Monday, January 30, 2006

Asiyahola (Oceola)

January 30, 1838:

Seminole Chief Osceola dies today at Fort Moultrie, in Charleston, South Carolina. It is believe he has some sort of throat disease, others will say malaria, other say of a broken heart..



... Elegant in dress, handsome of face, passionate in nature and giant of ego, Osceola masterminded successful battles against five baffled U.S. generals, murdered the United States' Indian agent, took punitive action against any who cooperated with the white man and stood as a national manifestation of the Seminoles' strong reputation for non-surrender.

Osceola was not a chief with the heritage of a Micanopy or Jumper, but his skill as an orator and his bravado in conflict earned him great influence over Seminole war actions. Osceola's capture, under a controversial flag of truce offered by Gen. Thomas Jessup, remains today one of the blackest marks in American military history.

A larger-than-life character, Osceola is the subject of numerous myths; his 1838 death in a Charleston, S.C. prison was noted on front pages around the world. At the time of his death, Osceola was the most famous American Indian.


Osceola (Asi-Yahola, Bill Powell, Talcy), Seminole c.1803-1838.

Osceola, whose name was derived from 'asiyahola' (meaning "Black Drink Crier"), was born on the Talapoosa River near the border of Alabama and Georgia. His mother was Polly Copinger, a Creek woman; she married William Powell, a white man. As the result of his mother's marriage to Powell, Osceola was sometimes called Bill Powell, but he considered Powell his stepfather and asserted that he was full-blood.

As a boy, Osceola moved with his mother to Florida and took up residence along the Apalachicola River about 1814. As a young man, he is believed to have fought in the first Seminole War of 1817-1818. Indeed, some reports during the war assert that he was captured in 1818 along the Enconfino River by troops under General Andrew Jackson and then released because of his youth.

In 1823, Seminole leaders such as Neamathla agreed to the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, which ceded tribal lands and created reservations for the Seminoles. Later, as a result of the U.S. removal policies, the Treaty of Payne's Landing of 1832 required all Seminoles to leave Florida within three years for Indian Terretory. According to the treaty, Seminoles with African American blood were to be sold into slavery. In 1833, seven Seminole chiefs, including Charley Emathla and Foke Luste Hajo, endorsed the Treaty of Fort Gibson, which created a homeland in Oklahoma near the Creeks. However, most Seminoles did not comply readily with the requirements of the treaty. At this time Osceola became a noted antiremoval leader. He urged various bands to remain in Florida.

At Fort King in April 1835, Wiley Thompson, the Indian agent, dictated a new treaty with the Seminoles, forcing their removal to Oklahoma. Several chiefs declined to endorse the treaty or to deal with white officials. Seminole tradition has it that Osceola angrily slashed the treaty with his knife. Subsequently, Osceola was seized and jailed. Although he continued to protest, in the end he agreed to the terms of the treaty. After his release, however, he slipped into the marshes with many Seminole people following him.

During preparation for removal, Osceola ambushed Charley Emathla. Osceola allegedly threw the money the whites gave Emathla on his dead body. Osceola attacked and killed Wiley Thompson on December 28, 1835. On the same day, Alligator, Micanopy and Jumper, with about three hundred men, attacked Major Francis Longhorne Dade's detachment of 108 soldiers and killed all but three soldiers.

On New Year's Eve 1835, Osceola's men won a battle against General Duncan Lamont Clinch's force of 800 men on the Withlacoochee River. Four infantrymen were killed and only three Indians died. Osceola was injured but eluded capture. While waging a guerilla war for two years, Osceola devastated the countryside. Finally Micanopy and other rebel chiefs stopped fighting in the spring of 1837. Osceola forced Micanopy to flee with him into the swamps, but Micanopy stopped fighting again later in the year. In October 1837, General Thomas Jesup seized Osceola through subterfuge. Under a flag of truce, Osceola attended a peace council at Fort Augustine in fall 1837. Despite the flag of truce, Osceola was captured, bound, and incarcerated at Fort Moultrie outside of Charleston, South Carolina. There are varying accounts of Osceola's demise: poisoning, malaria, or abuse in prison may have been the causes. In any case, the whites were excoriated by public opinion for their treachery and his tragic death.

On January 30, 1838, Osceola died at Fort Moultrie in full battle regalia. Even in death, Osceola did not escape white exploitation. Dr. Frederick Weedon, the military surgeon, kept his head in a medical museum until it was destroyed by a fire in 1866. In spite of the death of their renowned leader, many Seminoles continued to resist removal to Oklahoma for many years, using the Florida swamps as a base for their operations.



Osceola ("Black Drink") (circa 1804-1838) Seminole leader

Although neither a hereditary nor an elected chief, Osceola was the defiant young leader of the Seminole in their resistance to Indian emigration. In 1835 he plunged his knife into the treaty he was asked to sign that would move his people from their swamplands in the Southeast to the unoccupied territory west of the Mississippi. This action precipitated the Second Seminole War--a seven-year game of cat-and-mouse in the Florida swamps against federal troops.

Tricked into talking peace, Osceola was captured in 1837 while carrying a white flag of truce and was imprisoned in Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. This treachery so outraged George Catlin that he went immediately to the prison. He and Osceola became friends, and Osceola willingly posed for his portrait. "This gallant fellow," wrote Catlin, "is grieving with a broken spirit, and ready to die, cursing the white man, no doubt to the end of his breath." Soon after this portrait was completed, Osceola died of malaria. Osceola's name was derived from the Indian term "Asiyahola," the cry given by those taking the ceremonial black drink that was supposed to cleanse the body and spirit.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Mangas Coloradas

January 17, 1863: Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeves) was camped near the Mimbres River when he was sent a message from California volunteers Captain Edmond Shirland requesting a truce and a parley. Against the advise of his APACHE followers, Mangas agrees to a meeting. Mangas enters the soldiers' camp, near present day Silver City, in southwestern New Mexico, under a white flag, but he is seized immediately. He will be transferred to old Fort McLane, in southwest New Mexico, and then killed.


Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeves), 1797-1863

Mangas Colorado was at least six feet tall, with a powerful body and an enormous head. Anglo Americans regarded him as the greatest Apache leader of the mid nineteenth century ... He was a war chief, diplomat, and consummate strategist - one who, according to legend, married one daughter to Cochise, another to a Navajo chief, and a third to a leader of the Western Apaches. In a kin-based society, Mangas Coloradas wove a web of obligations that extended from central Arizona to Chihuahua.

His life spanned three chaotic epochs in Southwestern history. He was born in the early 1790s at a time when Spanish soldiers were scouring the Apacheria from Tucson to Texas. As a child he must have visited or perhaps even lived in the Apache peace camp near the presidio of Janos in northwestern Chihuahua, but he spent his adult years taking advantage of Mexican decline and decay. From his strongholds in the mountains of western New Mexico, he raided as far south as Durango in north central Mexico.

During the Mexican War, Mangas Coloradas welcomed the Anglo American soldiers and urged General Stephen Watts Kearny to join with the Apaches and conquer northern Mexico once and for all. Over the next fifteen years, however, friendship degenerated into wariness and war. In 1861, Mangas Coloradas tried to persuade miners in southwestern New Mexico to leave Chiricahua territory. The miners allegedly tied him to a tree and whipped him, so he and his warriors drove them out with fire and blood. The next year, he and his son-in-law Cochise ambushed troops from General James H. Carleton's California Column in Apache Pass between the Dos Cabezas and Chiricahua Mountains. The soldiers repulsed the ambush with howitzers, and Mangas Coloradas slipped away to nurse his wounds.

Finally, in January 1863 members of mountain man Joseph Walker's party of gold seekers lured the old chief into the deserted mining camp of Pinos Altos to talk peace. Instead, they seized him and delivered him to General Joseph R. West, who had orders from Carleton to "punish the Gila Apaches, under that notorious robber, Mangus Colorado." That evening, West placed Mangas Coloradas under the guard of two soldiers. According to Daniel Ellis Conner, a member of the Walker party, "About 9 o'clock I noticed that the soldiers were doing something to Mangas, but quit when I returned to the fire and stopped to get warm. Watchmg them from my beat in the outer darkness, I discovered that they were heating their bayonets and burning Mangas's feet and legs. This they continued to do [until] Mangas rose upon his left elbow, angrily protesting that he was no child to be played with. Thereupon the two soldiers, without removing their bayonets from their Minie muskets each quickly fired into the chief, following with two shots each from their navy six-shooters. Mangas fell back into the same position . . . and never moved."


Friday, January 13, 2006

Kintpuash, Modoc

January 13, 1873:

Captain Jack (Kintpuash or Keintpoos) and his Modocs are hiding in the northeastern California lava beds. This day, his sentries spot an Army scouting party approaching their stronghold. The sentries send a few shots in the Army's direction. The scouting party withdraws.

Kintpuash ("Captain Jack"), Modoc


Lost River (1852)

The so-called Modoc War begins in 1852, although the army will say that it begins years later, in 1873. Good relations with Americans are scarred by an unprovoked attack by miners, followed by subsequent Modoc retaliation on an immigrant train. In these days of the California gold rush, no Indian nation is safe. Indian hunters under Ben Wright advance toward the Modoc camp along Lost River, calling for peace talks. The Modoc are glad. On the morning of the proposed conference, Captain Jack's father, leader of the Modoc, walks unarmed into Wright's camp. He is gunned down and the slaughter begins.

"Ben Wright...told them he would like to hunt [he] got some men that liked to hunt Indians to go with him. When they all got together they numbered over one hundred men... They all left hunt down the Modoc Indians.... Wright traveled all through the Klamath Indian country, killing Klamath Indians wherever he could find them. He went through Goose Lake country, killed Paiute Indians wherever he got a chance....On the south bank of Lost River...Ben Wright looks along his gun barrel; he turns slowly around to his men and says...'Boys, don't spare the squaws; get them all!' ...The whites shot them down so fast on the south bank, they jumped in the river....When they got about half way across, the whites on the north bank opened fire on them. Only five escaped....the citizens [of Yreka] gave Wright a big dance. He was...the mighty Indian Hunter, Savage Civilizer, Peace Maker, etc."

Frank Riddle, Modoc


The Lava Beds (1873)

From the cinder caves of the lava beds, Captain Jack surveys Canby's army encamped below. His only crime has been to lead his people away from the Klamath Reservation. they have tried to live peacefully at the Yainax agency, but there is no food. the Modoc have chosen to go home.

Their number is swelled by Hooker Jim's band of Modoc, who find refuge with Jack after murdered settlers in retaliation for the deliberate firing into an unarmed Modoc camp,killing women and babies. Now Captain Jack is hunted like a deer. He tells General Canby that he can guarantee peace if allowed a home where his people will be protected from the settlements. all he asks is a reservation among the lava beds,where whites will never want to go. This is denied. His own people urge him to war. When he resists,he is knocked off his feet by a jeering crowd of Modoc and threatened with death unless he makes a stand. Hooker Jim vows to kill any Modoc who surrender to Canby.

