Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ward Churchill

Regents to vote on firing Ward Churchill. It's time to speak out.

In the next few weeks, the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado (CU) will vote on the dismissal of Professor Ward Churchill. This is the final opportunity for public input in this process.

Over the past two and a half years, many of you have opposed CU's attempts to fire Ward. Ward and I have engaged in this struggle not for the sake of his job (he will always write, speak and teach), nor because we enjoy battling bureaucracy, but because it has become emblematic of contemporary efforts to silence those who insist on discussing uncomfortable truths.

Since February 2005, CU administrators have been under intense political and financial pressure to fire Ward for his statements about the 9/11 attacks. To avoid blatantly violating the First Amendment, they have resorted to a pretextual investigation of his scholarship.

After combing through a media barrage of unfounded allegations and his more than 20 books, 100 articles, and over 12,000 footnotes, CU has settled for firing Ward Churchill, a tenured full professor, for six instances of alleged improper footnoting or author attribution (see details below).

Predictably, this has provided sufficient excuse for those who wish to distance themselves from this "controversy" and still believe they support academic freedom. For organizations like Lynne Cheney's neoconservative American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), it is a major victory for the corporatization of higher education.

However, those who look beyond the headlines and CU's self-serving pronouncements have recognized it as a charade.

First, the evidence has established that all of the charges investigated were solicited or invented by University administrators. None were filed by the allegedly aggrieved parties.

The specific charges against Ward have been debunked. Recently, fifteen professors and two attorneys filed two sets of formal research misconduct allegations against the investigative committee which wrote the report used to justify sanctions. These illustrate that the committee members were so determined to convict Ward that they engaged in falsification and fabrication of evidence, twisting the facts to fit their conclusions. In addition, CU Professor Tom Mayer has exposed the pretextual nature of the so-called plagiarism charges.

More generally, Indigenous scholar/activists and their allies have recognized that this is an attack on those who challenge mainstream "truths" about U.S. history, as well as an attempt to eliminate ethnic and gender studies. Public intellectuals including Derrick Bell, Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Howard Zinn, and Immanuel Wallerstein published an open letter in the NY Review of Books denouncing CU's actions as part of the repressive post-9/11 "militarist reflex." A petition opposing Ward's dismissal was signed by nearly 500 scholars and activists with Teachers for a Democratic Society. Many other groups have submitted letters and petitions denouncing CU's tactics and calling for Ward's reinstatement.

What has meant the most to us, however, has been the support of elders like Carrie Dann of the Western Shoshone and Japanese American activist Yuri Kochiyama, young people who are searching for a way to cope with an uncertain future, and regular people on the street - parking lot attendants, baggage handlers, homeless people - who consistently express their appreciation that Ward refuses to be silenced. They know this is not about footnotes.

I hope you will take the time to e-mail the CU Regents and urge them not to fire Ward Churchill. They can be reached c/o , or individually at,,,,,,,,

(For maximum effectiveness, please cc:

We have no illusions that the Regents will suddenly wake up and decide to take academic freedom seriously. However, the resistance they encounter in firing Ward Churchill will determine how readily others will be subjected to similar treatment. Resistance is never futile, for it defines the terms of the next struggle.

In solidarity,

Natsu Taylor Saito

Boulder, Colorado

June 20, 2007

p.s. A brief outline of key facts and links follows. See also and

Key Facts in the Ward Churchill Case

The Charges :

CU's grounds for dismissal now consist solely of the charges that Prof. Churchill:

(1) failed to provide sufficient evidence that in the 1837 smallpox epidemic

(a) infected blankets were obtained from an infirmary;

(b) an Army doctor or post surgeon told the Mandans to scatter; and

(c) 400,000 people, as opposed to possibly 300,000, ultimately died;

(2) cited to material he has consistently acknowledged as ghostwritten;

(3) published an article in Z Magazine in which the editors, without telling him, deleted his attribution of co-authorship to "Dam the Dams;" and

(4) copyedited a piece in a book edited by a third party which, unbeknownst to him, plagiarized Fay Cohen.

The invalidity of each charge has been shown demonstrated by Prof. Churchill and numerous other scholars. But even if they were true, they illustrate the pretextual nature of the process. No prolific scholar could withstand such fine-tooth combing of his or her work.

The Bottom Line :

Recognizing that they could not fire Prof. Churchill directly for his political speech, CU administrators created a pretext to do so by soliciting/inventing "research misconduct" allegations. A biased investigation generated a handful of technical charges which the University has falsely labeled "plagiarism" or "fabrication of evidence." To date, external political and financial pressures have trumped the First Amendment and the principle of academic freedom at the University of Colorado.

Key Developments:

Feb. 2, 2005: then-Colorado Governor Bill Owens demands that Professor Ward Churchill be fired for his 2001 op-ed web posting on the 9/11 attacks.

Feb. 3, 2005: The Regents denounce Ward Churchill's statements and authorize then-Interim Chancellor Philip DiStefano to investigate "every word" he has published. Though billed as a public meeting, two people are arrested and prosecuted for attempting to speak in support of Prof. Churchill.

Mar. 3, 2005: Then-President Betsy Hoffman warns the Boulder Faculty Assembly of a "new McCarthyism," pointing out that there is "no question that there's a real danger that the group of people [who] went after Prof. Churchill now feel empowered." Within 5 days Pres. Hoffman announces her resignation.

Mar. 24, 2005: Interim Chancellor DiStefano, who has never bothered to inform Prof. Churchill of the investigation, publicly announces that although all of Prof. Churchill's writings and speeches are protected by the First Amendment, the University has received other allegations which require investigation. Subsequently it comes out that all of the allegations actually investigated were either created or solicited by University administrators.

Spring 2005: The University feeds the media frenzy, holding press conferences to announce each step of the "investigation" in direct violation of confidentiality rules. In turn, news coverage is submitted for investigation by Interim Chancellor DiStefano as "complainant."

