The Sioux in 1866

The designation “Sioux” is used to describe many different tribes who are divided into three linguistic divisions: Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota. While relative late-comers to the Northern Plains—they did not become horse-mounted Plains Indians until about 1775—by 1866 they had a reputation among non-Indians as one the of the fiercest and most war-like Plains Indians. Briefly described below are some of the Sioux events for 1866.

Sioux leader Red Cloud and others met with U.S. officials at Fort Laramie to discuss the Bozeman Trail. General Sherman provided the Indians with goodwill gifts of powder, lead, and food. According to historian Richard Dillon, in his book North American Indian Wars:

“The Government asked permission for emigrants to cross lands recently granted to the Sioux and Cheyenne, but the General also sought permission for three forts to be built on the Bozeman Trail connecting the Platte River with Montana’s mines.”

Red Cloud broke off the negotiations because the United States had brought in soldiers to use as a threat of force. In the months that followed, the Oglala and other Sioux tribes engaged in guerrilla war along the Bozeman Trail, making it dangerous to travel.

The army, under orders to protect the gold seekers, established Fort Reno, Fort Phil Kearny, and Fort C.F. Smith along the Bozeman Trail. The army was determined to make the Bozeman Trail a major thoroughfare to the Montana gold fields. The United States government was reeling under the immense financial strain of the Civil War and saw the Montana gold fields as one answer to the financial problems.

In one battle near Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming, Captain William J. Fetterman and 80 soldiers were killed by Oglala and Cheyenne warriors. The Cheyenne were under the leadership of Little Horse, a contrary. Accompanying the Cheyenne were four Crow warriors, including one woman warrior. The soldiers in the fort prepared to blow it up if the Indians broke through their defenses and the message from the fort was “We are fighting a foe that is the devil.”

General William Tecumseh Sherman wroteto President Ulysses S. Grant:

“We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children. Nothing else will reach the root of this case.”

General Sherman used the term “Sioux” as a way of referring to all “hostile” Indians.

Montana Territorial Governor Thomas Meagher wrote:

“As for the Sioux, and their allies and accomplices, it is my clear and positive conviction that they will never be reduced to friendly and reliable relations with the whites but by the strong and crushing hand of the military power of the nation.”

In Montana, Green Clay Smith was appointed as Territorial Governor. In his first address to the Territorial Legislature he vowed to take a hard line policy against Indians he deemed as hostile. He stresses that “we will be just and fair to them, but they must respect our rights.” He also expresses particular dislike for the Sioux.

In Montana, Oglala Sioux leader Red Cloud visited the Crow, bringing them gifts of tobacco, horses, and ammunition. The Oglala asked the Crow to join them in their fight against the Americans. The Crow, who had long been Oglala enemies, declined to join them.

In Montana, an Indian camp on the Powder River grew to 1,000 lodges of Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux (Oglala, Brule, Miniconjou, Sans Arc). A war party of 3,000 warriors was formed to attack the army station on the Platte River Bridge, near present-day Casper, Wyoming.

The warriors lured a small detachment of soldiers away from the station and then ambushed them. Farther upriver, another group of warriors attacked a small wagon train and killed all of the soldiers. Historian Anthony McGinnis, in his book Counting Coup and Cutting Horses: Intertribal Warfare on the Northern Plains 1738-1889, reports:

“In terms of Indian warfare, both of these brief limited engagements were worthwhile because individuals accomplished heroic deeds and achieved a great victory. The war party had attained sufficient glory for one day.”

The warriors returned home without attacking the army station.

In North Dakota, the army moved Fort Union downstream on the Missouri River and renamed it Fort Buford. Historian Robert Larson, in an article in Montana, the Magazine of Western History, writes:

“Although it could be argued that the fort was strictly a defensive military post guarding a possible route to the Montana gold fields, many northern Lakota felt its construction was not in harmony with the treaties drawn up at Fort Rice.”

The construction of Fort Buford at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers in North Dakota provoked a series of attacks by the Hunkpapa Lakota Strong Heart Warrior Society under the leadership of Sitting Bull.

In North Dakota, a new military fort was established on the Missouri River twelve miles below Fort Berthold. The new fort, Fort Stevenson, was viewed by the Sioux as another provocation.

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 Lame Cow War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


South Dakota versus The Indians, 1961-1963

Following World War II, the United States was faced with the problem of paying for the war and rebuilding the shattered economies of Germany and Japan. While American Indians were technically citizens, they did not or could not vote and thus were not seen as valuable constituents by members of Congress. If the United States got rid of its obligations to Indians, their argument went, then we would have money for more important things. Fueled by the philosophy of the Cold War, the United States Indian policy turned in the direction of: (1) terminating the Indian tribes and giving jurisdiction over the reservations to the states, (2) turning over Indian natural resources-minerals, oil, water-to private, non-Indian companies for development, and (3) asking Christian churches to help administer social programs and assimilate Indians to American life. During the early 1960s, at a time when there was a growing civil rights movement, the State of South Dakota, in its infinite wisdom, sought to carry out this Indian policy by assuming control of the reservations in the state. The Sioux fought back through the courts and through the election process.


Under the Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, Indian tribes are domestic dependent nations and are not under the jurisdiction of the states.

At the national level, the new policy regarding Indians was announced in 1951 by Commissioner of Indian Affairs Dillon Meyer in a speech before the National Council of Churches. He announced that the private sector or state governments can better serve the Indian people and the time had come to weaken or dissolve the relationship between Indian tribes and the federal government. He asked that religious groups (meaning Christian) help Indians to assimilate into American society.

Two years later, in 1953, Congress passed Public Law 280 giving state governments the right to assume civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indian reservations in California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Alaska. The law was created in part because of Congress’s perception of the “lawlessness” of the reservations and a concern to protect non-Indians living near the reservations.  There was no concern for protecting the Indians. Indians were not consulted in creating this legislation.

At this same time, legislation was introduced to repeal the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). Proponents of the appeal felt that the IRA had encouraged un-American socialistic tribal governments. Montana Senator George Malone put it this way:

“While we are spending billions of dollars fighting communism and Marxist socialism throughout the world, we are at the same time, through the Indian Bureau, perpetuating the systems of Indian reservations and tribal governments which are natural Socialist environments.”

South Dakota, 1961

In 1961, lobbyists for the non-Indian Taxpayers League drafted a bill which was introduced in the South Dakota House of Representatives which assumed state jurisdiction over all criminal and civil matters in Indian country under the provisions of Public Law 280. The primary concern of the Taxpayers League was “lawlessness”, especially drunken driving on the highway. Enforcing the proposed law, however, would entail increased costs to the state so the bill was amended to assume jurisdiction only over actions on the highways through Indian country. The bill passed and became law.

In 1990, the law was overturned by the Eighth Circuit Court. According to the Court:

“Absent tribal consent, we hold the State of South Dakota has no jurisdiction over highways running through Indian lands in the state.”

The court found that the 1961 state law extending its jurisdiction over reservation highways was not responsive to Public Law 280.

South Dakota, 1963:

In 1963, South Dakota enacted a law which gave the state civil and criminal jurisdiction on reservations. While South Dakota had a fairly large Indian population, there were no Sioux representative in the legislature and the Sioux strongly opposed this law.

In signing the new law, the state governor stressed equal rights:

“We’ll be giving the Indian equal protection under the law. We hear a lot about civil rights. But until all South Dakotans are treated the same, we’ll never achieve the full potential of our state.”

In response to the new law a new organization – United Sioux Tribes – was formed and a petition drive was started to allow state voters to vote on the issue. In two months they gathered the 14,000 signatures necessary to have the matter considered on a public referendum. In their campaign, the Sioux focus on the voters’ sense of fairness: the state law was wrong simply because the Sioux never consented to it. The referendum passed with 79% of the vote and the law was thus overturned.

The Bozeman Trail

In 1851, the United States called a treaty council at Fort Laramie, Wyoming which was attended by 8,000 – 12,000 Indians from the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Shoshone, Crow, Assiniboine, Arikara, Gros Ventre, Mandan, and Hidatsa tribes. The purpose of the council and of the resulting treaty was to establish peace between the United States and the tribes, including a promise to protect Indians from European-Americans, and to stop the tribes from making war with one another. At the Fort Laramie Treaty Council, each tribal area was defined.  

The Council ignored the participation of the Shoshone and assigned their northeastern hunting range to the Crow.  As there were no River Crow at the Council, the Mountain Crow version of their geographic rights and hunting areas was used and was assumed by the Americans to be binding to all of the Crow tribes.

The Sioux received the rights to the Black Hills and other lands claimed by the Northern Cheyenne.

Signing the treaty for the Yankton Sioux was Smutty Bear who complained about the destruction of grass and trees by travelers on the Overland Trail and about the subsequent scarcity of game. Smutty Bear’s complaint turned out to be prophetic. Over the next decade more tribes were pushed out onto the Plains where they were supposed to depend on the buffalo for subsistence. At the same time the buffalo herds decreased due to a combination of over-hunting, destruction of grazing by cattle herds and immigrant wagon trains, and the destruction of the environment by the railroads. Consequently, the Sioux had to hunt in lands farther west. The tyranny of the map laid down by the Americans during the Treaty of Fort Laramie was soon obsolete and did not reflect the new reality of the need to find food and clothing.

The United States has always maintained a working policy of transferring potential wealth-minerals, petroleum, timber, good farmlands-from Indians to non-Indians. Thus in 1862, when gold was discovered on Grasshopper Creek in Montana, all treaty agreements about keeping non-Indians out of Indian territory were ignored. Soon the miners were invading Indian territories with the support of the United States government. The gold discovery resulted in heavy traffic along the Montana Trail between Salt Lake City and the gold fields. The Trail passed through Shoshone territory in Utah and Idaho. On the one hand, the Indians resented the new intrusion, but they were also intrigued by the possibilities for plunder of the relatively small and unprotected miners’ parties.

In 1863, American miners and others seeking a faster way to the Montana gold fields created the Bozeman trail. The trail started from the Oregon Trail near present-day Douglas, Wyoming and ran north into Montana. While livestock grazing and water were scarce along this route, it was the fastest way to the gold fields. The Americans were unconcerned that it cut through the buffalo hunting grounds of the Lakota, Arapaho, and Northern Cheyenne. The Indians, however, found this illegal incursion into their prime hunting grounds to be intolerable. In response they began a series of sporadic raids against the American emigrants.

In 1865, the gold fields of Virginia City, Montana were connected with points east through the Niobrara-Virginia City Wagon Road. The road cut through the hunting grounds of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes.

That same year, the Sawyers Expedition-a civilian road-building group with military escort-entered the Powder River country in Wyoming. The group of 143 men, including 118 cavalry, reached Pumpkin Buttes near present-day Wright without any Indian opposition. Here they were attacked by a war party of 600 Southern Cheyenne, Northern Cheyenne, and Sioux warriors.

After several hours of fighting, the Indians called for a truce. Dull Knife, Bull Bear, Red Cloud, and Charlie Bent met with the Americans and George Bent acted as interpreter. The Cheyenne explained to the Americans that peace would be possible on only one condition: the hanging of Colonel Chivington, the American leader in the Sand Creek massacre. The Cheyenne felt that they were strong enough to fight the U.S. troops.

