An Iroquois in Oregon

In 1857, Enos Thomas, whose tribal identity is simply listed as Iroquois, was transported from Fort Vancouver to Port Orford, Oregon to be tried for war crimes committed during the recent Rogue River War. When the primary witness against him failed to appear, the Justice of the Peace William Copeland ordered the sheriff William Riley to free Enos. As soon as the blacksmith had freed him from his chains, a mob seized him, gave him some whiskey to drink, took him to the historic Battle Rock, and hung him. His body was buried at Battle Rock.

This type of incident—a mob hanging an Indian for “crimes” committed during a “war” with the United States—was common in the nineteenth century West. The interesting question is, however, how did an Iroquois, whose homelands are in the Northeast, come to be a war leader among tribes in southern Oregon?

The answer to this question lies in the early nineteenth century fur trade. The fur trade in the Pacific Northwest (in what would become Washington, Idaho, and Oregon) was dominated by two major fur companies: the London-based Hudson Bay Company (HBC) and the Montreal-based North West Company (the Nor’westers). As the Nor’westers moved into the area, they brought with them a number of Iroquois who were employed as trappers. These Iroquois had been educated by the Jesuits at the Caughnawaga Mission near Montreal in Canada. It was relatively common for these Iroquois to leave their employer and to settle among the tribes in the region.

The designation “Iroquois” does not refer to a single tribe, but is most frequently used to refer to the six Indian nations of the Iroquois Confederacy: Seneca, Cayuga, Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, and Tuscarora. The Iroquois homeland had originally included most of what is now New York and Ontario. Following the American Revolutionary War, many of the Iroquois settled in Canada.

Since many of the Iroquois who came to the Pacific Northwest spoke French as their primary European language, it was common for American settlers in the region to view them as French-Canadian. In most cases, the historic record does not indicate which of the Iroquois nations these trappers came from.

While there are no records regarding the early life of Enos (whose name is also indicated as Enas and Eneas and who is often described as a Canadian Indian), it is likely that he came into the region in the employ of HBC after the merger with the Nor’westers. He may also have grown up in a community of former HBC employees who had settled in Oregon. If this was the case, then his mother was most likely from an Oregon tribe or a Métis whose family was associated with the fur trade.

According to some historians, Enos may have worked as a guide for the 1843-1844 exploring expedition of John Charles Frémont: in 1843 Frémont hired two Indians—neither their names nor their tribal affiliations are recorded—to guide him from The Dalles to Klamath Lakes. According to Frémont’s records, one of these Indians had been to Klamath Lake and bore the battle scars of encounters with the Native people of that area. The physical description of this Indian appears to match that of Enos.

By 1855, Enos was living among the Tututni and had a Tututni wife. He was also friends with Benjamin Wright. In 1852, Wright had organized a party of volunteers in northern California for the purpose of killing Modocs. The Americans wanted to punish the Modoc for supposedly attacking wagon trains as they passed through Modoc territory. Wright then invited 46 Modocs to a peace conference. They first attempted to poison them with strychnine, but the Modoc declined the feast which was offered to them. The volunteers then opened fire with rifles on them. The Modoc had no guns. Only five of the Modoc, including Schonchin John and Curly Headed Doctor, escaped. The bodies of the dead Modoc were scalped and mutilated. The volunteers were proclaimed heroes and the state of California paid them for their services.

The following year, a group of Indians were invited into Wright’s camp under a white flag in order to negotiate peace. In a well-planned attack, Wright’s volunteers killed 38 Indians and scalped them.

In 1854, Benjamin Wright was appointed as special sub-Indian agent to handle affairs in the Port Orford, Oregon district. Enos and his wife gained Wright’s trust and he brought them into his confidence and sought their counsel.

In 1855, the so-called Rogue River War broke out between the Americans (particularly gold miners) and the various Indian nations along Oregon’s Rogue River. In 1856, Enos asked Benjamin Wright to meet with him at the Tututni village to discuss a possible peace. Wright, together with John Poland who represented the mining communities in the area, went upstream to meet with Enos and the Tututni. Both men were then killed and their bodies mutilated. Their bodies were never found by the Americans. These murders were the first step in a well-planned Indian uprising. The following day, the Indians attacked a volunteer regiment on the north side of the Rogue River and then went downstream to attack the community of Gold Beach. Under the leadership of Enos, the Indians burned about 60 non-Indian cabins and killed 31 people. The Americans branded Enos as a war criminal.

The siege of Gold Beach lasted for about a month and the Americans easily recognized Enos riding a white horse and encouraging the Indians in their fight. When U.S. Army troops reached the area, the Indians retreated upstream. According to one account, Enos was wounded in the thigh at a skirmish at Pistol River.

In late July, 1856 (perhaps the 26th or 27th), Enos was at the camp of Tututni Chief Taminestse at Port Orford where the Indians were awaiting transportation to the Siletz Indian Reservation. Indian agent William Chance describes his arrest:  “He made no resistance, said he could not keep away. He did not know why but it appeared to him that he had to come to the reservation.”

Among the Indian leaders of the Rogue River War, only Enos was arrested and singled out for trial. While Indian Superintendent Joel Palmer advocated the execution of all Indians who were known to have killed non-Indians during the war, only Enos was chosen for punishment. Enos was transferred from the coast reservation to Fort Vancouver where he was to be held awaiting a civil tribunal. The charges against him were murder and inciting to massacre.

In the spring of 1857, Enos was transported from Fort Vancouver to Port Orford by steamer. Due to bad weather, the ship had to dock to Crescent City to the south, when Enos was held in the local jail. When the weather cleared, he was taken north to Port Orford where he would be hung without a trial.

While it seemed to be important to the Americans to have a legal ritual (trial) before executing an Indian, in reality most Indians accused of crimes at this time were simply killed without this formality.

President Benjamin Harrison and Indian Reservations

In 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) which had the intent of assimilating Indians by making them land-owning farmers. The idea of the Dawes Act was to break up the reservations by giving each Indian family an allotment of land, similar to the homesteads given to non-Indian settlers. This act guided much of the Indian policy during the Benjamin Harrison administration (1889-1892).

In 1889, a government commission headed by General George Crook met with the Sioux in South Dakota. Crook provided them lavish feasts, and obtained the needed signatures for the Sioux to cede much of their land.

Over the next two years, the Great Sioux Reservation was broken into six reservations – Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, Lower Brulé, Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Standing Rock – thus reducing Sioux land holdings. Eleven million acres of land not included in these reservations was returned to the federal government. “Surplus” lands were opened to American settlers. In addition, the railroads were given permission to survey and build lines with no regard for any Sioux concerns.

Congress passed the Nelson Act in 1889 which brought the Dawes Act to bear on the special situation with the Chippewa in Minnesota. At this time, the Chippewa occupied 12 reservations in the state. Under the Nelson Act, the Chippewa were to cede all lands except for the White Earth and Red Lake Reservations. The Chippewa of Red Lake were to take allotments on their own reservations. All other Chippewa in the state were to relocate on the White Earth Reservation and to take their allotments there. All agricultural lands remaining after allotment were to be sold for $1.25 per acre. Timber lands were to be appraised and sold in 40-acre parcels in auction. Money from the sale of lands and timber were to be deposited into a special Chippewa in Minnesota Fund.

 Northern Cheyenne:

 At the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty Council, the United States government failed to distinguish between the Northern Cheyenne and the Southern Cheyenne and grouped both tribes together in the south, even though the Northern Cheyenne saw themselves as a distinct people and resisted attempts to relocate them on the Southern Cheyenne reservation in Indian Territory. Following the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, some of the Cheyenne had surrendered to the Army and had worked for them as scouts.

In 1890, Congress created the Northern Cheyenne Commission to find a permanent home for the Northern Cheyenne at the Tongue River in Montana, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, or some other reservation. The Commission traveled first to Pine Ridge where they interviewed the 429 Northern Cheyenne who were living there. They then travelled to Lame Deer, Montana where they talked with Northern Cheyenne leaders Two Moon, White Bull, American Horse, Brave Wolf, and Little Wolf. They then continued west to the Crow reservation to discuss with the Crow the possibility of buying land on that reservation for the Northern Cheyenne. The Commission found that the Northern Cheyenne on the Pine Ridge Reservation wanted to unite with their friends and relatives on the Tongue River.

With regard to the Tongue River Agency, the Commission reported that there was hunger and poverty and that the Cheyenne had already eaten their own cattle and were killing some American cattle.

With regard to the Crow, the Commission found them living in a peaceful and prosperous condition. However, they adamantly refused to sell a portion of their reservation to the Cheyenne.

The report submitted by the commission was one of the first times that the government actually possessed extensive, firsthand evidence regarding the situation and possible alternatives for the Northern Cheyenne situation.

 Indian Territory:

Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the policy of the United States government had been to remove Indians west of the Mississippi to Indian Territory. Here the Indians had been told that they would be able to live in peace, without interference from the U.S. government. Soon, however, American greed was demanding these lands as well.

In 1889, Congress authorized the transfer of unassigned lands in Oklahoma to the public domain. As Congress debated the bill, Cherokee principal chief Joel B. Mayes led a delegation to Washington, D.C. to remind lawmakers that the United States had given its solemn word in treaties that territorial jurisdiction was not to be extended over them without their consent. Congress ignored the Indian testimony and passed the Springer Amendment to the Indian Appropriation Bill giving the President the power to open Indian Territory by proclamation.

As one of his first acts as President, Benjamin Harrison announced that part of the Indian Territory in what would later become Oklahoma would be opened to settlement. A three-man commission, known as the Cherokee Commission, was established to negotiate allotment with the Cherokees and other Indian tribes in Oklahoma. A month later, tens of thousands of settlers rushed in to claim land which had formerly belonged to the Creek and Seminole. Over the next few years, 15 million acres of Indian land would be opened to non-Indian settlement.

In meeting with the Cherokee, the Cherokee Commission (also known as the Fairchild Commission) offered the Cherokee $1.25 per acre for their land in the Cherokee Outlet. The total for this offer was nearly the same which the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association would pay for a 15-year lease on the same land.

In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison announced that no livestock would be grazed in the area known as the Cherokee Outlet in Indian Territory. This move deprived the Cherokee Nation of a substantial part of its operating budget and brought an end to their lease with the Cherokee Livestock Association. The move was part of a government effort to get the Cherokee to sell this land.

In 1890, a Harrison issued an executive order which required the Ponca to take allotments even though most tribal members were opposed to it. Ponca traditionalists formed a strong anti-allotment faction.

In 1890, Congress passed the Oklahoma Organic Act which established a territorial government for the western half of Indian Territory and renamed it Oklahoma Territory. Under the Organic Act, the United States annexed all Indian reservations to the new territory.

