Women Warriors Among Northern Plains Indians

The popular media and sometimes history book view of the Northern Plains Indians of the nineteenth century envisions a male warrior, mounted on a horse, wearing a long war bonnet. There are many things wrong with this stereotype, but what is usually missing from the non-Indian descriptions of Northern Plains Indian warfare is the fact that women were often warriors.

During the nineteenth century, most of the non-Indians who observed Indian war parties were blind to the women warriors who rode with them. They simply assumed that any women in the group were there simply to cook and provide sex. The idea that a woman could be a warrior was totally alien to them. They failed to understand that women sometimes rode into battle with their husbands.

The American attitude regarding women, including Indian women, can be seen in 1877 when an American delegation went to Saskatchewan, Canada, to meet with Sioux refugees under the leadership of Sitting Bull. When The One that Speaks Once, the wife of Bear that Scatters, addressed the council, the Americans were insulted and offended by allowing a woman to speak to them in council. As had happened in other councils where women spoke, the Americans left the council and refused to participate with them.

Listed below are a few examples of well-known nineteenth century women warriors on the Northern Plains.

Fallen Leaf

While Fallen Leaf (often called Woman Chief by the Americans) was a Crow warrior, she was actually born to the Gros Ventre nation and was captured by the Crow when she was 12. As a girl, her Crow foster parents allowed her to use the bow and arrow and to guard the horses. Later she learned to shoot a rifle and went on hunts with the men. With regard to her buffalo hunting prowess, Edwin Thompson Denig, writing in 1856 in his Of the Crow Nation, says Fallen Leaf

“could kill four or five buffalo at a race, cut up the animals without assistance, and bring the meat and hides home.”

She counted coup the first time when the Blackfoot attacked her camp. She mounted her horse and rode out to meet them. She shot down one Blackfoot warrior with her gun and shot arrows into two more. Denig writes:

“This daring act stamped her character as a brave. It was sung by the rest of the camp, and in time was made known to the rest of the nation.”

A year later, she led her first war party against the Blackfoot, capturing 70 horses, killing two men including a chief, and taking the gun from a Blackfoot warrior.

After she had counted coup four times in the prescribed Crow tradition, she was considered a chief and sat in the council of chiefs. In addition to being a war leader, she was also a good hunter and had four wives.

Running Eagle

Running Eagle became a Blackfoot (Piegan) warrior after her husband was killed by the Crow. To avenge her husband’s death, she sought help from the Sun and was told

“I will give you great power in war, but if you have intercourse with another man, you will be killed.”

After this she became a very respected war leader and led many successful raids on the large Flathead horse herds west of the Rocky Mountains. It was on a raid in Flathead country when she was killed. She had had sexual relations with one of the men in her war party and for this reason lost her war power.

Tashenamani 

Tashenamani (also calledMoving Robe; She Walks With Her Shawl) was a Hunkpapa Lakota woman who, along with thousands of other Sioux and Lakota, was camped at the Greasy Grass (also known as the Little Big Horn) in July of 1876. When Lt. Col. Custer’s Seventh Cavalry attacked the camp, Tashenamani seized her brother’s war staff and led the counterattack against the attacking cavalry. The warrior Rain-in-the-Face, recalling this attack, said:

“Always when there is a woman in the charge, it causes the warriors to vie with one another in displaying their valor.”

She rode into battle with her face painted crimson as a woman in mourning to avenge the death of her brother One Hawk who had been killed at the beginning of the attack. During the battle she killed at least one soldier: a black interpreter. When he asked her not to kill him, she replied:

“If you did not want to be killed, why did you not stay home where you belong and not come to attack us?”

Tasheamani was the daughter of Crawler and her fight at the Greasy Grass was not her first battle. Several years earlier, when she was 17 years old, she had been a part of a war party against the Crow.

Buffalo Calf Robe:

At the battle of the Rosebud in 1876, American soldiers and their Crow and Shoshone allies attacked a Sioux and Cheyenne camp. The Shoshone and Crow shot the horse of Cheyenne Chief Comes in Sight out from under him. As they were closing in to finish him off, Buffalo Calf Robe (aka Calf Trail Woman), the sister of Comes in Sight, rode into the middle of the warriors and saved the life of her brother. Buffalo Calf Robe had ridden into battle that day next to her husband Black Coyote. The Cheyenne remember this as the most important war honor of the day.

Ehyophsta 

As a Cheyenne warrior, Ehyophsta (Yellow-head Woman) played a prominent part in an 1868 battle with the Shoshone in which she counted coup on one Shoshone warrior and killed another.

A Brief Overview of the Assiniboine Indians

Like most of the Indian nations that are currently associated with the Northern Great Plains, the Assiniboine migrated out on the Plains after the European invasion and its fur trade began pushing Native peoples to the west. The Assiniboine spoke a Siouan language and at one time they had been a part of the Yanktonai Sioux living in the Lake Superior region of present-day northern Minnesota and southwestern Ontario. The Assiniboine split over from the Yanktonai in the 1600s and began their migration west. During the eighteenth century, their migrations brought them into the Northern Plains of Alberta and Montana.

The Northern Plains tribes depended on hunting and gathering for their subsistence. Their annual round was not random nomadism. The bands had to understand the location of the food resources and to time their travels so that they would arrive in specific locations at a time when these resources were available.

The most important game animal on the Northern Plains was the buffalo. In his book Land of the Nakoda: The Story of the Assiniboine Indians, James Long writes:

“To the Assiniboine, the buffalo was more than an animal. It was the staff of life. No other animal gave so much to the people as that great shaggy creature.”

Among the Assiniboine, horse-mounted hunters supervised by the Soldiers’ Society and using bows and arrows would surround the buffalo herd. In an hour’s time, 80-100 hunters could kill 100-500 buffalo. The hunter who killed the animal claimed the hide and the choicest pieces of meat. All who aided in the butchering were entitled to a portion of the meat.

For housing, the Assiniboine used a three-pole tipi (lodge) which averaged about 31 feet in circumference and required 12 hides for a cover. Assiniboine lodges always faced south. The lodges were owned by the women and were set up by them. The tipi was occupied by a nuclear family along with some other relatives, such as a widowed grandmother. Sometimes the Assiniboine lodges were painted with pictures of the war honors of the man who lived there.

The Assiniboine used chokecherry, ash, and scrub oak for their bows. The length of the bow varied and was designed to suit its user. James Long reports:

“On some bows a sharpened prong, made from the horn of an elk, was attached to one end. These were used in battle as bayonets after a warrior had shot away all his arrows.”

Prior to the horse, each Assiniboine family had to have six to twelve dogs, each capable of carrying up to fifty pounds. The dogs were named by the women. James Long reports:

“They spoke to them like persons, either scolded them or praised them whenever the dogs deserved it.”

Among the Assiniboine, a young man would not seek marriage until he had participated in a war party, and ideally not until he had counted coup. A marriage proposal was accompanied by gifts to the bride’s family. If the proposal was accepted, then the woman would simply go to live with the man at his village.

With regard to polygyny, Dennis Smith, in his history of the Fort Peck Assiniboines in The History of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, 1800-2000,reports:

“A husband wishing other wives often asked permission from his wife’s family to marry one of her younger sisters.”

Among the Assiniboine, families tended to be small: usually only one to three children. Children were generally spaced five to seven years apart. Children would generally continue to breastfeed until about their fourth year. Like other Plains tribes, the Assiniboine did not whip or handle their children roughly.

In general, children were instructed by example, usually by adults of their own gender. Grandparents were often important teachers. Dennis Smith writes:

“Like most Native tribes, Assiniboines instructed primarily in a nurturing and positive environment, in which children were praised for successful accomplishments.”

Assiniboine babies received a name about 3-4 weeks after birth. The name would usually be given by a successful warrior or a holy man. Raymond DeMallie and David Reed Miller, in their entry on the Assiniboine in the Handbook of North American Indians, report:

“Girls’ names were generally kept throughout life, but young men frequently received new names in recognition of their first brave deed.”

The name of a deceased grandfather or other male relative might be given to a warrior who had counted coup many times.

Assiniboine girls were tattooed when they were about 12 years of age. Women’s tattoos were considered to be decorative and included a round spot on the forehead, transverse lines on the cheeks, lines from the mouth to the chin, and rings around the wrists and upper arms. Assiniboine men were tattooed only after having counted coup in battle. Men’s tattoos tended to be elaborate, covering the chest and arms.

In most of the Plains tribes, divorce was easy. A man might simply pick up his things and leave, or his wife might tell him to leave. For the Assiniboine, James Long reports:

“Marriages were dissolved merely by living apart.”

Concerning Assiniboine divorce, Dennis Smith writes:

“Divorce was an accepted practice, and usually older children remained with the husband, and the younger ones returned with the mother to her family.”

The primary political unit among the Assiniboine was the band and there was no political structure which tied the bands together into a tribe. Among the Assiniboine, the chief (huká) was selected by merit rather than heredity. James Long writes:

“A chief’s son was not always the next chief. A person who had made a name for himself in warfare, hunting, and kindness to the poor, was often made next chief.”

James Long summarizes the qualifications for being a chief:

“The requirements were that a chief-to-be must have a good war record, be a successful hunter, possessor of many horses for domestic use, and horses for use as buffalo runners.”

Raymond DeMallie and David Reed Miller report:

“Because generosity was an important qualification for leaders, wealth was a prerequisite for chieftainship.”

As with other Plains groups, the Assiniboine chief acted as the leading member of the band council and had no authority to compel anyone to do anything. The council was composed of men who had achieved success in war or in hunting.

The Assiniboine Soldiers’ Society was composed of warriors appointed by the band council. According to Raymond DeMallie and David Reed Miller:

“The function of the soldiers was to serve as police, maintaining order within the camp and supervising hunts and camp moves.”

In addition to the Soldiers’ Society, the Assiniboine also had a number of men’s societies which were closely associated with war and which also had spiritual or sacred significance. The No Flight Society had two lances which they carried into battle. These would be thrust into the ground and the society’s members would not retreat until the enemy had been vanquished. The Buffalo Bull Society was composed of middle-aged men and leaders.

The Assiniboines also had a number of women’s societies, including the Dance Without Robes Society and the Female Elk Society.

Among the Assiniboine, war parties intent on raiding for horses were fairly small (12 warriors or less) and the warriors would leave on foot. Leaders of horse raiding parties usually fasted to obtain a vision of a successful raid. According to James Long:

“When a war leader had a suitable vision, he called a number of able warriors to his lodge and told them of his intentions.”

They would then pick the warriors they wanted to accompany them. The actual raid was usually carried out under the cover of darkness. The war party would travel in single file with the war leader taking the lead and young men on their first raid traveling in the rear.

Regarding an Assiniboine raid, James Long writes:

“When a war party raided a camp to take horses, everyone had to look out for himself. The group agreed to meet at a certain place and, if all went well, they gathered there to plan the return home. But if the enemy found out about the raid, then each one pursued the best course he knew.”

Assiniboine war parties organized for revenge were usually larger and might have 100-300 warriors.

The Assiniboine warriors would make offerings to the wolf before a war party and they would sing wolf songs. Assiniboine warriors would often wear wolf skins for camouflage. However, the wolf hat was generally worn only by the scouts. Archaeologist James Keyser, in article in American Indian Art, reports:

‘Among all of these groups, serving as a scout was a position with well-defined responsibilities worthy of a war honor when successfully performed.”

 

A Brief Overview of the Creek Indians

The designation “Creek” is a European concept which emerged during the eighteenth century to designate the Indian people who were living along the creeks and rivers in Alabama, Georgia, and northern Florida. While these people have a cultural continuity which reaches back to the mound building cultures of this area, the concept of a Creek “Nation” or “Confederacy” is something which did not emerge until after the European invasion. In reality, the Creek were several autonomous groups.

Archaeologist Cameron Wesson, in his chapter in Between Contacts and Colonies: Archaeological Perspectives on the Protohistoric Southeast, reports that during the time period of the first European contact, the Creek

“were a confederacy that encompassed several distinct ethnic groups, including elements of the Alabama, Apalachee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Hitchiti, Koasati, Natchez, Shawnee, Tunic, Yamasee, and Yuchi.”

According to historian Colin Calloway, in his book The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities:

“The Creek confederacy was a voluntary association of towns or, in Muskogee, italwa, bound together by custom and mutual interest and not by centralized coercion.”

Creek towns did not have physical boundaries in the manner of European towns: the towns were a group of people who were associated with a particular political or ceremonial center. The concept of town when applied to the Creek was perhaps closer to the European concept of tribe. Each town was autonomous and had its own ceremonial fire.

In addition, the Creek villages were characterized by two distinct and mutually unintelligible languages: Muskogee and Hitchiti. In addition, there were Creek towns in which the dominant language was Shawnee, Koasati, Alabama, or Yuchi.

The Yuchi joined the Creek confederacy in the early eighteenth century. In his biography The World’s Richest Indian: The Scandal Over Jackson Barnett’s Oil Fortune, historian Tanis Thorne reports:

“Within the Creek confederacy, the Yuchi maintained their distinct language, customs of patrilineal descent, and other cultural traditions in their own politically autonomous communities.”

