Denise Juneau and Indian Education

In has been well documented that American Indians, particularly those living on reservations, have the lowest levels of education in the country. On Indian reservations, the problems of providing education for Indian children are tied in to the rural nature of these populations—a fact which makes it difficult to find and retain good teachers—as well as cultural differences. Historically, there have been three primary structures for providing education to Indian children: (1) the federal government, primarily through an agency known today as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); (2) Christian missionary schools which were sometimes financially supported by the federal government; and (3) state and local school systems.

Bureau of Indian Education schools in the 21st century are under-funded and the physical conditions of the schools is poor and sometimes considered dangerous. Denise Juneau, who is running of Montana’s sole member of the House of Representatives, has promised not only to support additional funding for these schools, but also to reform the Bureau so that more of this money actually translates into classroom improvements.

In addition, Juneau has pledged:

“I support the Native Education Support and Training Act to create a system of loan forgiveness, scholarships and additional training for educators who serve in schools with a high percentage of Native American students.”

Denise Juneau is an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa tribes and a Blackfoot descendent. She graduated from Browning High School on the Blackfeet Reservation and obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from Montana State University. She continued her education and earned a master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

She taught in North Dakota and Montana and worked for the state education agency. She then went back to school and received her juris doctorate from the University of Montana School of Law.

Denise Juneau was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. In 2010, as Superintendent, she launched the Schools of Promise initiative which focuses on improving struggling schools, particularly those on reservations. According to Juneau:

“Children who attend designated Schools of Promise often come from deep, rural poverty. Public assistance services are sparse. The complex needs of these students and their families are often unmet and can make graduation difficult to reach.”

She also points out:

“Schools of Promise is helping these struggling schools make significant progress. The program has become a turnaround model for the U.S. Department of Education given its unique student engagement requirements, school board trustee training, and mental health wrap around services. As a member of Congress I will work to strengthen this initiative to better support struggling schools in all Indian Country.”

Denise Juneau is running as a Democrat against a Republican incumbent. She needs our support. To find out more about Denise Juneau, her policies, and how to help, check out her website.


President Benamin Harrison and Indian Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Genoa Indian School

Genoa 3

The Genoa Industrial Indian School was started in 1884 in a one-room school that had been originally built for the Pawnee before the tribe was removed from Nebraska to Oklahoma. The school had an initial enrollment of 74 students. Over time, the school would grow to have an enrollment of nearly 600 students from 10 states and more than 20 tribes. It would grow from a one-room school to 30 buildings on a campus covering 640 acres. The Genoa Industrial Indian School was the fourth non-reservation Indian boarding school established by the Indian Office (now the Bureau of Indian Affairs).  

The school facility had been abandoned when the Pawnee were forcibly removed in 1879.  The new school found that the school building was in poor repair and not really suitable. Following the popular design standards of the 1880s, the main building for the new school was a simple three-story structure with a hipped roof. Tall windows placed in pairs helped create a balanced appearance.

As with other American Indian boarding schools in the nineteenth century, the primary focus was on teaching English. Students were discouraged from speaking their Indian languages, as speaking an Indian language was seen as a hindrance to becoming civilized.

Under the assumption that Indians had to fully assimilate into American mainstream society, the federal government required Indian students to become practicing Christians. They were taught Christian theology from a Protestant perspective and were required to attend church services.  

In addition to teaching the students English, the general goal of the school was to prepare the students to enter the labor market. There was a great emphasis on the trades. Students would spend a half-day in the classroom and then a half-day working at an assigned trade.

In order to provide the students with “practical” experience, Genoa, like other Indian boarding schools during this era, utilized an outing system. In order to make the students more familiar with the non-Indian world of work, the students were put to work as farm laborers for local non-Indian farmers and as servants in non-Indian houses. The students were not paid for their labor, but their “employers” did pay a small amount to the school. In general, the school was more focused on meeting the labor needs of non-Indians than in providing an education for the students.


Genoa Indian School is shown above.

Genoa Indian News

The Indian News (shown above) was the school newspaper. It provided programs for school events as well as accounts of life at the school, placing a strong emphasis on abandoning traditional Indian culture and adopting the cultural traits of the non-Indian world.

As the Great Depression of the 1930s worsened, Indian parents became more willing to send their children to boarding schools. In 1933, the Bureau of Indian Affairs notified Indian boarding schools to enroll only the neediest of children. Soaring enrollments, encouraged by the bad economic times of the Depression, was the reason for limiting enrollment. In 1934, the government closed the Genoa Indian School.

In 1976, the Genoa Indian School was declared a State Historical Site and in 1978 it was designated as a National Historical Site. Today the Genoa US Indian School Foundation operates the facility as the Genoa U.S. Indian School Museum. The museum attracts about 3,000 visitors annually.

The only building that remains from the school is the Manual Training building which has been restored with new windows, doors, heating and air conditioning.

As a side note, the designation “Genoa” was given to the site by the Mormons who used it as a temporary settlement along the trail to Salt Lake City, Utah. It served as a way station for the Brigham Young Express and Carrying Company. A Mormon settlement was established at the site in 1857 and it was abandoned in 1859 when it became a part of the Pawnee Indian Reservation.  

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.

Working that Skirt: A $500 Challenge for Okiciyap

“What skirt,” you say?

Yesterday, volunteers for Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community, put the skirt on the trailer.

AND…we have a $500 challenge grant, good to tomorrow at midnight,

This donor is asking all the small donors to get together now….can you pitch in $5, $10, $15? It adds up quickly, believe me.

Right now, by my estimates we only have about $120 toward that challenge (correct me in the comments if I’m wrong). We have until midnight on Monday to qualify for the match. Can we do it drop by drop?

And when that challenge is up, another Kossack stepped forward with another challenge for next week…..

Here’s a photo update so you can see what your money is doing. Yesterday volunteers installed the skirt on the trailer.

Here they are:

Yes, everyone wants to help!


Cutting the wood to size:


There they go, working that skirt:



Okiciyap is truly on the brink of success!

Won’t you help us get over this last hump, or forward this diary to someone who can?

(If you are financially pinched right now – which was me until a month ago –  please don’t feel guilty for not being able to send funds. You can help us by spreading the word and posting this story on your Facebook pages etc. We greatly appreciate ALL help here!)

We’re almost there. There is SUCH need on this reservation – 90% unemployment in winter, high youth suicide rates, and federal cuts in food stamps have further pinched the population.  A grassroots community group has come together to confront these issues – lets help them help themselves.


If you would prefer to send a check:

Georgia Little Shield, Board Chair


PO Box 172

225 W. Utah St

Isabel SD57633

So, here’s what YOU have helped Okiciyap do so far:

1. Host a Christmas dinner, where the members provided a healthy dinner and a safe and sober place to gather and open presents they had bought for the children, who otherwise had none. They even bought a Christmas tree with the funds:





2. Move the trailer 30 miles to Isabel. Here’s moving day:




3. And JUST YESTERDAY, the community CAME TOGETHER to help get the building into place. While they had to pay a professional plumber to install new pipes and hook them to the sewer line and an electrician to install electric boxes and get it going, the community came out to build the stairs and install new doors. So, this isn’t just a group of determined women, they have gotten the community involved. SUCCESS!!!

Group of volunteers


The stairs



Electric box


Supplies for outside work


Volunteer Ted installing the door


Missing toilet in the bathroom


Lights are on!


Kitchen Faucet installed


Look at all the room in there:


These kids thank you


P.S. Georgia is working through  severe, and chronic, back pain right now, exacerbated by abhorrent IHS health care. I figure if she can do all that in such pain, I can write this little diary and help this project succeed.

Georgia at Netroots Nation Austin


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

( – promoted by navajo)

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

It’s simple.


Simply racism.

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

How long did this thing going take to play out?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Taunts and Eggs on the UND Campus

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

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

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

What the HELL was THAT all about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

That legislation is what has just been repealed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Nazi-obsessed Donor

From a 2001 article:

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

Yeah, right….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the references from that article:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chemawa Indian School

During the nineteenth and part of the twentieth century, American policies regarding Indians focused on assimilation. Under these policies, the American government sought to destroy Indian cultures: their religions, their languages, their manner of dress, their government, their traditional economies, their traditional families, and anything that might be considered Indian. Individual Indians were to assimilate into American mainstream society. One of the primary mechanisms of assimilation was the boarding school.

Chemawa 5

Inspired by the glowing success stories coming from the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, the Indian Office (which would later become the Bureau of Indian Affairs) in 1879 decided that a boarding school should be established in Oregon to provide middle and high school education for the Indian nations along the Pacific Coast. In an off-reservation location, far removed from parental and tribal influences, the Indian Office felt that educators would be able to inculcate their students with the primary tenets of American society: patriotism, Christianity, the English language, and husbandry.

Initially, the location selected for the new school was Forest Grove in a site adjacent to Pacific University. It was originally named the Normal and Industrial Training School, but it would later become the Forest Grove Indian Training School, the Salem Indian Industrial School, the Harrison Institute, and finally, the Chemawa Indian Boarding School. Hereafter the school will be referred to simply as Chemawa.

Chemawa 6

The photograph above is from the Oregon State Library.

Classes at the new school began with 18 students (14 boys and 4 girls), all from the Puyallup Reservation. School superintendent Edwin Chalcraft writes:

“Chemawa was essentially a vocational school, where attention was about equally divided in training both the hand and the mind, the object being to prepare students to go forth after graduation and take their place with other citizens of our Country.”

In 1880, President Rutherford B. Hayes visited Chemawa to see for himself how the government was educating Indian children. In a speech to the crowd who had come to see him, the President told them that some people in the United States had come to the conclusion that God had decreed that Indians should die off like wild animals. He went on to say:

“If they are to become extinct, we ought to leave that to Providence, and we, as good patriotic, Christian people, should do our best to improve their physical, mental, and moral condition.”

He also reminded people that the Indians had once owned America and that the Americans displaced them. He concluded by saying:

“I am glad that Oregon has taken a step in the right direction. I am glad that she is preparing Indian boys and girls to become good, law-abiding citizens.”

