The English and the Indians in Maine

In 1606, guided by the Discovery Doctrine which declared that Christian nations had the right to conquer and rule all non-Christian nations, England gave a Royal Charter to the Virginia Company to develop a market in the New World for English commerce and for

“Propagating of Christian Religion to such people, as yet live in darkness.”

The charter characterized Indians as living

“in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God.”

The Virginia Company was founded and directed by a group of merchants and gentry who were motivated in part by the promise of strong economic returns for their investment. The company intended to plant trading posts to acquire furs and other valuables from the Indians, and to sell them manufactured goods and textiles. In addition, the Company intended to search for gold and silver, and begin the development of industries, such as the production of naval stores and the manufacture of shingles. Following the royal charter, they sought the conversion of the heathen (that is, converting Indians to Protestant Christianity), the expansion of the English kingdom, increased revenues for the king, employment for the English vagrant poor, and a market for English manufactured goods.

The Plymouth Company, a branch of the Virginia Company of England, was granted the northern coast from New York to Maine. The primary participants in the Plymouth Company were powerful people who had the political and economic means to put a large region of North America under their personal control.

In 1607, the Virginia Company established the colony of Sagadohoc on the Kennebec River. The party included 120 men and Skidwarres, one of the Abenaki who had been kidnapped in 1602. Skidwarres was supposed to serve as the trusted interpreter-liaison between the English and the Abenaki. However, as soon as he made contact with the Abenaki, he simply slipped into the crowd and returned to his people.

The purpose of the Sagadohoc colony was to find precious metals and spices, establish a fur trade with the Native Americans, and show that New World forests were a limitless resource for English shipbuilders.

While sailing to Maine, the English had encountered two sailing shallops being used by Souriquois under the leadership of Membertou. The Souriquois offered skins for trade and the English noted that the Indians seem to be using a lot of French words. The use of French words told the English that the Indians were in contact with the French. Concerned about the possibility of a French attack, the colonists built an earthenwork fort, which they called Fort St. George. The fort was fortified with eight cannons.

In one instance, five Abenaki, including Skidwarres and the leader Nahaneda, showed up at the fort. They joined the colonists for both food and church services. The Indians were accustomed to hospitality when they visited other villages, but they found that the English forced them to endure public prayers both morning and evening. They told the English that they thought that King James was a good king and that his God was a good God, but that Tanto (their own deity) had commanded them to avoid contact with the English.

While one of the goals of the English colony was to establish trade with the Indians, the English, lacking any understanding of Indian cultures and arrogantly assuming the superiority of their own culture, managed to anger their Abenaki neighbors. As a result trade between the two groups was suspended. There were a number of minor skirmishes in which 11 colonists were killed.

In spite of the tense relationships, the English did manage to obtain some English furs and they gathered sarsaparilla, which the Europeans felt was a valuable herbal cure-all. Tired of waiting for English ships to arrive and resupply them, the English colonists built their own 50-foot ship and were preparing to return on their own when the ships arrived. The English brought with them word that the colony’s leader was now the heir to an immense fortune. With visions of a lavish castle in mind, he decided to return to England and the colony was abandoned.  

Traditional Whaling

The area along the Pacific Coast north of California and between the Cascade Mountains and the ocean, is the home to many Indian nations who traditionally based their economy on the use of sea coast and river ecological resources. This is an area which stretches from the Tlingit homelands in Alaska to the Tolowa homelands in northern California. Prior to European contact in 1774, it is estimated that the population of this area was at least 200,000 with some people estimating it at closer to a million. This suggests that it was one of the most densely populated non-agricultural regions of the world.

Some of the Northwest Coast tribes are actually confederations. The Nuu-chah-nulth (also known as the Nootka), for example, are a confederacy of 14 nations. Each of the tribes takes pride in their political independence and autonomy. The designation of the independent nations as Nuu-chah-nulth (which means “all along the mountains”) was selected by the First Nations leaders in 1978 as the collective term to describe the closely related nations of western Vancouver Island in Canada. The tribes had forged an alliance since 1967 to present a unified political voice. The Makah in Washington are linguistically and culturally related to the Nuu-chah-nulth.

As a coastal people, the subsistence activities of the Indian nations of the Northwest Coast emphasized fishing and marine mammal hunting. The marine mammals which they hunted included harbor seal, fur seal, sea lion, sea otter, porpoise, and whale. These sea mammals were often hunted from a canoe.

Whales provided a significant range of important resources, including meat, bone, baleen, sinew, and gut. While whales provided an abundance of food and tool-making materials, they also presented significant challenges to those who hunted them.

The most commonly hunted whales were the California gray whale and the humpback whale. Whale hunting was often felt to be a noble calling and among some tribes, such as the Nuu-chah-nulth, the whaler was always a chief. Preparation for the Nuu-chah-nulth whale hunt took months with the whaler bathing and scouring his body, praying, and swimming in imitation of the actions desired in the whale, his wife holding him on a line. In preparation for the hunt, the whalers would often sequester themselves in a small wooden structure called a chii-asim (shrine). Here the crew would bathe, fast, and pray. Nuu-chah-nulth artist Ki-ke-in reports:

“As the whaling crew prepared themselves to take the life of a huge whale, a spiritual act of the highest order, they prayed, surrounded by their most famous and successful ancestor whalers.”

The Nuu-chah-nulth whale hunting crew was traditionally composed of eight men. The harpooner would stand in the bow with the harpoon to his right pointing forward over the prow. Close to the feet of the first paddler was the first float and it was the duty of the first paddler to throw it overboard as the harpooner made his strike.