At the peace talks, Captain Jack sadly offers Canby a final chance to agree to a reservation in the lava beds. Canby is belligerent; the military offers only ultimatums. There are no negotiations. Again, Jack urges for peaceful resolution, and again Canby offers the Modoc no quarter. Captain Jack draws a revolver, and Canby is dead. The Modoc escape from the lava beds. Hooker Jim has drawn the entire nation into war. Now he blames Jack for their condition and leaves him. Jack has thirty-seven men; the army coming after him numbers more than a thousand. the same Hooker Jim who has forced Jack to kill Canby now leads the army to Jack's location. In a cell at Fort Klamath,cold shackles around his legs, Captain Jack awaits a "trial" whose verdict has been reached long ago. Hooker Jim testifies against Jack and walks free.

"...the Indians were compelled to slaughter their horses for food on the Klamath reservation to keep from starving, and when they had no more horses to slaughter they were then forced by hunger to seek their fishing grounds on Lost River, a tract of land set apart and given to them by the Hon. E. Steele, late superintendent of Indian affairs for California. The land is valuable. Land speculators desired it and sought to have the Indians removed. The Indians say there was but one of two deaths left to them, by starvation on the reservation, or a speedier death by the bullet in the lava-beds. They chose the latter."

J K Luttrell, United States.


Thursday, January 12, 2006


January 12, 1880:

Major Albert Morrow and elements of the Ninth Cavalry find and attack Victorio and his Warm Springs Apaches near the source of the Puerco River, in southern New Mexico. The fighting lasts for about four hours, until sunset, when the Indians escape...


Excerpt from the book
"In the Days of Victorio Recollections of a Warm Springs Apache"
by Eve Ball
James Kaywaykla, narrator

... I was awakened by shots and I knew that it had come. Screams! More shots!

Entangled in my blanket I struggled to my feet. Grandmother lifted me to her shoulders and ran from our brush arbor on the east slope of the mountain. Above us a wickiup burst into flames as she ran toward the spring.

People on foot raced past us. A horse almost ran us down. There were flashes of fire and the whine of bullets. Grandmother stumbled across a body but regained her footing.

"Tight, tight, Torres,"she muttered as she stooped to fill partially her water jug. Then she followed the soft thud of moccasins up the steep slope of the mesa. It seemed a long time before she reached the rim. Trembling with exhaustion she put me down and took my hand. We ran toward a clump of vegetation, and there she stopped to fold and arrange the blankets. She set out for another clump of mesquite; and from one to another we went.

As I trotted beside her I could see the faint glow of dawn before us. I tried hard to keep the pace. When I fell behind she lifted me again and did not stop until she reached the bank of a dry arroyo. She dropped me into the arroyo and we lay flat until we could breathe easily. Then she set out, crawling on hands and knees, up the watercourse. I followed, moving when she did, stopping when she stopped. Creep and freeze! Creep and freeze! She'd taught me that game, and I'd played it with other children at Ojo Caliente [Warm Springs]. My hands touched damp sand, and I knew that some of the water had been spilled from the jug.

The arroyo bent sharply to the east and Grandmother stopped to listen before rounding the turn. I heard the hoofs of horses-shod horses-coming close. Then came the jingle of metal and the sound of harsh voices-White Eye voices. I lay still and held my breath. A horse snorted-he had smelled us! There was a long silence. Then I heard them plunge into the arroyo and scramble up the east bank. The sounds gradually died away, but we lay still for a long time.

Daylight was upon us before Grandmother resumed her crawling. She did not risk raising her head to look after the cavalry until we reached a place where the bank vas well screened with cactus. The Blue Coats were still riding toward the Rio Bravo [Rio Grande]. She let me drink from the jug, and she gave me a handful of dried venison from the buckskin bag attacled to her belt.

I, too, had a food bag, a small one containing mesquite bean meal. For months no Apache child had been without his emergency rations, nor had he slept without an admonition not to remove it, and not to abandon his blanket in cafe of attack. My food bag had never left me, day nor night.

"You're a good boy; you kept your blanket."

"Where's Siki?"* I asked.

"She left the village before we did. I had given her instructions long ago as to where to stop so that we can find her. I hope she remembers. If she obeys, the soldiers will not capture her."

"Why do they hunt us?"

"They have orders to kill every Apache, man, woman, or child, found off the reservation."

"But this is our reservation."

"It is no longer ours. The land Ussen created and gave to the Apache, is no longer ours. This, the land promised to Victorio by the Great Nantan in Washington, has been taken from us. He promised it to our Chief and our people forever. And only two summers ago! Perhaps the gold for which the White Eyes grovel in the earth has been found in our mountains. Because of that the word of the Great White Chief means nothing. He has ordered that we go to San Carlos, the worst place in all Apachería, the vast land of our people. I have been to that place when Victorio took his people there. So many died that we fled from it and returned to Warm Springs. You, too, went, but you were too small to remember. Not many babies lived to return.

"Victorio will die fighting before he will permit the Warm Springs Apaches to be forced back to San Carlos again. Instead we go to the Great River where we meet those of us who escape.¹ Grandfather Nana will go to the three chiefs of the Mescaleros, our brothers, and ask for refuge on their reservation. He is to meet us at the river with horses and ammunition."

"Is it far to the river?"

"Not if we could stand and walk. Moving as we do it is perhaps three days."

I think it may have been mid-afternoon before we reached the head of the arroyo. We had a bare ridge to cross, one with little cover except occasional clumps of bear grass and scattered stones. We lay flat and wriggled from one cover to another until well over the crest. Several times Grandmother spied moving dots, and each time we lay motionless until she felt sure that the soldiers were still riding toward the east. She knew that with field glasses they might see us.

