The Fort Shaw Boarding School

In 1892 the army abandoned Fort Shaw, located 24 miles west of Great Falls, Montana . The Indian Office (later known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs) took over the facility and began to convert it into the nation’s fourteenth boarding school. Fort Shaw had been established following the Civil War to protect American settlers from Blackfoot raids. The new school was intended to house 250 students. The initial survey of the structures at the fort showed that 15 of the fort’s 25 structures were judged to be in fair condition and the rest were in poor or very poor condition.  

As with other off-reservation boarding schools run by the Indian Office, discipline was seen as the key to success at the new Fort Shaw Indian School. Discipline involved military style marching: on the parade ground the students would be divided into squadrons with the boys in one squadron and the girls in another. In this formation, they would be taught the rudiments of military marching. Fort Shaw was a former military base and the new Fort Shaw Indian School, like other Indian boarding schools at this time, was run as a military school. Instilling military discipline into the boys and girls, according to the prevailing pedagogical thought regarding Indian education at this time, would instill in them the habits they would need for life outside of the reservation.

With regard to academics, one of the primary concerns was making sure that the students spoke English and only English. Speaking an Indian language was prohibited and students caught speaking Indian languages were to be severely punished.

The school’s curriculum was based on the models established by the earlier Indian boarding schools, namely Carlisle and Chemawa. The boys were to be educated to become laborers or farmers, and the girls were educated to become domestic servants or housewives.

The Indian boarding school on the Fort Peck Reservation burned down, so the government felt that it would be best to ship the students far away from the reservation and the influence of their relatives. Fort Shaw was 350 miles away and thus it was too far away to allow for regular visits by family members. The school’s isolation also discouraged runaways.

Thirty-five boys and girls travelled from Fort Peck to Fort Shaw, arriving there before the school was actually scheduled to be opened. Coming with the students was the superintendent of the Fort Peck school and his wife, both of whom joined the staff at the new Fort Shaw Indian school.

In 1893, the first students from the Blackfeet Reservation (note: Blackfeet is the American name while the elders prefer Blackfoot) arrived at the Fort Shaw Indian School. Soon three of the oldest Blackfoot students plotted their escape. Within days after arriving at the school they made their bid for freedom. Their short exposure to the harsh discipline, confinement, and regimentation at the school made it intolerable. The three escapees found that they could make the 75 miles back to the reservation in a single day and make a makeshift camp where they spent a cold night with no fire. In the morning they voluntarily returned to the school.

Three recent graduates of the Carlisle Indian School were invited to join the staff at the Fort Shaw Indian School as Indian teaching assistants. It was felt that these male and female teaching assistants would serve as role models for the other students.

In 1895, Louis Goings, a Shoshone from Wyoming, arrived at the Fort Shaw Indian School to teach the cobbler’s trade. In addition, he began to build an athletic program modeled after the one at the Carlisle Indian School.

Another addition to the Fort Shaw teaching staff in 1895 was Josephine Langley (Blackfoot) who came from the Carlisle Indian School. At Carlisle, Langley had become acquainted with the new sport of basketball and she began to teach basketball to the girls at the Fort Shaw Indian School. Her request for a regulation basketball and a pair of baskets, however, was turned down by the school’s administration.

By 1897 the Fort Shaw Indian School was now the only school in Montana-for Indians or non-Indians, college or high school-which incorporated basketball into its physical culture curriculum.

In 1900, the Fort Shaw Indian School football teams played local teams in Great Falls and Butte. In Great Falls, Fort Shaw girls led the team out onto the field with bright banners and a series of school yells, In Butte, more than 1,500 fans watched the game.

The purpose of the Indian boarding schools, such as the Fort Shaw Indian School, was to strip from their students all vestiges of their Indian-ness. Thus, when the students arrived, they were stripped, their old clothes were often burned, and they were issued military-style uniforms. The boys would have their hair cut, as long hair was seen as incompatible with learning and American civilization. However, the general public was fascinated by Indians-Indians who looked like the stereotypes fostered by the Wild West Shows. Thus, in 1902 the Fort Shaw Indian School added a new component to their exhibit at the Cascade County Fair: they displayed authentic examples of Indian ceremonial attire and traditional crafts. The exhibit drew record crowds.

Fort Shaw

Shown above is the 1903 Fort Shaw Girls Basketball team in native dress.

Fort Shaw emphasized athletics and its teams competed with a variety of non-Indian teams. However, in 1904, the state teachers’ organization formalized an interscholastic athletic association to systematize athletics. Under the new rules only accredited colleges and high schools were allowed to join. This excluded the Fort Shaw Indian School from competition.

In 1904, the Fort Shaw Girls Basketball Team was invited to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. As a part of this exposition, the Department of the Interior (of which the Indian Office is a part) built a Model Indian School to show that Indian children:

“can talk; that they can sing; that they can learn; that they are docile and obedient; that they are human.”

Students from Chilocco, Haskell, Genoa, and Sacaton Indian Schools lived at the school. About 30,000 visitors a day pased through the Model Indian School.

The Fort Shaw Indian School basketball team played against local land regional championship teams and was crowned the World’s Champion Girls Basketball Team. According to comments in the visitors’ book, the Fort Shaw Girls Basketball Team was one of the major reasons for the popularity of the Model Indian School.

Fort Shaw 1904

The 1904 Fort Shaw Girls Basketball Team is shown above.

In 1910, the Fort Shaw Indian School was closed because of declining enrollments and changes in federal policy regarding boarding schools.

For more about the 1904 Fort Shaw Girls Basketball Team, let me recommend:


2008 Full-Court Quest: The Girls from For Shaw Indian School Basketball Champions of the World. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

PBS also produced a video called “Playing for the World” which provides some additional insights.  

First Nations News & Views: Weaving a Stronger Future

Welcome to First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Each Sunday’s edition is published at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time, includes a short, original feature article, a look at some date relevant to American Indian history, and some briefs chosen to show the diversity of modern Indians living both on and off reservations in the United States and Canada.


Cross Posted at Daily Kos
Potter Valley Pomo Mural Project
Potter Valley Pomo Mural

There are many things you must learn. Reading, working hard, these are the important things.

Edna Campbell Guerrero, Northern Pomo Elder, 1907-1995

Design: Carrie Mayfield

Guided by their art teacher and the input of local Indians, students at Potter Valley Schools, K-12 in Northern California have created a stunning mural that portrays the culture of the Pomo Potter Valley Tribe. The tribe is descended from the first-known inhabitants of the valley, which the Pomo called Ba-lo Kai. Europeans first settled there, at the headwaters of the East Fork of the Russian River, in 1852.

Carrie Mayfield, the art teacher, and Sam Phillips (Round Valley Indians-Concow/Wailaciki), the utility maintenance man at the school, collaborated on a means to recognize the Pomos and came up with the mural concept. The idea was to accurately reflect the tribe’s culture and also educate Potter Valley students.

Phillips, who leads the school’s multicultural club, organized a project team of staff members, Indian and non-Indian students and their families to give input and vote on all aspects making up the final design. The team decided that the tribe’s various woven basket styles would offer the best representation of Pomo culture.

Mayfield began researching basket designs indigenous to the area. Phillips has a close relationship with the Pomos, and he introduced her to Salvador Rosales, the tribal chairman. Mayfield learned the tribe’s history and viewed old photos and artifacts belonging to the tribe.

In an email to News & Views, she wrote:

The history of European settlers in Potter Valley mirrors that of other Northern California communities. Before they arrived, there was a strong and thriving Native community in the valley. The oak trees provided the people with acorns, a staple in their diet used to make various food including mash and the river provided the people with fish. The valley was a richly productive area which supported the Pomo people for many generations. […]

The arrival of the Europeans and their views of the local Indian population caused many local Pomo people to leave Potter Valley to seek work in other parts of Mendocino County in order to survive. The Pomo people who remained were forced onto reservations and “educated” at the first Potter Valley School, a quarter mile away from the present school site where I now teach.

Like many other California Indians, the Pomo are known for their petroglyphs. But, since the 1960s, the current land-owners, descendants of those first European settlers, have not permitted the tribe to document or photograph the rock carvings, preventing it from recording its own history.

Tarweed GathererMayfield’s research led her to the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, 18 miles down the road. Hudson, one of the first European settlers, collected the baskets of the Northern Pomo. During her lifetime, the nationally known Hudson painted 684 portraits of Pomos.

Once the mural’s purpose was explained, the museum was extremely cooperative and removed the baskets from their cases, allowing Mayfield to photograph them. The intricate basket designs took a long time to sketch. From her photos of the baskets, she reproduced accurate colors of the weavers’ craftsmanship.

The local school board granted the prominent location Mayfield originally wanted. Phillips raised money through the multicultural club to buy materials. Finally, with preparatory work completed, student volunteers set to work painting the mural.

An Indian 5th-grader suggested Weaving a Stronger Future as the original mural text. “But,” Mayfield said, “Sam had discovered in talking with the elders that this simple, yet powerful statement could not be translated into Pomo since there is no direct translation for the word or even the concept of future in Pomo language.” Phillips then found the Northern Pomo elder’s quotation by Edna Campbell Guerrero and the mural committee approved it. The mural incorporates Mayfield’s idea of including Pomo translated into English. A hundred invitations featuring the mural design were sent to local schools, multicultural clubs and to Pomo tribespeople. The two-year project was unveiled on Nov. 18, 2011.

Mayfield currently is at work helping to put together a presentation for elementary classes so pupils can gain an early understanding of the mural’s significance and that of the original inhabitants of the land they occupy.

Pomo Mural Project

Photographer: Carrie Mayfield

Mayfield’s purpose is strong:

To me, this mural was just the first step in a long process this community must make to begin to right the wrongs of the past. The earliest inhabitants of this valley must be recognized and honored so that their descendants, including my students, may feel pride in their heritage, their culture, and themselves. The Potter Valley tribe is currently working to buy back the lands taken from them and regain sacred sites, weaving a stronger future for tribal youth in Potter Valley.

-News & Views h/t to elfling

Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider
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Osceola by George Catlin (1837)

This Week in American Indian History in 1838

They called him a “renegade.” That was the label attached to Indians who refused to go where and do what they were told as well as give up the land they lived on. Osceola was his name, “Black Drink,” and he and his small band of Seminoles, had by late 1837 been engaged in highly effective guerrilla warfare for two years in what became known as the Second Seminole War, the most expensive unresolved U.S. conflict with Indians in history. Like many Seminoles, then and today, he was a mix of Creek, Scottish, English and African American blood, and he sometimes went by the name Billy Powell, after the Englishman presumed to be his father, William Powell. In October 1837, after many victorious battles, Osceola agreed to meet for negotiations under a flag of truce at Fort Payton, Fla. It was a trick. He was disarmed and arrested, held at Fort Marion in St. Augustine and later moved to Fort Moultrie, in Charleston, S.C.

The deception generated a national outcry, and many people came to visit him, including the famous artist George Catlin, who persuaded him to pose for a painting. So many painters wanted to capture Osceola’s likeness, in fact, that he sat for more than one at a time. But Catlin was his favorite and they often talked late into the night. A little more than a month after his arrival in South Carolina, on Jan. 30, 1838, he was found dead in his prison cell, the official verdict being malaria, although others say he died of a broken heart. He was buried with full military honors. But his head was later removed and embalmed, its whereabouts being today unknown. Osceola’s death produced an outpouring of engravings and paintings, many of them bogus. Catlin’s was by far the best, catching the warrior with a finely detailed elegant gracefulness. Among the lesser works were widely circulated portraits showing Osceola dressed in Plains Indian-style buckskins with tipis in the background, a form of shelter Southeastern Indians would not recognize. You can see a small collection of these portraits and descriptions of them at this excellent web site. – Meteor Blades

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New & Views Briefs by Meteor Blades

Jefferson Keel

NCAI President Asks Feds for More Flexibility

Two days after President Obama’s State of the Union address, Jefferson Keel (Chickasaw) gave a speech in Washington, D.C., on the State of Indian Nations. Keel, lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation, is president of the National Congress of American Indians. Obama, he said, should give Indians greater attention.

“He’s kept his word,” Keel said. “He has placed people in strategic and important places in his administration and they’re doing a tremendous job, but it’s limited. Again, access is limited and we need to expand that and we need broader support.” Many of the areas where broader support is needed are familiar – better health services, and enhanced sovereignty on Indian lands. Other are less known outside the American Indian community. Keel urged reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act re-authorization and passage of the Save Native Women Act, “both of which would take critical steps to address the horrific rates of violence being perpetrated against” Indian women.

Another concern is education and the digital divide. Keel pointed out that only one out of every 10 people living on tribal land have access to broadband Internet service. He urged passage of a bill introduced last year. “The Native CLASS Act [Culture, Language, and Access for Success in Schools] offers the chance to provide the education our young people need to succeed today and build economies that Indian country needs for tomorrow. Our young people must not be left behind anymore.”

Keel focused considerable time on resource development on tribal lands. “Tribal governments have proven their capacities to grow our economies, educate our people and manage our resources. We need our federal government to put the decisions back in the hands of people who live in Indian country, the people who know best because these are our homelands, these are our people.

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Obama Calls His Administration ‘Turning Point’ for Indians

At an election fund-raiser with the Native American Leadership Council in Washington, D.C., Friday, President Barack Obama said times have changed in the federal government’s relationship with American Indians.

I believe that one day we’re going to be able to look back on these years and say this was a turning point in nation-to-nation relations; that this was turning point when the nations all across the country recognized that they were full partners, treated with dignity and respect and consultation; that this wasn’t just a side note on a White House agenda, but this was part and parcel of our broader agenda to make sure that everybody has opportunity. […] As long as Native Americans face unemployment rates that are far higher than the national average, we’ve got more work to do. We want new businesses and new opportunities to take root on the reservation. We want to stop repeating the mistakes of the past.

About 70 people paid at least $15,000 for tickets to the event, with the money benefiting the Obama Victory Fund.

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Rosebud Reservation Students Challenge ABC Report with Video

Like many other Americans, students at the Todd County High School on the Rosebud Reservation of South Dakota had a visceral reaction to ABC’s “A Hidden America: Children of the Plains,” which aired in October 2011. But theirs was different than the reaction of others. The program, a report about children on the Pine Ridge Reservation by Diane Sawyer, focused a lot of attention on familiar problems: poverty, violence, alcoholism and obesity. The people at Pine Ridge and Rosebud are members of tribes most Americans call the Sioux.

About 50 of the high school students felt they were stereotyped. Led by Feather Colombe, they produced a reply video called “More Than That.” It’s now been viewed more than 40,000 times on YouTube.

In the view of kaneratiio:

The ABC “special” was more about Diane Sawyer trying to promote herself than telling a truth about Native life. Her “special” was opportunistic, condescending and misleading. The fact of the matter is that the problems on Native lands are not because time forgot us. It is the direct result of state and federal government policies and the clear complicity of the American people. It is this generation that will swing the pendulum back the other way with no help from Diane Sawyer on horseback.

Here’s the video:…

News & Views h/t to Bill in MD

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Bermuda Indians Spread the Word About Their Ancestry

Beginning in 1637, and for more than a century, thousands of American Indians were sold into slavery in Caribbean. Today in Bermuda, descendants of these captives and survivors of battles and massacres prosecuted by New England Puritans and other European settlers seek to reconnect with their roots. Their ancestors include the Pequot and Wampanoag, the latter being the tribe whose assistance rescued those Pilgrims who survived the winter of 1620.

One of the groups seeking to teach islanders and others about their past is the St. David’s Islanders and Native Community. Members have attended Indian pow-wows in the United States and held several bi-annual pow-wows of their own in Bermuda. “Our mission is to teach people about our Native American ancestry,” says group secretary Patricia Raynor. “We often speak at schools about it. We give a talk and show them one dance.”

