Greed and the Administration of Indian Reservations in the 19th Century

With the formation of the United States in the late eighteenth century, policies toward American Indians generally followed the British colonial model in which Indians, like wolves, bears, and trees, were viewed as impediments to the taming of the wilderness. The British did not seek to incorporate American Indians into their colonial culture, but to isolate and segregate them and/or to exterminate them.

Following this philosophical model, the United States established Indian reservations as a way of removing Indians and freeing their lands and natural resources (i.e. mining and timber) to be developed by non-Indians. One of America’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, suggested that Indians should be removed from the United States and placed on lands west of the Mississippi River.

There were three basic ways in which reservations could be established: by treaty, Presidential executive order, and Congressional action.

The United States could negotiate a treaty with an Indian nation in which the Indian nation would reserve a portion of its traditional homeland for its exclusive use or agree to move to other lands which would be reserved for its exclusive use. Under the U.S. Constitution, Indian tribes were viewed as sovereign nations and thus dealings with them, just as with over sovereign nations, had to be on the federal level. In 1871, however, Congress–upset by the cost of the treaties and the need to pay the Indians for their lands– attached a rider to the appropriations bill for the Indian Department which stated that hereafter no Indian tribe shall be recognized as an independent nation with whom the United States may contract by treaty.

Reservations could also be established by Presidential executive order and by Congressional action.

The well-known Indian-fighter General William T. Sherman once defined a reservation as:  “a tract of land entirely occupied by Indians and entirely surrounded by white thieves”

Anthropologist Anthony Wallace, in his The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca, writes:  “The reservation system theoretically established small asylums where Indians who had lost their hunting grounds could remain peacefully apart from the surrounding white communities until they became civilized. It actually resulted, however, in the creation of slums in the wilderness, where no traditional Indian culture could long survive and where only the least useful aspects of white culture could easily penetrate.”

Some reservations were run like concentration camps where the Indian inmates were seen as prisoners. Reservation Indians were viewed as being incompetent in managing their own affairs. Boarding school superintendent Edwin Chalcraft, in his biography Assimilation’s Agent: My Life as a Superintendent in the Indian Boarding School System, reports that  “…Government Regulations provided that Indians shall not leave their reservations without a written pass from the officer in charge.”

In describing his experience with the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1890s, Sioux physician Charles Eastman, in Light on the Indian World: The Essential Writings of Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa), reports:  “An Indian agent has almost autocratic power, and the conditions of life on an agency are such as to make every resident largely dependent upon his good will.”

Corruption in the administration of Indian reservations was wide-spread. Indian reservations provided ample opportunity for fraud. First, there were the Indian agents on the reservation. Poorly paid and untrained for the job, many Indian agents saw this as an opportunity to get rich. It was not uncommon for the Indian agent to have a store in an off-reservation town which sold the goods that had been intended as annuities for the reservation and instead were unlawfully re-directed to his own store.

Getting the goods to the reservation required shipping and shipping agents generally overstated the millage involved. Suppliers who provided beef generally provided ill, underweight cows and charged for good, healthy animals. Suppliers saw the reservations as good places to send spoiled or unsalable goods. Money was made by all, and the Indians received very little of what they had been promised by the government. Historians Robert Utley and Wilcomb Washburn write:  “From factory to agency warehouse, corrupt alliances enriched government officials and suppliers and penalized the Indians in both quantity and quality of issue.”

One of the primary goals of the United States government with regard to Indians was to convert them to Christianity, primarily Protestant Christianity. As it became obvious to all that the Indian Service was corrupt and failing to assimilate Indians, it seemed natural to turn to missionaries and churches for the solution. In his 1870 message to Congress, President Ulysses Grant proposed turning the administration of reservations over to Christian groups. With no regard for aboriginal religious practices, it was assumed that all Indians should be forced to become Christian as a part of their assimilation into American culture.

In accordance with President Ulysses Grant’s Peace Policy, the Secretary of the Interior allocated 80 reservations among 13 Christian denominations. Catholic historian James White, writing in Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:  “By the terms stated in Grant’s policy, namely that missions should be allocated among the missionaries already at work there, Catholic officials expected to receive thirty-eight missions; instead they were accorded only eight, all of them in either the Rio Grande valley or the Pacific Northwest.”  Subsequently, Catholic missionaries began to be ordered off certain reservations.

Another often-stated goal of the reservations was to turn Indians into farmers, ignoring the fact that most Indian nations had been farming prior to the European invasion and the early colonists managed to survive because of Indian agriculture. On the other hand, non-Indians were given the best farming lands and Indian reservations were generally located in areas that were not suitable for agriculture. In other words, reservations tended to be located in areas which could not be farmed.

Indians were not allowed to engage in mining. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs wrote in 1872:  “It is the policy of the government to segregate such [mineral] lands from Indian reservations as far as may be consistent with the faith of the United States and throw them open to entry and settlement in order that the Indians may not be annoyed and distressed by the cupidity of the miners and settlers who in large numbers, in spite of the efforts of the government to the contrary, flock to such regions of the country on the first report of the gold discovery.”

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the United States began to break up Indian reservations and open them up for non-Indian settlement. This was formalized with 1887 General Allotment Act (also known as the Dawes Act). The idea of holding land in common was seen as uncivilized, un-Christian, and a barrier to civilization. Indians were first encouraged and then required to obtain individual ownership of land. The idea of owning land in severalty became almost an obsession of the late nineteenth century Christian reformers. They were convinced that such a policy would force the Indians to become more American. Historian Clifford Trafzer, in his introduction to American Indians/American Presidents: A History, reports:  “By dividing tribal reservation lands into small parcels for individual Indians, reformers believed that allotment would imbue Native people with respect for private—rather the tribal—property, and help Indians assimilate into mainstream American culture.”

The result of this policy was to force American Indians into poverty and to create wealth for non-Indians. American capitalists and large corporations acquired Indian resources.

Honoring and Celebrating Genocide

Cultural genocide is a concept expressed by many Native Americans to describe the deliberate destruction of American Indian languages, religions, ways of dress and housing, and interpersonal relations by the invading European powers and by the United States. Cultural genocide has led to the deaths of many American Indians either through deliberate murder or as the intended or unintended consequences of the deliberate destruction of Indian cultures. One of the classic cases of cultural genocide can be seen in California.

In 1758 Father Junípero Serra led a group of Franciscan friars north from Baja California into present-day California to establish a series of 21 missions, starting with San Diego de Alcalá in the south. The group was accompanied by a column of Spanish soldiers under the leadership of Captain Gaspar de Portolá. Robert Jackson and Edward Castillo, in their book Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians, report:  “The Franciscans attempted to restructure the native societies they encountered to further Spanish colonial-policy objectives.”  They also write:  “One of the primary objectives of the Franciscan-directed mission program in Alta California was the transformation of the culture and world view of the Indian converts congregated in the missions.”