In 1885, fire destroyed the original school and the facility was moved to its present location just north of Salem, Oregon.

With regard to the role of Indian boarding schools, One Indian agent wrote in 1887:

“Education cuts the cord which binds them to a pagan life, places the Bible in their hands, and substitutes the true God for the false one, Christianity in place of idolatry, civilization in place of superstition, morality in place of vice, cleanliness in place of filth, industry in place of idleness, self-respect in place of servility, and, in a word, an elevated humanity in place of abject degradation.”

In 1897, Chemawa obtained a foot-power printing press and began publication of a school newspaper called the Chemawa American. School superintendent Edwin Chalcraft reports:

“The Chemawa American, issued weekly in magazine form, seven by ten inches in size, contained sixteen to twenty-four pages of reading matter, and four to six pages of advertising by Salem merchants.”

Chemawa 3

The basic concept of the American Indian boarding schools, pioneered by Carlisle and Chemawa, was that the students, under the guise of industrial education would actually underwrite a good portion of their education through their free labor. By 1921, federal funding for boarding schools was $204 per student. This compares with $360 per boy at state reform schools and $436 per girl at state schools for girls. In order for the boarding schools to operate at these costs, students were required to work for their room and board.

In 1934, federal Indian policy changed: no longer was the primary focus on assimilation, but instead the tribes were allowed more self-government. With regard to education, it was now more possible to teach Indian cultures in the boarding schools. In 1939, Chemawa began the Reservation Survey Course. This survey course was designed to teach the students about their own reservations and the surrounding areas. It was felt that this would help them to select a more useful vocational course that would offer the best chance at employment on their reservations. Homerooms were established by tribal affiliation and each had a council modeled on the tribal council. It was hoped that students would become familiar with their reservation environment and would eventually take their place in the reservation community. The course was inspired by the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act.

At the end of World War II, Indian policies once again began to change: there was pressure to return to assimilation. In 1945, Chemawa began to require a course in Ethics and Christian Doctrine for all grades:

“All students are required to attend and for this reason the ministers have been asked not to stress a particular creed but to present moral and christian [sic] doctrine such that it will be accepted by any student regardless of his chosen faith.”

When the Bureau of Indian Affairs found out about the class the school was informed that it was illegal to require a religion class.

In 1950, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs ordered classes in BIA schools to stop stressing Native culture and to prepare Indian students for off-reservation employment. This included the reinstitution of the old efforts to curb the use of Native languages

In 1956, the regular academic program at Chemawa was terminated and the focus shifted to the Navajo Special Education Program. The Navajo are a southwestern tribe, far away from Oregon. Only 150 non-Navajo students remained at the school and these were to be transferred to public schools or to other boarding schools.

By 1967 there were sufficient educational facilities on the Navajo reservation so the Bureau of Indian Affairs began phasing out the Navajo students at Chemawa. Once again education at Chemawa emphasized an academic high school program. The vocational program was reduced to a pre-vocational program that included cooking, office practice, welding, auto shop, and small engine repair.

In 1976, the Affiliated Northwest Tribes met at Chemawa and unanimously agreed that the school was

“essential for an Alternative Educational Resource for the forty-two Northwest reservations and urban areas.”

By 1977, Chemawa’s mission was to provide for the enrichment and future prosperity of all Native American peoples. In the words of one staff member:

“Its prime function is to produce and prepare Native American peoples capable of performing adequately, if not superiorly, within a world society that is economically and financially dominant without having to degrade, denounce or substitute their culture heritage or uniqueness.”

Today, Chemawa remains as one of two Indian boarding schools in the United States. It is the oldest continuously operated boarding school in the United States.

Chemawa Cem

Centuries of Genocide: Modoc Indians, Part IV

In case you missed anything…

Part I describes the first generation of Modoc people to contact European-Americans, and the slow war in the Klamath Basin that destroyed the Second Generation. The Ben Wright Massacre is analyzed.

Part II encapsulates the Third Generation’s great crisis and the process leading to the Treaty of 1864, the significance of the Oregon reservation system, and Keintpoos’ years off the reservation before the US Army intervened, concluding with the escalation of tensions into full-blown war. We celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of November: at that time in 1872, Modoc people were fighting US Army from natural trenches in fiercely cold weather.

Part III covers the Modoc War of 1872-1873 as experienced by over 20 Modoc people, President Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, famous settler Lindsay Applegate, and others. It depicts the assassination of General Canby and the fall of the third generation since contact.

After the war’s conclusion, Keintpoos’ severed skull ended up in the Smithsonian. Brancho and Slolux spent life in prison at Alcatraz Island. Winema died in the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1920. And the Modoc people were halved, and one half was shipped to Oklahoma.


The Modoc who went to Lava Beds were collectively judged as prisoners of war, whether they were involved in hostilities during the War or not. A people of lakes, the Cascade Mountains and the high desert, these Modoc were punished by being transferred to eastern Oklahoma.

Article 7 of a 1994 draft of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples uses the phrase “cultural genocide” but does not define what it means.[4] The complete article reads as follows:

Indigenous peoples have the collective and individual right not to be subjected to ethnocide and cultural genocide, including prevention of and redress for:

(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;

(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;

(c) Any form of population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;

(d) Any form of assimilation or integration by other cultures or ways of life imposed on them by legislative, administrative or other measures;

(e) Any form of propaganda directed against them.

The Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma explains how they ended up at Quapaw, and what happened to them there:

The terrible 2,000-mile winter ride in railroad cars intended for hauling cattle finally ended on November 16, 1873 when 153 Modoc men, women, and children arrived in Baxter Springs, Kansas cold and hungry.

In Baxter Springs, Captain Wilkinson conferred with Hiram W. Jones, Indian Agent at the Quapaw Agency as to where to place the Modoc. It was decided to locate them on Eastern Shawnee land where they would be under the direct supervision of Agent Jones. But Jones’ Quapaw Agency was little prepared to care for 153 persons with little but loose blankets on their backs. With Scarfaced Charley in command and only one day’s help from three non-Indians, the Modoc built their own temporary wood barracks two hundred yards from the agency headquarters. Some were housed in tents. These accommodations were to be their home until June of 1874 when 4,000 acres were purchased for them from the Eastern Shawnee

…Captain Wilkinson remained with his charges until the second week in December. When he left the agency, he reported to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, “on the cars, in the old hotel used for them at Baxter, I found them uniformly obedient, ready to work, cheerful in compliance with police regulations, and with each day providing over and over that they only required just treatment, executed with firmness and kindness to make them a singularly reliable people.”

Despite their industriousness, poverty and material loss would continue to plague the people:

Agent Jones also found he had no difficulty enforcing the strictest discipline, although one small area of friction had developed. This was the habit of some of the Modoc in gambling, resulting in some instances in losing what few possessions they had. When Scarfaced Charley, who had replaced Captain Jack [Keintpoos] as chief, refused to interfere, Jones appointed Bogus Charley as chief. He remained chief until 1880 when formal Modoc tribal government in Oklahoma came to an end for almost 100 years.

More on the dissolution of the legal tribe in a bit. For now, the hard times after arrival:

The first years following removal to Indian Territory were difficult ones for the Modoc. They suffered much sickness and many hardships due to the corrupt and cruel administration of Agent Jones. During the first winter at the Quapaw Agency, there were no government funds available for food, clothing, or medical supplies. It would be almost a year after removal that funds in the amount of $15,000 were received for their needs.

In Oklahoma, the POW population declined precipitously:

The death rate was especially high among the children and the aged. By 1879, after six years at the Quapaw Agency, 54 deaths had reduced the Modoc population to 99. By the time of the Modoc allotment in 1891, there were only 68 left to receive allotments, and many of them had been born after removal. Had it not been for the gifts of money and clothing from charitable organizations in the east, General William Tecumseh Sherman’s wish not to leave a Modoc man, woman, or child alive so the name Modoc would cease, would have become a reality.

If you do a search of ‘Oregon’ in this Quapaw Agency Census from 1900, you will find some of the surviving Modoc. Modoc people are the only tribe of which I’m aware that were ever shipped to Oklahoma from far west.  Their race is indicated as “In” for Indian. Jennie Clinton, or Stimitchuas, is one of the individuals listed. It is believed that she died at age 89 in 1950, but it’s possible she was born earlier than 1861. (She was of the fourth generation after contact, having some pre-reservation and war memories but ultimately spending her adulthood in the reservation system.)

It Was the Assimilation Era

With first Americans no longer free to roam the country, European-Americans thought that the plight of Indians would be alleviated, and with that alleviation, the Indian problem for European-Americans would be solved, by educating and acculturating Indians to Western life.  Quakers had already established a Quapaw boarding school in 1871, 2 years before Modoc arrival. The school was miles to the northwest of the agency.  Isolated from their families, children would forcibly have their hair cut by missionaries, wear European-American schoolchildren garb, and become literate and converted Christians by the missionaries forbidding their language, Klamath-Modoc.

Modoc people at both the Quapaw Agency, Oklahoma and Oregon reservations displayed a strong interest in education and literacy.  In 1879, Modoc people built a church and school on the Modoc Reservation at Quapaw. Later, Modoc children attended the Carlisle School, the notorious string of Indian boarding schools, in Kansas. The families that sent children there included the Hoods, Hoover, Balls and McCartys. Schonchin John’s stepson Adam McCarty died at Carlisle, and Modoc stopped sending their children to Carlisle.

After the war, the third generation since contact passed into elderhood–if they weren’t already butchered or executed. Modoc War leader Steamboat Frank became the first Indian to become an ordained Quaker.  He died in Portland, Maine in the 1890s. The Fourth Generation became the establishment.  The Fifth Generation grew up speaking English.

Dawes, Curtis and Statehood

In 1887, the Dawes Act changed American Indian life forever. Among the most significant changes, reservation land was broken up into patrilineal, owned parcels. This change furthered the loss of Indian land that began with the early treaties and reservations.  

The plains itself had been established as a vast reservation for tribes from the midwest, south and east. But once tapping aquifers like Oglalla and cattle ranching became feasible (Chicago boomed as an inland rail-port) Indians were further reduced to the Indian Territory–Oklahoma.  But now even Indian Territory was wanted, and especially its natural resources.  Statehood for Oklahoma would mean breaking the power of Indian tribes.

