Dissolving Cherokee Government

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, that great American visionary Thomas Jefferson proposed that Indian nations be moved to territories west of the Mississippi River so that they would not hinder American economic development. Government policies during the first half of the nineteenth century forced the removal of many Indian nations and thousand of Indian people to new “reservations” in the west. During the second half of the nineteenth century, Manifest Destiny and American greed caught up with the removed Indian nations. The governmental mantra became assimilation and the idea that reservation lands and resources should be developed by non-Indians.

In 1893, Congress established the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes (commonly known as the Dawes Commission) to persuade the leadership of the Indian nations in Oklahoma to give up title to their land so that it could be allocated to individuals. The primary governmental concern at this time was for Indians to become assimilated into the dominant culture. In addition, dissolution of tribal governments would clear the way for what had been Indian Territory to become a part of Oklahoma and for Oklahoma to become a state. Powerful non-Indian groups pushed for this as an opportunity to make a profit. With regard to the Cherokee, an Indian nation which had been removed from their aboriginal homelands and had created an American-style democratic government in the west, this meant that the United States sought to dissolve the Cherokee government.

In 1894, the Cherokee told the Dawes Commission that something as momentous as allotment must be discussed by the people at length. Furthermore, they suggested that the United States first settle all outstanding claims from previous treaties. Historian Andrew Denson, in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:

“This reluctance to embrace allotment left the American commissioners mystified and angry. Advocates of the policy at this time were convinced that common landholding and tribal government were doomed.”

There were at this time 41,824 Cherokees in the west and of these 8,703 (21%) were classified as full-bloods.

In 1895, Cherokee leader Bird Harris proposed that the Cherokee move to Mexico in order to preserve their culture and heritage. A large meeting was held at which Harris proposed a large reservation—100 miles by 300 miles—in Mexico. As an alternative to Mexico, he suggested Colombia. E.C. Boudinot traveled to Washington, D.C. to discuss the possibility of Cherokee emigration with the foreign ministers of Mexico and Venezuela.

In 1896, the Dawes Commission was empowered by Congress to determine tribal citizenship. Ken Carter, in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, writes:

“The loss of control over citizenship was a serious blow to the power of the tribal governments that made it almost impossible to defend themselves against the government’s determined efforts to abolish them.”

The government’s rationale for giving the Dawes Commission power to determine citizenship was based on allegations that the tribal rolls were loosely kept. With regard to the Cherokee roll, Kent Carter, in another article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:

“Throughout its existence, the Dawes Commission held firmly to the philosophy that it did not matter if a person had Cherokee blood because if he or she did not meet all the requirements of the various laws passed by Congress and the numerous opinions issued by government attorneys, they were not eligible for enrollment. It is a philosophy that drove contemporary lawyers to distraction and drives present day researchers to tears.”

The Curtis Act in 1898 extended the provisions of the Dawes Act over Indian Territory. This act allowed the federal government to break up the Indian reservations into individual allotments. At this time there were almost no Indians in the Territory who favored allotment. Theda Perdue and Michael Green, in their book The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Southeast, write:

“Frustrated at the unwillingness of the tribes to negotiate allotment agreements, Congress simply mandated allotment and the termination of tribal governments.”

The Act stipulates that tribal governments would continue to exist only to issue allotment deeds to tribal members and to terminate any other tribal business.

The Cherokee objected to the bill and sent a delegation to Washington to testify but they were not allowed access to the rooms where committees were debating the bill. Corporate representatives, on the other hand, had free access to the committees. Business historian H. Craig Miner, in his book The Corporation and the Indian: Tribal Sovereignty and Industrial Civilization in Indian Territory, 1865-1907, describes the vote:

“There was no quorum; a roll call would have revealed that there were only a dozen men in the Senate.”

While the Cherokee opposed the Curtis Act, in the 1899 case of Stephens versus Cherokee Nation, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Curtis Act.

In 1900, a delegation of Cherokee traveled to Mexico with the intent of finding out if a reservation could be established for them in the Mexican states of Sonora or Sinaloa.

The Board of Indian Commissioners in 1901 declared that the purpose of the Indian Office (now known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs) was “to make all Indians self-supporting, self-respecting, and useful citizens of the United States.”

In 1901, all members of the Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma were granted citizenship by an act of Congress. This meant that every Indian adult male was a registered voter. This was an attempt to increase the number of voters in Oklahoma territory so that it could gain statehood.

In 1902, the Dawes Commission attempted to force enrollment on the Cherokee. Many of the full bloods, members of the Kootoowah Society, refused to submit to the process. In her book The Cherokees, Grace Steele Woodward reports:

“Hiding from the agents in inaccessible and out-of-the-way places known only to Keetoowahs, they eluded capture as long as possible. And many of these full bloods when captured purportedly preferred imprisonment to enrollment.”

In 1903, the Five Civilized Tribes Executive Committee passed a resolution asking each tribal council to petition Congress for statehood for Indian Territory.

In 1903, the Cherokee elected William C. Rogers as principal chief. The Indian Chieftain reported:

“So far as the chief’s election is concerned, the last political battle that the Cherokee will ever engage in has been fought out.”

The article concludes:

“As the nominal head of a defunct nation the chief will have little authority.”

In 1905, Cherokee chief William C. Rogers refused to call for tribal elections as the U.S. Congress had declared that the Cherokee government would not continue past 1906. Nevertheless, the elections were held and many opponents to Rogers were elected. Rogers notified the tribal council that he did not consider it to be legally elected. While Rogers was in Washington, D.C, the tribal council voted to impeach him and named Frank Boudinot as principal chief. However, the secretary of the Interior simply re-appointed Rogers to the position.

In 1905, the Cherokee Keetoowah Society, composed primarily of full-bloods, became incorporated. However, the Keetoowah were soon factionalized, and Redbird Smith and his followers who were opposed to allotment formed the Nighthawk Keetoowahs.

In 1905, representatives from the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw nations held a convention at which they drew up a constitution for the state of Sequoyah, which would be separate and distinct from Oklahoma Territory which was seeking statehood. The call for the convention was issued by W.C. Rogers, the Cherokee Principal Chief, and by Green McCurtain, the Choctaw chief. The issue of whether Oklahoma should be one state or two was summed up by the Muskogee Phoenix:

“There are in Indian Territory some few persons who desire two states made of the two territories and who honestly believe this can be done. There are some persons who desire conditions to remain as they now are and who know that to fight for two states is to fight for no statehood legislation, and this makes them especially active.”

In her book And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes, Historian Angie Debo reports:

“The constitutional convention was characterized even by a hostile newspaper as the most representative body of Indians ever assembled in the United States.”

The constitution for the state of Sequoyah was submitted to the voters: the turnout was light, but the vote was strongly in favor of it. The measure was presented to Congress which simply ignored it. According to Angie Debo:

“There was never the slightest chance that Congress would consent to the admission of two Western, radical, and probably Democratic, states in the place on the map that could be occupied by one.”

Congress, in 1906, passed an Act to Provide for the Final Disposition of the Affairs of the Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma. The Department of the Interior took over the Indian schools, school funds, and tribal government buildings and furniture. The law provided that the President may appoint a principal chief for any of the tribes. If a chief failed to sign a document presented to him by U.S. authorities, he was either to be replaced or the document could be simply approved by the Secretary of the Interior.

Congress passed the Oklahoma Enabling Act in 1906 as one step in the creation of the state of Oklahoma. The Act combined Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory. With regard to Indians, the Act imposed a condition on the state constitution: Oklahoma cannot limit federal authority over Indians within its boundaries.

In 1906, the Cherokee Nighthawk Keetoowah Society changed Redbird Smith’s title from Chairman to Chief as a political statement which pointed out that the Cherokee now have no principal chief.

The state of Oklahoma was created in 1907. With statehood, tribal governments in the area were dissolved. Indians constituted only 5% of the population of the new state.

The Pawnee Morning Star Ceremony

Human sacrifice is generally defined as the ritual killing of a human being as a part of a religious ritual. While human sacrifice was an important part of the ceremonial practices of the Indian nations of Mesoamerica (such as the Aztec and Maya), it was uncommon among the American Indian people of North America. One of the few groups who incorporated human sacrifice into their ceremonies was the Pawnee.

At the time of the European invasion of the Great Plains, the Pawnee were an agricultural people raising corn along the rivers of the Central Plains in what would later become Nebraska. They also engaged in seasonal buffalo hunts, particularly after they obtained the horse. They had a sophisticated understanding of the movement of the stars and celestial observation was important in determining the cultivation cycle of their corn. The Pawnee lifestyle was centered on the astronomical observation. The movements of the stars formed the basis for their seasonal rituals.

In each Pawnee village there was an elite group composed of a hereditary chief, sub-chiefs, religious leaders, and leading warriors which discussed tribal matters such as the timing of ceremonies, assignments of farming plots to families, warfare, and foreign relations.

The Pawnee lived in permanent earth lodges which were constructed so that the four central posts represented the four cardinal directions. The east-facing doorway would have an unobstructed view of the eastern sky and at the vernal equinox the first rays of the sun would strike the altar within the lodge.

One of the important Pawnee ceremonies, the Morning Star Ceremony, involved the sacrifice of a young woman. As a part of the ceremony, a captive woman would be tied spread-eagled to a wooden frame and every man and boy in the camp would shoot an arrow into her body. The young woman represented Evening Star and with her death, her soul went to her husband Morning Star who then clothed her with the colors of the dawn. The reunion of Morning Star and Evening Star meant the renewal of growing things on earth. The Morning Star Ceremony was a fertility rite, and from the Pawnee perspective, the young woman was not a victim, but a messenger.

The Morning Star Ceremony was not conducted on a regular schedule. Rather, it was conducted in response to a vision by a warrior. In this vision Morning Star would appear as a man anointed with red paint with leggings decorated with scalps and eagle feathers. In the dream, Morning Star would tell the warrior:

“I am the man who has power in the east. I am the Great Star (Upirikutsu). You people have forgotten about me. I am watching over your people. Go to the man who knows the ceremony and let him know. He will tell you what to do.”

