Cultures in Contact on the Northern Plains

In the late 1700s, Europeans began to arrive on the Northern Plains in Alberta, Canada and their arrival brought a century of great cultural change to the First Nations of the region. During this century, the buffalo, which had provided the Indians with food and shelter, comes close to extinction. At the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre near Fort Macleod, Alberta, displays on the fourth level of the building tell the story of the European impact on Native cultures.

Fur Trade 3434

The coming of the fur trade had a far reaching impact on the people. One of the first traders to reach the Blackfoot was Peter Fidler who came among them in 1792. While he may have been the first European trader to reach the Blackfoot, European trade goods-metal items, beads, cloth, guns-had reached them several decades earlier. The traders not only brought in European trade goods, but more importantly they involved the Indians in a globalized economic system.

Trade goods 3433

Trade items 3437

Trade goods 3438

Trade goods 3439

The photographs above show some of the kinds of trade items that the European traders brought with them.

Blanket 3440

The most famous trade good developed by Hudson’s Bay Company was the blanket. By 1740, the Hudson’s Bay Company was making a specially designed trade blanket. These blankets were heavier than other trade blankets and were made of pure wool. Each blanket was assigned a certain number of “points” based on its weight, and a series of stripes indicating the “points” were woven into the blankets. In this way the trade value of the blanket was easily seen by both trader and the Indian fur trappers.

Another change was brought about the treaties negotiated between the First Nations and the Canadian government. In 1877, representatives from the Blood, Siksika, North Peigan, Stoney, and Sarcee gathered at the Blackfoot Crossing of the Bow River in Alberta to meet with representatives of the Canadian government. Father Albert Lacomb, an Oblate missionary, was hired by the government to assist with the treaty. From the viewpoint of the Canadian government, the purpose of Treaty 7 was to resolve the problem of aboriginal possession so that those lands could be legally passed into private ownership.

Treaty 3432

The Indians were given one square mile for each five people, and an allowance of $12 for the first year and $5 thereafter. The treaty ledger book showing payment to the Indians is shown above.  

Napi’s World

Buffalo 3397

Traditionally, the Indian nations of the Northern Plains, such as the Blackfoot, were egalitarian. Within Blackfoot society, there were no individuals, no groups of people, who were endowed by a god, creator, or other entity with any more rights than anyone else. As animists, they also viewed all other living things as people, as having souls. Within their egalitarian world-view, all people-humans, animal-people, plant-people, and others-were seen as equals. Humans did not have superior rights, they did not have dominion over the rest of creation. Humans tried to live in harmony with nature.  

Building 3586

The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre, located near Fort Macleod, Alberta, tells the story of the interaction between the buffalo-people and the Blackfoot. Visitors start their tour at the top of the seven-level building which is concealed in the ancient cliff face. Napi’s World, a series of displays on the first level, tells about the environment of southern Alberta and the people-animal, plant, and human-who inhabit it.

Napi World 3494

Napi is a Blackfoot Culture Hero who transformed the world for the people. Photographs of Napi’s World and other animal-people in the Centre are shown below.

Napi World 3495

Napi World 3496

Napi World 3498

Napi World 3499

Eagle 3475

napi world 3517

napi world 3533

napi world 3570

Ancient America: The Buffalo Hunt

Napi People 3512

At the beginning of the European invasion of North America, there may have been as many as 75 million buffalo on the Great Plains. For thousands of years, the buffalo had been the walking supermarket of the Plains Indian people, providing them with food, clothing, tools, toys, and shelter. For most of the year, the buffalo provided the Plains Indians with most of their food, with durable hides for making tipi covers and blankets, and strong bones for making a wide variety of tools-at least 87 different tools according to one study. For the Plains Indians, hunting was not a choice, but a way of life, a strategy for survival.  

Buffalo Map 2869

Technically, the animal is a bison, but it is commonly called a buffalo, particularly by Indian people. At the present time, there are two subspecies of bison in North America: plains bison (Bison bison bison) and wood bison (Bison bison athabascae). Over the past 10,000 years, the North American bison have been gradually decreasing in size. The now extinct Bison latifrons had an overall horn spread (including horn sheaths) in excess of two metres (more than six feet) as compared with about three-fourths of a metre for today’s bison. Bison at the end of the ice ages 12,000 years ago were about 25% larger than the modern animals.

Latifrons 1

Latifrons 2

Latifrons 2558

Shown above are skulls from Bison latifrons.

In hunting buffalo over the past 12,000 years or so, Indian people gained a great deal of knowledge about the animal, its habits, and its environments. Despite its massive size, the buffalo is amazingly fast: over short distances it can reach speeds of 50 kph (30 mph). They also have tremendous endurance and can run at slower speeds for extended periods of time. Archaeologist Jack Brink, in Imagining Head-Smashed-In: Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains, notes:

“They can turn on a dime, twirling with their heads down and horns out. Many a coyote, wolf, and human hunter have been bore and flung through the air by a buffalo that just a moment before had been standing still.”

For the Indian hunters, the thing that made one buffalo better than another was the amount of fat that the animal had. Thus, hunters were able to pick out the fattest animals in the herd by looking at their curves and the sheen of their coats. They also knew which animals would be fat at any given time of year. Maximizing fat meant that Indian hunters harvested cows for much of the year. Only in the summer would bulls be a preferred target.

Indians hunted buffalo in many different ways, ranging from communal hunts in which many different groups would come together to harvest a hundred animals at a single time using a buffalo jump or a pound, to solitary hunting in which only a few animals would be taken.

Indian people managed the environment to enhance the herds and to position them. Long ago Indian people had learned that if the grasslands were burned off, then it would come back greener and more nutritious as the burned grass provided fertilizer to the soil. They knew that the buffalo were attracted to these greener, freshly burned areas. In the fall and in the spring, fires would be intentionally lit so that the buffalo would be attracted into these areas.

The Buffalo Jump:

Buffalo Jump

One of the ways Indian people hunted buffalo was to drive them over a cliff. Scattered across the Northern Plains are thousands of these buffalo jump sites. Many of them were used only once, while others were used repeatedly.

Buffalo jumps were communal kill sites in that many groups of Indian people had to come together and work cooperatively to make the site work. This communal hunting brought together people who did not normally live together as one group. During most of the year, the people lived in small bands of 50-70 people. For the buffalo jump, several hundred people (sometimes more than a thousand) would come together. Archaeologist Jack Brink writes:

“Not only were buffalo jumps an extraordinary amount of work; they were the culmination of thousands of years of shared and passed-on tribal knowledge of the environment, the lay of the land, and the behavior and biology of the buffalo.”

Buffalo 3429

The first problem in using a buffalo jump is that the buffalo herd is usually not close to the kill area. The herd must be lured over a distance of many miles to the cliff.

To help lure the herd, a young man would dress up like a buffalo calf. He would then approach the herd, mimicking calf behavior. He would have to make the calls of a buffalo calf-not just any calls, but those made by a calf in distress. Other young men, dressed as wolves and mimicking their behavior, would appear in the prairie behind the herd and create an illusion of danger. Slowly and patiently these buffalo runners would lead the herd toward the kill site. Being a buffalo runner was a hazardous occupation and many were killed or maimed.

Buffalo Runner 2880

The painting of a buffalo runner shown above is on display at the First Peoples Buffalo Jump in Ulm, Montana.

Stretching back for many miles into the prairies behind the cliff are the drive lines which will guide their herd. These are marked with stone cairns which can be used as a base for wedging in the ends of sticks and brush. This helps create the illusion, from the perspective of the buffalo’s poor eyesight, of a wall or barrier.

Drive lines 3557

In the drawing above, the dotted lines show the drive lines for the Head-Smashed-In and Calderwood buffalo jumps.

cairns 3481

The drawing above, from the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre, shows the drive line cairns being prepared for a buffalo hunt.

The Pound:

Pound 3413

The buffalo pound was a way of harvesting large numbers of bison in a similar fashion to the buffalo jump. However, the final kill location was not a cliff, but rather a pound or corral made of wood. Pounds were located in the lightly wooded areas that surround portions of the Great Plains. Here the hunters could find enough wood to build the pound. Using techniques similar to those used in the buffalo jump, the herd would be lured over many miles and then driven into the pound where they would be killed with bows and arrows and spears as they milled around.

Pound 3470

Pound is from an archaic English term for enclosure.