To raise money to further its aims, a trustee of the group, chef and graphic artist Kevin Watson, designed a blanket. Its colors, blue and white, represent the tribes of the northeast and of St. David’s, according to Watson. In the center is the group’s logo, two hands clasping one another, which “represents our reconnection with our relatives in New England after 300 plus years.” The blanket also depicts Bermuda cedar, palmetto, and a longtail bird. In addition there are rockfish, turtles and a marine mollusc called suck-rocks, all of them once used by St. David’s Islanders for food.

From left Kevin Watson, Patricia Raynor and Ronnie Chameau with the newly designed blanket to raise funds

for the St David’s Islanders and Native Community organization. (Photo by Glenn Tucker )
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Wenona Benally Baldenegro

Two Indian Congressional Candidates Praise Giffords

Upon learning that Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is resigning from her 8th District Arizona congressional seat, two American Indian candidates who are seeking the Democratic nomination for Congressional seats in their states strongly praised her. Giffords, who was nearly killed in a shooting a year ago and has resigned to finish her recovery, is widely viewed as a friend of Indians.

Wenona Benally Baldenegro (Navajo) is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for Arizona’s 1st District in the July 19 primary. You can read more about her in this Daily Kos diary. She stated:

I thank Congresswoman Giffords for her extraordinary dedication and commitment to serving the great state of Arizona and our nation. Giffords’ courage and strength, in the face of such adversity, has been an inspiration to all of us. Her profound passion for public service has inspired me to answer her call to join together to work for Arizona and this great country.

Derek Bailey

Tribal Chairman Derek Bailey (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians), who hopes to obtain his party’s nomination for Michigan’s 1st District in the Aug. 7 primary, stated:

Congress is losing a hero with Representative Gabrielle Giffords taking some time off. Gabby is not just a hero because she has so bravely and successfully fought back from that horrific day a year ago. But she is a hero because she refused to play the partisan, political games in Congress that are so harming our country. Gabby preached bipartisanship, and set an example in working to get things done no matter whose idea it was. We are eternally grateful to her for her service. Gabby and her husband Mark have been and remain in our prayers.

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Washington State Ponders Naming Holiday to Honor Indians

On January 22, 1855, leaders of the Duwamish, Suquamish and other Indians in Puget Sound surrendered their land at gunpoint to the murderous first governor of Washington Territory, Isaac Stevens. Now, the Washington legislature is discussing honoring Indians by making the day after a state holiday, “Native American Heritage Day.” In case that name sounds familiar, it should. The United States first officially commemorated as “Native American Heritage Day” in 2008 and President Obama called on Americans to celebrate the day after Thanksgiving as “Native American Heritage Day.” The proposed legislation states:

“America’s journey has been marked by both bright times of progress and dark moments of injustice for Native Americans  …The Native American population was disrupted and nearly destroyed through European colonization. Genocide, slavery, and political and cultural repression were consequential adversities Native Americans had to overcome. In the face of such hardships, Native Americans endured; their cultural beliefs flourished; and today we celebrate their importance to the United States and the state of Washington.”

Because the day after Thanksgiving is already one of 10 paid legal holidays in Washington, the name-change would go unnoticed by most citizens. In the view of Linda Thomas, a Seattle radio host who chose to embrace an insult she was given early in her career by calling herself the “News Chick,” the legislative move is insulting to Indians. She told her audience: “The state is trying to send a message that a day honoring tribes is unique because it’s a legal holiday. If they really wanted to make it special, why not give Native Americans their own holiday instead of plopping the day on a calendar day that was already a holiday for most?”

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Depiction of Kateri Tekakwitha

in Santa Fe, N.M., by Estelle Loretto

Lone Mohawk Challenges Sainthood of One of His Tribe

Kateri Tekakwitha will soon become the first American Indian saint. The 17th Century Mohawk woman will be canonized by the Vatican later this year, and most Mohawks and many other Indians, think that’s wonderful, though they believe she should have been made a saint decades ago. But there is dissent.

For sainthood, the Vatican needed a “certified miracle” and none of those that had been brought forward met the requirements. In 2006, one did. An 11-year-old Indian boy afflicated with a lethal flesh-eating bacteria fully recovered. His parents said they had been praying to Kateri.

Her story, as told by the Church, is a grim one. Nearly killed and blinded by smallpox at age 4 and nearly killed later in a raid on her village by French settlers, she survived but was ostracized by her tribe and fled at age 20 to Kahnawake, a village of Catholic converts where she was baptized and nursed the ill and dying until she herself died at age 24. It is claimed her smallpox-scarred face suddenly cleared at her death. As a consequence of this belief, today there is a shrine to her in a 230-year-old barn in Fonda, N.Y., at one time the Mohawk village of Caughnawaga, where Kateri spent most of her life.

The sainthood talk doesn’t impress 67-year-old Tom Porter (Mohawk), whose traditional name is Sakokwenionkwas, or “He Who Wins.” He says Kateri “was used.” Porter is not a Catholic and has spent years trying to restore the tribe’s old beliefs. His six children and 11 grandchildren follow these traditions.

“Christianity is not a shoe that will ever fit. Not for my feet, or my heart, or my soul,” he said. […]

To him, there is no difference between the spread of Christianity and the cruel policies, including forced assimilation in grim 20th-century government boarding schools, that were used to subjugate Native Americans. […]

He thinks Kateri was probably forced to become a Catholic. “I don’t know if she really was a Christian or not,” he said. “They were in poverty at that time. The Europeans had destroyed everything, people were destitute and starving, and if you wanted to get help of any kind you had to be a Christian.”

Porter conceded that few Mohawk agree with him. He even admitted that some in his extended family are devoted to Kateri.

“It breaks my heart,” he said. […]

The Second Poorest County in America

The 1980 U.S. Census proclaimed Shannon County, the heart of the Pine Ridge Reservation, as the single poorest county in America. Thirty years later the 2010 U. S. Census has just announced that Shannon County is the second poorest county in America.

Shannon County Rezidents Sue for Early Voting

By failing to provide the early voting, the plaintiffs claim violations of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law and violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

American Indian Gangsters Busted in Minnesota

Two dozen suspected members of Native Mob, a Minneapolis-born, American Indian gang, were indicted last week. The gang has been a problem for tribal, federal and local law enforcement for two decades.

Hopi, Navajo Join to Preserve Petroglyphs

The Hopi call it Tutuveni, meaning “newspaper rock.” It’s a collection of sandstone boulders outside of Tuba City, Ariz., about 80 miles from the Grand Canyon. The site contains some 5,000 petroglyphs of Hopi clan symbols, the largest known collection of such symbols in the American Southwest.

Census Bureau Sees Sharp Rise in Indian Population

Of the 5.2 million people counted as Indians in the 2010 Census, nearly 2.3 million reported being Indian in combination with one or more of six other race categories. Those who added black, white or both as a personal identifier made up 84 percent of the multi-racial group. The Census does not require respondents to show tribal enrollment or other proof that they have Indian heritage to include them in their count.


Indians have often been referred to as the “Vanishing Americans.” But we are still here, entangled each in his or her unique way with modern America, blended into the dominant culture or not, full-blood or not, on the reservation or not, and living lives  much like the lives of other Americans, but with differences related to our history on this continent, our diverse cultures and religions, and our special legal status. To most other Americans, we are invisible, or only perceived in the most stereotyped fashion.

First Nations News & Views is designed to provide a window into our world, each Sunday reporting on a small number of stories, both the good and the not-so-good, and providing a reminder of where we came from, what we are doing now and what matters to us. We wish to make it clear that neither Meteor Blades nor I make any claim whatsoever to speak for anyone other than ourselves, as individuals, not for the Navajo people or the Seminole people, the tribes in which we are enrolled as members, nor, of course, the people of any other tribes.

The Black Hills Are Not For Sale Time Lapse Video

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.

Background here:

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

The Black Hills Are Not For Sale from sinuhe xavier on Vimeo.

From Sinuhe:

I met Aaron Huey at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival during May of 2011 and was instantly captivated with his work on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and his project, Honor The Treaties. We worked together with Shepard Fairey over the next several months to collaborate and bring something to the streets of Los Angeles. With help from Miguel of La Barracuda this 20×60 wall on Melrose Ave at Fairfax was secured. What you see here is the culmination of the tireless efforts of Aaron Huey and Shepard Fairey that took place November 26, 2011.

The V.O. is from this Ted Talk.

Please go to to learn more.

More credits below:

Wheat Paster: Nicholas Bowers

Wheat Paster: Shepard Fairey

Scissors: Daryl Hannah

Wheat Paster: Chet Hay

Wheat Paster: Aaron Huey

Wheat Paster: Daniel Salin

Wheat Paster: Sinuhe Xavier

Crowd Control: Miguel

Production: The Department of Scenarios

Camera: Taylor Kent

Editor: Carol Martori


The Ghost Dance After Wounded Knee

When describing the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890, many history books make two major errors: (1) they claim that this was the end of the Ghost Dance movement, and (2) they claim that this was the last armed conflict between Indians and the U.S. military. Neither of these is true. The Ghost Dance movement originated with the vision of the Paiute prophet Wovoka and continues to be celebrated today. It did not die at Wounded Knee.  

The Ghost Dance:

The Ghost Dance movement began with a vision which was received by Wovoka. Among the Paiute, the dance was a Paiute world-renewal dance in which the dancers would hold hands as they danced in a circle with a side-step motion. The innovations by Wovoka were primarily in the form of new songs. Among the Paiute, as well as among other American Indians, individuals who received instructions in their visions were encouraged to compose new songs and to modify the ceremonies to conform to their visions.

The Ghost Dance movement spread quickly to the Northern Plains, particularly to tribes whose Sun Dance ceremony had been repressed by the government. On the Plains, the Ghost Dance became a four-day round dance in which the dancers would hold hands as they danced sun-wise (clockwise) with a side step. During the dance, the leaders (known as prophets) would wave eagle-wing fans before the faces of the dancers and/or shine mirrors in their faces. Coupled with the singing and dancing, this would help induce a trance state among the dancers and in this state they would be transported to a world in which they would see their departed relatives from the pre-reservation era.

Among the Plains tribes, the Ghost Dance also included special shirts and dresses, usually made of buckskin or white muslin, which were decorated with symbols which referred to the dancer’s visions. These symbols were often stars, suns, moons, eagles, and other birds. Among the Sioux, the followers of the Ghost Dance felt that their Ghost Dance clothing was able to deflect bullets.

On the Rosebud Reservation, Short Bull described the dance among his people:

“First: purification by sweat bath. Clasp hands and circle to left. Hold hands and sing until a trance is induced, looking up all the time. Brought to pitch of excitement by singing songs prescribed by the Messiah. Dress as prescribed. Froth at mouth when in trance. They must keep step with the cadence of the song. The[y] go into trance in from ten minutes to three quarters of an hour. Each one described his vision. Each vision is different from others. Men, women, children have visions.”

Northern Plains:

While many historians claim that the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 ended the Ghost Dance movement among the Sioux and other Northern Plains tribes, the Ghost Dance actually continued to spread among the tribes. It is important to remember that all Indian religions were illegal at this time so the Ghost Dance had to be kept away from the Indian agents and other non-Indians.

In 1891, Northern Arapaho leader Black Coal was dubious about the merits of the Ghost Dance. He sent a delegation-Yellow Eagle, Washington, Goes in Lodge, Black Bear, and Michael Goodman-from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming to Nevada to investigate the claims. When the delegation returned, they spoke against the movement-or at least that is what the Indian agent was told. However, many Arapaho, including Sharp Nose, continued to participate in Ghost Dance ceremonies.

At this same time, the Shoshone on the Wind River Reservation abandoned the Ghost Dance. The Indian agent assumed that they abandoned the dance because the predicted new world had not materialized.

In 1891, the Gros Ventre in Montana were introduced to the Ghost Dance by the Northern Arapaho from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. The Arapaho also transferred the associated hand game bundle ritual to several Gros Ventre men. The Gros Ventre and the Arapaho are linguistically and culturally related tribes.

In 1892, with reduced rations the Arapaho on the Wind River Reservation were starving and many turned to the Ghost Dance for help. With tears running down their cheeks, they sang:

Father, have pity on me,

Father, have pity on me.

I am crying for thirst,

I am crying for thirst.

All is gone-I have nothing to eat,

All is gone-I have nothing to eat.

In 1900, the Department of the Interior, at the request of the Indian agent for the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana, ordered that Porcupine be arrested, confined, and punished for being a leader in Wovoka’s Ghost Dance movement. He was subsequently arrested and turned over to the commanding officer of Fort Keogh where he was to do hard labor. There was no trial: Indians did not have any rights in the eyes of the Indian agents even though the courts had consistently ruled that the Constitution applied to Indians. The Indian Office (now known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs) and its reservation agents simply imprisoned any Indians who opposed their programs.

In 1902, the Ghost Dance was revived among the Assiniboine on the Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Reservations in Montana by Kicking Bear and Short Bull, Sioux Ghost Dance leaders from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The Assiniboine incorporated sacred red and white paint, feathers, and medicines for healing into the dances. They obtained these materials through the mail from Wovoka.

The fact that Kicking Bear and Short Bull were both acknowledged Ghost Dancer leaders from Pine Ridge is a good indication that the Ghost Dance was still alive on this reservation at this time even though the officials on the reservations would deny it.

In 1902, Fred Robinson, an Assiniboine from Montana who was living among the Sioux on the Moose Woods Reserve in Saskatchewan, received instruction on Wovoka’s Ghost Dance creed from Kicking Bear. Moose Woods was under the control of a Methodist minister at this time, so there was no place on the reserve for a rival religion. However, at the Round Plain Reserve there were many who were receptive to the new religion. By 1905, Robinson was receiving Ghost Dance medicines in the mail directly from Wovoka. These medicines included red ocher which was packed into a tomato can.

In 1910, Assiniboine Ghost Dance leader Fred Robinson wrote to the Paiute prophet Wovoka in Nevada and told him of the progress that he was making in preaching the creed among the Sioux on the Round Plain Reserve in Saskatchewan. He wrote:

“I am telling them about the good road and good life and I am telling them too on one side the Bad road and the evil spirit.”

“New Tidings” (Woyaka Teca) is the name applied to Fred Robinson’s version of Wovoka’s teachings.

Southern Plains:

While the Indian agents on the Southern Plains reservations in Oklahoma attempted to suppress the Ghost Dance by jailing participants, there was not the military intervention that had led to the Wounded Knee massacre.

In 1891, Northern Arapaho Ghost Dance leader Sitting Bull (not to be confused with the Sioux leader by the same name) visited the Southern Cheyenne reservation bringing with him the Ghost Dance doctrine. The Arapaho and the Cheyenne had historically been allies and there was a great deal of interaction between the two tribes.

After bringing the Ghost Dance to the Southern Cheyenne, Sitting Bull traveled to nearby reservations in Oklahoma, teaching the Ghost Dance and advising tribes to accept allotment of lands and take annuity payments from the government. Sitting Bull carried the new religion to the Caddo and Wichita. It was here that Pawnee ceremonial leader Frank White became converted to the new religion.

Having heard about the Ghost Dance and Wovoka from Sitting Bull, the Caddo send Billy Wilson and Squirrel to talk with the Paiute prophet Wovoka in Nevada. Two Wichita delegates-Nashtowi and Lawrie Tatum-and one Delaware delegate-Jack Henry-travelled with them. They returned to the Oklahoma reservations impressed and reverent of Wovoka and his theology of peace and healing.