Following the vision, the warrior would consult with the Morning Star shaman (priest, in some accounts). The warrior and the elder would then determine if Morning Star in the vision was asked for the regular symbolic ceremony or the full ceremony which included the human sacrifice. The elders would consult with the stars: the full ceremony was performed only in years when Mars was the morning star.

If it was decided that the full ceremony was needed, then the warrior would be instructed to obtain a suitable captive from another tribe. From the keeper of the Morning Star bundle, the warrior would receive a special warrior’s outfit. The warrior would then recruit some volunteers and set out to capture a girl. At the time of her capture, the girl would be dedicated to Morning Start and then turned over to the keeper of the Morning Star bundle upon their return to the village.

In the village, the captive would be treated with respect, but kept isolated from the rest of the camp. As the time for the five-day ritual approached, the captive would be ritually cleansed. The keeper of the Morning Star bundle would then sing a series of songs during which the captive would be symbolically transformed from a human form to a celestial form. With this, the girl now became the ritual representative of Morning Star: she was not viewed as impersonating Morning Start, but rather she was viewed as the earthly embodiment of Morning Star.

On the last day of the ceremony, the men and boys from the village would take the captive outside of the village to a place where they had erected a scaffold. This scaffold represented Evening Star’s garden in the west, the source of all animal and plant life.

The captive would be placed on the scaffold and her clothing removed. When the morning star appeared, two men would approach her from the east and touch her lightly with torches. Four other men would then touch her with war clubs. The warrior who had captured her with then come forward with a sacred bow and shoot her through the heart with a sacred arrow. At the same time, another warrior would strike on the head with the war club from the Morning Star bundle.

The elder supervising the ceremony would then cut open her breast with a stone knife. He would smear his face with her blood. The warrior who had captured her would catch some of her blood on dried meat.

All of the men and boys would then shoot arrows into her body, circle the scaffold four times, and return to the camp.

In 1816, Pawnee leader Petalesharo rescued a Comanche girl from the Morning Star Ceremony, stating that the ritual should be abolished. He offered himself in her place and when the other Pawnee hesitated in killing him, he untied the girl, placed her on a horse, and led her to safety.

Petalsharo, the son of Chief Lachelesharo (Old Knife), was a respected warrior of about 30 years of age at this time. Carl Waldman, in his book Who Was Who in Native American History, writes:

“He won the respect of his people for confronting the powerful class of priests, and, on succeeding his father, he proved influential among many of the Pawnee bands.”

In 1833, the Pawnee prepared to sacrifice a Cheyenne woman captive in their Morning Star Ceremony. Chief Big Ax called a council of chiefs and leading men and asked them to abandon the plan. While the people in the village were hostile to the idea of letting the captive go, they brought the woman to Big Ax’s lodge. The American Indian agent and five others attempted to take the captive from the village. They were blocked by Soldier Chief and the woman was shot with an arrow. The Pawnee warriors then took the dying woman out onto the prairie and carried out the sacrifice.

With increasing opposition to the Morning Star Ceremony from both the American government and some of the Pawnee leaders, the Pawnee held their last known Morning Star Ceremony in 1838. At this time, they ritually sacrificed Haxti, a young Oglala woman.

California Indians Lose Their Home

The United States acquired what would become the state of California under the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the war with Mexico. In the treaty, the United States agreed to recognize Indian land holdings, and to allow Indian people to continue their customs and languages.

In 1901, the Supreme Court in the case Barker versus Harvey decided that the Cupeño did not have the right to retain their homes at Warner’s Hot Springs in California. The Indians had argued that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with Mexico recognized the Indian right to villages on Mexican land grants. The Supreme Court, however, decided that the Indians had failed to bring their case to the Land Commission in the allotted time and that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had failed to bring about legislation to reaffirm the land rights for these Indians.

In 1851, Congress had established a Board of Land Commissioners to investigate all land claims in California. While the Commissioners were to have submitted a report to the Secretary of the Interior, no one has been able to find the report. In an article in the Journal of the West, Joel Hyer reports:

“Without confirming evidence, the Supreme Court believed that the Board of Land Commissioners informed all Indians—including those living in the isolated mountain communities at Warner’s Ranch—of the necessity of presenting land claims within two years.”

Hyer also reports:

“The Court based its decision on a supposition that someone visited these peoples, informed of their duty to file a land claim, and then made a report.”

The land in question actually belonged to the Mission San Diego which had reported them to be abandoned.

The Supreme Court decision affected 250 Cupeño families. Anthropologist Edward Castillo, in one of his entries in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports:

“At several villages native families locked themselves in their homes as sheriff’s deputies broke down their doors with axes to evict them.”

Many influential California Anglos were sympathetic to the cause of the Cupeño and other Mission Indians. In 1902, the Sequoyah League was organized by writer Charles Fletcher Lummis. The goal of the new organization was “To Make Better Indians” and one of the primary concerns was the Mission Indians. Historian William Hagan, in his book Theodore Roosevelt and Six Friends of the Indian, reports:

“The fifty-odd people who attended the organization meeting including Episcopal and Catholic bishops from the area.”

Charles Lummis, who had worked with the Indian Rights Association, hoped that the new organization would not be adversarial, but would work with the government. Historian Sherry Smith, in her book Reimagining Indians: Native Americans Through Ango Eyes, 1880-1940, reports:

“Beyond addressing the needs of California’s Indians, the League intended to cooperate with the Indian Bureau while maintaining ‘a friendly watchfulness over’ reservations.”

While the League favored assimilation, it rejected allotment as the primary vehicle to accomplish this. Only one Indian was on the League’s board of directors: Francis LaFlesche (Omaha) who lived in Washington, D.C. According to Sherry Smith:

“In assuming Anglos were best qualified to direct Indian affairs, the Sequoyah League marched in step with other Indian reform groups of its time.”

In 1902, in an issue of Out West, Charles Lummis launched a campaign to help the Cupeño families who were being evicted from Warner Ranch. Lummis also denounced the directive from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs which specifies the proper length of an adult male Indian’s hair.

The Indian interest groups, such as the Sequoyah League, had an impact. They forced Congress to bow to public opinion and purchase a ranch in California’s Pala Valley for the Cupeño who had been evicted from the Mission San Diego land grant.

In 1903, government officials met with the Cupeño on Warner’s Ranch to inform them that they were to be moved to the Pala Reservation. In trying to explain why they don’t want to move, Cecilio Blacktooth told the officials:

“You see that graveyard out there? There are our fathers and our grandfathers. You see that Eagle-nest mountain and that Rabbit-hole mountain? When God made them, He gave us this place. We have always been here. We do not care for any other place.”

In spite of this plea, the Cupeños were removed.

 

 

American Indian Voting Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Utah’s Black Hawk War

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

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

Setting the Stage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The War:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the War:

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

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

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

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

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

American Indians and European Diseases

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

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

Aboriginal Health:

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

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

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

European Diseases:

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

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

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

Smallpox:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smallpox Inoculations/Vaccinations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

European Views:

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

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

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

Syphilis carried from America to Europeans?:

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

Ancient America: Montana 6000 BCE to 3000 BCE

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

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

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

Sites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complexes:

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

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

 

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

 

The Old Spanish Trail and the Indian Slave Trade

In the late sixteenth century, Spain began its formal colonization of what would become New Mexico. Juan de Oñate led a large colonizing party—129 soldiers and their families, 15 Franciscan missionaries, 83 wagons, 7,000 cattle, sheep, and goats—into New Mexico and established a colony at San Juan in the upper Rio Grande valley. The Spanish brought with them over 1,500 head of horse and mules: 1007 horses, 237 mares, 137 colts, and 91 mules.

The Spanish met with leaders from 30 pueblos, and Oñate took formal possession of New Mexico for the Spanish. The Spanish colonists ignored any possible Indian ownership of the land. In his book Pages from Hopi History, Harry James writes:  “Without any consideration of the Indians living in the area, he took possession of their lands in the name of the King of Spain and for the benefit of any of the Spanish colonists with him who might want to exploit them.”

In 1604, a group of 30 Spanish soldiers under Juan de Oñate set out to find a route from New Mexico to the South Sea (Pacific Ocean). They crossed Arizona and followed the Bill Williams fork to the Colorado River. They then followed the Colorado River to the Gulf of California. Oñate concluded that Baja California was an Island.

Spanish colonists had been established in New Mexico for a century and half before Father Junípero Serra established a string of missions in California. As the Spanish colonies in California expanded, the idea of connecting the colonies in New Mexico with those in California had some appeal. It was proposed to create a trail from New Mexico to California through present-day Utah. In an article in A History of Utah’s American Indians, Dennis Defa writes:  “It was believed that if these two areas of colonization, separated by some 1,200 miles, could be connected, Spain could dominate a vast land area and add substantially to her empire.”

While the Old Spanish Trail was established as a trade route, it was a trail rather than a road. Wagons were unable to cross the full length of the trail and this meant that trade items were limited to what could be carried by mule or horse. The primary trade goods were guns, powder, blankets, and knives. One of the highly desirable trade items carried along the Old Spanish Trail was Indian slaves. Spanish slave traders would capture Indian women and children—most often Navajo, Paiute, and Ute—and then sell them at the slave markets in New Mexico and California. Indian slaves could be easily transported along the Old Spanish Trail. Once sold, the Indian slaves were often taken farther south in Mexico where they were put to work as household servants, ranch hands, concubines, and miners. Dennis Defa writes:  “Captured women and girls usually found their way into the more wealthy households as domestic servants, while men and boys were put to work on ranches and farms.”

Children were very desirable as slaves as it was easy for them to learn Spanish and the duties which they were expected to carry out. In A History of Utah’s American Indians, Robert McPherson and Mary Jane Yazzie report:  “As much as $200 might be paid for a young girl who could be trained as a domestic, while boys were worth only half that much.”

