If there’s one piece of Native American HIstory every resident of the Southeast should know and understand, it’s the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This year marks the 180th anniversary of that tragic event when 16,000 Cherokee were forced from there homes, held in concentration camps for five months, and then driven 800 miles west to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Well, now is your chance. The Georgia Trail of Tears Association will be meeting at the Roswell Library, 115 Norcross St., at 10:30 A.M., March 10th. I will be the guest speaker, and my topic will be “Exploring the Myths to Discover The Realities of The Removal.” There is no cost, and it is open to the public. If you can manage it, I’d love to see you there.
As a Native American Historian, I wanted to write about events of the nineteenth century from a different perspective by showing original citizens as I think they were. Yet, I wasn’t bold enough to create a Native American protagonist. Instead, I compromised by creating a white man who interacts with Natives, and, in the process, they develop mutual respect.
Two actual events are depicted in the story. First is the Nueces River Massacre which deals with the German immigrant population in Texas who refuse to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy and the consequences of that decision. The other is the first battle of Adobe Walls, where troops under the command of Kit Carson fight combined forces of Kiowa and Commanche.
Other actual skirmishes are referred to but not discussed in great detail. Fights like the 1859 Antelope Hills massacre pitting Texas Rangers and Tonkawa warriors against a defenseless Commanche village. The Sand Creek Massacre in the Colorado Territory between Colorado Militia under the command of John Chivington against Black Kettles Cheyenne is also mentioned. Everything makes sense so far, so how did A Ranger’s Revenge become the book that wouldn’t be published?
The first inkling of a potential problem occurred four chapters into the writing. I didn’t like it! The story takes place over two years, and I thought it would work to compress it into one year by using the technique of flashbacks. I had done this in a previous book, and it seemed fine, but here, it was far too difficult. The result was a re-write. The original first chapters are still present, except now they begin as chapter fourteen. That’s right, I started over and wrote over half the book anew.
After completing the writing, I farmed out the editing to a professional editor and began the search for a publisher. After numerous submissions of synopsis and first three chapters, I received a contract. My publisher knew I was completing the final chapters of editing and had no issues. Instead of sending the final two chapters to the editor, I sent the whole manuscript as an attachment to an email.
Hours after sending, I got a response from her that said there was no attachment. I checked my “sent” file, and she was right, no attachment. In fact, the entire manuscript had vanished from my hard drive. With the help of a former programmer from IBM, my computer was scrutinized with no result. A Ranger’s Revenge was gone. All I had left was a completely unedited hard copy. The publisher agreed to continue with their own editing team if I would pay to have it transcribed into a Word document.
That should have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t. Not by a lot. Somewhere along the line during the beginning or the editing process, the publisher got into a squabble with another author about how much time it was taking to publish his book, and, for what ever reason, he got me confused with that other writer. I received a terse email saying “You want it published, here it is.” The original, unedited manuscript, complete with ugly cover, was suddenly available for sale through Amazon.
Through legal wrangling, I got the publication stopped, and the undelivered books sent to me. What I could not do, however, was void my contract. For the next three years, Ranger was dead. Since I was prohibited from writing anything using the same characters or actions, my plans for sequels vanished along with my interest in writing.
As the years passed, I became more involved with Native history and culture, and with inspiration from the likes of Tony Hillerman (The Lt. Leaphorn Series), I decided to create a Native Protagonist, Rick Davis, and Through The Eyes of an Assassin was born. Its completion roughly coincided with the end of my contract, and I got the now defunct publishing company to finally send me a resumption of rights letter.
After extensive rewriting and editing, the book that wouldn’t be published is today available worldwide. I hope it’s one you can enjoy.
UNDRIP? What is UNDRIP, and why should we be celebrating it? It’s the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UN debated over twenty years before coming up with this comprehensive statement regarding the rights of indigenous people. The declaration was finally passed in April of 2007, with only four member nations voting against it. Those Countries were Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States of America. The Bush administration saw little benefit in supporting the rights of indigenous and oppressed people.
In forty-six articles, the declaration emphasized indigenous peoples rights to live with dignity and maintain their own institutions, cultures, and traditions. The articles address both individual and collective rights for cultural identity, education, health, employment, languages, and more.
Article one says indigenous people have the right to the full enjoyment of all human rights and freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal declaration of Human Rights, and international law. Many articles deal with protecting and promoting indigenous culture and allowing the people to participate in all the decisions that will affect their lives. Importantly, it confirms their right to self-determination and their rights of land, territories, and resources.