We made our way southeast until we reached the head of another dry stream bed leading to Cuchillo Canyon. We slipped between its protecting banks and worked our way south. There was a Mexican village in the canyon but Grandmother knew we had little to fear from it. The arroyo gradually became deep enough that Grandmother could stand and walk without fear of being seen. Toward dark we reached an overhanging rock. The encircling walls formed a sort of cave, open only on one side. She stopped and called softly. In the darkness something moved. She called again-a quail whistle-and a shadow stole toward us.

"Siki?" "Yes, Grandmother, I waited as you told me."

"Enjuh! [Good!] I was afraid you might not find the place."

"I had no trouble. Grandmother, I'm hungry."

"So am I. So is Torres, but he has not asked for food. You had a bag. Where is it?"

"I took it from my belt to sleep."

"Torres did not. He obeyed. To obey is to live. And your blanket?"

"I was frightened-"

"So was 1. So was Torres; but he held on to his blanket."

"I'm sorry, Grandmother."

"You're sorry! You know it is everyone for himself."

Siki crept from under the rock. "I'II go, Grandmother."

"You will not. Go back and sit down."

She took a handful of dried venison from her bag and mesquite meal from mine. She handed it to Siki. Then she filled my hand and took a small portion for herself. We ate. She bade Siki lie next to the wall, and me beside her. She spread both blankets over us and crept under the edge of them with her face to the open side. Knife in hand she slept.

Before dawn she had us on our way across a gentle slope toward another arroyo. Once within its banks we walked until Grandmother stopped to examine a trail sign. It was a row of little stones with a slightly larger one at the south end.

"A woman and children-seven in all. Too many! They should have separated so that each group might have a chance to live."

An hour or so later she found another message. Four had turned east; the rest kept on south.



"The older children have struck out east to the river."

Until almost evening we moved cautiously. I was very thirsty but knew better than to ask for water. The jug was empty but Grandmother continued to carry it, for it requires much time and labor to weave a wicker jug and coat it with pinon gum so it will not leak.

We were nearing the Cuchillo. The arroyo was deep, with much vegetation along its banks, and we did not leave its shelter until dark. We walked cautiously, stopping often to listen and to sniff the air. I think I caught the tantalizing odor of meat as soon as Grandmother. Burning wood, too! I was cold as well as hungry. And thirsty! Grandmother murmured an order, and Siki and I sank to the ground. She was gone some time before we heard the quail call. Siki touched me. We waited for a second call before answering. Grandmother came with water and we drank.

"A sheep herder's camp, not a Mexican, but a White Eye. He has gone to Cuchillo, but it is not far. He may be back soon. Come!"

Flames flickered before the queer square tepee. The meat was suspended above them instead of being laid on coals in the proper manner. I dropped near the welcome fire while Grandmother and Siki went into the tent. In a very short time they returned with bundles wrapped in white cloth. Siki had a blanket and a knife. They cut the meat and each carried a piece.

In the shelter of the next arroyo we ate the partially cooked food. Grandmother cut long strips of meat. Mine she cut into small chunks, but she and Siki placed the ends in their mouths and deftly severed the bits with their knives. I was so hungry that I crammed two at a time into my mouth and chewed greedily. "Not so fast, Torres. You must eat like a chief, for you come from a long line of them. You can never be one unless you practice self-control. A chief must have good manners."

I know that Nana never acted as though he were hungry, though he must often have been. I ate more slowly, enjoying every morsel of the good food. Then I stretched out on the ground and must have slept almost instantly. I awoke when Grandmother touched me.

"We must walk. Before day we must cross the big trail of the White Eyes in their journeys up and down the river.'

"Are we close to the river?"

"About halfway between it and Cuchillo."

"Why does Grandfather say that Cuchillo Negro is name?"

"It is the name of Black Knife, a chief and our relative. And a black knife is not easily seen; that is why we darken the handles with clay."

Apaches do not like to travel by night, but Grandmother had no choice in the matter. When I became too weary to keep up she or Siki carried me. I did not know when they reached the river. I awoke in a mesquite thicket where a little group of our people was huddled. Siki rolled up in her blanket and slept, but Grandmother went among them to check for the missing.

The next time I awoke Grandfather sat beside me rubbing his lame foot. His face was wrinkled and thin. His body was wrinkled and thin. He was tall, almost as tall as Naiche, who was the tallest of the Apaches. Nana was old, how old he did not know. In our tongue he was called Broken Foot, but never in his presence. It was rude to name one in his hearing; and when necessary to refer to him, it was customary to call him Nantan or leader. To tell the story, however, I call my people by name; it was not our custom to do so. Nor did anyone mention Grandfather's infirmity in his presence. He asked no odds because of either age or lameness; and frail though he was, Nana was universally feared and respected for his fighting ability.

When I looked into his shrewd old eyes he smiled and drew me into the embrace that is the greeting between men of our tribe. Then strong hands lifted me and I was enfolded in the arms of my father. My mother, Gouyan [Wise Woman], next embraced but did not kiss me, for that was an intimacy abhorrent to Apaches.

I had seen little of my parents, for my father was a brave warrior, and my mother's place was at his side. She prepared food, dressed wounds, and when necessary fought beside him as bravely as any man. She, like all Apache wives, spaced her children about four years apart, and as soon as a baby could be separated from her, turned it over to the care of its grandmother.

I asked for my grandmother. Mother smiled and reminded me that she could not come to us because of my father's presence. I saw her standing some distance away, with her back to us. "I want Grandmother," I said.

"Then go to her," replied Mother. "It is natural that you love her best of the family. She has taken care of you since you were a baby."

"Gouyan, your name fits you well. You are intelligent with reason. You understand why the boy loves his grandmother," said my father.

Riders with many horses were entering the thicket. My parents joined them as they dismounted. My father led two mounts apart and Grandmother obeyed his summons to join him.