Having learned about the Ghost Dance from the Caddo and Wichita, Frank White began to teach the doctrine and songs of the Ghost Dance to the southern bands of the Pawnee. He told the people to prepare for the coming of the kingdom:

“You must stop working because when the kingdom comes you won’t take plows or things like that along. That’s not ours.”

At first the songs used in the Pawnee Ghost Dance were Arapaho and Wichita songs.

While White saw himself as a prophet, he was also respectful of Pawnee culture. He met with the elders and discussed his vision. The elders accepted his vision and were satisfied with him in the role of Ghost Dance prophet.

Hundreds of Pawnee gathered to dance the new dance so that they could see their deceased loved ones. In the visions enhanced by the dancing, people saw not only their relatives but also the dead Pawnee doctors and spiritual leaders. These leaders instructed the visionaries in the performances of the rituals and healing arts and advised them to carry out the practices as best they could under the reservation circumstances.

The Indian agent for the Pawnee attended a Ghost Dance and later reported to his superiors that “there has been no Ghost Dance here or at any of our agencies.” The Pawnee gave the appearance of going about their daily lives, ignoring the new dance. By  diverting suspicion from themselves, they were able to explore the Paiute religion and quietly adapt it to their own traditions and beliefs.

Among the Pawnee, the Ghost Dancers wore eagle and crow feathers in their hair. At the beginning of each dance a woman is chosen to bless the dance grounds. At the end of each day of dancing, the dancers move to the center of the circle and then back out slowly shaking their blankets and shawls. In this way they cast off the burdens of the day.

Concerned about the increasing popularity of the Ghost Dance among the Pawnee, the Indian agent wrote to Frank White and ordered him to cease holding Ghost Dances. In addition, White was ordered to return to the Kiowa or Wichita agency. He chose not to leave his people or abandon the Ghost Dance.

In 1892, Joe Carrion (Pawnee) had a vision while visiting with the Southern Arapaho. In this vision, he was told that the Pawnee were able to introduce new innovations in the Ghost Dance. This helped to initiate a reorganization of the Pawnee Ghost Dance in which various individuals who had visions were able to develop their own forms of the dance. In his vision, Joe Carrion was also given the gift of the hand game which is incorporated into the Ghost Dance.

In 1892, the Indian agent for the Pawnee ordered them to stop doing the Ghost Dance. The Pawnee do not stop participating in the ceremony, but take it underground, away from the prying eyes and ears of non-Indians.

In 1894, the Ghost Dance was revived among the Kiowa when Setzepetoi (Afraid-of-Bears), a blind medicine man, had a vision. The revived Ghost Dance was noted for trances in which the supplicants could visit deceased relatives.

Three Pawnee travelled from Oklahoma to Walker Lake, Nevada to receive instructions from Wovoka in 1904. In their meeting with Wovoka they learned more about Wovoka’s initial vision. They also learned the correct ritual for the ceremony, including the use of a special painted tipi.

In 1915, the Kiowa Ghost Dance came to the attention of the Indian agent. The Indian agent, in a campaign to wipe out the Ghost Dance, threatened to withhold per capita payments from all who participated. When the Indian agent found out the identity of the leaders, he had them imprisoned and beaten. The following year, the Indian agent formally banned the Kiowa Ghost Dance because of its opposition to Christianity and allotment. However, several Ghost Dances occured on scattered allotments. The agent obtained a list of the names of 79 participants so that he could withhold their per capita payments.

Drought threatened the Caddo corn crop in 1921. Ghost Dance leader Mr. Squirrel set up the pole in the center of the dance circle. For three days he prayed and danced while the corn burned in the sun. On the fourth day, the rain came.

Bear Butte and the Struggle for Religious Freedom

Bear Butte in South Dakota is a sacred site which is used as a vision quest site for the Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne. The Sioux describe Bear Butte as their most sacred altar. The Seven Sacred Rites of the Sioux were learned at the top of this mesa.

View from Bear Butte

The view from Bear Butte is shown above.  

For the Cheyenne, Bear Butte is known as Sacred Mountain and is the place where Maheo (the Supreme Being) gave their cultural hero, Sweet Medicine, the four Sacred Arrows, which allowed them access to Maheo’s power. The Cheyenne call this place Noahavose (also spelled Nowah’wus which means “The Hills Where the People are Taught”). On their historic migration to the Plains under the leadership of Sweet Medicine, a great door opened in Noahavose. Sweet Medicine was called inside by Maheo (the All Being). For four years Sweet Medicine remained in this lodge within and was instructed in the codes of law and behavior. Before returning to his people, Sweet Medicine was then given four sacred arrows. Thus, this is the holiest site in the Cheyenne world.

The Sioux Vision Quest:

Bear Butte is an important site for the Sioux vision quest, known as hamblecha. During the vision quest, the seeker finds a solitary place on Bear Butte to sing and pray out loud. Vision quest supporters wait below and sing songs and pray. Instruction and preparation for hamblecha can take a full year and may include a four-year commitment to the teacher with an expectation to repeat the quest on each of four years. At one time, those seeking the vision would stake themselves to a single place by placing a hardwood skewer under the skin of the chest and attaching a leather thong between this skewer and a stake in the ground.

Prior to the vision quest, the seeker goes through a sweat lodge ceremony in order to cast off all human fleshly influences. With regard to the completion of the vision quest, Sioux physician Charles Eastman wrote:

“When he returned to the camp, he must remain at a distance until he had again entered the sweat lodge and prepared himself for intercourse with his fellows. Of the vision or sign vouchsafed to him he did not speak, unless it had included some commission which must be publicly fulfilled.”

In most visions, animals or birds appear and there is a correlation between the animal or bird and the type of power, knowledge or skill.

Among the Sioux, both men and women are able to receive power through a vision. Those who receive the strongest powers become medicine people or shamans.

Twentieth Century:

In 1962, Bear Butte was acquired by the State of South Dakota for development as a State Park. As a State Park it was to have a visitor’s center, campgrounds, and parking lots. Tourists were to be given maps to its trails and provided with viewing platforms and signs that indicated where Indians could be spotted fasting. Instead of understanding the vision quest as a religious ceremony, the tourists would view it the same way that they viewed the powwows: once again the Indians would be on display.

Bear Butte Sign

During a vision quest at Bear Butte in 1965 Sioux spiritual leader Frank Fools Crow was told in his vision that he was to tell certain things about himself and his people. The result was the 1979 book Fools Crow edited by Thomas Mails.

In 1973, Bear Butte was listed as a National Historical Place. In 1981 Bear Butte was listed as a National Historical Landmark.

In 1982, a group of traditional Sioux spiritual leaders, including Frank Fools Crow, filed suit against the South Dakota State Parks Department. In the case of Fools Crow versus Gullet, the Sioux traditionalists argued that the South Dakota State Parks Department had destroyed the sanctity of Indian religious ceremonies at Bear Butte. They argued that the state’s construction of access roads, parking lots, and other facilities, including wood platforms to allow tourists to photograph sacred ceremonies, interfered with their free exercise of religion. The courts, however, found that granting Indian rights would violate separation of church and state. With regard to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, the courts noted that it was unclear if the Act governs state governments or agencies. The court agreed that Bear Butte was vital to the exercise of Lakota and Cheyenne religion. However, it rejected the argument that the state’s management of the site interfered with the free exercise of their religion. The decision was upheld by the Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

In 1982, the manager of Bear Butte State Park sent out a notice to Sioux and Cheyenne leaders informing them that they could no longer gather sage, hackberry or wild rose within the park. Furthermore, there could be no sweat lodges held while the parking lot was being expanded and the new access roads were being paved. Finally, all Indians would have to purchase five-day permits in order to fast and pray at this sacred site.

A 1996 fire on Bear Butte burned more than 800 acres of timber and grass. Some traditional spiritual leaders felt that the fire was a cleansing of the misuse of this sacred area. This misuse included complaints about non-Indians attempting to do ceremonies they know nothing about; the removal of tobacco ties and flags by Indians because of concerns that they would be touched and/or taken by non-Indians; and by some incidents of drunkenness and nudity.

The federal government extended cultural property designation status to Bear Butte in 1997. This designation not only highlights the historic and cultural associations of Bear Butte with the Plains Indians, but it also provides some protection to the site and provides guidelines to preserve it.

In 2003, a shooting range was proposed near Bear Butte. The complex was to be built with a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Instead of contacting the tribes, the builders notified the state Office of Tribal Government Relations of their plans. Indian officials pointed out that this office did not speak for all of the 17 tribes which use Bear Butte for ceremonies. Indian spiritual leaders pointed out that the estimated 10,000 rounds per day being fired from rifles and handguns would affect the silence and serenity of the people who come to Bear Butte to pray and seek spiritual guidance. The state of South Dakota cancelled the $511,200 in federal grant money.

In 2004, Northern Cheyenne tribal councilman Alberta Fisher and councilman Jace Killsback purchased a 160-acre campground at the base of Noavose (Bear Butte). The Cheyenne Land Authority constructed camping structures, shades, and outhouses for use by tribal members during ceremonies.

In 2006, Alex White Plume, the President of the Olgala Lakota Nation, wrote to President George W. Bush regarding the Lakota’s sacred site at Bear Butte:

“Indian peoples’ ability to survive into the future depends largely on our ability to maintain, protect and promote our traditional and cultural beliefs, which includes our ability to practice our spiritual beliefs in privacy and without disruption. This is not merely a cultural and spiritual concern; it is a matter of human rights that exist in international law.”

The President did not respond.

In 2011, the State Board of Minerals and Environment ruled that Nakota Energy could drill exploratory oil wells near Bear Butte. The company was to be allowed to drill five wells outside of the boundaries of the Bear Butte National Historic Landmark. The company did not initially consult with the tribes as the proposed oil field is on private land. However, about one-third of the original proposed drilling area is within the boundaries of the state park. In response to Indian complaints, the Board of Minerals and Environment agreed to limit the number of wells and to require that they be drilled outside the boundary of the National Historic Site.

Oil Map

In 2011, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included Bear Butte on its list of Most Endangered Places. The site was listed as endangered because of proposed wind and oil energy development. It is felt that this energy development would negatively impact the sacred site and degrade the cultural landscape.

In 2011, the South Dakota State Legislature voted to revise the procedure for reissuing certain alcoholic beverage licenses. While the tribes have opposed any licenses for venues surrounding Bear Butte, the new legislation means that liquor license renewal hearings will no longer be held.

At the present time, there are three tribes with a vested interest in Bear Butte, in that they own property and pay property taxes: The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe own 1,080 acres on the east side of the mountain; the Rosebud Sioux Tribe owns 40 acres on the north side; and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe owns 40 acres on the west side, 160 acres on the north side, and 440 acres on the northeast side.

According to the State Park website:

In most religions, specific areas or sites hold great spiritual significance. Bear Butte is such a place.

Many Native Americans see the mountain as a place where the creator has chosen to communicate with them through visions and prayer.

During your visit, you will see colorful pieces of cloth and small bundles or pouches hanging from the trees. These prayer cloths and tobacco ties represent the prayers offered by individuals during their worship. Please respect these offerings and leave them undisturbed.

Source: http://black-hills-south-dakot…

Bear Butte Banner

First Nations News & Views: Tribes Work to Return the Bison

Welcome to the first edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Each Sunday’s edition will include a short, original feature article, a look at some date relevant to American Indian history, and some briefs chosen to show the diversity of modern Indians living both on and off reservations in the United States and Canada.


“The buffalo are disappearing rapidly, but not faster than I desire. I regard the destruction of such game as Indians subsist upon as facilitating the policy of the Government, of destroying their hunting habits, coercing them on reservations, and compelling them to begin to adopt the habits of civilization.”

 – Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano, Testimony to Congress, 1874

“We recognize the bison is a symbol of our strength and unity, and that as we bring our herds back to health, we will also bring our people back to health.”

 – Fred DuBray, former president Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, 2005

By 1870, the great herds of buffalo, or American Bison, that had in the 1500s roamed everywhere except present-day New England, were limited to 11 Western states and territories. There were still millions of them, perhaps 40 million. The massive slaughter that began in earnest in 1874 ended nine years later. By 1890, only 500 bison remained, and the devastated, decimated tribes who had depended on them were confined to reservations and a hard-scrabble existence.

Today, however, there are around 500,000 fenced bison in commercial herds, many of them genetically intermixed with cattle breeds and sold for meat domestically and abroad. There are also some 20,000 genetically pure bison in free-roaming herds, like the 3000 in Yellowstone National Park. The biggest fenced herds are in Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota, the leader, where there are about 40,000 head of bison on private ranches and tribal land.

As NPR reported early last year, the demand for bison meat is rising, and not just for burgers. And the demand in 2011 kept up the pace.

“Five years ago, I spent 90 percent of my time trying to get people to eat bison. Now, I spend 90 percent of my time getting people to raise bison,” said Dave Carter​, executive director of the Westminster-based National Bison Association.

Among the bison raisers are the 56 tribes of the non-profit Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, which got its start in 1990. Some tribes started as early as 1971 to reintroduce bison and, collectively, they now have herds totaling about 15,000 head in 19 states. The idea behind this is far more than economic. As the ITBC web site states, the “reintroduction of the buffalo to tribal lands will help heal the spirit of both the Indian people and the buffalo.” For Indians of the Plains and far beyond, the bison was woven into every aspect of their lives and was an integral part of their philosophy and religion.

ITBC Cultural Education Coordinator Carla Rae Brings Plenty (Lakota-Cheyenne River) recently wrote:

[The council] is committed to reestablishing bison herds on Indian lands in a manner that promotes cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization, ecological restoration, and economic development. ITBC is governed by a Board of Directors, comprised of one tribal representative from each member tribe.

The role of the ITBC, as established by its membership, is to act as a facilitator in coordinating education and training programs, develop marketing strategies, coordinate the transfer of surplus American buffalo – also known as bison – from national parks to tribal lands, and provide technical assistance to its membership. The ITBC works collaboratively with members to develop sound management plans that enable tribal herds to become successful and self-sufficient operations.

Among other reasons for restoring the bison herds is some hope for change in the diet of many Indians, on and off the reservation, who have high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease as consequence of both poverty and a poor understanding of nutrition. Bison meat is extremely lean, with less than a third the amount of fat and cholesterol and less than two-thirds as many calories as beef. It also has more iron an vitamin B12 than beef. But it is a very long way from providing more than an occasional meal on any of the reservations.

The process of restoration is slow, but growth in tribal herds steadily continues. In early December, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission approved the removal of 68 quarantined bison to the reservations at Fort Belknap (A’aninin-Gros Ventre and the Nakota-Assiniboine) and Fort Peck (Assiniboine-Sioux). About 700 now graze at Fort Belknap and another 200 can be found Turtle Mound Buffalo Ranch on the Fort Peck reservation.  

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Cherokee leader John Ross

This Week in American Indian History in 1833:

It can be said that the non-violent resistance campaign by the Cherokee nation against removal and relocation to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) began on Jan. 28, 1833. Tribal leaders, including John Ross, the principal chief of the Eastern Cherokee, met that day with Secretary of War John Eaton to say they would not negotiate with the federal government about removal because Washington was not living up to previous agreements to protect them since gold had been discovered on Cherokee land in 1829. Murderous white “pony clubs,” a kind of pre-Civil War Ku Klux Klan killed Cherokee men, raped Cherokee women and burned their houses and entire towns, allowing whites to stake mining claims. The Cherokee delegation in Washington had reason to be worried because President Andrew Jackson, was no friend, having betrayed the Cherokee by forcing the cession of more than 2 million acres of their land after the Red Stick War ended in 1814 even though they had allied themselves with the federal government against the rebellious wing of the Creek tribe in that conflict. Moreover, as soon as gold had been discovered in 1829, Jackson had removed all federal troops from Georgia and let state authorities and the ad hoc “pony clubs” to act they wished.

