Reservations in 1915

During the nineteenth century, the United States had attempted to settle all Indians on well-defined reservations on lands deemed unsuitable for non-Indian development. Here Indians were to remain until they became extinct or had fully assimilated into the Christian American lifestyle. By the end of the nineteenth century, the government began the process of dismantling Indian reservations and increasing the pressures to assimilate. By 1915, a majority of Indians still lived on reservations where they were considered wards of the government. Briefly described below are a few of the events of 1915 which are related to Indian reservations.

The Indian Peaks Reservation in Utah was established by executive order for the Indian Peaks Band of Paiute. The band was formed of the remnants of several other Paiute bands, including the Paragoo, Pahquit, and Tavarsock.

By executive order of President Woodrow Wilson 32 acres in Aitkiin County, Minnesota were set aside as a reservation for the Sandy Lake Band of Chippewa.

In Oregon, the first Siletz Indian Fair was held. Agency superintendent Edwin Chalcraft reports:  “We proposed to have an all Indian fair, both in exhibits and management, if possible, and that it should be [run] on the most progressive lines without games of chance of any kind on the grounds.”

The fair included a play adapted from Longfellow’s Hiawatha with an all-Indian cast. The Oregonian reports:  “The Siletz Indian Fair was unique because it combined the barbaric implements and manufactured articles of an uncivilized age with present productions of educated people, from which all trace of the uncivilized Indians has been erased.”

In Arizona, the Bureau of Indian Affairs hired a field matron for the Tohono O’odham whose primary job was to recruit Indian women to become servants in non-Indian households. The matron was to impart Anglo standards of behavior among Tohono O’odham women.  

 The Bureau of Indian Affairs reported that the Tohono O’odham in southern Arizona had a population of 5,000 living in 104 villages. According to the report:  “We cannot go into their country with the idea of teaching them farming or irrigation under conditions as we find them. Rather should we go to them to be taught.”

In Montana, only 24 families were farming 480 acres in the area served by the “Birney Ditch” irrigation project on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, pointing to the “success” of farming and cattle raising, reduced rations on the reservation as a part of their plan to promote economic self-reliance. The policy ensured that the Northern Cheyenne would remain malnourished.

In Montana, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council (BTBC) was formed to replace the Tribal Business Committee. Robert Hamilton was elected president. Several tribal members protested Hamilton’s position on the BTBC.

In Montana, the superintendent for the Fort Belknap Reservation cabled the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:  “About entire flow Milk River being diverted by white appropriators above our diversion point.”

In other words, non-Indians continued to ignore the Supreme Court ruling – the Winters Doctrine – giving the Indians the water rights.

In Arizona, the City of Phoenix constructed a pipeline across the Fort McDowell Reservation and began diverting Yavapai water from the Verde River for use by Phoenix residents. Yavapai water rights were ignored, the pipeline built without their permission, and they received no compensation for the stolen water until 1922.

In Nebraska, the Omaha asked for a total of 48 acres on which to bury their dead. At a second tribal council meeting, the request was raised to 78 acres to be located in two different areas of the reservation. The Department of the Interior agreed that the present Omaha cemetery was inadequate and prepared a request to submit to Congress.

In Idaho, the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall reservation sent Alex Watson to Washington, D.C. to complain to government officials about the agency abuses of power on their reservation. He demanded that Indians have some say about their future. There was no immediate response to his demands.

In Mississippi, influenza and pneumonia killed many Choctaw. The impact of the diseases was greater because of poor housing and nutrition. Their desperate condition was called to the attention of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In Montana, Cheyenne war woman Epyophsta (Yellow-head Woman) died. George Bird Grinnell, in his book The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Lifeways, writes:  “She took a prominent part in an important battle between the Cheyennes and the Shoshonis in 1868, at which time she counted coup on one Shoshone and killed another.”

In Nebraska, Omaha physician Dr. Susan LaFlesche died at the age of 50. She was the first Indian woman to graduate from medical school and to practice medicine.

Dragging Canoe, Cherokee Leader

At the beginning of the eighteenth century the Cherokee were not a single political nation, but a linguistic and cultural grouping of about 50 villages. Dragging Canoe was born about 1730 somewhere in Tennessee. His father was Attakullakulla, a peace chief.

Dragging Canoe first appears in the written European histories in 1775 when the Transylvania Company met with the Cherokees in a treaty council at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River. The Transylvania Company, represented by Richard Henderson and Daniel Boone, wanted to acquire most of what is now Kentucky and middle Tennessee. The proposed treaty called for the Cherokee to give up a great deal of land in exchange for guns, ammunition, beads, trinkets, and blankets. The value of the goods was about $50,000.

Attakullakulla refused to sign and warned the colonists that a dark cloud now hung over the land. Other chiefs opposing the land sale were Dragging Canoe, Tuckasee, Terrapin, and Tanase Warrior. Dragging Canoe agreed to part of the sale but felt that the Cherokee should not part with the Cumberland, which he called the “bloody ground,” indicating that this was traditional hunting territory. Because of his opposition to the sale, Dragging Canoe left the conference. Withdrawing from a council was a traditional way of showing disagreement.

Boone plied the chiefs, including Oconostota and Attakullakulla, with whiskey. The chiefs were so drunk that the interpreter had to guide the hands of Oconostota and Raven Warrior as they signed the treaty known as the Sycamore Shoals Treaty. With this treaty, the Cherokee lost their traditional Kentucky hunting grounds. Journalist Stanley Hoig, in his book The Cherokees and Their Chiefs: In the Wake of Empire, writes:  “The Transylvania purchase marked not only the beginning of Cherokee resistance to the loss of their land but also the decline of tribal influence for the old chiefs.”

The American Revolution began in 1776 and both the American rebels and the British sought Indian allies in this war. Emissaries from the Iroquois, Shawnee, Delaware, and Ottawa travelled to the Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River to meet with the Cherokee and to persuade them to form an alliance against the American revolutionaries. Shawnee leader Cornstalk told them:  “It is better for the red men to die like warriors than to diminish away by inches. Now is the time to begin. If we fight like men, we may hope to enlarge our bounds.”