In 1891 President Harrison opened up 900,000 acres of Oklahoma land for settlement. The land had been owned by the Sauk, Fox, Iowa, and Potawatomi.

The Theft of the Cherokee Outlet

In 1836, under the terms of the Treaty of New Echota, the Cherokee were given a narrow strip of land some 225 miles long and 60 miles wide in what would later become Oklahoma. This strip of land, known as the Cherokee Outlet, was in addition to their reservation and was intended to provide them with a perpetual outlet from their reservation to lands in the west for hunting. The area within the Outlet contained more than 8 million acres of land.

When the Civil War broke out, the United States withdrew its troops from Forts Cobb, Arbuckle, and Washita, leaving the Indians open to attacks from the Plains tribes and from non-Indians. In addition, the federal government, afraid that annuity payments might fall into the wrong hands, withheld the annuities which were owed to the tribes. These actions not only violated the removal treaties of the Indian nations in Indian Territory, they also undermined the credibility of the United States. The Confederacy moved into the vacuum left by the federal government and held treaty councils with the tribes.

The Civil War divided the Cherokee into two groups: the Ridge or Treaty Party led by Stand Watie and E. C. Boudinot, and the Ross or Non-Treaty Party led by John Ross. Ross issued a Proclamation of Neutrality with regard to the war.

Following the Civil War the United States, ignoring the fact that many Cherokees had supported the Union, imposed a new treaty on the Cherokee Nation. The new treaty allowed the United States to settle other Indian nations in the Cherokee Outlet and to dispose of the land. A number of tribes—Kaw, Osage, Pawnee, Ponca, and Tonkawa—settled in the area.

The Cherokee Outlet was invaded by Texas cattlemen who grazed their herds on Cherokee land while en route from Texas to the northern markets. The Cherokee government solved this problem by charging a per head fee for grazing privileges. In 1883, the Texas cattlemen formed the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association under the laws of Kansas. The Cherokee under the leadership of Dennis Bushyhead then leased the grassy meadows of the Cherokee Outlet to the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association for $100,000 for five years. The agreement was felt to beneficial for both the Cherokee and for the cattlemen. Soon after the lease was signed, dissident Cherokee, angry at being denied free use of the Outlet, claimed that the Association had gained exclusive use of the area through illegal means. Complaints concerning bribery and corruption were lodged with the Department of the Interior.

When the lease with the cattlemen expired in 1888, the Cherokee agreed to renew the lease of the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association for the exclusive use of the Cherokee Outlet for $200,000 per year. The federal government, however, warned the Cherokee that they would consider the lease to be invalid.

In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison announced that no livestock would be grazed in the area known as the Cherokee Outlet in Indian Territory. This move deprived the Cherokee Nation of a substantial part of its operating budget and brought an end to their lease with the Cherokee Live Stock Association. The move was part of a government effort to get the Cherokee to sell this land.

In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison closed Cherokee Outlet to the cattle growers who were legally leasing the lands from the Cherokee. Federal troops then occupied the area and forcibly removed the cattle growers and their herds from the land. Having lost the major source of revenue for their schools and government, the Cherokee were forced to cede the Outlet lands. The government forced the Cherokee to sell their Outlet lands for $1.25 per acre (a total of $10.2 million).

In 1893, the Cherokee Outlet was opened to non-Indian settlement, resulting in Oklahoma’s largest land run. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people attempted to stake out claims for the land.

In 1948, the Cherokee filed suit before the Indian Claims Commission to recover the real value of the Cherokee Outlet lands. One expert from Oklahoma State University testified that the land had been worth $10.01 per acre at the time it was taken by the government. Experts testifying on behalf of the government claimed it was worth $1.70 per acre. The courts awarded the Cherokee an additional $14.7 million for the lands. The Indian Claims Commission noted that the conduct in the original transaction had been unconscionable.

President Benamin Harrison and Indian Education

When Benjamin Harrison became President in 1889, he appointed Thomas Jefferson Morgan as his Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Like most of his predecessors, Morgan had no experience in Indian affairs, little contact with actual Indians, and no understanding of Indian cultures. He was, however, a Baptist minister and an educator with a fervent belief that Christianity held the solution to the “Indian problem.” With regard to his philosophy of Indian education, Morgan wrote:  “When we speak of the education of the Indians we mean the comprehensive training and instruction which will convert them into American citizens, put within their reach the blessings which the rest of us enjoy, and enable them to compete successfully with the white man on his own ground and with his own methods. Education is to be the medium through which the rising generation of Indians are to be brought into the fraternal and harmonious relationship with their white fellow-citizens and with them enjoy the sweets of refined homes, the delight of social intercourse, the emoluments of commerce and trade, the advantages of travel, together with the pleasures that come from literature, science, and philosophy, and the solace and stimulus afforded by a true religion.”

 Congress passed legislation in 1889 which allowed the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to enforce the school attendance of Indian children by withholding rations and annuities from Indian families whose children were not attending school.

 With regard to education, Morgan felt that Indian history should not be taught and that it was important that Indian children acquire a fervent patriotism for the United States. In stressing patriotism, he ordered that all Indian schools celebrate national holidays: Washington’s birthday, Decoration Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Furthermore, he ordered that the American flag be displayed and that the students be taught reverence for the flag as a symbol of American protection and power.

Morgan also felt that for Indians the “school itself should be an illustration of the superiority of the Christian civilization.”

While the United States often turned over the running of Indian schools to missionary societies, Morgan strongly opposed the funding of Catholic schools for Indians. Morgan’s anti-Catholic sentiments were well known and for his term of office he battled with the Bureau of Catholic Missions.

In 1890, Morgan announced that the 8th of February was to be celebrated as Franchise Day. It was on this day that the Dawes Act was signed into law, and the Commissioner felt that this  “is worthy of being observed in all Indian schools as the possible turning point in Indian history, the point at which the Indians may strike out from tribal and reservation life and enter American citizenship and nationality.”

Morgan also published a detailed set of rules for Indian schools which stipulated a uniform course of study and the textbooks which were to be used in the schools. The Commissioner prescribed the celebration of United States national holidays as a way of replacing Indian heroes and assimilating Indians. According to the Commissioner:  “Education should seek the disintegration of the tribes, and not their segregation. They should be educated, not as Indians, but as Americans.”

Schools were to give Indian students surnames so that as they became property owners it would be easier to fix lines of inheritance. Since most teachers could not pronounce or memorize names in native languages, and they did not understand these names when translated into English, it was not uncommon to give English surnames as well as English first names to the students. There were a number of Indians who were given names such as William Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

In 1892, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Thomas Morgan published a pamphlet to centralize Indian education and to unify the curriculum of the Indian Office schools. With regard to the role of art in Indian schools, Morgan felt that art would help improve manual skills. Morgan’s approach to teaching art had been discarded by most public schools in the 1880s. The model for teaching art ignored individual development, skill proficiency, and intellectual progress. American Indian children were taught to draw from a European perspective which did not take into account their indigenous knowledge or environment.

Indian Schools were ordered to celebrate Columbus Day on October 21,1892. Indian students were to pay homage to the so-called “discoverer” of the “New” World. Education professor David Wallace Adams, in his book Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, notes:  “Indian students must be made to see that Columbus’s accomplishment was not only a red-letter day in history but also a beneficent development in their own race’s fortunes. Only after Columbus, the myth went, did Indians enter into the stream of history; only after Columbus did Indians begin the slow and painful climb out of the darkness of savagery.”

Imposing Law on Sovereign Nations

While the Constitution of the United States and the Supreme Court recognize Indian tribes as sovereign nations, this has been frequently ignored by Indian agents. Ignoring the fact that Indian nations had their own laws which had been developed over centuries of experience, Indian agents frequently imposed their own laws, based on their concepts of Christianity and European feudalism.

In 1842, Oregon Country—an area that included all of present-day Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and western Montana—was jointly administered by the United States and the United Kingdom. At this time, the United States had negotiated no treaties with the Indian nations in this territory.

Elijah White, described by historians as “a scheming man” and “a flimflammer”, was appointed as sub-agent for Indian affairs. White was a physician and a Methodist missionary who had helped to establish the Methodist mission in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

One of White’s first actions was to hold a council with the Nez Perce in Lapwai, Idaho. Unconcerned with the fact the Nez Perce were a sovereign nation and that the United States had not established any jurisdiction over them, he imposed on them a set of “laws” under which they were to live:

1. Whoever willfully takes life shall be hung.

2. Whoever burns a dwelling house shall be hung.

3. Whoever burns an outbuilding shall be imprisoned six months, receive fifty lashes, and pay all damages.

4. Whoever carelessly burns a house or any property, shall pay damages.

5. If anyone enter a dwelling, without permission of the occupant, the chiefs shall punish him as they think proper.

6. If any one steal he shall pay back two fold; and if it be the value of a beaver skin or less, he shall receive twenty-five lashes; and if the value is over a beaver skin he shall pay back two-fold, and receive fifty lashes.

7. If any one take a horse, and ride it, without permission, or take any article, and use it, without liberty, he shall pay for the use of it, and receive from twenty to fifty lashes, as the chief shall direct.

8. If any one enter a field, and injure the crops, or throw down the fence, so that cattle or horses go in and do damage, he shall pay all damages, and receive twenty-five lashes for every offence.

9. Those only may keep dogs who travel or live among the game; if a dog kill a lamb, calf, or any domestic animal, the owner shall pay the damage, and kill the dog.

10. If an Indian raise a gun or other weapon against a white man, it shall be reported to the chiefs, and they shall punish him. If a white person do the same to an Indian, it shall be reported to Dr. White, and he shall redress it.

11. If an Indian break these laws, he shall be punished by his chiefs; if a white man break them, he shall be reported to the agent, and be punished at his instance .

In traditional Native American jurisprudence, the adjudication of a crime focused on healing and the restoration of social harmony, not on punishment. In addition, the idea of death by hanging was abhorrent. The Nez Perce Tribe summarizes the laws this way:  “To put it mildly, this system of government was not one the tribe adopted easily or even willingly.”

In addition to the “laws”, White also ordered the Nez Perce to choose a single chief as high chief and to have all of the other chiefs subordinate to him. White ignored the fact that the Nez Perce were really more than 40 culturally affiliated but autonomous bands. Each of these bands had its own leadership and the idea of having a supreme chief was alien to them.

Ellis, a Christian who was both fluent and literate in English, was designated as the high chief. However, most of the Nez Perce did not regard him as having any more power than any other Nez Perce leader.