Eaton told them their only hope was removal. Jackson offered the Eastern Cherokee $3 million for all their lands east of the Mississippi except those in North Carolina if they would move. The delegation said the illegal Georgia gold mines alone were worth more than that. Thus began a five-year effort of sophisticated non-violent resistance which appealed to both moral and political authority. Ultimately, it failed and 16,000 Cherokee were removed across the Mississippi, at least 4,000 of their number dying along what is now known as the “Trail of Tears.”

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Susan Allen

Susan Allen (Sicangu-Oglala Lakota) Wins Seat in Minnesota Legislature

Susan Allen of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party won a special election for district 61B seat of the Minnesota House of Representatives on Jan. 10. The race was notable because Allen, an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, is the first lesbian American Indian elected to any state legislature. The impoverished district in south-central Minneapolis has many problems with which Allen is familiar. She was born on the Uintah and Ouray Ute reservation in northeastern Utah, moved around to many reservations as a young girl because her Oglala Lakota father was an episcopal priest. She saw much social and economic injustice, which has played a major role in determining her political views.  

She says she will focus on investing in jobs, education, tax reform, as well as creating a single-payer health care system, preserving the environment, and saying no to the anti-gay marriage amendment on the state ballot next November. “We’re thrilled for Susan and the remarkable progress her victory represents,” said Tiffany Muller, vice president for political operations for the Victory Fund. “This is our first win of 2012, and it’s a fantastic way to start off what will be a very exciting year for LGBT candidates.”

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Cartoon by Marty Two Bulls

U.S. Supreme Court Takes Indian Casino Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on two petitions related to a decision by the federal government to take the Bradley Tract, a parcel of Pottawatomi-owned land in Michigan, into trust. The petitions were brought by Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar and by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, which seeks to have the land taken into trust so they can build a casino on it. David Patchak, a private individual who lives near the land in question, filed a complaint alleging that a casino would destroy the peace and quiet of the area and create pollution. The tribe won a judgment in U.S. District Court on the grounds that Patchak had no “prudential” interest in the case. But the Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision. The case may boil down to an interpretation of whether putting the land into trust can be done by the Interior Department for tribes that were not yet recognized by the federal government in 1934 at the time of the Indian Reorganization Act. The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band did not receive federal recognition until 1998.

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Maryland recognizes the Piscataways

After years of struggle and appeals, as well as an internal schism, the Piscataway tribe of southern Maryland has gained state recognition. The tribe’s ancestors have lived in the area for as much as 12 millennia. But Maryland officials previously said documentation connecting today’s Piscataways with Indians dating back before 1790 was inadequate for recognition and had rejected their applications. One motivation behind the rejection was the view of some citizens that the tribe is only interested in recognition so they could build casinos. The Piscataways, of whom there are now about 5,000, renounced any right to casinos in the negotiations to get recognition.

Mervin Savoy, the 68-year-old chairwoman of the Piscataway-Conoy Confederacy, had waited a long time for the day Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley to make the recognition official.

“A reporter once asked me what it felt like to be an Indian,” Savoy says, laughing. “You might as well ask me what it feels like to be a woman. I don’t know; I’ve never been anything else.”

Savoy didn’t see anything unusual in the way her grandparents lived off the land. Her grandmother picked mint and peach leaves to flavor food. For a headache, she prescribed bark from a weeping willow tree. For a bee sting, she rubbed the irritated skin with three types of grass.

“All of these things, you could just walk out to the yard and get,” Savoy says.

The struggle for federal recognition, which would provide the Piscataways with funds for education, housing and public health, continues.

-News & Views h/t to Bill in MD

Piscataways in traditional cloth regalia. Left to Right: Piscataway Tribal Spokesman Rico Newman, Diona Kakinohana, Desiree Windsor, Provisional Tribal Council Chairwoman Mervin Savoy, MCIA Vice Chair Thomas Windsor, Linda Proctor, Argentine Newman, Piscataway Communications Director Chris Newman (Photo courtesy of Shikya Wilson)
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Do Congress and Obama Really Support the Tribal Law and Order Act?

The 2010 passage and signing of the Tribal Law and Order Act was viewed by many Indians as a major step forward and the keeping of one of the promises made by the Obama administration to pay attention to Indian voices about our needs. But, as Rob Capriccioso reports, TLOA is being undermined by budget cuts and an apparent lack of seriousness in pursuing key aspects of the legislation. In November $90 million was cut from the Department of Justice’s programs. “There continues to be a public safety crisis on our Indian reservations, and the lives of women and children are in danger every day,” said retired Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), a key promoter of the TLOA when he chaired the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

“Unlike other areas of government spending, the federal government has a distinct legal, treaty, and trust obligation to provide for the public safety of Indian country,” wrote [Ryan] Dreveskracht, a lawyer with the Galanda Broadman Indian-focused law firm in an article posted on his firm’s web site. … This obligation was made explicit in section 202 of the TLOA and was thoroughly discussed in the congressional record. That that same Congress is absolutely ignoring those duties now makes it that much worse. As a result, people are literally dying,” Dreveskracht added. “While crime outside Indian reservations has declined in recent years, the violent crime rate in Indian country has increased dramatically over the same time period – with homicides increasing by 14 percent in just four years.”

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Wisconsin Fights Suit Over Law Banning Indian Mascots

The state of Wisconsin wants the courts to dismiss a challenge to the constitutionality of a 2010 law that allows the state school superintendent to ban American Indian mascots and logos. The Department of Public Instruction ordered the Berlin School District to drop its “Indians” nickname and logo by Sept. 16, 2012, because its promotes stereotyping, discrimination and pupil harassment. The state had received a complaint from a district resident regarding the Berlin Indians’ nickname. The state also plans to appeal the decision of a judge to overturn his ruling rejecting a previous DPI order that the Mukwonago High School ditch its mascot and the “Indians” name of its athletic teams. That judge called the law, Act 250, “uncommonly silly.” It was passed when Democrats controlled the legislature. Republicans are now in charge, and some seek to repeal the law.

Barbara Munson (Oneida) chairs the Wisconsin Indian Education Association’s Indian Mascot and Logo Taskforce. She says 33 of the 65 Wisconsin schools with Indian-related team names have dropped them, or changed their logos since 1994. That was the year Marquette University dropped its Warriors team name and mascot and became the Golden Eagles. Wisconsin’s 11 tribes, through their Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, are on record opposing the names. “These images are archaic,” she says, and “should have left our culture as a whole along with Sambo’s restaurants (and) blackface minstrel shows.”

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Saginaw Chippewa Tribe Holds Repatriation Ceremony

The Michigan Anishinaabek Cultural Preservation and Repatriation Alliance and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan held a repatriation and reburial ceremony at its Nibokaan Ancestral Cemetery Dec. 19. The remains of an indigenous woman who died before the arrival of Europeans but was dug up in 1905 and wound up in the Museum of Vancouver, BC, were buried along with 256 funerary items.

Nibokaan was established in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., in 1995 specifically for the purpose of reburying indigenous ancestors. Such repatriations were made more possible by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. From the time of the tribe’s initial request until reburial, such repatriations 10 years or more. Fourteen months ago, the Saginaw Chippewa reburied the remains of 144 indigenous individuals who had been dug up in the 1960s by Central Michigan University for use as a teaching tool for its archaeological program. The bodies had been placed in a storage room ever since.

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Tohono O’odham Shadow Wolves Patrol Border for Drug Contraband

The Shadow Wolves is an elite force that patrols the Arizona-Mexico border and uses traditional tracking methods to find drug smugglers and their goods. The force comprises nine members of the Tohono O’odham tribe, whose 28,000 members have the second largest tribal land base in the United States. The technique used is known as “cutting for sign.” It is taught from childhood, says one of the wolves, Jason Garcia: “This takes a lot of patience. You’re looking for something that’s almost invisible.”

A reporter traveling was astonished when Garcia told him from looking at the signs that the quarry they were hunting “had passed by only minutes before in an SUV, probably a Chevrolet, heading directly north towards Phoenix 100 miles away.”

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A new group has launched a web site, The Last Real Indians, readers may find to their liking. Here’s an excerpt from one of the team of five writers, Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton Wahpeton/Mdwakanton/Hunkpapa), whose tribal enrollment is at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation:

Indigenous peoples are always on the precipice, so it should come as no surprise that we are making good use of social media and the blogosphere as well.  Facebook helped The Indigenous Environmental Network mobilize American Indian and First Nation citizens to protest against fracking on Tribal lands, and the Keystone XL pipeline.  If implemented, the pipeline would transport toxic fossil fuel from Canadian Tar Sands to the Gulf of Mexico- traveling directly through the Ogallala aquifer, the source of pure drinking water for millions.  Buffalo Nickel Creative (BNC3) and its affiliate, the 1491s, is an indigenous social media powerhouse.


Ancient South America: Patagonia

Humans-Homo sapiens-have lived in South America for at least 15,000 years and possibly longer. The earliest period of human occupation is generally called the Lithic Stage by archaeologists.   During this time period the first post-glacial hunting and gathering groups lived in South America. The people were living in small groups which subsisted on hunting, fishing, and the gathering of wild plants.

At the southern end of South America is Patagonia. Today this is a region of steppe-like plains with a succession of 13 abrupt terraces which rise up to 100 meters (330 feet) at a time. The region’s current name comes from pagagón which was used by the Spanish explorer Magellan to describe the native giants that he encountered. The Native American inhabitants, the Tehuelches, had an average height of 5’11” as compared with 5’1″ for the Spaniards.

During the late Pleistocene era 15,000 years ago, the glaciers were beginning to recede. This was still an environment of glaciers, woods, and turquoise lakes. The weather at this time was becoming warmer and drier. Shrubs were beginning to replace the grasses which had supported a variety of animals. While this was a hostile environment, it was still occupied by humans.

Many of the mammals which inhabited Patagonia at the end of the Pleistocene have become extinct. At the site of Cueva Túnel, occupied by 11,500 BCE, archaeologists have found the remains of extinct animals, including Panthera onca (a jaguar) and Hippidion saldiasi (a small horse). At another site, Casa del Minero, archaeologists have found an extinct fox (Dusycion avus) and two distant relatives of today’s guanaco (Hemiauchenia paradoxa and Lama gracilis). The evidence from these sites shows that humans were hunting these extinct species at this time. The bones from some of these animals had been made into tools, including awls to perforate hides.

Most of the tools used by these early Native American residents of Patagonia were made from stone. The landscape had been formed by volcanic activity and this provided stone that was ideal for making tools. Outcrops of good rocks became quarries in which the extracted stones were knapped in situ into blanks from which tools would later be made.

In other parts of the Americas, Indian people would re-sharpen their stones as they got dull. In Patagonia, however, with the abundance of good stone, the people simply discarded the dull blades and made new ones.

The stone tools which they made were not crude. They often used pressure-flaking for removing small chips so that the tools were sharp and were made in pre-determined forms. They also used heat treatment in making their tools. Heat treatment is a complex procedure that requires annealing the stones so that flaking, particularly pressure flaking, becomes easier. Heat treating the stone, however, requires more sophistication that just sticking the stone in a fire: the temperature of the fire has to be carefully controlled. If the heat of the fire rises too quickly or if it gets too hot, the object is ruined and not suitable for knapping.

During the Lithic Stage in Patagonia, archaeologists have found evidence of site specialization showing that different activities were carried out at different sites. At Cerro Tres Tetas, archaeologists have determined that the stone tools were used primarily for activities related to the scraping and cutting of hide. This suggests that this site was used for the making of clothing and the preparation of hides for their tents.

At Cerro Tres Tetas there is also some indication of division of labor with regard to scraping the hide and cutting it. While both activities were carried out near hearth fires, different activities clustered around different fires.

At Cueva Tunél, the analysis of the tools at the site shows that they were used for cutting soft tissue such as meat. This, coupled with the abundance of faunal remains showing human activity, suggests that this site was used for the consumption of animals which had been hunted nearby. The site is located near a natural reservoir which would have attracted animals and would have been an ideal hunting location.

Casa del Minero was a base camp which was used for making both stone and bone tools. The animal remains found at the site show that meat was both prepared and cooked here. The site is near two quarries which provided the people with flint and silicified tuff. In addition, the site is near some sources of pigments which were used to make some of the finest rock art in South America.

During the Lithic Stage in Patagonia, the people created a great deal of rock art. At the Estancia la María, for example, the artists were using polychrome techniques in which red, ocher, yellow, white, rosy, violet, and blue used. The artists also used the hollows and natural relief of the walls to enhance the images. The motifs used at this site include: hands in negative and hands in positive; and scenes where guanacos appear running or standing; with their breedings; in attitude of drinking water; and pregnant females. There are also concentric circles of lines and of points (interpreted as suns, strategy diagrams for the control of the flocks or like sources of water). The human occupation at this site dates to about 10,000 years ago.

Estancia Maria 1

Estancia Maria 2

Estancia Maria 3

Rock art from Estancia la María is shown above.

The Cueva de las Manos in Santa Cruz, Argentina is a cave at the foot of a cliff. This site, which dates to about 8000 BCE, has negative images of hundreds of hands. Using pipes made from bone, the artists sprayed a mineral-based paint on the wall. Blocking the paint with the hand created the negative images. Most of the hands are left hands, suggesting that the artists held the spraying pipe in their right hand.

The main cave is about 79 feet deep and is 49 feet wide. The opening of the cave is 33 feet high and slopes downward to a height of about 7 feet. In addition to the stenciled images of hands, there are also depictions of humans, guanacos, rheas, felines, and hunting scenes. There are also geometric shapes and representations of the sun. There are red dots on the ceiling which were probably made by submerging hunting bolas in ink and then tossing them up. The hunting images appear to be the oldest, and those of the hands are the most recent. The ancient artists used this cave for several thousand years.

Cueva de las Manos has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 1999.

Cueva de las manos 2

The hands painted on the wall at Cueva de las manos are shown above.

Cueva de las manos 1

A hunting scene from Cueva de las manos is shown above.

View from Cueva de las manos

The view from Cueva de las manos is shown above.

Suppressing Dissent on the Crow Reservation

The Crow Reservation in Montana was first defined by the United States government at the Fort Laramie Treaty Council of 1851. Subsequently, the Indian Office (later known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs) assigned Indian agents to administer the reservation. In 1902 Samuel G. Reynolds became the Indian agent for the Crow reservation and began to implement a program of self-sufficiency. He cut off all tribal rations and began to abolish the tribal farms which had been collectively farmed by the Crow. He announced that he would discontinue the practice of meeting with the tribe in a council or powwow. Reynolds’ authoritarian policies were carried out in part by Big Medicine, a tribal police officer.

Crow Map

The location of the Crow Reservation is shown in the map above.  

Following federal Indian policies that called for the break up of tribal held lands so that these lands could be developed by non-Indians, the sale of “unused” land on the Crow reservation was unilaterally altered in 1904. Ignoring Indian protests and concerns, Congress ratified the new plan to give Indian land to non-Indians. The following year, the Crow Reservation was allotted and Crow land began to pass out of Crow control.

In 1907, journalist Helen Grey met with the Crow in Lodge Grass, Montana where she heard their grievances against Indian agent Samuel Reynolds. Reynolds, angered by the protests against him, ordered Grey off the reservation. She travelled to Sheridan, Wyoming where she expected five Crow leaders to meet her and accompany her to Washington. However, the Crow leaders – Spotted Rabbit, Holds the Enemy, Joe Cooper, Packs the Hat, and Yellow Brow – were arrested and told that they could not leave the reservation without the permission of the agent. Grey travelled alone to Washington where she met with President Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary of the Interior James R. Garfield, and Indian Commissioner Francis Leupp.