Christianity, for these missionaries, meant not just accepting a new religion, but it also required a totally new way of living. The sites for the missions were selected on the basis of their suitability for agriculture and ranching as well as the availability of building materials. Indian people were expected to give up their traditional economic systems and to work as slaves in European-style agriculture and ranching.

Indian people did not come joyously or freely to live and work at the new missions. In his book Where the Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places, Peter Nabokov writes:  “Soldiers snatched Indian families from outlying hamlets to convert them, change their social habits and turn them into an American peasantry.”  In other words, recruitment was very similar to a slave raid. The Indian response to the missions was to flee, either in small groups or in large groups.

In his book From the Heart: Voices of the American Indian, Lee Miller notes:  “Spain continued to operate under the European assumption that non-Christian nations were base and immoral, and the church was obligated to effect conversion.”  Furthermore, the Spanish, according to anthropologist Edward Castillo (1978a: 99):  “were steeped in a legacy of religious intolerance and conformity featuring a messianic fanaticism accentuating both Spanish culture in general and Catholicism in particular.”

The Franciscans sought to set up a utopian Christian community among the Indians. Malcolm Margolin, in his book The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, writes that the Indians:  “would be weaned away from their life of nakedness, lewdness, and idolatry. They would, under the gentle guidance of the Franciscan fathers, learn to pray properly, eat with spoons, wear clothes, and they would master farming, weaving, blacksmithing, cattle raising, masonry, and other civilized arts.”

For this utopian Christian community, the Indians were to live at the mission. Unmarried males and females were confined to separate quarters to prevent any sexual relationships. The Indians were told who they could marry and what kind of clothing they were to wear. For most Indians the mission communities were death camps. Writing in the Handbook of North American Indians Sherburne F. Cook and Cesare Marino note:  “the physical confinement and the restriction of social as well as sexual intercourse was completely contrary to native custom and acted as a powerful source of irritation.”

Father Junípero Serra, who is revered by many of today’s Catholics, is described by Malcolm Margolin as being “driven by inner torments and a quest for personal martyrdom.” He lashed and burned his flesh before his congregations. Anthropologist Eve Darian-Smith, in her book New Capitalists: Law, Politics, and Identity Surrounding Casino Gaming on Native American Land, describes him this way:  “He was a man of extreme conviction in his commitment to convert California Indians to Catholicism and make them productive citizens of the Spanish colonial state.”

The Franciscans asked the Indians who came to see them to be baptized, even if they did not understand the meaning of this European ceremony. Once baptized, they could be held at the missions against their will. Soldiers were stationed at the missions to capture those who tried to escape. Escape attempts were severely punished by the Franciscans.

The Franciscan missions were slave plantations, requiring the Indian people to work for the Spanish under cruel conditions. Most of the Indians died in the new mission environment because of brutality, malnutrition, and illness. One early visitor to the missions remarked about the Indians that “I have never seen one laugh.”

In 1948, the United Nations formally defined genocide and classified it as a crime against humanity. Many of the actions of the Franciscans under Serra can be considered acts of genocide under the U.N. definition.

Today, many Native Americans, particularly those who have a California Indian heritage, consider Serra to have been a brutal oppressor whose actions killed many thousands and helped to destroy ancient cultural heritages. While we don’t know for sure if Serra personally killed anyone, his actions led to death, destruction, pain, suffering, slavery, and poverty.

The Catholic Church appears to honor and celebrate the brutality and cultural genocide promoted by the Franciscan priest: he will be declared a Saint by Pope Francis in September of 2015. Some Catholics, such as Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, applaud the creation of this new saint.

Ancient America: The Columbia Plateau, 2000 BCE to 500 BCE

The area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana is known as the Plateau Culture area. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. Much of the area is classified as semi-arid. Part of it is mountainous with pine forests in the higher elevations. This is an area which is drained by the Columbia River.

While much of the Plateau Culture Area constitutes a dry region characterized by a sagebrush-Juniper steppe area with pine forests at the higher levels, there are portions of the area which do not fit this description. In the northern portion of the Plateau Culture Area, there is a temperate rainforest with higher precipitation. At the headwaters to the Columbia River in British Columbia, the terrain is cut by steep mountain ranges with long, narrow lakes in the valleys.

Writing in the Handbook of North American Indians, James Chatters and David Pokotylo report:  “For the past 4,000 years, most Plateau cultural adaptations have emphasized the mass harvest and long-term storage of three key resource groups: fish (usually anadromous salmonids), edible roots, and large ungulates.”

Archaeologists generally divide the prehistory of the Plateau into three broad periods: (1) Early (before 6000 BCE); (2) Middle (6000 to 2000 BCE); and  (3) Late (2000 BCE to 1720 CE). In the section below, we will look at the Plateau during the Late-Early Subperiod (2000 BCE to 500 BCE).

Just prior to this subperiod, in 2500 BCE, regional temperatures began to decrease. With this there were glacial advances and a decline in the temperature of the Columbia River. By 2000 BCE, the Indian people in the Plateau area were adapting to this climate change with storage-dependent collector activities. In some areas, small villages began to appear.

In 2000 BCE, Indian people began using Dagger Falls on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in present-day Idaho as a salmon spearing station.

In 2000 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Alpowa site in present-day Chief Timothy State Park.

At Kettle Falls, Washington, there was an increase in population about 1600 BCE. This marks the beginning of what the archaeologists call the Skitak period.

Around 1500 BCE, the period which archaeologists call the Early Riverine phase began. In his book Indian Rock Art of the Columbia Plateau, archaeologist James Keyser reports:  “During this time, pit house villages become commonplace, roots, salmon, and shellfish were the primary good sources for Columbia Plateau groups.”  Long-distance trade also increased. Wood- and bone- working became more important.

At this time, refugees from the retreating boreal forests in the north begin to enter into the Plateau area, bringing with them some new cultural items. These new items include the stone pipe, copper objects, stone carvings, effigy figurines, and the use of burial mounds.

In southeastern British Columbia and northwestern Montana, the period which archaeologists call the Inissimi Complex began about 1500 BCE. The Inissimi stone points have an expanding stem, a convex base, pronounced shoulders and excurvate blade edges.

In the Calispell Valley of Washington, Indian people began a more intensive use of camas (a bulbed plant used for food). In addition, fishing became more important.

In Idaho, Indian people began year-round occupation of the Middle Salmon River canyon area. There was also an increase in the hunting of buffalo and mountain sheep.