The Creek confederacy is generally divided into two large geopolitical divisions: the Lower Creek towns along the Flint and Chatahoochee rivers and the Upper Creek towns along the Coosa and Tallapoosa branches of the Alabama River.

The “foreign” tribes which were incorporated into the Creek Confederacy included: Okchai, Osochee, Pakana, Tomahitan, Tukabahchee, and Wetumpka.

Migrations

The Creek (Musgokee) oral tradition speaks of their origin as being far to the west.  According to the oral tradition, there was a long migration which brought them across the Mississippi River and into the areas which are today known as Georgia and Alabama. While settled here, they also ranged into Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida. After the American government forced removal on them, they re-established themselves outside of the Southeast in what is now Oklahoma.

Archaeologist Charles Jones, writing in his 1873 book Antiquities of the Southern Indians, Particularly of the Georgia Tribes. reports:

“When questioned as to their origin, the Muscogees responded that the prevailing tradition among them was, that their progenitors had issued out of a cave near the Alabama River.”

Maine Indians and Early European Explorers and Fishermen

While the Indian nations in what is now Maine may have had some limited contact with Europeans as early as 1480, regular contact began in the sixteenth century and intensified during the first half of the seventeenth century. During this time, the Indians began to incorporate aspects of European culture, such as trade goods, into their own lifestyles. These early contacts were with four broad categories of Europeans: fishermen, explorers, missionaries, and colonists.

Fishermen

By 1519, European fishing boats were trading with the Micmac in Maine and the Maritime Provinces. By 1524, ships were crossing over from Europe in increasing numbers, first to fish offshore for the great schools of cod, and eventually to trade with natives for furs.

During the early part of the seventeenth century, English ships scouted the coast from Maine to Cape Cod, trading with Indians and gathering sassafras roots which were prized in Europe as a treatment for syphilis. In 1602, off the coast of Maine, the crew of an English ship saw people in a European boat – described as a Biscay shallop – sailing toward them. They assumed that the eight men in it must be Europeans. However, all were Indians. The Indians, using a piece of chalk, drew a map of the Maine coast for the newly arrived English sailors.

Sailing shallops could be fairly large: up to 12 tons and forty feet in length. Many had more than one mast. Regarding the adaptation of this craft by Indian people, the Jesuit missionaries noted that the Souriquois handled them “as skillfully as our most courageous and active sailors in France.” Some writers feel that the Indians had acquired the shallops from the Basque fishermen who had a history of fishing in the area.

There are a number of other reports of Indians using the European shallops. In 1606, for example, the Souriquois under the leadership of Membertou raided other Indian villages using sailing shallops. The following year, the English on their way to establish their colony on the Kennebec River encountered two sailing shallops being used by Souriquois under the leadership of Membertou. The Souriquois offered skins for trade and the English noted that the Indians seemed to be using a lot of French words.

Explorers:

Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian working for the French, explored the North America coast from the Carolinas northward to Maine in 1524.  In Maine, Verrazano found that the Indians were not particularly friendly. They appeared to have already had some contact of an unpleasant sort Europeans, perhaps Europeans who were fishing off the coast. While Verrazano did not speak any Indian languages, he concluded:

“We think they have neither religion nor laws.”

According to Barbara Mann, in her essay in Debating Democracy: Native American Legacy of Freedom:

“What Verrazano, and all European observers after him, meant by lack of ‘any law’ in Native America was the absence of any controlling church-state hierarchy.”

The following year, a Spanish expedition led by the Portuguese pilot Estévan Gomes landed near the River of Deer in Maine and took 58 Indians captive.

In 1580, the English adventurer John Walker landed in Penobscot Bay. He took about 300 moose hides from an unattended building. In their chapter in American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, and Cartography in the Land of Norumbega,  Bruce Bourque and Ruth Whitehead report:

“It may be inferred that such a large concentration in a single structure meant that the hides were intended not for the local population but for export, ultimately to Europeans; but Walker provided no further clue as to their intended destination.”

In 1602, the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold landed at “Savage Rock” (Cape Elizabeth) where he encountered some Micmac. Geographer G. Malcolm Lewis, in his chapter in North American Exploration. Volume 1: A New World Disclosed, reports:

“From aspects of their dress and a few of the words they spoke, they appeared to have had some previous contact with Europeans.”

The European explorers found that the Indians were wearing large copper breastplates and European costumes including shoes, waistcoats, breeches, and hose. The following year, English explorers under the leadership of Martin Pring encountered a group of Indians near present-day Saco. They reported that some of the Indians had brass breastplates which were a foot long and about half a foot wide.

In 1604, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed up the Penobscot River. Near the site of present-day Bangor, he made contact with the Wabanaki under the leadership of Bashabes. From Bashabes the French learned a great deal about the interior of Maine. Bashabes, wanting French partnership in the fur trade, provided Champlain with guides. While the French were looking for the fabled Indian city of Norumbega, they found that the city was a myth. The French did, however, gain a great deal of information about the interior between Kennebec Basin and the St. Lawrence. Getting around the language barrier, the Indians drew maps on sand and bark for the French.

The French next explored Saco Bay where they saw and recorded on their chart an Indian corn-growing settlement. On the Saco River they were met by Indians who painted their faces black and red. The Indians were a farming people who raised corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, grapes, and tobacco. Champlain’s Etchemin guides called the people at this village Archmouchiquois and they called the village Chouacoit. The area surrounding the village contained many small hamlets.

In 1609, Henry Hudson met with Indians in Penobscot Bay. The Indians told him that they traded with the French. A few days later, two French shallops filled with Indians sailed into the harbor bringing many beaver skins and other furs for trade. Hudson was not equipped for trade, so he simply resorted to force to obtain the furs. His men captured one of the shallops and took the Indian furs.

In 1614, John Smith, the former commander at Jamestown, led two ships in search of gold and whales along the coast of Maine. They did some trading with the natives and engaged in a few skirmishes. Like other European explorers, they captured some Indians to sell into slavery.

Disease

One of the unintended consequences of contact between Europeans and Indians was epidemic disease which often decimated the Indian populations. In 1610, an epidemic struck the Souriquois at La Have taking at least 60 lives.

The first of three epidemics struck the Indians of New England in 1616. It is estimated that 75% of the population died between 1616 and 1619.  The epidemics swept from Cape Cod to the Kennebec River in Maine. The epidemics started after an English party wintered at the mouth of the Saco River. While it is not known what the actual diseases were, various historians have suggested bubonic plague, smallpox, and hepatitis A as possibilities.

A new disease which produced bloody vomiting broke out among the Abenaki in 1646. This outbreak may have contributed to Jean-Baptiste’s missionary success.

Southeastern Indian Hunting

While the Indian nations of the American Southeast were an agricultural people, they used hunting to supplement their diet. Just as these nations held their agricultural lands in common, so too were hunting territories held in common. While agricultural lands were assigned to clans or family lineages, there was no assignment of use rights for hunting lands.

In general, the most important animal in the Southeast was the deer whose flesh was used as food; its skin was used for clothing; its horns were made into arrow points; its hooves were made into rattles; its sinews used for sewing and binding; and its bones were fashioned into a variety of articles. A typical Creek family, for example, needed about 25-30 deerskins per year. The white-tailed deer provided 50 to 90 percent of the protein eaten.

Hunters would range as far as 300 miles from their towns while hunting for deer. While these extended hunts were conducted by men, they were accompanied by women and by some children. These hunts were usually conducted in the winter – beginning in November or December and ending in February or March.

During the rutting season – September through November – deer would be hunted using a technique in which a deer-head decoy was used to attract bucks into range. There were, however, two drawbacks to this technique: (1) rutting bucks are very aggressive and sometimes would attack the hunters, and (2) the decoys were so realistic that hunters were sometimes accidentally shot by other hunters.

Communal hunts, which could involve as many as 300 hunters, would use a fire surround to force the deer into a small area where they could be easily shot. In using this technique, an area up to five miles in circumference would be set on fire.

Before the coming of the Europeans, the primary big game hunting weapon was the bow and arrow, which was very accurate up to 40 yards. Some hunters could hit targets at 100 yards. The bows resembled the English longbow and were five to six feet in length. The arrows were tipped with bone points or with garfish scales. To provide greater accuracy, the arrows were fletched (feathered), often using turkey feathers. Hunters usually protected their wrists with bowguards made from leather or bark.

Another important game animal was the black bear. The bear provided both food and skins. In addition, Indians extracted an oil from the fat of the bear which was used in both cooking and curing. Bears were usually hunted in the winter while they were hibernating. The hunters would set fire to the bear’s den—usually a hollowed out tree—and then shoot it as it emerged to escape the fire.

The Seminole prized both bear meat and the oil extracted from the fat. Whenever a bear was seen, a hunting party would be organized and the animal would be tracked to its hiding place and killed.

While the bison was not as important to the Southeastern Indians as it was to the Plains Indians, it was still an important animal. Prior to the coming of the Europeans, there were moderately large bison herds in Tennessee.

The meat from deer and bison was dried over a fire. Meat dried in this fashion could be kept for several months without spoiling. Often a smoky fire, fueled by green hickory wood, was used. This gave the meat a smoked flavor.

Other important game animals included beaver, otter, raccoon, muskrat, opossum, squirrel, and rabbit. Small game and birds were often hunted with a blowgun. A hollowed piece of cane, 7 to 9 feet in length, would be used to make the blowgun. The darts were made of hardwood and would be 10 to 22 inches in length. The blowguns were accurate up to about 60 feet. No poison was used on the darts and larger animals were usually shot in the eye.

Turkeys provided an important source of both food and feathers. Both the Timucua and the Apalachee used circular fire drives in taking turkeys.

Another important and abundant bird was the passenger pigeon (now extinct) which was hunted at night during the winter. The hunters would use torches to blind the passenger pigeons which were roosting in the trees. The birds would then be knocked down with long poles.

The Indian people along the Mississippi flyway and the coastal plain also took advantage of the immense number of waterfowl. Waterfowl were usually hunted from the middle of October until the middle of April.

Along the coastal plain, the Indian people also used turtles, terrapins, alligators, crawfish, crabs, clams, mussels, and oysters for food. Among the Yamasee, turtles were considered a prize food, not only for its flesh and eggs, but also for the fact that its seasonal appearance was unfailing. Among the Timucua, alligators were hunted by thrusting a long pole (about ten feet long) down their throats. The reptile would then be flipped over on its back and arrows shot into its soft belly.

The Seminole would “fire-hunt” alligators: they would use a burning torch which would dazzle the animal. The bewildered alligator would then be speared by a hunter in a canoe. Alligator hides were placed on scaffolds to dry.

Some Florida groups, such as the Tekesta and the Seminole, also hunted manatee, a large herbivorous aquatic mammal. In the winter, the Tekesta would hunt manatee from canoes. Hunters would harpoon the manatee as they rose to the surface for air.

Among the Creek, hunting included a number of rituals which enabled the hunters to show respect for the animals. According to historian Joel Martin, in his book Sacred Revolt: The Muskogees’ Struggle for a New World:

“Native hunters did not kill game animals, consume the meat, or take the skin without carefully considering their actions.”

Prior to the hunt, the hunters would ask for the support of the spirits of the hunt and they would sing songs to draw the animals closer.

Hunters often burned the undergrowth in small patches of forest. Regularly burning the vegetation resulted in a managed environment that supported a fairly large number of deer. According to historian Daniel Usner, in his book Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley Before 1783:

“These controlled fires both enhanced the nutritional quality of the plants that deer browsed on and eased the passage for the animals through the woods.”

This artificially stimulated the number of deer in the area.

In South Florida, historian James Covington, in his book The Seminoles of Florida, reports:

“Every spring the Seminoles set the dry grass and trees on fire so that new growth would attract the deer and turkeys.”

Colonists and Missionaries in Maine

By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the French and English were turning from the exploration of what is now Maine to establishing colonies and converting the Indians to Christianity. The Europeans assumed that Christianity gave them superior rights to both land and resources. The idea that the Native peoples of Maine might any rights seldom occurred to the European.

Colonists

The first European attempt to establish a colony in Maine came in 1604 with the arrival of French colonists who attempted to settle on the Sainte Croix River. The settlement soon moved to the present-day Annapolis-Royal in Nova Scotia.

The English established a trading camp on the Kennebec River in 1605. The expedition was funded by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, captain of the Port of Plymouth. At the end of the trading season, the English kidnapped five Abenaki and took them to England to turn them into guides and interpreters. The Abenaki captives were not to be sold into slavery, but they were exhibited as curiosities. They were also studied by Gorges, who wished to learn more about the new land to the westward and its inhabitants. Among those taken by the English was Tisquantum, also known as Squanto, who later becomes an important figure in Massachusetts history.

In 1607, the Virginia Company established the colony of Sagadohoc on the Kennebec River. The party included 120 men and Skidwarres, one of the Abenaki who had been kidnapped in 1602. Skidwarres was supposed to serve as the trusted interpreter-liaison between the English and the Abenaki. However, as soon as he made contact with the Abenaki, he simply slipped into the crowd and returned to his people.

