Chippewa), Cleo D. Caudell (Choctaw), Ben Dwight (Choctaw), David Dozier (Pueblo), Amanda H. Finley (Cherokee), Ken FitzGerald (Chippewa), Roy E. Gourd (Cherokee), Lois E. Harlin (Cherokee), Charles Heacock (Sioux), Erma O. Hicks (Cherokee), George LaMotte (Chippewa), Leona Locust (Cherokee), Carroll Martell (Chippewa), Randolph N. McCurtain (Choctaw), D’Arcy McNickle (Cree), Charlotte Orozco (Chippewa), Peter Powlas (Oneida), Ed Rogers (Chippewa), Harry L. Stevens (Apache), and Archie Phinney (Nez Perce).

Of those attending, only Dwight and Dozier did not work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The group drafted a constitution and bylaws based on those of the Federal Employees Union No. 780. They agreed that active membership should be limited to Indians, but left the definition of “Indian” to the tribes. While the new organization sought to represent the actual diversity of American Indians, it used the government’s list of tribes as its organizational base.

Mark L. Burns was selected as temporary president with Charles Heacock and Ed Rogers as first and second presidents. The provisional executive committee included David Dwight, D’Arcy McNickle, David Dozier, Ruth Bronson, Arthur Allen, and George LaMotte.

A few months later in Denver, Colorado, 80 Indians from more than 50 tribes in 27 states gathered to form the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). The new organization emphasized both tribal and civil rights for Indians. At a time when American Indian policy was once again beginning to return to an emphasis on assimilation, the newly formed NCAI did not oppose the voluntary assimilation of individual Indians into mainstream American society as long as it did not threaten the survival of tribal governments and the tribes themselves.


Those who attended this organizational meeting tended to be progressive, younger Indians who held positions of leadership within their tribes. They were literate and accustomed to dealing with bureaucracies. The participants attended the meeting, however, as individuals, not as tribal appointees.

The Preamble to the Constitution and Bylaws stated that the purpose of the NCAI was

“to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian race; to preserve cultural values; to seek an equitable adjustment to tribal affairs; to secure and to preserve rights under Indian treaties with the United States; and to otherwise promote the common welfare of the American Indians.”

Judge Napoleon B. Johnson (Cherokee) was elected as president and Dan Madrano (Caddo) was chosen as secretary. The executive committee was composed of Stephen DeMers (Flathead), Henry Throssell (Papago), William Firethunder (Sioux), Luke Gilbert (Sioux), Howard Gorman (Navajo), D’Arcy McNickle (Flathead), Archie Phinney (Nez Perce), and Arthur Caswell Parker (Seneca).

The delegates passed 18 resolutions to guide the NCAI for the next year. These resolutions addressed three broad themes: sovereignty, civil rights, and political recognition for all Indians. There were two immediate concerns: (1) the establishment of a claims commission through which the tribes could litigate old land claims against the United States, and (2) the securing of voting rights for Indians in New Mexico and Arizona.

The second annual convention of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was held in 1945 in Browning, Montana on the Blackfeet Reservation. Delegates from 22 tribes attended. The NCAI adopted a policy of electing at least one woman to the executive council each year and Lorene Burgess (Blackfoot) was elected to the council.

The NCAI began with a close association to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the policies of former Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier. At this second meeting, Robert Yellowtail (Crow), an outspoken critic of both the BIA and John Collier, was elected to the council. D’Arcy McNickle (Cree enrolled Flathead and a BIA employee) put forth a resolution to forbid BIA employees from holding elective positions in the NCAI. The resolution passed.

The Browning location was selected because it is in the heart of Indian country and members felt that it would help symbolize Indian unity. However, the remote location meant that the meeting generated very little public relations in the non-Indian media.

By 1949, the NCAI had grown significantly and its annual convention, held in Rapid City, South Dakota, was attended by 212 delegates. Louis Bruce (Sioux/Mohawk) was hired as executive director. At this convention the NCAI passed resolutions protesting the realignment of BIA in which 40 district offices had been closed and 11 area offices created.

Since NCAI was a lobbying organization and as such was not tax exempt it had been hindered in its fund raising efforts. Following the convention a separate organization-NCAI Fund, Inc.-was created to help in fund raising. However, this did not pass muster with the Internal Revenue Service and its name was changed to Arrow, Inc. The trustees for Arrow, Inc. were to be appointed by the NCAI business committee.  

Over the next 60 years, the NCAI continued to develop its skills in lobbying Congress and the governmental bureaucracy. According to its website:

Over a half a century later, our goals remain unchanged. NCAI has grown over the years from its modest beginnings of 100 people to include member tribes from throughout the United States. Now serving as the major national tribal government organization, NCAI is positioned to monitor federal policy and coordinated efforts to inform federal decisions that affect tribal government interests.

Now as in the past, NCAI serves to secure for ourselves and our descendants the rights and benefits to which we are entitled; to enlighten the public toward the better understanding of the Indian people; to preserve rights under Indian treaties or agreements with the United States; and to promote the common welfare of the American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Their current issues and concerns include:

Protection of programs and services to benefit Indian families, specifically targeting Indian Youth and elders

Promotion and support of Indian education, including Head Start, elementary, post-secondary and Adult Education

Enhancement of Indian health care, including prevention of juvenile substance abuse, HIV-AIDS prevention and other major diseases

Support of environmental protection and natural resources management

Protection of Indian cultural resources and religious freedom rights

Promotion of the Rights of Indian economic opportunity both on and off reservations, including securing programs to provide incentives for economic development and the attraction of private capital to Indian Country

Protection of the Rights of all Indian people to decent, safe and affordable housing.

A Yavapai Messiah

When cultures are under stress, particularly when that stress is coming from forced change outside of the control of the people in the culture, a messiah or prophet may emerge who will provide a religious solution to the problems. In 1875, the Yavapai were forced by the United States government to walk from their homelands to the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona, a distance of nearly 200 miles. San Carlos had been established as a reservation for the Apache and the United States mistakenly believed that the Yavapai were an Apache band. Once on the reservation, their freedoms were reduced as the United States sought to impose cultural genocide on them.  

The pressure for the Yavapai to change intensified in 1885 when the U.S. Army officers took over the management of the San Carlos Reservation. The army officers in charge of the reservation increased interference with the traditional Apache and Yavapai healing practices. The officers felt that the traditional beliefs and practices regarding healing were ignorant and dangerous.  