Over the objections of the military officer, the civilian leader of the expedition offered the Indians bacon, sugar, coffee, flour, and tobacco in exchange for safe passage. The peace was short-lived as two troops were killed when they wandered out among the Indians.

The 12th Missouri Cavalry and the 2nd Missouri Light Artillery then entered the Powder River Country from Nebraska to wage war against the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. The cavalry was armed with Spencer repeating carbines which had an effective range of 900 yards. Camped in the area, but unknown to the army, were 1,000 Sioux and Cheyenne lodges with 6,000 people.

After several encounters with Indian war parties in which the army had the advantage of superior fire power, the army decided to turn back and head for Fort Laramie. For several days a running battle was fought with Cheyenne warriors armed with bows, lances, and a few trade guns. Roman Nose, riding a white war horse, rode in front of the troops, demonstrating his bravery and prowess. While his horse was hit, Roman Nose escaped injury and the fight became known as “Roman Nose’s Fight.”

Roman Nose

Roman Nose is shown above.

In 1865, an army force of 558 soldiers and 179 Indians (95 Pawnee and 84 Winnebago and Omaha) set out to attack the Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapaho in the Powder River area where the Indians were holding their traditional summer ceremonies.

The army encountered an Arapaho village under the leadership of Black Bear and Medicine Man. By the time the army reached the village most of the warriors were mounted on their horses and the women and children had already begun their march to a new camp. For an hour, the army howitzers pounded the village and the Indian scouts killed Arapaho men, women, and children indiscriminately. As the soldiers entered the village to engage in fierce hand-to-hand fighting, the Arapaho women fought beside the men. Many of the Arapaho reached a high point near the village. The army destroyed the Arapaho village and their supplies. Eight Arapaho women and 13 children were captured; 65 Arapaho were killed; 250 lodges burned; and 500 horses captured.  

In 1866, Sioux leader Red Cloud and others met with U.S. officials at Fort Laramie to discuss the Bozeman Trail.  General Sherman provided the Indians with goodwill gifts of gunpowder, lead, and food. The Government asked permission for emigrants to cross Sioux and Cheyenne lands. In addition, General Sheridan sought permission for three forts to be built on the Bozeman Trail connecting the Platte River with Montana’s mines. Red Cloud broke off negotiations because the United States had brought in soldiers to use as a threat of force. In the months that followed, the Oglala and other Sioux tribes engaged in guerrilla war along the Bozeman Trail, making it dangerous to travel.

Red Cloud

Red Cloud is shown above.

The army, under orders to protect the gold seekers, established Fort Reno, Fort Phil Kearny, and Fort C.F. Smith along the Bozeman Trail. The army was determined to make the Bozeman Trail a major thoroughfare to the Montana gold fields. The United States government was reeling under the immense financial strain of the Civil War and saw the Montana gold fields as one answer to the financial problems.

In one battle near Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming, Captain William J. Fetterman and 80 soldiers were killed by Oglala and Cheyenne warriors. The Cheyenne were under the leadership of Little Horse, a contrary. The soldiers in the fort prepared to blow it up if the Indians broke through their defenses and the message from the fort was

“We are fighting a foe that is the devil.”

Montana Territorial Governor Thomas Meagher wrote in 1866:

“As for the Sioux, and their allies and accomplices, it is my clear and positive conviction that they will never be reduced to friendly and reliable relations with the whites but by the strong and crushing hand of the military power of the nation.”

In Montana, Oglala leader Red Cloud visited the Crow, bringing them gifts of tobacco, horses, and ammunition. The Oglala asked the Crow to join them in their fight against the Americans. The Crow, who had long been Oglala enemies, declined to join them.

A war party of 3,000 Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapaho warriors was formed to attack the army station on the Platte River Bridge, near present-day Casper, Wyoming. The army station was protected by a wooden stockade and a company of soldiers.

The Cheyenne warriors were led by Dull Knife, White Bull, and Roman Nose. The Sioux warriors were led by Old Man Afraid of His Horses, Young Man Afraid of His Horses, and Red Cloud. A small group of warriors acted as decoys and a detachment of soldiers was sent out to drive them off. Before the ambush trap could be closed, however, the soldiers were ordered back and returned without loss.  

The following morning 25 soldiers were sent out to escort a military wagon train back to the fort. They were attacked and four soldiers killed. The war party then attacked the wagon train, killing over 20 soldiers. At least seven Cheyenne were killed.

From the Indian perspective, these limited attacks were worthwhile as individual warriors accomplished heroic deeds. The war party had attained sufficient glory for one day and the warriors returned home without attacking the army station.

In 1867, the Sioux and Cheyenne continued their battles against the building of the Bozeman Trail. Dull Knife and Two Moon led the Cheyenne against soldiers near Fort C. F. Smith. Red Cloud attacked woodcutters near Fort Phil Kearny. In Montana, a war party of 700 Sioux warriors attacked a group of 19 soldiers and six civilians who were working in a hayfield. The Americans had the advantage of newer and better guns-rapid-firing, breech-loading 50 caliber Springfield rifles and repeating rifles. After several hours of battle, the Sioux withdrew.

In 1867, the Northern Arapaho under the leadership of Medicine Man met with the Americans at Fort Fetterman in an attempt to reestablish peaceful relations. Medicine Man told the Americans that they did not want to be involved in the Sioux and Cheyenne raids, nor did they want to go to the Sioux Reservation or to Indian Territory. He told them that the Arapaho wanted to stay in the north, in Montana and Wyoming.

The war over the Bozeman Trail, also known as Red Cloud’s War, officially ended in 1868 with the Treaty of Fort Laramie which established the Great Sioux Reservation and preserved the Powder River and Big Horn country as un-ceded Indian territory. The reservation, according to article 2, was

“set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians”.

No cession of the reservation would be valid without the signatures of three-fourths of the adult males.

The treaty was signed with 10 Sioux tribes – Brulé, Oglala, Miniconjou, Yanktonai, Hunkpapa, Blackfeet, Cuthead, Two Kettle, Sans Arcs,  Santee- and with the Arapaho.

The Indians were promised that they could continue to use their hunting grounds outside of the reservation for “so long as the buffalo may range thereon in such numbers as to justify the chase.” The American government, however, was confident that the buffalo would soon be exterminated and thus the Sioux would be confined to the reservation.

The Indians promised that they would withdraw all opposition to the construction of railroads; that they would not attack the people of the United States; that they would not capture white women or children; that they would not kill or scalp white men.

From a Sioux perspective, the treaty was a success as it forced the abandonment of the Bozeman Trail through their hunting grounds and the three forts that guarded the trail.

The Arapaho felt that they had little choice but to sign the treaty. They agreed to settle on a reservation within one year: either with the Sioux or with the Cheyenne and Southern Arapaho in Oklahoma or with the Crow in Montana. Signing the treaty for the Arapaho were Black Bear, Medicine Man, Little Wolf, Littleshield, and Sorrel Horse.

Following the treaty council the army abandoned all of its forts except for Fort Fetterman in Wyoming. The Sioux burned all of the abandoned forts. The burning of the forts was a symbol of their victory against the American invasion of their country.


The Battle of the Rosebud

The expansion of the American empire westward across the Mississippi River was motivated by greed and supported by God. During the nineteenth century American greed was manifested in an obsession for privately owned land and for gold, silver, and other precious metals. Americans believed that the role of government was to obtain land and mineral rights from the Indian nations that owned them and then give them to entrepreneurs for private exploitation. Many Americans believe that their God has made them a chosen people with dominion over both nature and all pagan nations.  

In 1876, American greed focused on the possibility of great wealth in the form of gold in South Dakota’s Black Hills, an area of great historical and spiritual importance to many Indian tribes, including the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, and others. Turning a blind eye to U.S. law, international law, and U.S. treaty obligations, the government focused on getting the gold into the hands of non-Indians.

When the Sioux, the tribe declared by the United States to be the owners of the Black Hills, made it clear they did not wish to relinquish this land to the gold seekers, the United States simply declared war on them.  The Sioux must relinquish the Black Hills or starve. Congress passed an act which provided:

“hereafter there shall be no appropriation made for the subsistence of the Sioux, unless they first relinquish their rights to the hunting grounds outside the [1868 treaty] reservation, ceded the Black Hills to the United States, and reached some accommodation with the Government that would be calculated to enable them to become self-supporting.”

Any Indian who hunted in the unceded lands was not able to receive any food or supplies. If an Indian went out to hunt, even if starving, it meant losing all benefits for the rest of the year.

The United States then issued an ultimatum to the Sioux: all of the bands were to report to their agency by January 31 or be considered hostile. The ultimatum was intended to result in war for two basic reasons: (1) moving a band in January was difficult, if not impossible, and (2) most of the bands outside of the agency were unable to get word about the ultimatum.

The army then launched a three-pronged pacification campaign against the “hostiles” who had “refused” to come in. While the prong led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer is best known, there was also a campaign from the south led by General George Crook.

Traditional Indian warfare on the Northern Plains, while it involved battles and occasional deaths, was very dissimilar to European warfare. Warfare, according to Sioux writer Charles Eastman, was about courage and honor:

“It was held to develop the quality of manliness and its motive was chivalric or patriotic, but never the desire for territorial aggrandizement or the overthrow of a brother nation.”

The motivation for war was personal gain, not tribal patriotism. Through participation in war an individual gained prestige, honor, and even wealth (as counted in horses.) While it was not uncommon for warriors to kill their enemies in battle, this was not in itself considered to be a particularly noteworthy act of valor. The greatest feat of bravery a warrior (male or female) could perform was to touch the enemy. This was the act of counting coup.

At the headwaters of the Rosebud River in Montana, General Crook’s troops, with 176 Crow and 86 Shoshone allies, encountered an encampment of Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux under the leadership of Crazy Horse and engaged them in a day-long battle. Militarily the battle might be considered a draw as neither side won a decisive victory. Some military historians consider it a strategic defeat for Crook because he was unable to take the offensive and strike a decisive blow at the enemy camp. Chief Runs-the-Enemy said of the battle:

“The general sentiment was that we were victorious in that battle, for the soldiers did not come upon us, but retreated back into Wyoming.”

The Americans sustained casualties of 10 killed and 21 wounded. Crazy Horse later estimated that 39 Lakota were killed and 33 wounded.

From the traditional Indian perspective, there were two particularly important acts of valor in the battle and these two warriors were considered to have gained the greatest war honors.

The Shoshone and Crow shot the horse of Cheyenne Chief Comes in Sight out from under him. As they were closing in to finish him off, Buffalo Calf Robe (aka Calf Trail Woman), the sister of Comes in Sight, rode into the middle of the warriors and saved the life of her brother. Buffalo Calf Robe had ridden into battle that day next to her husband Black Coyote. From  the Cheyenne perspective, a woman warrior achieved the highest war honors that day.

One Crow two-spirit (berdache) put on men’s clothes and distinguished himself in battle against the Lakota. For this he was given the name Osh-Tisch which means “Finds Them and Kills Them.” Thus, from the Crow perspective a two-spirit-a person many people today might consider to be a transvestite-won the greatest war honors.

Battle of the Rosebud

Shown above is an artist’s interpretation of the Battle of the Rosebud.

First Nations News & Views: This Week – Code Talkers, Slurs and Silencing Native Tongues

Welcome to the third edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Each Sunday’s edition is published at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time, includes a short, original feature article, a look at some date relevant to American Indian history, and some briefs chosen to show the diversity of modern Indians living both on and off reservations in the United States and Canada. Last week’s edition is here.