The Shawnee produced a wampum War Belt which was about nine feet long. Dragging Canoe accepted the belt and the warriors joined him in singing a war song.  In spite of the persuasive words of the northern Indians, however, the Cherokee remained divided on this issue. The older Cherokee, such as Attakullakulla and Oconostota, objected to the war; but some of the younger warriors, such as Dragging Canoe, Doublehead, Young Tassel, and Bloody Fellow, sided with Cornstalk.

Dragging Canoe led a war into Kentucky and returned with four scalps. He then began making plans to attack the colonists. Nancy Ward, wanting to protect the colonists who had befriended the Cherokee, secretly warned some of the traders. As a result the colonial settlements began building forts. Two hundred warriors under the leadership of Dragging Canoe and Abram set out to attack the Kentucky settlements. The colonists repulsed the first attack, killing 13 Cherokee and wounding Dragging Canoe. As the Cherokee withdrew, they burned a number of isolated cabins in the area and took 18 scalps.

The American response to the Cherokee attacks called for them to be driven from the country. Thomas Jefferson declared:  “I hope the Cherokees will now be driven beyond the Mississipi [sic]”

Historian Colin Calloway, in his book The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities, reports:  “The Cherokees had forfeited their rights to their land: private seizures of Indian lands, illegal before the war, now became a patriotic act.”

American forces from North Carolina and Virginia, with the aid of Catawba scouts, invaded Cherokee country. Thirty-six towns, along with their cornfields and livestock, were destroyed. South Carolina offered a bounty of 50 pounds for each Cherokee scalp and 100 pounds for each Cherokee prisoner. In Georgia, American forces (the Georgia Militia) attacked Cherokee towns seeking the complete destruction of the Cherokee nation. They burned homes, destroyed crops, and indiscriminately killed men, women, and children.

While the Cherokee national council urged neutrality in the war between the colonies and England, eleven Cherokee towns withdrew from the council and allied themselves with the British.

In 1777, representatives from the State of Virginia negotiated a peace treaty with the Cherokee in which the Cherokee admitted defeat, ceded their lands east of the Unicoi Mountains, and agreed to give up prisoners, including black slaves. Dragging Canoe, however, refused to honor the treaty and withdrew to the Chickamauga Creek area. Dragging Canoe’s people were thus known as the Chickamauga.

 In 1778, Cherokee warriors from the Chickamauga towns under the leadership of Dragging Canoe joined British forces to fight against the American rebels in Georgia and South Carolina. The Americans, taking advantage of the absence of the Cherokee warriors, attacked the Chickamauga towns. Cherokee historian Robert Conley, in his book The Cherokee Nation: A History, reports:  “The brave troops totally destroyed eleven towns without much effort, for Dragging Canoe and all the fighting men were away from home.”  Most of the women and children escaped to the woods and only four Cherokee were killed. The Americans captured 20,000 bushels of corn as well as ammunition.

In 1779, the Chickamauga under the leadership of Dragging Canoe established five new towns near Lookout Mountain in Tennessee: Nickajack, Running Water, Lookout Town, Long Island, and Crowtown. The towns were protected and provided Dragging Canoe and his warriors a base from which they could attack the American frontier settlements. In addition to Dragging Canoe, the other Cherokee leaders at this time include Doublehead, Pumpkin Boy, Bench (also known as Bob Benge), Will Webber, Bloody Fellow, the Bowl, Middlestriker, John Watts, Little Owl, and the Badger.

In 1780, Dragging Canoe led his Cherokee warriors in raids against a number of American frontier towns. The Americans retaliated by burning the Cherokee village of Chota in Tennessee. In their attacks against the Overhill Cherokee, the Americans claimed to have destroyed 50,000 bushels of corn and 1,000 houses. While Dragging Canoe’s Chickamauga were allied with the British, the Overhill Cherokee were actually American allies. The Americans, it would seem, were unable to determine which Cherokee towns were allied and which were enemies.

In 1782, the newly formed United States and the British obtained a provisional peace, ending the Revolutionary War. The British army returned home to England. However, Dragging Canoe continued his fight against the Americans even though the British had left. Cherokee historian Robert Conley writes:  “He continued to talk with representatives of other Indian tribes with the goal of forming a confederation of all tribes to hold back further encroachment of Americans onto Indian land.”  Dragging Canoe met with the Choctaw, Creek, Shawnee, Chickasaw, and other tribes.

In 1788, Dragging Canoe’s Cherokee warriors attacked American troops at the Hiwassee River in Tennessee and obliged them to retreat. The following year, American forces defeated the Cherokee under the leadership of Dragging Canoe at the battle of Flint Creek, Alabama.

In 1791, the Cherokee signed the Treaty of Holston which was intended to end hostilities between the United States and the Cherokee. The treaty gave the United States the exclusive right to trade with the Cherokee and prohibited the Cherokee from entering into diplomatic relations with other foreign powers, individual, or state. Signing the treaty for the Cherokee were Dragging Canoe, Bloody Fellow, Doublehead, Lying Fawn, John Watts, and Little Turkey.

The treaty called for the United States to advance civilization among the Cherokees by giving them farm tools and technical advice. The United States promised that the land remaining to the Cherokee would be theirs forever. In addressing Cherokee concerns over settlers, Article VIII gave the Cherokee the power to punish United States citizens who settled on Cherokee lands. The treaty states:  “If any person, not an Indian, shall settle on any of the Cherokees’ lands, he shall forfeit the protection of the United States, and the Cherokees may punish him.”

 In 1792, Cherokee leader Dragging Canoe died. John Watts assumed his leadership position.