With regard to the Indian slave trade, Nancy Maryboy and David Begay, writing in A History of Utah’s American Indians, report:  “It is estimated that during the early 1800s more than 66 percent of all Navajo families experienced the loss of members to slavery. Navajo children were taken from their families and sold at auction in Santa Fe, Taos, and other places.”

When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 the trade in Indian slaves continued. Nancy Maryboy and David Begay write:  “Skirmishes, slave raids, and massacres occurred with increasing frequency. The Mexicans condoned and even increased raiding and slave-taking efforts.”

The trade in Indian slaves continued after the United States acquired dominion over the Southwest. The legal nature of the slave system changed as young children would be taken from their Indian homes to be “adopted” into non-Indian homes so that they could become “civilized” and Christianized while they worked as virtual household slaves. Able-bodied Indian men could be acquired through the legal system which allowed non-Indians to acquire prisoners as “indentured servants” by paying their fines.

Indians, Iwo Jima, and the American Flag

During the World War II, 24,521 American Indians served in the military and received the following awards: Air Medal (71), Silver Star (51), Bronze Star (47), Distinguished Flying Cross (34), and Medal of Honor (2). More than 480 Indians were killed during the war. In the Pacific, two American Indian Marines were involved in raising the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima.

Iwo Jima, a part of the prefecture of Tokyo, was heavily fortified and the Marines suffered high casualties. Mount Suribachi is a 546-foot high dormant volcanic cone located on the southern tip of the island. Raising an American flag on this mountain in the Japanese homeland was a major propaganda coup for the United States.

Louis Charlo:

 Louis Charlo, the great-grandson of the Bitterroot Salish Chief Charlo, was born in Missoula, Montana in 1926. One month after his 17th birthday in November 1943 he enlisted in the U.S. Marines.

In 1945, Charlo was a part of the 28th Regiment of the 5th Marine Division in their assault on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima. Interestingly enough, the Marines were transported on the U.S.S. Missoula, a ship named for his home town.

The battle for Iwo Jima started on February 19, 1945 and four days later Private Charlo and seven other Marines reached the summit of Mount Suribachi. At 10:20 AM, Charlo and the other Marines used a 20-foot section of pipe to raise an American flag from Missoula at the top of the mountain. This flag, however, was too small to be easily seen from the beaches. Several hours later, this flag was replaced by a larger flag. The raising of the larger flag was captured photographically by Associated Press cameraman Joe Rosenthal. The original flag is now in the U.S. Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, Virginia.

On March 2, 1945 Private Louis Charlo was killed by Japanese sniper fire and his role in the flag raising was soon forgotten. Today the story of his role in raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi is memorialized in a display at the Rocky Mountain Military Museum (see photos below), in a song by Blackfoot poet and singer Jack Gladstone, and in the oral traditions of the Flathead Indians.

Ira Hayes:

While the first flag was being raised over Mount Suribachi, the Second Platoon, Easy Company was laying a telephone wire to the top of Mount Suribachi. These Marines reached the summit about noon. Among these Marines was Ira Hayes.

Ira Hayes was born in 1923 on the Gila River Pima Indian Reservation. He enlisted in the Marines in August, 1942. On top of Mount Suribachi, he was one of six Marines photographed raising the larger American flag. Three of these six were killed in action before the island was secured.

Unlike Louis Charlo, Ira Hayes not only survived the Battle of Iwo Jima, but he became famous because of the photograph. President Franklin D. Roosevelt saw the photograph and felt that it would be a good symbol for a war bond drive. He ordered the flag-raisers to be identified and sent to Washington, D.C. One of the surviving flag-raisers identified four others in the photograph, but refused to identify Hayes because Hayes had asked not to be identified. Under pressure from the Marine Corps which was under pressure from the President, Ira Hayes was identified as one of the six.

The three surviving second flag-raisers, including Ira Hayes, met with President Harry Truman and then went on a bond tour. Hayes, however, had drinking problems during the tour and was ordered back to his combat unit.

When he was discharged in 1945, he returned to the reservation in Arizona where he found that the Pima still lacked water for their crops. He worked on his father’s farm, picked cotton, drank a lot, and spent some time in jail. Under the Indian Relocation Program designed to remove Indians from reservations and place them in distant cities, Hayes was sent to Chicago. Hayes was greeted at the train station as a hero, but was soon jailed for being drunk. He returned to the Gila River Reservation.

Hayes was not comfortable with fame. In 1955, he died of exposure to cold and alcohol poisoning. Ira Hayes was memorialized in a motion picture and in a folk song written by Peter LaFarge. The song was recorded by a number of people including Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Kinky Friedman. Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, in her biography of Ira Hayes in Encyclopedia of North American Indians, writes:  “A media-created hero of World War II, Ira Hayes symbolized two postwar realities in American society: the return of thousands of veterans to civilian life, and the impoverished status of Indian peoples relative to Anglo-American prosperity.”

 

The Cherokee Trail of Tears

By the first part of the nineteenth century, many non-Indians in the United States, particularly in the southern states, felt strongly that there should be no Indians in the United States. They felt that all Indians should be forced to move from their ancestral homelands to new “reservations” located west of the Mississippi River. In general, the concept of removal stemmed from two concerns of the Southern non-Indians: economics and race. Southerners lusted for the farm lands held by Indians and Indians were felt to be racially inferior.

The primary argument in favor of Indian removal claimed that European Christian farmers could make more efficient use of the land than the Indian heathen hunters. This argument conveniently ignored the fact that Indians were efficient farmers and had been farming their land for many centuries. Historian David La Vere, in his book Contrary Neighbors: Southern Plains and Removed Indians in Indian Territory, writes:  “It mattered little that the Southeastern Indians had long been successful agriculturalists; in the government’s eyes they were still ‘savages’ because they did not farm the ‘correct’ way, as women still controlled the fields and farming.”

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. The Act passed 28 to 19 in the Senate and 102 to 97 in the House. In making the case for Indian removal, Lewis Cass, the Secretary of War, wrote in the North American Review:  “A barbarous people, depending for subsistence upon the scanty and precarious supplies furnished by the chase, cannot live in contact with a civilized community.”

In 1838, General Winfield Scott began preparation for the removal of the Cherokee. He explained to the Cherokee that there would be no escape: his troops were to gather up all Cherokee. If they attempted to hide in the forests or mountains, he told them that the troops would track them down. He drew up plans to gather the Cherokee in a few locations prior to sending them west. Brian Hicks, in his book Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees, and the Trail of Tears, writes:  “Soldiers were told to swarm Cherokee houses without warning, giving the Indians no time to put up a fight or even pack their belongings. Families would be taken at once and brought into one of several camps. The men must be polite and not use profanity.”

The United States Army rounded up the Cherokee who were living in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama. Mounted soldiers, using their bayonets as prods, herded the Cherokee like cattle. One of the soldier-interpreters for the Army wrote:  “I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes and driven at bayonet point into stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and headed for the West.”

If there were no adults home when the soldiers came to the Cherokee farms, then the children were taken in the hopes that their parents would follow. The vacant farms were then occupied by non-Indians who took over the Cherokee houses, used Cherokee furniture, utensils, and tools, and harvested the crops which the Cherokee had planted and tended. They also robbed Cherokee graves, stealing the silver pendants and other valuables which had been buried with the dead. One non-Indian observer wrote:  “The captors sometimes drove the people with whooping and hallowing, like cattle through rivers, allowing them no time even to take off their shoes and stockings.”

There were 3,000 regular soldiers and 4,000 citizen soldiers who assisted in the expulsion of the Cherokees. These soldiers often raped, robbed, and murdered the Cherokee. Some of the soldiers who were ordered to carry out the forced removal refused to do so. The Tennessee volunteers went home, saying that they would not dishonor Tennessee arms in this way. Many civilians who witnessed the treatment of the Cherokee signed petitions of protest.

The Cherokee were herded into animal corrals with no sanitary facilities. The stockades were so overcrowded that it was difficult to find room to sit down. They were not provided with adequate food and water. Brian Hicks writes:  “These stockades were like fortresses, two hundred feet wide and five hundred feet long with walls between eight and sixteen feet high. There was a single gate. Inside each of these camps a few small cabins ringed a great field.”

The Cherokee were then force-marched some 1,500 miles to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River (now the state of Oklahoma.) During this march, 8,000 Cherokee died. The Cherokee call this episode in their long history Nunna daul Isunyi, which means “trail where we cried”. Others call it the Trail of Tears and often refer to it as the most disgraceful event in American history and as one more piece of evidence about the genocide which was attempted against American Indians.

The Cherokee were not at war with the United States. At this time, there was no American who could remember any unprovoked violence by the Cherokee. The Cherokee were known to be good neighbors and had adopted much of the European manner of living, including Christianity.

In Georgia, however, the press reported on the Cherokee removal with these words:  “Georgia is, at length, rid of her red population, and this beautiful country will now be prosperous and happy.”

The Cherokee were not the first tribe that was moved in this fashion, nor were they the last. The Trail of Tears was not an event which suddenly happened: rather it was the culmination of more than 30 years of actions and attitudes. It was an expression of states’ rights; it was an expression of greed for land; it was a denial of Native American tribal sovereignty; and it was an expression of the government’s inability to understand Indian people. One of the important points of conflict was the government’s concern for individually owned land and the Indian view that land was not to be owned by the individual, but by the tribe.

We talk about the Trail of Tears and similar events so that others may not repeat the errors of the past. It is important that we remember and that we talk about this today. In many ways the political climate of the United States today is similar to that which led up to the Trail of Tears. Let us recall these things now so that we can say: “Never again!” Never again should the United States act in such a callous manner toward those who gave this country so much of its heritage.

Métis

While the first Native American-European fur trade exchange happened about the year 1000 with Norse (i.e. Viking) entrepreneurs from Greenland, the fur trade didn’t really have a major impact on Native cultures until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The fur trade not only brought new goods into Indian nations, but also resulted in the emergence of a distinct cultural group known as Métis in Canada.