Dawes opened a can of worms that, for the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, would spiral into a loss of sovereignty and environmental degradation.  An amendment to Dawes, the Curtis Act of 1898, ended the authority of tribal courts and the tribal governments themselves in Oklahoma. (Charles Curtis himself was a Republican congressman of Osage descent, who wanted education, assimilation and opportunity for Indians through his bill, which was later botched by various committees.)  Although Oklahoma’s natural resource history is most associated with its oil-boom perhaps, in the Quapaw area, rich deposits of zinc and lead allowed for a mining boom. Multiple Indian tribes leased out their land. Today, Quapaw area residents contend with a superfund site from those mines and the environmental costs that entails.

In 1909, the US government permitted Oklahoma Modoc to return to Oregon. Twenty-nine did so. Jennie Clinton was among them; she would then divorce and live until 1950 in a cabin on Oregon’s Williamson River.  The remaining forebears of the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma were (and still are) the smallest group of American Indian people in the region.

This is how the Third and Fourth Generations lived and died in Oklahoma.

Subsequent generations of Modoc history will be described in upcoming diaries.

Salish Kootenai College

SKC Sign

The Navajo Community College was established in Tsaile, Arizona in 1969.  This college was an outgrowth of the idea of self-determination in which the tribes were to control their own destinies. In addition, it was evident that traditional colleges and universities were not meeting the needs of rural communities, and particularly Indian communities. Navajo Community College was intended to meet the needs of the Navajo people, and it became the role model for other tribal colleges. Tribal colleges became a way of training and educating tribal members at home as well as a way of retaining their tribal heritage.  

The success of Navajo Community College led to the passage of the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act in 1978. Unlike other community colleges, the tribal colleges do not have a property tax base which can be used as funding.

In 1977, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation established what was to become Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana. Initially, the college operated as a branch campus of Flathead Valley Community College. In 1981, the college formally broke its ties with FVCC and became Salish Kootenai College (SKC).

SKC is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. It currently offers the Bachelor of Arts Degree (B.A.) in three areas; the Bachelor of Science Degree (B.S.) in ten areas; the Associate of Arts Degree (A.A.) in five areas; the Associate of Science Degree (A.S.) in seven areas; the Associate Applied Science Degree (A.A.S.) in three areas; and a Certificate of Completion (C.C.) in five areas.

As a tribal college, SKC not only teaches courses in Native American Studies, but also offers the A.A. and C.C. in Native American Studies. SKC describes its Native American Studies department this way:

The Native American Studies Program is committed to studying the historic experience, the contributions, and the contemporary life of the Native Peoples of North America. The principles and values of the People of the Flathead Nation are as vital in modern life as they have been through the millennia. Students will discover an often unreported history while learning about a worldview that contrasts greatly with our modern technocratic, capitalistic society. The curriculum examines the history, language, art, and traditions of the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d Orielle peoples. Course work also includes North American Indian history, federal policy, and the contemporary issues that shape the lives of Indians in today’s world.

SKC has adopted the following goals:

To assist with the preservation of the cultures, languages, histories, and natural environment of the Salish, Pend d`Oreille, and Kootenai people

To provide postsecondary education opportunities for Native Americans in the following areas: degree programs, vocational training, college transfer programs, community service, Native American culture and history, and adult education.

To provide a learning environment in which students develop skills in effective communication, critical thinking, cultural understanding, and citizenship.

To provide comprehensive student services.

To provide life-long, continuing education opportunities for both personal and professional development through a variety of instructional formats offered on and off campus.

To provide assistance to tribal entities and departments in staff preparation, planning, research and services according to identified needs.

To assist the Indian community with economic development needs of the Flathead Indian Nation.

To provide adequate institutional support and financial resources.

Shown below are some recent photographs of the SCK campus.

SKC Campus

SKC Kenmile

SKC Art 1

SKC Art 2

SKC Art 3

Choctaw Education After Removal

By 1840, some 40,000 Indians from the Five Civilized Tribes-Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole-had been resettled in what is now Oklahoma as a part of the efforts of the American government to remove all Indians from American territory east of the Mississippi. Each of the Five Civilized Tribes was organized into self-governing republics and was attempting to re-establish themselves in this new territory.

Under the terms of the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, the United States had promised the Choctaw that it would construct schools for their children and pay for the teachers. In addition, the United States was to provide 20 scholarships per year for 20 years for Choctaw students to go to college.  

In 1831, the Choctaw removal began and they began to establish a new government and a new way of life west of the Mississippi River. By 1832, an estimated 6,000 Choctaw had settled in Oklahoma. In 1833, the Choctaw established a tribal school system and built 12 log schoolhouses.

Manual labor schools were established for Indians in Oklahoma by the United States government in 1834. The first of these was among the Choctaw. The school was run by a Baptist minister and was designed to teach letters, labor, mechanical arts, morals, and Christianity. The United States government felt that it had an obligation to force conversion to Christianity upon the Indians as a way of paying them for the land which the government had taken from them. Conversion to Christianity was seen as a required step in the process of becoming “civilized.”

By 1837, there were at least 15,000 Choctaw who had been removed to Oklahoma. By 1838, the teachers in the Choctaw’s 12 neighborhood schools were being paid from their treaty funds. The students were being supported by their parents.

In 1842, the Choctaw decided to re-establish their school system in Oklahoma. They decided to sever their ties with the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky and to establish six boarding schools: Spencer Academy, Fort Coffee Academy, Koonaha (Kunaha or Sunsha) Female Seminary, Ianubbee (Ayanubbe) Female Seminary, Chuwahla (Chuwalla) Female Seminary, and Wheelock Female Seminary.

The Choctaw Academy had been established near Lexington, Kentucky in 1826. While the school was partially funded by Choctaw annuities, the majority of its students were not Choctaw, but included Creek, Seminole, Shawnee, Potawatomi, Pawnee, and others. Upon arriving at the school, the students were given English names, usually the name of prominent political and government officials. The curriculum included both liberal arts and vocational education, together with preaching intended to convert the young students to Christianity. The religious objectives of the school were endorsed by the government. The Indian students at the Choctaw Academy were also considered to be hostages who would help prevent war between their tribes and the United States.

The Choctaw boarding schools intended to teach Choctaw boys agriculture and mechanical arts. Choctaw girls were to learn how to sew and make clothing and to do household chores. Additional subjects taught by the schools included business skills and reading, writing, and spelling in the English language. Arithmetic, music, and geography were also taught, and in some schools pupils learned algebra, geometry, U.S. history, chemistry, philosophy, botany, astronomy, painting, drawing, and Latin grammar. Students were generally ten to sixteen years of age

The Wheelock Mission was chosen as the site for the female boarding school. In 1843, the Wheelock Female Seminary on the Choctaw Nation formally opened. While missionaries generally found the Choctaws’ native tongue to be the most effective language of instruction, the Choctaw Council, under the influence of the mixed-bloods, insisted that English be used exclusively in the boarding schools. Since English was a foreign language to most of the students this acted as a barrier to their progress. Students were forbidden to speak Choctaw not only in the classroom, but in addition the girls were forbidden to use it when conversing with each other.

With regard to instruction, five hours each day were dedicated to the classroom and four hours to domestic skills. Each of the girls was also assigned to household chores. In order to help defray the costs of operating the schools, the students helped operate the school. Academically, this was justified as a way of teaching them practical hands-on-experience in how to manage a dairy, feed a family, and care for a home. While they learned the skills necessary to run a non-Indian household, they were being purged of many traditional customs.

The school was viewed as an important instrument for spreading Christianity among the Choctaw. In nineteenth century terminology, a “seminary” was not a school dedicated solely to religious instruction, but one which offered a four-year high school curriculum.  

In 1844, the Choctaw finished construction of the Spencer Academy. The boarding school was intended to accommodate 100 boys. The school was named for John Spencer who served as Secretary of War from 1841-1843. Spencer donated a 250-pound bell to the school.

The Civil War interrupted the Choctaw school system and all of their schools were closed. After the war some of the boarding schools were re-opened. The New Hope Seminary and Spencer Academy were revived in 1871. In 1884 the Armstrong Academy was reopened as a school for orphan boys aged six to twelve, and the Wheelock Academy was reestablished as a school for orphan girls of the same age.

In 1898, the Curtis Act, intended to break up all of the Indian nations in Oklahoma, put the Choctaw schools under federal control. Slowly the federal government closed the Choctaw schools. By 1930 only two schools remained: the Jones Academy and the Wheelock Seminary. The Wheelock Seminary was merged with the Jones Academy in 1955. The Jones Academy is presently maintained under the direction of the Choctaw Nation as a residential care center for elementary and secondary age children.

Indian Art Education in the 1930s

During the 1930s, with the United States in the midst of the First Great Depression, American Indian art began to emerge as a form of economic development as well as cultural expression. During this time there were a number of programs to educate Indian artists in both art techniques and in art marketing.  

The Bureau of Indian Affairs lifted the ban on teaching traditional arts and music at its boarding schools in 1930. Lifting the ban was not based on any feeling that Indian cultures were to be encouraged, but upon the recognition that traditional Indian arts and crafts were a way for Indian people to make money.

In 1932, Mable Morrow established a program devoted strictly to Indian arts and crafts at the Santa Fe (New Mexico) Indian School. She brought in nine young Indian women from the Haskell Indian School to form the core of a two-year program that admitted only female high-school graduates. The new program intended to prepare Indian women for careers both as independent professional artists and as art teachers in federal Indian schools. A new building was constructed to house the arts and crafts program. Morrow developed a program which included silversmithing, pottery, weaving, beadwork, embroidery, basketry, carding, tanning, wool dying, and woodworking.

Dorothy Dunn, an art teacher who had recently graduated from the School of Art Institute of Chicago, opened an art studio at the Santa Fe Indian School in 1932. Dunn was not a stranger to either Indian students or Indian art. She had been the second grade teacher at the Santo Domingo Pueblo day school and she had taught at the San Juan Boarding School on the Navajo Reservation.

