Ancient America: How Old is It?

Archaeology in the United States is often said to have started in 1764 when amateur archaeologist Thomas Jefferson had his African slaves dig up hundreds of Monacan skeletons so that he could learn more about their mortuary customs. During the next century and a half, many ancient American Indian sites would be dug up by archaeologists, both amateur and professional, who were unable to determine the actual age of these sites. There was lots of speculation about the age of these sites, but very little hard data regarding their antiquity. During the twentieth century, however, this changed with the development of a number of scientific methods for determining the age of an archaeological site.


 In 1901, University of Arizona astronomer A. E. Douglass began doing research on tree rings which developed into an archaeological dating method known as dendrochronology. Douglass was studying the effects of sunspots on climate. Since he did not have weather records long enough to be tested for correlation with the 22 year sunspot cycle, Douglass turned to the rings of coniferous trees as potential proxy climate indicators.

From the perspective of archaeological data, there are two basic categories of trees: complacent and sensitive. Complacent trees have rings of uniform width and therefore have no use for dating. In sensitive trees environmental conditions influence the width of the annual rings. Within broad limits, sensitive trees in any geographic region exhibit the same growth patterns. Since the width of the rings varies from year to year, an overall chronological sequence can be established. Material from an archaeological site can be compared to this sequence and it can be determined when the tree died.

In his entry on dendrochronology in The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, Jeffrey Dean writes:

“Thus, dendrochronology became the first of many independent dating techniques used in archaeology.”

Over the past century, some 50,000 tree-ring dates from about 5,000 sites in the American Southwest have produced the finest prehistoric chronology in the world. Use of dendrochronology in dating archaeological sites has spread from the American Southwest to other areas of North America and to Europe.

Tree-ring dating is a straight-forward procedure, at least in principle. In practice, it can be astonishingly difficult. It is not simply a matter of counting tree-rings. Jeffrey Dean explains:

“The fundamental principle of dendrochronology is crossdating, the matching of identical patterns of variation in ring morphology among trees in a particular area.”

Crossdating is generally done via covariation of ring widths. According to Dean:

“A tree-ring date is determined by finding the unique point at which the ring-width sequence of a sample matches the pattern of a dated chronology.”

In other words, dendrochronology is used to create a master chronology of the tree ring patterns for a specific region. The find from a particular site can then be compared to patterns from the chronology and in this way the age of the wood is determined.

In some sites, such as the ancient pueblos in the American Southwest, dendrochronology may yield a number of different dates. For example, in building a structure, the builders will use poles that they have just cut (dendrochronology will show this date); they may also re-used poles from an earlier structure (dendocrhonology will thus show a different date); they may use a tree that died naturally (again a different date will result). The most recent dendeochronology date thus shows that the structure was completed about this time.

Summarizing the importance of dendrochronology to archaeology, Brian Fagan writes in his book Quest for the Past: Great Discoveries in Archaeology:

“Tree-ring chronologies are extremely accurate, but they are limited to relatively recent times, and to areas with well-defined rainfall patterns.”

In The Atlas of World Archaeology, Paul Bahn puts it this way:

“Although dendrochronology can provide a reliable method of dating, its use is limited to areas where timber was much used and/or where it has been preserved by dry or damp conditions. It has had its most impressive results in the American Southwest and Scandinavia.”

Another area where dendrochronology has been very useful has been in Ireland. Irish archaeologist Laurence Flanagan writes in his book Ancient Ireland: Life Before the Celts:

“Ireland proved to be an ideal subject for dendrochronology, because timbers of oak were available from all time periods. An overlapping chronology was eventually established that stretched back from the present day to nearly 6000 BC, so that substantial pieces of wood from any point in this period could be accurately dated.”

Dendrochronology in Ireland, and in other areas, has also been useful in fine-tuning other chronometric dating methods. In Ireland, for example, Laurence Flanagan reports:

“It was also used to calibrate Irish radiocarbon dates, which made possible a high-precision radiocarbon dating.”

Radiocarbon Dating:

 Another major advance in chronometric dating came with the development of radiocarbon dating. This dating method was developed in 1949 by Chicago chemist Willard Libby as a result of the Manhattan Project (i.e. the development of the atomic bomb during World War II). It is based on the principle that radioactive carbon in the atmosphere is absorbed by all living things. At death this absorption stops and a steady decay of carbon begins. Since the half-life of the radioactive carbon is known (5,568 years), measuring the amount of carbon remaining can determine the age of the material.