Cross Posted at Daily Kos

70 Years Ago This Month the Navajo ‘Code Talkers’ Were Born

Joe Morris Sr. walked away from us on July 17. Keith Little walked away from us on Jan. 3. Jimmy Begay walked away from us Feb. 1. They were Navajo “Code Talkers,” three of the tribe’s 421 warriors who enlisted in the U.S. Marines to learn how to give Japanese intelligence headaches. Only a handful of those who joined up in the early months of 1942 remain and will soon also “walk away from us,” a common Navajo expression for dying. On Jan. 29, the last surviving member of the original 29 enlistees, Chester Nez, celebrated his 92nd birthday. Without them, their commanders and other officers have said, American casualties in battles for Japanese-held islands would have been far more ghastly than they were.

Those 29 and all the other Code Talkers were sworn to secrecy in case the code had to be used again. It was, in Korea and Vietnam. It was never broken. In 1968, the code and the story of its crucial role were declassified, freeing those who invented and used it to tell their experiences. Since then, more than 500 books have been written, several documentaries have been produced, Hollywood made a version called Windtalkers, a film that spends more of its time following Nick Cage around than it does Adam Beach (Saulteaux), who for his role spent six months learning Diné, the Navajo language. Famed sculptor Oreland Joe (Navajo-Ute) created the Navajo Code Talker Memorial at the Navajo Tribal Park & Veterans Memorial at Window Rock, Ariz. Oral histories were taken.

The original 29 Navajo “code talkers” at Camp Pendleton in 1942.

Yet, although President Ronald Reagan declared Aug. 14, 1982, National Navajo Code Talkers Day, it wasn’t until Dec. 21, 2000, 56 years after they first saw action, that the five surviving original Code Talkers and relatives of the other 24 received Congressional Gold Medals for their innovativeness and heroism. The other Code Talkers were awarded Congressional Silver Medals. The belated awards contained a deep irony. Many of these men who had saved untold numbers of American lives by using their native language had been punished for speaking that same language as children in boarding schools.  

It may come as a surprise to many who are acquainted with the story of the Code Talkers that the Navajos weren’t the only Indians used for code work during World War II. And they weren’t the first. The Army even used eight Chocktaw speakers to confuse German troops in 1918. In the the next war, the Army in both the Pacific and Europe used Lakota speakers, Oneidas, Chippewas, Pimas, Hopis,Choctaws, Sac and Fox and Comanches. But those Indians simply talked to each other in their Native language. The first 29 Navajo Code Talkers developed a real code. They could not even be understood by other speakers of Navajo.

The Marines had never used Indians for this purpose. But Philip Johnston, a white man who had grown up on the lands of the Navajo Nation, approached the Corps in mid-February with an idea. Why not use Navajos and members of other large tribes for military communications? Show us, the Marines said. So Johnston brought four Navajos with him to Camp Elliott, Calif., for a demonstration. They were given some military messages. They substituted some Navajo words and then, in pairs, went into separate rooms and communicated by radio. Gen. Clayton Vogel witnessed the success, the decoded messages were accurate renditions of their English originals. He recommended to his superiors that 200 Navajos be recruited.

It took some high-level meetings before a decision was made. But, in April, a pilot program was initiated and in May 29 of the 30 Navajos recruited showed up at Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, Calif., for seven weeks of basic training. They came from places named Chinle, Kayenta, Blue Canyon and Kaibeto. Many had never before been off the reservation.

Haida Whale Divider

They developed a dictionary with words for military terms and then they memorized them. The Navajos could encode, transmit and decode a three-line English message in 20 seconds. Machines of the era took 30 minutes to do the same thing. Before the code, the fluent-in-English Japanese intercepted and deciphered codes easily. The Americans developed complex code, but these took a long time to decode, which could cost lives.

Initially, the Navajo code comprised about 200 assigned words, but by the end of the war, there were 800. Here is a small  sample from the many to be found at Official Website of the Navajo Codetalkers:

Dive Bomber  –  Gini – Sparrow Hawk

Torpedo Plane – Tas-chizzie – Swallow

Observation Plane – ine-ahs-jah – Owl

Fighter Plane  – Da-he-tih-hi  – Hummingbird

Bomber Plane – Jav-sho – Buzzard

Patrol Plane – Ga- gih – Crow

Transport Plane – Astah – Eagle

The code was more complicated than mere word substitutions. The fear was that some sharp Japanese linguist might catch on to that soon enough. So words also could be spelled out using Navajo words representing individual letters of the alphabet. The Navajo words “wol-la-chee” (ant), “be-la-sana” (apple) and “tse-nill” (axe) all stood for the letter “a.” To say “Navy” in Navajo Code, they could say “tsah (needle)  wol-la-chee (ant)  ah-keh-di- glini (victor)  tsah-ah-dzoh (yucca).” Thus, using assigned words or the alphabet code, they could encrypt anything. By not repeating the same word all the time for the same letter, they made it next to impossible to crack the code. In fact, it never was.

Navajo Code Talkers stand and salute as the colors are posted during Code Talkers Day event in Window Rock, Ariz., Aug. 14, 2008. Photo courtesy of Morris Bitsie

Navajo code talkers were on the ground with their fellow Marines in every major action in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. They proved their value at Guadalcanal, at Tarawa and at the 36-day siege on Iwo Jima. After that immensely bloody battle, Major Howard Connor, a 5th Marine Division signal officer, said: “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.” He had commanded six Navajo code talkers during the first two days of the battle. They sent more than 800 messages, all without error.

Their participation went unsung for decades because of the secrecy. The world they returned to was not unlike the one they left. Federal policies which had improved somewhat during the New Deal era again focused on assimilation and terminating reservations. Many returning veterans were denied the right to vote even though they had supposedly been made full citizens by the Snyder Act in 1924.

Like other veterans of World War II, most of these men, many of them teenagers when they enlisted, have already walked away from us. The death of Keith Little leaves a big hole because, as a long-time leader of the Navajo Code Talkers Organization, he was the powerhouse behind the National Navajo Code Talkers Museum & Veterans Center project:

The museum is dedicated to the overarching purpose of providing historical clarity, accuracy and context in preserving the extraordinary contribution of the Navajo Code Talkers for future generations. Their story will be told in compelling detail through an immersive learning environment, powerful interactive exhibits and activities, living demonstrations of the Navajo code and culture in the larger perspective of modern history. The museum and integrated education programs will serve as the national repository for the once-secret military voice code and the legendary skill, endurance, courage and ingenuity of the Navajo Code Talkers.

The project also will include a veterans center for all Armed Forces veterans and active-duty personnel.

New Mexico State Sen. John Pinto has introduced a bill in the legislature there to appropriate $175,000 for the project. In October, just two months before he died, Little testified in Santa Fe before the Senate’s Military & Veterans Affairs Committee seeking to revive the bill, which was languishing. The bill received a unanimious “DO PASS” from the Indian and Cultural Affairs Committee on the last day of January and has been  forwarded to the Finance Committee.

Donations to support the Museum & Veterans project that Mr. Little envisioned and was very much committed to can be made through the website: or by contacting Wynette Arviso at 505-870-9167 or via email

The Code Talker Emblem

Code Talker Emblem

The emblem of the Code Talker represents a communication device used by two young Navajo boys called the Hero Twins. The device allowed them to secretly communicate with each other. The legendary Hero Twins were sent to the Sun to seek a weapon that would kill the monsters attacked the Navajo. The Sun gave them the Thunderbolt.

The Code Talker emblem and is also pictured on the reverse side of the Congressional Gold and Silver Medals.

This Week in American Indian History in 1890

The Indians must conform to the “white man’s ways” peaceably if they will, forcibly if they must. They must adjust themselves to their environment, and conform their mode of living substantially to our civilization. This civilization may not be the best possible but it is the best the Indians can get.

-(Bureau of Indian Affairs Report, 1889)

On February 11, 1890, half of the land on the five reservations making up the remnants of the Great Sioux Reservation was opened up to the public, continuing what was by then already a 40-year-old process that would continue to shrink Lakota tribal lands well into the 1960s. Both the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 and later Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 reduced the area in which the Lakotas (and other tribes) were allowed to live. But, everything to what is now the boundary between Wyoming and South Dakota lying west of the Missouri River, including the sacred Black Hills, was to be theirs forever. Years of government pressure had failed to persuade many Lakota to stay within the reservation boundaries. This was especially true of the Oglala and Hunkpapa, whose chief and holy man, Tathanka Iyotake (Sitting Bull), had refused to sign the 1868 Treaty or live on the designated lands.

The shrinking of the Lakota Nation

for a larger version of this map.

When a thousand soldiers under George A. Custer confirmed the presence of gold in the Black Hills in 1874, a deluge of miners staked claims on reservation land, which led to repeated clashes. Those clashes and refusal of thousands of Lakota to keep to the reservation ended in the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Little Bighorn River) in June 1876, a Pyrrhic victory for the Lakota. Just four months after Custer and his men died in Medicine Tail Coulee, Washington imposed the Treaty with the Sioux Nation of 1876. Under the provisions of the 1868 treaty, terms could only be changed with approval of three-fourths of Lakota adult men. Nowhere near that number signed in 1876. But the treaty was imposed anyway, stripping away a 50-mile-wide swath of land in what is now western South Dakota, including the Black Hills.

Preparing for statehood, Dakotans lobbied Washington for a cutting up of what was left of the Great Sioux Reservation into smaller reservations, grabbing nine million acres and opening land to homesteaders. In 1888, a federal commission sought to collect signatures from three-fourths of Lakota adult males. They were unsuccessful. The next year, they stepped up the pressure but still the Lakota refused to assent. Spokesmen John Grass, Gall, and Mad Bear opposed it, and though not chosen by his people to speak, Sitting Bull did speak and urged everyone to not be intimidated into signing away the land.

But enough signatures were obtained and, in 1889, Congress passed the Sioux Bill, opening the reservation to non-Indians and making acreage allotments to individual Indians with the intent of breaking up tribal land held in common and ending reservations entirely. Non-violent resistance continued after the law took effect in February 1890. Consequently, Sitting Bull was murdered during an arrest in mid-December and the infamous massacre at Wounded Knee came two weeks later. After that, resistance ended. More land was taken in 1910.

Many non-Lakota homesteads were abandoned in the 1930s, but instead of restoring these lands to the tribes, Washington turned them over to the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Even more land was taken for the Badlands Bombing Range during World War II. When the Air Force declared it was unneeded in the 1960s, it was transferred to the NPS instead of being returned to communal tribal ownership.

-Meteor Blades

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South Dakota May Adopt Flag with Medicine Wheel Motif

Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, one of the 24 Democrats in the 105-member South Dakota legislature, is sponsoring a bill to choose a new flag that is different from the state seal. The one he has in mind was designed Dick Termes in 1989 for the 100th anniversary of South Dakota’s admission to the Union. It’s flashy and contains a stylized medicine wheel inside a sunburst. Medicine wheels are also known as sacred hoops. As described in a June 2007 article in Indian Country written by Dennis Zotigh (Kiowa, Santee Dakota, Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo)

The hoop is symbolic of “the never-ending cycle of life.” It has no beginning and no end. Tribal healers and holy men have regarded the hoop as sacred and have always used it in their ceremonies. Its significance enhanced the embodiment of healing ceremonies.

