Susette La Flesche, Indian Rights Activist

Susette (Yosette) La Flesche was born on the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska in 1854. She was the eldest daughter of Joseph La Flesche and Mary Gale La Flesche. Joseph LaF lesche was the principal chief of the Omaha. With regard to Joseph La Flesche, John Little, in his biography of Susette La Flesche in Notable Native Americans, reports:

“Joseph La Flesche was a remarkable and far-seeing leader who realized that both his children and his tribe would have to adapt to and make their way in white America. He did all in his power to influence his often reluctant tribesmen to move in that direction, and he inspired his children to seek education in the English language and in American life and culture.”

Susette grew up on the Omaha Reservation and attended the Presbyterian mission school. In 1872, non-Indian philanthropic groups made it possible for her to attend the Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

After graduating from the Elizabeth Institute in 1875, she returned to the Omaha Reservation with the intention of teaching. She applied for the position of elementary school teacher at the Indian Agency school on the reservation, but failed to get the job. She was told that she had to pass a teaching examination from the School Committee of Nebraska. When she applied for permission to leave the reservation to take the examination, her request was refused. She left the reservation without permission and took the test.

Later, she discovered that the Indian Office (now the Bureau of Indian Affairs) had a policy which required that Indians be given preference for positions in the Indian Service, including teaching positions. With this information, she wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. She demanded that she be given preference and in 1877 she obtained a teaching job at the Omaha Agency school. She was paid just half of what non-Indian teachers received.

Events far to the south, in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), would, however, soon impact her life. In 1877, the United States government had forcibly and brutally moved the Ponca from their Nebraska reservation to Indian Territory. The Ponca had always been at peace with the United States. At sunrise, army troops—four detachments of cavalry and one of infantry—surrounded the Ponca village and dragged men, women, and children from their cabins.  The Ponca were force-marched for 50 days to their new home where they were informed that they were now prisoners of war. During the next year, one-fourth of the Ponca died.

Among those who died of malnutrition was Bear Shield, the eldest son of Ponca chief Standing Bear. His dying wish was to be buried in the traditional Ponca land. Standing Bear decided to return north to Nebraska to bury him in traditional Ponca territory. In 1879, Standing Bear and about 65 of his people left their Oklahoma reservation and traveled to Decatur, Nebraska where they were welcomed by the Omaha and given food and shelter.

The Ponca and the Omaha are closely related tribes. At one time they had been a single people and when they had moved from the Ohio Valley into the Central Plains about 1715 they separated into two distinct tribes.

The Department of the Interior notified the War Department that the Ponca had left without permission and the army was ordered to return them to the reservation. The Ponca were detained by the army at Fort Omaha, but illness among the Indians and the poor condition of their horses made it impossible to return them to Indian Territory immediately.

While the Ponca were being held captive, Thomas Henry Tibbles, the assistant editor of the Omaha Herald, began to stir up public support for the Ponca. Tibbles arranged for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Standing Bear and his people in federal court in Omaha. The court found that the army had no authority to incarcerate the Ponca. The U.S. Attorney had argued that Indians were not persons under the law and therefore were not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus. Historian James King, in an essay in The Western American Indian: Case Studies in Tribal History, writes:

“The government’s case was simply that an Indian was neither a person nor a citizen within the meaning of the law, and therefore could bring no suit of any kind against the government.”

In Standing Bear versus Crook the United States District Court declares that an Indian is a “person” under United States law and therefore has the right to sue for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court.

Tibbles wanted to take the Ponca case to the Supreme Court so that a definitive statement on the status of Indians in the United States could be obtained. He also wanted to help the Ponca regain a Nebraska reservation. In order to gain support for the Ponca, Tibbles sent Omaha chief Joseph LaFlesche and his daughter Susette to Indian Territory to investigate the conditions which the Ponca had to endure. Upon their return, Susette La Flesche made her first appearance as a public speaker supporting the Ponca cause.

Kenny Franks, in his essay on the LaFlesche family in Encyclopedia of North American Indians, reports:

“Susette was convinced that the only solution to the ‘Indian problem’ was American citizenship. Such an action would legally give the nation’s Native American population equal status with its other residents.”

To take the Ponca case to the Supreme Court would require money. Therefore, Tibbles decided that a speaking tour featuring Ponca chief Standing Bear would be an effective way to raise both money and public support for their cause. Standing Bear, however, spoke no English. The Ponca and Omaha languages are closely related so Tibbles asked if Susette La Flesche could accompany them as an interpreter. Tibbles also suggested that Susette use the name Bright Eyes for the tour.

The tour began in Chicago in 1879. By the time they reached the Northeast, there were eager crowds waiting to hear from Standing Bear and Bright Eyes. In the Northeast, the speaking tour drew packed audiences five to seven nights a week.

The tour stayed for a month in Boston. At a presentation in Worchester, Massachusetts, U.S. Senator George F. Hoar was moved by what he heard. He wrote to President Rutherford B. Hayes expressing his concern at the wrong done to the Ponca by the American government. The President replied that he would give the matter attention.

Their visit to Boston resulted in the formation of an Indian Citizenship Committee composed of a number of prominent non-Indians.

Following Boston, the tour continued on for lengthy stays in New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Tibbles also testified before several Congressional committees.

They returned to Nebraska in 1880. John Little reports:

“La Flesche Tibbles, or Bright Eyes, had by now become a well-known public figure who would find a ready audience for both her speeches and writings for the rest of her life.”

In 1881, Thomas Henry Tibbles married Susette La Flesche (thus she also became known as Susette La Flesche Tibbles). The couple made frequent lecture trips to the eastern United States and made one lecture tour of England and Scotland in 1886-1887. Carl Waldman, in his book Who Was Who in Native American History, reports:

“In their lectures, they described Omaha and Ponca reservation conditions and argued against removal and in favor of assimilation.”

Working with Standing Bear, she co-authored Ploughed Under: The Story of an Indian Chief. In 1881, she presented a paper “The Position, Occupation, and Culture of Indian Women” before the Association for the Advancement of Women.

Writing under the name Bright Eyes, Susette La Flesche Tibbles wrote for a number of magazines. Her writings including stories about Indian life for children’s magazines as well as adult stories.

Susette La Flesche Tibbles died in Nebraska in 1903.

Massasoit, Wampanoag Leader

During the first part of the seventeenth century, the Wampanoag Confederacy controlled a large portion of what is now New England. Wampanoag territory ranged from Narragansett Bay to Cape Cod. The leader of this confederacy during the first part of the seventeenth century was Massasoit, who is generally described as the Great Sachem. His main village was located near present-day Bristol, Rhode Island.

The Wampanoag were hit hard by the epidemics which swept through New England in 1616-1619. Prior to the epidemics it is estimated that there were 24,000 people living in Indian communities affiliated with the Wampanoag confederacy led by Massasoit. As a result of the epidemics, 75% of the population died.

With the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1621, Massasoit saw an opportunity to increase the power of the Wampanoag confederacy. By signing a treaty of mutual support and protection with the Pilgrims, Massasoit insured that there would be peaceful relations with these people, but more importantly, this alliance would give the Wampanoag better access to European trade goods. With these goods, particularly firearms, the Wampanoag were able to increase their power among the tribes in the region. Historian John Humins, in an article in New England Quarterly, writes:

“This treaty was a bold move by the Wampanoag sagamore, who, as a result, bolstered his economic, military, and political control. He may well have assumed that the pact made the newcomers members of his confederation.”

Writer Frank Waters, in his book Brave are My People: Indian Heroes Not Forgotten, describes Massasoit:

“He wore a deerskin robe and a great chain of white beads to which were fastened a long knife and a leather tobacco pouch.”

In 1621, Massasoit had two of this people—Hobomok and Squanto—teach the Pilgrims agricultural techniques. Without these lessons and without the food supplied to them by the Indians, it is doubtful that the little colony would have survived. That fall, following the harvest, Massasoit brought 60-100 Wampanoag to Plymouth for a traditional harvest feast and with this action set the pattern for a holiday which Americans would later call Thanksgiving. The Wampanoag brought with them five deer to provide venison for the feast, as well as turkey, geese, ducks, eels, shellfish, cornbread, succotash, squash, berries, wild plums, and maple sugar.

In 1621 there was a rumor that Massasoit had been captured by the Pocasset sachem Corbitant. Squanto, Hobamok, and Tokamahomon, who were living with the Pilgrims, went to Corbitant’s village where they found that the rumor was not true, but Corbitant took them captive. Hobamok managed to escape and told the English who then attacked the village, wounding several Indians and freeing Squanto and Tokamahomon. Massasoit then negotiated a peace between the English and the Pocasset.

In 1622, the Narragansett sent a bundle of arrows tied with a snake skin to the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The Pilgrims interpreted this message as a challenge and returned the skin with bullets in it. Historian John Humins reports:

“By doing so, the Pilgrims committed a major diplomatic blunder: they ignored Hobamok’s urgings to confer with Massasoit before responding.”

In 1623, Massasoit became sick and was treated by English physicians. At this time, he warned the Pilgrims that some of the tribes—Narragansett, Massachuset, and some Wampanoag—were plotting against the settlers. Massasoit’s war chief, Annawan, led a series of raids against the insurgent groups.

Over the years, however, Massasoit found that his alliance with English was not beneficial to his people. With the great English hunger for land, more and more Wampanoag land was taken from them. When the Indians complained, they were punished by the English courts who viewed them as trespassers on their own homelands.

Massasoit died in 1661 and the peace which he had helped forge with the Europeans began to crumble. His son Alexander (Wamsutta) became the Grand Sachem briefly. Then his other son Philip (Metacom) became Grand Sachem and led the Wampanoag into the uprising against the English known as King Philip’s War.

Joseph LaFlesche, Omaha Chief

From the viewpoint of non-Indians, particularly government officials in the nineteenth century, a progressive Indian leader was one who advocated the assimilation of Indians into “mainstream” American culture. One of these progressive Indian leaders was Joseph LaFlesche.

Joseph LaFlesche was the son of a French fur trader and a Ponca woman. When he married an Omaha woman he was formally adopted into the Omaha Elk clan and was thus considered to be Omaha. When his adopted father, Omaha chief Big Elk, died in 1853, many people considered Joseph LaFlesche as principal chief of the Omaha.

While many Omaha considered Joseph LaFlesche a chief, and even the principal chief, the Americans and Joseph LaFlesche considered Logan Fontelle to be the principal chief. Historian Judith Boughter, in her book Betraying the Omaha Nation, 1790-1916, reports:

“Because his father was a French trader and he was never adopted into the tribe, Logan Fontelle probably did not qualify for chieftainship.”

Logan Fontelle was killed by a Sioux war party in 1855.

Joseph LaFlesche favored adopting American ways. For example, he refused to allow his four daughters to be tattooed in the Omaha fashion as he wanted them to be able to freely mingle in Euro-American society. He also encouraged the Omaha to build houses in the American style.

One aspect of American society which Joseph La Flesche opposed was alcohol. In 1856, together with the Indian agent for the reservation, he established an Indian police force for the purpose of eliminating alcohol on the reservation. This police force was headed by Ma-hu-nin-ga (No Knife).

In 1857, the Presbyterians, with the encouragement of Joseph LaFlesche, established a mission day school for the Omaha. The children were all given English names. The LaFlesche children attended this school.

At this same time, a group of Omaha under the leadership of Joseph La Flesche began to build American-style, two-story frame houses. For this reason, the other Omaha referred to them as “Make-Believe White Men.”

In 1858, chief Joseph La Flesche organized a great council of the Omaha because of rumors that the government was planning to reduce the size of their reservation. The council reaffirmed their commitment to the Americanization program, and strenuously opposed any reduction in the reservation.

The Omaha reservation in Nebraska had been established in 1854 when the Omaha ceded all of their lands west of the Missouri River to the United States. As a part of this treaty, the United States was to protect the Omaha from attacks by other tribes, particular the Sioux.

In 1860, a Sioux war party under the leadership of Little Thunder attacked the Omaha within sight of the Presbyterian mission. As a result of this attack, many Omaha left their villages. Joseph LaFlesche and other Omaha leaders met with the Indian Agent and demanded that their treaty’s clause which called for the United States to protect them from raids by other Indian nations be honored.

In exchange for ceding much of their land to the United States, the Omaha were to receive an annual annuity payment. In 1862, Joseph La Flesche began asking why most of their annuity was paid in paper money while the more rebellious tribes received theirs in gold and silver. According to historian Judith Boughter:

“He considered the practice unfair, since it made a $7,000 difference in the Omahas’ yearly income and since the government expected its payments in coin.”

In 1865, the United States asked the Omaha to sell 100,000 acres of their reservation in Nebraska to provide a new home for the Winnebago. In the treaty, negotiated by Joseph La Flesche, Standing Hawk, Little Chief, Noise, and No Knife, the Omaha were to receive $50,000 to be used by their Indian agent to improve their reservation. The Omaha were also to be provided with a blacksmith, a shop, a farmer, and mills for 10 years.

In 1866, the Indian agent for the Omaha Reservation accused chief Joseph LaFlesche with producing discord among the tribe, leaving the reservation without permission, lending money at usurious rates, encouraging the tribal police to inflict unfair punishments, and refusing to allow people to deal with licensed traders. The agent called for him to be deposed as tribal chief and to be banished. LaFlesche’s protector, the Presbyterian mission school superintendent, was then dismissed. LaFlesche and his family hastily fled from the reservation.

A few months later, the Indian agent agreed to allow LaFlesche to return to the reservation, but only if he agreed to be subordinate to the agent. Historian Judith Boughter reports:

“LaFlesche did return home, but he never again held a seat on the tribal council and apparently was recognized as a leader only among his band of followers in the young men’s party.”