There are a couple of limitations regarding radiocarbon dating. First, only materials which were once alive—wood, plant matter, bones, etc.—can be used. Metal and stone cannot be dated with radiocarbon.

Second, it is generally used to date materials less than 40,000 years old. Beyond this time, the amount of remaining radioactive carbon is so small that it is difficult to measure. However, the use of an accelerator mass spectrometer allows dating of older and smaller samples. With this, materials up to 100,000 years old can be dated.

Radiocarbon dates are not as precise as those obtained through dendrochronology and are given in archaeological reports as estimates. Radiocarbon dates are often accompanied with a + or – estimate showing the accuracy of the dated material. It is common for radiocarbon results to be published as “years BP” where 0 BP (“before present”) is 1950 CE.

With regard to the importance of radiocarbon dating, Stuart Fiedel writes in his book Prehistory of the Americas:

“It allowed archaeologists to transcend their former obsession with chronology. Given a framework of absolute dates, they could move on to compare the cultural sequences in different areas, to investigate the cause of variation in the rates of cultural development.”

Radiocarbon dating today is the most widely used dating technique in archaeology. With regard to the impact of radiometric dating in archaeology, Andrew Moore, writing in Archaeology, says:

“Advances in the precision of radiometric dating are radically changing our views of the timing of key events in the human timeline.”

Moore goes on to write:

“In ways that past generations of archaeologists could never have imagined, we are able to refine our knowledge not just of what happened, but when it happened. These new insights, some subtle, and some dramatic, will continue to clarify our human past.”

Daniel Weiss, also writing in Archaeology, reports on a potential problem for radiocarbon dating:

“The use of radiocarbon dating, which allows archaeologists to estimate the age of human, plant, and animal remains, may soon be complicated by fossil fuel emissions.”

Fossil fuels which are millions of years old are putting carbon into the atmosphere which contains no radioactive carbon and this carbon is absorbed into organic materials. By 2050 it is estimated that the radiocarbon date for a brand new garment made from organic materials such as cotton will produce the same radiocarbon date as a garment worn in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Obsidian Hydration:

 Another dating method which has been used to date many American sites is obsidian hydration which can be used for dating sites from 200 to 100,000 years old. When a piece of obsidian is chipped to make a tool, the freshly exposed surface begins to absorb water at a rate that depends on the source of the obsidian, the temperature, and the humidity. In their report Prehistoric Use of the Coso Volcanic Field, archaeologists Amy Gilreath and William Hildebrandt write:

“That moisture penetrates volcanic glass at a predictable and, hence, quantifiable rate is at the foundation of obsidian hydration dating.”

By examining a thin section of the tool under a microscope and measuring the thickness of the hydration layer, the date of manufacture can be calculated.

Obsidian hydration dating has been used primarily in California and the Great Basin. In Mesoamerica, it has generally been used to supplement other dating methods.

A Short Overview of the Subarctic Culture Area

The Subarctic Culture Area lies south of the Arctic Circle and covers some 12 million square miles. It spreads from the interior of Alaska to the Atlantic Ocean. This is an area where the winters are cold – often colder than in the Arctic – and the summers are short. During the summer, the blackflies and other insects make life difficult. A frost-free period of only 40-60 days is common in much of the region.

Linguistically, the Subarctic can be broken into two areas: (1) the area west of Hudson’s Bay in which Athapascan languages predominate, and (2) the area east of Hudson’s Bay in which the people spoke Algonquian languages. Culturally, however, it may be more convenient to look at these culture areas as being composed of three sub-areas: (1) the northeastern area (the area east of Hudson’s Bay) which was traditionally occupied by the Algonquian-speaking Montagnais and Naskapi, (2) the central zone which was occupied by the Algonquian-speaking Cree, and (3) the northwest which was occupied by the Athapaskan-speaking tribes.

With regard to the native people of the Subarctic, John J. Collins, in his book Native American Religions: A Geographical Survey, writes:

“These people had been in North America for a long time and had been pushed into the Subarctic by related groups to the south.”