The purpose of the new colony was to find precious metals and spices, establish a fur trade with the Native Americans, and show that New World forests were a limitless resource for English shipbuilders. Concerned about the possibility of a French attack, the colonists built an earthenwork fort, which they called Fort St. George. The fort was fortified with eight cannons.

In one instance, five Abenaki, including Skidwarres and the leader Nahaneda, showed up at the fort. They joined the colonists for both food and church services. They had to endure public prayers both morning and evening. They told the English that King James was a good king and that his God was a good God, but that Tanto (their own deity) had commanded them to avoid contact with the English.

The English soon managed to anger their Abenaki neighbors so that trade between the two groups had to be suspended. There were a number of minor skirmishes in which 11 colonists were killed. According to historian Ian Steele, in his book Warpaths: Invasions of North America:

“The English bungled their opportunity to establish influence with the Abenaki.”

In 1608, the English abandoned their colony on the Kennebec River. The re-supply ships from England found that the colonists had successfully traded with the Indians for furs, gathered the herbal cure-all sarsaparilla, and built and launched a 50-foot ship. However, the colony’s leader upon discovering that he was the heir to an immense fortune decided to return to a lavish castle in England.

Missionaries

Part of the motivation for the European invasion of North America was to acquire converts to their religion. The Jesuits arrived in New France in 1611 and began to learn the native languages as a way of carrying their message to the people. Unlike other Europeans, the Jesuits did not want land or furs: they asked only to live in an Indian household that they might study the language. While the Jesuits were well-liked because of their quiet manners, the Indians felt that these men were poorly educated because they had not learned that God made all religions, and they came here to tell the people who already believed in a Creator that such a One exists.

In 1611, Jesuit missionaries attempted to establish a mission on Mt. Desert Island. However, an English ship arrived and captured the entire settlement. James Moore, in his book Indian and Jesuit: A Seventeenth-Century Encounter, writes:

“English paranoid attitudes toward Catholics, especially Jesuits, and their current fears generated by alleged plots to undermine the English government, placed the missionaries in special jeopardy.”

Two years later, the French priests built a mission for the Penobscot at Bar Harbor, Maine.

In 1635, the Capuchin Catholics established a small church at Pentagoet to proselytize among the Penobscot. The priests learned the local language.

In 1642, Charles Meiaskwat, a Montegnais lay preacher, visited the Abenaki at Norridgewock. The following year, an Abenaki from Norridgewock went to Quebec with Charles Meiaskwat so that he could be converted to Christianity. As a convert he was given the name Jean-Baptiste and he returned to his people to proselytize. Three years later, Jean-Baptiste returned to Quebec claiming that he had 40 potential converts at Norridgewock and asking that a black robe (Jesuit priest) be sent to instruct them.

In 1646, the French Jesuit Gabriel Druillettes began working with the Abenaki. He emphasized steady prayer and quiet nurturing of the sick which contrasted to the traditional religion which was quite animated. On one occasion he offered Mass with a fervent beseeching of God to relieve the hunger of his traveling party. Right after Mass, the Abenaki killed three moose. This impressed the Indians with his apparent ability to deliver results.

In a typical Jesuit approach to the Indians, Druillettes learned the Abenaki language. He impressed many Indians, and his visit established a link between the Abenakis and Quebec that would continue for many years.

Huron History, 1535 to 1648

The Huron, an Iroquoian-speaking people whose traditional homeland was north of the Great Lakes, were a confederacy of four major tribes: Bear, Rock, Barking Dogs, and White Thorns (also known as Canoes). The people called their confederacy Wendat or People of the Peninsula. They were given the name Huron by the French.

The first contact between the Huron and the Europeans was with the French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1535. At the palisaded Huron town of Hochelaga, the French were greeted by about a thousand Huron men and women. The French did not care for the Huron food – cornbread, beans, peas, and cucumbers – because it was not salted.

In 1609, some Huron warriors joined French explorer Samuel de Champlain and a mixed group of Montagnais and Algonquin warriors. While Champlain wanted the warriors to keep watch at night, they refused. Instead, they conducted a shaking tent ceremony and consulted the spirits about the nearness of any enemies. The spirits indicated that no enemy were near and so the warriors slept.

At the northern shore of what is today called Lake Champlain, the combined French, Montagnais, Algonquin, and Huron forces encountered a Mohawk war party massed in battle formation and wearing wooden body armor. The French firearms killed several Mohawk leaders and the Mohawk retreated. In an article on the French and Indians in Attitudes of Colonial Powers Toward the American Indian, Mason Wade reports:

“This exploit sealed the alliance of the French with the Algonkians and the Hurons and fixed their deadly enmity with the Iroquois.”

In 1611, the Huron confederacy sent presents to the French along with word that they wished to establish an alliance with them independent of the French alliance with the Algonquin. The Algonquin, however, opposed this and managed to delay the French response to the request.

In 1611, Samuel de Champlain arranged for a young Frenchman to live among the Huron and learn their language and culture.

A formal trading alliance between the French and the Huron Confederacy was negotiated in 1614. With this agreement, the Huron allied themselves with the French.

The following year, Huron warriors accompanied Samuel de Champlain into Iroquois territory in what is now New York. They captured three Iroquois men, four women, three boys, and a girl. Champlain complained when the Huron cut off one of the women’s fingers as a demonstration of the torture that lay ahead. The Hurons agreed not to torture the women.

Near present-day Fenner, New York, the French-Huron party attacked an Iroquois fort. After the initial attack, the Huron warriors withdrew. Champlain then convinced the warriors to build large wooden shields for protection and a large moveable platform which overlooked the Iroquois palisades. While the plan had initial success, the Huron warriors, unused to the discipline expected by European military leaders, broke ranks and attempted to set fire to the palisades. The Iroquois, however, simply poured water into the troughs which formed their fire defense system and the fires were quickly extinguished. Champlain was hit twice by arrows and was severely wounded. The Huron retreated carrying their wounded, including Champlain, in improvised baskets.

The Iroquois, who had been trading with Dutch traders in New York, sent emissaries north to propose peace and trade with the French. This would allow them to play the two European powers against each other with regard to trade. While the French were concerned that the Iroquois would convince the Huron to start trading with the Dutch, they agreed to the peace in 1622.

In 1623, the French sent a party of French traders to winter with the Huron to make sure that they continued to trade with the French rather than with the Dutch.

As the European demand for furs increased during the seventeenth century, both the Iroquois and the Huron began to expand westward in search of new furs and new Indian trading partners. This expansion brought about some violent conflicts between the Huron and the western Indian nations such as the Winnebago (Ho Chunk) and Ottawa. In addition, conflict between the Huron and the Iroquois also increased.

In 1642, a party of 36 Huron and 4 French under the leadership of Father Isaac Joques was attacked by an Iroquois war party. The priest and 21 others were captured. The Mohawk, one of the nations of the Iroquois League of Five Nations, later killed Father Joques in the manner reserved for sorcerers because he was suspected of started an epidemic.

In 1648, the Seneca and the Mohawk, both members of the Iroquois League of Five Nations, set out to destroy the Huron trading network. The Seneca, armed with firearms obtained from the Dutch, attacked the Huron town of Teanaostaiaé. Three hundred of the 2,000 inhabitants of the town were killed and 700 were taken captive. The following year, the Iroquois, supplied with 400 guns and unlimited ammunition on credit by the Dutch, attacked and destroyed the Huron. This marked the end of the Huron confederacy. Many of the Huron people took refuge with other Indian nations in the Great Lakes area. A new nation, however, the Wyandot, composed of Huron refugees as well as other Indian refugees, soon emerged, but did not challenge the Iroquois supremacy.

Indian Affairs in 1966

Just fifty years ago—1966—American Indian affairs in the United States was still being guided in part by a philosophy of termination: that is, dissolving American Indian governments and making Indians assimilate into the larger non-Indian culture. American Indians for the most part weren’t cooperating with this termination philosophy and still insisted that they had a right to exist, as Indians, within the United States. Briefly described below are some of the Indian issues and events of 1966.

Museums, Arts

Movie actor Nipo Strongheart (Yakama) died and willed his extensive collection of Indian books and artifacts to the Yakama Nation. The artifacts were incorporated in the Yakama Nation Museum in Toppenish, Washington and his personal library became a special collection of the Yakama Nation Library.

The Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma opened a small museum in Muskogee for the cultural and historical items of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muskogee, Creek, and Seminole people who were driven into Oklahoma from the Southeast.

The ballet Kochare based on the Hopi creation myth and written by Quapaw-Cherokee composer Louis Wayne Ballard was performed by the Harkness Ballet Company.

Economics

In Arizona, the Peabody Coal Company signed leases with the Hopi and the Navajo allowing them to strip mine 25,000 acres of the Joint Use Area in Arizona. With regard to the Navajo, journalist Marjane Ambler, in her book Breaking the Iron Bonds: Indian Control of Energy Development, reports:

“The Interior Department, under the direction of Stewart Udall, worked with industry and the tribal attorney to convince the council to act immediately, without deliberation.”

Law professor Charles Wilkinson, in his book Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations, calls the leases “financial travesties” and writes:

“Among other provisions, the Hopi received inadequate payments for the coal and sold their water for the slurry pipeline at the egregiously low rate of $1.67 per acre foot.”

Black Mesa, the area which was to be mined, is considered sacred by traditional Navajo and Hopi people. In pressuring the Navajo tribal council, council members were not informed about the value of their coal or about the potential impacts of the mining.

In Montana, the Salish and Kootenai of the Flathead Reservation requested more money for the lease that Montana Power Company had for Kerr Dam. The tribe wanted more money because the company had added an additional generation plant, but the company disagreed arguing that its power license did not designate the energy produced. The Federal Power Commission (FPC) suggested that the lease be increased from $240,000 per year to $850,000 per year, but Montana Power Company refused to acknowledge FPC jurisdiction in the matter. The tribes took Montana Power Company to court and the court required the company to pay the increased lease amount.

In Mississippi, the Choctaw constructed the Choctaw Industrial Park in an effort to improve the economic conditions of the tribe.

Education

In New Mexico, the Rough Rock Demonstration School was an experiment in which a group of Navajo parents operated a combined day and boarding school. In her book Language Shift Among the Navajos: Identity Politics and Cultural Continuity, Deborah House describes the Rough Rock community this way:

“a small community where most people still followed the traditional Navajo pastoral lifestyle, shopped at the local trading post, spoke Navajo almost exclusively, and had little formal education and no previous contact with a school in their community.”

While funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the school was the first Indian-controlled school in the United States. According to Smithsonian historian Wilcomb Washburn, in his book Red Man’s Land/White Man’s Law:

“Control of school policy, including the handling of a budget of nearly a million dollars, was placed firmly in the hands of Indians, most of whom were without formal education and some of whom were illiterate.”

The school taught English as a second language rather than requiring students to know English in order to learn. Non-Indian staff members received in-service training to familiarize them with Navajo culture. Deborah House writes:

“The role of Rough Rock Demonstration School as a model for other tribal education programs cannot be overemphasized. It was the school that established the legal precedent for the right of the federal government to give funds directly to local Indian communities to run their own schools.”

War on Poverty

In Arizona, the Havasupai began a community action program under the Office of Economic Opportunity. They also started a Head Start pre-school program.

In Arizona, the Pascua Yaqui Association under the leadership of Anselmo Valencia obtained a grant to start a Community Action Program under the Office of Economic Opportunity. With this grant the Pascua Yaqui organized a project to train tribal members to build their own homes and then to purchase them with sweat equity. The new homes were built on a 200-acre parcel and became known as New Pascua.

Religion

In Idaho, an Indian branch of the Mormon Church was opened on the Fort Hall Reservation. In his book The Northern Shoshoni, Brigham Madsen notes:

“Apparently religion at the reservation had come full circle from a century ago, when the Latter-day Saints were under attack for proselytizing among the Shoshoni and Bannock.”

In Utah, the Shoshone members of the old Washakie Ward were transferred to the Mormon ward in Portage. Brigham Madsen reports:

“This action ended the formal Mormon Church support of a religion organization at Washakie, as nearly all the Indians had left the old settlement.”

In Florida, the Independent Big Cypress Mission was founded as a mission to the Seminole.

In South Carolina, the grave of Seminole war leader Osceola was vandalized. The vandals tunneled beneath the grave’s enclosure with the intention of taking his bones back to Florida.

Lawsuits

In California, the Cahuilla won a judgment against the city of Palm Springs with regard to zoning matters. The city had passed a zoning ordinance and a master plan which had included control over Indian land in the city.

In Oregon, the U.S. District Court, in Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation v. Maison, upheld treaty rights to hunt on unclaimed land in the Matilla and Wallowa-Whitman nations’ forests without restriction by the Oregon Game Commission.

In Oklahoma, the Cherokee filed a suit which asserted that riverbeds belong to the Cherokee. The suit was against the state of Oklahoma, 16 oil companies, and 2 sand and gravel companies.