In the Plateau area of British Columbia, the archaeological period known as the Shuswap Horizon begins. This is a period of cold, wet weather. Mike Rousseau, in his chapter in Complex Hunter-Gatherers: Evolution and Organization of Prehistoric Communities on the Plateau of Northwestern North America, reports:  “small, moderately mobile bands established winter residential base camps on valley bottoms where food and material resources were abundant and varied.”

In his University of Montana M.A. Thesis A Timeline in Stone: Lithic Indications of Social and Economic Change at Housepit 7 of the Keatley Creek Site, Terrence Godin reports:  “It signifies the first regular, widespread use of semi-subterranean winter pithouses on the Canadian Plateau.”

The houses are relatively large with an average of nearly 11 meters in diameter up to a maximum of 16 meters. They are circular to oval with flat-bottomed, rectangular shaped floors.

According to Terrence Godin:  “Shuswap people utilized elk, deer, mountain sheep, black bear, numerous species of small mammals, fresh water mussels, salmon, trout, and various species of birds, but did not rely on plant resources to any great extent.”  Their projectile points were generally lanceolate and/or triangular in shape. They were probably used on thrusting spears or atlatl darts.

Along the Middle Snake River in Idaho, hunting began to be more important about 1000 BCE.

In 1000 BCE, Indian people were burning large areas to encourage the growth of good deer forage and to improve oak groves for acorns. In the mountain areas of northern Oregon and southern Washington, Indian people were burning areas to maintain the huckleberry patches.

In 1000 BCE, the Kootenai were hunting mountain sheep high in the mountains of what is now Glacier National Park. At this time, the Kootenai were quarrying chert for making stone tools about 3 miles upstream on Bowman Creek from its confluence with the North Fork of the Flathead River.

At Kettle Falls, Washington, the period which archaeologists call the Takumakst period began about 800 BCE. This is associated with Salish people. The material culture at this time included steatite tubular pipes with thin, flaring bowls. People were living in pit houses which were dug one to two meters deep. They were cooking with earth ovens and used pits for storing food.

People in southeastern Oregon were using pole-and-thatch huts or windscreens about 625 BCE. These structures are described by archaeologist Luther Cressman in the Handbook of North American Indians:  “Paired vertical willow branches were placed at intervals around a shallow, dish-shaped depression about 5 m in maximum diameter, forming a circular framework. Bundles of grass, laid horizontally, were then attached by U-shaped willow pins to these uprights.”  The structure was then shingled with bundles of grass placed vertically. Rock slabs anchored the structure.

In the Plateau area of Washington and Idaho, villages became larger about 500 BCE with some of them having as many as 100 pit houses. However, the pit houses tended to be somewhat smaller than they were previously. These larger villages were on rivers such as at Kettle Falls in Washington and in the Hells Canyon area of Idaho.

Along the lower Snake River in eastern Washington, the Harder phase began to replace the Tucannon phase about 500 BCE. The people were using fairly large—20 to 40 feet diameter—pit houses. As in the Tucannon phase, the subsistence pattern was based on hunting and fishing. They were now hunting mountain sheep and had domesticated dogs.

In the southeastern Plateau area, the Nez Perce occupied a number of villages by 500 BCE. Historian Alvin Josephy, in his book Nez Perce Country, reports:  “Most of the settlements were small, containing from one to three structures.”

At this time, the people had intensified their hunting of buffalo, which were found in great numbers in the area.

In the Calispell Valley of Washington, the use of camas decreased in 500 BCE because of drought damage to the moist meadows. The Indian people of this area began to use fire as a tool to increase food production in the higher elevations.

Ancient America: Corn, Beans, Squash

The domestication of plants is something that happened independently in many different regions of the world. The domestication of plants marks a fundamental change in the way people interact with and perceive their environment. Domestication is basically evolution which has been directed through human intervention. By the time of the European invasions in the sixteenth century, the Indigenous peoples of Mexico had already domesticated more than 50 different plants, ranging from avocados to yucca. Three of these plants—maize (corn), beans, and squash—became the focus of American Indian agriculture in North and Central America. Among the Iroquois these three plants were known as the Three Sisters.

Maize (Corn):

 Maize (Zea mays), commonly called corn in the United States, is undoubtedly the most important plant domesticated in Mexico. In their book Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, Michael Coe and Rex Koontz write:  “Maize was and is the very basis of settled life in Mexico, and, in fact, throughout the regions of the New World civilized in Pre-Columbian times.”

Archaeologists debate several questions with regard to the domestication of maize: (1) What was the wild ancestor or ancestors of maize? (2) When did the fully domesticated maize first appear? And (3) how did maize cultivation spread both north and south into other regions of the Americas?

Maize is a grass and there are no known wild forms of this grass. In the highlands of the Mexican state of Chiapas and Guatemala, there is, however, a grass called teosinte (Zea Mexicana) which grows as an unwanted weed in and around Indian cornfields. Long before archaeologists had the tools of modern genetics and DNA, they hypothesized that teosinte was the probable ancestor of maize. Maize may have evolved through the human selection of teosinte plants. Some researchers assuming that teosinte was the progenitor of maize have suggested that maize originated in the Balsas River Drainage in western Mexico by about 7000 BCE.

Gary Crawford, writing in the Oxford Companion to Archaeology, reports:  “How corn was domesticated is problematic. As a grass, its fruit in the form of a cob is a monstrosity.”

Teosinte does not have a cob and this has led some researchers to suggest that the ancestor of maize may have been a wild plant, now extinct, which had a cob. Margaret Bunson and Stephen Bunson, in their Encyclopedia of Ancient Mesoamerica, write:  “The wild maize plants altered by mutation were collected by early inhabitants of Mesoamerica and slowly domesticated. The wild form appears to have become extinct, possibly through backcrossing with domesticated forms.”

However, this hypothesized plant, has not yet been found in the archaeological record. Nor is there any evidence that ancient humans harvested teosinte.

It was once thought that the people who oversaw the evolution of teosinte into maize were the Maya, but there is no direct evidence that the Maya were the overseers of this evolutionary transformation.

Dating the appearance of maize in the archaeological record has presented a few problems. At the present time some of the earliest findings come from phytoliths (fossil evidence of plant cells) found at San Andrés on the Gulf Coast of Tabasco near the Olmec site of La Venta. These date to about 4800 BCE and since there are no known wild species of Zea in the region, it suggests that they were introduced by humans. There is also some evidence of large-scale forest clearing at this time, an activity usually associated with the cultivation of maize. According to Michael Coe and Rex Koontz:  “If this Tabasco material is true maize cultivation, then it would be the earliest record of such activity that we have.”