The tribal names used today do not reflect the significant territorial entities of earlier times. June Helm and Eleanor Leacock, in North American Indians in Historical Perspective, write:

“Large areas were inhabited by small autonomous regional groups that commonly number a few score members each. They were usually loosely related to surrounding groups through intermarriage, economic dependence in times of local scarcities, linguistic affinity, and some feeling of ethnic identity.”

The primary form of subsistence among the Subarctic tribes was hunting. It is estimated that during the winter people needed to consume 4,500 to 5,000 calories per day. Each person might consume four pounds of meat per day.

Large game animals, such as the moose, elk, musk ox, caribou, and deer, were of primary importance. In his book Native Arts of North America, Christian Feest writes:

“The tribes of the Subarctic had always been nomadic hunters of the moose, caribou, and other animals of the northern forests.”

In some areas, the people hunted wood buffalo (bison bison athabascae) and plains buffalo (bison bison bison). Large game animals were generally hunted with a bow and arrow or were trapped using deadfalls. Hunters would use calls for bringing in moose during mating season. In some areas, caribou were driven toward long brush fences where they were forced into single file and could be more easily killed.

The caribou was particularly important to many of the tribes. Colin Taylor, in his book Native American Hunting and Fighting Skills, reports:

“The caribou was essential to the sustainment of life amongst such tribes as the Athapascan speaking Chipewyan.”

Among the Chipewyan, the communal caribou hunt used a pound technique in which the herd would be driven into a chute made of poles and brush. Within the enclosure—which could be over a quarter of a mile in diameter—were looped snares which entangled the animals so that they could be easily dispatched. Philip Kopper, in his book The Smithsonian Book of North American Indians: Before the Coming of the Europeans, reports:

“From the caribou, the people obtained food, hides and material for many implements from bones for netting needles to rawhide for fishlines and thongs. They ate the meat fresh or they preserved it by sun-drying or smoking, then pounding it into powder and mixing it with fat to make pemmican.”

Some of the other animals which were hunted in this area include bear, beaver, porcupine, and rabbit. With regard to hunting bears in the Shield and Mackenzie Border lands, Edward Rogers and James Smith report in the Handbook of North American Indians:

“Although bears were found throughout the forests, they were not taken frequently enough to bulk large in the diet; however, they were eagerly sought especially for the large quantities of fat they possessed.”

Rabbits were often snared by the women. The smaller animals – beaver, rabbits – were often taken with traps and snares. While the snowshoe rabbit is widely exploited in the Subarctic Area, Beryl Gillespie, in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports:

“While not a preferred source of food for many natives, it has been a very important source of midwinter food when large game is difficult to find or kill.”

Among the Natives, it was felt that one could starve to death on rabbits as they provided very little fat during most of the year.

In the eastern portion of the region, beaver were taken as a food source, particularly in winter. To capture the beaver, nets would be placed across the entrances to the beaver lodges.

In the Hudson Bay Area, migratory waterfowl was an important food resource. Various species of grouse were also taken throughout the Subarctic area.

In some areas, fishing was also an important subsistence activity. Fish were caught using lines and hooks or they were netted in gill nets woven from raw hide or the inner bark of the willow. In some areas, fish traps and weirs were also used.

In some areas, the Native people relied heavily on the seasonal salmon runs. In the lake areas of the western Labrador interior, whitefish and lake trout were the most desirable fish. In addition, the general availability of fish in most lakes and streams made fishing a seasonally important activity.

Among the Montagnais off the Saint Lawrence region, fresh eels were taken in September and October. Edward Rogers and Eleanor Leacock report in the Handbook of North American Indians:

“Chains of stones were laid in the sand at the river edge to guide eels, when waves lashed the shore, into weirs large enough to hold 500-600. Eels were also attracted to canoes at night with torches and speared with iron-pointed leisters.”

With regard to the gathering of wild plants, June Helm and Eleanor Leacock write:

“Plant foods were inconsequential in the diet, though blueberries, cranberries, and edible shoots and bulbs were collected in the summer.”

Canoes were important to many of the tribes of this culture area. During the summer, travel was possible via lakes and rivers using canoes. Writing about the Cree, archaeologist Dale Russell, in his book Eighteenth-Century Western Cree and Their Neighbours, says:

“Women were often more skilled in steering canoes than men since the latter typically rode in the bow where they had an unimpeded aim at any game that was met.”

In the western portion of the Subarctic Culture Area, people used canoes which resembled the Inuit kayak. However, instead of covering the frame with skin in the Inuit style, the frame was covered with birchbark. This made the craft very light and enabled the people to carry it over long distances.

