Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians - Anton Treuer's New Book

Wow!  I really would be afraid to ask a lot of the questions that make up the headings of Anton Treuer's new book.  Here's a sample:

Why do Indians have long hair?
Why does getting the Columbus story right matter?
What is blood quantum, what is tribal enrollment, and how are they related?
What is Indian religion?

Treuer doesn't make the claim that he can speak for all Indians. Instead, his contacts with people from other tribes give the reader an idea of the diversity of Indigenous peoples in this hemisphere.

Here's an excerpt that shows Treuer's expertise and also his willingness to "tell it like it is":
What is "Indian Time"?
Indian time is...a terrible misconception widely held in Indian Country. Today the concept is used as an excuse to be late or lazy.  But Native Americans in former times were neither. If you woke up late or took a lazy day your children often went hungry. People worked hard and were physically fit to in order to survive. [from page 46]

Buy Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But were Afraid to Ask from the Minnesota Historical Society.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Oneida Language Resource from UW Digital Collections

The Wisconsin Oneida Language Preservation Project is part of the University of Wisconsin's Digital Collections.

Contents include a K - 6 curriculum, songs, and stories told and recorded as part of the WPA or Works Progress Administration program during the New Deal era.

Don't forget, Oneida is an Iroquois language, closely related to the languages of the Seneca, Tuscarora, Onandaga, Cayuga and Mohawk Indians.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Mohican News Features the Latest Pow-Wow

The Mohican News has a new reporter.  Mark Shaw was the grandson of Virgil Murphy, a former tribal chairman.  Mark told me that he took about a thousand photos at the 36th Mohican Veterans Pow-Wow that was held August 10-12.  Only the best of those photos made it into the paper. 

The Pow-Wow took place at the Pow-Wow grounds, of course.  North of Lutheran Church of the Wilderness on Muhheconnuck Road (on the Stockbridge-Munsee reservation, Shawano County, Wisconsin).

LaKeisha Williams was Miss Moheconneew.

As he has for the last few years, Bear Man made an appearance.

See these and many other photos on the Mohican News website!

Friday, August 24, 2012

ACH Centennial Edition: The War of 1812 - Part I

This engraving, taken from Encyclopedia Brittanica Online depicts the Battle of the Thames, a decisive victory for the United States over the British and Tecumseh. (Please click on the image, it looks a lot better when enlarged.)

Congress was investigating William Henry Harrison for his aggressive tactics towards the Shawnee brothers and their city-state of Prophetstown at the same time that there was tension with Great Britain.  One of the issues was that the Canadian border had not been determined and some politicians wanted to conquer the British-owned territory to the north. 

According to historian and author Adam Jortner, the investigation being conducted on Harrison - then the governor of Indiana Territory - was something of an historical turning point.  United States officials tended to blame the British for stirring the pot with Indians (when actually it was people like Harrison who stirred it, but that is fodder for another blogpost).  Anyway, Harrison's political opponents were upset with his conduct towards the Indians, but another rather powerful political faction, known as the War Hawks or "young War Hawks," was so intent on building up reasons to go to war against the British that the report on the investigation of Harrison wound up not being about Harrison's actions per se, but instead about how he was reacting to a nasty conspiracy between the British and the Indians of the Old Northwest.

As Jortner put it in an online interview [to read it you'll have to "scroll down" after you get to the amazon page], William Henry Harrison saved himself by joining the "push for a broader war against all the Northwest Indians and Canada."  The War of 1812 was declared just five days after Congress made their report on the investigation of Governor Harrison.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Racial Identity Among the New York Indians - Chris Geherin Looks at "New Guinea"

The issue of African American blood running through the veins of the Stockbridge and Brothertown Indians has been a controversial one and I have avoided it for that very reason.  But today I surfed onto an award-winning journal article that is clearly part of Algonkian Church History.

Above: "Brothertown Descendant Greg Wilson, of Union Grove, Wisconsin, on a tour of Brothertown Indian Cemeteries" as noted in the blog "At Home in the Huddle 2."