In 1887, the noted Yavapai healer Echawamahu began to spend his days wandering away from his San Carlos Reservation camp. He muttered to himself and looked skyward. He returned in the evening, carrying flowers, and then was gone again in the morning. He went to another world, but the Great Spirit sent him back to tell the people about coming changes.

Echawamahu called a number of Yavapai and Apache to his camp and gave them specific instructions. His instructions called for people from four camps to approach his camp from the four cardinal directions. They were then to be seated in rows. The people were to select four young women to come dressed in white, wearing eagle feathers in their hair. These chosen women would sprinkle dust on each of the seated participants, and then the entire crowd, one by one, would sprinkle dust on Echawamahu. If the people believed and did as they were told, Echawamahu told them, then the Great Spirit would restore their lands.

According to some stories, the Americans were to be struck by a great plague and the government buildings would sink into the ground. If the people would come to a certain place and then dance through the night, then they would be able to return to their homelands. When a large earthquake struck the reservation many Yavapai and Apache were convinced that Echawamahu was speaking the truth. More than 1,000 Indians gathered at a spring known as Coyote Hole for nightly dancing.

The dancing did not bring about the destruction of the Americans: there was no plague, the reservation buildings continue to stand, there was no great fire, the Americans continued to suppress the people. However, the Americans noticed the dancing, did not look favorably upon it (American Indian religious activities were not to be tolerated so that Indians could learn about American religious freedom), and called for a military investigation of the movement.

While Echawamahu’s religious movement was relatively short-lived among the Yavapai, it did set in motion the glacially-fast bureaucratic movement which would return them to their homeland. General Nelson Miles was the army officer called in to investigate this new, illegal, religious movement on the San Carlos Reservation. While the movement was essentially over by the time he arrived, he did interview a number of Yavapai leaders. Coquannathacka, Pakota, Paguala, Eschetlepan, and Snook pled for a return to their homeland. Miles told them that he did not have the authority to order their relocation, but that he would make recommendations to high-level officials in the government. This marked the beginning of their journey home.  

Northwest Coast Canoes

The area along the Pacific Coast north of California and between the Cascade Mountains and the ocean, is the home to many Indian nations who traditionally based their economy on the use of sea coast and river ecological resources. This is an area which stretches from the Tlingit homelands in Alaska to the Tolowa homelands in northern California. The Northwest Coast culture area is oriented toward water: the ocean to the west and the many rivers flowing into it. Before the coming of the Europeans, the villages were built near water: the sea coast or a river.

Haida House

Haida houses and canoes are shown above.  

For a people oriented toward the sea and the rivers, canoes made from cedar were an important part of the Northwestern cultures. Nowhere else in the world were canoes developed to such a degree of sophistication and artistry. The canoes were large, elegant, and seagoing.

NW Coast Canoe 1

Kwakiutl Canoe

Photographs of a Northwest Coast canoes by Edward Curtis is shown above.

The first Europeans into this area were amazed at the carrying capacity and beautiful construction of the Northwest Coast canoes. The canoes were used for fishing, for hunting sea mammals such as whales, and for trade up and down the coast. Haida oral tradition tells of canoe voyages to Hawaii.

Transportation was primarily by water and distances were measured by how far a canoe could travel in a single day. The various Indian nations along the Northwest Coast undertook long trading voyages to exchanges specialized goods and local resources. In addition, distant nations were often connected through marriage alliances among the chiefly elites.

Writing about Northwest Coast canoes in 1868, Gilbert Sproat reported:

“They are moved by a single sail or by paddles, or in ascending shallow rapid streams, by long poles.”

In rough water they would tie bladders of seal-skin to the sides of the canoe to prevent it from upsetting.

With regard to paddling the canoes, Gilbert Sproat reported:

“In taking a seat in a canoe, the paddler drops on his knees at the bottom, then turns his toes in, and sits down as it were on his heels. The paddle is grasped both in the middle and at the handle. To give a stroke and propel the canoe forward, the hand grasping the middle of the paddle draws the blade of the paddle backwards through the water, and the hand grasping the handle pushes the handle-end forward, and thus aids the other hand in making each stroke of the paddle; a sort of double action movement.”

In a moderately sized canoe, two paddlers were able to make about 40 miles in a day.

The reports of sails on Northwest Coast canoes has been controversial. With an ethnocentric assumption that the Indian nations of the Northwest Coast were isolated and “primitive”, and ignoring oral traditions of trade with distant lands (including Hawaii) and trade items showing contact with Asia, most non-Indian scholars have steadfastly reported that the use of sails was introduced by the European explorers. In 1868 Gilbert Sproat explained the sail this way:

“The sail-of which it is supposed, but rather vaguely, that they got the idea from Meares some eighty years ago-is a square mat tied at the top to a small stick or yard crossing a mast placed close to the bow.”

Sailing Canoe 3

Sailing Canoe 1

Sailing Canoe 2

Photographs of Northwest Coast canoes with sails are shown above.

In some instances, cedar planks were lashed between two or three canoes to make extra space for cargo or to make a stage for groups of dancers. Cedar planks lashed across the gunwales of a single canoe would create a platform for a single ceremonial dancer.  

Canoe Dancers

For the people of the Northwest Coast the canoe was more than just a utilitarian object: it was, and still is, a spiritual vessel that is an object of great respect. Respect for spirituality of the canoe begins with its life as a tree in the forest, and continues with the ceremonies involved with cutting down and fashioning it into a canoe. The canoe is a metaphor for the importance of community as the large canoes require a community of workers, people working in harmony both socially and spiritually. The canoe is seen as a living entity, a spiritual entity. Each canoe has its own spirit and personality.

The Northwest Coast canoes are dugout canoes which are fashioned from a single log. Carving a canoe begins with spiritual preparation: the carvers must prepare themselves with fasting, prayers, and the sweatlodge. It is not uncommon for the task of carving a large canoe to take two years. Once the log is chosen, a prayer is said for the cedar and an offering is given to thank it for its sacrifice. The carver then rough-shapes the log, removing the bark and sapwood with an ax and an elbow adze. Then the ends are tapered.