Fall 2005: An Investigative Committee is appointed, chaired by CU law professor Mimi Wesson. Prof. Churchill is not informed that Prof. Wesson had circulated a memo in Feb. 2005 comparing Prof. Churchill to "charismatic male celebrity wrongdoers" like OJ Simpson, Bill Clinton, and Michael Jackson. The Committee includes no American Indians and no one specializing in American Indian or Indigenous Studies.

May 9, 2006: The Investigative Committee holds a press conference to release its Report, claiming to have found 7 instances of research misconduct. One committee member recommends termination, four recommend suspension.

June 16, 2006: Interim Chancellor DiStefano, the "complainant," now becomes sentencing judge, recommending dismissal.

May 3, 2007: An internal faculty appeal panel finds the University has not met its burden of proof on some charges, but upholds others (documentation of the 1837 smallpox epidemic and questions of author attribution). Two members of the panel support dismissal; three recommend a 1-year suspension.

Prof. Churchill requests that CU President Hank Brown recuse himself from the dismissal process, based upon Brown's biases, including his close ties to ACTA, which has consistently denounced Prof. Churchill (see ACTA's How Many Ward Churchills?).

May 10 and 28, 2007: Two groups of professors and attorneys file research misconduct charges against the Investigative Committee for falsifying and fabricating evidence against Prof. Churchill in their Report . The governing board of the Colorado Conference of AAUP chapters calls on the University not to take action against Prof. Churchill until the legitimacy and objectivity of the Report has been investigated.

June 7, 2007: CU President Hank Brown refuses to recuse himself or delay action, and overrides the majority of both the Investigative Committee and the faculty appeal panel to recommend that the Regents fire Prof. Churchill.

July/Aug 2007: The CU Regents will vote on dismissing Prof. Churchill.

Quick links :

Two sets of research misconduct charges filed against CU Investigative Committee:

Debunking plagiarism charges:

The ACTA connection:

Indigenous Studies:

NY Review of Books Open Letter:

Teachers for a Democratic Society petition:

Monday, April 30, 2007

Eskiminzin (1828-1895)

April 28, 1871: Either convinced that Eskiminzin's Apache are responsible for raids near Tucson, or just looking for an excuse to attack the Aravaipas, William Oury sets out with 140 armed whites and Indians for the Apache camp near Camp Grant.

April 30 1871: William Oury, a veteran Indian fighter from Tucson, and 140 men, including 92 Papago Indians, find the unarmed camp of Eskiminzin's Aravaipa Apaches living near Camp Grant. Believing them to be raiders of San Xavier Mission on April 10th, over 50 miles away near Tucson, the group attacks the unsuspecting village. 144 Indians will be killed during the massacre. Twenty-seven children will survive, they will all be sold into slavery in Mexico by the Papagos. Lt. Royal Whitman, of Camp Grant hears of the expedition against the Indians, but his message of warning, will arrive a few hours after the fighting begins. Lt. Whitman, believing the Aravaipas to be innocent, eventually gets the Tucson men brought to trial in Tucson. Many Army members testify that the Aravaipas could not possibly have been involved in the raids, but after the five-day trail, and a deliberation of lest than half an hour, the Tucson men are acquitted.


Arizona's Camp Grant Massacre
by Howard Sheldon

In the pre-dawn hours of April 30, 1871, eight men and 110 women and children were brutally murdered in the brief span of 30 minutes. In addition, 28 Arivaipa Apache papoose were kidnapped from the grisly scene for sale in the child slave trade. The corpses left to rot in the morning sun of Arivaipa Canyon were a macabre sight to Dr. Conant B. Briesly the first white man to chronicle the sight when he arrived at half past seven the same morning. By eight o'clock that morning, the mongrel band responsible for the gruesome massacre was breakfasting and celebrating their victory over an Indian tribe of defenseless, sleeping victims. What prompted 148 Arizonans -- comprised of 6 Anglos, 94 San Xavier Papagos and 48 Mexicans -- to commit such an atrocity?

April 30, 1998, marks the 127th anniversary of this dark page in Arizona's Territorial diary, written in Arivaipa Apache blood. There will be no recognition of this day by the white man. There is no physical marker to locate the site. However, this day has not been forgotten by the relatives of those slain, the Arivaipa Apaches. This attempt at genocide is known as the Camp Grant Massacre.

The events that led up to and culminated in the Camp Grant Massacre were the severe depredations of humans and livestock in the first four months of 1871. Atrocities were committed by both the white man and the native Indians. The immigrants, white-eyed enemies or pindah-lickoyee as the Indians called them, were moving in by the thousands and exhausting the native food and water resources. The Arivaipa Apaches relied on game and native plants -- primarily mescal -- as their primary food sources. With these problems and a host of others, which included new diseases introduced by the white man, it is easier to understand why the native peoples were unwilling to share their home with these new uninvited guests. Much to the chagrin of the settlers, government representatives were unavailable to protect the white citizenry. Unable to see any relief in sight, six white pioneers, a mixed company of San Xavier Papagos and Mexican's, took matters into their own hands, vigilante style.

Introducing The Key Players

William S. Oury, organizer of the raid on Camp Grant's Apache Indians, was a hot-tempered Virginian who fought in the Texas War for independence. He was a soldier in the US/Mexican War and served at the Alamo. Known for his violent temper, he killed two men in separate duels in Tucson.

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."

Events leading up to the massacre

March 10, 1871. A baggage train was attacked by Indians. Two men were brutally murdered and 16 mules were stolen.

March 20, 1871. Tubac rancher L.B. Wooster was attacked and killed. A Mexican woman was kidnapped from a town south of Tucson.

March 22, 1871. A meeting of angry Tucson residents assembled and a Committee on Public Safety was formed. One item on the agenda was to send a delegation to General Stoneman to request military protection. General Stoneman reiterated the government's policy on pacification and objected to the request, calling it criticism. Oury then concluded that the residents were on their own. Lt. Royal Whitman assured Tucson's residents that the Apaches under his control never left the Camp Grant compound.