The best known medicine wheel is the 300-400-year-old, Indian-constructed 80-foot stone circle in the Bighorn Range in Wyoming.

Possible choice for new South Dakota flag

Termes’s creation was forgotten 23 years ago. But he recently posted it on his Facebook page. And, in yet another example of how social media can turn obscurity into fame overnight, his design could soon be flying over public buildings everywhere in South Dakota. So, in a state known for the rapacity of the Indian wars fought on its soil, in the land of the Black Hills whose ownership is still in dispute, a place where ferocious anti-Indian racism still thrives in voter suppression and a hundred other ways, a new flag may soon incorporate a Native design as an expression of what Hunhoff calls a symbol of unity.

Bison rancher Ed Iron Cloud, III (Oglala), one of three Indian representatives in the legislature, said such a flag might show unity and coexistence.

– Meteor Blades

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Miranda Washinawatok
Miranda Washinawatok

Menominee 7th Grader Suspended for Speaking Her Native Language

The student body at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Shawano, Wisc., is more than 60 percent American Indian and the Menominee reservation is just six miles away. Twelve-year-old Miranda Washinawatok (Menominee) was having a casual conversation with her Menominee friends, as were many other groups in their home room class while the teacher, Julie Gurta, worked on progress reports. Washinawatok, who is fluent in her native language, translated “hello” into “posoh” and “I love you” into “Ketapanen” for her friends. Gurta abruptly walked up to the group, slammed her hand onto Washinawatok’s desk and said: “You are not to be speaking like that. How do I know you’re not saying something bad and how would you like it if I spoke Polish and you didn’t understand.”

Gurta had told the group once before that they could not speak Menominee. She did not ask what the girls were saying. Later, another teacher told Washinawatok that she did not appreciate her upsetting Gurta because “she is like a daughter to me.” By the time school ended Washinawatok had been informed by Assistant Coach Billie Joe Duquaine, a preschool teacher at the school, that she was suspended from the next basketball game because of an “attitude issue.” Washinawatok told her mother she had not talked back, argued with Gurta or otherwise behaved badly.

According to Tanaes Washinawatok, Miranda’s mother: “Miranda knows quite a bit of  Menominee. We speak it. My mother, Karen Washinawatok, is the director of the Language and Culture Commission of the Menominee Tribe. She has a degree in linguistics from the University of Arizona’s College of Education-AILDI American Indian Language Development Institute. She is a former tribal chair and is strong into our culture.”

Washinawatok’s mother and Tribal legislators Rebecca Alegria and Orman Waukau Jr. met with Principal Dan Minter and the teachers. A verbal apology was given to Washinawatok and a public apology was promised.

However, the letter sent home with students was not the agreed-upon apology to Washinawatok, the family and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.

Principal Dan Minter, however, instead sent students home Wednesday with a letter addressed to Sacred Heart’s parents and families. In it, he apologized for allowing a “perception” of cultural discrimination to exist, but denied the reprimand and benching – which are not mentioned specifically – were the “result of any discriminatory action or attitude and did not happen as a negative reaction to the cultural heritage of any of our students.” […] Minter said the incident was the result of “a breakdown of our internal processes designed to offer protection to student, faculty, staff, volunteers and administrators.”

“I regret if there was any perception by a student or family that this in any way promoted an atmosphere of cultural discrimination,” he said in the letter. “If that perception was allowed to exist, then it is deeply regretted by Sacred Heart School and for that we apologize.”

Sacred Heart Catholic School was established in November 1881. One hundred thirty-one years later, it is finally creating a awareness program to promote cultural diversity, which will include education for both the students and staff.

News & Views h/t to Bill in MD

– navajo

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Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero

Lansing Mayor Slurs Indians in Casino Dispute:

On one side are the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa (Ojibwe) Indians and the city of Lansing, Mich. On the other are the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians. The four are in a clash over a proposed $245-million casino in downtown Lansing, the state capital.

For Lansing, adding a local casino to the more than two dozen now operating in the state means an estimated 1,500 permanent jobs and 700 construction jobs and more tax revenue to help revitalize the city. For the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewas, it gives an off-reservation foothold from which to expand into southern Michigan, adding to the five Kewadin casinos the tribe owns on the state’s Upper Peninsula. For the Saginaws and the Nottawaseppis, it means competition for their casinos in Battle Creek and Mt. Pleasant and, in their view, is a violation of the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act (IGRA). For Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (D), avidly in favor of the casino, it has meant getting a remedial lesson regarding racist outbursts.

At a fund-raising breakfast, Bernero showed up wearing a bulls-eye taped to his back, implying he is the target of arrows. According to people at the fund-raiser, he referred to James Nye (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians), a spokesman for casino opponents, as “Chief Chicken Little.” That generated calls for apologies. Bernero obliged with one of those no-apology apologies to “any and all who were offended. […] but none of my remarks were directed toward Native Americans, and nothing I said can fairly be construed as a racial slur, despite our opponents’ attempt to spin it that way.”

In a statement from the two Tribes, Saginaw Chippewa Chief Dennis Kequom said Bernero’s presentation clearly was racial: “Racial slurs by government officials against Native Americans conjure images of a bygone era of destructive policies that resulted in centuries of genocide and poverty.” Kequom called on other Native American leaders-and particularly those of the Sault Tribe-to condemn Bernero’s actions. He also told the mayor to get some sensitivity training.

Under the plan, the tribe would buy land from the city to build the casino, which would need approval from the Department of the Interior. The Saginaws and Nottawaseppis issued a statement saying the casino “stands no chance under federal law and administrative rules governing land into trust acquisitions for ‘gaming eligible’ lands.” The statement was accompanied by a letter from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette and Philip N. Hogen, a former chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission. Hogen said the Sault Tribe’s actions were an attempt “to circumvent the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and applicable state laws against illegal gambling. […] The distant sites do not constitute ‘Indian lands,’ as defined by IGRA and therefore Michigan state gambling laws apply.”

– Meteor Blades

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David Slagger is the first member of the

Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians to serve

in the Maine House of Representatives. In

his hand is the golden eagle feather he held

when he was sworn in by Gov. Paul LePage

last month. (Gabor Degre)

Maliseet Added to Maine’s Unique System of Tribal Representatives in the Legislature

He can’t vote in the Maine House of Representatives, but David Slagger of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians can make speeches, propose legislation with a co-sponsor and sit on committees. He is the first member of his 800-person band to be chosen as a tribal representative to the legislature since the state approved the position in 2010. The Maliseets were not federally recognized until 1980.

Slagger joins non-voting representatives from Maine’s two biggest tribes, the Passamaquoddy and the Penobscot nation. Both have sent representatives to the legislature for years. His cross-borders tribe is part of the larger Maliseet Nation of New Brunswick, Canada, and together with the Passamaquoddy, Penobscots, Abenaki and Mi’kmaq, form the Wabanaki Confederacy, which means people of the “dawn land.” Maine is unique among the states in having tribal representatives in its legislature.

Slagger told the Bangor Daily News that he has been involved in tribal issues for 25 years. “In public service, it is the people’s voice that matters,” he told a reporter. “But for a long time the Maliseet people have not had a voice. This is a good first step.” He was appointed by Chief Brenda Commander after interviews by the tribal council. For now Slagger has a seat on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee and sits in both the Democratic and Republican caucuses to get a good picture of what the issues are in the legislature. He has a couple of ideas for new laws. He would outlaw people from pretending to be Indians so they can sell arts and crafts and other Indian-branded products. He also wants the state to create a repository for bird feathers and allow Indians to use them in their crafts.

Slagger lives in Kenduskeag with his wife (a Mi’kmaq) and their three children. You can listen to some of his interviews here.

– Meteor Blades

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Kootenai Tribal Chairperson Jennifer Porter

Kootenai Get ETC Cards for Easier Border Crossings

As a consequence of the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was enacted. This requires all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to present passports or other secure documents upon entering the United States. Technology, including Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, are now being used to enhance identification documents and speed the processing of cross-border traffic.

Beginning in 2008, U.S. Customs and Border Protection began working with federally recognized Indian tribes to produce an “Enhanced Tribal Card” showing citizenship and identity that would be acceptable for entry into the United States. Under a memorandum of agreement, a secure photo identification document with embedded RFID verification would be issued to enrolled tribal members whether they were U.S. or Canadian citizens.

The Idaho Kootenai tribe, whose 142 members live on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, were the first to sign such a memorandum in 2009. The Idaho band is one of seven making up the Kootenai Nation. Their ETC officially became a valid form of I.D. to enter the U.S. on Jan. 31. So far, 11 other tribes have applied for an ETC memorandum of agreement. Besides the Kootenai, CBP has signed an agreement with five others: the Pascua Yaqui of Arizona, the Seneca of New York, the Tohono O’odham of Arizona, the Coquille of Oregon and the Hydaburg of Alaska.

Kootenai Tribal Chairperson Jennifer Porter said, “The Kootenai ETC allows our tribal citizens to continue to travel within Kootenai Territory on both sides of the United States-Canada boundary to visit family and practice our culture while helping to secure the border for the greater good of all citizens.”

– Meteor Blades

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Johnson Holy Rock, Prominent Lakota Language Preservationist Passes: A World War II veteran, Lakota Language Consortium founder and past Oglala Sioux Tribe president who met with John F. Kennedy in the White House has died. His grandfathers traveled with Crazy Horse and his father was 11 years old when Custer attacked the Lakota-Cheyenne encampment at the Little Bighorn. He was featured in A Thunder-Being Nation. In 2005, he recorded the telling his life story in Lakota.

– navajo

Frybread Mockumentary Spoofs Importance of Which Tribe Makes the BEST: In the comedy More than Frybread, 22 American Indians, representing all federally recognized tribes in Arizona, convene in Flagstaff to compete for the first-ever Arizona Frybread Championship. The film has been selected to show at the Sedona International Film Festival and the Durango Independent Film Festival in 2012.

– navajo

Tribal Identity Film Selected for Sundance: OK BREATHE AURALEE is writer/director Brooke Swaney’s (Blackfeet & Salish) NYU thesis film. It stars Kendra Mylnechuk (Inuit) and Nathaniel Arcand (Cree) with music composed by Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache). A Native identity film about an adopted woman discovering her past was selected for the Sundance Film Festival 2012.

– navajo

Daugaard’s Staff Attacks NPR Report on Indian Foster Care Scam: South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who personally profited from placing Lakota children in non-indian foster homes calls the NPR report flawed and useless. But two members of the U.S. House of Representatives thought the NPR report was valid enough to call for an investigation.

– navajo

Does Spam Cause Diabetes in Native Populations?: The researchers said that their study could not prove that eating processed meats was to blame for the increased risk of diabetes. I suspect highly refined carbs are also to blame since low income and need for long shelf life products are prevalent on our reservations.

– navajo

National Marine Fisheries Service Sued For Not Protecting Our Northwest Coast: A coalition of conservation and American Indian groups filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to mitigate harm to marine mammals from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

– navajo


Indians have often been referred to as the “Vanishing Americans.” But we are still here, entangled each in his or her unique way with modern America, blended into the dominant culture or not, full-blood or not, on the reservation or not, and living lives much like the lives of other Americans, but with differences related to our history on this continent, our diverse cultures and religions, and our special legal status. To most other Americans, we are invisible, or only perceived in the most stereotyped fashion.