The wooden structure of the pound was actually somewhat flimsy by modern standards. The walls were draped with bison hides, the darker sides facing in, creating the illusion of a solid surrounding wall. Once in the corral, the animals saw only solid darkness surrounding them and no visible escape. Thus they simply circled in the confines of a structure which they could have easily destroyed.

Hunting on Foot:

Hunting 3519

During much of the year, Indian people would hunt buffalo in small groups or alone. A solitary hunter might use a disguise to get close to the herd and take an animal or two. Small groups of hunters from the same band might take five or ten animals. The camp would then move to the kill site to process the carcasses rather than transport them back to camp.

Hunteer 3556

In the winter, hunters wearing snowshoes would drive the buffalo into snow banks where the animals would become mired down and thus could be easily killed. At other times they waited at watering holes where the buffalo would become less mobile because of the mud. Sometimes they would set ambushes along the well-used buffalo trails or hunt them as they swam across rivers and lakes.

winter 3467

Hunting 3469

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre

Head Smashed In Sign

There are probably thousands of buffalo jumps scattered across the Northern Plains. The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest, largest, and best preserved buffalo jumps in North America. Located about 18 kilometers from Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada, the site tells of the story of the First Nations and the buffalo for 6,000 years.  

Buffalo Jump

Head-Smashed-In takes its name from the story of a young Peigan boy who stood under the cliff to get a better view of the buffalo falling over the cliff. The young man was soon crushed under the pile of dead buffalo.

While Indian people have inhabited the area around Head-Smashed-In for more than 11,000 years, it did not become designated as a National Historical Site until 1968. The interpretive centre was officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of York, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, in 1987. The interpretive centre at Head-Smashed-In is an architectural delight and wonder by itself. It is built into the side of the cliff in an unobtrusive and aesthetically pleasing way. The architect, Robert LeBlond, received the Governor General’s Award for Architecture in 1990.

Building 3389

Building 3586

The 2,400 square metre building rises for seven stories, but it is sunk into the sandstone bedrock and the prairie soil so that it is barely visible to a person standing outside. Only about 10% of the surface area of the building is visible. The concrete of the building’s walls have been stained to match the local sandstone and the portions of the building walls exposed above ground have been etched with horizontal grooves designed to simulate the natural bedding planes of the sandstone. The building does not intrude on the landscape and thus visitors are better able to visually understand the nature of the vast, open prairies where the remarkable story of this buffalo jump took place. Archaeologist Jack Brink, in Imagining Head-Smashed-In: Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains, writes:

“Built adjacent to the actual archaeological site, the Head-Smashed-In Interpretive Centre is a premier example of in situ interpretation of an archaeological resource in North America.”

The Centre’s parking area, which seems quite awkward for the visitors, was positioned so that it did not disrupt any archaeological materials.

The Interpretive Centre:

The interpretive centre at Head-Smashed-In has seven levels. The top two levels provide access to the trail at the top of the cliff and views of the area.

The upper trail leads from the interpretive centre along the top of the cliff to the kill site. The lower trail can be seen in the photos.

Upper Trail 3479

Upper trail 3480

Upper Trail

Upper Trail 3487

Cliff Drawing

The drawing above shows the location of the kill site (designated as 1), a second buffalo jump (the Calderwood Jump, designated as 2), and a vision quest site (designated as 3). A cast of the Calderwood Buffalo Jump is the cliff face which is on display inside the Interpretive Centre.

upper trail 3486

The view looking back from the cliff toward the prairie is shown above. The grass cover of the massive basin behind the jump is dominated by blue gamma and rough fescue. Both of these grasses are especially high in protein and are thus excellent graze for fall and winter. The buffalo jump was used primarily in the fall.

Upper Trail 3489

The lower trail goes past a tipi and then below the cliffs. At present the cliffs are about 10 meters (33 feet) high, but when the buffalo jump was first in use the cliffs were about 20 meters (66 feet) high.

Tipi 3577

tipi 3585

Tipi 3584

Lower Trail 3581

Lower Trail 3583

Each of the other five levels tells a different aspect of the area’s rich history. The interpretation is detailed and is told from the perspectives of Blackfoot elders and archaeology.

Niitsitapi, the Blackfoot People

Blackfoot 3430

Niitsítapi, the Blackfoot people, have a long and rich history on the Northern Plains. According to tribal elders, the people have always lived on the Plains, since the time when muskrat brought up the mud from under the waters. Archaeologists can trace the Blackfoot through their artifacts and sites for at least a thousand years. Beyond that, archaeologists are reluctant to put a tribal name on the earlier tools and sites. Aboriginal people have lived on the Plains of southern Alberta for at least 11,000 years.  

The Blackfoot Confederacy is formed from four closely related First Nations: Siksika (also called Northern Blackfoot), Kainah (also called Blood), South Pikuni (Piegan, located in Montana), and North Pikuni (Peigan, located in Alberta). A fifth group, the Small Robes, was wiped out by a smallpox epidemic in the 1830s. All of these nations share a common language and heritage. Traditionally, they had a way of life centered around buffalo hunting.

Map 3233

Old Photo 3398

Old Photo 3399

Blackfoot Flags

Napi’s People:

On the second level of the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre near Fort Macleod, Alberta, are a series of displays entitled Napi’s People which shows the lifestyle of the Plains people. The displays include a reconstructed tipi and artifacts.

Napi People 3523

Napi People 3512

Napi People 3505

Napi World 3506

Napi Stories 3508

Napi stories are a part of oral tradition. In order to convey the idea of these stories, they are projected onto rocks rather than written out in the displays.

The Blackfoot elders felt that it was important that the visitors to the Head-Smashed-In Interpretive Centre gain some feeling for the spiritual nature of their culture, the buffalo jump, and the importance of buffalo in their life. According to the elders:

Plains Indian culture was steeped in religion and ceremony. The world was an uncertain place, and people needed the help of supernatural powers.

Help was obtained from the spirit world in the form of visions and dreams. In these dreams people were instructed in the use of sacred objects, songs and rituals. These objects and rituals became part of the sacred Medicine Bundles.

Medicine Bundles were the most powerful religious possession in Plains Indian culture. They were owned by individuals but could bring power, luck or health to anyone who honoured them. Ownership of a bundle brought long life, success and social prestige.

Sacred Items 3535

Sacred 3536

Shown above are replicas of some of the ceremonial items used by the Blackfoot, including rattles, small medicine bags, a pipe, and smudge. Notice that the pipe is not the elbow pipe which is often shown in association with the Plains tribes, but rather is a straight pipe.

Bundle 3509

One of the concerns of the Blackfoot elders was how to express the spiritual nature of the buffalo jump without displaying spiritual artifacts. Spiritual artifacts, such as medicine bundles, are not meant to be ogled by tourists. The elders decided that a replica would be created by someone who had the spiritual power to create the actual bundle. The explanation of the medicine bundle shown above:

“There were different kinds of medicine bundles, each symbolizing different kinds of power. The one displayed here is a Medicine Pipe Bundle. It was given to the people by Thunder.

Because of its sacred nature, this Medicine Bundle is a replica. Except for the pipestem, the bundle is empty. A real Medicine Bundle would contain the skins of muskrat, mink, otter, squirrel, owl and other birds, a rattle, a wooden bowl, and several small rawhide bags containing red earth paint, pine needle incense for smudges, and tobacco. The bundle would be opened at least once a year, shortly after the first thunder in the spring.”

Napi People 3510

Shown above is the hide of a buffalo fetus which has been made into a bag for holding berries.

Napi People 3511

Napi People 3513

Napi People 3514

Napi people 3520

Tipi 3527

Shown above is the detail of how the hides of the tipi are pinned above the door.

tipi 3528

Notice the stones which are being used to hold down the tipi covers. Throughout the Northern Plains, archaeologists have found “tipi rings” of these stones where Indian lodges once stood.

Note: most Indians in North America did not live in tipis: this was a form of architectures which was highly developed on the Plains.

Tipi 3537

The drawing shown above shows women erecting a tipi in a Blackfoot camp. Notice that they are using a four-pole base frame. Many of the other Plains tribes used a three-pole frame.

dog travois 3529

Travois 3531

Prior to the acquisition of the horse in 1735, the only domesticated animal used by the Blackfoot was the dog. During the Dog Days, the dogs carried loads in a travois (shown above).

