1964

Very often in history classes and in the popular media Indians are segregated into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with particular attention on the conflicts with Plains Indians following the Civil War. There is sometimes the implication that there were no Indians in the twentieth century, that they had somehow gone extinct or simply assimilated, like other immigrants, into mainstream American culture. Yet twentieth century American history is filled with incidents of violent conflicts (wars?) and political policies regarding Indians. Discussed below are some of the events and issues of just one year: 1964, a mere two generations in the past.

 Federal Policy:

 Indian leaders come to Washington, D.C. to lobby for a change in the War on Poverty legislation that would allow grants to be made directly to Indian tribes. When the legislation creating the Office of Economic Opportunity finally passes it includes their proposal. This marks a milestone in federal and tribal relations, in that, for the first time, Indian people had conceived of a provision to be inserted in national legislation and then lobbied it through Congress into law.

 The War on Poverty programs, unlike many federal programs, had a positive impact on Indian reservations. Not only did these programs realistically address economic, educational, and health issues, they also provided a training ground for future Indian leaders. Programs dealing with mental health and alcoholism gave Indian people the expertise to deal with these issues.

Fishing and Gathering Rights:

 Treaties between the United States and Indians nations often stated very clearly that the Indian nations had retained their traditional rights to fish, hunt, and gather in all usual and accustomed places. State governments, however, have not felt any obligation to conform to these treaties and have openly violated Indian rights.

Northwest Indians initiate a series of “fish-ins” in Western Washington. State response is brutal: Indian men, women, and children are arrested using tear gas, blackjacks, and violence. After state officers in riot gear in a high speed aluminum boat capsize his cedar canoe, Nisqually tribal member Billy Frank, Jr. comments:  “These guys had a budget. This was war.”

In Washington, the Makah erect a smokehouse on Olympic National Park land near the mouth of the Ozette River. The Park Service acknowledges their treaty rights and drafts regulations that allow seasonal structures.

In Wisconsin, game wardens arrest a number of Bad River Chippewa for illegally harvesting wild rice in the Kakagon Slough. The tribe’s regulations for harvesting wild rice differ from those of the state. The tribal council insists that the state has no jurisdiction over Indian wild rice.

 Recognition:

 In North Carolina, the Haliwa-Saponi win a lawsuit which forces the state to change the birth certificates of tribal members to identify them as Indians.

 American Indian Art:

 In Washington, D.C., an exhibition of student work from the Institute of Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico is exhibited in the offices of the Department of the Interior.

Cochiti Pueblo artist Helen Cordera makes her first Storyteller figure – a grandfather seated with five children hanging from him. The figurative pottery is inspired by memories of her grandfather telling stories to the children of Cochiti. This innovation will inspire many other potters and will become one of the most popular Native art forms in the southwest.

In New Mexico, Tewa artist Helen Hardin has her first “formal” one-woman show at Enchanted Mesa. She recalls of the event:  “I was treated like a cute little Indian girl—so sweet, so beautiful.”

Mission Indian artist Fritz Scholder vows that he will never paint another Indian and resolves to invent a new style of Indian painting summarized as: “I have painted the Indian real, not red.”  Scholder declares:  “The non-Indian had painted the subject as a noble savage and the Indian painter had been caught in a tourist-pleasing cliché.”

 Land Issues:

 A group of about 40 Indians travel to Alcatraz Island in California by boat. Allen Cottier, a Sioux descendent of Crazy Horse, reads a statement offering 47 cents per acre for the purchase of the island.

 In Arizona, the Havasupai ask the National Park Service to relinquish administrative control over the Grand Canyon National Park campground located adjacent to the Havasupai Reservation.

 In Arizona, the Chemehuevi and Mojave of the Colorado Indian Reservation win their fight against having tribes from outside their reservation establish colonies on the reservation. Congress passes legislation to change the policy.

 In Washington, D.C., once again a bill is introduced in Congress which would provide the Yaqui with land in Arizona. To make the bill more palatable for some termination-minded Senators, the bill states:  “Nothing in this Act shall make such Yaqui Indians eligible for any services performed by the United States for Indians because of their status as Indians, and none of the statutes of the United States which affect Indians because of their status as Indians shall be applicable to the Yaqui Indians.”

The bill manages to pass and on Halloween, the Yaqui hold a ceremony commemorating the transfer of the 200 acres of land to the Pascua Yaqui Association. Anselmo Valencia makes speeches in both Yaqui and Spanish.