Government

In Texas, Tom Diamond, the attorney for the Tigua, notified the city of El Paso that tribal members would no longer be responsible for taxes to any local division of government. The notification was based on the fact that the Texas Legislature in 1854 recognized that the Tigua held title to the Ysleta Land Grant. Local authorities were cooperative and receptive to the Tigua claim.

In Texas, a study by University of Arizona anthropologist Nick Houser showed that the Tigua were still a culturally distinct Indian tribe. The Texas State Historical Survey Committee acknowledged the accuracy of the report and passed a resolution stating that the tribe was entitled to federal recognition.

In Oklahoma, the Five County Northeastern Oklahoma Cherokee Organization selected Andrew Dreadfulwater, a respected ceremonial leader and dedicated Baptist layman, as president. The organization was renamed the Original Cherokee Community Organization.

In Oklahoma, the Bureau of Indian Affairs recognized the Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma as the political representative of the Comanche people.

In New Mexico, Wilbert C. Begay (Navajo) was elected to the state legislature. Tom Lee (Navajo) was elected to the state senate.

In Montana, Percy DeWolf (Blackfoot)  and Jean A. Turnage (Flathead) were elected to the state senate.

A Short Overview of the Huron Indians

The Huron, whose traditional homeland was north of the Great Lakes, were a confederacy of four major tribes: Bear, Rock, Barking Dogs, and White Thorns (also known as Canoes). The people called their confederacy Wendat or People of the Peninsula. They were given the name Huron by the French: the name came from hure, meaning “boar’s head” in reference to the head gear of the warriors.

With regard to language, Huron is a part of the Iroquois language family. Culturally, the Huron were similar to other Iroquoian-speaking Indian nations in the Northeast.

In the seventeenth century, the estimated 20,000 to 40,000 Hurons lived in 18-25 villages. With regard to the Huron origins, Olive Dickason, in her entry on the Huron/Wyandot in the Encyclopedia of North American Indians, reports:

“Archaeologists favor the theory that they began inhabiting their lands soon after the retreat of the glaciers, slowly evolving from hunter-gatherers into farmer-hunters.”

Their oral traditions tell of a migration from the southeast. The archaeological data shows that they were raising corn (maize) by 500 CE.

Agriculture

Among the Huron, agriculture produced about four-fifths of the food which they consumed. Farming centered around the Three Sisters: corn, beans, squash. They cultivated about 15 different varieties of corn, 60 different varieties of beans, and 8 different kinds of squash. As with other Iroquoian groups, the farming was done by the women in fields which had been cleared by the men. All uncleared land was considered common property.

The land was cleared by first girding the trees and then burning the underbrush and trees, a process known as slash-and-burn agriculture. In addition to providing a clear space for their fields, the ash from the fire also provided additional nutrients.  Generally, the cleared land would wear out in about a decade, forcing the Iroquois to clear new land, usually farther from the village. For the smaller villages – those with about 200 inhabitants – by the time the walking distance to the farthest field reached about 1 kilometer, the oldest abandoned fields could be re-opened. For the larger villages, however, it took about 50 years for the productive fields to become too distant and requiring the village itself to move.

Planting would usually begin when the white oak leaves were the size of a red squirrel’s foot. While men would assist in the initial clearing of the fields, planting was done by a party of women under the supervision of the clan mothers. Women did the planting, weeding, and harvesting.

The three crops complemented each other. In her article on the Three Sisters in Science and Native American Communities: Legacies of Pain, Visions of Promise, Jane Mt. Pleasant reports:

“Beans, because they are legumes, add nitrogen to the soil that the other two plants need.”

The corn stalks also provide support for the bean vines. Mt. Pleasant points out:

“Now the squash, because it grows low to the ground and has very big leaves, reduces the ability of weeds to grow and interfere with the food crops.”

When the three foods are eaten together, they provide a balanced diet of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and the full complement of amino acids for protein.

By 1630 it is estimated that the Huron, with a population of about 21,000, were harvesting 189,000 bushels of corn from 7,000 acres.

Marriage and Family

In general, the most important feature of social organization among Iroquoian-speaking people was the matrilineal: this was a named group in membership was through the female line. Each person belonged to the mother’s clan. Among the Huron, there were eight matrilineal clans: Turtle, Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Deer, Hawk, Porcupine, and Snake. The clans were exogamous, meaning the people had to marry outside of their own clan. In addition, marriage to a close relative on the paternal side was also taboo.

Among the Huron, there was little public affection displayed between men and women. Sexual intercourse for both married and unmarried people tended to take place outside of the village. Premarital sexual intercourse was considered to be normal.

Among the Huron, families tended to be small – 3 children – because the women abstained from sexual intercourse during breastfeeding (usually about 3 years).

With regard to the gender of children among the Huron, anthropologist Elisabeth Tooker, in her monograph An Ethnography of the Huron Indians, 1615-1649, notes:

“Girls were preferred: the Huron rejoiced more in the birth of a daughter than a son, in order that the country’s inhabitants increase.”

With regard to sexuality, heterosexual relations were considered to be normal, but homosexuality was acceptable. Having no sexual contact at all was considered to be abnormal.

Tribal Government

There were three levels of government among the Huron: village, tribe, and confederacy. At the village level, clan chiefs organized councils in which older men and women expressed their opinions on matters concerning the village. Each Huron village council met frequently, often daily, to discuss village affairs. Discussions would continue until consensus was evident.

There were two kinds of Huron chiefs: (1) civil chiefs who were concerned with everyday life and peace, and (2) war chiefs who were concerned exclusively with military matters. Being a Huron chief required both time and an expenditure of wealth. Upon the death of a chief, the new chief would often be selected from among the relatives of the deceased chiefs. The person who was elected was usually not the child of the deceased chief, but was more often a nephew or a grandson.

Law

The Huron recognized four main classes of crime: (1) murder and wounding and injury, (2) theft, (3) witchcraft, and (4) treason. Murder placed an obligation on the relatives to avenge the killing. Reparation payments helped alleviate the possibility of blood feuds. Anthropologist Bruce Trigger, in his book The Huron: Farmers of the North, notes:

“Huron law did not permit society as a whole to punish individuals.”

Among the Huron, material gifts were often used as a way of restoring peace and mending the social fabric following a crime, such as murder or physical injury. The guilty party (including both the individual and the clan) would pay the victim’s family. According to Henry Bowden, in his book American Indians and Christian Missions: Studies in Cultural Conflict:

“Thirty presents was the usual indemnity for killing a man, but the murder of a tribeswoman called for forty gifts.”

War and Trade

For Huron men there were two ways to obtain wealth and prestige: war and trade. Traditionally, war was not waged to impose religious views on other people, or to capture new territory. Most frequently the reasons for war were honor and avenging some injury. Revenge raids were usually launched at the request of a clan mother.

While brave warriors were admired, so were clever traders. Trading had prestige because individual initiative and shrewd judgment came into play. It took courage and diplomacy to open new trade routes or to organize a wide network of business alliances. The purpose of acquiring wealth through trade was not to possess or display material goods, but to be able to give them away. Giving wealth away was a way of improving social status and respect.

The Yamasee War and the Indian Slave Trade

The Yamasee were a Muskogean-speaking Indian nation living in what would become southern Georgia and northern Florida when first encountered by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. In 1687, the Yamasees, unhappy with the Spanish occupation and rule of their territories, moved north in South Carolina, was then under British rule. In South Carolina, the Yamasees became allies and trading partners with the British colonists.

For the British in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, one of the important commodities was Indian slaves who could either be sold in the Caribbean slave markets or used on the colonists own plantations. Donald Grinde, in an article in The Indian Historian, reports:

“They developed an Indian slave trade based on predatory raids. This practice became a lucrative business for Charleston merchants.”

As with the African slave trade, the English used indigenous allies to obtain slaves. They would arm the coastal tribes and then encourage them to raid the tribes in the interior to obtain slaves. Donald Grinde writes:

“Within a few years after the settlement of Charleston, Indian slaves were being brought from the interior to Charleston just as Africans were being funneled through the trading forts of the West African coast.”

Carl Waldman, in his book The Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, describes the process of obtaining Yamasee slaves:

“First, they gave the Indians all the rum they wanted plus trade goods. Then they demanded immediate payment from the Indians. The Indians could not pay off their huge debts and asked for more time. To settle the debts, the slavers seized Yamasee wives and children for the slave market.”

The Indian slaves were then sold in the West Indies slave markets or they were taken to New York and the New England colonies.

By 1708, the English colonists in the Carolinas owned 1,400 Indian slaves and by 1715 this had increased to 1,850. Since 1680, British slavers had taken between 24,000 and 51,000 war captives, most of whom had been shipped as slaves to New England or to the Caribbean.

The Yamasees were allies in the British slave trade and carried out slave raids against Indian nations in the Spanish territories of Florida. In 1708, the Spanish governor at Saint Augustine reported that there were only 300 natives left in the area. He estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 Florida Indians had been enslaved by the Carolinians and their Indian allies. By 1710, it was estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 Indian slaves had been shipped from the Southeast to New England and the Caribbean.

The Yamasees soon found that the British were neither good allies nor good trading partners. Not only did the traders consistently cheat their Yamasee trading partners, they were not above beating them and even enslaving their women and children. Christina Snyder, in her book Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America, writes:

“From the Yamasee perspective, their Carolina allies had become greedy, irresponsible, and violent, thereby destroying the chains of obligation that once bound them as allies.”

The Carolinians were aware that the Yamasee had some complaints about the way they were being treated. On April 14, 1715, South Carolina’s Indian agent Thomas Naine, along with former Indian agent John Wright and others, met with the Yamasee chiefs at the village of Pocataligo. They spent the evening drinking rum, feasting, and discussing their trade issues. The following morning, which happened to be Good Friday, the Yamasees bound Naine to a post in the center of the village square. They pierced his body with lighted splinters and slowly burned him to death. This was the start of the Yamasee war.

It was not just the Yamasee who went to war against the British colonists: in a coordinated action, the Creeks under the leadership of Brim of Coweta and the Choctaws killed some of the traders in their towns and attacked several plantations.  Christina Snyder reports:

“Similarly discontented neighboring nations, including the Lower Creeks, Savannahs, and the captive Apalachees of Savannah Town, applauded the Yamasees’ declaration of war and followed suit.”

Most of the Indian traders—an estimated 90%–are killed in the first few months of the war.

About 400 English colonists were killed in the war, which was about 7% of the colonial population. In response, Governor Charles Craven quickly put together an army from the South Carolina militia, enslaved African Americans, volunteers from Virginia and North Carolina, and some friendly Indian nations. A force of 70 Tuscacoras aided South Carolina in their war against the Yamasee. The campaign against the Indians has generally been described as “brutal.”  In his book Catawba Valley Mississippian: Ceramics, Chronology, and Catawba Indians, archaeologist David Moore reports:

“… South Carolina forces were particularly ruthless with those Indians located closest to Charles Town: the Congarees, Santees, Sewees, Peedees, and Waxhaws suffered devastating losses.”

Over the next two years, the British and their allies continued to attack the Yamasee, driving them out of the region. Many of the survivors fled south to Florida and north to join the Catawba Confederacy. Those who fled to Florida once again became allied with the Spanish. Jerry Keenan, in his book Encyclopedia of American Indian Wars, 1492-1890, reports:

“So thorough was Craven’s pursuit that the Yamasee almost ceased to exist as a tribal entity thereafter. What had been Yamasee territory now became part of James Oglethorpe’s new colony of Georgia.”

The Yamasee War officially ended in 1718 with a peace accord between the British colonists and the Indian nations. As a result of this war, many colonists began to question the wisdom of capturing and using Indian slaves. Christina Snyder writes:

“After the Yamasee War, they increasingly turned to African labor, despite the fact that Africans cost more and were taxed at higher rates than Indian slaves.”

Donald Grinde, in an article in The Indian Historian, summarizes the Yamasee War this way:

“The Yamasee War demonstrated the fullest extent of white economic exploitation of aboriginal people in colonial America. With little criticism from church or government, the South Carolinians had persuaded larger tribes to enslave lesser coastal tribes for the sake of English trade goods.”

With regard to the lessons from the Yamasee War, Grinde writes:

“Slave-catching almost inevitably led to Indian uprisings, and the more populous inland tribes were formidable adversaries. Due to this fact, it seemed easier to turn to Black slavery.”

The last distinctively Yamasee village, located near St. Augustine, was destroyed by the British in 1827. The Yamasee who settled with other Indian nations—Apalachee, Creek, Seminole—lost their tribal identity.

The Federal Government and Indians in 1966

In 1966, the American federal government was beginning to wind down its policies intended to end federal involvement with Indian tribes, due to resistance from the tribes. Briefly described below are some events involving federal government policies and American Indians.

Commissioner of Indian Affairs

        In the federal bureaucracy, Indian Affairs are administered by the Department of the Interior. In 1966 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, a political appointee, was the person directly in charge of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Following the dismissal of Philleo Nash from this position, Robert LaFollette Bennett, a member of Wisconsin’s Oneida tribe, became Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He was the second Native American to hold this position. His basic philosophy regarding Indian affairs was that the tribes should set their own priorities. The job of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was to help the tribes accomplish the goals which they had set. He felt that the Commissioner of Indian Affairs should be an advocate for the Indians rather than a promoter of government policies to Indians.