Bring Kailey Home

On Friday July 13, 2012 my daughter, Kailey Anne-Marie Martin was ripped away from me after the Centralia, WA police department kicked in my door on a Writ of Habeas Corpus and an Aid of Writ of Habeas Corpus for a default judgment in 2010 that I was NEVER served with, this is wrong! California Superior Court Rule 5.124(b) Request for Default states:

“For the purpose of computing the declaration

of mailing, unless was by publication and the address of the respondent is unknown, it is not sufficient to state that the address of the party to whom notice is given is unknown or unavailable.”

Commissioner Tracey Mitchell of the Lewis County Superior Court issued this bogus Writ of Habeas Corpus. When I had informed Commissioner Mitchell that I was never properly served she merely shrugged her shoulders. I also informed Commissioner Mitchell that both Kailey and I are registered Native Americans and that I had rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act, Commissioner Mitchell responded with, “I don’t recognize Native American laws in my court. AGAIN this is wrong!

The alleged father states in a declaration that I was served with in May of 2012:

“On or about 2/26/2010, after saving up more money, I went back to court and was unable to get Ms. Martin served due to her whereabouts being unknown.”

This statement was entered as evidence to the San Diego Superior Court and yet the alleged father was STILL granted a default judgment awarding him 100% sole custody of my daughter, Kailey, even though he stated for the record that he NEVER had me served.

Ever since I was served in May 2012 I have filed all the appropriate responses/ answers, made requests for telephone appearances due to indigence, and requested counsel all of which were denied by the San Diego Superior Court.

The “Bring Kailey Home” Foundation has been established to reunite a mother with her daughter who was UNJUSTLY taken from her. My right to due process was completely denied! Please show your support by liking us on Facebook, Bring Kailey Home, or I can be personally contacted via call/text at 541-272-7592


View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Ancient America: Eating a Buffalo

Napi World 3499

For the Plains Indians, for many thousands of years, the buffalo (more properly called bison) was a walking supermarket providing them with food, clothing, shelter, tools, and toys. Buffalo were hunted in many different ways: they were killed as they swam across rivers and lakes; they were driven into snow banks where their short legs failed them; they were driven into dead-end canyons where they were easily cornered; they were ambushed as they migrated along well-marked trails; they were herded into corrals; and they were driven over cliffs.  

Buffalo Jump

Hunting 3519


Once the buffalo had been harvested, the carcass had to be fully butchered and processed into usable food fairly quickly or it would spoil. In a communal hunt, such as a buffalo jump, processing the carcass was done with an assembly line. Removing the hide and emptying the stomach were crucial in cooling down the carcass and ensuring that the greatest amount of food could be saved for future use.

butchering 3546

In butchering a buffalo, the tongue and internal organs were removed first. These were taken to the camp’s medicine people and then eaten as delicacies. As the people butchered the carcass-a process which would go on around the clock until it was done-they would smash the big marrow bones with heavy stone hammers to extract the tasty and nutritious marrow. This would help replenish the energy of the workers.

The body would be cut into 11 pieces to facilitate transportation: the four limbs, the two sides of ribs, the two sinews on each side of the back bone, the brisket, the croup, and the back bone.

Bison meat is about 65% water, so the Indians would dry the meat to make it lighter and easier to carry. In order to get rid of the moisture, the meat would be cut into thin strips, thus exposing a great deal of the surface area to the drying effects of the sun and air. The thin strips of meat would be hung on simple wooden racks for drying. Drying the meat in very thin strips is also a method of preserving it.

Drying 3548

diorama 3404

The dried meat would be stored in hide containers known as parfleches. Parfleches were made from stiff, untanned hides that were folded into a large envelope. The food would be packed in the parfleche as tightly as possible to keep out as much air as possible, thus reducing spoilage. Properly cured and packaged dried meat could last for months, and even years.

Hide 3544

The hides would be processed into robes or tanned hides for lodge covers or clothing.

Stone Boiling:

One of the common methods of cooking is known as stone boiling. A bowl-shaped pit would be dug into the hard earth. It would then be made watertight by pushing a fresh buffalo hide, fleshy side up, into the bottom of the pit. The pit would then be filled with water. Large heavy cobbles would be heated in a nearby fire until they glowed red. They would then be carried on a forked stick to the pit. By continually replacing the rocks as they cooled with hot rocks, the water would get very hot. Food would then be added and cooked.

At the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in southern Alberta, the local stone was not suitable for heating for this process and so the cobbles were brought in from some distance away.

stone boiling 3542

This diorama at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump shows the use of stone boiling to render fat from the bones. Notice that the material stacked up on the right is buffalo dung (commonly called buffalo chips). Since trees tend to be scarce on the Great Plains, dried buffalo dung was the standard fuel used by the Plains Indians.

Stone Boiling

This display at the First Peoples Buffalo Jump in Ulm, Montana shows stone boiling.


Grilling meat on a spit over an open flame was a quick, easy way to cook buffalo. It was often done, but it was not the preferred way of cooking. Native Americans viewed grilling as an inferior way of preparing meat as it resulted in the loss of much of what makes meat so great to eat: fat.

Earth Ovens:

A common way of cooking buffalo involved earth ovens. A pit-deeper and with steeper sides than the pit used for stone boiling-would be dug. In many cases this pit would be shaped like an inverted bell. Rocks would be placed at the bottom of this pit. At Head-Smashed-In, local sandstone was used for this.

In some cases the rocks would be heated before being placed in the pit and at other times a fire would be built over the rocks in the bottom of the pit to get them red hot. Once the hot rocks were ready, the meat would be added. Usually, the meat would be wrapped in a covering of either hide or local vegetation to keep the meat from getting covered in dirt. At Head-Smashed-In, the local vegetation was small branches of local willows, Saskatoon bushes, or conifers. Dirt was then piled on top of the protected meat and a fire was built over the pit. After several hours, sometimes the next day, the pit would be uncovered and the people would feast.

Personal note: I had buffalo prepared this way at the Kalispel Powwow many years ago. It was the best buffalo I have ever tasted, and I have eaten a lot of buffalo.


Making pemmican out of buffalo is a way of preserving it so that it can be stored for a very long time. Once the flat sheets of meat have been thoroughly dried, they can be used in making pemmican. Using stone hammers, the meat would be reduced to almost a powder, then mixed with fat. Berries would then be added to the mixture. On the Northern Plains, Saskatoon and chokecherries were most frequently used.

Pemmican 3521

Dried Saskatoon and Choke Cherry berries were mixed with finely pounded buffalo meat to make pemmican.

Pemmican 3522

At times, wild Bergamont would be added to the pemmican for additional flavor.

When all of the ingredients-powdered meat, fat, berries, and other flavorings-had been thoroughly mixed, the mash was then placed in heavy bags made of buffalo hide. These bags were made from several pieces of hide sewn together to make a large sack which would hold 40 to 50 kilograms (88 to 110 pounds) of pemmican. In the dog days prior to the horse, the bags would have been somewhat smaller.

Pemmican is a dense, nutritious, storable food that often served as a staple. Later, during the fur trade era, pemmican became the staple of the fur trappers and both Indians and Métis produced it as a trade good.

Pea Ridge National Military Park

The most celebrated event in American history is the Civil War. Each year, thousands of people dress up in period costumes and reenact popular battles. The American landscape is littered with state parks, national parks, and historic markers celebrating the Civil War. This war not only divided the Americans, but also the Indians, particularly those living in Oklahoma. Many of the tribes, such as the Cherokee and the Creek, were divided between their loyalties to a slave-owning confederacy and to the federal government.

One of the early battles in the Civil War which involved Indians occurred in Arkansas in 1862 at a place known as Pea Ridge. Nearly a century later, in 1956, the Arkansas congressional delegation proposed legislation to make this battlefield a national military park. Congress responded by passing the act which created the Pea Ridge National Military Park.

Pea Ridge

Pea Ridge 12

The Pea Ridge National Military Park is shown above.

Confederate Monument

The Confederate monument at Pea Ridge is shown above. Long before the Pea Ridge battlefield was declared a national monument, many Union and Confederate veterans attended reunions at the site. The first of these was held in 1887, some 25 years after the battle. The veterans dedicated monuments on the battlefield to both the Union and Confederate dead.