 In Wisconsin, Aztalan State Park, the site of an ancient Mississippian settlement, becomes a National Landmark.

In Maine, non-Indians attempt to develop Passamaquoddy land. The Passamaquoddy attempt to enlist the aid of the Governor, but are told that this is a local affair. The Passamaquoddy stage a protest and several are arrested. The attorney hired by the Passamaquoddy is given a bunch of old papers from an old Indian who had died. In these papers is the original handwritten treaty between the Passamaquoddy and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which was signed in 1794. The treaty is then used as evidence to get the charges against the protesters dismissed. (Note: Maine was a part of Massachusetts when the treaty was signed.)

In Utah, a handful of terminated mixed-blood Ute hire attorney Parker Nielson to investigate possible securities fraud in conjunction with the Ute Distribution Corporation.

The Peabody Coal Company signs a lease with the Navajo allowing for the strip mining of 40,000 acres on the Navajo Reservation.

In Wyoming, the Northern Arapaho distribute their land claim payment to each enrolled member in the form of 12 monthly payments of $124.

Urban Indians:

 In California, Friendship House opens as a drop-in facility for treating drug and alcohol abuse in San Francisco’s Indian population.

In Chicago, Illinois, St. Augustine’s Center for American Indians begins an annual buffalo dinner as a fund-raiser. More than 100 people pay $50 per plate for the event.

Media, Education, Sports:

 The newsletter Powwow Trails begins publication. It provides a monthly calendar of Indian and hobbyist events as well as articles about powwows, music, dance, and Indian material culture.

 The movie Cheyenne Autumn attempts to portray Indians in a positive light. While the title suggests that the movie comes from a book by Mari Sandoz, English professor Raymond William Stedman, in his book Shadows of the Indian: Stereotypes in American Culture, feels that  “Virtually any source, however, the Omaha telephone book included, would have served as well for this unfortunate and interminable strip of celluloid.”

The American Indian Historical Society is founded by Rupert Costo (Cahuila). The new organization hopes to correct the common stereotypes about American Indians and provide a more accurate presentation of Indians in American history.

In Mississippi, a high school for the Choctaw is opened.

Billy Mills (Oglala Sioux) wins the 10,000 meter run in the Olympic Games. He is the first American to win this event.

Early Spanish Invasions of the Plains

The Great Plains is the huge area in the central portion of the North American continent which stretches from the Canadian provinces in the north, almost to the Gulf of Mexico in the south, from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Mississippi River in the east. This is an area which contains many different kinds of habitat: flatland, dunes, hills, tablelands, stream valleys, and mountains. It is a dry region and lacks trees except along rivers and streams.  This was not a vacant land when the European invasion began, but a region inhabited by and utilized by many different Native American groups. Along the rivers, there were many American Indian villages whose people raised many different crops, including maize (corn), beans, squash, and sunflowers. There were also nomadic and semi-nomadic hunting and gathering groups whose primary beast of burden was the dog.

The first Europeans to enter the Great Plains were the Spanish who began their initial explorations of the Great Plains of North America in the 1500s. A group of Spaniards under the leadership of Hernando de Soto crossed the Mississippi River and entered what is now Arkansas in 1541. Here they encountered the highly fortified Indian village of Casqui. These Indians were not the horse-mounted buffalo hunters which would be later stereotypes used by movies and textbooks as “Indians,” but rather they were farmers who lived in permanent villages.

The Spanish then turned south, and somewhere on the Great Plains de Soto died. His expedition left a legacy of the torture, mutilation, and killing of thousands of native peoples.

While de Soto’s expedition entered the Great Plains from the east, at the same time Francisco Vásquez de Coronado began his journey north from Mexico seeking the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola. In what is now New Mexico, Coronado was told of the great wealth that was supposedly to the east, on the Great Plains. One Indian slave known as the Turk described the country of Quivira which lay to the northeast and was said to be so filled with gold that even common table service was made of gold and silver.

The Turk was probably a Pawnee who had been captured in war and was a slave in Pecos Pueblo when the Spanish arrived. The Spanish gave him the name El Turco (The Turk) because they thought his headdress looked Turkish. The Turk’s goal was obvious: he wanted to return to his people and by telling the Spanish what they were eager to hear, he felt that they would take him back to his homeland.