The following year, White called a council of the Nez Perce, Cayuse, and Walla Walla. The Indians were read the “laws” which had been earlier imposed on the Nez Perce. Walla Walla chief Peopeo Moxmox asked White:  “Where are these laws from? Are they from God or from the earth? I would that you might say they were from God. But I think that they are from the earth, because, from what I know of white men, they did not honor these laws.”

After two days of discussion, the Cayuse accepted the laws and elected Tauitau as high chief. However, Tauitau was a Catholic and therefore unacceptable to the Methodist missionary. White then simply appointed Hezekiah as high chief.

President Benjamin Harrison and Indian Policy

In 1889 Benjamin Harrison, an attorney, Presbyterian church leader, and Civil War Brigadier General, was elected President of the United States. Harrison, a Republican, defeated incumbent President Grover Cleveland. In his brief inaugural address, Harrison credited the nation’s growth to the influences of education and religion (meaning Christianity). For his cabinet appointments, Harrison considered three important criteria: (1) Civil War service, (2) membership in the Presbyterian Church, and (3) Indiana citizenship.

With regard to Indian affairs, Harrison believed that Indians, like the other immigrants to the United States, should be fully assimilated into American society. Assimilation, of course, required Indians to speak English, to be Christian, to dress in non-Indian clothing, to acquire a notion of greed so that they would acquire private property, and to get rid of reservations and tribal governments. He believed that the Allotment Act (also known as the Dawes) act would help Indians into civilization by divesting them of their reservations and communally held land.

Like other Presidents, Harrison met with delegations of Indians. In 1892, Washo leader Captain Jim and his interpreter Dick Bender traveled to Washington where they met with Nevada and California senators and congressional representatives and President Benjamin Harrison. They were promised $1,000 for the immediate relief of the old and the infirm, but the money was never received.

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs was the person in American government who had direct responsibility for Indian affairs. The position, which was under the Secretary of the Interior, was a political appointment. For his Commissioner of Indian Affairs, President Harrison appointed Thomas Jefferson Morgan. Like most of his predecessors, Morgan had no experience in Indian affairs, little contact with actual Indians, and no understanding of Indian cultures. He was, however, a Baptist minister and an educator with a fervent belief that Christianity held the solution to the “Indian problem.”

Morgan, who had served as an officer under Harrison in the Civil War, had contacted his old commander after Harrison won the Presidency asking to be appointed as Commissioner of Education. Instead, Harrison offered him the position of Commissioner of Indian Affairs, which Morgan accepted.

Shortly after becoming Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Morgan announced:  “When President Harrison tendered me the Indian Bureau, he said I wish you to administer it in such a way as will satisfy the Christian philanthropic sentiment of the country. That is the only charge I received from him.”

In his 1889 annual report, Indian Commissioner Thomas J. Morgan indicated that tribal relations should be broken up; that Indian social­ism be destroyed; and English be universally adopted. He writes:  “The Indians must conform to ‘the white man’s ways,’ peaceably if they will, forcibly if they must.”

In 1890, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs ordered traders to stop carrying playing cards. This was an effort to discourage gambling on the reservations.

Civil Service:

Four groups of Indian Service employees – physicians, school superintendents and assistant superintendents, school-teachers, and matrons – were placed under Civil Service Classifi­cations in 1891. One of the members of the Civil Service Commission, Theodore Roosevelt, advocated that Civil Service rules be modified so that Indians could be given preference for these positions.

The following year, Civil Service Rules were extended to cover superintendents and teachers in the Indian Service. School Superintendent Edwin Chalcraft explained:  “Prior to this time, Indian Agents made all those appointments, but from this date they were made by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs from names submitted to him by the Civil Service Committee in Washington, D.C. These rules prohibited the dismissal of employees for political or religious beliefs, but the Appointing Officer in Washington, D.C., could remove an employee for any other cause without giving him reason for doing so.”

Census:

The 1890 Census formally enumerated all of the Indians in the country. According to the Census, there were a total of 248,253 Indians in the United States: 58,806 were “Indians taxed” and 189,447 were “Indians not taxed.”

With regard to the difficulties in counting Indians, the Census Bureau reported: “Enumeration would be likely to pass by many who had been identified all their lives with the localities where found, and who lived like the adjacent whites without any inquiry as to their race, entering them as native born white.”

 Wovoka’s Ghost Dance:

 As a Christian nation, the policy of the United States was to require Indians to convert to Christianity and to actively suppress all Native religions. During the Harrison administration, religious intolerance climaxed with the teachings of a Paiute prophet named Wovoka in Nevada. In 1889, Wovoka died during an eclipse. He then returned to life with a message and a dance for his people. This was the birth of a Native American religious movement called the Ghost Dance by non-Indians.

Wovoka’s new religion spread from Nevada to Indian reservations in Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Indian Territory. Christian missionaries, Indian agents, the military, and politicians opposed the new religion without understanding anything about it. Inspired by newspaper reports written by reporters who never talked to any of the followers of the new religion, there were calls to suppress it. On several reservations Indians who participated in or advocated Wovoka’s religion were imprisoned and/or beaten. In some instances, Indians who were suspected of being involved with the Ghost Dance were murdered by ad hoc militia groups.

In December, 1890, Army troops were sent to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to suppress the religion. 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.  At Wounded Knee, the Army surrounded a group of starving, freezing, and unarmed Indians who were flying white flags from their staffs. Using Hotchkiss machine guns the soldiers managed to kill 40 men and 200 women and children. Chasing fleeing women and shooting them was sport to the soldiers and the bodies of some of the women were found four to five miles from the slaughter site. Twenty-three of the soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their heroic action against unarmed Indians.

In testimony before Congress, General E. D. Scott strongly stressed that there was nothing to apologize for and suggested that the Indians were under a strange religious hallucination.

In his evaluation of the events surrounding the “battle” at Wounded Knee, Sioux physician Charles Eastman wrote:  “I have tried to make it clear that there was no ‘Indian outbreak’ in 1890-1891, and that such trouble as we had may justly be charged to the dishonest politicians, who through unfit appointees first robbed the Indians, then bullied them, and finally in a panic called for troops to suppress them.”

 

Christian Missionaries in Oregon Country

The European invasion of the Oregon Country began in the late eighteenth century and intensified in the early nineteenth century. In 1818, the United States and the United Kingdom, ignoring any possibility of the sovereignty of Indian nations and relying on the legal concept of the Discovery Doctrine (stating that Christian nations have a right, if not an obligation, to rule over non-Christian nations), signed a treaty declaring Oregon Country to be a joint occupation area. Under this treaty, both the United States and the United Kingdom could claim land and both were guaranteed free navigation throughout.

Oregon Country was the American name for the region; the British called it the Columbia District. The area stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide; it was bounded in the north at Fort Simpson in what is now British Columbia; and in the south at what would now be the Oregon-California border. It encompassed the present-day states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; western Montana; and the Canadian province of British Columbia.

While the initial invasion of the Oregon Country was led by fur traders, the English Hudson’s Bay Company, the Canadian Nor’Westers, and the American Astorians, by the 1830s the missionaries began to arrive.

The first of the missionaries was Jason Lee who had been originally sent by the Methodist Missionary Board to establish a mission among the Flathead in western Montana. The Flathead had astonished the Christian world by sending expeditions to St. Louis asking for missionaries. The Flathead had learned about Christianity, and more importantly, about the power of the Black Robes (Jesuit priests) from Iroquois employed by the fur trade. They had come to St. Louis specifically seeking a Black Robe, but the Methodists had decided to reach the Flathead first and bring them the true Christian religion.

Jason Lee met with the Flathead and the Nez Perce at the Green River Rendezvous in Wyoming. He found the Indians deeply unsettling. He concluded that the Indians were slaves to Satan and to alcohol. Instead of establishing an Indian mission, he continued his journey west to Fort Vancouver, a Hudson’s Bay trading post. From here, he went to the Willamette Valley just north of present-day Salem, Oregon where he established a mission and a school in an area with relatively few Indians. There were, however, about a dozen Canadian settlers, former employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company, with Native American wives living in the area.

The Flathead’s request for a missionary was answered in 1840 with the Jesuit Pierre-Jean De Smet. In 1840, he was welcomed into a camp of Flathead and Pend d’Oreilles. De Smet envisioned a new Indian society similar to medieval Europe in which the Indians would become Catholic farmers subservient to the Church.

In Oregon, Methodist missionaries set up a mission and farm on the Clatsop Plains west of Fort Clatsop in 1840. The wife of an American settler in the area, Celiast Smith, was the daughter of Clatsop chief Coboway and was able to translate for the missionaries. Ideally, the missionaries wanted to be able to preach to the Indians in their own language, but they soon found learning the Chinookan languages such as Clatsop was beyond their abilities. The Chinookan languages include sounds which are difficult, if not impossible, for English-speaking adults to master. The missionaries, therefore, turned to Chinook Jargon, a pidgin language with a reduced vocabulary and no complexities of verb conjugation or noun declension. As a pidgin language, Chinook Jargon was designed to be learned by adults and to facilitate trade. It lacked vocabulary to translate spiritual concepts.

In 1840, Methodist missionaries Gustavus Hines and Jason Lee decided to visit the Umpqua in an attempt to bring Christianity to them. The Hudson’s Bay Company trader at Fort Umpqua, however, informed them of recent Indian attacks. He warned them not to visit the Umpqua villages. When the missionaries insisted, the trader and his Indian wife accompanied them. The trader later insisted that only the presence of his Indian wife kept them from being killed.

Like the Flathead in western Montana, the Coeur d’Alene in Idaho had heard about the powers of the Blackrobes from fur traders. In 1841, three Coeur d’Alene men traveled to western Montana to see the Jesuit missionary Father DeSmet. They asked him to send the Black Robes (Jesuits) to their people. The following year, the Jesuits sent Father Nicholas Point to establish a mission among the Coeur d’Alene. Jerry Camarillo Dunn, in his The Smithonian Guide to Historic America: The Rocky Mountain States, writes:  “The mission had some success, although Father Point himself was dismayed by what he saw as his flock’s dirtiness, idolatry, and ‘moral abandonment.’”

In the nineteenth century there were several competing kinds of Christianity. The Protestant missionaries in Oregon Country resented the presence of Catholic missionaries whom they regarded as atheistic papists. In 1841, the wife of a Protestant missionary among the Nez Perce complained:  “Romanism stalks abroad on our right hand and on our left and with daring effrontery boasts that she is to prevail and possess the land.”

Two years later, a Protestant missionary to the Nez Perce blamed his failure to convert Indians on the opposition of the Catholics.