The French approach to American Indians was very different from that of the English, Spanish, and Russian invaders. The French viewed Indians as trading partners and potential markets for their goods. Instead of requiring their Indian partners to learn European ways as a prerequisite for trade, the French learned Indian ways.

Trade between nations was nothing new to American Indians: they had been engaged in trade for thousands of years by the time the French arrived. In what is now Canada, Indian trade involved both ceremonies and kinship. French traders understood this and became participants in the pipe ceremonies and gift giving that preceded formal trading. Since the French traders, all of whom were men, did not belong to any Indian clans, they had to acquire kinship connections through adoption and/or marriage.

Thus an important part of the French-Indian fur trade involved the marriage of the French fur traders into the Indian tribes. The French fur traders adopted many aspects of Indian culture and became as Indian as they were French. William Eccles, in his chapter on French exploration in North American Exploration. Volume 2: A Continent Defined, writes:  “These marriage alliances were regarded favourably by the Indians, since they strengthened the bonds between the two races, but they were frowned on by the royal officials and the clergy, who maintained that the offspring of these marriages combined the worst features of both races.”

One of the consequences of marriage is often children. The children of these fur trade marriages grew up in bilingual, bicultural households and often became important players in the expanding fur trade. While the fathers were often French, there were also Scots and Irish traders who married Indian women. The mothers most frequently came from Algonquian-speaking tribes, most often Cree or Anishinaabe (Ojibwa). Historian Barry Gough, in his biography First Across the Continent: Sir Alexander Mackenzie, writes:  “The descendants of these families became a distinct and important people in Canadian history, the Métis.”

Dan Asfar and Tim Chodan, in their biography Louis Riel, write:  “The Métis were a French-speaking people living in western Canada who drew their ancestry from both whites and Natives. They were the offspring of French fur traders and Native women who married during traders’ sojourns in Rupert’s Land.”

Rupert’s Land refers to the area granted to Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). Asfar and Chodan also report:  “Over time, the Métis (French for “half-caste”) formed a distinct population. They developed buffalo-hunting practices of their own and competed against bordering Natives for hunting grounds.”

From the Native American perspective there was no such thing as race, and thus the Métis were not viewed as an interracial group. Culturally and linguistically, the Métis blended European and Native American features into a new culture. As with other indigenous people, there were a number of different Métis cultural variations. Josephine Paterek, in her book Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume, reports:“The Southern Métis were the offspring of the French coureurs de bois and Ojibway or Cree women; they were typically Catholic and lived in and around the Red River Valley. The Northern Métis, in the vicinity of the Saskatchewan River, were the offspring of Scottish and English traders and Athapaskan women and usually followed the Anglican religion.”

One of the characteristics of Métis men was the wearing of a red, finger-woven sash which was usually about 60 inches in length.

During the nineteenth century there were a number of conflicts between the British and the Métis. In 1814, for example, a conflict known as the Pemmican War broke out in Saskatchewan when the governor attempted to stop the pemmican trade.

After Rupert’s Land became a part of the Canadian Federation and was opened to homesteading, the Métis system of land distribution—narrow, river front lots—did not mesh with the Canadian homesteading squares. The Métis during the 1880s repeatedly petitioned Ottawa for official recognition of their lands and their concerns were ignored.

By the twentieth century, Canada recognized the Métis as a distinct people. In 1901, for example, the Canadian government offered land script to Métis who had been born between certain dates. As a result, many Canadian-born Metis returned to Canada from the United States.

In Canada today, the Métis are recognized as an indigenous people. The United States, with its obsession for race expressed in the concept of blood quantum, does not recognize the Métis.

 

Greed, Corruption, and the Foundation for Oklahoma Statehood, 1893 to 1894

Thomas Jefferson was one of the Americans who envisioned removing all Indians from American soil and placing them in a confined territory west of the Mississippi River. In the early nineteenth century, many Indian nations were forcibly removed, often through the use of military force, and resettled in Indian Territory. Here they were to live and to govern themselves unhindered by federal or state forces.

Indian Territory was to be Indian land forever, but it was soon evident that the United States government had lied or lacked the political will to enforce its own laws as expressed in the removal treaties. Mary Jane Warde, in article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, writes:  “Intruders not only flouted Indian law and authority but also illegally exploited the resources of Indian Territory. They mined coal, collected salt, quarried stone, and dug snakeroot.”

Non-Indian cattle were allowed to graze on Indian lands, often over-grazing it and providing no compensation to the Indians. Many non-Indians also felt that they had a right to hunt, fish, and camp in the area. Mary Jane Warde writes:  “Indian officials complained and petitioned for stiffer laws against intrusion, but they received little satisfaction from the federal government.”

By the end of the nineteenth century, Manifest Destiny had been fulfilled as the United States expanded from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and historian Frederick Jackson Turner declared that the frontier was dead. American greed for land coupled with the capitalistic concern for transferring wealth for the poor to the rich now began to foster the view that Indian Territory was “unused” land which needed to be developed.

In 1893, Congress established the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, and President Grover Cleveland appointed Henry Dawes, Meredith Helm Kidd, and Archibald McKennon to the commission. Former Senator Henry Dawes was appointed as the commission’s chairman and consequently the commission became commonly known as the Dawes Commission. Dawes considered himself to be a friend to the Indian and was described by others as “the Indian’s truest friend.” He felt that Indians should be assimilated into American culture like other immigrants and that the best way to do this was to destroy tribal governments, tribally held land, and to put each Indian on a parcel of privately owned land as envisioned by Jefferson.

While there were many tribes in Oklahoma, the term “Five Civilized Tribes” referred to the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole. These had been southeastern agricultural Indian nations which had adopted a great deal of European culture prior to their forced removal to Indian Territory.

The purpose of the Commission was to persuade the leadership of the Indian nations in Oklahoma to give up title to their land so that it could be allocated to individuals. In his book The Dawes Commission and the Allotment of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1893-1914, Kent Carter writes:  “The hope was that the commission could persuade the governments of the Five Civilized Tribes to negotiate themselves out of existence—an essential first step in implementing a policy of allotting land to each individual Indian.”

The primary governmental concern at this time was for Indians to become assimilated into the dominant culture. In addition, dissolution of tribal governments would clear the way for what had been Indian Territory to become a part of Oklahoma and for Oklahoma to become a state. Powerful non-Indian groups pushed for this as an opportunity to make a profit.

The letter of instructions sent to the commission by Secretary of the Interior Hoke Smith states:  “success in your negotiations will mean the total abolition of tribal autonomy of the Five Civilized Tribes and the wiping out of the quasi-independent governments within our territorial limits. It means, also, ultimately, the organization of another territory in the United States and the admission of another state or states to the Union.”

In 1894, the Dawes Commission began its work by travelling to Indian Territory to hold meetings with tribal leaders. They quickly found that tribal leaders had little interest in negotiating allotment with the federal government.

The Cherokee told the Commission that something as momentous as allotment must be discussed by the people at length. Furthermore, they suggested that the United States first settle all outstanding claims from previous treaties. Historian Andrew Denson, in article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:  “This reluctance to embrace allotment left the American commissioners mystified and angry. Advocates of the policy at this time were convinced that common landholding and tribal government were doomed.”  Cherokee historian Robert Conley, in his book The Cherokee Nation: A History, summarizes the Dawes Commission attitude toward the Cherokee this way:  “U.S. authorities were getting tired of trying to play fair with the Cherokees.”

In meeting with the Creek, the Commission had to use an interpreter because none of the commissioners spoke an Indian language. Commissioner Archibald McKennon believed that most of the 3,000 Creeks who heard his presentation were favorable towards allotment and was somewhat shocked when everyone in the audience voted against the concept.

An intertribal council with representatives from the Creek (D.N. McIntosh, Roley McIntosh, Pleasant Porter, Hotulke Emarthla, Concharte Micco, Isparhecher, George Washington Grayson), Cherokee (E. C. Boudinot, L.B. Bell), Choctaw (Samuel Mayes, Green McCurtain), and others are assembled. The intertribal delegates wrote:“If you will not listen to our protests, if in our assertions, though so well founded in absolute truth as to be unanswerable, you simply reply that it costs too much money to allow our people to remain as we are, we as Indians possessing the common instincts of humanity, reply, then if the die is cast you must do these things yourselves and not ask and expect us to aid you in reducing ourselves to homeless, wandering paupers.”

The Five Civilized Tribes pointed out to the Dawes Commission that the lack of almshouses and potter’s fields in Indian Territory demonstrated the benefits of their communal landholding system. Historian Mary Jane Warde, in her biography George Washington Grayson and the Creek Nation, 1843-1920. writes:  “Unimpressed, the commissioners reminded the Indian representatives that with populous states now surrounding the territory, their way of life was bound to disappear and they would soon be crowded off the land by intruders.”

Concluding that the Indians would support allotment if they knew their best interests, the Commissioners tell the Indians:  “We believe we stand between you and a peril you do not see.”

Having failed to convince tribal leaders to negotiate allotment and dissolution of tribal governments, the commission began to travel the territory seeking testimony from both Indians and non-Indians which supported their view that tribal governments were corrupt and wanted to block allotment for personal gain. Based on this testimony, the commission then issued a report showing that it was the fault of tribal governments, not the United States, that the territory had been overrun with non-Indians. The report concluded:  “Their system of government can not continue. It is not only non-American, but it is radically wrong, a change is imperatively demanded in the interest of the Indian and whites alike, and such change can not be much longer delayed. The situation grows worse and will continue to grow worse.”

The Dawes Commission insisted that the federal government should act without the consent of the Indians and that the tribes had destroyed the force of the treaties by allowing non-Indians to become citizens under their laws. They also insisted that tribal governments were corrupt and irresponsible and therefore the promises of self-government made in the treaties were no longer binding.

Tlingit Migrations

The Northwest Coast, one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse culture areas in North America, occupies the area between the Pacific Coast and the mountains from Alaska through northern California. The Tlingit are the northernmost tribe in the Northwest Coast Culture Area. At the time of European contact, the Tlingit homelands included the coast regions and islands of what is now southern Alaska and northern British Columbia.