Somewhere in the Staked Plains of West Texas, Coronado began to distrust The Turk and had him placed in irons. The Spanish, with another Indian (Ysopete) as their guide, crossed into what is now Kansas. At the Kansas River, the Spanish stopped and sent messengers ahead to summon Tatarrax, the Harrahey chief. When Tatarrax arrived with 200 warriors, The Turk tried to convince him to attack the Spanish. The Spanish responded by strangling The Turk to death.

Most anthropologists feel that the Spanish designation “Harrahey” actually referred to one of the Pawnee tribes. The Pawnee, a Caddoan-speaking people, had migrated north from Texas into northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas at a fairly early date.

The Spanish expedition into the Plains was a dismal failure and the Spanish returned without finding any of the rumored gold. The stories told by The Turk, however, continued to inspire Spanish greed.

In 1601, Juan de Oñate led an expedition of 70 men with ox-drawn carts from New Mexico in search of the fabled land of Quivira in present-day Kansas. While the expedition was not successful, it did encounter Apache and buffalo. The Spanish estimated the population of one Apache hunting camp at 5,000 people. The Apaches were Lipan Apaches who the Spanish called Vaqueros (“Cowboys”). The expedition did not encounter any of the Teyas (Caddo) groups found by Coronado sixty years earlier.  The empty spaces encountered by Oñate seem to suggest that European diseases, such as smallpox, had resulted in massive depopulation.

Using Apache guides, the Spanish arrived at a Wichita village. The Wichita, another Caddoan-speaking group, were an agricultural people who raised corn, beans, and squash. They lived in permanent villages with houses made of grass that looked like large conical haystacks.

While the Wichita greeted the Spanish in a friendly fashion, the Apache and the Wichita were enemies. The Apache told the Spanish that the Wichita had killed earlier Spanish explorers and that they were still holding one captive. When a Wichita delegation visited the Spanish, they were taken captive to exchange for the reported Spanish captive. The Wichita, concerned that the Spanish were working with their enemies, withdrew from their village. The Apache then burned the village and took a number of women and children captive. The Spanish ordered the women released, but kept the children so that they could become Christian.

One of the prisoners was a young boy that the Spanish called Miguel. He was actually Tonkawa and had been taken captive by the Wichita in north central Oklahoma. The Tonkawa homeland was in Texas and southern Oklahoma.

Somewhere in Kansas, the Spanish had a conflict with an Indian group they called the Escanxaques. The Spanish would later report that they engaged in a 4-5 hour battle with 1,500 Escanxaque warriors. The Spanish, unlike the Indians, had horses and their horses were fully armored, including face masks. As the Spanish soldiers rode into battle they were met by a cloud of arrows. Most of the men and the horses were quickly wounded and the Spanish withdrew from the battle.

While the Spanish were successful in establishing colonies in the Southwest and California, they failed to establish a lasting presence on the Plains. The Plains Indians actively resisted Spanish attempts to convert them to Catholicism and they preferred to trade with the French who came in later and seemed to understand the Indians better.

The Caddo

A number of different Indian nations, usually grouped together as Caddo, lived in the territory that stretched from the Red River Valley in present-day Louisiana, to the Brazos River Valley in present-day Texas and Arkansas. For many centuries prior to the European invasion, the Caddoan peoples had made a living by farming. Like many other aboriginal farmers in North America, they raised corn (maize), beans, and squash.

The term “Caddo” originates from one particular tribe, the Kadohadacho who occupied the area around the Great Bend of the Red River in Texas. The term is also applied to a number of other tribes in the region who have a similar language and culture. Long before the European invasion, the Caddo were a group of about 25 related, but politically independent, theocratic chiefdoms.

At the time of the first contact with the French and Spanish explorers, the Caddo were associated in three or four loose confederations. The largest of these was the Hasinai, which the Spanish called Texas, who occupied a territory which includes the present-day Texas counties of Nacogdoches, Rusk, Cherokee, and Houston. The Kadohadacho, also called the Caddo proper, were located at the bend of the Red River in southwestern Arkansas and northeastern Texas. The Natchitoches occupied an area near the present-day Louisiana city which bears their name. The least known of these early confederacies is the Yatasi which soon after initial European contact divided into two groups which affiliated with other Caddoan confederacies.

The Cahinnio had a town on the upper Ouchita River. They are also called the Tula Indians in some sources. They eventually became a part of the Kadohadacho.