The Chipewyan made a birch bark kayak-style canoe which was used in hunting caribou or moose as they crossed rivers or lakes. According to John Jennings in his book Bark Canoes: The Art and Obsession of Tappan Adney:

“The canoe was extremely responsive and could be steered with one hand as the other was busy with spear or knife.”

The Gwich’in also made birch bark canoes. John Jennings reports:

“The Gwich’in canoes are unique among Northwestern canoes in having a rigid frame, with the stringers held in place by crosspieces.”

With regard to the Gwich’in canoes in the Tanana River area, Jennings writes:

“These canoes were subtly asymmetrical, being slightly wider and deeper at the stern, thus making them both very fast and easy to maneuver. The lightness of the bow allows it to hydroplane when driven fast.”

During the winter, snow shoes were used. Again, the travel routes often utilized the frozen lakes and rivers. Among the Montagnais-Naskapi, long, narrow toboggans would be pulled with a cord across the chest. Edward Rogers and Eleanor Leacock report:

“They were ideal when everything was covered with deep snow, for their relatively extensive weight bearing surface prevented them from sinking too deeply into the powdery snow.”

American Indian Voting Rights

During the first part of the twentieth century, American Indians were granted citizenship by Congressional action on several different occasions. While citizenship is often felt to be associated with the right to vote, this has not always been the case with regard to Indians. The right to vote is a right which has been traditionally controlled by the states. The states had tended to view Indian voting and Indian citizenship as two separate items. While the struggle by African Americans to obtain the right to vote is fairly well known, the struggle by American Indians to obtain this right is less well known.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century a series of legal opinions and court rulings had determined that American Indians were not citizens and furthermore they could not attain citizenship unless Congress enacted specific legislation granting citizenship. In 1887 Congress passed the General Allotment Act (also known as the Dawes Act). While the primary focus of the Dawes Act was on breaking up Indian reservations, destroying tribal governments, and transferring land from Indian ownership to non-Indian ownership, it did provide the legal mechanism for Indians to become citizens. Part of the act called for citizenship to be conferred on those who abandoned their tribes and adopted the habits of civilized life. Ideally, Indians who became Christian, English-speaking farmers could become citizens. Citizenship in the minds of non-Indians was directly associated with private land ownership.

In Matter of Heff the Supreme Court held in 1905 that Indians became American citizens as soon as they accepted their land allotment. The decision infuriated Congress and the Bureau of Indian Affairs who had insisted that Indians who accepted allotments could not become citizens until the end of their trust period of twenty years.

In 1907, Ethan Anderson (Pomo) won a court case (Anderson versus Mathews) which gave non-reservation Indians the right to vote. Anderson had attempted to register to vote in Mendocino County and was refused. The court case, which was decided by the California Supreme Court, was funded by the Indian Board of Cooperation.

The drive for Indian citizenship came up again during World War I. Indians were required to register for the draft but were ineligible to be drafted since they were not citizens. Yavapai physician Dr. Carlos Montezuma protested the draft policy and urged the United States to make Indians citizens and then draft them. He wrote: “They are not citizens. They have fewer privileges than have foreigners. They are wards of the United States of America without their consent or the chance of protest on their part.”

While Indians were not liable to be drafted, they enlisted in large numbers. An estimated 10,000 Indians served in the military during the war. In 1919, Congress passed an act which provided citizenship for all Indians who served in the military or in naval establishments during World War I.

There were many Indians who saw citizenship as something which was being imposed on them by non-Indians. In 1919, the Society of American Indians held its conference in Minneapolis on the theme of citizenship. While many supported citizenship, Cahuilla spiritual leader Francisco Patencio told them: “I and my people we do not want citizenship. … What my people in California want is to know their reservation boundary lines.”

In 1924 Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act which gave all Indians citizenship and, theoretically, the right to vote. It is estimated that about two-thirds of the Indians had acquired citizenship before the passage of this act. Passage of the act was promoted by progressives who were concerned about the constitutional rights of Indians and who wished to free Indians from federal control. It was generally felt that citizenship would help assimilate Indians.