Cherokee Government and the English

The primary unit of government among the Cherokee was the town. Each town—perhaps 50 at the time of first European contact—was autonomous. The government of each town was not tied to the government of other towns. These Cherokee towns were loosely affiliated into three groups: (1) the Lower Towns on the headwaters of the Savannah River (including the towns of Keowee and Estatoe), (2) the Middle Towns on the headwaters of the Little Tennessee River (including Etchoe, Stecoe), and (3) the Upper Towns (Overhill and Valley) on the Lower Little Tennessee River and the headwater of the Hiwassee River (including Settico and Tellico).

Each Cherokee village had two governments: a white government which governed when the village was at peace, and a red government which governed during times of war. The white government included the chief who was given the title Beloved Man; the chief’s advisor; counselors from each clan; a council of elders; a speaker; messengers; and ceremonial officers. The red government included the Great War Chief; the Great War Chief’s Second; seven war counselors; a War Woman; the Chief War Speaker; messengers; ceremonial officers; and scouts. The fate of captives and war prisoners was decided by the War Woman.

Among the Cherokee, all were able to participate in the councils. Cherokee society tended to be egalitarian rather than hierarchical. The chiefs had an advisory role and their power lay in their ability to persuade through oratory. According to historian John Finger in his book The Eastern Band of Cherokees 1819-1900:  “There were no leaders in the European sense, no king or prince who wielded coercive authority over others.”

After the chiefs spoke, each person had an opportunity to speak. Issues were discussed until consensus was reached. The council did not pass laws nor regulate conduct, but sought to resolve differences and difficulties.

During the first half of the eighteenth century, Cherokee government had to face the challenges of co-existing with intruding English colonists. According to the English worldview, there was only one legitimate form of government: a monarchy in which power was passed down through the paternal line from father to son. The English had a great deal of difficulty in trying to understand the matrilineal system of the Cherokees and other American Indian nations in which each person belonged to the mother’s clan.

The English viewed leadership as coercive—that is, the leader had the right to tell others what to do. The idea of consensus, the basis of Cherokee government, was an alien concept to them. In their dealings with the Cherokee and other Indian nations, the English preferred to impose their own concepts of an authoritative monarchy on Indian nations.

Another point of conflict between the English view of government and the Cherokees was over the role of women. While English women had few rights, Cherokee women were full participants in Cherokee government. Women were important in Cherokee government because of their leadership within the matrilineal clan system. In the war council, women were present and were consulted with regard to strategy. Grace Steele Woodward, in her book The Cherokees, reports:  “Custom dictated that an assemblage of war women or Pretty Women be present at every war council. And since the war women had themselves won previous honors in wars and were the mothers of warriors, they played an important role in Cherokee war councils.”

Initially, the English sought to establish a trading relationship with the Cherokees. In 1673, Virginia trader Abraham Wood sent James Needham and Gabriel Arthur out from Fort Henry to establish trade with the Cherokee at their capital of Chota. The English colony was in need of Cherokee furs, hides, beeswax, and bears’ oil for export to England.

In 1684, the formal government-to-government relationship between the Cherokees and the English was established with a formal treaty between the English and the Cherokee towns of Toxawa and Keowa.

At a meeting with the leaders from 37 Cherokee towns in 1721, the British governor, being more comfortable with a single leader, simply appointed Wrosetasatow (Mankiller or Outacite) as the supreme chief or “king” of the Cherokee. The English felt that it would be easier to deal with only one chief to fix the boundaries between the Cherokee nation and the European settlements.

With a common danger from the English settlers, the Cherokee villages came together to elect a principal chief to represent all of the villages in 1721. The concept of Cherokee nationality as opposed to village autonomy began to emerge. According to historian Marion Starkey in The Cherokee Nation:  “The Cherokees, a reasonable people, willing to learn from their enemies, found this innovation of practical value and did not discard it.”

At this time, it was estimated that the Cherokees were living in 53 towns which ranged in population from 62 to 622. The total Cherokee population was estimated at 10,434.

In traditional Cherokee government, when individuals did not agree with the line of reasoning that was gaining acceptance within the council, they would simply withdraw. Thus, in 1721, a group of Cherokee led by Yunwi-usgaseti (Dangerous Man) moved west across the Mississippi River to escape the colonists’ insatiable demands for land and the Cherokee government’s acquiescence to these demands. After Yunwi-usgaseti’s group crossed the Mississippi River there was no further communication with the Cherokee who remained behind in the Southeast. However, oral tradition records that many years later a runner came from the west to report that they were still living at the base of the Rocky Mountains.

In 1730, Sir Alexander Cuming traveled to the Cherokee town of Keowee. He brazenly entered the council house wearing pistols and a sword (a violation of Cherokee tradition) where 300 town elders were meeting. He demanded that they recognize the authority of the English King and threatened to burn down the council house if they did not. Journalist Stanley Hoig, in his book The Cherokees and Their Chiefs: In the Wake of Empire, reports:  “Cuming’s audacity, however, overwhelmed the Cherokee leaders, and they on bent knee pledged their loyalty to the Crown of England against the French in North America.”  Cuming appointed Moytoy of Tellico as the Cherokee “emperor.”

In reviewing the historical accounts of this event, Cherokee historian Robert Conley, in his book The Cherokee Nation: A History, concludes: “The story is absurd.” Conley acknowledges that Cuming visited the Cherokee and talked with people in the townhouses, but points out that “whatever he accomplished, he certainly embellished the tale for the benefit of King George.”  Conley writes:  “It is easy to believe that the egotistical King George II was taken in by Cuming’s fabrication. What is astonishing is that almost all historians ever since writing about the Cherokees have also been gullible enough to accept it at face value. In the first place, it has always been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get all Cherokees to agree on anything. In the second place, the Cherokees have always (at least since the time of the killing of the Ani-Kutani) been almost fanatical about democracy.”

With regard to Moytoy being selected as “emperor”, it was more likely that the Cherokee selected Moytoy to be their trade representative in dealing with the English traders.

In 1753 the Cherokee villages delegated to the town of Chota the power to negotiate trade and diplomatic relations for the entire Cherokee nation. In a trade agreement with the Carolinas, Old Hop was declared the Cherokee emperor by the British.