Joseph LaFlesche had several wives and at least ten children. With Mary Gale, he had five children, including Susette LaFlesche (Bright Eyes) who became an Indian activist and Susan LaFlesche who became the first Indian woman physician. With Elizabeth Esau, he also had five children, including Francis LaFlesche, who became an ethnographer.  Joseph LaFlesche died in 1888.

Dr Susan LaFlesche, Omaha Physician

Susan LaFlesche was the first American Indian woman to become a doctor and to practice Western-style medicine among her own people. She became a doctor at a time when there were only a handful of other Indian doctors trained in western medicine—Charles Eastman and Carlos Montezuma. In addition, it was highly unusual at this time for a woman to become a doctor.

Susan LaFlesche was born on the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska in 1865. Her father was Joseph LaFlesche who had become the principal chief of the Omaha in 1854. Her father was what the Americans called “progressive” as he favored adopting American ways. He refused to allow his four daughters to be tattooed in the Omaha fashion as he wanted them to be able to freely mingle in Euro-American society. He also encouraged the Omaha to build houses in the American style and consequently she grew up in a frame house on a plot of land which was in her father’s name. In his biography of her in Notable Native Americans, Charles Cannon writes:

“Her family was Christian, influential, and respected, and emphasized the importance of education.”

One aspect of American society which Joseph LaFlesche opposed was alcohol. In 1856 he established an Indian police force for the purpose of eliminating alcohol on the reservation.

Joseph LaFlesche was the son of a French fur trader and a Ponca woman. When he married an Omaha woman he was formally adopted into the Omaha Elk clan and was thus considered to be Omaha.

Susan grew up speaking both Omaha and English. One of her brothers, Francis, became an ethnologist with the Bureau of American Ethnography; one sister, Susette, became an outspoken and well-known Indian rights activist; and another sister, Marguerite, became an educator.

Susan’s formal education began in the Presbyterian Mission School on the Omaha Reservation. In 1879, Susan and her sister Marguerite entered the Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

She returned to the Omaha Reservation in 1882 and worked at the mission school. Among her duties was some of the younger students.

In 1884, Susan and Marguerite enrolled in the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Hampton, Virginia. Hampton had been established for the education of free slaves and welcomed Indian students. Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the founder of the Hampton Institute, wrote about educating Indian children:

“Savages have good memories; they acquire but do not comprehend; they devour but do not digest knowledge. They have no conception of mental discipline.”

She graduated from Hampton in 1886 and was the salutatorian at the graduation ceremony. She advocated the assimilation of Indians into Euro-American culture:

“We have to prepare our people to live in the white man’s way, to use the white man’s books, and to use his laws if you will only give them to us.”

Susan had always wanted to become a doctor and her teachers encouraged her to go on to medical school. However, the cost of medical school was a significant barrier. The Connecticut Indian Association agreed to pay for most of her education and they persuaded the Indian Office (as the Bureau of Indian Affairs was then called) to continue to provide some support.

The Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia admitted Susan as a beneficiary student. It was unusual for women at this time, let alone Indian women, to enroll in medical school. Medical education was strictly segregated by gender. Charles Cannon reports:

“When not busy studying, she exhibited her community-oriented nature by speaking to church groups and visiting the Lincoln School for Indian children near Philadelphia.”

Susan graduated in 1889 at the head of a class of 36 women. She returned to Nebraska as the physician at the government boarding school. She was soon seeing adults as well as children as she spoke their language. When the government physician left, she was placed in charge of the health care for the 1,244 tribal members. In his book Who Was Who in Native American History: Indians and Non-Indians From Early Contacts Through 1900, Carl Waldman reports

“…La Flesche served as the reservation doctor for the Omahas, seeing hundreds of patients and helping stem influenza, dysentery, cholera, conjunctivitis, typhoid, and tuberculosis, all chronic to the reservation.”

In 1891, influenza struck the reservation. Traveling throughout the rural area of the reservation, she treated 114 patients in a single month. Travel from house to house was generally by horse and buggy and often over rough terrain. If the patient was only a mile or two away, she would often walk.

In 1893, she resigned from her position as the government physician to the reservation. Her health had declined to the point where she felt she could no longer do the work required. The following year she became engaged to Henry Picotte (Sioux), the brother of her sister Maguerite’s late husband.

Like her father, she was concerned about the impact of alcohol on the Omaha people. Like many women of this time—both Indian and non-Indian—she became involved with the temperance movement. She wrote:

“Men and women died from alcoholism, and little children were seen reeling on the streets of the town. Drunken brawls in which men were killed occurred and no person’s life was considered safe.”

Her concern for alcohol became much more personal as her husband’s drinking increased. In 1905 her husband died from complications from drinking. She was left as the sole support of an invalid mother and two small children.

The following year, she purchased a house lot in the newly formed town of Walthill, an alcohol-free area, and built a modern home. She moved into this home with her two children and her mother.

Even though she was no longer the government physician for the reservation, she continued to help the people with her medical skills. She was one of the organizers of the Thurston County Medical Association and advocated for a hospital in Walthill. The hospital became a reality in 1913 and was opened for the treatment of both Indian and non-Indian patients.

Susan LaFlesche Picotte died in 1915 at the age of 50. The hospital which she helped to create was renamed in her honor. Charles Cannon writes:

“She was a symbol for many marginalized groups who sought empowerment in the nineteenth century. She was a shining light not only for the Indian rights movement, but for the women’s movement as well. She was ahead of her time as a Native American activist because she was among the earliest Indian leaders to look beyond the interests of her own tribe and address the broad issues facing Native Americans in general.”

Joe Medicine Crow, RIP

Joseph Medicine Crow, a Crow tribal historian and elder, has crossed over at the age of 102. The Crow, who currently have a small reservation in Montana, were at one time at least three separate, distinct, and autonomous groups: the River Crow who ranged north of the Yellowstone River, the Mountain Crow who live south of the Yellowstone and farther west, and the Kicked-in-the-Bellies (also known as Home-Away-from-the-Center) who lived in the same area as the Mountain Crow.

The Crow

The Crow were once a part of the Hidatsa living near the Missouri River. Archaeologists suggest that the Crow moved out onto the Great Plains in two migrations. The Mountain Crow moved out first, about 1550. Then a century later, the River Crow followed them.

Crow historian and elder Joseph Medicine Crow, in We, The People: Of Earth and Elders—Volume II, describes the Crow migrations this way:

“Way back in the 1500s, what might be called our ancestral tribe, lived east of the Mississippi in a land of forests and lakes, possibly present day Wisconsin. They began migrating westward around 1580 until they crossed the Mississippi to follow the buffalo. As far as the Crows are concerned, they separated from this main band in about 1600-1625.”

According to one oral tradition, there was a buffalo hunt at which the wives of two of the chiefs argued over the upper stomach of one of the cows. There was a scuffle and one of the women was killed. This escalated into a skirmish between the two bands led by the chiefs, and several more people were killed. As a result, one band left the Missouri and migrated to the Rocky Mountains. The band that followed along the rivers and streams came to be known as the River Crow (They Travel Along the Riverbanks) and the other band became known as the Mountain Crow. The Mountain Crow later divided and the Kicked-in-the-Bellies appeared.

Another oral tradition tells that at one time there was a wandering tribe under the leadership of two brothers: No Intestines and Red Scout. At what is now called Devil’s Lake, they did a vision quest together. During the vision, No Intestines was told to search for the seeds of the sacred tobacco and Red Scout was told to settle on the banks of the Missouri River and grow corn. No Intestines led his people to many parts of the Great Plains in search of the sacred tobacco seeds.

The oral tradition tells of the Great Salt Lake, the geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park, of the Arkansas River in Oklahoma, and of the plains of Alberta, Canada. Finally, at Cloud Peak, the highest crest in the Bighorn Range, No Intestines received another vision and thus the Crow made their home in Montana and Wyoming with the Bighorn Mountains as their heartland.

The oral traditions also tell of another group of Crow—Bilápiiuutche, Beaver Dries Its Fur—which became lost during the journey. Several explanations are offered for the fate of this group. Some feel that it split in Canada and remained there. Others say it turned east and ended up at Lake Michigan. Still others feel that Beaver Dries Its Fur became a part of the Kiowa who were closely associated with the Crow.

Joe Medicine Crow

      Joseph Medicine Crow was born on October 27, 1913 on the Crow Reservation near Lodge Grass, Montana. His father was Leo Medicine Crow and his mother was Amy Yellowtail.

He attended Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, graduating in 1938. He then went to the University of Southern California where he earned a master’s degree in anthropology in 1939. His master’s thesis was on the effect of European culture on Native Americans. He then completed his coursework for his Ph.D. and started writing his doctoral dissertation in 1940. However, international events interfered with his ability to complete his doctorate.

Like many Crow tribal members, Joe Medicine Crow served in the army in World War II. Among the Crow, the concept of “chief” really means “good, valiant”. To achieve this title a person had to perform four deeds: (1) to lead a successful raid, (2) to capture a horse tethered in an enemy camp, (3) to be the first to count coup, and (4) to take a weapon from a live enemy. Serving in Europe during World War II, Joe Medicine Crow performed these deeds and earned the status of war chief. To meet the second requirement, he stole 50 horses from a German SS camp.

As the Crow Nation tribal historian, Joe Medicine Crow collected oral histories. As an oral historian, he was the last living person to have heard direct oral accounts from the Crow warriors who were at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn where Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer was defeated by the Sioux and Cheyenne. His step-grandfather, White Man Runs Him, was one of Custer’s scouts.

In 2003, the University of Southern California awarded Joe Medicine Crow an honorary doctorate. In 2009, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama for his service during World War II and his works on Native American history.

Nakaidoklini, Apache Spiritual Leader

President Ulysses Grant established the San Carlos Indian Reservation in Arizona by Presidential Executive Order in 1872. The newly created reservation was a division of the White Mountain Apache Reservation and was intended for the Chiricahua Apache as well as other tribes. Under Grant’s Peace Policy, the Dutch Reformed Church was given charge of the reservation.

Americans generally have difficulty in distinguishing one Indian tribe from another.  With regard to the Apaches, the U.S. government had difficulty understanding that there were many distinct Apache tribes. There are six major divisions of the Apache: the Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Kiowa-Apache. The Western Apache include five groups: Cibecue, San Carlos, White Mountain, Northern Tonto, and Southern Tonto. The traditional homelands of the Chiricahua Apache are south of the Western Apache in the mountains of southeastern Arizona.

In Arizona a new religious movement arose in 1881 when a White Mountain Apache medicine man called Nakaidoklini talked to the Apaches about a new religion in which dead warriors would return to help the people drive the Americans from their territory. He taught his followers a new dance in which the dancers were arranged like the spokes on a wheel, facing inward.

Nakaidoklini announced that he would bring back two chiefs from the dead if the people gave him enough horses and blankets. When the dead chiefs failed to materialize, Nakaidoklini announced that they had refused to return because of the Americans and that they would return when the Americans were gone.

The United States sent soldiers with orders to arrest Nakaidoklini or to kill him, or both, for his teachings. Nakaidoklini quietly submitted to arrest. On the return journey, the troops were followed by many Apache. As the Apache moved closer, their faces painted, the frightened officer in charge of the soldiers ordered the Apaches to move back and shooting broke out. The Apache scouts who had been with the army also began firing on the soldiers. The officer ordered Nakaidoklini killed and a soldier shot Nakaidoklini at point blank range.

Some of Nakaidoklini’s followers later attacked Fort Apache, but were driven back. Others sought refuge with the Chiricahua Apache on the San Carlos Reservation. Chiricahua leaders, including Geronimo, became alarmed with the arrival of additional troops. There were rumors that the soldiers intended to arrest the chiefs and place them in leg irons. Three Chiricahua bands left the San Carlos Reservation and headed to Mexico.

The “rebel” bands, with 74 men and 300 women, included the Nednhi led by Chief Juh and Geronimo; the Chokonen led by Naiche (the son of Cochise), Chato, and Chihuahua; and the Bedonkohe led by Bonito. The Apaches who remained on the reservation, including 250 Chiricahuas, generally opposed the breakout.

Three of the scouts who turned on the troops – Sergeant Dandy Jim, Sergeant Dead Shot, and Corporal Skippy – were court-martialed, found guilty of mutiny, and hanged. Several others were sent to Alcatraz.

The “rebel” Chiricahua bands then began a series of raids which resulted in a prolonged campaign by General George Crook to “pacify” the Apaches.

Dragging Canoe, Cherokee Leader

At the beginning of the eighteenth century the Cherokee were not a single political nation, but a linguistic and cultural grouping of about 50 villages. Dragging Canoe was born about 1730 somewhere in Tennessee. His father was Attakullakulla, a peace chief.

Dragging Canoe first appears in the written European histories in 1775 when the Transylvania Company met with the Cherokees in a treaty council at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River. The Transylvania Company, represented by Richard Henderson and Daniel Boone, wanted to acquire most of what is now Kentucky and middle Tennessee. The proposed treaty called for the Cherokee to give up a great deal of land in exchange for guns, ammunition, beads, trinkets, and blankets. The value of the goods was about $50,000.

Attakullakulla refused to sign and warned the colonists that a dark cloud now hung over the land. Other chiefs opposing the land sale were Dragging Canoe, Tuckasee, Terrapin, and Tanase Warrior. Dragging Canoe agreed to part of the sale but felt that the Cherokee should not part with the Cumberland, which he called the “bloody ground,” indicating that this was traditional hunting territory. Because of his opposition to the sale, Dragging Canoe left the conference. Withdrawing from a council was a traditional way of showing disagreement.