Nuu-chah-nulth whale hunters used a harpoon that was up to 18 feet in length with a detachable head of carved elk horn. An extremely sharp point from mussel shell was set in the elk-horn head.  When the harpoon struck the whale, the head would separate from the shaft. The head was connected to the whaler’s canoe with a cord made of nettles and a sinew lanyard. When the wounded whale resurfaced, more harpoons would be plunged into its body.  It was necessary for the whaler to come very close to the whale, for the harpoon was thrust into the whale rather than being thrown. The trick was lying alongside just as the whale was submerging, with the flukes under water. It was more than the harpooner’s skill, however, that led to success: the skill of the crew, particularly that of the steersman, was needed to get the harpooner in place for the kill.

Nuu-chah-nulth artist Ki-ke-in summarizes the whale hunt this way:

“The success in whaling of these great men-their spiritual preparedness, knowledge, and physical strength-meant that they were able to feed their communities and invite neighboring tribes.”

Once the whale had been killed, it was necessary to tie its mouth shut to prevent the carcass from filling with water and sinking. One of the crew would dive into the water as soon as the whale was killed, cut a hole through the mandible behind the bone and another through the upper lip, and then tie the two together with a rope.

Once the hunters had beached the dead whale, it was cut up and distributed according to specific rules. The whaler (the first harpooner) received the “saddle”-the choicest piece of blubber which lies across the back and down the sides of the whale from just in front to just in back of the dorsal fin. This choice piece was placed on a rack in front of the whaler’s house. It was cooked and eaten four days later. The whaler did not eat any of the saddle; instead it was distributed as a feast.

With regard to the importance of whale hunting to the Nuu-chah-nulth, artist Ki-ke-in writes:

“Like our system of beliefs, our history of whaling is one of the great unifying forces in Nuu-chah-nulth communities. Whaling was never far from our grandparents’ thoughts.”

Whaling was important not only to Nuu-chah-nulth men, but to the women as well. A young whaler could marry only the daughter of another whaler as the young woman had to be ready to meet the expectations which the community had for a whaler’s wife. Ki-ke-in reports:

“When her husband was out on the sea whaling, she would lie on a specially prepared mat, as still and quiet as she could be, praying that he would be successful and come home safe.”

The Nuu-chah-nulth acknowledged a deep connection between the whale and the whaler’s wife.

Indian Casinos

For many non-Indians, any discussion of modern Indians brings forth an image of casinos. For some people, this image of tribal casinos is a good one: one that brings forth memories of good times, good entertainment, and good food. For others, it brings forth an image of corruption, greed, evil, sin, and all of the things that are bad with our society. Five hundred years ago Indians were gambling. Traditionally, before the coming of the Europeans, gambling was a part of their recreation, a part of their economic system, and a part of their religious systems. There were, however, no casinos in America when the Puritans and the Spanish arrived here.

Casino 1

During the Reservation Era in the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the federal government worked hard to suppress all forms of Indian gambling, ranging from the traditional horse races and stick games, to the recent innovations of playing cards. Eventually, Indian casinos-a form of European gaming-arose not because the government encouraged them, but because Indians fought for them in the courts and in Congress.

Casino 2

The Courts:

In 1980, the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in California opened a small poker room. At this time, poker rooms were legal in California and found in many communities. However, a few days after the Cabazon poker room was opened, the Indio Police Department, with officers in full riot regalia, seized the poker tables, arrested the patrons, and confiscated the poker chips.

Since Indio did not allow gambling by local ordinance, the Cabazon were required to win a referendum. The referendum to allow them to have a poker room was defeated.  

In 1983, the Cabazon tried again, this time with a Bingo Palace. Once again their gaming operation was shut down by local law enforcement (the Riverside County Sheriff.) The tribe, however, took their case to court and won an injunction against the county. The county appealed.

Court cases in the United States, particularly those concerning Indian nations, generally proceed rather slowly. In 1986, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Riverside County has no right to prohibit gambling on the Cabazon Reservation. As a federally recognized Indian tribe the Cabazon are a sovereign nation. The state of California appealed the ruling.

In 1987, the United States Supreme Court in  California versus Cabazon Band of Mission Indians held that state gaming laws have no force in Indian country if the type of gaming does not violate the state’s public policy. In this decision the court acknowledged the retained right of tribes as sovereign nations to engage in gaming without state interference as long as gaming of some form was legal in that state. If the tribe’s gaming is to be regulated from the outside, it must be regulated by Congress, not California. Justice Byron White, writing for the majority, finds:

“Tribal sovereignty is dependent on, and subordinate to, only the Federal Government, not the States.”

Twenty-one states supported California against the tribes in this case. Federal courts and the Supreme Court have long recognized two basic things: (1) under the constitution of the United States, Indian tribes are sovereign nations which are not under the jurisdiction of the state in which they are found, and (2) the states are often the worst enemies of the tribes which are found within their borders.

In 1886, the Supreme Court in United States versus Kagama pointed out that with regard to Indian tribes:

“the people of the states where they are found are often their deadliest enemies.”

Consistently the actions of the states have not been in the best interests of the Indian nations within them. Even when the presence of the Indian casinos has been shown to be an economic benefit to the state, the states have tended to oppose Indian casinos.

Congress Steps In:

As often happens when the Supreme Court makes a ruling that reinforces tribal sovereignty, non-tribal interests turned to the United States Congress for help. In 1988, Congress passed the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in response to the Cabazon court case. This act allows tribes to operate casinos.

Under IGRA, casinos are allowed on Indian lands if such gambling is: (1) located in a state which permits such gaming for any such purpose by any person, organization, or entity, and (2) conducted in conformance with a Tribal-State compact entered into by the Indian tribe and the state. Thus, if the state allows “Casino Nights” or “Las Vegas Events” for charitable groups such as churches, then the first part of this condition is met.

IGRA defines three classes of Indian Gaming:

Class I consists of traditional Indian gambling which is often done as a part of ceremonies and powwows

Class II includes bingo and similar forms of gaming

Class III includes slot machines, baccarat, blackjack, and other casino games

Under the provisions of IGRA, Class II and Class III gaming are under the supervision of an Indian Gaming Commission.