In 1843, the Canadian missionary Father Bolduc established a mission among the Cowlitz in Washington. Bolduc wrote in his journal:  “One must develop a strong spirit here. It is important to be kind to the savages, to make them laugh now and then so as not to frighten them, and give them a favorable impression of religion. It is not necessary to show them the severe side at first, but in time and successively to introduce everything, or the end will not be accomplished.”  Bolduc also reported:  “Since being with the Cowlitz tribe, I have converted only a few. They are unwilling to submit.”

According to Balduc, polygyny, slavery, and gambling were obstacles to conversion to Christianity.

In 1843, Father Nicholas Point and the Jesuit brother Charles Huet established a mission on the St. Joe River in Idaho to serve the Coeur d’Alene. Father Point noted that the Coeur d’Alene were living in 27 villages around Lake Coeur d’Alene.

In 1845, the Jesuits under Father De Smet established a mission at Chewelah, Washington. The mission was called Saint Francis Regis and was intended to serve the Kalispel as well mixed blood trappers who were living in the area.

While the Flathead had asked for a Blackrobe (Jesuit priest), what they were actually seeking was the spiritual power to enable them to defeat their traditional enemies, the Blackfoot who controlled much of the buffalo hunting grounds on the Northern Plains. After five years of living with them, Father De Smet had gained little real understanding of Flathead culture. Feeling that he had been successful in converting the Flathead, he crossed the Rocky Mountains and attempted to convert the Blackfoot. When he returned to the mission among the Flathead he found them angry with him and openly challenging his Christianity. Many of his converts left the church.

In 1846, the United States and the United Kingdom negotiated the Oregon Treaty which divided the territory between the two countries. Oregon Country thus became Oregon Territory.

Hanging Indians in 1865

Since the creation of the United States there have been conflicts with American Indian nations. The United States has generally viewed the actions of Indian in defending their traditional homelands not only as acts of war, but also as crimes. Unlike other crimes, however, in which the focus is on justice which requires a due process of law (sometimes called a trial) and punishment of the guilty, American dealings with Indian “crimes” focused on retribution with no concern for due process of law or punishing the guilty. In the racist view of the United States all Indians were the same: therefore when hanging an Indian for an alleged crime, there was no concern about which Indian was actually hung. Often there was little concern regarding tribal affiliation: all Indians in the eyes of many Americans were the same and, as Indians, they had to be guilty of some crime.

In their 1865 “war” against the Plains Indians, most notably the Cheyenne and Sioux, the United States began a policy of publicly hanging Indians and leaving the bodies hanging until they rotted. It was felt that this would send a message about the great power and peaceful intentions of the United States.

In Colorado, the Cheyenne and Sioux attacked the small settlement of Julesburg hoping to lure the troops from Fort Rankin into a trap. The decoys were led by Big Crow, a chief of the Crooked Lance Society. The warriors smashed windows and doors. They raided the warehouse and the blacksmith shop where they liberated supplies, provisions, clothing, and harnesses.

The small force of mounted Indians—five Cheyenne and two Sioux—managed to lure the cavalry (37 men) into a trap. However, some of the younger warriors rode into the fight prematurely, allowing most of the cavalry to escape.

In the Julesburg area, the warriors also attacked a wagon load of Americans from the American Ranch. In another incident, Little Bear and Touching Cloud led a group of warriors against two discharged soldiers riding in a wagon. Afterwards, they found two scalps in a valise. The scalps belonged to White Leaf and Little Wolf/Coyote and had been taken at Sand Creek.

Following the Julesburg raid, most of the Cheyenne leaders favored further raids on the American settlements. However, Black Kettle opposed this plan and so his band, which numbered about 80 lodges, separated from the main tribe and returned to the Arkansas River.  He planned on joining with the Kiowa, Comanche, and Little Raven’s Southern Arapaho.

Following the Julesburg raid, the army captured Cheyenne chief Big Crow. The orders from the commanding general read:  “Take Big Crow to the place where soldier was killed yesterday, erect a high gallows, hang him in chains and leave the body suspended.”

Historian John McDermott, in his book Circle of Fire: the Indian War of 1865 reports:  “Big Crow was hanged with the ball and chain that had manacled him still attached to his leg, and it was not long before the body decayed sufficiently so that the weight of the ball pulled off the limb, and there the grisly remains stayed as a warning to others.”

There was no trial, no concern for the actual guilt of Big Crow. He was an Indian leader and was therefore hung as an example to other Indians.

In Wyoming, the army discovered a group of Sioux camped about 10 miles from Fort Laramie. With the Sioux was Lucinda Eubank and her small daughter. She and her daughter had been captured by the Cheyenne and then sold to Sioux Chief Two Face. She had been forced to work and to have sexual relations. In retaliation, the army ordered the hanging of two Sioux chiefs—Two Face and Black Foot—as an example to other Indians. According to Special Order No. 11:  “The execution will be conducted in a sober soldierly manner and the bodies will be left hanging as a warning to them. No citizens or soldiers will be permitted to visit or touch the dead bodies without permission from this headquarters or that of this post.”

Once again, there was no trial to determine guilt. While the executions of the two chiefs were intended to show the Indians that it would be fruitless to oppose the power of the United States, John McDermott reports:  “The death of the chiefs, however, did not seem to affect the depredations of the Sioux and Cheyennes. If anything, it may have inspired them to greater efforts.”

In summary, the United States did not hang Indians in the pursuit of justice, but instead did so as a show of raw power. It was an early form of shock and awe.  The crime of Indians was often that of being Indian.

The Lame Cow War

In the 1840s a massive migration of non-Indians began in which long wagon trains would cross the Great Plains bringing new settlers into Utah, Oregon, and California. The people in the wagon trains were generally oblivious to the fact that they were trespassing on Indian land and using Indian resources. As they crossed the Plains, their oxen, cattle, and horses grazed on the grass, depleting the resources needed for Indian horses and for the bison on which Plains Indian lives depended. Many of the non-Indians viewed Indians as a part of the wildlife, like coyotes and wolves, destined to be exterminated before the relentless push of Manifest Destiny. The Indians, on the other hand, viewed the intruders as thieves stealing grass and game.

In 1845, Joel Palmer, who was leading a wagon train to Oregon, met with a group of about 100 Oglala Sioux at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. One Sioux leader, whose name was not recorded, told Palmer:  “This country belongs to the red man, but his white brethren travels through, shooting the game and scaring it away. Thus the Indian loses all that he depends upon to support his wife and children. The children of the red man cry out for food, but there is no food.”

Ignoring the fact that the Indians had just pointed out that wagons trains like his were stealing from the Indians, Palmer informed them that they were compelled to pass through Indian territory on their way to the coast.

In 1850, the U.S. Army at Fort Laramie tallied the wagon trains that passed through. They counted: 7,472 mules, 30,616 oxen, 22,742 horses, 8,998 wagons, and 5,270 cows. All of these animals were, of course, eating Indian grass for which the tribes were never reimbursed. With regard to the buffalo, generally regarded as a primary food source for Plains Indians, the hunters from the wagon trains would shot buffalo regularly, taking only the choice cuts of meat and leaving the rest for the wolves, coyotes, and buzzards. Unlike the Indians, they had no interest in preserving any meat for future use.

In 1854, a Mormon wagon-train was crossing Wyoming on its way to Utah when it abandoned a lame cow. When a hunting party of Sioux came across the cow on what they felt was their land, they killed it for food. Chief Pretty Voice Eagle explained it this way:  “They had with them a cow which was lame, and they left it. The Indians thought they had thrown it away, and killed it. We killed this cow not for subsistence but because it was lame and we felt sorry for it.”

When the Mormons complained about the killing of the cow, the Indians offered them a horse worth double the cow as a trade, but the Mormons refused and later filed a formal complaint with the army. A young army officer and 20 troops, described by Father De Smet as “armed to the teeth and with a cannon loaded with grapeshot,” were sent out to bring back the Indian responsible for killing the cow. According to Lakota Sioux writer Charles Eastman, in his book Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains: “It would seem that either the officer was under the influence of liquor, or else had a mind to bully the Indians, for he would accept neither explanation or payment, but demanded point-blank that the young men who had killed the cow be delivered up to summary punishment.”

The officer then fired his cannon into the Indians, killing chief Conquering Bear and a number of men. The Indians defended themselves and the army unit was annihilated. The non-Indian press declared that a state of war existed with the Sioux and called for reinforcements. The focus was not on justice, but on retaliation and punishment. Father DeSmet, the Belgian-born Jesuit who spent 32 years among the Indians and often aided the Americans in holding Indian councils, wrote that a lame cow was   “the origin of a fresh war of extermination upon the Indians which is to be carried out in the course of the present year.”

George W. Manypenny, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, felt that the whole incident could have been avoided if Indian funds had been used to pay for the cow. In his annual report, Manypenny noted:  “No officer of the military department was in my opinion authorized to arrest or try the Indian for the offense charged against him.”

Mannypenny, while the government official responsible for Indian Affairs, expressed no concern over the depletion of Indian resources nor did he suggest that Indians be compensated for these losses.

 

Redskins

In 1722, Samuel Shuttle, the governor of Massachusetts, declared total war on the Abenaki. Part of the concern of the English colonists was the presence of Jesuits among the Abenaki. The colonial Puritans were vehemently anti-Catholic and particularly anti-Jesuit. Father Sebastian Rasles had strongly encouraged the Abenaki to defend their lands and themselves against the English colonists.

The English colonists viewed North America as a vast wilderness, ignoring the fact that the park-like environment they encountered was, in fact, carefully managed by Native Americans. They viewed the Indians as savage nomads, ignoring the fact that Native agriculture had fed them; ignoring the fact that Indian people lived in permanent villages and raised a variety of crops. The English felt that it was their God-given duty to “tame” the wilderness by exterminating all animals they didn’t like and for this reason they encouraged the killing of coyotes, wolves, and, of course, Indians.

To encourage the killing of these “wild” and “dangerous” animals, the colonial government established a bounty system. To get paid the bounty, hunters had to provide proof of the kill: for this they submitted coyote skins, wolf skins, and red skins (usually the scalps or heads of the Indians they had killed). Some colonists earned their livings through bounties.

In January 1725, Captain John Lovewell organized a militia group to hunt Indians. With the bounty set at £100, Lovewell and his militia members saw killing Indians for the bounty as a way to get rich. In his book The Forgotten America, Cormac O’Brien describes Lovewell’s decision to hunt Indians this way: “A farmer with little to do in the winter but fight off boredom, he decided to raise a company of volunteers, go off into the woods, and cash in on the government’s offer of scalp money.”