Maize cobs found in caves in Tehuacan, Pueblo, were originally thought to date to 5000 BCE, but newer dating methods have revised this to 3500 BCE. At the present time, the earliest date maize cob comes from the Guilá Naquitz cave in Oaxaca which is dated to 4300 BCE.

 Beans:

While maize was the most important food staple in ancient Mexico, beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) were second in importance. Beans seem to have been originally domesticated in Mexico and Guatemala and then diffused, along with maize, to other parts of the Americas. With regard to beans, Michael Coe and Rex Koontz write:  “Its nutritional importance stems from the fact that its proteins complement those of maize.”

Beans supply the amino acids lysine and tryptophan to complement the amino acid zein from maize.

Beans seem to have been originally domesticated in Mexico’s Lerma-Santiago basin about 6,000 years ago. Beans were not grown in any significant quantities until they became a part of the diet that included maize and squash. Beans were also domesticated independently in the Andes.

Squash:

While maize was the most important plant in ancient Mexico, squash appears to have been domesticated earlier than maize. The earliest evidence of domesticated squash (Cucurbit pepo) dates to about 8000 BCE. This evidence comes for Guilá Naquitz cave in Oaxaca. This early squash is a distant relative of today’s pumpkin. There are three major species of squash in Mexico: pumpkin, warty or crookneck squash, and walnut squash. Michael Coe and Rex Koontz write: “The origins of all of thee from wild ancestors or through hybridization are very little understood, although a very early domesticate has been identified, and the sequence of their appearance in Mexico is now established.”

Between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago, domesticated squash diffused north into Northern Mexico and the Southwest.

Pontiac’s War

In 1763, the Ottawa leader Pontiac led an alliance of Indian nations in the Ohio Valley in a war of resistance against the British. In defeating this Indian alliance, the British turned to biological warfare in the form of smallpox.

Pontiac was probably born about 1720 along the Maumee River in what is now Ohio. His father was Ottawa and his mother was Chippewa (Ojibwa). By 1755 he was recognized by the Ottawa as one of their leaders (i.e. “chiefs”).

Background: Prelude to War

 In 1759, a party of Ottawa, Huron, and Potawatomi encountered an English Ranger group in present-day Michigan. The Ottawa leader Pontiac demanded to know why these strangers were trespassing on Indian land. The English told him that they were there only to remove the French. After they gave Pontiac wampum, he smoked with them. While Pontiac agreed to be a subordinate of the English Crown, he told the English that if the King should neglect him, he would shut down all routes to the interior.

The French and Indian War officially ended in 1760 with the defeat of France. As a result, English settlers began to pour across the Alleghenies into Indian territory. While the French had secured the loyalty of their Indian allies by providing them with ammunition and supplies, the English did not. Lord Jeffrey Amherst wrote:  “I do not see why the Crown should be put to that expense. Services must be rewarded; it has ever been a maxim with me. But as to purchasing the good behavior either of Indians or any others, [that] is what I do not understand. When men of whatsoever race behave ill, they must be punished but not bribed.”

Indians soon found that they were not welcome at the forts and that intermarriage was discouraged. The English simply assumed that they had no obligation to the original inhabitants of the country and acted accordingly. From an Indian viewpoint, this was not only a breach of protocol, but an open insult to the Indian nations and their leaders. Historians Robert Utley and Wilcomb Washburn, in their book Indian Wars, write:  “In sum, the English acted as though they had no obligation toward the inhabitants of the country—with predictable consequences.”

 In 1761, the English placed Jeffrey Amherst in charge of Indian relations in the Old Northwest Territory. Amherst felt that presents to the Indians encouraged laziness and that the Indians should support themselves by hunting so that they could obtain the trade goods which they desired. Historian Richard White, in his book The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, describes Amherst as having “the moral vision of a shopkeeper and the arrogance of a victorious soldier.”

Lord Jeffrey Amherst, the commander-in-chief of the British forces, suggested to Henry Bouquet, the commander of Fort Pitt:  “Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those dissatisfied tribes?”  In response Bouquet suggested using infected blankets to distribute the smallpox. He also suggested hunting the Indians with dogs.

In 1762, the Delaware (Lenni Lenape) prophet Neolin had a vision in which he undertook a journey to meet the Master of Life. He was told:  “The land on which you are, I have made for you, not for others. Wherefore do you suffer the whites to dwell upon your lands?”  “Drive them away; wage war against them; I love them not; they know me not; they are my enemies; they are your brothers’ enemies. Send them back to the land I have made for them.”  He received a prayer which is carved in symbolic language on a stick.

After returning from the vision, the prophet drew a map on a deerskin which was used in explaining his vision. This “great book” was sold to followers so that they might refresh their memories from time to time. Neolin’s vision provided the foundation for a pan-Indian movement. One of Neolin’s followers was the Ottawa chief Pontiac. According to ethnologist James Mooney, writing in 1896:  “The religious ferment produced by the exhortations of the Delaware prophet spread rapidly from tribe to tribe, until, under the guidance of the master mind of the celebrated chief, Pontiac, it took shape in a grand confederacy of all the northwestern tribes to oppose the further progress of the English.”

Historian Randolph Downes, in his book Council Fires on the Upper Ohio: A Narrative of Indian Affairs in the Upper Ohio Valley until 1795, writes of Neolin’s followers:  “They gave up the use of firearms and hunted exclusively with the bow and arrow. They lived entirely on dried meat and a bitter drink whose purgative quality was supposed to rid them of poisons absorbed by years of white contamination.”

While Neolin’s message was anti-European, under Pontiac it became anti-British. Many of Neolin’s followers felt that he was the reincarnation of Winabojo, the great teacher of the mythic past.

The War:

In 1763, Neolin, in present-day Michigan, urged the Three Fires Confederacy—Ottawa, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi,—to expel the British. In response, Pontiac led an alliance of Shawnee, Delaware, and Ojibwa against the British. He told his people:  “It is important for us, my brothers, that we exterminate from our land this nation which only seeks to kills us.”

Pontiac and his allies soon seized nine of the eleven British forts in the Ohio Valley. While Pontiac is generally credited with leading the resistance movement, he was actually just one of many Indian leaders who had decided that war with the British was necessary to defend their territory and their way of life.

In response to the Pontiac war and in an attempt to stabilize the volatile situation between settlers and Indians, the British issued the Proclamation of 1763 which forbade European settlement west of the Appalachians. This was, in George Washington’s words, “a temporary expedient to quiet the minds of the Indians.” The Proclamation also removed jurisdiction over Indians from the colonies. Each Indian tribe was regarded as an independent nation and, as such, had to be dealt with by the Crown.