The goal of the IGRA was to regulate Indian gaming operations as well as to provide some federal protection for tribes from state governments, which in many cases tried to curb Indian operations.

John McCarthy, the executive director of the Minnesota Indians Gaming Association, has commented that:

“neither the tribes nor Congress imagined the phenomenal success it would become (if Congress had, it is quite likely that the act never would have been passed in the first place.)”

The Impact of Casinos:

In general, Indian casinos have been the most successful form of economic development on the reservations. At the present time, there are 239 tribes operating 448 gaming businesses in 26 states. In 2010 gaming revenues from Indian casinos were $26.7 billion. With the recession, revenues have declined slightly.

Unlike the profits from privately owned casinos which are used to enrich very wealthy people, the profits from Indian casinos are invested in the tribe. This investment includes cultural investment (museums, interpretive centers, language retention programs), tribal health care, tribal housing, and tribal education.

Indian casinos provide about 682,000 jobs, most of which are held by non-Indians. While non-Indian employment boosts the economies off-reservation, some of the anti-Indian folks use this fact to condemn the casinos. There is the delusion that casinos should provide employment for tribal members, but the reality is that the tribal members own the casino. There is no expectation that non-Indian casinos’ work should provide employment for their owners.

A recent study by the Institute on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found a correlation between Indian casinos and improved physical and mental health. The study found that casinos raise household incomes by an average of $1,750. With casinos the probability of smoking was reduced by 9.6% and the probability of heavy drinking by 5.2%.

For non-Indians, Indian casinos have allowed them to coat their anti-Indian racism with a very thin veneer of moral outrage against gaming (although many of these same people support these same activities when the profits go to non-Indian people or institutions).

Blackfoot Casino

Guilty of Being Indian

American history is filled with accounts of Indians being massacred by the U.S. Army, by American civilians, and others. Some of these “incidents” are well-known to the general public: Wounded Knee, the Washita, and Sand Creek. Others, such as the massacre of Heavy Runner’s Blackfoot band, are less well-known. In 1870, soldiers under the leadership of Colonel E. M. Baker killed 217 peaceful Blackfoot women, children, and men on the Marias River in Montana.


In the years both before and after the Civil War, many Americans came to Montana seeking wealth either through mining or cattle ranching. Malcolm Clarke was one of those who settled down as a cattle rancher.  Clarke soon married a Blackfoot woman, Kohkokima (Cutting Off Head Woman). Clarke gained the respect of the Blackfoot and was initially given the name White Lodgepole. Later, he was given the name Four Bears after he killed four grizzlies in one day.

In 1867, some Blackfoot relatives of Kohkokima, come to visit the Clarke ranch. In the group were Owl Child (Ne-tus-che-o, Kohkokima’s cousin), his wife, mother, sister, and younger brother. As a result of this visit something went wrong which created bad blood between Owl Child and the Clarke men. One version of the story, told by the Blackfoot, alludes to improper advances made by the rancher to the wife of the Piegan cousin while Horace Clarke and Owl Child were hunting in the nearby mountains. Another version of the story, usually told by non-Indians, says that Owl Child stole some Clarke horses and that Clarke publically beat him.

Two years later, a Blackfoot party led by Owl Child approached the Clarke ranch in a friendly fashion. With Owl Child are Black Weasel, Eagle’s Rib, Bear Chief, and Black Bear. Owl Child told Clarke that he had come to invite him to Mountain Chief’s village. Black Weasel, who was with the party, was Mountain Chief’s son.

Mountain Chief had disliked Americans since three Americans shot his brother and the authorities had done nothing about it. He banned all Americans from his village, but he stayed friendly with Malcolm Clarke because of his marriage to Kohkokima.  

Suddenly, Bear Chief shot one of Clarke’s sons in the head. When Clarke rushed out of the house, he was shot dead by Eagle’s Rib. About 25 warriors then came out of the woods and proceeded to destroy everything in the house.

Initial Response:

The incident at Clarke’s ranch was clearly murder and furthermore the murderers had been identified by the survivors-Kohkokima and other Clarke children. Had the murderers been non-Indians, a posse would probably have been formed to track them down and bring them to justice. But as American Indians have long known, there is usually no concern for justice when Indians are involved.

Since Malcolm Clarke was a prominent rancher, the Montana press clamored for revenge against the Blackfoot, with little concern for the actual killers. However, the military commander at Fort Shaw remained calm. He reported:

“The only Indians within reach are friendly, and nothing could be worse than to chastise them for offenses of which they are not guilty.”

However, General Sheridan, with a reputation as an Indian fighter, was in Chicago and he was hearing from the American settlers in Montana who wanted revenge. He ordered Colonel E. M. Baker to obtain that revenge. It was not about justice: there was little concern for capturing the actual murderers. It was about retaliation: attacking the Blackfoot camps, any Blackfoot camp. Baker was ordered to give the Blackfoot an exhibition of military force to show the Blackfoot that they were not to trifle with the Americans. Baker’s orders from General Sheridan:

“If the lives & property of the citizens of Montana can best be protected by striking Mountain Chief’s band of Piegans, I want them struck.”

The Battle:

It was January of 1870 when the soldiers set out in search of Mountain Chief’s camp. The temperature was well below zero. Riding with the soldiers was Horace Clarke, Malcolm Clarke’s son.

On the Marias River, the soldiers encounter a Blackfoot camp. As the army approached the camp, scout Joe Kipp recognized that it is the friendly village of Heavy Runner and informed the commander that this was the wrong village. The officer ordered the soldiers to shoot Kipp if he yelled again. According to Horace Clarke, Colonel Baker was drunk at this time and didn’t know what he was doing.

Heavy Runner was known as a peace chief and his camp was the refuge for many widows and orphans. Heavy Runner’s people were known for their caring and concern for others. Heavy Runner was also one of the Blackfoot chiefs who had signed a treaty with the United States government and, unlike the United States, was determined to uphold the terms of the treaty.