At the end of this post, I will provide a link to the actual declaration so you can read it for yourself. As you do, you will see why the greatest colonizers in the world chose to vote against it. For instance, article eight prohibits individuals from being subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture. At the same time, it prevents any form of forced population transfer or forced assimilation or integration. Since 1830, the United States has implemented at least three removal acts against Native People, and in 1950, attempted forced assimilation through Termination.
Prohibitions spelled out in the forty-six articles are a restatement of the step-by-step actions of the United States government in the elimination of all these right to our Native tribes. The United Nations simply had to categorize, and codify our treatment of our indigenous residents, and the declaration almost wrote itself.
Finally, on December 15, 2010, President Barack Obama reversed the Bush administration’s 2007 no vote and formally endorsed the declaration. The United States was the last of the original four opposing countries to endorse. In his statement, President Obama said, “The aspirations it affirms, including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native people, are ones we must always seek to fulfill. That’s the standard I expect my administration to be held to.”
Technically, the declaration is not legally binding, but it does represent the development of international legal norms. It is still a significant means of eliminating the rights violations against more than 370 million indigenous people worldwide. What do you think?
Click the link below to read the declaration in its entirety.
Ah, Spring is in the air. Flowers are blooming, and the pollen count is outrageous. Schools are winding down, and across the country, summer camps are warming up. As camps gear up, so do the plans to “Indianize” camp participants. Dress like Indians, dance like Indians, do ceremonies like Indians and even give Indian names. All under the guise of “better understanding and respecting Native culture.” Sadly, it doesn’t work.
Respect for their culture cannot occur by creating plastic or paper headdresses or mimicking Indian sounds or songs while hopping, Indian-like, around a bonfire. And it is never appropriate to hand out Native names. In short, it is okay to study a culture, but not okay to usurp it. White men have been pretending to be Indian at least since the Boston Tea Party, and it has never worked out well.
Native customs and beliefs are not trivial or frivolous. They are the deep-seated connection between the people who practice them and their spiritual understanding. The practitioners of these ceremonies are not ancients, long dead and forgotten, they are real and alive today, and their lives are relevant.
Rather than make fake headdresses, talk about the fact that many tribes did not wear feathers at all. That in most tribes that did wear them, they were only worn by men. You might even teach how feathers were earned. What birds were most sacred and desired, and what was the significance of cuts, colors, or add-ons.
For other ceremonies, you might want to discuss the meaning and importance of the drum. Did it sound like the Atlanta Braves war drum, or was the beat more subtle and spiritual? Instead of making up pretend dances, learn the significance of real dances like the Jingle Dance, or the Shawl Dance, or the men’s and women’s Fancy Dances. All tribes danced at ceremonies and events, and there were reasons for every ceremony. How many ceremonies did a tribe celebrate each year? What was the significance of each one? The “Green Corn Ceremony” was celebrated by all the southeastern tribes. What was its significance and what did it accomplish?
Lastly, forget naming ceremonies. It’s okay to learn about the naming process, but it’s highly disrespectful to assign Indian names. You and your campers probably are not Indian. If any are, they already have their Indian name and don’t need you to make fun of how it came to be.
You can, and I encourage you to, learn and teach as much Native culture as you are able, but it is not possible to become an Indian, so don’t try. Don’t even pretend. It is just plain disrespectful. Remember, respect is the ability to recognize someone’s excellence or worth and to show consideration for that person or culture. What do you think?
In March of 2007, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma held a special election that amended its Constitution regarding citizenship in the Nation. That action disenrolled black citizens, called Freedmen, who had been members since 1866. Was this the decision of a sovereign nation rightfully declaring who can be a citizen or an act of racial discrimination? The answer will be decided in federal court in the next few weeks, but let’s look at some of the critical issues leading up to the disenrollment.
Who are “Freedmen,” and what is, or was their connection to the tribe? The answer to that question lurks in the early 19th century when southern tribes struggled between continuing their historical culture or assimilating white Christian life. The five largest southern tribes, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Cherokee, and Seminole, commonly known as “The Five Civilized Tribes,” began adopting an Anglo lifestyle. Along with farming and animal husbandry, they also adopted the European version of slavery. In fact, even though few held as many slaves as their white neighbors, the percentage of Cherokees owning slaves was greater (about 7.5% vs. 5%).
By 1830, the Cherokee, through intermarriage, education, Christian conversion, farming, ranching, and slaveholding, could barely be told apart from their American counterparts. That, of course, wasn’t good enough. They were still “heathen Indians,” and were removed west to Indian Country, Oklahoma. The event will forever be known as the “Trail of Tears.” It was a brutal hardship resulting in heavy loss of life, but they didn’t suffer the tragedy alone. With them on that desperate journey were their slaves.