March 25, 1871. An editorial in Tucson's Arizona Citizen fanned the flames of Indian hatred by asking, "Will the Department Commander any longer permit the murderers to be fed by the supplies purchased with the people's money?" April 10, 1871. Indians plundered a farm and carried off 19 head of cattle. News of this reached Tucson via the Papagos, and a posse was dispatched which gave chase for 50 miles. It caught up with a straggling Indian, killed him and identified him as an Arivaipa Apache from Camp Grant. During the chase, three more white settlers were killed. The incident was reported in Arizona Citizen. Three days later, in a community 30 miles from Camp Grant, a farmer was murdered.

Arizona Citizen Editor John Wasson had obtained General Stoneman's 1870 annual report. The report recommended that seven of 15 military posts be closed. The report also bragged about Stoneman's "much to be praised" new roads and construction projects.

April 28, 1871. Anglos and Mexicans left Tucson a few at a time -- to avoid suspicion -- and headed towards Camp Grant, where they were positive the problem existed.

April 30, 1871. After two days of traveling only at night, the vigilantes arrived at Camp Grant under the cover of darkness while the Arivaipa Indians slept. The mongrel band of Papagos, with clubs and lances in hand, and Mexicans and Anglos armed to the teeth with rifles and six-shooters, stealthily approached the sleeping, defenseless people. In a brief 30 minutes they laid to waste every man, woman and child. Upon leaving, they took 28 children as captives.

April 30, 1871, 7:30 a.m. That morning, a harried messenger arrived at Camp Grant from Fort Lowell interrupting Lt. Whitman's breakfast with an urgent message. It stated that armed citizenry from Tucson were planning a massacre of the Lieutenant's prisoners of war, the Apaches. The Lieutenant immediately dispatched two interpreters to warn the Indians and have them come to the post directly for protection.

But by the time the interpreters arrived, the camp was completely decimated. Post surgeon, Conant B. Briesly, along with 12 men, were immediately dispatched to render aid to the injured. However, the massacre was so thorough, only one woman survived. She was so emotionally paralyzed that she would not come back to the post.




.... 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 my page on the Apache Wars). 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.


For more information on Eskiminzin, read: Browning, Sinclair. Enju. Introduction by Morris K. Udall. Flagstaff: Northland Press, 1982. Schellie, Don. Vast Domain of Blood. Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1968. An important article is: Marion, Jeannie. "As Long as the Stone Lasts: General O. O. Howard's 1872 Conference." Journal of Arizona History 35 (Summer 1994): 109-140. (Marion is supposed to have a book forthcoming on Eskiminzin.)

See also NAW posting for Eskiminzin at:
NAW: Eskiminzin

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ottawa Chief Pontiac (1720-1769)

April 27, 1763: Today, Pontiac will hold a council with a large group of Ottawa, Wyandot and Potawotami indians. He will tell them of his plans to attack Fort Detroit. He will extol the virtues of returning to the old Indian ways, before the coming of the Europeans.

( Image courtesy of )

( The following is from )

Ottawa Chief Pontiac (1720 - 1769)

PONTIAC, chief of the Ottawas, born on Ottawa river about 1720; died in Cahokia, Ill., in 1769. He was the son of an Ojibway woman, and, as the Ottawas were in alliance with the Ojibways and Potawotamies, he became the principal chief of the three tribes.

In 1746, with his warriors, he defended the French at Detroit against an attack by some of the northern tribes, and in 1755 he is believed to have led the Ottawas at Braddock's defeat. After the surrender of Quebec, Major Robert Rogers, of New Hampshire, was sent to take possession of the western forts, under the treaty of Paris, but in November, 1760, while encamped at the place where the city of Cleveland now stands, he was visited by Pontiac, who objected to his further invasion of the territory. Finding, however, that the French had been driven from Canada, he acquiesced in the surrender of Detroit, and persuaded 400 Detroit Indians, who were lying in ambush, to relinquish their design of cutting off the English. While this action was doubtless in good faith, still he hated the English and soon began to plan their extermination.

In 1762 he sent messengers with a red stained tomahawk and a wampum war belt, who visited every tribe between the Ottawa and the lower Mississippi, all of whom joined in the conspiracy The end of May was determined upon as the time when each tribe was to dispose of the garrison of the nearest fort, and then all were to attack the settlements. A great council was held near Detroit on 27 April, 1763, when Pontiac delivered an oration, in which the wrongs and indignities that the Indians had suffered at the hands of the English were recounted, and their own extermination was prophesied. He also told them of a tradition, which he could hardly have invented, that a Delaware Indian had been admitted into the presence of the Great Spirit, who told him his race must return to the customs and weapons of their ancestors, throw away the implements they had acquired from the white man, abstain from whiskey, and take up the hatchet against the English, "these dogs dressed in red, who have come to rob you of your hunting grounds and drive away the game."

The taking of Detroit was to be his special task, and the 7th of May was appointed for the attack ; but the plot was disclosed to the commander of the post by an Indian girl, and in consequence Pontiac found the garrison prepared. Foiled in his original intention, on 12 May he surrounded Detroit with his Indians; but he was unable to keep a close siege, and the garrison received food from the Canadian settlers. The latter likewise supplied the Indians, in return for which they received promissory notes drawn on birch bark and signed with the figure of an otter, all of which it is said were subsequently redeemed. Supplies and reinforcements were sent to Detroit by way of Lake Erie, in schooners ; but these were captured by the Indians, who compelled the prisoners to row them to Detroit in hope of taking the garrison by stratagem, but the Indians, concealed in the bottom of the boat, were discovered before a landing could be effected. Subsequently another schooner, filled with supplies and ammunition, succeeded in reaching the fort, and this vessel the Indians repeatedly tried to destroy by means of fire rafts.