Boone plied the chiefs, including Oconostota and Attakullakulla, with whiskey. The chiefs were so drunk that the interpreter had to guide the hands of Oconostota and Raven Warrior as they signed the treaty known as the Sycamore Shoals Treaty. With this treaty, the Cherokee lost their traditional Kentucky hunting grounds. Journalist Stanley Hoig, in his book The Cherokees and Their Chiefs: In the Wake of Empire, writes:  “The Transylvania purchase marked not only the beginning of Cherokee resistance to the loss of their land but also the decline of tribal influence for the old chiefs.”

The American Revolution began in 1776 and both the American rebels and the British sought Indian allies in this war. Emissaries from the Iroquois, Shawnee, Delaware, and Ottawa travelled to the Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River to meet with the Cherokee and to persuade them to form an alliance against the American revolutionaries. Shawnee leader Cornstalk told them:  “It is better for the red men to die like warriors than to diminish away by inches. Now is the time to begin. If we fight like men, we may hope to enlarge our bounds.”

The Shawnee produced a wampum War Belt which was about nine feet long. Dragging Canoe accepted the belt and the warriors joined him in singing a war song.  In spite of the persuasive words of the northern Indians, however, the Cherokee remained divided on this issue. The older Cherokee, such as Attakullakulla and Oconostota, objected to the war; but some of the younger warriors, such as Dragging Canoe, Doublehead, Young Tassel, and Bloody Fellow, sided with Cornstalk.

Dragging Canoe led a war into Kentucky and returned with four scalps. He then began making plans to attack the colonists. Nancy Ward, wanting to protect the colonists who had befriended the Cherokee, secretly warned some of the traders. As a result the colonial settlements began building forts. Two hundred warriors under the leadership of Dragging Canoe and Abram set out to attack the Kentucky settlements. The colonists repulsed the first attack, killing 13 Cherokee and wounding Dragging Canoe. As the Cherokee withdrew, they burned a number of isolated cabins in the area and took 18 scalps.

The American response to the Cherokee attacks called for them to be driven from the country. Thomas Jefferson declared:  “I hope the Cherokees will now be driven beyond the Mississipi [sic]”

Historian Colin Calloway, in his book The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities, reports:  “The Cherokees had forfeited their rights to their land: private seizures of Indian lands, illegal before the war, now became a patriotic act.”

American forces from North Carolina and Virginia, with the aid of Catawba scouts, invaded Cherokee country. Thirty-six towns, along with their cornfields and livestock, were destroyed. South Carolina offered a bounty of 50 pounds for each Cherokee scalp and 100 pounds for each Cherokee prisoner. In Georgia, American forces (the Georgia Militia) attacked Cherokee towns seeking the complete destruction of the Cherokee nation. They burned homes, destroyed crops, and indiscriminately killed men, women, and children.

While the Cherokee national council urged neutrality in the war between the colonies and England, eleven Cherokee towns withdrew from the council and allied themselves with the British.

In 1777, representatives from the State of Virginia negotiated a peace treaty with the Cherokee in which the Cherokee admitted defeat, ceded their lands east of the Unicoi Mountains, and agreed to give up prisoners, including black slaves. Dragging Canoe, however, refused to honor the treaty and withdrew to the Chickamauga Creek area. Dragging Canoe’s people were thus known as the Chickamauga.

 In 1778, Cherokee warriors from the Chickamauga towns under the leadership of Dragging Canoe joined British forces to fight against the American rebels in Georgia and South Carolina. The Americans, taking advantage of the absence of the Cherokee warriors, attacked the Chickamauga towns. Cherokee historian Robert Conley, in his book The Cherokee Nation: A History, reports:  “The brave troops totally destroyed eleven towns without much effort, for Dragging Canoe and all the fighting men were away from home.”  Most of the women and children escaped to the woods and only four Cherokee were killed. The Americans captured 20,000 bushels of corn as well as ammunition.

In 1779, the Chickamauga under the leadership of Dragging Canoe established five new towns near Lookout Mountain in Tennessee: Nickajack, Running Water, Lookout Town, Long Island, and Crowtown. The towns were protected and provided Dragging Canoe and his warriors a base from which they could attack the American frontier settlements. In addition to Dragging Canoe, the other Cherokee leaders at this time include Doublehead, Pumpkin Boy, Bench (also known as Bob Benge), Will Webber, Bloody Fellow, the Bowl, Middlestriker, John Watts, Little Owl, and the Badger.

In 1780, Dragging Canoe led his Cherokee warriors in raids against a number of American frontier towns. The Americans retaliated by burning the Cherokee village of Chota in Tennessee. In their attacks against the Overhill Cherokee, the Americans claimed to have destroyed 50,000 bushels of corn and 1,000 houses. While Dragging Canoe’s Chickamauga were allied with the British, the Overhill Cherokee were actually American allies. The Americans, it would seem, were unable to determine which Cherokee towns were allied and which were enemies.

In 1782, the newly formed United States and the British obtained a provisional peace, ending the Revolutionary War. The British army returned home to England. However, Dragging Canoe continued his fight against the Americans even though the British had left. Cherokee historian Robert Conley writes:  “He continued to talk with representatives of other Indian tribes with the goal of forming a confederation of all tribes to hold back further encroachment of Americans onto Indian land.”  Dragging Canoe met with the Choctaw, Creek, Shawnee, Chickasaw, and other tribes.

In 1788, Dragging Canoe’s Cherokee warriors attacked American troops at the Hiwassee River in Tennessee and obliged them to retreat. The following year, American forces defeated the Cherokee under the leadership of Dragging Canoe at the battle of Flint Creek, Alabama.

In 1791, the Cherokee signed the Treaty of Holston which was intended to end hostilities between the United States and the Cherokee. The treaty gave the United States the exclusive right to trade with the Cherokee and prohibited the Cherokee from entering into diplomatic relations with other foreign powers, individual, or state. Signing the treaty for the Cherokee were Dragging Canoe, Bloody Fellow, Doublehead, Lying Fawn, John Watts, and Little Turkey.

The treaty called for the United States to advance civilization among the Cherokees by giving them farm tools and technical advice. The United States promised that the land remaining to the Cherokee would be theirs forever. In addressing Cherokee concerns over settlers, Article VIII gave the Cherokee the power to punish United States citizens who settled on Cherokee lands. The treaty states:  “If any person, not an Indian, shall settle on any of the Cherokees’ lands, he shall forfeit the protection of the United States, and the Cherokees may punish him.”

 In 1792, Cherokee leader Dragging Canoe died. John Watts assumed his leadership position.

Chief Kitsap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natawista, a Trader’s Wife

American Indians were involved in trade for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the European and American fur traders. Traditional Indian trade was about relationships as much as it was about the material which was traded. In order to trade, a person needed to have trading partners, primarily relatives. An individual gained these trading partners through marriage and/or by being adopted into a family. The first fur traders quickly understood this and subsequently they usually married women from the tribes with whom they carried on trade.  

In 1829, Fort Union, located on the boundary between Montana and North Dakota, was established as a trading post for the American Fur Company at the request of Iron Arrow Point, an Assiniboine chief. It soon became a trading center for many of the Northern Plains tribes, including the Blackfoot, Crow, Cree, Ojibwa, and Hidatsa. In order to strengthen their trade relations with these tribes, all of the traders took Indian wives, thus creating a web of alliances. This type of alliance was generally called a country marriage (le marriage á la façon du pays).

Alexander Culbertson, the trader with the American Fur Company, insisted that Fort Union was a stable outpost of civilization and therefore there had to be white linen on the table as well as milk and butter. Culbertson would sit at the head of the table and the visitors and clerks would be seated according to rank.

Natawista (also spelled Natoapxíxina, Na-ta-wis-ta-cha and Natoyist-Siksina), the daughter of Kaina (Blood) chief Man’stokos (Two Suns) and sister of the chief Seen From Afar, was Culbertson’s second wife. Her name translates into English as Sacred Serpent or Medicine Snake. She was fifteen years old when she was brought to him in 1840 to be married. She arrived at Fort Union in a procession of Blood and Blackfoot warriors. It is unlikely that she had selected Culbertson as her husband: it was more likely that the chiefs and Culbertson saw this as an economic opportunity. Natawista helped her husband by cultivating friendly relationships between Indians and Americans and thus enhancing her husband’s profitable trade. She also adopted the children from his first wife as her own.

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The Blood, whose homelands are in Alberta, Canada, are closely related to the Blackfoot and were often close allies. Chief Seen From Afar was a great Kainai chief and had influence in many of the other bands. He had ten wives and more than 100 horses. Culbertson’s relationship with Seen From Afar through his wife Natawista enhanced his credibility with the Blackfoot tribes.

In 1846, Culbertson established Fort Lewis (later renamed Fort Benton) at the confluence of the Marias and Missouri Rivers in Montana to accommodate the large number of buffalo robes offered by the Blackfoot. Natawista became invaluable to this trade by advising her husband.

At Fort Lewis, Natawista had a run-in with Father Point, a Jesuit priest. Her daughter Julia had become sick and the medicines used by the American traders were not working. She turned to traditional medicine and had a medicine woman come in to treat her daughter. When Father Point heard the chanting, he asked Culbertson what was happening. Culbertson explained that a Kainai medicine woman was healing his daughter. Furious, the priest rushed into the room, seized the woman by her throat, and threw her down on the ground. Natawista, holding her temper, told the priest to mind his own business, and asked the woman to continue with her treatment. Following the traditional sweat lodge healing ceremony and chanting, Julia recovered.

While she did not speak English well, Natawista did adopt American dress and manners. At the many balls held at the trading posts, Natawista was well-gowned in European fashion and performed as a model hostess. While there were times when her taste for raw liver and calf brains was disturbing to some guests, her beauty and social skills charmed nearly everyone. Among the notable visitors who met her were John J. Audubon, Swiss artist Rudolf Friedrich Kurz, Father Pierre DeSmet, Lewis Henry Morgan, and others.

In 1843, John J. Audubon described Natawista, whom he called Mrs. Culbertson, this way:

…the Ladies had their hair loose and flying in the breeze and then all mounted on horses with Indian saddles and trappings. Mrs. Culbertson and her maid rode astride like men, and all rode a furious race, under whip the whole way, for more than one mile on the prairie; and how amazed would have been any European lady, or some of our modern belles who boast their equestrian skill at seeing the magnificent riding of this Indian princess-for that is Mrs. Culbertson’s rank-and her servant.

Rudolf Friedrich Kurz described her as

One of the most beautiful Indian women…would be an excellent model for a Venus.

Natawista and Culbertson played important roles in the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty Conference, in the 1853 Fort Benton Council, and in the 1855 Judith River Treaty Conference with the Blackfoot. While the Blackfoot were not present at the 1851 conference, Natawitsa and Culbertson helped the treaty council understand the extent of Blackfoot tribal territory. In 1854 she told the American treaty commissioners:

My people are a good people but they are jealous and vindictive. I am afraid that they and the whites will not understand each other, but if I go, I may be able to explain things to them and sooth them if they should be irritated. I know there is great danger.

In 1846, the Blackfoot suggested, probably through Natawista, that Fort Lewis would serve them better if it were located on the north side of the Missouri River. In 1847, the log palisades of Fort Lewis were dismantled and floated to the new post on the north side of the river. In order to provide a more comfortable home for Natawista, Culbertson then had the men start making adobe bricks. The first adobe building at the new fort, which would become Fort Benton, was the two-story house for Culbertson and Natawista.

At Fort Benton, Natawista’s cousin, Chief Little Dog, became very protective of the American traders at the trading post. While at Fort Benton, Culbertson and Natawista would often travel among the various Blackfoot tribes which enabled her to maintain contacts with her relatives and for Culbertson to encourage them to come to in to trade. In addition, small groups of her relatives would often stop by the fort to visit and to trade.

In 1857, Culbertson retired from the fur and hide trade as a very wealthy man. He moved to Peoria, Illinois where he built a large manor house which he called Locust Grove. In order to persuade Natawista to join him, he had to make a number of concessions, including having a tipi in the front yard.

In Peoria, Natawista was baptized as Nelly and the couple was married by a Catholic priest in an ornate ceremony that hit the social column in the local newspaper. She enjoyed the fast horses and the private paddock of buffalo on the large estate. The tipi on the front lawn of her magnificent mansion, however, did not please the neighbors.

Each year until 1861 Culbertson and Natawista returned to the Upper Missouri .

The Civil War ruined Culbertson’s fortune and so they moved back to Fort Benton, Montana where they struggled to make ends meet. In 1870, Natawista left Culbertson for John Riplinger.

In 1870, the army attacked a peaceful Blackfoot camp in what came to be known as the Baker Massacre. Many Blackfoot fled to Canada for sanctuary. Natawista also fled north to her Blood people in Alberta. In 1877 she accepted treaty status as a Blood Indian in Canada. There she died in 1893 and was buried at the Catholic Church in Stand Off. Natawista Lake, also known as Janet Lake, in Glacier National Park is named for her.

Natawista’s story leaves us with many unanswered questions about Indian wives, country marriages, and the frontier. We don’t know to what extent she was a slave-wife or a concubine. We do know that she was an important part of her husband’s fur trading business, but she does not appear to be a true business partner, nor does the marriage appear to have been based on romance. Her story was a common one during the nineteenth century and most of the women involved have been forgotten by history, and in some cases, by their families.

Kolaskin, A Sanpoil Prophet

The Columbia Plateau refers to the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana. Many of the Indian nations in this region, such as the Sanpoil, speak languages which belong to the Salish language family. For many of the Salish-speaking tribes, prophecy was an important part of their spirituality. Prophecy is a traditional way of knowing the future and is used to predict such events as salmon runs and war party success. In most cases, prophets were men and women who had died and then come back to life. The prophet would usually return to life with a special vision resulting from their journey to the land of the dead.  