First Nations News & Views is designed to provide a window into our world, each Sunday reporting on a small number of stories, both the good and the not-so-good, and providing a reminder of where we came from, what we are doing now and what matters to us. We wish to make it clear that neither navajo nor I make any claim whatsoever to speak for anyone other than ourselves, as individuals, not for the Navajo people or the Seminole people, the tribes in which we are enrolled as members, nor, of course, the people of any other tribes.

Bear Butte and the Struggle for Religious Freedom

Bear Butte in South Dakota is a sacred site which is used as a vision quest site for the Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne. The Sioux describe Bear Butte as their most sacred altar. The Seven Sacred Rites of the Sioux were learned at the top of this mesa.

View from Bear Butte

The view from Bear Butte is shown above.  

For the Cheyenne, Bear Butte is known as Sacred Mountain and is the place where Maheo (the Supreme Being) gave their cultural hero, Sweet Medicine, the four Sacred Arrows, which allowed them access to Maheo’s power. The Cheyenne call this place Noahavose (also spelled Nowah’wus which means “The Hills Where the People are Taught”). On their historic migration to the Plains under the leadership of Sweet Medicine, a great door opened in Noahavose. Sweet Medicine was called inside by Maheo (the All Being). For four years Sweet Medicine remained in this lodge within and was instructed in the codes of law and behavior. Before returning to his people, Sweet Medicine was then given four sacred arrows. Thus, this is the holiest site in the Cheyenne world.

The Sioux Vision Quest:

Bear Butte is an important site for the Sioux vision quest, known as hamblecha. During the vision quest, the seeker finds a solitary place on Bear Butte to sing and pray out loud. Vision quest supporters wait below and sing songs and pray. Instruction and preparation for hamblecha can take a full year and may include a four-year commitment to the teacher with an expectation to repeat the quest on each of four years. At one time, those seeking the vision would stake themselves to a single place by placing a hardwood skewer under the skin of the chest and attaching a leather thong between this skewer and a stake in the ground.

Prior to the vision quest, the seeker goes through a sweat lodge ceremony in order to cast off all human fleshly influences. With regard to the completion of the vision quest, Sioux physician Charles Eastman wrote:

“When he returned to the camp, he must remain at a distance until he had again entered the sweat lodge and prepared himself for intercourse with his fellows. Of the vision or sign vouchsafed to him he did not speak, unless it had included some commission which must be publicly fulfilled.”

In most visions, animals or birds appear and there is a correlation between the animal or bird and the type of power, knowledge or skill.

Among the Sioux, both men and women are able to receive power through a vision. Those who receive the strongest powers become medicine people or shamans.

Twentieth Century:

In 1962, Bear Butte was acquired by the State of South Dakota for development as a State Park. As a State Park it was to have a visitor’s center, campgrounds, and parking lots. Tourists were to be given maps to its trails and provided with viewing platforms and signs that indicated where Indians could be spotted fasting. Instead of understanding the vision quest as a religious ceremony, the tourists would view it the same way that they viewed the powwows: once again the Indians would be on display.

Bear Butte Sign

During a vision quest at Bear Butte in 1965 Sioux spiritual leader Frank Fools Crow was told in his vision that he was to tell certain things about himself and his people. The result was the 1979 book Fools Crow edited by Thomas Mails.

In 1973, Bear Butte was listed as a National Historical Place. In 1981 Bear Butte was listed as a National Historical Landmark.

In 1982, a group of traditional Sioux spiritual leaders, including Frank Fools Crow, filed suit against the South Dakota State Parks Department. In the case of Fools Crow versus Gullet, the Sioux traditionalists argued that the South Dakota State Parks Department had destroyed the sanctity of Indian religious ceremonies at Bear Butte. They argued that the state’s construction of access roads, parking lots, and other facilities, including wood platforms to allow tourists to photograph sacred ceremonies, interfered with their free exercise of religion. The courts, however, found that granting Indian rights would violate separation of church and state. With regard to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, the courts noted that it was unclear if the Act governs state governments or agencies. The court agreed that Bear Butte was vital to the exercise of Lakota and Cheyenne religion. However, it rejected the argument that the state’s management of the site interfered with the free exercise of their religion. The decision was upheld by the Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

In 1982, the manager of Bear Butte State Park sent out a notice to Sioux and Cheyenne leaders informing them that they could no longer gather sage, hackberry or wild rose within the park. Furthermore, there could be no sweat lodges held while the parking lot was being expanded and the new access roads were being paved. Finally, all Indians would have to purchase five-day permits in order to fast and pray at this sacred site.

A 1996 fire on Bear Butte burned more than 800 acres of timber and grass. Some traditional spiritual leaders felt that the fire was a cleansing of the misuse of this sacred area. This misuse included complaints about non-Indians attempting to do ceremonies they know nothing about; the removal of tobacco ties and flags by Indians because of concerns that they would be touched and/or taken by non-Indians; and by some incidents of drunkenness and nudity.

The federal government extended cultural property designation status to Bear Butte in 1997. This designation not only highlights the historic and cultural associations of Bear Butte with the Plains Indians, but it also provides some protection to the site and provides guidelines to preserve it.

In 2003, a shooting range was proposed near Bear Butte. The complex was to be built with a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Instead of contacting the tribes, the builders notified the state Office of Tribal Government Relations of their plans. Indian officials pointed out that this office did not speak for all of the 17 tribes which use Bear Butte for ceremonies. Indian spiritual leaders pointed out that the estimated 10,000 rounds per day being fired from rifles and handguns would affect the silence and serenity of the people who come to Bear Butte to pray and seek spiritual guidance. The state of South Dakota cancelled the $511,200 in federal grant money.

In 2004, Northern Cheyenne tribal councilman Alberta Fisher and councilman Jace Killsback purchased a 160-acre campground at the base of Noavose (Bear Butte). The Cheyenne Land Authority constructed camping structures, shades, and outhouses for use by tribal members during ceremonies.

In 2006, Alex White Plume, the President of the Olgala Lakota Nation, wrote to President George W. Bush regarding the Lakota’s sacred site at Bear Butte:

“Indian peoples’ ability to survive into the future depends largely on our ability to maintain, protect and promote our traditional and cultural beliefs, which includes our ability to practice our spiritual beliefs in privacy and without disruption. This is not merely a cultural and spiritual concern; it is a matter of human rights that exist in international law.”

The President did not respond.

In 2011, the State Board of Minerals and Environment ruled that Nakota Energy could drill exploratory oil wells near Bear Butte. The company was to be allowed to drill five wells outside of the boundaries of the Bear Butte National Historic Landmark. The company did not initially consult with the tribes as the proposed oil field is on private land. However, about one-third of the original proposed drilling area is within the boundaries of the state park. In response to Indian complaints, the Board of Minerals and Environment agreed to limit the number of wells and to require that they be drilled outside the boundary of the National Historic Site.

Oil Map

In 2011, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included Bear Butte on its list of Most Endangered Places. The site was listed as endangered because of proposed wind and oil energy development. It is felt that this energy development would negatively impact the sacred site and degrade the cultural landscape.

In 2011, the South Dakota State Legislature voted to revise the procedure for reissuing certain alcoholic beverage licenses. While the tribes have opposed any licenses for venues surrounding Bear Butte, the new legislation means that liquor license renewal hearings will no longer be held.

At the present time, there are three tribes with a vested interest in Bear Butte, in that they own property and pay property taxes: The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe own 1,080 acres on the east side of the mountain; the Rosebud Sioux Tribe owns 40 acres on the north side; and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe owns 40 acres on the west side, 160 acres on the north side, and 440 acres on the northeast side.

According to the State Park website:

In most religions, specific areas or sites hold great spiritual significance. Bear Butte is such a place.

Many Native Americans see the mountain as a place where the creator has chosen to communicate with them through visions and prayer.

During your visit, you will see colorful pieces of cloth and small bundles or pouches hanging from the trees. These prayer cloths and tobacco ties represent the prayers offered by individuals during their worship. Please respect these offerings and leave them undisturbed.

Source: http://black-hills-south-dakot…

Bear Butte Banner

Mount Rushmore

While Europeans tended to build the places they considered to be sacred-churches, statues, memorials-for American Indian people sacred places were often not places constructed by humans, but places which were naturally sacred. In looking at the landscape around them, Indian people did not see a landscape that needed changing, nor did they see it as a landscape which they were to dominate: rather, they saw a landscape filled with living things. The living things within this landscape included the plants and animals, as well as the rivers, the rocks, the mountains, and the hills. Sacred places in the landscape were often portals through which Indian people could make contact with the sacred.

The Black Hills in South Dakota is an area which is historically linked to several tribes, including the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa. As a sacred area, it was used for making contact with the spirit world and obtaining spiritual power. It was here that many Indians conducted ceremonies such as the vision quest, the Sun Dance, and others. It was here that they gathered the sacred medicines-the plants-that they needed for healing and for ceremonial use.

By the 1870s, Americans were spreading rumors that that Black Hills were unoccupied, that they were an area which Indian people did not use. Illegal expeditions into the area somehow ignored all of the Indian hunting parties which they encountered, and which were reported in their journals, and told of an empty area waiting for “development” by non-Indians who would redeem the area from its paganism and make it a part of modern America.

The theft of the Black Hills from the Sioux has been widely reported by both historians and the popular media. The theft, however, involved more than just taking the land: it also involved renaming it. All of the geographic features within the Black Hills had Indian names in 1877, but over the next couple of decades these names were replaced by non-Indian names.

In 1884, New York City attorney Charles E. Rushmore came to the Black Hills to check on legal titles to some properties. On coming back to camp one day, he asked Bill Challis about the name of a mountain. Bill is reported to have replied:

“Never had a name but from now on we’ll call it Rushmore.”

With that offhand comment, the mountain known to the Sioux as Six Grandfathers became Mount Rushmore. The Sioux name had been an important part of their oral tradition and their association with the land. The new name reflected the American lack of concern for the history of the land and the importance of attorneys in their society.

The wealth generated from the gold and the cattle in the Black Hills was not enough to satisfy American greed. By the 1920s, people were looking for new ways of exploiting the Black Hills. In other parts of the country, tourism was proving to be an economic asset, and so, in 1923, Doane Robinson, the South Dakota state historian, came up with an idea to bring tourists (and their money) into the state. His idea was to commission a sculptor to transform one of the tall narrow, granite rock formations in the Black Hills into memorials of major figures from the mythic narrative of the American west. In his vision, he saw giant memorials to heroes such as George Armstrong Custer, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and perhaps the Sioux chief Red Cloud, which would stand along a new highway and lure tourists away from Yellowstone National Park.

The next problem was how to bring the vision into reality. To solve this, Robinson turned to Gutzon Borglum, the son of Danish Mormon immigrants who had made the ten-week trek along the Mormon trail through Indian lands to Salt Lake City. Borglum was one of the most famous sculptors of the time. Borglum had been involved with the carving of a massive bas-relief monument to the heroes of the Confederacy at Stone Mountain, Georgia. Borglum was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and Stone Mountain was used as a site to revitalize the Klan.