Two days after passing the Indian Citizenship Act, Congress passed a bill to allot the Eastern Cherokee in North Carolina. Having not upgraded the language in the bill to account for the Indian Citizenship Act, the bill provided that the Eastern Cherokee would become citizens only after receiving and registering their allotments. The State Attorney General took the position that the Eastern Cherokee were not citizens because this bill superseded the Indian Citizenship Act. The Bureau of Indian Affairs took the position that they were citizens. Local registrars assumed that the Cherokee were not citizens and did not allow them to register to vote.

In response, Congress passed another act in 1928 which specifically granted citizenship to the North Carolina Cherokee. However, Eastern Cherokee leader Henry M. Owl was denied the right to register to vote in 1930. The registrar refused to register Indians because they were not citizens. In his book Cherokee Americans: The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the Twentieth Century, historian John Finger points out: “Despite Congress’ explicit and repeated directives, county registrars continued to deny Cherokees the vote until after World War II.”

In response, Congress passed another act once again reaffirming citizenship for the Eastern Cherokee. Local newspapers protested Congressional interference with local affairs and county registrars continued to deny Cherokees the vote until after World War II. North Carolina denied Indians the right to vote claiming that Indians were illiterate. The superintendent of the Cherokee Agency reported: “We have had Indian graduates of Carlisle, Haskell, and other schools in stances much better educated than the registrar himself, turned down because they did not read or write to his satisfaction.

In 1946, North Carolina county registrars refused to register Eastern Cherokee war veterans to vote. The Cherokee appealed the decision to the governor and attorney general, but nothing was done.

In Arizona two Pima Indians attempted to vote in 1928. The Arizona Supreme Court in Porter v. Hall concluded that Indians were not entitled to vote because they were “wards of the government” and persons “under guardianship” were prohibited from voting by the state constitution. The Arizona Attorney General’s office ruled in 1944 that Indians who were living outside the reservation and who were subject to state laws and state taxation were not eligible to vote.

Some states passed legislation to disenfranchise Indians. In an effort to deny Indians the right to vote, the Montana state constitution was amended in 1932 to permit only taxpayers to vote. Since Indians on reservations did not pay some local taxes, they could not become voters. The Montana state legislature in 1937 passed a law requiring all deputy voter registrars to be qualified, taxpaying residents of their precincts. Since Indians living on reservations were exempt from some local taxes, this requirement excluded almost all Indians from serving as deputy registrars. It thus denied Montana’s Indians access to voter registration in their own precincts.

A 1937 report by the Solicitor General found that several states denied Indians the right to vote. In response to the inquiry by the Solicitor General, Colorado’s attorney general replied: “It is our opinion that until Congress enfranchises the Indian, he will not have the right to vote.” Word of the 1924 citizenship act had apparently not yet reached Colorado. Indians were not allowed to serve on juries in Colorado until 1956 and tribal members on reservations were not allowed to vote until 1970.

The Solicitor General also found that four states—Idaho, New Mexico, Maine, and Washington—denied Indians the right to vote because of the phrase “Indians not taxed” in Article 1 of the Constitution.

In 1940 Congress once again conferred citizenship on Indians in the form of the Nationality Act which again conferred citizenship on American Indians and required that Indian men register for the draft. In spite of the reconfirmation of citizenship, some states, such as New Mexico and Arizona, refused to allow Indians to vote. The Act was opposed by the Indian Defense League of America. Tuscarora leader Clinton Rickard urged those who wish to volunteer for the armed services do so as alien non-residents

Utah denied Indians the vote because Indians on reservations were not actually residents of Utah but were residents of their own nations. Indians were thus considered non-residents and hence not eligible to vote. In 1957, the Utah state legislature finally repealed the legislation that prevented Indians living on reservations from voting.

Many historians cite 1948 as the year in which Indians finally won the right to vote. Court rulings in Arizona and New Mexico affirmed that Indians have the right to vote. The Court ruling in New Mexico was started when Miguel Trujillo, Sr. (Laguna), a teacher, attempted to register to vote and was refused by the recorder of Valencia County. In the ruling, the Court found that New Mexico had discriminated against Indians by denying them the vote, especially since they paid all state and federal taxes except for private property taxes on the reservations. The federal judge remarked: “We all know that these New Mexico Indians have responded to the needs of the country in time of war. Why should they be deprived of their rights to vote now because they are favored by the federal government in exempting their lands from taxation.”