At this time, the log is left to season over the winter. This is a crucial step in that it ensures that the canoe will not crack too badly in later stages of carving. Once the log is seasoned, then the exterior lines of the canoe are established. The inside is then hollowed out, initially using wedges to split out large sections, and finally completing this task with controlled burning and adzing. The final stage in carving the canoe involves the use of hot rocks and water to steam-bend the sides outwards. This steaming also draws the bow and stern upwards as well as adding strength to the vessel.

Finally, the prow and stern pieces are added, the thwarts and seats are installed, and the exterior is finished. Then the canoe is given a name and is ready to begin its life on the water.

The Tlingit in southern Alaska would make canoes during the winter using red cedar logs for the larger canoes. In making the canoe, the outside of the log was first shaped and then the log was hollowed out. To make sure that the canoe walls were of a uniform thickness, small holes were bored from the outside and wooden plugs stuck in them. When the plug was reached in hollowing out the inside, the workers knew that they had reached the proper thickness. Once the canoe was hollowed out, it was then spread to give it greater stability. This was done by filling the canoe with water and then dropping hot stones into the water. Crosspieces would then spread the softening walls of the canoe and these would gradually be replaced by longer ones in order to obtain the correct shape.

With regard to the overall size of the Tlingit canoes, the long-distance voyaging canoes (sometimes called “war” canoes) ranged from 35 to 65 feet long and six to eight feet wide. They could carry 50 to 60 people and had about a five-ton capacity.

The long projecting prows and the high, spur-shaped sterns of Tlingit canoes were used to display clan and tribal crests. The figures on the canoes were generally outlined in black and then filled in with red, yellow, and green.

Tlingit canoes are named and the concept or idea of the name is carried out with figures carved on the bow and stern. Common Tlingit canoes names are Sun, Moon, Earth, Island, Shaman, Whale, Otter, Eagle, and Raven.

The Makah, in what is now Washington State, were highly skilled mariners. Using sophisticated navigational and maritime skills, they were able to travel the rough waters of the Pacific Ocean and the swift waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca with relative ease. They used various types of canoes. Carved from western red cedar, there were canoes used for a myriad of purposes, each one specifically created for that task. There were war, whaling, halibut, salmon fishing, sealing canoes and large cargo canoes. There were even smaller canoes which children used for practice. The canoes had sails so that paddlers could use the wind to their advantage. When they landed, it was done stern first so that, if necessary, the paddlers could make a quick exit. The canoes and their contents were never disturbed as the Makah were taught from an early age to respect the belongings of others. The Makah were tireless paddlers and traveled great distances to obtain food or trade their wealth.

The Makah whaling canoe was about 40 feet in length with the prow of the boat carved separately and attached to the bow. The canoe’s interior was painted a deep red. The exterior of the canoe was painted black with a solution of burnt alder and fish oil or sometimes with a special mud from a swamp. The Makah used woven mats as canoe sails.

The Coast Salish also constructed canoes for sheltered water use in the bays, inlets, and rivers of the Puget Sound area. Salish canoes were made to master the open ocean as well as the waters of Puget Sound and the straits. The Salish people traveled up and down the coast fishing, trading, and hunting. The Salish inland water canoe had a more gently sloping bow and a rounded a bottom. These canoes were very stable.

Among the Coast Salish, when a family needed a canoe, they would commission a canoe-making specialist to make it for them. A good canoe carver could make two large canoes or four small ones out of a single log. The large ocean-going canoes could carry as many as one hundred people.

Over the past decade there has been a revitalization of traditional canoe building among the Northwest Coast Nations.

The Yavapai and Initial Contact with the Americans

In 1851, the U.S. Army sent out an exploratory party into northern Arizona. The Yavapai response to this party was to flee and stay out of sight. In one instance, the American scouts surprised a Yavapai party gathering piñon nuts. The Indians immediately fled and then watched from a distant hill as the invaders plundered their camp. When the Americans encountered a second abandoned camp, they left a tobacco offering instead of looting it.  

Two years later, an American group which was invading Yavapai territory was ambushed. While the Yavapai attackers had the advantage of numbers, their clubs and arrows were no match for the defenders’ Colt revolvers. The Americans reported that they killed 25 Yavapai.

In 1863, representatives from the United States met with the leaders of a number of tribes at Fort Yuma in order to negotiate a treaty of peace. Among those attending was Quashackama, a prominent Yavapai leader.

The purpose of the treaty was to promote safe travel in tribal territories by the Americans. The tribes also promised to help the Americans in their war against the “Apache Tribes.” The treaty was not ratified by the Senate.

About the time when the treaty was being negotiated, gold was discovered at Lynx Creek in Yavapai territory. As with gold discoveries in other parts of Indian country, this brought an influx of miners who had little concern for either Indian rights or Indian lives. The miners disrupted the traditional Yavapai subsistence cycle and began a genocidal war against the tribe.

A group of 38 gold miners using the guide services of Mohave leader Iretaba followed the Hassayampa River into Yavapai territory. A party of 30-40 Tolkepaya Yavapai men stopped the miners. The miners told them that they had come in peace, that their only interest was in finding gold, but they would hunt humans if they met with any resistance. The Yavapai told the miners that if they turned back they would not be molested. Iretaba attempted to persuade the Americans to go west to the Colorado River. The miners, however, were not persuaded and were convinced that there was gold farther north on the Hassayampa. The Yavapai, unwilling to test the miners’ firepower, left. The Mohave guides took the miners’ entire supply of tobacco and then slipped away at night to head home. The miners continued into Yavapai territory, found gold, and staked out mining claims.

American teamsters murdered a Yavapai man they claimed to have caught stealing from their wagon train. Prospectors killed two Yavapai near the Weaver mines. A mining party lost four burros and in retaliation the miners killed about 20 Yavapai. The miners later found that their animals had simply wandered away from camp. In order to deal with the increasing violence-meaning, to reduce the possibility of American deaths-the U.S. Army established Fort Whipple in Yavapai territory.

In 1864, Yavapai headman Quashackama and other Yavapai leaders went to La Paz to meet with the American Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Representatives from the Quechan, Mohave, Chemehuevi, and some of the Pai bands are also present. The Superintendent proposed the establishment of a 75,000 acre reservation along the Colorado River. The Indian leaders agreed to confine themselves to this new reservation and to give up claims to all other lands. In exchange for this, the federal government agreed to provide an irrigation canal to ensure successful crops each year. However, no treaty was signed.