Robinson had initially envisioned the carvings on a series of geological features known as “The Needles,” but Borglum found them unsuitable for carving and selected the Six Grandfathers (Mount Rushmore) instead. The new plan was assailed by naturalists who pointed out that it would desecrate the natural beauty of the Black Hills. Robinson replied:

“God only makes a Michelangelo or a Gutzon Borglum once in a thousand years.”

Borglum changed the original vision of the project and proposed a “Shrine of Democracy” which would focus on Presidential portraits. He would later state:

“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”

In 1926, Borglum began carving the faces of four presidents out of a mountain in the Black Hills, land sacred to the Lakota people. The sculptor, who admired Manifest Destiny and saw the conquest of the Lakota and the theft of their sacred land as justifiable, dedicated the sculptures to the Expansion of the United States. From Borglum’s perspective, Manifest Destiny, an expression of racial superiority, was an expression of the rightful order of the world.

Mt Rushmore 2

The following year, President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the construction of the monument to Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.  While the Black Hills were sacred to the Sioux and other tribes, Coolidge made no mention of Indians in his dedication speech.

In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the nearly completed monument to Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt at Mount Rushmore. As with the earlier Presidential dedication, the President made no mention of Indians. The general public who read about the new monument, and the tourists who came to it, were oblivious to the fact that Mount Rushmore had once been Indian land, and that it was still sacred to them.

Mt Rushmore 1

From the Indian perspective, the monument at Mount Rushmore was a symbol of the dominant culture’s arrogance, racism, and spiritual insensitivity. Carving icons of Presidents who were known for their insensitivity to Indian issues into a living sacred mountain would be similar to painting anti-Christian graffiti inside of cathedral, or anti-Semitic symbols inside a synagogue.

In 1970, a group of about 20 Sioux from the Pine Ridge Reservation under the leadership of Leo Wilcox, a tribal council member, asked to conduct a prayer vigil at the amphitheater at Mount Rushmore. The request was granted. The group explained to tourists and the news media that they had come to protest the failure of the United States to return land taken from the Pine Ridge Reservation for a gunnery range during World War II. They pointed out that Mount Rushmore, a part of the Black Hills, had been illegally taken from them a century earlier.

In a separate demonstration, members of the American Indian Movement demonstrated at Mount Rushmore.  Several of them camped on the top of the monument just behind the head of Theodore Roosevelt. A highly respected Sioux spiritual leader, Frank Fools Crow, came to Mount Rushmore and performed a ceremony to purify the land. In doing this ceremony, he re-established the Sioux religious relationship with Mount Rushmore.

In 1971, the American Indian Movement symbolically renamed the monument Mount Crazy Horse. Sioux spiritual leader John Fire Lame Deer planted a prayer staff on top of the mountain. From the viewpoint of AIM and many Native Americans, Mount Rushmore should be considered as the Shrine of Hypocrisy rather than as the Shrine of Democracy. Mount Rushmore symbolizes to them the treaties broken by the United States.

By the end of the twentieth century, there was no doubt that Mount Rushmore was a successful tourist attraction. The non-Indian businesses in the area were earning about $100 million annually. This prosperity was made possible by an initial investment of about $1 million in federal tax money. Just 60 miles east of the monument, however, the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to many of the Sioux who had been the aboriginal owners, was one of the poorest areas in the United States with an unemployment rate of about 80%.

In 2004, Gerard Baker (Mandan/Hidatsa) became the first Native American superintendent of the park. He had previously been superintendent at the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana. When he was offered the position at Mount Rushmore, he called the elders and asked their advice. He was expecting them to tell him not to take the job, but instead was told that this would be a good place to start the healing.

Baker 1

Baker 3

Gerard Baker is pictured above.

Under his leadership, Mount Rushmore opened more avenues of interpretation and moved beyond the single focus on the four Presidents. Baker opened up a dialogue with Native American groups, asking them for feedback and input about the monument. As a result, Heritage Village, a small cluster of Sioux tipis, was established at the monument. During the work week, Native Americans provided demonstrations of Sioux culture and handicrafts. They also provided insights into the aboriginal Sioux culture.

In 2008, Baker invited several tribal elders to a tribal council held on the park grounds of Mount Rushmore. In the council the park rangers and staff listened to the concerns and issues of the elders. Three main ideas came out of this dialogue: (1) to place Sioux language translations on several signs as a way of indicating the Indian presence, (2) to distribute pamphlets with an accurate description of Sioux culture and spirituality; and (3) to have Native American college students collect oral histories from elders about the park.

Baker, who suffered a stroke in 2009, retired early from the National Park Service in 2010.

“The Christmas Coat: Memories of Sioux Childhood”

“The frigid gale blew sideways across the South Dakota prairie, and cold rain lashed the children’s bare faces. They leaned into it to stay upright on the reservation road to school.”

Thus begins a children’s book by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. Having spent her childhood on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, she has written about her Native American heritage in books for adults as well as children.

Christmas Coat

In the book, Virginia has outgrown her winter coat and hopes for one that would be long enough to come to the top of her boots and one with a warm hood. While this is a children’s book, the description of poor children, poorly clothed, trudging through a South Dakota winter is a stark picture of reality. It is a reality that is repeated outside of South Dakota and is common on the reservations in Montana and North Dakota as well.

At school, the children ask about Theast boxes. Theast is reservation slang for the big boxes of used clothing shipped by Christian congregations in “the east” to the reservation. If you want to know what happens next, you’re going to have to read the book, or have your kids read it to you. I don’t want to spoil it.

I’m not really a judge of children’s books, in part because I’m rarely around children. On the other hand, I do know something about reservation life and this is a book which provides some interesting insights into the lives of Indian people living in poverty on the reservation. While the story focuses on Christian Indians, poverty and the cold wind of winter don’t really distinguish between Christian and the traditional pagans.

The Christmas Coat: Memories of Sioux Childhood is illustrated by Ellen Beier and her illustrations add depth to the story.…

North Dakota U Dumps Fighting Sioux Mascot. Can We Finally Get Rid of ‘Prairie N****r,’ Too?

( – promoted by navajo)

What does the epithet “Prairie Nigger” have to do with the controversy around the University of North Dakota’s mascot, the “Fighting Sioux?”

It’s simple.


Simply racism.

Follow me from a 2009 Tribal Council Meeting on the Standing Rock Reservation where students testified about why they had dropped out of the University of North Dakota to recent news that the North Dakota legislature has effectively repealed a law it passed earlier this year that mandated that the UND keep the Fighting Sioux Mascot, bucking a 30+ year trend to to get rid of these disrespectful signs of school spirit. So now the mascot and team name is “in transition” (to avoid further NCAA sanctions).

How long did this thing going take to play out?

Decades. Decades during which American Indian students on campus were the subject of racist attacks while the university simultaneously built up its American Indian Studies program.

And to add intrigue to this story, there was a nefarious, Nazi-obsessed, big capitalist donor (read, casino owner) behind this controversy at its height.

And P.S. No, I’m not exaggerating about the Nazi obsession. This actually supports research suggesting that once you stereotype one group you’re more likely to stereotype other groups. So, the mascots actually increase stereotyping in general.

There is a long history of sports teams using American Indian mascots in this country, and another long history of activists convincing schools to stop this disrespectful practice. There is a good timeline”here of efforts to get rid of Indian mascots since 1968.

Here is a good summary of the issue. It is from an academic article that talks about “the activists” but then goes on to show the the historical and psychological accuracy of the arguments below:

Anti-mascot activists articulate many different arguments against the mascots. First, they assert that the mascots stereotype Native Americans as only existing in the past, having a single culture, and being aggressive fighters. Second, they hold that these stereotypes influence the way people perceive and treat Native Americans. Such imagery is seen as affecting Native American images of themselves, creating a hostile climate for many Native Americans, and preventing people from understanding current Native American realities, which affects public policy relative to Native Americans. Third, the activists state that no racial cultural group should be mimicked (especially in regard to sacred items/practices), even if such mimicking is “culturally accurate.” And fourth, they argue that Native Americans should have control over how they are represented (Davis, 1993,2002; King & Springwood, 2001a, 2001b; Pewewardy, 1991; Spindel, 2000; Staurowsky, 2000).


I have posted the references from the article at the end of the diary for your further research. Research does NOT support claims that these mascots are harmless, or respectful, or anything but hegemonic discourse that makes stereotyping seem natural.

Taunts and Eggs on the UND Campus

I went out to the Standing Rock Reservation in 2009 and ended up sitting in on a Tribal Council meeting. The Tribal Chairman at the time, Ron His Horse is Thunder, was ardently against continuing the use of the Mascot, as were most of the Tribal Council members. The Tribal Council had voted to continue objecting to the use of the mascot in 2007. In 2009 it was voting on whether to hold a reservation-wide vote.

As I was watching the normal business of the Tribe being discussed, a line of former UND students began emotional testimony about why they had dropped out of school. They all dejectedly described how they had been harassed on campus by white students, had eggs thrown at them, and sometimes had been physically attacked. They all had also been called “prairie nigger” on several occasions.

Prairie nigger?
I really thought I hadn’t heard that correctly. What must it feel like to be called that while you’re trying to get yourself an education to improve your lot in life????? It was jaw dropping.

What the HELL was THAT all about?

Racism. Racism inflamed by money. More specifically, big donor Ralph Englestad’s threat to withdraw $100 million in funding for a new stadium, which he had engraved with hundreds of Fighting Sioux mascots.

Although there had been tensions on campus around the issue for a couple of decades, they became inflamed at the turn of the 21st Century, and the NCAA finally stepped in in 2005:

The NCAA instituted its policy in 2005, initially listing 18 schools whose nicknames and/or mascots were “hostile or abusive” toward native Americans. Schools that continued to use the nicknames, or hostile or abusive images, would not be able to host NCAA postseason events or use the images at an NCAA postseason event.

North Dakota is the only school from that initial list that has not already changed its nickname, mascot and/or logo.

The university had agreed to retire its nickname and logo in mid-August, but the Legislature pre-empted those plans by approving a bill in March that requires UND to keep them.

Nickname supporters flooded lawmakers with emails at the time, and Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed the measure only a few hours after he received it.

That legislation is what has just been repealed.

A little more on what happened after the initial 2005 NCAA action.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent Sports Illustrated article:

…UND filed a lawsuit challenging how the association had reached its decision. In an October 2007 settlement, the university agreed to retire its nickname and logo if it could not get approval from North Dakota’s two largest Sioux tribes, the Standing Rock Sioux and the Spirit Lake Sioux, for their continued use.

The Spirit Lake Sioux tribe endorsed the nickname in a subsequent referendum, but the Standing Rock Sioux tribal council declined to support it or call a reservation referendum on the question.

Robert Kelley, UND’s president, said he had spent about half his time as president on the nickname and logo issue since taking the job in 2008. In the last year, the issue has demanded almost three-quarters of his time, Kelley said.

Repealing the law would “support our student athletes by removing sanctions (and) other restrictions that complicate the future of UND athletics,” Kelley said.

The 2009 vote on Standing Rock came out of the 2007 suit. How could it vote in favor of it after that testimony? Too many white students were acting out the disrespect and racism embodied in the use of the Fighting Sioux mascot.

But lets go back a bit farther to who the hell this donor was (he died in 2002).

