Fort Manuel Lisa and the Indians

When the Corps of Discovery under the leadership of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark returned to St. Louis after their journey to the Pacific Ocean in 1807, they brought back reports of the rich beaver country at the headwaters of the Missouri River. As a result, the Upper Missouri in Montana became one of the most sought after prizes of the fur trade. In St. Louis, 12 separate companies were formed to exploit this newfound source of wealth.

One of the first fur traders to enter into the upper Missouri River area of what is now Montana was Manuel Lisa, a Louisiana Spaniard by birth. Lisa established a fort at the confluence of the Bighorn and Yellowstone Rivers. The venture was under the auspices of the Missouri Fur Trading Company of St. Louis and included four men who had been with Lewis and Clark. The expedition had a total of 42 men, including 37 French Canadians.

The trading post was named Fort Raymond by Lisa, but most people called it Fort Manuel. Some historians claim that the log cabin, consisting of two rooms and a loft, was the first permanent building in what would become the state of Montana. This claim, however, either ignores or is unaware of the permanent structures which had been built centuries earlier by Indian peoples.

Fort Manual was unusual it that it had coal for fuel. This was a luxury which was rare in the upper Missouri area.

Fur trading companies at this time would establish a trading post at a location convenient for several tribes, then have the Indians come to them bringing in the furs to trade. The new fort was located in Crow country. However, the Yellowstone Valley at this time was also used by the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Blackfoot hunting parties. This meant that the new trading post was also positioned to trade with these Indian nations as well as the Crow.

Lisa departed from the usual practice of waiting for Indians to bring in furs to trade by sending out his own trappers. He ignored any possible concerns that Indians might have about taking their animal resources.

In 1807, John Colter, one of Manuel Lisa’s employees, set out from Fort Manuel to make trade alliances with the Absaroka (Crow). He found the Crow to be friendly and travelled with them into the area that is now known as Yellowstone National Park. When he later reported about the geysers and other sights that he had seen, many non-Indians did not believe him.

In 1808, John Colter set out from Fort Manuel (now also known as Lisa’s Fort and Fort Ramon) on the Yellowstone River, crossed the Bozeman Pass and encountered a Flathead buffalo hunting party. He convinced them to return with him to the fort to establish trade relations. Near Bozeman Pass they were attacked by a large Blackfoot war party. Colter was wounded in the thigh. As the Flathead were about to be defeated, the Crow entered the battle and the Blackfoot were driven off. As a result of this battle, the Blackfoot considered the fur traders to be allies of their enemies and treated them accordingly. As a result, the Blackfoot attacked the fur trading and fur trapping parties.

The following year, John Colter was trapping when he was discovered by a Blackfoot party. From the Blackfoot perspective, he was not only trespassing on their hunting grounds, but he was also stealing their resources. Colter is captured. Instead of killing him, they strip him naked, and tell him to run for his life. This was a traditional punishment for people who were banished. Colter managed to escape and his story became legendary.

Lisa had hoped to monopolize the Missouri River fur trade and to establish trade with the Blackfoot. However, when he failed to establish peaceful relations with the Blackfoot, the fort was abandoned in 1811. The Blackfoot had not only refused to patronize the fort, but they had also run off the fort’s livestock and harassed the traders.

The Spanish and Indians in Florida, 1513 to 1527

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The Spanish invasion of what is now Florida began in 1513. At this time, there were at least 200,000 Native Americans living in the area. Even before the first Spanish explorers set foot in Florida, European diseases had begun to impact the Native population. Smallpox had been carried to the Calusa by Native people from Cuba. The Native people of south Florida were well aware of the Spanish from the reports from the Natives of the Caribbean islands with whom they had regularly traded for centuries.

Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon (the conqueror of Puerto Rico) explored the coast of Florida in 1513. It was Easter Week – Pasqua Florida in Spanish— when he landed and so the land was called Florida. The primary goal of the expedition was to obtain slaves. At this time, the Spanish were interested in Americans as laborers, sexual partners, guides, porters, and suppliers of food. While one of the common misconceptions repeated in history is that Ponce de Leon was looking for a fountain of youth, he was really looking for slaves who would add to his wealth.

The Spanish under Ponce de Leon landed just north of present-day Cape Canaveral which was the northern end of Ais territory. Sailing south of Cape Canaveral they sailed into Biscayne Bay and landed at a Tequesta town.

The Spanish ships then sailed into San Carlos Bay where they intended to clean and recaulk one of the ships. Eighty Calusa canoes filled with archers with shields approached the Spanish ships. The Spanish attacked, drove the Calusa to shore, broke up some of the canoes, and captured some women. The Calusa warriors, however, forced the Spanish to withdraw.

In 1517, three Spanish ships under the command of Hernández de Córdoba stopped for water at San Carlos Bay. The well-armed Spanish landing party was driven off by the Calusa. Six of the Spanish soldiers were wounded and one was carried off alive. However, the Spanish reported that they killed 35 Indians.

In 1519, Spanish sea captain Alonso de Piñada sailed along the Florida coast and then up the Mississippi River for about 20 miles. He reported seeing about 40 towns along the river.

That same year, a series of smallpox episodes began to strike the Native American population with a mortality rate of 50-75%.