In 1753, a delegation of Cherokee leaders under the leadership of Attakullakulla met with the British governor in South Carolina. The Cherokee assured the British of their loyalty. The British governor informed the Cherokee that the purpose of the council was to establish peace between the Cherokee and the Creek. Attakullakulla argued with the governor, telling him that when he had spoken with the King, the King had asked the Cherokee to avenge the lives of his people taken by the Creek. While the governor insisted that he spoke for the King, Attakullakulla said that he should go to England to speak with the King in person. Attakullakulla reminded the governor of the treaty which the Cherokee signed in England which had promised them goods. He said:   “I remember the great King George’s talk, for the paper said the governor of Carolina was to supply us with all kinds of goods, but if he did not, we might have them in Virginia.”  In the end, the governor agreed to provide the goods.

In 1755, the British governor of South Carolina met with the Cherokee to ask them to sell their landholdings in areas in which there were no active Cherokee towns. Old Hop, unaccustomed to speaking with the British, asked the Cherokee council to select someone to represent the welfare of the Cherokee people. The council selected Attakullakulla. Attakullakulla presented a young boy to the British governor saying:  “I have brought this child that when he grows up he may remember our agreement this day and tell it to the next generation that it may be known forever.”

As a result of the council, the Cherokee agreed to provide the British with warriors and to give up their land in South Carolina. In return, the British agreed to provide the Cherokee with guns and ammunition and to build forts to protect the Cherokee.

While the Cherokee nation had changed its government during their interactions with the English colonial government and had begun to function with regard to its national interests rather than just the interests of the individual villages, there were even more challenges to their form of government ahead.

In 1776 a group of American colonists signed the Declaration of Independence which condemned King George III for preventing the colonists from appropriating western lands which belonged to Indian nations. The Revolutionary War divided the Indian nations as both the British and the newly formed United States tried to obtain Indian allies. As a result of the war, the Cherokee nation’s government had to change again to meet the incessant demands of the newly formed United States.

Natick, A Christian Indian Village in Massachusetts

The English colonists in Massachusetts were sometimes conflicted with regard to Indians. Many colonists, viewing the New World as a wilderness, felt that Indians impeded civilization and like other wild animals, such as wolves and coyotes, should be exterminated. There were also a few who viewed Indians as potential souls to be harvested in the name of their religion. With regard to religion, historians Robert Utley and Wilcomb Washburn, in their book Indian Wars, report:  “A few pious remarks were made about introducing the Indian to Christianity, but there was little real missionary zeal.” The royal charters always mentioned the obligation to bring Christianity to the “savages.”

For the English Protestants, conversion to Christianity required more than a simple baptism and a profession of faith. To be Christian required living in an English-style house, wearing English-style clothes, speaking English—in other words, becoming English. The English-speaking Christian missionaries felt that the Indian gender roles must be changed to fit the colonial norms. They were offended by the fact that Indian women did the farming, were in control of their own sexuality, and had freedoms which English women could only dream about.

English policies toward Indians were based on segregation. Initially, the rationale for this segregation was based on religion: the English were Christian and the Indians were heathens. As some Indians converted to Christianity, however, the rationale for segregation became less valid. Historian Frances Jennings, in his book The Creation of America: Through Revolution to Empire, reports:  “Race, identified by skin color, became a more satisfactory means of making essential distinctions.”

The English colonial policy of segregation and the Protestant concept of conversion requiring complete assimilation came together in a plan that called for Christian Indians to have their own separate, English-style towns. In 1651, Puritan missionary John Eliot received from the British Crown 2,000 acres of land so that Christian Indians could build an English-style town. The site straddled the Charles River 18 miles upriver from Boston.

John Elliot, who was sometimes called Apostle to the Indians, believed that Indians were descendents of the Jews who had been led to America by Satan. Indian salvation, according to Elliot, required them to embrace the moral philosophy and practices of the Puritans.

Waban, the leader of the Massachusett village of Nonantum, made the request for the new village. Waban’s reluctant embracing of Christianity was based on two primary factors: (1) he was afraid that the English would kill him if he didn’t pretend to embrace their religion, and (2) they provided him with good food.

The new town called Natick, whose name means “the place of seeking,” is a sacred place and well-suited for vision quests and dances. Unknown to the Christian missionaries, the new Christian town was strategically placed within traditional sacred geography.

The physical layout included an English-style meetinghouse, fort, and arched footbridge across the river. While lots for houses were laid out for nuclear families, most of the Indians erected traditional wigwams rather than English clapboard houses.

The Christian Indians, who came from several different tribes, adopted English-style clothing and English hairstyles as a way of demonstrating to the English that they were walking the Christian path of righteousness. The Indians adopted a legal code based on a biblical prototype which outlawed many traditional practices, including premarital sex, long hair, and cracking lice between the teeth. Penalties for breaking the rules included fines and flogging.

In 1660, Puritan missionary John Eliot claimed that 100 of his Natick converts were now literate. Elliot translated the Bible and other works into the Massachusett language and had these distributed among his converts.

In 1675, many English colonists felt that all Indians were involved in King Philip’s War even though many groups, particularly the praying villages such as Natick, had declared their neutrality. The English colony confined all “friendly” Indians to a few of the eastern praying towns and the colonists confiscated the crops and tools in the praying towns of Wamesit, Hassanamisset, Magunkaquag, and Chabanakongkomun. The Indians were confined to the village limits on penalty of death.

The colonists, however, continued to accuse the Christian Indians of supporting King Philip (whose Indian name was Metacom).The Natick were forced from their homes and interred on Deer Island in Boston Harbor. The Punkapoag were also sent to Deer Island.

The setting is generally described as a “windswept bit of rock” with little fuel and little shelter from the cold sea wind. Historian Daniel Mandell, in his book Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts, notes:  “Despite English hostility and abuse, Indian men on the island clamored to help in the war against Metacom, showing their deep loyalty to the Christian colony, an older dislike of the Wampanoags, or perhaps a strong desire to escape the conditions of the island.”  About 100 men enlisted in the colonial army as scouts.