The group set out to attack the Abenaki village of Pigwacket (near present-day Fryeburg, Maine), but they changed plans when they came across the tracks of an Indian party heading south. They followed the tracks and came across and Indian camp.

At about 2:00 AM on February 20, the sixty-two English bounty-hunters formed a semi-circle around the sleeping camp. Lovewell fired first and the others followed. One surviving Abenaki man jumped up and began to run and the English set their attack dogs on him. The English stormed the camp, clubbing to death any who had survived the volley of bullets and then scalping all of them. They then took the Abenaki guns (which were of French manufacture and considered quite valuable) and other souvenirs.

When the militia arrived in Boston, they proudly displayed ten scalps which they hoisted on poles for all to see. They were greeted as heroes. They were paid £1,000 by the General Court and they sold their booty for another £70. At this time, this was a lot of money.

Having found bounty hunting for “red skins,” Lovewell decided to raise yet another militia and to enrich himself even further. By spring, Lovewell had signed up 46 men for another bounty expedition hunting Indians for profit and fun. Among those who joined the expedition was Jonathan Fry, a twenty-year-old graduate of the Harvard Divinity School. Fry was to be the group’s chaplain, seeking God’s help in their slaughter of Indians.

Once again, the initial target was the Abenaki village of Pigwacket which was believed to be friendly to the hated Catholic Jesuits. They set out in April, in good weather. On Sunday, May 9, just a short distance from an Indian village, Fry called the men together for a prayer service. The service, however, was interrupted by a gunshot. The English rushed to the shore of a pond where they saw a lone Indian hunting ducks.

Lovewell told his men to leave their blankets and gear so that they could move in quickly to kill the Indian. They quickly surprised the hunter who was carrying some dead ducks and two muskets. The hunter fired one of the muskets, which had been loaded with shot for duck hunting, and wounded two of the English militia. Fry and another man returned fire, killing the hunter. Fry, the group’s chaplain, then scalped him so that he could claim the bounty.

While the English were busy killing and scalping the Abenaki duck hunter, a party of Abenaki under the leadership of Paugus, a Mohawk who had become an Abenaki war leader, were in canoes. When they heard the gunfire, they put ashore and happened to find the English camp. They concealed themselves and waited for the English to return.

The English returned to their camp, basking in the victory over the lone hunter. As they became aware of the fact that their blankets and gear were missing, the Abenaki opened fire. As the battle raged, the surviving English took refuge on a small peninsula on the pond. From here their accurate rifle fire could hold off the Abenaki.

Among those killed in the battle were the English leader Lovewell, the Abenaki leader Paugus, and the Abenaki spiritual leader Wahwah. Twenty of the English bounty hunters survived.

The Battle of Saco Pond, as it was later called, became glorified in American history and literature. In 1820, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “The Battle of Lovewell’s Pond” and in 1824, the Reverend Thomas Cogswell wrote “Song of Lovewell’s Fight.” In the histories and in the literature glorifying the battle, however, the initial cause—hunting Indians for their bounty—was generally omitted.

Spanish Missionaries in Texas

A frontier is a transition zone between two regions, between two areas with different cultures. For the European invaders in North America, the frontier represented the transition between civilization—defined by European languages, governments, and religion—and barbarism—defined by the pagan and incomprehensible Native American cultures. For the English colonists in North America, the frontier was a broad line running north-south and for the English the frontier was always to the west. In New Spain, however, the frontier was to the north. For the colonial Spanish, one of the frontier zones was the area that is today known as Texas.

For the Spanish, the northern frontier of Texas was an area that had to be civilized through the conversion of Native peoples to Catholicism either by persuasion or by force of arms. From 1673 until 1728 Catholic missionaries worked in Texas, establishing missions and seeking converts.

In 1673, in response to what was viewed as a request for Christian missionaries by the Coahuiltecan, the Franciscans sent Fray San Buenaventura and a force of ten soldiers north from Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Coahuila north across the Rio Grande. When the expedition returned, Fray San Buenaventura recommended that the Spanish establish three missions among the Coahuiltecan and that each mission be protected by a presidio (fort) of not less than 70 soldiers.

In 1675, Spanish explorers, including a group of Franciscans, traveled northward from Eagle Pass to present-day Edwards County. They encountered three tribes and noted that smallpox had already decimated tribal numbers. Some of the tribes were hunting buffalo and making jerky.

In 1683, Jumano chief Juan Sabeata led a multi-tribal delegation to El Paso to speak with Spanish state and church officials. Sabeata was appointed to the position of gobernador by the Spanish. Juan Sabeata told the Spanish about the thirty-some tribes to the east, including the “Great Kingdom of the Texas” (the Caddo).

In response to the request by Jumano leader Juan Sabeata the Spanish sent out an expedition to explore the Nueces River country, to learn about the Jumano and other Indian nations in the territory, and to bring back specimens of the pearls which were reported to be there. The Franciscan missionaries Nicolás López and Juan Zavaleta were in charge of the religious aspects of the expedition. The expedition turned back after reaching the Colorado River of Texas and having been attacked several times by the Apache.

 In 1690, Fray Francisco Casañas de Jesus María founded a mission on the banks of the Neches River. The mission was named Santísimo Nombre de María and was intended to convert the Hasinai (Caddo).

Three years later, the Spanish missions and presidios in east Texas were abandoned because of lack of cooperation among the Caddo tribes in the area. One Hasinai medicine man convinced the people that baptism waters could be fatal. The Spanish priests found that the Caddo refused to believe in one god, but insisted that there were two: one who gave clothing, knives, hatchets, and other things to the Spanish; and one who gave corn, beans, acorns, nuts, and rain to the Indians.

At San Francisco de los Tejas the Spanish buried heavy objects, such as canons and bells, and then burned the mission. For several days, the Caddo followed the retreating Spanish at a distance to make sure they were really leaving. Four soldiers, however, deserted the Spanish to join the Caddo. Back at the mission, the soldiers showed the Indians where the heavier objects were buried.

 In 1715, the Spanish decided to re-occupy east Texas and established four missions among the Indians.

The following year, a Spanish missionary party of 75 people, including six Querétan missionaries, reached the site of the abandoned Mission of San Francisco de los Texas. Four leagues inland from this site they established the Mission of San Francisco de los Neches. This mission was intended to serve the Neches, Nabedache, Nacogdoches, and Nacono.

Eight or nine leagues northeast of the new mission, they established another mission for the Hainai which was called the Mission of Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción.

A third mission, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, was established for the Nacogdoche and Nacao. A fourth mission, San José de los Nazones, was established for the Nasoni and Nadaco.

In 1718, the Franciscans moved their mission from Eagle Pass to San Antonio where it became known as San Antonio de Valero.

In 1722, the Spanish established a fort, La Bahía, and the mission of Espíritu Santo de Zuñiga in Karankawa territory.

Four years later, the Spanish moved the Franciscan mission of Espíritu Santo de Zuñiga to the lower San Antonio River in Aranama territory.

In 1728, the Spanish sent General Pedro de Rivera to inspect the Indian missions. He reported: “there was not a single Indian at San Miguel de los Adaes; at Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Nocagdoches, although there were many Indians, industrious and well-disposed, they were all still heathens; at three missions, Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, San Francisco de los Neches, and San José de los Nazones, there were no Indians at all, with little hope of ever getting any.”  In other words, the Spanish missionary efforts to convert the Indians accomplished very little.

1714

Three centuries ago, in 1714, the United States had not yet emerged as a country and the English colonies were continuing their land-hungry push inland from the Atlantic seaboard. Indians were, of course, in the way and the colonists were insisting that they be confined to reservations so that the good farm and pasture lands could be given to the Europeans.

Listed below are some of the Indian events of 1714.

New England:

In Connecticut, a committee was appointed by the Connecticut General Assembly to investigate Pequot complaints against English colonists. The Assembly forbids the colonists to prevent the Pequot from hunting, fishing, or planting on disputed lands. The committee found that the Pequot had plenty of land to live on in the area known as Mashantucket.

In Connecticut, the General Court ordered the Pequot to relinquish their planting rights to Noank as there was felt to be sufficient land for Pequot needs at Mashantucket. The Pequot were allowed to continue to fish, fowl, and gather shellfish at Noank.

In Massachusetts, the Potawaumacut complained that their English neighbors were not allowing them to cut wood and gather plants in undivided common areas.

In Massachusetts, the Monomoy sold their land. Tribal members moved to Potawaumacut and to Sahquatucket.

New York:

In New York, the colonial governor asked the Iroquois to stop their warriors from attacking Indians such as the Catawba who were allied with the English. The Iroquois sachems maintained that they could not make peace until they had consulted with the warriors. The Iroquois raids against the Catawba continued.

In New York, a group of about 500 Tuscarora families, fleeing from North Carolina and Virginia, sought refuge among the Iroquois.

Southeast:

In Alabama, the Cherokee under the leadership of Uskwalena (Bull Head or Big Head), defeated the Creek at Pine Island.

In the Carolinas, European traders Alexander Longe and Eleazar Wiggen persuaded Cherokee warriors who were heavily in debt to them to raid a Yuchi village in order to obtain captives who could be sold as slaves.

In Virginia, a reservation for the Mannahoac, Saponi, Tutelo, and Occaneechi was established around Fort Christianna on the fall line of the Roanoke River. The 1714 treaty provided for a reservation six miles square with a palisaded fort with cannons and a school for Indian children. The treaty also promised a group of armed rangers for defense. The commander of the post was to administer Indian affairs under the authority of the Virginia Indian Company.

In Mississippi, the French traders established a warehouse at Natchez in order to acquire deerskins from upcountry villages.

Spanish Territory:

 In New Mexico, the Spanish governor ordered that all Apache captives be baptized before being sold as slaves.

The Great Plains:

In Nebraska, the Ponca obtained horses from the Comanche, trading them for bows and arrows.

In Nebraska, French traders found the Otoe living in a village on Salt Creek.

Great Lakes Area:

 In Minnesota, the Fox made peace with the Sioux in an effort to gain trading partners and to enlist their support against the Chippewa who were pushing south from Lake Superior.

In Illinois, smallpox struck the Kaskaskia. About one-fourth of the people died.

Preparing the Cherokee for Removal

Since its founding, the United States, and particularly the states that compose it, has been uncomfortable with having Indians nations within its boundaries. Motivated by a combination of greed, racism, and religion, non-Indians debated two basic solutions to the Indian “problem”: removing Indian nations from the United States by relocating them west of the Mississippi River, and/or genocide. These solutions began with law in 1830 with the passage of the Indian Removal Act.

