We’ll Take Manhattan

Legend and a number of historical accounts have it that on this date in 1626, Manhattan Island was purchased from the Canarsee Delawares by the Dutchman Peter Minuit. Most accounts state that Dutch beads were part of the deal.

The only known document specifically relating to the acquisition was written in Amsterdam late in 1626 as a report to the board of the West India Company. It said, in part:

They [the crew and passengers of a returning ship] report that our people are in good heart and live in peace there; the women have also borne some children there. They have purchased the Island Manhattes from the Indians for the value of 60 guilders; ’tis 11,000 morgens (about 22,00[0] acres) in size.

60 guilders has been estimated as worth from $24 to $300. Manhattan is actually about 15,000 acres, not 22,000.

The late bead historian Peter Francis argued in his prize-winning 1986 article “The Beads That Did Not Buy Manhattan Island” that, because this contemporary report does not mention beads, we cannot assume that beads were part of the transaction. According to Francis, beads were added to the story by Martha J. Lamb in her History of the City of New York (1877). It was only from then on that Dutch beads became part of the story. And, as a result, making the Delawares seem even more ignorant in light of Manhattan’s growing importance and wealth.

NewMexiKen however, wonders whether “for the value of 60 guilders” does not imply trade goods rather than coin. What use would Dutch money have been to the Delawares? And, if the transaction was strictly for money, why not report “for 60 guilders” rather than the vague “for the value of 60 guilders”? Trade goods were used in the purchase of Staten Island in August 1626 according to a copy of the deed – “Some Diffies, Kittles, Axes, Hoes, Wampum, Drilling Awls, Jew’s Harps, and diverse other wares” [Diffies are cloth]. What does “Wampum” mean in this Dutch account if not beads? The word “Wampum” comes from the Narragansett for white shell beads.

More than likely the Delawares assumed they were “leasing” the use of the land. Permanent title would not have occurred to them. And $24 to $300 for a lease (whether in cash or goods) would not have been unattractive.

As the result of war, the Dutch traded New Amsterdam to the English in 1667 for what is now Suriname (Dutch Guyana).


A Gathering of Nations

The 31st annual Gathering of Nations is this weekend at the University Arena (The Pit) in Albuquerque. North America’s largest Indian powwow, it attracts Indian dancers from all over the U.S. and Canada.

I did a little photo essay after attending the Gathering in 2006.


They call them "fancy dancers" for a reason.

They call them “fancy dancers” for a reason.

Two generations of fancy dancers.

Two generations of fancy dancers.

Ready for the Grand Entry.

Ready for the Grand Entry.

Just before the Grand Entry a bald eagle is carried around the arena floor, faced in each of the four directions, its hood removed and its wings spread. Magnificent (but hard to photograph well from my vantage point).

When the Eagle Staff enters the arena to begin the Grand Entry, everyone stands.

When the Eagle Staff enters the arena to begin the Grand Entry, everyone stands.

Gathering Color

Gathering Color

Gathering Color

The Grand Entry is without a doubt the single most colorful event NewMexiKen has ever seen.

A little something new among the traditional, a baseball cap tops one young man's colorful array.

A little something new among the traditional, a baseball cap tops one young man’s colorful array.

Everybody needs to look their best at the Gathering.

Everybody needs to look their best at the Gathering.

Vendors of Indian arts occupy a large tent outside the arena.  And no Gathering of Nations would be complete without a gathering of Pendletons (in this case a rack of vests for sale).

Vendors of Indian arts occupy a large tent outside the arena. And no Gathering of Nations would be complete without a gathering of Pendletons (in this case a rack of vests for sale).


Sacajawea Gives Birth

Coin

From the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 209 years ago today:

Meriwether Lewis:

The party that were ordered last evening set out early this morning. the weather was fair and could wind N. W. about five oclock this evening one of the wives of Charbono was delivered of a fine boy. it is worthy of remark that this was the first child which this woman had boarn and as is common in such cases her labour was tedious and the pain violent; Mr. Jessome informed me that he had freequently adminstered a small portion of the rattle of the rattle-snake, which he assured me had never failed to produce the desired effect, that of hastening the birth of the child; having the rattle of a snake by me I gave it to him and he administered two rings of it to the woman broken in small pieces with the fingers and added to a small quantity of water. Whether this medicine was truly the cause or not I shall not undertake to determine, but I was informed that she had not taken it more than ten minutes before she brought forth perhaps this remedy may be worthy of future experiments, but I must confess that I want faith as to it’s efficacy.—

Background by Journals editor:

Jean Baptiste Charbonneau would have a varied and lengthy career on the frontier, starting with his role as the youngest member of the Corps of Discovery. Clark nicknamed him Pomp or “Pompy,” and named Pompey’s Pillar (more properly Clark’s “Pompy’s Tower”) on the Yellowstone after him in 1806. Clark offered to educate the boy as if he were his own son, and apparently took him into his own home in St. Louis when the child was about six. In 1823 he attracted the notice of the traveling Prince Paul of Wurttemburg, who took him to Europe for six years. On his return to the United States he became a mountain man and fur trader, and later a guide for such explorers and soldiers as John C. Frémont, Philip St. George Cooke, W. H. Emory, and James Abert. He eventually settled in California and died in Oregon while traveling to Montana in 1866.

