The Iroquois League

Long before the Europeans arrived on this continent there was born to the Huron people a man who had a vision of bringing peace to his people. In his vision he saw a great pine tree. The roots of this tree were five powerful nations. From these roots, the tree grew so high that its tip pierced through the sky and on top there was an eagle watching to see that none of the nations broke the peace among them. This Peacemaker was a man named Deganawida (also spelled Deganawidah).

According to oral tradition, Deganawida named each of the allied nations, choosing a place as the distinguishing feature of nationality:

  • Seneca: the big hill people, or the people of the big mountain
  • Cayuga: the people at the landing, in reference to portaging a canoe
  • Mohawk: the people of the flint, in reference to the flint quarries in their territory
  • Onondaga: the people of the hill, in reference to the hill where a woman long ago had appeared to give the people corn, beans, squash, and tobacco
  • Oneida: the people of the standing stone, in reference to the supernatural stone which followed them

Deganawida’s vision, articulated through the great Mohawk orator Hiawatha, united five Iroquois-speaking nations – the Seneca, the Cayuga, the Onondaga, the Oneida, and the Mohawk– into the League of Five Nations. Later the Tuscarora would join them to form the League of Six Nations. The League is also called the Iroquois Confederacy. They refer to themselves as Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse).

With regard to the Great Law which established the Confederacy, Kevin White, in an article in Indian Country Today, writes:

“The core concepts of the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee are peace, power, and righteousness.”

Former Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier, in his book Indians of the Americas, writes:

“The plan was to renounce warfare between one another and to present an alliance against a warring world.”

He also calls the League of Five Nations “the most brilliant creation in the record of man.” The Haudenosaunee put it this way:

“The Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, is among the most ancient continuously operating governments in the world. Long before the arrival of the European peoples in North America, our people met in council to enact the principles of peaceful coexistence among nations and in recognition of the right of peoples to continue an uninterrupted existence.”

These principles include kinship, women’s leadership, and the widest possible community consensus.

The story of Deganawida and the founding of the League is a story of epic proportions which continues to be recounted in the oral traditions of the Iroquois today. According to anthropologist William Fenton, in his chapter in North American Indians in Historical Perspective:

“A knowledge of the teaching imputed to Deganawidah goes far to explain Iroquois self-confidence, their superiority to their neighbors, and at times their polite arrogance to the representatives of European governments.”

While the designation “Iroquois” is often used to refer to the Five or Six Nations, it should be remembered that not all Iroquois-speaking nations in the Northeast were members of the League. Deganawida’s own nation – the Huron – did not join.

The League of Five Nations originally had 50 permanent offices filled from the member nations: 14 from the Onondaga, 10 from the Cayuga, 9 from the Oneida, 9 from the Mohawk, and 8 from the Seneca. The men who filled these offices are known as sachems. According to former Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier:

“The Confederacy was one of delegated, limited powers; and with exhaustive care and success, it was so structured that authority flowed upward, from the smallest and most organic units, not downward from the top.”

He goes on to say:

“The Confederacy was a nation which enhanced the liberty and responsibility of its component parts down even to the minutest member.”

It was the women who first accepted the message of Deganawida, the prophet who first envisioned the League. Therefore, the women have a great deal of authority. The sachems are selected by the clan mothers. Women also have the right to initiative, recall, and referendum.

With regard to Iroquois leadership, Onondaga chief Oren Lyons, in Voice of Indigenous Peoples: Native People Address the United Nations, says:

“Our leaders were instructed to be men with vision and to make every decision on behalf of the seventh generation to come, to have compassion and love for those generations yet unborn.”

Deganawida, the Peacemaker and Founder of the League of Five Nations, is said to have advised the sachems that their “skin should be seven thumbs thick so that no outrageous criticism or evil magic could pierce them.”

There are three great double doctrines or principles (six principles in all) upon which the League was founded. The first principle stresses: (a) health of mind and body, and (b) peace among individuals and groups. The second principle stresses: (a) righteousness in conduct, including advocating this righteousness in thought and speech, and (b) equality in the adjustment of rights and obligations. The third principle stresses: (a) physical strength, power, and order, and (b) spiritual power (orenda).

Traditionally at the meetings of the League, each of the delegates from the Five Nations sat at assigned places in accordance with their position in the confederacy. As firekeepers, the Onondaga would give the topic for discussion first to the Mohawk and Seneca. The Mohawk would then discuss the matter among themselves and then refer it to the Seneca. After discussing the issue, the Seneca would return the item to the Mohawk who would hand the item across the fire to the Younger Brothers. It would then be discussed by the Oneida and then by the Cayuga. The Oneida would then hand it back across the fire to the Mohawk who would announce the combined opinion to the Onondaga. In her chapter “The League of the Iroquois: Its History, Politics, and Ritual,” in the Handbook of North American Indians Elizabeth Tooker reports:

“If the Onondaga disagreed, they referred it back for further discussion, but in so doing they had to show that the opinion of the other tribes was in conflict with the established custom or with public policy.”

While speaking, the speaker would hold a wampum belt which would then be handed to the tribe being addressed. In his book The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution, historian Alan Taylor reports:

“As a sacred substance, wampum confirmed the earnest importance of a message. Without accompanying wampum, words were frivolous.”

Traditionally, an issue would be introduced at the council on one day, but not discussed that day. At some later time it would be discussed. It is tradition that the issue be slept with prior to discussing. Anthropologist William Fenton puts it this way:

“No Iroquois to this day will answer to a proposition on the same day, nor will he press another party for a reply until the latter is ready. One listens carefully, repeats the main points of what he hears, and then takes the message home and puts it under his head for the night as a pillow.”

Speeches at the council were made by individuals who were not only well-versed in proper Iroquois protocol, but also articulate orators. Historian José António Brandão, in his book “Your Fyre Shall Burn No More” Iroquois Policy toward New France and Its Native Allies to 1701, writes:

“They could be subtle and evasive enough to give an answer that the other side wished to hear, but without actually committing their tribes to a specific course of action.”

One important Iroquois custom was documenting their words with wampum belts. All agreements, for example, were accompanied by wampum belts which symbolized the important points of the agreement. At later times, the belts would be brought out and “read” if the agreement needed to be discussed again.

In order to record what was said in council, the Sachem presiding over the meeting would have a handful of small sticks. A stick would be given to one of the Sachems present so that the person with the stick would be responsible for remembering what the speaker said.

Historian José António Brandão summarizes the governing power of the Iroquois Confederacy during the 17th century:

“The Iroquois had no permanent governing body constantly in session and directing policy. What they had instead was a framework that allowed for joint action when the member tribes felt the need for it.”

Anthropologist William Fenton describes the League this way:

“What made the League effective was not its ability to centralize power and communicate authority to the margins, in which it failed miserably, but the consensus not to feud among the Five Nations and to compound such infractions by ritual payments of wampum.”

Among the nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, there were two hereditary war chiefs and both of these titles belonged to the Seneca. They were Needle Breaker who belonged to the Wolf clan and Great Oyster Shell of the Turtle clan. The Seneca, as Guardians of the Western Door, were the first of the Iroquois to face the danger of an attack on the western frontier. These two chiefs assumed the planning for the military operations of the Five Nations.

The League of Five Nations also had Pine Tree Chiefs who served as advisors to the sachems. The Pine Tree Chiefs were outstanding orators, war leaders, and others who did not hold hereditary offices. Anthropologist William Fenton writes:

“Pine Tree chiefs were orators for the council or they spoke for the women, and they went on embassies.”

Within the League, the tribes are divided into two sides or moieties. In council, the Mohawk, Onondaga, and Seneca are considered “brothers” to each other and as “fathers” to the younger tribes (Oneida, Cayuga, Tuscarora). The Cayuga call the Oneida “elder brothers” and they call the Tuscarora “younger brothers”.

The members of the League of Five Nations made a distinction between civil chiefs and war chiefs. However, more prestige was given to the civil chiefs. The civil chiefs were viewed as fire keepers in the center of a concentric ring of warriors, women, and the general public.

Another important position in the Iroquois political system was the runner. In noting the importance of this position, historian Laurence Hauptman and former Oneida tribal secretary Gordon McLester, in their biography Chief Daniel Bread and the Oneida Nation of Indians of Wisconsin, write:

“Iroquois runners summoned councils, conveyed intelligence from nation to nation, and warned of impending danger. It is also important to note that the Iroquois use the term runner to describe a person who serves the council as a conduit for the conduct of essential business, and who is accorded respect as a community leader worthy of other higher positions of authority and prestige in the nation.”

The League of Five Nations Council traditionally met in the later summer or early fall at the council fires of the Onondaga.

The Bannock War

A casual reading of almost any book on American history—from popular accounts to textbooks to scholarly tomes—reveals that there have been a lot of conflicts or wars with American Indians since the creation of the United States. In 1907, the War Department officially enumerated 1,470 incidents of military action against American Indians between 1776 and 1907. This suggests that there was about one military action per month against Indians during the first 131 years of the nation’s existence. This count does not include a number incidents or wars involving state militias and volunteer groups, such as vigilantes. In some instances, the military action was a single battle, in others there were a series of battles.

According to the War Department, only two of these military actions have the formal status of “war” under U.S. Army terminology: the 1877 Nez Perce War and the 1878 Bannock Indian War. Of the two “official” wars delineated by the War Department in 1907, the 1878 Bannock War is probably the least known. The Bannock are a Great Basin tribe which migrated from the desert areas of southeastern Oregon to the more propitious and well-watered region found at the confluence of the Portneuf and Blackfoot streams with the Snake River in present-day Idaho. When the Bannock moved into the Snake and Lemhi River valleys and the Bridger Basin, they came into close contact with the Shoshone, a group which is linguistically and culturally related. The Bannock language belongs to a branch of the Uto-Aztecan family known as Western Numic while Shoshone is Central Numic. Bannock culture tended to emphasize war more than Shoshone culture.

The Bannock call themselves Bana’kwut (“Water People”), and they often were called Buffalo Eaters and Honey Eaters by other tribes.

The Bannock War was about camas:  Camassia quamash, a plant with a blue or purple flower which has a nutritious bulb about the size and shape of a tulip bulb. For many of the tribes in Idaho, Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon, and Western Montana, camas was a major food item. It was gathered in late spring or early fall. It was either eaten raw or steamed in a pit for immediate consumption. If the camas was to be preserved, the camas bulbs were pounded in a mortar to make a kind of dough. The dough was then shaped into loaves, wrapped in grass, and steamed again. After the second cooking, the loaves were made into smaller cakes and dried in the sun. Without stores of camas, people would be ill prepared for the cold months of the year.

In Idaho, one of the most important camas areas was known as Camas Prairie.

In 1867 the Bannock met in treaty council with the American government at Long Creek. The Americans wanted to confine the Bannock as well as the Shoshone to a reservation so that the land could be opened for American settlement. In the discussions about the reservation, Chief Taghee told the Americans:

“I want the right to camp and dig roots on Camas prairie, when coming to Boise to trade.”

At this time, popular opinion among non-Indians in Idaho called for the extermination of all Indians. An editorial in the Idaho Statesman advocated that the military continue to kill Indians. According to the editor:

“The idea that the Indians have any right to the soil is ridiculous…They have no more right to the soil of the Territories of the United States than wolves or coyotes.”