The violence between the Yavapai and the American miners continued in 1864. The Yavapai killed three miners along the Hassayampa River. The killings were in response to the murder of several Yavapai by miners in the past year. In response, soldiers from Fort Whipple attacked two Yavapai camps. Fourteen Yavapai were killed and seven wounded.

American aggression continued when an American rancher led an Indian-hunting expedition into Yavapai territory. The expedition encountered a large group of Yavapai and Tonto Apache who had gathered in four separate camps to gather agave and hunt in the Fish Creek area. When the Yavapai and the Tonto Apache saw the Americans, they held council among themselves. Some reported that there were some Maricopa warriors in the expedition who had called to them and assured them that the Americans had come in peace. Delshe, a Yavapai headman, cautioned that it might be foolish to assume that the Maricopa, their traditional enemies, had suddenly become their friends. After some discussion, a party of Yavapai and Tonto Apache approached the Americans in friendship. The Americans invited them into their camp, seated them, and offered them presents of tobacco, clothing, and piñole. The Americans then opened fire, killing 24 of their guests, including 3 young women.

Following this event, the American Indian-hunting expedition attacked a number of Yavapai camps, killing 30 Yavapai in one attack. Indian-hunting was supported materially and financially by the U.S. Army, the Arizona territorial government, and private contributions. It represented the vanguard of American settlement in central Arizona.

In related events, the territorial governor led an Indian-hunting expedition from Fort Whipple into the Verde Valley where they destroyed a Yavapai camp and killed five Yavapai. In other instance, the California and New Mexico Volunteers raided Yavapai camps and killed at least 30 Yavapai.

In 1865, soldiers from Fort Whipple attacked a Yavapai camp and killed 28 men, women, and children. Among those killed was Hoseckrua, a noted headman.

After 1865, American policies regarding the Yavapai were split between forcing them onto a reservation in some area which could not be used by American farmers and miners, and/or extermination through military action.  

The Lenni Lenape and the Revolutionary War

For the American Indian nations east of the Mississippi River, the Revolutionary War was a time of great turmoil, deceit, and disaster. Both the British and the American rebels sought assistance from and alliance with the Indian nations. While both armies sought Indian warriors, both armies also attacked Indian villages, including those which were trying to stay neutral in the conflict. The war divided many Indian nations, with some Indians favoring one side, some favoring the other, and many expressing the idea that this was not their war. One of the Indian nations impacted by the Revolution was the Lenni Lenape (also known as the Delaware) whose traditional territory included New Jersey, New York (west of the Hudson River and the western end of Long Island), eastern Pennsylvania, northern Delaware, and northeastern Maryland.  

In 1778, the newly formed United States negotiated its very first Indian treaty with the Lenni Lenape. The treaty allowed American troops to pass through Lenni Lenape territory. In addition, the Lenni Lenape agreed to sell corn, meat, horses and other supplies to the United States and to allow their men to enlist in the U.S. army. The treaty also stated that if the Lenni Lenape might decide at some time in the future, they could form their own state and have a representative in Congress. The idea of statehood for the Delaware appears to have been suggested by Chief White Eyes.

We are not really sure how much of the treaty the Indians really understood. Non-Indians who were present at the negotiations have suggested that the work of the interpreters was somewhat deficient and perhaps deliberately deceptive. George Morgan, who was considered to be the Pennsylvanian most experienced in Indian affairs, did not participate in the conference and later wrote:

“There never was a Conference with the Indians so improperly or villainously conducted.”

The issue of the Revolutionary War divided the Lenni Lenape.  White Eyes and John Kilbuck of the Turtle clan displayed continued pro-American sympathies. One the other hand, Captain Pipe of the Wolf clan moved with many of his followers to the Sandusky River in northwestern Ohio, closer to the Wyandots and the British.

In Ohio, American troops, starving and nearly naked, arrived at a Lenni Lenape village. The American commander delivered a pompous oration in which he told them of his great power and his intent to punish any Indians who failed to follow his orders. Traditionally, the Indians would have politely and quietly listened to their guest, but in this instance, the warriors openly laughed at him.

After signing the treaty with the United States, chief White Eyes died of smallpox. Christian missionary John Heckewelder wrote:

“He was a Christian in his heart, but did not live to make a public profession of our religion, though it is well known that he persuaded many Indians to embrace it.”

Many of his contemporaries, and some of today’s historians, have suggested that White Eyes did not actually die of smallpox, but was murdered by an American militia group and then secretly buried.

In 1781, a force of about 300 Americans attacked the Lenni Lenape village of Coshocton, Ohio. The Americans destroyed both Coschocton and the neighboring village of Licheneau. The Americans captured and then killed 15 Lenni Lenape warriors. The Americans used excessive cruelty in the killing of the captured Indians.

Next, the British decided that the Morovian missionaries and their Christian Lenni Lenape at Gnadenhutten, Ohio were providing food and information to the American revolutionaries. The Delaware were stripped of their possessions and herded into a concentration camp on the Sandusky River. The missionaries were taken to Detroit for interrogation. After spending the winter in the concentration camp, the starving Delaware were released so that they could plant their spring crops.

After their release from the British concentration camp in 1782, 96 peaceful Christian Lenni Lenape were massacred by American soldiers in retaliation for raids carried out by other Indians. The unarmed Lenni Lenape knelt in prayer as they were executed. One of the American rangers used a cooper’s mallet to brain many of the kneeling Indians.  Many historians would later call this massacre a sadistic atrocity. The militia obtained at least 80 horseback loads of plunder and the horses themselves.

The day following the massacre at Gnadenhutten, a war party of 140 Shawnee arrived at the scene and manage to kill or capture most of the American soldiers. The American colonel who led the attack was roasted slowly at the stake.

In 1782, the Lenni Lenape living on Smokey Island (also called Killbuck Island) near Pittsburgh were attacked by Americans. In the confusion of the attack, the wampum belts and bark books containing the tribal archives were lost in the river. This was a major blow to the history and oral traditions of the Lenni Lenape.  

The newly formed United States and the British obtained a provisional peace ending the Revolutionary War in 1782.

