Native American Ceremonial Stone Landscape Sites in the Northeast

Twelve tribal representatives have been trained to identify and document ceremonial stone features as a part of an emergency avoidance plan for proposed gas pipeline projects in the Northeast. Reprinted below is the news release regarding this project.

Charlestown, RI, September 24, 2015: Under the auspices of the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) of the Narragansett, Mohegan, Mashantucket Pequot and Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), individuals from the four sponsoring Tribes as well as members of the Mohawk, Shinnecock, and Passamaquoddy Tribes completed a week-long training in ceremonial stone landscape (CSL) identification at the Narragansett Indian Longhouse in Charlestown, RI, and were certified by the THPOs as CSL Field Specialists. The training was conducted on an emergency basis in response to proposed gas line development projects in the Northeast.

In October of 2002, the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) declared in Resolution #2003:022: “[F]or thousands of years before the immigration of Europeans, the medicine people of the United South and Eastern Tribal [USET] ancestors used [ceremonial stone] landscapes to sustain the people’s reliance on Mother Earth and the spirit energies of balance and harmony”.

(http://www.usetinc.org/wp-content/uploads/mbreedlove/USET-Resolutions%20/2007%20%20resolutons/02%2007%20resolutions%20pdf/2007%20037.pdf)

In December of 2008, the National Register of Historic Places acknowledged ceremonial stone landscapes as culturally significant to federally recognized Tribes in the Northeast, pursuant to the tenants of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which states: “The agency official shall ensure that consultation in the section 106 process provides the Indian Tribe . . . a reasonable opportunity to identify its concerns about historic properties, advise on the identification and evaluation of historic properties, including those of traditional religious and cultural importance, articulate its views on the undertaking’s effects on such properties, and participate in the resolution of adverse effects.” – National Historic Preservation Act, 36 CFR 800.2(c)(2)(ii)(A)

By law, Section 106 of the NHPA mandates that before construction, religious and cultural properties of traditional religious and cultural importance to federally recognized Tribes that attach cultural and historical significance to the project areas should be identified and documented in consultation with the affected Tribes. The Tribes, the federal agency, and the project proponents, then work together to devise a plan to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the impacts to the resources. This work must begin as soon as feasible in order for project proponents to receive the necessary permitting for construction from the lead federal agency (in this case, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – FERC). The work cannot proceed without additional trained Tribal representation, thus training Tribal representatives was urgent.

The training at the Narragansett Longhouse was authorized by Narragansett Medicine Man/THPO John Brown, and occurred under the guidance of the THPOs and their landscape mapping partner Ceremonial Landscapes Research LLC (CLR), an entity created in collaboration with the Tribes to assist in mapping and documenting CSLs using traditional Tribal knowledge. The Tribal representatives will work with a mapping team from CLR.

According to Doug Harris, Deputy THPO of the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO): “Through this training, the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) hope to increase private landowner, federal agency, and project proponent awareness and stewardship of ceremonial stone landscapes that are sacred to our people, and to protect these places from unknowing destruction by development.”

Federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, the FCC, the FAA, the National Forest Service and the Army at Fort Drum, NY have acknowledged the significance of ceremonial stone landscapes, and have encouraged their protection. One hoped-for outcome of this project is to extend that acknowledgement and spirit of stewardship to all regulatory agencies and commissions. These ceremonial places have been identified in territories of past Tribal use from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and with the cooperation of local towns and landholders they should be protected wherever they are.

The training was initially funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, with additional donations requested from Kinder Morgan, and Spectra Energy. Ceremonial Landscapes Research, LLC, provided curriculum development and training personnel.

 Media Inquiries:

Doug Harris, Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer

Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO).

dhnithpt@gmail.com

(401) 474-5907 or (508) 922-7673

Tribal Contacts for this Release:

 Mashantucket Pequot Tribe

Marissa Turnbull

mturnbull@mptn-nsn.gov

(860) 396-6887

Mohegan Tribe

James Quinn

jquinn@moheganmail.com

(860) 862-6893

Narragansett Indian Tribe

John Brown

brwnjbb123@aol.com

(401) 491-9459

Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)

Bettina Washington

bettina@wampanoagtribe.net

(508) 645-9265

Nez Perce Political Organization

The Nez Perce, whose traditional homelands included parts of what is now Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, entered into the American history books in 1805 when the Corps of Discovery under the leadership of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark crossed over the Lolo Trail into Nez Perce country. The Lolo Trail was a traditional route used by the Nez Perce in going to the buffalo country east of the Rocky Mountains. However, the season was late and the Americans floundered in snowstorms and almost starved. The Nez Perce found William Clark and six hunters from the Corps of Discovery sick with dysentery from gorging themselves on roots and fish.