As the soldiers attacked, Heavy Runner ran toward Baker waving his Washington medals and his letters of recommendation showing that he was friendly to the United States. According to the later testimony of Good Bear Woman:

“I noticed Chief Heavy Runner, the leader of the camp, come out of his lodge and go to meet the commanding officer. He handed him some papers, which the commanding officer read, then he tore them up and threw them away. As Heavy Runner turned about face, soldiers fired upon him and killed him.”

After Heavy Runner was killed, Baker ordered his troops to fire. The Indians did not return fire as all of their able-bodied men were on a buffalo hunt. When the firing was over the soldiers simply shot the wounded Indians. They then collected the lodges and property of the Indians in great piles, and set fire to them. The soldiers also looted the dead bodies, removing anything which they thought might be of value.

One hundred and forty women and children were taken prisoner in the attack. After being held for a short time, they were released to face the cold-estimated to be 40 below zero-without blankets, shelter, or food. Many died from exposure.

The first official account of the “incident” claimed that 120 Blackfoot warriors were killed, an interesting statistic since nearly all of the men were out hunting. Later, the official report was modified to indicate that a total of 173 Blackfoot were killed and that 148 of these were women, children, and elders. However, the scout Joe Kipp reported that he personally counted 217 dead. Kipp also reported that the Blackfoot had fired only one shot during the battle. According to Blackfoot oral tradition, only three of those killed were able-bodied warriors. The Indian agent for the Blackfoot reported that only 15 were men of fighting age.

According to Colonel Baker’s official report, he had succeeded in attacking the camp of Bear Chief and Big Horn whom he classified as “hostiles.”

The Aftermath:

At the time of the Heavy Runner massacre (dubbed the Baker Massacre in the eastern press), the U.S. government was debating over whether the Indian Office (later known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs) was to remain in the Department of the Interior or be transferred back to the War Department. The accounts of army brutality in this incident, including Horace Clarke’s testimony about the brutality of the attack against this friendly camp, helped stop the proposal to move Indian Affairs to the War Department. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Ely Parker, who was a Seneca Indian, was put in the position of defending the military operation as an effective way of dealing with the Blackfoot.  

General Sheridan, who was not known for his concern for Indians, expressed confidence in Colonel Baker’s leadership abilities and was able to stop an official army investigation into the incident.  Sheridan insisted that Baker had attacked Mountain Chief’s camp and issued a press release:

“the majority of those killed in Mountain Chief’s camp were warriors, that the firing ceased the moment resistance was at an end, that quarter was given to all who asked for it; and that a hundred women and children were allowed to go free to join the other bands of the same tribe camped nearby, rather than the absurd report that there were only thirteen warriors killed and that all the balance were women and children, more or less afflicted with smallpox.”

Captain Lewis Thompson would later defend the slaughter of women and children:

“The accidental killing of noncombatants during the onslaught was condemned as the deliberate, cruel murder of women and children. By any code which society ever instituted to protect its citizens and punish outlaws, these Indians are guilty of death, as if their crimes were forgotten in the face of their terrible punishment. Punishment, terrible as it was, was not more cruel than the peace role of this government under which the Indians have so long suffered.”

Corporal Dan Starr is reported to have said:

“Baker had made known the paramount feature of his military policy when he announced as a motto, ‘ Nits make lice. ‘ This was the customary way of indicating that children were not to be spared. With this general-extermination idea impressed upon the troops, the camp was quickly surrounded.”

Mountain Chief and his people, upon hearing about the attack on Heavy Runner, avoided the army by crossing the border into Canada.


Looking for a Home in the 20th Century

At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were a number of Indian groups (bands, tribes, or nations) that did not have formal relations with the United States government. Without formal recognition from the United States, these groups did not have reservations and were thus considered “landless” Indians. In Montana, there were several groups of landless Indians who wandered throughout the state, living through temporary jobs and hunting (including poaching). During the early twentieth century, some of the Chippewa and Cree bands were successful in obtaining a new reservation in Montana in spite of opposition by many non-Indians.  

In 1902, Chippewa leader Stone Child (also known as Rocky Boy) hired an attorney to write a letter to President Theodore Roosevelt asking that his people be given a home or reservation. In the letter, he indicated that there were 130 people in his band, that they were all American-born, and they were self-supporting. It is apparent that Stone Child wanted to give federal officials the impression that his followers were hard-working, deserving Indians. To end their current hardship, they needed land. While Stone Child claimed that all of his people were American born, in all likelihood his people included Chippewa and Métis who had been born in Canada and who had come to the United States following the Riel Rebellion to escape Canadian retribution.

Rocky Boy

In 1903, a special Indian agent recommended that the landless Chippewa under the leadership of Stone Child (Rocky Boy) be placed on the Flathead Reservation. This action was favored by both the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and the Secretary of the Interior, and a bill was introduced in Congress to that effect. However, this action was opposed by Montana Republican Joseph Dixon who wanted to open up the Flathead Reservation for the benefit of non-Indian interests (and to enrich himself in the process). The bill did not pass.

In 1905, Stone Child (Rocky Boy) continued to advocate a Montana home for his people. His band camped at the base of Mount Jumbo near Missoula for several days while he talked with Joseph Dixon, the Congressman who opposed the settlement of the Chippewa on the Flathead Reservation.

The following year, members of the landless Cree and Chippewa bands met with writer Frank Bird Linderman and told him about their desperate condition. They did not have a reservation and had no consistent way to feed themselves. They told him that they had been living on the outskirts of Helena, living on slaughterhouse offal and the town’s garbage.

In 1908, writer Linderman and William Boles, the editor and owner of the Great Falls Tribune began a campaign to convince congress to create a reservation for the landless Cree and Chippewa bands. These men understood that many Montanans, if not most, would be opposed to the creation of another Indian reservation in the state. Their strategy involved a letter-writing campaign targeted at politicians. Artist Charles Russell began to raise money for the Indians and wrote letters in support of the reservation.