Among the Salish-speaking tribes of the upper Columbia River it was necessary to have a guardian spirit to obtain any success in life. Consequently, both boys and girls at about the age of puberty were sent out to spend some time alone so that a guardian spirit would reveal itself to them.

Like other Sanpoil youth during the last half of the nineteenth century, Kolaskin (also spelled Skolaskin) obtained a guardian spirit. It was not a particularly powerful one, but he proved to be a likeable young man. When he was about 20 years old, Kolaskin became very ill. He developed sores and his legs became flexed. Soon he was unable to straighten them out. He tried herbal remedies, but they failed to work. Medicine people tried to cure him, but they also failed.

After two years of living in pain, Kolaskin went into a coma and people thought that he had died. As they were preparing his body for burial, Kolaskin came back to life. He began to sing a song which no one had ever heard. He announced that his pain was gone and that he had received a great revelation while dead.

While Kolaskin regained the ability to walk, his knees remained permanently flexed. This meant that he had to walk in a stooped position with a hand on each knee.

At this time, Kolaskin was living among the Spokan as his own parents were dead. He began preaching to the Spokan that people should not drink alcohol, steal, or commit adultery. People were to pray to the new god-called Sweat Lodge-each day when they arose and before eating. Every seventh day was to be devoted to praying and singing. On this day there was to be no work, no dancing, and no gambling. People were to be kind and friendly to everyone.

Kolaskin made only a few converts among the Spokan before returning to the Sanpoil. He took up residence at the village of Whitestone and he was hailed by the Sanpoil as a great prophet. Nearly all of the Sanpoil converted to the new religious movement.

At Whitestone, Kolaskin built a structure in which he could hold his meetings. On Sundays, there would be one or two meetings during which he would teach prayers and songs addressed to Sweat Lodge. He would tell of his revelation while dead and of his miraculous cure.

At Whitestone, Kolaskin received a second revelation. He saw the coming of a great flood which was to arrive in ten years. To avoid destruction by this flood, he had a sawmill built near the church to produce lumber for making a boat. Those who would board the boat-both humans and animals-would be saved. Although the lumber was cut for the boat, the boat itself was never actually built.

In 1873, Kolaskin predicted that another disaster was going to occur. Then, on November 22, 1873, a major earthquake shook the region with tremors and aftershocks lasting until spring. With this successful prediction, his reputation was enhanced. He gained many followers among the Spokan and Southern Okanogan. Even many of the Protestant Christian Spokan began to follow this new path.

For those who failed to live up to his expectations, Kolaskin had a jail built. The jail was essentially a pit which was covered with boards. Kolaskin then appointed policemen who acted as judges to determine who should be imprisoned. People were jailed for minor offenses and forced to live on a starvation diet while in jail. This created some ill-will toward Kolaskin.

Finally, two of Kolaskin’s prisoners escaped and his police went in search of them. One of the prisoners was found, and when the police attempted to tie him up to take him back, the prisoner’s uncle came to his aid. He shouted that Kolaskin was always making trouble. Kolaskin had the uncle tied up and taken to the jail. Another nephew entered the fray, and Kolaskin’s policeman shot him dead.

The dead man’s family took the body to Whitestone for burial. They then stormed the jail and released the uncle and the nephew. They attempted to burn the jail, but could not get the fire going.

The Indian agent had Kolaskin and his policeman arrested. While the policeman-the man who actually did the killing-was released, Kolaskin was sent to the McNeil Island prison for three years. Upon his return to the Sanpoil, Kolaskin tried to disband his religious organization. He told the people that his teachings were wrong, but many continued to follow the new path.

Following his release from prison, Kolaskin continued to function as the chief of Whitestone. In this position, he advised his people not to accept anything from the Americans as the Americans would try to steal the Sanpoil land. He continued to practice as a traditional medicine man.

Kolaskin died in 1920 and his religion continued to be practiced on the Colville reservation until 1930.  

Chief Sealth (Seattle)

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Sealth was born about 1786. His father, Schweabe, was Suquamish and his mother, Scholitza, was Duwamish. As a young boy in 1792, he witnessed the arrival of the first Europeans: British Captain George Vancouver entered Puget Sound and traded with the Suquamish.  

As a young adult, Sealth successfully stopped an attack against the Suquamish by the Cascade tribes. About 1825, he set up a successful ambush on a river bend near present-day Auburn. As a result of this military success, he was designated as a tribal chief. From 1820 to 1850 he was a spokesman and diplomat for the Suquamish and other Puget Sound tribes in their dealings with fur traders and missionaries.

In 1852, he formed a partnership with David “Doc” Maynard from Olympia to set up a fishery on Elliot Bay. He hired the Duwamish to help him build a new store and named it the “Seattle Exchange” after Chief Sealth. He filed a city plat with Seattle as the new settlement’s name. Maynard obtained Sealth’s permission in exchange for an annual payment during his lifetime. Among the traditional Suquamish, the names of the dead are not mentioned for at least five years and the names of dead chiefs are not to be uttered for ten. The payment, a kind of royalty, was an acknowledgment of the pain which would be inflicted on Sealth after his death because a variation of his name-Seattle-would continue to be spoken.

Seattle became an important economic outlet for the Suquamish and Duwamish people and allowed them easier access to American goods.

In 1855, Sealth and other tribal leaders in the Puget Sound area signed the Treaty of Point Elliott. In this treaty, the Suquamish gave up most of their land in exchange for a small reservation, health care, education, and acknowledgment and protection of their rights to continue to fish and hunt.

The 1855 treaties imposed on the Indian nations of Washington by Governor Isaac Stevens led to a war east of the Cascade Mountains led by Kamiakin, and the Puget Sound War led by Leschi. Despite these wars and the many grievances of the Indian people against the American invaders, Sealth kept his people at peace.

He died in 1866 at the Old Man House winter village and is buried in the Suquamish cemetery.

Chief Seattle’s (Sealth’s) Grave:

Shown below are some photographs of Chief Sealth’s grave.

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Comcomly, Chinook Chief

The river known to the Chinook Indians as Hyas Cooley Chuck collides with the Pacific Ocean to create the worst wave conditions on the planet. While Native people crossed the Bar in their large ocean-going canoes, the rough water stopped many of the early European explorers who were looking for the mythical River of the West. In May 1792, the American fur trader Captain Robert Gray waited out nine days of adverse conditions on the Bar before finally crossing into the river. He named the river for his ship, the Columbia Rediviva.  

The ship’s young fifth mate kept a journal in which he recorded:

“The Indians are very numerous, and appear’d very civil (not even offering to steal).”

He described the Indians:

“The Men, at Columbia’s River, are strait limb’d, fine looking fellows, and the Women are very pretty. They are all in a state of Nature, except the females, who wear a leaf Apron.”

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A replica of a Chinook longhouse is shown above.

Among the Chinook men who met with the American fur traders was a young man known as Comcomly, who would later become a major chief.

In 1795, the British trading ship Jane under Captain John Myers sailed into the Columbia River. The ship carried a cargo of axes, chisels, hammers, copper sheets, small bells, paints, clothing, china beads, buckets, firearms, and ammunition to trade with the Chinook.

Soon after Jane, the British ship Ruby under Captain Charles Bishop sailed into the Columbia. The ship traded for furs for eleven days. When the Chinook ran out of furs, the British traded for clamons, a kind of body armor made by the Chinook. These were in high demand by the Indian nations farther up the Pacific coast. The captain noted in his journal:

“The Sea Otter skins procured here, are of an Excellent Quality and large size, but they are not in abundance and the Natives themselves set great value on them.”

Captain Bishop invited Chief Comcomly to spend the night aboard the ship and provided him with a fine coat and trousers. Comcomly then led a Chinook expedition 300 miles upriver to obtain more clamons. Some of these were obtained by less than peaceful trading.

Over the next two decades, Comcomly solidified his leadership among the Chinook bands using a combination of trading skills, diplomacy, and marriage. Some writers report that he had a wife from nearly every tribe in the confederation as well as some outside of the confederacy. With regard to his physical appearance, Comcomly is generally described as being short and blind in one eye.

In 1805, the American Corps of Discovery under the leadership of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reached the mouth of the Columbia River and established their winter camp, Fort Clatsop, on Chinook land. Thanks to the cooperation of the Chinook and the Clatsop, the Americans were provided with the food that enabled them to survive the winter.

While Comcomly did not greet the Americans when they first arrived, he did sit in council with them at his village later. The Americans provided him with a medal and an American flag. Both Clark and Lewis admired Comcomly’s sea-otter robe and tried to bargain for it. Comcomly pointed to Sacagawea’s belt of blue beads and indicated that is what he wanted for the robe. One of the captains then gave Sacagawea a blue coat for her belt and she gave the belt to Comcomly. The journals do not indicate who finally got the robe.

The Americans generally expressed mistrust and contempt for both the Chinook and the Clatsop. There is some indication that Comcomly also mistrusted the Americans as evidenced by the fact that he did not visit their camp.  

In 1810, the Boston ship Albatross under the command of Nathan Winship sailed up the Columbia River past Chinook chief Comcomly’s trading headquarters. About 45 miles upstream, the Bostonians built a fort. As an old hand in the Pacific fur trade, Winship wanted to bypass Comcomly’s monopoly on trade with the Indians of the Columbia River and to establish direct trade with the Indian nations upstream.

Comcomly was insulted by this action, and a delegation of warriors, all fully armed, paddled to the newly established fort. There was some hostile confrontation in the form of shooting and shouting. One of the Bostonians recorded:

“Much to our chagrin we find it impossible to prosecute the business as we intended, and we have concluded to pass farther down. On making this known to the Chinooks they appeared quite satisfied and sold us some furs.”

The Bostonians abandoned their enterprise after eight days.

The first permanent settlement of American traders at the mouth of the Columbia River came in 1811when the Pacific Fur Company established Fort Astoria. The first group of Astorians arrived on the ship Tonquin. Two of the American partners, Duncan McDougal and David Stuart came ashore in a small boat and met with Chief Comcomly. They found Comcomly agreeable to the idea of a trading post for his people.

When the Americans set out to return to their ship, Chief Comcomly pointed out that the rough conditions on the river would make the trip across the Bar difficult in their small vessel. The Americans didn’t listen and set out anyway. Chief Comcomly, knowing that they couldn’t make it, simply followed in one of his canoes. When the traders’ boat capsized, Comcomly rescued them. Comcomly took the wet men ashore, built a fire, dried their clothes, and then took them to a Chinook village. He advised them to wait until conditions were more suitable for the return to their ship.

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The Americans found that the Chinook village consisted of about 30 very large, wood houses. For three days they were entertained in the village (it is assumed that this included having sex with Chinook women). Then Comcomly took his guests back to their ship in his royal canoe. This helped firm up the good relations between Comcomly and the traders.

The trading alliance with Fort Astoria added to the prestige and wealth of the Chinook in general and Comcomly in particular. The power which Comcomly held over the trade along the Columbia can be seen in the log of the Pacific Fur Company. Fort Astoria was visited by few Clatsop and Chehalis and when asked about why they didn’t trade directly:

“They told us that being cautioned by the Chinooks, against coming, as we were very inveterate against their Nation, for their conduct to former Visetors they did not wish to put themselves in our power. This we made them sensible to be an egregious falsehood imposed upon them by the Chinooks, merely to monopolize the Trade….”

In order to solidify the alliance even further, McDougal dispatched one of his clerks with an important message for Comcomly: he wanted to marry one of Comcomly’s daughters. Comcomly, who had many daughters, was pleased to oblige.

Comcomly made almost daily visits to Fort Astoria and was admitted to the most intimate councils of his son-in-law. He was also given his own quarters in the fort.

Word that the United States was at war with Britain reached the Astorians in 1813 along with a party of Nor’westers (traders from the North West Company-owned by the British). The Nor’Westers informed the Astorians that a British war ship was on its way to take over the fort and consequently the Astorians hastily sold the fort to the Nor’westers.

When the British warship Racoon arrived, Fort Astoria was renamed Fort George. Comcomly was soon aboard the Racoon telling the captain that he was delighted to see a British ship on the river. He left with a British flag, coat, hat, and sword. The following day, he wore his new regalia to Fort George. Duncan McDougal, the working partner of the Pacific Fur Company who sold the company to the Nor’Westers, stayed on at the fort in the employ of the Nor’Westers. This meant that Comcomly retained his connections with the trading post.

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In 1821, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and the Nor’westers merged. In 1824, HBC governor George Simpson and Dr. John McLoughlin, the new chief factor for the fort, arrived at Fort George. Simpson was not pleased with either the fort or with Comcomly’s relationship to it. With regard to Comcomly and the Chinook, Simpson said:

“They never take the trouble of hunting and rarely employ their Slaves in that way, they are however keen traders and through their hands nearly the whole of our Furs pass, indeed so tenacious are they of the Monopoly that their jealousy would carry them the length of pillaging and even murdering strangers who come to the Establishment if we did not protect them.”

HBC moved their trading operation 90 miles upriver where they established Fort Vancouver. This moved deprived Comcomly of his role of middleman, thus diminishing his prestige and wealth.

Comcomly had an excellent understanding of the Columbia River and its dangerous Bar. With the increasing number of ships attempting to cross the Bar bringing in trade goods and supply, Comcomly’s skill as a pilot was soon in great demand. His skill as a pilot earned him the respect of the HBC captains as well as Chief Factor McLoughlin.