The Adai lived near present-day Robeline, Louisiana. Their Caddoan dialect is different from the other tribes.

The Eyeish lived near present-day San Augustine, Texas. Early writers often referred to these Indians as “barbarous”.

The Caddo first encountered Europeans in 1541 when the Spanish expedition led by Hernando de Soto crossed the Mississippi River. De Soto died in 1542 and his body was wrapped in a blanket weighted with sand and thrown into the Mississippi River. His expedition left a legacy of the torture, mutilation, and killing of hundreds of native peoples. Following de Soto’s death, Luis de Moscoso de Alvarado led the Spanish west into Caddo country.

In 1682, the French under Rene Cavalier de la Salle established a trading relationship with the Caddo. By this time, the Caddo had acquired horses by trade with friendly tribes who had been in contact with the Spanish settlements in New Mexico. According to Caddo oral tradition, a Caddo hunter and his family were the first to sight the bedraggled group. The hunter provided the French with some meat and invited them to his village. The French party stayed with the Caddo for three or four days, bartering for horses and supplies.

Father Anastasius, who was with La Salle, described the Caddo town as “one of the largest and most populous that I have seen in America. It is at least twenty leagues long, not that this is evenly inhabited, but in hamlets of ten or twelve cabins, forming cantons, each with a different name.”

He also described their “cabins” as being 40-50 feet high, in the shape of beehives.

Upon leaving the Caddo, four of La Salle’s men decided that Indian life more appealing than exploring and returned to the village. Over the next couple of centuries, it would be fairly common for Europeans to desert their own cultures and live among Indian nations.

In 1690, the French explorer Henri de Tonti set out to recover the Frenchmen from La Salle’s party who remained with the Caddo. He made contact with the Quapaw on the Upper Arkansas River and was given two Kadohadacho women to take along with him to Caddo country.

In what is now Texas, he made contact with three Caddo villages: Nachitoches, Ouasita, and Capiché. Here he was provided with guides to take him farther into Caddo country. He then went to the villages of Yatachés, Nadas, and Choye. He asked the chiefs for guides, but they were reluctant to provide him with any. Finally, he made it to Cadadoquis where he met with the woman who governed the Caddo nation. There is no indication that the “missing” Frenchmen were “recovered.”

In 1690, both French and Spanish accounts of the Caddo describe them as having numerous villages with large populations. Like their Mississippian cultural ancestors, they constructed large earthen pyramids (usually called mounds) and placed temples on top of them. By 1691, however, smallpox inadvertently introduced by the Europeans struck the Caddo killing about half of their population.

Many Caddo worked as trading partners with the French, often acting as intermediaries between the French and other tribes. In 1763, however, the French domination of Caddo territory was lost to the Spanish and the Caddo lost their trading partners. The Spanish restricted trade.

In 1801, the Caddo found that their right to govern had been sold to the United States and the United States was not friendly with Indians. The Caddo ceded their land to the United States and moved to Texas where they established the village of Sha’chadinnih. In 1822, the newly formed Mexican government offered a treaty to the Caddo in Texas. Chief Dehahuit indicated that he had no trouble swearing allegiance to the Mexicans, but he could not accept the treaty provisions which required the acceptance of the Catholic faith. According to Dehahuit, he cannot sign this treaty:  “to accept the Catholic Religion and exclude all others, because one cannot speak their opinions for a people, especially concerning their Religions.”

When Texas joined the United States in 1845, the Caddo were no longer welcome in Texas. Texas did not recognize any Indian claims to land ownership and Texans were free to claim Indian land. Caddo chief José María said:  “That now there was a line below which the Indians were not allowed to go; but the white people came above it, marked trees, surveyed lands in their hunting grounds, and near their villages, and soon they would claim the lands; if the Indians went below they were threatened with death; that this was not just.”

With the annexation of Texas, the United States assumed responsibility for Indians and the state of Texas reserves all rights to public lands. According to Caddo cultural representative Cecile Elkins Carter, in her book Caddo Indians: Where We Come From:  “Texas would be for Texans, and the United States would have to remove Indians as quickly as Texans were ready to move onto Indian lands.”

In 1859, the United States resettled them on a reservation in Indian Territory which would later become a part of Oklahoma. The new reservation included the Caddo, Anadarko, Ioni, Waco, Tonkawa, and Tawakoni.