Congressman Joseph Dixon wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs regarding Rocky Boy’s (Stone Child’s) band of Chippewa and asked for aid on their behalf. The Indian agent for the Flathead Reservation was sent to investigate their condition and reported that many of the band were actually Canadian Cree.

While congress appropriated $30,000 to establish a home for the Cree and Chippewa, the reservation failed to materialize and the bands continued to wander across the state.  

In 1908, about 100 people from Stone Child’s Chippewa band were moved by railroad boxcars to an area around Saint Mary’s Lake near the Blackfeet Reservation. A food-for-allotted-land deal had been supposedly made which opened up 101 allotments for the landless Chippewa. While the landless Indians had been told that the details for the deal had been worked out with the federal government, actually there had never been any such agreement.

In 1909, the federal government determined that there were 120 American-born Indians in the Chippewa band led by Stone Child. Indian Office officials began to survey lands in Valley County for allotments under the General Allotment Act (Dawes Act). However, non-Indians soon objected to relocating the Chippewa in Valley County. Among those who objected with Louis Hill, the owner of the Great Northern Railroad. As usual, when wealthy business owners complain, the government listens and responds. As a result, work on the allotment survey was stopped. While the Indian Office was supposed to serve as the guardian to American Indians, it was in reality more responsive to political pressure from politicians and business interests.

The government relocated landless Cree and Chippewa to Babb, Montana on the Blackfoot Nation in 1910. The government then ordered the land to be surveyed so that it could be allotted to the Cree and Chippewa. The Blackfoot were not consulted about either the relocation or the allotment of their tribal lands.

About 50 Chippewa under the leadership of Stone Child accepted allotments. While Stone Child remained at Babb to take up farming, 150 Chippewa camped near Helena and the Cree under Little Bear returned to the Havre area.

In 1911, the Army announced plans to abandon Fort Assiniboine near the town of Havre. Chippewa leader Full-of-Dew, Cree leader Little Bear, and writer Frank Bird Linderman began a campaign to turn the old fort over to the landless Cree and Chippewa bands as a reservation. The plan was strongly opposed in Havre where the local paper ridiculed Linderman for having a romantic and unrealistic notion of Indians.

In 1912, Fred A. Baker, a superintendent of Indian Schools, was assigned the task of finding lands for the landless Chippewa and Cree. Baker, like most Americans at this time, strongly believed that American Indians should be assimilated into American culture. Assimilation, Baker and other officials in the Indian Office felt, had to be accomplished by transforming Indians into rural subsistence farmers, even though this type of farming was not economically feasible in the urban, market economy that was essential to American culture and life in the early twentieth century.

Baker held a council with Chippewa leader Stone Child, Cree leader Little Bear, and others at the Independence Day Celebration on the Blackfeet Reservation. He then held a separate meeting with Blackfoot leaders. From these two councils, it was clear that neither group favored a plan which called for the Chippewa and Cree to be placed permanently on the Blackfeet Reservation.

Little Bear

Baker visited the Fort Assiniboine Military Reservation after talking with Little Bear who told him that his people had periodically lived in the area. He concluded that the landless Chippewa and Cree should be given a small reservation within the confines of the abandoned Fort Assiniboine Military Reservation. Baker felt that a small reservation would be the first step toward assimilation and that it would remove poverty-stricken Indians from the vicinity of Montana towns.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order to create a reservation for the landless Chippewa under the leadership of Stone Child and the landless Cree under the leadership of Little Bear. The tribes were given part of the former Fort Assiniboine and an 8,800 acre park was placed between the tribes and the city of Havre.

Stone Child died of tuberculosis at the age of 70 shortly before the new reservation for his people was created. The new reservation was named Rocky Boy in his honor. Only about 450 Indians, about half of those eligible, chose to settle on the reservation.

Aboriginal New England Cuisine With Recipes

When the European invasion of New England started in the seventeenth century, the American Indian people of the region had a varied and savory cuisine. As farmers they raised a variety of crops, including many different kinds of maize (corn), beans, squash, pumpkins, and strawberries. They supplemented these foods with wild foods obtained through hunting, fishing, and gathering. Many modern foods, such as corn bread, hominy, johnnycake, clam chowder, and others, have their origins in the aboriginal cuisine of New England.

Overall, the diet of the New England natives prior to the European invasion seems to have been healthier than that of the Europeans at the same time. Indian people consumed a great variety of different plants (both domesticated and wild) as well as fish, fowl, and meat. Among other things, food was freely shared. There were not some people who were undernourished while others were over-nourished. The better diet and the food sharing resulted in people who were often larger than the Europeans.  


Much of the cooking done by the New England Indians was done by boiling. In some instances they used clay pots with pointed bottoms that would be placed in the midst of embers. Sometimes they would boil water in a basket made from green bark which would be suspended over hot coals.

Like Indian nations in other parts of North America, the aboriginal peoples of New England also used stone boiling. In this method, rocks would be heated in the fire until they turned red. They would then be placed in a container of water. In a fairly short time, the water could be brought to boiling and it would be kept there by continuing to add hot stones. The containers used for stone boiling included not only pottery vessels, but also baskets and leather bags. Stone boiling appears to have been more common in the north, particularly in what is known as the state of Maine.

For many of the Indian people in New England, fish was an important food. At times fish was cooked on a flat stone set on a bed of coals. Clams would be set on edge around a hearth to roast until their shells opened.

In Maine, the Indians would bake clams in piles over heated rocks which had been covered and interlaced with seaweed. It was not uncommon for them to add corn and slices of fish to the steaming pile.

Corn Dishes:

Corn was the staff of life for New England natives and it was prepared in many different ways. One of the most common was to use ground corn to make samp, or newsamp, a kind of porridge. Both the early English and Dutch invaders found this to be a wholesome and tasty food.