Another newspaper editorial suggested:

“This would be our plan of establishing friendship on an eternal basis with our Indians: Let all the hostile bands of Idaho Territory be called in (they will not be caught in any other manner) to attend a grand treaty; plenty of blankets and nice little trinkets distributed among them; plenty of grub on hand; have a jolly time with them; then just before the big feast put strychnine in their meat and poison to death the last mother’s son of them.”

The following year, the Bannock and the Shoshone met in treaty council with the Americans at Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Once again the Bannock insisted that Camas Prairie be included in their reservation and article 2 of the treaty expressed this desire. However, instead of saying “Camas” Prairie, the wording of the treaty indicated “Kansas” Prairie.

In 1870, the American government, instead of establishing a separate reservation for the Bannock, assigned them to the Fort Hall Reservation which they were to share with the Shoshone. In moving to Fort Hall, the Bannock were to give up all rights to areas outside of the reservation, including Camas Prairie. Under military escort, the Bannock were moved to the reservation. The soldiers expressed little sympathy or concern for the Indians they were herding and some Indians were killed for slowing the procession down.

Life on the Fort Hall Reservation during the 1870s was not good for the Bannock and Shoshone. While the American government had promised to provide the Indians with rations as they made the transition from a hunting and gathering way of life to a more settled agricultural lifestyle, the promised food supplies were meager. Hunger was a regular part of life. By 1877, the Shoshone and Bannock were starving. To alleviate the hunger, the Indians once again travelled to Camas Prairie were they harvested camas to prepare for the coming winter.

In 1877, the Americans were afraid that the Bannock and Shoshone might join with the non-treaty bands of Nez Perce in their war against the United States. After the camas harvest, the chiefs travelled to Boise to meet with the governor and express their peaceful intentions. Once again, the Bannock explained to the Americans the importance of camas. Bannock leader Major Jim asked that Camas Prairie be included in the Fort Hall Reservation. He complained that the Americans were driving their hogs and cattle onto Camas Prairie and destroying the camas. The Americans were grateful to hear that the Shoshone and Bannock did not intend to join the Nez Perce, but they did nothing about the Camas Prairie situation.

The food shortages at the Fort Hall Reservation did not improve, and by 1878 the Indian agent felt that he had no choice but to encourage the Indians to hunt outside the reservation. Bannock chief Buffalo Horn visited the territorial governor and obtained permission to buy $2 worth of ammunition for deer hunting. With Indians hunting off the reservation, fears and rumors about Indian wars spread throughout the non-Indian settlements.

Once again the Bannock went to Camas Prairie to obtain the food they needed. They found that American settlers had turned their cattle loose in the area and so the Bannock insisted that the Americans remove the cattle. The Americans belligerently refused, insisting that the Indians had no rights to the land.

The Shoshone and Bannock then met in council to discuss what to do next. Bannock chief Buffalo Horn and about 200 Bannock and Paiute warriors decided to go to war against the Americans. The Boise Shoshone under the leadership of Captain Jim and the Bannock under the leadership of Tendoy opted for peace and returned to their reservations.

Buffalo Horn and a war party of 60 warriors were attacked by American volunteer troops. While the Indians killed two volunteers and wounded several others, Buffalo Horn was badly wounded. After several days travel, he asked to be left behind to die.

After Buffalo Horn’s death the war party went to Oregon. At the Malheur Reservation, Paiute Chief Winnemucca refused to join the war against the Americans and was taken prisoner. Sarah Winnemucca, his daughter, snuck into the camp and helped the chief and about 75 others to escape.

In Oregon, Oytes and Egan assumed leadership of the rebel group. Egan was initially a reluctant leader, but he was persuaded to become the war chief. Oytes was a Dreamer Prophet and this created problems for the Americans. Part of the reason for the Nez Perce War a year earlier was to eradicate the Dreamers—followers of the Washat Religion of the prophet Smohalla.

At this time, the regular army entered the picture. The army was headed by General O.O. Howard—America’s Christian general. Howard had fought against the Nez Perce and was strongly opposed to Smohalla and his Dreamer movement. He saw himself as a Christian warrior fighting against the forces of evil. Howard and his army were soon in pursuit of the rebel Indians.

At Silver Creek in Oregon, the Americans caught up with the war party and carried out a daring daylight attack with the scouts and some of the troops charging through the camp. Egan led a countercharge, but was wounded first in the wrist and then was shot in the breast and the groin. He was carried off by his warriors and Oytes assumed command. Though badly wounded, Egan directed a retreat and the war party crossed over into the John Day Valley with the army in pursuit.

The war party headed for the Umatilla Reservation hoping to enlist them in the war. Near the reservation, they engaged the army in a day-long battle in which five warriors were killed. The Umatilla under the leadership of Chief Umapine watched the battle from a hilltop. The next day, the Umatilla held council with the Americans. The Umatilla agreed to capture or kill Egan and in exchange tribal members were to be pardoned for their role in the war.

Egan regrouped his warriors in Oregon’s Blue Mountains and waited for the Umatilla to join him. A large party of Umatilla under the leadership of Umapine, Five Crows, and Yettinewitz, came into the camp to talk with Egan. The Umatillas then opened fire, killing Egan and 13 of his warriors. The Umatilla retreated with Egan’s scalp before his followers could react.

Following the death of Egan, the Bannock and Paiute broke into a number of smaller groups which were pursued by the troops. At Birch Creek, the Umatilla under Umapine surprised part of the fleeing war party. They killed 17 warriors and captured 25 women and children. One of the fallen warriors was reported to be Eagle Eye, the leader of the Weiser Shoshone. Eagle Eye was, however, still very much alive and had not been involved in the fight with the Umatilla.

One of the small raiding parties decided to make a run for Canada to join Sitting Bull and the Sioux. They followed the Bannock trail through Yellowstone National Park where they encountered a survey team. The Bannock managed to capture the survey crew’s animals and supplies.

The army, under the command of Col. Nelson Miles, was actually in Yellowstone National Park. They were not on active duty, but were there as tourists. They surprised a Bannock camp near Heart Mountain, killing 11 and capturing 31.

Southwest of Yellowstone Lake, the army met some of the escapees from the Heart Mountain battle. After a brief fight, the Indians surrendered. While the army reported only one Indian killed, the captives reported that 28 were killed. One observer of the battle wrote:

“The Bannock decided to surrender to the troops, and they moved in a peaceful manner to do so. Nevertheless, volleys of gun-fire were poured into them and several of them were killed.”

The writer concluded:

“It seemed to me that killing these Indians when it was plainly evident they were trying to surrender was a violation of the humanities. They did not respond to the fire.”

Oytes and his followers elluded capture for another month.

In looking back at the causes of the Bannock War, the territorial governor explained that Camas Prairie was the Indians’ garden and it provided them with an abundant supply of vegetable foods. The governor further explained that the government had failed to follow through with the treaty stipulation to assign the prairie as part of the reservation for the Bannock. He recommended that immediate action be taken to assign it to the Fort Hall Reservation or to compensate the Indians in some other way.

In an interview with the Omaha Herald, General George Crook explained that the root cause of the Bannock War was hunger. He said:

“It cannot be expected that they will stay on reservations where there is no possible way to get food, and see their wives and children starve and die around them. We have taken their lands, deprived them of every means of living.”

Crook later wrote:

“Our Indian policy has resolved itself into a question of warpath or starvation; and, merely being human, many of them will choose the former alternative where death shall be at least glorious.”

The Idaho Statesman disagreed with General Crook, and the editor wrote:

“It was not the want of food which started them upon the warpath, but their savage thirst for blood, which had not been restrained and prevented by proper discipline and Governmental supervision.”

Some Indian Events of 1766

Two and a half centuries ago, in 1766, American Indian life had already undergone dramatic changes due to the European invasion. Horses, originally brought into New Mexico by Spanish settlers, had diffused into the Great Plains following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. With the horse, Plains Indian cultures had changed into the nomadic, tipi-dwelling, buffalo hunters stereotyped in twentieth century movies. As the eastern colonies expanded and the fur trade grew, many tribes began migrating on to the Great Plains.

In general, American Indian nations had to deal with two European nations: Britain and Spain. Briefly described below are some of the Indian events of 1766.


British explorer Jonathan Carver was sent out to explore the uncharted western territories and to search for the supposed Northwest Passage. He made it only to the Minnesota River, but his book became very popular. His maps show a long River of the West. In some of his maps, this river was named Origan which later became Oregon.

In Wisconsin, Carver found the Fox and Sauk living in four villages. The largest of these villages had about 80 large dwellings and about 300 warriors. The dwellings were organized along straight lines with wide streets. He reported that the Indians had extensive fields of corn, beans, melons, squash, and tobacco.

In Wisconsin, British trader Alexander Henry visits the Ojibwa at Chequamegon. He reported that there were 50 lodges in the village and that because of the interrupted trade the people were living in poor conditions.

In New York, the English residents of Ulster County wrote to Sir William Johnson, the superintendent of Indian affairs, to inform him of their concern for the killing of an Indian by a vagrant. They asked that the vagrant be brought to justice and punished in order to avert possible Indian retaliation.

In Pennsylvania, an Oneida man (no name is known) was murdered and robbed. His murderer, described as a vagabond, was arrested and locked in a crude log jail. His was then freed from jail by a mob of men who threaten destruction to anyone who interferes with them. He was, however, recaptured, tried, convicted, and hung.

In Pennsylvania, the self-promoting Indian fighter Major Robert Rogers produced a play entitled Ponteach, or the Savages of America. In the play, two European hunters complained about Indians and wished it were legal to hunt them. Historian Peter Silver, in his book Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America, reports:

“Though the play included much stunning stage violence, its harsh picture of the killing and robbery of two Indians was of most interest.”

In New Jersey, three European settlers raped and killed two Delaware (tribe) women. Governor William Franklin saw to it that the two who were found guilty and executed.

The Ottawa chief Pontiac signed a peace agreement with the British.

The governor of Newfoundland announced that it was not British policy to exterminate the Beothuk and outlawed the practice of indiscriminate killing of Indians.

Hudson’s Bay Company trader William Pink left the York Factory with Cree leader Mousinnikissack to travel to Saskatchewan. In the Prince Albert area he encountered a small band of Assiniboine and reported that they had many horses. He also noted that they had given up the use of canoes.


In Missouri, Osage warriors captured a number of horses near St. Louis. The Spanish pursued the raiders and captured one warrior. Spanish officials notified the Osage chiefs that the captive would be held until they paid for the damages.

In Texas, a war party of 400 Comanche, Taovaya, Tonkawa, and Hasinai attacked the Franciscan mission at San Lorenzo. The Lipan Apache, for whom the mission had been built, fled and not a single Indian remained at the mission.

In New Mexico, Spanish ranchers applied for grants to the Ojo del Espiritu Santo area. The pueblos of Zia, Jemez, and Santa Ana sent a petition to the Spanish Governor explaining that their people had long used these lands. Awarding the land grant to the Spanish ranchers would result in great injury to them as they had no other place to pasture their herds. The petition asked the Governor to deny the land grant and to award the land to the three pueblos. The Governor agreed and awarded a joint land grant to the three pueblos.


By this time, eight of the eleven Dakota bands had moved west from Minnesota to the Great Plains and were becoming Plains Indians.

In Iowa, the Iowa (tribe) moved from the Missouri River to the Des Moines River where traders from Spanish-controlled St. Louis agreed to open trade with them.