Unrecognized Indians

In the United States, there are many Indian tribes which are not recognized by the United States. A presidential task force reported that there were over 90,000 Indians in the eastern United States, 41 terminated bands in California, and over 200,000 urban Indians who struggled without the benefit of any Indian assistance programs. According to historian Mark Miller in his book Forgotten Tribes: Unrecognized Indians and the Federal Acknowledgment Process:

“The task force noted that these Indian peoples often went unnoticed and unidentified as Indians and were worse off than other Native Americans, both economically and psychologically.”

Indian Land

Congress responded to public concern regarding the loss of Indian land by ordering a federal investigation into land and trespass issues since the turn of the century on some 40 reservations.

Historic Preservation

Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) which provides legal and administrative ways of identifying, evaluating, and protecting historic cultural resources. It established the foundation for historic preservation in the United States. In an article in the Plains Anthropologist, Kimball Banks, Signe Snortland, and Jon Czaplicki write:

“It explicitly recognizes that the federal government has a legal and fiduciary responsibility to ensure the preservation of the nation’s historic and archaeological heritage.”

Construction on federal lands now requires an assessment of cultural resources which might be affected. Action is required to preserve or record these cultural resources if they are deemed to be significant.

Termination

Following World War II and continuing through the 1960s, the federal government followed a policy known as Termination which sought to end the reservation system and any recognition of tribal sovereignty. In his chapter on Indian policy in The History of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, 1800-2000, David Miller writes:

“Reservations were considered the product of separate and unequal treatment, with little understanding of what treaties or negotiated executive agreements meant to Indian people.”

Historian Katrine Barber, in her book Death of Celilo Falls, summarizes termination this way:

“Termination required that the federal government relinquish its responsibility to Indian nations and shift those to state and county governments. Terminationists hoped to dismantle the reservation system and get the federal government ‘out of the Indian business.’”

Senator Henry Jackson of Washington wanted to revive termination long enough to terminate the Colville reservation in his state. Indian Commissioner Philleo Nash blocked this move. Jackson let the Secretary of the Interior know that either Nash was to be removed from office or the Department of the Interior would face a hostile Senate Interior Committee (chaired by Jackson). Nash was removed.

In Nebraska, 834 acres of the Northern Ponca Reservation were removed from federal trust status and the 442 tribal members were no longer legally considered Indians (that is, they could not participate in any federal Indian programs).

In California, the El Dorado Rancheria was terminated to make way for Highway 50. As a result, the El Dorado Rancheria Miwok Tribe became an unrecognized tribe.

In California, the Coast Miwok were terminated.

Sacred Site

Legislation was introduced in Congress which would have returned Blue Lake in New Mexico to Taos Pueblo. The area is sacred to the Pueblo. The bill did not pass.

Land Claims

Following World War II, the United States wanted to get out of the Indian business: that is, to severe all relationships with Indian tribes. In the spirit of assimilation and with the intent of reducing government’s role in Indian affairs, Congress passed the Indian Claims Commission Act in 1946 as a vehicle to extinguish all pending Indian claims and thus end the federal government’s obligation to provide support for the tribes. In other words, it would act as a kind of severance package which would help Indians to abandon their collective traditions and enter into American society as individuals.

Under the act, a tribunal would be created which would have a specialized knowledge of Indian claims and would therefore be able to work efficiently in adjudicating these claims.  Initially, Congress had envisioned the commission completing its work in a period of five years. However, two decades later cases were still being heard. In 1966, one of these cases involved the Western Shoshone. In the nineteenth century, the federal government had expanded the provisions of the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty to include all of the Shoshone in Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho even though most the tribes had not signed the treaty nor had they ever received any payment for the ceded land.

In 1966, most of the Western Shoshone did not want a cash settlement for the lands which had been taken from them, but simply wanted the lands returned to them. Against the wishes of the tribe, an attorney for the tribe and U.S. attorneys arbitrarily agreed that the extinguishment of Western Shoshone title to land in Nevada occurred on July 1, 1872 and therefore the value of this land was the value of the land in 1872.

Ancient America: Vikings and Indians

More than a thousand years ago, the Norse—commonly called Vikings—had expanded their settlements west from Scandinavia into Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, and North America. Both Ireland and Britain were, of course, occupied by farming peoples and the establishment of Norse settlements required the force of arms. Iceland was uninhabited (though some sources indicate that there may have been a handful of hermit Irish monks) and Greenland was sparsely populated by nomadic hunter-gatherers. In North America, the Norse encountered natives whom they called Skraelings who were not always friendly.

The Norse sagas describe a number of conflicts with Skraelings. The Norse word saga means both “what is said” and “story, tale, or history.” While the sagas have been written down, they were originally oral histories and their accuracy in describing historic events are hotly debated by scholars.

There was a time when many historians doubted that the Norse had explored North America, but archaeology has verified the existence of one permanent Norse settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland and there is some evidence of other settlements and camps.

While the Norse are often stereotyped as fierce warriors who raided monasteries and towns, this was not how they saw themselves. The designation Viking refers to only one Norse activity: raiding. The Norse were also traders, farmers, shipbuilders, explorers, merchants, manufacturers, and statesmen. In his article in Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga, William Fitzhugh writes:

“Despite their reputation as shipbuilders, sailors, and warriors, the Norse identified themselves as farmers rather than as fishermen, hunters, trappers, or traders, even though individual Vikings might spend considerable periods of the year engaged in these tasks.”

Cattle were an important food source which provided the Norse with dairy products including cheese, butter, and skyr. The cattle, which were relatively small—standing less than 48” at the shoulder—could be transported in their longships.

Archaeology

L’Anse aux Meadows, an archaeological site located in Newfoundland, was settled about 1000 CE and was occupied for only about a decade. At L’Anse aux Meadows, archaeologists have uncovered eight buildings which are grouped into three complexes. The structures indicate that this was not a temporary campsite, but a settlement which was occupied year-round. It is estimated that the settlement had a population of 70-90 people. While the sagas indicate that the Norse carried cattle with them, there are no indications that the Norse at L’Anse aux Meadows had cattle: there do not appear to have been any outbuildings, corrals, or animal pens. If the Norse had cattle with them, they must have been left in the open.

The Norse at L’Anse aux Meadows did some iron smelting at the site, probably to produce boat nails to be used in repairing their longships.

One of the intriguing clues from L’Anse aux Meadows is the presence of butternuts, a butternut burl that was cut with iron tools, and grapes at the site. Butternut trees, also called white walnut, have never grown in Newfoundland and the butternuts must have come from someplace farther south. The closest area for butternuts is the Saint Lawrence River Valley, just east of present-day Quebec City. Archaeologist Birgitta Wallace, in an article in Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga, reports:

“The significance of the nuts is that they indicate that the people who lived at L’Anse aux Meadows made excursions to regions farther south. Butternuts grow in the same areas as wild grapes, so whoever picked the nuts must have come across grapevines as well. This was the first archaeological proof that the saga stories of the Norse encountering wild grapes are not myth but based on reality.”

Birgitta Wallace summarizes the archaeological data from L’Anse aux Meadows this way:

“Putting all the evidence together, we find that L’Anse aux Meadows was not a colonizing venture but a base at which a large group of people, perhaps three ship crews, stayed for a short time.”

The Sagas

At L’Anse aux Meadows there is little evidence of contract between the Norse and Native Americans. Turning from archaeology to the sagas, however, we see that the Norse did have some contact.

The Icelandic sagas are based on oral traditions. They are stories of events which took place in the period between 930 and 1030, an era known as söguöld (Age of the Sagas) in Icelandic history. The stories describe voyages, migrations, and feuds. The sagas focus on history, particularly genealogical and family history. Sometime after 1190, these stories were written down in Old Norse.

According to the sages, the Norse under Karlsefni, Snorri, and Bjarni, sailed south to the land they called Hop at the mouth of a river. Here they found wild wheat as well as grapes. They had been here a couple of weeks, allowing their cattle to graze freely, when nine canoes made of hides came into view. The Norse made peaceful contact with the Skraelings, who are described in the sagas as:

“They were short men, ill-looking, with their hair in disorderly fashion on their heads; they were large-eyed, and had broad cheeks.”

According to the sagas, the Norse constructed dwellings and remained at Hop through the winter. They let their cattle graze freely without keepers. In the spring, a large number of canoes appeared and a market was held in which the Norse traded cloth for furs. While the Skraelings wanted to trade for iron swords and lances, Karlsefni and Snorri did not allow it. At one point in the market, a bull belonging to Karlesefni ran out of the woods and bellowed loudly. The Skraelings viewed this as a threat and hurriedly left.

Three weeks later, a large group of Skraelings appeared and there was a battle with the Norse. In the initial attack, the Skraelings drove the Norse back, but Freydis, who was pregnant, picked up a sword from a dead Norse warrior, banged in on her naked breast, and counter-attacked, driving the Skraelings off. Following the battle, the Norse decided that this was not a good place to settle, so they moved on.

Karlsefni journeyed south with forty men for about two months. They reported seeing nothing but wilderness and returned home.

Summary

       What we know at the present time is that the Norse were in North America more than a thousand years ago. Their contacts with the Native Americans appear to have involved some limited trade and probably some violence. The sagas and the archaeological evidence at L’Anse aux Meadows show that they journeyed south of Newfoundland. What we don’t know is how far south they traveled—some writers feel that they sailed as far south as Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Archaeological data confirming their southern journeys is difficult to find as it would be in the form of temporary campsites with no permanent structures.

While the sagas provide us with some possible clues about what might be locations of Norse sites in North America, there is also some puzzling information. The archaeological data from L’Anse aux Meadows and the saga’s description of Hop, sound as though there should be a Norse site along the Saint Lawrence River. However, the saga indicates that the Skraelings used hide-covered canoes, which may indicate Inuit craft from farther north. At the time of later European contact in the Saint Lawrence area, Native Americans were using dugout canoes and bark-covered canoes, but not hide-covered canoes. This may indicate: (1) that Native watercraft in that part of North America changed during the six centuries between initial Norse contact and later European contact; or (2) the Norse saga was mistaken about the covering used on the canoes.

 

Some Indian Conflicts in 1866

The American Indian histories of 1866 carry numerous accounts of wars, battles, massacres, and other conflicts. Some of these are briefly described below.

Conflicts with Non-Indians

Following the Civil War, non-Indian settlement in the West increased and with this came more conflicts with the Indians who lived in the area. It was not uncommon for the American intruders to advocate genocide as the “solution” to what they saw as the “Indian problem.” For example, in California, the Chico Courant reported:

“It is a mercy to the red devils to exterminate them, and a saving of many white lives. Treaties are played out—there is only one kind of treaty that is effective—cold lead.”

In California, when the Luiseño left their village of Pejamo for their summer rounds, local Anglos entered the village, set fire to the houses, and then simply took possession of the fields and water supply. While both the Indians and their federal Indian agent complained, the Anglos retained control of the land.

In Nevada, Mormon settlers in Muddy Valley discovered a group of Indians drying the meat from a stolen cow. They took the Indians prisoner and then severely whipped them. The Mormons then met with the Indians and told them that the stealing of cattle must end.

In Nevada, the 2nd California Cavalry, a group of volunteers, attacked a Paiute band near Rock Creek. They killed 115 Indians and captured 19.

In Kansas, American settlers formed militia groups to defend their illegal claims to Osage land. James Thomas, in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:

“Village stores were looted, and Indian houses were dismantled for building materials. Nothing the Indians owned was sacred; settlers even plundered Indian graves in the hope of finding the treasure that the Osages often buried with their dead.”   

In Arizona, American prospectors murdered Walapai leader Wauba Yuma. The Pai bands responded in a traditional way to exact vengeance on the Americans. The result came to be called the Walapai War. Stephen Hirst, in his book I Am The Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People, reports:

“The war went on for three years, mostly in the form of skirmishes but with a few actions that we would now call massacres.”

In northern Arizona, two Mormon settlers were tracking stolen sheep in fresh snow when they encountered Navajo raiders. Both Mormons were killed. In response to the killings, the Mormons formed a militia which discovered stolen goods in a Paiute camp. The militia attacked the camp, killing two Paiute. Five other Paiute were captured, interrogated, and then executed.

The Paiute responded to the attack by later killing two Mormon men and a woman as a form of retaliation. As the Mormons in the area began planning their retaliation, Brigham Young invoked the church’s traditional policy of peace with the Indians and ordered Mormon withdrawal from the Paiute lands at Long Valley and Kanab.

In Arizona, a small party of Tolkepaya Yavapai encountered an American wagon train near Skull Valley. The Yavapai informed the teamsters that this was their land and that the water, grass, and corn belonged to them. The Yavapai would allow the Americans to leave unharmed if they surrendered their mules and the contents of their wagons.

A group of 13 soldiers—members of the Arizona Volunteers—arrived with orders from Fort Whipple to “punish” the Yavapai. Then more Yavapai and Tonto Apache arrived, including some who had papers showing that they have permission to be in the area.