The New York State Historical Association awarded its Kerr History Prize to Christopher Geherin for the best article in New York History in 2010.  The title itself says a lot:

New Guinea: Racial Identity and Inclusion in the Stockbridge and Brothertown Indian Communities of New York

The full text of the article - along with old photos and maps -  is found in the e-Journal, New York History.

Blogger's note:  Hey, I'm sorry, everybody.  It seems that the New York History e-journal is now a subscription site.  Here's their address: http://www.fenimoreartmuseum.org/digital_subscription_nyh

Here are a few things that Geherin addresses:

1. William Gardner's status is something I addressed in an earlier post, but Geherin has more to say:

In 1824 the Stockbridge tribal council formally adopted William Gardner, identifying him as Narragansett. But in 1826 the legislature of New York defined Gardner as "coloured," and by the 1870s the tribe sought to exclude the Gardners by characterizing the family as "negro."
2. Rev. John Sergeant [Jr.] "mentioned preaching to a small nearby settlement of mulattoes."

3. Names of those (apparently only "heads of families") who lived in the so-called "New Guinea" settlement: Nathaniel, Joshua, and Peter Pendleton; John Baldwin; Henry and George Cook; and Margaret Reid

It should go without saying that Geherin did careful research and documented his sources.  Please refer to his article if you would like to check them.


Christopher Geherin, "New Guinea: Racial Identity and Inclusion in the Stockbridge and Brothertown Indian Communities of New York," New York History; Summer 2009 (2 Aug. 2012).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What was Captain Hendrick's Role in the Western Expansion of the United States?

In researching the life of Captain Hendrick Aupaumut, chief of the Stockbridge Mohicans and also an official of the United States government, I've had to accept that there are a lot of grey areas and a lot of blanks that will never be filled in. I have no doubt that he was "a man of integrity," fighting for what he believed in.  The historians that called him "befuddled" or a "stooge" for the United States must have been missing something.

Then again, Captain Hendrick helped facilitate treaties in Ohio and Indiana that turned Indian land over to the US government.  My thinking is that he knew that there would be white expansion and believed that tribes would continue to lose their land and suffer until they adopted Christianity and "civilization."  This is pretty much the same as what you will read in the three scholarly articles written about him (see below for citation), so I thank James and Jeanne Ronda, Alan Taylor, and Rachel Wheeler for their work on this topic.

My recent posts about the White River Delawares and Tenskawatawa, the Shawnee Prophet, are the context in which Captain Hendrick worked.  President Jefferson's administration hired Captain Hendrick to serve as the Delawares' "Civilizing Agent" from 1809 until the War of 1812 temporarily forced them to a safer location.  During that time he did what he could to stop the Shawnee Prophet's movement and John Sergeant (Jr.), the Stockbridges' missionary, gave him credit for doing exactly that:
“through the judicious arrangements of Capt. Hendrick, the influence of the Prophet is nearly at an end.” 
That statement was preserved for us in a book written by Electa Jones of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, printed in 1854.  Unfortunately, Jones doesn't say when John Sergeant made that statement, making it more difficult to prove its relevance in the course of American history.

We do know that Tenskwatawa, the Prophet, became less important between 1809 and 1813.  Until recently the showdown over western expansion of the United States that was going on was seen as a battle personified by the conflict between William Henry Harrison and Tecumseh.  But current historians recognize that Tecumseh didn't become important in his brother's movement until it became political. 

Will Captain Hendrick someday also be recognized in the same way that historians remember Harrison and the Shawnee brothers?  I think that is unlikely.  There are just too many grey areas and too many blanks that will never be filled in.


Ronda, James and Jeanne. "'As They Were Faithful': Chief Hendrick Aupaumut and the Struggle for Stockbridge Survival, 1757-1830," American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 3, 1979: 43-55.

Taylor, Alan. Captain Hendrick Auapaumut: The Dilemmas of an Intercultural Broker,"  Ethnohistory, Summer, 1996.