"You came by the camp from which we fled?"

"Yes, my sister. We buried the dead; fortunately there were few: the Lame One, two women, and the entire family camped on the hill above you. They camped apart for protection of the larger group and gave their lives that you might escape. We recovered many of the horses stampeded by the cavalry. And we captured many of theirs-enough, I think, to mount all who made it here. The river is rising rapidly and in a short time it may be impossible to cross. Prepare to ride."

>From the stores brought in by the warriors, people hastily filled their individual food bags. They divided ammunition, rolled blankets, and tied them to saddles. My grandmother mounted a cavalry horse and Nana lifted me to a seat behind her. He took a buckskin thong and tied my belt firmly to hers. He saw that the blankets were secure and turned the horse to the water's edge. Siki, astride another, followed.

"Where's Mother?" I asked.

"She rides with your father and Nana on another raid."

The long line of horses faced the current. The women began to sing the Prayer to the Great River. It was accompanied by the ululating sound produced by tapping the hand over the open mouth. This prayer had long been used by my people to secure a safe crossing when the river was in flood. As the singing ended I saw flashes of turquoise as pieces were tossed into the angry water. That was the signal to plunge into the stream, but nobody moved. Then Blanco, my father's brother, rode along the line urging first one and then another to ride into the torrent. He was a medicine man, with great Power, but they did not obey. I heard him chide them: "When there is no danger you forget Ussen, but when you fear for your lives you pray to Him. You pay little heed when I tell you how to live; but when you face death you remember your religion. Songs and prayers avail little to those who have not lived according to the will of Ussen. You are in much greater danger from the cavalry on your trail than from the river. Is there no brave woman who will take the lead?"

Grandmother urged her mount to the brink and tried to force him to take the plunge. There was a commotion and the long line parted to let a rider through. I saw a magnificent woman on a beautiful black horse-Lozen, sister of Victorio. Lozen, the woman warrior!² High above her head she held her rifle. There was a glitter as her right foot lifted and struck the shoulder of her horse. He reared, then plunged into the torrent. She turned his head upstream, and he began swimming.

Grandmother called to Siki to follow as cold water splashed into my face. She bent forward, and so did I. Water tugged at my feet and then my waist. When it washed over my shoulders I clung to Grandmother. My head went under, and then lifted above the water. The horse swam steadily across the broad stream until he found footing. His forelegs lifted and he scrambled onto a hidden ledge and waded ashore. I kept my seat until he began shaking himself; then I began slipping until Grandmother pushed me back in place. Horses were floundering in the shallow water and coming ashore. One had washed down stream with its rider until Lozen overtook it and got it up the bank. When Lozen joined us, people had dismounted and begun to wring the water out of clothing and blankets.

Lozen came straight to Grandmother.

"You take charge now. I must return to the warriors. Head for the Sacred Mountain in the San Andres, and permit only short stops until you reach it. Camp near the spring and wait there until Nana comes. We can spare no men, but the young boys will obey your orders. Nana has told them that you are in charge. Get the people mounted and start. I go to join my brother."

Grandmother told the half-grown lads that theirs was the most dangerous of all positions, that of rear guard.

Then she led the way, with the long line following.


Friday, January 06, 2006

The Mandans

January 6, 1975: The last full-blooded Mandan dies today in Twin Buttes, North Dakota. She was Mattie Grinnell, and she lived to be 108 years old.

Recreated Mandan Lodge



The first known account of the Mandan is that of the French trader, Sieur de la La Verendrye, in the fall of 1738. McKenzie visited the Mandan in 1772. Written accounts came from Lewis and Clark who arrived among the Mandan in the fall of 1804. They furnish only the location and early condition of the archaeological remains both of the Mandan and Arikara. Alexander Henry, a trader for the Northwest Company, came to trade fur with the Mandan in 1806. After Henry Brackenridge and Bradbury came to the area together in 1810. They wrote additional information about the Mandan, but mostly about the Arikara. The next visitor was the artist, George Catlin, who visited in the spring of 1833. Maximilian, Prince of Wied-Neuwied, spent the winter months of 1833-34 among the Mandan. Maximilian may be recognized as the best of the various authorities. (Will, Spinden, pp. 86-88).

According to McKenzie and Sieur de la La Verendrye, the nine villages they visited in 1738 and 1772, were the oldest villages. Verendrye described the Mandan as being in full power and prosperity. The Mandan had not yet suffered the losses by disease and war, which caused them to leave these villages.

Lewis and Clark wrote in their journals on March 10,1805, "The Mandan's formerly lived in six large villages at and above the mouth of the Heart River. " Maximilian says, "After the first alliance with the Hidatsa, the Mandan's lived in eight or nine villages at and above the Heart River." These villages were abandoned between 1772 and 1804. (Will, Spinden, p.90).

The Mandan had a origin narrative of coming out of the earth. In relating their story to Maximilian, they came from the east out of the earth and entered the Missouri at the White Earth River in South Dakota.

The eastern origin corresponds with that of the rest of the Siouxan stock to which the Mandan's, both linguistically, and to a considerable extent, culturally belong. The Ohio valley would seem to have served as a point of dispersal where the Plains members of the Siouxan stock are supposed to have moved in four successive migrations. The earliest group to leave consisted apparently of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Crow, and of these the Mandan were probably a number of years ahead of the other tribes. The Mandan's have vivid recollections of the coming of the Hidatsa many years later and established fixed villages on the Heart River. They describe the Hidatsa as a wild wandering people whom they taught to build stationary villages and to raise corn, pumpkins and other vegetables, and who soon moved up to the Knife River. (Will, Spinden, p. 97).