Pontiac’s rebellion was defeated in part because of a smallpox epidemic among the allied tribes. Once again Sir Jeffrey Amherst, Commander of the British forces suggests the use of smallpox as a weapon of war:  “You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.”

One officer—Captain Simeon Ecuyer, a Swiss mercenary—reported that during peace negotiations with the Delaware, the Indians were given two blankets and a handkerchief which had been deliberately infected with smallpox spores at the post hospital. Other officers handed out smallpox-infected clothing. The English recorded this transaction in an invoice which stated:  “To sundries go to replace in kind those which were taken from the people in the hospital to convey the smallpox to the indians. Viz: 2 Blankets; 1 silk hankerchef and 1 linnen”

Soon smallpox was sweeping through the allied tribes, weakening their ability to wage war. R. G. Robertson in his book, Rotting Face: Smallpox and the American Indian, reports:  “By mid July, the Delawares were dying as though they had been raked by a grape cannonade.”

In 1764, Pontiac sent the British a wampum belt for peace. The British simply chopped up the belt. This would be like a European ambassador urinating on a proposed treaty. It was an act which shocked and angered the Indians. The act convinced Pontiac that he had nothing to gain by negotiating with the British.

In the Ohio Valley, the Shawnee, Seneca, and Lenni Lenape joined together to send war belts to the Miami and to Pontiac’s Ottawa asking them to fight the British. These three nations were joined by the Munsee and the Wyandot to form the Five Nations of Scioto.

At the end of the conflict, the British demanded that all European “captives” be returned. About 200 men, women, and children were turned over to the soldiers amid a torrent of tears. According to one military observer: “Every captive left the Indians with regret.” While there were no reports of Indian captives who did not want to return to their own people, it was common for European captives to refuse repatriation.

With regard to the defeat of Pontiac and his allies, Lee Miller, in his book From the Heart: Voices of the American Indian, notes that the  “British can congratulate themselves, for they will go down in infamy as the first ‘civilized’ nation to use germ warfare.”

By 1765, the war was over and the British asked Pontiac to carry the message of peace to the other tribes of the Ohio Valley and to serve as an intertribal chief in negotiating peace. As a result the Ottawa, Wyandot, Ojibwa, Miami, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Mascouten attended peace conferences.

The Indians felt that the French had simply been tenants on their land and had provided tribute—powder, rum, and other goods—as a type of rent. The British, on the other hand, felt that they themselves were governed by international law and that Indians were not members of the “family of nations”. Therefore, from the British viewpoint, the Indians should have no more rights than the animals they hunted.

In 1767, Pontiac formally signed a peace agreement with the British. Two years later he was killed by Black Dog, a Peoria Indian, following a drunken argument in the establishment of a British trader. Many felt that the British arranged for Pontiac’s assassination because Black Dog was known to be in the pay of the British.

The Horse and the Plateau Indians

The stereotype of the American Indian adopted by the entertainment industry and by some educational textbooks is based on the horse-mounted, buffalo hunting Plains Indians of the nineteenth century. However, the Plains Indians were not the only ones to adopt the horse and the lifestyle changes that came with it. The Indian nations in the eastern Plateau region also adopted the horse.

The area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana is known as the Plateau Culture Area. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. Much of the area is classified as semi-arid. Part of it is mountainous with pine forests in the higher elevations.

The horse diffused into the Plateau Culture Area from the Southwest following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The Shoshone, a Great Basin tribe, introduced the horse to the Nez Perce, Cayuse, Umatilla, Sanpoil, and Flathead. It is difficult to understand the impact of the horse on many of the plateau tribes. Jeremy Fivecrows, in his introduction to Alvin Josephy’s Nez Perce Country, writes:  “Horses did more than modify Nez Perce culture—they transformed it, becoming our symbol of freedom and wealth.”

After learning that the Cayuse had acquired the horse from the Shoshone, the Nez Perce sent a group to trade with the Shoshone in order to acquire their own horses. According to historian Alvin Josephy in his book Nez Perce Country:  “It is estimated that it took a generation for a people to become fully adjusted to the use of the horse, but in time all Nez Perce became mounted and found the horse a valuable addition to their lives.”

After the acquisition of the horse in the early 1700’s, many of the eastern Plateau tribes began seasonal buffalo hunts east of the Rocky Mountains on the Great Plains. Horses became an important economic asset as well as a symbol of prestige. The horse brought many of the Plateau tribes into close contact, and conflict, with the tribes of the Northern Plains. As a result of this increased contact, many cultural elements diffused into the Plateau. Theordore Stern, Martin Schmitt, and Alphonse Halfmoon, in an article in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, write:  “With the new life, they avidly took on the fashions and accoutrements of the Northern Plains, while retaining an underlying Plateau descriptiveness.”

The diffusion of the horse into the Plateau Culture Area involved more than the animal itself: it included the Spanish patterns of riding and caring for the horse. It also included knowledge of breeding. Several of these tribes, such as the Nez Perce, the Coeur d’Alene, and the Cayuse, acquired reputations as outstanding horse breeders. Sandra Broncheau-McFarland, in her University of Idaho Master of Science Thesis, writes:  “The Nez Perce were practicing selective breeding by contact time and may have been the only tribe to do so on the continent.”

According to anthropologist Colin Taylor, in his chapter in The Native Americans: The Indigenous People of North America:  “Eliminating the poorer stallions by castration, the Nez Perce became justly famous for the superior speed and endurance of their horses, amongst the most distinctive of which was the traditional war-horse, which came to be known as the Appaloosa.”

On the other hand, anthropologist Deward Walker, in his chapter on the Nez Perce in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports:  “They did not breed for particular colors such as the so-called Apppaloosa, which Nez Perce say was acquired from the Mormons in trade.”  Henry Miller, writing for the Weekly Oregonian in 1861, reports:  “The generality of the Nez Perces horses are much finer than any Indian horses I have seen.”  He goes on to say:  “A great many are large, fine-bred American stock, with fine limbs, rising withers, sloping well back, and are uncommonly sinewy and sure-footed.”  Historian Alvin Josephy reports:  “The Nez Perce favored and bred any color or kind of horse so long as it was swift and intelligent and pleased them.”

With the acquisition of the horse, the Plateau Indians began to manufacture elaborate and well-decorated horse trappings. These included saddles for men, for women, and for packing. Among the Klickitat, the men used a stuffed pad with wooden stirrups as a saddle. The women’s saddle was made with a high pommel and cantle. For a bridle they used a hair rope which was knotted around the horse’s lower jaw.