The Nez Perce warriors considered killing the sick men for their rifles, but they were stopped by a Nez Perce woman, Watkuweis, who had been captured by the Blackfoot and sold to an American trader before returning home. She had been treated well by the trader, so she asked the warriors not to hurt the Americans. Historian Stephen Ambrose, in his popular book Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, notes: “The expedition owed more to Indian women than either captain ever acknowledged. And the United States owed more to the Nez Perce for their restraint than it ever acknowledged.”

The Americans were taken to the village of the war chief Tunnachemootoolt (Broken Arm). The village consisted of a single long building about 150 feet in length with 24 fires down the center and housing about 48 families. The Nez Perce not only fed the Americans and nursed them back to health, they also made maps for the Americans on whitened elk skins which showed them the river route to the Pacific.

The fantasy of the Nez Perce as a single, politically unified tribe would be later forced on them by the Americans during treaty negotiations which would lead, in part, to the 1877 Nez Perce War. Politically, the Nez Perce were a number of politically independent bands and villages unified by a common language and culture. With regard to language, the Nez Perce language belongs to the Shaptin language family which means that they are distantly related to other Plateau area tribes such as the Umatilla, Wanapam, and Yakama.

Prior to the coming of the horse the village was the primary political unit, and decision-making involved all of those in the village. There was no political organization or government which united the autonomous villages and/or bands. The Nez Perce Tribe, in their book Treaties: Nez Perce Perspectives, puts it this way: “We had (and needed) very little political organization beyond the band headmen and peace leaders who insured the safety and provisioning of the women, elderly, and children.”

Village membership tended to be fluid and there was a constant movement of people between villages. Archaeologist James Keyser, in his book Indian Rock Art of the Columbia Plateau, reports: “People were free to change village membership within their tribe, and even to neighboring tribes, and did so frequently either through marriage or simply from the desire to change situation.”

The extended bilateral family meant that people had relatives in many different villages and when resources in one area became scarce, they could easily move to another village.

The Nez Perce band was composed of several villages or camps which were located along a stream. Band names were usually taken from the most prominent village within the band’s territory. Each village had a council which selected and advised a village leader. Anthropologist Deward Walker, in his book Conflict and Schism in Nez Perce Acculturation: A Study of Religion and Politics, reports: “Village leadership was in the hands of the eldest, able male in most instances, this position being semi-hereditary but also based on individual ability.”

Walker prefers to call this leader a “headman” rather than a chief (“chief” tends to be a European concept). He goes on to report: “In the larger villages comprised of several interrelated extended families, there was often more than one such headman. Typically, they were advised by a council of the elderly and prominent males, with women not having a formal voice in such matters.”

With regard to the role of the Nez Perce headman, historian Alvin Josephy, in his book Nez Perce Country, reports: “His duties were to arbitrate disputes, act as spokesman, oversee the well-being of the villagers, and provide an example of outstanding and generous conduct, sharing his wealth with the needy. In return, the people often gave him food, clothing, and other goods, especially for settling arguments.”

At the band level, the Nez Perce had a council made up of the headmen from the various villages as well as other prominent men.

There were two ways of obtaining leadership status at the band level. The first was to gain a reputation as being a generous man by sponsoring feasts and tutelary spirit dances and by distributing goods. The second way was through war exploits. To become a war chief, a warrior had to obtain ten war honors (coups). According to Deward Walker: “The leader of the most powerful village may have had a greater voice than the others, but not as a rule. Instead, at this level, individual war prowess seems to have been more important in determining a leader’s authority, and well-known warriors might come from any of the villages of the band.”