In the earliest historical accounts the Mandan were firmly established in stationary villages in the neighborhood of the Heart River. Verendrye says they were a large and powerful nation and feared none of their neighbors. Their manufactures were almost necessities among the other tribes, and in trade they were able to dictate their own terms. Their forts were well fortified. The smallest village he visited had one hundred and thirty houses. Verendrye's son visited one of the larger villages, declared that it was twice as large. There were at least one thousand houses in several villages. Lewis and Clark declared that in the two villages of one hundred huts there were three hundred and fifty warriors. At this rate there should have been at least fifteen thousand Mandan in 1738 dwelling prosperously in large and well-fortified towns. (Will, Spinden, p. 99).

The Mandan had created an focal point of trade on the Missouri River. All of the plains tribes came to barter for agricultural good and products. Called the "Marketplace of the Central Plains", the Mandan established what was to be the forerunner of trading posts that came later to the area.

There is little information for the next sixty-six years. The Mandan prospered and grew powerful up to 1772. Their remaining history is summed up in their own tradition as related to Lewis and Clark and Maximilian.

Formerly they lived happily and prosperously in nine large villages on the Missouri near the mouth of the Heart River. Six or seven of these villages were on the west side and two or three were on the east side of the river. For a great many years they lived there when one day the smallpox came to those on the east side of the river. The survivors then proceeded up the river some forty miles where they settled in one large village. After the smallpox reduced the villages on the west to five, the five went up to where the others were, in the neighborhood of some Arikara, and settle in two villages. A great many Mandan had died and they were no longer strong and fearless. They made an alliance with the Arikara against the Sioux.

All this happened before 1796 and is chronicled in Henry and Schoolcraft. Lewis and Clark found the two villages one on each side and about fifteen miles below the Knife River. Both villages consisted of forty to fifty lodges and united could raise about three hundred and fifty men. Lewis and Clark describe them as having united with the Hidatsa and engaging in continual warfare against the Arikara and the Sioux. The description given by Lewis and Clark agrees with the conditions two years later when Henry visited them.

In 1837, smallpox attacked them again, raged for many weeks and left only one hundred and twenty-five survivors. The Mandan's were taken in by the Arikara, with whom they intermarried. They separated, again forming a small village of their own at Fort Berthold. In 1850 there were three hundred and eighty- five Mandan, largely of mixed blood, living. There are only a few of the full-blooded Mandan left. The culture has changed, the language has changed, and as a nation the Mandan are practically extinct. (Will, Spinden, p. 101).

In 1700, the entire section of the Missouri from the Cannonball to the mouth of the Yellowstone was occupied by groups of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Crow. The largest villages were near the mouth of Heart River. The Nuptadi and Nuitadi bands were living on both banks of the Missouri. The Awigaxa band of Mandan and the Awaxawiband of Hidatsa lived further upstream at the Painted Woods. All these bands practiced agriculture and were less nomadic than the Awatixa band of Hidatsa and the Crow. These groups moved little until the close of the 18th century, when their populations were sharply reduced by smallpox and other epidemics.

Each village had an economic unit, hunting and protection for older remaining people, and each had a garden section. The Mandan were divided into bands while living at the Heart River. The bands were Is' tope, meaning "those who tattooed themselves"; Nup'tadi (does not translate), which was the largest linguistic group; Ma'nana'r "those who quarreled"; Nu' itadi "our people"; and Awi' ka-xa (does not translate). These groups combined as the tribe was decimated with each smallpox epidemic. (Bowers, 1950).


Excerpted from

The Mandan, according to their own accounts, originated somewhere near the Great Lakes. During the 17th century, as Amerindian groups were pushed further west by Euroamericans, the Mandan moved into what is now Ohio. From there they moved first to the mouth of the White River where it empties into the Missouri River in what is now South Dakota, then to the Moraue River. Eventually the Mandan built nine settlements along the Heart and Missouri Rivers where they were discovered by Varendrye in 1738. By 1776, the nine principle villages of the Mandan had merged into two and settled on the Missouri River at the mouth of the Knife River, approximately 1800 miles west of St. Louis, where Lewis and Clark found them in 1803 (Swanton 1952: 277; Catlin 1989: 73).

A smallpox epidemic reduced the Mandan from an estimated population of between 1600 and 2000 to a mere 31 in 1837. They joined with the Hidasta and moved to Fort Berthold in South Dakota where they continue to reside with the Hidasta at the present time (Swanton 1952: 277; Catlin 1989: 73). The Mandan are of the Siouan linguistic family but are more closely related to the Winnebago and Tutelo. They were known by many names. The Hidasta called them the Arachbocu; to the Crow they were the Asakashi. There are other names by which they were known to various American Indian groups and Swanton notes that most of these coincided with translated names of their villages. The Mandan called themselves the Numaka , meaning simply "people," until the smallpox epidemic of 1837 when they changed their name to match that of their single remaining village, Metutahanke (Swanton 1952: 276). However, George Catlin who lived with the Mandan for some time and is probably the most reliable Western source of information on this group, notes that the Mandan also called themselves "Seepohskahnumahkahkee" that literally translates to People of the Pheasant (Catlin 1989: 73)....

... Their clothing was considered to be the most beautiful of the plains peoples. The men wore long shirts made of buckskin or mountain goat hide in addition to a breechcloth, leggings and moccasins, all of which were profusely decorated with beads, quills, hair locks and paint. The women wore long dresses of the same material that were likewise decorated. Head coverings of the men, according to Catlin and Mails, were elaborate and varied. They incorporated feathers to build the familiar "War Bonnet," or might use other materials such as buffalo horn, mounted so that the horns protruded from the side of the hat. Their headwear, like other facets of their culture, was often an exception in the region (Catlin 1989: 89-91; Mails 1991: 356). The appearance of Mandan villages was likewise uncommon for the northern plains.