The English now believed themselves sufficiently strong to make an attack upon the Indian camp, and 250 men, on the night of 31 July, set out for that purpose; but Pontiac had been advised of this intention by the Canadians, and, waiting until the English had advanced sufficiently, opened fire on them from all sides. In this fight, which is known as that of Bloody Bridge, 59 of the English were killed or wounded. A desultory warfare continued until 12 Oct., when the siege was raised and Pontiac retired into the country that borders Maumee river, where he vainly endeavored to organize another movement. Although Pontiac failed in the most important action of the conspiracy, still Fort Sandusky, Fort St. Joseph, Fort Miami, Fort Ouatanon, Mackinaw, Presque Isle, Fort Le Bceuf, and Fort Venango were taken and their garrisons were massacred, while unsuccessful attacks were made elsewhere. The English soon sent troops against the Indians, and succeeded in pacifying most of the tribes, so that, during the summer of 1766, a meeting of Indian chiefs, including Pontiac, was held in Oswego, where a treaty was concluded with Sir William Johnson. Although Pontiac's conspiracy failed in its grand object, still it had resulted in the capture and destruction of eight out of the twelve fortified posts that were attacked, generally by the massacre of their garrisons, it had destroyed several costly English expeditions, and had carried terror and desolation into some of the most fertile valleys on the frontiers of civilization. In 1769 a Kaskaskia Indian, being bribed with a barrel of liquor and promise of additional reward, followed Pontiac into the forest and there murdered him.


See Francis Parkman's "History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac and the War of the North American Tribes against the English Colonies after the Conquest of Canada" (Boston, 1851), also Franklin B. Hough's "Diary of the Siege of Detroit in the War with Pontiac" (Albany, 1860). -- Edited Appleton's Cyclopedia American Biography


( The following is From )

"You Must Lift the Hatchet Against Them"

A Delaware Indian conceived an eager desire to learn wisdom from the Master of Life; but, being ignorant where to find him, he had recourse to fasting, dreaming, and magical incantations. By these means, it was revealed to him, that, by moving forward in a straight, undeviating course, he would reach the abode of the Great Spirit. He told his purpose to no one, and having provided the equipment's of a bunter-gun, powder horn, ammunition, and a kettle for preparing his food-he set out on his errand. For some time, he journeyed on in high hope and confidence. On the evening of the eighth day, he stopped by the side of a brook at the edge of a meadow, where he began to make ready his evening meal, when, looking up, he saw three large openings in the woods before him, and three well-beaten paths which entered them. He was much surprised; but his wonder increased, when, after it had grown dark, the three paths were more clearly visible than ever. Remembering the important object of his journey, he could neither rest nor sleep; and, leaving his fire, he crossed the meadow, and entered the largest of the three openings. He had advanced but a short distance into the forest, when a bright flame sprang out of the ground before him, and arrested his steps. In great amazement, he turned back, and entered the second path, where the same wonderful phenomenon again encountered him; and now, in terror and bewilderment, yet still resolved to persevere, he took the last of the three paths. On this he journeyed a whole day without interruption, when at length, emerging from the forest, he saw before him a vast mountain, of dazzling whiteness. So precipitous was the ascent that the Indian thought it hopeless to go farther, and looked around him in despair; at that moment, he saw, seated at some distance above, the figure of a beautiful woman arrayed in white, who arose as he looked upon her, and thus accosted him:

"How can you hope, encumbered as you are, to succeed in your design? Go down to the foot of the mountain, throw away your gun, your ammunition, your provisions, and your clothing; wash yourself in the stream which flows there, and you will then be prepared to stand before the Master of Life."

The Indian obeyed, and again began to ascend among the rocks, while the woman, seeing him still discouraged, laughed at his faintness of heart, and told him that, if he wished for success, he must climb by the aid of one hand and one foot only. After great toil and suffering, he at length found himself at the summit. The woman had disappeared, and he was left alone. A rich and beautiful plain lay before him, and at a little distance, he saw three great villages, far superior to the squalid wigwams of the Delaware's. As he approached the largest, and stood hesitating whether he should enter, a man gorgeously attired stepped forth, and, taking him by the hand, welcomed him to the celestial abode. He then conducted him into the presence of the Great Spirit, where the Indian stood confounded at the unspeakable splendor which surrounded him. The Great Spirit bade him be seated, and thus addressed him:

"I am the Maker of heaven and earth, the trees, lakes, rivers, and all things else. I am the Maker of mankind; and because I love you, you must do my will. The land on which you live I have made for you, and not for others. Why do you suffer the white men to dwell among you? My children, you have forgotten the customs and traditions of your forefathers. Why do you not clothe yourselves in skins, as they did, and use the bows and arrows, and the stone-pointed lances, which they used? You have bought guns, knives, kettles, and blankets, from the white men, until you can no longer do without them; and, what is worse, you have drunk the poison firewater, which turns you into fools. Fling all these things away; live as your wise forefathers lived before you. And as for these English-these dogs dressed in red, who have come to rob you of your hunting grounds, and drive away the game-you must lift the hatchet against them. Wipe them from the face of the earth, and then you will win my favor back again, and once more be happy and prosperous. The children of your great father, the King of France, are not like the English. Never forget that they are your brethren. They are very dear to me, for they love the red men, and understand the true mode of worshipping me."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pipestone National Monument

April 19, 1858: The Yankton Sioux sign a treaty today. Article 8 provides for the Indians to retain access and use of the red pipestone quarry in southwestern Minnesota.

(Catlin image courtesy of NPS)

An account of the origin of the pipestone, as recorded by George Catlin, 1836:

At an ancient time the Great Spirit, in the form of a large bird, stood upon the wall of rock and called all the tribes around him, and breaking out a piece of the red stone formed it into a pipe and smoked it, the smoke rolling over the whole multitude. He then told his red children that this red stone was their flesh, that they were made from it, that they must all smoke to him through it, that they must use it for nothing but pipes: and as it belonged alike to all tribes, the ground was sacred, and no weapons must be used or brought upon it.