Wheeler, Rachel.  "Hendrick Aupaumut, Christian-Mahican Prophet,"
Journal of the Early Republic; Summer 2005, Vol. 25 Issue 2, p187

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Gods of Prophetstown - with Comments from the Author

In a recent post, I told about the Delaware witch purge of 1806.  This witch hunt/purge is the topic of one chapter of a new book by University of Auburn history professor Adam Jortner.  The full title is The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier.

Essentially the book contrasts William Henry Harrison - as a Deist - with Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Prophet.  I think it tells the story very well and corrects a number of assumptions made by historians in the past.  One of those assumptions had to do with witchcraft; and in particular, the "role" it might play in a community.  In the past, historians have asserted that witch hunts allow a comunity to set boundaries of appropriate behavior or somehow aid in conflict resolution, but Adam Jortner doesn't buy it.  In an e-mail to me he said:

[I]f religious ideas only have social functions, then religion basically *is* sociology, when you get down to it, and although religion has many social functions, I don't think it's ALL social functions.
So I don't think the witch hunt had a "role." I think the Delawares...had fears about witches, and the purpose of the hunt was to initiate a supernatural war against them. I think Tenskwatawa was invited because of his presumed supernatural powers, and while he benefitted politically from the event, I don't think he manipulated the proceedings--I think he also was concerned about witches.
In my opinion, the witch hunts aren't a front for something else--they are just hunts for witches.
I get the impression from reading the book that Adam Jortner, on the one hand, has a lot of respect for religion, but, on the other hand, he doesn't study religion per se.  What he studies is people's religious beliefs that make up the contents of American history.

I feature lots of books on this blog that I don't (explicitly) recommend to you, the reader.  Unfortunately, lots of books written by history professors don't make for good reads for those of us who aren't history professors.  I think The Gods of Prophetstown is an exception.  It is more readable than the vast majority of books of its kind.

See the book review and author interview in Indian Country Today magazine.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Map of Statesburg (now Kaukauna, WI) in 1826

 Maps can tell us a lot about history. This one of Statesburg, the Stockbridge Mohican's first settlement in what is now Wisconsin, is no exception. (Hint: for better viewing, click on the map to enlarge it)

The community was first settled by fifty Stockbridge Indians in 1822.  Since there were problems with the treaties of 1821 and 1822, the tribe had to move again in the mid-1830's.  (To get the bigger picture, see this map of Wisconsin.)

The map that you see a portion of above is different from most in that south is "up" and north is "down." So although most of the buildings are "above" the Fox River, it actually means that they are to the south of the river.  The city of Kaukauna, Wisconsin is now located here, but it is on both shores of the Fox River (not just the south shore as Statesburg was).

I'd like to thank Craig Lahm of the Kaukauna Historical Society for requesting the map from the Library of Congress and sharing it with me.  Thanks also go to Tom Duescher, also of the Kauakuna Historical Society, for annotating the map.  That is, he inserted the red labels which make the map decipherable to us today.

Thanks again Tom and Craig!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Shawnee Prophet Predicts an Eclipse

When William Henry Harrison, the governor of Indiana Territory, heard of the Delaware witch purge of 1806 he sent the tribe a letter demanding that they denounce the Shawnee prophet as an "imposter."  He did so with poetic language:
If he really is a prophet, ask of him to cause the sun to stand still - the moon to alter its course - the rivers to cease to flow - or the dead to arise from their graves.  if he does these things, you may then believe he has been sent from God.
The prophet, still known as Lalawethika at that time, claimed to receive revelations from the "Master of Life," his term for the Great Spirit.  He answered Governor Harrison's challenge by predicting that the Master of Life would turn the sun black on June 16, 1806.

Incredibly, a solar eclipse really did occur that day.  And, as one might imagine, it did something for the prophet's reputation.  The Native confederacy that nowadays is usually identified with the prophet's brother, Tecumseh, owed a lot to Lalawethika/Tenskwatawa.