During the Civil War, the Cherokee, like the other “Civilized Tribes,” eventually fought for the Confederacy. The loss resulted in the Treaty of 1866 which required the abolition of slavery and incorporation of slaves as citizens into the tribe. A copy of the wording is shown here:
The Cherokee Nation having, voluntarily, in February, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, by an act of the national council, forever abolished slavery, hereby covenant and agree that never hereafter shall either slavery or involuntary servitude exist in their nation otherwise than in the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, in accordance with laws applicable to all the members of said tribe alike. They further agree that all freedmen who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owners or by law, as well as all free colored persons who were in the country at the commencement of the rebellion, and are now residents therein, or who may return within six months, and their descendants, shall have all the rights of native Cherokees: Provided, That owners of slaves so emancipated in the Cherokee Nation shall never receive any compensation or pay for the slaves so emancipated. – Article 9 of The Treaty Of 1866.
Immediately following the signing of the treaty, the Cherokee National Committee amended its Constitution and declared citizenship for all former slaves and their dependents residing in the Nation. The wording of the amendment is shown here:
All native-born Cherokees, all Indians, and whites legally members of the Nation by adoption, and all freedmen who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owners or by law, as well as free colored persons who were in the country at the commencement of the rebellion, and are now residents therein, or who may return within six months from the 19th day of July, 1866, and their descendants, who reside within the limits of the Cherokee Nation, shall be taken and deemed to be, citizens of the Cherokee Nation. – 1866 Amendments to Article 3, Section 5 of the 1836 Cherokee Nation Constitution.
At this point, it seems clear; Freedmen are officially adopted into the tribe. Fast forward now to 1898, when white America again showed it knew best what was good for Indians and passed the Dawes Act, also known as The General Allotment Act. The purpose was to speed assimilation of Indians into white society by taking communal land and dividing among tribal members (of course, surplus land was to be sold to non-Indians). To complete the process, a list of citizens had to be attained. From 1898 to 1914, Cherokees were required to account themselves, and registrars would categorize them as one of three classes. Those “of blood,” those who had “intermarried,” and “Freedmen.”
In the thirty-two years span from the end of the war, many former slaves did in fact, intermarry with Cherokee by blood, and their offspring would, therefore, have qualified in the “of blood” group. Unfortunately, large numbers were either erroneously or purposely listed as “Freedman” by the white registrars. Hence, when the National Council voted to amend its Constitution to define citizenship as only those who could show direct lineage to “By Blood” citizens of the Dawes Roll, everything changed.
The court must decide whether the tribe has a right, as a sovereign nation, to determine who it allows as its members, or if the Treaty of 1866, regardless of the classifications of the Dawes Act, prevails. Cherokee Nation Attorney General, Todd Humbree, who is arguing the case, said “After eleven long years of litigation, the Cherokee Nation is looking forward to having a judge decide the longstanding issue of what rights, if any, the freedmen descendants are granted under the Treaty of 1866. The Cherokee Nation believes strongly in treaty rights and believes the correct interpretation of the treaty would allow the Cherokee people to determine who is a Cherokee citizen.” What do you think?
I was lucky enough to be born at a time when the classic westerns era of literature and movies was in full swing. Not a Saturday went by when theaters across the country weren’t showing the likes of Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and, of course, The Lone Ranger. Eventually, the western moved from the big screen to the new, little screen, the television set. Even then, the one truism continued…The cowboy hero always rode a solid colored horse. In fact, I can only think of two stars of the western genre who rode paints; Little Joe Cartwright of Bonanza, and the Cisco Kid. Indians primarily rode Paints.
What does any of this have to do with Native American Culture? Because, mostly, it’s true. Indians did prefer pintos, and they were, for the most part, the only ones who did. That brings up two interesting questions. Why? And where did they get them? The answer to the first question is easy. They liked them and preferred them to solid color horses. The second question is much harder. Frank Gilbert Roe, the author of The Indian and the Horse, University of Oklahoma Press, 1955, devotes three chapters to the issue of coloration of horses introduced to the Americas by the Spanish in the early 16th century.
Of the sixteen horses brought to Mexico by Cortes in 1519, only one was a pinto, and he was not one lost by the expedition. In fact, according to Roe, Spaniards cared little for horses colored in such a way. Of all the horses brought into the “New World,” by the Spanish, the one with Cortes is the only recorded Pinto. At the time of the Spanish invasion of the Americas, the Spaniards were considered the finest breeders of horses in Europe. Their horses were a cross between the fast and powerful horses of the Iberian Peninsula and the Arab/African stock ridden by their Moorish conquerors. Moors and Arabs, by the way, also held paints in contempt.