At this time, there was little concern about the civil rights of Indians and the right to travel freely even though several court cases had affirmed these rights. Indian agents, such as Reynolds, tended to ignore court decisions and assume that American laws applied to Indians only when convenient to the interests of non-Indians, and particularly to non-Indian corporations such as those that leased Indian lands.

Upon her return to Montana, Helen Grey entered the Crow Reservation to attend some ceremonial dances. Indian agent Reynolds had her arrested. Later, a grand jury in Helena, Montana would hold a hearing on charges that Grey had solicited money from the Crow for her Washington trip. Reynolds declared a smallpox quarantine around the reservation and thus prevented any Crow from testifying before the grand jury.

In 1907, at a council with the Crow regarding the unoccupied lands on the reservation, Curly, a warrior and a former army scout, said:

“The land, as it is, is my blood and my dead; it is consecrated, and I do not want to give up any portion of it.”

In 1909, Crow leaders contacted Washington attorney Charles J. Kappler who represented tribes with complaints against the government. The Crow prepared a petition asking that the firm of Kappler and Merillat be appointed to represent them before Congress and governmental agencies. In 1910, Indian Commissioner Robert Valentine rejected this petition, claiming that there was no reason for the Crow to have counsel.

In general, Indian tribes were denied the right to their own legal counsel based on two lines of reasoning. First, they could use the attorneys already employed by the United States government, so having a private attorney was a waste of money. There was little concern about potential conflict of interest regarding having an attorney who actually works for the entity that is being sued. Second, many times the Commissioner of Indian Affairs did not feel that the tribes had any legitimate complaints and therefore legal counsel was not needed.

Indian Samuel G. Reynolds moved on, but the Crow Reservation remained, its administration subject to the whims and fancies of whatever non-Indian was appointed to the position of agent.

In 1919, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing on the boundaries of the Crow Reservation. When the reservation was established, the United States had met in council with only one of the three Crow tribes and had thus determined the Crow Reservation boundaries based on the traditional homelands of the Mountain Crow. Crow leader Robert Yellowtail testified:

“Mr. Chairman, your President yesterday assured the people of this great country, and also the people of the whole world, that the right of self-determination shall not be denied to any people, no matter where they live, nor how small or weak they may be, nor what their previous conditions of servitude may have been.”

He went on to say:

“I and the rest of my people sincerely hope and pray that the President, in his great scheme of enforcing upon all the nations of the earth the adoption of this great principle of the brotherhood of man and nations, and that the inherent right of each one is that of the right of self-determination, I hope, Mr. Chairman, that he will not forget that within the boundaries of his own nation are the American Indians, who have no rights whatsoever-not even the right to think for themselves.”

His words continue to ring true today.

Today, the Crow Reservation is the fifth largest reservation in the U.S. in terms of area. The Crow tribe has 11,000 members with about 8,000 living on the reservation. Most of the tribal members-85%–speak Crow as a native language and it is the official language of the tribe.

Medicine Crow

A photograph of Medicine Crow by Edward Curtis is shown above.


The Hopi and the Spanish

The Spanish entrada (entrance) into the American Southwest began during the sixteenth century with explorers who were driven by greed. The Spanish hunger for gold and other fast wealth was justified in their own minds by their religion: their attempts to harvest souls for their religion justified their brutality toward the native peoples they encountered. They had absolutely no doubts about their own cultural and religious superiority. Not only did they have no respect for the Indian cultures which they encountered and the hospitality which was freely offered them, but they expected the Indians to recognize their superiority and to serve them as porters, concubines, and slaves.  

At the beginning of the Spanish entrada, it is estimated that the Hopi, whose villages were the western-most of the Indians classified as Pueblos, had a population of about 29,000. The Hopi were not a politically unified group, but lived in several autonomous villages in Northern Arizona.

First contact with the Spanish invaders came in 1540. A Spanish expedition under the leadership of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was making a sweep through the Southwest in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola. The expedition came north from Mexico with a force of 330 Spaniards (most of whom are mounted soldiers) and 1,000 native allies. At Zuni in New Mexico, the Spanish waged a fierce hour-long battle in which they captured the village and the Indians fled into their stronghold at Thunder Mountain. The Spanish, who were starving, quickly seized the Zuni food supply.

After capturing Zuni, Coronado sent an expedition under the command of Captain Pedro de Tovar to make contact with the Hopi who had a tradition of trading with the Indian nations of the Colorado River area. The Hopi met the Spaniards at the town of Kawaika-a with coldness. The Hopi were in battle formation and drew a line on the ground with sacred corn pollen telling the Spaniards not to cross it. There was a short battle that was won by the Spaniards.

The next contact which the Hopi had with the Spanish came in 1583. Spanish conquistador Antonio de Espejo and his soldiers had taken formal possession of Zia Pueblo in New Mexico and the land around it for the King of Spain. The party then moved to El Morro and then to the Zuni. Travelling with 80 Zuni, the Spanish made contact with the Hopi village of Awatobi in Arizona. A combined force of Hopi and Navajo warriors met the Spanish in a show of strength and unity, but the Spanish forced both groups to make peace with them.

At the Hopi village of Tusayan the Spanish were presented with 4,000 cotton blankets, some of which were colored and some of which were white. The Spanish noted that the women wore cotton skirts that were embroidered with colored thread.

Espejo also noticed that the Hopi were painting their bodies with mineral pigments.  With the help of Hopi guides, the Spanish visited the Hopi mines which were located in Yavapai territory. The mines were located in the Jerome Mountains and had been mined by the Yavapai for centuries. The Spanish find that the mine shafts burrowed deep into the mountain, but they were disappointed to find that the mines contained copper rather than silver and gold.

At the end of the sixteenth century, the Spanish invasion of the Southwest turned from one of exploration to one of colonization. With colonization came Spanish rule. Under the reasoning of the Discovery Doctrine Spain, as a Christian nation, was entitled and perhaps obligated to rule over all non-Christian people which it encountered. Thus, the Spanish took possession of Pueblo lands and peoples.

The first colonizing efforts came in 1598 when Juan de Oñate led a large colonizing party-129 soldiers and their families, 10 Franciscan missionaries, 83 wagons, 7,000 cattle, sheep, and goats-into New Mexico and established a colony at San Juan in the upper Rio Grande valley. The Spanish brought with them over 1,500 head of horse and mules: 1,007 horses, 237 mares, 137 colts, and 91 mules.

Meeting with leaders from 30 pueblos, Oñate took formal possession of New Mexico for the Spanish and ignored any possible Indian ownership of the land. He took possession of Pueblo lands in the name of the Christian King of Spain and for the benefit of any of the Spanish colonists with him who might want to exploit them. The Spanish warned the Pueblo leaders that they must accept baptism and instruction in Christian doctrine. If they failed to do this, then the Spanish would inflict physical punishment upon them and they would suffer the eternal torment of hell afterwards.

In Arizona, Oñate demanded that the Hopi give formal submission to the King of Spain. The Hopi superficially obeyed, hoping for a hasty departure of the Spanish troops.

Later that year, a small Spanish group under the leadership of Captain Marcos Farfan de los Godos set out with Hopi guides to the Indian mining areas in the San Francisco Mountains. Here they encountered Jumano settlements and they persuaded the Jumano to guide them to the mines. They found mines which were being operated by the Yavapai. The ores extracted from the mines were used as pigments and were considered by the Indians of the area to be a valuable trade commodity. The Spanish immediately laid claim to the mine.  

In 1599, the Spanish destroyed the pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico after a native upraising. All Acoma adults were indentured for 20 years and all of the men had one foot hacked off. Two visiting Hopi, whose villages were to the west of Acoma, had one hand cut off so that others among their people would understand what happens to those who do not submit to Spain.

The Spanish, like many other European colonists, justified their taking of Indian goods and souls by giving the Indians the “gift” of Christianity. The first Christian missionaries arrived among the Hopi in 1628 in the form of 30 Franciscans. These men had come to the Americas specifically to convert the Indians to both their religion and their culture.  They established missions at the Hopi villages of Awatobi, Oraibi, Shungopovi, Mishongnovi, and Walpi. They also attempted to convert the Navajo. The following year, the Spanish missionaries arrive at the Hopi village of Awatovi.

In 1629, the Franciscan Spanish missionaries renamed mountains which are sacred to the Indians after their patron saint: San Francisco Peaks.

In 1630, the Spanish constructed their Catholic church on top of a kiva (an underground ceremonial room) at the Hopi village of Awatovi. This symbolized to both the Catholic priests and to the Hopi that Christianity was to be dominant.

In 1655, some of the Pueblos lodged a formal complaint against the excesses committed by the Franciscan fathers. In response to the complaint, Father Guerra searched homes in search of feathers or idols. In the Hopi village of Shongopovi, the Spanish priest found Juan Cuna in possession of a katsina doll. The Spanish Inquisition had ordered Indian religions to be destroyed, and so Father Guerra publicly whipped Juan Cuna, poured turpentine over his wounds, and ignited it, burning him alive.

Katsinas (also spelled Kachinas), for the Hopi people in Arizona, are the spiritual essence of everything that is. Beginning in December each year, the Katsinas come to live for a while with the people. From December through July the Katsinas will come and go from the kivas (underground ceremonial rooms). To teach the children about the many different Katsinas, the Hopi carve  tihu or dolls which represent different Katsinas. These tihu are not dolls to be played with, but hung from a wall or beam as a valuable possession.

In 1680, Pueblo spiritual leader Popé leads a revolt against the Spanish. By coordinating and uniting several Pueblos, the Indians defeated the Spanish. The Franciscans were driven out and the Pueblos set about re-establishing their religions. Among the Hopi in Arizona, the kivas were rebuilt using materials from the destroyed churches. At this time, the Hopi also began to use church bells in some of their ceremonies. For the Hopi, the use of the church bells symbolized the superiority of their religion over Christianity.

The Spanish soon began the process of re-conquest and as a result there were a number of population shifts within the Southwest. In Arizona, the Hopi village of Walpi, fearing Spanish reprisals from the Pueblo Revolt, moved from a lower terrace to a more defensive position on top of First Mesa. People from the New Mexico Pueblos fled the returning Spanish to resettle among the Hopi.


The Hopi village of Walpi is shown above.

While the Hopi population was estimated at 29,000 at the beginning of the Spanish entrada, by 1690 it had decreased to 14,000 due to diseases brought by the Europeans.

In 1699, Espleta, the chief of the Hopi pueblo of Oriabi, led a delegation of about twenty to meet with the Spanish governor of New Mexico. Espleta proposed to the governor that they should agree that their two nations live in peace and recognize the other’s right to its own religion. The governor refused to accept these terms.

In 1699, the Spanish attempted to reoccupy the Hopi villages with the occupation by Spanish priests at the village of Awatovi. The following year, the Hopi attacked and destroyed the Spanish-occupied village of Awatovi. The Spanish priests and their male converts were sealed in a kiva and then suffocated by having hot ground chilies poured in through the roof opening. The women and children were taken to other Hopi villages. Some of the Hopi survivors from Awatovi were taken in by the Navajo where they founded the Tobacco Clan.    

A group of Tewa from New Mexico sought refuge among the Hopi in 1702. The Hopi chief did not fulfill the promise of land until they demonstrated their prowess. The Tewa defeated a Ute attack and were given a site on First Mesa where they built the village of Hano.

In 1716, a Spanish army under Governor Felix Martinez attempted to make the Tewa who sought refuge among the Hopi return to their pueblos in New Mexico. At First Mesa in Arizona, the Tewa in the village of Hano refused the Spanish request. Feeling that the climb to the top of the mesa to capture the Tewas would be costly, Martinez ordered Tewa crops to be destroyed and Tewa livestock to be killed. Some of the people who had fled from Jemez following the Pueblo Revolt of 1696 did return after the Spanish attack.

In 1775, Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, the missionary priest at Zuni Pueblo, received a request from the Spanish governor to report on the possibility of a land route between Santa Fe and Monterey (the Spanish capital of California). In addition, he was to report on a new plan for the subjugation of the Hopi. The priest and a small party traveled to the Hopi pueblos of Walpi and Oraibi. When he attempted to talk to the Hopi at Oraibi he received a hostile reception.

The following year, Spanish missionary Francisco Garces, stationed at the Mission San Xavier del Bac near Tucson, journeyed north to present-day Tuba City, Arizona . Here he encountered a settlement of Yavapai. A few miles away was the Hopi pueblo of Moenkopi which he describes as “half-ruined” and recorded the name as “Muqui conave.”

Another group of Spanish explorers led by the Francisans Fray Francisco Domínguez and Fray Vélez de Escalante approached the Hopi from the North. With the help of Paiute guides they were shown a road which led from Utah to the Hopi town of Oraibi. The Spanish followed the road to Oraibi where they received a friendly welcome and were given food. They then travelled to Second Mesa where they are told that the people of Shongopovi and Mishongnovi were willing to be friends, but they had no desire to become Christians. On First Mesa they spend the night at the Tewa-speaking pueblo of Hano. Here they met with a number of Hopi leaders and attempted to persuade them to travel to Santa Fe, but the Hopi leaders refused.

By 1780, the Hopi pueblos had now gone three years with no rain. They harvested only 800 bushels of corn and beans. While the Hopi population had been estimated at 7,494 five years earlier, it was now only 798. Five years earlier, the Hopi had had an estimated 30,000 head of sheep, now they had about 300. In addition, a smallpox epidemic swept through the Southwestern Pueblos and killed many Hopi.

In 1781, the Spanish planned to persuade the Hopi to relocate to New Mexico by sending converted Hopi and other Christian Indians to them. These Indians, ostensibly there for trade, would then be able to convince the Hopi to relocate in New Mexico. The plan failed.  After this, the Spanish showed little interest in the Hopi and they lived relatively free from European influences in their lives until their homelands were acquired by the United States.  

Sacred Places in New England

The cultural landscape of American Indians is filled with sacred sites which are described in their oral traditions. There are two basic kinds of sacred sites: (1) those which are sacred because of human acts of consecration, dedication, and ritual practice, and (2) those which are intrinsically holy, places which are endowed with great spiritual power. Very little is known about places which were sacred to the native people of the New England tribes prior to the arrival of the Europeans. What is known comes in part from the fragments of oral tradition which have been recorded, from the early European journals, and from the archaeological record.  

Sacrifice Rocks:

The European journals talk about “sacrifice rocks” which held spiritual importance for the Indians. Two of these were on the side of the road between Plymouth and Sandwich in Massachusetts. One of them is described as being six feet high while the other is about four feet high and both are ten to twelve feet in length. The stones were traditionally covered with offerings of wood and stone.

Writing in 1762, Ezra Stiles reports:

“The Indians being asked the reason of their Custom & Practice, say they know nothing about it, only that their Fathers & their Grandfathers & their Great Grandfathers did so, and charged all their Children to do so; and that if they did not cast a Stone or piece of Wood on that Stone as often as they passed by it, they would not prosper, & particularly should not be lucky in hunting deer.”

Mounds of brush and stone were built to mark scenes of tragedy and/or places where warriors were killed. As people passed by these mounds they would add stones and branches to them. There are several thousand of these mounds in New England.

An arrangement of rocks, called hobbomak, was done in an area which was felt to have particularly strong spiritual power. These were places where seekers could obtain spiritual power directly from the spirit world. These appear to have been similar to the vision quest sites in other areas. The hobbomaks, many of which are still known in the area, were considered so powerful that the oral traditions cautioned seekers to use them only under certain ceremonial conditions.