Dorothy Dunn

Dorothy Dunn is shown above.

Under her tutelage, Indian students were encouraged to depict traditional ceremonial and tribal scenes, and plants and animals, using a flat, decorative, linear style. Her goals were to foster an appreciation of Indian painting and to produce new paintings with high standards. She felt that it was important to maintain tribal and individual distinctions in the paintings.

In class, the students sketched pictographic figures and had free-line brush practice. She discouraged borrowing motifs or styles from other tribal groups or from non-Indians. In order to provide her students with a broad art education, she borrowed books and historic objects from museums, took students on trips to the Laboratory of Anthropology and the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe. Dunn also brought in non-Indian lecturers to teach her students about their own heritage. She encouraged her students to exploit what she defined as Native tradition. In style and content the works produced by her students affirmed romanticized conceptions of the Indian. As a result, the Studio-style paintings found an eager market among non-Native patrons.

While Dorothy Dunn exposed her students to many different examples of art, her curriculum did not include any discussion of art theory or history, or of modern art movements. This experimental art program, later referred as The Studio, was instrumental in the education of many Indian artists, including Tewa artist Pablita Velarde and Chiricauha Apache artist Allan Houser.

Pablita Velarde


Pablita Velarde and her work are shown above.


A sculpture by Alan Houser is shown above.

In 1933, Dorothy Dunn began to teach her students to make earth color paintings to reproduce the colors traditionally used in painting pottery and ceremonial objects. This technique used pulverized dry organic pigments glued to a backing or wall in a fresco technique.

In 1932, Bacone College, a college for Indian students in Muskogee, Oklahoma opened its Art Lodge where students are exposed to Native American artistic traditions. Two years later, the college opened an art department under the direction of Creek artist Acee Blue Eagle.


Ataloa Lodge, the art museum at Bacone College is shown above.

At the urging of Indian Commissioner John Collier, Congress passed the Indian Arts and Crafts Act  of 1935 which established a special board to promote the development of Indian arts and crafts. The purpose of the board was: (1) to enlarge the market for Indian art, (2) improve production, and (3) establish certification of Indian artists. With regard to the certification of Indian artists, Indian identity was seen as essential and following the racist conventions of the time, “Indian” was defined as someone who was of at least one-quarter Indian blood.

The act was intended to generate more income on reservations. The five member board worked to promote the development of Indian arts and crafts by teaching artists how to market their work and by educating the public about Indian-made products. The concept of Indian art, however, was not defined by the Indian artists, but by the collectors and tourists who wanted to possess objects that conformed to their own preconceptions about what constituted Native subject matter, style, or technique.

In 1937, anthropologist Alice Marriot started a program in Oklahoma to train Choctaw women in spinning. The project was an experiment by the Indian Arts and Crafts Board to increase Indian incomes through traditional native craft. Spinning was a deceptively simple craft. While learning the technical aspects of spinning required a short amount of time, its mastery takes years of practice. The Choctaw spinners were soon depressed to find that their work generated very little money.

In 1939, in an effort to promote Hopi silver as a unique art form, Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton from the Museum of Northern Arizona sent a letter to 18 Hopi silversmiths in which she wrote:

“The tourist does not know the difference between the genuine hand made and the machine made and so they are often misled, but they would like to have some guarantee, that the silver which they buy is really hand made.”

She included paperwork from the Indians Arts and Crafts Board with instructions on how to get their mark. She also wrote:

“Hopi silver should be entirely different from all other Indian silver, it should be Hopi silver, using only Hopi designs.”

In 1939, the Papago Tribal Council in Arizona encouraged basketmaking by establishing a revolving fund to buy baskets and then to sell them through the Papago Arts and Crafts Board.

The Importance of Cultural Education

Much of what is known of Native American culture in non-Native communities is what has been romanticized in movies, books, and other forms of media which usually depicts the wise older Native American man in ceremonial garb telling stories of animals or of an Indian princess or warrior dancing during a Pow Wow. People would probably be surprised to see how people on a reservation actually live their day to day lives. Eventually, this will be what future Native American children will know of their culture. Sadly much culture had been lost during the years of the early boarding schools as children were separated from their families, homes, culture, and language, suffering years of abuse while losing the traditions and values that are so important to the Native American community. This caused a generational gap in the passing down of Native American culture which is still evident in today’s youth especially as more of the pre-boarding school generation is beginning to die off. Another factor contributing to the decrease in cultural identity is the movement from on-reservation school to off-reservation, public schools due to better funding or programs.

Therefore attention needs to be directed to off-reservation schools and how to create a more accepting environment for these Indian children which can both better their education as well as preserving their cultural heritage. I suggest that training programs be developed to instruct teachers on better ways to present information to their Native American students such as in the form of group projects where individual success helps the overall success of the group. The formation of after school programs as well as involvement in team sports have shown to also improve student performance in schools.

Yet I wish to emphasize the opportunity to implement culturally based programs into schools that are located in an area with a high Indian population.  These could include anything from language classes to Indian art projects to including Indian history in American History classes or even the recognition of historically relevant events in Native American history. Such inclusions into the schools would help dramatically in the success of the Native American student. It would also promote awareness in the non-Indian students as well which can help bridge the tension between the two groups that years of abuse and mistreatment have caused.

Much attention needs to be generated for this cause because such a large undertaking would require a large amount of support both locally as well on state and federal levels. There is also a sense of urgency has much of the cultural history is being lost as the years go on with the aging of the Indian population. While I can never fully understand all the problems that the Native American community is facing, I wish to express my support for the survival and successful preservation of your people and your culture. I hope this is the start of future understanding between our people and that there will be no repeat of past tragedies.  I feel that education is a step in the right direction for a better future.

Moor’s Indian Charity School

( – promoted by navajo)

Many Christian missionaries, both Protestant and Catholic, have wrestled with the problem of how best to convert the “pagan” Indians. In 1754, Eleazar Wheelock felt that Indian missionaries could be supported for about half the cost of English missionaries; they spoke the Indian language; and they were accustomed to Indian lifestyles. Wheelock  wrote:

“Indian missionaries may be supposed better to understand the tempers and customs of Indians, and more readily conform to them in a thousand things than the English can; and in things wherein the nonconformity of the English may cause disgust, and be construed as the fruit of pride, and an evidence and expression of their scorn and disrespect.”

In order to create the Indian missionaries needed for this effort, Eleazar Wheelock founded Moor’s Indian Charity School in Lebanon, Connecticut. The school was named for its chief benefactor, Joshua Moor, who donated a house and two acres of land.  


While some of the inspiration for the school had come from Wheelock’s experience in tutoring a Mohegan named Samson Occom from 1743 to 1748, Wheelock felt that the plan for the school was divinely inspired.

The Indian boys who attended the school were separated from their own culture and were given a classical education in Latin and Greek. Looking at the school through the lens of British standards, it appeared to be a sound approach to education. From an Indian viewpoint, however, it was a form of cultural genocide.

The Indian boys began each day with prayer and catechism before dawn. This was followed by formal instruction in Greek and Latin. The Indian boys were required to work on the school’s farm half of the day-a task classified as “husbandry”. Most of the Indian students showed little interest in farm chores.

Indian girls attended academic classes only one day a week. The rest of the time they were delegated to non-Indian households where they worked as servants (some would say that they are slaves). Like other females in British New England, they were taught subjects that would assist their husbands’ needs. Wheelock, like other missionaries, educators, and English leaders of this era, was convinced that the presence of Indian girls at the school would result in future wifely companionship for the Indian missionary husbands.

Initially, recruitment of students was limited to New England and New Jersey since the war between the French and the English (sometimes called the French and Indian War, 1754-1763) interfered with recruitment in other areas. Two Delaware boys, John Pumshire and Jacob Woolley, were the first two students at the school. They were later joined by Pequot, Mohegan, and Montauk students.

Beginning in 1761, Wheelock was able to recruit students from the Iroquois in New York. At the same time, the first two Indian girls enrolled: Amy Johnson, a Mohegan and Miriam Storrs, a Delaware.

Probably the most famous student at Moor’s Indian Charity School was the Mohawk Joseph Brant. In 1761, three young Mohawk men-Joseph Brant, Negyes, and Center-were sent to the school. All of the Mohawk kept their horses ready so that they could flee back to their own country. Center and Negyes soon returned home, but Brant stayed on to improve his written Mohawk and to learn spoken and written English.

Joseph Brant, whose Mohawk name was Thayendenegea, was the son of Aroghyiadecker (Nickus Brant), the grandson of Sagayeenquarashtow (one of the sachems who visited Queen Anne’s court at the beginning of the century), and the brother of Molly Brant, the consort of Sir William Johnson, the British Indian superintendent.

Students from the school sometimes helped in missionary efforts. For example, in 1761, David Fowler (Montauk), who was a student at Moor’s Indian Charity School, accompanied his brother-in-law, the Mohegan Christian missionary Samson Occom on a visit to the Oneida. They visited the Oneida on behalf of the Presbyterian missionary organization, the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The Oneida were receptive to a missionary and a school and they presented Occom with a wampum belt to bind them together in love and friendship.  Occom told the Oneida that they were to wear their hair long, in the English style, and that they were not to wear Indian ornaments.

In 1765, the first students from Moor’s Indian Charity School were ready for examination by the Connecticut Board of Correspondents, one of several such colonial boards that represented the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. A total of eleven students graduated, with three Indian boys becoming schoolmasters to the Iroquois and six serving as teaching assistants.

In 1768, Moor’s Indian Charity School closed. About 50 Indian students had studied at the school and 15 had returned to their homes as missionaries, schoolmasters, or assistants to non-Indian ministers. Overall, Moor’s Charity School made no lasting evangelistic mark.

By the mid 1760s, Eleazar Wheelock had realized that his plan of sending missionaries to the Indian homelands to educate and convert Indians was not working as planned. He began to look for new directions in which to move. In 1769, he received a charter for a new school, one which would be named for William, second Earl of Dartmouth. Wheelock was appointed Dartmouth College’s first president.  