One of the first Plateau tribes to obtain the horse was the Cayuse. Historian Larry Cebula, in his Plateau Indians and the Quest for Spiritual Power, 1700-1850, reports:  “The Cayuses in particular benefited by getting horses early and by owning some of the best grazing land in the Northwest.”

The Cayuse were well-known for their horses, not just for breeding them, but also for the care and decoration which they lavished upon them. Historian Terence O’Donnell reports in Idaho Yesterdays:  “In particular they valued white horses; to them they would attach feathered headpieces, streak their withers with dyes of different hues, and braid their tails with colored ribbons.”

The horse also became important for trade. Anthropologist Deward Walker writes:  “From the beginning of the nineteenth century, Nez Perce, Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Flathead possessed more horses than most tribes of the northern Plains, helping create an extensive trade in horses with Plains groups like the Crow who routinely met to trade horses and other items with Plateau groups.”

Not only did the horse become an item of trade itself, but as a new means of transportation it changed the trade routes. For thousands of years prior to the horse people had followed the rivers as their highway to trading areas. With the acquisition of the horse, this began to change and overland travel was now easier. This meant that areas which had once been peripheral to trade became more important and some areas, particularly those which were well-forested and more suited to canoe travel than to horse travel, became peripheral.

The horse also brought a change in the settlement patterns. After the acquisition of the horse, village sizes tended to increase and villages were more likely to be located in areas which could provide both protection and feed for the large horse herds.

In some instances, the horse enabled tribes to extend their territories. Anthropologist Peter Carstens, in The Queen’s People: A Study of Hegemony, Coercion, and Accommodation Among the Okanagan of Canada, writes:  “The horse made travel easier and quicker than by foot or by canoe, and facilitated Okanagan expansion not merely to the north, but to the east and west as well.”

Using the horse and hunting buffalo on the Plains, a number of Plains cultural elements were acquired in the Plateau. These Plains cultural elements included the use of the tipi and the travois, the custom of war honors dances, beaded dresses, feather warbonnets, and the idea of electing chiefs because of their skill as warriors rather than selecting chiefs because of inheritance. Sylvester Lahren writing about the Kalispel in the Handbook of North American Indians, notes that:  “Warfare was almost nonexistent prior to the arrival of the horse.”

A travois is two long poles which are tied together and pulled by horses. Cross-poles lashed to the long poles form a bed on which a family’s belongings can be carried. The Kootenai, living in mountainous country, never used the travois.

Early Oregon Sites

The earliest period of human occupation in the Northern Great Basin region of Oregon is called the Paisley Period by archaeologists. The period, which is tentatively dated from about 15,700 years ago to 12,900 years ago, is named after the Paisley 5 Mile Point Caves site (35LK3400) near Summer Lake.

During the Paisley Period, Native peoples in Oregon adapted to the Northern Great Basin environment at a time when the ice ages were ending and the region was undergoing dramatic climatic and environmental changes. Jeff LaLande, writing for The Oregon History Project, describes the environment: “By the time of these earliest arrivals, the region’s glaciers had melted into small remnants, and many of the great Ice Age lakes had begun to shrink into shallow but plant- and animal-rich lakes, marshes, and wetlands.”

The people at this time were hunting and eating bison, camelids, horse, deer, mountain sheep, pronghorn antelope, and sage grouse. They were gathering a wide variety of different plants, including goosefoot (Chenopodiacea sp.), sunflower, cactus, rose hips, and desert parsley. They were making and using a variety of stone and bone tools.

While the Paisley Caves site is the best-known of the most ancient Oregon sites, there are a number of other sites which also date to this era.

Dietz Site:

Located in Central Oregon’s Alkalai Basin to the east of the Fort Rock area near Wagontire, the Dietz Site (35LK1529) dates to the end of the Paisley Period. This is an interesting site as it represents a Clovis intrusion into the region. At one time the Clovis tradition with its characteristic fluted points was thought to represent the earliest people in North America. In their book Oregon Archaeology, Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins write:  “The Dietz site is currently one of only three recorded Clovis-era sites in Oregon where multiple artifacts have been recovered, though Clovis fluted points are reported widely as isolated surface finds.”

The Clovis materials at the site have been dated to about 13,200 years ago. The Clovis artifacts recovered at the site include fluted points, flute flakes, and biface projectile point blanks. Horse Mountain, located about a mile from the site, is the source of much of the obsidian used for the stone tools.

In addition to the Clovis materials, the archaeologists also found large stemmed and shouldered points associated with the Western Stemmed tradition. Also associated with these artifacts were some grinding stones. Some archaeologists feel that the Clovis and Western Stemmed artifacts represent two different groups of people. The Clovis materials generally represent a narrowly focused hunting adaptation, while the Western Stemmed is a more generalized gathering and hunting adaptation. Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins write:  “Based on what we know of broader associations, the Western Stemmed people attested at the Dietz site may have been more broad-spectrum and opportunistic in their subsistence strategies, and the Clovis folk relatively more focused on following and hunting large game.”

The Western Stemmed tradition is older than Clovis in the region.

Sage Hen Gap:

Another  Clovis site is located north of the Dietz site. Artifacts found at the Sage Hen Gap site (35HA3548) include fluted points, a single Western Stemmed point, fluting flakes, gravers, and lots of obsidian flakes. Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins write:  “The site appears to have been a good ambush location for hunting large game as they funneled down from higher terrain through narrow, steep wash bottoms cut into a high ridge.”

Catlow Cave:

Some ninety miles south of Burns, in the southern end of the Catlow Valley, Luther Cressman found some extinct Pleistocene horse bones at Catlow Cave in the late 1930s. Cressman, lacking any precise scientific dating methods at this time, suggested that this site had been occupied at the same time as the Paisley Caves. Human bones were also found at this site, but they were found in gravel so there was no way to prove their age. In the late 1970s, plans were made for a reinvestigation of the site, but the site was destroyed by mining and artifact collectors before any scientific excavations could be carried out. Melvin Aikens, Thomas Connolly, and Dennis Jenkins write:  “This sorry event took place in defiance of signs and barriers erected at the mouth of the cave by the Bureau of Land Management to safeguard its archaeological evidence. The human bones themselves, never directly radiocarbon dated, were repatriated and reburied under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.”

 Fossil Lake Camelid Kill Site:

Located at the northern end of the Fort Rock basin, the Fossil Lake Camelid Kill Site (35LK525) contained camelid bones (probably Camelops hesterenus) and fragments of a projectile point. The collagen from the bones was radiocarbon dated to about 12,000 years ago.