The houses of the Mandan were most often circular, set in the ground and of heavy timber construction. This frame was then covered with earth and the roof was often used as a place of relaxation. These dwellings ranged in size from single family structures of 20 feet in diameter to large extended family dwellings that reached 60 feet across. Catlin noted that although outwardly the houses appeared to be filthy, he was impressed with the openness and cleanliness of the interior. The floor was packed hard enough to be swept clean and, according to Catlin, held an almost polished appearance. In the center of the dwelling was the fire place, the smoke of which escaped through a 5 foot hole in the roof. Around the room was hung buffalo and elk hides that were decorated with pictographic accounts of the owners exploits. Against the wall were beds made of wood frames and mattressed with buffalo robes that were made private by arranging decorative curtains of the afore-mentioned painted buffalo skins. Nearer the center was an area carpeted with buffalo skins that was used as a communal place for the dwellings inhabitants. Here the children and adults alike gathered to talk and play (Catlin 1989: 74-77)

The houses that made up the village were surrounded by a palisade for protection. The logs used for this defensive work averaged 18 inches in diameter and were set well into the ground leaving about 20 feet of wall. The logs were spaced to allow weapons to be fired between them and the work was lined on the inside with a trench that afforded cover for the warriors in time of attack. Catlin also said that although the houses were spaced close together, there was little chance of fire being a threat due to the earthen covering and that the village in its entirety was built for comfort as well as defense (Catlin 1989: 74-81; Clark 1992: 174-181).

The Mandan, like most groups on the prairie, were buffalo hunters. However, they were horticulturists as well, growing maize and squash as their primary food crops. The maize that was grown was of a small variety, adapted to the climate of the area. In addition to these food crops the Mandan grew a quality tobacco. They produced enough to trade the surplus to surrounding groups that gave them a reputation and functionality as a well defended trade center. The Crow and Hidasta were common sites in Mandan villages and the tobacco for which Crow were famous was acquired from these villages. Although the primary source of sustenance was the buffalo, closely supported by crops, the Mandan also collected a kind of wild turnip that was reported by Catlin to be quite prolific and tasty (Catlin 1989: 124-125; Mails 1994: 4).

Catlin gives no definitive description of political organization. However, from his accounts together with those of the Lewis and Clark expedition it may be inferred that political organization in the village centered around a council of chiefs that were the headmen of family groups. Decisions involving the entire nation were decided by a council of chiefs who were lead by principle chiefs selected from the various towns, some of whom may serve as war-party chiefs in time of conflict. Next in rank were the medicine men. These were actually either religious leaders or medicinal healers who, although carried no actual authority, did possess the ability to affect or sway council decisions. As with many of the plains peoples, there was no absolute authority and a chief's position could be challenged, his real power lying in the amount of popular support from the people as a whole. Peacekeeping within the village was achieved and maintained through warrior societies whose tasks would range from observing fights between young boys to disputes over property. There is little mention of the need for such police in any of the primary sources (Clark 1992: 174-181; Catlin 1989: 103-104, 151-166; Mails 1991: 80-85).

The Mandan myth of origin is recorded by Catlin in detail. It relates how the Mandan were the first people created by the Great Spirit and lived inside the earth where they grew many vines. One of these vines grew up through a hole in the earth and a young man climbed it to see what was above. When he viewed the parry he was impressed with its beauty and climbed back down to tell the people what he had seen. When the people herd this some of them ascended the vine, including two virgin women who were favorites of the Chiefs, and verified what the young man had seen. At once a fat woman, against the will of the chiefs, began to climb the vine. The vine broke, sending the woman to an injurious fall. She was admonished, not for ignoring the chiefs, but for bringing calamity among her people as those who remained in the earth were now trapped there, separated from those above. The first Mandan village was built where this had occurred and those who remained behind were believed to still live in the earth (Catlin 1989: 178-179) It is doubtful that this is the true Mandan myth of origin since it directly counteracts the oral tradition of their travels from the land of great lakes. This tale appears to be more in line with teaching members of the society that their actions affect all the people. ...

... The Pipe was considered to be symbolic representation of the power of the Great Spirit. However, it was treated and used as though the Pipe itself contained that power. It was used as a focal point for the most grandiose of Mandan ceremonies as well as being simply smoked between two people casually talking in their private quarters. Wherever and however the Pipe was used, it reminded those around it that the Creator was continually in their midst (Catlin 1989: 160-163). The records that Catlin as a first-hand observer kept on Mandan ceremony are quite extensive and the confines of this paper preclude their inclusion. Marriage and family life together with the sacred ceremonies served as the "center" of Mandan life.

Women were chosen at 12 to 14 years of age as wives, their value as such being determined by their good virtues and beauty. A man could choose more than one wife with the understanding that he could provide sustenance for the entire household. The women's primary function in everyday living consisted of the usual domestic chores such as cooking, processing food, and processing materials used for clothing and other utilitarian needs. The man was usually responsible for peace-keeping chores within the village, defending the village against aggressors and providing meat, usually buffalo, which was no easy task given the size and tenacity of this creature. It should also be pointed out that the women, although performing the labor, owned and operated the maize and tobacco fields upon which the external economics of the village depended. It should in no way be construed that women were considered a lower class than men as they both provided essential components to the well-being of the community (Catlin 1989: 123-130 et al). There is no doubt, as their prosperity indicates, that the Mandan were a hard-working people, but this by no means prevented them from possessing extensive quantities of leisure time.