By predicting the eclipse did the Shawnee prophet prove that he was not an "imposter"?
Not necessarily.  There were scientists around Lake Erie in 1806 positioning themselves for a good view of the eclipse.  Some of them may have talked to the prophet or his followers.  There were also white farmers in the area that kept almanacs with information about eclipses and other astronomical events.  The prophet's brother,Tecumseh, could read English and may have come across an almanac.


A speech of Governor Harrison to the Delawares "Early in 1806" as printed in Esarey, Logan (Editor) Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison (vol.1, pages 182-184).  New York: Arno Press, 1975.  See this book on the Internet Archive.

Eclipse Chasers website: Tecumseh and the Eclipse of 1806

Cave, Alfred (2006) Prophets of the Great Spirit pages 87-88

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Delaware Witch Purge of 1806

Above:  An artist's conception of the Purge of 1806.  The Shawnee Prophet, later known as Tenskwatawa,is depicted second from right (the rightmost "fully drawn" person). 

After Beata withdrew her witch-finding services, the White River Delawares brought in an emerging spiritual leader from the Shawnee tribe.  The man's name was Lalawethika.  He'd been an alcoholic and his face was deformed from a hunting accident, but in May of 1805 he went into a trance and experienced a vision, which convinced him to stop drinking and started his career as a prophet in much the same way as the careers of other Native prophets began.

The Shawnee prophet arrived at White River on March 15, 1806.  Those accused of witchcraft were brought before him and he performed ceremonies before passing judgement.  Outwardly, Lalawethika made a big deal about being against aspects of traditional Algonkian religion, but the victims of the 1806 purge were the more acculturated Indians; they may have either been Christians or had done business with the United States.

Confessions were induced through torture.  An old woman named Coltos, aka Anne Charity was the first to confess her guilt and was put to death.  Then the elderly chief Tetepachsit met the same fate, and the Moravian missionaries witnessed his body being burned.  Tetepachsit's nephew Billy Patterson is said to have died "Bible in hand, praying, chanting hymns, and defying the power of evil until his voice was stifled" (Cave quotes Jacob Dunn's True Indian Stories 1909, page 67, but appears to doubt the accuracy of the statement).  Finally Joshua, the Moravians interpreter, was also executed.

Another round of excecutions was set to take place on April 9th.  The first of eight accused Indians was the last surviving chief, Hockingpompsga.  But this time, as the executioners put their hands on the old chief; his friends grabbed their weapons and put a stop to the killings.


Cave, Alfred (2006) Prophets of the Great Spirit pages 81-85.

Miller, Jay.  "The 1806 Purge among the Indiana Delaware: Sorcery, Gender, Boundaries and Legitimacy"  Ethnohistory, Spring, 1994 pages 246-266.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Beata: The Munsee Prophet

The parents of John Henry Kluge were Moravian missionaries at White River.  John Henry appears to have been born during Beata's career as a Native prophet.

For a number of reasons - including that her career as a prophet may have been short - we don't know much about Beata.  We don't even know her Indian name.  She was given the name Beata at her baptism, apparently when she was a young woman. Like other Munsee Delawares, Beata left Ohio for the White River in present-day Indiana.  She also turned away from her Christian faith as was common among her people after the Gnaddenhutten Massacre.

The careers of Native prophets tend to begin with visions. Beata's career is no exception. Her vision was recorded in one of the diaries of the White River Moravians in a February, 1805 erntry:

There had appeared to her one evening while she was alone in front of her house , two men, whom she could not recognize,  and whose voice alone she could hear.  These told her..... "We came to tell you that God is not satisfied with you Indians, because at your sacrifices you do so many strange things with wampum and all kinds of juggling.....You Indians will have to live together again as in olden times, and love one another sincerely.  If you do not do this, a terrible storm will arise and break down all the trees in the woods, and all the Indians will lose their lives in it."
It so happened that "a bilious fever was raging" and it took the lives of many White River Delawares in the period of just a few days.  Knowing little about modern medicine, the Delawares blamed the fever and deaths on witchcraft.  For some time Beata was believed to be a good witch finder.  But before long Beata felt that witchcraft had become so rampant that the task of witch-finding was overwhelming.  This ended her career as a spiritual leader and from then on we hear no more about her.