The Lake Mohonk Conference

Wealthy people often feel that they know what is best for poor people. From 1883 through 1916, a small group of wealthy philanthropists, who referred to themselves as Friends of the Indian, met annually to discuss American Indian policies. As wealthy men, they had access to Congress, to the President, and to high ranking members of the government. This meant that their recommendations carried more weight than that of the Indian leaders.

The idea of having an annual meeting to discuss Indian affairs and then make recommendations to the government was initially the idea of Albert K. Smiley, a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners and a part owner of the Lake Mohonk Lodge. The annual meeting took the name of its meeting place and was called the Lake Mohonk Conference.

In general, the conferences envisioned the transformation of Indians from savages to citizens by three means: (1) breaking up the reservations, (2) making Indians citizens and subject to the laws of the states, and (3) education of the young to make them self-reliant.

The men who gathered each year tended to be well educated, financially secure (most were considered wealthy) and had been born into the upper classes of eastern U.S. society. They often viewed their participation in the conference as a part of their larger Christian obligation to bestow the blessings of Christianity upon all of the under-developed people of the world. While these reformers were genuinely concerned about justice for Native Americans, they were unremittingly ethnocentric. To them, the Indian cultures—the tribal languages, values, religion, social models, tribal governments, the freedom and power allowed to women, communal ownership of the land, the aboriginal lifestyle—were an anathema to modern civilization. They also viewed treaty rights as barriers to civilizing the Indians.

With regard to the Eastern philanthropic friends of the Indians who met at Lake Mohonk, historian Angie Debo, in her book And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes, writes:  “For some time these theorists had professed an almost mystical faith in the value of private ownership and its power to transform the nature of any Indian who could be persuaded or forced to accept it.”

Believing in the sanctity of the private ownership of land, they had little understanding of Indian culture and little concern for the actual living conditions of the Indians.

In their 1884 meeting, the Lake Mohonk Conference recom­mended that Indian education must teach the English language; that it must provide practical industrial training; and that it must be a Christian education.

The following year, Lyman Abbot, a well-known Congregational clergyman, called for the end to the reservation system. He told the Lake Mohonk Conference:  “It is sometimes said that the Indians occupied this country and that we took it away from them; that the country belonged to them. This is not true. The Indians did not occupy this land. A people do not occupy a country simply because they roam over it.”

Like most Americans at this time, he was apparently unaware that Indians had been farmers and had developed their land long before the arrival of the Europeans. He seemed unaware that many Indian nations lived in permanent villages and did not roam randomly across the land.

Speaking at the Lake Mohonk Conference in 1886, Philip C. Garret, a member of the executive committee of the Indian Rights Association, called for the destruction of the distinctions between Indians and non-Indians. This destruction is stopped by treaties and he asked that the treaties be set aside:  “If an act of emancipation will buy them life, manhood, civilization, and Christianity, at the sacrifice of a few chieftain’s feathers, a few worthless bits of parchment, the cohesion of the tribal relation, and the traditions of their races; then, in the name of all that is really worth having, let us shed the few tears necessary to embalm these relics of the past, and have done with them; and, with fraternal cordiality, let us welcome to the bosom of the nation this brother whom we have wronged long enough.”

In 1887, in an effort to destroy Indian cultures, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs J.D.C. Atkins issued new orders mandating the speaking of English on Indian reservations. Concerned that these new orders might be used to require missionaries to preach in English, the Lake Mohonk conference responded to the order by emphasizing the importance of instruction in English, but warning:  “No policy can be endured which forbids Christian men and women to teach Christian truth, or to prepare instruction in it in any way they deem right.”  In response, Atkins was careful to point out that preaching the Gospel to Indians in the vernacular was not prohibi­ted.

In 1890, a group of Indian policemen had gone to arrest the Sioux Sitting Bull because of rumors that he had intended to attend the Ghost Dance at the Pine Ridge Reservation. After a short skirmish, Sitting Bull was killed by Little Eagle. At the next Lake Mohonk Conference it was reported that all of the policemen were Christian and Sitting Bull was pagan. According to the Conference:

It was the supreme struggle of Paganism against Christianity, and Paganism went down.  That is the second reason why there is this wonderful progress in this religious movement.

The 1896 Lake Mohonk Conference called for the abolition of the tribal system and for Indians to become citizens. At this time, many Indians were not citizens and the only way that they could become citizens was to accept an allotment of land and to be eventually deemed “competent” by the Indian agent.

Occasionally, the Friends of the Indians did more than just talk about Indian issues. In 1902, the Mohonk Lodge was opened in Oklahoma to stimulate the art of the women in the surrounding tribes – primarily Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache. The store, first proposed by Christian missionaries at the Lake Mohonk Conference, provided the women with hides, beads, paints, and other materials at cost. When the items were completed, they were sold back to the store to provide the women with cash. In addition to new art items, some family heirlooms, such as cradles, were also sold to the Mohonk Lodge.

At their 1903 conference at Lake Mohonk in New York, they discussed: (1) the abolition of the Indian Bureau and all Indian agencies; (2) the extinction of all Indian tribal governments; and (3) the division of communal tribal land holdings among individual Indians.

In 1904, the scope of the Lake Mohonk Conference was broadened to reflect America’s new empire and it became The Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian and Other Dependent Peoples.

The influence of the Lake Mohonk Conference was seen in 1905 when Commissioner of Indian Affairs Francis Leupp published “Outlines of an Indian Policy” in Outlook. In his book Theodore Roosevelt and Six Friends of the Indian, Historian William Hagan reports:  “Much of it was familiar to anyone who attended the conferences at Lake Mohonk. Like those people, he believed that the effort should be concentrated on the youth and that they should be prepared to survive on a ranch or a farm.”

Leupp felt that individual Indians should sever their tribal ties as soon as they became self-sufficient.

In 1905, the Lake Mohonk Conference came out against tribal funds being used for financing sectarian school. The move was basically anti-Catholic and was intended to prevent the financing of Catholic schools.

While the philanthropists who met at Lake Mohonk strongly believed in the breaking up of the reservations through the allotment of the tribal lands to individual Indians, most Indians actively opposed allotment. In 1906, for example, the White River Ute expressed their displeasure with allotment by attempting to leave the reservation. The army made a strong show of force and “persuaded” them to return to the reservation under military escort. Speaking about the Ute situation at the Lake Mohonk Conference, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs recommended not feeding them:  “It was not the government’s fault that they took the course they did in order to get into a place where they could live in idleness and eat the bread of charity. If they persist in that course they will be made to understand what the word ‘must’ means.”  His words were met with a round of applause

Toward the end of its existence, the Lake Mohonk Conference began to turn its attention to the Indian situation in Oklahoma. With allotment and statehood, the tribal governments were now powerless and the utopia envisioned as coming about through privatization had not materialized. Instead, the non-Indians’ greed had no limits. In 1914, Indian reformer Kate Barnard spoke to the group. Angie Debo reports:  “A perfect storm of emotion swept her audience as, with considerable inaccuracy of detail but deep sincerity of feeling, she told of the destruction of her work and her personal struggle with disillusionment and a sense of futility.”