A Nazi-obsessed Donor

From a 2001 article:

Enter Mephisto, dasher boards left. Ralph Engelstad is a Las Vegas casino owner and a major donor to the University of North Dakota, where he was a goalie in the late ’40s. He’s also a guy who’s been fined $1.5 million by the Nevada Gaming Control Board for damaging the reputation of the state by holding, in two separate years, private Hitler’s Birthday parties at his casino, complete with a swastika cake, German food and marching music, bartenders wearing T-shirts with the words “Adolph Hitler European Tour 1939-45,” and a life-size portrait of Hitler inscribed “To Ralphie from Adolph, 1939.” He says he despises Hitler, and that the parties were merely “spoofs” meant to celebrate new purchases for his collection of Nazi memorabilia.

Yeah, right….

Here’s an excerpt of a letter he wrote to UND in 2000, yes almost 12 years ago, about the mascot issue:

If the logo and slogan are not approved by the above-mentioned date, I will then write a letter on December 30, 2000, to all contractors and to everybody associated with the arena, canceling their construction contracts for the completion of the arena. I am a man of my word, and I will see to it that a settlement is made with all subcontractors, with anyone who has purchased prepaid advertising. I will refund money to all ticket holders and abandon the project. It would then be left up to you if you want to complete it, with money from wherever you may be able to find it.

I have spent, as of this time, in excess of $35 million, which I will consider a bad investment, but I will take my lumps and walk away.

As I am sure you realize, the commitment I made to the university of North Dakota was, I believe, one of the 10 largest ever made to a school of higher education, but if it is not completed, I am sure it will be the number one building never brought to completion at a school of higher education, due to your changing the logo and the slogan.

You need to think how changing this logo and slogan will affect not just the few that are urging the name change, but also how it will affect the university as a while, the students, the city of Grand forks, and the state of North Dakota.

If I walk away and abandon the project, please be advised that we will shut off all temporary heat going to this building, and I am sure that nature, through its cold weather, will completely destroy any portion of the building through frost that you might be able to salvage. I surely hoped that it would never come to this, but I guess it has.

It is a good thing that you are an educator because you are a man of indecision, and, and if you were a businessman, you would not succeed, you would be broke immediately.

Please do not consider this letter a threat in any manner, as it is not intended to be. It is only notification to you of exactly what I am going to do if you change this logo and this slogan.

In the event it is necessary to cancel the completion of the arena, I will then send notification to anyone who is interested, informing them of the same, and laying out to them all of the facts and all of the figures from all of the meetings that led me to make this decision.

Your lack of making a decision has hung over our heads too long, and we can’t go on with it any further.

It is your choice if you want to put hundreds of construction workers out of a job, and deprive the local businesses of Grand forks of the income they are receiving f4rom the construction of the arena.

Always sticking to the economic blackmail, as is typical of the right.

By now it should be clear that the Fighting Sioux mascot was directly related to harassment of American Indian students at the University of North Dakota, and that the racism that it promotes was directly related to the frequency of the “prairie nigger” epithet. The example I cited from the testimony wasn’t the only instance of this kind of racial harassment. Similar incidents, including hateful emails, are documented in articles describing tensions in the early 2000s.

So, if you look at the UND website, you’ll see an overlay about the transition, which seems to have taken place immediately after the Nov 10 vote by the North Dakota legislature.

Can we now work on retiring the epithet “prairie nigger” too? I’m not naive enough to believe that nobody will hear that again, but with this mascot issue gone, I’m hoping that there will at least be LESS harassment of American Indian students.

Here are the references from that article:


American Indian opinion leaders: American Indian mascots. (2001, August 7). Indian Country Today Retrieved May 22, 2002 from

Berkhofer, R. F. (1978). The White man’s Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to present. New York: Vintage/Random Rouse.

Bird, S. E. (Ed.). (1996). Dressing in feathers: The construction of the Indian in American popular culture. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Brown et al V. Board of Education of Topeka et al. (1954) 347 U.S. 483.

Clark, D. A. (2002). Someone inside me, there is a memory of my grandfathers:Mis-educated representations of “Indians, those symbolic insiders.” Unpublished manuscript.

Coombe, R.J. (1998). Embodied trademarks: Mimesis and alterity on American commercial frontiers. Cultural Anthropology, 11(2), 202-224.

Davis, L. R. (1993). Protest against the use of Native American mascots: A challenge to traditional American identity. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 17(1), 9-22.

Davis, t. R. (2002, Summer). The problems with Native American mascots. Multicultural Education, 9(4) 11-14.

Davis, L. R., & Rau, M. (2001). Escaping the tyranny of the majority: A case study of mascot change. In C. R. King & C. fl Springwood (Eds.), Team spirits: The Native American mascot controversy (pp.221-238). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Deloria, P. J. (1998). Playing Indian. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Farnell, B. (in press). The fancy dance of racializing discourse. American Indian Quarterly.

Fenelon, J. V. (1999). Indian icons in the world series of racism: Institutionalization of the racial symbols of wahoos and Indians. Research in Politics and Society (6): 25-45.

Goldberg, B. (2001).Bias:A CBS insider exposes how the media distort the news. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing.

Green, R. (1988). The tribe called wannabee: Playing Indian in America and Europe. Folklore, 99, 30-55.

Greenfeld, L. A.& Smith, S. K. (1999). American Indians and crime. Washington, DC:Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Grounds, R. (2001, June). Tallahassee, Osceola, and the hermenuetics of American place-names. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 69(2), 287-322.

Hooks b. (1992). Black looks: Race and representation. Boston: South End Press.

Jaimes, M. A. (1992). The state of Native America: Genocide, colonization, and resistance. Boston: South End Press.

King, C. R. (2001). Uneasy Indians: Creating and contesting Native American mascots at Marquette University. In C. R. King & C. F. Springwood (Eds.), Team spirits: The Native American mascot controversy (pp. 281-303). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

King, C. H. (2002). Defensive dialogues: Native American mascots, Anti-Indianism, and educational institutions. SIMILE: Studies in Media and information Literacy Education, 2(1). Retrieved from – Dead link >

King, C. H. (in press). Arguing over images: Native American mascots and race. In H. A. Lind (Ed.), Race /gender~media: Considering diversity across audiences, content, and producers. Boston: ABLongrnan.

King, C. R., & Springwood, C. F. (2000). Fighting spirits: The racial politics of sports mascots. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 24(3): 282-304.

King, C. R., & Springwood, C. F (2001a). Beyond the cheers: Race as spectacle in college sports Albany: State University of New York Press.

King, C. R., & Spriagwood, C. F (Eds.). (2001b). Team spirits: The Native American mascot controversy Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

KoIb, J. J. (2001). Indian mascots: Activists say change needs to begin at home. American Indian Report 11(3): 24-25.

Mihesuah, D. A. (1996). American Indians: Stereotypes and realities. Atlanta, GA:
Clarity Press.

Nagel,J. (1995). American Indian ethnic renewal: Politics and the resurgence of identity. American Sociological Review, 60, 947-965.

Pewewardy, C. D. (1991). Native American mascots and imagery: The struggle of unlearning stereotypes. Journal of Navajo Education, 9(1), 19-23.

Pewewardy, C. D. (2001). Educators and mascots: Challenging contradictions. In C. R. King & C. F Springwood (Eds.), Team spirits: The Native American mascot controversy (pp. 257-278). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Pewewardy, C. D. (2002, May). From subhuman to superhuman: Images of First Nations people in comic books [Electronic version). Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education, 2(2), Retrieved from

Rosenstein, J. (1996). In whose honor? American Indian mascots in sports [Film]. (Available from New Day Films, 22-D Hollywood Avenue, Ho-ho-kus, NJ, 07423)

Shively, J. (1992). Cowboys and Indians: Perceptions of western film by American Indians and Anglos. American Sociological Review, 57(6), 725-734.

Sigelman, L. (1998). Hail to the Redskins? Public reactions to a racially insensitive team name. Sociology of Sport Journal, 15(4), 317-325.

Slapin, B., & Seale, D. (1998)-Through Indian eyes: The native experience in books for children. Berkeley, CA: Oyate.

Spindel, C. (2000). Dancing at halftime: Sports and the controversy over American Indian mascots. New York: New York University Press.

Springwood, C. F. (2001). Playing Indian and fighting (for) mascots: Reading the complications of Native American and Euro-American alliances. In C. R. King & C. F. Springwood (Eds.), Team spirits: The Native American mascot controversy (pp. 304-327). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Springwood, C. F. (in press). I’M an Indian too! Claiming Native American identity, crafting authority in mascot debates. American Indian Quarterly.

Stapleton, B. (2001). Redskins: Racial slur or symbol of success? San Jose, CA: Writers Club Press.That

Staurowsky, E. J. (1998). An act of honor or exploitation? The Cleveland Indians’ use of the Louis Francis Sockalexis story. Sociology of Sport Journal, 15(4), 299-316.

Staurowsky, E. J. (2000). The “Cleveland Indians”: A case study of American Indian cultural dispossession. Sociology of Sport Journal, 17(4): 307-330.

Trainor, D. J. (1995). Native American mascots, schools and the Title VI hostile environment analysis. University of Illinois Law Review, 5, 971-997.

Journal of Sport & Social Issues, Volume 26, No.4, November 2002, pp. 381-402

Before Wounded Knee

In 1890 American fear, xenophobia, and religious intolerance led to the massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in South Dakota. While there have been many books written about this massacre, there were a number of related incidents prior to this.  

Setting the Stage for Violence in 1890:

In South Dakota, the Great Sioux Reservation was broken up into five smaller reservations occupying about half the land as previously. The other half of the reservation was opened up for non-Indian settlement at bargain prices. The proceeds from the sale of the former reservation lands were supposed to go to the Indians as compensation for their lost territory. The railroads were given permission to survey and build lines with no regard for any Sioux concerns.

At that same time, in Nebraska, the Christian Indian newspaper The Word Carrier reported about the Paiute prophet Wovoka:

“The Indians are generally excited over a so-called super-human visitor who is making frequent visits to the Indians in the Rocky Mountains. He performs some sleight of hand work and has made them believe that he is the Christ the Son of God. He is nothing but a petty representation of the Mormons of Utah.”


Paiute prophet Wovoka is shown above.

Missionary Mary Collins reported that Sitting Bull was a Ghost Dance leader. She recommended that he be banished:

“A few years in a prison learning English and a good trade would have a quieting influence upon the old man and his followers.”

While Sitting Bull, like other Indian leaders, was aware of Wovoka as a Paiute prophet in Nevada, he had no contact with him and was not involved with the new religion.

An editorial in the Black Hills Daily Times in response to rumors about the Ghost Dance:

“The Indians must be killed as fast as they make an appearance and before they can do any damage. It is better to kill an innocent Indian occasionally than to take chances on goodness.”

In Nebraska, the Christian Dakota language newspaper Iapi Oaye reported on the Ghost Dance movement with preaching and teaching. Calling Wovoka a false prophet, it quoted Bible verses showing that the religion was wrong.

In South Dakota, Kicking Bear introduced to the Lakota a special shirt. The shirts were decorated with a star and crescent moon and feathers at the shoulders. According to non-Indian sources, he claimed that bullets would not go through these shirts. The new shirts became a part of the Ghost Dance movement among the Sioux.