In Texas, smallpox struck the Karankawa.


In Kentucky, a second excavation of Big Bone Lick was conducted on behalf of Benjamin Franklin and Lord Shelborn of London, England. A substantial number of mastodon fossils were collected and subjected to detailed examination. Not understanding the concept of extinction, there were a number of people at this time who expected that explorers would actually find living mastodons in North America.

Fur Trade

In Ontario, Oneida trader Sarah Ainse began trading with the Mississauga on the north shore of Lake Eire.

Some American Indian Events in 1816

By 1816, the United States was developing policies that would remove all Indians from the eastern portion of the country and resettle them in lands located west of the Mississippi River. Under the vision of Manifest Destiny, the United States saw itself expanding its great land empire to the west and aiding the extinction of American Indians.

Listed below are a few of the American Indian events of 1816.

Manifest Destiny

John Melish finished his Map of the United States which was considered to be a cartographic masterpiece. The map showed the full continent. He says of his map:

“The map so constructed shows at a glance the whole extent of the United States territory from sea to sea; and in tracing the probable expansion of the human race from east to west, the mind finds an agreeable resting place, at its western limits.”

In Illinois, a troop of American soldiers constructed Fort Armstrong atop a limestone cliff above the Mississippi River. The new fort was located on Rock Island, about four miles from the Sauk village of Saukenuk. In his book Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America, historian Kerry Trask writes:

“Rock Island was regarded as a very special pace that was under the care of a ‘Good Spirit,’ who lived in a cave directly below the site the soldiers had chosen for their fort.”

Indian Removal

President James Monroe approved a plan to move New York Indians to the west.

In Ohio, the Iroquois Six Nations met with the Shawnee, Ottawa, and Wyandot to discuss the possibility of the removal of the New York tribes to Ohio. Mohawk leader Joseph Brant felt that it would be a good idea for the Seneca to move to Sandusky where they could join with the Wyandot. Arthur Caswell Parker. In his biography Red Jacket: Seneca Chief, describes the council:

“The chiefs of the Six Nations, long accustomed to the clothing of the white man, were once more dressed in their ancient costumes.”

Seneca leader Red Jacket addressed the council and reminded them that those tribes who recently sided with the British had lost a great deal. Red Jacket told them:

“We have always lost by taking up the hatchet. Even the British, upon whom we pinned our hopes, sold our land to the Americans after every war in which we were allied with them.”

Red Jacket spoke against selling land to the Americans:

“To command respect, you must possess extensive territory! Keep your holdings sufficiently large so that you may not be crowded on any side by the whites.”

Conflicts and Wars

About 6,000 Cherokees had moved from their traditional homelands in the southeast into the traditional hunting area of the Osage on the Great Plains. According to historian Willard Rollings, in his book The Osage: An Ethnohistorical Study of Hegemony on the Prairie-Plains:

“These Cherokee invaders of Osage country were well armed and skilled hunters. When Cherokee and Osage met on hunting expeditions, violence ensues as both groups struggled for control of the territory.”

While the Osage allowed payment to “to cover the dead” in place of blood revenge, Cherokee traditions required blood revenge when a Cherokee was killed by a non-Cherokee.

The Americans arranged for peace negotiations between the two nations and an agreement was signed by which the Osage gave up their claim to much of the Cherokee country in western Arkansas and northeastern Oklahoma. The agreement, however, was not ratified by the Senate.

In Illinois, Kickapoo leader Little Otter sent messages to the Potawatomi, Miami, and other tribes asking them to join the Kickapoo in making war against the Americans. The other tribes, fearful of American reprisals, publically refused the Kickapoo war belts and boycotted the council which Little Otter attempted to hold. In The Kickapoos: Lords of the Middle Border, A.M. Gibson reports:

“Unable to win followers in their anti-American crusade, the Kickapoos began their own campaign against the Long Knife intruders. Cattle and horses were stolen, settlers’ homes were looted, and haystacks and barns were burned by fast-riding Kickapoo raiders.”

In Florida, American soldiers together with 200 Creek warriors under Chief William McIntosh invaded Spanish territory in an attempt to capture blacks who were living among the Seminole. The 300 Seminoles – including 30 Seminole men and 70 black men – took refuge in Fort Apalachicola. The fort was then blown up by the Americans, killing 270 people. The survivors were taken to Georgia where they were enslaved. In revenge, other Seminoles began a campaign of attacking American settlements along the Georgia-Florida border.

In Oklahoma, the Indian agent for the Caddo, with the help of a military detachment, removed about a dozen American families from an unauthorized settlement on Pecan Point. Several unlicensed traders were arrested and their merchandise was seized.

In Wyoming, a war party of Assiniboines attempted to capture Crow horses. Thirty Assiniboine were killed.

In Texas, the Comanches made a truce with the Lipan Apache under El Cojo. This ended 60 years of warfare between the two groups. In his book The Comanche Empire, historian Pekka Hamalainen reports:

“With the truce, El Cojo’s Lipans won hunting privileges in southern Comanchería and in return opened their territories to Comanches, who swiftly extended their stock and slave raids to the lower Río Grande valley and its many villages and haciendas.”

The Comanche raiding parties were often aided by Lipan Apache guides.

In South Dakota, Sioux leader Red Thunder had a violent confrontation with an unidentified Yanktonai man and was wounded in the head. Following this he formed his own band which was then called the Cutheads.


In Texas, smallpox struck the Caddo, Wichita, Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa-Apache. Among the Comanche, 4,000 died.

In New Mexico, the Pueblo of San Juan was afflicted by a smallpox epidemic.


In St. Louis, Missouri, William Clark established the first museum west of the Mississippi when he added a room to his house. The room served as a museum for his collection of Indian artifacts as well as a council chamber for meeting with delegations of visiting Indians.


Following the 1812 war with the British, many of the Indian allies of the British were refugees in Canada. By 1816, some of these Indians began to return to the United States.

Shawnee prophet Tenskwatawa, who was living in exile in Canada, contacted the Americans and asked to be allowed to establish a temporary village south of Detroit along the River Raisin. The Americans, however, had no intention of allowing Tenskwatawa to establish a separate village and his request was denied.

In Michigan, many Indians who were loyal to the Shawnee prophet Tenskwatawa returned from Canada to the United States. They encountered a British soldier whom they believed to be a deserter. Tenskwatawa had the man seized and taken back to Canada. The soldier, however, was not a deserter, but had been sent to the United States on legitimate business. As a result, the Americans charged Tenskwatawa with kidnapping and issued a warrant for his arrest. If he returned, he was to be arrested.

In preparation for Tenskwatawa’s return, his followers established a small village near the mouth of the Tippecanoe River in Indiana. When it was apparent that he was not returning, most of his followers left. Soon the village was reduced to 27 people, most of whom were his relatives, including Tecumseh’s son.

Court Ruling

In Massachusetts, the state supreme court in Andover vs Canton declared Indians “the unfortunate children of the public, entitled to protection and support.”

Prominent Deaths

In Maine, Molly Ockett fell ill and died at about 80 years of age. She was considered to be the “Last Pigwacket.”

In Wisconsin, Winnebago chief Spoon Decora died at the age of 86. His son Waukon Decora became chief.

Cayuga Ceremonies

The Cayuga, known as the people at the landing” in reference to portaging a canoe, are a part of the Iroquois Confederacy (also known as the League of Five Nations and the League of Six Nations). The traditional homeland of the Cayuga was in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Among the Indian nations of the League of Five Nations, the Cayuga had the smallest territory, with the Seneca to their west and the Onondaga to their east. The Cayuga had thirteen main villages.

The most important feature of Iroquois life is the clan system. The clans are matrilineal, meaning that children belong to their mother’s clan. Among the Cayuga, the clans were associated with two moieties (a division of the tribe into two groups): Wolf and Turtle. The Heron, Wolf, Plover, and Snipe clans made up the Wolf Moiety. The Big Bear, Ball, Younger Bear, Suckling Bear, Deer, and Snapping Turtle clans made up the Turtle Moiety. Prior to the coming of the Europeans the moieties were exogamous; that is, a member of the Wolf Moiety could not marry another member of the Wolf Moiety. By the end of the nineteenth century, exogamy no longer applied to the moieties.

Cayuga moieties functioned to provide social and ceremonial equilibrium. Among the Cayuga, members of the same moiety refer to themselves as “brothers and sisters” ceremonially and they refer to the members of the other moiety as “cousins.”

Religious ceremonies are often carried out in a longhouse. Anthropologist Frank Speck, in his work on Cayuga ceremonialism (Midwinter Rites of the Cayuga Long House), writes:

“It should be understood that all the ceremonies discussed in this study are when occasion arises carried out in the Long House, which to the Cayuga ceremonialist is virtually a temple.”

There are two doors and two fires in the longhouse, which are associated with east and west.

In Cayuga ceremonies, members of the Wolf Moiety enter the longhouse through the west door (known as the Wolf Door) and the members of the Turtle Moiety enter through the east door (known as the Turtle Door). For most of the ceremonies there are formal seating arrangements which call for the men and women to sit opposite each other. Men sit to the east and women sit to the west.

The Cayuga ceremonial year was traditionally divided into periods of male control and female control. The winter ceremonies are sponsored by the men. On the last day of the Midwinter ceremonies, the chiefs formally transfer sponsorship to the women. The women then sponsor the ceremonies in the longhouse until the corn has matured in August. At this time, they formally turn their duties over to the men.

The Cayuga use a number of different musical instruments during their longhouse ceremonies. These include turtle rattles (made from snapping turtles, box turtles, and mud turtles), horn rattles, bark rattles, gourd rattles, wood beaters, rasps, water drums, deer-hoof rattles.

Briefly described below are some of the Cayuga ceremonies. While some of the ceremonies may not be currently performed, they are described as they were performed.

Feather Dance:

The Feather Dance is one of the four “Sacred Words” of the Cayuga and is performed soon after sunrise on the sixth day of the Midwinter Ceremony. While everyone is called on to participate, the men wear feather headdresses. The feathers of the Blue Heron are often preferred because of its prayerful attitude. The men also wear face paint: two horizontal stripes on each cheek.

Burning Tobacco Ceremony:

The Burning Tobacco Ceremony is performed on the seventh day of the Midwinter Ceremony. Tobacco is a helper which assists the people in communicating to the spirit world. During a prayer – which is repeated five times – to the spirit forces above the earth, the Creator, the Four Angels, the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, and the Thunders, tobacco is thrown on the fire.

Sun Ceremony:

Among the Cayuga, the Sun Ceremony is carried out in the long house to thank the sun for warmth and the stimulation of plant growth. Each man has his own personal chants which are used in this ceremony. Each man holds a sun-symbol which is a wooden disk that has been painted with red and yellow symbols: a face on one side and rays on the other. Feathers are attached to the disk. The movement in this ceremony is counter clockwise.

Skin Dance:

The Skin Dance is another of the four Sacred Words of the Cayuga and is performed on the seventh day of the Midwinter Ceremony. Anthropologist Frank Speck writes:

“Before the time of Handsome Lake the purpose of the Skin Dance was to afford an opportunity for the war chiefs and warriors to recount their war records and to discuss raids and cruelties inflicted upon other tribes.”

This was condemned by Handsome Lake, the early nineteenth century prophet, who taught that only the wonders of creation should be spoken at this ceremony.