In 1677, the General Court ordered that all Indians be settled in four praying towns: Natick, Punkapoag, Hassanamesit, and Wamesit. The Indians in these towns were prohibited from entertaining “stranger” Indians and the Court ordered that a list of all inhabitants of the praying towns be made annually. When leaving the towns, the Indians were required to have a magistrate’s certificate proving their loyalty. When approached by an English person, the Indians were to lay their guns on the ground until the English had examined their papers.

In 1680, an English farmer bought 50 acres from two Indians living in the Christian Indian village of Natick. The sale was without the consent of the town council and in violation of colonial law. The Englishman then altered the deed to 500 acres. The village then sued, won, and recovered 400 acres. In other words, the farmer who bought 50 acres fraudulently wound up with 100 acres.

In 1682, a group of Nipmuc under the leadership of Black James left Natick and traveled southwest where they resettled at Chabanakongkomun.

In 1690, the General Court ordered all Indians in the Bay Colony to go to Natick or Punkapoag. The order was in response to the war between the English and French and the French Indian allies, and the fear that it would be difficult to discern between friends and foes.

In 1690, Natick minister Daniel Takawampait replaced John Elliot as minister to his people. At this time Indian leaders, including ministers, had to be approved and supervised by colonial officials appointed by Massachusetts Bay Colony magistrates. All laws and ordinances enacted in Indian communities also had to be approved by colonial authorities.

In 1698, the English town of Dedham stole 1,400 acres from the bordering Christian Indian town of Natick. The stolen land included orchards and corn fields.

In 1707, the Christian Indian community of Natick began holding the annual election of town officers, following the pattern of its English neighbors.

In 1715, the New England Company asked the Natick to sell them the apparently abandoned praying town of Magunkaquog. The Company proposed to rent out the land to English settlers and share the rent money with the Natick families. The Natick, however, were still growing crops in the area and had deep emotional feelings about the area. Magunkaquog means the “place of the giant trees” in reference to the great trees – oak and chestnut – which were found in abundance in the area.

After initially rejecting the offer, the Natick agreed to the deal. After signing the deed, one of the signatories, Isaac Nehemiah, commited suicide by hanging himself with his belt.

In 1719, the Natick created a proprietorship – a corporate entity to govern land allotments. The 20 proprietors – 19 men and one woman – were the heads of long established families. The proprietorship provided secure land titles and boundaries under colonial law which was seen as useful in meeting outside pressures. According to historian Daniel Mandell:  “But the Natick proprietorship undermined the native community by severing landholding from the town polity and bringing the native community into a closer orbit to the province’s legal and economic systems.”

In 1738, the Natick complained that a mill dam on the Charles River was preventing them from taking fish. There was no response to their complaint.

In 1759, Natick warriors returned home from the French and Indian War bringing with them the contagious illness which had been killing the soldiers. In the space of three months, 20 people died.

By 1785, most of the Indians had drifted away from Natick, its lands having been sold off to non-Indians to cover debts.

The Hoko River Complex

The Hoko River originates in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains (Washington State) and flows for about 25 miles to the Pacific Ocean. It flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca about 16 miles east of the Makah town of Neah Bay. By 3,000 years ago, the Makah were using the area around the mouth of the river for a wide range of sea, river, and forest resources. The Hoko River Archaeological Complex is composed of three site areas: (1) a riverbank wet site, (2) dry campsites adjacent to the wet site, and (3) a rock shelter at the mouth of the river.

The Hoko River sites first came to the attention of archaeologists in 1967 when people reported to Washington State University that they were finding artifacts in the area. An archaeological survey found that a large site ran some 600 feet along the river and that much of the site had already slumped into the river. Full-scale investigation, however, did not begin until 1977. Initial financial support was provided by the Makah Tribal Council and the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Some additional support was provided by Jean Auel, the author of a series of archaeological-based novels.

Wet sites provide some interesting challenges for archaeologists. Writing in the Handbook of North American Indians, Gary Wessen from the Makah Cultural and Research Center describes the Hoko River wet site:“Most of the wet site is situated within the range of tidal fluctuations, and much of it can only be examined during low tides.”

Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty, in their book Archaeology in Washington, describe the problems in working with the wet site:  “Excavation entailed pumping water from the river and spraying it out through garden hoses to gently wash artifacts free from the riverbank mud that held them. Conventional troweling, no matter how careful, might damage a wooden or fiber artifact before it could be noticed.”

Wet sites, however, have an advantage as the artifacts have stayed wet for millennia and have been spared from decay. Once they are excavated from the site, they must remain wet. For preservation and analysis, the artifacts are bathed in polyethylene glycol which soaks into the waterlogged tissue, replacing the water with wax.

The excavation at the Hoko River Wet Site yielded many fiber artifacts, including baskets, hat, mats, nets, and cordage. Nearly 70% of the material from the site was cordage. Some of the baskets uncovered at the site had been coarsely woven which allowed water to drain out. According to the Makah elders from Neah Bay, these baskets would have been used for packing salmon from fishing weirs upriver to drying racks at the camp at the river mouth.

One of the other interesting finds was a fishnet with two-inch mesh. This artifact was uncovered in deposits which dated to 3,200 years ago. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty report:  “Scanning electron microscope examination of cell structure identified its fiber as split spruce root or bough, most likely bough, which is stronger than root and absorbs water less readily.”

Ethnographies of Northwest Coast Indian nations, such as the Makah, report that one of the symbols of nobility, of high-class status, was a woven hat with a knob on top. At the wet site, five of these hats were recovered, which suggests that social stratification in this area was much older than previously thought.