Stone Circles and Chambers:

Part of the sacred Native American landscape in New England is formed with stones: single standing stones, rows of stones, stone circles, and stone chambers. These are often invisible to non-Indians as many are convinced that Indians were not advanced enough to work with stone. With a stereotype of Indians as nomads firmly implanted in their minds by education and the mass media, many non-Indians do not realize that Indians in New England lived in permanent villages and often built their sacred landscape out of stone.


A stone circle at Gungywump in Connecticut is shown above.

We know relatively little today about the use and meaning of specific sites, and we are just beginning to understand that there may be a connection between the various sites. Some of the sites appear to have been observatories, oriented toward solar events (such as the solstices), lunar events (full moons and lunar maximums), and stellar events.

Of particular interest are the Native American chambers in New England. These chambers were built from stone using a corbelling system for the roof. They were often covered with earth and thus, several centuries later, appear to be natural caves. We don’t know what kinds of ceremonies were performed in these, but several have an orientation toward the summer solstice and thus may have had an astronomical function. More than 300 stone chambers have been identified in New England and of these 105 have been determined to have astronomical orientations.

The chamber at Upton, Massachusetts has a passageway about twenty feet long which leads into a circular chamber which is about twelve feet in diameter. Recent renovations at the chamber have shown that no metal tools were used in working the stones. The lintel stone over the entrance was very carefully fitted to the stones on either side.

Another feature in the sacred landscape of New England are the standing stones which often have a shape resembling the upper human torso and head. Some of the standing stones are tall obelisks, others slabs in stone rows that are wider than high.  Some of the stones are anthropomorphized stones called god or manitou stones. The standing stones are set upright in the ground or they are supported by other stones. These standing stones are often found near other features, such as stone rows, mounds, and chambers.  

Rock Art:

The powwows (spiritual leaders) would often record their visions in pictographic form on rocks. The sites chosen for these pictographs-rocky cliffs, boulders, outcroppings-were places which had sacred significance. These were often places associated with specific spiritual beings and their emergence from either the sky world or the underworld.

Many of the rock art images at Solon, Maine have sexual connotations, including ithyphallic males, sexually receptive females, and images of both male and female genitalia. One of the phalli has wings. Native Americans tended to view sex, sexuality, and nudity as natural and therefore these were not excluded from their spirituality. There are also many non-sexual images, including 15 birds.

President James Monroe and the Indians

In 1817, James Monroe became the fifth President of the United States. He was the last Revolutionary War veteran and founding father to assume the Presidency. From an American Indian viewpoint, his presidential administration is important as it set the stage for Indian policies and for the administration of these policies which would guide the American government for two centuries.

James Monroe

A portrait of President Monroe is shown above.  

Monroe became President at a time when a new, sometimes fervent, nationalism was sweeping through the United States and this nationalism was also expressed in the handling of Indian affairs. In his first message to Congress, President Monroe stated:

“The hunter state can exist only in the vast uncultivated desert. It yields to the more dense and compact form and great force of civilized population; and of right it ought to yield, for the earth was given to mankind to support the greatest number of which it is capable, and no tribe of people have a right to withhold from the wants of others more than is necessary for their own support and comfort.”

President Monroe recommended that Indians who wanted to own land as individuals should be allowed to do so and should be given a fee simple title to their land. This would, of course, break up the communal land holdings of the tribes and allow “surplus” lands to be acquired and developed by non-Indians.

In 1824, President James Monroe presented Congress with a plan for “civilizing” Indians by sending them voluntarily west of the Mississippi River.

Meetings With Indians:

Following the Constitution and the precedent set by earlier Presidents, Indian tribes were viewed as sovereign nations and dealings with them often took on the trappings of international diplomacy.  Indian leaders were often brought to Washington, D.C. so that they could be impressed with the size and power of the United States. As President, Monroe often met with Indian delegations.

In 1817, President James Monroe told a delegation from the Western Cherokee in Arkansas:

“As long as water flows, or grass grows upon the earth, or the sun rises to show your pathway, or you kindle your camp fires, so long shall you be protected by this Government, and never again removed from your present habitations.”

As with the promises of most Presidents, Monroe’s words would later prove to be false.

In 1821, Benjamin O’Fallon introduced a group of 17 Indian leaders to President James Monroe. The President told them that he hoped they would want the comforts of civilized life and that he was prepared to send them missionaries to teach their people agriculture and Christianity. Pawnee leader Sharitarish replied:

“We have everything we want-we have plenty of land, if you will keep your people off it.”

A delegation of Omaha from Nebraska under the leadership of Big Elk traveled to Washington, D.C. where they met with President James Monroe in 1822. Each of the Omaha chiefs had a portrait painted by Charles Bird King, a prominent artist.


Shown above is King’s portrait of Pawnee Chief Sharitarish done in 1822.

In 1824, the Cherokee Council sent a delegation to Washington, D.C. to talk with federal officials about their struggles with the state of Georgia. The delegates included John Ross, George Lowrey, Elijah Hicks, and Major Ridge. Over and over they told President James Monroe and other officials that the Cherokee would not cede any more land.

The Georgia delegation to Congress was outraged that the Cherokee were received with the same courtesy extended to foreign delegates. In their speeches to Congress, the Georgians called the Cherokee “savages” and accused the Cherokee of having a ghost writer to write their letters for them. However, the Cherokee dignity and good manners won them many admirers in Washington.

When the Cherokee delegation insisted that their annuity promised in the 1804 treaty had never been paid, President Monroe denied that such a treaty had ever been made. The Cherokee, however, produced a duplicate copy of the treaty signed by President Thomas Jefferson. After a search through the files of the War Department, the original treaty was found.

In addition to visiting the President, some Indian nations sought to contact him directly by mail. In 1819, the Stockbridge (who were now located in Indiana) wrote to President James Monroe to remind him of the service of their warriors on behalf of the United States during the Revolutionary War. They wrote that they had sent their warriors

“to join your great chief, Washington, to aid him in driving back into the sea the unnatural monsters who had come up from thence to devour you, and ravage the land which we a long time before granted to your fathers to live on.”

There is no indication that President Monroe replied to the letter or that he took any action in helping them.

Federal Indian Policies and Administration:

President Monroe appointed John C. Calhoun as Secretary of War and following the administrative procedures established by President George Washington this meant that Calhoun assumed the administrative responsibilities regarding Indian Affairs. As Secretary of War, Calhoun became the architect of a new Indian policy based on two principles: (1) the United States should preserve and civilize the Indians, and (2) the United States should not allow the Indians to control more land than they are able to cultivate.

As a part of the efforts to preserve Indians, in 1817 Calhoun requested that all Indian agents acquire “Indian Curiosities” for a cabinet of curiosities in the department. These curiosities were to include such things as moccasins, bows, skins, and items of Indian clothing.

In 1818 Secretary of War John Calhoun reported to the House of Representatives that the Indians west of the Mississippi River had become less warlike since their contact with Europeans. He proposed three basic changes to the aimless Indian policy of the past: (1) stop considering Indian tribes as nations, (2) seek to save Indians from extinction, and (3) inculcate among the tribes the concept of ownership of land. He stated:

“By a proper combination of force and persuasion, of punishment and rewards, they ought to be brought within the pales of law and civilization”. He also says: “The time seems to have arrived when our policy toward them should undergo an important change…Our views of their interest, and not their own, ought to govern them.”

With regard to the “civilized” tribes in the Southeast, such as the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw, Calhoun recommended reducing their settlements to a reasonable size and moving them west of the Mississippi. Here they would be free from further demands on their lands by the United States.

Concerning education, Calhoun proposed compulsory attendance at schools for all Indian children. The government should provide the tribes with an annuity to fund the schools. He suggested that in the beginning these schools focus on vocational education until such time as Indians show an aptitude for the liberal arts. The first schools should concentrate on teaching agricultural techniques, homemaking, Christianity, and citizenship.

While Calhoun’s recommendations were ignored by Congress, they continued to guide the War Department in its dealings with Indians.

In 1819, Congress authorized an annual sum of $10,000 as a “civilizing fund” for Indians. The money was to be used to teach agriculture and to teach the children reading, writing, and arithmetic. Calhoun asked missionary societies to participate in this endeavor.

By 1824 there were 41 mission schools run by 11 missionary societies. Not including government funding (grants and annuity payments) these schools spent $170,606 on Indian education.

Calhoun established the Office of Indian Affairs (which would later become the Bureau of Indian Affairs) in 1824 without Congressional authorization. He did this by appointing Thomas L. McKenney to a vacant clerkship in the War Department and then having all matters relating to Indians directed through this office.

The Seneca:

The Seneca, one of the members of the Iroquois League of Five (Six) Nations, had lived and farmed in New York for centuries prior to the creation of the United States. By the nineteenth century, land-hungry non-Indians wanted the Seneca land. In 1819, the Ogden Land Company, with the approval of the federal government, met with the Seneca to discuss buying their land. To watch out for the best interest of the Indians, the government appointed two agents to make sure that the Indians were not cheated or deceived. The Seneca chiefs-Little Billy, Red Jacket, Tall Chief, Young King, Two Skies, Infant, and Destroy Town-listened to the offer which was expressed in glowing terms about its benefit to the Seneca. One of the agents appointed by the government told the Seneca that President James Monroe felt it was in their best interest to sell their lands. The Seneca gave in and sold their land for 55 cents an acre and the land company quickly resold it for many times that amount. While the federal officials who oversaw the sale knew that the land was worth many times more than what the company paid for it, made no effort was made to insist that a fair market price be paid.

During Monroe’s Presidency, he was under a great deal of pressure from the Ogden Land Company to get the Iroquois nations in New York to sell their land and move to the west.

The Seminole:

During Monroe’s Presidency the United States engaged in the First Seminole War. The first Seminole War erupted in 1816 when the United States army, aided by Creek allies, invaded Spanish Florida. The rationale for the invasion centered around escaped slaves and Seminole raids. The war involved a series of raids and counter-raids and culminated with General Andrew Jackson’s scorched earth campaign against the Seminole. As a result of this war, the United States acquired Florida from Spain. At the conclusion of the war in 1824, President James Monroe recommended that the Seminole either be removed from Florida or placed on a reservation.

Apache Prisoners of War

While the idea of “indefinite detention” of people determined to be “enemies” of the United States is currently being debated, for American Indians this is an old issue and one in which they have had a great deal of experience. In 1885, the Chiricahua Apache-men, women, and children-surrendered to the United States Army on the condition that they were to be held as prisoners for two years and then they were to be allowed to return to their own land. Instead, they spent the next 27 years as prisoners of war in prisons in Alabama Florida, and Oklahoma.  

One of the leaders of the Chiricahua Apache was a warrior and medicine man known to the Americans as Geronimo. In 1876, the Chiricahua Apache settlement near Fort Apache, Arizona, had been broken up by the Americans and the people were forced to move to the San Carlos Apache Reservation. A number of Chiricahua Apache, however, did not go to San Carlos, but instead fled to the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico. From here, Chiricahua Apache warriors under the leadership of Juh and Geronimo raided American settlements in Arizona and New Mexico.

During the peace negotiations, Geronimo insisted that his reputation had been ruined by rumors and innuendo. He claimed that he was simply the victim of gossip and that he was not responsible for the murders and other crimes which had been attributed to him.

The American authorities planned to send the Chiricahua Apache to the Fort Marion Prison in St. Augustine, Florida. They were not charged with any crimes, nor did they get an opportunity to plead their case in any court of law. The United States simply held them indefinitely. While the government would claim that they were technically prisoners of war, Chiricahua Apache historians tend to characterize them as political prisoners.

The United States Army did not track down the Chiricahua Apache in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains on their own: they were led to Geronimo’s camp by Apache scouts. Following the surrender negotiations, the Army disarmed the Apache scouts and imprisoned them with Geronimo’s people as prisoners of war.

Chatto and about a dozen other Chiricahua Apache who had served as scouts for the army were summoned to Washington where they met with the Secretary of the Interior. During their return trip to Arizona, their train was suddenly turned around and they were taken to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where they were held as prisoners. The telegram ordering their incarceration read:

“I think it is the wish of the President that the Indians who came to Washington should, none of them, return to Arizona within reach of communication with those at Fort Apache until transfer to Fort Marion has been consummated.”

Following their surrender 383 men, women, and children, were taken by train from Arizona to their prison in Florida. All of the windows in the train were closed and nailed shut. They were given buckets and cans to serve as chamber pots. The train stopped frequently so that crowds would be able to see the Apache prisoners. Overall, the stench in the train cars was unbearable.

After the first 75 Apache prisoners had arrived at Fort Marion, the commander was asked how many Indians can be incarcerated at the fort. He replied that they could take only 75 more, but recommended that no more be sent because the fort was so small. The army sent a total of 502 Apaches to the fort.

After the Apaches had arrived at Fort Marion, one of the first actions of the army was to take some of the men and older boys to an island where they were left with fishing tackle and expected to catch and cook fish for themselves. The army ignored the fact that eating fish was a cultural taboo for the Apache and continued to use fish as one of the mainstays of the rations which were issued to the prisoners.

While at Fort Marion, at least two Apache warriors-Gray Lizard and Massai-managed to escape and to make the 1,200 mile trek back to their homeland.

In 1894, Congress passed a special provision which allowed the Chiricahua Apache prisoners to be transferred to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). After spending eight years at Fort Marion, the Chiricahua Apache men, women, and children who were being indefinitely detained as prisoners of war were transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Following their transfer, General Nelson Miles visited the prisoners and told them that this was now their permanent home.

In 1897, the leaders of the Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa-Apache tribes in Oklahoma proposed selling part of their reservation to the homeless Wyandot and to the Apache under the leadership of Geronimo. The Indian agent endorsed the idea, but it was stopped by Congress.

While being held as a prisoner, the United States capitalized on Geronimo’s fame among non-Indians by displaying him at various events. For the United States this provided proof of the superiority of American ways. For Geronimo, it provided him with an opportunity to make a little money. In 1898, for example, Geronimo was exhibited at the Trans-Mississippi and International Exhibition in Omaha, Nebraska. Following this exhibition, he became a frequent visitor to fairs, exhibitions, and other public functions. He made money by selling pictures of himself, bows and arrows, buttons off his shirt, and even his hat. In 1905, the Indian Office provided Geronimo for the inaugural parade for President Theodore Roosevelt. Later that year the Indian Office took him to Texas where he shot a buffalo in a roundup staged by 101 Ranch Real Wild West for the National Editorial Association. Geronimo was escorted to the event by soldiers, as he was still a prisoner. The teachers who witnessed the staged buffalo hunt were unaware that Geronimo’s people were not buffalo hunters.

In 1909, Chiricahua Apache chief Geronimo died and was buried at Fort Sill.

Geronimo's Grave

Shown above is Geronimo’s Grave at Fort Sill.

In 1910 the United States Senate passed a bill to provide allotments to the Chiricahua Apache in Fort Sill, Oklahoma and to free them from their prisoner of war status. The measure was defeated in the House by representatives from Oklahoma.

In direct violation of promises made to the Chiricahua Apache, the School of Fire for Field Artillery was established at Fort Sill in 1910. While the Apache had been told that this would be their permanent home, the army had no intention of abandoning the post and felt that the Apache must remain prisoners. In spite of the promises made to the Apache by General Nelson Miles, when the War Department determined it was in the nation’s best interest to retain Fort Sill as an army field artillery school, they reneged on the pledges. Artillery began firing into Apache hay fields, corn fields, and grazing areas. The army notified the prisoners that shelling would not stop for livestock.

The plight of the Chiricahua Apache prisoners at Fort Sill did not go unnoticed by non-Indians. In 1911, Reverend Walter C. Roe of the Reformed Church in America describes their situation:

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

Apache leader Naiche told the army:

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

In 1912 legislation was introduced in Congress which would free the Chiricahua Apache at Fort Still in Oklahoma from their prisoner of war status and relocate them on the Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico. The legislation was opposed by the New Mexico delegation as they wished to preserve non-Indian grazing rights on the Mescalero Reservation.