The Northwest Coast is usually divided into three distinct cultural provinces with the Northern Province including the Tlingit, Tsimshian (Nisg’a), Haida, Haihai, and Haisla tribes. The social structure of these tribes was rigidly organized and hierarchical. Among these tribes, the primary units of social organization were the clan and the village.

In the traditional pre-European villages each of the houses within the village was associated with an extended clan and each clan had certain privileges, which included fishing, hunting, and gathering rights as well as ceremonial rights (such as ownership of songs and dances).

Concerning the location of Tlingit villages, German geographer Aurel Krause, in his 1885 book The Tlingit Indians: Results of a Trip to the Northwest Coast of America and the Bering Straits, reports:  “Since fishing supplies the principal subsistence of these people, the choice of a place for settlement depends largely on the proximity of good fishing grounds and safe landing places for canoes.”

Some Tlingit villages consisted of only a few houses which were placed in a single row while other villages might have as many as 60 houses which might be arranged in two rows. Among the Tlingit, each house had a fixed place in the village and could not be moved to another place. If the house became too small, then annexes were built, but these were considered to be part of the original house.

Clans are named, extended family units which often are corporate in nature (that is, they will have a formal leader and possess property) and are usually exogamous (requiring marriage outside of the clan.) The clan not only lived under the same roof, but the house served as a clan symbol. The front of the house was often painted with a family crest design.

Among the Tlingit, descent is matrilineal. This means that people belong to the same clan as their mother. Thus, a village leader’s position would be inherited by his nephew (his sister’s son) rather than by his own son.

Tlingit clans are linked together in a phratry system. This means that each clan is linked to another with a set of social and ceremonial obligations.

The Tlingit were 18 distinct and autonomous groups. Each group felt that it was distinct from the others and had its own unique origins and ancestry. Ethnographer Kalervo Oberg, in The Social Economy of the Tlingit Indians, reports:  “The clan has a name denoting its place of origin, a story of its genesis, and a history of its migration.”

Tlingit oral tradition speaks of a gradual migration northward from the mouths of the Nass and the Stikine rivers. According to the stories, the clans would remain near a certain river for a long time. Then there would be a quarrel—usually over women or wealth—and the village would break apart with one portion going off in search of new territories.

The Tlingit acquired new territory by settling on lands that were unclaimed by any other group, by negotiating agreements to share certain lands, and by conquest. In their migrations northward, the Tlingit often came into contact with Athabascans who had come down the rivers to the coast. In some instances, the Tlingit simply drove the Athabascans away and in other instances the two groups intermingled.

When they acquired unclaimed land, the Tlingit would give the place a name and settle there. If only one clan settled a new area, they would invite members of a clan from the opposite phratry to join them.

By the time the first Europeans began to explore the Pacific coast of Alaska in the eighteenth century, the Tlingit had a long history of living in the area. The Tlingit had their first contact with Europeans in 1786 when a Spanish expedition landed at Lituja Bay. In trading with the Tlingit, the Spanish noticed that they were very aware of iron and many carried an iron dagger in a leather sheath around the neck. This suggested that they had traded with people from Asia.

An Experiment in Self-Government

In its dealings with Indian Nations, the United States often imposed an alien form of government on them. This government was not a democracy, but usually a dictatorship in which the leaders were chosen by the United States based on their willingness to follow the dictates and changing whims of the U.S. government. For a short period of time in the late nineteenth century, one “tribe” was allowed an experiment in self-government. That “tribe” was the Chiricahua Apache.

Some Background:

 In the late 1300’s and early 1400’s groups of hunting and gathering Athabascans began arriving in the Southwest from the far north in Canada. These were the ancestors of the Navajo and Apache peoples.

When the Spanish entered New Mexico, they recorded that the Tewa (a pueblo group) referred to one of the neighboring tribes as Navahú in reference to large areas of cultivated lands. This is in reference to the Navajo practice of dry-farming in arroyos and cañadas. The Tewa also referred to these newcomers as Apachü, which means strangers and enemies. The Spanish would later refer to these people as Apache de Navajó meaning the Apaches with the great planted fields.

There are six major divisions of the Apache: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Kiowa-Apache.

The Chiricahua Apache were in the mountains of southeastern Arizona. The term “Chiricahua” was coined by an anthropologist to refer to the autonomous tribes living in or near the Chiricahua Mountains. Tribal historian Michael Darrow reports that there were four independent political units in this area: Chíhéne, Chokonene, Bidánku, and Ndé’ndaí.

Like many other Indian tribes, there was no single overall Chiricahua leader: each of the local groups had its own political structure. Historian Robert Utley writes of the Chiricahua in his book A Clash of Cultures: Fort Bowie and the Chiricahua Apaches:  “They felt little tribal consciousness and never came together as a tribe.”

According to anthropologist Norman Bancroft-Hunt in his book North American Indians:  “People were free to follow the leader they chose, with the consequence that Apache bands were small and mobile, composed of people with a strong sense of independence and individual freedom.”

The lack of a centralized government or single leader created confusion for the United States government. Writing about the Chiricahua Apache, anthropologist Morris Opler, in an article in Anthropology of North American Tribes, reports:  “the Chiricahua found, to their great discomfort, that the white officials assumed what no Apache would admit – that an agreement with the leader was binding upon the whole group.”  Chiricahua leaders led through advice, persuasion, and example. They served as leaders only as long as their leadership proved successful.

While many non-Apache scholars and popular writers have labeled the Apache as a fierce, war-like people, in actuality warfare was not glorified as it was in some other culture areas. Chiricahua Apache tribal historian Michael Darrow, in a chapter in We, The People: Of Earth and Elders—Volume II, writes:  “In our tribe we don’t have any military societies or Dog Soldiers like the Plains Indians. We didn’t have anything vaguely resembling that. In our tribe you didn’t attain special status by participating in something like that.”  Darrow also writes:  “In our tribe, you didn’t get an eagle feather for each enemy smacked with a coup stick or killed. You didn’t get awards for battle accomplishments because they generally avoided fighting as much as possible.”

The Experiment:

In 1872, General Oliver Otis Howard agreed to attempt to contact Chiricahua Apache leader Cochise without a military escort. Howard and four others ignited a ring of five fires to show that five men had come in peace. Eventually two boys appeared at the Americans’ camp and led them to a secluded mountain valley containing an Apache camp. That evening, Cochise appeared in the camp.

Howard and Cochise bargained for ten days. Howard wanted the Apache to settle on a reservation on the Rio Grande, but Cochise asked to keep the Chiricahua homeland at Apache Pass. Historian Robert Utley reports:  “Eventually Howard bowed to Cochise’s wish to remain in his home country and proposed a reservation embracing a large part of the Chiricahua Mountains and the adjoining Sulphur Springs and San Simon Valleys.”  Under the agreement, the Chiricahua were to police themselves without army supervision.

Many high-ranking members of the U.S. Army, including Generals Crook and Schofield, were not happy with the agreement. In The Indian Historian D.C. Cole writes:  “The military was particularly incensed by the exemption of the reservation from military supervision.”

However, the Department of the Interior confirmed the site and the reservation was established by Presidential Executive Order. Without any major interference from the federal government, the Chiricahua peacefully governed themselves on their reservation.

In 1874, Chiricahua Apache leader Cochise died. His body was prepared in a traditional way and then taken to a deep fissure where it was lowered into the depths. His favorite horse and dog were killed and were also buried in the fissure. Taza, the son of Cochise, was selected by the Chiricahua to become their new chief. Historian Robert Utley reports:  “But Taza lacked his father’s force and vision, and increasingly the Chiricahuas drifted without the strong leadership on which the outcome of the reservation experiment depended.”

In 1875, the Chiricahua Apache were accused of a number of raids. D.C. Cole writes:  “The military accused the reservation Apache of raids against travelers, which were in reality the work of Cochise County white outlaws. The Mexican authorities protested Chiricahua raids in Sonora, which were in all probability the work of Mexican-based Apache of the Sierra Madres.”

In response, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs suspended services to the reservation. Investigations later cleared the Chiricahua of all charges, but the investigators recommended the removal of the Chiricahua to the San Carlos reservation in Arizona or to New Mexico in order to prevent any future incidents.

In 1876, two non-Indian whiskey sellers were illegally selling whiskey on the Chiricahua Apache reservation when they were killed by the Chiricahua. In response, and ignoring the fact that the incident was caused by non-Indians engaging in illegal activities, the Americans used this as an excuse to seize the reservation and move the Chiricahua to the San Carlos reservation. The Chiricahua reservation was abolished by Presidential Executive Order. D.C. Cole writes:  “Ended, perhaps forever, was Apache faith in the honor and good intentions of the United States government. Also gone was a United States sanctioned experiment in Apache self-government by means and upon lands of their own choosing.”

The experiment in Chiricahua self-government ended as the Chiricahua bands were removed to the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The people had planted a great deal of corn which they were forced to abandon. After they moved, their houses were burned and their corn fields destroyed.

Not all of the Chiricahua followed Taza to San Carlos. A number of them joined the Nednhi Chiricahua under the leadership of Juh in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. Among those who went to Mexico is Geronimo.  From here the Apache began a series of raids on American settlements in Arizona and New Mexico.

After moving to the San Carlos Reservation, Taza and several others joined an entourage organized by the Indian agent for the reservation which toured in several Eastern cities and put on a scripted “wild west show.” The show, however, was not successful and stopped performing after Cincinnati.

Sioux Opposition to Railroads in Montana in 1872

The westward expansion of the United States during the nineteenth century was guided by a quasi-religious philosophy of Manifest Destiny: America had been ordained by God to spread its territory across the continent. Americans generally felt that Indians, who supposedly owned the land, were, as an inferior race, destined to be pushed out of the way of progress and become extinct.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, it was clearly evident railroads would have to play a key role in carrying out Manifest Destiny. It was the railroads which would transport raw materials (minerals, timber, cattle, grain) from the west to the east and manufactured goods from the east to the west. It was envisioned that at least three rail lines—one across the northern portion of the Great Plains, one across the central portion, and one across the southern portion—would be required.