In Arizona, Frank Harrison and Harry Austin, both Mohave-Apache at the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation, attempted to register to vote and were not allowed to register. In Harrison v. Laveen the Arizona Supreme Court overturned the earlier Porter v. Hall decision and agreed with the plaintiffs that their Arizona and United States constitutional rights had been violated. All Indians in Arizona are given the right to vote.

Even though the Indian people of Arizona and New Mexico were given the right to vote, very few actually voted in the next national elections. Among the Navajo, for example, only 3,000 out of an estimated 60,000 register to vote and only about 1,000 actually voted. According to Frank Waters, in his book Masked Gods: Navaho and Pueblo Ceremonialism: “They were all possessed of the same ever-present fear—that by exercising their voting privilege and paying taxes, they would lose their land.”

In Maine, Indians were finally given the right to vote in 1953 when the state accepted the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act.

In 1957, the Utah state legislature repealed legislation that prevented Indians living on reservations from voting. Under the law, Indians had been considered non-residents and hence not eligible to vote.

In New Mexico in 1962 an unsuccessful non-Indian candidate for elective office challenged the validity of Indian voting rights by claiming that Indians were not state residents. The state supreme court reaffirmed the rights of Indians to vote in the state.

In 1968, the Havasupai finally obtained the right to vote in Arizona and federal elections. The Havasupai Reservation is located in Coconino County and the county had never designated the reservation as a voting district. Thus, Havasupai voters could only vote by registering in some distant precinct and then travelling to that distant community to vote.

During the past fifty years, the focus has shifted from obtaining the right to vote, to getting Indians elected to local, state, and federal offices. States and local governments in the western states have responded by diluting the Indian vote through redistricting plans and/or by requiring photo ID (and not allowing tribal ID) and/or requiring voters to have a street address (many rural reservation homes do not have street addresses).

Utah’s Black Hawk War

During 1865 to 1867, American and Mormon settlers in Utah were engaged in a war with a small group of Ute, Paiute, and Navajo warriors under the leadership of Ute chief Black Hawk. As a result of the conflict, the American and Mormon settlers abandoned much of southern and central Utah. At least nine communities were abandoned. The main object of most of the Indian raids was to take cattle for food. The Black Hawk War caused an estimated $1.5 million in losses.

While the Black Hawk War involved only a small group of warriors, Black Hawk’s raiders were so effective that it was a common perception among the Mormon settlers that all of the Indians in the territory were at war.

Setting the Stage:

 The Black Hawk war grew out of a complex set of circumstances which included the loss of Indian farms in Utah and the failure of the United States government to fulfill its treaty obligations. The Utes and the Paiutes had been displaced from their ancestral lands and they had been deprived of their economic base. As a result, they were left with only three options: they could starve, they could beg, or they could fight.

In 1863, Autenquer (Black Hawk), a San Pitch Ute war leader, began to form alliances with other Ute bands, as well as with Paiute and Navajo bands to raid Mormon communities. The Indians blamed the Mormons for stealing their country and fencing it in. One of the causes of the raids is hunger and the Indians raid the communities to get cattle to eat.

Two years later, the Treaty of Spanish Fork with the Paiute called for them to give up all lands claimed in Utah and to move to the Uintah Reservation. None of the signers of the treaty represented the Meadow Valley and Virgin River Paiute bands who were contesting Mormon encroachment on their territory.

Like the Paiute, the Ute also signed the Treaty of Spanish Fork in which they gave up all of their land in Utah except for the Uintah Valley. In exchange, the Ute were to receive $900,000 to be paid to them over 60 years and they were to be allowed to fish in all accustomed places and to gather roots and berries. All of the Ute chiefs, except for San Pitch, signed the treaty. San Pitch said: “If the talk is for us to trade the land in order to get the presents, I do not want any blankets or any clothing, if threat is the way they are to be got. I would rather do without them than to give up my title to the land I occupy. We want to live here as formerly.”

Kanosh opposed the treaty saying: “In past times, the Washington chiefs that came here from the United States would think and talk two ways and deceive us.”

Mormon leader Brigham Young, speaking for the United States, told the Ute: “If you do not sell your land to the Government, they will take it, whether you are willing to sell it or not.” Young also told them: “The land does not belong to you, nor to me, nor to the Government. It belongs to the Lord.”

Brigham Young assured them that they would receive houses, farms, cows, oxen, clothing, and other things. Because of his words, the chiefs signed the treaty.