The Nez Perce also had some governmental organization above the band level. Neighboring bands would sometimes be unified into confederacies or composite bands. The largest of these composite bands was found on the upper Clearwater River, centered in the Kamiah Valley. There were also composite bands in the Lapwai area, at the mouth of the Grand Rone River, at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, in the Wallowa Valley, and in the Whitebird area along the Salmon River. The composite bands had no single head chief or permanent council.

The Nez Perce shaman also exerted a great deal of political influence and Deward Walker writes: “In fact, a good argument probably could be made for this being the single most powerful leadership status.”

He goes on to report: “Because of the charismatic character of Nez Perce ability, whether political, economic, or religious, the shaman frequently was thought to be an all-around leader. When compared with the temporary and situationally specific authority exerted by other specialists such as war leaders, hunting, root-digging, and fishing specialists, of the specialists in the care of horses, the authority of the Nez Perce shaman was extensive.”

Overall, political organization among the Nez Perce, as well as other tribes in the Plateau area, is summed up by Kent Nerburn, in his book Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce: The Untold Story of an American Tragedy:“No one would presume to tell another how to believe or live, and none could speak for another unless appointed to do so.”

The American government, however, was more comfortable dealing with absolute dictators and therefore attempted to appoint and support this type of leadership in American Indian nations.

American Indians and European Diseases

There were an estimated 18 million Native Americans living north of Mexico at the beginning of the European invasion. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, American Indians were remarkably free of serious diseases. People did not often die from diseases. As the European explorers and colonists began to arrive, this changed and the consequences were disastrous for Native American people. The death tolls from the newly introduced European diseases often reached 80-90 percent. Entire groups of people vanished on the tidal wave of disease.

In his book The Origins of Native Americans: Evidence from Anthropological Genetics, Michael Crawford writes: “Disease imports were thus the Europeans’ best weapons against the indigenous populations of the New World and probably served as lethal ‘advance men’ time and time again in the Conquest of the Americas.”

Aboriginal Health:

When we compare the overall health of American Indians in North America with that of Europeans in 1500, we find that Indians were generally healthier. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, Indians had better diets and they were less likely to face starvation and hunger. The first Europeans to reach North America often commented on the large stature of the Indians. American Indians were larger than the Europeans simply due to better diets. Unlike the Europeans, Indian political leaders did not store their wealth but accumulated prestige by giving food to those in need. No one in an Indian village or an Indian band starved unless all did so.

Secondly, American Indian populations did not have many of the infectious diseases that were endemic in Europe. A number of reasons have been suggested for this lack of disease. Some scientists have suggested that Indian people came to this continent through the cold, harsh climate of the north and that this acted as a germ filter which screened out infectious diseases. Others have suggested that Indians were disease-free because of the lack of domesticated animals. Measles, smallpox, and influenza are among the diseases which are closely associated with domesticated animals. Lacking large domesticated animals, there were comparatively few opportunities in this hemisphere for the transfer of infections from animal reservoirs of disease to human beings.

European Diseases:

 The three most frightful European diseases were smallpox, typhus, and measles. Other European diseases included malaria, yellow fever, chickenpox, whooping cough, scarlet fever, diphtheria, plague, typhoid fever, poliomyelitis, cholera, and trachoma. All of the diseases introduced in the Americas by the Europeans were crowd diseases. Ann Ramenofsky, in an entry in The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, explains: “Because individuals develop permanent immunity, the organisms survive indefinitely in cities where people are concentrated. Measles, for instance, requires a population of about 300,000 to survive. If the population size drops below this threshold, the virus can cause illness and death, but after one epidemic, the virus itself dies out.”

Ann Ramenofsky goes on to write: “In the end, understanding and explaining the demographic collapse of Native Americans involves two facts: the absence of herd animals to serve as sources for the evolution of human diseases and the number of diseases introduced. Each new introduction created new waves of illness and death: the combination of all disease made the scale of Native American depopulation unique in human history.”

 Overall, hundreds of thousands of Indians died of European diseases during the first two centuries following contact. In terms of death tolls, smallpox killed the greatest number of Indians, followed by measles, influenza, and bubonic plague.