It was not unfettered capitalism that drove the railroads across the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean, but capitalism nurtured and supported by the federal government. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation which granted “funds to aid the construction of a railroad and telegraph line from Lake Superior to Puget Sound.” Jay Cooke and Company, a Philadelphia banking house, became the financial agents for the railroad in 1869. They broke ground for the new railroad near present-day Carlton, Minnesota in 1870 and soon began grading and track-laying. In 1871, they started construction in the west at Kalama, Washington.

With regard to Indians through whose territories the northern rail line would run, in 1872 William Welsh, the former chairman of the Board of Indian Commissioners, supported the creation of the Northern Pacific Railroad as it would  “bring the lawless Indians of the North into subjection, and thus aid effectively the religious bodies charged with bringing Christian civilization.”

In 1872, surveyors were sent out from Fort Rice and from Fort Ellis under military escort to survey the placement of the railroad through the Yellowstone country. This was a direct affront to the Sioux and their allies

In Montana, about 2,000 Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho gathered at the big bend of the Powder River for a traditional Sun Dance. Following the Sun Dance they launched a major raid against the Crow. More than 1,000 warriors began their invasion of Crow territory when they discovered an American railroad survey party. The survey party of 20 men was protected by about 500 soldiers under the command of Major Baker. The Americans were camped at Arrow Creek (now called Pryor Creek) near present-day Billings.

A group of young warriors attacked the sleeping American camp, scattering the army livestock. The following day, a larger force under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse took a position on the bluffs above the American’s well-fortified site. Some of the warriors fired down at the soldiers and engineers. Sitting Bull walked down from the promontory and sat down within firing distance of the soldiers. There he opened his pipe bag, loaded the pipe with tobacco, and smoked it with the four warriors who had accompanied him. With bullets kicking up dust around them, Sitting Bull calmly and serenely smoked the pipe and passed it to the others. Historian Robert Larson, in his biography Gall: Lakota War Chief, writes:  “After each man had taken his puff, Sitting Bull, wearing only two simple feathers and carrying his bow, quiver of arrows, and gun, carefully cleaned out the bowl of the pipe. He then got up and slowly led his anxious comrades back to the main Indian lines.”

The Battle of Arrow Creek (also called the Baker Battle) was more of a skirmish than a battle and there were few casualties.  The leader of the surveyors, however, insisted on returning to Fort Ellis and refused to work in the Yellowstone area. This caused the survey efforts to move north to the Musselshell River.

In Montana, a small party of 20 to 30 Sioux warriors under the leadership of Gall encountered a railroad survey party from Fort Buford near the confluence of the Powder and Yellowstone Rivers. Gall’s warriors surprised the sleeping American camp before dawn, but failed to stampede their livestock. The Americans managed to retreat to the west bank of the Powder River.

Gall walked down to the riverbed opposite from the Americans. He placed his rifle on the ground and asked to speak to the leader of the trespassers. Colonel Stanley laid down his pistol and walked to the opposite bank. He asked Gall to meet him on a sandbar in the middle of the river, but Gall refused. Stanley then broke off the talks and there was an immediate exchange of gunfire.

At this point, Sitting Bull arrived with a large war party. However, the Americans were equipped with Gatling guns and easily drove the Sioux warriors back.

In spite of Indian opposition to the intrusion of the railroad, work continued. By 1873, the track from the east had reached Bismarck, North Dakota. However, Jay Cooke and Company went bankrupt with a 1,500 mile gap between the two ends of the track. In 1875, the Northern Pacific Railroad was organized under the leadership of Frederick Billings and by 1878 construction had begun again.

In 1881, the Northern Pacific reached the Yellowstone River at Miles City, Montana. This allowed for the direct shipment of buffalo hides to the east and increased commercial buffalo hunting. In 1883, the last spike of the Northern Pacific Railroad was driven at Independence (now Gold) Creek in Montana, marking the completion of the first of the northern transcontinental railroads.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

While Mexico declared its independence from Spain on September 16, 1810, it did not actually obtain its independence until September 27, 1821. In the Plan de Iguala, Mexico did away with all legal distinctions regarding Indians and reaffirmed that Indians were citizens of Mexico on an equal basis with non-Indians. In other words, Mexico, unlike the United States, gave Indians full citizenship and recognized that Indians had rights to their land.

In the newly established country of Mexico, Spanish policies were blamed for Indian poverty and many felt that by erasing racial, caste, and class distinctions that Spain’s legacy of paternalism could be rectified. According to Daniel Tyler, in an article in the New Mexico Historical Review:  “Even the word ‘Indian’ was supposed to be abolished on public and private documents.”  The Catholic Church, however, opposed equality and advocated a return to the colonial mission system. In reality, each state determined for itself how to incorporate Indians into the new nation.

In 1848, the United States ended its war with Mexico with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In this treaty, Mexico gave the United States what is now the Southwest. One newspaper reported: “we take nothing by conquest…Thank God.”

In the treaty, the United States agreed to recognize Indian land holdings, and to allow Indian people to continue their customs and languages. The Mexican negotiators won from the United States multiple promises that Indian land rights would continue as they had been under Mexican law. Van Hastings Garner, in an article in The Indian Historian, writes:  “A major concern of the Mexicans was that if the United States were allowed to follow her normal pattern of dispossessing Indians, northern Mexico would be inundated by a flood of refugees.”  Garner also writes:  “In essence, the United States had agreed by international treaty to continue the Mexican system of white-Indian relations throughout the Southwest, a system that was incompatible with the expansion of the United States, for it protected the property rights of the indigenous inhabitants.”

Navajo historian Jennifer Denetdale, in an article in the New Mexico Historical Review, writes:  “Ironically, the American rationale for claiming these lands was to bring peace and stability to the region, but the United State only escalated the cycles of violence among Navajos, other Native peoples, and New Mexicans.”

As with many of its treaties, the United States tended to ignore any provisions which might be inconvenient. American Indian policy at this time was focused on removing Indians from their lands and confining them to reservations on lands considered to be unsuitable for agricultural and mineral development.

 With the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States acquired what would become New Mexico and Arizona. Included in this territory were the Pueblo Indians who were agricultural peoples who lived in permanent villages. The Pueblos did not fit the established American stereotypes about Indians. In Santa Ana: The People, the Pueblo, and the History of Tamaya Laura Bayer writes:  “They had preserved their own ancient governments, traditions, and religions after three hundred years of contact with European civilization, and they clearly indicated their intention to continue to do so.”

The Pueblos were clearly sovereign entities who had developed the land. American Indian policies did not seem to fit the Pueblo situations. Under Mexican law, Pueblo Indians had been citizens, but under American law their lost their citizenship rights. Some people argued that the Pueblos should be given citizenship, while others felt that they should be considered to be corporate entities under territorial law. It was not clear legally if they should be considered to be “Indians” or not.

In 1850, James S. Calhoun, the first Indian agent in New Mexico, negotiated a treaty between the United States and the Pueblos of Santa Clara, Tesuque, Nambe, Santo Domingo, Jemez, San Felipe, Cochiti, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, and Zia. The treaty states that the boundaries of each Pueblo  “shall never be diminished, but may be enlarged whenever the Government of the United States shall deem it advisable.”  In addition, the treaty states that the Pueblos shall be governed by their own laws and customs. On the surface, the treaty seem to be in accord with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but the treaty was never ratified by the United States Senate.

Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States also acquired California, an area which had been densely populated prior to the arrival of the Spanish. Under the Spanish mission system Indian population had declined.

In 1850, Congress authorized the President to appoint negotiators to make treaties with the California Indians. Van Hastings Garner reports:  “These treaties were to set up reservations for Indians into which they could retreat from the encroachment of white settlers.  The price for this security, however, was the surrender of all claims to land not included in the reservations.”  In other words, the Indians were to give up all of the rights which had been reserved to them in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with Mexico.

In 1851, the United States formally negotiated 18 treaties with Indian nations which secured legal title to public land and which guaranteed reserved lands for Indians. The treaties were signed by about 400 Indian chiefs and leaders representing 150 tribes (about half the tribes in California). The Indian commissioners explained to the non-Indian residents of the state that the government had two options: to exterminate the Indians or to “domesticate” them. They argued that “domesticating” them was more practical.

None of the commissioners who arranged the California treaties knew anything about California Indians. According to anthropologist Robert Heizer, in the Handbook of North American Indians:  “Their procedure was to travel about until they could collect enough natives, meet with them, and effect the treaty explanation and signing. One wonders how clearly many Indians understood what the whole matter was about.”

Non-Indians in California fiercely opposed the ratification of the treaties. While these treaties were signed by both Indian and U.S. government leaders, they were not debated in Congress, thus did not appear in the Congressional Record, and stayed hidden for more than 50 years. The ratification of the treaties was opposed by the California legislature and Annette Jaimes, in a chapter in Critical Issues in Native North America, reports  “it is rumored that state representatives even succeeded in having the treaties hidden in the archives of the Government Room in Washington, D.C.”

In spite of the assurances given to Mexico by the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ensuing legislation deprived California Indians of the rights to their land. The impact on the Indians was immense: many lost their homes, and were persecuted and hunted by non-Indians. During the next 50 years, California Indian population decreased by 80%. In the Handbook of North American Indians, anthropologist Omer Stewart writes:  “The failure to ratify the treaties left the federal government without explicit legal obligation toward the Indians of California.”

In 1851, a number of California Indians were living on land grants issued to them by Spain and Mexico. As non-Indian greed turned to dispossessing these Indians of their lands, Congress passed a law to establish a commission to determine the validity of these land grants. While on the surface it looked like the commission should confirm Indian land rights under these grants, it actually served to do the opposite. Van Hastings Garner explains it this way:  “The law stipulated that no matter how secure the title to the land was, if the grant holder failed to appear before the commission, the grant would revert to public domain. This provision took away the rights of most Indian grant holders, few of whom were told of the commission’s existence, let alone that they had to appear before it.”  In addition, the Indians had to travel to San Francisco to appear before the commission. Only six Indian claims were confirmed.