In examining the games of the Mandan, once again there rises a mark of uniqueness among the Plains people, that set the Mandan apart from their neighbors. Although they participated in the usual games of the plains, such as ball plays, horse racing and archery competitions, they also played a game recognized as being a hallmark of the Mississippian Period and later the Natchez known as Tchung-Kee. This game was played on a large area covered in clay that had been packed to the consistency of a hard pavement.

Two champions who were representative of a family or faction would collect bets and would hand their Tchung-Kee stakes to a chief or other social elite. The two men would then begin to trot abreast of each other and one of them would roll in advance of themselves a discoidal Tchung-Kee stone. As the discoidal rolled along, the player launches one of his Tchung-Kee sticks so that it slides along the ground attempting to time the throw to coincide with the Tchung-Kee stone falling over and landing on the stick. This game appears to have been a favorite among the Mandan and was the source of much gambling and factional-spiritedness (Catlin 1989: 134-135).

The Mandan were like any society or culture, a group of people with many varied and complex facets. The intimate information provided to the modern scholar mainly through George Catlin's letters and paintings, indicate that the Mandan were a highly-evolved in civilized society. Throughout the large quantity of material, provided by Catlin, the scholar observes time and again that the Mandan were an exception to the rule as a Plains people. There remains to be solved a certain enigma where the Mandan are contemplated by the contemporary anthropologist.


Sources Cited:

Catlin, George
1989. Peter Matthiessen editor. North American Indians. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Clark, William and Meriwether Lewis.
1893, reprinted 1992. Elliot Coues editor. The History of the Lewis
and Clark Expedition, vol. I, II, & III, pp. 1299 vol. 3. Dover, NY.

Kennedy, Roger G.
1994. Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North
American Civilization. New York: The Free Press.

Mails, Thomas E.
1991. The Mystic Warriors of the Plains. New York, NY: Mallard

Swanton, John R.
1952 "The Indian Tribes of North America." Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 145. Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006


January 4th, 1874: Eskiminzin of the Aravaipa Apache, survivor of Camp Grant massacre and arrested as a "military precaution", escapes from San Carlos with many of his band. He will return in four months because most of his people are sick and hungry.


"If it had not been for the massacre, there would have been a great many more people here now; but after the massacre, who could have stood it? When I made peace with Lieutenant Whitman my heart was very big and happy. The people of Tucson and San Xavier must be crazy. They acted as though they had neither heads nor hearts..they must have a thirst for our blood ..These Tucson people write for the papers and tell their own story. The Apaches have no-one to tell their story."

Pinal Mountains, Apache Land


I think one of the most misunderstood and maligned (Apache leaders) was the great leader of the Aravaipa Apaches, Eskiminzin.

Eskiminzin was born about 1828, probably near the Pinal Mountains. He was actually a Pinal Apache, but married into the Aravaipas (south of the Pinals). His father-in-law was Santos, chief of the Aravaipas. Eskiminzin was nearly always in very difficult positions trying to save his people. When he felt they had to fight to survive, he was unafraid to do so. When it was better for his people to accept peace terms, he did so. He always had the welfare of his people in mind. It was Eskiminzin who finally negotiated the terms by which the great San Carlos Apache Reservation was established. (See However, after the reservation was established he experienced real tragedy.

In the summer of 1873 conditions on the reservation reached crisis proportions. Eskiminzin felt it was best that he should flee. Consequently, he was later captured and put in chains. When John Clum arrived, he ordered him released, because Clum felt he had been treated shamefully. Eskiminzin even visited Washington, D.C., with Clum in 1876. Slowly, Eskiminzin began to feel that peace was beginning to pay off.

However, in 1887 his son-in-law, the Apache Kid, was arrested for the murder of a rival on the San Carlos Reservation. When the Kid finally escaped, it was believed that Eskiminzin would aid him from time to time. Therefore, Eskiminzin was arrested in April or May 1891 and sent to Ft. Wingate, New Mexico, with 40 other supposed sympathizers with the Kid. They were forced to join the Chiricahuas who were then at Mt. Vernon, Alabama (before their removal to Oklahoma). Eskiminzin and his San Carlos braves were not exactly on friendly terms with the Chiricahuas, and they found their situation to be very difficult.

Finally, a white friend, Hugh Lennox Scott, convinced authorities that Eskiminzin should be released. He arrived back in San Carlos on 23 November 1894. A year later Eskiminzin died. His life had been truly tragic in the extreme.

There are still many descendants of Eskiminzin on the San Carlos Reservation. His legacy is revered, but the hurt of what happened to this man is still deeply felt.



Eskiminzin was then Chief of the Arivaipa Indians. His name means "Men Stand in Line for Him". In February of 1871, Eskiminzin was tired of the warpath. He sent five old Apache women to inquire at Camp Grant about peace and protection. Lt. Whitman received the women courteously and worked out an appointed time for a peace talk with their leader. On subsequent meetings, it was arranged for the Indians to stay in wickiups east of Camp Grant. In exchange for the protection and food, the Indians were employed in farming, gathering hay and working for nearby ranches. This worked out well for both the Apaches and the U.S. military. Eskiminzin had a reputation that caused much fear among the whites. An account states that about a month after the Camp Grant incident, Eskiminizin wanted to show his fellow Arivaipas that there could be no friendship with the white man. Eskiminzin had a close white friend of many years, a rancher named Charles McKinney. Eskiminzin shared an evening meal with McKinney, and at the conclusion of the meal, the two smoked a cigarette together. Upon finishing, Eskiminzin stood up, pulled a revolver from his pants and shot the man at point-blank range, killing him. When Eskiminzin was later asked about the incident, he was quoted as saying, "Any coward can kill his enemy, but it takes a brave man to kill his friend."

Native American History- hist0104