Native American Food: Camas

( – promoted by navajo)

The Plateau Culture Area is the region which extends east from the Cascade Mountains in Washington to the Rocky Mountains in Montana. It extends from the Fraser River in British Columbia to the Blue Mountains in Oregon. The Indian tribes which inhabited this area have historic and cultural ties with the tribes on the Pacific Coast as well as with the tribes on the Northern Plains. The Plateau tribes gathered and used over 130 different wild plants. It is estimated that from 40% to 60% of their calories came from the plant foods which they gathered. One of the most important root crops for the Plateau tribes was camas, which provided a major source of carbohydrates for their diet.

Camas is a lily-like plant whose bulb can be fire-baked to make a sweet and nutritious staple. In some places in the Northwest, camas was so common that non-Indian travelers would mistake the plant’s blue flowers for distant lakes.

Camas 1

Camas is very high in protein: 5.4 ounces of protein per pound of roots. In comparison, steelhead trout (Salmo gairdneri) has 3.4 ounces of protein per pound.

The proper time to gather camas is when the lower half of the flowers begins to fade. Indian people generally gathered camas in June, but this varied according to altitude and seasonal weather conditions. Some of the tribes, such as the Flathead, designated June as Camas Moon.

The camas was often dug up using digging sticks made from elk antlers. A woman could dig up about a bushel of roots in a day from a site that was about half an acre in size.

At the camas digging camps, the camas was usually cooked in earth ovens before eating it or storing it. Since the same camps were used each season, the pit ovens used for roasting the camas were also reused.

Although the men gathered the wood for the ovens, men were not allowed near the roasting pits for fear that the camas would not be roasted properly.

The oven (a roasting pit dug into the ground) was preheated by building a fire in it and placing small rocks (about 5″ in diameter) in with the wood. In addition to the small rocks, some pits had large flat stones on the bottom which were also heated by the fire. When the rocks were hot, they were covered with wet vegetation such as slough grass, alder branches, willow, and/or skunk cabbage leaves. Then the camas bulbs were placed on top of the vegetation. Sometimes Douglas onions (Allium douglasii) were placed in with the camas. The camas was then covered with bark and earth and a fire was built on top of the oven. Cooking usually took between 12 and 70 hours, depending on the number of camas bulbs in the oven.

The camas which was intended for storage was then dried for about a week. Dried camas can be preserved for many years. Some American explorers report eating camas that had been prepared 36 years earlier.  

The early Europeans in the area, such as Lewis and Clark, occasionally consumed camas after they were shown how to harvest it and prepare it. One Jesuit missionary fermented camas to make alcohol. Another Jesuit missionary observed that the consumption of camas by those unaccustomed to it is “followed by strong odors accompanied by loud sounds”.

In order to increase the camas yield, the camas areas, as well as other root gathering areas, were occasionally burned over.  

American Indian Biography: John Rollin Ridge, Cherokee Writer

( – promoted by navajo)

When John Rollin Ridge died in 1867 he was eulogized as one of California’s great poets and political commentator. To understand his life and what motivated him, we must start by looking at his parents: John Ridge and Sarah Bird Northrup.

In the early 1800s, the Cherokee were borrowing many European ideas. Feeling that reading and writing were important, the Cherokee invited Christian missionaries to live among them and to operate schools. The Brainard School opened in 1817 with 26 Cherokee students. Soon it was suggested that some Cherokee might enroll in the new school operated by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions at Cornwall, Connecticut. Soon a number of Cherokee students were enrolled at the school.

The curriculum at the Cornwall school included a heavy dose of religious training, working on the school’s farm (classified as “agricultural education”) and courses in geography, history, rhetoric, surveying, Latin, and natural science.

One of the Cherokee students at the school was John Ridge. However, he had problems with his hip which were aggravated by the cold winters.  By 1821, his condition had worsened and so he was removed from the dormitory and placed in a private room in the Northrup home. It was there that he met and fell in love with the fourteen year-old Sarah Bird Northrup. Sarah’s family responded by sending her away to live with her grandparents. John wrote to his mother and asked for her permission for him to marry Sarah. John’s mother, insisting that he should marry a Cherokee woman, did not give her consent to the marriage.

In spite of the opposition from both families, John Ridge and Sarah Bird Northrup were finally married on January 27, 1824 in Connecticut. In order to avoid being mobbed, the couple immediately left Connecticut for Cherokee country in Georgia. The Cherokee were used to having non-Cherokee men marry Cherokee women and were dismayed to find that the Christian citizens of Cornwall, Connecticut were strongly opposed to having Cherokee men marrying non-Cherokee women.

John Rollin Ridge was born to John Ridge and Sarah Bird Northrup Ridge at Running Waters in the Cherokee Nation on March 19, 1827. John Ridge at this time was practicing law and had a half-interest it the ferry at New Echota. The family farm consisted of 419 acres and was run with the help of 18 slaves.

By 1835 the pressure from the State of Georgia and from the United States to have the Cherokee move west of the Mississippi had intensified. Census records at the time show that there was little difference between the Cherokee and non-Cherokee in terms of material culture. They lived in the same kind of homes, they raised the same crops. However, the Americans, fueled by racism and greed, wanted Cherokee land. The Cherokee at this time were divided into two factions: the Ridge party and the Ross Party. The Ridge Party led by John Ridge, Major Ridge (John’s father and John Rollin’s grandfather), and Elias Boudinot (also known as Buck Watie) saw that removal was inevitable, while the Ross Party, under the leadership of John Ross, opposed removal.

On December 29, 1835, twenty members of the Ridge Party signed an agreement with the United States in which the Cherokee would exchange their lands in the east for nearly 14 million acres of land in the west. In addition, they would receive $4.5 million and an annuity to support a school. John Ridge, Major Ridge, and Elias Boudinot were among those who signed the treaty. Upon signing, Major Ridge remarked: “I have signed my death warrant” in acknowledgement that the Cherokee nation had a law mandating death to those who sold Cherokee land.

In 1836, the Ridges and other members of the Ridge party left their traditional Cherokee homeland for Indian Territory. They settled near present-day Southwest City, Missouri and their 18 black slaves set out to clear the land and plant the crops.

The Ross Party and other Cherokee would later be forced to move to Indian Territory at bayonet point in a journey called the Trail of Tears.

In 1839, three execution squads set out to enforce Cherokee law. One of these squads forced their way into the home of John Ridge, and dragged him from his bed to the yard. While John Rollin Ridge and other members of the family watched, some of the  men held John Ridge’s arms and legs while others stabbed him 29 times. They then threw him into the air and let his bleeding body crash to the ground. The execution squad then marched over his body, stamping on him as they passed. John Rollin Ridge would later write:

“My mother ran to him. He raised himself on his elbow and tried to speak, but the blood flowed into his mouth and prevented him. In a few moments he died, without speaking the last words which he wished to say.”

The execution squads also killed Major Ridge and Elias Boudinot that day. They thus eliminated the leaders of the Ridge Party.

Following the executions, the Ridge family fled to Fayetteville, Arkansas. John Ridge died without a will, leaving behind a fairly large estate consisting of slaves, stock, and other personal property. Due to the chaotic state of the Cherokee nation, the estate was not immediately settled and thus the Ridge family found themselves often short of funds.

John Rollin Ridge received much of his formal education in Arkansas. In 1843, he enrolled in the Great Barrington Academy in Massachusetts. While enrolled in the Academy, he heard that his uncle Stand Watie had killed James Foreman, the assassin of Major Ridge. He wrote to his uncle:

“You cannot imagine what feelings of pleasure it gave me when I heard of the death of him who was the murderer of my venerable and beloved grandfather.”

In the same letter he also expresses extreme dislike – some would say hatred – for John Ross.

By 1847, John Rollin Ridge had moved back to Cherokee country, had married Elizabeth Wilson (a non-Cherokee), and had purchased a farm. The estate of John Ridge was settled and John Rollin received two slaves and other items. At this time, he began writing poetry under the name of Yellowbird as well as articles on Cherokee history and politics.

In 1849 John Rollin Ridge had an argument with his neighbor over a missing stallion. During the argument, John Rollin killed David Kell, a pro-Ross man. Fearing that he could not receive a fair trial in the Cherokee Nation because of John Ross and his followers, John Rollin Ridge fled to Missouri. Later it was determined that Kell had been encouraged by Ross supporters to provoke a fight with John Rollin in order to have an excuse to kill him.

In 1850, John Rollin Ridge, his brother Aeneas, and a slave named Wacooli joined a large party which was headed for the California gold fields. His intention was to engage in mining and amass a fortune. However, the journey to California proved to be more expensive and more difficult than he had thought. Along the way, he had to abandon a wagon, equipment, and clothing. Eventually he arrived in Placerville to find that thousands of people were already digging for gold. He soon learned that gold mining was hard physical work and that very few gold miners ever struck it rich.

John Rollin Ridge arrived in Sacramento looking for a job-any job that was honest. It was here that he met the local agent for the New Orleans newspaper True Delta and wrote a sample article. The agent quickly realized that it was a well-written article and John Rollin Ridge became a correspondent for True Delta. Thus he began his newspaper career in California.

The writings and poetry of John Rollin Ridge were soon appearing in a number of California publications including Alta California, Golden Era, Hesperian, Marysville Herald, Daily Union, and Hutching’s California Magazine.

In 1854, his book The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit was published. The book was widely read and frequently plagiarized. While John Rollin Ridge claimed that the story was true and was important to the early history of the state, there are some literary critics today who classify the work as a novel.

While working in the newspaper field, his dream was to establish a newspaper that would be devoted to Indian affairs, to defend Indian rights, and to provide Indians with powerful friends. He wrote:

“I want to write the history of the Cherokee nation as it should be written and not as white men will write it and as they will tell the tale, to screen and justify themselves.”

This is a dream which he would never realize.

In 1855, John Rollin Ridge became the main writer for the California American, an organ for the Know Nothing Party. One of the Party’s main tenets was that foreigners were unfit for citizenship and that Catholics should be denied citizenship as they were loyal to a foreign power.

In 1857 the Daily Bee began publishing in Sacramento with John Rollin Ridge as its editor. As editor of the Bee Ridge defended female journalists and writers. He wrote:

“The lady-writers of America are among the very best of our contributors to the literature of today.”