On the third day of the standoff, about 80 Yavapai and Tonto Apache laid down their bows, and displaying their papers from the government, approached the wagon train peacefully. The soldiers opened fire, killing more than 40.

The Arizona Volunteers waged a war against the Yavapai and killed at least 83. The Volunteers were waging a war to exterminate Yavapai families.

In Montana, a Blackfoot war party attacked a government farm on the Sun River and burned the buildings. They also raided against a nearby cattle ranch. The raids were motivated by Blackfoot anger against Americans trespassing and settling on their lands.

Intertribal Conflicts

Following the Civil War, as American settlers began to flood into the West, more Indian tribes were pushed into smaller hunting grounds and intertribal warfare increased. Briefly described below are some of the intertribal conflicts of 1866.

In Montana, a Pend d’Oreille buffalo hunting party was attacked by the Blackfoot. Twenty men and one woman were killed.

In Montana, the alliance between the Gros Ventre and the Blackfoot broke down. This solidified the Gros Ventre relationships with the Assiniboine and with the River Crow.

In Montana, a war party of Crow and Gros Ventre attacked the Piegan Blackfoot camp of Chief Many Horses. Many Horses was killed, and the Blackfoot, angered over the death of a popular chief, attacked the Crow and Gros Ventre with ferocity. The Blackfoot warriors chased their retreating attackers for many miles. Anthropologist John Ewers, in his book The Blackfeet: Raiders on the Northwestern Plains, reports:

“In this most disastrous defeat with the memory of both the Gros Ventre and Crow tribesmen, more than three hundred of them were killed.”

The Blackfoot lost only 20 warriors.

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

In Wyoming, the Shoshone and Bannock fought a battle against the Crow at Crowheart Butte. After five days, it was apparent that neither side would be able to win. Thus it was agreed that Shoshone chief Washakie and Crow chief Big Robber should fight a duel to settle the matter. Washakie won the duel, but he was so impressed by Big Robber’s bravery that he did not scalp him, but instead cut out his heart. One of the Crow women who was captured at the battle later became one of Washakie’s wives.

In Wyoming, a party of Shoshone returning from a successful buffalo hunt were attacked by the Sioux. Under the leadership of Washakie, the Shoshone counterattacked and drove the Sioux back. Angry because his son Nan-nag-gai did not take part in the battle, Washakie rebuked the young man. Nan-nag-gai then attacked the Sioux alone and was killed. Historian Grace Raymond Hebard , in her biography Washakie: Chief of the Shoshones, writes:

“Washakie realized that he was himself responsible for his bereavement. The story runs that overnight his hair turned white.”

In New Mexico, a Comanche war party captured a number of horses from the Navajo at the Bosque Redondo, and from the army and some Americans at Fort Sumner. The army sent out a force in pursuit. The Comanche halted and raised a white flag, but they were fired upon by the army.

Massachusetts Prior to 1620

It is not uncommon to encounter the assumption that the history of Massachusetts began with arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. However, Indians had lived in the area for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. Furthermore, the Indians of Massachusetts had had contact with Europeans prior to 1620.

Possible Contacts

While the seventeenth century marks the beginning of the European invasion in Massachusetts, there are some possible interactions between Europeans and Indians prior to this. Many historians consider these earlier contacts to be unverified and dismiss these accounts. However, it should be noted that there was a time when some historians were skeptical about Viking settlements in North America, but current archaeological findings show that Viking contact was fairly frequent. There are archaeologically verified settlements in Newfoundland and archaeologist Birgitta Wallace, in her report in Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga writes:

“From L’Anse aux Meadows, expeditions were launched to explore areas farther away. We have proof that they went south to warmer, more hospitable areas where butternuts grew on large trees and grapes grew wild, for the archaeological evidence is unequivocal.”

In 1002, a Viking group under the leadership of Thorvald, the brother of Leif Eriksson, named present-day Cape Cod Kiarlanes (Keel-Cape) because it looks like the keel of a ship. The group then arrived at a heavily wooded promontory. Here they found three Indian canoes camouflaged with brush. There was a conflict in which eight Indians were killed and Thorvald was wounded. His wound proved to be fatal and he was buried at a place which the Vikings call Krossanes (Cape of the Cross). Writer Leo Bonfanti, in his book Biographies and Legends of the New England Indians, reports:

“Since there are so many promontories, both large and small, along the New England coast, ‘Krossanes’ could be any one of them, for its exact location has never been determined.”

Early Contacts

In 1602, the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold landed at Cape Cod and traded with the Wampanoag. He reported that the Indians were in good health: they were free of epidemic diseases and they had good nutrition. When he returned to England he promoted the establishment of British colonies in the area.

The following year the English under the leadership of Martin Pring, built a palisaded trading camp at Cape Cod in Wampanoag territory. While the English entertained the Wampanoag with small gifts and guitar music, they also stole a large birchbark canoe. As a result, the relations between the English and the Indians deteriorated. The English fired their muskets and loosed mastiffs at Wampanoag warriors before abandoning the trading camp.

Pring reported that the Indians had gardens which were larger than an acre in size. He also described the large strawberries. His crew loaded sassafras to be sold in Europe as a high-priced medical panacea.

The theft of the canoe suggested to the Indians that the English were perhaps not honorable people and that their greed for material possessions was perhaps greater than the hospitality which they offered.

In 1605, French explorers led by Samuel de Champlain explored the Massachusetts coast. the explorers meet Indians in large dugout canoes, some of which carry 40 men.

Just north of the present-day city of Plymouth, the explorers were met by the Massachusett under the leadership of Honabetha. On the shore, Champlain admired the abundant crops of corn, beans, squash, tobacco, and Jerusalem artichokes which were being raised by the Indians. The Massachusett, on the other hand, were eager to obtain the French metal cooking pots and one sailor was killed for his pot.

In 1606, French explorers attempted to impress the Wampanoag in the village of Monomoy with their guns and swords. The French also erected a large cross as a symbol of their religious superiority. The Wampanoag response was to kill four of the landing party, tear down the cross, and jeer at the retreating French.

In 1611, English sea captains captured six Indians, including the Capawake sachem Epinow, at Martha’s Vineyard. Epinow was taken to England where he learned English language and culture. The English described him as “cunning” and “artful.”

In 1614, the English returned with Capawake sachem Epinow who was supposed to act as their guide and interpreter. Epinow, however, escaped from the ship by jumping into the water and swimming toward some Indian canoes. The Indians in the canoes fired a volley of arrows at the ship to aid his escape.

English Captain Thomas Hunt captured 26 Wampanoag, including a young man known as Squanto. The Indians were taken to Spain and sold as slaves. However, Squanto escaped and found his way to England where he learned to speak English.

Five years later, Squanto returned from England with Captain Thomas Dermer. He searched for his Wampanoag relatives and found that they had died in an epidemic.

Disease

Perhaps the greatest impact of the arrival of Europeans in Massachusetts came from the diseases which they brought with them. The diseases brought to this continent by the Europeans included bubonic plague, chicken pox, pneumonic plague, cholera, diphtheria, influenza, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough. The native population lacked immunity to viruses and germs that had evolved in Europe. Consequently, Indians succumbed in large numbers.

In 1614, a series of three epidemics began to sweep through the Indian villages in Massachusetts. At least ten of the 40 Wampanoag villages had to be abandoned because there were no survivors. Wampanoag population decreased from 12,000 to 5,000. The Massachusett were nearly exterminated. Between 1616 and 1619, it is estimated that at least three fourths of the Indian population in Massachusetts died from European epidemic diseases. Some authorities estimate the death toll at 90%.

It is not known what the actual disease was that caused this epidemic. Various writers have suggested bubonic plague, smallpox, and hepatitis A. There is strong evidence supporting all of these theories.

The Pilgrims would later look upon these epidemics as evidence of God’s grace and His intention for them to occupy this country.

The Pilgrims

When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, they encountered few living people but saw evidence of many Indian graves. In some instances, the Pilgrims opened the graves and stole the grave goods which they contained. In one instance, the Pilgrims steal two bearskins from the fresh grave of the mother of Massachusett leader Chickataubut.

In finding a place that looked like a grave covered with wooden boards, the Pilgrims dug and found several layers of household goods and personal possessions. They also found two bundles. In the smaller bundle they found the bones of a young child wrapped in beads and accompanied by a small bow. In the larger bundle they found the bones of a man. The man’s skull still had fine yellow hair and with the bone were a knife, a needle, and some metal items. Historian William Cronon, in his book Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, reports:

“A blond European sailor, shipwrecked or abandoned on the Massachusetts coast, had lived as an Indian, had perhaps fathered an Indian child, and had been buried in an Indian grave.”

In another instance, the Pilgrims stumbled into a Nauset graveyard where they found baskets of corn which had been left as gifts for the deceased. As the Pilgrims were gathering this bounty for themselves, they were interrupted by a group of angry Nauset warriors. The Pilgrims retreated back to the Mayflower empty-handed.

Joe Medicine Crow, RIP

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

The Crow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Medicine Crow

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

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

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

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

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

Ancient Mesoamerica: Maize (Corn)

When the Europeans began their invasion of the Americas, they found that the indigenous people of the continent, generally called American Indians, had a highly developed agricultural system. While American Indians raised a great many different crops, one of the important plants was maize (Zea mays), often called corn in American English. In addition to maize, American Indians had also domesticated numerous other plants, including beans, squash, chili peppers, avocados, cotton, and others.

With regard to the importance of maize in the Americas, Michael Coe and Rex Koontz, in their book Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, write:

“Maize was and is the very basis of settled life in Mexico and, in fact, throughout the regions of the New World civilized in Pre-Columbian times.”

The archaeological record shows that corn was originally domesticated in Mexico and then diffused north into the eastern portion of what is now the United States and into the American Southwest. It also diffused south into South America.

In general, the process of plant domestication was neither random nor sudden. Early hunters and gatherers had to have an intimate knowledge of ecology. They understood the seasonal cycle of plants and for thousands of years had deliberately  altered the environment through processes such as burning to enhance the plants they found most useful. With regard to the process of domestication, Emily McClung de Tapia, in an essay on the origins of food production in The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, reports:

“The origin of agriculture represents the culmination of a number of interrelated processes, socioeconomic as well as biological and ecological. For instance, some plants such as maize or certain species of beans underwent mutations, altering their genetic composition and rendering them more amenable for harvesting, subsequent storage, and, finally, human consumption.”

A domesticated plant is one which has become genetically altered through human intervention so that it has become dependent on human actions for its continued reproduction. It should be pointed out that humans also cultivate and care for plants which have not become domesticated. In the process of domestication, humans deliberately select for favorable mutations and genetic change.

The search for the origins of maize involves three basic questions: (1) what was the ancestral plant for maize; (2) when was it first domesticated; and (3) where was it domesticated. In general, the search for the origins of maize has focused on Mexico in the period after 7000 BCE. Initially, archaeologists hypothesized that a wild grass known as teosinte (Zea mexicana) was the progenitor of maize (Zea mays) and recent findings from molecular biology support this hypothesis.

Some of the earliest archaeological evidence of maize comes from the site of San Andrés on the Gulf Coast of Tabasco. At this site, evidence of maize in the form of phytoliths (tiny silicon particles contained in plants) dates to 4800 BCE. Michael Coe and Rex Koontz report:

“There are no known wild species of Zea native to coastal Tabasco, so these plants were introduced to the region, almost certainly by humans. At the same level the archaeologists found evidence of large-scale forest clearance of the type associated with maize cultivation in this area.”

In the highlands of Oaxaca, archaeologists found a maize cob in Guilá Naquitz cave which was dated to 4300 BCE.

The best-known evidence for the early domestication of maize comes from the Tehuacan Valley in Puebla. Originally, the cobs from caves in this valley were dated to about 5000 BCE, but more recent re-dating of the material suggests a date of only 3500 BCE.

The cobs found in both the Oaxaca and Tehuacan sites show that maize had already gone through significant evolution from teosinte. The data from these sites do not provide definitive answers to the questions about when and where maize was first domesticated. Michael Coe and Rex Koontz summarize the data this way:

“We have some way to go before we answer these questions, but the most important general fact remains: many thousands of years before Christ, the Indians of Mesoamerica had brought a very primitive, wild form of maize under their control.”

The development of agriculture had ramifications for social organization. While archaeologists used to talk about an agricultural revolution (called the Neolithic Revolution in Europe) which seem to imply rapid sociocultural change, the archaeological data today suggests a rather slow evolution. Gradually, the domesticated plants, such as maize in the Americas, became more important and with this came villages with permanent structures, storage facilities, and greater use of pottery. Looking at the archaeological data from Tehuacan, Emily McClung de Tapia writes:

“The transition to increased dependence upon cultivated food plants goes hand-in-hand with an increase in the region’s population together with increases in the duration of occupation of campsites.”

Religion on the Fort Hall Reservation, 1900 to 1934

During the nineteenth century, most government officials, missionaries, and social scientists had assumed that American Indians were a vanishing and vanquished people who would be gone by the twentieth century. It was assumed that reservations were to be temporary concentration camps to hold Indians as they either died off or fully assimilated into American culture. As a part of the assimilation efforts, the American government not only supported the activities of some Christian—primarily Protestant—missionary groups and actively worked to suppress Indian religions. At the beginning of the twentieth century, American Indian religions were illegal and those participating in Indian ceremonies could be jailed without the benefit of a trial.

The Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho, created in 1869 for various Shoshone and Bannock tribes, continued to attract Christian missionary groups in the early twentieth century. With regard to Native religions, the reservation’s Indian agents were concerned with suppressing the Sun Dance and other ceremonials, and the pan-Indian religious movement known as the Native American Church. Suppression of the Native American Church was, and still is, based on the assumption that peyote, a cactus used as a sacrament in Native American Church ceremonies, is somehow harmful to Indians.

The active suppression of American Indian religions by the federal government (i.e. the Indian Office or the Bureau of Indian Affairs) changed in 1934 when the new Commissioner of Indian Affairs, John Collier, declared that suppression of Native religions was wrong and ordered the suppression to stop.

Christian Missionaries:

In 1900, the Episcopal Church took over the property of the Connecticut Indian Association on the Shoshone and Bannock Fort Hall Reservation. The church requested and received 160 acres of land.

In 1901, the Presbyterian Church was granted 160 acres on the Fort Hall Reservation. A new church building and living quarters were constructed on the property.

In 1908, the Episcopal Church requested a patent in fee for 160 acres of land on the Fort Hall Reservation which had been granted to them provisionally by the Shoshone and Bannock. Brigham Madsen reports:

“The order was approved without getting the consent of the Indians who very much opposed the change.”

Healing Ceremonies:

In 1902, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Reservation ordered the arrest of all Shoshone and Bannock medicine men who held healing ceremonies.

Sun Dance:

       For many of the Indian nations of the Great Plains, Plateau, and Great Basin culture areas, the Sun Dance had been the central ceremony and often served as a unifying force to bring together the various hunting bands. While the actual ceremony and the frequency with which it was traditionally conducted varied among the tribes, there are several basic themes that are associated with the Sun Dance: (1) seasonal renewal, growth, and replenishment, and (2) the acquisition of spiritual power. Much of the government effort in suppressing Native religions in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was focused on this ancient ceremony.

The medicine man Bear sponsored a Sun Dance among the Shoshone-Bannock on the Fort Hall Reservation in 1901. Bear had failed to cure a woman because his powers had not been adequate and subsequently dreamed that he was to sponsor this dance. Bear had attended Sun Dances on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

In 1908, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Reservation ordered the Shoshone and Bannock to stop their Sun Dance. He was concerned that it promoted immoral activities. Community leaders responded to the ban by sending a delegation to Washington, D.C. with a protest letter.

In 1913, the Shoshone and Bannock held a Sun Dance off the Fort Hall Reservation to avoid the Bureau of Indian Affair’s ban on the ceremony. However, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Reservation sent in the Indian police to break up the dance. The Indians were angered over the incident as were the local Mormons who supported religious freedom.

In 1914, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Reservation prohibited the Shoshone and Bannock from putting on their traditional Sun Dance as he felt that this was a backward influence on the community. Community leaders organized the Sun Dance in defiance of the ban and 1,500 Shoshone and Bannock attended.

In 1916, the Shoshone and Bannock once again attempted to hold a Sun Dance off the reservation. Indian police from the Fort Hall Reservation tore down the Sun Dance structure, cut up the poles, and confined seven of the ceremonial leaders to jail for ten days. There was, of course, no trial.

In 1926, the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation received permission to revive the Sun Dance. According to Brigham Madsen:

“It was true that some of the self-torture aspects had been eliminated, with the result being a kind of medicine dance, but it was held for the traditional three days.”

Native American Church

The Native American Church arose in the late nineteenth century as a pan-Indian religious movement. It incorporates many Christian elements as well as Indian elements. The difficulty that the church encounters is that it uses peyote as a sacrament. Since peyote is considered to be a hallucinogenic drug it is illegal under America’s war against drugs. Thus, those who attend the church services are sometimes subject to harassment by law enforcement as well as the possibility of arrest. The Native American Church is the only church in the United States whose membership is restricted by law to racial criteria.

In 1915, the Shoshone on the Fort Hall Reservation began to become involved with the Native American Church and the use of peyote as a sacrament. Sam Lone Bear (Sioux) was one of the proselytizers for the peyote religion.

In 1920, the peyote religion was brought to the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation by Shoshone spiritual leader Jack Edmo and by Sioux spiritual leader Cactus Pete. The new religion rapidly spread across the reservation and alarmed agency officials. Jack Edmo had 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 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.

In 1921, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Reservation, having been informed by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that the use of peyote and peyote meetings were in violation of Indian Office Regulations, posted a notice informing the Shoshone and Bannock that the introduction, use, or possession of peyote was illegal.

In 1925, the Fort Hall Native American Church incorporated under state law. The language used in its statement of purpose was identical with that used by the Oklahoma Native American Church. The statement of purpose emphasizes that peyote was a sacrament and that the church stresses morality, sobriety, industry, charity, and right living.

The Northern Cheyenne Escape

At the 1851 Fort Laramie treaty council, United States officials failed to understand that there were two distinct Cheyenne tribes: the Northern Cheyenne whose territory included the Black Hills, and the Southern Cheyenne who had migrated to the southern plains. The United States assigned all of the Cheyennes, both Northern and Southern, to a reservation in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The Northern Cheyenne, however, had no desire to relocate to the south and remained on the Northern Plains where they were allied with the Sioux.

In 1876, the 7th Cavalry under the leadership of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer attacked a peaceful Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne village on the Little Bighorn River in Montana. Following the Indian victory, the Cheyenne moved back into the Bighorn Mountains. In Wyoming, an army of 1,000 cavalry attacked the Northern Cheyenne winter camp of Dull Knife, Wild Hog, and Little Wolf, destroying tipis, clothing, and food supplies.

In 1877, the main body of the Northern Cheyenne, which included Dull Knife, Little Wolf, Black Wolf, Standing Elk, Spotted Elk, and Magpie Eagle, surrendered to the Americans at the Red Cloud Agency in Nebraska. The four Old Man Chiefs—Little Wolf, Morning Star, Dirty Moccasins, and Old Bear—were with this group. The Cheyenne were then force-marched for 70 days to the reservation in Indian Territory. When they surrendered they had expected reservation life, but they had not anticipated a 70-day forced march to a reservation far from their homeland.

In 1878, the Northern Cheyenne, under the leadership of Dull Knife, Wild Hog, and Little Wolf, left the reservation where they had been starving and began a trek north to their homelands. In his book Perilous Pursuit: The U.S. Cavalry and the Northern Cheyennes, Stanley Hoig reports:

“Although Dull Knife still held great influence and was a principal spokesman for the Cheyennes, Little Wolf was the main leader of the exodus and directed its course. Wild Hog was next in rank.”

They left the reservation with their lodges standing and their fires burning in order to deceive agency authorities. Of the 353 Northern Cheyenne who slipped away from the agency, only 60-70 were seasoned warriors.

The news media reported that the Cheyenne had “broken out” of the reservation and both soldiers and civilians pursued them. According to Smithsonian curator Herman Viola, in his book After Columbus: The Smithsonian Chronology of the North American Indians, the Cheyenne lacked tents and sufficient food in their “desperate dash for Montana.” In his book Tell Them We Are Going Home: The Odyssey of the Northern Cheyennes, historian John Monnett reports:

“Immediately the army marshaled the technological resources of a modern nation against them.”

The first military engagement between the fleeing Northern Cheyenne and the U.S. Calvary was at Turkey Springs in Oklahoma. Without authorization, a junior officer opened fire on the Cheyenne. Stanley Hoig reports:

“No sooner had the troops opened the hostilities than Cheyenne warriors emerged from ravines on both sides and in the rear to join those at the front in raking the troops with rifle fire.”

The cavalry retreated and the Cheyenne withdrew. Stanley Hoig sums up the encounter this way:

“The encounter with the Northern Cheyennes had been a near disaster for the Fort Reno troops.”

In Kansas, the Cheyenne ambushed the pursuing cavalry at Punished Woman’s Fork. Stanley Hoig (2002: 114) writes:

“Little Wolf’s strategy was to position his main fighting force among the rocks and cutbacks of the canyon, draw the troops into it, and then close the trap with riflemen posted along the canyon walls.”

The American troops were caught in an indefensible position and the soldiers, with their recent encounters with the Cheyenne fresh in their minds, attempted to flee as quickly as possible. In their haste, no one fought back and many of the horses bolted leaving the troops on foot.

In Nebraska, the troops who were pursuing the Cheyenne found an old man who was weak and who had fallen behind the main band. The soldiers did not harm the man, but turned him over to a group of Nebraska citizens. As the soldiers rode away, the Nebraskans shot the old man.

In western Nebraska, the Cheyenne came upon Milton Connors’ ranch. According to Walter Echo-Hawk, in his book In the Courts of the Conqueror: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided:

“Often traveling at night, they were guided by an elderly woman blessed with a mysterious power to see in the dark.”

The starving refugees captured 40 horses, 40 steers, and one mule from the ranch.

At the North Platte River, the Cheyenne broke into two groups: one group under the leadership of Little Wolf and the other under the leadership of Dull Knife.

Little Wolf led a group of 126 (40 men, 47 women, 39 children) with the intention of traveling to the Powder River country in Montana. Traveling with Little Wolf were the warriors Starving Elk, Black Coyote, Buffalo Calf Road Woman, and Black Crane. Little Wolf’s band avoided the military and travelled into the Dakotas and then into Montana. His band was met by scouts from Fort Keogh who assured Little Wolf that his people would not be harmed if they surrendered. They were given rations and followed the scouts back to the Fort. Many of the warriors enlisted in the army as scouts.

Many of Dull Knife’s people had relatives among the Oglala Sioux and so they set out for the Red Cloud Agency near Fort Robinson, Nebraska. According to historian John Monnett:

“Dull Knife had friends and relatives among the Lakotas who had been relocated to Pine Ridge, and he felt his people would be safe there even if they had to surrender to the soldiers.”

In Nebraska, Dull Knife’s Cheyenne band surrendered to the Americans at Fort Robinson. The Cheyenne leaders expressed their passionate determination not to return to Indian Territory before they surrendered to the Americans. They hoped to get permission to join the Oglala Sioux at the Red Cloud Agency. The Cheyenne were unaware that the Red Cloud Agency had been closed and the agency for the Sioux was now at Pine Ridge in South Dakota.

The Americans consider the Cheyenne as prisoners of war. The post surgeon reported that there were 149 Cheyenne: 46 men, 61 children, and 42 women. Most were near starvation and all were suffering from chills and fever. The leaders were Dull Knife, Bull Hump (Dull Knife’s son), Wild Hog, Tangle Hair, and Strong Left Hand. The Cheyenne were placed in a barracks.

At Fort Robinson, a number of Sioux chiefs—Red Cloud, Red Dog, Little Wound, and others—arranged to meet with the Cheyenne under strict military supervision. There was a joyous reunion between the two groups. Among the Cheyenne prisoners were the daughter of Sioux scout Two Lance and the sister of Chief Red Cloud.

The American commander told the Cheyenne:

“You must stay here for three months before the government will decide whether to send you south or to send you to the Sioux. While you are here, nothing bad will happen to you, but you must stay for three months. You will have the freedom of the post and may even go off into the mountains, but each night at suppertime you must be here.”

During the warmer days in December, the Army forced the women to work unloading grain wagons. Alan Boye, in his book Holding Stone Hands: On the Trail of the Cheyenne Exodus, reports:

“The women worked through bitterly cold days without gloves and considered it more slave labor than anything else.”

The Army viewed this as a way of giving the women exercise.

At Fort Robinson the Cheyenne asked for permission to join the Oglala at the Pine Ridge Reservation, but the Indian Office directed the army to return them to Oklahoma. They refused to return to Oklahoma. They were then denied food and water in an attempt to break their spirit and get them to agree to a peaceful return to Oklahoma. Dull Knife replies:

 “You may kill me here; but you cannot make me go back.”

The Americans arrested Wild Hog, Old Crow, and Strong Left Hand and held them as hostages as a way to force the Cheyenne to agree to return to the south.

In 1879, the army withdrew all food, water, and fuel from the Northern Cheyenne who were being held in a sealed room at Fort Robinson. The army hoped to starve them into submission so that they would return to Oklahoma. Dull Knife told the people:

“Let us never give up to these people, to be taken back south to the country we have run away from. We have given them everything we have and now they are starving us to death. We may as well die here as to be taken south and die there.”

Under the leadership of Little Shield, the Cheyenne broke out of the garrison in an act of desperation. During the first few minutes of the breakout, 21 Cheyenne were killed and nine more were killed later that morning. Of those killed, 22 were women and children.

During the next week, the Army tracked the Cheyenne in the winter snow, killing them when they found them. The War Department ordered the troops to attack without mercy. Finally, a group of 32 Cheyenne made their final stand in a pit above a creek and 25 were killed. By the end of the week a total of 72 Cheyenne had been killed.