Another common corn dish was pone or johnnycake. To make pone, mature corn would be pounded into a fine powder, then made into a dough with water or bear oil. It would then be made into cakes about an inch thick and baked in hot ashes. The baking might also be done on thin broad stones (probably soapstone) placed on the fire.  

In some instances corn pone was mixed with other ingredients to make appoon. In the late spring, the people would make strawberry bread, then in early summer they would make raspberry and cherry bread, and in the fall, blackberry, blueberry, and elderberry bread.

Dumplings would be made by taking the dough (which might be mixed with berries or chestnuts) and boiling it for about an hour (usually until the dough floated). These dumplings could then be added to a pot of stew.

Hominy was made by boiling the corn kernels whole.

Travelers would carry with them bags of corn which had been pounded into a fine meal. When they needed to eat, they would then mix it with a little water. Some of the early Europeans report that just a quarter pound of this travel food, mixed with water, would make a hearty meal.

Beans, Squash, Pumpkins:

Beans were nearly as important to the Indians as corn. Beans of many different colors and textures were used in many different ways and were added to many foods. Beans were mixed into the corn meal in making bread and they were added to stews and chowders.

Beans were also baked in earthen pots or beanholes.

Squash and pumpkins were incorporated into Indian cuisine both as a main dish and as an addition to bread, stews, and porridges. Pumpkins and squash were also dried so that they could be consumed during the winter. Pumpkin and squash seeds were considered a delicacy and would be eaten either raw or cooked. When dried and mixed with water, pumpkin and squash seeds were felt to have medicinal properties and were used in treating urinary problems.

Mohegan Succotash:

The oral history of the Mohegan tells that they came from “west by north” of another country, that they passed over great waters, that they had once lived beside a great body of water affected by tides, and from this they obtained their name – Muh-he-con-nuk – which means “great waters which are constantly moving”. They faced great famine and migrated toward the east where they found many great bodies of water, but none which flowed and ebbed.

As with other eastern tribes, corn was one of the principal foods of the Mohegan. Corn was prepared in a number of ways, including making hominy of the kernels and making a stew of beans and corn called succotash. Succotash is a basic American Indian dish. Among the Indian nations of the Northeast, succotash was kept simmering at all times so that any hungry visitor or family member could be fed.

Shown below is a contemporary recipe for Mohegan succotash:

4 ears of fresh sweet corn

3 to 4 cups of fresh lima beans (frozen may be substituted)

1 ½ cups of water

½ cup of butter (to be really authentic, you should use bear grease instead of butter)

1 ½ cups of sliced green onions

1 green and 1 red bell pepper, sliced and diced

With a large, sharp knife cut corn cobs into 1 ½ inch lengths. Place corn, beans, water, and butter (or bear grease) in a large saucepan. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in green onions and peppers and continue to simmer for 6 to 10 minutes, until beans are tender and peppers are tender-crisp. Remove lid and cook over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until liquid is reduced to about ½ cup.

About bear grease: bears were often hunted and their skins were tanned using a mixture of animal brains, bird livers, and fish oil. In addition, bear grease was applied directly to the body and in this way provided additional warmth in the winter and in the summer it served as an insect repellent.

New England Codfish Balls:

Hunting and fishing provided supplemental calories.   In the summer, fishing was done in the ocean and in the winter along freshwater streams and ponds. The fish were dried by placing them in the sun or over smoky fires. One of the important fish to the Indians was cod.  Shown below is a contemporary recipe for Aboriginal New England Codfish Balls:

1 ½ pounds fresh codfish

3 cups raw, peeled, diced sweet potatoes (or regular potatoes)

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon ground pepper

2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill


Oil for deep frying

Place fish, potatoes, salt, and pepper in water to cover in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and drain well. Stir in dill and mash or puree. Shape into 2- or 3-inch balls. Roll in cornmeal. Heat oil to 375 F. Fry codfish balls for about 1 minute, until golden brown. Remove from oil, drain well, and serve.

“Stands Like a Porcupine”

In Canada’s Northwest Territories, the mountain area in the South Nahanni River watershed known as Naats’ihch’oh (“Stands Like a Porcupine”) by the Dene-speaking people has become Canada’s 44th National Park. For aboriginal people this is not only an area of outstanding beauty, but also of special spiritual power. While the park was announced in 2008, it was not fully established until August 22, 2012 when the impact and benefit plan was completed with the local Dene and Métis people.  

The new park will be managed in cooperation with the Sahtu Dene and the Métis of the Tulita District. Traditional hunting, fishing, trapping, and spiritual activities are to be allowed in the park. Aboriginal people will contribute to park management and will educate visitors about the region’s natural history and aboriginal peoples.

The South Nahanni River watershed area is home to several endangered species, including woodland caribou and grizzly bears. The area is also known for its moose and Dall sheep. It is also an area which is rich in minerals, so the final boundaries of the park were selected so that most known mineral deposits are outside of the park. While the creation of the new park means that no new mines can be established within the boundaries of the 1,800 square-mile park, existing claims within the park will be respected.

According to Parks Canada:

The South Nahanni River watershed is an incredibly beautiful and ecologically important area in the Northwest Territories. The river starts its journey at its headwaters – the Moose Ponds, in the shadow of Nááts’ihcho’oh (Mount Wilson). The upper part of the watershed accounts for about 1/6th of the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem, and it is important as the source of the river and as habitat for grizzly bear, Dall’s sheep and woodland caribou.

It has long been the home to the Dene and Métis, and it is often the launching area for adventurous visitors to the wilderness. Visitors from the rest of Canada and the world will have the opportunity to see the spectacular landscapes and to hike, canoe, and climb in these new park areas.

The creation of the new park has been met with some criticism. Some people feel that the new park is more about protecting mining interests than in protecting and preserving the environment. Stephen Kakfwi, the former premier of the Northwest Territories says that Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

“has taken the heart right out of it. The middle of it carved out so that mining can happen. That is not a national park. That is a joke.”