Kicking Bear’s Ghost Dance shirts seem to have been inspired by the shirts worn by the Arapaho Ghost Dancers. These shirts are made out of white muslin with a painted line of blue and one of yellow on the back. The Arapaho shirts, in turn, seem to have been inspired by the Mormon endowment robes of white muslin ornamented with symbols of their faith.

Anti-Indian Violence in 1890:

In Nebraska, the non-Indian residents of Chadron, concerned about rumors regarding an Indian upr55ising stemming from the Ghost Dance religion, passed a resolution asking for government troops. The resolution states in part:

“Resolved, that the leaders and instigators of criminality in savages should receive at the hands of the Government the punishment the law provides for traitors, anarchists and assassins.”

In South Dakota, Anglo settlers fearing an uprising from the Lakota Ghost Dancers asked the government for rifles and ammunition. Two militia units were organized to kill Indians. South Dakota’s governor told them “Be discreet in killing the Indians.”

At the Cole Ranch, Dead Arm was shot and killed as he rode into the trading post. His body was scalped and allowed to lay in the dirt for three days while cowboys poked sticks at it and photographers took pictures of it.

Near the Lakota Stronghold, the militia ambushed and killed about 75 Ghost Dancers, including women and children. One of the militiamen took seven pack loads of items from the dead — guns, war bonnets, ghost shirts — and used them to start a museum in Chicago.

The United States 8th Cavalry sent out a unit on a reconnaissance mission near the Lakota Stronghold. The unit came across a small band of Lakota and killed them all. The Indians’ guns were removed and the bodies buried. The troops were sworn to secrecy.  

In South Dakota, James McLaughlin, the Indian agent for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, angrily confronted Sioux leader Sitting Bull, telling him that Wovoka’s messiah doctrine was absurd and that Sitting Bull should stop his people from dancing. Sitting Bull replied that he and McLaughlin should go to Nevada and meet with Wovoka to find out first hand about the new religious movement. Sitting Bull promised McLaughlin that he would not hesitate to enlighten his people if Wovoka’s words were false and he would urge them to give up the ritual. McLaughlin refused the challenge. McLaughlin claimed that Sitting Bull was uncooperative, and he threatened the dignified leader with jail.

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull is shown above.

Indian police were sent to arrest Lakota leader Sitting Bull because of rumors that he intended to attend the Ghost Dance at Pine Ridge. In a short fight, Sitting Bull and several of his followers were killed by the Indian Police. The Indian agent’s reasons for arresting Sitting Bull:

“Sitting Bull is a polygamist, libertine, habitual liar, active obstructionist, a great obstacle in the civilization of those people, and he is so totally devoid of any of the nobler traits of character, and so wedded to the old Indian ways and superstitions that it is very doubtful if any change for the better will ever come to him.”

The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, in its report on the death of Sitting Bull:

“The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.”

The newspaper was published by L. Frank Baum who later gained fame for his book The Wizard of Oz.


Commenting on the spread of the Ghost Dance on the Sioux reservations which led to the massacre at Wounded Know, Lakota writer and physician Charles Eastman would write in 1918:

“The teachings of the Christian missionaries had prepared them to believe in a Messiah, and the prescribed ceremonial was much more in accord with their traditions than the conventional worship of the churches.”

The Sioux Return

In 1876 the United States declared war on the Sioux in order to obtain the Black Hills in what is now South Dakota. Subsequently, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer led the 7th Cavalry in an attack on a Lakota and Cheyenne  camp at the Little Bighorn River and was soundly de¬feated. Following this defeat, the U.S. military launched a major campaign against the Sioux and Cheyenne.

In 1877, Sioux leader Sitting Bull brought 135 lodges of his people north from the United States to find refuge in Canada. They settled in the White Mud River area of Saskatchewan. Here the Sioux found the buffalo in greater numbers than in the United States. To the Sioux, this appeared to be the promised land where they could continue their traditional lifestyle.  

Major James Walsh of the Northwest Mounted Police met with Sitting Bull and told him that the Sioux would now have to obey the queen’s laws and in return they would receive the queen’s protection. He warned the Sioux that they were not to return to the United States to hunt or to steal. The Mounted Police had a reputation for being fair in their judgments. Some of the Mounted Police, including Walsh, felt that the Sioux had been badly treated in the United States. Walsh had a genuine concern for the well-being of Sitting Bull and his people.

The following year, an additional 240 Sioux lodges sought asylum in Canada. The bands were under the leadership of Little Hawk and Fools Heart. The arrival of more Sioux in Saskatchewan was of great concern to the Canadian tribes, such as the Cree, Blackfeet, Piegan, and Blood, who had been enemies of the Sioux. It was the task of the Mounted Police to maintain the peace.

In 1880, Major James Walsh, the Northwest Mounted Police officer who had been dealing with Sitting Bull’s Sioux was reassigned. N.F. Cozier replaced him and began to pressure the Sioux to return to the United States. He persuaded the young Sans Arc Sioux leader White Eagle of the futility of staying in Canada.

The Sioux leader Gall was the first to lead his people back to the United States. In 1880, Gall led his people south into Montana to the Poplar River Agency (now the Fort Peck Reservation). They camped in a wooded site across from the agency. Gall’s band was soon joined by a Sans Arc band under the leadership of Spotted Eagle. This increased their camp from 38 lodges to 73 lodges. In response to the gathering of these “hostile” Sioux bands, the army sent a force of 400 soldiers from Fort Keogh under the command of Major Ilges.

It is interesting to note that when the Sioux entered Canada, they were met by a single police officer who was successful in maintaining the peace. In the U.S., the Sioux were met with a show of overpowering military force.

Gall took the initiative and asked for a council with the major. In this council, Gall indicated that he was reluctant to give up his old way of life. While the major lacked specific instructions on dealing with Gall, he insisted that Gall and his people were going to move to Fort Buford in three days. Gall explained that he could not surrender because to do so would be to face certain starvation. While surrendering to the army might have provided the Sioux with rations, Gall did not trust the army and would rather risk starvation as a free man. He was aware that the Sioux and Assiniboine at the Fort Peck Agency were destitute and that starving Indians refused to live there.

Following the council with Gall, the Sioux warrior Crow then requested a council with the major. Crow and his warriors made it clear to the major that Sitting Bull was their chief and that they were going to wait to see what Sitting Bull was going to do.

In 1881, Army troops with three-inch Rodman guns prepared to attack the Sioux camps of Gall and Crow King near the Poplar River Agency. The soldiers crossed the frozen Missouri River and found one camp with 32 lodges that was almost deserted. A short time later they reached Gall’s camp of 40 lodges and found it deserted. In what was later called the “Battle of Poplar River,” the Army bombarded the Sioux villages with artillery fire. Soon, the Sioux began to trickle out of the thickets to surrender. The term “battle” is perhaps a misnomer for this encounter.

In spite of deep snow and bitter cold, the Army marched the three hundred captives-men, women, and children-to Fort Buford in North Dakota. The walk took four days.

Sioux leader Low Dog and 20 lodges of his people surrendered at Fort Buford. They were shipped by steamboat to Fort Yates on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota.

A few months later, Sitting Bull and 187 members of his Lakota Sioux band returned south and surrendered to United States authorities at Fort Buford. When they boarded the steamer at Fort Buford, they believed they were going to be taken to Fort Yates near the Standing Rock Reservation so that they could be reunited with their families. At Fort Yates, however, they were told that they were to be transported to Fort Randall where they were to be confined as prisoners. The army was afraid that Sitting Bull would stir up trouble among the Indians at the agency. They spent 20 months at Fort Randall and were then allowed to return to the Standing Rock Agency.

Sitting Bull 1

Thus in 1881, most of the Sioux refugees had returned to the United States and surrendered to the American army. The old hunting way of life was now over and the Sioux would have to settle down to life on the reservation.

Sitting Bull 2

Wounded Knee: A Book Review

( – promoted by oke)

There are perhaps three major military conflicts between American Indians and the American military which have entered into popular culture through movies, novels, and popular histories. These would include the battle at the Greasy Grass, also known as the Little Bighorn, where Lt. Col. George Custer was defeated; the 1877 Nez Perce War, which was supposedly led by Chief Joseph; and finally there is Wounded Knee, sometimes called a massacre, sometimes called a battle. The books written about these events are often aimed at romanticizing the Indians, romanticizing the military, and/or presenting a military history of the battle. It is rare for any of these conflicts to be placed in a larger context of either Indian history or American history.

Heather Cox Richardson’s Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre is a book which should be read by all progressives, not because it is about American Indians, or the massacre at Wounded Knee, but because it provides insights into the consequences of partisan politics which are similar to today’s events.  

For those interested in American Indian history, the book provides a good overview of the conflicts between the Sioux and the American government. This overview is not limited to Wounded Knee, but also includes Red Cloud’s War and the American obsession with gold and private property. It also provides some good insights into the nineteenth century reservation system, including the arguments over whether Indian Affairs belonged in the Interior Department or the War Department.

Religious freedom is aspect of the conflict at Wounded Knee. The Indian agent, called Young-Man-Afraid-of-Indians by the Sioux, hit the panic button when he heard about the Ghost Dance. Professor Richardson does a good job of telling the story of Wovoka’s Ghost Dance movement without relying on the imaginative tales told in the nineteenth century popular press.

With regard to the battle, Professor Richardson points out:

“This had been the largest military mobilization of the U.S. Army since the Civil War, involving fully a third of the army. About nine thousand soldiers moved to South Dakota: of those, about five thousand had been stationed at the Pine Ridge agency.”

With regard to the political motivation of this military deployment, she points out:

“Troops brought contracts and government money into the chronically poor West, money that would be most welcome in the current economic depression there. Troop deployment would also show that the administration was looking out for the settlers, promoting their welfare as it had indicated it would do when it pushed so hard for western development.”

Overall, the book looks at Wounded Knee as a part of a larger political process, which is only partly centered on American Indians.

The author points out that:

“Republicans maintained that economic growth created jobs and fueled an ever higher standard of living, pointing to the fabulous houses of the nation’s rich and the increasing wealth evident, for example, in Mrs. Harrison’s jewels, as proof that their system worked. Their opponents, Democrats and members of various reform parties, countered by pointing to falling wages, child labor, and city tenements as evidence that the system was broken.”

‘Individualism, Private Property, the Law of Accumulation of Wealth, and the Law of Competition’ were the very height of human achievement, multimillionaire steel baron Andrew Carnegie cheerfully pronounced.”

“Republicans had adopted into their political worldview the idea that the government’s role was to promote business, and they legislated to do just that. Economic development, they argued, would promote the good of all Americans.”

“The Harrison Republicans were consummate party politicians, willing to ignore reality, manipulate government machinery to stay in power, and destroy those in the way of their plans.”

“Anyone opposing the Republicans’ extreme pro-business policy opposed America, Republicans believed, and must be silenced.”

The political philosophies of the nineteenth century Republicans sound vaguely familiar, like something you could hear on Fox News any night of the week.

I hope that Professor Richardson has a second book in mind, one which looks at the impact of economic philosophies upon American Indian nations during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I would like to see her follow up on this statement:

“Late nineteenth-century Republicans’ emphasis on specific kinds of economic development ultimately crippled Sioux success in the American economy.”

Remove the word “Sioux” and substitute “Indian” and then document how Republican concepts supporting big business have aided poverty on reservations around the country. This is just a hint that I think Professor Richardson should put the economic development of Indian reservations into this larger picture.