As a result both the Lake Mohonk Conference and the Board of Indian Commissioners began to work for increased federal protection for the Oklahoma tribes.

At the same time, the Lake Mohonk Conference embarked upon an anti-peyote campaign.  They suggested that the federal prohibition of intoxicating liquors be expanded to include peyote. In this way more sanctions could be brought against the new Indian religious movement without the appearance of suppressing religion.

In 1914, Winnebago educator Henry Roe Cloud addressed the annual Lake Mohonk Conference:   “Education unrelated to life is of no use. Education is the leading-out process of the young until they themselves know what they are best fitted for in life.”

The last annual meeting of the Lake Mohonk Conference of the Friends of the Indian was held in 1916. The conference organizer and resort owner, Albert Smiley, had died in 1912.

Newfoundland Natives and Early European Invaders

Newfoundland is the world’s sixteenth-largest island and Canada’s fourth-largest. During the more than six centuries of European exploration prior to the establishment of the English colony at Cuper’s Cove in 1610, who lived on the island and utilized its resources included the Beothuk, Mi’kmaq, and Dorset Inuit. The Europeans—Norse, Basque, French, Portuguese, and English—came to the island as explorers, fishermen, and whalers.

The Norse:

 The first recorded contact between the Newfoundland Natives and Europeans came in 986 when the Norse (Viking) voyager Leif Eiriksson, sometimes called “the lucky,” visited and settled an area called Vinland on the northern tip of Newfoundland. Archaeologists have excavated a Norse settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows which dates to this time. The Vikings had some encounters with Native Americans who they called Skraelings (probably Beothuk.) The colonies were eventually abandoned, due in part to opposition from the Native Americans. According to archaeologist David Hurst Thomas in his book, Exploring Ancient Native America: An Archaeological Guide:  “Native Americans had temporarily won out because of superior numbers and an unsurpassed knowledge of the American northland and how to survive in it.”

In the Handbook of North American Indians T.J. Brasser writes:  “The effects of Norse contacts on the natives of Newfoundland during the early part of the eleventh century must have rapidly faded away as a bad dream.”

According to one story, Leif and the other Viking warriors fled their village and cowered behind some rocks when the Skraelings attacked. Freydis Eriksdottir, then nearly nine-months pregnant, tore open her blouse to expose her breasts, then picked up a shield and sword dropped by the fleeing Vikings, and counter-attacked. She succeeded in repelling the attack and defending the brave Viking warriors.

Basques:

By 1450, Basque whalers were establishing temporary camps on Newfoundland (there are some reports that the Basque were there much earlier). These camps provided the Inuit with more access to European goods.

Writing about the Basque whalers in 1543, William Fitzhugh, writing in Cultures in Contact: The European Impact on Native Cultural Institutions in Eastern North America, A.D. 1000-1800, reports:  “Each summer this operation brought large numbers of ships and larger numbers of whaleboats (shallops) into harbors where whales were hunted, blubber was rendered, and—at the end of the whaling season, in late fall or early winter—casks were prepared for shipment to Europe.”

Twenty to thirty ships would operate in the waters around the island. This operation would involve about 2,000 men who would hunt the whales in small boats, and then tow the dead animal to the shore station where it would be butchered. Native groups were attracted to the whaling camps because of the possibilities for trade. When the crews left in the fall, the natives would plunder the whaling stations for iron, shallops, and other items.

English:

By 1481, English fishing ships from Bristol were working off the coast of Newfoundland. According to some accounts, fish drying camps were established at the shore and there may have been some contacts with the Beothuk.

Italian sea captain John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) sailing for the English king Henry VII explored the coast of Newfoundland, Labrador, and Nova Scotia in 1497 and claimed these lands for the English. Like Columbus, Cabot may have been confused and thought that he was in Asia. His commission from Henry VII was to conquer, occupy, and possess the lands of heathens and infidels.

Cabot made no contact with native people, but did find their fishing nets and some other tools. John Day, an English merchant in Bristol, wrote to Christopher Columbus after Cabot’s return and reported:  “…they found a trail that went inland, they saw a site where a fire had been made, they saw manure of animals which they thought to be farm animals, and they saw a stick half a yard long pierced at both ends, carved and painted with brazil, and by such signs they believe the land to be inhabited.”

In his report, Cabot noted that this area—called Brazil and assumed to be an island—had been discovered earlier by English ships sailing from Bristol.

The English would later use Cabot’s landing in their claim of ownership of North America. Russell Shorto, in his book The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America, writes:  “By the logic of the concept of ‘discovery,’ when the foot of an explorer made contact with soil that had not previously been settled by humans whom Europeans regarded as having a proper civilization, that soil, and all soil stretching out from it for as far as the metaphysical aura of discovery could be made to stretch, came under the flag of the explorer’s sponsoring nation.”

Over 400 European fishing boats gathered off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1578. About 50 houses were built along the shore as a part of their fish-drying stations. The Europeans returned home in the fall with their dried catch. The Beothuk, having had bad experiences with the Europeans, minimized contact, but did manage to steal from the Europeans. Ethnologist T.J. Brasser reports:  “The extremely unfavorable stereotype that Europeans developed of the Beothuk reflects the fact that these Indians were considered a nuisance and of no economic value whatsoever.”

Portuguese:

In 1472, the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador were explored by a Dano-Portuguese expedition with two Danish sea captains—Diderik Pining and Hans Pothorst—along with João Vaz Corte-Real. They followed the old Viking route to the area. In a chapter in North American Exploration, Robert Fuson writes:  “In fact, the Portuguese name ‘Labrador’ may have been a result of this voyage, and Newfoundland was afterward called Terra do Bacalhau (Land of the Codfish) for many years.”

While there are some scholars who are skeptical about the claims of this voyage, Fuson also writes:  “These events are well documented and are fully accepted by scholars in Portugal and Scandinavia.”

In 1501, the Portuguese began capturing Beothuks to export to Europe as slaves. Gaspar Corte-Real described these people as having “manners and gestures most gentle.” The Portuguese found that the Beothuk had a broken Italian sword and a pair of Venetian silver earrings, probably acquired from the early expeditions of John Cabot.

French:

In 1507, Norman fishing vessels captured seven Beothuks in Newfoundland and brought them back to France.