In 1830, the epidemic known as the “cold sick” (possibly malaria) swept through the Native populations of the region. One of the victims of this epidemic was Comcomly. He was estimated to be in his mid-sixties when he died. His body, together with his war weapons, ceremonial dresses, and other possessions, was placed in a canoe. The canoe was placed on a raised platform near Point Ellice.

Ranald MacDonald, Teacher of English to the Japanese

In 1853 Commodore Matthew C. Perry brought the American Navy to Japan and forced Japan to end its policy of isolation from the rest of the world. In the negotiations, the Japanese government had interpreters who spoke English. Since Japan had isolated itself from the rest of the world and had barred foreigners from their island nation, how did Japanese interpreters come to speak English? The answer to this question lies in the hidden history of American Indians.  

About Japan:

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Japan had closed its doors to the outside world. This was in response to aggressive Christian missionaries from Spain and Portugal who were converting Japanese and threatening traditional Japanese society. The Shogunate expelled the missionaries and then forced the converts to revert to Japanese religions or die.

After 1635 and the introduction of Seclusion laws, foreigners were forbidden to enter Japan and the Japanese were not allowed to leave. Some foreign trade was allowed from the southern port of Nagasaki, but here the foreigners, mostly irreligious Chinese and a few Protestant Dutch, lived in prison-like conditions. Inbound ships were allowed only from China, Korea, and the Netherlands. These ships, known as Red Seal Ships, were required to have a permit from the Shogun.

With the discovery of Hawaii by Americans and Europeans in the late eighteenth century, the establishment of Fort Astoria in the early nineteenth century, and the development of the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest generated a great deal of interest in Japan. A lucrative system of triangular trade developed in which American ships acquired furs from Indians along the coast of present-day Oregon and Washington, then took these furs to China where they were traded for Chinese goods, and then transported their Chinese cargoes to the Northeastern United States. Now if Japan could be added to this trade, American and English businessmen speculated, even greater profits could be made.

In 1822, John Quincy Adams urged that:

“it was the duty of Christian nations to open Japan, and that it was the duty of Japan to respond to the demands of the world, as no nation had a right to withhold its quota to the general progress of mankind.”

Ranald MacDonald:

Ranald MacDonald was born near present-day Astoria, Oregon in 1824. His mother was generally called Princess Raven or Princess Sunday. Her Chinook name was Koale’xoa and her father was  the prominent Chinook leader Comcomly MacDonald’s father, of Scots heritage, was Archibald McDonald, the Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Shortly after he was born, the Hudson’s Bay Company moved its operations from Fort George (now Astoria, Oregon) 90 miles upstream to Fort Vancouver. As a Métis child in a fur trading community and household, he grew up hearing a mixture of languages-French, English, Gaelic, Chinook, Iroquois, and other Indian languages. Thus he was able to quickly adapt to different cultures.

In 1833, the Japanese ship Hojun-maru washed ashore near Cape Flattery. The ship had set sail more than a year before from the Japanese port of Toba with a cargo of rice and ceramics. A storm blew the ship off course. When the crippled junk made landfall, the Makah captured three Japanese sailors. The Hudson’s Bay Company bought the sailors from the Makah hoping to use them to open up trading with the Japanese. As a child growing up in the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post of Fort Vancouver, he heard many stories about Japan and about the Japanese sailors who had been shipwrecked.

For hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, ships from Japan and China had been riding the Kuroshio (Black) Current from Asia to North America. The Hojun-Maru was not the first crippled Asian ship to make the trip, nor would it be the last. MacDonald, like many others, felt that his Native American ancestry was linked somehow to Japan. The stories of the Japanese ships coming to North America nourished within him the dream of visiting this island nation.

As an aside, it should be noted that the Hudson’s Bay Company, once they had purchased the Japanese sailors from the Makah, transported them first to Fort Vancouver in present-day Washington, and then to London. In London, they were placed on a ship with Christian missionaries to return them to Japan with the hope of opening up Japan to both trade and Christianity. The Japanese, however, fired upon the vessel and refused to allow it to land.

Ranald MacDonald started his formal education by attending a Hudson’s Bay Company school at Fort Vancouver, Washington. At the age of ten he was then sent to the Hudson’s Bay Company school at the Red River Settlement in Manitoba (Canada). After graduating from school, he became a bank clerk apprentice, but soon quit, journeyed to New York City, and looked for a ship to take him to Japan. Failing to find such a ship, he went to Europe and later to San Francisco as a sailor.

One of his shipmates describes him this way:

“a man of about five feet, seven inches; thick set; straight hair and dark complexion…He was a good sailor, well-educated, a firm mind, well calculated for the expedition upon which he embarked.”

In 1848, Ranald MacDonald made a deal with the captain of a U.S. whaling ship in Hawaii. The ship carried him across the Pacific. After successfully taking a number of whales near Japan, MacDonald purchased from the captain a small boat rigged for sailing. With supplies for 36 days and located about five miles from the nearest island, he bid farewell to the ship to set out on his adventure.

He came ashore on Rishiri Island in northern Japan. When he landed he was met not by Japanese but by Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan. The Ainu, whose men have beards and abundant body hair and whose women tattooed their upper lips, do not look Japanese. The Ainu, after welcoming him, turned him over to the Japanese authorities. The first word spoken by the high-ranking Japanese official who first interviewed him was Nippon-jin (Japan-man, indicating that MacDonald looked Japanese).

The Japanese took him to Nagasaki. Here he spent six months as a prisoner. The question of his citizenship at this point in time is interesting: he was Chinook, an American Indian nation, because of his mother; he had been born in Astoria when the British flag was flying there and his father was British; he had been educated in Canada; but at the time of his capture, Astoria had just become a part of the United States.

During his time in Nagasaki he taught English to the Japanese interpreters, Moriyama and Tokojiro, who would later carry out the negotiations with Commodore Perry. He would later write:

“Without boast, I may say that I picked up their language easily, many of their words sounding familiar to me-possibly through my maternal ancestry.”

He also wrote:

“In look, facial features, etc. I was not unlike them; my sea life and rather dark complexion, moreover giving me their general colour-a healthy bronze.”

He was deported from Japan in 1849, but instead of returning to the United States or Canada, he continued traveling around the world. He spent some time working at various jobs in British Columbia and in 1882 moved to the old Hudson’s Bay Company trading post of Fort Colville in Washington.

MacDonald wrote a book about his adventures in Japan and in 1853 left the original manuscript with a friend of his father’s, Malcolm McLeod, in Ottawa. He did not communicate with McLeod again for 25 years. By 1887, he had prepared a second draft of the manuscript and a third by 1891. At this time, however, no publisher was willing to produce the book as public interest in Japan had faded.

By 1891 he had returned to Astoria, Oregon where he was respected as the only lineal descendent of chief Comcomly. He died in 1894 on the Colville Reservation in Washington. As he died in his niece’s arms, his last words were “Sayonara, my dear, sayonara…”

Today, the Japanese remember Ranald McDonald as the “first teacher of English.” There is a monument to him in Nagasaki, Japan. In addition, there is another monument to him in Astoria, Oregon with the inscription written in Japanese.

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Red Jacket, Seneca Sachem

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In 1830 Red Jacket, the most famous Seneca orator, died in New York at the age of 74. Seneca writer, historian, and archaeologist Arthur Caswell Parker described the deathbed scene this way:

“He murmured that his old comrades were around him, some chiding him for his mistakes and urging him to see that there was a task ahead.”


Red Jacket was born to the Wolf Clan (since the Seneca are matrilineal he belonged to his mother’s clan) and was given the name Otetiani (“He is Prepared”) and took the name Sagoyewatha (“He Causes them to be Awake”) when he became a chief. His English name, Red Jacket, came from the scarlet coat given to him by the English for fighting on their side during the Revolutionary War.

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War Red Jacket argued for neutrality, but the Seneca, Mohawk, Onondaga, and Cayuga-all part of the larger Iroquois Confederacy-decided to support England. He served with the British forces. During the war he served primarily as a dispatch courier.

During the Revolutionary War, animosity developed between Red Jacket and the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. Brant alleged that during the Battle of Newtown in 1779, when the Seneca and the Mohawk were allied with the British, Red Jacket had killed a cow, then used the blood to claim that he had killed an American rebel. In the years that followed, Brant would contemptuously refer to Red Jacket as “cow killer.”

Red Jacket became the principal spokesperson for the Seneca following the Revolutionary War.

After the Revolutionary War, the United States assumed that since it had defeated the British it had earned the right to superimpose a series of treaties on the Indian nations. In 1784, American negotiators met with the Indian nations of the Iroquois Confederacy at Fort Stanwix. The Americans refused to recognize the Iroquois Confederacy (Six Nations) and insisted on dealing with each nation by itself. The American negotiators were aided by force of arms and by hostages to be used in negotiating the treaty terms. One notable leader was absent from the Fort Stanwix council: the Seneca sachem Red Jacket. According to Arthur Caswell Parker:

“Red Jacket remained aloof, not caring to face the humiliation that would be heaped upon his disorganized and distracted people.”

In 1791, the federal government held a council with the Iroquois Six Nations. The American emissary, Timothy Pickering, pressured the Iroquois to provide the United States with warriors for the Indian wars in Ohio. Pickering boasted of American military supremacy and unwittingly insulted the Iroquois. For the Iroquois, public councils were settings which were meant to nurture a friendly, peaceful frame of mind. Councils were to build consensus. This error created an opportunity for Seneca leader Red Jacket to utilize oratory and to create an image for himself as the conservator of hallowed traditions.

In 1792, Red Jacket was among a number of Iroquois leaders who met with President George Washington in Philadelphia. Here he received a large silver medal.

That same year, three Seneca chiefs-Red Jacket, Cornplanter, and Farmer’s Brother-attended a council in Ohio with the Shawnee, Miami, Delaware, and Wyandot in which they presented a peace proposal from the Americans. Shawnee leader Painted Pole reminded the Seneca that while the Iroquois were doing nothing, the Shawnee and their allies had defeated the American army twice. Ridiculing the Seneca, the Shawnee hurled the written copy of the American peace proposal into the fire.

In 1794, Red Jacket along with 50 other Iroquois leaders signed the Treaty of Canadaigua in which they ceded much of their land to the United States.

In 1801, the Seneca Council debated the possible sale of a strip of land along the Niagara River to the Americans. The prophet Handsome Lake opposed the sale on the grounds of revelations given to him by angels. His nephew Red Jacket, the speaker of the Seneca Nation, favored the sale. Handsome Lake accused Red Jacket of witchcraft and Red Jacket accused Handsome Lake of manufacturing his visions.

In 1802, a Seneca known as Stiff-Armed George got into a drunken fracas outside of a tavern. He was beaten and pursued, but then pulled a knife and stabbed two non-Indian men, one fatally. Reluctantly, the Seneca chiefs surrendered him to New York state authorities. According to Seneca leader Red Jacket:

“Did we ever make a treaty with the state of New York, and agree to conform to its laws? No. We are independent of the state of New-York.”

He then presented the state’s governor with a copy of the Treaty of Canandaigua which clearly placed the case in federal jurisdiction. However, the governor wanted to prove state jurisdiction over all of the Indians in New York and the federal government declined to intervene.

In 1805, Seneca chief Red Jacket responded to a Christian missionary’s proposal to convert his people:

“You have got our country, but are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us.”

He went on to say:

“We are told your religion was given to your forefathers and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers and has been handed down to us, their children. We worship in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive, to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion.”

He told the missionary:

“Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own.”

War broke out between England and the United States in 1812. In New York, the Americans call together a council of the Iroquois nations. The Americans invite the Iroquois to join them in their war against the British. Seneca leader Red Jacket told the Americans:

“My people care more for peace than for war.”

According to Arthur Caswell Parker:

“Though Red Jacket argues for the neutrality of his people, he clearly declared their loyalty to the United States.”

Red Jacket argued against joining the British and urged his people to ally themselves with the Americans. When the Seneca declared war against the British, Red Jacket became a captain in the United States Army.

In 1816, the Iroquois Six Nations met with the Shawnee, Ottawa, and Wyandot in Ohio to discuss the possibility of the removal of the New York tribes to Ohio. Mohawk leader Joseph Brant felt that it would be a good idea for the Seneca to move to Sandusky where they could join with the Wyandot. Arthur Caswell Parker described the council:

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

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

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

Red Jacket spoke against selling land to the Americans:

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

In 1819, the Ogden Land Company, with the approval of the federal government, met with the Seneca to discuss buying their land. To watch out for the best interest of the Indians, the government appointed two agents to make sure that the Indians were not cheated or deceived. The Seneca chiefs-Little Billy, Red Jacket, Tall Chief, Young King, Two Skies, Infant, and Destroy Town-listened to the offer which was expressed in glowing terms about its benefit to the Seneca. One of the agents appointed by the government told the Seneca that the President James Monroe felt that it was in their best interest to sell their lands. The Seneca gave in and sold their land for 55 cents an acre and the land company quickly resold it for many times that amount. Arthur Caswell Parker wrote:

“Federal commissioners, delegated to prevent ‘cheating of the Indians,’ entirely forgot that they might have insisted upon a much higher compensation at a public sale, the profits of which could have been used to benefit these Indians for many years.”

In 1821, the Seneca tribal council convicted Kauquatou of sorcery. Acting on behalf of the tribal council Chief Tommy-Jemmy cut Kauquatou’s throat. In response, the state of New York prosecuted Tommy-Jemmy for murder. Red Jacket and Tommy-Jemmy’s court-appointed attorneys argued that the death of Kauquatou was not murder under New York law because it was a legal execution under Seneca law, on Seneca land, by the sovereign Seneca people. The circuit court referred the case to the New York State Supreme Court which noted that no law extended state murder jurisdiction over the Iroquois.