The Cherokee at Pea Ridge:

Prior to the Civil War, the Cherokee in Oklahoma were a deeply divided nation. The Civil War exacerbated this division: John Ross, a slave owner and principal chief, supported the Union and spent the war attempting to lead a government in exile; Stand Watie, a southern sympathizer, replaced Ross as principal chief and led Cherokee troops for the Confederacy. Stand Watie, who held the rank of Colonel in the Confederate Army, formed the 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles and commanded this regiment at Pea Ridge.

At the Battle of Pea Ridge almost 1,000 Cherokee made up two Confederate regiments. These Indian regiments were a part of the division commanded by General McCulloch.

In spite of the fact that the Union forces were outnumbered and outgunned by the Confederates, the Battle of Pea Ridge was a decisive victory for the Federal Army.

After the battle, Watie commanded a brigade of Native American troops. He led his troops in 18 battles and major skirmishes. In 1864, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. When he surrendered to Federal troops in June 1865 he was the last Confederate general to surrender.

Stand Watie

General Stand Watie is shown above.


Shown above are Cherokee Confederates at a 1903 reunion.  

Trail of Tears:

The Pea Ridge National Military Monument is also a part of the Cherokee Trail of Tears. A portion of the pre-war Old Telegraph/Wire Road in the Monument includes 2.5 miles of the Trail of Tears.

In 1838, the United States Army rounded up the Cherokee in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama and then force-marched them 1,500 miles to Oklahoma. The Trail of Tears – called Nunna daul Isunyi in Cherokee which means “trail where we cried” – resulted in the death of an estimated 8,000 Cherokees. The Cherokees were forced to abandon their property and their unharvested crops. Mounted soldiers, using their bayonets as prods, herded the Cherokee like cattle.

The Cherokee were removed in 13 different groups which traveled by different routes.

First Nations News & Views: Denise Juneau at the DNC, 1886, Pe’ Sla update, party platforms


Welcome to the 22nd 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. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find a feature of Denise Juneau, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Montana who spoke at the Democratic National Convention, a look at the year 1886 in American Indian history, an update on the what’s happening with the Pe’ Sla land sale and a dozen linkable briefs. Click on any of the headlines below to take you directly to that section of News & Views or to any of our earlier editions.

DNC Speaker Denise Juneau Leads Montana’s Public Schools with an Emphasis on Indian Education for All

By Meteor Blades

For six minutes between the speeches last week at the Democratic National Convention of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a far less known Democrat stood at the podium in the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was Denise Juneau (Hidatsa-Mandan). One of 161 American Indian delegates at the convention, Juneau is also State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Montana, the first Native woman ever elected to statewide office in the United States. She won that four-year post in 2008 and is running this year against Sandy Welch, a Republican who says she will bring a business approach to the job. Here is Juneau’s campaign website.

She was raised on the Blackfeet reservation, took a bachelor’s degree in English at Montana State University, a master’s at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a law degree at the University of Montana. For a while she taught English on the Fort Berthold Reservation in central-west North Dakota, home of the Three Affiliated Tribes, (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara). She served as a Montana Supreme Court judicial clerk, worked briefly for a national law firm and became Director of Indian Education at Montana’s Office of Public Instruction before she was elected as superintendent four years ago.

The post makes her a voting member of the Montana State Land Board, which has considerable influence on economic development. Her opponent has received the endorsement of the Montana Chamber of Commerce based on support for opening up more state-owned Montana land to “resource development,” something Juneau has opposed. She also opposes packing more kids into classrooms, something Welch proposes to sneak under the door by decentralizing state decisions in such matters.

You can watch Juneau’s speech to the convention in the video below (or read the transcript I’ve included at the end of this piece).

Juneau’s shout-out to her mom in Charlotte was more than just the obligatory public hug. Carol Juneau is a Montana state senator and before that, from 1998-2007, served as a state representative. In her first term of office, in 1999, she got language of intent incorporated into the state’s policy of Indian Education For All. That policy had been written as part of an article into the new Montana Constitution in 1972 and then pretty much forgotten.

It says, “The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural heritage.”

Turning those words into something concrete took the prodigious efforts of Carol Juneau to shepherd House Bill 528-the Indian Education for All Act-through the legislature. And it took several more years of lawsuits to get it funded, according to Montana Assistant Attorney General Andrew Huff (Cree-Rocky Boy Reservation). As part of a 2004 decision in the Columbia Falls Public Schools v. State, a district court ruling later upheld by the Montana Supreme Court found that Montana had shown “no commitment in its educational goals to preservation of American Indian cultural identity.” Consequently, additional funding was provided to public schools to meet this and other commitments.

In an interview with Indian Country Today, Denise Juneau discussed the law’s implementation:

Carol Juneau, state senator from Montana, of Hidatsa and Mandan heritage and an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Can you explain Carol Juneau, your mother’s, connection and involvement in IEFA?

[A]s a state representative she was the one in 1999 who got the intent behind the constitutional language put in the statute, and that’s where a lot of the [Columbia Falls] lawsuit came from. There were three things the constitutional language meant: all personnel have an understanding of American Indians; every Montanan be encouraged to learn about American Indians; and where there are areas that need IEFA implementation, we constantly strive to improve it. She was the one who was able to move that forward, work it through a Republican governor and a lot of Republicans in the legislature, and really bring it to the forefront and get it passed.

What do you tell teachers to convince them of the importance of IEFA?

I used to be the director of Indian Education so I worked with a lot of teachers personally. We always had a philosophy we used since the beginning. There would be no blame, shame, or guilt in any of our training. People can’t help if they don’t know about American Indians when they weren’t taught it in school, or just know how the media portrays Indians. It’s not their fault, and we don’t want to walk in a room and wave fingers at them. We really want to take the philosophy that when we move forward, we do it in a very positive way. We need to take teachers and adult learners from where they are and build from their current knowledge and strengths. We look beyond “blame, shame, and guilt,” and say, “These are the facts, this is the way our country and Indian history is,” then lay it out and have discussions.

As FNN&V reported in May, surviving delegates to the convention that rewrote Montana’s constitution joined with other Montanans late this spring to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its passage.

One of the speakers was Assistant Attorney General Huff:

Because he didn’t look obviously like an Indian or what other people thought an Indian should look like, many people thought Huff was Italian or Mexican or marveled at his apparent easy ability to tan.

“So by the time I had hit high school in Missoula, I’d heard just about it all with regard to Indians-all the Indian slurs, the stereotypes, the racial epithets,” he said. “I’d heard that Indians were drunk, lazy, that we were a defeated people, that we should just blend in, that we should accept our fate and assimilate and that reservations should be done away with.”

Many people in his life-his supportive family, many teachers and his friends-had fought against these stereotypes, Huff said. Many people wanted to help Indian children, but lacked the knowledge to counter the stereotypes, he said.

It took 40 years, but Montana at last is fulfilling the promise of that provision, Huff said.

Montana has a K-12 Indian Education for All curriculum, developed in consultation with Indians and their tribes, he said. Teachers are getting trained on how to teach it and learn about Indians and Indian tribes. And Montana children of all backgrounds are learning about Indians and their history.

IEFA is making a difference not just in informing all students about Indians but providing an education that gives Indian students from Montana’s 12 tribes dignity in the classroom. That, educators hope, will improve the ghastly Indian dropout rate. Although about 11 percent of public school students in grades 7 to 12 in Montana are Indian, in the past five years Indians comprised 48.6 percent of dropouts in grades 7 to 8, and 23.8 percent of all high school dropouts. Only 59.3 percent of Indian students graduated. The bigger the school, the worse the dropout rate.

IEFA has already improved the morale of Indian students, according to a number of educators:  

Thanks to the curriculum funded by IEFA, those Indian students now feel less alienated. School counselor Marcia Beaumont [Blackfeet] spent 22 years working in rural reservation schools before moving to a Billings middle school 10 years ago. She says about IEFA’s impact: “For kids who have a real solid identity with their tribe, they’re happy about it because they’re like, ‘Finally I’m sitting in a class and a teacher acknowledges I exist, and I’m unique and that I’m Native American and not like every other kid in the class.’ ”

Says Juneau: “Knowing that every tribe’s cultural practices and histories are different, what could be common things tribes want people to know about them? [We] were able to create an ‘essential understandings’ [document] that still forms the basis of everything we do.”

Mike Jetty (Spirit Lake Dakota Nation) is the Indian education specialist for the Montana Office of Public Instruction. He says the hope is that the implementation of IEFA will promote better understanding. “We can’t let these goofy divisions keep us apart. Students from across the state will understand what tribal sovereignty is, and the government-to-government relationship with tribes. I think the future leaders of Montana are going to have a better understanding of Indian-white relations, and we can move forward together.”