The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty because .of their disagreements with the Mormons. These disagreements with the Mormons had nothing to do with the Indians. The United States Senate wanted to punish the Mormons for their religious beliefs and refusing the treaty would increase the tensions between the Indians and the Mormon settlers.

The War:

 In 1865, the conflicts between the Utes under the leadership of San Pitch subchief Black Hawk and the Mormon settlers intensified. The Indians, driven by hunger, stole some cattle and in the process some Mormons were killed. Mormon leader John Taylor stated: “Some want to kill the Indians promiscuously, because some of them have killed some of our people. This is not right. Let the guilty be punished and innocent go free.”

Black Hawk visited the Elk Mountain Ute to gain allies in his war against the Mormons. Black Hawk’s warriors were soon joined by Ute warriors from other bands as well as by Paiute and Navajo warriors. At most the Black Hawk’s forces numbered only 60 to 100 warriors during the conflict. About half of the warriors were Navajos or Paiutes.

In 1865, a Ute war party under the leadership of Black Hawk ambushed the Sanpete militia near Red Lake. While the warriors produced a heavy rate of fire, they overshot the militia and the bullets struck the lake behind them.

A Mormon militia force of 84 pursued a Ute war party up Salina Canyon. At a narrow point in the canyon, the militia unit was ambushed by Ute warriors who were hidden behind rocks, trees, and bushes. The militia managed to escape with only two men killed and two wounded.

A Mormon militia group fired blindly into a large cedar grove near Burrville, killing more than a dozen Indians, including women and children. The incident was not officially investigated.

Several Indian woman and children were held captive by a Mormon militia unit. One of the women struck one of the guards and in retaliation he shot the woman and the rest of the prisoners. The incident was not officially investigated.

In 1866, Ute chief San Pitch and several of his men were arrested near Nephi because of rumors that he had been involved in violence against the American settlers. San Pitch was told to bring in Black Hawk and his band or be shot. Since San Pitch did not have the power to influence Black Hawk and his warriors, he and his fellow prisoners broke jail rather than await execution. The escapees were hunted down and killed.

In another incident, 16 unarmed Paiutes, including women and children, were killed near Circleville. The Paiutes had been captured by the Mormons and were killed one at a time. Most had their throats slit. Three or four small children were spared and were adopted by Mormon families. While there were pleas for an investigation, federal and territorial officials took no action. This reluctance or inability of territorial and federal officials to follow proper legal procedures with the Indians helped to create a climate that allowed for continued misconduct.

At Panguitch Lake, the Paiute bands would not let the Mormons fish in the lake, but they would sell fish to them. In response, the Mormons declared the Paiutes to be involved with Black Hawk’s warriors and attacked a Paiute camp. They then declared a Paiute Mormon convert to be the chief and restored the peace. Following this, the lake became a fishing resort for non-Indians.

In 1866, Mormon leader Brigham Young wrote: “The Lamanites are hostile, let us exercise faith about them and learn what the will of the Lord is. Let us send our Interpreters to them and make presents and tell [them] they must stop fighting. It is better to give them $5000 than have to fight and kill them for they are of the House of Israel.”

In 1867, the body of Simeon, a Paiute, was found near Paragonah with a bullet wound in the back of his head. William H. Dame, president of the Prowan Stake of the Latter Day Saints church and colonel in the militia was instructed by Mormon leaders Brigham Young and George A. Smith that the murder of a peaceful Indian must be dealt with by civil authorities. Subsequently an investigation into the murder was undertaken. When some people questioned whether or not Simeon had actually been murdered, his body was exhumed and the bullet removed from his skull. As a result of the investigation, murder charges are brought against Thomas Jose. Jose was convicted of second degree murder and was sentenced to ten years in the territorial penitentiary. He served one year and was then pardoned by the territorial governor.

After the War:

 In 1867, Black Hawk surrendered at the Uintah Reservation. He came without his men but gave information on those still at large. It was estimated that he had 58-64 warriors under him.

During the Black Hawk War, about 46 Mormon settlers were killed, including 11 women and children. Both sides killed noncombatants.

The primary purpose of most of the Indian raids was to obtain cattle. Black Hawk’s warriors captured about 5,000 cattle. This focus on cattle shows that the warriors were often desperate for food.