By 1824, Red Jacket was considered the leader of the Seneca Pagan Party which advocated traditional ways and which opposed both the Long House religion of Handsome Lake and European Christianity.

In 1827 Red Jacket traveled to New York City to talk with the Quakers about providing aid for his people. According to Arthur Caswell Parker:

“Red Jacket trusted few persons other than the stalwart Quakers, who could not be intimidated and who were quick to expose a fraud.”

However, the Quakers were involved with helping the Onondaga and did not have any resources with which they could respond to the Seneca request.

While in New York City, Red Jacket agreed to have his portrait painted by R. W. Weir, one of the noted artists of the city. In posing for the painting, Red Jacket dressed in a costume which he felt was appropriate: a caped coat with braid and tassels, a red sash, his Washington medal, and his pipe tomahawk.

In 1827, the Seneca deposed Red Jacket as chief because of his alcoholism and his inflexible political views. Part of the opposition to him stemmed from his involvement with the Pagan Party.

In 1829, Red Jacket once again asked the Quakers for aid. The Quakers provided the Seneca with both farm equipment and sound advice.

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Shown above is the Red Jacket Monument at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York. In 1884, Red Jacket’s remains were reburied at this cemetery. Against his wishes, Red Jacket was given a Christian burial.

Henry Roe Cloud, Winnebago Educator

Henry Cloud was born in 1884 (1882 or 1886 according to some sources) to the Winnebago Bear Clan (or possibly the Bird Clan) on the reservation in northeastern Nebraska. His tribal name was Wo-Na-Xi-Lay-Hunka (“War Chief”). At the age of seven he was conscripted by the Indian police and sent to the Genoa Indian School, a government-run boarding school. Here he learned English, was forbidden to speak his tribal language, and was converted to Christianity. He was then baptized Henry Clarence Cloud.

With regard to his conversion to Christianity, one of his biographers, Joel Pfister, writes:

“Roe Cloud employed Christianity spiritually and emotionally to empower not just himself but his people. Furthermore, organized Christianity gave him access to education and ruling social groups.”

With regard to his experience at Genoa, he would later write:

“I worked two years in turning a washing machine to reduce the running expenses of the institution. It did not take me long to learn how to run the machine, and the rest of the two years I nursed a growing hatred for it.”


Genoa Indian School is shown above.

He was orphaned by the age of 13 and sent to the Santee Mission School where he was trained to become a printer and blacksmith.

In 1901 he was admitted to the Mount Hermon Preparatory School in Massachusetts which had a work-study program through which he could finance his education. While he had been an outstanding student in the Indian schools, he soon found that he was unprepared to deal with the academic challenges of a college preparatory school. The school required all students to complete entrance exams on the first day of school and he passed on the tests in Bible, writing (penmanship), spelling, and geography. This meant that he had to enroll in the Preparatory Department.

In 1904, his financial condition required that he drop out of school for a year and work on a farm.

He graduated from Mount Hermon as salutatorian in 1906 and then attended Yale College. He graduated from Yale in 1910 with a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy and then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Yale in 1912. He was the first full-blood Native American to graduate from Yale.

Henry Roe Cloud

Henry Roe Cloud is shown above.

While an undergraduate at Yale, Henry Cloud attended a lecture by the missionary Mary Wickham Roe who was involved in evangelical Christian mission work among the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Apache in Oklahoma. Her husband, the Reverend Walter Roe, was the Superintendent of Indian Missions for the Reformed Church. Henry Cloud developed a close relationship with the Roes and adopted their surname as his middle name. After this he was generally known as Roe Cloud.

As an Indian at Yale, Henry Roe Cloud became a celebrity and a proficient orator. He lectured to the public about the deficiencies of the government-run Indian schools and about the stereotype that Indian students were only suited to vocational educations.

In 1910, the Roes sponsored his appearance at the annual Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian, an influential and powerful group of non-Indians which stressed the assimilation of Indians into American society. In 1914, he addressed the group:

“Education unrelated to life is of no use. Education is the leading-out process of the young until they themselves know what they are best fitted for in life.”

In 1911, Henry Roe Cloud attended the first conference of the newly formed Society of American Indians at Ohio State University and was on a panel that discussed religious and moral issues.

In 1912, he headed a Winnebago delegation to Washington, D.C. where they met with President William Howard Taft. Taft was a Yale alumnus and his son had been Roe Cloud’s classmate. Roe Cloud’s Yale connections provided him with access to political power and politicians which were not available to reservation Indians.

In 1913 he attended the Auburn Theological Seminary in New York and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

In 1915, Henry Roe Cloud opened the Roe Indian Institute in Kansas as a college preparatory school for Indians. This was the first Native American college preparatory school in the country. While it stressed academic study, it also included training in agriculture and the trades. When the school opened, it had only eight students. The school would later be renamed the American Indian Institute. The school closed in 1930 because of financial difficulties.

In 1916, Henry Roe Cloud married Elizabeth Georgian Bender, a Bad River Band Chippewa, who had taught on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and at the Carlisle Indian School.

In 1923 an elite panel known as the Committee of 100 was convened by the Secretary of the Interior to advise on Indian policy. Henry Roe Cloud served on this committee and advocated for the establishment of federally funded scholarships for Indians in college. The Committee supported the goal of assimilation, but called for a greater sensitivity to Indian customs and the protection of tribal land.

From 1926 until 1930, he was associated with the Brookings Institute and was involved with the study of Native American issues that resulted in the Meriam Report on “The Problem of Indian Administration.” His primary role was that of a traveling investigator visiting reservations.

In 1931, he went to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a field representative at large, a position that did not require passing the civil service test (which he had earlier failed). One of his investigations dealt with the significant financial mismanagement at Haskell Institute. He recommended that the school revert to a vocationally oriented program and be administered by an educator.

In 1933 he became the superintendent of the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas which was the largest American Indian high school in the country. Haskell was known for its victorious football teams, its 10,500-seat football stadium, and its strong emphasis on vocational training (particularly agriculture and printing). He was the first full-blood Indian to hold this position. As superintendent he helped lobby for the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.


Haskell Institute is shown above.

At Haskell, Roe Cloud encouraged students to read Indian history and to examine Indian customs and communal practices. He encouraged them to explore the influences of both individual Indians and Indian groups on American culture. He felt that Indians could give American culture what it lacked: a cultural antiquity which should be valued. He insisted that the so-called “New” World was just as old as Europe and that its history was important. While he felt it was important for Indians to assimilate into American culture, he also felt that they should import the Indian ways of thinking, valuing, and living into the dominant culture.

At Haskell, Roe Cloud gave Indian names to the recreational halls, authorized the teaching of Indian languages, sponsored Indian dances, and reprinted books of Indian legends.

In 1935, the Chicago-based Indian Council Fire awarded him its third annual Indian Achievement Award. The first of these awards had been given to Sioux writer and physician Dr. Charles Eastman and the second was awarded to Pueblo potter María Martinez.

In 1935, Roe Cloud left the Haskell Institute to help facilitate the newly passed Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). His job was to persuade Indians across the country to vote for tribal reorganization under the IRA.

In 1936, Henry Roe Cloud was named Supervisor of Indian Education at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. One of his biographers, David Messer, writes:

“Despite the facts that he was only marginally responsible for supervising all of the educational work of the Indian Service and that the position sounded far more important than it was, his primary responsibility was to continue doing what he had been doing-trying to get the Indians to support the IRA.”

In 1939, the Indian Service (now called the Bureau of Indian Affairs) was facing budget cuts and Henry Roe Cloud was offered the superintendency of the Turtle  Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. This was a demotion with a smaller salary and a lower Civil Service rank. After he complained to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, he was named Superintendent of the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon, a smaller reservation with a smaller salary.

Even though he was Indian, the reservation Indians were still leery of the Indian Service and they had rejected reorganization under the IRA. When the Umatilla General Council debated about hiring an attorney, he opposed this action. He told the Council that there was no need for an attorney as he could look up all of the answers to their legal questions in the federal code book. The council, however, still insisted that it wanted its own attorney.

As a result of the conflict over the attorney for the Umatilla, Roe Cloud was appointed Superintendent at the Grande Ronde-Siletz Agency on the Oregon coast. Shortly after his appointment, the agency was abolished and for the next two years he attempted to untangle the complicated genealogical records to see who was entitled to the money owed tribal members by the government.  

He died of a heart attack in Siletz in 1950 at the age of 66.

Leopold Pokagon, Potawatomi Leader

When the Europeans first encountered the Indian nations of North America they assumed that leadership must be inherited through the male line. That is, the “king” was always the son of the previous “king.” The idea of matrilineal inheritance-that is, inheritance through the female line rather than the male line-was inconceivable and baffling to the Europeans, even though it was common among Native Americans. For most Indian people, on the other hand, the idea that leadership should be based on genetics or biological inheritance was ludicrous. Leadership, according to most tribal traditions prior to the European conquest, was based on wisdom, skill, experience, and oratorical skill.  

Potawatomi Background:

The tribes of the Three Fires Confederacy-Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatomi-were once a single people living in the east according to oral tradition. They moved westward from the Atlantic seaboard following the St. Lawrence River and then into the Great Lakes area. At the time of separation, the tribes were living in the area of the Straits of Mackinac. The Potawatomi moved south into present-day Michigan. It is estimated that the three tribes may have separated as late as 1550.

While the Potawatomi village chief usually came from one clan, the position was not inherited. Instead, the village council would select the chief from several possible candidates. The actual power of the chief was determined by personal influence as the chief held no formal authority. Part of this influence rested on the spiritual power which the chief controlled.

Leopold Pokagon:

During the nineteenth century, the Potawatomi were under pressure from the United States to leave their traditional homelands and re-establish themselves in the Great Plains west of the Mississippi River. The Americans also demanded that they become Christian and the Supreme Court declared that the payment they would receive for their lands was the “gift” of Christianity.

With regard to leadership, the United States preferred to deal with dictatorships rather than democracies and so it sought to set up and financially support Indian leaders loyal to the U.S. rather than to the Indian people. Whenever possible, the United States sought to ignore the traditional participatory democracies of the Indian people they were attempting to remove.

One of the Potawatomi tribal leaders who emerged during the first part of the nineteenth century was the man whom the Americans called Leopold Pokagon.

Leopold Pokagon

Leopold Pokagon was not born Potawatomi, but being born into a tribe or being able to prove a certain amount of blood quantum to be a tribal member was of no concern to the tribes. These are concerns that would be later forced upon Indian people by the U.S. government. Pokagon was born Anishinabe, one of the Three Council Fires, and had been adopted into the Kitichigumi (Great Lakes) Potowatomi clan. The Kitichigumi was the largest and most influential Potawatomi clan of the St. Joseph River valley region. He married the daughter of Topinabee, one of the leaders of the St. Joseph Potawatomi. The name “Leopold Pokagon” was not, of course, a traditional tribal name, but rather it was a name he assumed when he was baptized.

During the 1820s the United States continually pressured the Potawatomi to give up their lands and move somewhere else. The United States negotiated treaties with the Potawatomi in 1821, 1825, 1826, 1828, and 1829 in which the tribe was pressured to give up more and more land and agree to move. It was at the 1825 treaty council in Wisconsin where Leonard Pokagon first enters into the American historical record. In the 1825 treaty council, hosted by William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame), lavish gifts and promises were heaped upon the Indian delegates. While the treaty council was held ostensibly to promote peace among the tribes, the primary motivation for the council was to promote the fur trade. The treaty also sought to establish firm boundaries regarding tribal lands. While the boundaries were agreed upon in principle, the final determination of the actual boundaries was to be determined by the United States.

The fur trade was an important element in the American strategy for obtaining Indian land. Following the suggestion of Thomas Jefferson, the United States licensed traders simply extended almost unlimited credit to both the tribes and to individual tribal members. Then the traders would turn to the U.S. government who would collect the debts by forcing the Indians to give up more of their lands.

Christianity also played an important role in federal policies regarding Indians. The federal government wanted to force all Indians to become Christians, and more importantly to become Protestant Christians (Catholics at this time were viewed as “atheistic papists” who were only a step or two above the pagan Indians.) The Baptist missionary Isaac McCoy had been initially welcomed by the Potawatomi because of the promise of economic advantages of having a mission and becoming Christian. It was soon apparent, however, that McCoy was an advocate of Indian removal. From the Baptist viewpoint, the only way to save the Potawatomi from the corrupt influence of the American settlers was to have them move far away.

Leopold Pokagon was strongly opposed to removal. Thus, in 1830 he went to Detroit where he met with Father Gabriel Richard and formally requested that a blackrobe (the Indian term for a Jesuit priest which referred to the black cassock which they wore) be assigned to them. Pokagon felt that an affiliation with the Catholic Church would be a countervailing force to the Baptists and thus they would be an important ally in their fight against removal.  By converting to Catholicism, the St. Joseph River Valley Potawatomi assumed a new identity and would become known as the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.

In 1833, the Americans wanted more Potawatomi land, so they convened a treaty council in Chicago. Here the Americans recognized Billy Caldwell and Alexander Robinson, both of whom were loyal to the United States, as Potawatomi chiefs and negotiated the land cessions with them. Under the treaty, the Potawatomi were to remove to Missouri where they would receive five million acres of land and would be provided with annuities for twenty years. The treaty agreement also covered all debts to the traders. However, Leopold Pokagon emphatically opposed giving up more land. Pokagon was successful in negotiating an amendment which would allow his band to remain in Michigan. In the negotiations he emphasized that he and his people were Catholics and this helped secure the amendment.