In 1835, American settlers invaded Cherokee territory and filed lawsuits against the Indians. The Indians, under state law, were not able to testify against the Americans so the Indians always lost. Some Americans stripped Indian men and women and flogged them. When General Ellis Wool attempted to protect the Cherokee, the state of Alabama accused him of disturbing the peace and interfering with the rights of Alabama citizens.

In 1835, the United States presented the Cherokee with a new treaty. The offer which the United States presented to the Cherokee was simple: if the tribe signed the treaty, the Cherokee would surrender their ancient homelands and move to the west. If the Cherokee did not sign, then the United States military would herd them at bayonet point from their homes and move them to the west.

Seeing no realistic alternative, some Cherokee leaders – primarily Major Ridge, John Ridge, Elias Boudinot, Andrew Ross, James Starr, Stand Watie, James Rogers, Thomas Watie, Archilla Smith, John A. Bell, Charles Foreman, George W. Adair, and others of the Treaty Party – signed the Treaty of New Echota.  None of those signing the treaty had been authorized by the Cherokee Nation to sign it. In signing the treaty, all realized that they had violated Cherokee law, a law with a death penalty.

Under the terms of this treaty, the Cherokee were to give up all of their lands east of the Mississippi and to move to what is now Oklahoma and Arkansas. Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross repudiated the treaty because it had been signed by a minority of the Cherokee leaders. The United States, however, contended that they had informed the Cherokee that all leaders who did not attend the treaty conference would be considered to have approved any document signed by the negotiators.

In 1836, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross met with President Andrew Jackson in a courtesy visit. Jackson brought up the issue of removal, indicating he would be unable to protect the tribe as long as they lived among non-Indians.

That same year, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross addressed the U.S. Senate, providing them with an outline of the abuse and injustice done to the Cherokee. He presented them with two protest resolutions – one signed by 3,250 North Carolina Cherokee and one representing more than 12,000 Cherokee – asking that the Treaty of New Echota not be ratified.  While the government claimed that the Cherokee General Council had approved the treaty and that 500 Cherokee were present when it was adopted, neither was true. It had been signed by a few dozen Cherokee, many of whom had already agreed to emigrate. The Senate, by a margin of one vote, ratified the treaty.

As soon as the new treaty was ratified by the Senate, President Andrew Jackson issued a proclamation that the United States no longer recognized the existence of any government among the Cherokee in the Southeast. Furthermore, the Cherokee were warned that any resistance to removal would be met by force through the army.

In 1836, General Ellis Wool forwarded Cherokee protests over removal to Washington, D.C. He explained:  “It is, however, vain to talk to a people almost universally opposed to the treaty and who maintain that they never made such a treaty.”  He also reported:  “Many have said they will die before they will leave the country.”

In response, President Jackson rebuked the General for forwarding the Cherokee protests, declaring them to be disrespectful of the President, the Senate, and the American people.

In 1836, Major W.M. Davis, appointed to enroll the Cherokee for removal, reported that the removal treaty  “is no treaty at all, because it is not sanctioned by the great body of the Cherokee and made without their participation or assent. I solemnly declare to you that upon its reference to the Cherokee people it would be instantly rejected by nine-tenths of them, and I believe by nineteen-twentieths of them.”

In 1936, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross visited the Western Cherokee. He conferred with the chiefs and visited relatives. The Indian agents in the area had been ordered to arrest him and so Western Cherokee Chief John Jolly met with Ross in private to avoid any possible legal trouble.

In 1837, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross was denied a meeting with President Martin Van Buren. He found that the new President was intent on retaining President Andrew Jackson’s policies regarding Cherokee removal.

The Cherokee National Council sent a delegation which included John Ross, Elijah Hicks, Situwakee, and Whitepath to Washington, D.C. in 1838 to present Congress with a petition signed by 15,665 people protesting their removal treaty. However, the governor of Georgia has informed the President that any delay in Cherokee removal would be a violation of the rights of the state. President Martin Van Buren refused to grant the Cherokee request for a delayed removal. With this the stage for a rapid removal of the Cherokee to the west was set. The event which would become known as the trail of tears would follow.

The Third Anglo-Powhatan War

The third Anglo-Powhatan war (1644 to 1646) started with a large, coordinated strike by Powhatan warriors against the Virginia colonists. Several outlying settlements were struck with the Powhatan killing and/or capturing between 400 and 500 English settlers. At this time, there were 8,000 to 10,000 English colonists in Virginia.

The Powhatan, an alliance of several groups, were led by the elderly Opechancanough who was about 100 years old at this time. Opechancanough had also led the early 1622 Powahatan war against the English.

The English had established Jamestown as a mercantile venture in 1607. Since that time, tobacco had become an important export crop, so the English demand for increasing amounts of good farm land had increased. Ignoring the fact that the Indian nations of Virginia were agricultural, the newly arrived colonists simply assumed that the Indian fields were somehow “vacant” and available to them.

From the Powhatan perspective, the coordinated attacks against settlements which had encroached in their territory were meant to send a message to the English. In his book Powhatan’s World and Colonial Virginia, anthropologist Frederick Gleach writes: “Like his earlier attack, the 1644 coup can be best understood as an attempt by Opechancanough to correct the colonists’ inappropriate behavior and to stay their ceaseless expansion.”

The English colonists responded to the attacks by declaring a general war against the Powhatan. All private trade with the Powhatan was to be terminated. The Virginia Assembly felt that the Indians had obtained guns, powder, and shot through private trade. However, it was soon apparent that the colonists needed the trade in order to survive: without Indian corn they would starve. In 1645, the Assembly allowed authorized agents to trade with the Indians in order to obtain the badly needed grain.

The colonists attacked the Pamunkey and Chickahominy, two tribes affiliated with the Powhatan alliance. The Weyanocks, fearing English attacks, moved south of the Blackwater Swamp and purchased land from the Tuscarora.

In 1646, the General Assembly authorized a force under Lieutentant Francis Poythers to find Openchancanough and press for peace. Poythers, a trader with general knowledge of Virginia Indians, had experience in dealing with Opechancanough regarding land claims. Poythers, however, was unable to find Opechancanough.

A force led by Governor Berkley and aided by Rappahannock and Accomac allies manage to capture Openchancanough between the falls of the Appomattox and James rivers. At this time, the elderly Indian leader was unable to walk unaided. The English treated Opechancanough as a side show, displaying him to curious English colonists. The Indian leader, however, maintained his dignity and upbraided the English commander for the English’s lack of respect. The English commander then ordered that Opechancanough be treated with the dignity befitting his station.

The English governor considered sending Openchancanough to England where His Majesty would be presented with a royal prisoner (the English considered Indians chiefs to be royalty, not understanding any of the concepts of Indian government). Before a decision regarding his fate could be made, one of the guards took matters into his own hands and shot the elderly leader in the back. The wound proved to be fatal.

Hundreds of Indians who had been captured by the English during the Third Anglo-Powhatan War were sold into slavery.

With the death of Opechancanough, Necotowance assumed leadership of the Powhatan alliance and negotiated a new treaty with the English. This treaty was the first time Necotowance’s name appeared in the English written records and there is no indication that the English had ever had any previous dealings with him.

The peace treaty between the English colonists and the Powhattan called for the removal of the Powhatan Confederacy to an area north of the York River. Necotowance signed the treaty as “king of the Indians.” The treaty established a pattern of removing Indian nations away from the invading Europeans as a strategy to reduce the conflict between the two groups.

The Second Anglo-Powhatan War

The years after the 1614 treaty between the English and the Chickahominy were relatively peaceful. During this time the English colonists in Jamestown expanded their tobacco raising enterprises, often appropriating Indian corn fields for this export crop.

In 1618, Wahunsonacock (also known as The Powhatan) died. There was a leadership struggle among the Powhatan and Opechancanoe emerged as the new leader of the confederacy.

Concerned about the increasing use of guns by the Powhatan, in 1618 the English decreed that Indians were not to be taught to shoot guns. The decree mandated death for both teacher and student. The following year, a death penalty was established for anyone selling guns to the Indians.

In 1621, the Reverend Jonas Stockam preached that the only way of bringing the gospel to the Indians was to kill the elders: “till their Priests and Ancients have their throats cut, there is no hope of bringing them to conversion.”

The flash point that started the Second Anglo-Powhatan War centered around Nemattanew (Jack of the Feathers), the charismatic war chief of the Pamunkey. Nemattanew would go to war covered with feathers and with swans’ wings attached to his shoulders. In some instances, he would bewitch enemy warriors, including the English soldiers.  He had been revitalizing native culture and warrior traditions, preparing them for combat against muskets. He was thought to be invulnerable to bullets.

The starting point of the Second Anglo-Powhatan War is generally traced to 1622 when Nemattanew persuaded an Englishman named Morgan to go to Pamunkey to trade. This was the last anyone saw of Morgan. A few days later, however, Nemattanew went to Morgan’s house and informed the two young male servants there that Morgan was dead. The young men noticed that Nemattanew was wearing Morgan’s hat and they tried to take him to the authorities. When he refused, they shot him. As he was dying, he asked the young men not to reveal how he died.

Opechancanough was upset when news of Nemattanew’s death reached him and he vowed revenge. However, it also seems that he had been planning his attack on the English colonists for over a year. The death of Nemattanew simply provided an additional excuse for the war.

Two weeks after Nemattanew’s death, the Indians entered into the English villages, just as they often had in the past, bringing them presents of food. The next morning, they joined the colonists for breakfast and even joined them in working the fields. The Indians had come unarmed so there was little concern among the colonists. Then the Indians picked up the colonists’ tools and guns and began an unprecedented slaughter, killing men, women, and children. By the day’s end, 350 English colonists—one-fourth of the colony’s total population—were dead. The official count was 347 dead, but after its dissolution, the Virginia Company indicated that about 400 were slain.

Jamestown was not attacked. According to some accounts, often told a couple of centuries after the war, Christian Indians had warned the Jamestown colonists of the coming attack. The official account of the attacks, written shortly afterwards, makes no mention of this warning. In the nineteenth century histories of the colony, an Indian boy named Chanco is credited with warning the colonists, and yet no contemporary accounts of the colony make mention of this name.

The attack took the English by surprise and many argued that this strategy had been so clever that it could not have been masterminded by Indians and credited the Spanish with engineering it. There was, however, no evidence that the Spanish were involved.

The English retaliated with a series of raids on the Indians. Instructions from London to the Virginia colonies called for a perpetual war to exterminate the Indians and the Governor of Virginia issued a directive to rob, hunt down, and kill the Indians of the area. Military commanders were ordered not to make peace on any terms. Writing in the Handbook of North American Indians, Wilcomb Washburn notes: “the attack provided a ready-made justification for waging perpetual war (as Christian legal theory allowed against infidels) against any and all Indians. Too often the rules of honor were abandoned in the process.”