In 1521, Juan Ponce de Leon attempted to establish a colony for the Spanish Crown. With a force of 200 men, including Catholic priests, 50 horses, and livestock (cows, sheep, goats), the Spanish landed at San Carlos Bay. They were met by Calusa warriors who inflicted a number of casualties and wounded Ponce de Leon in the thigh with a reed arrow. In the close combat conditions, the European weapons proved less than effective. The Spanish returned to Cuba where Ponce de Leon dies.

The Spanish soldier Pánfilio de Narváez, with a reputation for brutality and a strong desire to find gold and wealth, invaded Florida in 1527 with a force of 600. Narváez had two primary goals: to find gold and to discover a passage to the Pacific Ocean.

The Spanish landed somewhere near present-day Tampa. On a beach empty of any Indians, a monk reads the requerimiento and with this the Spanish feel that they have met the legal and religious obligation to take possession of the land and wage war against the natives. The requerimiento was a recitation of the Christian history of the world followed by the requirement that the Natives come forward of their own free will to convert to Catholicism or

“with the help of God we shall use force against you, declaring war upon you from all sides and with all possible means, and we shall bind you to the yoke of the Church and Their Highnesses; we shall enslave your persons, wives, and sons, sell you or dispose of you as the King sees fit; we shall seize your possessions and harm you as much as we can as disobedient and resisting vassals.”

Furthermore, the Natives who resisted were to be held guilty of all resulting deaths and injuries. The requerimiento was read in either Spanish or Latin with little concern for any possible Native comprehension of the words.

Narváez opened up negotiations with the Indians by having one of the chiefs and his family come into the Spanish camp. Spanish hospitality involved cutting off the chief’s nose and having his wife torn apart by dogs.

The Spanish entered a Timucua village which included one dwelling that could hold 300 people. The village was deserted as the Timucua planned to encourage the Spanish to leave by offering no hospitality. However, the Spanish found a gold rattle that ignited their gold-lust.

Next, the Spanish marched north to Tampa Bay. At one village the Franciscan priests ordered that the revered remains of the Timucua ancestors be burned. The Spanish continued their march northward without seeing any natives. The Timucua considered their policy of avoidance to be successful.

Near the Apalachicola River, the Spanish were met by the Timucua chief Dulchanchellin who was carried on a man’s back and was accompanied by a group that included musicians playing reed flutes. The two groups exchanged gifts and the chief led them to his village where he fed them. In the morning, the Spanish find that they are alone.

The Timucua warriors attacked Spanish soldiers as they were attempting to cross through a lake. The Timucua warriors fired arrows at a range of more than 200 paces with great precision. Spanish armor proved nearly worthless as the arrows, tipped with snake-teeth, bone, or flint, penetrated the steel. In spite of this, most of the Spanish soldiers survived.

Farther north, the Spanish carried out an unprovoked surprise attack against the Apalachee village of Apalachen. Even though this was one of the largest Apalachee villages, the Spanish did not find the treasure they were seeking. They found only corn, deerskins, woven cloth, and corn-grinding bowls. There was no gold.

The Spanish continued their march north into Aute country. They found that the Aute had burned and abandoned their village before the Spanish arrival.

The Narváez attempt was a failure. The Spanish found out that their crossbows were no match to the Indian longbows. The Indian bows, 6-7 feet long, were accurate to about 200 yards. Furthermore, the arrows, tipped with flint, bone, snake teeth, and fish scales, penetrated the Spanish armor. Spanish horses proved worthless as war machines in the Florida swamps and brush.

Only four members of the expedition survived: Narváez, Alvar Núnez Cabeza de Vaca, Andrés Dorantes, and a black slave Esteván (also called Estévanico and Esteban). They finally managed to return to Mexico City in 1536.

NPR Ombudsman DEFENDS illegal seizure of Lakota Children!

NPR’s Ombudsman recently released a report DEFENDING South Dakota’s illegal seizures of Lakota children- implying that the illegal separation of Native American children from their families is not South Dakota’s fault.

NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos recently attacked an excellent investigation by Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters that looked into the problems with Native American Foster Care and the violations of ICWA in South Dakota.  The Ombudsman’s attack defended the state and accused Sullivan and Walters of having strong biases and having used misleading information.

Upon further investigation, however, we have come to the conclusion that Sullivan and Walters were, in fact, correct- it seems that, instead, it is the Ombudsman who needs to get his facts straight.

The Lakota People’s Law Project has written a full rebuttal in response to the Ombudsman, outlining several key errors in his investigation:

1. The Ombudsman (Edward Schumacher-Matos) talked to virtually no Lakota people when preparing his report. The report relies almost solely on government sources and is therefore inherently biased.

2. The Ombudsman failed to grasp the cultural bias of state law and D.S.S. workers.

3. The Ombudsman failed to check his sources and verify false claims, leading him to inaccurate conclusions.

4. The Ombudsman mischaracterized South Dakota’s skyrocketing foster Care seizures.

5. The Ombudsman’s main argument has been subsequently rejected by news outlets including NPR, the Rapid City Journal, and TIME Magazine.

6. The Ombudsman doesn’t understand the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

7. The Ombudsman ignores the economic benefits South Dakota gers from Native Foster Children.

We are currently leading an effort to show the Ombudsman that the voices of the Native American Community matter.  Please write to him stating your frustration on his Open Forum Blog.

You can find the full response to the Ombudsman’s report HERE.

Make the voices of the Lakota be HEARD!