Gipson L. H. (Editor). Moravian Indian Mission on the White River: Diaries and Letters, May 5, 1799 to November 12, 1806;  page 333.

Cave, Alfred (2006).  Prophets of the Great Spirit: Native American Revitalization in Eastern North America.  Page 81

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Delaware Indians on Indiana's White River

This graphic was "borrowed" from Wikipedia's entry on Delaware County, Indiana.

The scene of my next few posts was known many years ago simply as "the White River."  Now, more than two hundred years later, it is part of the state of Indiana and a county that is fittingly named after the Delaware Indians.  The county seat is called "Muncie," a different spelling than we now use to refer to the Munsee Delawares.  (Supposedly all the Delawares living north of the Raritan River during a certain period of time spoke the Munsee dialect.)  By the 1780's many of the Delawares - we can assume they included not only Munsees, but also Unamis, and Unalachtigoes - were settling in six villages along the White River. 

Some of these Delawares had been associated with Moravian missionaries, but no longer had a taste for the "white people's religion" after the Gnadenhutten massacre.  It goes without saying that the militiamen that committed the murders were not "good Christians," and maybe not practicing Christians at all, but the horrible event nevertheless set some of the Delawares on a path away from Christianity.  The idea was that the  Moravian missionaries had made their kinsmen "tame" and thus vulnerable.  A better explanation for the vulnerability, however, was simply their location, but that didn't matter, Christianity had lost its appeal for them.    

The White River Delawares were the subject of Roger J. Ferguson's Ed D. dissertation while he studied at Ball State University (which is in Muncie, Indiana, by the way).  According to Ferguson (page 80) the Delawares "were frantically striving for tribal solidarity and identity and thus resisted assimilation."  Since you and I are tolerant, modern people, that doesn't necessarily sound bad, they should have been allowed to do their own thing, right?  Well, Ferguson also says (page 70) that the Delawares were "one of the least self-sufficient tribes in the [old] Northwest."  In other words, they were not doing well from the 1790's to well linto the 1810's.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Alfred Cave Describes Handsome Lake's 2nd Vision

Alfred Cave's Prophets of the Great Spirit: Native American Revitalization Movements in Eastern North America is a remarkable book. I also found it to be readable.

According to Cave, Native Prophets transformed their communities and essentially created new religions that were somewhere between their tribe's traditional religion and Christianity. Each prophet was unique, of course, but - in the Indian way - their movements began with some kind of a vision.

Of particular interest for me was Cave's description of the Seneca Prophet, Handsome Lake. It was Handsome Lake's second vision that became "the core of the new religion's theology" (page 195).
The vision came to Handsome Lake when he was in the midst of a deep trance that lasted seven hours. Here is what happened in the vision (all from page 195):

1. The Milky Way descended from heaven and Handsome Lake and his guide walked up it.
2. They passed a jail and saw handcuffs, a whip and a hangman's rope inside, symbolizing the severity of the white man's law.
3. A church with no doors or windows was very hot inside and the people confined to it were "crying in distress."
4. Further up the road "they met Jesus, who showed them the nail scars in his hands and feet and his bloody spear wound. Whites did this to me, Jesus cried, and then warned Handsome Lake that Indians must not trust white people."

There is a lot more in Cave's book about Handsome Lake and about many other prophets.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Dawes Act: Was it Good for Indians?

Blogger's note: March 19/2012 - I can understand that some peopole are too busy to read a whole blogpost - especially if they think the blogger disagrees with the opinions they hold dear. So I'll say up front that I think the Dawes Act was NOT good for Indians (as a whole). If you're still with me, read on to find out why.

Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes hands the first constitution issued under the Indian Reorganization Act to delegates of the Confederated Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation (Montana), 1935. (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, PRINTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS DIVISION)

Scott Seaborne's guest post favoring the Dawes Act and Allotment over the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) made some valid points about responsibility and ownership and that kind of thing. I would not be the person to argue that personal responsibility isn't important and I really don't have much to say about the IRA. The Stockbridge Mohicans used it to regain their status as a federally recognized Native community. They seemed to like it. Others didn't but I doubt that there are any laws that are good for everybody.