(Image courtesy of

(The following is from

According to geologists, pipestone was formed when a stream system deposited layer upon layer of sand and other sediment. The sand was eventually compressed into sandstone, and the red clay under it into clay stone. Some sediment was removed by one of the four glaciers which traveled through the area and scraped the land down to the sandstone. Under the weight of the glaciers and with extremely high temperatures, the sandstone became quartzite and the red clay sediment turned into pipestone.

The vein of pipestone is sandwiched between two layers of hard quartzite, four to twelve feet below the earth's surface.

Outcroppings of pipestone are also found in Montana, Arizona, Kansas, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Pieces of pipestone from Minnesota's quarry have been found in burial mounds in many different sections of North America, leading historians to believe that various tribes journeyed thousands of miles to quarry here. During the summer, tribal bands would divide into groups, each with its own task to complete. While some parties hunted buffalo, others would travel to the quarry to get pipestone.

.... Philander Prescott, who worked for the North American Fur Company, was probably the first white man to see the quarry and document his visit. In 1831 he wrote, "Indians have labored here very hard with hoes and axes, the only tools except large stones...we found a six pound cannon ball that the Indians have brought there from the Missouri to break the rock."

Joseph Nicollet, a French scientist on a U.S. government-sponsored exhibition to map the upper Mississippi area, explored the quarry in 1838. Nicollet and his party left their initials on the northern end of the quartzite ledge, where they are still visible today.

... In an effort to gain control of more territory, the U.S. government, through the general Indian Appropriations bill of 1851, negotiated a treaty for the title to all of their Minnesota lands, which was most of southern Minnesota. The Sisseton and Wahpeton bands ceded their lands, including the pipestone quarry, in a treaty signed at Traverse des Sioux in 1851. However, the Yankton tribe was not part of the treaty and objected to losing the quarry. They tried to gain compensation by demanding a part of the revenue given to the Sisseton and Wahpetons, but were unsuccessful.

Seven years later, the Yanktons ceded eleven million acres of their land and were guaranteed "free and unrestricted use of the red pipestone visit and procure stone for pipes so long as they shall desire." A 650-acre reservation was created around the quarry.

This by no means settled the conflict between the Native Americans and white people. With the coming of settlers Pipestone City was planned, and by 1881 a large quartzite building-stone quarry was opened by a white settler. Two years later white pioneers including the mayor, C.C. Goodnow, settled on the reservation, filed claims and began to build homes. They refused to leave until four years later when a corps of ten enlisted men sent from South Dakota ordered the settlers to move.

An act of Congress provided for the establishment of Indian Industrial Training Schools in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. The government took possession of the Pipestone reservation when the school was established there in1892. Some tribal members wanted compensation for land, others wanted to retain the quarry altogether. A vote was taken of the male tribal members and by a narrow majority title to the reservation was ceded for $100,000; the government agreed to preserve the quarry as a national park. But this bill was never ratified by Congress.

Over the next few decades, the Yanktons fought to retrieve the money for their land through the U.S. Court system. Finally the Supreme Court ruled that the government was liable to compensate the Yanktons when it took possession of the entire reservation for the training school.

A total of $328,558 in principle plus interest was awarded in 1929. With the payment of this judgement title to the land passed to the United States, and all treaty rights of the Yanktons were at an end. Pipestone National Monument was signed into legislation in 1937.

Today, only Native Americans are allowed to quarry pipestone. It may take up to three to six weeks to complete the quarrying process, which usually occurs from late may to late October. Only hand tools, such as sledge hammers, chisels, wedges and shovels can be used.

The quarrier sets a wedge into visible cracks in the quartzite and drives it in with a sledge hammer. Large chunks of quartzite loosened and pried away from the quartzite wall until the pipestone layer is exposed. Although the layer of pipestone may be fourteen to eighteen inches thick, only two inches of it are suitable for carving pipes.

(Map courtesy of

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Isimanica, Comanche

March 28, 1840: After hearing of the fight in San Antonio on March 19, 1840, the remaining Comanches are outraged. Today, Chief Isimanica, and 300 Comanches ride up to San Antonio. Isimanica, and one warrior, ride into the central square and challenge anyone to a fight. The civilians decline, but tell him that the Army is at the San Jose Mission.



On March 28, Chief Isimanica (Hears the Wolf, Howard calls him Isamini) and about 300 Comanches appeared at the edge of San Antonio. Accompanied by one brave, Chief Isimanica, almost naked and painted for war, rode into the square, circled it, and rode down and back up Commerce Street, shouting insults and challenging any one to fight. At Black's Saloon, he stopped, stood in the stirrups, and shouted his defiance. An interpreter told him that the soldiers were at San Jose Mission, to go there and find Colonel Fisher if he wanted a fight.

Chief Isimanica and his Comanches then went to San Jose There they challenged Colonel Fisher, sick in bed, and Captain Read, next in command, to a fight. The captain explained that a twelve-day truce had been made to exchange prisoners and would not be broken. If the Comanches wished to remain three days, when the truce was over, they would furnish them a fight. The chief voiced his insults and then left. The soldiers could hardly be restrained and some were ordered into the mission church to keep them from starting a fight with the Comanches.

Hearing of this, Captain Lysander Wells called Captain Read a coward. The result was a duel in which both men were shot and killed. Read died immediately and Wells, in great pain, died after some days.



On March 28th between two hundred and fifty and three hundred Comanches under a dashing young chief, Isimanica, cane close to the edge of the town where the main body halted and Chief Isimanica with another warrior rode daringly into the public square and circled around it, then rode some distance down Commerce Street and back, shouting all the while, offering fight and heaping abuse and insults upon the Americans. Isimanica was in full war paint, and almost naked. He stopped longest in Black's saloon, at the north east corner of the square; he shouted defiance, he rose in his stirrups, shook his clenched fist, raved and foamed at the mouth. The citizens, through an interpreter, told him the soldiers were all down the river at Mission San Jose and if he went there Colonel (William S.) Fisher wood give him fight enough.