As editor of the Daily Bee John Rollin Ridge published many anti-Mormon articles. He opposed the creation of a Mormon state in Utah. He argued against mixing religion and politics. He wrote:

“A minister of the gospel, therefore, in the United States, who would speak of politics in the pulpit, and seek to array religion and politics together, is nothing better than a vile incendiary, torch in hand, in the very temple of our liberties, and deserves to be looked upon as a common enemy, taken down from the position which he disgraces, and branded with universal contempt.”

While at the Daily Bee, John Rollin Ridge began writing about Indians. While Ridge agreed with the popular opinion that the “digger” Indians were inferior, he disagreed with the popular notion that genocide was the solution. Ridge felt that California’s Indians were inferior to the Indians of the East and to those of South America.

The term “digger” Indians was used at the time to refer to a number of different tribes. The term comes from their practice of digging for roots.

With regard to Indians in North America since the European invasion, Ridge wrote:

“The Indian’s rights have been best respected, since the first white settlement of this continent, in those places where he has held his ground by bow and gun, tomahawk and scalping knife; where he has shown himself a warrior, and ready to mingle his blood with the soil upon which he grew, rather than leave it; where he had met encroachment upon his rights, or what he deemed his rights, by the torch of midnight conflagration and the death-menacing war whoop and the death-dealing tomahawk; where he has made it unsafe to lie down at night or to get up in the morning or to journey forth by day-There has his title to land been recognized and there has he been negotiated with and there have mutual terms of peace been subscribed to and respected.”

In 1857, writing under the name Yellow Bird, John Rollin Ridge provided a sketch of Si Bolla, a leader of one of the “digger” Indian bands. The account expressed admiration for the man’s intelligence and speaking ability. Although Ridge considered the “diggers” to be inferior, he defended them against the Americans who persecuted and enslaved them.

John Rollin Ridge left the Daily Bee to become the editor of the Express in Marysville. He then became the editor of the short-lived Marysville News. He then joined the Daily National Democrat whose banner proudly proclaimed: “The Voice of the People is the Voice of God.”

In 1861, Ridge became the editor of the anti-Lincoln and antiabolitionist Evening Journal in San Francisco. While he felt that Lincoln and the abolitionists would destroy the Union, Ridge declared his support for the Union and declared that the Evening Journal would be independent from any political party.

After a few months with the Evening Journal, Ridge moved to another San Francisco paper, the National Herald. His main assignment at the National Herald was to write on political affairs.

While in San Francisco, John Rollin Ridge wrote three long works on the American Indian for the Hesperian. In the first article, he speculated on the origin of the Indians, noting characteristics that are similar to those of the Greeks, Persians, Jews, and Chaldeans. The second article centered on the religious beliefs of the Indians and their mythology. The third article focused on Indian priests, prophets, and medicine men. In his discussion of the Medawin (the priests), he writes:

“The secret grips and signs [of the Medawin] have been recognized as identical with some of the grips and signs of Free Masonry.”

In 1862, Ridge left San Francisco to take a temporary position with the Beacon in Red Bluff. While at Red Bluff, Ridge wrote a number of articles about the Cherokee in which he criticized Cherokee chief John Ross.

After a few months in Red Bluff, he traveled to Weaverville where he helps establish the Trinity National. Following the demise of the paper after only a few issues, he wrote for a number of other papers.

John Rollin Ridge died on October 5, 1867 and was buried in Grass Valley, California. The cause of death was diagnosed as “brain fever” or encephalitis lethargia. The Alta California wrote:

“as a poet, he deserves a prominent position, and as a general writer he was forcible, elegant and polished, his chief forte being that of politics.”

In 1933, the Native Sons of the Golden West erected a marker on his grave which reads in part:

“John Rollin Ridge-California poet, Author of ‘Mount Shasta’ and Other Poems.”


Albert Fall & the Suppression of Indian Religions

( – promoted by navajo)

In 1921, Albert Fall, the former Senator from New Mexico, was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Warren Harding. Since the Indian Office (now called the Bureau of Indian Affairs) is a part of the Department of Interior, this meant that Fall was now in charge of Indian affairs. He was openly hostile to Indian rights, particularly religious rights. One of Fall’s first acts was to enforce the prohibition against the Plains Indian Sun Dance. Those who participated were to be jailed for 30 days in the agency prison.

Albert Fall

The Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a lengthy list of Indian offenses for which corrective penalties were provided. One concern was the reckless giving away of property and another concern was Indian dances which were described by the Bureau as a “ribald system of debauchery”. The official attitude toward Indian dances can be seen in a report by the superintendent of the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana:

“The dance itself is extremely demoralizing because when they dance they insist upon giving away property. More than one-half of these Indians if allowed to would give away all of their property. The Indian dance has a direct influence against the Church influence.”

A year before Fall was appointed Secretary of the Interior, the peyote religion (Native American Church) had been carried to the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho by Shoshone spiritual leader Jack Edmo and by Sioux spiritual leader Cactus Pete. Jack Edmo first encountered peyote at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota during his summer travels. He soon began leading regular Saturday night peyote meetings. The new religion rapidly spread across the reservation and alarmed agency officials. The Indian agent arrested Jack Edmo and others as he viewed peyote meetings as a form of immorality. He then contacted the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to see if he was authorized to try them for violating Indian Office Regulations against the practices of medicine men. With Fall guiding Indian policies, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Reservation was informed by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that the use of peyote and peyote meetings were in violation of Indian Office Regulations. He therefore posted a notice informing the Shoshone and Bannock that the introduction, use, or possession of peyote was illegal.

Circular 1665 from Commissioner of Indian Affairs Charles Burke, issued in 1922, recommended that people be educated against Indian dances and that government employees work closely with the missionaries in matters which affect the moral welfare of the Indians. Like many non-Indians during this era, Burke regarded Indian religions as superstitious and backward. While the Indian Service could not impose Christianity upon the Indians, Burke believed it should do everything in its power to assist the religious volunteers who worked among the Indians.

The Tohono O’Odham on Arizona’s Papago Reservation held traditional Náwai’t ceremonies in 1922 in order to break an extended drought. The Náwai’t includes the ritual consumption of tiswin, an alcoholic beverage made from the fruit of the giant Saguaro Cactus. The consumption of tiswin results in vomiting, a recognized ceremonial feature which is called “throwing up the clouds.” The Bureau of Indian Affairs had the agency police raid the villages of Big Fields and Santa Rosa where several hundred participants were dispersed. The police arrested several leaders and Keepers of the Smoke for making tiswin. While the Bureau of Indian Affairs continued to warn people about this ceremony, the Tohono O’Odham continued to hold the ceremony in secret.

Word of the efforts of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to prohibit Pueblo religions in New Mexico reached the Hopi in 1922. Several Hopi leaders decided to meet in Winslow, a non-Indian town which was located off of the reservation. They feared that if they were to meet on the reservation that the BIA would arrest them. Meeting with the Hopi was the distinguished writer James Willard Schulz. Schulz heard the Hopi complain about threats from government if they continued their religion. One elder stated that he would rather be shot down by the government while doing his religion than try to live without it.

In 1923 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs updated the list of Indian offenses-activities for which Indians could punished. The Commissioner suggested that maypole dances be used as a substitute for traditional Indian dances at Indian schools. He was apparently unaware that the maypole dances were survivals of European pagan fertility dances around phallic icons.

In response to the suppression of Indian religions and cultures under the Albert Fall administration, the American Indian Defense Association was formed to lobby Congress for greater cultural and religious freedom for Indians. It was composed primarily of middle to upper class non-Indians.  John Collier was selected as the organization’s executive secretary.

In 1920, Mabel Dodge had taken social worker John Collier to watch the Red Deer Dance at Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Collier was astonished at what he saw. This was a life-changing experience for him. He would later write:

“I was rocked; it was like a hallucination or earthquake; a sudden dread-fear; the time-horizon pushed back in a moment and enormously… That solitary experience of ‘cosmic consciousness’ had been mine, that forever solitary translation.”

Collier would later become the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and under his administration there would be great religious freedom for American Indians.

In 1923 Albert Fall left office and would later be jailed for his role in the Teapot Dome scandal. The active suppression of Native American religious ceremonies, however, would continue for another decade, ending with the election of Franklin Roosevelt as President.  


( – promoted by navajo)

The Sonoran Desert stretches across Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora (Mexico). It is a hot, dry place. It is also the homeland for Indian people who call themselves O’odham.  

Papago by Curtis

Papago Map

The name O’odham means “we, the people.” The Spanish, the first European people to enter the area, called them Pimas Altos meaning Upper Pima Indians. The word Pima comes from the phrase pi-nyi-match (“I don’t know”) which was often the reply which the O’odham gave to the Spanish explorers.

The O’odham speak languages which are classified as Uto-Aztecan which means that they are linguistically related to other Indian nations such as the Hopi, the Ute, the Paiute, and the Shoshone, as well as many Indian nations in Mexico.

Today, there are two basic O’odham tribes: the Akimel O’odham (River People) who live along the Gila River and the Tohono O’odham (Desert People) who live to the south in what is now the Papago Reservation.  

The Spanish, the American government and many non-Indian people have long used the name Papago in referring to the Tohono O’odham. Papago is from Papahvio-otam (“bean people”) which is the name given them by the neighboring Akimel O’odham.

According to the elders, the people have lived in the Sonoran Desert since they were created. One creation story says that Earthmaker scraped dirt from his chest and made it into a ball.

Then he stamped on it to flatten it out until it reached the edge of the sky. Then he made all of the things on the earth – the mountains, the rivers, the clouds, the animals, and the plants.

Earthmaker then made a small man with a beard and called him Eetoi. Earthmaker then made Coyote, a special being who could communicate with the supernatural. Using clay, Earthmaker then made people. The people were perfect and they did not die. However, there were too many people and soon they began fighting among themselves. Earthmaker and Eetoi then destroyed the people with a flood.