The American Indian experiences in New Mexico and California with American government promises made to Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo suggest that treaty promises are not held in high regard by the United States.

The Federal Government and Indians Affairs in 1965

By 1965, the administration of federal Indian relationships and Indian reservations had been firmly entrenched in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which is a part of the Department of the Interior. The BIA had traditionally administered Indian affairs for the benefit of large corporations and non-Indian interests. Many Indians felt that the BIA was oppressive. However, a new program associated with the War on Poverty emerged in 1965 and this program was different in that it was not administered by the BIA, but by Indian people within their communities.

Bureau of Indian Affairs:

In Nevada, the Chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute criticized the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and was told by the superintendent of the Nevada Indian Agency to recant or resign. The Chairman resigned. The tribe then lobbied in Washington, D.C. to have the superintendent replaced. In response, the BIA promoted the superintendent for his outstanding work with the Nevada tribes and he was given administrative control over the tribes in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

The Pit River Indians fired their attorney of record and hired Melvin Belli to represent them. When Belli brought suit to force severance of the Pit River Indian claim from the general California Indian settlement, he was forced from the bar by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) which claimed that he could not represent the Indians because the BIA had not approved him as counsel for the Pit River Indians. Belli appealed all the way to the Supreme Court which simply reaffirmed that the BIA has an inherent trust responsibility for the Indians.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs realized that the Indian Peaks Paiute and the Cedar Paiute (both located in southern Utah) were really two different bands.

In Arizona, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) seized the files of the counsel for the Navajo Tribe and the executive secretary of the tribe’s Department of Administration. A special BIA task force, without warrants, simply loaded the contents of the offices – including locked desks, file cabinets, and safes – into a truck. The counsel was not Indian, but simply an attorney for the tribe and the seizure included his personal papers. According to legal scholars Vine Deloria and David Wilkins, in their book Tribes, Treaties, and Constitutional Tribulations:  “the perceived lack of constitutional rights was applied to him because of his contract with the tribe.”

In Washington, the Colville Business Council voted in favor of termination. Many tribal members favored termination as they saw this as a way of preventing the Bureau of Indian Affairs and outside business interests from continuing to exploit reservation assets. The Secretary of the Interior testified to Congress that termination was unlikely to relieve the conditions of poverty (52% unemployment on the reservation) and that it would likely result in a situation similar to that of the Menominee. (The Menominee had been terminated and the result was massive poverty.)

War on Poverty:

 The Economic Opportunity Act authorized funds for programs adapted to Indian needs. Flathead writer D’Arcy McNickle, in his book Native American Tribalism: Indian Survivals and Renewals, reports that the administration of this law has  “no paternalistic tradition to inhibit its procedures, and it invited tribal officials to prepare and submit plans for local projects.”  This transfer of responsibility to the local community was new to Indian communities which were accustomed to having decisions made outside of the community.

In the Four Corners region of the Southwest, the Navajo established the Office of Navajo Economic Opportunity (ONEO). Peter MacDonald became the ONEO director. According to MacDonald’s biographer, Peter Iverson in American Indian Leaders: Studies in Diversity:  “ONEO programs expanded into many fields and had an impact on almost literally everyone living in the Navajo Nation.”

In Oklahoma, the Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity (OIO) was formed as a part of the federal government’s War on Poverty program. Under the initial leadership of LaDonna Harris (Comanche), representatives from 19 Oklahoma tribes met. Daniel Cobb, in an article in Western Historical Quarterly, writes:  “Unlike other Community Action agencies, OIO not only amplified Indian voices, but projected them into the realm of state and national politics.”

Indian Events in 1715

Three hundred years ago, in 1715, the European colonies in North America were well-established and conflicts with the Indian nations were escalating. Competition between the European powers often meant that Indian nations were caught in the middle of these conflicts with two or more European nations seeking their help.

In the north, in what is today Canada, the French were focused on fostering trade relations. The French were also seeking to find out if there was an inland sea which led to the Pacific Ocean.

While the French viewed Indians are trading partners, the English tended to view them as a hindrance to development. In general English colonial policies focused on: (1) strict segregation so that Indians and colonists did not intermingle, (2) genocide, and (3) the use of a “divide and conquer” strategy to get Indian nations to wage war on one another.

In the southwest, the Spanish missionary program was designed to bring about the total conversion of the Indians: to change them from pagans into Christians and from Indians into tax-paying Spanish citizens.

Briefly described below are some of the Indian events of 1715. It is not meant to be comprehensive.

The Yamasee War, which broke out in 1715, has been described elsewhere and is, therefore, not included in these events.

Census and Population Information:

In the Carolinas, the English colonists now held about 1,850 Indian slaves. Since 1680, British slavers had taken between 24,000 and 51,000 war captives, most of whom were shipped as slaves to New England or to the Caribbean.

In South Carolina, the English colonial governor had a census prepared which described the Indian nations which were considered to be subject to the South Carolina government. The census was based on the observations of traders and travelers and the figures in the census did not represent casual or unconcerned estimates.

In the Southeast, the Cherokee had 19 Upper Towns with a total population of 2,760; 30 Middle Towns with a total population of 6,350; and 11 Lower Towns with a total population of 2,100.

 New England:

 In Massachusetts, the New England Company asked the Natick to sell them the apparently abandoned praying town of Magunkaquog. The Company proposed to rent out the land to English settlers and share the rent money with the Natick families. The Natick, however, were still growing crops in the area and had deep emotional feelings about the area. Magunkaquog means the “place of the giant trees” in reference to the great trees – oak and chestnut – which were found in abundance in the area.

After initially rejecting the offer, the Natick agreed to the deal. After signing the deed, one of the signatories, Isaac Nehemiah, commited suicide by hanging himself with his belt. According to historian Daniel Mandell, in his book Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts:  “Nehemiah’s suicide highlighted how some Indians ‘passively’ resisted the sale of their lands to colonists, as well as the emotional attachment that many Natick Indians still held to Magunkaquog.”

 In Connecticut, Mohegan sachem Owaneco died drunk and poor. His son Caesar assumed the position of sachem.

 New York:

In New York, the colonial governor asked the Iroquois to join the English in their war against the Catawba. The Iroquois offered to destroy the Catawba if the English provided them with considerable amounts of guns and ammunition. The English accepted the Iroquois proposal and Iroquois warriors were soon raiding the Catawba.

 Southeast:

 In South Carolina, the Cherokee united with the Chickasaw to drive the Shawnee out of the Cumberland River valley to an area beyond the Ohio River. This opened up the Cumberland area for Cherokee and Chickasaw fishing and hunting.

In Alabama, the Creek began to trade some of their deerskins with the French.

In Alabama, a French diplomat described the Creek leader Brims:  “No one has ever been able to make him take sides with one of the three European nations who know him, he alleging that he wishes to see every one, to be neutral, and not to espouse any of the quarrels which the French, English, and Spaniards have with one another.”  All of the European nations gave him presents hoping to win him to their side.

In Mississippi, a French party going down the Mississippi River refused to stop and smoke the pipe with the Natchez. Interpreting this insult as a sign of hostility, the Natchez killed four French traders and plundered the local French warehouse.

Texas:

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

In Texas, the Comanche absorbed and/or annihilated the Jumano and the tribe vanishes from the historical record.

Canada:

The French legalized the Coureurs de Bois. Coureurs de bois is sometimes translated into English as “wood rangers”. Writing in 1851 and with a strong anti-French, anti-Indian bias in his book The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War After the Conquest of Canada, Francis Parkman describes the coureurs de bois as–“half-civilized vagrants, whose chief vocation was conducting the canoes of the traders along the lakes and rivers of the interior; many of them, however, shaking loose every tie of blood and kindred, identified themselves with the Indians, and sank into utter barbarism.”

These traders frequently married with Indian women (primarily Ojibwa and Cree) and the result was the creation of a new group known as the Métis.

In the Northwest Territories, Governor James Knight sent a group out from the York Factory to establish peace with the Chipewyan and bring them back to trade. The group, under the leadership of William Stuart, was guided by Thanadelthur, a Chipewyan woman who had been captured by the Cree.  Richard Ruggles, in his chapter in North American Exploration. Volume 2: A Continent Defined, reports:  “Her task was to guide the group to her home region and to act as interpreter and intermediary with her people.”

The group started out with about a dozen Cree, but this soon increased to about 150. Their first contact with the Chipewyan was a camp which had been attacked by Cree warriors. Stuart’s Cree wanted to return east as they feared an attack by the Chipewyan, but Thanadelthur persuaded them to wait for ten days while she contacted her people.

Thanadelthur returned with a party of about 160 Chipewyan and a council was held with the Cree. The two groups agreed to maintain the peace. The Chipewyan also agreed to trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company and to allow ten young men to accompany Stuart back to the York factory. The young men were to learn Cree so that they could act as interpreters and guides.

Cree leader Captain Swan (Waupisoo) left the York Factory to establish contact with the Athabascans for the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The Utes, the Spanish, and Silver

The Ute Indians, for whom the state of Utah is named, had an aboriginal homeland which included much of the present-day states of Colorado and Utah as well as portions of New Mexico and Arizona. The Utes were never a single, politically unified tribe, but were made up of about a dozen politically autonomous bands. The Utes first became aware of the European invasion in the seventeenth century when they began to acquire trade items from the Spanish in New Mexico.

The Spanish moved into New Mexico after their conquest of Mexico and Peru, where they had discovered great wealth in the form of gold and silver. As they moved north, they continued to look for gold and silver and to pursue any rumors about these precious metals.

In 1765, Don Juan María Antonio de Rivera was commissioned to lead an exploring expedition to search for silver deposits in the mountains north of Santa Fe and to verify the existence of the Colorado River and its canyons. The Spanish had heard stories from the Ute about silver deposits and in one instance a Ute man had brought a lump of virgin silver ore to the blacksmith at Abiquiú.