Here is the transcript of Juneau’s convention speech:

Wow! It is such an honor to be here tonight all the way from Big Sky Country. I am proud to be here as a Montanan, as an educator, as a Democrat, and as a member of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes. And I’m proud to be the first Native American woman in history to win a statewide election.

My parents told me that education was the path to success-and they showed me, taking me to Head Start while they were pursuing their own college degrees. My mom is here tonight as a Montana delegate. Thank you, Mom.

Essential to my success were the teachers who invested their time and talent in me so I could go from high school on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation to Montana State University, Harvard Graduate School, and law school at the University of Montana. Teachers do the noble work of educating our children. And we can’t thank them enough for the hard work they put in every day to ensure a bright future for all of us. Thank you, educators.

As a teacher, I was an advocate for my students and their success. Now, as Superintendent of Public Instruction in Montana, I have the honor to be the top advocate for the education of all of our state’s children.

As Democrats, we believe that every child-regardless of background or ability-is entitled to an excellent education. Our determination to strengthen our schools to provide a 21st century education for every child compels us to work to re-elect President Barack Obama. Our commitment to create jobs for the American people and to grow our economy from the middle out drives our determination to re-elect the president.

President Obama knows that education is the best investment an individual can make in themselves, that a family can make in its children, and that a nation can make in its people. That’s why he has made historic investments in higher education, making college more affordable-from community colleges to Pell Grant scholarships and student loans.

President Obama knows that the value of education is not just in the equations our students memorize or the books they read. For some students, school is the only place where they get a hot meal and a warm hug. Teachers are sometimes the only ones who tell our children they can go from an Indian reservation to the Ivy League, from the home of a struggling single mom to the White House.

Our schools are where we pass down our stories and our history. And in my family, that American history goes back centuries-back to the first residents: Native Americans.

President Obama understands that the Native American story includes both painful chapters and hopeful ones. He knows that the Native American story is part of America’s story and that we deserve to be part of the American dream. That is why he welcomed the tribal nations to the White House and joined them at the table. He signed the Cobell Settlement to correct a long-standing injustice that the late Elouise Cobell-a warrior woman-spent 15 long years fighting for. He’s made investments to prevent violence against women in Native communities and to increase opportunities for our youth and veterans. And when he brought health care to all Americans, he helped build hospitals, train nurses, and ensure healthy moms and healthy babies in tribal communities.

It was a proud day in Montana when President Obama visited the Crow Nation and became an adopted Crow tribal member. In fact, I think there are a few of his Crow relatives here tonight. He was given a Crow name that day-it translates to “one who helps people throughout the land.” That is more than an adopted name; that is at the core of who he is. It is his mission. And that’s why, this November, we will re-elect President Barack Obama!

Haida Whale Divider

(First Nations News & Views continued below the frybread thingey)

This Week in American Indian History in 1886

By Meteor Blades

On Sept. 4, 1886, Geronimo and His Band Surrendered

Chiricahua Apache prisoners at a rest stop beside the Southern Pacific Railway,

near Nueces River, Tex., Sept. 10, 1886. Among those on their way

to exile in Florida are Natchez (center front) and, to the right,

Geronimo and his son in matching shirts.

After 30 years fighting to maintain a traditional Apache way of life, Goyahkla gave himself up to Brigadier General Nelson Miles in Skeleton Canyon, Arizona, on Sept. 4, 1886. Known to the non-Indian world as Geronimo, the twice-captive Chiricahua Apache leader was the last Indian war chief to formally surrender to the United States. Though undefeated, he and his small battered band had grown weary after years of outwitting their pursuers. He agreed in negotiations with someone he respected, Lt. Charles Gatewood, to give up, first to Captain H.W. Lawton and then to the ambitious Miles.

Within a few days, the general had shipped Geronimo, the 35 men young enough to be warriors in his band and the Chiricahua scouts who had helped track him off to prisons in Florida, Alabama and, finally to Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Geronimo died there in 1909 from complications of pneumonia contracted in a hospital after being thrown from his horse. He was 80.

The History Channel website contains a brief, riddled-with-factual-errors account of his surrender and subsequent life. Included is the ludicrous statement that he never learned how to shoot a gun, something his contemporaries certainly did not agree with. When he surrendered, after all, he was carrying a Winchester rifle now displayed at the military academy at West Point. Here is a photo of it. He also was carrying a nickel-plated Colt revolver in a fabulous holster and belt rig covered with silver conchos, now on display at the Fort Sill museum.

Although technically still a prisoner, Goyahkla became a minor celebrity and spent much time traveling around the country in his latter days. He signed autographs and told stories to tourists at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904 and was an invited guest at the inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt in 1905. He once pleaded, “Let me die in my own country, an old man who has been punished enough and is free,” but he was never allowed to return to Arizona. His obituary in The New York Times can be found here, filled with errors, fabrications, slurs, idiocies, and many stereotypes that we still have with us.

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Details of Pe’ Sla Land Deal Still Under Wraps as Negotiations with Owners Continue

By Meteor Blades

Mahpiya holds the poster designed by Shepard Fairey to support the purchase of Pe’ Sla in the Black Hills at a rally held in Rapid City on Sept. 5, 2012.

Some 250 supporters of Sioux efforts to buy a 2000-acre piece of land in the heart of the Black Hills rallied Wednesday, Sept. 5, in Rapid City, South Dakota, to celebrate their second victory. The first was to stop a public auction of the land they call sacred, the second was reaching a preliminary agreement with the land owners and coming up with enough money for a down payment. What happens next is uncertain.

The specifics of the final price have not been released publicly by either the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, which has been carrying on the negotiations, or the owners, Leonard and Margaret Reynolds. The tribe put up $1.3 million for the land they call Pe’ Sla, and the Last Real Indians had raised more than $300,000 when the preliminary deal was made. As of the time this diary was written, they had raised $389,000. Besides the private donations and the Rosebud Sioux’s pledge, other tribes of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation, have said they will contribute, but none has made the amount publicly known. If $6 million, the lowest estimate of what the auction was estimated to have brought, is what is agreed upon, more than $4.3 million is still needed.

Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa) of Last Real Indians explained recently why buying this land matters:

To the Oceti Sakowin [the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation], Pe’ Sla is The Heart of Everything. Not only does this sacred site play a key role in our creation story, it is said to be the place where The Morning Star plunged to earth, and saved the People from seven creatures who had killed seven women. The Lakota hero then placed those women in the night sky as “The Seven Sisters,” called “The Pleiades” by western astronomers.

The core of the Pe’ Sla acreage was homesteaded in 1876 by Leonard Reynolds’s great-grandfather when the land was the property, under the provisions of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, of the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation. In the wake of the battle of the Little Big Horn, Congress broke the treaty, taking the Black Hills and other lands. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the land had been taken illegally and ordered $17.5 million in compensation plus more than a century of interest for a total of $106 million. But the tribes unanimously rejected the money, fearing that accepting it would mean they would forever lose the Black Hills. Compound interest over three decades has turned that money, held in trust, into an accumulation of more than $1.5 billion.

On display at the Rapid City rally was a 20-foot by 80-foot banner by artist Shepard Fairey depicting an young Oglala dancer and the words, “The Black Hills Are Not For Sale,” and photographs by Aaron Huey, whose images from the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota were included in a cover story in National Geographic magazine.

One speaker at the Rapid City rally, Chase Iron Eyes (Standing Rock Sioux)-the founder of Last Real Indians who initiated the fund-raising project after the auction was announced-expressed cautious optimism: “The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has placed earnest money down towards the purchase of Pe’ Sla, but it is not a victory yet-the fight isn’t over. But, this is a huge success, because it buys us time.”

Robin Lebeau, tribal councilwoman from the Cheyenne River Reservation, urged continuing unity in the effort to ensure that Pe’ Sla does not fall into the hands of developers: “Something historic has happened. We have united as the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people when some said that we wouldn’t come together […] I’m asking you [fellow tribal members] to call your presidents, your chairmen, your spiritual leaders, your treaty groups. We have to keep working to come together for Pe’ Sla.”