The Fight for the Black Hills, 1910 to 1943

The Black Hills in South Dakota is an area which is sacred to several tribes, including the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. Geologically, the Black Hills are the site of an ancient upheaval that pushed the rocky strata far above the surrounding plains. The resulting peaks trapped the clouds and gave the region its own climate. During the summers, this was an area which was often used for ceremonies-sweat lodges, vision quests, and Sun Dances-and for gathering medicinal plants.  

In 1851, the United States, in the Treaty of Fort Laramie, assigned the Black Hills to the Sioux in spite of claims to this area by the Cheyenne and Arapaho. By 1875, there were at least 1,200 American miners in the area in direct violation of the treaty. Instead of following the law and protecting Indian rights, the United States ordered the Sioux to stay away from the region and then engaged in a military campaign against them in an attempt to acquire title to the area. In 1877, the Sioux were forced to relinquish their rights to the Black Hills. The new agreement ignored the provision in the 1868 treaty which required three-fourths of adult Sioux males to sign any land cession agreement. Instead, the chiefs and two head men from each tribe signed. At this time, neither Congress nor the American public was in a mood to be bound by legal technicalities.

By the first part of the twentieth century, the Sioux began a new battle, this time in the American courts, to regain the Black Hills. In 1910, a Sioux delegation from the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota travelled to Washington, D.C. where they met with attorney Z. Lewis Dalby to discuss the Black Hills situation. Dalby studied the matter and concluded that a successful claim would be doubtful. In spite of this negative report, the following year the Black Hills Treaty Council was organized on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation to prepare a suit in the U.S. Court of Claims.

In 1913, Sioux historian Bad Heart Bull (also known as Amos Bad Heart Buffalo and Amos Bad Heart Bull) died at the age of 74. In 1890 he had begun a project of recording tribal history based on what the elders had taught him. The history was done in a pictorial (Winter Count) format and consisted of more than 400 pictures. Among the pictures is a map of the Black Hills which emphasizes its sacred sites.

Fighting to regain the Black Hills in the American legal system costs money. In 1914, the Sioux began to stage “singings” at reservation dance halls as a way of raising money to pay for legal representation and related costs in their fight to regain the Black Hills. The agents on the reservation opposed this fight and therefore responded by prohibiting the “singings.” In addition, the Indian Bureau refused to release any tribal money for pursuing their claim.

In 1917, a traditional Lakota chief, encouraged by the Lakota physician Charles Eastman, requested a council to discuss the Black Hills claim. The superintendent of the Rosebud Reservation recommended that the council be denied as the young men in such a council would not be likely to oppose the opinions of the elders. Consequently the Commissioner of Indian Affairs denied permission for the council.

Finally, in 1920, the Sioux were able to file a claim in the Court of Claims regarding the taking of the Black Hills in South Dakota.

In 1930, a Sioux delegation from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, including Iron White Man, George Little Wound, Emil Afraid of Hawk, and Henry Standing Bear, travelled to Washington, D.C. where they met with the Commission of Indian Affairs to discuss their Black Hills Claim.

More than a decade after the case had been filed, the Court of Claims heard oral arguments on the Sioux claim for the Black Hills in 1941. There appears to be no record of this hearing and it is unclear as to whether or not any Sioux tribal leaders were actually present. In 1942, the Court of Claims rejected the Sioux claims for the Black Hills. Legal historians describe Judge Benjamin Littleton’s decision as a “masterpiece of judicial obfuscation.”

As the courts are rejecting the Sioux claims, the misinformation which was being fed to the general public increases. In 1942, Hollywood presented another picture of the Sioux in They Died With Their Boots On, a story of Lt. Col. George Custer’s defeat in the 1876 Battle of the Greasy Grass (Little Bighorn). Not only is Custer elevated to the rank of General, but he is also portrayed as the noble friend of the Indians, a man dedicated to protecting the Black Hills for the Sioux. Crazy Horse, on the other hand, appears to be inarticulate, immature, and perhaps somewhat insane.

In 1943, the Supreme Court refused to review the Court of Claims decision regarding the Sioux claim for the Black Hills. At this point it looked as if the Sioux battle for justice in the American legal system had been defeated.  

The Theft of the Black Hills

During the second half of the nineteenth century, American policies regarding the “civilizing” of the Plains Indians called for them to be segregated in reservations where they could be trained to be Christian farmers. At the same time, non-Indians, obsessed with the idea of obtaining Indian land, strongly felt that because the Indians didn’t know how to farm, the good farm land on the reservations should be opened to non-Indian settlement. In addition, since Indians didn’t value gold, all mineral producing lands should be turned over to non-Indians so that it could be mined. Since it was imperative that Indians become Christians, sacred lands referred only to lands developed as Christian churches, while areas which had been sacred to Indians was simply considered vacant lands which needed to be developed.  

By 1872, American settlers in the Dakotas were complaining loudly about the amount of land locked up in the Sioux Reservation. One newspaper wrote:

“The Indians can make no use of the country which has been set apart for them. The pine lands and mineral deposits are of no value to them, because they neither have the knowledge or inclination to utilize them.”

In 1873, the Dakota Territorial legislature asked the U.S. Congress to approve a survey of the Black Hills which would open this area up to exploitation and settlement. Following this request, General Philip Sheridan received permission from President Ulysses S. Grant and the War Department to build a fort in the Black Hills. Non-Indians assumed that the proposed fort was intended to protect them from the “hostile” Indians, while the Indians viewed this as an invasion of their sacred lands in violation of their treaties with the United States.

In 1874, President Ulysses S. Grant ordered Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer to lead the 7th Cavalry in an expedition to explore and map the Black Hills. Officially, the purpose of the expedition was to find a suitable location for the fort, but in addition it was to examine the topography, flora, fauna, and geology of the Black Hills. The expedition had 900 men and three Gatling guns.  

In addition to soldiers, Custer brought along some miners to help determine if there was gold in the area, and journalists who could quickly let the public know if there was any hint of gold in the area. When the miners reported that they found gold, the journalists sent out reports that fired imaginations regarding easy wealth. With regard to the gold Custer claimed to have found, Professor Newton Winchell, the geologist from the University of Minnesota who accompanied the expedition, doubted that any gold had actually been found. He claimed that the gold which the miners showed-gold which was worth no more than two dollars-was actually gold which they had brought with them to plant in the area.

Regarding the development of the Black Hills by non-Indians, expedition member James Calhoun wrote:

“For the hives of industry will take the place of dirty wigwams. Civilization will ere long reign supreme and throw heathen barbarism into oblivion; … Christian temples will elevate their lofty spires upwards towards the azure sky while places of heathen mythology will sink to rise no more.”