The Powhatan did not plan on engaging in a protracted war. They made their attacks, suffered few losses, and then did not make further assaults on the colonists. Unlike European warfare, Indian warfare was not about extermination. From an Indian perspective, the colonists were unruly and not behaving according to the natural laws that governed Indian conduct. The attacks were intended to simply teach the colonists a lesson. The goal was to restrict them to a small territory, to put an end to Christian proselytizing, and to demonstrate Powhatan power. By attacking only the outlying colonies and not Jamestown itself, the Powhatan attempted to show the English that these settlements were inappropriate.

The English colonists, of course, misinterpreted the message. They continued to view themselves as being endowed by their religion to occupy the lands of others, to convert them, and to rule all non-Christian nations.

 

Joseph Brant in Canada

During the Revolutionary War, many Indians allied themselves with their old trading partners, the British. For the six tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy, the divided loyalties led to the ritual covering of their council fire so that each nation was free to choose sides. At the 1777 Battle of Oriskany, for example, the pro-British Iroquois under the leadership of Joseph Brant (Mohawk) and Chainbreaker (Seneca) fought against the pro-patriot Iroquois under the leadership of Nonyery Tewahangaraghkan (Oneida). Following the war, the Indian allies of the British expressed anger and disbelief as the British handed over their Indian lands to the Americans. The Americans seemed determined to extract retribution from all Indians regardless of whether they had fought for or against the Americans. As a result many Indians, including many former British allies, fled north to Canada.

In 1783, Joseph Brant accepted new lands along the Grand River, just north of Lake Erie, for the Iroquois League of Six Nations who had remained loyal to the British during the American Revolution. The land was viewed as compensation for their loss of land in New York. Brant was also commissioned as Captain of the Northern Confederate Indians.

In New York, Joseph Brant met with the chiefs of the Iroquois League of Six Nations and invited them to join with him in his reserve in Ontario. He felt that the British government would serve the Iroquois better than the new American government. The chiefs entrusted the decision to the clan matrons. The clan mothers decided that the Six Nations should divide, with half in Canada and half in the United States.

The following year, a group of 1,843 Iroquois Loyalists under the leadership of Joseph Brant settled in Ontario. The group included members from all six of the Iroquois League (though most were Mohawk and Cayuga) as well as some Delaware, Nanticoke, Tutelo, Creek, and Cherokee. The migrants settled in small tribal villages along the Grand River.

The Mississauga sold their land claims to Joseph Brant so that the Mohawk could have clear title to their new territory. Mississauga leader Pokquan announced:  “We are Indians, and consider ourselves and the Six Nations to be one and the same people, and agreeable to a former, and mutual agreement, we are bound to help each other.”

In their new Ontario home, Joseph Brant and others built the Mohawk Chapel (Anglican) in the Mohawk village. The church housed the Queen Anne Silver Communion Plate and Bible which had been given to the Mohawk in 1710 when the chapel at Fort Hunter, New York was built.

In 1785, Mohawk leader Joseph Brant talked with the Mohawk under the leadership of Captain John Deserontyon about joining him at the Grand River. Deserontyon, however, prefered to remain in his own village.

While Joseph Brant was generally recognized by the British as the leader of the Iroquois and other tribes in the Grand River area, there were some Indians who were not happy with his leadership. In 1788, Captain Aaron and Captain Isaac attempted to assassinate Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. When the attempt failed, they fled to the Mohawk village of John Deserontyon who welcomed them to his community.  

 In 1792, two Mohawk men—Hendrick and Kellayhun—murdered a French Canadian trader. The British military commander demanded that the chiefs surrender the two men so that they could stand trial under British law. Instead of surrendering the men, the chiefs asked that they be allowed to cover the grave with gifts for the relatives of the deceased. This was a traditional Native practice in resolving the crime of murder. According to Joseph Brant: “We have forms and Ancient Customs which we look upon as Necessary to be gone through as the Proceedings in any Court of Justice.”

From the Indian view, to accept British legal jurisdiction would be to deny their own sovereignty. The British, on the other hand, viewed the Indians as British subjects and therefore subject to British law. The case was suspended rather than dropped.

In 1793, John Graves Simcoe, the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, drafted the Simcoe Patent which stipulated that all land transactions of the Iroquois Six Nations would have to be approved by the Crown. Simcoe insisted that Indians had always mishandled their land. Mohawk leader Joseph Brant and the other Iroquois chiefs, however, rejected this concept. According to Brant:  “It seems natural to Whites to look on lands in the possession of Indians with an aching heart, and never to rest ‘till they have planned them out of them.”

The Iroquois had sold or leased several large blocks of land to non-Indians because Brant felt that the non-Indians would provide useful models for the Iroquois.

 In 1795, Isaac Brant, the eldest son of Joseph Brant, killed a deserter from the American army. Isaac Brant was known to have a temper, particularly when he was drunk. Furious because a saddle had not been completed on time, he buried a tomahawk in the deserter’s brain. Brant was convicted of murder by a jury, but the Iroquois chiefs insisted that the victim’s grave be covered instead. While the British military commander wanted to send in troops to retrieve Isaac Brant, the governor, wishing to avoid bloodshed, delayed. The situation was solved when Isaac Brant attacked his father in a drunken rage and Joseph Brant killed his son in self-defense.

In 1795, Joseph Brant was authorized by the Six Nations to sell large blocks of land directly to speculators who were lusting after the fertile land. The land was sold for 18 times what the government had offered for it.

In 1798, in order to disrupt the alliance between the Mississauga and the Six Nations Iroquois, the government established a separate agency for the Mississauga at York. The Mississauga protested the change and indicated that they wanted to continue their affiliation with the Iroquois.

In order to show that Indians had military importance to Ontario, in 1798 Joseph Brant convened a muster of 400 Indian warriors and a settler militia company.

Joseph Brant died on his estate near Brantford, Ontario in 1807. He was 67 years old.

Cherokee Treaty Claims

By 1830, the American government had decided that American Indians had no place in the United States and passed legislation calling for their removal to lands west of the Mississippi River. As a part of this removal effort, the Americans negotiated a series of treaties with the various Indian nations in which the Indians ceded their lands and were given new lands in the west.

In 1835, the United States presented the Cherokee with a new treaty. The deal that the United States offered the Cherokee was simple: they could sign the treaty and move west, or the military would come in and they would be marched west at bayonet point. In either case, the Cherokee would have to abandon their ancient homelands, their farms, and the graves of their ancestors.

A few Cherokee leaders – primarily Major Ridge, John Ridge, Elias Boudinot, Andrew Ross, James Starr, Stand Watie, James Rogers, Archilla Smith, John A. Bell, Charles Foreman, George W. Adair, and Thomas Watie– signed the Treaty of New Echota in Georgia. None of those signing the treaty had been authorized by the Cherokee Nation to sign it. The signers would become known as the Treaty Party. Upon signing the treaty, Major Ridge said: “I have signed my death warrant” in reference to the Cherokee law which called for the death penalty for those who sold Cherokee land without the consent of the National Council.

Under the terms of this treaty, the Cherokee were to give up all of their lands east of the Mississippi and to move to Oklahoma and Arkansas. Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross repudiated the treaty because it was signed by a minority of the Cherokee leaders. However, the notice which had been sent to the Cherokee notifying them of the treaty council indicated that those leaders not in attendance would be considered to approve any document signed by the negotiators.

Most historians today view the Treaty of New Echota as a fraud. Cherokee historian Robert Conley, in his book The Cherokee Nation: A History writes:  “The entire procedure was illegal, but it was what the United States government wanted, and it was accepted by the U.S. Congress as legal and binding on the entire Cherokee Nation.”

In the treaty negotiations, the Cherokee were assured that the United States would respect the Nation’s right to self-government and that the Cherokee would never be included in any state or new territory without the consent of the Cherokee people. The Americans promised the Cherokee that they would respect Cherokee borders and they would remove all unwanted American intruders.

Under the terms of the treaty, the United States promised to pay the Cherokee $5 million.

As soon as the new treaty was ratified by the Senate, President Andrew Jackson issued a proclamation that the United States no longer recognized the existence of any government among the Cherokee in the Southeast. Furthermore, the Cherokee were warned that any resistance to removal would be met by force through the army.

Ten years after the treaty had been signed and ratified by the Senate, the Cherokee had still not been paid. In 1845, the Cherokee sent a delegation to Washington, D.C. to secure an adjustment of the claims and other unsettled business of the nation. The delegation, under the leadership of John Ross, included Richard Tayler,  John Looney, Aaron Price, David Vann, Joseph Spears, and Thigh Walker. The tribe was owed $5 million as a part of the Treaty of New Echota. Brian Hicks in his book Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees, and  the Trail of Tears, writes:  “The United States government refused to live up to its end of the bargain, officials inventing any number of excuses. Some refused to recognize the tribe as long as Ross was chief.”

In 1846, the United States negotiated a new treaty with the Cherokee. All of the Western Cherokee groups—the Old Settlers, the Treaty Party, and the National Party—as well as the Eastern Cherokee were present for the treaty signing. Under the new treaty, the United States promised to reimburse the Cherokee Nation for sums which were unfairly deducted by the United States from their payment for their eastern lands. According to some accounts, the rivals Stand Watie of the Treaty Party and John Ross of the National Party shook hands at the end of the signing. Other accounts claim that this is just a legend stemming from wishful thinking.

The new treaty also declared that Cherokee lands in Oklahoma were to be for the use and occupancy of all Cherokee. The treaty guaranteed every Cherokee accused of a crime the right to a trial by jury.

Grace Steele Woodward, in her book The Cherokees, writes:  “After the Treaty of 1846 the Cherokee Nation enjoyed a golden era of prosperity and progress unsurpassed by its territorial neighbors. In the era that followed the treaty, education, building projects (both private and public), churches and missions, improvement societies, agriculture, domestic arts, and animal husbandry thrived in the Nation.”

With regard to the Eastern Cherokee, the new 1846 treaty upheld the rights of the Cherokee who had remained east of the Mississippi.

 

Virginia and the Indians, 1606 to 1608

Because England is a Christian nation, the Discovery Doctrine supposedly gave it the right to govern all non-Christian nations. In 1606, therefore, England was able to give a Royal Charter to the Virginia Company to develop a market in the New World for English commerce and for “propagating of Christian Religion to such people, as yet live in darkness.” In this charter, Indians were characterized as living “in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God.”