Since the Ute were sensitive to the appearance of Spanish military, the expedition had no armed escort and disguised themselves as traders.

On his first entrada, Rivera followed a trail known as the Navajo War Trail, or the Ute Slave Trail, which runs into present-day Colorado and Utah. Near the present-day town of Bayfield, Colorado they found ruins of an ancient town and what appeared to have been a smelter where gold was separated from ore.

Near present-day Durango, Colorado, they encountered a Ute camp under the leadership of a man they called El Capitán Grande. Here they talked with the daughter of the man who had taken the lump of silver to Abiquiú. She gave them directions to the location of the silver. However, the Spanish explorers were unable to locate the silver source.

With the guidance of a Ute whom they called Capitán Asigare, the Spanish traveled to the Dolores River near the present-day town of Dolores, Colorado. From here, Asigare had them send out a small party to contact the Payuchi Ute under the leadership of Chino. Chino told them that he would show them the river crossing if they returned in the fall.

The Spanish returned to Santa Fe and reported to the governor. In the fall they began the second entrada. They traveled back to Colorado and made contact with Chino. With their Ute guides, the Spanish started out to find the river crossing. Clell Jacobs, in an article in the Utah Historical Quarterly, reports:  “It is apparent the Utes wanted to make the trip so difficult and dangerous that Rivera would become discouraged and disheartened, give up his quest, and return to Santa Fe without finding the crossing and without making contact with the people on the other side of the river.”

The Ute guides led the Spanish on a circuitous and difficult route to the camp of the Tabejuache Ute under the leadership of Tonampechi near present-day Moab, Utah. Tonampechi attempted to discourage further exploration, but was unsuccessful. The expedition continued to the Colorado River. Two of the Ute guides were then sent across the river to contact the people on the other side and to invite them to trade. The guides returned with five Sabuagana Ute warriors who told them that some of the people were hiding from the Spanish because they feared Spanish reprisals for having killed some Spanish years earlier.

While the Spanish went back to New Mexico unsuccessful in their attempt to find mineral wealth in Ute territory, for the next two centuries the Utes would continually have to deal with European and American greed for gold and silver.

Indian Issues in 1965

In 1965, Indian concerns centered around a number of issues, including the hunting and fishing rights which had been guaranteed in treaties; land claims often related to fraudulent treaties; Indian education; dams whose reservoirs destroyed traditional Indian lands; religious freedom; and the relationships with the states. Some of the events related to these issues are briefly described below.

Fishing and Hunting Rights:

In Oklahoma, a loose-knit confederation calling themselves Five County Northeastern Oklahoma Cherokee Organization came together to discuss their treaty-guaranteed hunting and fishing rights. A number of additional issues—disputes over taxation, discrimination in health and social services, and fraudulent land sales—soon emerged from the discussions.

At Frank’s Landing on Washington’s Nisqually River, a group of Indians called attention to their battle for Indian fishing rights by holding a “fish-in”. The event lasts for only a half-hour and ends with 6 Indians in jail. Yakama/Cherokee writer Sidney Mills described the event this way in Red Power: The American Indians’ Fight for Freedom:  “19 women and children were brutalized by more than 45 armed agents of the State of Washington.”

The Yakama, as well as several other tribes, had declined to support the “fish-in” movement. However, when Washington state fish and game officials arrested a dozen Yakama elders for fishing in their usual and accustomed places along the Columbia River, the situation changed. Young Yakama put on their Marine and Army uniforms, shouldered M-1 rifles, and patrolled the river banks.

In Wisconsin, a member of the Bad River Chippewa was arrested for illegally netting fish in Lake Superior. The treaty rights defense was rejected by the court. Concerned about fishing, hunting, and gathering rights, the tribal council passed a resolution in response to the conviction which stated:  “that the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians do hereby oppose any and all bills introduced in Congress or any acts of Congress to create within the original boundaries of the Bad River Reservation any part or parcel of the so-called Apostle Islands National Lake Shore.”

In Michigan, Keweenaw Bay Band of Chippewa tribal chairman Bill Jondreau was arrested for illegal possession of four lake trout. State law required that he throw the dead lake trout back into the water and Jondreau found it difficult to waste fish. Jondreau stood on his tribe’s treaty rights—article 2 of the 1854 treaty—but was convicted.

Education:

The Haskell Institute became the Haskell Indian Junior College. The curriculum was expanded to include courses in business and training courses in secretarial, the building trades, electronics, and service occupations.

In Washington, the Head Start program for preschoolers was established in Neah Bay on the Makah Reservation. It was initially a summer program.

In Arizona, the Lukachukai Demonstration School was founded on the Navajo Reservation with funding from the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Land Claims:

 In New Mexico, the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) ruled that Taos Pueblo held aboriginal title to Blue Lake, a sacred area taken from them by Presidential proclamation in 1906. The ICC found that not only had the government illegally extinguished the Taos’ aboriginal title to the land, but in addition the government had cheated the Indians out of more than $300,000 in compensation. Historian Andrew Graybill, in article in the New Mexico Historical Review, reports:  “Although pleased with the findings, the Indians declined to accept a financial settlement, planning as before to use the ruling as leverage to win title to the land.”

In Seneca Nation of Indians versus U.S., the Court of Claims ruled that the Indian Claims Commission Act did not cover pre-1790 claims.

In Washington, the Palouse on the Yakama and Colville Reservations were awarded $593,000 by the Indian Claims Commission. Clifford Trafzer and Richard Scheuerman, in their book Renegade Tribe: The Palouse Indians and the Invasion of the Inland Pacific Northwest, report:  “But most of the Palouse Indians did not celebrate a victory when they learned the outcome of the Indian claims case, for the Indians had won money, not the return of their lands.”

The Indian Claims Commission awarded 27 cents per acre to the Southern Paiute for lands taken in Utah.

 The Shoshone on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming were awarded $120,000 to compensate them for gold taken from their land by miners.

 In Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes versus the United States the court held that the government surveys in 1892 for the Flathead Reservation in Montana were in error and that 10,586 additional acres should be included in the reservation.

Dams:

In Tennessee, the Cherokee opposed plans to build the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River. The new reservoir would flood many historic Cherokee sites, including Chota which had been the Cherokee capital. A delegation of Eastern Cherokee as well as other citizens’ action groups presented a petition opposing the dam to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.

 Kinzua Dam was completed and 10,000 acres of the Seneca’s Allegany Reservation was flooded. The Seneca were left with only 2,300 acres which were flat enough to use. The newly created reservoir required 3,000 Seneca graves to be relocated. According to political scientist Sharon O’Brien, in her book American Indian Tribal Governments: “The Army Corps of Engineers had unceremoniously unearthed the remains of Cornplanter and three hundred of his descendants, moved them to a newly constructed Indian-white cemetery, and flooded the old burial ground.”

Religion:

In South Dakota, Jesuit priests said mass in the dance arbor of the Sioux Sun Dance put on by Frank Fools Crow on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The mass was done at the request of elder Jake Herman.

In South Dakota, piercing was once again allowed at the Sun Dance on the Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation.

In the Drug Abuse Control Acts, Congress listed peyote as forbidden along with other psychedelic drugs.

The Nevada state legislature reconsidered its prohibition on peyote. Testimony by members of the Native American Church convinced the legislature that the Native American Church should be allowed to use peyote under the provisions of religious freedom guaranteed by Nevada’s constitution.

The States:

 North Carolina granted the Haliwa recognition as an Indian community.

The State of Maine created a Department of Indian Affairs.

In Texas, the state legislature created the Commission for Indian Affairs and transferred control and management of Indians to it.

 In Montana, the Appeals Court in Colliflower v. Garland found that:  “it is pure fiction to say that the Indian courts functioning in the Fort Belknap Indian community are not in part, at least, arms of the federal government. Originally, they were created by the federal executive and imposed upon the Indian community, and to this day the federal government still maintains a partial control over them.”

The Tribes:

In California, the Karuk Tribe of California was incorporated to preserve the traditional knowledge of the people. Any person who was one-eighth Karuk or more was able to join.

In Oklahoma, Clifton Hill and other Creek leaders for the Creek Centralization Committee began to advocate for the formation of a real Creek government. The office of principal chief since 1906 had been filled by puppet leaders appointed by the U.S. President. The committee drafted a new constitution and by-laws. Clifton Hill explained:  “We have been fifty-eight years without representation and we do not want a drugstore Indian for a chief. We want a free election, a free voice, just like any other tribe.”

In Oklahoma, the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes—Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole—recommended that a new Indian hospital be constructed at Tolihina as soon as possible. The Council also recommended that Indian hospitals provide dental care for all Indians regardless of age.

In Texas, attorney Tom Diamond began an inquiry on the status of the Tigua. He was told by anthropologists that the Tigua were extinct. The Tigua, however, maintained that their culture still exists. Historian Jeffrey Schulze, writing in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, reports:  “The problem was that while Tigua culture had not died out, it had changed and, most significantly, been kept hidden from and perhaps ignored by the surrounding community.”

In Texas, Andy Abierta, the governor of Isleta Pueblo met with the Tigua in El Paso. The Tigua are Tiwa-speaking people who split off from Isleta following the 1680 Pueblo Revolt.

In California, Mary Yee, the last native speaker of Barbareño, a Chumash language, died. With her death, the Chumash languages no longer had any native speakers.

In North Carolina, Eastern Cherokee leader Osley Saunooke died from diabetic complications. He had served two terms as the Principal Chief of the Eastern Cherokee and had been the world super heavyweight wrestling champion.

Art:

In Washington, D.C., the first American Indian Performing Arts Festival was held. The festival had two component parts: (1) a performing arts program, and (2) an Indian arts and crafts exhibition. The exhibit of Indian art, held at the Department of the Interior’s art gallery, included both older objects on loan from museums and collections throughout the United States and recent works by students at the Institute of American Indian Arts. The performing arts program was written and directed by Cherokee artist Lloyd Kiva New.