The wet site also yielded a number examples of tule mats which were used for many different things including mattresses, canoe cushions, partitions within the long houses, and so on. As a part of the archaeological efforts to understand the past, Makah tribal elders instructed the archaeological field school students in making tule mats. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty report:  “The goal of the early Hoko River people must have been to make high-quality, long-lasting mats, and therefore, even an experienced mat-maker must have needed three or four days to gather materials for a single mat, prepare them, make the string, and do the sewing.”

Tule mats were used to cover the sides of temporary shelters. The postholes found at the dry site were used to estimate the size of the temporary shelters and it was determined that six to eight mats would have been needed for these shelters. Each mat would have been about four feet by eight feet.

At many sites along the Northwest Coast archaeologists have found small stone blades known as microliths. It was assumed that these microliths had been hafted in some fashion. At the wet site, the archaeologists found hafted knives in which thumbnail-size stone flakes had been placed in between five-inch splints of red cedar and then bound with spruce root and wild cherry bark. Working with the Makah elders, experimental archaeology showed that these knives were used in butchering fish.

At the dry campsite, archaeologists uncovered the bones of rockfish, cod, dogfish, flounder, halibut, salmon, and other fish. The deep-sea species are evidence of off-shore fishing. This means that the people who used the Hoko River sites had watercraft. In addition to fish bones, the archaeologists also found several hundred wooden fishing hooks. These fishhooks date from 1,700 to 3,000 years old and show little change through time.

The dry campsites, located in the forested area back from the river, are composed of three sites dating to 3,400 years ago, 3,100 years ago, and 1,700 years ago. Stone debris shows that some toolmaking was done here. There are also stone-lined storage pits.

The rock shelter at the mouth of the river dates to about 1,000 years ago and shows evidence of seasonal use. The rock shelter had been originally formed through river and wave action and over time had been uplifted by 30 feet, which made it usable for human occupation. Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty report:  “The placement of the hearths suggested that people lived in the northern part of the rock shelter, where prevailing winds would tend to clear out smoke or blow it to fish-drying racks set up in the southern part of the cave.”

Sea mammal bones found at this site include fur seal (69% of the sea mammal bones), elephant seal, porpoise, and whale.

Mormons and Indians

When Europeans began arriving in the Americas they brought with them the firm belief that all knowledge, including the history of the world, was contained in a special holy book which had been compiled from the oral traditions of southwest Asia. They were a bit surprised, therefore, when they encountered the aboriginal people of the Americas, who eventually became known as American Indians, who were not mentioned in that holy book. Some of these Europeans felt—and a few continue to feel—that this meant that American Indians were not to be considered human and, like other wild animals, were to be exterminated so that European “civilization” could prosper. Others worked around this failing of the book by making up creation stories which tied the Indians into the mythical histories of southwest Asia.

From the American Indian viewpoint, the European-book religion seemed strange, irrelevant, and unreal. The Europeans quickly found that conversion worked better if economic and military force were used.

Everything changed in 1823 when an angel led Joseph Smith to a hillside near Manchester, New York, and showed him golden plates engraved with strange characters. After months of concentrated work using a special instrument, he was able to translate the plates and published hundreds of pages of history, prophecy, and poetry that provided the foundation for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). This new religion, and its book, were different in that it included the supposed history of Indian peoples. The Book of Mormon teaches that Indians had descended from Israelite peoples who had migrated to the American continent prior to the Babylonian captivity. Thus, the Mormons viewed Indians as Children of Israel who could be incorporated into God’s Latter-day Kingdom.

According to the Book of Mormon, American Indians were descendants from Laman and were therefore called Lamanites. Laman was the rebellious son of Lehi who had left the Old World and sailed to the Americas in the seventh century BCE. In the Americas, the Lamanite had grown distant from the teachings of God, become fierce and warlike, and had acquired a darker skin color. Robert McPherson, in a chapter in A History of Utah’s American Indians, writes:  “From a purely ideological point of view, the Mormons believed that the Indians were a remnant of a people who fell out of grace with God, were given a dark skin as a sign of their spiritual standing, and who now lived in an unfortunate condition awaiting restoration to an enlightened state.”

Since American Indians, according to the Book of Mormon, were descended from the Israelites–God’s chosen people–there was to be a special emphasis on the conversion of Indians. Floyd O’Neil and Stanford Layton, writing in the Utah Historical Quarterly, say:  “To the Mormons, then, redemption of the Indians (Lamanites) was a prophecy to be fulfilled and a scripture to be vindicated.”

This special emphasis on converting Indians was put to the test when the Mormons were forced to flee from the United States and establish themselves in Utah where they would be surrounded by Indians.

The first Mormon settlers arrived in Utah in 1847 and they were soon followed by a stream of Latter-day Saints seeking the promised land. Following the European settlement pattern, they sought to support themselves through agriculture. The Gosiute tribe living in the area showed them some of the wild edible plants, such as the sego lily root, as a way of surviving until the Mormon’s crops could be harvested.

The Mormons, like other Europeans, disregarded Indian title to the land. From the Mormon perspective the land belonged to the Lord, which meant that only the priesthood could apportion it. The apportionment of the land was to be based on the principles of stewardship. Gary Tom and Ronald Holt, in their article in A History of Utah’s American Indians, write:  “Justification for taking the land was given by the Mormon church and its members, including the idea that the Indians were not making efficient use of the land and therefore the Mormons had the right to take it over because they could support more people by their methods of agriculture than the Indians could.”

The Mormon expansion was fairly rapid, driven by the need to acquire land for converts. The new Mormon settlements took the best farmlands and the best water sources. Indians were often employed to help prepare the fields and for various household chores.

Mormon men who were called or appointed as missionaries learned the Indian languages, worked with the tribes, and then attempted to lead them into the fold of Christ’s church. In order to be saved, the Indians first had to be “civilized,” which meant that they had to assimilate into a Euro-American way of life. Indian people often resisted the attempts to change their lifestyles.

In summarizing Mormon interactions with Indians, Thomas Alexander, in his book Utah, the Right Place: The Official Centennial History, writes:  “The attitude of the Latter-day Saints toward the Indians represented a convergence of theology, Euro-American imperialism, and racism.”