Smallpox:

 The most deadly European disease was smallpox, a disease almost unknown in today’s world but common prior to the twentieth century. Smallpox is caused by a virus that may be airborne or spread by direct contact. There are three forms of smallpox: (1) Variola major which is quite virulent; (2) Variola minor which is comparatively mild; and (3) Variola vaccinae which is also known as cowpox. An attack of any one of these forms will provide immunity against the other two.

Children resist the smallpox virus better than teenagers or adults. In a larger population, smallpox is a constant. Since nearly all children contract some form of smallpox, this means that adults have had the disease and are immune. Smallpox thus becomes a childhood disease with relatively low mortality.

When smallpox strikes a virgin population, such as the Native Americans, the initial death toll is quite high, particularly among adults and elders. As a result a great deal of cultural knowledge, such as how to conduct certain ceremonies, is lost.

Smallpox is a crowd disease. Once it strikes a low density population it soon becomes extinct in that population as it does not have enough hosts. Thus, in American Indian populations, smallpox would strike, the population would plummet, and the disease would die out. The population would begin to recover and about a generation later, smallpox would strike again.

Smallpox first struck American Indians in what is now the United States after 1520. It was not uncommon for Native people to encounter the deadly European diseases long before they encountered European people. For thousands of years, Native American trade routes interconnected the many diverse cultures on this continent. The new European diseases simply followed these trade routes, carried by both the traders and their goods. The smallpox virus can live in cloth, particularly cotton cloth, for many years.

The European diseases devastated many nations and consequently European explorers, particularly in the southeast and northeast, frequently reported finding empty villages and fields. From these reports came the common misconception that North America was only sparsely populated by Indians. In the Southeast, the Muskogee (Creek) population has been estimated at two hundred thousand before the Europeans arrived on the continent. It had declined to about twenty thousand by the time Europeans actually visited their villages.

Traditional Native American curing techniques were not effective against smallpox and many of the other European diseases. One of the primary ways of dealing with disease among most of the tribes was the sweat bath which actually increased Indian mortality from febrile diseases such as smallpox, measles, and chickenpox.

In most of the American Indian cultures, healing was a part of their religious ceremonies. When their ceremonies failed to cure the new European diseases the faith in the traditional Indian spiritual ways was also damaged. This in turn provided an opening for the Christian missionaries who were immune to the disease. Since Christians didn’t seem to die from smallpox, some Indians began to reason, then it must be the power of their religion that saved them.

Smallpox Inoculations/Vaccinations:

 The practice of inoculating people against smallpox was present in India in the eight century and in China by the tenth century. By the seventeenth century the idea had spread to Turkey. By the early 1700s, Europeans understood how smallpox was transmitted and had begun inoculation programs to prevent the disease. In North America, doctors in Boston and in Charlestown began such programs about 1721.

By 1800, the United States had begun smallpox vaccination programs for Indians. In 1802, for example, Indian chiefs visiting Washington D.C. were vaccinated against smallpox using a vaccine that President Jefferson had cultured. In 1804 the Corps of Discovery under the leadership of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark carried with them smallpox vaccine so that they could inoculate the tribes they encountered on their journey to the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, the vaccine was ruined soon after they left St. Louis.

In 1832, Congress appropriated $12,000 to vaccinate Indians against smallpox. The Secretary of War was to be in charge of the vaccinations. It was estimated that the appropriated funds were sufficient to vaccinate two-thirds of the country’s Indians. However, the Secretary of War notified the Indian agent for the upper Missouri that no tribes upstream from the Arikara were to be vaccinated. It was felt that the spread of smallpox to the tribes of the Northern Plains, such as the Blackfoot, would aid American military efforts against these groups.

Four years later, the United States Army provided the Mandan with smallpox infected blankets. As a result, the Mandan were almost exterminated. The Mandan, an agricultural people who lived in permanent villages, were key trading partners with the buffalo-hunting nomadic tribes of the Northern Plains. Smallpox soon moved into the Assiniboine in Montana and Saskatchewan. It is estimated that it killed 4,000 of the estimated 10,000 Assiniboine.

The following year, in 1837, the American Fur Company steamboat St. Peters spread smallpox among the tribes of the Upper Missouri. While smallpox infected many of the people on the St. Peters, the captain refused to quarantine the crew and passengers because he did not want to create any delays in the schedule. The epidemic killed at least 17,000 Indian people.