Source: Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition Online February 11, 1805


The Dawes Act

… “An act to provide for the allotment of lands in severalty to Indians on the various reservations…” was approved by President Grover Cleveland on this date in 1887.

Named for its chief author, Senator Henry Laurens Dawes from Massachusetts, the Dawes Severalty Act reversed the long-standing American policy of allowing Indian tribes to maintain their traditional practice of communal use and control of their lands. Instead, the Dawes Act gave the president the power to divide Indian reservations into individual, privately owned plots. The act dictated that men with families would receive 160 acres, single adult men were given 80 acres, and boys received 40 acres. Women received no land.

The most important motivation for the Dawes Act was Anglo-American hunger for Indian lands. The act provided that after the government had doled out land allotments to the Indians, the sizeable remainder of the reservation properties would be opened for sale to whites. Consequently, Indians eventually lost 86 million acres of land, or 62 percent of their total pre-1887 holdings.

This Day in History

The allotment of lands ended in 1934. The problems The Dawes Act created continue in perpetuity.


Wounded Knee

On this date in 1890, the 7th Cavalry killed about 350 Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. It is considered the last action of the Indian Wars, but it wasn’t a battle. It was a massacre. The Indian men had been largely disarmed before the firing began.

This 10-minute video, excerpted from a longer production, is a well-produced telling of what happened.

American Horse: There was a woman with an infant in her arms who was killed as she almost touched the flag of truce, and the women and children of course were strewn all along the circular village until they were dispatched. Right near the flag of truce a mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing, and that especially was a very sad sight. The women as they were fleeing with their babes were killed together, shot right through, and the women who were very heavy with child were also killed. All the Indians fled in these three directions, and after most all of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys who were not wounded came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there.

Lakota accounts of the massacre at Wounded Knee (1891)

One of the survivors was Black Elk, the famous medicine man, who was 27 years old at the time of the massacre. He wrote: “… I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream. And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, — you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.”

The Writer’s Almanac (2009)

The Wounded Knee massacre of 1890 is different from the Wounded Knee incident of 1973.


The Day Before

I am well aware of the feelings among many American Indians about Columbus Day. One Lakota woman who worked for me used to ask if she could come in and work on Columbus Day, a federal holiday.

My feeling though is that we can’t have enough holidays and so I choose to think of Columbus Day as the Italian-American holiday. Nothing wrong with that. We have an African-American holiday on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. We have the Irish-American celebration that is St. Patrick’s Day. And Cinco de Mayo is surely the Mexican-American holiday, a much larger celebration here than in most of Mexico.

So, instead of protesting Columbus Day, perhaps American Indians should organize and bring about a holiday of their very own. Given the great diversity among Indian nations (and, lets face it, a proclivity for endless debate), the tribes might never reach agreement, though, so I will suggest a date.

The day before Columbus Day.


Every Historian Who Studies Lewis & Clark Falls in Love with Sacagawea

But they can’t agree on her name.

The problem is that Sacajawea was Shoshone, but Sakakawea was captured at age 12 by the Hidatsas. So is her name Shoshone or Hidatsa? The problem is further compounded by the fact that Lewis and Clark couldn’t spell. Clark was the most creative — for example, he spelled Sioux no less than 27 different ways in the Journals.

Sacagawea is the official federal spelling. It is considered to be a Hidatsa word meaning “Bird Woman,” though apparently that is not how the Hidatsas spell it.

Sakakawea is the Hidatsa/North Dakota spelling. According to the North Dakota Historical Society:

Official North Dakota policy is to use the “Sakakawea” spelling based largely on the writings of Russell Reid who researched the subject in the early 1900′s. Most of the rest of the United States, however, including the Hidatsa in North Dakota, tend to use the “Sacagawea” version as being closer to the meaning of her given name. The source of debate ever since, the true spelling of her name is difficult for a number of reasons. First of all, Hidatsa is not a written language; Lewis and Clark themselves employed over a dozen different spellings of her name in their journals. Secondly, coming from an oral tradition, the proper spelling of her name presents difficulty because of the phonetics involved. The controversy probably will not be resolved any time soon, but it is probably best to use the spelling that contemporary Hidatsa people prefer.

Sacajawea ia the spelling adopted by Wyoming and some other western states, relying on the Shoshone. According to the web site Trail Tribes:

The Lemhi Shoshone call her Sacajawea. It is derived from the Shoshone word for her name, Saca tzah we yaa. In his Cash Book, William Clark spells Sacajawea with a “J”. Also, William Clark and Private George Shannon explained to Nicholas Biddle (Published the first Lewis and Clark Journals in 1814) about the pronunciation of her name and how the tz sounds more like a “j”. What better authority on the pronunciation of her name than Clark and Shannon who traveled with her and constantly heard the pronunciation of her name. We do not believe it is a Minnetaree (Hidatsa) word for her name. Sacajawea was a Lemhi Shoshone not a Hidatsa. Her people the Lemhi Shoshone honor her freedom and will continue using the name Sacajawea. Most Shoshone elders conclude that her name is a Shoshone word: Saca tzah we yaa which means burden.

Lewis and Clark (or at least Clark) called Sacagawea Janey. Clark raised the boy, John Baptiste Charbonneau (called Pomp by Clark) from age six and arranged for him to be educated in Europe when Pomp was 19.

The best evidence suggests that Sacagawea died in 1812, though some believe she lived until 1884.