NAN Line Separater

• Native American DNC Delegates Say Obama Speech “Electric”: At least 161 American Indian delegates attended the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, last week. They far outnumbered all previous delegate turnouts at the party’s conventions. Five of Montana’s 31 delegates, for example, were Indian: state Sen. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy (Crow), Latonna Old Elk (Crow), Catherine “Buffy” Stewart (Crow), state Sen. Carol Juneau (Hidatsa-Mandan) and her daughter, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau (Hidatsa-Mandan), the first American Indian woman ever elected to statewide office in the United States. Also included were two tribal chairmen, Mark Macarro, the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, and Bill John Baker, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Nina Fowler (Navajo) told National Native News radio: “Goodness, this is so energizing […] and the thickness of the excitement in this place is amazing. It’s like just a big party. […]  Indian Country is really in a lot of ways federal laws and just are really tangled up. And [Obama has] got to untangle them in order for him to help Indian Country. But he has been able to accomplish a lot.”

-Meteor Blades

• Indian at Dem Convention Says Elizabeth Warren Should Take DNA Test : Ever since the right-wing Boston Herald dug into Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s claims that she has Cherokee and possibly Delaware (Lenape) ancestry, some Indians have sought an audience with her to ask that she either verify the claims or repudiate them and apologize. She has chosen not to meet with them and she did the same at the Democratic Convention last week. Some Indian delegates at the convention told The New York Times that she could easily set the whole controversy to rest. Karen Geronimo (Mescalero Apache), whose husband Harlyn Geronimo is a great-grandson of the famous 19th Century warrior, said, “”Someone needs to make her take a DNA test.” Said Lexie LaMere (Winnebago), a Nebraska delegate: “If you’re going to be Native, don’t just be Native on paper. What’s troubling is that she’s shown nothing in her history of being involved in Native American issues.”

-Meteor Blades

Party Platforms on Native Peoples: Here is what the Democrats have to say:

Tribal Sovereignty: American Indian and Alaska Native tribes are sovereign self-governing communities, with a unique government-to-government relationship with the United States. President Obama and Democrats in Congress, working with tribes, have taken unprecedented steps to resolve long-standing conflicts, finally coming to a resolution on litigation-some dating back nearly 100 years-related to management of Indian trust resources, administration of loan programs, and water rights.

The President worked with Democrats to pass the HEARTH Act to promote greater tribal self-determination and create jobs in Indian Country. The Affordable Care Act permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to improve care for Native Americans. Democrats enacted the Tribal Law and Order Act, support expansion of the Violence Against Women Act to include greater protection for women on tribal lands, and oppose versions of the Violence Against Women Act that do not include these critical provisions. We will continue to honor our treaty and trust obligations and respect cultural rights, including greater support for American Indian and Alaska Native languages. Democrats support maximizing tribal self-governance, including efforts for self-determination and sovereignty of Native Hawaiians.

Here is what Republicans have to say:

Honoring Our Relationship with American Indians

Based on both treaty and other law, the federal government has a unique government-to-government relationship with and trust responsibility for Indian Tribal Governments and American Indians and Alaska Natives. These obligations have not been sufficiently honored. The social and economic problems that plague Indian country have grown worse over the last several decades; we must reverse that trend. Ineffective federal programs deprive American Indians of the services they need, and long-term failures threaten to undermine tribal sovereignty itself.

American Indians have established elected tribal governments to carry out the public policies of the tribe, administer services to its tribal member constituents, and manage relations with federal, State, and local governments. We respect the tribal governments as the voice of their communities and encourage federal, State, and local governments to heed those voices in developing programs and partnerships to improve the quality of life for American Indians and their neighbors in their communities.

Republicans believe that economic self-sufficiency is the ultimate answer to the challenges confronting Indian country. We believe that tribal governments and their communities, not Washington bureaucracies, are best situated to craft solutions that will end systemic problems that create poverty and disenfranchisement. Just as the federal government should not burden States with regulations, it should not stifle the development of resources within the reservations, which need federal assistance to advance their commerce nationally through roads and technology. Federal and State regulations that thwart job creation must be withdrawn or redrawn so that tribal governments acting on behalf of American Indians are not disadvantaged. It is especially egregious that the Democratic Party has persistently undermined tribal sovereignty in order to provide advantage to union bosses in the tribal workplace.

Republicans recognize that each tribe has the right of consultation before any new regulatory policy is implemented on tribal land. To the extent possible, such consultation should take place in Indian country with the tribal government and its members. Before promulgating and imposing any new laws or regulations affecting trust land or members, the federal government should encourage Indian tribes to develop their own policies to achieve program objectives, and should defer to tribes to develop their own standards, or standards in conjunction with State governments.

Republicans reject a one-size-fits-all approach to federal-tribal-State partnerships and will work to expand local autonomy where tribal governments seek it. Better partnerships will help us to expand economic opportunity, deliver top-flight education to future generations, modernize and improve the Indian Health Service to make it more responsive to local needs, and build essential infrastructure in Indian country in cooperation with tribal neighbors. Our approach is to empower American Indians, through tribal self-determination and self-governance policies, to develop their greatest assets, human resources and the rich natural resources on their lands, without undue federal interference.

Like all Americans, American Indians want safe communities for their families; but inadequate resources and neglect have, over time, allowed criminal activities to plague Indian country. To protect everyone-and especially the most vulnerable: children, women, and elders-the legal system in tribal communities must provide stability and protect property rights. Everyone’s due process and civil rights must be safeguarded.

We support efforts to ensure equitable participation in federal programs by American Indians, including Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and to preserve their culture and languages that we consider to be national treasures. Lastly, we recognize that American Indians have responded to the call for military service in percentage numbers far greater than have other groups of Americans. We honor that commitment, loyalty, and sacrifice of all American Indians serving in the military today and in years past and will ensure that all veterans and their families receive the care and respect they have earned through their loyal service to America.

Oglala Lakota Alternative Rock Duo “Scatter Their Own” Performs at Pe’ Sla Rally

Juliana BrownEyes and Scotti Cliff of Scatter Their Own on Sept. 5th ~Photo Courtesy of Chase Iron Eyes

Juliana BrownEyes and Scotti Cliff (both Oglala Lakota) from Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota believe that music is about and for the people. Lyrically, they pay tribute to the concepts and philosophy of their Lakota culture while fusing Rock, R&B, Blues, and Alternative, into what they would like to call Alter-Native Rock. Their influrences are family; Black Elk, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, Hobert Pourier, C.L. Johnson, Gandhi, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Red Bow. A taste of their music can be enjoyed here.


• Author Alexie Will Vote for Obama Though He’s Not Thrilled: Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d’Alene), the acclaimed author, poet and screenwriter, isn’t very impressed with what President Obama has done for Indians.  At the website 90 Days, 90 Reasons (to vote for Obama), Alexie writes, Because the liberal Messiah does not exist: “I tried to think of one great thing Obama has done for Indians. And I couldn’t think of one damn thing.” Alexie, nevertheless, will vote for him, he says: “To love him, I only need to believe in 51% of what he does. And, hey, I’d guess I believe in 63% of what he does.” Alexie might consider doing a little research on what Obama has done for Indians. He could start with Aji’s essay here, for example.

-Meteor Blades

Cherokee GOP Candidate for Congress Hates Stimulus, Gets $370,000 from It: Republican Markwayne Mullins (Cherokee Nation) is seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat in Oklahoma that is now occupied by Democrat Dan Boren, who is leaving Congress this year to work for the Choctaws. Mullins says he “totally disagrees” with the stimulus act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Mullins’s campaign has made a big deal out of reining in government spending. But his plumbing business received $370,000 provided by the stimulus. That came about because he is a enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, which gives preferential bidding rights to tribal members. The projects he won bids on were funded by the stimulus. Mullins claims he had “no clue” about the source of the money.

If Mullins wins, he will be the second tribally enrolled Indian currently in Congress from Oklahoma. Tom Cole, an enrolled Chickasaw, represents the 4th District. He is also a Republican. The Cherokee Nation has contributed $2,500 to Mullins’s Democratic opponent, Rob Wallace.

-Meteor Blades

• ACLU Wants FBI Records Targeting Indians Over Bear Hunt Opposition: American Indians are part of a coalition that opposes bear hunting in Nevada. As FNN&V reported in March, one of them, Raquel Arthur (Pyramid Lake Paiute), objected when, at a public hearing, the chairman of the Washoe County wildlife advisory board, Rex Flowers, told a group of eight Paiute, Washoe and Shoshone that he didn’t want to “hear of bows and arrows” because the board was committed to the bear hunt. He later apologized for the remark, saying that he didn’t mean to disparage Indians.