Other comments about the park:

“So let me see if I understand this. You create a new arctic national park that leaves 70 per cent of the mineral content of the proposed park outside of the park boundaries and available for mining companies to explore. Sounds to me like you are creating an island refuge and not a viable ecosystem.”

“Exactly my first thought. This park land is protected, while everything surrounding it is scraped away. A weak attempt at trying to balance out the devastation that will occur when the rest of the north is mined. We don’t need this kind of insulting lip service.”

“Not sure what you call it but I call it the best of both worlds”

Dene Spirituality:

Since Naats’ihch’oh plays an important role in Dene spirituality, I thought I would provide some background about the nature of this spirituality.

Among the Dene, individual experience is important in spirituality. Religion is experiential in that a person with a religious experience is considered someone who “knows” rather than as a “believer.”

As with other aboriginal peoples, dreams are an important part of Dene spirituality. However, spiritual power may require more than a single dream. For a person to be considered a prophet or a spiritual leader, others must acknowledge and recognize the power of an individual’s dream. Spiritual leadership is determined by authenticity: the visions and messages must be deemed true.

As with other aboriginal peoples, the vision quest is an important way of gaining spiritual power. During the vision quest, the individual goes alone to a remote place and waits for the vision to come to them. This vision may include songs and rituals. Animals may appear in the vision and provide the seekers with spiritual aid. The animal may appear in its own form or in the guise of a human being.

Dene and Métis:

Dene is often translated as “people” in the Northern Athabascan languages. However, Dene can also be broken into de (“flow” ) and ne (“Mother Earth “). This encompasses the understanding that the Dene people flow from Mother Earth. They are distantly related to the Athabascan-speaking Navajo and Apache in the American Southwest.

The Dene live in the region which they call Denendeh which means “the Creator’s Spirit flows through this Land.” There is an emphasis on living in harmony with the land which is based on respect and knowledge of the land.

The Métis are recognized in Canada as a distinct aboriginal people and are historically the descendents of European fur traders (mostly French and Scots) and indigenous people.

The Navajo Reservation in the 1950s

The Navajo Reservation with its tribal headquarters in Window Rock, Arizona, is the largest Indian reservation in the United States. During the 1950s, the Navajo had to deal with an American government which was firmly committed to the destruction of the Indian way of life and to the transfer of any possible reservation wealth to large non-Indian corporations.

Window Rock

Economic Development:

By the 1950s, the American government had returned to the failed Indian policies of the late nineteenth century with a focus on assimilation of the individual Indians into American society and to a transfer of potential wealth on Indian reservations from the Indians to non-Indian corporations.

Congress passed the Navajo-Hopi Long Range Rehabilitation Project in 1950 which appropriated $90 million dollars to be spent on the reservation. Projects under this act included the construction of schools, housing, and hospital; the construction and maintenance of roads; the construction of sewer systems; soil and water conservation; irrigation works; and the provision of electricity. On the Navajo reservation this money was used to prepare Navajo country for private industry, and to give public finance capability to tribal government, so that it could manage the ‘grooming process’ and maintain the Navajo labor force during busts.

Traditionally, one of the major economic forces on the reservation had been Indian-made handicrafts, particularly Navajo blankets and rugs. In 1950, the Navajo Tribal Council approved the construction of a wool-processing plant at Leupp which would benefit the Navajo weavers.

The sale of Navajo handicraft items was developed by traders. In 1950, non-Indian traders at the Sacred Mountain Trading Post began to seek out active Navajo potters in the area north of Flagstaff. They soon found ten women who brought in a number of examples of their work. The traders began to encourage pottery making among the Navajo and to find markets for it.

In 1956, the Navajo Tribal Council appropriated $300,000 to subsidize companies that were willing to locate on the reservation. While four companies were attracted by the tribal payroll subsidies and other inducements, three closed their facilities as soon as they had exhausted their subsidies. Corporations had little interest in actually helping the Navajo.  

Resource Development:

During the 1950s, the intention of the American government was to terminate all Indian reservations, particularly those with timber resources. Fortunately, the Navajo Reservation does not have abundant timber resources and so it was not slated for immediate termination. However, the Unite States sought to transfer other resources on the Navajo reservation-particularly water, uranium, and coal-to non-Indian corporations for development. The Bureau of Indian Affairs worked actively on behalf of non-Indian corporations to develop Navajo resources for the benefit of the corporations, not the Navajo.

In 1952, the Navajo Tribal Council, encouraged by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, approved a mineral extraction agreement with Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation. This agreement allowed the company access to uranium deposits near the town of Shiprock. In exchange, the company was to employ 100 Navajo miners who were to work at about 67% of the prevailing non-reservation underground mining wages. In order to increase its profits and reduce its operating costs, the company simply ignored worker safety regulations. The underground mine was supposed to have ventilation, but the ventilation fans did not work. Both the company and the United States Atomic Energy Commission failed to inform the Navajo workers about the known health risks involved in working in uranium mines.

By 1954, the Kerr-McGee Corporation was mining enough uranium from its mines on the Navajo reservation that it built a processing plant for the ore at Shiprock.

Economic development in the arid southwest requires water. While the Supreme Court in the Winters Doctrine had clearly indicated the priority for Indian water rights, most state and federal agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, simply ignored this ruling. Water rights reemerged in 1953 when the United States petitioned to intervene in Arizona v. California declaring that

“the United States of America asserts that the rights of the use of water claimed on behalf of the Indians and Indian tribes set forth in this petition are prior and superior to the rights to the use of water claimed by the parties to this cause in the Colorado River.”

The states responded angrily to this assertion of Indian water rights. In response to political pressure, the Justice Department recalled the petition and removed the reference to “prior and superior.”

The Navajo responded to the change in language by hiring their own attorney and arguing before the Special Master that this change was clear evidence that the Justice Department was not representing the best interest of Indians and the government is therefore violating its fiduciary responsibility. The court did not accept this argument.