Concerning Indians in the Black Hills, Custer declared that the

“Black Hills region is not occupied by the Indians and is seldom visited by them. It is used as sort of a back-room to which they may escape after committing depredations.”


The army, reflecting Custer’s opinions, felt that if the Sioux were allowed to retain the Black Hills, they would use the area for staging raids against American settlers and miners.

With the exaggerated reports of gold, companies quickly formed for an assault on the Black Hills. There was little concern as to whether or not this would be permitted by the government: in the past the discovery of gold on Indian lands had always led to governmental abrogation of any Indian rights.

Not all Americans, however, were in favor of exploiting the gold in the Black Hills. Episcopal bishop William Hare warned of dire consequences. Hare insisted that the expedition into the Black Hills would violate the country’s honor. The bishop was one of a number of prominent people who voiced their opposition to any gold rush that would violate the terms of the Indian treaties.

In 1875, the Army under the command of General George Crook made a reconnaissance of the Black Hills and found at least 1,200 miners in the region. The miners were ordered to leave, but there was no effort to enforce the order. In his official report, Crook states:

“Now, when I visited the Black Hills country and conversed with the miners in regard to vacating, and reminded them that they were violating a treaty stipulation, it was but natural that they should reply that the Indians themselves violated the treaty hundreds of times every summer by predatory incursions, whereby many settlers were utterly ruined, and their families left without means of subsistence, and this by Indians who are fed, clothed, and maintained in utter idleness by the Government they, the settlers, help support.”

Gold in Black Hills

A photograph of gold miners in the Black Hills is shown above

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs appointed a special commission to go to South Dakota to meet with the Sioux and obtain the Black Hills. The commission was headed by Senator William B. Allison of Iowa and was thus known as the Allison Commission. In general, the members of the commission had no qualifications for negotiating land cessions from Indians. The government proposed that either the Indians sell them the Black Hills for $6 million to be paid in 15 annual installments, or to lease the mining rights to the area for $400,000 per year. In their response to the proposal, the Sioux leaders, particularly Red Dog and Red Cloud, insisted that it must provide for the next seven generations of their people. The Allison Commission failed to obtain the Black Hills for the United States.

The American government brought Sioux chiefs Red Cloud and Spotted Tail to Washington, D.C. to discuss the Black Hills. The government hoped to persuade the chiefs to relinquish the Black Hills. When the subject of the Black Hills came up, Red Cloud got upset and explained that he had come to Washington only to lay his grievances before the President, not to discuss the Black Hills. Red Cloud told the Commission of Indian Affairs:

“The white men tell me lies, and I became so troubled I wanted to come to Washington and see the Great Father himself and talk with him. That is why I have come to see you.”

When the Sioux delegation met with President Ulysses S. Grant, they were all dressed in full paint and feathers. The President was somewhat cool to the Indian leaders. While he said he was glad to see them, he would not talk business with them. The Sioux were not pleased with their meeting with the President. In their discussions with the Indian Office, the suggestion was again made that they should consider moving to Oklahoma.

Red Cloud Delegation

The Red Cloud delegation is pictured above.

Although United States law (the treaties with the Sioux) prohibited Euro-American occupa¬tion of the Black Hills in South Dakota, President Ulysses S. Grant, in a secret November meeting with the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of War, Lieutenant General Sherman and Brigadier General George Crook, brushed aside any treaty obligations to the Sioux and ordered “no further resistance shall be made to miners going into [the Black Hills].” In December all Sioux nations were ordered onto reservations away from their sacred Black Hills, and away from the gold coveted by the Americans. According to the government, the decision to require the Indians to be on the reservations was made to protect reservation Indians from non-treaty Indians.

The United States declared war on the Sioux in 1876. The Sioux had to relinquish the Black Hills or starve. Congress passed an act which provided:

“hereafter there shall be no appropriation made for the subsistence of the Sioux, unless they first relinquish their rights to the hunting grounds outside the [1868 treaty] reservation, ceded the Black Hills to the United States, and reached some accommodation with the Government that would be calculated to enable them to become self-supporting.”

The United States issued an ultimatum to the Sioux: all of the bands were to report to their agency by January 31, 1876 or be considered hostile. This was an impossible order: Indian bands did not usually move in the winter, and second, word would not necessarily reach the off-reservation groups. The army then launched a three-pronged pacification campaign against the “hostiles” who have refused to come in. While the military campaign met with defeat at the Little Bighorn where Lt. Col. Custer and his men were killed, the relentless army troops attacked Indians-any Indians, not just the Sioux-where ever they could find them on the Northern Plains.  

With regard to public relations and non-Indian propaganda regarding the Black Hills, Colonel Richard Dodge’s 1876 book, The Black Hills, declared that the Black Hills had never been the permanent home for any Indians. He also felt that the Sioux don’t really want the area.

In 1877, the Sioux  met in council with the government to sign an agreement which relinquished the Black Hills to the United States. Among the chiefs attending were Red Cloud, Red Dog, Old-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horse, Young-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horse, Little Wound, and Sitting Bull (Oglala). The speeches made by the chiefs at the signing clearly indicated that they neither understood the terms of the agreement nor that they had any intention of abiding by its terms. The new agreement ignored the provision in the 1868 treaty which required three-fourths of adult Sioux males to sign any land cession agreement. Instead, the chiefs and two head men from each tribe signed. At this time, neither Congress nor the American public was in a mood to be bound by legal technicalities.

The Black Hills Are Not for Sale: The Mural Is Up in Los Angeles. Here’s How It Got There

The text of this post was a collaborative project of navajo and Meteor Blades. All but four of the photos, most of which appear below the squiggle, were taken by navajo.

Invisible Indians

This is the third in a year-long series being posted at Native American Netroots dedicated to revealing how American Indians – on reservations and in urban environments – are mostly invisible, a product of long-standing U.S. policy and societal ignorance.

On Nov. 26, 2011, Harper’s magazine Contributing Editor and National Geographic photographer Aaron Huey joined Shepard Fairey, the prolific street artist known to most people for his iconic Obama HOPE campaign image, and installed a stunning 20×80-foot mural THE BLACK HILLS ARE NOT FOR SALE. It’s at the intersection of Ogden and the highly trafficked Melrose Avenue in West Los Angeles near Fairfax.