For me the question of whether or not the Dawes Act and Allotment Era - on the whole - was good or bad for Indians can be answered in one sentance:

Land owned by Indians decreased from 138 million acres (560,000 km2) in 1887 to 48 million acres (190,000 km2) in 1934.
I took that from Wikipedia, but I remember seeing the same numbers in my notes recently.

So in 57 years, a race of people lost the majority of their land. To me that is too much. Those numbers alone tell me that the Dawes Act wasn't good for Indians as a whole.

Scott also sent me a Forbes article "Why Are Indians So Poor? A Look at the Bottom 1%." Here again, I don't want to go negative on a well-written article; It makes some valid points; in particular, it notes that no private ownership and no credit leads to poverty.

Then there's the question about natural resources. The author laments that Indians don't want to "develop" their natural resources. Now, you might say that the Menominees have been "developing" their wonderful old growth forest for many, many years. But I don't think that is the kind of development that our friends at Forbes are thinking about when they say "developing natural resources."

They are thinking about the building of mines and oil wells.

My opinion: If Indians don't want polluting mines and oil wells on their reservations I say more power to them.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ohio 1818: "The most interesting day in this place"

Thanks to the Google Books digitization project, a lot of old material is available to people like me who don't live near the libraries of major universities.

In searching the old Congregational publication called the Panoplist, I came upon a truly remarkable blurb taken from a letter written by an Ohio clergyman in 1818. Here it is:

In September seventy or eighty of the Stockbridge tribe of Indians passed through this place on their way to the White River, Indiana. By sickness they were detained over the Sabbath, and asked if there was to be any meeting which they could attend. They were informed that there would be a meeting and that the Lord's supper was to be administered; at which they expressed great joy, and inquired if they could be admitted. On questioning them it was found that their cheif and nine others were regularly formed into a church; and their credentials and appearance gave us satisfactory evidence of their peity. A number of them attended public worship, dressed in the Indian habit, and six came forward to the communion table. They conducted with the utmost propriety and solemnity; and some were bathed in tears. When a psalm was named they all took out their books, and turned to it. It was the most interesting day in this place.

The excerpt continues:

On Monday I visited them, conversed and prayed with them and never was more kindly and cordially received. I found that a large proportion of them had Bibles and could read. The Chief had Scott's Family Bible. they also had other religious books..... They are going to live with the Delawares, who are intimately connected with several other tribes. It appears to me that the hand of God is visible in their removal...
The "chief," was John Metoxen. The minister in Ohio way back then may well have been right when he said that "the hand of God is visible in their removal," if, that is, he meant that they were conducting themselves in a manner that spoke well of Christian Indians. However, unfortunately, the result of their journey, I'm sorry to say, was a disappointment. The land in Indiana offered by the Delawares and Miamis was ceded to the United States for white settlement at about the same time the group left their settlement in New York State.

Use this link to read the original document for yourself.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Dawes Act: A Guest Post

The following is a guest post by Scott Seaborne, a reader of the blog. The views exppressed are his and I may chime in on this topic in a future post.

The Dawes Act allotment of Indian reservations was originally considered a necessary part of the then accepted federal Indian policy called “assimilation”. While today this policy is universally criticized, at the time it was adopted as the best and most humane way to treat our Indian neighbors. It wasn’t until the Merriam Report in 1928 that Congress began to see the problems associated with the Dawes Act policies and it wasn’t until 1934 with the passage if the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) that the Dawes Act was repudiated and the assimilation policy was officially abandoned.

The Dawes Act allotments are seen today as coercive policy forced upon all Indian people against their will and therefore can be deemed as universally as bad policy. That view would be too simplistic. The Dawes Act had both positive and negative effects depending on the circumstances of the individual tribes and tribal members. Not all reservations were allotted and not all tribes opposed allotment.