In 1955, the Navajo tribe hired an outside consultant to oversee its oil and gas leases. The tribe also had a study done of potential oil and gas properties on Navajo land. The study recommended that the existing lease arrangements be replaced with partnerships. In response, the tribal council declared a moratorium on new leases.

The following year, the Navajo drew up a contract with the Delhi-Taylor Oil Company to explore and develop five million acres of reservation land. The tribe and the company were to split any profits on a 50-50 basis. While the tribe felt that this joint venture was valid because the Navajo tribe was the owner of the lands, the Secretary of the Interior Fred A. Seaton called it ‘risky,’ probably illegal, and forbade it. The oil industry waged a publicity campaign against the deal. As usual, the government supported non-Indian corporate interests.

In 1956, the Navajo opened up general bidding on 230,000 acres of oil-rich reservation lands in Utah. When the bidding ended, the tribe collected $12 million in lease money and 12.5% of the gross value of any oil produced. Instead of distributing the royalties as per capita payments, the tribe invested the money in education and economic development.

In 1957, Utah Mining and Construction negotiated a contract with the Navajo to allow the company to strip-mine coal just south of the San Juan River. The Arizona Public Service Company agreed to build a coal-fired electric generating station next to the mine.

Removal and Relocation:

As a part of the government’s program to terminate reservations and force Indians to assimilate, the Bureau of Indian Affairs forcibly relocated Indians to urban areas. During this era, many Navajo families were relocated to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, and other cities. Unlike other reservations, however, the Navajo also faced removal to other reservations and removal from public lands which they had traditionally used.

In 1950, resettlement of Navajo families from the Navajo Reservation to the Colorado River Reservation began. Over a two-year time period, 92 families were resettled.

In 1953, the Navajo were removed from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands around Butler wash and tributary areas in Utah. To notify the Navajo herders who had traditionally used these lands, the BLM simply posted notices on sagebrush and dead trees. The notices warned that the BLM was about to impound the Navajo livestock, but the BLM seemed unaware that most Navajo could not read. In the removal process, the Navajo men were handcuffed, their stock herded onto trucks, and their hogans burned. Some people reported that they were whipped and some reported that their livestock was killed.

Some Navajo filed a complaint against the Bureau of Land Management and received $100,000 for lost livestock. In answering the complaint, the BLM could not provide convincing testimony about being aware of problems in legality of how they handled the situation. While the judge ordered further investigation, nothing came from it.


During the last quarter of the nineteenth century a pan-Indian religious movement which would become known as the Native American Church developed on many reservations. In spite of its Christian overtones, Christian missionaries and the government strongly opposed this movement. Since the Native American Church used peyote as a sacrament, the opposition focused on this substance, claiming that it was addictive and thus should be banned. While the Native American Church was popular among many reservation Navajo, opposition to it came from two fronts: traditionals who pointed out that this was not a traditional Navajo religion, and Christians who warned that it was Satanic, evil, and addictive. As a result, the religion was banned on the reservation as well as in the surrounding states.

In 1954, the Navajo Tribal Council held two and a half days of hearings to reconsider its 1940 anti-peyote ordinance. Anthropologists, pharmacologists, and peyotists testified on behalf of the use of peyote. The council took no action on this matter. In 1958, however, the Navajo Nation enacted an ordinance making it an offense to bring peyote onto the reservation. Members of the Native American Church responded by filing suit against the tribe in federal court.

In 1958, in Shiprock, New Mexico on the Navajo reservation, a Native American Church service was raided. Shorty Duncan, William P. Tsosie, and Frank Hann, Jr. were arrested and assessed a fine and a jail penalty under the Navajo tribe’s anti-peyote ordinance.

In 1959, in the Native American Church versus the Navajo Tribal Council, the Court of Appeals ruled that the First Amendment did not bind the Tribal Council. The Navajo Tribal Council had passed an ordinance which made it an offense to use peyote. The ordinance was passed because the Tribal Council did not feel that the use of peyote was a part of traditional Navajo religious practices. The Court felt that the First Amendment applied only to Congress and that it was made applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Since the Tribes were not States, the Court ruled, the First Amendment did not apply to them. The court also declared:

“Indian tribes are not states. They have a status higher than that of states. They are subordinate and dependent nations possessed of all power as such only to the extent that they have expressly been required to surrender them by the superior sovereign, the United States.”

Tribal Sovereignty:

Traditionally, the Navajo had never been politically unified. By the 1950s, a time when the United States was attempting to get rid of Indian tribes, the Navajo were in the process of creating a tribal government and expressing themselves as a sovereign entity as described in the U.S. Constitution.

Annie Doge

Annie Dodge Wauneka (shown above) became the first woman elected to the Navajo Tribal Council in 1951.

In 1955, the Navajo Tribal Council formally recognized and incorporated the chapter system into tribal government.

In Williams versus Lee, the Supreme Court ruled in 1959 that state courts did not have jurisdiction in a matter involving a non-Indian in Arizona suing a Navajo reservation Indian for goods sold on the reservation. According to the Court:

“To allow the exercise of state jurisdiction here would undermine the authority of the tribal courts over Reservation affairs and hence would infringe on the right of the Indians to govern themselves.”

In 1959, the Navajo Nation formed its own judiciary. The tribal courts, which had been under the direct control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, were now controlled by the tribal council. There was now a trial court with seven judges and an appeals court with three judges. Jurisdiction was limited to civil and domestic problems, and offenses committed by Indians on the reservation in violation of the Navajo Law and Order Code. Law professor Charles Wilkinson writes:

“A foundation of Navajo justice is Navajo common law, similar method but not result to English and American common law, in which the judges develop legal rules that reflect the society’s history, traditions, economy, and natural resources.”

At this time, the Navajo Tribal Council also took control over the Navajo Police from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.