The result is a beautiful, intriguing “billboard” that we hope will spur those who walk and drive by to educate themselves about what it means. The composition brings visibility to a group that is otherwise pretty much hidden from the rest of the nation, the Lakota people of South Dakota.

NAN line separater


NAN line separater

The Black Hills (He Sapa in Lakota, the language of the people most Americans know as Sioux) were wrenched from the tribes in 1877. Starting in 1922, the Lakota have sought what has become an 89-year-long array of complex legal efforts to have them returned, so far without success.

In 1950, the Sioux Nation filed a petition with the Indian Claims Commission for He Sapa and other lands based on two factors: treaty violations and lack of compensation. Thirty years later, ruling in what is one of the longest running court cases in U.S. history, United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, the Supreme Court ruled that the Lakotas had been unjustly moved onto reservations and 7 million acres of their lands, including the He Sapa, illegally opened up to prospectors and homesteaders in violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. Rather than give the Black Hills back, the court affirmed a lower court decision backing the ICC’s award of $106 million in compensation, which included 103 years of compound interest. It did not include compensation for the vast amount of minerals that have been extracted from the area.

The Sioux Tribal Council said no to the settlement, fearing that agreeing to take the money would mean they could never get back the sacred He Sapa. Thus the slogan, “The Black Hills are not for sale.” In the 30 years since then, the compensation fund held by the government has grown to more than $1 billion, and the pressure inside the Sioux Nation to accept payment has grown in great part because of the continuing poverty and associated ills the Lakota people endure decade after decade. This past August, a case brought by 19 Lakotas seeking to have the money divided equally among individuals was dismissed by a federal court to the relief of tribal leaders.

Considerable hope has been placed in President Obama to resolve the issue. Unlike past presidents, he is widely viewed among Indians to have actually listened to our concerns and promised to deal with them fairly. Since the highest court has made its ruling, only the President and Congress can change things.

Some solutions have been suggested with varying degrees of acceptance among Lakotas. One proposal would release the accumulated funds from the court-ordered settlement and turn over the federally owned land in the Black Hills and other nearby lands. Excepted would be Mt. Rushmore, which hosts the granite faces of four presidents who presided over the taking of Indian land from coast to coast. No private land owned by non-Lakotas would be part of the deal.

In 2009 the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association formed the Great Sioux Nation He Sapa Reparation Alliance in hopes of presenting a unified voice for realizing a settlement that would hold the United States responsible for the violations of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and take action on both the land and compensation issues. Nearly 135 years after the Black Hills were taken, the Lakota people still want them back and seem determined not to sell them, not even for a billion dollars.

Here’s a video of Aaron Huey’s TED talk on the Lakota people and the broken treaties:

Transcript of Aaron’s talk and a timeline of treaties made, treaties broken and massacres disguised as battles.


I have been asked to talk about my relationship with the Lakota. That is a very difficult thing for me because, if you haven’t noticed from my skin color, I’m white. And that will always be a huge barrier on a native reservation. You will see a lot of people in my photographs today. I’ve become very close with them. They have welcomed me like family. They called me “uncle: and “brother” and they welcomed me back many times over in my five years of visits. But on Pine Ridge I will always be what is called Wasi’chu. Wasi’chu is a Lakota word that means “non-Indian,” but another version of this word means “Takes the best part of the meat.” And that is what I want to focus on today: “The one who takes the best part of the meat.” It means “greedy.”

Aaron has been photographing his friends on Pine Ridge since 2004. His goal now is to bring much-needed attention to the Lakota and the history of broken treaties with the U.S. government at Honor The

Ojibwa has more history on American Lies and the Treaty of Fort Laramie

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Meet Miguel Garcia, in the center, with Shepard Fairey on the left and Aaron Huey on the right, Miguel is owner of De La Barracuda, a boxing club at 7769 Melrose. Miguel donated the wall for this installation. The prominent space normally rents for $15,000-20,000.


We arrive after an 85 mph trip from San Francisco at midday and the work is well under way. They started at 11 a.m. This is Shep walking briskly along the wall, directing the volunteer installers.


Volunteers have pasted all that can be done at ground level and are now boarding the scissors truck to reach higher spots.


They have gone through many buckets of wheat paste by the time we arrive.


Shep scoops up excess wheat paste.


Shep swabs the installed paper pieces with a thick coat of wheat paste.


Daryl Hannah and Aaron, who met her at the MountainFilm Festival in Telluride, Colorado this past May. She is now an avid supporter of his Honor the Treaties: Pine Ridge Billboard Project.


Daryl cuts paper snippets of the image to correct imperfections in the pasting. She was on site for several hours.


Aaron plots logistics with Shep.


Daryl and Chet Hay (Aaron’s assistant) join Aaron and Shep to discuss some details of the installation.  



Chet keeps the mural pieces organized.


Lakota pow-wow dancer’s ear is hoisted for installation.


This is Sinuhé Xavier. He knows Miguel, the club owner, and after he met Aaron, he connected the two.


A large portion of the beautiful Lakota pow-wow dancer’s face is being installed by Shep and other members of the team.  


Aaron stacks paper strips for the next upload.

Shots taken by co-author Meteor Blades:


This figure with the outstretched arms is co-author navajo showing how extremely happy she is to be there.


Shep, Aaron, Meteor Blades, Shockwave and Lara. Honorary SFKossacks Represent!


Shep, navajo and Aaron.


Shep’s presence being documented.


Watching and waiting for the next hand-off of paper.


Daniel Salin, a producer and curator for art shows and an installer for the famous international street artist Banksy, takes a break from working on the scissors truck. Daniel was connected with Aaron through Sinuhé. He has done the Barracuda wall before with Shep and photograffeur JR.


Documenting is done from all angles.


Daniel, Shep and Eric Becker


The face gets closer to completion.


Urban Indians: navajo and her daughter mangolind watch the mural’s progress.


Aaron and Shep paste the mural’s strips on the top edge of the wall.


Shep and Daniel, covered in wheat paste.


Aaron finishes the last square of paper!


He turns around with a grin.



Aaron, Daryl and Shep pose with the completed project.



Now for the Pièce de Résistance: The billboard is tagged with HONOR THE




Chet, Aaron, Sinuhé and Daniel are happy to be done.