After they were recaptured, 20 Cheyenne who were suspected of involvement in the killing of American settlers were sent to Oklahoma for trial. Among those taken to stand trial were Wild Hog, Tangle Hair, Strong Left Hand, Old Crow, Porcupine, Noisy Walker, and Blacksmith. The remaining survivors were escorted to the Pine Ridge Agency in South Dakota.

       Cheyenne leader Dull Knife, his wife Pawnee Woman, his son Bull Hump, and Bull Hump’s wife remained concealed in the bluffs for ten days after the Army defeated them. The small party of starving Cheyenne, who were so hungry that they were eating their moccasins, eventually made its way to the home of Gus Graven who was married to a Lakota woman and who was trusted by Dull Knife. Graven then hid the group in the home of William Rowland, an interpreter. Rowland then slipped the group in among Red Cloud’s Lakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

In an out of the way bluff on Wounded Knee Creek, a lodge was set up for Dull Knife and his family. It was here that he learned of the fate of the others in his band.

Religion on the Fort Hall Reservation, 1867 to 1899

Following the American Civil War, the federal policy toward Indians was to confine them to reservations and to reduce the size of reservation to accommodate non-Indian agricultural, grazing, mining, and railroad interests. On the reservation, Indians were to become farmers, even if the reservation land was not suitable to farming; they were to become English-speaking and use of Native languages was often punished; and they were to become Christian and to accomplish this Native religious practices were suppressed, sometimes with force of arms.

From the viewpoint of many federal officials, Indians were Indians were Indians: in other words, they often failed to recognize that there were differences between tribes. In creating reservations, the United States often put tribes which had different cultures, languages, and religions on the same reservation assuming that all Indians were the same.

The Fort Hall Reservation

       When the first non-Indians from the Mormon settlements in Utah began to discover what is now southern Idaho, they found that it was occupied by two somewhat related tribes: the Shoshone (also spelled Shoshoni) and the Bannock. Culturally, the two tribes shared a common heritage and a similar worldview. They spoke closely related languages. Historian John Heaton, in his book The Shoshone-Bannocks: Culture and Commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940 writes:

“Shoshones spoke Central Numic, whereas Bannocks, who began to intermarry with Shoshones in Idaho in the early eighteenth century, spoke Western Numic.”

The Shoshone tribes were found throughout the Great Basin area. Those who lived in southern Idaho are generally grouped together as Northern Shoshone and included the Fort Hall Shoshone, the Lemhi Shoshone, the Mountain Shoshone, the Bruneau Shoshone, and the Boise Shoshone.

The Bannock, who call themselves Bana’kwut (“Water People”), were called Buffalo Eaters and Honey Eaters by other tribes. The Bannock had migrated into the southern Idaho area from the desert areas of southeastern Oregon.

In 1867, President Andrew Johnson issued an executive order creating the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho for the Boise-Bruneau Shoshone. The executive order also set aside 1.8 million acres as a separate reservation for the Bannock. Two years later, the Fort Hall Reservation was formally opened for the Shoshone and Bannock. In their book An Introduction to the Shoshoni Language: Dammen Daigwape, Drusilla Gould and Christopheer Loether report:

“The opening of the reservation began a period of ethnic cleansing and hardship for the Shoshone-Bannock unlike anything they had ever experienced before. They were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to the reservation. On the reservation they found little food, no opportunities, and very little hope for the future.”

The Government and Christian Missionaries

In 1869, the Board of Indian Commissioners recommended that, with regard to Indians, it was the duty of government to:

“protect them, to educate them in industry, the arts of civilization, and the princi­ples of Christianity.”

The Board of Indian Commissioners also recommended that schools be established to introduce English to every tribe. According to the Board:

“The teachers employed should be nominated by some religious body having a mission nearest to the location of the school. The establishment of Christian missions should be encouraged, and their schools fostered.”

In 1870, President Ulysses Grant established his Peace Policy in which the administration of reservations was turned over to Christian missionary groups. According to James White in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma:

“Under the terms of the Peace Policy, a single religious group had a franchise over the evangelizing efforts on each reservation.”

Under the Peace Policy, the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation were assigned to the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1871. The church, however, failed to send a missionary to the reservation. The Indian agent requested funds to build a mission and mission residence, but the federal government did not earmark any monies for this purpose. According to Brigham Madsen, in his book The Northern Shoshoni:

“When no funds were earmarked for these purposes, apparently the church again responded with dedicated apathy.”

In 1871, a Catholic priest visited the Shoshone and Bannock on the Fort Hall Reservation and requested that the reservation be re-assigned to the Catholic Church. The Department of the Interior responded by transferring it from the Methodists to the Catholics. The Catholic missionary, however, was on the reservation for only a few months and then left because there were no facilities for him.

In 1873, the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation were assigned to the Methodist Church. The new Indian agent preached sermons to the Indians, but one army officer charged that the agent was not promoting material progress on the reservation.

In 1875, an Indian teacher from the Methodist Episcopal Church was appointed to the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation. He organized a church society of six members, held church services every Sunday, and established a Sunday school.

In 1887, the Connecticut Indian Association, an auxiliary of the Women’s National Indian Association, contacted the Fort Hall Reservation. The Association was willing to send two missionaries to convert the Shoshone and Bannock if the government would build a cottage for them, provide them with 3-4 acres of land, and allow them to get supplies from the government store. As a result, two women missionaries arrived at the reservation.

Mormons

       Like American Indian religions, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly called the Mormons, was discouraged by the American government and many reservations were closed to Mormon missionaries. The Mormon missionaries often worked among off-reservation Indians.

Mormon missionaries under the leadership of George Washington Hill traveled to southern Idaho in 1873 where they baptized about 100 Shoshone and Bannock. Lawrence Coates, in an article in Idaho Yesterdays, writes:

“Relying upon his previous experiences with the Shoshoni, Hill used his ability to speak their language to tell them of the Book of Mormon, depicting its story by placing pictures on a scroll.”

The Indians were then settled on farmland near Brigham City, Utah. The Indians named the community Washakie, after a Shoshone Chief.

In 1877, in response to the establishment of a Mormon farm for the Shoshone, non-Indians again demanded that the Indians be forcibly returned to the Fort Hall Reservation. Rumors circulated that the Indians were well-armed and that their horses were in good condition. The district attorney reported that the Indians had become members of the Mormon church, that they were under Mormon control, and thus they were “disloyal.” He recommended that the Indians be returned to the reservation and that the missionary should be charged with “illegally tampering with the Indians.” While the district attorney argued that military force be used to move the Indians, the Indian agent noted that the Indians in question had never resided at Fort Hall but had always made the Bear River area their home.

The agent of the Fort Hall Reservation in 1883 estimated that 300 Bannock and Shoshone were now members of the Mormon Church and he asked the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for help in stopping the Mormons from instructing the Indians in polygamy and other vile doctrines.

The Ghost Dances

       During the last part of the nineteenth century there were several indigenous religious movements which arose in response to the religious oppression forced upon Indian people by the United States. Two of these movements, both commonly called the Ghost Dance, came from Paiute prophets in Nevada and impacted the Fort Hall reservation.

In 1870, a new indigenous religious movement, known as the Ghost Dance, was started by the Paiute prophet Wodziwob in Nevada. The Shoshone and Bannock from the Fort Hall Reservation became active proselytizers for the new religion and sponsored a number of Ghost Dances.

In 1889, a Paiute named Wovoka died during an eclipse. He then returned to life with a message and a dance for his people. The message called for peace and promised an exclusively Indian world. Thus, the Ghost Dance (not to be confused with the earlier Ghost Dance movement of Wodziwob) was born. Wovoka’s message was distinctly Indian, but influenced by Christianity. According to Meldan Tanrisal, in an article in the Journal of the West:

“Wovoka had been influenced by Presbyterians on whose ranch he worked, by Mormons, and by the Indian Shaker Church.”

The Shoshone and Bannock quickly took up the new Ghost Dance. The Bannock, whose language is Northern Paiute, easily understood Wovoka’s doctrine and passed it on to their Shoshone neighbors who in turn passed it on to the Shoshone at the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Brigham Madsen reports:

“Fort Hall, therefore, became one of the distribution centers of the new religion to the Indians of the northern plains.”

Indians as People Under the Law

Very soon after the Spanish began their invasion of this continent, both the European courts and clergy declared Indians to be “people” in a biological and spiritual sense. However, the concept of Indians as “people” in a legal sense was tested in the United States in 1879.

In 1877, the United States had forcibly removed the Ponca from their homeland in northern Nebraska and resettled far to the south in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). One-third of the tribe died from starvation and disease shortly after their arrival on the new reservation.

In 1879, Standing Bear and about 30 Ponca left their Oklahoma reservation and traveled to Decatur, Nebraska where they were welcomed by the Omaha (the tribe, not the city) and given food and shelter. Standing Bear explained why he left Oklahoma:

“My boy who died down there, as he was dying looked up to me and said, I would like you take my bones back and bury them where I was born. I promised him I would. I could not refuse the dying request of my boy. I have attempted to keep my word. His bones are in that trunk.”

At this time, Indians were not allowed free movement outside of their reservations. In order to leave the reservation they were required to have the written permission of their Indian agent. The Department of the Interior (the federal agency in charge of Indian affairs) notified the War Department that the Ponca had left without permission and the army was ordered to return them to the reservation. The Ponca were then detained by the army under the command of General George Crook at Fort Omaha. Illness among the Indians and the poor condition of their horses made it impossible to return them to Oklahoma immediately. During the delay, a local newspaper story about the plight of the Ponca stirred up interest and support which resulted in an historic court case. Carl Waldman, in his book Who Was Who in Native American History, writes:

“When the true purpose of Standing Bear’s journey was published, some whites, including Crook himself, showed sympathy.”

In an interview with newspaper editor Thomas Henry Tibbles, Ta-zha-but (Buffalo Chip) asked:

“I have done no wrong, and yet I am here a prisoner. Have you a law for white men, and a different law for those who are not white?”

In defending the arrest of Standing Bear’s people, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs wrote:

“If the reservation system is to be maintained, discontented and restless or mischievous Indians cannot be permitted to leave their reservation at will and go where they please. If this were permitted the most necessary discipline of the reservations would soon be entirely broken up, all authority over the Indians would cease, and in a short time the Western country would swarm with roving and lawless bands of Indians, spreading a spirit of uneasiness and restlessness even among those Indians who are now at work and doing well.”

Under American law, everyone, including non-citizens, who is held by U.S. authorities has the right to challenge the legality of the custody through a writ of habeas corpus. Two attorneys, John Webster and Andrew Poppleton, volunteered their services to the captive Poncas and filed a writ of habeas corpus to free them from Army custody. The U.S. Attorney argued that Indians were not persons under the law and therefore were not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus. According to the government an Indian was neither a person nor a citizen within the meaning of the law, and therefore could bring no suit of any kind against the government.

After hearing the case of Standing Bear v Crook, the United States District Court found that if Indians must obey the laws of the land, then they must be afforded the protection of these laws. In other words, Indians are “people” under United States law and therefore have the right to sue for a writ of habeas corpus. The judge observed:

“On the one side, we have a few of the remnants of a once numerous and powerful, but now weak, insignificant, unlettered and generally despised race. On the other, we have the representatives of one of the most powerful, most enlightened, and most Christianized nations of modern times.”

The Court’s ruling ordered Crook to release Standing Bear and his people.

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs responded to the judge’s ruling by noting that it–

“is regarded by the Government as a heavy blow to the present Indian system, that, if sustained, will prove extremely dangerous alike to whites and Indians.”

Not all Americans agreed with the Court’s decision. One writer in New York City, asked of the Ponca: “What right have they to be in the country, anyhow?” The writer goes on to say:

“They are nothing but barbarians; they have no vote; while we are Christians and voters. Therefore, the land they occupy is unprofitable, and I for one cannot see why any white man who is a voter, and desires the land, should not make a claim to it, and if necessary, get help from the Government to obtain it.”

In theory, this ruling should have changed the legal relationships for Indian people on reservations throughout the United States. However, it was almost universally ignored by the Indian Service (later known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs), Indian agents (the people in charge of the reservations), the army, and the local courts. The ruling was not appealed as it was felt that it would probably be upheld by the Supreme Court and this would only give it more weight in American law.

With regard to the Standing Bear case, in his book In the Courts of the Conqueror: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided, attorney Walter Echo-Hawk writes:

“This decision opened Indian eyes to the possibility of protecting their rights through litigation.”

Following the Standing Bear versus Crook decision, newspaper editor Henry Tibbles arranged a six-month lecture tour of eastern cities for Standing Bear. When Standing Bear traveled, he would wear European-style clothing. On stage, however, he would wear buckskins, feathers, beaded belt, claw necklace, and red blanket. In Boston, Standing Bear’s lecture was attended by Helen Hunt Jackson, Senator Henry Dawes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and other notables who were so moved that they formed the Boston Indian Citizenship Committee to fight for the rights of the Ponca and other Indians.

In 1880, Congress appointed a committee to study the Ponca situation. As a result, Standing Bear and his small band were given a permanent home in Nebraska.