In North Dakota, one of the traders at Fort Union came down with smallpox. The clerk, Charles Larpenteur, understood that the disease posed a great peril to the Assiniboine when they returned to trade in the fall. Therefore, all of the personnel at the post who had not had smallpox were inoculated. Using a medical book as a guide, they scraped pus from a ripened smallpox blister. They then made tiny cuts on the inoculees’ arms, dipped the tip of the lancet in the vial of pus, and rubbed a small amount of pus on the wound. Smallpox, however, still struck the Assiniboine and two-thirds died. Of the 250 lodges at Fort Union, only 30 survived.

The epidemic quickly spread west to the Blackfoot in Montana where it killed 50 percent of the southern bands of the tribe. While most historians claim that the St. Peters spread smallpox unintentionally, many Blackfoot feel that the disease was deliberately spread by the United States.

Smallpox was not eradicated among American Indians until the twentieth century. The last major smallpox epidemic among an American Indian tribe was in 1921 when the disease struck the Indians living in the Pit River, California area. The impact of the epidemic was increased by starvation and lack of medical care. Congress was slow in reacting to this healthcare concern: in 1928, prompted by complaints about the failure of Indian health care in dealing with the smallpox epidemic, Congress launched an investigation into charges of willful neglect. By ignoring the impact of poverty and starvation and its relation to general health conditions, the government shifted attention from its failings by stepping up attacks on shamans and blaming their influences for poor sanitary conditions.

European Views:

The early Europeans were aware that diseases were devastating the American Indian communities. In New England many of the English colonists saw the diseases as evidence of God’s plan for them to settle the area. Regarding the smallpox epidemic of 1633 which killed many Massachusett and Pawtucket, the English governor commented that the disease “cleared our title to this place.”

Many Europeans, both Spanish and English, see the devastating diseases as evidence of God’s wrath directed toward the Indians and evidence of the sinful life of the Indians. Many Protestants, particularly Calvinists, viewed disease as a divine punishment for sin. Since American Indians were heathens—the greatest sin of all—it was natural that God should destroy them with smallpox. Similarly, the Catholic priests in California attributed diseases such as smallpox to tribal sin, especially the cardinal sin of refusing to believe in Christ.

However, there were some Spanish priests who felt that the diseases which were devastating Indian populations were an indication of God’s wrath against the Spanish colonists. They see the depopulation of the Indian communities as depriving the Spanish of their labor force.

Syphilis carried from America to Europeans?:

At one time it was commonly assumed that syphilis originated in the Americas and was initially brought back to Europe by the first Spanish sailors. This assumption was based on the fact that the disease first began to be reported in Europe shortly after Columbus returned from his first voyage to the Americas. However, the archaeological record, in the form of burials in England, has disproved this assumption. Archaeologist Dale Evans, an article Written in Bones: How Human Remains Unlock the Secrets of the Dead, reports: “However, at Hull, four skeletons with fully developed tertiary syphilis were present in min-fifteenth century levels, showing that the disease was already well established in Europe at least a half a century before Columbus set sail.”

Dam Indians: A Tribal Victory!

The flag of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana was raised over a hydroelectric facility on the Flathead River on September 4, 2015. The facility, formerly known as the Kerr Dam, was promptly renamed the Salish Kootenai Dam in honor of the new owners. For the past 30 years, the tribes have been battling to reclaim the dam which has a generating capacity of 188 megawatts of electricity.

At the celebration of the transfer, former tribal council member Steve Lozar said: “This day blesses all our tribal hearts collectively. It’s a combination of people of water that once again to rejoice and feel a true tribal baptism of water as it washes over us – and for that I am very thankful for. I am thankful for the people that has brought us this opportunity; for the tribal members that gave their lives to build this facility. And I’m mostly proud for the children that are once again going to be regenerated and rejuvenated by the water that washes over them.”

Source

Background:

The history of the relationship of the federal government with Indian nations has generally focused on the transfer of wealth—land, mineral rights, etc.—from Indian people to non-Indians. For the Pend d’Oreille, Flathead, and Kootenai people this began in 1855 with the Hell Gate Treaty that transferred to the United States millions of acres of tribal land and established what would become the Flathead Indian Reservation.