Sinuhé and Aaron snap pics of their work from across the street.


Aaron, navajo, Sinuhé, Daniel and Taylor Kent, who documented the project with a time-lapse camera across the street.

You can browse more than 290 of navajo’s photos of the installation here by clicking the slideshow button.

NAN line separater


NAN line separater

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The Owe Aku International Justice Project DONATE is guided daily by traditional leaders and elders who speak our language and live our Lakota way of life.  This approach has preserved our nation for 170 years against unyielding attempts to annihilate, assimilate and legislate us out of existence.  Our goal is to do nothing more than continue the process left to us by our ancestors.


Makah Whaling

The area along the Pacific Coast north of California and between the Cascade Mountains and the ocean is the home to many Indian nations who traditionally based their economy on the use of sea coast and river ecological resources. This is a region of immense physical complexity, an oceanic environment clothed in limitless forest covering the rugged and precipitous mountain ranges. The traditional Indian nations located in this region were oriented toward the sea and made large sea-going canoes.  

Among the sea mammals hunted by the Indian people were whales. Whales provided a significant range of importance resources, including meat, bone, baleen, sinew, and gut. The most commonly hunted whales were the California gray whale and the humpback whale. Hunting whales provided some significant challenges to the First Nations people of the Northwest Coast.

One of the whale-hunting Northwest Coast tribes is the Makah who located on the Olympic Peninsula in present-day Washington. The name “Makah” was given to them by the neighboring S’Klallam and refers to the generosity of their feasts. The Makah traditionally measured their wealth by how much they gave away, not by how much they gained. The Makah people refer to themselves as “Kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx” which translates as “the people who live by the rocks and seagulls.” Linguistically they are related to the Nuu-chah-nulth in British Columbia.

Makah Woman Curtis

A photograph of a Makah woman by Edward Curtis is shown above.

Makah 6

A photograph showing fish drying is above.

Among the Makah, the right to hunt whales was inherited and it also had to be earned. Young men would apprentice themselves to experienced whale hunters in order to learn both the technology of the hunt and the spiritual power needed. Whale hunting among the Makah required more than just courage: it also demanded strength (physical, mental, spiritual) and remarkable technical knowledge. This technical knowledge included the use of line and floats, the use of different woods for canoes and harpoon shafts, the behavior of whales, how to read the tides by the sea grass, kelp, and other indicators.

In order to prepare for a whale hunt, the Makah whalers would separate from the community to fast, to bathe ceremonially, and to pray. Each whaler prepared in his own solitary place, followed his own ritual, and sought his own power.

While the hunters prepared for the hunt with fasting and spiritual purification, their wives also prepared for the hunt with purification and ceremonies. An important part of the Makah social and spiritual identity is their special relationship with the gray whales. An exhibit in the Makah Cultural and Research Center says:

“More than anything else, the whale hunt represented the ultimate in both physical and spiritual preparedness and the wealth of the Makah Indian culture.”

Among the Makah, whaling was done by a crew of eight men, each of whom had a specific task to do during the hunt. Once a whale had been spotted, the canoe would approach the whale’s left side. The harpooner, using a harpoon 16-18 feet long made from two pieces of yew wood spliced together, would strike when the whale was about three feet under water. Traditionally, the harpoon was tipped with a point made from mussel shell. In addition, the end of the harpoon would have barbs made from elk horn.

Makah 1

Makah 2

Once the whale had been harpooned, the hunters would throw the line attached to the harpoon overboard. The seal skin floats attached to the line would provide drag to weaken the whale. A series of smaller lances would be used to strike the whale, weakening it and eventually killing it. It would take many hours, and in some cases, days to kill the whale. Once the whale was killed, one man would dive into the water to sew the whale’s mouth shut to prevent the whale from sinking. The whale was then towed ashore and was divided among the people in the village.

Makah 3

On shore, ceremonies and songs would welcome the whale’s spirit and thank it for giving itself to the people. The saddle piece of the whale-located midway between the center of the back and the tail-was considered the property of the harpooner. The harpooner would conduct a special ceremony with this piece.

In 1855, the Makah signed the Treaty of Neah Bay with the United States. According to this treaty:

“The right of taking fish and of whaling or sealing at usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the United States.”

When the gray whale was removed from the Endangered Species List, the Makah asserted their treaty right to once again hunt whales. In 1995, they announced their intention to resume whale hunting. The Makah had stopped whale hunting in the 1920s after the whale population had been decimated by commercial whaling.  This announcement was met with significant opposition from anti-whaling activists. For the Makah, the resumption of their traditional whale hunt was not a commercial venture, but rather it was seen as a cultural and spiritual undertaking. The whale meat was to be consumed locally only by members and guests of the tribe and whalebones were to be catalogued and provided to Makah artists to revive the art of whalebone carving. All of the hunters would be chosen from the twenty-three lineages of Makah families.

In 1995, a Makah fisherman accidentally entangled a gray whale. The federal government allowed the Makah to keep the whale and its blubber was smoked in a traditional manner. This represented a change in federal policy: during the previous 15 years, the Makah had accidentally entangled gray whales 5 times and on each of these occasions, the federal government had confiscated the whale and sought prosecution for killing an endangered species.

According to the International Whaling Commission and the United States government, the Makah are entitled to hunt and kill one baleen whale, typically a gray whale, each year.

In 1998, a District Court ruled that the Makah were the only tribe in the United States whose treaty specifically allows whale harvesting. While the hunting of whales is regulated by the International Whaling Commission, the tribe felt that the court ruling indicates that the tribe is under no obligation to obtain permission from the Commission to engage in its ancient cultural tradition of whale hunting. Anti-whaling groups, such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, vowed to interfere with the hunt.

In 1999, they completed their first successful whale hunt in more than 70 years. The whaling crew used a 32-foot carved cedar canoe named Hummingbird for the symbolic hunt. Following the hunt, the Makah spent several days butchering the whale, cooking the meat, and rendering its oil. The Makah also held a large potlatch celebration in the high school gym. For many tribal members, it was the first time they had tasted the traditional foods which had been staples for their ancestors for thousands of years.

The hunt was accompanied by protests from non-Indians who characterize the Makah as savages, drunkards, and laggards. Anti-Indian racism once again came out, this time cloaked in the moral indignation of anti-whaling rhetoric.