Bowl Game:

The Bowl Game is another of the four Sacred Words of the Cayuga which is performed twice a year. It may also be conducted as a healing rite. The ceremony involves two players, one from each moiety. Six dice – peach pits which are burned black on one side – are placed in a large bowl. The dice are shaken in the bowl and then counted. The game continues until one side has accumulated 101 points.

The Fur Trade in 1816

During the first part of the nineteenth century, the fur trade continued to be one of the important economic engines in North America. Driven in large part by European fashion, beaver pelts had great value. Traders obtained the pelts from Indians using goods such as blankets, guns, beads, knives, whiskey, tobacco and other items as trade goods.

Gift-giving and ceremonial exchange were important elements in trading with Indians: traders soon found that if they didn’t participate in the ceremonies and provide the Indians with gifts that the Indians wouldn’t trade with them. In general, the “Opening Trade Ceremonies” began with the traders dispensing “high wine” or “Indian rum” (a diluted alcohol). Next would come the passing of the pipe which would be accompanied by speeches.

By 1816, the fur and hide trade in North America was dominated by three groups: (1) the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) which had been founded in 1670 and was controlled by investors in London; (2) the North West Company (Nor’westers) which had been founded in 1776 by a group of traders in Montreal; and (3) a number of smaller American fur companies, often short-lived, which generally traded out of St. Louis.

The Columbia River Basin—an area which includes much of the present-day states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho—was claimed by both the Britain and the United States. In 1811, John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company had established Fort Astoria near the mouth of the Columbia River with the intention of controlling the region’s fur trade. In 1813, however, with war waging between the United States and Britain, the Nor’westers acquired the holdings of the Pacific Fur Company. In 1816, what had been Fort Astoria was now Fort George.

Originally, the fur trade centered on Indians trapping and preparing the furs. The Indians would then trade them for European goods. By 1816, however, the fur trade companies were more frequently using their own trappers and trading with the Indians primarily for horses and food supplies.

Donald McKenzie was appointed the leader of the North West Company’s new Columbia Department. While the company had traditionally gone into Indian country and opened posts for Indian trade, McKenzie decided to change this approach. Geographer John Allen, in one of his chapters in North American Exploration. Volume 3: A Continent Comprehended, reports:

“McKenzie, however, concluded that the fur trade could be made more profitable by eliminating the middlemen, that is, the Indians. Instead of building posts for trading purposes, the North West Company decided to trap rather than trade.”

As a result, large numbers of non-Indian trappers—French-Canadian, American, English, Hawaiian—began to invade Indian country. Also included in the trapping brigades were a number of Iroquois.

In Montana, Iroquois leader Big Ignace and a number of his people settled among the Flathead who welcomed these well-armed reinforcements in their clashes with the Blackfoot. Historian Larry Cebula, in his book Plateau Indians and the Quest for Spiritual Power, 1700-1850, writes:

“The Iroquois taught the Flatheads at least some of the outward forms of Catholicism, including the sign of the cross, morning and evening prayers, baptism, marking graves with a cross, and Sabbath day—which the Iroquois marked by raising a flag, as they had seen white traders do.”

Some of these new religious elements diffused to other neighboring tribes.

In Washington, the North West Company established Fort Nez Perce at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers to establish trade with the Nez Perce, Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Palouse.

In New Mexico, fur traders operating out of Taos adopted a strategy of trapping rather than trading. Geographer John Allen reports:

“Rather than seeking Indian tribes with whom they could trade for furs, they themselves trapped the beaver—in the rich valleys of the Sangre de Cristo, San Juan, and other ranges of the southern Rockies—and then returned to Santa Fe, where they sold the furs to merchants who had crossed the Santa Fe Trail from St. Louis.”

American Indian Treaties in 1816

A treaty is simply an agreement between two or more sovereign nations. Following the Constitution, the United States recognized Indian nations as sovereign entities and thus negotiated treaties with them. From the viewpoint of American law, there are three basic steps involved in the treaty process: (1) the treaty is negotiated, (2) it is then ratified by the Senate, and (3) it is proclaimed (signed) by the President. At this time, the treaty is considered to be in force and is a law which is superior to that of local or state laws.

In 1816, the primary focus of the treaties between Indian nations and the United States was for the United States to obtain title to Indian land. Briefly described below are some of the 1816 treaties.


In Washington, D.C., a Cherokee delegation including Major Ridge, Richard Brown, Cheucunsenee, John Walker, John Lowry, Richard Taylor, and John Ross, met with U.S. government officials to request compensations for damages done by American soldiers going through the Cherokee Nation at the end of the Creek war. However, the delegation was persuaded to sell their South Carolina land for $5,000. The United States, however, agreed to recognize the Cherokee claim to four million acres of land in Georgia and Alabama that had been taken from the Creek. Under the agreement, government troops would help evict illegal settlers.

The Cherokee delegation met with President James Madison in the Octagon House which was serving as the President’s residence while the fire-gutted White House underwent renovations. In his book Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees, and the Trail of Tears, Brian Hicks reports:

“For the entirety of the short meeting, the president did all the talking. He promised the Indians that any of their tribesmen permanently disabled in the war would receive the same pension benefits as white soldiers, and he assured them the government would pay for the damage done by troops to the Cherokee Nation—‘as much as what is right.’”

General Andrew Jackson was furious with the new treaty and met with a group of Cherokee chiefs under the leadership of Toochalar in Alabama. Journalist Stanley Hoig, in his book The Cherokees and Their Chiefs: In the Wake of Empire, reports:

“Unable to persuade the Cherokees to give up valuable portions of their land south of the Tennessee River, Jackson turned to the tried-and-true method of bribery of the chiefs and interpreters.”

Those accepting bribes included Glass, Boat, Sour Mush, Chulioa, Dick Justice, Richard Brown, and Chickasautchee. As a result, the Cherokee gave up most of the land gained in the previous treaty for an annual payment of $5,000 for ten years. Among those signing the treaty was Sequoia. Path Killer, the Cherokee principal chief, was not present.

In her book The Cherokees, Grace Steele Woodward reports:

“To protect themselves from the wrath of the council, the delegation of twelve who signed the treaty with Jackson did so with the understanding that the Cherokee National Council must ratify it before it became final.”


In Wisconsin, a delegation of 11 Winnebago chiefs, including Naw-Kaw and Spoon Decora traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to sign a treaty of peace and friendship with the United States. Anthropologist Nancy Lurie, in an entry in Handbook of North American Indians, reports:

“Although these Winnebagos made clear that they represented only their own Wisconsin River village, the fact that Naw-Kaw made the overture indicated the official direction of tribal policy.”


In Illinois, the Americans met with the Sauk in treaty council. The Americans accused the Sauk of many crimes committed during the War of 1812, but the Sauk chiefs told the Americans that they had been deceived by the Americans and thus had been forced to join forces with the British. They smoked the peace pipe with the Americans and signed the treaty. In the words of Black Hawk:

“Here, for the first time, I touched the goose quill to the treaty — not knowing, however, that, by that act, I consented to give away my village. Had that been explained to me, I should have opposed it, and never would have signed their treaty.”


In Mississippi, the United States negotiated a new treaty with the Choctaw to settle some boundary difficulties arising from the end of the Creek war. The treaty negotiations were friendly. In his book The Removal of the Choctaw Indians, Arthur DeRosier reports:

“The Choctaws also were promised that they would always be the friend of America and that never again would the United States allow them to be mistreated.”


In the southeast, the Chickasaw ceded all of their territory south of the Tennessee River and west of the Tombigbee River to the United States.

The Removal of the Ponca Indians

In 1877 the United States government informed the Ponca that they were going to be removed from their traditional homelands in Nebraska and reassigned to a reservation in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The Ponca, a nation which had been at peace with the United States and was considered friendly, were to be moved from their reservation on the Nebraska-Dakota border to Oklahoma because their reservation had been given to their traditional enemies, the Sioux, in the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.

The Ponca first heard about their proposed removal a year earlier. At this time, the chiefs called a great council to discuss the matter. Speaking to the representatives from the American government who attended the council, Standing Bear said:

“This land is ours, we have never sold it. We have our houses and our homes here. Our fathers and some of our children are buried here. Here we wish to live and die.”

The representatives from the American government simply told the Ponca that Indian Territory was a better country.

In 1877, the Ponca were informed of their impending relocation during a Christian church service. During the service, the Indian agent addressed the Ponca and painted a glowing picture of their new lands in Oklahoma. Standing Bear responded to the announcement by pointing out to the agent that they had never sold their land nor had they ever asked to go to Indian Territory. He also reminded the agent that the Ponca had kept their treaty with the United States and that they had harmed no one.

Standing Bear, White Eagle, Standing Buffalo, Big Elk, Little Picker, Sitting Bear, Little Chief, Smoke Maker, Lone Chief, and White Swan were then taken to Oklahoma to see their new lands. For the journey south, the government purchased “civilized clothing” (primarily shirts and vests) for the chiefs. Once in Oklahoma, the Ponca chiefs found that the land did not suit them. They felt that this was not a land where corn and potatoes would easily grow. The land did not compare favorably with their lush green homeland in Nebraska. At this point, the Ponca chiefs realized that once again the Indian agent had lied to them.

The Ponca leaders informed the government that the heat, humidity, and poor soil conditions did not suit them. The Indian agent told them that they were to select land in Indian Territory or starve. The government then refused to take them back north. In his book Standing Bear is a Person: The True Story of a Native American’s Quest for Justice Stephen Dando-Collins reports:

“The chiefs, stunned by this exchange, suddenly had visions of being stranded in this strange land and dying here without ever seeing their families again.”

They had only $8 between them and only the clothes on their backs, They had almost no understanding of English. In spite of this, the chiefs made the 500 mile walk back to Nebraska where the Indian agent had them arrested.

The Ponca chiefs met with Omaha chief Iron Eyes (Joseph La Flesche) and his daughter Bright Eyes wrote out a statement from the chiefs which tells of their ordeal. She then wrote a telegram to the President.

In response to their complaints, an inspector from the Indian Office and the Indian agent called for a council with the Ponca. Before the inspector could address the council, Standing Bear came to his feet. Pulling his red council blanket around his shoulders, he asked why the Indian Affairs men had come to the Ponca reservation when they had not been invited. He concluded by telling the Indian Office men to leave at once.

Standing Bear and his brother Big Snake were then arrested, placed in chains, and jailed for resisting the removal order. The other Ponca chiefs, however, defiantly told the Americans that they would not be removed. The Indian Office inspector simply informed the council that they could move of their own volition or the Americans would use force against them.

At sunrise, army troops—four detachments of cavalry and one of infantry—surrounded the Ponca village. The troops dragged men, women, and children from their cabins. There was no discussion, no negotiation, and no toleration of resistance. The American government had made the decision that the Ponca were to be removed and there was no recourse. The Ponca left behind their homes, their farms, and their farm equipment.

The Ponca were marched south under escort. They were deluged with rain and two Ponca children soon died from exposure. The army showed them no mercy, forcing the wet, cold people to travel along mud-clogged byways and across swollen rivers. When a tornado struck the camp, destroying tents, damaging wagons, and injuring several people, the army simply ordered the march to continue with no delay, except for burying the dead.

