Nothing Changes

Gillette 1948

“We will sign this contract with a heavy heart. … With a few scratches of the pen, we will sell the best part of our reservation. Right now the future doesn’t look too good to us.”
George Gillette, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, 1948, pictured left at signing.

A Pipeline Fight and America’s Dark Past


The chief himself was in his late fifties and perhaps decided that it was time to retire from the more athletic activities of his career. Nonetheless, when he finally gave up once and for all, on September 4, 1886, it was a negotiated surrender, and not a capture.

Geronimo and Naiche (son of Cochise) surrendered to Gen. Nelson Miles on this date in 1886 at Skeleton Canyon, near the Arizona-New Mexico line just north of the border with Mexico. It was the fourth time Geronimo had surrendered — and the last. With them were 16 men, 14 women and six children. The band was taken to Fort Bowie and by the 8th were on a train to Florida as prisoners of war.

“General Miles is your friend,” said the interpreter. The Indian gave Miles a defoliating look. “I never saw him,” he said. “I have been in need of friends. Why has he not been with me?”

This photograph was taken at a rest stop along the route to San Antonio. Naiche is third from left, Geronimo third from right (with the straw hat) in the front row.

After time in Florida and Alabama, Geronimo and the other Chiricahua Apaches were moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1894. Geronimo, despite remaining a prisoner of war, became a marketable celebrity, paid to appear at expositions and fairs. He died at Fort Sill in 1909, about age 80.

Also pictured are Geronimo at his third surrender in March 1886 (above) and Geronimo on exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair (below).

Quotations are from Geronimo! by E. M. Halliday, published in American Heritage in June 1966.

Black Hawk’s War

On this date in 1832, the fortunes of American Indians in Illinois, Iowa and Michigan Territory took a significant turn for the worse. On August 1-2 of that year, the final confrontation of the Black Hawk War took place just south of the Bad Axe River in the western region of modern day Wisconsin. The result was as decisive as the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794) had been for the Indians of the Ohio River Valley, or the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814) had been for the Creeks. Though it is often overshadowed by the drama of the Cherokee removal, the Black Hawk War was no less critical to the history of Indian peoples east of the Mississippi.

The Edge of the American West tells the rest of the story (from 2008).

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


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.