In an article in the Utah Historical Quarterly Catherine Fowler and Don Fowler write:  “Mormon ideology regarding the origin and identity of the Indians generally was responsible for some favorable attitudes and policies toward them, but it may also have been a contributing factor in maintaining a degree of social distance between groups.”

Today, Mormons continue their missionary efforts among American Indians. The missionary experience is probably more important to the young Mormons than it is to the Indians.

The Yamasee War and the Indian Slave Trade

The Yamasee were a Muskogean-speaking Indian nation living in what would become southern Georgia and northern Florida when first encountered by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. In 1687, the Yamasees, unhappy with the Spanish occupation and rule of their territories, moved north in South Carolina, was then under British rule. In South Carolina, the Yamasees became allies and trading partners with the British colonists.

For the British in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, one of the important commodities was Indian slaves who could either be sold in the Caribbean slave markets or used on the colonists own plantations. By 1708, the English colonists in the Carolinas owned 1,400 Indian slaves and by 1715 this had increased to 1,850. Since 1680, British slavers had taken between 24,000 and 51,000 war captives, most of whom had been shipped as slaves to New England or to the Caribbean.

The Yamasees were allies in the British slave trade and carried out slave raids against Indian nations in the Spanish territories of Florida. In 1708, the Spanish governor at Saint Augustine reported that there were only 300 natives left in the area. He estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 Florida Indians had been enslaved by the Carolinians and their Indian allies.

The Yamasees soon found that the British were neither good allies nor good trading partners. Not only did the traders consistently cheat their Yamasee trading partners, they were not above beating them and even enslaving their women and children. Christina Snyder, in her book Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America, writes:  “From the Yamasee perspective, their Carolina allies had become greedy, irresponsible, and violent, thereby destroying the chains of obligation that once bound them as allies.”

The Carolinians were aware that the Yamasee had some complaints about the way they were being treated. On April 14, 1715, South Carolina’s Indian agent Thomas Naine, along with former Indian agent John Wright and others, met with the Yamasee chiefs at the village of Pocataligo. They spent the evening drinking rum, feasting, and discussing their trade issues. The following morning, which happened to be Good Friday, the Yamasees bound Naine to a post in the center of the village square. They pierced his body with lighted splinters and slowly burned him to death. This was the start of the Yamasee war.

It was not just the Yamasee who went to war against the British colonists: in a coordinated action, the Creeks under the leadership of Brim of Coweta and the Choctaws killed some of the traders in their towns and attacked several plantations.

About 400 English colonists were killed in the war, which was about 7% of the colonial population. In response, an army was put together from the South Carolina militia, enslaved African Americans, volunteers from Virginia and North Carolina, and some friendly Indian nations. A force of 70 Tuscacoras aided South Carolina in their war against the Yamasee. The campaign against the Indians has generally been described as “brutal.”  In his book Catawba Valley Mississippian: Ceramics, Chronology, and Catawba Indians, archaeologist David Moore reports:  “… South Carolina forces were particularly ruthless with those Indians located closest to Charles Town: the Congarees, Santees, Sewees, Peedees, and Waxhaws suffered devastating losses.”

Over the next two years, the British and their allies continued to attack the Yamasee, driving them out of the region. Many of the survivors fled south to Florida and north to join the Catawba Confederacy. Those who fled to Florida once again became allied with the Spanish.

The Yamasee War officially ended in 1718 with a peace accord between the British colonists and the Indian nations. As a result of this war, many colonists began to question the wisdom of capturing and using Indian slaves. Christina Snyder writes:  “After the Yamasee War, they increasingly turned to African labor, despite the fact that Africans cost more and were taxed at higher rates than Indian slaves.”

The last distinctively Yamasee village, located near St. Augustine, was destroyed by the British in 1827. The Yamasee who settled with other Indian nations—Apalachee, Creek, Seminole—lost their tribal identity.

Visiting European Royalty

Beginning with Christopher Columbus in the late fifteenth century, it was a common practice for European explorers and colonists to bring Native peoples back to Europe to meet with European royalty. During the first half of the eighteenth century there were several groups of American Indians who visited with European royalty.

Mohawks and Mahican:

 In 1710, England was visited by a formal Indian delegation composed of three Mohawks and one Mahican. The delegation was called the “Four Kings” and had been assembled by New England colonists who wanted to persuade Queen Anne to support the colonial plans for an invasion of New France. In London, the Four Kings enjoyed all of the activities and festivities which would normally be bestowed on foreign dignitaries. The visit helped to cement a strong friendship between England and the Iroquois Confederacy, of which the Mohawk were a part.

In their meeting with the Queen, the Four Kings asked for her assistance. Historian Herman Viola, in his book Diplomats in Buckskins, reports:  “The chiefs, obviously well coached by their patrons, told Queen Anne that the capture of Canada would bring England important economic benefits, for the Mohawks would then be able to conduct ‘a great Trade with Our Great Queen’s children.”

They also asked for Christian missionaries and presented the Queen with several belts of wampum.

 Otoe, Osage, Missouri, Illinois, Chicagou, and Methegamias:

In 1725, a group of Indians, including one Otoe, one Osage, one Missouri chief, one Missouri young woman, one Illinois, one Chicagou, and one Metchegamias, were sent to Paris, France. There they met with the Director of the Company of the Indies, and the Duke and Duchess de Bourbon. The chiefs were given a complete French outfit which included a blue dress coat, silver ornaments, and a plumed hat trimmed in silver. They were presented to King Louis XV and they performed a dance at the opera. The French King gave each of the chiefs a royal medallion, a rifle, a sword, and a watch.


 In 1730, the English Crown sent seven Cherokee chiefs – Attakullakulla, Ookounaka, Ketagusta, Tathtiowie, Clogittah, Collanah, and Ounakannowie–   on an educational trip to England, which concluded with a treaty. According to Cherokee historian Robert Conley, in his book The Cherokee Nation: A History:  “They were wined and dined at fashionable spots in London, had their portraits painted, and were followed around town by curious crowds.”