It took the Ponca 50 days to reach their destination. They were informed that they were now prisoners and they would be punished if they attempted to leave the reservation. In an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, Quentin Taylor reports:

“Most of the survivors disliked their new home, and the chiefs petitioned the authorities in Washington to return to their ancestral lands.”

Nearly one-fourth of the Ponca died during their first year in Indian Territory.

A delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. where four Ponca chiefs met President Rutherford Hayes. Each of the chiefs expressed dissatisfaction with their land in Oklahoma and their desire to return to their homeland. Stephen Dando-Collins describes the meeting this way:

“Standing Bear reverently, respectfully told the Great Father that his people had been wronged, that they were now in an awfully bad place, and that he hoped he would do something for them.”

President Hayes was astonished at the story of their forced march and told the chiefs that this is the first he has heard of it.

At a meeting in the Department of the Interior, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs informed the Ponca chiefs that there was no way that their request to be returned to the north could be honored without Congressional action. At a second meeting with President Hayes, who had now been briefed by the Department of the Interior, the President told them that the Ponca must stay in Indian Territory. He assured them that they would be treated well.

Outlawing American Indian Religions

For the past five centuries, American Indians have had their religions suppressed (sometimes brutally and violently) and denied. With the formation of the United States and the adoption of the Bill of Rights which speaks of freedom of religion, this freedom has been denied to American Indians based on the notion that they were not citizens and therefore this freedom did not apply to them. The period of time from 1870 to 1934 can be considered the Dark Ages for American Indian Religious Freedom. During this time, the active suppression of American Indian religions reached its peak.

Under the Peace Policy of President Grant, Indian reservations were to be administered by Christian denominations which were allowed to forcibly convert the Indians to Christianity. By 1872, 63 of the nation’s 75 Indian reservations were being administered by Christian religious denominations.

In 1877, the United States sent America’s Christian General, O.O. Howard to the Pacific Northwest to put down the Dreamer Religion. With regard to the Nez Perce, Howard feels that it is his duty as an American officer and a Christian to force the Dreamer bands, such as Chief Joseph’s, into becoming Christian. The result of this was the Nez Perce War.

In 1883, the Secretary of the Interior reported that the heathen practices of American Indians had to be eliminated. According to Secretary of the Interior Henry M. Teller, the heathen practices of the American Indians must be eliminated:

“they must be compelled to desist from the savage and barbarous practices that are calculated to continue them in savagery.”

He instructed the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to compel the discontinuance of dances and feasts. He asked Congress for greater power to deal with the Indian spiritual leaders (often called “medicine men”). He asked that steps be taken to compel “these impostors to abandon this deception and discontinue their practices.”

Following the recommendations of the Secretary of the Interior, missionaries, and other influential “friends of the Indian,” the United States formally outlawed “pagan” ceremonies in 1884. Indians who were found guilty of participating in traditional religious ceremonies were to be imprisoned for 30 days. This was seen as an important step in the destruction of the Indian way of life.

In 1890, the United States government used military force to suppress the so-called “Ghost Dance” religion among the Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The War Department issued a list of Indians who were to be arrested on sight. Their “crime” was simple: they had embraced a new religion, one which had not been approved by the United States government. Using Hotchkiss machine guns, American soldiers managed to kill 40 Sioux men and 200 women and children at Wounded Knee.

In 1892, Congress strengthened the law against Indian religions. Under the new regulations, Indians who openly advocated Indian beliefs, those who performed religious dances, and those involved in religious ceremonies were to be imprisoned.

On a regular basis, the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs reminded the Indian agents of the need to suppress Indian religions. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in 1902 told reservation agents: “You are therefore directed to induce your male Indians to cut their hair.” According to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

“The wearing of short hair by the males will be a great step in advance, and will certainly hasten their progress toward civilization.”

Under the new guidelines, Indian men with long hair were to be denied rations. If they still refused to cut their hair, “short confinement in the guardhouse at hard labor with shorn locks, should furnish a cure.”

On the Hopi Reservation, the Indian agent forced a number of men to cut their hair. The agent disregarded the ceremonial purpose of long hair. Hopi men traditionally grew their hair long in the back as a symbol of the falling rain for which they prayed. For the Hopi, for a man to have his hair cut during the growing season was tantamount to asking that the corn stop growing.

Indian agents were also instructed to stop Indians from using face paint. According to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

“The use of this paint leads to many disease of the eyes among those Indians who paint. Persons who have given considerable thought and investigation to the subject are satisfied that this custom causes the majority of cases of blindness among the Indians of the United States.”

In addition, Indian dances and feasts were to be prohibited. According to the BIA:

“Feasts are simply subterfuges to cover degrading acts and to disguise immoral purposes.”

In 1934, policy regarding freedom of religion for American Indians began to change when John Collier, the Commissioner for Indian Affairs, issued Circular No. 2970 (“Indian Religious Freedom and Indian Culture”) to superintendents of Indian agencies. According to Collier:

“no interference with Indian religious life or ceremonial expression will hereafter be tolerated.”

Not all of the employees, however, followed the new rule. According to JoAllyn Archambault, in her chapter on the Sun Dance in the Handbook of North American Indians:

“However, many federal employees and Christian missionaries on reservations resisted the policy and discouraged sweatbaths, the Sun Dance, and other religious practices.”

Historian Angie Debo, in her book A History of the Indians of the United States, reports:

“Superpatriots even detected the hidden hand of Red Russia behind the policy, and Collier had to defend himself before the House Indian Affairs Committee against charges of atheism, Communism, and sedition.”

Ancient America: The Halliday Site in Illinois

The ancient city of Cahokia was originally founded about 600 CE and its time of greatest development appears to have been between 1050 and 1250. Conservative estimates say that Cahokia had a population of 10,000, but there are some who feel that its population may have been closer to 75,000.

The most spectacular feature of this city is Monk’s Mound which was completed in 1050. This earthen pyramid is 1,800 feet long, 710 feet wide, and 100 feet high. It covers 14 acres. The structure which was on top of the pyramid was 100 feet long and 50 feet high.

Cahokia served as the cultural, economic, and political center of a much larger area. It is generally seen at the center of Mississippian culture which extended from Florida in the south to Wisconsin in the north. Mississippian villages were generally built around large public courtyards.

At about the same time that the Mississippian people of Cahokia completed the construction of Monk’s Mound, another group of Indian people established a small village about ten miles southeast of Cahokia. Located in present-day Illinois, this village today is known as the Halliday site. The village contained 150 houses and storages sheds and was home to 200 to 300 people. The pottery styles in the village appear to be either old-fashioned or foreign to the region. The pottery resembles an earlier pottery type known to archaeologists as Varney Red Filmed, which had been made in southern Missouri at an earlier time period.

Interestingly enough, there are no male-oriented artifacts at the site. There are bone weaving tools, spindle whorls, and ample evidence of intensive farming, pottery production, and communal cooking. There are, however, no arrowheads or evidence of large game animals.

In his book Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi, anthropologist Timothy Pauketat reports:

“These upland villagers, living at the edge of the Illinois prairie, were eating small lizards, frogs, snakes, turtles, and rodents, as well as large amounts of corn, possibly more than anybody else in the area at the time—probably cooked as soup, judging from the residues found in pots. They were also eating their dogs, which was not a common practice at Cahokia.”

With regard to their diet, Timothy Pauketat notes:

“They ate more corn and less protein than is healthy for a person. What protein they did eat was far from choice bits of meat, and the existence of these near-peasant farmers was far from ideal, even for the time.”

Who were these people? Timothy Pauketat answers:

“They were immigrants, or the children of immigrants, from southeastern Missouri or northeastern Arkansas, and they were heavily into chunkey.”

Chunkey is a game which was commonly played by the Southeastern Indians, such as the Creeks. The game appears to have originated among the Mississippian peoples of Cahokia. Anthropologist Timothy Pauketat writes:

“The game called Chunkey appears to have played a significant role in organizing social and political life in Cahokia.”

The game involved the use of a stone discoid which was rolled on its edge across a packed-clay playing field. Timothy Pauketat describes what happens next:

“A few paces into the yard the players, at about the same time, chuck their playing sticks like huge darts after the rolling stone. Points were scored depending on how close to the stone the sticks—or, actually, a series of marks on leather bands on each stick—landed.”

At the time the Halliday site was established, the people at Cahokia had begun making some fine chunkey stones which replaced the older, thicker, community-owned stones.

Religion and American Indians in 1816

During the nineteenth century, the United States sought to bring Christianity to the American Indians and to suppress the expression of Native religions. Briefly described below are a few of the events of 1816 relating to religion and American Indians.

In Kentucky, the Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathens wrote a circular letter to Indian agents suggesting that the English language and the habits of civilization should be taught to the Indians before spreading the gospel to them. They asked that the agents have Indian children sent among non-Indians to be schooled.

In Ohio, John Stewart, a free Negro, began preaching to the Wyandot and many Indians converted to Protestantism.

In New York, Eleazar Williams, an Episcopal lay reader and catechist, moved to the Oneida reservation. He spoke the Oneida language and had a good oratory style. He quickly won the support of the Oneida Christians (also known as the First Christian Party or the Shenandoah Party).

In California, the Spanish Catholic missionaries at the San Francisco mission had the Indians stage a traditional dance for a visiting Russian expedition.

The Cherokee Nation allowed several Christian missionary groups – Baptist, Methodist, Congregational, and Presbyterian – to establish schools. According to Marion Starkey in The Cherokee Nation:

“So the missionaries came and remained to play a vital part in the further development of the Cherokees.”

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions declared that it proposed for the Cherokee—

“To make the whole tribe English in their language, civilized in their habits, and Christian in their religion.”

On the southern plains, Pawnee leader Petalesharo rescued a Comanche girl from the Morning Star Ceremony, stating that the ritual should be abolished. He offered himself in her place and when the other Pawnee hesitated in killing him, he untied the girl, placed her on a horse, and led her to safety.

In the Morning Star Ceremony, a girl captured from another tribe would be sacrificed at the Summer Solstice. The captured girl would spend many months with the Pawnee and would be treated well. For the ceremony, her body was painted half red and half white and she was tied to a rectangular frame near the village. As the morning star rose, all of the men and boys of the village shot arrows into her body. The ceremony was not a part of the regular Pawnee ceremonial cycle, but was done only when a man was commanded by a vision to conduct the ceremony. The ritual gave the people success in war and in fertility.

American Indian Religions in 1916

Following the policies of the nineteenth century, during the first part of the twentieth century the United States was firmly convinced that American Indians could assimilate only if they became Christians. To aid in the “civilization” (i.e. Christianization) of the Indians, Congress had formally outlawed Indian religions in the nineteenth century. On the reservations, Indians could be jailed without a trial for practicing or promoting any traditional Indian religious practice. In addition to suppressing traditional ceremonies such as the Sun Dance, one of the concerns at this time focused on suppressing and criminalizing the so-called “Peyote Cult” (the Native American Church). Briefly described below are some of the events dealing with American Indian religions in 1916.


Opposition to the Native American Church has generally been based on: (1) it is an American Indian religion, and (2) the Church’s use of peyote as a sacrament. Peyote, often confused with mescaline, has been labeled addictive.