Isimanica took his braves to San Jose and with fearless daring bantered the soldiers for a fight. colonel Fisher was lying on a sick bed and Captain Redd, the next in rank, was in command. He said to the chief: "We have made a twelve day truce with your people in order to exchange prisoners. My country's honor is pledged, as well as my own, to keep the truce, and I will not break it. Remain here three days or return in three days and the truce will be over. We burn to fight you." Isimanica called him liar, coward and other opprobrious names, and hung around for sometime, but at last the Indians left and did not return. Captain Redd remained. calm and unmoved, but his men could with the greatest difficulty be restrained and in fact some of them were ordered into the Mission church and the door guarded.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Cherokee Chief Tahchee (Tatsi)

Throughout his life, Cherokee Chief Tahchee, also known as Captain William Dutch, was known as a fearless warrior. Tahchee was one of the original groups of Cherokees to move west of the Mississippi river. He became a major political force in the "old settler party". He fought many fights with the Osage Indians who leaved near the Cherokees. Eventually, he would become a scout for the U.S. Army, where he reached the rank of Captain. Tahchee died on March 12, 1848, in Indian Territory.

(image courtesy of


The life story of this Cherokee chief (Tatsi is probably the correct spelling) is typical of an Indian who was born shortly after the Revolution and lived in the first part of the nineteenth century. His days were occupied with war, raids, horse stealing, scouting and hunting.

Dutch, as he is known to frontier history, was a child when his family joined the first Cherokee removal from the big Indian village called Turkey Town on the Coosa River in what is now Alabama to the St.Francis River in Arkansas, west of the Mississippi. It was a wild country that had not known the white man's presence.

The casual life of the hunter appealed to him, and at about the age of twelve he joined one of those incredible Indian hunting parties that roamed the prairies for as long as three years.

It was a life of feast or famine. The hunter's constant enemy was the weather. Weary hours were spent on horseback, but the hardships were forgotten in the excitement of the hunt and the occasional clash with other tribes.

Dutch roamed beyond the Mississippi and explored the Red River country. Years later a white man asked him how many buffalo he had killed and Dutch answered, "So many I cannot number them."

He lived with other tribes to study the techniques of their hunters, even the Osage, the traditional foe of the Cherokee, and was among the few of his nation who knew the Osage dialect. He became a legend on the plains and the prairies, a lone hunter with three large dogs running on both sides of his horse's flanks. He explored the Arkansas River to the south of the Grand, or Neosho, River, then traveled on foot for hundreds of miles to the Missouri. When he returned downriver his canoe was almost swamped by beaver skins.

The treaty the Cherokee made with the United States in 1828 so infuriated Dutch that he led several families to the Red River country. They were constantly at war with those superbs horsemen of the Texas plains, the Comanche. To keep the frontier peaceful, the army ordered both nations to stop their raids, an order Dutch refused to recognize. He was finally declared an outlaw, and the army's wanted poster offered five hundred dollars for him dead or alive.

Dutch fought a one-man war with the army for years, even boldly scalping a Comanche [an Osage, according to other sources] in the shadow of Fort Gibson. Both sides finally grew weary of the hound and hare game. The commander, a shrewd man, hired Dutch to form a group of Indian scouts in the army's campaign against the Comanche. Before he retired to his ranch on the Canadian River, Dutch was known throughout the early Indian fighting army as a tireless tracker and "a man to be relied on".

Catlin who met Dutch in 1834 called him "a guide and hunter for the regiment of dragoons.... The history of this man's life has been very curious and surprising; and I sincerely hope that someone, with more leisure and more talent than myself, will take it up, and do it justice. I promise that the life of this man furnishes the best materials for a popular tale, that are now to be procured on the Western frontier."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Oldest Solar Observatory in Americas

NPR has a report on the oldest solar observatory known in the Americas, at Chankillo, Peru. It's dated 2,000 years before the Incas:

Archeologists may have uncovered what they say is by far the oldest astronomical observatory in the Americas: a series of towers near a temple in coastal Peru, built in the fourth century B.C.

The towers at Chankillo mark the sun's progress across the sky, according to a new study in Science. This suggests the sun may have played an important role in religious and political life long before the appearance of the famous Inca sun cult.

Mysterious Towers

In the 19th century, explorers in the area observed the 13 stubby towers dotting a long ridge close to an ancient fortress. The explorers suggested that the towers had to do with the movement of the moon, and left it at that.

A few years ago, Ivan Ghezzi at long last drummed up enough funding to excavate the Chankillo site, and uncover its secrets.

Ghezzi is at the Catholic University of Peru and the national director of archeology. He quickly realized the towers had nothing to do with the moon, but everything to do with the sun. The key was viewing the sky from either of two structures that stood nearby.

"You could actually watch the sunrise align with the northernmost tower during the June solstice," he says. "And with the opposite tower... you could see the sunrise at the December solstice. So we realized that here we had an astronomical device that was designed to keep track of the movement of the sun and therefore keep track of time."

Built 2,300 years ago, the towers are by far the earliest example of an observatory in the Americas.

Sun Worshipers

Ghezzi knows frustratingly little about the people who built the towers and the fortifications at Chankillo.

It is unclear whether they were in any way forerunners of the Incas, the famous sun worshipers who appeared on the scene many centuries after these structures were built.

"We know that the Incas made powerful political statements based on the relationship between the sun and the king," Ghezzi says. "The Inca claimed to be the offspring of the sun. But now we have a society that is 1,800 years before the Inca that is clearly using the sun as a way to make a political, social and ideological statement."

It is clear that the towers were more than just a fancy sundial. For one thing, the fortifications nearby appear to protect a temple.