Arthur, chairwoman of the northern Nevada chapter of the American Indian Movement, is one of three Nevada AIM members who were targeted by the FBI because of their opposition to the hunt, which is organized by the coalition No Bear Hunt. The others are Lisa Bonta (Reno-Sparks Indian Colony) and Daniel Thayer (Northern Paiute). FBI Agent George Chillito, who is on the Task Force on Counter-Terrorism in Reno, is said to have been investigating the three at the request of Nevada Department of Wildlife game wardens who said they and the “audience felt threatened” by the presence of Indians at the board meeting.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request Aug. 22 to learn what the FBI has been reporting regarding the three Indians and anyone else the bureau may have included in its investigation related to the opposition to the hunt. Nevada will allow up to 20 black bears to be killed between Sept. 15 and the end of 2012. The objective of the FOIA request is to support the freedom of speech rights of the foes of the hunt, an ACLU attorney involved in the case told the Associated Press.

-Meteor Blades

Wolakota – Friendship with the Lakota Nation Exhibit in Italy:


The Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence, Italy is currently running an exhibit titled: Wolakota 2012: Ancient Culture in the New World. Wolakota translates from Lakota to friendship with the Lakota Nation. On display will be Indian artifacts, weapons, clothing, wapaha (feather head-dresses), a tipi and a Remington gun found in 1860 in the area of the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Little Big Horn). Live music and sage smudging will finish the cultural exhibit. One of the organizers, the cultural association Wambli Gleska was organized in 1995 by Dr. Alessandro Martire to promote recognition of the human rights of the Lakota Sioux in Italy. Dr. Martire will be giving a special presentation based on his book, Nuovo Mondo (New World), Genocide, Ecocide and Ethnocide of the Discovery of the New World: The Horrors, Errors and Furies. The exhibit runs from September 9-25.

-navajo h/t racheltracks

“Moving Camp” Helps Dozens of Native College Students Get Settled: Transitions can be tough for American Indian students away from home for the first time. That’s true of all young people, of course, but it’s especially the case for tribal people used to the tight-knit support of extended families. And then there is the culture shock of life off the reservation. So the Payne Family Native American Center at the University of Montana has set up a special orientation to make things just a little easier. Among them this year was Carmaleta Bird In Ground, a Crow elder. A grandmother who started college but never finished, she signed up for classes in writing and Native American studies. At the orientation, she offered a traditional Crow prayer to start things off on the right foot.

-Meteor Blades

Crazy Horse Was a Sober Warrior: Russ McSpadden and photographer offered a textual and photographic account of Deep Green Resistance’s protest in White Clay, Nebraska, just across the South Dakota line next to the Pine Ridge Reservation. McSpadden wrote, “31 Points on the Alcohol Wars at Pine Ridge.”

Among them:

1. Autumn Two Bulls is the mother of Wakiyan, or Loud Brave Thunder, a young Oglala Lakota protester who was Maced by police on August 26 during a march against alcohol sales along the border of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. “My son believes in sobriety. One thing he told me was that Crazy Horse, his hero, was a sober warrior. Crazy horse didn’t believe in alcohol and he knew what was coming because he was a spiritual man and he stood up and fought against what was coming.”  Wakiyan is ten years old. Days after the protest his vision was still blurry from the Mace. […]

3. There are four liquor stores and only fourteen residents in the unincorporated town of White Clay. It exists purely to unload alcohol, and lots of it. On average, the retailers sell 12,500 cans of beer every day, mostly to the reservations 40,000 residents. White Clay is 250 feet from Pine Ridge where alcohol is forbidden. […]

27. The area around White Clay has a history rooted in illegal liquor sales. In 1882, at the behest of Oglala elders and the U.S. Indian agent in the territory, U.S. President Chester Arthur ordered that a buffer zone be put in place in Nebraska, south of the reservation, between illegal whisky peddlers and the Lakota. Known as the White Clay Extension, the fifty square mile area was later incorporated into the reservation then offered up into public domain, precipitating a land grab by whites. Liquor licenses followed shortly after-its original purpose turned upside-down.

-Meteor Blades

Old Hurons Logo Will Be Used Inside EMU’s Band Uniforms:

Our phone calls to the Eastern Michigan University president’s office weren’t returned, so we couldn’t learn specifically why EMU President Susan Martin chose to “honor” alumni by embroidering the old Huron logo inside the university’s new band uniforms this year. The logo was dropped after 62 years in 1991 because the Michigan Department of Civil Rights had called on schools to stop using mascots, nicknames and logos based on race and ethnicity. The university chose the nickname Eagles as a replacement. Alumni include tens of thousands who attended when EMU called its sports teams the Hurons and a few old enough to remember when the nickname was Normalites. That logo is also embroidered inside the 275 new band uniforms, which are replacing the uniforms in use for the past 16 years. The logos will not be visible when the uniforms are buttoned up. The Eagles logo is embroidered on the back of the uniforms.

Twenty-one years ago when the Huron logo was dropped, thousands of universities, colleges and secondary schools across the country still used Indian nicknames ranging from names of tribes to epithets such as “Redskins.” Now only a few hundred do and they are rapidly dwindling. As usual in such matters, even among Indians, there is a difference of opinion about the resurrection of the Huron logo.

“I don’t like native people being used as mascots in any situation,” said American Indian Services Director Fay Givens [Choctaw], who was a vocal supporter of changing the Huron mascot in 1991.

Billy Friend, the chief of the Oklahoma-based Wyandotte Nation, a federally recognized band that was once in Michigan and known as Hurons, said the tribe embraces EMU’s move.

“Our stance has always been we didn’t see it as anything but an honor to the Hurons and Wyandottes,” said Friend. “We never saw it as demeaning.”

-Meteor Blades

• Tech. Sergeant Sick of Air Force’s Indian Logos: After 17 years in the Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Larry Miller (Eastern Cherokee) was appalled when he was transferred to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and noticed the logos depicting Indians, he says. Among the ones that upset him most was the 93rd Bomb Squadron’s unit patch, which depicts the severed head of an American Indian, a poster showing an Indian skull wearing a headdress with the words “Immortal Soul,” and the word “Indian” used as a call sign over the radio. Miller filed an equal opportunity complaint. But the Air Force concluded that the depictions and call sign were not racist and labeled the complaint “totally unsubstantiated.” As so often is the case, the response stated that the use of Indian images was not disrespectful but meant to honor Indians. Miller plans to stay on the case until the Air Force gets rid of all mascots, logos and other depictions of Indians, especially, he says, the ones that include a headdress. “Once somebody says, ‘totally unsubstantiated,’ that’s basically what we’ve dealt with for hundreds of years,” he said. “Now it’s basically the few against the many.”

-Meteor Blades

• Video Examines Indian Life in South Minneapolis, Past and Present : Through the eyes of elders, this video by Knockout Productions briefly examines the history of the Minneapolis American Indian community and how it was formed after relocation, one of the many efforts since the founding of the United States to break up tribal communities. Among those speaking is Gertrude Buckanaga (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). In 1999, with her son, Ron, Buckanaga founded the Four Directions Charter School. The school is dedicated to providing culturally based education as a foundation for life-long learning among American Indian students. The intent is to “lessen the negative impact of poverty on the academic success” of students. The participants in the video discuss the importance of valuing culture and working cooperatively toward a vision of community that is not dictated to by outside people.

-Meteor Blades


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 navajo 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 North-West Mounted Police

Mounties and Indians 3256

The North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) was formed in 1873 to administer law and order in the Northwest Territories (present day Alberta and Saskatchewan). The Mounties, as they came to be called, used consultation and negotiation to avert conflict rather than seek it.  

Painting 3294

In Alberta, one of the concerns was to put a stop to the illegal liquor trade to the Blackfoot and other Indians. The infamous Fort Whoop-up, located in Alberta, supplied whiskey to both Canadian and American Indians. Shortly after the establishment of Fort Macleod in Alberta, five men were arrested and tried for having liquor in their possession. This resulted in fines and confiscation of their equipment and supply. The arrest of the whiskey traders had an immediate effect upon the relationship between the NWMP and the First Nations peoples. Within a year, the whiskey trade had stopped. With the sale of alcohol halted, the Indians made rapid strides in restoring order to their lives and replenishing their horse herds.