Representative Harry L. Gandy of South Dakota and Senator W. W. Thompson of Kansas introduced bills in Congress to prohibit traffic in peyote, including its sale to Indians. Support for the bill was provided by the National Indian Association, the Society of American Indians, the National Indian Student Conference, the Lake Mohonk Conference, the Indian Rights Association, and the YMCA. The presentation of anti-peyote materials was coordinated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Omaha Indians journeyed from Oklahoma to Washington to testify against the bills. The bills failed to pass. Anthropologist Omer C. Stewart, in his entry “Peyote and the Law” in the Handbook of American Indian Religious Freedom, writes:

“This was the beginning of a futile forty-seven-year effort to outlaw peyote federally. Twelve different bills were introduced into Congress to prohibit the use of peyote in the United States from the 1916 Gandy bill to the 1963 Fascell bill. No federal bill ever resulted.”

Harry Black Bear, an Oglala Sioux, was arrested in South Dakota for giving peyote buttons to other Indians. In a trial in Deadwood, South Dakota, a jury found him guilty, but the judge ruled that the prohibition under which he had been charged applied to alcoholic beverages and not to peyote. According to the judge:

“I am clearly of the opinion that this prosecution is not within the purview of this statute….[Peyote] is neither an intoxicating liquor nor a drug.”

In Oklahoma, the Indian agent for the Southern Ponca reported that half of the tribe’s 630 members were involved with the Peyote religion.

Sun Dance

In Idaho, the Shoshone and Bannock once again attempted to hold a Sun Dance off the reservation. Indian police from the Fort Hall Reservation tore down the Sun Dance structure, cut up the poles, and confined seven of the ceremonial leaders to jail for ten days.

In Montana, writer Frank Bird Linderman wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs Cato Sells asking that the orders requiring that Indian men cut their hair and prohibiting the Sun Dance be rescinded for the Chippewa and Cree on the Rocky Boy Reservation. Sells replied that there was no order to forcibly cut the men’s hair, but simply a strong suggestion that they do so. With regard to the Sun Dance, Sells strongly supported the ban on this ceremony citing a long-standing policy to discourage harmful Indian practices. The Indians, however, simply conducted the Sun Dance without official permission. In Reimagining Indians: Native Americans Through Ango Eyes, 1880-1940, historian Sherry Smith reports:

“Official permission mattered little to them and apparently nobody on the reservation tried to stop it.”

In Oklahoma, the Indian agent banned the Kiowa Ghost Dance because of its opposition to Christianity and allotment. However, several Ghost Dances were held on scattered allotments. The agent obtained a list of the names of 79 participants so that he could withhold their per capita payments.

Ancient America: Colorado Prior to 6000 BCE

The boundary lines that mark the current state of Colorado are artificial and were laid down by non-Indigenous people with no regard for the cultures of the American Indians who had occupied this territory for thousands of years. Within categories of American Indian culture areas Colorado includes portions of three: (1) the Southwest; (2) the Great Basin; and (3) the Great Plains. Listed below are some of the archaeological sites in Colorado which have been dated prior to 6,000 BCE.

Dutton and Selby sites: by 15,000 BCE, Indian people at the Dutton and Selby sites near the present-day town of Wray were hunting (or at least scavenging) camels, horses, and bison.

Lamb Spring: about 11,140 BCE, Indian people at the Lamb Spring site butchered a mammoth.

Mahaffy Cache: about 11,000 BCE, Indian people using Clovis technology left a cache of tools—8 bi-facially flaked knives, a chopping tool, and numerous flakes—at one of their sites. DNA analysis of the protein residue on the tools of the Mahaffy Cache revealed that they had been hunting bear, horse, wild sheep, and camel.

Jones-Miller site: by 9500 BCE, Indian people were using the Jones-Miller (5YM08) bison kill site.

By about 8000 BCE, Indian people at the Jones-Miller site (5YM08) appear to have domesticated dogs. They were also using Hell Gap points.

Lindenmeier site: by 9200 BCE, Indian people using Folsom technology were using the Lindenmeier site for processing bison. In her book The Prehistory of Colorado and Adjacent Areas, anthropologist Tammy Stone reports:

“It appears that the camp space was divided into different activity areas for manufacturing various items from bone, including jewelry. This site demonstrates that Folsom period peoples butchered and ate many different animals including, but not restricted to, bison, although we do not know in what proportions.”

Great Stemmed Basin complex: by 8700 BCE, Indian people were making long-stemmed points with random, collateral, or other flaking patterns. Archaeologists will later call this the Great Stemmed Basin complex.

Beads: by 8700 BCE, Indian people were making very small beads out of oil shale.

Bison hunting: about 8800 BCE, American Indian bison hunters were camping in a small, well-watered valley north of Fort Collins, Colorado. This site was visited on a regular basis by two semi-autonomous groups who cooperated in the bison hunts.

Agate Basin Complex: about 8800 BCE, the Agate Basin Complex appears in Colorado. Archaeologically, this complex appears to be an outgrowth of the Folsom tradition. The projectile points are very long and slender. The shapes range from lanceolate to leaf-shaped and occasionally the points are pointed at both ends.

Olsen-Chubbock site: about 8500 BCE, Indian hunters killed almost 200 buffalo at the Olsen-Chubbock site. The 150 fully butchered animals produced about 60,000 pounds of meat which is enough to feed 50 people for more than 3 months.

About 8200 BCE, Indian hunters using Plainview and Plano tool kits drove a herd of bison into a gully and killed about 200 animals. In his book Prehistory of the Americas, Stuart Fiedel describes it this way:

“A whole herd was apparently surrounded and driven into the steep, narrow arroyo. The animals struggled vainly to escape as others fell on top of them. Those that lay on top of the pile were finished off by the hunters, while the bison trapped beneath them were crushed to death.”

Only a few of the animals at the Olsen-Chubbuck site were butchered. The kill took place in the summer or early fall. It is estimated that 150 to 200 people took part in the hunt.

Hell Gap Complex: about 8500 NCE, the Hell Gap Complex begins. The Hell Gap projectile point appears to have developed out of the Agate Basin points. The Hell Gap points have constricted bases. Anthropologist Tammy Stone reports:

“The constricted base indicates that these points may have had socketed hafts, which is further supported by grinding on the base but not on the lower lateral edges.”

Plainview Complex: about 8200 BCE, the Plainview Complex appeared in Colorado. Archaeologically this complex is defined by lanceolate-shaped projectile points with parallel or slightly convex sides and concave bases.

Foothills-Mountain Complex: about 8000 BCE, the Foothills-Mountain Complex was developed out of a Great Basin adaptation. The leaf-shaped points were roughly made and have ground bases. The points were used in socketed hafts.

Burial: about 7700 BCE, an Indian woman 25-30 years old died and was buried in a flexed position near Gordon Creek. She was covered with red ochre before burial and was interred with her head oriented to the north. Buried with her were a grinding stone, a hammer stone, an end scraper, two small bi-faced stone blades, and three utilized flakes. In addition to the stone tools, the burial goods included two worked animal ribs and a perforated elk tooth. She was 4’11” tall.

Hourglass Cave: about 6620 BCE, the body of a man is buried in the Hourglass Cave.

Bison Hunt: about 6500 BCE, southeast of Kit Carsen, Colorado, hunters stampeded a large bison herd into a dry gully. The herd went off a steep edge and 157 were killed. Three-fourths of the bison were butchered and this meat would have provisioned 100 people for about a month.

Black Knoll Phase: about 6250 BCE, in Northwestern Colorado, the period which archaeologists call the Black Knoll Phase begins. Archaeologists Tammy Stone reports:

“The Black Knoll is characterized by increasing population, evident in the increased number of sites.”

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.

American Indians, Media, and Entertainment in 1916

In 1916, people got their information about American Indians from “shows” (both stage shows and arena productions), the print media (books, magazines, and newsletters), and museums. In addition, there were interest groups which sought to increase the understanding of American Indian histories and cultures.


In New York, Cherokee entertainer Will Rogers began to headline at the Ziegfeld Follies. He presented a roping routine with a satirical narration. At this time, he was one of the most popular entertainers in vaudeville.

A wild west show featuring Buffalo Bill and the 101 Ranch Shows was organized. According to the program:

“Col. Wm. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) actively participates in the military maneuvers as well as in the battle between United States cavalrymen and a band of Indians led by the famous Sioux, Chief Iron Tail, which is a stirring feature of the exhibition…He is accompanied by over a hundred Sioux and other Indians, with their squaws and papooses…”

Books, Magazines, Newsletters

Seneca anthropologist Arthur Caswell Parker published The Constitution of the Five Nations which includes a series of documents describing Deganawida and Hiawatha and the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy. Parker argued that the Iroquois governmental system is “the greatest ever devised by barbaric man on any continent.”

Lucy Thompson (Che-na-wah Weitch-ah-wah), a Klamath/Yurok from California, self-published To the American Indian. In this book she argued that she was in a better position than any other person to tell the true facts of the religion of her people.

The first issue of American Indian Magazine appeared with the slogan “A Journal of Race Ideals.” The new magazine was edited by Arthur Caswell Parker (Seneca). The first issue included a wide range of views, including those of Yavapai physician Dr. Carlos Montezuma, one of the founders of the Society of American Indians.

To further his crusade against the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Dr. Carlos Montezuma (Yavapai-Apache) began to publish a newsletter called Wassaja. In the first issue, he explained the purpose of the newsletter:

“Its sole purpose is Freedom for the Indians through the abolition of the Indian Bureau.”

Concerning the Indian Bureau, Montezuma wrote:

“The Indian Bureau is like an old, worn out horse, perhaps quite a nag in days gone by. The horse is now past his day. He limps, has the heaves, is blind, cannot hear a single sound, BUT HE CAN SMELL THE OATS.”

A devout Baptist, Montezuma wrote about the Christian churches:

“The churches have acted as though the Indian race had the small-pox…If Christ came into the world He would tear down the barriers of the reservation.”


In Arizona, George and Helen Hunt donated 85 Western Apache and Pima baskets to the Arizona State Museum. One of the unusual pieces in the Hunt collection was a Pima coiled basket featuring woven letters spelling out Arbuckles in reference to Arbuckles’ Coffee, the “coffee that won the West.”

Geoge Gustav Heye’s Museum of the American Indian came into existence in New York City.


In Iowa, the Society of American Indians (SAI) met in Cedar Rapids. Only 28 delegates attended. Dr. Carlos Montezuma criticized the American Indian Magazine, Indian Day, and the SAI failure to take action against the Indian Bureau. At one point, Montezuma shouted at Sherman Coolidge, the SAI president:

“I am Apache, and you are an Arapahoe. I can lick you. My tribe has licked your tribe before”

Coolidge, who was significantly larger than Montezuma, simply replied: “I’m from Missouri” and laughter diffused the tension.

American Indian Reservations in 1916

During the nineteenth century, the United States had attempted to settle all Indians on well-defined reservations on lands deemed unsuitable for non-Indian development. Here Indians were to remain until they became extinct or had fully assimilated into the Christian American lifestyle. By the end of the nineteenth century, the government began the process of dismantling Indian reservations and increasing the pressures to assimilate. During the early twentieth century, for example, the United States had dissolved all of the tribal governments in Oklahoma so that the territory could become a state. By 1916, a majority of Indians still lived on reservations where they were considered wards of the government. In general, the reservations were pockets of poverty with poor health care and few educational opportunities. Briefly described below are a few of the events of 1916 which are related to Indian reservations.