So, if the animals brought to the Americas were a product of hundreds of years of de-selecting Paints, how did they come to flourish on the plains of North America? In all honesty, no one knows. To expand the mystery, try to explain why paint horses abound in North America, but not in South America. Again, According to Mr. Roe, they came from the same basic stock, but no paint horses appeared on the Pampas.
Some geneticists say that the phenomenon is a result of a mutation from the inbreeding of the wild horse herds, but that spawns two other questions: Why North and not South America? And aren’t all pure breeds a product of inbreeding? If inbreeding mutations resulted in pintos, they would have blossomed in every breed.
Finally, how were the Nez Perce able to further hone their stock to produce the Appaloosa pattern? A feat that even as accomplished a horse society as the Comanche were not able to reproduce when they captured Appaloosas during raids.
How did Indians, who first were introduced to horses in the early to mid-18th century develop the skill to produce pinto horses in such a short time? The Comanche were known to have thousands of pintos in their herds by the mid-19th century. Mr. Roe says the answer might never be known unless we are willing to impart a far greater knowledge of genetic training to Plains Indians than we ever believed possible.
Last week, I commented on the failure of the Indian Child Welfare Act, ICWA. How it has degraded into a system where a state like South Dakota has been able to legally kidnap some seven hundred Native children per year and place them in White foster care facilities or adopt them out to white families without regard for Native tradition, history or culture. Today, however, I can speak of success. “Indian Country Today Media Network” reported that the Federal District Court for Arizona dismissed a class action suit filed in 2015 claiming that “The Law,” was unconstitutional because Indian children were given “separate and unequal treatment based on their race.”
For complete details, see the link above, but this case is the sixth attempt to overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act since 2013. Failed cases have been filed in South Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Minnesota. When challenged, the courts have consistently upheld the law, but no one is filing against states who blatantly defy the law because individual tribal citizens don’t have the wherewithal to do battle.
In another exciting event that occurred this week, on the 400th anniversary of the burial of Pocahontas, Virginia Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner reintroduced a bill that would grant federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes. If enacted, the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond would be added to the list of 566 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes recognized by the federal government. “Recognition,” says the sponsors, “would right a long-standing wrong.” See the link below for details.
Because of a gap in record keeping that was the result of a state law called the “Racial Integrity Act.” of 1924. The law required all births in the state to be categorized as either “white,” or “colored,” and the law was strictly enforced for thirty-five years by the state’s registrar of the Bureau of Vital Statics, Walter Plecker. There was no option for Native American, and anyone born with “even a drop of non-white blood,” had to be classified as colored. This historical, systematic, deception resulted in the destruction of a centuries-long record of the existence of the Virginia tribes, which are required to prove their Indian status. One insatiable racist with the necessary power, committed what historians call “paper Genocide.”
Until next time, stay well.
What would you do, as a grandparent, if you got a phone call from the Department of Social Services (D.S.S.) that announced to you that your son or daughter will be arrested tomorrow on drug charges? Oh, by the way, you have no money for an attorney. Probably, you would wait with your child the next day for the police to arrive and maybe get a look at an arrest warrant. So, you wait, and no police show up, but a D.S.S. car arrives and they inform everyone that because of the pending narcotics violation, they are taking your grandchildren. Protest all you want, but they take the kids, and the police never arrive.
It’s a bad dream, right? You wake up and all is normal. Except it is not. According to an NPR 2011 investigation, in one state, South Dakota, it happens approximately 700 times a year to Native American families. Believe it or not, it used to happen much more often, but in 1978, Congress passed The Indian Child Welfare Act to put an end to just such practices.
The ICWA recognizes the need to keep Native children with their extended families or tribes even in extreme cases of poverty, drug or alcohol abuse so that they will not be separated from their history, language, or culture. In fact, the law demands that every juvenile, foster, or placement case must first verify whether or not the child is Native. If the answer is yes, ICWA rules take precedent. Before a trial is set, the parent or parents must be notified by a letter indicating where and when the trial will take place. A duplicate letter must be sent to the tribe so that it can send a representative, and finally, an expert witness must be called to testify regarding the fitness of the family. This is a very specific procedure to insure the child’s and family’s best interest.
What could possibly go wrong? The whole foster care system is incentivized by the same Federal Government that wrote the law. For its 700 Native Children annually, South Dakota receives nearly $100 million dollars. From that money, they have to pay foster families to care for the children, and they receive $4,000.00 per child. Unless, of course, the child happens to be a “Special Needs” child. In that case, they receive $12,000.00 per child. By the way, in South Dakota, all Native children are designated as “Special Needs.”