In 1904 Montana Congressman Joseph Dixon secured the passage of the Flathead Allotment Act which called for the survey and allotment of the Montana reservation without the consent of the Indians. Under allotment, each Indian family was to be given a parcel of land and then the reservation was open to non-Indian settlement. Following allotment, the Indian agent, who favored allotment, needed an armed guard when traveling on the reservation.

To improve farming on the allotted Reservation, the government created the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project. As with most Indian irrigation projects, this project was soon delivering water to non-Indian farms. A national report on Indian irrigation projects released in 1929 showed that the number of acres of Indian land irrigated and used had declined, and that while the cost of constructing irrigation projects had been charged to the Indians, non-Indian farmers had been the primary beneficiaries of these projects.

In 1934, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act which allowed tribal governments to reorganize and to create federally chartered corporations which can borrow money, enter into contracts, and sue. Under this Act, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes came into existence.

The Dam:

 In 1927 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs met with representatives of the Montana Power Company to discuss the development of a hydroelectric site on the Flathead River south of Polson, Montana. An agreement was reached which gave Montana Power the right to generate power. The driving force behind the dam proposal was the need for electricity for copper mining activities in Butte and smelter activities in Anaconda. While the dam site is on the Flathead Reservation, no Indians were invited to the meeting.

The agreement was criticized by John Collier who maintained that it violated the 1855 treaty with the Flatheads. Collier also pointed out that the Federal Water Power Act of 1920 promised Indians all royalties from reservation lands and that the agreement with Montana Power only gave the Indians one-third of the royalties. Collier also questioned why the agreement gives non-Indian settlers on the reservation electricity at cost.

The proposed site for the dam was an important cultural resource for the tribes, but since all Indian religions were illegal at this time, the spiritual concerns of tribal elders were not considered. Many tribal members opposed the construction of the dam.

Construction of the dam began in 1930 and by 1939 the facility was producing power. The new dam was named for Frank Kerr, the president of Montana Power. Kerr dam is a concrete arch dam which controls the elevation of the top ten feet of Flathead Lake. Fourteen tribal members were killed in construction-related accidents during the building of the dam.

In 1985 the dam’s license came up for renewal and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) bid for the license. As a result, CSKT became a co-licensee with Montana Power Company. During the negotiations, the tribes agreed to take a reduced payment for the use and occupancy of the dam site in exchange for an exclusive option to acquire the dam in 2015.

To take over the operation of the dam, the tribes created a tribally owned corporation, Energy Keepers, Inc., under the Indian Reorganization Act.

Republican Response:

Montana Republicans are not happy about having a tribally-run hydroelectric facility. In an attempt to stop the takeover, state Senator. Bob Keenan and Flathead Conservation District Supervisor Verdell Jackson filed a complaint seeking a temporary injunction. The Missoula Independent reports: “In the kind of sleuthing worthy of a Tom Clancy novel, Keenan and Jackson drew a direct connection between Turkey’s work to help foster economic development in Indian Country and Turkey’s harboring of terrorist groups.”

According to the complaint, the Turkish government is seeking to promote Islam on Indian reservation as well as other dangerous activities, such as seeking access to uranium deposits. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have expertise in uranium mill tailing cleanups and the lawsuit claims that the tribes are too gullible or naïve to realize that the Turks may have terrorist ties. Turkey, by the way, is a U.S. ally and a member of NATO.

According to the Missoula Independent: “While the case was quickly thrown out, one might begin to suspect Keenan and Jackson have something against the Salish and Kootenai people, or against the federal government that approved CSKT’s intent to purchase Kerr Dam three decades ago. But then again, such theories seem a little too grounded and devoid of conspiratorial intrigue for their ilk.”

 

Ancient America: Montana 6000 BCE to 3000 BCE

About 8,000 years ago (6,000 BCE), the American Indian cultures of the Northern Plains and the Columbia Plateau began undergoing a series of major changes. There was a decrease in dependence on big game hunting as the people engaged in a wide range of hunting and gathering patterns.

One of the events of regional importance was the eruption of Mount Mazama in Oregon in 4750 BCE. The volcano crater would later fill with water and become known as Crater Lake. The volcanic ash from this eruption covered much of the region, including parts of Montana. For today’s archaeologists, this ash layer provides a way of dating some archaeological sites.