Anthony Aveni, an archeoastronomer at Colgate University, agrees with Ghezzi's interpretation that the site is of great cultural, religious and political significance, in addition to its practical use for timing plantings and harvests.

The priests who controlled the temple would have used their knowledge of astronomy as part of their mystique and power.

Ancient Astronomy

The question, as always in a situation like this, is whether the towers were really built with an astronomical purpose, or if the layout turns out to be a happy coincidence. Aveni, for one, is convinced this observatory was designed to track solar events.

"It does work, and it works in a way that makes sense given what we know about Andean calendars," he says.

The towers also help mark other solar events and count out a 10-day week used by Andean cultures.

Ivan Gehzzi is working to turn the well-preserved ruins of Chankillo into a major tourist destination.

Oldest Solar Observatory in Americas

Thursday, March 01, 2007


If you did not get to see it in the movie theatres, I recommend you experience "Apocalypto" when it comes out on DVD.

Here is one of the first reviews written about the movie:

The Passion of the Maya

Published: December 8, 2006, NEW YORK TIMES

“I’m going to peel off his skin and make him watch me wear it.” This grisly threat is delivered by one of the main bad guys in Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto.” The promised flaying never takes place, but viewers who share this director’s apparently limitless appetite for gore will not be disappointed, since not much else in the way of bodily torment has been left to the imagination. There are plenty of disembowelings, impalings, clubbings and beheadings. Hearts are torn, still beating, from slashed-open chests. A man’s face is chewed off by a jaguar. Another’s neck is pierced by darts tipped with frog venom. Most disturbing, perhaps, is the sight of hundreds of corpses haphazardly layered in an open pit: a provocative and ill-advised excursion into Holocaust imagery on this director’s part.

Violence has become the central axiom in Mr. Gibson’s practice as a filmmaker, his major theme and also his chief aesthetic interest. The brutality in “Apocalypto” is so relentless and extreme that it sometimes moves beyond horror into a kind of grotesque comedy, but to dismiss it as excessive or gratuitous would be to underestimate Mr. Gibson’s seriousness. And say what you will about him — about his problem with booze or his problem with Jews — he is a serious filmmaker.

Which is not to say that “Apocalypto” is a great film, or even that it can be taken quite as seriously as it wants to be. Mr. Gibson’s technical command has never been surer; for most of its 2-hour 18-minute running time, “Apocalypto,” written by Mr. Gibson and Farhad Safinia, is a model of narrative economy, moving nimbly forward and telling its tale with clarity and force. It is, above all, a muscular and kinetic action movie, a drama of rescue and revenge with very little organic relation to its historical setting. Yes, the dialogue is in various Mayan dialects, which will sound at least as strange to American ears as the Latin and Aramaic of “The Passion of the Christ,” but the film’s real language is Hollywood’s, and Mr. Gibson’s, native tongue.

When I first heard about this project, and later when I saw the early trailers, I halfway hoped that Mr. Gibson might turn out to be an American (or half-Australian) version of Werner Herzog, setting out into the jungle to explore the dark and tangled regions of human nature. Once you get past the costumes and the subtitles, though, the most striking thing about “Apocalypto” is how comfortably it sits within the conventions of mainstream moviemaking. It is not an obsessive opera like Mr. Herzog’s “Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” but rather a pop period epic in the manner of “Gladiator” or “Braveheart,” and as such less interested in historical or cultural authenticity than in imposing an accessible scheme on a faraway time and place.

The setting is Central America before the arrival of the Spanish, when the Maya empire, in Mr. Gibson’s version, was already in the process of collapsing from within. The basic moral conflict — as it was in “Braveheart,” directed by and starring Mr. Gibson, and in “The Patriot,” a vehicle for him directed by Roland Emmerich — is between a small group of people trying to live simple, decent, traditional lives and a larger, more powerful political entity driven by bloodlust and greed. This kind of conservative anti-imperialism runs consistently through Mr. Gibson’s work; whether the empire in question is Roman, British or Mesoamerican, and whatever its political resonance might be, it allows the viewer to root for an unambiguously virtuous underdog.

“Apocalypto” begins with a group of young men out on a hunt and lingers for a while in their happy, earthy village, a place that might double as a nostalgic vision of small-town America were it not for the loin cloths, the tattooed buttocks and the facial piercings. Blunted (Jonathan Brewer) is nagged by his mother-in-law and teased by his buddies because he hasn’t yet made his wife pregnant, but he accepts his humiliation in good humor, like the jolly fat kid on a family sitcom.

Meanwhile Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), whose father (Morris Birdyellowhead) is an admired hunter and warrior, snuggles down with his pregnant wife, Seven (Dalia Hernandez), and their young son, Turtle Run (Carlos Emilio Baez). There’s fresh tapir meat on the grill and an old-timer telling stories by the fire. Life is good.

Needless to say, this pastoral idyll cannot last. The ominous strains of James Horner’s score indicate as much. Before long the village is set upon by fearsome marauders, led by Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo), who rape, burn and kill with ruthless discipline and undisguised glee. The locals resist valiantly, but the survivors are led away to an uncertain fate. Seven and Turtle Run stay behind, hidden in a hole in the ground.

Jaguar Paw’s mission will be to rescue them and also to avenge his friends and kin. First, though, he will accompany us on a Cecil B. DeMille tour of the decadent imperial capital, a place of misery, luxury and corruption, where priests and nobles try to keep famine and pestilence at bay with round-the-clock human sacrifices.

Neither Mr. Gibson’s fans nor his detractors are likely to accuse him of excessive subtlety, and the effectiveness of “Apocalypto” is inseparable from its crudity. But the blunt characterizations and the emphatic emotional cues are also evidence of the director’s skill.

Perhaps because he is aiming for an audience wary of subtitles, Mr. Gibson rarely uses dialogue as a means of exposition, and he proves himself to be an able, if not always terribly original, visual storyteller. He is not afraid of clich├ęs — the slow-motion, head-on sprint toward the camera; the leap from the waterfall into the river below — but he executes them with a showman’s maniacal relish.