Under the treaty, the Cherokee were to fight for the British; they were to keep the trading path clean; they were to return runaway slaves; and they were to give up any Indian who killed an Englishman.

According to popular reports on their visit with the King, Ookounaka was supposed to have said:  “We look upon the Great King George as the Sun, and as our father, and upon ourselves as his children. For though we are red, and you are white yet our hands and hearts are joined together”

However, as Robert Conley has pointed out, the Cherokee saw the Sun not as male, but as female and thus it would have been highly unlikely of any Cherokee to make this statement. Secondly, the idea of categorizing people according to perceived skin color was totally alien to the Cherokee, thus invalidating the accuracy of the second part of the quote.


 In 1734, several Yamacraw from Georgia, including Tomochichi and his wife Senauki, traveled to England. According to historian Nancy Shoemaker, in her book A Strange Likeness: Becoming Red and White in Eighteenth-Century North America:  “The highlight of their trip was a meeting with King George II, who held court from his throne, promised friendship between their peoples, and offered the Indian delegation use of one of his carriages so as not to be outdone by Queen Anne’s royal treatment of the ‘four Indian kings’ two decades earlier.”

Senouki, who was the only woman in the group, wore conventional English clothing instead of Native clothing. This included a tightly laced jacket and a long petticoat, both of solid pink. Her hair, however, was kept in Native fashion rather than English. In a similar fashion, Toonahowi, Tomochichi’s nephew and heir, dressed more like a young, wealthy squire than an Indian leader. According to historian Julie Anne Sweet, in an article published in The Georgia Historical Quarterly:  “Through their clothing choices, Senauki and Toonahowi demonstrated their knowledge of the customary English traditions and their willingness to adapt to the present circumstances to further their overall objectives.”

In his negotiations with the English, Tomochichi explained how the English traders had cheated the Indians through price gouging and asked for fairness in trade. It was clear that the Indians were aware that the English traders in South Carolina were cheating them.


In 1735, Mahomet traveled to England where he identified himself to the King as the chief sachem of the Mohegan in Connecticut. He asked the King for protection against the injuries and wrongs which the English colonists had committed against his people. Although Mahomet died in England, the king created a commission to look into the situation.

The Chickasaw Indians

Five of the Southeastern Indian nations – Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole – are sometimes called the “five Civilized Tribes”. The designation “civilized” is an indication that they had acquired many elements of European cultures and were the most acculturated Indian tribes during the nineteenth century. The Chickasaw, descendents of one of the Mississippian chiefdoms that dominated the region after 1000 CE, became a major power-player when the European invasion of the Southeast intensified in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The traditional Chickasaw homeland was in northern Mississippi.

There is an oral tradition which says that the people emerged from the underworld at Ninih Waiya. The first to emerge were the Creek, who dried themselves in the sun and then went east. Next to emerge were the Cherokee, who tried to follow the Creek but got lost and settled in the north. The third group to emerge was the Chickasaw, who followed the Cherokee. The last group to emerge was the Choctaw, who settled near the mound.

Linguistically, the Chickasaw language is a part of the larger Muskogean family and is most closely related to Choctaw.

Like the other Indian nations of the Southeast, the Chickasaw were an agricultural people who raised corn, beans, squash, melons, and sunflowers. They farmed the fertile floodplains and located their villages on high grounds away from the annual flooding. Chickasaw houses, like those of other Indian nations in the region, used a pole and frame construction which could then be covered with bark or thatch.

Corn was the most important Chickasaw crop, so it is not surprising that he Green Corn Ceremony was their most important religious ceremony. Held after the harvest, the Green Corn Ceremony was an expression of gratitude for a successful corn crop. This was a time for renewing life when the villages were cleaned and worn pottery was broken. The Green Corn Ceremony was also associated with the quest for spiritual purity. Fasting – one of the principle ways of attaining purity – was an important element in the ceremony. Among the Chickasaw, the fast started on the first afternoon of the ceremony and lasted until the second sunrise. Following the fast an emetic was used to purge the body of all impurities.

The emetic used was the Black Drink, a black beverage which was made from the leaves of the cassina shrub. Drinking the beverage — a strong purgative — gave special purification to the drinker. It was used to cleanse the minds of village leaders for debate and to cleanse and strengthen the bodies of warriors for battle. By removing bodily impurities, the drinkers were restored to a state of equilibrium which allowed them to successfully complete whatever task they faced. Anthropologist Charles Hudson, in his book The Southeastern Indians, notes: “The physiological effects of black drink are mainly those of massive doses of caffeine.”

Fishing and hunting supplemented the agricultural diet. Fish were often speared using green cane spears which could be 16 to 18 feet in length. Spearing was often done from canoes.

Like many of the other Indian nations in the Southeast, the Chickasaw had a dual system of government in which there was a civil chief who managed internal matters and peaceful diplomacy and another chief served as war chief. During times of conflict, the war chief would function as the primary leader.

One of the interesting cultural practices of some of the Southeastern tribes, such as the Natchez, Chickasaw, Catawba, and Choctaw, was cranial deformation in which the heads of infants were deliberately flattened.  Christina Snyder, in her book Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America, reports:  “When infants from these groups lay on their cradle boards, families placed wooden boards covered with deerskin on the foreheads, making the cranial vault rounded and long.”

Cranial deformation was usually an indication of high social rank.

Warfare was common among the Southeastern Indian nations. Even though there were women warriors, warfare tended to be dominated by men.  Warfare generally involved raiding to obtain booty or captives. Among the Chickasaw a typical raiding party consisted of about 20 men led by a war leader who carried a medicine bundle. Chickasaw women would often accompany the men, providing them with both critiques and encouragements through song. As with other Southeastern tribes, if anything happened which could be interpreted as a bad omen the warriors returned home.