Briefly described below are some of the Montana sites between 6000 BCE and 3000 BCE.

Sites:

Pretty Creek: By about 5735 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Pretty Creek (24CB4) site near the Bighorn River at the present-day Wyoming border. They were using basin-shaped fire pits into which they added stones to help hold the heat.

Hogback Homestead: In 5400 BCE, Indian people using Cascade points were now occupying the Hogback Homestead site (24GN13).

Black Bear Coulee: In 5000 BCE, Indian people were now occupying the Black Bear Coulee site which is located at an elevation of 4,000 feet just north of present-day Drummond.

In 4750 BCE, Indian people living at the Black Bear Coulee site witnessed ash falling over the hills and streams of western Montana from the eruption of Mount Mazama. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald writes: “The layer of ash seems to have had little long-term effect on the people of western Montana: Early Archaic peoples lived there before and after the eruption with equal success.”

Middle Kootenai River: On a high terrace along the Middle Kootenai River valley near present-day Libby, Indian people were using site 24LN1054 by 5000 BCE. This was a winter residential base. The primary food resources included deer and elk. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald, in his book Montana Before History: 11,000 Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains, writes: “Artifacts at the site include net weights used for trout fishing and pestles used to process root crops, which are abundant in the Kootenai valley.”

Graybeal: By 4890 BCE, Indian people were now using the Graybeal site (24GN61). This was a semi-permanent site used for wintering. The people at this site were using a type of point which the archaeologists call Salmon River Side-Notched.

Buckeye: In 4300 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Buckeye Site. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald writes: “Plant remains at the Buckeye Site indicate use of prickly pear cactus and biscuitroot for food, and sagebrush and pine for firewood. The pine probably came from the nearby Pryor Mountains.”

 Kobold: In 3700 BCE, Indian people were using a buffalo jump at the Kobold site (24BH406) along Rosebud Creek. The jump is a 25-foot-high sandstone escarpment. At a buffalo jump, Indian people would harvest bison by running the herd over the cliff and then butchering the carcasses in the area below the cliff.

Bear Paw Mountains: In 3500 BCE, Indian people were now using site 24HL1215 which is at an elevation of 4,680 feet in the Bear Paw Mountains. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald writes: “The small occupation, perhaps a group of hunters, used the uplands of the Bear Paw Mountains for hunting and gathering.”

While they used local stone for making tools, they also had some exotic stone, including Knife River flint from western North Dakota and obsidian from present-day Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Myers-Hindman: In 3500 BCE, Indian people were using the Myers-Hindman site (24PA504) near present-day Livingston for hunting bighorn sheep.

Pit House: In 3365 BCE, Indian people constructed a pit house in the south central portion of the state (site 24CB1332). They were exploiting many non-bison sources of food, including rabbit, deer, and pronghorn. They were also gathering a variety of plants.

Sun River: In 3200 BCE, Indian people occupied the Sun River site (24CA74) near present-day Great Falls during the fall. A group of about 25 people occupied the site for a few days. They were using a wide array of local fauna, including pronghorns.

Rigler Bluffs: By 3040 BCE, Indian people were using the Rigler Bluffs site (24PA401) on the southern bank of the Yellowstone River.

Complexes:

 A complex is simply a group of tools and artifacts which are associated together at a number of different sites. Archaeologists use complexes for showing the relationships between different sites. A complex is also a chronological unit and thus can be used for the initial dating of a site.

 Bristow Complex: In southeastern British Columbia and northwestern Montana, the period which archaeologists call the Bristow Complex began about 5500 BCE. This complex is characterized by the use of local glacial outwash and river gravels as the primary source for lithic raw materials. Bristow Complex projectile points are shallow or deep side to broad side/corner notched dart points.

 

Note: the information in parenthesis following the name of the site is the Smithsonian Designation System. In this system of recording archaeological sites, the first number refers to the state; this is followed by letters which refer to the county; and then a number indicating its order in being recorded. Thus 5LP 10, means that the site is in Colorado (5th state when the states are listed alphabetically), La Plata County (LP), and was the 10th site recorded in La Plata county in the State Archaeologist’s office.