In 1869, the San Pitch Ute, once led by Autenquer (Black Hawk), followed the civil leader Tabby-to-kwana to the Uintah Valley Reservation. The Ute had been assured that they would be able to continue to hunt and gather on all public lands.

 Following the war, Black Hawk toured many of the settlements in central and southern Utah, speaking to Mormon congregations and asking for their understanding and forgiveness. In speaking to these communities, Black Hawk emphasized that his people had been destitute and starving. Some of the Mormon settlers greeted him with understanding, while others, remembering the deaths of family and friends, rejected his offer of reconciliation.

Ancient America: The Dakotas, BCE

The Dakotas—the modern states of North and South Dakota—are a part of the Northern Plains, an area which was buffalo country from the time of de-glaciation until modern agriculture in the nineteenth century. A few of the archaeological findings regarding the Dakotas BCE are described below.

Early Pre-contact Period:

The time from first settlement by Indian people following de-glaciation until the climate changes about 9,000 years ago is called the Early Pre-contact Period by some archaeologists and the Paleo-Indian Period by others. Indian people during this era were hunting now extinct mega-fauna, including the mammoth and pre-historic bison. Some of the archaeological sites from this period include:

Lange-Ferguson: About 9100 BCE, Indian people using Clovis technology killed and butchered at least two mammoths at the Lange-Ferguson site in South Dakota.

Ray Long: About 9000 BCE, Indian people occupied the Ray Long site (39FA65) in South Dakota. They were using spear points which are lanceolate with narrow, straight to concave bases. These points had ground edges near the bases.

Jim Pitts: About 8200 BCE, Indian people were using the Jim Pitts site near the Black Hills area known as the Racetrack. The people were hunting bison and mule deer. They were using Goshen, Folsom, Agate Basin, Cody, and Fishtail points.

Middle Pre-contact Period:

The era which archaeologists call the Middle Pre-contact Period begins about 6800 BCE with a hot, dry Altithermal. Much of the area is abandoned by Indian people because of the lack of game. The Altithermal began to moderate about 3000 BCE and both the animal and human populations increased. During the last portion of the Middle Pre-contact (about 1000 BCE), the use of the tipi as a primary domicile increased. In addition, there is increased evidence of domesticated dog.

Benz: About 6000 BCE, Indian people with Cody Complex tools began to occupy the Benz site on the Knife River in North Dakota. The Cody Complex, which included an assemblage of projectile points, scrapers, gravers, wedges, choppers, hammer stones, and bone tools, was associated with bison kill and processing sites.

Liking Bison: By about 4730 BCE, Indian people were using the Liking Bison site in South Dakota. This was a bison kill site in which the hunters drove the animals into a gully which is about 3-5 feet wide and 2-3 feet deep.

Beaver Creek Rock Shelter: About 4700 BCE, Indian people were using the Beaver Creek Rock Shelter (39CU779) in present-day Wind Cave National Park. Archaeologist Douglas MacDonald, in his book Montana Before History: 11,000 Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains, writes: “Among the animal remains from the site are a variety of frogs and reptiles, suggesting that the arid conditions of the Altithermal had not dried out this north-facing rock shelter. In addition, remains of deer, bison, and pronghorn indicate a diverse diet for Early Archaic hunter-gatherers at the site.”

By 4570 BCE, the Indian people at this site were using side-notched projectile points. By 2700 BCE, they were hunting bison, deer, and pronghorn. At this time, they were using McKean projectile points.

Besant Phase: By 90 BCE, in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Alberta, the time period which archaeologists call the Besant Phase begins. Indian people at this time were sophisticated buffalo hunters and were engaging in other big game hunting. Archaeologist George Frison, writing in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports: “Besant hunters were apparently still using the atlatl and dart, and their projectile points are distinctive in morphology and manufacture technology, utilizing the best available raw materials. They may have been the most sophisticated bison-hunting group on the Northwestern Plains in pre-horse times judging from evidence recovered in eastern Wyoming.”

They were using ground stone tools as well as side-notched projectile points. At some sites on the Upper Missouri River and at some sites in Alberta, the people appear to have used ceramics which suggests that they were in contact with Woodland Indian groups to the east.

James River Area: About 25 BCE, an epidemic struck the people living along the James River area and killed at least 28 people, mostly infants, children, and elders. The partially cremated remains of the dead were buried in a deep pit lined with hides.