In 1913, the Chiricahua Apaches, held as prisoners of war by the Army since 1886, were transferred from Oklahoma to the Mescalero Reservation in New Mexico where they were placed under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department and given their freedom. A total of 187 Apaches went to New Mexico, while 77 remained in Oklahoma. Those who elected to stay in Oklahoma were promised allotments and rations. The following year, the government released the Chiricahua Apache in Oklahoma from their prisoner status and granted them allotments of land.

Indian Words in English

English really isn’t a Native American language, but virtually all of today’s Indians speak this as their first and primary language. During the past several centuries the English-speaking Europeans and their descendents who have come to occupy what is now the United States and Canada have consistently shown intolerance for other languages. Consequently, native languages have been suppressed. Native Americans have been required to learn English, and have not been allowed to use their native languages.  

In the early days of contact between Native Americans and the English-speaking colonists, the need for communication between the two groups resulted in the formation of Pidgin English. Pidgin English is a stripped down version of English which allows for basic communication. Pidgin English was primarily a trade language. During the seventeenth century, American Indians, if they learned English at all, learned it only as a medium for basic communication with alien invaders.

Another interesting aspect of the use of English and its incorporation into Indian cultures is in swearing: in general, Indian languages do not have swear words. As the Indians came into contact with English-speaking people, they acquired the art of swearing which was always done in English.

As the Europeans invaded the North American continent they encountered many things which they had never seen. Having no words to describe these things, the European colonists-English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, and French-speaking-borrowed many words from the Indians.

Some of the Indian words which have been incorporated into English included words for plants, animals, and foods:
































Some of the words described clothing and tools:










Some of the other words English has acquired from American Indian languages include:












“Caucus” comes into English from the Algonquian caucauasu which means “counselor” and was first recorded in print by Captain John Smith, an early English colonist.

“Buccaneer” originally meant “someone who dries meat on a wooden frame over a fire” and has its origin in the Tupi language of the Caribbean islands. It came into English through French.

This list of words is not complete, but illustrates some of the words which English has borrowed. In some cases, English has borrowed the words directly from Indian languages (most of these have come from the Algonquian languages), while in other instances the Indian words have come into English from Spanish or French.

In addition to borrowing words to describe the new wonders they were seeing, the Europeans also borrowed a number of place names. Adjacent to the United States, both Canada and Mexico are Indian names. More than half of the states in the United States bear Indian names:

















New Mexico









On the local level, many cities and towns, including Chicago, carry Indian place names.  

Navajo Sandpaintings

Most Navajo ceremonies are focused on health: on healing someone who is ill or on maintaining health. Navajo ceremonies, often referred to as “sings” or “chants,” are often a reenactment of the creation of the world through myth, song, prayer, and drama. The patient is placed in this recreated world which closely identifies the patient with the powers of the Holy People.  

To illustrate the songs used in the ceremonies, the Navajo use sandpaintings or drypaintings. These are created by dribbling colors (made from charcoal and pulverized minerals) on the ground using the first and second fingers and thumb of the right hand. The painting is started at the center and includes symbolic representations of the Holy People. The sandpaintings attract the Holy People: powerful supernatural entities which can cure and bless.

Navajo Sandpainting 1

Shown above is a sandpainting photographed by Edward Curtis.

The composition and design of the Navajo sandpaintings are static; that is, the designs used in the sandpaintings are rigidly established. If they are to be effective in bringing about a cure or in maintaining health, the designs must be created without significant change or alteration. The sandpaintings are the exact pictorial representations of supernaturals who are called by their likenesses in the sandpaintings and are compelled to cure under the rules of the universe. If the ritual rules are followed exactly as prescribed by the Holy People, the supernaturals will bring about the cure.

The painting is a vessel which receives its power when the singer sprinkles it with pollen. At this point it becomes an altar. The patient then sits upon the painting during the ceremony. The sandpainting is the medium through which the illness is transferred out of the patient and the health and perfection of the Holy People enter into the patient. As a force in the healing and ceremonial process, the sandpainting is not just to be seen, but it is to be absorbed. When it is absorbed, the beauty and harmony of the sandpainting can help heal the mind and the body. The patient does not just visualize nature or the environment; the patient becomes absorbed in its reformulated harmony and beauty.

Navajo Sandpainting 2

Sandpaintings range from one foot in diameter to over twenty feet in diameter. The larger sandpaintings may take more than a dozen people most of a day to complete. In the larger sandpaintings, the hataali (medicineman or chanter) primarily directs and criticizes as many as a dozen or more young men who are actually creating the sandpainting, each working on a specific part of the overall painting.

Navajo Hatali

A photograph of a Navajo hataali by Edward Curtis is shown above.

There are two basic types of Navajo sandpaintings: those that belong to the rhythm of the night and those that belong to the rhythm of the day. Sandpaintings belonging to the night are started after sunset and are destroyed before sunrise. Those that belong to the day are begun at sunrise and are destroyed before sunset.

The sandpaintings used in the ceremonies are always temporary: immediately following the ceremony, sand is swept up and carried away.  The destruction of the sandpainting is also a ceremonial action. The hataali, using a slender wand, begins with the figure in the east and then obliterates the painting in a sunwise fashion. Once the design is no longer recognizable, the assistants gather the sand in their blankets, carry it to a little distance from the hogan and throw it away.

The five colors used in the sandpaintings usually symbolize direction. White (made from white sandstone) represents the east and is associated with males and the dawn; yellow (made from yellow sandstone) represents the west and is associated with females and twilight; black (made from charcoal) represents the north and is associated with males and night; blue (made from a mixture of blue black and white) represents the south and is associated with females and daylight; red (made from red sandstone) is used to represent sunshine.

Sandpaintings contain supernatural powers which can be dangerous. Misuse of a sandpainting may bring serious consequences: blindness, illness, and perhaps death to the individual and drought and destruction to the society. Thus permanent copies are not made as evil forces and beings might be able to find them and change them from a force for healing to a force for creating illness. For this reason, there is opposition to photographing or copying these paintings in any permanent medium. Many of those which have been photographed, including those made in museums, were deliberately incomplete or in error so that they do not have any spiritual power.  

The Black HIlls, 1950 to 1985

Following World War II, the United States decided that it wanted to sever its relationships with American Indian tribes. In order to do this, it needed to settle all possible legal claims which might arise out of its past dealings with the tribes. Thus, in 1946, Congress created the Indian Claims Commission to adjudicate all claims arising out of fraud, treaty violations, or other wrongs done to the Indians by the government. Under the Indian Claims Commission Act, a tribe could receive full and just compensation for wrongs. It was presumed that most of these claims would deal with land: lands which had been illegally seized from Indian tribes, land which had been purchased from them at less than their true market value, and damages to Indian land by non-Indian intruders.  

In 1950, the Sioux re-filed their claim for the Black Hills, South Dakota with the Indian Claims Commission. Eight tribes were a party to the case: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (South Dakota), Crow Creek Sioux Tribe (South Dakota), Lower Brule Sioux Tribe (South Dakota), Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation (South Dakota and Nebraska), Rosebud Sioux Tribe (South Dakota) Santee Sioux Tribe (Nebraska), Sioux Tribe of the Fort Peck Reservation (Montana), and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (North Dakota and South Dakota).

Two years later, oral arguments were held regarding the Sioux Black Hills claim before the Indian Claims Commission. The attorney for the Sioux argued that the United States violated its trust obligations as guardian of the Sioux tribes when it acquired the Black Hills.

In 1954, the Indian Claims Commission rejected the Sioux claim on the Black Hills as the Commission did not feel that the United States had acted dishonorably. The Commission felt that

“it was a practical necessity that the lands be acquired by the defendant and made available to white miners.”

The Commission felt that the United States had not only tried its best to keep miners out of the Black Hills, but in addition Congress had generously appropriated funds to support the Sioux even after federal obligation to provide rations had expired. The Commission was either unaware or purposely ignored that fact that President Ulysses S. Grant had ordered the military to make no attempt to deter the miners from entering the Black Hills in 1875.

While the Sioux felt that the findings of the Indian Claims Commission were not correct, in 1956 the Court of Claims affirmed the Indian Claims Commission rejection of the Sioux claims. However, the following year, the Court of Claims vacated prior proceedings in the Sioux Black Hills claim. According to the Court, the claim had been decided on a distorted record in which the attorney for the tribes had made concessions contrary to fact and had failed to conduct significant research in the case.

In 1958, the Court of Claims ordered the Indian Claims Commission to reopen the Sioux claim for the Black Hills on the grounds that the Sioux had been inadequately represented and as a consequence an inadequate record had been presented.

In 1960, the Court of Claims allowed the Sioux to amend their original claim and to substitute two separate petitions: (1) a claim for lands outside of western South Dakota which were ceded under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, and (2) a claim for property confiscated by Congress (the Black Hills). The Black Hills claim included claims for the land, the hunting rights, the placer gold which was removed, and three rights-of-way.

In 1974, the Indian Claims Commission awarded the Sioux $17.5 million for the Black Hills. The opinion of the Commission was that the Black Hills had been taken in violation of the Fifth Amendment and therefore the Sioux were entitled to just compensation. In addition, the Commission awarded the tribes compensation for placer gold which was removed and for the loss of rights-of-way. The total award was $105 million. The finding of the Indian Claims Commission was appealed by the United States.

In 1980, the Supreme Court in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians affirmed the Court of Claims ruling and awarded the Sioux $106 million for the Black Hills. The monetary award was for the value of the land and minerals at the time of taking in 1877 plus interest. In the decision which clearly ruled that the lands had been taken illegally, Justice Blackmun wrote:

“A more ripe and rank case of illegal dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history.”

In his dissent, Justice Rehnquist did not even bother to conceal his personal anti-Indian racism with legal arguments and wrote:

“the Indians did not lack their share of villainy either.”

Following the Supreme Court decision, the Court of Claims determined that the only issue remaining on the Sioux land claims for lands ceded in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty was the offsets to be allowed.  The government offered to settle the case for $4.2 million in offset costs but the tribes rejected the offer and demanded the return of all federal lands in the area.

In 1980, Mario Gonzalez, the tribal attorney for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, filed suit in U.S. District Court asking for recognition of Sioux title to the Black Hills and $11 billion in damages for denial of the tribe’s use and occupancy of the area. Gonzalez contended that the government had taken the land for the purpose of securing private mining claims rather than for the general public. The District Court dismissed the case claiming that it lacks jurisdiction. The tribe appealed, but also lost the appeal.

The Sioux did not want money for the Black Hills: they wanted this sacred land returned to them. They refused to take the money which had been awarded in their case and in 1982 the Committee for the Return of the Black Hills was formed. The Committee had one representative from each of the Sioux tribes who had been involved in the suit.

In 1985, Senator Bill Bradley (Democrat, New Jersey) introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate which would return the federally owned land in the Black Hills in South Dakota to the Sioux. Under his proposed bill, private ranches and businesses as well as Mount Rushmore would remain untouched. The bill was opposed by non-Indians in South Dakota and was defeated in 1987.

The Open Hills Association was formed by Senator Tom Dashle (Democrat, South Dakota) in 1990. The new association was dedicated to fighting all attempts by the Sioux to regain the Black Hills.

The reparation payment is currently being held in trust for the Sioux tribes. With interest it has grown to nearly $600 million. A large majority of Sioux tribal members, in spite of the poverty that is found on most of their reservations, continue to affirm that the Black Hills are not for sale and support attempts to regain the sacred area.

Interior Department Finalizes 20-Year Ban on Grand Canyon Area Uranium Mining

Grand Canyon from the South Rim (photo by navajo)

Although the direction of the administration was made clear in October, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will on Monday finalize a 20-year ban on new uranium-mining on some one million acres of land near the Grand Canyon. The announcement will be made at the National Geographic Society HQ in Washington, D.C.

The ban, which is actually an extension of an existing ban, has been under consideration since 2009. Under the Bush administration, thousands of new mining claims had been encouraged under the 1872 Mining Act.

After Salazar’s position became clear when he chose “Alternative B” from the Bureau of Land Management’s final environmental impact statement on withdrawing lands, Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, as well as Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, announced their intention to introduced legislation that would allow new uranium mining.

Alternative B bars 1,006,545 acres of federal lands from new mining. It allows previously approved operations to continue and some new operations on mining claims with valid existing rights. The federal lands are located on two parcels north of the Grand Canyon National Park and one parcel south of the Grand Canyon in the Kaibab National Forest.

The move no doubt would be approved by a Republican President unlike any we have seen since, Teddy Roosevelt, who said in a speech at the Grand Canyon more than a century ago:

Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.

We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children’s children will get the benefit of it.”

Some people just can’t stand to see any land unmolested by development or mining. Thankfully, these million acres are getting another 20-year reprieve. But count on the “improvers” to be back licking their chops about 18 years from now.  

The Ancestors of the Iroquois

When the Dutch and the French, and later the English, began to enter into what would become New York State searching for trading partners in the seventeenth century, they encountered a large, well-organized alliance of tribes known as the Iroquois. The League of Five Nations, also known as the Iroquois Confederacy, was composed of five culturally and linguistically similar nations who had come together to promote peace among themselves.

Tribal Map

The map above shows the approximate location of the Iroquoian and Algonquian tribes when the Europeans first began to enter the area.  

The designation “Iroquois” was given them by the French and was most likely a French mispronunciation of a derogatory term used to describe them by enemy peoples. They call themselves Haudenosaunee which is often translated to mean “People of the Longhouse” and they symbolize their confederacy as a longhouse with five hearth fires.  The longhouse is symbolically seen as being oriented west to east, with the Seneca occupying the western door; then the Cayuga, the Onondaga, the Oneida, and, finally, the Mohawk occupying the eastern door.

Iroquois Map

The map above shows the relative location of the five nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.

Iroquois Longhouse

A drawing of an Iroquois longhouse is shown above.

Archaeologists have identified the ancestral Iroquoian culture in New York as the Owasco cultural tradition which began to flourish about 900 CE. The Owasco people were farmers whose lives centered on the raising of the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. This vegetable diet was supplemented with a diversified subsistence of fish, game, and wild plants.

With agriculture, the Owasco people tended to be sedentary, living in villages, hamlets, and satellite camps. These ranged in size from a few dozen people to a few hundred people. At the beginning of the Owasco period, these ancestral Iroquois people built their villages in the fertile sites of their fishing grounds, on flood plains or just above on slightly higher terrain. Archaeologists have found numerous cache pits and remains of large vessels in these sites, which suggests that they had a stable and prosperous communal life.

The Owasco villages were made up of a number of longhouses. There was intense warfare between the communities: there was no over-arching political structure at this time.

The phase of Iroquois history called Carpenter Brook Owasco by archaeologists began about 1000 CE. This phase marked the beginning of a shift in settlement patterns from riverine villages to permanent towns located on hilltops.

In 1100 CE, ancestral Iroquoian people began to occupy the Maxon-Derby site. This site was an un-palisaded Owasco village which covered about two acres. It housed a maximum of 200 to 250 people. The people were living in small oblong houses with rounded ends. In addition to the small houses, there are two larger structures, about 60 feet in length, which resemble the later Iroquois longhouses.

By 1140, Owasco people were living at the Sackett site on Arsenal Hill near present day Canandaigua. This village covered more than three acres and was enclosed by an ellipsoidal ditch measuring 343 feet by 202 feet. The Owasco people dug the trench to a depth of two to three feet and to a width of seven to eleven feet. Within the village, the people were living in small wigwams. While there were no longhouses at the site, some of the features in the wigwams, such as narrow shelves or benches around the interior-are features which are found in later Iroquois longhouses.