I recommend the book, “The Indian Reorganization Act Congresses and Bills” edited by Vine Deloria. It documents the effort Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) made under John Collier to write and pass the IRA. The IRA reversed the prior federal policy of ending tribal societies and returned their role to protecting and supporting tribal communities. This book presents the transcripts of the congresses (meetings) held around the County preceding the Congressional vote on the IRA (Wheeler-Howard Act). I would characterize this effort as a promotional tour to sell the Tribes on Collier’s new Indian program. You can read in this book the testimony of tribal representatives who had taken allotments under the Dawes Act but took pride in their ownership of fee title lands and enjoyed the rewards of individual ownership. Many had become farmers or ranchers and respected business people in their communities. Many complained they feared IRA was attempt to “return the Indian to the blanket”. During the period that preceded the IRA, the federal policy to break up tribal governments and make Indians citizens, while not without controversy, but was supported by a large portion of Indian people. Tribes could vote for against the IRA. Of the 258 tribes that voted, 77 or about 30% voted to reject the IRA!

The idea of supporting inviolate tribal sovereignty as a federal policy is relatively recent. John Collier and his legal staff at the OIA wrote the bill text and designed this new policy with little or no input from Indian people. (For those who might be interested, I can supply a list of books on the subject.) There are today, many tribal members who are deeply critical of the IRA “boiler plate” tribal constitutions that Collier and the OIA pressured tribes to adopt. The IRA today is still controversial among Indian scholars and lawyers as to whether it does more good than harm.

Following WWII when many tribal members returned home from valiant service in the US armed forces, it seemed a bit odd to some Indian veterans that, at home, they were deemed to be wards under federal supervision. By the later forties the federal policy began to switch back to reducing federal controls which was supported by segments of tribal communities. Thus was born the federal “termination policy” which lasted until July, 1970 when then President Nixon announced his new Indian self-determination policy which became law in 1975.

It’s important to remember that current Nixon federal Indian policy is only 40 years old. When one looks at the wild swings in federal Indian policy it makes one wonder if we will ever find a policy that satisfies Indian communities.

I guess my point is Indian people aren’t monolithic and, like the rest us, won’t agree on everything. How will relying on federal policies resolve that?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Brothertown Drum Returns to Annual Fond du Lac Event

I haven't kept in touch with any of my Brothertown contacts. The last I'd heard was that they were denied recognition by the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Although I'm sure they are dissappointed, the setback hasn't stopped them from doing their thing.

A case in point was last weekend's Celebrate CommUNITY event at the County Expo Center in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

According to the Fond du Lac Reporter, the "Gordon Williams Gii Tass'se Brothertown Drummers" participated in an opening flag ceremony that heralded "a multi-cultural parade of people dressed in traditional clothing."

A number of photos - including the one above - were taken of Jeff Huebel. Although the newspaper said that Jeff is from the town of Stockbridge, it actually should have said that he is a Stockbridge Indian helping out the Brothertown people.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Commuck's Indian Melodies

In routine searches for data about the Brothertown Indians an item known as Indian Melodies by Thomas Commuck (himself a Brothertown), had flashed on my computer screen before but I'd not paid any attention to it until recently after Myron Paine sent it to me in digitized format.

One of the melodies caught my interest:

The fine print on the bottom reads:

The Narragansett Indians have a tradition that the following tune was heard in the air by them, and other tribes bordering on the Atlantic coast many years before the arrival of the whites in America; and on their first visiting a church in Plymouth colony after the settlement of that place by the whites, the same tune was sung while performing divine service, and the Indians knew it as well as the whites. The tune is preserved among them to this day and is sung to the words here set.
Commuck himself had what we might call a "scientific" mind and doesn't actually assert that the Narragansett tradition is a proven fact. Perhaps the Indians and the whites really did have melodies that were similar enough to claim that they were one and the same. I'd be interested in getting some feedback on that idea from a musicologist or cultural anthropologist.