In 1835, the Potawatomi moved into the Platte Country of Missouri and soon found that American settlers waned them to move out of the area. Two years later these Potawatomi broke into two groups: one moved to the area of Council Bluffs, Iowa and the other moved to the area of Linn County, Kansas.

In 1838, the Potawatomi who had remained in Indiana were forced to move to Oklahoma. Soldiers simply surrounded the Indians and forced them to march without provisions or possessions. Survivors called this the Trail of Death.

In 1839, Pokagon relocated from the village near the Indiana-Michigan border to land he purchased on Silver Creek (near present-day Dowagiac, Michigan). He used the monies paid to him from the Treaty of Chicago to purchase lands for his people and he patented the land in his name, thus providing his people with a legal title the same as the American settlers. Here they managed to resist calls for their removal, including attempts at using military force to remove them. Leopold Pokagon died in 1841.  Descendents of his band still reside in the area and are known as the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians (Pokégan Bodéwadmik débéndagozwad).

Spokan Garry

In 1825, Governor George Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company conceived the idea of selecting some Indian boys from the Columbia River tribes in present-day Washington and Idaho and sending them east to the Anglican mission school at Red River in Manitoba to be educated. His idea was that these boys could help in “civilizing” the tribes upon their return. Two teenage Indian boys – one from the Spokan in Washington and the other from the Kootenai in Idaho – were sent to the Red River School. The boys are renamed Kootenai Pelly and Spokan Garry. The name “Garry” was taken from the name of one of the directors of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the name “Pelly” from one of its governors. At the school, the boys were taught to read and write both English and French.  

About the Spokan:  

First, a note about spelling: I am using “Spokan” to indicate the tribe in order to avoid confusion with “Spokane” which is the name of a city in eastern Washington. Spokan is often translated as “Children of the Sun.”

The Spokan, a Salish-speaking people, were traditionally composed of three groups: (1) Upper Spokan who occupied the Spokane Valley; (2) Middle Spokan who occupied the Deep Creek and Four Lakes area; and (3) Lower Spokan who occupied the area around the Tchimokaine, Tumtum, and the mouth of the Spokane River. Traditionally, the overall Spokan territory extended from the head waters of the Chimokaine to the mouth of the Spokane River; down the south side of the Columbia as far as the mouth of the Okanogan; south to the head of the Snake River water shed; east to about the line of the present towns of Post Falls and Rathdrum.

As with other tribes along the Columbia River, fishing was an important economic activity. Downstream from Little Falls on the Spokane River, the Spokan would build a rock barrier across the river, and then place a willow-pole fish weir just upstream from this barrier. The fish were then speared and thrown to shore. This fishing site was also used by the Coeur d’Alene, Kalispel, Colville, Palouse, Sanpoil, and Sinkayuse.

While men traditionally fished for the salmon, only the women were able to obtain the lashings that bound the tripod of the fishing weir together. The men, therefore, were unable to build the weirs by themselves. Building fish weirs required the cooperation of women, thus the women had a crucial role in the important salmon fishing.

The salmon was dried in the sun and wind. The dried salmon would be pounded with a stone pestle in an oak mortar until it was finely pulverized. The salmon powder would then be tightly pressed into baskets lined with salmon skin. This dried, powdered salmon would keep for a long time.

The women usually prepared the fish. Once a woman had prepared the fish, it belonged to her and she made the decisions on how it was to be used. When salmon was used in trade, the trade items belonged to the women.

While hunting provided some of the Spokan nutrition, hunting is not always a dependable way of obtaining food. In order to ensure a successful hunt, individual hunters sought out spirit helpers and communal hunts required a hunt chief with experience, as well as an appropriate spirit guide. Before hunting, the men would often go through a sweat bath purification ritual and would make appeals to the animal spirits.

While much of the hunting focused on locally available big game-deer, elk, caribou-the Spokan would sometimes go on a communal buffalo hunt. This meant that they would travel from their home in eastern Washington, across northern Idaho, through western Montana, and cross the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains. This meant that they would be trespassing into territory claimed by the Blackfoot and the Blackfoot would often object to this. Thus, the buffalo hunt was often an inter-tribal affair as alliances provided some protection against the war parties of the Blackfoot and other tribes. The Kootenai, for example, often joined with the Coeur d’Alene and Spokan for the buffalo hunt. The hunt would usually last about four weeks.

Trade was also a major economic activity for the Spokan. The Spokane Falls area often served as a major trading center. Trading activities were often timed to occur during the fishing harvests. Prior to the coming of the Europeans, common trade items included stone tools from the glass volcanics (obsidian, vitrophyre, and ignimbrite) and marine shells, most commonly dentalium and olivella. The shells were often cut into beads which were then used as trade goods. In addition, manufactured products such as coiled baskets, parfleches, and tanned buffalo hides were brought into the area.

Spokan Garry:

Spokan Garry and Kootenai Pelly returned to the northwest from the Red River School in 1829. Garry’s father, Illim-Spokanee, had died while the boy was at school, so the Spokan greeted him as a leader’s son who should be heard on matters affecting the welfare of this people. Spokan Garry brought with him the Christianity which he learned in school and preached it to the tribes in eastern Washington.

Garry’s preaching influenced leaders in other tribes. Soon after his return, for example, a young Nez Perce-Hol-lol-sote-tote, later known as Lawyer-heard Spokan Garry read from the Christian bible in Salish. Since Lawyer’s mother was Flathead (a Salish-speaking tribe), he was fluent in both Salish and Nez Perce. Lawyer was deeply moved and subsequently became Christian.

Soon after his return to the Spokan, Garry became recognized as a chief and acquired two wives: one from the Umatilla tribe and one from the San Poil tribe. His decision to take a second wife was viewed negatively by non-Indian missionaries.

With regard to his work as a native missionary preaching Christianity to the Indian people in the Upper Columbia area, Garry built a tule mat church and school along the Spokane River. He taught brotherly love, peaceful behavior, and humility. He also served as the translator for one of Francis Heron’s sermons at Fort Colville. In the audience were chiefs from the Spokan, Nez Perce, Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai, Pend d’Oreille, Sanpoil, and Kettle Falls tribes.

In 1836, Garry was involved in a large public Christian worship for the Spokan and Nez Perce at Loon Lake. Spokan Garry translated for the Spokan while a Nez Perce chief who understood some Spokan then translated from Spokan to Nez Perce.  

In 1853, Governor Isaac Stevens met with the Spokan. Stevens wrote of Spokan Garry:

“Garry, the Spokane Chief, is a man of education, of strict probity and great influence over his tribe. He speaks English and French well.”

The treaties “negotiated” (some would say “imposed”) by Governor Stevens led to a great deal of unrest and set the stage for war. In 1854, a large intertribal council in Oregon’s Grande Ronde Valley is called by Yakama leader Kamiakin, Walla Walla leader Peopeo Moxmox, and Nez Perce war chief Apash Wyakaikt (Looking Glass). The tribes spent five days listening to Kamiakin’s account of what was happening to the Indian nations west of the Cascade Mountains. Kamiakin urged a confederacy so that the Americans (suyapos) could be fought with a united front. Kamiakin told the council:

“We wish to be left alone in the lands of our forefathers, whose bones lie in the sand hills and along the trails, but a pale-faced stranger has come from a distant land and sends word to us that we must give up our country, as he wants it for the white man. Where can we go? There is no place left”

Spokan leader Garry, Cayuse leader Stickus, and Nez Perce leader Lawyer felt that the Indians were not strong enough to wage war against the Americans. Among the Yakama, Teias and Owhi (both uncles to Kamiakin, and Teias was also Kamiakin’s father-in-law) opposed war.

The following year, Governor Stevens held a large treaty council at Walla Walla, Washington in which he announced his plans to establish two reservations: one would be located in Nez Perce country and would be for the Nez Perce, Cayuse, Walla Walla, Umatilla, and Spokan, and one in Yakama country for the Yakama, Palouse, Klikatat, Wenatchee, Okanagan, and Colville. The assembled tribal leaders disliked the Stevens’ proposal, so it was modified to include a third reservation: one to be located in Umatilla country for the Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla.

Following the treaty council at Walla Walla, Governor Stevens met with the Flathead, Pend d’Oreille, and Kootenai at Hell Gate and negotiated the treaty which would establish the Flathead Indian Reservation. In addition to the three tribes, the new reservation, according to Stevens’ vision, would also serve as home to the Coeur d’Alene and the Spokan.

By the end of 1855, the American vision called for the Spokan to leave their homeland and settle on either the Nez Perce or the Flathead reservations. Shortly after the treaties, Americans began their invasion of Spokan country looking for mineral wealth and paying little attention to any Spokan rights.

As a result of the treaties and American violations of Indian rights, war soon swept across the Plateau region. As a result Governor Isaac Stevens held council with some of the Columbia River tribes on the Spokane River in 1855. While the Americans were seeking to prevent the Columbia River tribes from joining the growing anti-American war, they heard the chiefs speak with some sympathy for the hostilities. In the rather stormy council, the Americans were unable to promise the Indians that the American army would not invade their territory. During the council, Spokan Garry told them:

“I think the difference between us and you Americans is in the clothing; the blood and the body are the same.”

As the war spreads, American forces under the command of Major Edward Steptoe were defeated by an intertribal war party with warriors from the Palouse, Coeur d’Alene, Spokan, Yakama, Pend d’Oreille, Flathead, and Columbia. Thus the Spokan were drawn into the war. Following the American defeat, the American forces swept though the Indians’ country from the Cascades to Lake Coeur d’Alene, attacking villages, burning provisions and supplies, taking hostages, and shooting and hanging Indians, with little regard to whether the Indians were actually hostile or friendly. The Americans defeated the Indians at the battles of Four Lakes and Spokane Plains. Two of Spokan Garry’s brothers were killed in these battles.

Following the battles of Four Lakes and Spokane Plains, Colonel Wright directed Spokan Garry to send messengers to chiefs Moses, Big Star, Skloom, and Kamiakin and inform them that they should come in for a conference. Later Colonel Wright reported:

“I warned them that if I ever had to come into this country again on a hostile expedition no man should be spared; I would annihilate the whole nation.”

After signing the treaties with the Spokan and Coeur d’Alene, Colonel Wright adopts a policy to hang individual Indians, demonstrating to the tribes what would happen to them if they ever broke the treaties they had signed.

In 1859, Spokan Garry petitioned military authorities and the Indian agent for a reservation for his people. Brigadier General W. S. Harney forwarded the request to the Secretary of the Interior with the following comment:

“In justice to these Indians this step should be adopted by our government; they already cultivate the soil in part for subsistence, and unless protected in their right to do so, they will be forced into a miserable warfare until they are exterminated.”

No action results from the request.

In 1866, a party of Spokan were hunting buffalo in Montana. During the hunt, they captured several horses from the Blackfoot. In retaliation, the Blackfoot killed a Spokan chief and captured 160 Spokan horses. The horse-poor Spokan then captured some non-Indian horses on their way home. In Missoula, Spokan Garry was arrested, but the Indian agent arranged for his release.

In 1872, the Colville Reservation was established by executive order of President Ulysses S. Grant for the Methow, Okanagan, Sanpoil, Nespelem, Lakes, Colville, Kalispel, Spokan, Coeur d’Alene, Chelan, Entiat, and Southern Okanagan. Once again there was little interest in providing the Spokan with their own reservation.

In 1874, Spokan Garry met with the Commandant of the Department of the Columbia. He was told that the government had no interest in giving the Spokan a reservation and that they should be careful not to make any trouble.

In 1880, the United States government held council with the Colville, Upper Spokan, Okanogan, Coeur d’Alene, and Lower Spokan just above the falls in Spokane. Nearly 4,000 Indians were present at the council and most did not have a reservation. Spokan Garry argued for a reservation for his people. The Americans promised them a new and ample reservation, but did not sign an agreement to that effect.

In 1881, the United States ordered the Spokan to move to a reservation west of the Columbia River or to take allotments. Chief Spokan Garry replied:

“What right have you to dictate to us? This is our country and we will not leave it.”

Instead of forcing the Spokan to move, a reservation is established for them by Presidential executive order.

In 1887, Spokan Garry asked the Indian Department to cede to his people as a reservation the land on both sides of the Spokane River from the city of Spokane to Tum Tum. The request was denied.

At the 1887 Treaty of Spokane Falls, Washington, non-reservation Spokan agreed to give up all claims to lands outside of the Spokane Reservation and to move to the Couer d’Alene Reservation in Idaho or to the Flathead Reservation in Montana. The United States agreed to help them in moving and finding new homes.

In 1888, Spokan Garry was at a temporary fishing camp away from his farm when non-Indians took over his farm and the crops that he had planted. When he returned home, the men told him to stay off. While Spokan Garry filed suit in an attempt to regain his farm, he died in 1892 before a decision was reached. The pattern of non-Indians taking over farms already being cultivated by Indians is fairly common at this time, and the Indians have little legal recourse.

Garry was about 81 years old at the time of his death. During the last years of his life, Garry was homeless and lived in poverty. The crude tent which had been his last shelter from the winter’s snow and  cold became his mortuary.

Spokan Garry

A photograph of Spokan Garry is shown above.

Neolin: the Delaware Prophet

In 1762 the Delaware (Lenni Lenape) prophet Neolin, who was living in Ohio, had a vision in which he undertook a journey to meet the Master of Life. He was told:

“The land on which you are, I have made for you, not for others. Wherefore do you suffer the whites to dwell upon your lands?”

“Drive them away; wage war against them; I love them not; they know me not; they are my enemies; they are your brothers’ enemies. Send them back to the land I have made for them.”

He received a prayer which was carved in symbolic language on a stick.  

After returning from the vision, the prophet drew a map on a deerskin which was used in explaining his vision. This “great book” was sold to followers so that they might refresh their memories from time to time. The book showed the path of the soul from life to the afterlife.