In Montana, President Woodrow Wilson issues an executive order to create a reservation for the landless Chippewa under the leadership of Stone Child (whose name is also translated as Rocky Boy) and the landless Cree under the leadership of Little Bear. The tribes were given part of the former Fort Assiniboine and an 8,800 acre park was placed between the tribes and the city of Havre. The reservation was named Rocky Boy after Chief Rocky Boy, the tribe’s original Chippewa leader. Only about 450 Indians, about half of those eligible, chose to settle on the reservation.

Before the reservation was created, Chippewa leader Stone Child (Rocky Boy) died of tuberculosis at the age of 70. He died during Congress’s final consideration of a bill to create a new reservation for his people and thus the new reservation was named for him.

Papago Reservation:

In Arizona, President Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order to create the 3.1 million acre Papago Reservation for the Tohono O’odham. The town of Indian Wells was renamed Sells after Indian Commissioner Cato Sells and became the headquarters for the new Indian agency.

The creation of the reservation was opposed by the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona state land commissioner, and the Pima Farm Improvement Association. However, non-Indian cotton growers favored the reservation. Historian Eric Meeks, in article in the Western Historical Quarterly, explains:

“The seasonal nature of cotton production demanded that a surplus of labor be available for the harvest. However, since these workers were only needed for three or four months, it was critical that they have somewhere else to go over the remainder of the year.”


The United States used allotments as a way of breaking up reservations and allowing non-Indians to obtain what had been reservation land for little or no cost. Under the allotment system, tribal members were allotted a parcel of land and land which was not allotted was then opened to non-Indian settlement.

At the Santee agency in South Dakota, the Bureau of Indian Affairs created a ceremony to symbolize Indian progress from savagery to agrarian civilization. The Santee Sioux men who were receiving patents to their allotments came out of a tent, shot an arrow into the air, and then took hold of a plow. The agent then administered the citizenship oath, and gave each man a flag, a badge, and a purse to signify his new status. The wives took a homemakers oath, and received a flag, a badge, a workbag, and a purse.

In New Mexico, the field inspector found that the General Land Office had failed to approve about 2,900 allotment applications for Eastern Navajo. Garrick Bailey and Roberta Glen Bailey, in their book A History of the Navajos: The Reservation Years, report:

“Supposedly, the applicants did not meet improvement and residence requirements; in reality, the office was bending to local pressure, and withholding patents for no legitimate reason.”

Reservations Expanded:

In Utah, President Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order to expand the Shivwits Indian Reservation to 26,880 acres.

In Arizona, the federal government purchased 460 acres of land, known as the Middle Verde, for use by the Yavapai-Apache of the Camp Verde Reservation.

Reservation Reduced:

In Utah, the federal government took 84,000 acres from the Northern Ute reservation. The land was thought to contain oil shale and the federal government wanted it for a naval oil reserve.

Tribal Government:

In South Dakota, the new superintendent for the Sioux Rosebud Reservation decided to reorganize the business council feeling that the old one had been too concerned with promoting traditional dances. The Bureau of Indian Affairs drew up a constitution which called for a tribal council with members elected from each day school community and band camp on the reservation. According to the constitution:

“It shall be the purpose of this council to maintain harmonious cooperation with the Secretary of the Interior, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and the Superintendent of the Rosebud Agency.”

Shortly after the new tribal council was organized, a traditional chief requested permission from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to hold a three-fourths majority council. The superintendent informed the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that the chief was among the ultraconservative people who were interested in traditional dancing and recommended that permission be denied. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs denied permission for the council.

Tribal Membership:

In Minnesota, conservative Chippewa band leaders were informed that the Secretary of the Interior had decided to restore 86 suspended tribal members to the tribal rolls. The Indian leaders complained that the Indians should have been consulted before this decision was reached and they presented evidence illustrating the reasons for suspending the 86. However, in her book The White Earth Tragedy: Ethnicity and Dispossession at a Minnesota Anishinaabe Reservation, 1889-1920, historian Melissa Meyer observes:

“Close ties between business and government in Minnesota and the nation at large may have insured that conservative Indian leaders’ pleas would fall on deaf ears.”

Landless Indians:

In the state of Washington, Thomas Bishop, the son of a Snohomish woman and a non-Indian, insisted that there were unfulfilled obligations to landless Indians. Learning that land might be available on the Quinault Reservation, he submitted applications for allotments on the reservation. While the Quinault tribal council was receptive to this, the legal counsel for the Department of the Interior declared that the reservation was intended solely for Indians on the Pacific Coast. A special agent was appointed to locate landless Indians elsewhere in western Washington.

In Washington, a group of 75 Snoqualmie gathered at Tolt and voiced a desire for land in this area.


In California, the Table Mountain Rancheria was established as a homeland for dislocated Indians living along the San Joaquin River.

Ottawa Band:

In Michigan, land in Manistee County which had been logged by the Manistee Boom Company reverted to the United States and was purchased by the nephew of Ottawa band chief Pacquotuah. Pacquotuah then divided the land among the households in his band.

American Indians in 1916

One hundred years ago, in 1916, American government policies regarding American Indians were emphasizing assimilation: like other immigrants, according to the assimilationist mantra, Indians would become absorbed into the great American mass. While immigrants from other countries could become citizens, most Indians were not citizens. Under the terms of treaties with the United States, Indians were supposed to have some hunting and fishing rights as well as land rights. Briefly described below are some of the Indian events and issues of 1916.


The Supreme Court in United States v Nice found that U.S. citizenship

“is not incompatible with tribal existence or continued guardianship, and so may be conferred without completely emancipating the Indians or placing them beyond the reach of congressional regulations adapted for their protection”

This was a case involving the sale of whisky and other intoxicating liquors to Sioux Indians in South Dakota. The Court found that the Sioux allottees remained tribal Indians and were thus under national guardianship which means that Congress has the power to regulate or prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquor to these Indians.


Congress passes a new law regarding the leasing of Indian lands. Marjane Ambler, in her book Breaking the Iron Bonds: Indian Control of Energy Development, reports:

“The law did not provide for tribal consent: instead, the Secretary of the Interior would set the terms, thus continuing the policies of the era.”

Indian Office:

The Indian Office, now known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), launched programs to deal with the three greatest health problems of American Indians: tuberculosis, trachoma, and infant mortality.

With regard to infant mortality, the BIA began a “Save the Baby” campaign. In his work on the Northern Cheyenne in Montana, anthropologist Gregory Campbell, in American Indian Nations: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, reports:

“From all indications, the program operated under the assumption that the infant mortality problem was due to cultural ignorance and incompetence of Cheyenne mothers, rather than malnutrition, unsanitary living conditions, and cultural oppression.”

Fishing Rights

When the Indian nations in the Pacific Northwest signed treaties with the United States in 1855—the Stevens treaties (negotiated by Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens—they had retained their aboriginal fishing rights. In general, the states tended to ignore the possibility of Indian fishing rights.

In a case involving Lummi and Yakama fishing rights, Washington Su­preme Court Justice Bausman wrote:

“The premise of Indian sover­eignty we reject.”

He goes on to say that Indians are regarded as “mere occupants, and incompetent occupants, of the soil” and that the Indian

“as a child, and a dangerous child of nature, to be both protected and restrained. In his nomadic life, he was to be left, as long as civilization did not demand his region.”

In his book American Indians and the Law, law professor Bruce Duthu notes:

“The state of Washington maintained its posture of opposition toward Indian treaty fishing rights well into the modern era.”

Duthu goes on to say:

“Washington openly defied judicial precedent, federal treaty law and a growing activist Indian community in challenging the nature and scope of treaty-protected fishing rights.”

In Washington, in United States v Seufert the court found that an Indian had a right to operate a fish wheel even though fish wheels were not being used when the treaty was signed. According to the judge:

“I see no reason why Indians may not be permitted to advance in the arts and sciences as well as any other people, and, if they can catch their supply of food by a more scientific and expeditious method, there exists no good reason they may not be permitted to do so. Even more, they ought to be encouraged to adopt the more modern and advanced ways of prosecuting their enterprises.”


In the United States versus Quiver, the United States Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Dennis Quiver, a Sioux living on a South Dakota reservation, for adultery. The state of South Dakota had argued that federal jurisdiction over Indians was limited to offenses by an Indian against the person or property of another Indian and since adultery did not involve person or property, this offense could be prosecuted under state law. The Supreme Court disagreed with this argument and found that state law did not apply.

Indian Labor

In Arizona, over 100 Tohono O’odham workers joined in a general strike at the mine at Ajo. Mine owners appealed to the Catholic priest to urge the Indians to go back to work. However, the Indians joined the local labor union. The strike was put down by federal troops.

Land Claims

In Oregon, the Hanis Coos, the Kuitshes, and the Siuslaws filed a suit in the Court of Claims for lands lost to the United States. This was a part of a campaign for land claims settlements by George B. Watson (Coos/Coquille), a graduate of the Carlisle Indian School.


In Wisconsin, the State Supreme Court upheld the prohibition of the sale of alcohol to full-blooded Indians.

Water Rights

In Oregon, the Bureau of Indian Affairs asked the Justice Department to file suit on behalf of the Umatilla so that they might have sufficient water to irrigate their crops.


In Alaska, explorer, writer, and artifact collector Harold McCracken purchased two Tlingit headdresses at the village of Hoonah. One of the headdresses has a formline design crest animal painted in red and black. The other has a frog crest which is also done in formline design. These are ceremonial objects which are used in potlatches and should be inseparable from the ceremonies for which they are intended.

In Alaska, a visitor to the abandoned Tlingit village of Tuxekan counted 125 totem poles still standing.


In California, Ishi, the last member of the Yahi tribe, died of tuberculosis. Following Yahi custom, his remains were cremated. However, his brain was sent to the Smithsonian Institution for further anthropological study.

In Washington, Palouse elder Chowatyet, the brother of chief Thomash, died. His body was wrapped in buckskin, placed in a long dugout canoe, and buried on an island in the Snake River.

In Washington, Palouse elder Waughaskie died at the age of 89. He was buried at the old village of Palus in a star-spangled velvet shirt. In their book Renegade Tribe: The Palouse Indians and the Invasion of the Inland Pacific Northwest, Clifford Trafzer and Richard Scheuerman report:

“Over 250 Palouses had been laid to rest in the same cemetery, and Waughaskie became one of the last of his people to be buried there.”

The Heavy Runner Massacre

American history is filled with accounts of Indians being massacred by the U.S. Army, by American civilians, and others. Some of these “incidents” are well-known to the general public: Wounded Knee, the Washita, and Sand Creek. Others, such as the massacre of Heavy Runner’s Blackfoot band, are less well-known. In 1870, soldiers under the leadership of Colonel E. M. Baker killed 217 peaceful Blackfoot men, women, and children on the Marias River in Montana.


In the years both before and after the Civil War, many Americans came to Montana seeking their wealth either through mining or cattle ranching. Malcolm Clarke was one of those who settled down as a cattle rancher. Clarke soon married a Blackfoot woman, Kohkokima (Cutting Off Head Woman). Clarke gains the respect of the Blackfoot and was initially given the name White Lodgepole. Later, he was given the name Four Bears after he killed four grizzlies in one day.