And it is, all in all, a pretty good show. There is a tendency, at least among journalists, to take Mr. Gibson as either a monster or a genius, a false choice that he frequently seems intent on encouraging. Is he a madman or a visionary? Should he be shunned or embraced? Censured or forgiven?

These are the wrong questions, but their persistence reveals the truth about this shrewd and bloody-minded filmmaker. He is an entertainer. He will be publicized, and he will be paid.


“Apocalypto” is rated R (Under 17 must be accompanied by parent or adult guardian).

Directed by Mel Gibson; written (in Maya, with English subtitles) by Mr. Gibson and Farhad Safinia; director of photography, Dean Semler; edited by John Wright; music by James Horner; production designer, Tom Sanders; produced by Mr. Gibson and Bruce Davey; released by Touchstone Pictures. Running time: 138 minutes.

WITH: Rudy Youngblood (Jaguar Paw), Dalia Hernandez (Seven), Jonathan Brewer (Blunted), Raoul Trujillo (Zero Wolf), Gerardo Taracena (Middle Eye), Rodolfo Palacios (Snake Ink), Fernando Hernandez (High Priest), Maria Isidra Hoil and Aquetzali Garcia (Oracle Girls) and Abel Woolrich (Laughing Man).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

William Augustus Bowles (1763-1805)

January 16, 1792: Leading a force of 300 Creek and Seminole warriors, Willaim Augusts Bowles has surrounded St.Marks, Florida. After holding out for several weeks, the Spanish will surrender to Bowles today. They will seize the supplies and will be forced out by a Spanish force in a few months. Bowles will conquer the fort again on May 19, 1800.


William Augustus Bowles (1763-1805)

Born in Frederick, Maryland in 1763, William Augustus Bowles represented one of the very few loyalists west of the Chesapeake Bay to join the British cause.

As a young teenager, he was commissioned with the rank of ensign in the First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists in the spring of 1778. He followed the regiment to Pensacola and resigned, only to return more than a year later. After the British surrender at Fort George, he returned with his regiment to New York where he performed in several theatre productions with British officers.

After the war, he returned to Florida to live with his friends, the Creek Indians. He became their leader of sorts and kept the United States terrified of Indian uprisings in the Florida territory. Bowles married a Creek woman and adopted the Creek ways. He routinely visited London in his native Indian garb, attracting considerable attention. Eventually, however, his old enemies, the Spanish, caught up with him and he was imprisoned in Cuba where he died in 1805.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Mandan Buffalo Dance

January 5th, 1805: Lewis and Clark describe buffalo dance.

( George Catlin image courtesy of )

( The following from )

Dance with the Mandans

Members of the Corps of Discovery celebrated the New Year by joining the Mandans in their village for music and dancing. The dances continued each day through January 5th, the Mandans believing that the buffalo dance would attract herds to be hunted. Within days a herd of buffalo showed up. Of the dance, Sergeant John Ordway wrote:

"January 1st, 1805 - We...went up to the 1st village of Mandans to dance as it had been their request. carried with us a fiddle & a Tambereen & a Sounden horn. as we arived at the entrence of the vil[lage] we fired one round. then the music played. loaded again. then marched to the center of the village [and] fired again. then commenced dancing. a frenchman danced on his head and all danced round him for a short time, then went in to a lodge & danced a while, which pleased them verry much. they then brought vectules from different lodges...& Some buffalow Robes which they made us a present off. So we danced in different lodges untill late in the afternoon. then a part of the men returned to the fort. The remainder stayed all night in the village."

( Close-up of Catlin painting courtesy of )

( The following from )

Their (Mandan) religion ... incorporates three primary ceremonies. The first, held annually, is the celebration of the subsiding of the great flood. The second is the buffalo dance that is performed as a prayer to the Great Spirit in supplication to send the buffalo. And lastly is the bull dance, used to conduct all the young men of the tribe into manhood by testing their endurance and discipline through deprivation and self-inflicted torture. After going without food for several days, the skin of the initiate is pierced, thongs were attached and weighted buffalo skulls were tied to these thongs, with the entire village joined in communal singing, initiates danced around a "medicine pole" erected in the center of the village, until the skulls have pulled loose from their flesh. There were many other festivals and ceremonies celebrated by the Mandan, all of which focused around the great medicine lodge which stood in the center of the village and was the domain of the "mystery men" who were the holy men of the Mandan. Beyond these three primary ceremonies, and perhaps central to all ceremonies, is the Mandan's use of the Sacred Pipe ...

( The following from )

The Buffalo Dance (Mandan)

The most exciting event of the year's festival was the Buffalo Dance. Eight men participated, wearing buffalo skins on their backs and painting themselves black, red, and white. Dancers endeavoured to imitate the buffalo on the prairie.

Each dancer held a rattle in his right hand, and in his left a six-foot rod. On his head, he wore a bunch of green willow boughs. The season for the return of the buffalo coincided with the willow trees in full leaf. Another dance required only four tribesmen, representing the four main directions of the compass from which the buffalo might come. With a canoe in the centre, two dancers, dressed as grizzly bears who might attack the hunters, took their places on each side. They growled and threatened to spring upon anyone who might interfere with the ceremony.

Onlookers tried to appease the grizzlies by tossing food to them. The two dancers would pounce upon the food, carrying it away to the prairie as possible lures for the coming of the buffaloes.

During the ceremony, the old men of the tribe beat upon drums and chanted prayers for successful buffalo hunting.

By the end of the fourth day of the Buffalo Dance, a man entered the camp disguised as the evil spirit of famine. Immediately he was driven away by shouts and stone-throwing from the younger Mandans, who waited excitedly to participate in the ceremony.

When the demon of famine was successfully driven away, the entire tribe joined in the bountiful thanksgiving feast, symbolic of the early return of buffalo to the Mandan hunting-grounds.