Neolin’s vision provided the foundation for a pan-Indian movement. The influence of his religious movement spread throughout the Indian tribes in the Mississippi valley. Hundreds of Indians from different tribes were soon following his teachings. The pan-Indian nature of the movement overcame traditional animosities and created a new sense of cultural identity among the tribes. One of Neolin’s followers was the Ottawa chief, Pontiac.

Neolin’s followers went back to the old, traditional ways of Indian life. This meant that they gave up the use of firearms and hunted only with the bow and arrow. They ate dried meat and they drank a bitter drink recommended by Neolin. The drink had a purgative quality which was supposed to get rid of the poisons which their bodies had consumed as a result of European influence. They also dressed in animal skin clothing instead of the imported European cloth.

Neolin’s teaching opposed alcohol, materialism, and polygyny. He emphasized that if the Indians gave up the evil ways brought to them by the Europeans that the Master of Life would bless them with plentiful game.

According to ethnologist James Mooney, writing in 1896:

“The religious ferment produced by the exhortations of the Delaware prophet spread rapidly from tribe to tribe, until, under the guidance of the master mind of the celebrated chief, Pontiac, it took shape in a grand confederacy of all the northwestern tribes to oppose the further progress of the English.”

While Neolin’s message was anti-European, under Pontiac it became anti-British.

Many of Neolin’s followers felt that he was the reincarnation of Winabojo, the great teacher of the mythic past.

In 1763, Neolin urged the Three Fires Confederacy in Michigan-Ottawa, Ojibwa, and Potawamani-to expel the British and to join in Pontiac’s uprising.

Following the collapse of Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1765, Neolin’s influence as a pan-Indian spiritual leader waned.

Written history has recorded neither when Neolin was born nor when he died. In the historic record-the one maintained by non-Indians-he appears only as a brief note relating to Pontiac.  

William Apess, Pequot Writer

In 1829, Andrew Jackson became President of the United States. Jackson felt that since the Constitution prohibited the establishment of a new state within the boundaries of another without the agreement of the later and since the states had not agreed to the establishment of a Cherokee nation, the establishment of a Cherokee nation was unconstitutional. Thus, Indians had only two choices: to submit to the states or to remove themselves. Jackson pretended that the Indian nations in the Southeast were hunters and gatherers and therefore had made no improvements to the land which would entitle them to claim the land. Partially in response to Jackson and to the false view of Indians that many non-Indians held, a Pequot Christian minister, William Apess, published his Son of the Forest. The autobiography tells of a life of abuse and oppression. Using the Christian-based style of the time, he tells his story as a spiritual confession and in so doing is able to comment on the anti-Indian prejudices held by non-Indians. This book was one of the earliest books written by an American Indian.

Apess Book

William Apess was born in 1798 to William and Candace Apes. He would later add the additional “s” to his name for undisclosed reasons. In his autobiography, he claimed to be the grandson of a granddaughter of King Philip.

During his youth Apess was indentured to a number of Euro-American families during which time he acquired some basic education. He eventually ran away and joined a militia in New York. He saw service in the War of 1812 and by the age of 16 he had become an alcoholic.

In the 1820s, William Apess became convinced that he was being called to preach the Gospel and in 1829 he was ordained as a Methodist minister. As a Methodist minister, Apess became an iterant preacher, traveling throughout New England. His congregations included Native Americans, African Americans, and Euroamericans. In 1831, he wrote and published The Increase of the Kingdom of Christ, a Sermon. This enhanced his reputation as a minister and public speaker.

In 1833, William Appes wrote The Experiences of Five Christian Indians of the Pequot Tribe in which he described the conversion experiences of a number of Pequot. While the stories of the conversion experience were something which interested non-Indians, the stories actually emphasize the theme of learned self-hatred. The stories illustrate how the mythology of colonial history had actually prevented Indians from developing positive individual and group identities.

Among those described in the book is Sally George, one of the principal leaders of the Mashantuck Pequot. Another Pequot woman described in the book is Hannah Caleb who had developed a rather cynical attitude toward Christianity. She observed:

“They openly professed to love one another, as Christians, and every people of all nations whom God hath made-and yet they would backbite each other, and quarrel with one another, and would not so much as eat and drink together, nor worship God together.”

His work as itinerate minister brought him into contact with the Mashpee, a Christian Indian community in Massachusetts. In 1833, the Mashpee unsuccessfully attempted to evict the English minister who was appointed to them, to regain their meeting house, and to prevent outsiders from exploiting their wood and hay. In their petition, signed by 102 people, to the governor and council of Massachusetts, the Mashpee stated:

“That we as a tribe will rule our selves, and have the right so to do for all men are born free and Equal says the Constitution of the Country.”

When the government did not respond favorably to their petition, the relations between Indians and non-Indians in the area grew tense. Many of the Indians were openly armed. The Indians stopped some non-Indians from taking wood from tribal land and consequently the authorities arrested William Apess who had been counseling them.

William Apess convinced the governor that full-fledged armed revolt was possible and the Mashpee won most of their demands. Mashpee was to be incorporated as an Indian district. As an Indian district, the Indians would be able to elect their own selectmen, who, in turn, would be responsible for the management of all tribal property. The selectmen would also be empowered to make any laws necessary to carry out their duties.

While William Apess had been formally adopted into the Mashpee community, he was still considered an outsider and therefore had no authority to speak for the tribe.

In his  1833 essay An Indian’s Looking Glass for the White Man, Apess asked:

“Can you charge the Indians with robbing a nation almost of their whole continent, and murdering their women and children, and then depriving them the remainder of their lawful rights, that nature and God require them to have?”

In 1835, Apess wrote about the Mashpee “uprising” in his book Indian Nullification of the Unconstitutional Laws of Massachusetts Relative to the Mashpee Tribe, or the Unpretended Riot Explained. In this book criticized the proposals for Indian removal which were being advocated by Andrew Jackson and others. He accused Christians of committing the crime of slavery against Indian people:

“How they could go to work to enslave a free people, and call it religion, is beyond the power of my imagination, and outstrips the revelation of God’s word.”

In 1836, William Apess delivered a public lecture entitled Eulogy on King Philip at the Odeon in Boston. The presentation was prepared in honor of the 160th anniversary of the death of Philip who led the Pequot in what is known as King Philip’s War.  While non-Indians in New England often demonized Philip, Apess described him in positive terms. In his lecture, Apess quoted a speech given by Philip to the other Indian leaders about the English colonists:

“Brothers, these people from the unknown world will cut down our groves, spoil our hunting and planting grounds, and drive us and our children from the graves of our fathers and our council fires, and enslave our women and children.”

In his eulogy, the war against the Pequot was presented as an unwarranted attack on peaceful Indians-an account that contradicted Puritan histories. He contrasted the Native American restraint and their goal of self-preservation with the Puritans’ savagery and brutality, specifically quartering and refusing to bury murdered Indians and selling captive Indians into slavery in Bermuda.

In 1839, William Apess died as a result of alcoholism at the age of 41.

American Indian Biography: Sarah Winnemucca

In 1879, Sarah Winnemucca, a Paiute from Nevada and the daughter of Chief Winnemucca, gave a series of lectures in San Francisco and Sacramento on the treatment of Indians by the Indian Service. Five years later her autobiography, Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims, was published. Winnemucca then traveled throughout the country giving lectures on the conditions in Indian country, often charging the government with mismanagement of Indian affairs. Sara Winnemucca became the most recognized Indian woman of the late nineteenth century.

Sarah Winnemucca

With regard to Paiute women, Sarah Winnemucca wrote:

“The women know as much as the men do, and their advice is often asked. We have a republic as well as you. The council-tent is our Congress, and anybody can speak who has anything to say, women and all.”

She also described women warriors who fought alongside their husbands.

Sarah Winnemucca was born about 1844 in western Nevada. Her father was Winnemucca, sometimes called Old Winnemucca by historians. Her Paiute name was Tocmectone (Shell Flower). When she was about 10, she went with her mother and siblings to live with her grandfather, Truckee, on a ranch near San Jose, California. In 1860, she attended St. Mary’s Convent School in San Jose for a short time. After a month in the school, she was discharged because the non-Indian parents objected to having Indians in the school.

In 1866 some of the Paiute bands in the Snake River region under the leadership of Paulina and Weawea rebelled against the United States. The U.S. military asked Sarah and her brother Naches to come to Fort McDermitt, Nevada to discuss the relationships between the Paiute and the government. She was also asked to help persuade her father to bring his people to the Pyramid Lake Reservation. With her knowledge of both English and Paiute, she was hired by the army as their official interpreter to the Shoshone and Paiute.

In 1870, she travelled to San Francisco where she met with General John Schofeld. She then went to Gold Hill, Nevada where she met with Senator John Jones. In both meetings she complained about the mistreatment of the Paiutes by the Indian agents. Both General Schofeld and Senator Jones, however, claimed that this problem was not under their jurisdiction.

After the Paiute were forced to move to the Malheur Reservation in Oregon, Sarah became friends with the Indian agent, Samuel Parrish. She felt that his agricultural program was beneficial to the Indians. She acted as his interpreter and also taught in the local school.

Four years later, the new Indian agent fired Sarah because she had complained that the teacher and other employees were cheating the Indians at cards. The new agent also told the tribes that the reservation did not belong to the Indians but to the government. Under the new regulations, the Indians had to work for $1 per day and with this money they were to buy their food and clothing from the government store. If the Indians did not like the new policies, they could leave.

During the 1878 Bannock War, Sarah was hired by General O.O. Howard as an interpreter. She also helped the army track the Bannock from southwestern Idaho into eastern Oregon. She persuaded her father and about 75 of his people to escape from the Bannock camp and to the safety of an army post. In spite of her aid to the army, the peaceful Paiute were relocated to the Yakama Reservation in Washington.

When she arrived in San Francisco to deliver her public lectures, the newspapers headlined her as “Princess Sarah.” The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

“Sarah has undergone hardships and dared dangers that few men would be willing to face, but she has not lost her womanly qualities, and succeeded during her visit in coaxing into her lap two little timid ‘pale-faced’ children, usually shy of strangers, who soon lost their fear of her dark skin, won by her warm and genial ways. She speaks with force and decision, and talks eloquently of her people. Her mission, undertaken at the request of Chief Winnemucca, is to have her tribe gathered together again at their old home in Nevada, where they can follow peaceful pursuits and improve themselves.”

One columnist wrote:

“The lecture was unlike anything ever before heard in the civilized world-eloquent, pathetic, tragical at times; at others her quaint anecdotes, sarcasms and wonderful mimicry surprised the audience again and again into bursts of laughter and rounds of applause.”

In her public lectures in San Francisco and Sacramento, Sarah argued that the peaceful Paiute had a right to return to the Malheur Reservation. When federal officials got word of her negative criticism of the Indian Service, they brought Sarah, her father, and other Paiutes to Washington, D.C. Here she talked with federal officials and again made the case for mismanagement. She argued for the rights of her people to return to the Malheur Reservation and manage their own affairs. While the Secretary of the Interior agreed that the Paiute have the right to return to the Malheur Reservation, the necessary funding for the return was not provided.

While in Washington, the Indian Office did its best to keep newspaper reporters away from Sarah. After one reporter managed to get an interview, she was called into the office of the Secretary of the Interior and told:

“I don’t think it will be right for you to lecture here after the government has sent for you, and your father and brother, and paid your way here. The government is going to do right by your people now. Don’t lecture now; go home and get your people back on the reservation; get them located properly; and then if you want to come back, … we will pay your way here, and back again.”

To counteract the negative publicity generated by Sarah Winnemucca, countercharges about her good character were soon circulated. The Indian agent from the Malheur Reservation claimed that Sarah Winnemucca was a notorious, untruthful, drunken prostitute. Her military friends, including General Howard, however, defended her.

In 1881 a Paiute delegation, which included Sarah Winnemucca, met with President Rutherford B. Hayes. President Hayes came into the room and pontificated about Indian assimilation. The entire meeting lasted for about five minutes.

In 1881, General Howard gave Sarah a job teaching Indian children at the army post in Vancouver, Washington.

From 1883 to 1884, she toured eastern cities giving about 300 lectures on Indian rights. Her lectures included “The Indian Agencies” and “The Indian Question as Viewed from an Indian Standpoint.” During this time she met a number of notables, including Mary Tyler Mann (the widow of Horace Mann), Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (Mary Tyler Mann’s sister), Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Senator Henry Dawes. Her book, Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims, would be edited by Mrs. Mann.

She returned to Nevada and in 1885 opened a school for the Paiute in Lovelock. The school had financial support from a group of non-Indian women in the east as well as the government. Among those who supported the school was Miss Elizabeth Palmer Peabody in Boston, who raised money in Sarah’s behalf by various public appeals. The school was often called the Peabody Indian School in honor of its benefactor. She operated the school for three years.

The Indian Rights Association inspected the school and reported that Sarah Winnemucca had no claim to Paiute leadership. The Association accused her of a variety of “immoralities and vices.”

Sarah Winnemucca died in 1891 at her sister’s home in Henry’s Lake, Idaho. The New York Times printed her death notice and a review of her life. Colonel Frank Parker wrote:

“She was the only Indian on this coast who ever took any prominent part in settling the Indian question, and as such her memory should be respected.”

General O.O. Howard wrote:

“She did our government great service, and if I could tell you but a tenth part of all she willingly did to help the white settles and her own people to live peaceably together I am sure you would think, as I do, that the name of Toc-me-to-ne [or Shell-flower] should have a place beside the name of Pocahontas in the history of our country.”  

Statue of Winnemucca