America’s Christian General and the Nez Perce

As a Christian nation, the United States has never been comfortable with the idea that American Indians might have their own non-Christian religions or that Indian spiritual leaders could provide role-models for other Indians. Under the European notion of the Discovery Doctrine, the United States felt that it had a legal right to rule over non-Christian nations and to convert them to Christianity.

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A Very Short Overview of the O’odham Indians

The Sonoran Desert which stretches across part of the present-day American state of Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora is an area of very hot summers (high temperatures may reach 120° F) and relatively little rain. It was here that a culture called Hohokam by archaeologists flourished from 300 BCE until about 1400 CE. The Hohokam were village agriculturalists who developed a sophisticated canal system to bring water to their crops in this desert environment.

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Ancient America: The Great Basin Archaic Period

The Great Basin is an area that includes the high desert regions between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. It is bounded on the north by the Columbia Plateau and on the south by the Colorado Plateau. It includes southern Oregon and Idaho, a small portion of southwestern Montana, western Wyoming, eastern California, all of Nevada and Utah, a portion of northern Arizona, and most of western Colorado. Today this is an area which is characterized by low rainfall and extremes of temperature. The valleys in the area are 3,000 to 6,000 feet in altitude and are separated by mountain ranges running north and south that are 8,000 to 12,000 feet in elevation. The rivers in this region do not flow into the ocean, but simply disappear into the sand.

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A Brief Overview of the Omaha Indians

The Central Plains is the portion of the Great Plains which lies south of the South Dakota-Nebraska border and north of the Arkansas River. It includes Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, southeastern Wyoming, and western Colorado. After migrating from the Ohio River valley, the Siouan-speaking Omaha settled in what is now Nebraska. The name Omaha is generally said to mean “upstream, against the flow.”

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A Very Brief Overview of California’s Achumawi Indians

The aboriginal homelands of the Achumawi (also spelled Achomawi, Achomowi, Achemawi) people of North America was along the drainage of the Pit River between the Warner Range and Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen in present-day California. Achumawi villages were located along the Pit River or its tributary streams. The Achumawi villages, whose names were not recorded in the historical records, do not appear to have been politically united.

Linguistically, the Achumawi language, together with the Atsugewi language, form the Palahnihan branch of the Hokan language family.

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The Salish Language Family

The Salish language family is found on the Northwest Coast and in the Columbia Plateau. Salish is generally felt to have great antiquity in the Northwest Coast. Salish-speakers were the earliest settlers in the Fraser River area of British Columbia. Linguists estimate that this language family may be 6,000 years old, although some feel it may be as young as 3,000 years old.

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Some Apache Ceremonies

Traditionally, Apache religious ceremonies focused on curing, hunting and gathering rituals, puberty ceremonies, and obtaining personal power and protection. While spiritual power is available to most people, spiritual leaders–usually called medicine men and medicine women–are people who have greater access to spiritual power than other people.

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The Muskogean Language Family

Muskogean was the most important language family of the Native American Southeastern Culture Area. In her introduction to Florida Place Names of Indian Origin and Seminole Personal Names, Patricia Riles Wickman writes:

“We shall never know with any certainty how many dialects derived from this mother tongue and from the social template that contained an orderly system for the genesis of new villages and the growth of towns and cities, all of which are based on an inherent dynamism that has been consistently underestimated ever since the poniards led the boat parade of European colonialization.”

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Death Valley National Park

Death Valley, located in California, is the hottest, driest, and lowest place in the United States. It is an area of sand dunes and wilderness. Non-Indian tourism into this desolate region actually began in 1926 and in 1933 President Herbert Hoover created the Death Valley National Monument by Presidential Executive Order. While some saw this act as the first step in transforming one of the earth’s least hospitable spots into a popular tourist destination, for the Timbisha Shoshone, the aboriginal inhabitants of the area, this action made them landless. While the Timbisha Shoshone were not forced from their traditional homeland, the control over their land (and thus over their lives) was assumed by the National Park Service. Death Valley officially became a National Park in 1994.

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Apache Warfare

While many non-Apache scholars and popular writers have labeled all the Apache as a fierce, war-like people, in actuality warfare was not glorified as it was in some other culture areas, such as the Great Plains. Warfare, in the form of raiding, was often an economic activity. Anthropologist Keith Basso, in his book The Cibecue Apache, notes:

“In pre-reservation days a significant portion of the Western Apaches’ meat supply consisted of stolen livestock.”

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The Athabaskan Language Family

The Athabaskan (also spelled Athapaskan and Athabascan) language family is found in the western American Indian culture areas. Linguists feel that the Athabaskan language family is one branch of a larger genetic grouping called Athabaskan-Eyak. Eyak is a single language which was spoken on the south coast of Alaska and which is nearly extinct. Proto-Athabaskan and Proto-Eyak became differentiated from each other by 1500 BCE. Michael Krauss and Victor Golla, in their entry on the Northern Athapaskan languages in the Handbook of North American Indians, report:

“Whenever it occurred, the linguistic split between Proto-Athapaskan and Proto-Eyak was apparently followed by a total cessation of communication between the two groups, for there is no evidence of subsequent linguistic interinfluence.”

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American Indians and the Korean War

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The Korean War began on June 25, 1950 and ended on July 27, 1953.  As with other twentieth century wars, American Indian men did not hesitate to enlist. Many men came from Native cultures which had traditionally emphasized a warrior tradition. For many young men the Korean War provided them with the opportunity to count coup and obtain traditional war honors.

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Tribes and Reservations in 1917

During the nineteenth century, the United States had attempted to settle all Indians on well-defined reservations on lands deemed unsuitable for non-Indian development. Here Indians were to remain until they became extinct or had fully assimilated into the Christian American lifestyle. By the end of the nineteenth century, the government began the process of dismantling Indian reservations and increasing the pressures to assimilate. During the early twentieth century, for example, the United States had dissolved all of the tribal governments in Oklahoma so that the territory could become a state. By 1917, a majority of Indians still lived on reservations where they were considered wards of the government. In general, the reservations were pockets of poverty with poor health care and few educational opportunities. Briefly described below are a few of the events of 1917 which are related to Indian reservations and tribes.

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