In 1867, some Blackfoot relatives of Kohkokima, come to visit the Clarke ranch. In the group were Owl Child (Ne-tus-che-o, Kohkokima’s cousin), his wife, mother, sister, and younger brother. As a result of this visit something went wrong which created bad blood between Owl Child and the Clarke men. One version of the story, told by the Blackfoot, alludes to improper advances made by the rancher to the wife of the Piegan cousin while Horace Clarke and Owl Child were hunting in the nearby mountains. Another version of the story, usually told by non-Indians, says that Owl Child stole some Clarke horses and that Clarke publically beat him.

Two years later, a Blackfoot party led by Owl Child approached the Clarke ranch in a friendly fashion. With Owl Child are Black Weasel, Eagle’s Rib, Bear Chief, and Black Bear. Owl Child told Clarke that he had come to invite him to Mountain Chief’s village. Black Weasel, who was with the party, was Mountain Chief’s son.

Mountain Chief had disliked Americans since three Americans shot his brother and the authorities had done nothing about it. He banned all Americans from his village, but he stayed friendly with Malcolm Clarke because of his marriage to Kohkokima.

Suddenly, Bear Chief shot one of Clarke’s sons in the head. When Clarke rushed out of the house, he was shot dead by Eagle’s Rib. About 25 warriors then came out of the woods and proceeded to destroy everything in the house.

Since Malcolm Clarke was a prominent rancher, the Montana press clamored for revenge against the Blackfoot, with little concern for the actual killers. However, the military commander at Fort Shaw remained calm. He reported:

“The only Indians within reach are friendly, and nothing could be worse than to chastise them for offenses of which they are not guilty.”

However, General Sheridan, with a reputation as an Indian fighter, was in Chicago and hearing from the American settlers who wanted revenge. In his book Blackfoot Fur Trade on the Upper Missouri, John Lepley writes:

“An aggressive man, General Sheridan believed in total war against the Indians to make them pay for their predations on the whites.”

Sheridan ordered Colonel E. M. Baker to obtain revenge. It was not about justice: there was little concern for capturing the actual murderers. It was about retaliation: attacking the Blackfoot camps– any Blackfoot camp. Baker was ordered to give the Blackfoot an exhibition of military force to show the Blackfoot that they were not to trifle with the Americans. Baker’s orders from General Sheridan:

“If the lives & property of the citizens of Montana can best be protected by striking Mountain Chief’s band of Piegans, I want them struck.”

The Battle:

It was January of 1870 when the soldiers set out in search of Mountain Chief’s camp. The temperature was well below zero. Riding with the soldiers is Horace Clarke, Malcolm Clarke’s son.

On the Marias River, the soldiers encounter a Blackfoot camp. As the army approached the camp, scout Joe Kipp recognized that it is the friendly village of Heavy Runner and informed the commander that this was the wrong village. The officer ordered the soldiers to shoot Kipp if he yelled again.

As the soldiers attacked, Heavy Runner ran toward Baker waving his Washington medals and his letters of recommendation showing that he was friendly to the United States. One of the soldiers shot Heavy Runner, killing him. Baker ordered his troops to fire. The Indians did not return fire as all of their able-bodied men were on a buffalo hunt. When the firing was over the soldiers simply shot the wounded Indians. They then collected the lodges and property of the Indians in great piles, and set fire to them.

One hundred and forty women and children were taken prisoner in the attack. In her book Montana Battlefields 1806-1877: Native Americans and the U.S. Army at War, Barbara Fifer describes the camp:

“The temperature hovered about forty degrees below zero and many people were sick with smallpox, aching with high fevers and covered with running sores.”

After being held for a short time, they were released to face the cold without blankets, shelter, or food. Many died from exposure.

The first official account of the “incident” claimed that 120 Blackfoot warriors were killed, an interesting statistic since nearly all of the men were out hunting. Later, the official report was modified to indicate that a total of 173 Blackfoot were killed and that 148 of these were women, children, and elders. However, the scout Joe Kipp reported that he personally counted 217 dead.

The Aftermath:

At the time of the Heavy Runner massacre (dubbed the Baker Massacre in the eastern press), the U.S. government was debating over whether the Indian Office (later known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs) was to remain in the Department of the Interior or be transferred back to the War Department. The accounts of army brutality in this incident, including Horace Clarke’s testimony about the brutality of the attack against this friendly camp, helped stop the proposal to move Indian Affairs to the War Department. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Ely Parker, who was a Seneca Indian, was put in the position of defending the military operation as an effective way of dealing with the Blackfoot.

Mountain Chief and his people, upon hearing about the attack on Heavy Runner, avoided the army by crossing the border into Canada.

Ancient America: Texas Prior to 5000 BCE

As a cultural area, the Southern Plains is bounded by the Arkansas River on the north, the Rocky Mountains on the west, the Mississippi River on the east, and the Balcones Escarpment on the south. The area presently known as Texas covers much of the Southern Plains. In general, this is a grassy area with forests found along the streams.

American Indians lived in Texas for many thousands of years prior to the European invasion. The period of time prior to 8,000 BCE is often called the Paleo-Indian Period and the era from 8,000 to 5,000 BCE is known as the Early Mobile Foraging Period. During these time periods, American Indian groups were primarily nomadic hunters. Since there were very few plant foods with nutritional value for humans, these early Indian groups depended largely on hunting for their subsistence. Archaeologist Susan Vehik, in her chapter in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports:

“Large and small animal resources were utilized prehistorically. Bison are commonly assumed to be the primary animal resource, but the Southern Plains experienced pronounced fluctuations in the size and distribution of bison herds.”

Susan Vehik also reports:

“Bison herds are a clumped and unpredictable resource compared to deer and other small animals that tend to be dispersed. This distinction has implications for the size and distribution of human social groups.”

About 5000 BCE, the Great Plains began to enter into a climate period known as the Altithermal which is a hot, dry episode that lasted for about 2,500 years. In the Southern Great Plains this marked the transition from the Early Mobile Foraging Period to the Late Mobile Foraging Period.

Briefly described below are some of the archaeological sites in Texas which date prior to 5000 BCE.

Paleo-Indian Period

During the Paleo-Indian Period, Indian people on the Plains were nomadic hunter-gatherers. With regard to the stone technology used on the Plains during the Paleo-Indian Period, Douglas Bamforth, in his entry on the Plains in the The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, reports:

“The Paleo-Indian period on the Plains is also well-known for the sophistication of its stoneworking: Projectile points in particular are extremely well-crafted, aesthetically pleasing, and difficult to produce, and Paleo-Indian flint knappers tended to manufacture them from very high-quality stone.”

Petronila Creek: by 16,000 BCE, Indian people were occupying a hunting and fishing camp on Petronila Creek. They were hunting mammoth, ground sloth, camel, horse, peccary, antelope, coyote, prairie dog, and alligator. They were fishing for catfish, gar, and other fish.

Levi Rockshelter: by about 11,750 BCE, Indian people were using the Levi Rockshelter.

Buttermilk Creek: by about 11,200 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Buttermilk Creek site.

Gault site: by 11,000 BCE, Indian people at the Gault site were making adzes for woodworking. Archaeologists Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley, in their book Across Atlantic Ice: The Origins of America’s Clovis Culture, write:

“Small incised stones have been recovered from the Clovis level at the Gault Site in Central Texas. These stones are mostly thin limestone slabs that are natural in the area. The incising is mostly geometric designs, especially hatching and crosshatching, but at least two stones may be etched with animal representations.”

Lubbock Lake Landmark: by 11,000 BCE, Indian people were hunting mammoth as well as other mammals at the Lubbock Lake Landmark site.

Early Mobile Foraging Period

Stone Tools: by about 9650 BCE, Indian people near Aubry, Texas were making and re-sharpening stone tools similar to those which archaeologists classify as Clovis. Material for making the stone tools was not local. The source of the nearest tool material at the site was about 200 miles away.

Burial: about 9200 BCE, two Indian people—a middle-aged man and a girl of about 12—were buried together in the Horn Shelter Number 2 site. The man was buried on his left side with his head resting on a stack of turtle shells. The girl was buried so that she was nestled against his back. More than a hundred offerings were placed in the grave.

At the time of his death, the man was 35-44 years old, stood about 5’5” tall, and weighed 150 pounds. Overall, he was very muscular. His teeth were heavily worn, some were broken, and some were missing.

Both individuals had been subject to starvation and/or disease during childhood. Both appear to have had an infection at the time of death. According to anthropologist James Chatters, in his book Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans:

“This evidence of infection and frequent malnutrition may give us a hint about the cause of these people’s simultaneous deaths: infections made worse by starvation, perhaps during an unusually harsh winter.”

Hot Tubb: about 8900 BCE, Folsom buffalo hunters at the Hot Tubb site (41 CR 10) killed and processed at least six animals. In their report in the Plains Anthropologist, David Meltzer, John Seebach, and Ryan Byerly write:

“The heavy use and attrition indicated by the lithic remains—the intensive re-sharpening and recycling of both scrapers and projectile points—bespeaks a group(s) for whom stone, by the time they arrived at Hot Tubb, was in short supply.”

The stones being used for their tools was Edwards chert, from a site to the east. It is possible that the group was in route to acquire new stone when it stopped at Hot Tubb.

Midland: about 8900 BCE, Folsom people near present-day Midland were using small beads – 1.6 mm in diameter – made from bone as decorative items. According to JoAllyn Archambault of the Smithsonian Institution in her chapter in The Encyclopedia of North American Indians:

“The bone bead is as finely made as the best hishe beads (disk-shaped shell beads with a single hole in the middle) created by contemporary Indian bead makers using modern equipment.”

Buffalo Jump: by 8300 BCE, Indian people were stampeding buffalo over a 70-foot cliff. They were using both Folsom points and unfluted Plainview points.

Plainview: by 8200 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Plainview site on the eastern edge of the Llano Estacado. Lithic technology involved the use of prepared polyhedral cores and specialized flake production. Bifaces were rare and final point form was dependent on the form of the flakes struck from the core.

Hinds Cave: by 7400 BCE, Indian people at the Hinds Cave site were eating domesticated dog. They were probably also using dogs for hunting, for protection, and possibly for pets. The dog appears to be genetically similar to the later short-nosed dogs found in New Mexico.

Ryan’s site: by 7220 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Ryan’s site (41LU72) near present-day Shallowater. The stone tools used by the people at this site suggest either high mobility or extensive trade over long distances. The stone used for the tools included chert from central Texas (120 to 200 miles to the south and southeast), Alibates from the Canadian River area (120 miles to the north), and Tecovas jasper (60 miles north-northeast).

Buffalo Hunt: about 7170, Plainview hunters stampeded a herd of 100 buffalo into a gully and killed them. The hunters used atlatls tipped with Plainview points which were roughly similar to Clovis points except that they were not fluted.

Central Texas: by about 6000 BCE, Indian people in Central Texas adopted to changing environmental conditions by having a settlement/subsistence system which was characterized by small groups seasonally occupying widely dispersed camps.

Burials: by 5500 BCE, Indian people in the Edwards Plateau area were burying their dead by dropping or lowering them into sinkholes. Afterwards, they threw in rock to bury, or at least partially bury, the body. Burials tended to be egalitarian. According to archaeologist Leland Bement, in his book Hunter-Gatherer Mortuary Practices during the Central Texas Archaic:

“The presence of both sexes and all age-groups in the various deposits indicate that the burial facility was available to all members of the society and not limited to a certain segment.”

In general, Indian people of the Edwards Plateau area were healthy, robust, and free of diseases.