No matter how you look at it, people of different races do have a lot in common. One possible take-away from the story is that the Narragansetts - despite their decimation during King Philip's War - managed to maintain some of their pre-contact identity, even if their memory of that identity has human imperfections. The story that claims the two races had something in common musically might have made living in a "white man's world" a little less unpleasant.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who Taught the Stockbridge Indians to Moon?

Yes, you read that title correctly, if you were thinking of "Mooning" as the pulling down of one's pants to expose one's butt as an intended insult.

William Kellaway's book, The New England Company 1649-1776 , is a history of the mission society that went by that same name.

The New England Company was the London-based philanthropic organization that supported the mission town in Stockbridge, Massachusetts starting in the 1730's. I'm not completely cynical about organizations like The New England Company...

I'm not starting the argument that they were ethnocentric; they were, we know that, this is about something else: Stockbridge, Massachusetts was a strategic location in the ongoing wars between Britain and France. If we can assume that the mission society gave the Indians something good (just for now, feel free to argue against that later), religion, "civilization," whatever, it certainly wasn't free, because the people of Great Britain got an excellent guerrilla warfare unit out of the deal.

During the American Revolution, the Continental warship Bonhomme Richard, commanded by John Paul Jones, won a hard-fought engagement against the British ships of war HMS Serapis and HMS Countess of Scarborough off the east coast of England. I figured it would be more appropriate to illustrate this entry with warships of that era than with a picture of a "moon."

By the 1770's Great Britain had become the enemy. The Stockbridges - lets remember they consisted of Mohicans and Wappingers and other Algonkian remnants - were the only Native nation to fully side with the thirteen colonies, that is, the Americans, for the whole Revolutionary War. At that point the officials of The New England Company had a chance to show that it was really about religion, that their support of the mission across the ocean was more than just a sort of inducement to support the British in war. And sure enough, the New England Company pulled through, paying John Sergeant Jr.'s salary as late as May of 1783 (Kellaway, page 278).

Things eventually broke down, however. There were logistical reasons for the breakdown, but there was also the realization that some of the New England Company's American commissioners were "among the prime leaders and first stirrers up of the rebellion."

The once-loyal British-allied Indians had been made 'treacherous' by the white Americans. (In other words, the Stockbridge Indians sided with the Americans, becoming "traitors" in British eyes.) This brings us to possibly the most remarkable incident in Kellaway's entire book:

[T]he Stockbridge Indians had been brought to Boston when British naval vessels were there on purpose to insult them, and were taught, by turning up their backsides, to express their defiance of them (Kellaway, 280).
So there you have it: One of the things the Stockbridge Indians learned before they left Massachusetts was how to insult people by "mooning."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Your Comments and My Posts

With over 270 posts, it can be somewhat of a challenge to find what you want in the Algonkian Church History blog.
A number of comments that were submitted recently were responses to some of my older posts.

Anyway, the most recent comment the blog received was to an old post. A reader who identified herself as Lisa said

So looking forward to information on the Gardner Family. My grandmother's father was Thomas Gardner, who is Stephen's son and really have not found too much reliable information. Great site!

Well, the Gardner family is - in my opinion - a very important part of the Stockbridge Indians, So I went back and created a new label for the Gardner family and tagged seven existing posts (plus this one) with it. (See the list of labels on the right of the screen).

Another thing to keep in mind if you're looking for something in particular: There is now a google-powered search box near the upper-right corner of Algonkian Church History. Of course, if all else fails, the site allows you to send me an e-mail.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Our Mother Tongues: A Recommended Site for Native Languages

I've recommended other Native language websites before. However, the Our Mother Tongues site succeeds in a way that no other sites have until now: It puts Native languages into the full-blown multimedia experience many of us have come to expect from the worldwide web. Our Mother Tongues is able to do just that because their focus is on Native languages that are spoken today.

Their "Voices" section features a grid of 40 photos of Native langauge speakers. A click on any of the photos opens an audio file, a recording of that person speaking their langauage.

Since this blog claims a focus on the Algonkian family of languages, the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project will be of particular interest.

Our Mother Tongues even offers e-Postcards (like the one below) that come with their own audio.