When the NWMP first arrived at the Oldman River in Alberta to establish Fort Macleod, the members of the Blackfoot Confederacy were a little concerned about their presence. They showed neither hostility nor friendship in the beginning. In order to establish friendly relations with the tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy, Commissioner Macleod met with tribal members. Macleod and Chief Crowfoot reached a gentlemen’s agreement to work together to maintain peace in the area. Chief Crowfoot spoke:

“My brother, your words make me glad. I listened to them not only with my ears but with my heart also. In the coming of the Long Knives, with their firewater and quick-shooting guns, we were weak and our people have been woefully slain and impoverished. You say this will be stopped. We are glad to have it stopped. We want peace. What you tell us about this strong power which will govern good law and treat the Indian the same as the white man, makes us glad to hear. My brother, I believe you, and am thankful.”

Unlike the American military approach to Indians which relied on hard power (i.e. the use of superior numbers and firepower) to force Indians to their will, the NWMP sought a semblance of fairness in their dealings with the tribes. Unlike the situation south of the border, the NWMP administered justice for both Native peoples and non-Native peoples. While crimes against Indians in the United States were ignored by authorities, the NWMP sought justice regardless of whether the victim was Native or non-Native.

Photo 3381

Horse 3315

By 1876, the North-West Mounted Police were operating out of four stations and collateral outposts. Fort Macleod was built in southern Alberta to offset American incursions in the whiskey and fur trade. Fort Walsh was established 160 miles to the east, just across the provincial border in Saskatchewan. The presence of Forts Macleod and Walsh virtually ended the liquor traffic within a year.

The Mounties and the Sioux:

Following the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana, a number of Sioux fled into Canada to escape the American army. In Saskatchewan, North-West Mounted Police superintendent James Walsh visited the Sioux refugees at Wood Mountain. He estimated that the group had 2,900 people (500 men, 1,000 women, and 1,400 children), along with about 3,500 horses and 30 U.S. government mules. The Indians told him that they were looking for peace and that they had been driven from their homelands by the U.S. army. Walsh instructed the Indians on the law as it would affect their stay in Canada and was assured by the chiefs that they would not use Canada as a base for renewed hostilities against the Americans.

In 1877, Four Horns, a civil and spiritual chief, led his Sioux band of 57 lodges across the border from the United States seeking refuge in Canada. Traveling with them was a band of Yanktonai under Medicine Bear from the Fort Peck Agency in Montana. The Indians were destitute and reported that they had to consume their horses during their march to Canada. North-West Mounted Police superintendent James Walsh met with them and explained the conditions under which they might remain in Canada.

That same year, Sioux leader Sitting Bull brought 135 lodges of his people north from the United States to find refuge in Canada. Travelling with Sitting Bull was a small band of Sans Arc Sioux under Spotted Eagle and Minneconjou Sioux under Swift Bird. They settled in the White Mud River area in Saskatchewan. Here they found that buffalo still roamed the plains in greater numbers than in the United States.

Major James Walsh of the North-West Mounted Police met with Sitting Bull and told him that the Sioux would now have to obey the queen’s laws and in return they would receive the queen’s protection. He warned the Sioux that they were not to return to the United States to hunt or to steal. Sitting Bull agreed to the terms offered by Walsh and declared his intent to remain in Canada. Major Walsh genuinely felt that the Sioux had been badly treated by the United States.

Under pressure from both the United States and Canadian governments, North-West Mounted Police superintendent James Walsh attempted to meet with Sioux leader Sitting Bull to convince him to meet with an American delegation to discuss his return to the United States. Sitting Bull’s son had just died and the chief was in mourning and not interested in a council.

At this time, three Nez Perce warriors (Half Moon, Wep-sus-whe-nin and Wel-la-he-wite) arrived asking the Sioux for help in a battle against the American army which was taking place just south of the border. The Nez Perce, a Plateau area tribe, had never been Sioux allies and had often engaged in battle against them. The Nez Perce who arrived at the Sioux camp did not speak Sioux and were not fluent in Plains Indian sign language. They tried to indicate Snake Creek (the location of the battle) using the signs for “water” and “creek”, but the Sioux thought they were talking about the Missouri River. This was a long distance away and the Sioux felt that it was too far away for them to be able to assist the Nez Perce. The arrival of three more Nez Perce men-Peopeo Tholekt, Koo-sou-yeen, and James Williams-helped straighten out the confusion. Major Walsh cautioned the Sioux that if they went to the aid of the Nez Perce they would lose their privilege to live peacefully in Canada.

The Sioux finally met with North-West Mounted Police superintendent James Walsh and gave him their response to his request that they meet with an American commission:

“Why do you come and seek us to go and talk with men who are killing our own race? You see these men, women, and children, wounded and bleeding? We cannot talk with men who have blood on their hands. They had stained the grass of the White Mother with it.”

However, Walsh convinced Sitting Bull and 25 others to come with him to Fort Walsh.

At Fort Walsh, the Sioux met in council with an American delegation. The Sioux leaders included Sitting Bull, Bear’s Cap, Spotted Eagle, Whirlwind Bear, Flying Bird, Iron Dog, Medicine Turns-around, The Crow, Bear that Scatters, Yellow Dog, and Little Knife. Only Bear’s Cap shook hands with the Americans. Traditionally this type of council meeting would begin with a pipe ceremony, but this was not done.

The Americans told the Sioux that none of those who had surrendered had been punished for hostile acts and all had been received as friends. In offering peace with the Sioux, the Americans asked that they give up their guns and horses, conditions which were not acceptable to the Sioux.

Sitting Bull responded to the Americans by telling of his affection for Canada and even pausing to shake hands again with the Canadians. He concluded:

“You come here to tell us lies, but we don’t want to hear them. Go back home where you came from.”

Among those who addressed the American delegation was The One that Speaks Once, the wife of Bear that Scatters:

“These are the people that I am going to stay with and raise my children with.”

The Americans were insulted and offended by allowing a woman to speak to them in council.

In 1880, Major Walsh, the Northwest Mounted Police officer who had been dealing with Sitting Bull’s Sioux was reassigned. Sitting Bull had trusted Walsh and Walsh had a genuine concern over the fate of the Sioux refugees. Lief N.F. Cozier replaced him and began to pressure the Sioux to return to the United States. He persuaded the young Sans Arc Sioux leader White Eagle of the futility of staying in Canada.

In 1888, the superintendent of the North West Mounted Police reported that there were now about 170 Sioux living in the area around Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He reported that they were primarily Minnesota Sioux who did not have a treaty with Canada.

Riel Rebellion:

In 1885, the Riel Rebellion broke out in Saskatchewan. The Métis, angered by the refusal of the Canadian government to confirm their riverlot claims along the Qu’Appelle and South Saskatchewan Rivers, organized their own provisional government with Pierre Parenteau, Sr. as president, Gabriel Dumont as military adjunct, and Louis Riel as people’s council.

The war breaks out at Duck Lake when Métis warriors along with their Cree and Sioux allies meet the North-West Mounted Police and a group of volunteers at Duck Lake. Within twenty minutes, the Mounties were defeated and began to pull out. The Métis and their Indian allies began to pursue them, when Louis Riel rode in front of the firing line and yelled:

“Let them go. We have seen enough bloodshed today.”

At the end of the battle, the Mounties and their militia allies lost 12 men and had 11 more wounded. The Métis, on the other hand, lost only five. Only through the intervention of Louis Riel did the Canadian forces manage to escape total destruction.

The rebellion was short-lived and the Métis and their Indian allies were defeated by a large Canadian military force and the North-West Mounted Police.

In Alberta, Blackfoot Chief Crowfoot rejected an invitation from the Cree to join their rebellion. He remained loyal to the North-West Mounted Police.

Religious Suppression:

In 1884, Parliament outlawed both the potlatch of the Northwest Coast peoples and the Sun Dance of the Plains tribes. The North-West Mounted Police were in charge of enforcing the ban against the Sun Dance.

In 1889, North-West Mounted Police urged the Department of Indian Affairs to define which dances, if any, that Indians would be allowed to participate in. The police would then be able to enforce these laws. After visiting the Kainai Sundance, Sam Steele, the Superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, wrote to his superiors asking them to discourage the ceremony.


In 1904, King Edward VII conferred the title Royal upon the North-West Mounted Police. In 1920, their jurisdiction was extended throughout the entire nation and they became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.