After the flood Earthmaker, Eetoi, and Coyote decided to create new people out of clay. To get just the right color, they baked the new people. Coyote’s batch was first and he burnt them black. The creators breathed life into them and then threw them away, far on the other side of the world. The second batch, made by Earthmaker, weren’t cooked long enough and they were white. The creators breathed life into them and threw them away, across the sea. The third batch, made by Eetoi, were baked nice and brown. The creators breathed life into the people and they stayed in the land where they had been created. Earthmaker gave Eetoi the title of Elder Brother.

Eetoi lives in a cave in the Baboquivari Mountains which are located southwest of Tucson, Arizona. When the people need him, that is where they find him.

Archaeologists tell us that the O’odham are the descendents of the Hohokam who were farming in the Phoenix area and along the rivers in southern Arizona more than a thousand years ago.

The homeland of the O’odham people was first claimed by the Spanish under the European concept of discovery which states that Christians have the right to claim and govern all non-Christian nations. In 1821, O’odham land became a part of Mexico and under the Mexican constitution they became Mexican citizens. In 1854, the United States bought much of the O’odham territory from Mexico. The O’odham were neither consulted nor told about this sale. Under American law, the O’odham lost their citizenship. Many of the O’odham simply ignored American jurisdiction and continued to claim their Mexican citizenship.

The United States did not purchase all of the O’odham territory from Mexico. As a consequence, the O’odham, like a number of other Indian nations, has to contend with an international border which divides its people. While most O’odham today live in the United States, there are still many O’odham who live in the Mexican state of Sonora.

Without negotiating a treaty with the O’odham or consulting with them, the United States simply extended federal Indian policy to them. In 1857 the government appointed the first Indian agent for them.

The Tohono O’odham and the Akimel O’odham have never been at war with the United States, nor has the United States ever negotiated a treaty with them. From the very beginning of the American occupation, O’odham warriors helped the army in their battles against the Apache. From the O’odham viewpoint, the Apache were traditional enemies who had been raiding into O’odham territory for a long time. The American army, therefore, was a convenient ally to help the O’odham stop the Apache raids.

The first Papago or Tohono O’odham reservation was unofficially created in 1864 when a two square league area around the Mission San Xavier del Bac was set aside for their exclusive use. The area was officially placed under the jurisdiction of the Indian agent in 1874.

In 1912, President William Howard Taft issued an executive order creating the 47,600 acre Ak-Chin reservation in Arizona. The reservation was created in part in gratitude to the O’odham for their help in the wars against the Apache in the late 1800’s.

With the creation of the Ak-Chin Reservation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs filed for a water appropriation on behalf of the Ak-Chin Indian Community which called for a total of 70,000 acre-feet annually. Non-Indians in the area were upset about the size of the reservation and about the water appropriation. Within four months of the original executive order, President Taft issued a second executive order which reduced the size of the reservation to 21,840 acres.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order to create the 3.1 million acre Papago Reservation for the Tohono O’odham. The town of Indian Wells was renamed Sells after Indian Commissioner Cato Sells and became the headquarters for the new Indian agency. The creation of the reservation was opposed by the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona state land commissioner, and the Pima Farm Improvement Association.

The Papago Reservation both south and west of Tucson in southern Arizona is the second largest Indian reservation in the United States. It is about the size of the state of West Virginia.

Lots of people seem to think that Indians didn’t know about alcohol until the Europeans brought it to this continent. However, the Tohono O’odham were making an alcoholic ceremonial drink from the fruit of the saguaro cactus long before Europeans even knew that this continent existed. Called tiswin, it is drunk in conjunction with a rain ceremony. During the ceremony the people make themselves drunk, much like the plants in the rain.

There are a lot of people, including some eminent historians, who seem to think that the last military battle against Indians took place in 1890 at a place called Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Oglala Sioux in South Dakota. In fact, the American army continued its war against Indians through the rest of the nineteenth century and the twentieth century. While the Tohono O’odham have always been friendly toward the Americans, there have been a few skirmishes. One of the most interesting of these skirmishes took place in the 1940s.

The basis for these skirmishes began in 1924 when the United States Congress passed legislation giving all Indians full American citizenship. This was done without consulting with Indian people. In 1940, the United States Congress passed another bill giving Indians citizenship. While many states, including Arizona, simply ignored both citizenship bills and denied Indians the rights of citizenship, the United States government insisted that as citizens Indians must register for the draft. In 1940,  at the Tohono O’odham village of Toapit, 30 men under the leadership of Pia Machita refused to register for the draft. Marshals and Indian police attempted to arrest the leader, but they were roughed up and forced to release the 84 year old Machita. The Tohono O’odham then escaped into the desert. Pia Machita eluded the American army and federal marshals until 1941.

Oral tradition among the Tohono O’odham tells of army planes bombing villages during this time in an attempt to capture the draft rebels. The army’s unofficial story, again told as oral tradition, is that they were not bombing the villages, only dropping flour sacks on them to mark them so that they could be found from the ground.

Culturally, the O’odham don’t fit the common stereotypes of Indians who lived in tipis and hunted buffalo. Instead of tipis, the O’odham lived in dome- shaped lodges made from a framework of saplings and thatched with grass and/or leafy shrubs. These lodges were 12 to 20 feet in diameter. In addition to this lodge, they also built ramadas to provide them shade. These ramadas – which are still commonly used – provided an outdoor living and cooking space.  

While the Plains Indians kept a Winter Count which recorded their history on skins, the O’odham kept calendar sticks. These sticks contained a notch for each year and then markings to show the events for the year. The calendar sticks are considered to be personal rather than tribal and so they are traditionally destroyed when the person keeping them dies. Most anthropologists consider the calendar sticks to be mnemonic devices (which help the owner remember the events) rather than a form of writing.

Papago Baskets

Papago Basket Flat

With regard to arts, the O’odham have gained a reputation for their fine basketry. The first evidence of the commercialization of O’odham basketry was seen in 1900 when the basketweavers began incorporating yucca into their baskets. Yucca is scarce and is used only in baskets which are intended to be sold to outsiders. In addition, they began making coiled baskets for the tourist market. These coiled baskets were easier to make than their traditional “tree” or plaited baskets.

Papago Basket with lid

Papago Basket

Marriage between Indians and Non-Indians

( – promoted by navajo)

In 1808, President Thomas Jefferson told an Indian delegation who was visiting Washington:

“You will unite yourselves with us and we shall all be Americans. You will mix with us by marriage. Your blood will run in our veins and will spread with us over this great Island.”

We don’t know what response the Indians had to Jefferson’s words, but many non-Indians tended to be less than enthusiastic about marriage with Indians and about the children which might result from these unions. While the large fur trading companies at this time-Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company-encouraged their traders to marry Indian women as a way of gaining trading partners, there was strong opposition to the idea of Indian men marrying non-Indian women.  

Jesuit missionary Lawrence Palladino, writing in 1893, stated:

“Experience has amply proven that the Indian cannot be civilized except on Christian principles, through Christian methods, in Christian schools, by Christian teachers.”

Christian missionaries, both Protestant and Catholic, in their attempts to convert Indians, ranted against Indian forms of marriage such as polygyny (the marriage of a man to more than one women), the sexual freedom of Indian women, and the ease of Indian divorce. They preached that Indians needed to be married in the Christian fashion. While the missionaries were attempting drag Indians into “civilization,” they did not view the Indians as equals and they discouraged marriage between Indians and non-Indians.

In 1816 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions declared that it proposed for the Cherokee-

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

In 1817, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions established the Foreign Mission School at Cornwall, Connecticut to provide an education for young men from “heathen” nations. The following year, two Cherokee men-John Ridge and Elias Boudinot-enrolled in the Foreign Missions boarding school. The two men were cousins who had completed all the education the mission schools in the Cherokee Nation could provide. They hungered for more education, and the missionaries selected them for further training with an eye on making them into missionaries.  What the missionaries didn’t envision, however, was love and marriage.

In 1824, John Ridge married a non-Indian, Sarah Bird Northrup. The local newspapers denounced the couple. In the local churches, the marriage was denounced on racial grounds by Christian preachers from their pulpits. Following the marriage ceremony, the couple immediately left the area to avoid being mobbed.

The following year, Harriet Gold, the nineteen-year-old daughter of one of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions’ Foreign Mission School board, asked permission to marry Elias Boudinot. Community residents as well as agents of the school openly and vocally opposed the marriage. The citizens of Cornwall, led by the bride’s brother, rallied to burn the couple in effigy on the village green. Agents for the school voiced their opposition to all such marriages and labeled the couple’s conduct as “criminal.” They complained that such marriages were an affront to community sensibilities and violated guidelines of proper decorum.

Jeremiah Everts, the corresponding secretary for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions defended the marriage. He wrote:

Can it be pretended, at this age of the world, that a small variance of complexion is to present an insuperable barrier to matrimonial connexions? or that the different tribes of men are to be kept forever and entirely distinct?

In order to prevent such marriages in the future, the school was closed.

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was not the only Christian missionary group to be troubled by the marriage between an Indian man and a non-Indian woman. In 1933, in New York City, Ojibwa Christian minister Peter Jones married a non-Indian. The New York press reported:

“It was the first time we ever heard the words ‘man and wife’ sound hatefully.”

Other newspapers called the marriage “improper and revolting.”

During the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries many states passed laws which prohibited the marriage between Indians and non-Indians. In 1855, for example, the Washington Territorial Legislature passed the Color Act which declared void all marriages between non-Indians and persons of “more than one-half Indian blood.” The law decreed penalties for any clergyman or territorial official who solemnized such marriages. This law was repealed in 1868. Some of the other states which prohibited marriage with Indians included:

Maine: law enacted in 1821 and repealed in 1883

Massachusetts: law enacted in 1705 and repealed in 1843

Rhode Island: law enacted in 1798 and repealed in 1881

Arizona: law enacted in 1865 and repealed in 1962. The Arizona law actually prohibited anyone of a mixed racial heritage from marrying anyone.  