In 1290, Owasco people established a village at the Chamerlin archaeological site. The village was surrounded by a palisade and contained longhouses which were up to 80 feet in length.

In 1300, the phase of Iroquois history called Oak Hill Iroquois by archaeologists began. During this time, Iroquois settlements were primarily permanent stockaded villages located in defensible sites. By this time, a pattern of village removals and resettlements had been established. Every 25 to 50 years, the villages would outgrow their sites, exhaust soil fertility and firewood, and would move two or three miles away.

In 1400, the phase of Iroquois history called Chance phase Iroquois by archaeologists began. In the Onondaga area there was a village resettlement which resulted in a larger village being fairly close to a smaller village. Having two towns fairly close to each other is a clear indication that they had some type of non-aggression pact and perhaps saw themselves as being part of the same nation and/or political entity.

In 1451, the Iroquois Confederacy-the League of Five Nations-was born when Deganawida, a Huron born of a virgin, crossed the great lake in a stone canoe and began to bring forth his vision of a great peace. Deganawida had a speech defect and had Hiawatha speak for him to the several Iroquoian tribes. As a result of their efforts, the Five Nations-the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk-met and buried the instruments of war and planted a pine tree of peace. The wampum belts recorded:

“I, Deganawida, and the union lords now uproot the tallest pine tree and into the cavity thereby made we cast all weapons of war. Into the depths of the earth, down into the deep underneath currents of water flowing to unknown regions we cast all the weapons of strife. We bury them from sight and we plant again the tree. Thus shall the Great Peace, Kayenarhekowa, be established.”

This was the alliance which the French, Dutch, and English encountered in the seventeenth century.

Dighton Rock

When the Europeans first began their invasion of what would become known as New England, they encountered people-American Indians-whose origins and existence puzzled them. They were firm in their conviction that they knew the true history of the world and that this history had been written down in their holy book. Since American Indians were not mentioned in their book, they had to come up with some explanation of their origins. Ignoring American Indian oral traditions, they simply superimposed their own creation story on them, regardless of whether it made any realistic sense of not.  

The imagined story of the American Indians frequently had two premises: (1) that Indians, like the Europeans, were recent arrivals on this continent, and (2) that Indians, who were obviously an inferior people, could not have developed any sophisticated cultural features, such as agriculture, stone work, and writing. Unfortunately, the physical evidence did not support the Europeans’ active imaginations and they had, therefore, to attempt to devise seemingly plausible explanations for this evidence.

Shortly after arriving in Massachusetts, the English colonists noticed a large rock into which had been carved numerous symbols. The rock was a forty-ton boulder in the riverbed of the Taunton River. This boulder, now known as the Dighton Rock, had been deposited in the riverbed at the end of the last ice age about 10-13,000 years ago. Composed of a gray-brown crystalline sandstone it has the form of a slanted, six-sided block. While ice age boulders are not uncommon in this region, what make this one different are the inscriptions carved on its trapezoidal face. The carved surface is inclined 70 degrees to the northwest and faced the bay.

Dighton Rock

Dighton Rock Eastman

The images on the rock feature meandering lines, round-headed anthropomorphs, turkey and animal tracks, and footprints. The images were deeply carved into the rock and carving them would have required standing in water to make them.


An 1830 drawing of the carvings is shown above.

The English colonists puzzled over the mysterious symbols which had been carved in the rock. The Reverend John Danforth made a drawing of the petroglyphs in 1680. Convinced that the writing on the rock was Phoenician, he sent his drawing to the Royal Society of London to see what they thought, but the English scholars were non-committal. Danforth’s drawing is still preserved in the British Museum.


Danforth’s 1680 drawing is shown above.

In 1690, the Reverend Cotton Mather, in his book The Wonderful Works of God Commemorated, wrote:

“Among the other Curiosities of New-England, one is that of a mighty Rock, on a perpendicular side whereof by a River, which at High Tide covers part of it, there are very deeply Engraved, no man alive knows How or When about half a score Lines, near Ten Foot Long, and a foot and half broad, filled with strange Characters: which would suggest as odd Thoughts about them that were here before us, as there are odd Shapes in that Elaborate Monument….”

Some seventeenth-century scholars were convinced that the markings were actually Phoenician writing. Their world view regarding Indians made it impossible to conceive of the carvings as having been done by Indians.

In 1783, Ezra Stiles, the president of Harvard University and well-known Biblical scholar, declared that the writings on Dighton Rock were the work of Phoenicians. The Phoenicians were a maritime trading culture that had flourished in the Mediterranean from about 1550 BCE to 300 BCE. While they travelled routes known to the Biblical world of this time, there is little evidence that they ventured outside of the Mediterranean. They were, however, mentioned in the Bible and thus it was assumed that they must have sailed (or rowed) across the Atlantic to the Americas.

Ezra Stiles

Ezra Stiles is shown above.

Phoenician Map

A map of Phoenician trade routes is shown above. While they did venture outside of the Mediterranean, they voyaged along the African and European coast lines, never out of sight of land.

The Europeans, with familiarity with the Norse sagas, had long assumed that the Vikings-a Christian Norse group-had sailed to North America by 1000 CE. Thus, in 1837, Carl Christian Rafn proposed that the carvings on the Dighton Rock were actually Norse runes and therefore proof of their presence in North America. Rafn was a Danish historian, translator, and antiquarian. He was particularly interested in determining the location of Vinland which had been mentioned in the Norse sagas. Rafn was convinced that he saw Roman numbers and the name “Thorfinn Karlsefini” in the stone.

In 1912, Edmund B. Delabarre declared that the carvings on the Dighton Rock had been done by the Portuguese. According to Delabarre, a professor of psychology at Brown University, the inscriptions on the rock had been carved by Miguel Corte-Real, a Portuguese explorer whose 1502 expedition into the western Atlantic never returned. He claimed that the carvings include the Coat of Arms of Portugal, the name Miguel Corte-Real, and the date 1511. Delabarre also claimed to have deciphered the writing as:

“Miguel Cortereal by the will of God, here Chief of the Indians.”

In 2002, Gavin Menzies, in his book 1421: The Year China Discovered America, suggests that the carvings are evidence of Chinese exploration. While the book was a best seller, most academic scholars remained unconvinced.

I haven’t seen any reports claiming that the carvings on Dighton Rock are evidence of ancient aliens from other worlds exploring and/or colonizing North America, but I suspect that there are some advocates of this hypothesis.

The petroglyphs on Dighton Rock were made by American Indians. While there are still a few people today who will dispute this, the fact remains that Indian people left petroglyphs (carvings in rock) and pictographs (paintings on rock) throughout North America, including New England. The problem today is not whether or not they were made by American Indians, but why they were made and what the symbols mean.

Let’s start with why. In general, rock art was created by American Indians for several basic reasons: (1) it was a way of recording spiritual experiences, such as vision quests, (2) it was a way of recording historical experiences, such as battles and deaths, and (3) it was a way of marking tribal territories, pathways, and usage rights. The location of Dighton Rock makes me suspect that it was a territorial marker. However, it is possible that it was a vision quest site as we know very little about vision quests among the Algonquian people who lived in the area.

As to what the symbols mean, unless we have access to the cultures which created them it is easy to misinterpret them. The best we can say is that we don’t know what they meant to the people who carved them. Present day claims by non-Indians as to their meaning are based in non-Indian imaginations, not in the actual Indian cultures.

In 1963, the rock was removed from the river and installed in a museum in the Dighton Rock State Park. In 1980 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Dighton Rock Museum

Sacred Places in Northern California

Throughout North America there are two basic kinds of sacred American Indian sites: (1) those which are sacred because of human acts of consecration, dedication, and ritual practice, and (2) those which are intrinsically holy, places which are endowed with great spiritual power. Religious traditions which are based on animism-the view that all things are alive and have souls-tend to have sacred places that are natural rather than being made by human beings. Instead of building churches, animists tend to use special places in the natural landscape as portals to the spiritual world.  

The Indian nations of Northern California had many different areas which they considered to be sacred. Some of these were places in which creation had occurred; some are places where healing powers can be obtained; and some are places where it is easier to make contact with the spirit world. A few of these are described below.  

Mount Diablo, located east of San Francisco Bay, is a sacred place to many of the tribes of Central California. For the Miwok, for example, this is the place where creation took place and where human beings acquired fire.

Mount Shasta is a key figure in the stories and ceremonies of several Indian cultures, including the Karuk, Yurok, Shasta, Hupa, Yana, Pit River, Wiyot, and Wintu. It is one of the main sacred mountains to the Wintu. The souls of the dead go first to Mount Shasta and then to the Milky Way.

In 1988, the Forest Service issued permits for a ski resort on Mount Shasta. Prior to issuing the permits the Forest Service talked with groups who consider Mount Shasta to be sacred — Wintu, Pit River, Shasta, and Karuk. Florence Jones, who is considered the “top doctor” by the Wintu, told them:

“The mountain is where I get my information to treat people. If you ruin my spiritual place, how will I take care of my people as a doctor?”

Hupa Shaman

A photograph of a Hupa shaman by Edward Curtis is shown above.

However, the Forest Service archaeologists found no cultural resources on Mount Shasta which would interfere with the development of a ski resort.

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta is shown above.

Patrick’s Point is celebrated in Yurok stories and songs as the last abode of the immortals. These immortal beings left the other parts of Yurok territory when the Yurok people were created. However, they still continue to linger at Patrick’s Point. Among the important spiritual people who are found here are the Porpoise People (the porpoises are considered to be a people.)

In 1992, the Yurok people working with the California Department of Parks and Recreation constructed the Yurok village of Sumeg at this site. The village includes three living houses, two sweat houses, and a Brush Dance pit. A ceremonial Brush Dance is held at the site.

Medicine Lake in the Modoc National Forest in northeastern California was formed 100,000 years ago with a volcanic eruption which left a caldera or basin in which the lake formed. This is an area which is of spiritual importance to the Pit River, Modoc, Klamath, Shasta, Karuk, and Wintu. According to the Pit River Tribal Council:

“The area of the Medicine Lake Highlands is important to the culture, religious practices of the Ajumawai and Atwamsini Bands of the Pit River Nation, and to the Pit River Tribe as a whole”

The Medicine Lake area is still used for vision quests, for gathering healing herbs, and for other ceremonies.

Medicine Lake Highlands

A photograph of the Medicine Lake Highlands by the U.S. Forest Service is shown above.

In 1998, the federal government granted leases which allow for the development of geothermal energy sources around the volcanic Medicine Lake Highlands. The following year, the Medicine Lake caldera was found eligible to be added to the National Register of Historic Places as a Traditional Cultural District because of its long use by Northern California tribes.

Klamath Curtis

A photograph of the Klamath by Edward Curtis is shown above.

Cave of Hands is located in Pico Blanco in Monterey County. The Cave of Hands, sacred to the Costanoan, contains more than 250 hands made by tracing and filling in. Archaeologists estimate that these painting were done more than 3,190 years ago.

Mount Offield is considered the most sacred mountain in Karuk territory. The Karuk call this place Ikxaréeyav Túuyship which means “mountain of the immortals.” During the World Renewal Ceremony, the Karuk would burn the brush on the slope of the mountain (a practice which was stopped by the Americans).

Crater Lake in southern Oregon is sacred to the Klamath. The lake was formed 7,700 years ago when a volcano – Mount Mazama – erupted and collapsed. The caldera then filled with water making it the deepest lake in North America (1,943 feet). Oral history tells of the volcanic eruption and the formation of the lake. The eruption reflected the battle between Llao, a mountain spirit, and Skell. After the lake was formed, the Klamath used the area as a vision quest site. They call the lake Giwas and it is here that the vision seekers can become one with all creation and obtain their spiritual power.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake is shown above.

This list is meant to be illustrative, not exhaustive. I realize that I have not provided a great deal of detail about the nature of these sites, but since I am not affiliated with any of the Northern California tribes, it would be inappropriate for me to provide greater detail.

Ancient America: Ocmulgee

Some time before 900 CE, people begin migrating into what will become present-day Georgia from the area around the Mississippi River near present-day St. Louis. Culturally, archaeologists consider these immigrants to be Mississippian people and they know that this is a migration because the material culture they bring with them (and the material culture they leave behind for archaeologists to study) is completely different from that of earlier peoples. This material culture included a different style of pottery, different burial practices, and, most evident, a totally different architecture.

Mississippian Map

About 900 CE, Mississippian immigrants established the village of Ocmulgee which included a series of large earthen mounds for public ceremonies. Large earthen mounds-actually pyramids built from earth-were characteristic of Mississippian culture. Public ceremonies were carried out on top of these mounds in view of the people who gathered in the plaza below.

Ocmulgee 1940

A temple mound as it appeared in 1940 is shown above.

Ocmulgee Temple Mound

A current view of the Great Temple Mound is shown above.

Ocmulgee Ceramics

Shown above is a pottery vessel with a lid in the shape of a human head which was found at Ocmulgee. In addition, pipes and necklaces from the site are also in the display.

There are a total of seven mounds at Ocmulgee. The tallest mound, known today as the Great Temple Mound, is 55 feet high. Archaeologists using magnetometer scans have found that this mound had a spiraling staircase which was oriented toward the floodplain. This staircase is unique among the many Mississippian culture sites.

The temple mounds at Ocmulgee, as at other Mississippian sites, have a flat top where a rectangular wooden building was constructed. In addition to temple mounds there were also burial mounds.

During the height of occupation at Ocmulgee (950 to 1150), the population was socially stratified. Subsistence was provided by skilled farmers whose crops of corns, beans, and squash provided enough surplus to support a religious and political elite population. The elite leaders supervised the construction of the large, earthen mounds. The dirt for these mounds was carried by hand, transported in woven baskets.

The most distinctive feature of the village is the subterranean earth lodge which is about 42 feet in diameter. On the floor of the council house is a raised earthen platform shaped like a falcon with its head oriented toward the fire pit in the center of the building. Molded seats (47 in all) on the platform provided seating for the leaders.

Ocmulgee Earthlodge

Shown above is the entrance to the reconstructed earth lodge at Ocmulgee National Monument.  

Ocmulgee Fireplace

Shown above is the fireplace in the reconstructed earth lodge.

In the council house (called a “temple” by some of today’s writers) there is a recessed basin at every seat. This basin is used as an individual vomitaria during the Black Drink ceremony in which vomiting is used for purification. The Black Drink is an active and powerful diuretic which was consumed before important meetings as its purgative influences freed the participants’ bodies from all hindrance to thought and thus prepared them for serious and careful discussion. The drink was made from the leaves of the cassina shrub. Consuming the Black Drink provided physiological effects due to massive doses of caffeine.

The town of Ocmulgee was abandoned by the Mississippian people about 1200 CE. As the Mississippian culture in the area declined, a new cultural tradition coalesced a short distance downstream from Ocmulgee. Called the Lamar Phase by archaeologists, and flourishing by 1350 CE, the Lamar Mounds and Village Site has two mounds.

At the present time, the Ocmulgee National Monument occupies a 702-acre site located on the east bank of the Ocmulgee River. In 1934, the National Park service designated Ocmulgee as a site for federal protection. In 1936, the Ocmulgee National Monument was formally established as an historic unit of the National Park Service. In 1996 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1997, the National Park Service designated the Ocmulgee National Monument as a Traditional Cultural Property. This was the first Traditional Cultural Property designated east of the Mississippi River. At the present time, the Ocmulgee National Monument has a visitor center which includes an archaeological museum. The museum displays artifacts and interprets the pre-contact Native American cultures of the area.

Ocmulgee Desk