The Virginia Company, a corporation, was founded and directed by a group of merchants and gentry who were motivated in part by the promise of strong economic returns for their investment. Their Royal Charter gave them permission to exploit the riches of Virginia with little or no concern to any possible ownership of these riches by Indian nations. The Company planned to establish a trading post which would acquire valuable furs from the Indians and to sell the Indians manufactured goods and textiles. In addition, the Company planned to search for gold and to exploit the timber resources of the region.

In addition to seeking profits, the Company also indicated that it would seek the conversion of the heathen (that is, conversion of Indians to Protestant Christianity), the expansion of the English kingdom, increased revenues for the king, and employment for the English vagrant poor.

The following year, three English ships brought 120 British settlers into Chesapeake Bay who established a colony at Jamestown. At this time there were an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 Indians living in the area that would become Virgina. The major tribal confederacy in the area was the Powhatan (also spelled Powhattan), an Algonquian-speaking confederacy of about 30 tribes (some sources indicate as many as 43 tribes). These tribes included the Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Pamunkey, and Rappahannock. The alliance of these tribes had formed in the late 1500s, just prior to the English invasion, by a Pamunkey chief named Wahunsonacock. His capital was located at the falls of the James River in Virginia. This was called Powhatan which means “Falls of the River” and thus the allied tribes were known as the Powhatan. To confuse the matter a bit, Wahunsonacok was also called The Powhatan or simply Powhatan.

Captain John Smith led a small party up the Chickahominy River. The English were attacked by about 200 Pamunkey warriors who captured Smith and killed his companions. The Pamunkey, under the leadership of Opechancanough, were a part of the larger Powhatan Confederacy. Smith was taken before the dominant chief, Powhatan, and was eventually released. Smith, described by his contemporaries as a self-promoting mercenary, reported that he had been kept in a comfortable and friendly fashion. Many years later he would tell a story about being on the verge of being clubbed to death when a prominent woman intervened and saved his life. In one version of the story, he named Pocahontas (a nickname meaning the “spoiled child”) as the woman who saved his life (she was about 10 years old at the time). He told this story only after the death of Pocahontas and after she had gained some fame among the English.

While English writers often describe the Indians as hunters, they were actually farmers who had been planting crops in the region for several centuries. The English were delighted by some of the Indian crops, including strawberries (which were described as being larger and tastier than those in England) and persimmons. Persimmon bread was a common Indian gift.

The English looked upon the land as vacant, even when it had been cleared and planted with the Indian crops of maize (corn), beans, and squash. For the English, land was occupied only when it was laid out in neat rectangles, fenced, and used for a single crop. Since the Indians cleared their lands by burning and used intercropping—the practice of planting crops together—their lands did not look “neat” and “occupied” to English eyes. The English also seemed to be oblivious to the fact that the park-like wilderness was actually a well-managed ecosystem which the Indians maintained by regularly burning it.

One exploring expedition from the Virginia Company at Jamestown traveled up the James River. When the group encountered some Indians in a canoe, the group’s leader, Christopher Newport, asked them for directions. One of Indians sketched a map of the river, its falls, and two native kingdoms beyond the falls. When the English party reached the falls, Newport wanted to continue exploring on foot, but was told by Pawatah, a local village leader, that the Monacan would attack them for entering their territory.

In 1608, the English colonists at Jamestown found that most of their stores were rotten or had been eaten by rats. The countryside around them had abundant game, and John Smith encouraged the colonists to live off the land. Smith sent groups to different places to gather food resources. However, many of the colonists were unaccustomed to living off the land and found it easier to trade with the Indians for supplies. As a result, the settlement was stripped of items—particularly metal items—which could be used for trade. In addition, some colonists deserted to live with the Indians whose way of life they preferred.

With regard to trade, the English introduced a new trade item to the Powhatan: sky blue Venetian glass beads. The traders told the Indians that these were a rare substance and that they were worn only by kings.

The English soon realized that Powhatan led a confederacy of about 30 different groups and his cooperation would be vital to their continued existence. From a European perspective, leaders such as Powhatan needed to be kings and so they decided to conduct a coronation ceremony for him which would make him a king with loyalty to the British Crown. The ceremony was a comedy of cultural misunderstandings as the English attempted to choreograph a feudal ceremony in a society in which two key elements of the ceremony – the crown and the act of bending the knee – were unknown.

John Smith led a small group south on the Chesapeake Bay and up the Patuxent and Rappahannock Rivers. They had a short battle with the Mannahoac in which they wounded and captured Amoroleck. Amoroleck reported that there were four Mannahoac villages on the Rappahannock, each of which had its own leader. When asked what lay beyond the mountains, Amoroleck indicated that he did not know as the woods had not been burnt.

The English explorers made contact with an Algonquian-speaking group whom they called Tockwogh (possibly the Nanticoke?). With the help of the Tockwogh, the English then contacted an Iroquoian-speaking group, the Susquehannock and exchanged gifts with them. The English described the Susquehannock as a “giant-like people” because they were significantly taller than the English.

Later, a group of about 60 Susquehannock visited Captain John Smith and the English colonists.

Captain John Smith attempted to obtain corn from the Pamunkey who were under the leadership of Opechancanough. When the chief indicated that he was unwilling to trade, the captain held a gun to the chief’s breast and threatened to kill him unless the English boats were filled with twenty tons of corn. He also told the Pamunkey that if they did not fill his boats with corn, he would fill it with their dead carcasses.

English colonists heard rumors about an Indian mine in the interior. Lured by the possibility of gold, John Smith and six others set off to verify its existence. They employed Potomac guides who they placed in chains during their march. They found a great hole which had been dug with shells and hatchets. The mine, developed by the Indians to obtain minerals for making body paints, failed to yield any gold.

Carolina Indians in 1700

Part of our knowledge of the Indian nations of the Carolinas during the early colonial period comes from the reports of European explorers. One of these was the British naturalist John Lawson, who led a small exploring expedition out of Charleston in late 1700. Traveling by canoe and by foot, he travelled about 600 miles through what the Europeans considered a wilderness, making many observations about the vegetation, wildlife, and the Indian nations.

John Lawson began by journeying up the Santee-Wateree-Catawbee River. He noted that the Sewee were once a populous nation, but European diseases, such as smallpox, had greatly reduced their numbers.

Among the Santee Lawson found a powerful Indian ruler. He reported that this chief had absolute power and could sentence any of his people to death. When the chief died, his body was placed on top of a pyramidal mound.

Lawson next encountered the Congaree and again noted that their numbers had been greatly reduced by smallpox. He noted that the main town had less than a dozen houses.

The Wateree Chickanee were the next group that Lawson visited (about 60 miles from the Congaree).  He noted that they spoke a language (probably Catawban) which was different from that of the Congaree. They were a numerous people but they lacked English trade goods. They were using bows and arrows rather than guns for hunting. The ancestors of the Wateree Chickanee were probably the Guatari.

About three miles from the Wateree Chickanee, Lawson encountered the Waxaw. Among the Waxaw, Lawson noted that there was a “state-house” which was distinct from domestic structures and was intended for use by the chiefs.

The party then visited the Esaw (a Catawba people) and the Sapona.

Lawson’s observations of the Indians at this time show that they are already undergoing many changes due to their contact with the European colonists. Some of these changes were due to epidemic diseases, such as smallpox, which were brought in by the colonists; some of the changes were brought about by the manufactured goods, such as guns and knives, which they got from the European traders.

The tribes which Lawson observed would later become known as the Catawba Nation or the Catawba Confederacy. The Catawba Nation (or Confederacy) was composed of several tribes: Catawba (also known as Issa, Iswa, Ushery, Ysa, Usi, Esau, Esaugh, Esaw), Cheraw (also known as Carrow), Saraw (also known as Sara), Sugaree (also known as Sugari, Suttaree, Shuteree, Sittari, Sugaw, Sugar), Waxhaw (also known as Waxaw, Wisack, Wisacky, Weesock, Flathead), Congaree, Suteree (also known as Sitteree), Waccamaw, Santee (also known as Seretee, Sarati, Setatee), Pedee (also known as Pee Dee), Saxapahaw, Wateree (also known as Watery, Watteree, Guatari), and Wateree-Chickenee.

In 1709 Lawson returned to England where he published an account of his adventure, A New Voyage to Carolina. The book proved to be successful and attracted more colonists to the region.

Lawson returned to the Americas in 1710 to help establish the colony of New Bern for German refugees. In 1711, he was captured by the Tuscarora Indians, tortured, and killed. Following this incident, the conflict known as the Tuscarora War broke out between the colonists and the Indians.

 

Chief Kitsap

Suqamish Chief Kitsap lived from about 1750 to about 1845. He was born and raised in Suquamish (in what is now Washington state). He was a friend and ally of Chief Sealth’s father. Kitsap had winter houses at Fort Madison and Pleasant Beach on Bainbridge Island. He was known as a brilliant war strategist and as an expert bow marksman. He often led intertribal forces from Puget Sound into battle against raiding tribes from the North. He was best known for leading a Suquamish raid to Vancouver Island to avenge an enemy tribe. For this, the Suquamish recognized Kitsap as a leader and historians have described him as  “the most powerful chief of all the Indians from Olympia to the Fraser River.”

He helped build the Old Man House communal dwelling that became one of the largest winter houses in the Northwest Coast. The Old Man House was the center of the Suquamish winter village on Agate Pass, located just south of the present-day town of Suquamish. The original name of the site was D’Suq’Wub which means “clear salt water.”

The site of D’Suq’Wub was occupied for at least 2,000 years according to the archaeological investigations at the site. While some sources indicate that the longhouse itself was built in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, archaeology seems to suggest that it was originally constructed earlier than this.

With regard to size, the Old Man House was between 200 and 300 meters (600 to 1,000 feet) in length.

In 1792, the British Captain George Vancouver arrived at the Strait of Juan de Fuca and took possession of the area for England, ignoring the fact that it had been occupied by American Indian nations for thousands of years. He named the area New Georgia after King George III. One of the Native leaders who met Vancouver’s party was Chief Kitsap. According to the Native accounts, Chief Kitsap helped guide the British through the area.

Vancouver noted that many of the Indians in the area had pock-marked faces, that many villages appeared to have been recently abandoned, and that there were many recent graves. This was probably an indication of smallpox. The Indians were not always friendly and the English found that they already had firearms and knew how to use them.

Around 1825, Chief Kitsap helped to organize a large intertribal coalition of the Indian nations of the Puget Sound area. Under his leadership, this coalition attacked the Cowichan, a group of tribes living on Vancouver Island who often raided against the Puget Sound tribes. Chief Kitsap’s coalition forces with about 200 canoes, however, were soundly defeated by the Cowichan.