Idaho: law enacted in 1864 and repealed in 1959

Nevada: law enacted in 1861 and repealed in 1959

Oregon: law enacted in 1852 and repealed in 1951

North Carolina: law enacted in 1715 and overturned by the Supreme Court in 1967

Tennessee: law enacted in 1741 and overturned by the Supreme Court in 1967

American Indians and Museums

( – promoted by navajo)

In 1842 an entrepreneur named P.T. Barnum opened the American Museum on Broadway in New York to entertain the public with exotic and strange “curios”. Barnum and others considered these “curios” to be educational as well as entertaining. In addition to stuffed animals, the museum also contained Indian artifacts and presented exhibits of live Indians. The Indians were exhibited as public curiosities who re-enacted traditional ceremonies.  While the ceremonies were billed as “traditional,” they were modified to fit non-Indian tastes and to conform with non-Indian stereotypes about what Indians were, what they looked like, and what their ceremonies involved.

Barnum's Museum

While Barnum may have been one of the most flamboyant exhibitors of Indian “curios”, he was certainly not the only one. During the nineteenth century there was a growth in the number of museums – both public and private, both large and very small – which exhibited Indian artifacts and, sometimes, the Indians themselves.

Some Indian people bury their dead and they include in these burials many artifacts which were important to the individual. Many of these artifacts are well-made, beautiful, and strange to European eyes. For the museums in the nineteenth century and during much of the twentieth century, these grave goods made good exhibits. In fact, the remains of the Indians who were buried with the goods were often put on display as well. Non-Indians seemed to have a morbid curiosity about Indian skeletons.

During the nineteenth century, museums seemed to be convinced that Indians were a “dying race”, destined for extinction in the near future. Therefore, the large museums, such as the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and the Peabody in Boston, sent out expeditions to Indian country to obtain artifacts. From the Pueblos in the Southwest, these expeditions shipped boxcars filled with pottery, blankets, carvings, and other objects. In other parts of Indian country, they looted graves. At times the amount of Indian material coming into the Smithsonian was overwhelming. It was not uncommon to have artifacts stacked outside until space inside could be found for them.

During the twentieth century, museums seemed to view Indian people as a “vanished race” and their exhibits spoke of Indians as though they no longer existed. It is no wonder that museum educated people where sometimes startled when they encountered or read about Indians who were still living.

The focus of many of the nineteenth century museum exhibits was to demonstrate the idea of cultural evolution. Non-Indian Americans and Europeans were seen as the most highly evolved members of the human species and it was felt that the different Indian cultures represented lower levels or stages in cultural evolution. At the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, the ethnological exhibits ranked the peoples of the world on an evolutionary scale which started with savagry and culminated with civilization (exemplified by contemporary American society. The exhibits made clear to the visitors that racial typologies were legitimate categories for understanding human evolution and that racial types could be arranged in categories of savage and civilized.

Museums, like Hollywood movies, have tended to show Indian people as living in the past. Thus tourists to Indian country are sometimes amazed to find Indians driving pickup trucks, living in houses (not tipis), speaking English without the word “ugh”, and earning a living in the “modern” professions.

In the past two decades, museums have been changing. There have been two important factors involved. The first of these is that the tribes themselves have been taking control of their own destiny. This means, in part, a greater effort to record, interpret, display, and describe their own history and culture. Tribal museums often incorporate their oral tradition into the development and interpretation of the displays.

One of the finest examples of tribal museums is the Makah Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay, Washington. This center was founded in 1979 to help teach Makah children about their culture and history. Their mission statement:


1. To protect and preserve the linguistic, cultural and archeological resources of the Makah Indian Nation.

2. To provide policy direction in the area of linguistic and cultural management to the Makah Tribal Council and other interested organizations.

3. To educate Tribal members and the public in the cultural heritage, and language of the Makah Indian Nation.

4. To stimulate research which will benefit the Makah Nation and the academic community by providing a comprehensive center for the Makah-oriented research.

5. To promote economic development for the Makah Tribe of the Makah people.

The center also contains a very large collection of pre-contact artifacts from the Ozette archaeological site. Ozette was a Makah village which was partially covered by a mudslide before the arrival of the Europeans. While many people call this center a museum, some tribal members object to the term because they feel that the word “museum” carries an image of a “dead” culture rather than the living culture which is presented in the center.


Within the center, visitors can experience Makah life in a longhouse which is an exact reproduction of one found in Ozette. Explanations of Makah culture which accompany the exhibits show that this is a living culture, not just a tribe which is frozen in the past.

Another example of a tribal museum is the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Funded in part by revenues from the tribal casino, the museum is one way for the Pequot to tell non-Indians “We are still here” in spite of the fact that many history books still speak of them as an extinct tribe. Using lifelike dioramas, the museum takes visitors into Pequot village life prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. This museum is the largest Indian owned and operated museum in North America.

The second factor in the changes which are happening in museums was the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (commonly called NAGPRA) in 1990. This act requires a number of institutions, such as museums, federal agencies, and universities, to inventory certain categories of human remains and associated funerary objects. Culturally affiliated tribes are then to be notified of these remains and objects so that they can be reclaimed by the tribes.

NAGPRA jurisdiction includes Indian burials, burial artifacts, and sacred cultural objects whether they are found on federal, state, local, or private land. Items do not need to cross state lines to be subject to this law.

One of the implications of NAGPRA is that museums are now talking and consulting with the culture committees from the tribes. Exhibits are more sensitive to Indian concerns and attempt to explain Indian cultures and history from a perspective that takes Indian viewpoints into account.  

Jesuit Missionaries in Arizona

( – promoted by navajo)


photo credit: Aaron Huey

The Spanish missionaries made a four-pronged approach into North America: Florida and the Southeast (beginning in 1549); New Mexico and Texas (beginning in 1581); California (beginning in 1769); and Arizona (beginning in 1687). While there are many histories about the Spanish missions in New Mexico and California, those in Arizona tend to be less well-known. The missionary efforts in Arizona were carried out by the Jesuits (Society of Jesus, a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church).

San Xavier 1

The Spanish missionary efforts in Arizona began in 1687 when Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit, established a series of missions among the O’odham peoples in the desert of southern Arizona. These were people who had been farming in this desert environment for at least a thousand years. While Kino was adored and beloved by many, his endeavors were not universally accepted.


In 1691, Father Kino visited the O’odham village of Tumacacori and noted that it contained more than 40 houses which were situated close together. The following year, Father Kino visited the O’odham village which he called San Xavier del Bac near present-day Tucson and noted that more than 800 people were living there.

The O’odham are the descendents of the culture which archaeologists have labeled “Hohokam.” In 1694, Father Kino visited the Hohokam ruins at Casa Grande.

While there is sometimes a stereotypical image of the peaceful, but backward, Indians of Southern Arizona welcoming the peaceful Catholic priests and joyously building their churches while being rewarded with gospel lessons, the reality is different. As in other parts of North America, Indian people were often treated as slaves and they objected to this treatment. This was seen in the O’odham rebellion of 1695. At this time, the O’odham broke out of the mission at Tubutama and attempted to free other Indians at other missions. Father Kino arranged for peace talks, but when the O’Odham arrived at El Tupo, the Spanish opened fire and massacred the peace delegation.

General Juan Fernández de la Fuente with a party of 320-352 troops arrived in Quiburi on their way to engage the Jocome, Jano, and Apache in battle. The Sobaipuri informed the Spanish that the Jocome and Jano were planning to ambush them in the Sierra de Chiricahua. Quiburi was the largest Sobaipuri settlement with a population of about 400.

Two years later, the upper San Pedro Sobaípuri accepted gifts of livestock, grain, trinkets, and baptism from the Spanish and thus solidified the alliance between the two peoples. The Sobaípuris notified the Spanish of pending ambushes which had been arranged by their mutual enemies and they accompanied them on campaigns, perhaps only as guides and spies but nonetheless on the side of the Spanish. From the viewpoint of the Sobaípuri, this alliance gave them an advantage over their enemies and for this they were willing to endure baptism.

The Spanish founded the mission of San Xavier del Bac near the present day city of Tucson in 1700. The native population of the Pima Alto (Papago, Pima, Sobaipuri) was estimated at 23,000 at this time. This indicates that there had been a decline of more than half from their pre-contact population of more than 50,000. This was due primarily to exposure to European diseases between 1638 and 1700.

In 1701, Father Kino noted that the Indians had very good cotton fabrics. The Sobaiuri gave him some very good cotton fabrics and blankets.

In 1747, the Spanish missionary Jacobo Sedelmayr observed a large, sophisticated reservoir in Pima territory. He wrote:

“Its banks appear to be walls or breastworks of mortar or stone and mortar, from the hardness and strength of the material. At its four corners are gates which admit rain water.”

He assumed that the people who made the reservoir came from Mexico. Like many other non-Indians, there was an assumption that American Indians were incapable of constructing large projects and so the large features, including ancient ruins, which they encountered were assumed to be Mexican. With regard to the large multi-story buildings at Casa Grande, he wrote:

“It appears to me that Moctezuma resided in Casa Grande; and, in other buildings on both sides of the Gila, his governors lived: for always, in this type of ruin, one building is outstanding, and dominates the others.”

In 1751, Luís Oacpicagigua led an O’odham revolt against the Spanish because of their policy of forced Indian labor. The revolt started in Saric where 18 Spanish were killed, but one priest escaped and spread word of the revolt. Oacpicagigua asked the Sobaipuri and the Apache to join the revolt, but they declined. The O’odham attacked and plundered a number of missions and rancherias, including Caborca, Sonoita, Bac, and Guevavi. The O’odham killed more than 100 Spanish, including 2 priests. The Spanish killed 40 O’odham. Over a period of several months, the Spanish soldiers suppressed the rebellion.

The Spanish captured and executed several of those involved in the rebellion, including a relative of Luís Oacpicagigua. Oacpicagigua was captured, but negotiated his freedom by promising to supervise the rebuilding of the destroyed churches, a promise which he did not keep.

During the rebellion, many O’odham (both Pima and Papago) feared Spanish reprisals and refused to join.

In 1767, the Spanish king Charles II banned all Jesuits from Spanish lands in the Americas because of his distrust of them. The administration of the missions was then transferred to the Franciscans who were seen as more reliable and pliable.

San Xavier 2