Forget expert witnesses, forget letters to parents or tribes, forget best interest of the child, every single child is placed in white run foster homes or adopted out to white families. The disproportionality of Native children versus non-Native children put through the system, as shown by the map below, taken from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Courts Judges, is staggering. Green states are considered good because they only average twice as many, whereas red states average more than four times the non-Native rate.
One hundred and forty years ago, Richard Pratt came up with a system designed to “Kill the Indian and Save the Man.” The result was the Indian School system symbolized by The Carlyle School in Pennsylvania. It was designed to take Native children away from their families, destroy their culture and language, and turn them into nearly white folks. It did great damage, but it didn’t destroy the Native cultures; now we have come up with a better plan. It not only works, it is also highly profitable.
For any chance to solve the problem, we have to de-incentivize immediately the removal of Native children. That requires the concerted effort of three Cabinet Offices; Justice, Interior, and Health and Human Services. Under the current administration, I see no movement by any of these departments to even show an interest in the problem.
We have many things in America that need fixing, but isn’t it time to stop the exploitation of Native children and their families, and stop the Kidnapping?
The map below shows the current rates of Native American disproportionality in the U.S. (2011). Green indicates a disproportionality index of 1.3 to 2.0, yellow indicates 2.1 to 3.0, orange indicates 3.1 to 4.0, and red equals 4.0 or higher
Source: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
The above link will take you to the 2011 NPR investigation as told on “All Things Considered.” It is slightly more than twenty minutes long, and it is very depressing.
Time to start anew. With a new book on the market and others in the pipeline, it’s time to update and activate my blog. Going forward, I will continue to write about American Indian History and Culture, but I will add topics related to my books and characters. My intent is to print something new every day that will be related to a theme. The theme will be announced in the next few days and will be designed to inspire greater interest in the lives of Indigenous people historically and today.
My intent is to print something new every day that will be related to a theme. The theme will be announced in the next few days and will be designed to inspire greater interest in the lives of Indigenous people historically and today.
As always, your comments will be appreciated, and I look forward to reading your comments.
About a week ago, Indian Country Today Media Network, ran an article “Rewriting History…For better This Time.” The story relates how the new high school Advanced Placement exam for U. S. History students has raised the ire of many school board members across the south. As I read, I vaguely recalled a similar column written by Dr. Thomas Sowell and carried by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Dr. Sowell’s article is titled “The Role of ‘Educators,’ and appeared in January, 2013. He recalls that “schools were once thought of as places where a society’s knowledge and experience were passed on to the younger generation.” He continues by saying “…we are seeing schools across America indoctrinating students to believe in all sorts of politically correct notions. The history that is taught in too many of our schools is a history that emphasizes everything that has gone bad, or can be made to look bad in America—and that gives little, if any, attention to the great achievements of this country.”
In the ICTMN story, Mr. Ken Mercer, a member of the Texas School Board of Education, states flatly that “the purpose of history in schools is to ‘teach students to be proud American Citizens,’ and that means a strict emphasis on the Founding Father’s, the military exploits of national icons, and the depiction of the colonization, settlement, and Christianization of North America as a great achievement.” To both gentlemen, I say REALLY?
According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, history is defined as “The study of past events. A chronological record of significant events including an explanation of there causes.” That definition has remained constant since the first publication in 1831, a time when both gentlemen would probably agree to be the “good old days.”
To study history is to not only ask Who, When, where, but to also ask WHY. When we study the fall of the great Roman Empire, do we not have to describe the events that lead to her downfall? Of course we do. But that’s okay for Mercer and Sowell, because it doesn’t reflect on person’s civic pride to point other country’s faults. Is it right to whitewash history just to prevent embarrassing our “Founding Father’s?” What these men are advocating is a belief that “might makes right,” and “the end justifies the means.”
You see, we can’t sing “America the Beautiful, from sea to shining sea,” without at least a foot note that says we got there by seizing 1.5 billion acres of land from 1776 to 1887 that belonged to America’s indigenous people. That doesn’t count the land seized prior to our Independence.
The entire argument regarding truth in education reminds me of the scene from A Few Good Men, when Tom Cruise tells Jack Nicholson that all he wants is the truth, and Nicholson shouts “You can’t handle the truth!”. In America, where we have a first amendment as well as a second, who, under the Sowell/Mercer system, gets to know the truth and who gets to decide?
These men, and the many others like them, are concerned that our children are being “brainwashed” by teachers who tell the history of our country the way it happened. My question is, what is it called when you teach only the good and the glorious? Propaganda!